The weekend edition of Baseball Beat brings you a Dusty Baker dozen questions for your consideration.
Sorry football fans but is there a better week in the sports world than the one that brings us the Final Four, Opening Day of the baseball season, and the Masters golf tournament?
Has anyone figured out yet the name of the player whose stats are included in the Baseball Analysts logo in the upper left-hand corner of the page?
Although not quite up to the caliber of the retirement class of 1993 -- featuring George Brett, Nolan Ryan, and Robin Yount -- but have the accomplishments of Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, and Fred McGriff been fully appreciated? Throw in Andres Galarraga, Eric Karros, Ray Lankford, John Olerud, Dean Palmer, and Robin Ventura, and baseball has lost ten prominent players from the past couple of decades.
When will we know whether Rickey Henderson has called it a career? The greatest leadoff hitter and the fourth-best left fielder of all time has been around so long he had two years under his belt when Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1980.
Has there ever been a baseball team with more "twinned letters" in the surnames of the players than the 1965 Minnesota Twins? Courtesy of Merritt Clifton of SABR-L, the American League champs sported the following lineup:
C: Earl Battey and Jerry Zimmerman
1B: Harmon Killebrew and Rich Reese
2B: Jerry Kindall and Bernie Allen
SS: Zoilo Versalles
3B: Rich Rollins
OF: Bob Allison, Jimmy Hall, and Joe Nossek
SP: Jim Kaat, Jim Perry, Dave Boswell, and Jim Merritt
RP: Johnny Klippstein
Tony Oliva, who replaced Lenny Green the previous year, and Don Mincher were the only position players who did not have back-to-back identical letters in their last names.
Did I mention that the Twins also had a relief pitcher by the name of Garry Roggenburk?
Did you realize the Oakland A's have three players in their starting lineup who are the sons of former major-league baseball players? Bobby Crosby (father Ed), Jason Kendall (Fred), and Nick Swisher (Steve) are each the products of journeymen-type players. Kendall has the fourth-highest on-base percentage all-time among catchers with at least 5000 plate appearances. Number one? Mickey Cochrane.
Speaking of father-son combos, has a major college baseball team ever had more kids of former MLB players as Pepperdine University this year? Drew Saberhagen, Justin Sandberg, and Chad Tracy are all on the roster.
Saberhagen, the son of two-time Cy Young Award winner Bret, is a freshman pitcher. Sandberg, the son of Cubs Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne, is a redshirt sophomore backup infielder. Tracy, the son of Dodgers manager Jim, is the starting catcher. He leads the Waves in batting average (.366), HR (6), RBI (32), OBP (.420), and SLG (.626). The younger Tracy was selected as a freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball last year.
Is there a bigger wildcard in fantasy baseball this year than Barry Bonds? If he comes back in May and performs anywhere close to his established level, owners who stepped up and drafted the seven-time MVP may just find their team sitting atop the standings at the end of the season.
Which pitcher throws the nastiest breaking ball today? I would vote for Francisco Rodriguez, who combines a 95-mph fastball with a nearly unhittable hard slider. Manager Mike Scioscia says K-Rod's "out pitch" ranks with some of the all-time greats.
"It's a combination power hook/slider. I've seen some great breaking pitches over the years -- Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton, Bert Blyleven, guys that really spin the ball. As far as power breaking pitches, (Rodriguez) might be at the top of the list."
How would you react if your favorite team's third baseman said the following after making an error that led directly to a loss? "Hopefully, the ball won't come to me too much and it won't happen again." Hint: He has committed three errors in four games. I don't know about you but that quote doesn't inspire much confidence in my book.
Will Jose Valentin have more home runs, walks, or errors at the end of the season? He has a bunch of each already and is leading the Dodgers in all three categories in the early going.
Did anybody think Jorge Cantu and Joe Randa would be leading the league in homers after the first week? Well, I would be more inclined to add three HR to their projected year-end totals than believing that either will hit 30 this year.
How is it that Roy Oswalt had an ERA of 3.01 in 2002 and 3.49 in 2004 with the following stats?
IP HR BB SO ERA
2002 233 17 62 208 3.01
2004 237 17 62 206 3.49
Although the Houston pitcher gave up 18 more hits (233 vs. 215) last year, his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was not significantly different (.287 in 2002 and .300 in 2004). However, these extra hits were all in the form of doubles (57 vs. 39).