Launchpad to the Pros
The results speak for themselves. One in seven Major Leaguers played here, including one of every three collegiate draftees. Eighteen percent of all Major League hitters received their first elongated stint with a wooden bat in this league. This is, plain and simple, the stomping grounds for the Major Leaguers of tomorrow.
Yesterday, I mentioned Matt Murton's performance in the Cape. For two seasons, he had dominated the Cape Cod League, hitting well over .300 in both seasons with a wooden bat. He won the league's home run derby with wood, catching the eye of scouts everywhere. This was all he needed to get noticed, to get drafted high. If he isn't enough proof, how about the 169 players drafted this past June that spent their summer in Massachusetts? Does anyone think the likes of Tyler Greene, Daniel Carte or Tommy Manzella would have been drafted so high without positive summer reports? No way.
While the Cape doesn't have a monopoly on summer league baseball, it is close. The Northwoods League is a nice place for sleepers, but not often did a star play there. The same is true, even moreso in fact, for the Coastal Plain League. Team USA always hosts the best of the best, but even many of those players spent at least one season out east. Some even spurn the American national team to play with or against wooden bats, notably the two aces from North Carolina.
Given the abandonment of aluminum, it's suffice to say that chicks wouldn't exactly dig the Cape Cod League. Teams win on the White Sox strategy -- pitching -- rather than trying to score more runs than the opponent. The league batting average is a paltry .233, and teams are scoring on average, just about 4 runs per game. Because of this, expectations aren't exactly normal for hitters, who we just hope hit like Ronnie Belliard or the 2005 version of Adrian Beltre. Conversly, a pitcher has to be Clemens-esque to really start to become noticed.
In fact, to prove this point, I went through the 2004 Cape Cod statistics of the players drafted in last June's first five rounds. I gathered the statistics of every hitter that was there for fifty at-bats, and every pitcher who threw ten innings. Not a perfect system, but it gave me enough data to be somewhat confident (19 hitters, 16 pitchers). The average top 5 round player hit .262 in the 2004 Cape, with an ISO of just .117. He walked once every 10 at-bats or so (9.95), though walks were the one number that was more all over the board than anything else. The average was certainly helped by the likes of Daniel Carte (.308/.402/.560) and Ryan Patterson (.327/.348/.518), while hurt by Ryan Braun (.180/.293/.260) and Drew Butera (.182/.238/.212). As a general rule, I think becoming interested in hitters with a .260 batting average and .380 slugging percentage is an OK starting strategy on the Cape.
For pitchers, it's not that easy. The sixteen pitchers totaled 527 innings at the Cape, and compiled a group ERA of 2.25. They allowed just 23 home runs (0.39 HR/9 ratio), and even at that, 10 of the 23 came from three players: Chris Nicoll (3), Mike Billek (3) and James Avery (4). The group had fantastic peripherals, striking out 10.45 per nine innings, allowing just a 6.59 H/9, and had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.20. Wow. These numbers were certainly helped by relievers Craig Hansen (0.00 ERA, 41/2 K/BB in 22.1 IP) and Kevin Whelan (1 ER, 9 H, 31 K in 21.2 IP), who were amazing. The group ERA drops to 1.78 if you eliminate the last three players drafted: Avery, Zack Kroenke and Brett Harker.
Using those numbers as a base, I set out to find some of the better players at the Cape this season. It seems like -- even across the entire collegiate landscape -- pitching rules more than ever, as I noticed there wasn't exactly a ton of great hitting prospects. With the Cape All-Star Game on the horizon, now is as good a time as ever to check on the league's top players. There might be others, but here are five hitters, nine pitchers, and one two-way player that have caught my eye so far.
Daniel Bard (RHP - UNC): In the Baseball Prospectus article I wrote about the five top 2006 college pitchers, I wrote this of Daniel Bard:
If there is a consensus about the first four players on this list, there isn't with Daniel Bard. Despite playing in a pitchers' park with the easiest schedule of the five, Bard had by far the worst season of the group. Everyone blows him away in terms of ERA, and only the sinkerballer (Buck) and wild thing (Miller) are close in K/9 and BB/9, respectively. Still, what keeps Bard on this list is his stuff and the promise from his freshman season. It's still possible that Bard puts it all together and has a great junior season, catapulting himself into a guaranteed top ten.
Well, he's certainly in the midst of being catapulted. Bard has been one of the Cape's best pitchers this season, and has the honor of starting the All-Star Game. The right-hander has 62 strikeouts in 49 innings, with just 38 hits and 16 walks allowed, and a 1.47 ERA. Next season is the big test for Bard, but if you're a betting person, take Bard in the top ten.
Aaron Bates (C/1B - NC St.): In the future I will write about Team USA, where Matt LaPorta is proving to be the most dangerous hitter in America. If that's true, Bates has a chance at one of the top spots behind the Florida first baseman. The two are actually similar players, as they are ex-catchers that have no business behind the plate anymore. But Bates' career has been longer than LaPorta's, as he was a transfer to the Pack from San Jose State. After dominating there, Bates had an amazing 2005 in which his .425 batting average yielded just an eighth round draft pick. My guess is Bates will ened up with a similar draft history to Jeff Larish, ending up in the 3-5 rounds next June. Considering his well-rounded offensive talents, I'd sure take him in the third.
Dallas Buck (RHP - Or. St.): Someone had to have made the right calls for Buck to make the All-Star Game, that's for sure. While Buck comes to the Cape with quite the resume, his early results on the 2005 summer are not so good: 4.91 ERA in 25.2 innings. That's bound to go down, though, as all of Buck's peripherals are sound: 21 hits, 30 strikeouts, 5 walks. After turning down Team USA, Buck was ready to sit the summer out, before making a last minute decision to join Falmouth a bit late. His stock couldn't have been any higher after the CWS, so I wondered if sitting out was a good move, especially considering the workload he endured during his junior season. One to watch in the Cape's second half.
Chris Coghlan (3B - Miss): The Chase Headly of 2005, maybe. Coghlan has manned the hot corner well for the Rebels for the last two seasons, named to the All-SEC Freshman team following his first season. He's a very disciplined hitter that has posted OBPs of .379 and .430 in his first two years at Ole Miss. This year in the Cape, Coghlan is hitting .333/.414/.406 with 12 walks and 11 strikeouts in 96 at-bats. And that perfectly shows Coghlan's skillset, as he is a very selective, and still is a good contact hitter. What he lacks, however, is power, as Coghlan has yet to show anything more than doubles power.
Chris Errecart (1B/OF - Cal): Entering the Cape League, I would guess Errecart came with the least fanfare. After two unspectacular seasons at Cal, Errecart entered the League with a rep as a poor defensive player with little discipline and just projectable power. But, Errecart has proven to be a well-rounded hitter this summer, with a SLG that rivals only a man a couple spots down for tops in the league. His patience is much improved from his first two seasons at Cal, and needs to stay at the current walk per ten at-bats pace. Errecart also must prove he can hack it in left field, a position far more forgiving for his offensive faults than first. 2006 is a big year for Errecart, who I think could be a sleeper next June.
Mark Hamilton (OF - Tulane): One of the league's better prospects, in my opinion. As a member of the top-ranked Green Wave this year, Hamilton was shadowed by the likes of Bogusevic, Owings and Manzella. Expect that to change in 2006, when Hamilton should emerge as the best player on one of the nation's best programs. His power has been intriguing since his Perfect Game days, and his .209 ISO at the Cape is fantastic. He's patient and powerful, and on the verge of a huge junior season.
Jared Hughes (RHP - LBSU): The surprise of the Cape so far, Hughes might actually win the 'Cy Young' if it existed. A transfer to Long Beach State from Santa Clara, Hughes has positioned himself to take the Dirtbags' Friday Night role next season. This is a good spot to have, as the last three are all well regarded prospects: Cesar Ramos, Jered Weaver and Abe Alvarez. Hughes was a very good high school pitching prospect that started to decline a bit his senior season. Could this be the revival? Well, it's too early to tell, but reports back are very solid. His fastball has been 89-92 mph, and while the control isn't apparently as good as the numbers say, it's hard to argue with 9 walks in 41 innings. My guess is that Hughes will turn out to be a far better prospect than we would have guessed in June, but a bit worse than some will forecast in August.
David Huff (LHP - UCLA): Has had a whirlwind of a college career, and will attend his third school in three years next season. After a 3rd team All State mention as a high school senior, Huff's college career began with a 3.00 ERA in more than 30 appearances for Pepperdine University. Last summer was his first year in the Cape, and Huff was brilliant, finishing fourth on the ERA leaderboard. He then transferred to Cypress Junior College for his sophomore season, likely so he could enter the draft this year. Rumors of an arm injury and a commitment to UCLA allowed Huff to slide to the Phillies in the 19th round, cementing a third collegiate season. He changes speeds fantastically with three good pitches, has great control, and is poised to finish high in the league leaders for ERA yet again.
Wade Leblanc (LHP - Bama): The Alabama website is not shy. "LeBlanc posted the most unbelievable freshman season in the history of Alabama baseball." Or how about this: "It would be easier to name the award Wade LeBlanc did not win during his remarkable freshman season with the Alabama Crimson Tide." They don't sugarcoat it, do they? But the site is correct, as Leblanc's freshman season was amazing en route to a National Freshman of the Year award. But reality struck hard in 2005, when Leblanc's ERA went from 2.08 to 4.37. Leblanc is finding the magic again at the Cape, where he has a 2.06 ERA and a K/9 back over the 9.00 mark. A crafty lefty with 3 solid pitches, Leblanc will likely interest the same people that Cesar Ramos did this past June.
Tim Lincecum (RHP - Wash): Like Bates, Lincecum was draft-eligible as a sophomore this past season. His stock fell late due to a multitude of reasons, likely very disheartening to a player some felt would end up in the first two rounds before his year began. Lincecum's stuff is unparalleled at this level, with a fantastic fastball-curveball combination. But, there are three factors that are plaguing Lincecum's stock: a hugely overworked sophomore season, a motion that pains the eyes, and some control issues. Still, if he continues to pitch at this rate -- 0.79 ERA, 58 K in 34 IP -- he'll enter the early round argument yet again.
Brad Lincoln (UT - Houston): Our lone two-way player on this list, Lincoln has been very good with his glove and arm so far. At the plate, Lincoln is hitting .275/.388/.538 while splitting time between first base, the outfield, and the designated hitter spot. He strikes out too much, but walks a lot and has plus power. On the mound, he's been very good as well, with a 1.58 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 45.2 innings. He had the better season at the plate his sophomore year, though his 106/25 strikeout-to-walk ratio shows a lot of potential. My guess at this point is that Lincoln will end up a pitcher in the John Van Benschoten and Micah Owings mold. And that is one hell of a compliment.
