The DiSar Awards haven’t been clinched just yet–I’ve learned better than to make an official announcement before the season is over–but they do appear to be in safe hands, at least in the American League.
And no, it’s not Rocco Baldelli‘s mitts holding the Golden Crutch.
I announced the contest to pick the 2003 award winners this spring a little bit late, not getting to it until a few days into the season. Because of that, the vast majority of the entrants selected Baldelli, the free-swinging Devil Rays rookie, as the eventual AL award winner. Baldelli made a nice run, reaching 60 at-bats before his first walk, but he only held the top AL mark for a few days, getting caught by Deivi Cruz soon afterwards.
Cruz didn’t hold on, either; his 70 at-bats were passed by Matt Walbeck in July, but The Walbeck couldn’t even garner this much glory. A week ago, he, too, saw his total of 75 walkless at-bats to start the season eclipsed. Walbeck was passed by a player who received no votes in the preseason balloting, although his brother was one of the most popular candidates after Baldelli.
Jose Molina, who plays about once a week, has 82 at-bats and no walks so far this year. Brother Bengie is no slouch himself, with 13 walks in 359 ABs, and a 53-AB streak to start the year. In some seasons, that’s enough, but not when your little brother is taking lessons. Molina the Younger has virtually no competition right now; the four players with active AL streaks of 30 or more are in the minors (George Lombard, Carlos Mendez), the job market (Craig Paquette) and the third circle of hell (Freddy Sanchez, traded to Pittsburgh), with none above 40 at-bats.
Over in the NL, the situation is nearly as settled, but young talent is making things exciting. Rainer Olmedo is the leader in the clubhouse with 70 at-bats before his first walk. With pitchers ineligible for consideration, the next closest player with a shot at Olmedo is Eric Bruntlett, who is up to 46 walkless at-bats. Bruntlett’s problem is that he might not get to 70 at-bats, period. He’ll also be a threat to draw an intentional pass, as he’ll bat eighth when he gets his rare starts.
The bigger threat to Olmedo is a player who, like the Reds’ rookie, is getting his chance because his team isn’t very good. Bill Hall ran his streak to 43 walkless at-bats yesterday, and is playing semi-regularly as the Brewers’ shortstop. Like Bruntlett, he’ll have to watch the intentional passes in the No. 8 slot.
I’m sorry to say that no one picked Olmedo in the National League. Neifi Perez and Carlos Baerga were popular choices, but neither even reached 30 at-bats. Robby Hammock is second with a completed streak of 61, and if anyone had guessed that J.D. Drew would start his season with 54 at-bats before his first walk, I might have comped them a book just for having the guts to say so.
As mentioned, many pitchers have active streaks, with Brad Penny leading the way at 53. The DiSar Award–like the MVP to some people–has never considered pitchers as being eligible because the idea is to highlight players for whom walking should be a part of their skill set. Should that be changed? Nine pitchers have active streaks of 45 or better, while Livan Hernandez and Kerry Wood have completed streaks of that length.
The top 10 in each league through Sunday’s action:
American League First Walk AB --------------------------------------- Jose Molina (Active) 82 Matt Walbeck 06-JUL-2003 75 Deivi Cruz 23-APR-2003 70 Rocco Baldelli 17-APR-2003 60 Bengie Molina 18-APR-2003 53 Mike Difelice 21-MAY-2003 53 Warren Morris 24-JUN-2003 51 Dustan Mohr 02-MAY-2003 42 Gary Matthews Jr. 10-APR-2003 39 Dmitri Young 13-APR-2003 38 National League First Walk AB --------------------------------------- Rainer Olmedo 07-JUL-2003 70 Robby Hammock 20-JUN-2003 61 J.D. Drew 19-MAY-2003 54 Miguel Ojeda 06-JUL-2003 53 Jose Reyes 24-JUN-2003 49 Eric Bruntlett (Active) 46 Bill Hall (Active) 43 Tom Goodwin 25-MAY-2003 42 Adrian Beltre 09-APR-2003 38 Tony Clark 04-MAY-2003 37
Top active streaks (30 or more, pitchers excluded):
Player AB -------------------------- Jose Molina 82 Eric Bruntlett 46 Bill Hall 43 George Lombard 37 Carlos Mendez 35 Freddy Sanchez 34 Wilken Ruan 33 Craig Paquette 33
I’ll be back in about six weeks with your final DiSar Award update for 2003.