- Don’t Let the Door Hit You: The White Sox have finally seen
light. The much maligned Billy Koch was dealt to the
Marlins last week for Wilson Valdez who, for the purposes of the deal,
as well have been a bag of baseballs. Never an organization to stray
far from the mainstream, though, the Sox quickly announced that
Shingo Takatsu has been named the new closer.
After allowing three runs in his first three innings of work,
hasn’t allowed a run since. It’s interesting, though, that the White
didn’t choose to promote Damaso Marte who’s in his
year with the team and is again putting together a very good season.
Especially with a player’s manager like Ozzie Guillen, service time
like it would be the main factor in determining Koch’s replacement.
only blemishes on Marte’s record are four blown saves, the last of
came over a month ago, and while he hasn’t been quite as good as
Takatsu so far this season, he
has the longer-term track record in Chicago of top performances.
This is not to say that Takatsu doesn’t deserve the job. He’s the
saves leader in Japan, and his performance thus far more than validates
talent. However, the question remains what the White Sox will do when
finally slumps for a period. His role is not yet established, and if
slump comes sooner rather than later, the White Sox pen could be thrown
While the closer role may be the most overrated in
having established patterns of use may not be. Knowing when to warm
much, and having set days off would certainly seem to increase the
of most relievers performing their best and, should the Sox make
change or waver between Marte and Takatsu, the pen as a whole could
As it is now, though, GM Kenny Williams deserves applause for finding
sucker in the room who decided to look too long at Koch’s save totals
amazingly, agreed to pay his salary. By removing Koch and his -5.1
Sox bullpen immediately looks much better from top to bottom. Now
they could just figure out where to put Cliff Politte,
things would be even better.
Incoming: The Sox seemed mainly in the market for pitching at
year’s draft, taking only three position players in their first 12
picks. Despite that preference, they first tapped Oklahoma State
third baseman Josh Fields. Fields hit .352/.465/.580, with 32 out of his
hits going for extra bases this year. He showed a marked improvement
plate discipline with a 45/47 K/BB ratio, after a mediocre
mark in 2003. Having already signed, Fields will likely move quickly
short-season ball to start his way up the Sox ladder.
After Fields, the Sox selected Tyler Lumsden, a left-hander out of
Clemson. With 88 Ks in 81.1 IP this year, Lumsden certainly has the
that we like here at BP, but he’s also prone to wildness, walking 37
year. He posted nearly the exact same line in 2003 with a 72/31 K/BB
in 86 IP.
Immediately after Lumsden, the White Sox took high school
Giovany Gonzalez. There’s little information available on Gonzalez
than the fact that he’s a moderately hard-throwing, left-handed high
pitcher. Those last three words should tell you all you need to know
about his risk factor. With the pendulum swinging towards the safer
college pitchers lately, though, taking a flier in the supplemental
may be just the right kind of calculated risk that takes advantage of
- White Knuckles: No matter how you look at it, the A’s bullpen
been downright awful this year. They’re 24th in the league in ERA,
14 losses against only 13 saves. BP’s Reliever
Statistics rank the Oakland firemen as the eighth-worst in the majors.
Even worse, nearly every reliever posts a negative Adjusted Runs
(ARP) which means that the A’s can’t even cut a few bad apples from the
tree. Only Justin Duchscherer, at 6.8, has pitched
anywhere close to respectably. The only other hurlers to post positive
numbers are Chad Harville, who was released and signed
Houston, and the newly recalled Justin Lehr, who’s
one scoreless inning.
This situation is not one to which A’s faithful are accustomed.
sixth, 15th, and second the last three years, the sight of a
reliever (other than a notable exception
hasn’t been cause for great concern in the East Bay. Now, it seems,
starter’s pitch counts are watched with more dread than before, and the sight
of any movement in the rickety excuse for a bench down the left-field line is
enough to send people screaming for the exits.
Looking at the core of the Oakland pen’s performance over the past few
seasons (as measured by ARP) yields the following:
Player 2003 2002 2001 Arthur Rhodes 5.1 14.4 23.9 Jim Mecir -2.2 6.3 5.9 Ricardo Rincon 6.6 9.5 15.8 Chad Bradford 17.3 9.4 1.7 Chris Hammond 9.9 26.2 DNP
(Duchscherer, having been a starter until this season, has been
excluded.) With the exception of Chad Bradford, this
like a group stuck in a steep decline. Also with the exception of
this is a group of old players; Arthur Rhodes,
Ricardo Rincon, and Jim Mecir are all
while Chris Hammond is 38.
