Bullet points, with feeling…

  • If Red Sox and Yankee partisans are bored with the “fait accompli” AL East and AL Wild Card races, then here’s something for you to pay attention to. It’s how the seeding plays out. More to the point, Yankee fans have a vested interest in seeing the Twins wind up with a better record than the A’s. Sox fans, however, would do well to summon their karmic resolve for the opposite outcome.

    This is because the idea of facing two doses of Johan Santana and, if necessary, two doses of Brad Radke in a five-game series is mighty unpalatable. As I’ve already written in this space, I think Santana and Radke form the best one-two punch in the game this season. Since the All-Star break, the Twins are 21-5 when Santana or Radke starts (13-0 when it’s Santana) and 20-19 when anyone else is on the bump. Needless to say, the prospect of four games against “Radtana” should make the Yanks and Sox quake in their cleats. But someone’s going to have to play them.

    At this writing, the Twins are a game up on the A’s, and here’s how the remaining schedule plays out:

    MIN: (4)@CLE, (3)@NYY, (3)CLE
    OAK: (3)@ANA, (4)SEA, (3)ANA

    The schedule favors the Twins, who have two series against the hobbled and regressing Indians around a tilt with the–by then–auto-piloted Yankees. As for Oakland, after the recent sweep by Texas, they’ll be fighting to stave off the Angels and surging Rangers, with two series against second-place Anaheim. The other consideration is that the Twins have already clinched the Central and will be more concerned with doling out rest and configuring the rotation than jockeying for playoff seeding. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d prefer the lower seed, which would allow them to avoid facing Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez twice each in the ALDS.

    Still, given the schedule differences and the one-game lead for Minnesota, the A’s will probably come in as the three seed (should they make it at all). That means another Yankees-A’s ALDS and a potential epic round of pitching match-ups between the Sox and Twins. Can’t freaking wait.

  • “It’s not a good time to be an Oriole fan” has been an annual refrain pretty much ever since Davey Johnson vacated the switch. That’s still the case, and I’m not talking about this season in Baltimore, which has actually seen its share of bright spots–Melvin Mora, Miguel Tejada and B.J. Ryan chief among them.

    The Oriole farm system, after all these years, is still in tatters. No O’s full-season affiliate posted a winning record, and combined they went a paltry 260-303–the worst such mark for any organization in 2004. It gets worse. Nominal top prospect Adam Loewen had a roundly disappointing campaign for Low-A Delmarva (85.1 innings, 4.96 R/G, 58 walks, 1.4 K/BB, all despite toiling in a pitcher’s park and in the lowest of all full-season leagues), and they might lose the chance to sign Wade Townsend, the eighth overall pick of the June draft. Makes one long for the days when Papy Ndungidi was arguing innocently with his locker

  • You wouldn’t expect a first-year GM hired after pitchers and catchers had reported to spring training to have much of an imprimatur on his organization. Still, using VORP, let’s see how much of the current Dodger model Paul DePodesta is responsible for:

    Total Team Hitting VORP = 274.3
    Hitting VORP of DePodesta acquisitions = 50.2

    That comes to 18.3% of the team total. Here are the player-by-player breakdowns for the DePo Dodgers:

    Player                      2004 VORP
    M. Bradley                  25.1
    J. Werth                    15.7
    S. Finley                    9.5
    O. Saenz                     8.1
    J. Grabowski                 1.7
    A. Perez                     0.9
    H. Choi                     -4.3
    B. Mayne                    -6.5

    As for the pitching side of the ledger, DePodesta hasn’t been as active:

    Total Team Pitching VORP = 238.4
    Pitching VORP of DePodesta acquisitions = 9.9

    That’s a mere 4.2% of the total pitching VORP. On an individual level, here’s how it breaks down:

    Pitcher                     2004 VORP
    E. Dessens                  4.1
    B. Penny                    2.5
    M. Venafro                  2.0
    S. Stewart                  1.3

  • If the Rangers come up short this season in what figures to be a nip-and-tuck affair in the AL West, they might consider two things, one meaningful in terms of the future and one not. The less vital one is that Texas this season is 2-5 in one-run games against the division-pacing A’s. That’s probably neither here nor there in terms of being a correctable flaw, but it’s worth noting.

    The second is that, as a team, they have a paltry .308 OBP away from Arlington. In other words, on the road they’re a worse OBP team than the D-backs, who rank last in the majors with a .311 mark. Lest you think this doesn’t greatly affect the bottom line, know that the Rangers are 23 games over .500 at Arlington and six games under .500 anywhere else. It’s hard to make the post-season when your team is ill-equipped to score runs in half its games.

In closing, I’d like to give my Dad a special hello on his 70th birthday. Besides having the patience to stand by and indefatigably support a son who wanted to somehow write for a living, he also did a fine job instilling in me a love for baseball in general and the Cardinals in particular. Most of us can point to a father, mother, sister or brother who introduced us to the game. It’s a small, good thing, as Raymond Carver might say. But a good thing it is. Happy Birthday, Pop. And thanks for all of it.

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