Evan Longoria (IF - LBSU): Along with teammate Hughes, the surprise of the Cape. Longoria played third base for the Dirtbags in 2005, but was out of position, simply manning the hot corner while Troy Tulowitzki finished his college career. At heart, Longoria is a shortstop, and will play that role in Long Beach in 2006. If he shows a sliver of the power he has with a wooden bat, expect the Dirtbags to not even know Tulowitzki left. Still, I think Longoria is bound to be a little overrated. His power has never been more than the gap variety before, so remain skeptical until further notice. He also doesn't walk very much, though his contact skills grade out very well. The question will be one of position, as many feel Evan's future may be at second base. He has made himself noticed, that's for sure.
Derrik Lutz (RHP - Geo. Wash): The 2006 first round college closer, maybe? Above, I mentioned Craig Hansen's fantastic Cape statistics from 2004. Lutz is trying to impersonate Hansen -- a fellow small program pitcher -- this year with the Chatham A's. Leading the league in saves, Lutz has used his big fastball extremely well. Lutz has yet to allow an earned run in 21.1 innings of work, striking out 34 batters. Even more impressively, the right-hander has walked just three while giving up 11 hits. A closer as a Freshman and an ace as a sophomore, Lutz will have to decide between himself and his team next year. The former would be to return to the bullpen, while his team would likely prefer he remain the Friday Night pitcher. We will see.
Andrew Miller (LHP - UNC): Although Hughes is starting the All-Star game, he's not even the best pitcher on his own team. That honor goes to Andrew Miller, who I shouldn't have to say is one of my favorite college players out there. In fact, if the 2006 draft were held tomorrow, I would choose Miller first without even blinking. He has been as dominant as expected so far in the Cape, with an ERA of 1.93 in 42 innings of work. Still, improvements must be made on control, as he has allowed 19 walks to go with his 20 hits (!) and 56 strikeouts. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Miller (barring injury) will be a dominant reliever if things turn out badly for him.
Brett Sinkbeil (RHP - SWMS): Like Bard and Leblanc before him, Sinkbeil is another sophomore slumper. His freshman season, the right-hander won the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year honors, after posting a 3.00 ERA and 9.00 K/9. He was set to save a program that has been out of the limelight for a few seasons. But this year Sinkbeil was just OK, as his ERA worsened to 4.84 due to hittability: 95 in 87.1 (nine of which were HR). But he struck out 97 batters, so all was not lost. Sinkbeil continues to pitch well, though his ERA continues to be higher than his peripherals suggest. In 47 innings, Brett has allowed 39 hits and just 6 walks while striking out 53 batters. In his junior season, Sinkbeil must convince scouts that he won't be hit hard at the professional level to be taken seriously.
I'll close with ten players that just missed the list. At some point this weekend, I'll try to update what happened in the Cape Cod League derby and All-Star Game. The honorable mention, in no particular order:
Jason Donald (SS -- Zona): .302/.371/.381
Lance Salsgiver (CF -- Harvard): .323/.357/.376
Chris Toneguzzi (RHP -- Purdue): 2.18 14/20.2 27/3
Jordan Abruzzo (C -- San Diego): .270/.323/.391
Brandon Morrow (RHP -- Cal): 1.50 11/12 21/6
P.J. Walters (SP -- S. Alabama): 2.30 36/43 45/15
Tim Norton (RHP -- UConn): 2.06 27/48 62/13
Baron Frost (OF -- USC): .375/.445/.471
Jeff Kindel (OF/DH -- GTech): .314/.410/.438
Steven Wright (RP -- Hawaii): 0.95 11/19 27/8
A Tale of Three .400 Hitters
First rounders come in all shapes and sizes, from all different backgrounds, garnering all different types of expectations. In the end, though, all scouting directors are just dreaming of sample sizes like this. Five to fifteen game spurts in which the player is immune to the hardships of the Major League transition, and tantalize us with their potential. For that period, we see what the scouts once envisioned, and believed in enough to spend six/seven figure bonuses on.
These three players embody that thought process. Three outfielders with vastly different histories -- save their first round draft selections -- including radically different pro careers. Now they are brought together as three of the game's hottest players, following call-ups when expectations rivaled zero. Out to prove us wrong? Or their scouting directors right? Well, good job:
AB AVE W XBH
A 30 0.433 0 6
B 27 0.481 5 2
C 15 0.467 1 1
Oh, how offseason negligence creates needs. John Scheurholz spent a winter forgetting about his outfield corner spots, deciding at the last minute to go with Brian Jordan and Raul Mondesi. After that time bomb went off, Scheurholz turned to Kelly Johnson and Ryan Langerhans. With the rest of the roster in flux, and the Braves entire minor league system in the Majors, the organization decided to bring up Jeff Francoeur. Thirteen hits later, Langerhans is suddenly jobless.
Jim Hendry also saw both of his outfield corners open up last Christmas, when Sammy Sosa was dealt to Baltimore, and Moises Alou became a free agent. The Cubs decided that, rather than re-sign the aging Alou, the money would be better spent in other places. Todd Hollandsworth and Jason Dubois could fill the position fine, right? On second thought, in need of making a statement a couple weeks ago, Hendry sent down the struggling Dubois and found another right-handed left fielder. Since then, Matt Murton has had two different games in which he reached base four times.
The Royals knew this season was going to result in failure. Even the Opening Day product forecasted a last place finish, when Jose Lima got beaten to death, and newfound left fielder Terence Long went 0-for-4. Long hasn't been horrific this season, but certainly isn't the answer to one of the club's corner spots, both of which he's spent time in. Allard Baird sensed a chance to find new blood when Mark Bellhorn got hurt in Boston, sending spare-part Tony Graffanino to the world champs for Chip Ambres. And like that, Baird may have stumbled onto a fan favorite.
I would certainly be lying if I told you these numbers do not surprise me. But given the small amount of plate appearances -- combined with considerable talent -- it also isn't unforeseen. What surprised me most about the trio is just how different each player's path has been to their current success. As if Roger clemens isn't already teaching us, now is just another example of how just about anything can happen in the game of baseball.
Of the three players, it isn't surprising that Murton had the most documented pre-pro past. The Cub is the only of the trio to attend college, playing baseball at Georgia Tech following a solid high school campaign. Murton's star began to shine in the Cape Cod League in 2001, when the Yellow Jacket hit .324 with 9 XBH and 18 walks in 145 at-bats following his Freshman season. The next year at the Cape, Murton hit .400 with seven walks and extra-base hits in just 55 at-bats. And while just one of those XBH were homers, Murton showed future power winning the league's home run derby.
He followed that up with a .344/.434/.536 final season at GTech, one where Murton also stole 20 bases and walked 36 times in 250 at-bats. The Red Sox drafted Murton 32nd that June, in between Adam Miller and Omar Quintanilla.
It should be said that while Murton's environment certainly trumps that of the two high school stars, both Ambres and Francoeur were very solid players, from solid programs. Ambres was a five-tool talent from Texas, while Francoeur a two-sport star from one of Georgia's best programs. Francoeur was seen as somewhat of a hard sign, as he had already committed to playing football at Clemson. In the end both players were drafted and signed, to the Marlins and Braves respectively.
If all of these players were in the same draft, I would have ranked them in the order of Francoeur, Murton and Ambres, with Murton very close to the top.
Many organizations believe in sending high school drafted players to short-season ball the year following their selection. The Cubs, for one, are promoters of this ideology, waiting an extra year to expose high draft choices Brian Dopirak and Ryan Harvey to full season ball. While this did not happen to neither Francoeur nor Ambres, the collegiate athlete was given the conservative treatment.
Instead, both high school players were assigned to short-season ball immediately after being signed, playing there for the rest of that season. For Ambres, his time was split evenly between the Gulf COast League and New York Penn League, neither of which posed a problem. Ambres hit .353/.453/.511 before his promotion, and .267/.392/.552 after it. All in all, the Marlin also walked 46 times, struck out just 44 times, and stole 33 bases in 40 attempts in only 244 at-bats.
Francoeur did exactly what his seven figure bonus commanded: success. In 147 at-bats in the Appy League, Francoeur dominated, hitting .327/.395/.585. People that were worried about how raw he was were calmed, as Francoeur also walked 15 times in 147 at-bats. He was the entire package.
Again, Murton was the surprising player of the trio at this level. Not only did he spend his entire 2003 season in the NYPL, but he also was unspectacular at the level. Murton hit *just* .286/.374/.397 following a highly praised career at a top college program. His power was non-existent, and only his 27/39 walk-to-strikeout ratio was approved of.
At this point, Murton fell to last, and Francoeur would edge out Ambres for the top spot, mostly because of pre-draft notions. It would have been close though, rivaling another argument with a different top Marlin draft pick and Francoeur.
Boston became more aggressive with Murton after his lackluster 2003 season, trying to figure out what kind of player they had drafted. With that in mind, the club had Murton skip the South Atlantic League entirely. We won't see him again until the Florida State League.
If Murton didn't play at this level, Ambres made up for him. In his first year of full season ball in 2000, Ambres struggled horrendously, with just a .709 OPS in 320 at-bats. Injuries plagued his season, but a poor batting average and little power did not help his case. The only positive sign at this point were his patience-speed combination that begged to be a future lead-off man: 52 walks and 26 steals.
In 2001, Ambres did not get in an entirely full season of health again, though he played better in his 377 at-bats. He hit .265/.360/.416 with 53 walks and 19 steals, showing improved all-around play, but a worse performance in the positive stats from year one. If he had combined the two, his star would surely have been higher.
Conversly, Jeff Francoeur barely had problems. The first-round football player hit .281/.325/.445 with the Rome Braves, also showing good defense and stealing 14 bases. His power potential was immense, and comparisons to Dale Murphy started to become commonplace. He was lacking a bit in polish, though, walking just 30 times in 524 at-bats. Still, there is no way this would have even given Ambres a chance to match Francoeur's star potential.
Murton joins us again, and this time with two different performances, as a midseason trade cut Murton's season into two. Before being dealt, Murton was beginning to show his one-time potential in Sarasota, hitting .301/.372/.452 with 42 walks in 376 at-bats. This, was the player the Red Sox drafted, especially when Murton won the FSL home run derby.