All that said, this isn’t necessarily a call to blow up the pen and
over. Bradford has been one of the best in the league at stranding
inherited runners for the past few seasons, and there’s little reason to
think that this is more than a slight bump in the road. Hammond’s so
down the depth chart that there’s little value in trying to upgrade
Duchscherer has been performing well and hopefully will be given more
The rest of the pen may need some help, though. Here’s a look at the list of suspects:
After performing at a consistently high level in Seattle in 2001 and
2002, Rhodes showed a slight decline in K/9 and a jump in BB/9 and H/9
year, none of which bode well for future performance. Before arriving
Seattle in 2000, Rhodes was an average reliever who showed consistent,
excellent strikeout numbers, but was consistently undone by his
wildness. In fact, his ERA could be tied almost exactly to his BB/9. How
The correlation is .771 (on a 0 to 1 scale, the higher the number, the
better the correlation). So far this year, his BB/9 is 5.1,
an ERA of 6.23. If he can get his walks down, he could come around,
until then, he doesn’t look like a good bet to reach his 2001-2002
again. He still has a place in the A’s bullpen, but the contract the
A’s gave him after Keith Foulke departed for Boston is looking worse
Rincon has been on a slide for the past three seasons, and he’s
becoming one of those fungible lefty relievers who always seem to find a
There are other quality options freely available, and it may be time to
Rincon the best of luck and send him on his way.
The A’s have publicly stated that Mecir, when healthy, is a quality
reliever. There’s little argument against that, but the problem is
Mecir just isn’t healthy and hasn’t appeared so in quite some time.
spending significant time on the disabled list last season, Mecir has
avoided it so far this year. But with the A’s refusal to leak medical
information, it’s nearly impossible to get a qualified opinion on his
of health. He got off to a good start this season, but he’s been
lately and, with a player whose performance is tied so
his health, it seems likely there’s an injury in play. Even without
rumor and speculation, Mecir hasn’t shown that he can do the job, and
would be best off moving him at this point, especially with fellow
right-hander Duchscherer’s performance record.
- After performing at a consistently high level in Seattle in 2001 and
Double Standard: Sunday night, the Phillies sent center fielder
Marlon Byrd down to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Manager
Bowa cited Byrd’s 45 strikeouts as the main reason that the club
move Byrd for the time being, but it’s pretty certain that his
224/.297/.304 line wasn’t making much of a case to keep him either. It
seems certain that Byrd will be back up with the club soon, but, on the
surface, this seems to be a highly questionable decision, mostly
there isn’t a clear goal for Byrd while he’s in Triple-A other than to
out of the slump.”
Of course, one of the more famous slumps in recent memory was
Burrell‘s lost 2003. Hitting just .209/.309/.404 for the
Burrell suffered through one of the most unexpected slumps of last
while striking out 142 times. Of course, Burrell wasn’t sent down to
minors to tinker with his swing like Byrd was. Whether or not the
Phillies are basing their decision to move Byrd on the fact that
never really recovered in 2003 is unclear, but referencing the
a justification for sending down their center fielder is just wrong.
Strikeouts, as a game event, don’t cost a team significantly more
than any other occurrence. They can, however, for certain types of players,
an omen that their skills are degrading. Given how much the other
batters strike out, we must assume that Bowa was leaning towards the
line of reasoning when using the whiffs as the validation.
here is that Byrd isn’t striking out terribly more than he always has.
last three years, Byrd has struck out in 17.0%, 17.1%, and 17.2% of plate appearances, the
two in the minors. This year it’s 19.0%. While that’s not an
amount, it’s more than likely just a blip on the learning curve; it’s
certainly no reason for demotion.
His early going this year notwithstanding, Byrd is a competent major league player and, at 26, still has plenty of
for improvement. Philly faithful will have to hope that he sorts
out quickly in Triple-A, because the longer the slump continues in the
minors, the harder it will be for Byrd to earn his way back to a spot
is rightfully his. Taking playing time away from a young player with a
record of success in the middle of a pennant race is exactly the type
move that could be looked back on as justification for why the Phillies
yet to live up to their preseason hype.
Bowa can at least make the best of the situation by platooning the capable Ricky Ledee with the also capable Jason Michaels. If Doug Glanville starts getting significant playing time, better hide the batteries from Phils Phans.
Gone Fishin’: With 20 games to go until the All-Star break,
Phillies have finally climbed back into a tie with the Marlins for the
in the NL East. With seven games against the Expos as well as four and
three against the Mets and Braves, respectively, the Phillies have an opportunity to turn the NL East into the two-team race that’s been hinted at
lately. If they can run away and hide with Florida, they’ll have a
chance to take advantage of the 12 games against the Marlins in the
half to make the push for the division.
Of course, all this assumes that the Phils can turn around a few
starts, such as Kevin Millwood‘s and Byrd’s, and return to
favored status they enjoyed after a solid off-season, highlighted by the
acquisition of closer Billy Wagner. For now, though,
Phillies should consider themselves uniquely lucky to find themselves
high in the standings as they are.
While other teams like the Reds, Twins, and Giants
all exceeded their expected records by a greater amount, the Phillies
shown the greatest discrepancy between their first-order winning
(based on their actual runs scored and allowed) and their third-order
percentage (based on their adjusted equivalent run differential).
put, while the Phillies don’t appear lucky based on the comparison
their record and run differential, they have been scoring more runs
they should given their individual statistics. However, lucky wins
just as much as deserved ones, and Philadelphia is as good a bet as any
take advantage in the next month or two.