- SMACK FOR MATCHUP JUNKIES: Interleague play adds a wrinkle
to the schedule next week, as the Sox venture to previously uncharted
Colorado and San Francisco territory. It’s entirely possible that the
series with the Rockies, patsies of the West, will earn a mention in
next week’s edition of Prospectus
Matchups as the biggest mismatch, so let’s ignore it here.
It’s the stop in San Francisco we’re fiending for, and the first fix
comes Friday night. Tim Wakefield, originally scheduled
to start in Denver, will be held out for fear of thin-air-induced,
non-knuckling knuckleballs. Instead, Wakefield will start the opener in
San Francisco–where, it is hoped, his knuckler will perform new and
interesting dance moves in the thick sea breeze.
This can’t be welcome news to San Francisco’s one-man offense,
Barry Bonds. Here’s a list of all active pitchers with a
0.000 OPS vs. Barry Bonds, minimum 3 ABs:
Opposing pitcher AB H BB SO OPS Tim Wakefield 7 0 0 2 .000 Jeff Suppan 6 0 0 0 .000 Todd Van Poppel 5 0 0 4 .000 Julian Tavarez 4 0 0 1 .000 Kyle Lohse 3 0 0 0 .000 Derek Lowe 3 0 0 0 .000
Are we just having fun with small sample sizes? Sure. Still, this
list pays simultaneous homage to Bonds’ greatness and the maddening power
of Wakefield’s vexer. Just six active pitchers have been perfect vs.
Barry Bonds for more than two at-bats, but Bonds hasn’t solved
Wakefield for seven. The world’s most patient hitter has been stymied,
thus far, by the major leagues’ slowest pitch.
Matchup madness continues Saturday when Pedro Martinez takes the SBC
hill. Pedro looked like the game’s best pitcher again Tuesday night in
an eight-inning smackdown of the San Diego Padres. Between now and the trip
west, he’s got another chance to shine vs. Los Angeles–the league’s
most anemic first-place offense. But in San Francisco, Barry will be
waiting. It’s been years since he and Pedro have faced each other in a
regular-season game. But back in Pedro’s NL days, Barry treated him the
same way he treats everyone else: .367/.525/.633. Think that’s great?
Wait until you see what the Giants’ number-three hitter has done
Active hitters with 1.000+ OPS vs. Pedro Martinez, min 20 ABs Opposing hitter AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Marquis Grissom 21 12 3 1 1 2 2 .571 .609 .952 1.561 Ryan Klesko 29 10 2 0 4 3 7 .345 .406 .828 1.234 Mike Piazza 20 7 1 0 3 0 3 .350 .381 .850 1.231 Barry Bonds 30 11 3 1 1 10 7 .367 .525 .633 1.158 Enrique Wilson 22 10 4 0 0 1 2 .455 .478 .636 1.115 Luis Gonzalez 34 14 4 0 1 5 4 .412 .488 .618 1.105 Craig Biggio 33 12 6 1 0 6 4 .364 .475 .606 1.081 Gary Sheffield 24 8 2 0 2 5 6 .333 .406 .667 1.073 Shannon Stewart 30 12 0 0 1 4 3 .400 .500 .500 1.000
During a typical Giants’ first inning these days you might find fans in
line for garlic fries and an Anchor Steam, loading up for Bonds’ AB
leading off the second. But Saturday, the patrons would do well to see if Pedro can
break Grissom’s hex. If not, he’ll start his outing facing Bonds with at least one
runner on base.
- MAKING A SPLASH: Since its opening in 2000, San Francisco’s ballpark-by-the-bay has played as one of the major leagues’ most
hostile environments for hitters not named Barry. McCovey Cove is tantalizingly close, just a short hop over the portwalk behind the 309-foot
mark down the right-field line. According to the Giants’ official “Splash Hits” count it has been reached 29 times on the fly by Bonds.
But before David Ortiz and crew go swinging for SportsCenter, they might want to know the rest of the splash-hit count.