But they traded him at the same time Nomar Garciaparra was sent to the Cubs, as Murton replaced the spots previously held by Justin Jones and Brendan Harris on the Chicago minor league ladder. Murton disappointed a bit after the trade in 79 at-bats, hitting .253 with a pedestrian .367 slugging percentage. Still, Murton had struck out just 71 times all year, so the book was already written on him. "Very good contact skills, but likely lacks the power for an outfield corner."
There were no such worries about Francoeur, who managed a .508 slugging percentage in one of the minors most difficult stadiums. In Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League, Francoeur continued to build on the optimism that had been growing since his arrival into the system. Francoeur teamed his slugging percentage with a .293 batting average, and managed his strikeouts adequately, with 69 in 331 at-bats. The Braves then took a chance and allowed Francoeur to finish the season in AA.
As far as Ambres goes, he's just lucky the Marlins didn't make him repeat this level. In his first real full season, Ambres was terrible in every non-patience/speed category possible. A .236 batting average, .365 slugging percentage, and 98 strikeouts just were not what the Marlins thought they had drafted. At all.
From here on out, the order unquestionably goes Francoeur, Murton, and Ambres.
Our final stop, as this was the final minor league level in which both Murton and Francoeur played at before their recent call-ups. And while Francoeur still remained a better prospect than Murton, when they were brought to the Majors, Murton had certainly been more impressive in the Southern League.
In 2004, when the Braves let Jeff finish in AA, he struggled like he never had before. The former first-round pick hit just .197 in 76 at-bats, and in even more concerning fashion, did not draw one walk. Still, Baseball America praised Francoeur's season, and named him a better prospect than saber-fave Andy Marte. BA's thoughts have been validated a bit, as Francoeur proved his AA cup of coffee was nothing more than an aberration. Before becoming the Braves right fielder, Francoeur hit .275/.322/.487 in Mississippi. Nothing jaw-dropping -- the patience was still an issue -- but Francoeur's power potential was at an all-time high. Now, he has three doubles and three home runs in just 30 Major League ABs.
Murton was better than Francoeur, as mentioned, in a season that no one saw coming. But while Francoeur's season began with huge struggles, Murton started fantastically, hitting .400 well into the season. Of course, this cannot be sustained forever (as their Major League stats will find out), and Murton's average dropped to *just* .342. His walking was down a bit -- 29 in 313 at-bats -- but not concerning considering his strikeouts (just 42). His speed was also a part of his game again, as Murton stole 18 bases in 23 attempts as a member of the Diamond Jaxx.
Neither of the above player even played a full season in AA. Chip Ambres, however, played two. In 2003, the Marlin hit .258/.376/.439, vastly improved numbers on his Florida State League performance. He walked 72 times in 380 at-bats, but showed little speed, stealing just nine bases. While his stats were solid, they weren't good enough to warrant a promotion, and Ambres spent the 2004 season duplicating his previous campaign. Ambres hit .241/.352/.449 in what would be his final season with the Marlin organization. This was Florida's mistake, though, as they didn't see his rise in ISO, renewed speed (26 steals), and continued patience (76 walks).
Instead, they let him walk. And he did just that, going north to the champion Boston Red Sox. Signed to play in Pawtucket, Ambres' hopes of helping the Red Sox were squashed with the club's selection of Adam Stern in the Rule 5 draft. Instead, Ambres was destined to become an organizational player, unless something happened quick. And that it did, as Ambres began to tear the cover off the ball in his first season at AAA. The Royals hoped to acquire the player that was hitting .294/.401/.495 with 19 steals in 279 at-bats, not the aging bonus baby that entered 2005 with a career OPS south of .800.
Not only do I believe these players will suffer drops in their season statistics, but they also are in danger of not even working their way into the organization's long-term plans. This does not, of course, apply to Francoeur, who has been handed a spot in the Atlanta outfield since the day he was drafted. His performance the rest of the way will dictate his Opening Day 2006 assignment, although it looks more and more like that will be in the Majors.
Matt Murton and Chip Ambres, I'm afraid, will not have the same luck. Ambres is a center fielder stuck in an organization with David DeJesus, and is confident in DeJesus' abilities. While Ambres still shows signs of all five tools, he's best off playing in center and leading off somewhere. In that situation, expect about what the Cubs are getting from Jerry Hairston Jr.
But what will the Cubs get from Murton? That's the toughest question to answer, as Matt has still not proven to be a legit corner outfielder. His contact and patience skills are fantastic, but I'm afraid that singles will not do, even with a team leading the world in infield corner production. Murton must show power to ever have a hope of a full-time gig, and will even need to up his ISO to become a platoon player. Does it seem to anyone else that the Cubs and Royals should just switch players?
Each of these three players has a different considerable weakness, and each has a far different future ahead of them. This should hardly come as surprising news, given our trip through memory lane, going through vastly different pasts. But you can bet there are three scouting directors -- and thousands of fans -- that are ecstatic that these paths have crossed at this point, with these results.
Update (3:46 p.m.): Well, those stats won't be going down today for at least two of the players. Jeff Francoeur just finished an insane day, leading the Braves to strengthen their hold on the NL East with a two home run day. His slugging percentage is now north of .950. Matt Murton started the day in left for the Cubs and went 1/2 before leaving the game in a double switch. It seems the stars are aligned for a big game from Chip Ambres at 6:15 tonight.
Update (1:30 a.m.): Ambres did have a big game. 1/2 with a home run and two walks. Out to prove me wrong about being able to play LF at the Major League level. By the way, I really do like Jerry Hairston Jr. and Randy Winn as examples of his talent.
For those of you still reading, a few minor league notes below the fold.
WTNY Midseason Mailbag
In Baseball America's midseason top 25, John Manuel excluded any player that played in the Majors during the 2005 season. I noticed that on your top 75, ten of the players have violated Manuel's rule. If you used that ideology, what ten players would get squeezed onto the list?
-- B. Smith
Great question to start off the mailbag! I wonder who could think of such a good question. Anyway, it is true that ten players on my list have played in the Majors this season. Surely with different eligibility rules -- a.k.a...more strict than I have -- these players would have been excluded from the top 75. But more importance than their exit is the names of the players that enter.
With that being said, here are the ten players that make up my honorable mention. I have chosen not to rank the group, so instead they are in alphabetical order:
Homer Bailey: Cincinnati Reds (SP)
Last June, the Brewers made a mistake in deciding that Mark Rogers was the draft's best high school pitching prospect. Bailey had near-equivalent numbers in Texas, a much harder environment than Rogers faced in New England. And while neither pitcher has shown a ton of polish this season, Bailey is showing a lot more upside. His ERA of 4.67 is enough to make your head spin, but he also has struck out 79 in 71.1 innings. Given a solid hit rate, strikeout rate and home run rate, expect Bailey to emerge as the Reds best pitching prospect in years next season.
Brian Bannister: New York Mets (SP)
Floyd's son has emerged this year as the best of the Bannister children, and third to two very good pitching prospects in the Mets organization. Brian is the closest to the Majors of Petit and Hernandez, as well, and should start paying dividends this September. His strikeout rate isn't fantastic, and he also has given up too many home runs this year -- though the Binghamton environment isn't pitcher-friendly. While neither of those is enough to prevent Bannister from succeeding, an abandonment of his control might. If Brian walks as few hitters as he did in the Eastern League, look for a middle-of-the-rotation career. If not, the recently-drafted Brett Bannister will look to keep Floyd's legacy going. And if we're being honest, Bannister edged out Tyler Clippard for spot 85.
Jonathan Broxton: Los Angeles Dodgers (RP)
I'll deal with Broxton more in-depth below, in a different mailbag about relievers. But I do believe that Broxton is the second best reliever in the minors right now, and may also have the best stuff. Kevin Goldstein reported Broxton hit 101 on the gun last week, which was surely enough to make Yhency Brazoban start to worry.
Kory Casto: Washington Nationals (3B)
The only National in the top 85, Casto leads a resurgent National system. He's not the best prospect in the organization, or even the best at his position (stand up, Mr. Zimmerman), but Casto is the best of the holdovers. When Hinckley and Everts are back to full strength next year, to go with Casto, Zimmerman, Diaz and Galarraga, this system will be stacked. And the entire Nationals scouting department will be in line for a raise, that's for sure. As far as Casto goes, it looks like he'll hit enough to take the position change to whatever the Nationals need. He's a bit old for the Carolina League, but his offensive skill set is looking pretty complete right now.
Tom Gorzelanny: Pittsburgh Pirates (SP)
With Zach Duke and Ian Snell graduated to the Majors, Gorzelanny becomes the top Pirate pitching prospect. He narrowly edges out teammate and fellow southpaw Paul Maholm, because Gorzelanny packs a little more punch. While the two boast similar hit and home run rates, Gorzelanny's K/9 is enough to push him over the hump. It amazes me how many left-handers this rotation could eventually have, but I believe that's organizational strategy more than anything else. That's another column waiting to be written.
Jason Hammel: Tampa Bay Devil Rays (SP)
More than any other player that didn't make the 75, Hammel is the one I worry about the most. He's the one that I can most see making me look like an idiot, as you could say he has the complete package. Size, control, durability, HR rate...it's all there. I'll say that he is prospect 76, mostly because I'm afraid of having him any lower.
Zach Jackson: Toronto Blue Jays (SP)
The Jays system certainly doesn't have a lot at the top, but it definitely has a lot in the middle. Jackson is the lone Jay in the top 85, but he narrowly edged out a few of his organizational mates. David Purcey, Adam Lind and Chi-Hung Cheng all were considered. Jackson is the best of the bunch right now, mostly because he's the closest to the Majors. While Purcey and Cheng have higher ceilings in the rotation, Jackson is a much safer bet. He thrives on good control, good enough stuff to strike some people out, and when he doesn't, a very good cutter to stop any good contact. Jackson is as close as one month from his Major League debut, and at worst, less than a year.
Chuck James: Atlanta Braves (SP)
Here to represent the lefties that didn't make it, the Rich Hills, Sean Marshalls, and Sean Henns of the world. James is the best of the bunch, in my opinion, as his peripherals are pretty unrivaled. He made a mockery of the Carolina League in seven starts, and certainly isn't showing signs of problems in the Southern League. An August promotion to AAA would do him well, as James needs to be challenged for the first time in this organization. We need to finally see what he's made of.
Adam Jones: Seattle Mariners (SS)
A personal guarantee: if Jones keeps up at even a shade of the pace he's on, he'll finish the year on my top 75. At 19, the former first-round pick dominated the California League, and has yet to slow down in AA. Also armed with a first-round caliber arm as a pitcher, it's safe to say Jones doesn't struggle with throws deep in the hole. I have him behind Cabrera, who has a resume with more consistent success. If I tried to play Jim Callis' game, I would go with this order: Cabrera, Jones, Betancourt, Tuiasasopo, Morse, Navarro. All in all, our disagreement comes from Asdrubal. It's hard to not be high on Jones.
