Bullet points, for the people…
- Imagine how many bases Jose Reyes would steal if he could actually, you know, get on base. This season, he’s got a piddling OBP of .304 yet is on pace for 58 thefts. If those trends hold, Reyes will post the eighth-worst OBP ever by a player to steal at 50 bags in a season. Here’s the list:
Player Year OBP Steals Bert Campaneris 1972 .278 52 Vince Coleman 1994 .285 50 Omar Moreno 1982 .292 60 Miguel Dilone 1978 .294 50 Omar Moreno 1977 .295 53 Bert Campaneris 1967 .297 55 Mookie Wilson 1983 .300 54 Jose Reyes 2005 .304 58* (* - Projected total based on 2005 season to date)
Reyes has loads of potential long-term, and his efficiency on the base paths is nice, but he needs to learn the strike zone. That means drawing a walk more often than once every 28 plate appearances and ranking higher than 103rd among major league qualifiers in pitches seen per plate appearance.
- Not long ago, I had the pleasure of taking in a game with my friend Rich Lederer of BaseballAnalysts.com. Among our topics of discussion while waiting out a lengthy rain delay was our mutual affinity for pitchers who post high strikeout rates in tandem with strong groundball tendencies. It’s this very notion that makes Daniel Cabrera of the Orioles (or “D-Cab for Cutie”–the nickname I’ve been unsuccessfully promoting) an undervalued hurler.
Cabrera is no longer on pace to log a qualifying number of innings this season, so you won’t find him on any of the various and sundry pitching leader boards. If Cabrera were a qualifier, his groundball-fly ball ratio of 1.69 would rank 14th in the majors. Among pitchers in the top 20, no one has as high a strikeout rate as Cabrera’s 8.57, and the exhaustive list of pitchers with a K/9 of at least 8.0 and a GB/FB ratio of at least 1.5 comprises Cabrera, Chris Carpenter, A.J. Burnett and Carlos Zambrano. Not a bad crop of fellow travelers. If the progress Cabrera has shown this season in terms of keeping the ball down is legitimate and sustainable, the 24-year-old could be a serious breakout candidate in 2006.
It’s the very same principle that leads me to believe Zack Greinke may never be anything special. Fly-ball tendencies and low K rates are auguries of trouble. Greinke certainly isn’t as bad as he’s been this season (opponents are slugging .492 against him, and he could possibly cough up 50 doubles on the year), but there’s nothing in his dossier that suggests he’s a future star. He’d perhaps fare well in a park that cuts down on homers and backed by a capable unit of fly-catchers in the outfield. The Mets, for instance. But Greinke looks like a pitcher who’ll get by only under specific atmospherics. He’s not going to find those in Kansas City.
- You’ve probably noticed that Scott Podsednik is getting a fair amount of attention for his notional contributions to the White Sox’s success this season. What’s most notable, however, is his appalling lack of power.
Away from hitter-philic U.S. Cellular, Podsednik is slugging a mere .297 (!), and he’s yet to hit a home run this season. In fact, this year’s White Sox model is poised to become the first team since the 1945 Tigers (with Jimmy Outlaw) to make the post-season despite having a regular corner outfielder who didn’t hit a single home run.
Of course, that Podsednik is deliriously overrated by the mainstream media doesn’t mean he’s thoroughly without his uses. He runs the bases well, and he’s a key part of what’s a strong defensive unit. The Sox this season rank second in all of baseball in Defensive Efficiency, and the fact that Chicago pitchers rank near the top of the league in fewest doubles and triples allowed suggests that the outfield defense has been especially capable.
In the process of writing my forthcoming book Winners: How Good Baseball Teams Become Great Ones (plug…shameless, first of many), I discovered that a notable preponderance of winning teams in the modern era employ what I call the “dual center fielder” arrangement. That is, they have their regular center fielder and, at one of the two corner outfield spots, they have a player who, in a recent or shortly approaching season, saw regular action in center. I don’t doubt that White Sox pitchers have greatly benefited from having Podsednik and Aaron Rowand playing behind them. As for Podsednik’s offense, however, he’s been lousy no matter how much Hawk and DJ fawn over him from the booth.
- There’s no skating around the fact that Justin Morneau has been one of the true disappointments of 2005, but let’s not dismiss his long-term promise. This season, Morneau has endured a bone spur in his left elbow and a serious concussion, and this past winter he battled a long list of maladies: appendicitis requiring emergency surgery, a cyst requiring minor surgery, pneumonia and chicken pox. If he struggles like this when he’s healthy and coming off a full winter’s worth of training and conditioning, then you can worry. Until then, cut him some slack.
That’s all for this time around. I offer my gratitude to the many of you who wrote to express your concerns for my family on the Gulf Coast. They’re physically fine, but facing a long and difficult time of rebuilding. I only wish the good people of New Orleans had been as fortunate.