For the Sox, Ortiz probably has the best chance to turn the trick, but Jason
Varitek and Mark Bellhorn also provide left-handed pop.
Of all right-handed hitters in the game of baseball, Manny
Ramirez has to have one of the best shots at it.
Note that J.T. Snow, a left-handed-hitting first baseman, achieved that one single
splash landing in 840 career ABs at Pac Bell, perhaps the most vivid
illustration of his ever-decreasing punch. With Snow on the DL, the Sox will see some combination of Pedro Feliz or Damon Minor instead.
- BIG DEAL: So far, Keith Foulke has looked
like a bargain to Red Sox Nation, even at $7 million per.
We don’t mean to rain on that parade, but it is worth noting
that Foulke’s other cost was realized in Monday’s draft, where the Red Sox
lost their first-round pick to Oakland because of Foulke’s signing.
With no first-round choice, Boston’s first 2004 pick came in the second
round, where they grabbed Dustin Pedroia, a miniscule 5’9″, 180-pound
shortstop out of Arizona State. Pedroia’s .466 on-base and .544 slugging
averages look nice to performance analysts, and the contrarians in us
like the idea of taking the strange-bodied guys that nobody else wants.
Still, it’s hard to get too excited about a guy who, as they say,
“compares favorably to David Eckstein.” In 777 college
ABs, Pedroia hit all of 14 homers.
- COMING UP RED EVERY TIME: A month ago in
space, we accused the Reds of achieving their surprising start in
Central with smoke, mirrors, and a healthy dollop of luck. A month
they’ve gone 14-10, moved from third place to the top of the division,
expanded their deficit between runs scored (280) and runs
They’re a .576 ballclub at 34-25, but The Pythagorean Theorem of
Baseball says they’re playing at a .458 clip based on scoring and run prevention. By all rights, they should be in fourth place, seven or eight
games back of Houston, six or seven back of the Cardinals and Cubs.
So what’s going on? One thing is obvious: The Reds are losing
by larger margins than they’re winning them–the offense is getting shut down
in the same games that the pitchers are getting hammered the worst. Case in
point, Monday’s 13-2 blowout
at the hands of Mark Mulder and the A’s, not to mention
Wednesday’s 17-8 debacle,
also in Oakland. From the Baseball Prospectus Record
By Run Differential report, here’s how the games have broken down:
Differential Record 1-run games 10-7 2-run games 12-2 3-run games 9-3 4-run games 2-4 5-run games 0-3 6-run games 0-3 7-run games 1-1 9-run games 0-1 11-run games 0-1
In games settled by three runs or less, the Reds are an incredible
31-12; in blowouts of four runs or more, they’re an atrocious 3-13. As
distributions go, they don’t get much luckier than that.
A 118-point winning percentage differential between expected and actual performance; it’s
just not sustainable, is it? We intend to dig up the appropriate historical precedents. Right in front of us, we have the 2003 numbers. Care to hazard a guess as to who had the biggest deviation, for better or worse, in 2003? You guessed it: these same Cincinnati Reds. (The 2003 Reds went
69-93, .426, while being outscored by a whopping margin of 885-694. That’s a Pythag expected record of .377, which should have comfortably wrapped
up last place in the Central. As it was, the Reds finished a game ahead of the Brewers for fifth.)
Testament to Dave Miley’s managerial prowess? The more likely explanation is that the
Reds have simply gotten away with being lucky rather than good. They’ll be hard-pressed
to keep it up.
- ALL IS FORGIVEN?: Ken Griffey Jr., like
Barry Bonds in 2001, is basking in the unspoiled media positivity that
accompanies a major milestone run; in doing so, he’s thriving.
Griffey already has more ABs in 2004 than he did in either the 2002 or
2003 seasons. In another couple weeks he’ll have hit more home runs in
a single season than in any year since 2000.
Do not equate The Kid’s legendary fragility with an inability to hit; for his career, he’s averaged 41 homers per 162 games played and a
.293/.378/.562 composite. He’s Bald Bull in Mike Tyson’s Punchout: Hit the right spot and he goes down easy–but on his feet, he’s one of the
toughest in the game.