Greg Miller: Los Angeles Dodgers (SP)
Given the success of players like Cole Hamels and Adam Miller post-rest, it's hard to give up on Greg. He had an arm equivalent to those two before his injury, but now needs to prove that it's still there. He's looked good in his six appearances so far, but the 15.2 inning sample size is just not enough. Nor are the eight walks good enough to justify a top 75 selection.
And there you have it, players 76-85 on my prospect list.
As a Dodger fan, I was wondering about the fates of Delwyn Young, Dioner Navarro, Travis Denker and Matt Kemp?
Benaiah, I think you forgot about Scott Elbert, James Loney, Cory Dunlap, Justin Orenduff, Sergio Pedroza, etc. The Dodgers system is unbelievably stacked, and off the top of my head, probably the organization with the most minor league depth. While two Dodgers fell in my honorable mention, I have to say that Orenduff was extremely close. I'm also a Dunlap fan, as I think his power might develop into a weapon in time.
As far as the players you mentioned, it's really a no-tools group, save Dioner Navarro. 'Pudgito' has fallen into the system's second-best catching prospect, and is being forgotten quickly because of that. He has a lot of work to do to catch Russ Martin, who is superior in nearly every aspect of the game. But given Navarro's contact abilities, and above-average defense, I think he could be the Dodgers back-up catcher.
After that, Delwyn Young probably has the next best tools. But Young is like ex-Dodger prospect Victor Diaz -- another big-hitting second baseman with very limited defensive skills. Young is probably, like Diaz, set up for third base or the outfield. But then his horrible selectivity skills come into play, and in the end, Young is just a marginal prospect. Denker is better at second base, though his season this year seems to be pretty fluky. It's too early to fairly evaluate Travis, as this year has to be seen as an aberration to everyone outside his parents.
So, does Drew stay at short? Or are we seeing the D-Backs outfield in Jackson, Quentin and Drew (and doesn't that bode well for them!)
-- Chris B
Is the ranking of Quentin over Jackson despite Jackson's better stats and "write-up" in the list a reflection of ceiling? Is it because Quentin's higher on the defensive spectrum?
I'll answer Trev's question first, because it's the easier answer. Quentin is a better prospect than Jackson for a host of reasons. One is, as mentioned, Quentin's place on the defensive spectrum. Chris B. mentions Jackson being in the future Arizona outfield, but I do not think the Diamondbacks plan to shift Conor back there. The plan is to keep Jackson at first, while Quentin is good enough to stay in right field. Big difference there.
Also, I believe Quentin to be the more complete hitter. Jackson has better selectivity, with contact skills that are among the best in the minor leagues. But Quentin has discipline that is good enough, and he matches it with plus power. Jackson, on the other hand, has gap power with the occasional home run. This is best seen when giving Jackson and Quentin the same BABIP rates (not a perfect method, I know), as Carlos then has an OPS about .120 higher than Conor.
So, we have already established Jackson will be playing first base in Arizona for years to come. With Troy Glaus locked up until 2008, expect the Diamondbacks to trade Chad Tracy this winter (the White Sox, maybe?). While that leaves a space open for Jackson, Quentin is still blocked by either Luis Gonzalez or Shawn Green. The problem is that Gonzalez is an institution in Arizona, a power so large -- some believe -- that he had Randy Johnson traded. Green is a commodity that should be more wanted than last winter, after proving to still be healthy this winter.
With Tracy and Green both traded, expect Jackson and Quentin to be regulars in 2006. Drew will take longer, likely one year longer, but should be given a spot when ready. At this point, his defense at shortstop hasn't been as bad as expected. Still, Stephen is likely better suited for second base or centerfield. Much of his future position will be decided by Sergio Santos, and whether or not Arizona views him as a solid shortstop option. Also, recent first pick Justin Upton should have some say, as any future plan should concern him as well.
My guess at the Arizona lineup, maybe in 2008:
C- Miguel Montero; 1B- Conor Jackson; 2B- Stephen Drew; SS- Sergio Santos; 3B- Troy Glaus; LF- Luis Gonzalez; CF- Justin Upton; RF- Carlos Quentin.
I was wondering why there were no prospects specifically being groomed for relief. Do you not think they are worthy of top 75 rankings because they throw so few innings? The 1st pitcher that came to my mind was Fernando Cabrera who is absolutely lights out in AAA this year.
I'm just wondering what separates Travis Bowyer from someone like Capellan? Just Capellan's ability to start?
A good starter is better than a good reliever. Plain and simple. If you give me a starter with consistent late 90s gas, he's a better prospect than the reliever with the same stuff. Because of that, being a reliever comes as a disadvantage to any prospect. That, better than anything else, explains why only one reliever (Capellan) made my list. But, I'm not opposed to putting them on my list. Jonathan Broxton was oh-so-very close. Bowyer and Cabrera weren't far off -- Bowyer closer -- but they are, in my mind, significantly worse prospects than Broxton and Capellan.
And, this has nothing to do with Broxton and Capellan's "ability to start." That is useless to me, as I believe both pitchers are in for long careers as relievers. In fact, I doubt either player will start another game within their organization. Broxton sealed that deal this past week, when Kevin Goldstein reported the big, Dodger right-hander hit 101 on the gun. Capellan has been in the process of convincing his organization since before he even entered it.
Before we talk about why the two ex-starters beat out Bowyer and Cabrera, let's look at their minor league numbers this year, as relievers:
Name ERA H/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9
JC 1.25 7.06 7.89 3.74 0.42
JB 3.50 8.00 12.50 2.00 0.50
TB 1.68 5.20 11.74 4.86 0.34
FC 0.99 6.55 12.31 1.79 0.40
OK, that doesn't prove my case. While both Capellan and Broxton have been good, they are far from beating out the two AL Central future closers. For example, Capellan ranks second, third, fourth, third and third across the board with his peripherals. Broxton is even worse: fourth, fourth, first, second, fourth. But, both Capellan and Broxton are fairly new to the relief game, and their results are sample sizes at best.
For example, if you look at their peripherals before the season, a different picture is painted.
Name ERA H/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9
JC 2.69 7.68 8.87 3.18 0.13
JB 3.14 7.34 9.55 3.74 0.37
TB 3.02 7.43 8.26 5.01 0.28
FC 3.78 7.99 9.19 3.66 0.70
In this situation, all the players are close, but I think the two ex-starters have the edge. Capellan is first in three of the five categories, while Broxton leads the other two. Clearly, even as starters, these pitchers were lethal to opposing hitters. But they are obviously better suited for short distances, where their heavy fastballs are going to pay dividends. Capellan's HR/9 ratio should excite Milwaukee, while I remain worried about Cabrera, no matter what his 2005 sample size says. While Cabrera and Bowyer should have better short-term success in middle relief spots than Capellan or Broxton, the latter two should dominate when it's all said and done.
And to guess, Bowyer would slot in somewhere in the 90-110 range, with Cabrera falling in somewhere shortly after that.
Fathers and Sons
I went to the Yankees-Angels game on Saturday night. The front row seats behind the third base dugout were courtesy of my longtime friend, Glen Bickerstaff. Glen and his son Brian invited my brother Tom and his son Brett, along with my son Joe and me to the game. There were six of us in total. Three fathers, three sons. A fathers and sons night at the ballpark, if you will.
My wife stayed home and watched part of the game on TV. She said we were featured on the big tube from time to time. Maybe not as often as Kobe Bryant and his women, all of whom were sitting in the same row and aisle as us. In any event, I haven't had any agents call me yet so I must not have stood out too much. Or, on second thought, maybe I did stand out and that's why they're not calling. Either way, the opportunities to flash our pearly whites were somewhat limited as the camera pointing in our direction from the first base dugout rarely had the green light on. Understand, it's mostly used when right-handed batters are up and there were only six in the starting lineups for both teams combined.
Glen organized a home run pool whereby each of us threw five bucks into the pot and drafted two players. Whoever has the player with the most HR that evening goes home the winner. We decided to draft in order from youngest to oldest. Hey, I gotta give those youngsters a chance.
Name Player Comments
Brian Matsui My pre-season pick for A.L. MVP
Brett Guerrero How can you go wrong with Vladi?
Joe Martinez Tino slugged 10 of his 15 HR between 5/3-5/15
Glen Rodriguez The "second-best player ever" according to Glen
Rich Posada Nothing more than a hunch bet
Tom Jeter May have more chances than anyone
Tom Anderson Guaranteed not to walk so why not?
Rich Giambi Swinging the hottest bat of the bunch
Glen Sheffield Standing out like a sore thumb
Joe Finley Best of the rest
Brett Erstad I guess inside-the-park HR count, too
Brian Molina Sentimental pick
Tom jumped out to the lead when Derek Jeter hit a home run to right-center field in the third inning. (Doesn't Jeter hit everything in the air to the opposite field? Put me in charge and I would deploy a shift that would make fans think Ted Williams was at bat.) And while on the subject of hitting tendencies, Glen believes Garret Anderson is one of the biggest guess hitters of all time. He pulls everything to right when he's on the money and either strikes out or flies out weakly to left when he's wrong.
Robinson Cano followed his double-play partner with another four bagger, giving the Yankees back-to-back homers and a 3-1 lead. However, the rookie second baseman wasn't chosen in our pool, so no harm, no foul (at least to us pool participants).
Mike Scioscia wasn't sweating matters either as he went out and gave Ervin Santana, his young pitcher, a pep talk. Bud Black, the Angels pitching coach, visited the mound in the first inning, presumably to offer an opinion on Santana's mechanics. Scioscia, who doesn't visit the mound that often without bringing back the pitcher with him, had no intention of pulling Santana.
With Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield coming up next, I'm quite certain that the Angels skipper didn't want Santana to feel sorry for himself, lose his focus, serve up a couple of more dingers, and let the game get totally out of hand. Given that Kevin Brown was on the hill for New York (and offering nothing more than a big name from the past rather than an intimidating pitcher at the present), Scioscia wanted his 95-MPH fireballer to bear down right then and there in order to keep his team close. The Angels have been known to mount a comeback or two under his regime. Can you say Rally Monkey?
Santana escaped the inning without allowing anymore runs. Adam Kennedy and Chone Figgins--suffice it to say, two players who weren't picked in our pool--led off the bottom of the third with walks. After Darin Erstad flied out to left, Vladimir Guerrero stepped up and deposited Brown's second pitch over the center field wall. Brett was on the board. My brother and nephew were working the rest of us over really good at this point.
