Bullet points, for the people:
- That certain San Fran Giant just keeps on cutting a swath through the league. Look at these post-Break numbers: .405/.537/.750.
The hitch is that I’m actually talking about noted cipher J.T. Snow and not he who has turned the sublime into the banal (who is hitting a tidy .316/.545/.709 himself since that stunningly lame evening in Houston). But Snow’s not the only Giant in aberrant rarified air of late.
Michael Tucker is clouting .319/.413/.543 since the All-Star Game, and Dustan Mohr and Yorvit Torrealba are hitting .385/.468/.673 and .344/.382/.500, respectively, over that same span. In light of those performances, it’s little wonder that the Giants, among NL squads, trail only the Cardinals in runs scored since the break. Of course, since all of those players, other than Barry Bonds, figure to regress in the coming weeks, the Giant offensive attack is poised to deteriorate down the stretch. Something for Cubs and Padres backers to keep in mind.
- At this writing, Alex Sanchez, So Taguchi and Brandon Inge lead the majors in productive-outs percentage, the regrettable and largely useless product of idle hands and consistent decline at ESPN.com. When the answer is Alex Sanchez, are you really asking the right question?
- You’ve probably heard a great deal about the 2004 renaissance of Indians second-base prospect Brandon Phillips. Presently, he’s hitting .308/.370/.428 at Triple-A Buffalo. Those aren’t bad numbers, but perhaps more importantly, they constitute a quantum improvement over his thoroughly abysmal showing last season. Though before we label him a strong buy once again, let’s take a look at his monthly splits this season, all compiled at Buffalo:
Month Rate Stats UBB/AB ISO --------------------------------------------- April .369/.455/.508 9/65 .139 May .219/.283/.333 9/96 .114 June .330/.368/.462 5/106 .132 July .360/.421/.430 11/100 .070 August .264/.333/.431 5/72 .167 Total .308/.370/.428 39/439 .120
In terms of peripherals, Phillips has posted an adequate walk rate only in April. His Isolated Power numbers have been uniformly sub-optimal, although he did show a nice spike in August. His batting average peppers the continuum from patently inadequate (.219 in May) to superlative (.369 in April). Such is the nature of batting average. And the problem with Phillips, even during this nominal period of skills recovery, is that too much of his value is tied up in batting average.
He’s still only 23, but in his entire career he’s never had a season in which be posted both a strong walk rate and promising raw-power indicators. Even in his breakout season at Double-A Harrisburg in 2002, Phillips didn’t walk, and his ISO of .179, while certainly solid, didn’t betray a great deal of projectable power. He’ll likely have a major league career of some import, but Phillips still doesn’t look like a future star.
- We don’t even have a full season of data to go on, but Petco Park in San Diego thus far is playing as a brutal park for hitters (Phil Nevin‘s recent kvetching may have tipped you off to this fact). It ranks as the toughest park in baseball for runs scored (Park Factor = 771) and home runs (Park Factor = 658). However, it also happens to be second only to Coors Field in terms of inflating the rate of triples (Park Factor = 1869). That’s what often happens in parks with deep fences and spacious outfields.
Still, as unaccommodating as Petco has been for hitters, it doesn,t explain away the power decline of Brian Giles. Giles slugged a robust .622 in 2002, dropped to .514 last year and is puttering along at .438 this season. Giles is also slugging only .412 on the road this season, which suggests that his troubles aren’t a function of Petco; he just looks like a player squarely in his decline phase.
At the time, I loved the Giles trade for San Diego. However, at this juncture, you can muster a strong case that the Padres would have been better off in the here and now if they’d never made that swap with Pittsburgh. Consider this:
Player 2004 VORP --------------------------- B. Giles 27.8 J. Bay 24.3 O. Perez 36.9
Giles has been 33.4 runs worse this season than Jason Bay and Oliver Perez, the two major league-ready players the Padres gave up in the deal. If Perez had been plugged into the rear end of the San Diego rotation this season instead of Ismael Valdes (-2.2 VORP) and Sterling Hitchcock (-0.9 VORP), the Padres, overall, would be almost 37 runs better. In other words, they’d likely be leading the Wild Card chase.
In a certain sense, hindsight is odious. As I said, at the time I thought the Giles deal was commendable for the Padres. But I didn’t anticipate the progress of Perez. PECOTA’s weighted-mean forecast called for Perez to put up a 4.28 ERA and a 1.83 K/BB ratio. Instead, Perez has been good for a 3.04 ERA and 2.84 K/BB. In other words, Perez, by both measures, has easily bested his 90th-percentile forecast. Maybe Dave Littlefield saw that coming, but few others did.
- Let us, as a nation, get past the idea that Sammy Sosa is suddenly a lousy hitter. Those who embalm memories of Sosa circa 1998-2001 won’t be mollified; that player is gone forever. Yes, he’s overpaid, but that’s because the Cubs signed him to an imprudently long contract under notably different market conditions.
Sosa is batting only .258, but his secondary skills are still substantial, hence the passable .341 OBP and pretty darn good .538 SLG. He’s no longer the best bat on the team, and he’s no longer an MVP candidate by any standard. He does, however, remain a productive hitter. To put a finer point on it, Sosa has been far, far more useful to the team this season than Mark Prior.
- Ray Lankford easily tops my post-Ozzie Smith litany of favorite players. I’m a fan.
I don’t think he ever received the credit his performance merited (heck, I might’ve even cast a wildly-biased NL MVP vote for him back in ’97). For years, Lankford provided plus defense in center, speed on the bases, on-base skills and excellent power, but he never seemed to get the plaudits for it. He’s about to begin a minor league rehab assignment (wrist injury), and he might even earn a promotion once the rosters expand in September.
That said, with the addition of Larry Walker and Lankford’s declining skills, his career, for all intents and purposes, is over. Of course, I would’ve said the same thing before this season began, so it was nice to see Lankford have a hot six weeks before his age ran him down for good. I’d like to give a final tip of the cap to a heck of a ballplayer and a true professional (tasteless hatchet jobs of the past notwithstanding). Thanks for the good baseball, Mr. Lankford.