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The Chase for… .500?

Yes, it’s early, but given the attention Larry Walker and Sean
Casey
are getting for having batting averages around .400, it’s probably
not unreasonable to mention that John Olerud’s OBP is .505. In 1998,
Mark McGwire spent a few weeks around the magic mark, and in 1994,
Frank Thomas ran a .494 OBP in a season ended by the strike.

But no player has been on base in half of his plate appearances since 1957,
when Ted Williams (.528) and Mickey Mantle (.515) posted the fifth- and
ninth-best OBPs in history. Thomas’ 1994 is the only season above .490
since then. Now, granted that the period from 1958-1993 was predominantly a
pitchers’ era, and since 1994 we’ve been in a tremendous offensive upswing.
This is still a feat that has been accomplished just 16 times in history.
Batting .400? 27 times.

Olerud is no fluke. In 1993, he made his first run at .500, ending up with
a .478 OBP. Like his counterpart Thomas, he is a hitter capable of hitting
for a high average and willing to take lots of walks. Offensive levels–and
walk rates–are very high, a contributing factor to his jump this year. And
Olerud hits left-handed pitchers: he’s following up his .980 OPS against
them in 1998 with a 1.094 OPS against them so far in 1999.

His own talents are in his favor. His environment is not. With Mike
Piazza
behind him, Olerud is unlikely to see many intentional walks,
which would be helpful. Additionally, Shea Stadium hurts his batting
average slightly. Larry Walker, despite a much-inferior walk rate,
may be a better bet thanks to 5,280 feet of altitude. Walker is currently
at .458, not much over his .405 BA.

So with your nightly dose of Sean Casey’s sharp single to right, and
Tony Fernandez’s blooper into left, keep in mind Olerud’s two walks.
They aren’t going to be greeted by a "Boo-yah!", but they just
might add up to history.


A Lot of "Bull"

Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are trying out for a permanent
job hosting "World’s Meatiest Changeups". The left fielders are
hitting…well, like Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. John Smoltz is on
the disabled list.

The Braves are 27-18.

Exactly how is this team keeping it together in the face of the worst
performance in years by its vaunted rotation? Especially since we all know
that their bullpen consists of guys nicknamed "Napalm". Doesn’t it?

                    ERA    IP     H   R  ER   HR   BB  SO
Mike Remlinger     1.31  20 2/3  12   3   3    1   11  18
John Rocker        2.41  18 2/3  11   6   5    0   10  24
Kevin McGlinchy    2.53  21 1/3  17   8   6    1   12  19
Rudy Seanez        2.66  20 1/3  16   6   6    2    6  14
Justin Speier      3.18  17      12   6   6    5    7  16

Next time anybody in a suit they didn’t pick out themselves tells you the
Braves need Rick Aguilera or Billy Taylor or the ghost of
Hoyt Wilhelm, you have carte blanche to think very, very bad thoughts. The
Braves’ bullpen is a strength, and it’s a strength at an absolutely
microscopic cost.

Develop enough good arms, and you can have the luxury of a cheap,
hard-throwing bullpen. Sure, the Braves got a bit lucky with Rudy
Seanez
, but he always had the skill set to be effective in this role.
And the pen is only going to get deeper when Smoltz returns and Odalis
Perez
moves in.

The Braves’ bullpen is a strength. Tell a friend, and maybe we can get a
movement started.

Notes

Kevin Millar is getting another chance in Florida, where Todd
Dunwoody
has been demoted and Derrek Lee may follow. Millar is
no glove man, but he can hit well enough to carry first base, and should
end up with 300 or so at-bats. He and Bruce Aven, minor league
veterans, are the best stories on the Marlins right now…. Much-maligned
Doug Glanville is having a Goodwinesque turnaround: he has walked 23
times and is currently posting a .400 OBP, a big reason why the Phillies
are third in the league in runs scored.

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