The Halos knocked Brown out of the box in the fourth. Joe Torre turned matters over to Alex Graman. Now, I've heard of Alex Grammas before but never this guy. Oh well, the lefty was making his first appearance of the season and only the fourth of his big-league career. He gave up a double, an intentional walk, and a run-scoring single while facing four batters. Exit stage left. Felix Rodriguez came in and retired Bengie Molina on a groundout, stranding two runners. Angels 8, Yankees 3.
New York scored another run in the top of the fifth to make it 8-4. The managers were going deeper and deeper into the bullpens as Esteban Yan and Buddy Groom held the opposing sides scoreless in the sixth. Looking at the scoreboard, I noticed Yan's stats and wisecracked, "There's no way he has an ERA under 4."
Sure enough, Jason Giambi took him deep over the CF wall with a monster blast that not only put the Yankees within striking distance, it got me on the board, too. It was the 16th time the former opposite-field singles hitter from Long Beach State went yard this season and his 11th in the past 16 games. Yes, you read that right. In case you didn't know, this guy has been on fire in July (.379/.507/1.034).
With the score now 8-6, the Yankees sent in another biggie with the appropro name of Aaron Small. Where do they find such pitchers? A 33-year-old with a career ERA over 5 makes me want to start loosening up my arm a bit. Oh well, he got the Angels 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh.
Speaking of non-descript Yankees, how about Bubba Crosby (not to be confused with Bobby Crosby)? Glen asked how he could play CF for the Bronx Bombers, following in the footsteps of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer, and Bernie Williams. Heck, even Rickey Henderson patrolled that hallowed ground at Yankee Stadium from 1985-1987. However, not every Yankee CF has been a Hall of Famer. I mean, let's not forget Bobby Brown, Henry Cotto, and Victor Mata. Dare I mention Roger Repoz?
Despite allowing Jeter to get another one of his ugly singles to right field (his fourth hit of the game--all to the opposite field), Scot Shields did his job and kept the Yankees off the scoreboard in the eighth inning. Francisco Rodriguez handled the heart of the order--Sheff, A-Rod, and Godzilla--in the ninth with ease, nailing down his 24th save of the season while lowering his ERA to 1.82. K-Rod gave another one of his patented fist pumps after the Angels beat the Yankees for the third straight game.
We stood and cheered, then exited the stadium without squaring up. You see, it was never about the money. Instead, it was about three fathers spending time at the ballpark with their three sons.
A National Treasure
Do we realize just what is taking place here, folks?
Roger Clemens vs. the Washington Nationals, July 22, 2005, at RFK Stadium.
IP H R ER BB SO HR PC-ST ERA
Clemens (W, 8-4) 6.0 3 0 0 3 10 0 102-70 1.40
Season and Career Statistics:
IP H R ER HR BB SO W L ERA
2005 135 90 25 21 5 39 123 8 4 1.40
Career 4628 3936 1773 1609 341 1497 4440 336 168 3.13
I mean, these results are incredible for anyone--much less a pitcher who will turn 43 in two weeks. Bob Gibson's
ERA, in the Year of the Pitcher, was only 0.28 runs per nine innings better. In fact, other than Gibson, no pitcher in the live-ball era finished the season with a lower ERA than what Clemens has fashioned thus far.
Oh, Clemens' ERA in nine road starts this year? 0.31.
Here's a deconstruction of Roger's latest outing, batter by batter and inning by inning.
Washington - Bottom of 1st:
J Carroll lined out to second.
J Vidro lined out to second.
J Guillen singled to right.
R Church struck out swinging.
The Nats get a runner on base and Clemens buckles down and strikes out their clean-up hitter.
Washington - Bottom of 2nd:
P Wilson struck out looking.
B Wilkerson struck out looking.
B Schneider grounded out to second.
Sit down. Sit down. (Brad Wilkerson didn't take his bat off his shoulder. I'm sure glad I took him this year for my fantasy team.) Ground out.
Washington - Bottom of 3rd:
C Guzman walked.
R Drese sacrificed to first, C Guzman to second.
J Carroll struck out swinging.
J Vidro walked.
J Guillen struck out swinging.
How could Clemens walk Cristian Guzman to open the inning? The Washington shortstop is on pace to post the fourth-lowest OPS (.500) since 1920. Is he really making $4.2 million this year? O Barry, O Barry! Wherefore art thou, Barry?
Quite simply, Guzman has been as bad this year as Clemens has been good. Take a look at Guzman's stats vs. those allowed by Clemens:
AVG OBP SLG
Guzman .188 .227 .273
Clemens .197 .261 .269
In other words, Guzman makes all pitchers look like Clemens, and Clemens reduces all hitters into nothing more than a bunch of Guzmans. As far as I am concerned, that says it all.
Back to the action. Great at-bat by Jose Vidro in the third inning: strike one looking, strike two looking, foul, ball one, ball two, foul, foul, ball three, ball four. Vidro draws a walk. Down 0-2, Vidro worked Clemens for seven more pitches to earn a base on balls, allowing the Nationals' best hitter, Jose Guillen, to get a shot at hitting a home run to tie the score at three. Power vs. power. Clemens reaches back and strikes out Guillen to end the inning.
Washington - Bottom of 4th:
R Church singled to right.
P Wilson struck out looking, R Church stole second.
B Wilkerson struck out swinging.
B Schneider struck out swinging.
Another runner makes it as far as second base and how does Clemens respond? He blows down Wilkerson (hey, he swung at all three strikes this time) and Brian Schneider.
Washington - Bottom of 5th:
C Guzman struck out swinging.
R Drese fouled out to shortstop.
J Carroll walked.
J Vidro lined out to right.
Not sure how Clemens could walk Jamey Carroll on five pitches in that situation (nobody on and two outs). Carroll has no power whatsoever. As my high school baseball coach, John Herbold, would yell, "Throw it down the middle and see how far he can hit it." Oh well, I guess Roger's human after all.
Washington - Bottom of 6th:
J Guillen doubled to deep left.
R Church hit by pitch.
P Wilson struck out swinging.
B Wilkerson flied out to left.
B Schneider flied out to left.
Clemens made a mistake to Guillen with no balls and two strikes. Clemens then hit Ryan Church on an 0-2 pitch. First and second, nobody out. Having thrown 94 pitches to this point, Roger realizes the sixth inning is going to be his last one way or the other. Herbold was also fond of saying, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
The seven-time Cy Young Award winner rises to the occasion and gets the fifth, sixth, and seventh hitters on eight pitches, leaving both runners stranded. The Astros score four more in the top of the seventh, giving Clemens an 8-0 cushion. Chad Qualls enters the game as the first of four relievers asked to get the final nine outs.
Houston adds four in the eighth and two more runs in the ninth to put up a 14-spot on the scoreboard, the team's highest output of the season. The Astros beat the Nationals, 14-1.
On a night when Jon Garland picked up his 15th win of the season, it is hard to believe that Clemens has only won eight games. How could that be? Well, the White Sox are averaging 6.24 runs per game for Garland (13th best in the majors), while the Astros are backing Clemens with just 3.53 runs per game (12th lowest in the majors). Chicago scored six or more runs in each of Garland's first half dozen starts. Houston didn't even score five runs in any game started by Clemens until his 12th. The Astros were shutout four times during this period and have been whitewashed a total of five times with Roger on the mound.
As well as Clemens has pitched this year, would you believe that his OPS allowed was even lower back in 1986 (the year of his first Cy Young Award)?
AVG OBP SLG OPS
1986 .195 .252 .264 .515
2005 .197 .261 .269 .526
Although Clemens led the A.L. in ERA in 1986, his 2.48 mark was more than a full run higher than this year. The Rocket gave up more home runs 19 years ago (21 or 0.74 HR/9) vs. 2005 (5 or 0.33 HR/9), but the two slugging averages are almost identical so that's not it. No, the real difference between the two years is the fact that Clemens has only allowed one HR with a runner on base in 2005 (vs. eight in 1986) and has been lights out with runners in scoring position.
Clemens w/ RISP:
AVG OBP SLG OPS
1986 .188 .238 .253 .491
2005 .108 .198 .151 .349
Clemens proved just how tough he has been with runners in scoring position vs. the Nats Friday night. Washington batters were 0-7 in such situations with a walk and a hit by pitch. He didn't allow any base runners to reach third. But pitching success is not about how many get to third. Instead, it's all about how many--or how few--get to home.
In the case of Roger Clemens vs. Major League Baseball, let the facts show that he has allowed only 25 runners to score all year long or about half as many as Garland in almost the identical number of innings. If you like Jon Garland, you loved Bob Welch in 1990. Me? I'll take my chances of winning with Roger Clemens, thank you.
[Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]
Golly Gee, Weav
Overheard in Simi Valley this morning:
"Well, hello Mrs. Weaver, and how is young Jered today?"
"Why Eddie, he's doing just fine. Thank you."
After last night's performance, Mrs. Weaver might be understating just how well the li'l squirt is doin'. Her son Jered threw seven innings of scoreless ball against the Inland Empire 66ers on Thursday, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out ten. Weaver was credited with his fourth victory of the season as the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes edged their California League rivals, 1-0.
Jered struck out the first four batters while fanning ten or more for the second straight game. Over his last four starts, Weaver has thrown 23 2/3 innings, allowing 9 hits, 6 runs (4 earned), and 4 walks, while striking out 36. Yes, 36 Ks in less than 24 innings. You don't need to be a math major to figure out that Weaver has been whiffing Class-A batters at a rate of 1.5 per inning during July.
IP H R ER BB SO
6/20/05 3.0 3 1 1 2 4 --
6/25/05 2.1 5 4 4 0 5 (L, 0-1)
6/30/05 4.0 8 7 5 1 4 --
7/05/05 5.0 2 2 0 0 7 (W, 1-1)
7/11/05 5.2 3 3 3 1 8 (W, 2-1)
7/16/05 6.0 3 1 1 1 11 (W, 3-1)
7/21/05 7.0 1 0 0 2 10 (W, 4-1)
Totals 33.0 25 18 14 7 49
H/9 SO/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 WHIP ERA
6.82 13.36 1.91 7.00 0.82 0.97 3.82
If you can look past that ERA (which actually is much more respectable than it was at the end of June), it is pretty easy to see just how dominating Weaver has been thus far. Including his two poor outings, Weaver is once again putting up numbers like he did in college in 2003-2004 when he was a two-time first team All-American at Long Beach State.
