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I think I’ve said this before, but right now, the National League is much more
interesting than its junior counterpart. It’s not quite 1955 or anything, but
in doing two columns like this back-to-back, you realize just how much more is
going on in the NL.

Nevertheless, we’ll stroll…

  • Darin Erstad is hitting .267/.288/.333, with three walks
    in 120 at-bats. This fits in with–is actually even a bit worse than–his
    2000-02 performance, and makes him the worst first baseman in the AL. Big
    shock.

    The Angels were right about one thing, though: moving him to first base has
    kept him healthy. He’s played in every game.

  • It would appear that my offseason concern over Troy Glaus‘ right shoulder was misplaced. He’s off to a monster start at
    .284/.364/.705, on pace to have his best season ever.

  • It’s weird…for all the power the Orioles supposedly added over the winter,
    they’re just 12th in the AL in home runs. Larry Bigbie leads
    the team with four. They’re fifth in runs, though, as the top five guys in the
    lineup are all putting up at least a .320 BA and a .380 OBP.

    If you were thinking about climbing on the bandwagon, don’t: the rotation’s
    composite strikeout-to-walk ratio is 79/75.

  • With Nomar Garciaparra‘s return getting closer, the Red
    Sox are going to have an interesting decision to make. Mark Bellhorn is third on the team in OBP and out-hitting Pokey Reese by what would be about 50 runs over a full season. I think Reese has to be in the lineup behind Derek Lowe, but none of the other Red Sox starters gets enough ground balls to justify playing him
    over Bellhorn.

    How Terry Francona handles this is the first real test for him as Red Sox
    manager.

  • Nobody asked me, but I wouldn’t sign Pedro Martinez to a
    three-year contract at gunpoint, and I wouldn’t commit to more than $20MM over
    the life of a two-year deal. The Sox have better uses–Edgar Renteria, to name one–for that money.

    And no, Lowe isn’t one of them. Why people are lumping him in with Martinez, Garciaparra and Jason Varitek is beyond me. He’s a No. 3 starter heavily dependent on his defense. Although I suppose if Sidney Ponson can turn one good half into $22 million, Lowe will do all right for himself.

  • Kenny Williams has taken a lot of valid criticism over the years, but too
    much for the Chad Bradford trade. At the time, Bradford was
    an effective minor-league reliever, and the prospect he brought in return had
    considerable upside. After a few years, Miguel Olivo has
    established himself as a two-way catcher, hitting .300/.375/.520 so far this
    year and throwing out 33% of basestealers in his career.

    Maybe Olivo never gets a chapter in a book, but he’s a very good player, and
    more than worth the price paid.

  • American League K/BB fun: Rafael Betancourt, 18/1.
    Really, that’s about it.

  • It doesn’t get as much play as the Erstad contract, but the Twins’
    commitment to Torii Hunter off of one good year–one good
    half, really–has been a huge burden on them. Outside of the first half of the
    ’02 season, when he hit .306/.347/.564, Hunter’s career line is
    .259/.305/.438. Even with his defense, that’s not an $8MM/year player. The
    financial commitment to him keeps him in the middle of the lineup, where his
    current .273 OBP is killing the team.

    As was written in Baseball Prospectus 2004, the Twins have had a nasty habit of makiing contract commitments to players who were coming off their best season. The money committed to Hunter, Jacque Jones, Brad Radke, Shannon Stewart and Doug Mientkiewicz has kept the team from sliding in cheaper, sometimes better, replacements and sucked up cash that could have been put to better
    use.

  • One reason I don’t like arguments that assign a player value for playing a
    particular style is that they tend to not be heard when that player’s average
    drops 40 points. Erstad comes to mind, but the big one for me is
    Ichiro Suzuki, who no one seems to talk about any more now
    that 1) he’s hitting .277 and 2) the team around him is old and mediocre.

    Ichiro won’t hit .277 all season, but even hitting .320, he’s not nearly as a
    good a player as he’s perceived to be. His value is in his batting average,
    not in his style.

    Juan Pierre falls into the same category, although it should
    be noted that Pierre has been improving his walk rate the last two years.

  • Speaking of fast players, Carl Crawford is off to a good
    start (.320/.364/.456). He’s just 22, and while he’s not the type of player I
    usually endorse, his youth, his improvement over the past three years and his
    excellent defense have me intrigued. He could be anything from Doug
    Glanville
    on the low side to Devon White or
    Kenny Lofton on the high side.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’d rather have him than
    Rocco Baldelli, and it’s not close.

  • Hey, the Practically Perfect Backup Catcher is back! Gregg
    Zaun
    was the Jays’ response to Greg Myers‘ injury,
    and he’s stepped in and gone 8-for-14 with a double and a homer since his
    call-up.

    As a fan and as a writer, I’ve probably doled out a hundred nicknames to
    players over the years. It never really caught on, but Zaun’s “PPBC”
    designation remains my favorite. Here’s hoping he gets to hang around after
    Myers’ heals up. Heck, the Jays could use him to platoon in left field and be
    no worse off–Dave Berg?!?!-than they are now.

  • More about the Jays:
    
                                           AB   AVG   OBP   SLG
    Eric Hinske and Josh Phelps 2002      831  .288  .364  .507
    Eric Hinske and Josh Phelps 2003      845  .254  .342  .452
    Eric Hinske and Josh Phelps 2004      203  .251  .323  .355
    
    

    That’s gotta stop.

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