- DUDE, PASS ME THAT REDS JERSEY: Jung Bong has been
recalled from Triple-A Louisville, in a move sure to shatter all records
for Reds headshop memorabilia sales.
- BACK TO EARTH: Updating an item from last
time, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ one-run record has begun to regress toward their overall winning percentage. As
such, they’ve relinquished their lead in the West, and sit in a virtual tie for first with the Padres. Part of the
Dodgers’ hot start was attributable to a lucky 10-0 streak in one-run affairs to
open the season. Over the past four weeks, Los Angeles has gone 1-4 in one-run games. A corollary of the Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball is that, in
the long run, a team’s record in non-one-run games is much more predictive of its future performance than its record in the high-variance
nail-biters. San Diego is now 22-21 excluding one-run games, Los Angeles is 20-22,
and San Francisco is 20-19.
WHEEL OF BELTRAN: With the Kansas City Royals double-digits
out of first place, Peter Gammons reports that
Royals GM Allard Baird is looking to dump stars and dump salary…sooner, rather than later. Center fielder Carlos Beltran,
a big-money free agent at the end of the season, is the undisputed crown jewel of Baird’s booty. Of nine potentially interested teams,
Gammons lists four–Padres, Dodgers, Giants, and Diamondbacks–in the NL West. Let’s take a quick look at the impact a Beltran rental might
have on the pennant race teams. (For now let’s skip the D-Backs, wallowing in fourth place.) Assuming the GMs can assemble packages of
prospects and/or dollars that make sense to Baird, which rusty cogs in the current lineups might be replaced by a shiny new Beltran?
Dodgers POS PA AVG OBP SLG MLVr Carlos Beltran cf 24 .274 .356 .535 .136 Juan Encarnacion rf 214 .248 .276 .413 -.085 Jason Grabowski lf 91 .250 .308 .440 .020 Robin Ventura 1b 56 .216 .286 .235 -.321
Plenty of room for improvement here. Is Paul DePodesta willing to cut bait on Juan Encarnacion? On the offensive side, it would
be worth about a quarter of a run per game.
Giants POS PA AVG OBP SLG MLVr Carlos Beltran cf 24 .274 .356 .535 .136 Michael Tucker rf 194 .282 .381 .479 .174 Dustan Mohr rf 87 .206 .356 .368 -.054 Jeffrey Hammonds rf 113 .211 .336 .358 -.088
San Francisco’s lineup suffers from having to give Bonds frequent days off. Beltran, a workhorse, would lighten the off-day load significantly. With Jeffrey Hammonds long gone, Michael Tucker is currently San Francisco’s flavor of the month–he’s been hot since moving to the leadoff role. Tucker, who turns 33 in two weeks, has posted an OPS above .800 just once in his 10-year career. He can’t sustain his recent pace; the question is whether Brian Sabean knows it.
Padres POS PA AVG OBP SLG MLVr Carlos Beltran cf 24 .274 .356 .535 .136 Jay Payton cf 201 .295 .378 .415 .140 Ryan Klesko lf 134 .261 .351 .357 -.016 Terrence Long lf 111 .294 .342 .402 .054 Kerry Robinson lf 59 .241 .288 .259 -.271
We’ve run out of bad things to say about Kerry Robinson. Terrence Long has been somewhat of a surprise but don’t expect that to last. T-Long’s .294 average is completely devoid of power–he’s homerless in ’04–and he’s shown no uptick in patience with just seven walks. Unless something changes, his average is bound to fall, and with that his on-base percentage will return to the sub-.300 level of the past two seasons.
Of course, the addition of Beltran helps more than just a team’s offense. He’s been a plus defender throughout his career, and with mediocre
outfielders patrolling the spacious outfields in both San Francisco and San Diego, the pitching staffs would be grateful for the help. The Dodgers rank sixth in MLB in Defensive Efficiency, the Giants 17th, the Padres 18th.
Carlos Beltran and the N.L. West title are up for grabs. Which GM will pull the trigger?