In fact, Weaver is pitching so well I fully expect that the Angels will promote him to Double-A Arkansas before the month is out as predicted after his last start on Saturday. I'm now going to up the stakes and say that Weaver will wind up in Anaheim before the year is out. Yup, I see him leapfrogging Triple-A, passing go, and collecting
$200 four million dollars before the year is out. Heck, Weaver could find himself pitching against the A's in Oakland or the Rangers in Texas during the last week of September and the first weekend of October.
Unlike in 2004 when he pitched 144 innings for the Dirtbags, Weaver's arm is fresh this year. He has completed his so-called spring training during the summer and has nothing left to prove with the Angels' High Class-A affiliate. I'll be surprised if he's not pitching for the Arkansas Travelers by the beginning of August. A month in Little Rock anywhere close to his last month in Rancho Cucamonga and the Angels will undoubtedly call him up when the rosters expand in September.
Three months ago when the Dodgers were riding high at 12-2 and the 2004 College Player of the Year was laying low as an unsigned first round draft pick from the previous June, who'da thunk that Jered--and not older brother Jeff--would be the more likely one to wind up pitching during the pennant race THIS year? Although it is far from a done deal, I think the odds are now approaching 50-50 that Weaver is assigned a Los Angeles Angels jersey with 34 on the back. Why not? The guy can flat out pitch and nobody else on the team is wearing that number.
Just as "Leave it to Beaver" brought to television viewers an image of late 1950s/early 1960s suburban prosperity and stability, Weaver has the potential of bringing both to a ballclub situated in the Big OC for many, many years to come. For the sake of Angels fans, let's just hope Jered continues to mature--something Theodore never seemed to do.
The Ethics of Pitching Jesus High and Tight
Jesus was at bat.
This wasn't unusual in the Texas-New Mexico League, farthest from the white balls and bright lights of the major leagues while still drawing a paycheck. Latin players on their way up or Mexicans on their way home would often end up here, dabbing the sweat from their eyes as they stared into the sun. There were no lights at any of the parks in the league. The sun darkly pounded them into submission, stuff no one could hit.
The grass was dead in patches. Once they tried painting it green and gave up. Two parks gave up the illusion and stripped the field bare to its naked red dirt, raked into neat soft piles that would swallow up grounders and mark balls indelibly. He'd heard a coach saying the only soil he'd ever seen so red was out back of Ty Cobb's place. Even this wizened old man wasn't old enough to remember Cobb, let alone find the red dirt of his fertile rich past. Cobb never drove a Corvette.
And Jesus was at bat. I stepped back off the mound again, pulled off my hat and used my sleeve to wipe the grit and sweat and...whatever off my forehead, just inches and gravity from blinding me and running down to water this soil. I'd heard Todd Obadal, the ballpark's announcer whose voice didn't sound natural unless it was cheaply echoing off three poles and into the echoes of the aluminum bleachers radiating the late summer heat, say his name as he walked up to the plate. Todd carried a battered old Macmillan's up with him to the press box every day, reading and memorizing in between batters.
Jesus was new in the league, his uniform still white and no name across the back. It took two weeks to get the uniforms back from the sporting goods store in Roswell that would stitch the name on tight. There was a joke that everyone was on tryout until the name got there. The whole league used the same place, central and cheap, run by a fan that gave the owners a deal in return for seats in the shade and a sign in left. I looked out at the sign, easier to do than look at Jesus or my manager.
The name still echoed somehow, the flat land running to the mesas in the far hazy distance under the meadow of white clouds playing tricks with my ears or maybe the rattle of the bleachers forming some primitive recording, playing it back. "Now at bat, Jesus." He had a last name, but that didn't register. Martinez? Lopez? Rodriguez? Something common. Worse if he hadn't been Latin. Jesus Smith. Jesus Johnson.
Because he wasn't Hay-soos, he was Jesus. The only times he heard it pronounced that way were in Sunday school or Sunday afternoon with the coaches yelling at him. "Jesus H. Christ," they'd yell as if the H stood for something, "keep the ball down, kid. You ain't got the stuff to blow it past these guys like you did back in high school. If you could you wouldn't be here, playing in Big Springs." He'd never seen a spring.
The manager had heard it too, the name, Jesus. Announced by Todd, rattling off the bleachers and rolling off into the desert, Jesus was coming to bat. The hair on his ears practically bristled, a stark white against the leather of his red neck. Literally red. Not sunburned now, but baked to a perfect brick red by years, decades, eons of standing where he stood and not budging, not backing off because some sun was pitching him inside.
"Did he say Jesus?" the manager asked no one in particular. "What in hell's bells is that boy thinking? How many Hay-sooses we got in this league and he goes and calls this one by the name of our Lord and Savior." No one in particular responded, immune to these monologues, only attuned to their name or ducking if he threw the water cooler like he would do occasionally. I'd seen him check it once, seeing if it was empty enough to pick up without straining himself and still full enough to make a resounding crunch and splash as the top came off.
"Boy," he said, pointing to the batboy, a twelve year old taking vocabulary lessons all summer after a season of Dixie League ball had someone won him some prize. Prize, as if serving some halfwit no-talent ten-games-back ball club was anything worth winning. His eyes lit up anytime he was spoken to and no one told him his prize wasn't...prizy. What's the word? "Boy, go tell Obadal that Hay-soos up there didn't walk on water or die for his sins." The boy wasn't quite sure what to make of that. A flick of the manager's head told the boy he was serious enough and off he ran, across the line of spit and seeds and boys spitting them there, through the maze of chain link at the edge and out. His cleats -- cleats! -- crunched in the packed gravel of the ground and rang out like the devil's piano as he ran up the nine levels of bleachers to the press box.
As I stood back on top of the mound, I glanced in. The manager was standing on what would have been the top step of the dugout, if there'd actually been steps. It was ground level, the line between gravel and dirt being some agreed upon line between dugout and field. He wasn't looking at me and wasn't looking at Jesus either. He was glaring at him. The salt bit into my eye even though I'd just wiped it away. I refused to blink it away and it came out the other side like a tear.
Jesus had one hit on the day, a double down the right field line in the first inning. Marsh had thrown a good pitch, a slider down and away that stayed up just enough for the right-hander to push it the other way. In the third, he'd hit one while our manager was warbling about the name that I'd thought was going out to dead center, the death valley of the ballpark marked 400 because that was as high as someone could count. The heat or the wind or the sheer height of the ball brought it down as Crowell had one foot on the warning track. Jesus smiled as he turned back from near second, his trot never changing on the route from home to first, first to near second, and near second back to the dugout. He sat down, away from the others, his face obscured by shadow and chain link from me.
I'd come in for the sixth, a reliever in all senses of the word. The heat had broken Marsh's slider into hittable pieces and his fastball lost the spots it was supposed to go. He left the pounding isolation of the highest point on the field and was seated next to the water cooler, the sweat of the two mixing as he sat bare-chested and used his uniform to mop his bald head. Now here in the seventh, one out away from leaving a man on and stretching as tradition demands, I was debating the ethics of pitching Jesus high and tight.
It came in reverse, the batboy clanging down from the press box, across the rows of people sitting, off work from the factory or the fields, back across the grey dusty gravel that would leave a chalk on your black cleats or pickup truck. He skidded as he turned, snaking back in the dugout and running back up to the manager. "Obadal says that the manager from the other team told him that the name was Jesus, not Hay-soos and that Jesus ain’t Mexican."
"Ain’t Mexican, he says?" The manager adjusted a seed in his mouth, his tongue a size too large for his lipless mouth and the wrinkles taking the expression out of his eyes.
"Yessir, Obadal says he's from Colorado and that his name is Jesus." The boy spoke with a rote cadence, as if the message he carried was much more important than it was. It was Jesus or Hay-soos and either way, he was coming back to bat soon. I didn't see in the first or second times he was at the plate that he would smile while he was up there. His back was to me, of course, as I sat in the dugout and now, thinking back to the batboy looking up, breathing hard, waiting for the manager to say something, I was sure that Jesus smiled in the dugout waiting for his next turn or smiled as he stood in right field, a million miles away in the gray gravel dust and wavy heat lines of the afternoon.
He'd said nothing, the manager. He looked up and down the row of players scattered lazily across the bench, waiting for the next seed to come floating heavily, arcing to the dank gravel of the dugout, inches from dirt. They'd occasionally play a game of trying to be the closest to the line. The rules would change, mid-game sometimes. Going over, into the dirt, was no good or some arbitrary points were set as too far right or left. I was never good at the game or at spitting seeds. My teeth would never crack them open, unthinking like so many that had spent so many hours learning a skill, if you could call it that, becoming a pastime.
I leaned forward, taking a sign that the catcher didn't show me. My leg came up as I drove forward, the ball in my hand asking where to go, what to do and I let fly. My head snapped over, losing sight of things for a moment and when I righted myself, Peters, the catcher, had the ball in his glove, holding it. Jesus hadn't moved despite the ball having to have come close enough to ripple past the white polyester folds of his uniform, ticking past the stitches of the interlocked A's over his heart. The smile hadn't changed either.
Now, the manager was looking out at me. My fastball, intentioned as it was, may have been tight, but not high. "Bubba," he said to me, though my name nor anyone else's on the team was not Bubba either, but seemed to be his preferred name for all that were not Boy or, for our oversized first baseman, an adoring "Big 'Un." He was close enough for me to feel the sound as much as hear it. "Bubba, I want you to go out there and when Jeeeeeee-zuz," dragged out in derision, "comes back up, you put one right in his ear. You hear me?"
"Yes, sir," I said. At 18 and nothing but a diploma and a fastball different than most guys I knew, I wasn't about to question the man that decided whether or not I pitched, whether or not he'd tell his scout buddies that he had a lefty with a nice screwball that he'd found pitching Legion Ball near Palo Duro, and whether or not I'd get my two hundred dollars that week.
On the mound, it was a different story. I wanted to do what I was supposed to and yet the smiling man disconcerted me. His even demeanor and bright white uniform looked not to belong. There was no name and a number -- three -- that seemed to shimmer somehow through some trick of the light. The ball seemed harder, hot from its use and the yarn digging into my skin as I squeezed it. Looking in, there was no sign. The eyes of my manager dug into the head of Jesus, willing that smile off his face, wanting to see his uniform dirty, crumpled, his name somehow changed by a hard piece of horse.
My arms stretched out and went over my head, leg high and the ball blazed, this time out of the corner of my eye, I saw the ball nearly in his face, the catcher's glove darting up out of habit. Jesus turned, quickly as only a real ballplayer knows, sending through the tight spin of the seams that it would stay straight and turning his head somehow ducked out of the way. His knees barely moved and his clean uniform barely rustled.
