Some bullets to help you through the darkest, loneliest, most desolate day of the year …
- Of the eight players in the Padres’ hoped-for Opening Day lineup, five–Phil Nevin, Mark Loretta, Ramon Hernandez, Dave Roberts and Khalil Greene–have spent time on the DL this season. Throw in the wholly inadequate contributions of Sean Burroughs, and you’re left with a team that, by necessity, has depended heavily on its bench. Fortunately for San Diego, that bench has been baseball’s best in 2005. Consider the top four members of the bench corps:
Player PA Rate Stats Pos. Played VORP Robert Fick 108 .316/.370/.459 C,RF,1B,LF 9.0 Damian Jackson 182 .290/.363/.401 2B,LF,SS,3B,CF,RF 12.2 Xavier Nady 195 .264/.328/.511 CF,LF,1B,RF,3B 12.8 Mark Sweeney 146 .292/.411/.517 1B,CF,LF,RF 14.9
The remaining benchers, Geoff Blum and Miguel Ojeda, have been notably less effective, but the quartet above has, in terms of total VORP and plate appearances, been roughly as productive as Mark Teixeira was in 2004. Last season, the Pads had an older-than-average lineup with a fragile history, so it was vital that they cobble together a potent reserve corps. They’ve done just that, and it’s a major reason San Diego is in first place at the break.
- How weak has the NL West been this season? We’re just barely the past the mid-point, and the division is a cumulative 43 games below .500, which, of course, means they’re playing .411 ball against teams from outside the division. To boot, denizens of the West have an aggregate run differential of -270. How does that compare to, say, the AL West in 1994? At the end of that abortive campaign, the Rangers “led” the division with a 52-62 mark when the season was snuffed out by the players’ strike.
The AL West that year was 57 games below .500 and sported a cumulative run differential of -288. The truncated ’94 season lasted only 112 games for most teams, but even on that pro-rated basis, the NL West has been worse this season.
- Much has deservedly been made of Jose Guillen‘s home/road splits this season (.277/.377/.350 at home and .333/.347/.677 on the road), but he’s rivaled by Brian Giles when it comes to being hurt by his home digs. Giles on the season is batting .245/.384/.392 at home and .342/.468/.621 when freed from Petco.
If there’s an anti-Guillen/Giles this season, it’s got to be Alfonso Soriano of the Rangers. Fathom these ’05 splits: .324/.353/.682 at home and .222/.257/.370 on the road.
- There’s not much cause for optimism in Arizona these days, but that will change; the Snakes are slowly building a devastating stable of position prospects. We know about Conor Jackson, Carlos Quentin, Scott Hairston and Sergio Santos, and we also know about recent top overall pick Justin Upton. Let’s not forget a couple of other notables …
Sample-size caveats abound, but Stephen Drew is off to a lava-hot start at High-A Lancaster, hitting .378/.471/.865 over his first 19 games. Lancaster’s a hitter’s park in a hitter’s circuit, but Drew’s nevertheless laying waste to concerns about his ability to hit with wood.
There’s also relatively unheralded catching prospect Miguel Montero, who recently earned a promotion to Double-A Tennessee after hitting .349/.403/.625 at Lancaster. He’s already homered at Tennessee, which gives him an even 50 extra-base hits for the season. Montero’s performance to date in ’05 is out of step with the rest of his career, but he certainly merits a place on your radar because of his efforts this season.
- A quick update on the principals involved in the off-season Cardinals/A’s blockbuster …
Mark Mulder: 114.0 IP, 4.58 R/G, 5.3 K/9, 2.43 K/BB, 1.11 HR/9 Dan Haren: 121.1 IP, 4.82 R/G, 6.7 K/9, 2.57 K/BB, 0.96 HR/9 Kiko Calero: 25.0 IP, 4.32 R/G, 7.6 K/9, 3.50 K/BB, 1.44 HR/9 Daric Barton: (High-A) 79 games, .318/.438/.469
(Double-A) 6 games, .474/.545/.842
Mulder’s perhaps arguably been better than Haren this season (although certainly not on the dollar), but at a cost of a top-ten prospect and a reasonably useful reliever? I take no joy in pointing this out, but so far this one’s a loss for the Cards.
- Reigning NL ERA champ and Cy Young hopeful Jake Peavy is in only his fourth major-league season, but he’s already dwelling in rarified historical air. Here’s a list of the top five career strikeout-to-walk ratios since 1900 by pitchers logging at least 500 innings before age 25:
Pitcher K/BB Ratio 1 Jim Merritt 3.90 2 Bert Blyleven 3.29 3 Ferguson Jenkins 3.25 4 Walter Johnson 3.21 5 Roger Clemens 3.21 6 Bret Saberhagen 3.15 7 Dwight Gooden 3.08 8 Greg Swindell 3.05 9 Frank Tanana 3.05 10 Don Sutton 2.92 11 Javier Vazquez 2.92 12 Jake Peavy 2.84 13 Tom Seaver 2.80 14 Pedro Martinez 2.78 15 Mickey Lolich 2.71 16 Ismael Valdes 2.69 17 Ben Sheets 2.61 18 George Stone 2.61 19 Brad Radke 2.61 20 Denny McLain 2.58
As you can see, Peavy sports the 12th-best mark, and it puts him in some fairly elite company. What’s perhaps more impressive is that Peavy’s 5.39 K/BB ratio this season, if it holds, would be the best such seasonal mark by an under-25 qualifier since 1900. The top ten:
Pitcher Year K/BB Ratio 1 Jake Peavy 2005 5.39 2 Jim Merritt 1967 5.37 3 Mark Prior 2003 4.90 4 Javier Vazquez 2001 4.73 5 Denny McLain 1968 4.44 6 Tom Seaver 1968 4.27 7 Bret Saberhagen 1985 4.16 8 Walter Johnson 1910 4.12 9 Steve Woodard 1998 4.09 10 Odalis Perez 2002 4.08
Not a bad start to what should be, health permitting, a stellar career.
Until next week …