Friday bullets:

  • I was going to write a bit about Barry Bonds, but Tom Gorman beat me to it. Suffice to say that Bonds is going to play a lot less in 2005 than he did in 2004. I wouldn’t project him for more than 110 starts, which at the rate he walks, could mean fewer than 300 at-bats.

    While this clearly has a major impact on the Giants’ chances of winning the NL West, it also means that Bonds has virtually no chance to break Hank Aaron‘s home-run record this season. This is almost certainly good for him and for MLB, because the more time between this winter’s ugliness and home-run #756, the greater the chance that it can be celebrated without reservation or innuendo. For as big an issue as steroids appear to be at the moment, in a year’s time, the media–and certainly the government–will have moved on to other sensations.

  • Dusty Baker has indicated that Jason Dubois–wrecking the ball this spring–and Todd Hollandsworth will end up in a job-sharing arrangement, although he didn’t call it a platoon. Per Rotowire: “There are certain matchups that I see, by a guy’s style or what a guy can hit, or whatever it is, that I can sort of tell that they’ll have a better chance of hitting this guy or that guy. It depends on what I think their strengths and weaknesses are.”

    Now, I’ve read that a few times, and I can’t decide what I’m seeing. Is this one of those situations where a manager knows more than an outside observer, and can make optimal decisions based on observational evidence? Or is it a situation where a manager is just positioning himself as that guy, and actually doesn’t know any more than someone with the players’ performance records would?

    There’s an assumption we make that guys inside the game have more information than those outside do. I think that they have different information, but not necessarily more, because I seriously doubt more than a handful of managers utilize the kind of performance data that, say, I would. I’m not saying one is better than the other, but I am saying that we shouldn’t assume that insiders are seeing the whole picture any more than we are.

    This being Hollandsworth, the whole situation will settle itself when he gets hurt. The danger for Cubs fans is that Dubois has a bad week and some combination of Jerry Hairston and Jose Macias becomes the left fielder. The NL Central looks a little bit worse every day.

  • The Twins appear to have settled on Michael Cuddyer as their third baseman, which gets him back to about where he was three years ago. His strength defensively is his arm, which is just one reason why trying him at second base was, while noble, a bit of a mistake. He’ll be 26 in a week or so, so he’s not a high-upside prospect any longer, and it wouldn’t kill the Twins to keep the switch-hitting Terry Tiffee around so that Cuddyer could sit 40 or so times against right-handed pitchers. It’s more likely that Nick Punto or Augie Ojeda will have that roster spot, the Twins will start 5-6 guys with .330 OBPs or worse, and the Indians will make their lives very, very hard.
  • Maybe Tampa Bay is a really bad market for baseball. I think we’ll never know, because they may never put a winning team on the field. Lou Piniella sent Jonny Gomes to minor-league camp, which pretty much guarantees Danny Bautista a regular job.

    How do you reach the conclusion that Danny Bautista is the guy you want to go to war with? He’s 32 and has played a full season with one team exactly once in his career–last year, when he hit .286/.332/.401 for the Diamondbacks. Do you know how hard it is to be a regular in Bank One Ballpark and slug just .401? Batista’s career line is .272/.315/.409, he has a toolsy reputation that is completely belied by the stats (few triples or steals, lots of GIDPs), and even if he has a good year, he’ll probably spend half of it on the DL. And he’s 32! What, he’s going to get better? Be part of a contender in two years?

    Gomes doesn’t have a broad set of skills. He has major-league power and a decent batting eye, and that’s about it. Right now, though, the Devil Rays desperately need runs. Like the Twins, two-thirds of their lineup is filled with guys who will be below-average hitters. Gomes would make their offense better, and with Carl Crawford in the outfield, they can afford to give up a little defense for offense. He’s simply a better player than Bautista, and his early dismissal from camp is inexplicable.

  • Terry Francona indicated that he would use Edgar Renteria in the #2 slot, with Mark Bellhorn batting ninth. Setting aside for the moment the question of whether lineup order matters all that much, this is a very questionable decision in any game in which the Red Sox face a right-handed pitcher.

    Renteria is a right-handed groundball hitter with a pretty good contact rate who hits lefties much better than he does righties. While not necessarily an impatient hitter, he’s not always inclined to take pitches. He hits into 15-20 double plays a year, and that’s while batting all over the Cardinals’ lineup the past few seasons.

    Bellhorn, on the other hand, has a high OBP against right-handed pitchers, and as a left-handed strikeout/flyball hitter, he raps into double plays about as often as Martha Stewart cracks open a can of pork and beans. He’s arguably the most patient hitter in baseball, willing to go deep into counts, a trait that allows Johnny Damon opportunities to steal.

    The only edges Renteria has on Bellhorn are speed and contact. The former is overrated for #2 hitters, and clearly hasn’t helped Renteria stay out of DPs. The latter is actually a negative in the #2 hole; you’d prefer a strikeout to a ground ball every time.

    Against right-handers, Bellhorn should be the Sox’ #2 hitter. It’s not just about overall performance, but about the two players’ skill sets and how they play in the second spot in the order.

I had Wisconsin-Milwaukee and UAB in a 13-3 day yesterday. Today, it’s all about the chalk except for Vermont. Enjoy the weekend, everyone!