The umpire took his mask off and gave me a look, knowing that it was a purpose pitch. I wasn't really sure of what the purpose was. I couldn't even fake the shrug that would say it got away from me, that these things happen in baseball. The umpire knew. I knew. The crowd knew. Jesus knew.
I saw him look back at me. The sun seemed hotter and what wind there was paused. His mouth moved, almost too slow to see. My gray uniform was heavier, the grit on my face dirtier, and the ball that wasn't in my hand felt emptier. August in West Texas is lonely and hot. The fans abandon you for high school football and you're left playing a game between yourselves.
He crossed the line, stepping from gravel to dirt. Quick steps out towards the mound and a flicking wave towards the umpire. Maybe he thought that the manager was coming out to give me the what for or maybe he was just as hot and sweaty as I was under the powder blue uniform he wore.
The catcher came out as well, dumb, in the sense that he never said much. In the months I'd been out here, the catcher had said maybe ten words to me outside of 'good game' and 'right here,' his call for me to focus and put the next pitch in his glove. He was older than the rest of us. He played in Double-A a few years back, came home to work the oil patch for the winter and stayed a couple summers with his new wife and kid.
He sighed before speaking. "Bubba," he said like he was blaming me with it, "didn't I tell you to put one in Jesus' earhole?"
"Didn't I tell you to do something and here I am standing out here in the damn sun sweating and wondering why that blasphemous smiling sumbitch is still standing up there looking pearly white?" He ended it with his voice going up, like he was growing hysterical or maybe asking a question. I looked past him, past the catcher, and Jesus was standing there with the bat in his hands, smiling and looking at me when he did it again. His mouth barely moved.
The manager's mouth started to move again, but I handed him the ball and walked off. I was unbuttoning the jersey top, looking to let the sun beat down on me at the same time I unburdened myself. I winked at Jesus as I crossed the line from dirt to gravel. My glove was pointless so I tossed it to the batboy. My cleats crunched on the gravel, the white chalky dust starting to sink into the polish.
I walked past the bus, knowing I'd never get on it again, 300 miles from Palo Duro with half a baseball uniform, a change of clothes and sixty-one dollars in my wallet. I would need to stop and change my shoes but I didn't want to slow down. I wasn't sure that if I looked back the the ballgame wouldn't pull me back.
I didn't know what I was going to do next, but I had a long walk ahead of me. There would be plenty of time to make plans. It might be nice to go to college. The sun would set eventually, behind me, and I'd wake up somewhere tomorrow. There wouldn't be a baseball in my hand, but that seemed okay for now. My step was lighter and my heart unburdened by plugging Jesus with my best fastball.
Anyway, he'd whispered "I forgive you." Or something like that.
Will Carroll once wrote fiction before taking residence in the dark lands of facts and rumor. Those writings can be found at Baseball Prospectus, where Carroll writes a near-daily column entitled "Under the Knife." He stole the title for this story, but can't recall from where.
WTNY Midseason 75 (30-1)
I'll jump right into it today, as we complete my midseason rankings. Any questions regarding the statistics listed can be answered by reading the beginning of yesterday's column. Next week, I'll answer a few of the questions in the comments, and give a brief honorable mention list.
30. Joel Zumaya: Detroit Tigers (SP)- 20
AA (EL): 2.77 71/107.1 143/52 8
Struggled in his first AAA start, struggling with what else...control. I have reservations that Zumaya might just be the 2005 Capellan, with a move to relief around the corner. But to his credit, he seems more confident in his curve than Jose ever was, and the Tigers seem committed to giving him a feel for the change. I have mentioned left-handed trios a few times in the past two days, but how about the Tigers from the right side: Zumaya, Verlander, Bonderman?
29. Brian McCann: Atlanta Braves (C)- 21
AA (SOU): .265/.359/.476, 25/26 in 166 AB
MLB: .333/.409/.487, 5/7 in 39 AB
Still the top catching prospect in baseball, and despite a solid Major League stint, has just not received a lot of publicity this year. His power is tops at his position in the minors, and still on the verge of really showing itself. Still, despite his ceiling, you have to wonder which route the Braves will go: McCann or Johnny Estrada. Even with all the mixing and matching of 2005, I expect the Braves to go the safe route, and open next year with Estrada.
28. Brian Anderson: Chicago White Sox (OF)- 23
AAA (IL): .301/.367/.509, 36/92 in 346 AB
Sort of the name everyone has forgot about, Anderson has gone about his business this year, and proven he's pretty much ready for the Majors. Saying Chris Young is the club's top outfield prospect is negligent, because Anderson has done nothing to lose the title. How the White Sox will solve their OF situation in the next two years is about as interesting as the middle infield depth problems in Seattle and Anaheim.
27. Jon Papelbon: Boston Red Sox (SP)- 24
AA (EL): 2.48 59/87 83/23 9
AAA (IL): 6.52 11/9.2 10/1 2
Passed by Lester for the Sox top pitching prospect honors, despite Papelbon having moved on to the International League. Peter Gammons has mentioned that the Sox might put Papelbon back to his college role -- relieving -- for this year, as his stuff out of the bullpen could help greatly. His power/control combination is pretty special, but the Red Sox need to make sure they don't wear out his arm.
26. John Danks: Texas Rangers (SP)- 20
A+ (CAL): 2.50 50/57.2 53/16 5
AA (TEX): 4.91 62/55.0 51/16 5
Despite what I've heard from other people, I'm going to go with my gut here and pick Danks ahead of Volquez. A young southpaw with his kind of stuff does not come around often, so expect the Rangers to really value their former top ten pick. He dominated the Midwest League in 2004, the Cal League this year, and should do the same to the Texas League next year. The one thing he's consistent with -- and expect that to carry to the next level -- is the peripherals he can control: strikeout and walk rates.
25. Hanley Ramirez: Boston Red Sox (SS)- 21
AA (EL): .273/.333/.418, 24/38, 18/24 SB in 297 AB
Has to be frustrating for the Red Sox, as they never know quite what they have in Ramirez. I thought at the beginning of the year that Ramirez would replace Johnny Damon in center come 2006, but now that looks doubtful. Second base? Ehh, take the sure bet in Pedroia. If Ramirez is what it takes to get a huge deal done this July, the Red Sox should pull the trigger.
24. Thomas Diamond: Texas Rangers (SP)- 22
A+ (CAL): 1.99 53/81.1 101/31 3
AA (TEX): 6.00 19/18 17/10 1
He's good, and is in competition right now for pitcher of the year honors in the minor leagues. But like a few others from his draft class, is in danger of the raised BB/9 after hitting AA. Patient hitters should show Diamond's true colors, which were not graded out well by a scout that Baseball America recently interviewed. Still, I think Diamond is the best of the three Ranger starters, though I have them ranked so close, it's a three-sides quarter flip on any given day.
23. Lastings Milledge: New York Mets (OF)- 20
A+ (FSL): .302/.385/.418, 19/41, 18 SB in 232 AB
Now that Felix Pie has broken out, Milledge fills the role that Pie has done for the last few years. We knew both were five tool talents, but the power is a question mark. It should come for Milledge as it has with Pie, but his recent move to AA might be a little soon. And while yesterday I spent imagining the Cabrera-Betancourt double play combo in Seattle, I think today will be pondering how good of an outfield Milledge, Beltran and Cameron could create.
22. Francisco Liriano: Minnesota Twins (SP)- 21
AA (EL): 3.64 70/76.2 92/26 6
AAA (IL): 2.81 18/32 38/8 2
Just not what Brian Sabean wanted to see. Who would have guessed that in the quintet of Ainsworth, Jerome Williams, Foppert, Merkin Valdez and Liriano, that the latter would end up the best? Williams and Valdez have time to prove that wrong, but the prospects don't look good. And trades like what Sabean made to acquire A.J. Pierzynski are grounds for firing. My readers know I think the world of Liriano, and I believe he could make a K-Rodish difference in September. If the Twins can get any sort of haul for J.C. Romero they should do it, and break in Liriano in high pressure situations this fall.
21. Chad Billingsley: Los Angeles Dodgers (SP)- 20
AA (SOU): 4.28 84/90.1 105/32 8
Like Ian Stewart, Billingsley is coming around after his slow start, and his peripherals do speak volumes. If he can sustain that type of control, Billingsley has ace potential. But, he also could be Kerry Wood, or Kaz Ishii, or a flameout, or a bullpen ace. The most volatile player on this list.
20. Jon Lester: Boston Red Sox (SP)- 21
AA (EL): 2.45 79/103 119/36 6
Is it early enough into his career to call him a notorious late bloomer? This winter, I noticed that Lester's 2004 season was masked by two awful starts to begin the season. This year, if not for a just-OK April, Lester would be right up there in the minor league player of the year race. Since his final April start, Lester has thrown 84 innings of 1.61 ERA ball to take the Eastern League lead. During that time he's allowed just 56 hits, 30 walks and three home runs against 97 strikeouts. While the Delmon Youngs and Justin Verlanders of the world have the early grasp on player of the year, Lester certainly has a chance to be on the final ballot. He's pitched his way past Jon Papelbon for the Red Sox top prospect slot and onto their untouchables list, making Theo Epstein thank his lucky stars he didn't trade Lester in a Big Unit deal. This kid -- confident in four pitches -- has all the makings of a future star, and he is in one of the Majors' right organizations to blossom.
19. Jeff Francoeur: Atlanta Braves (OF)- 21
AA (SOU): .275/.322/.487, 21/76, 13 SB in 335
Now in the Majors, Francoeur homered in his first game against the Cubs. He has a bunch of flaws as a player -- both contact and selectivity -- but makes up for it in raw talent. Still, you have to wonder how long we'll be justifying walk rates with that comment. The Braves are huge believers in Francoeur, and have all-but-decided that he, Kelly Johnson and Andruw will make up the 2006 outfield. Expect Jeff to have the, by far, worst numbers of the group.
18. Ian Stewart: Colorado Rockies (3B)- 20
A+ (CAL): .271/.359/.481, 35/66 in 266 AB
Starting to come around after a slow start, Stewart is doing just fine. Scouts and sabermatricians alike should still be drooling at what exactly Stewart + Coors will equal. A slow start both scared me a little bit, and allowed Stewart to get passed by some sensational players. If his second half goes like his last thirty games, he'll be passing them right back.
17. Andy LaRoche: Los Angeles Dodgers (3B)- 21
A+ (FSL): .333/.380/.651, 19/38 in 249 AB
AA (SOU): .297/.373/.527, 11/25 in 91 AB
We could have criticized his walk rates in the FSL, but LaRoche is now proving that he wasn't walking because he was hitting everything. The Dodgers can only hope that this more complete AA version is the real LaRoche, and that by midseason next year, they have found their Adrian Beltre replacement.
16. Felix Pie: Chicago Cubs (OF)- 20
AA (SOU): .304/.349/.554, 16/53, 13 SB in 240 AB
Finally having the year, it is now well-known that Pie's recent injury is the only thing holding him back from the Majors. This organization believes in him, and at this point, very well might prefer him to Corey Patterson. Look for the team to leave a spot open for Pie to snatch this winter. Or at least I hope they do. Rafael Furcal will provide better value than Juan Pierre, IMO.
15. Yusmeiro Petit: New York Mets (SP)- 20
AA (EL): 2.93 64/73.2 83/12 11
While the home run rate might be concerning with a different player, Petit nullifies that worry with his control. His pitchability is the best of any player on this list, and the only flaw in my mind is that he's been a bit too hittable. Won't be a Major League ace, but will be just fine sitting next to Pedro in the rotation.
14. Daric Barton: Oakland Athletics (1B)- 19
A+ (CAL): .318/.438/.469, 62/49 in 292 AB
AA (TEX): .357/.440/.595, 7/7 in 42 AB
Now in the Texas League, and dominating there. He is oh-so-talented, and will be quite the tandem with Dan Johnson in the 1B/DH slot for years to come. Expect Barton up by next year, at age 20, where he will continue to evoke Carlos Delgado comparisons. As good as Dan Haren has looked this year, Barton is the Beane acquisition of the winter.
13. Brandon Wood: Anaheim Angels (SS)- 20
A+ (CAL): .316/.379/.670, 33/78 in 364 AB
Should we start Free Brandon Wood and Stephen Drew campaigns, or what? Wood has proven everything that he is going to in the Cal League, and Erick Aybar certainly isn't a reason to block him. Defense the only question mark on Wood's resume, although it shouldn't be enough to move him. While the left side of the Angels won't be winning any Gold Gloves from 2007-2012, few shortstop/third base combinations will hit more home runs.
12. Conor Jackson: Arizona Diamondbacks (1B)- 23
AAA (PCL): .362/.462/.553, 62/27 in 304 AB
After watching Jason Bay in the All-Star festivities last week, there is no question in my mind who the answer to Peter Gammons' question, "Who will be the next All-Star in 2007?" That answer, is Conor Jackson. The Diamondback is following in the footsteps of Bay and Ryan Church after him with a wonderful PCL performance leading into the Majors. A quick chart, with each player's OPS:
Name PCL MLB
JB 0.951 0.908
RC 1.048 0.924
CJ 1.015 ???
Throw in selectivity skills that are unparalleled in the minors, and you have the 2006 NL Rookie of the Year.
11. Carlos Quentin: Arizona Diamondbacks (OF)- 22
AAA (PCL): .310/.431/.559, 51/41, 7/7 SB in 306 AB
Not really doing anything wrong, Quentin still gets kicked out of the top Diamondback prospect slot. Still, Quentin is good enough for the Diamondbacks to open a hole for this winter, if not by August.
10. Joel Guzman: Los Angeles Dodgers (SS/3B)- 20
AA (SOU): .282/.346/.489, 34/101 in 323 AB
Proving that last year wasn't a fluke, Guzman has been solid all year. We haven't seen him really turn on the jets at some point, and he certainly cannot continue to whiff at a 30% rate. He's better than I gave him credit for during the offseason, but things need to start happening soon. Better contact and a defined position would be a nice start.
9. Stephen Drew: Arizona Diamondbacks (SS)- 22
A+ (CAL): .353/.450/.735, 16/19 in 102 AB
OK, Arizona, just admit that Drew has proven his point. Sending him to A-ball was insulting, he is so much better than that. AA is the best place to judge Diamondback hitting prospects -- the atmosphere isn't too pro-offense -- so we'll get a better idea of his ceiling soon.
8. Justin Verlander: Detroit Tigers (SP)- 22
A+ (FSL): 1.67 70/86 104/19 3
AA (EL): 0/00 5/15 18/3 0
About to receive his second Major League start, and will in all likelihood, lose his eligibility by year's end. Still, I wanted to give Verlander his due, and name him the minors third best pitching prospect. In Verlander and the two below him, I see three players that are very close to becoming Major League horses. You can bet the Tigers will be willing to send the Kenny Baughs and Kyle Sleeths of the world to the doctor if TINSTAPP is willing to keep their trio of flamethrowers safe.
7. Billy Butler: Kansas City Royals (LF)- 19
A+ (CAL): .348/.422/.642, 35/68 in 310 AB
When the only knock you can find on a young player is the environment in which he plays, you are nitpicking. Butler, no matter the position, has the makings of becoming a future batting and home run champion. Jim Thome comparisons still apply, as I believe that Butler will still end up at first base. If it is left field, how about Carlos Lee? Just a wonderful pick by the Royals last year...wonderful.
6. Matt Cain: San Francisco Giants (SP)- 20
AAA (PCL): 4.34 81/103.2 123/57 16
One tough pitching environment, so I'm willing to give Cain some slack. But that walk rate is concerning, as are the number of home runs (to a lesser degree). This organization needs to put some validity into their player development system by having Cain turn into the player he can be. Letting him spend his final 4-5 starts in the Majors, with a big league pitching coach, might just be what the doctor ordered.
5. Jeremy Hermida: Florida Marlins (OF)- 21
AA (SOU): .294/.451/.514, 76/68, 19/20 SB in 269 AB
He's stealing again, which really makes Hermida the minors top five-tool talent. Where he fits into the Marlin OF mix (he could replace Cabrera, Pierre, or Encarnacion) remains to be seen. But they will find him a spot. And if the Marlins decide to make Hermida their number two hitter -- which is the choice I would ultimately reccommend -- expect opposing pitchers to be awful scared of facing Hermida, then Cabrera, then Delgado. Yikes.
4. Prince Fielder: Milwaukee Brewers (1B)- 21
AAA (PCL): .258/.361/.508, 38/66 in 264 AB
MLB: .321/.321/.536, 0/7 in 28 AB
Does anyone else notice that Fielder really performs when the lights are on? His first full season, Fielder was being watched closely, and ended up winning the Midwest League MVP by a landslide. So while people turned their heads a bit last year, Fielder's play dropped a bit. Then he got the call to big league spring training, and impressed everyone through the first two weeks of exhibition games, where there was talk of moving Overbay...quickly. But then Prince cooled considerably towards the end. Now after just going through the motions in the PCL this year, we again saw Prince's potential in a recent Major League call. If he can put it all together at once...watch out.
3. Andy Marte: Atlanta Braves (3B)- 21
AAA (IL): .284/.380/.523, 39/50 in 430 AB
MLB: .159/.235/.250, 5/8 in 44 AB
Sort of the opposite of Fielder. Where Prince disappointed with his AAA play this year, but then lit up the Majors, Marte was just the opposite. Brought up to replace an injured Chipper Jones, Marte showed signs of being rushed in the worst way. Still, he's playing very well in AAA, and sooner or later, that will pay off. Not only do the Braves have some catching decisions to make this winter, but they also need to choose two from Marte, Jones and Adam LaRoche.
2. Felix Hernandez: Seattle Mariners (SP)- 19
AAA (PCL): 2.55 58/77.2 84/42 3
Back now from an injury that had him out most of June. The Mariners are intelligently babying him, as they haven't with so many prospects in the past. Like Cain he has had a concerning walk rate this season, but that is really the only thing that has been wrong...besides his health. He should finish the year in Seattle and open next year there, hopefully to a hero's welcome each time.
1. Delmon Young: Tampa Bay Devil Rays (OF)- 19
AA (SOU): .336/.386/.582, 25/66, 25 SB in 330 AB
Now moved up to AAA, Young is a stronger walk rate from being a flawless prospect. This September, I'm a Devil Rays fan. Let me go out on a limb and say supplanting Damon Hollins shouldn't be the most difficult thing Young has ever done. He's a fantastic talent, and was the right choice in the 2003 draft. Tampa fans can't ask much more than that from the front office.
WTNY Midseason 75 (75-31)
Alright ladies and gentleman, start your engines, it's list time. Finally I have my midseason top 75 all ready for viewing, and we will go through the players during the next two days. Please notice the list does not include any players drafted in the 2005 draft, or those currently playing in short-season ball. I promise to rank them this winter, but it's too early this time around.
For each player I have provided their statistics, as well as their age. The numbers I used, and the way I presented them, are pretty similar to past styles (hitters: AVG/OBP/SLG, W/K, SB in AB; pitchers: ERA H/IP K/BB HR). Today we begin the countdown with numbers 75-31, so please enjoy and check back tomorrow.
75. Jarrod Saltalamacchia: Atlanta Braves (C)- 20
A+ (CAR): .294/.374/.471, 32/66 in 272 AB
Interestingly enough, Salty is a very similar player to the one he’s trying to supplant, Johnny Estrada. I really like Jarrod, and I would say there is about a decent chance that he becomes a better player than Brian McCann. Both need to work on their defense, but it appears their bats will be enough. Atlanta doesn't have very many parks that are good on hitters, Myrtle Beach being the worst, so we may not get to see Salty's true ceiling for awhile. But trust me, some of those doubles will start going over the fence soon.
74. Javier Guzman: Pittsburgh Pirates (SS)- 21
A+ (CAR): .324/.374/.488, 20/41, 13/18 SB in 256 AB
AA (EL): .323/.340/.469, 3/14, 1/2 SB in 96 AB
Really under the radar player that has gained my attention. I could have chosen a few middle infielders with this choice, but instead I like Guzman. Yes, more than Erick Aybar, more than Alberto Callaspo, and for the time being, more than Adam Jones. Guzman seems like he will replace Jack Wilson in short time, offering Pittsburgh a little bit of everything. Solid defense, switch-hitting, enough patience (well, in A+, not AA), very good contact, and above average power. I'm convinced.
73. Javi Herrera: Oakland Athletics (OF)- 20
A- (MID): .274/.371/.414, 33/73, 19/23 SB in 237 AB
Living near Kane County, I have seen Herrera a couple times this year, and he has lived up to expectations. Shows very good range and instincts in center, and his selectivity is solid. Throw in some very good speed, and Herrera has five-tool written all over him. The power is not quite there yet, but he's a well-built player, and it should come with time. The A's aren't really used to developing raw players, so it will be interesting to see how Herrera and Richie Robnett turn out.
72. Chris Lambert: St. Louis Cardinals (SP)- 22
A+ (FSL): 2.63 53/54.2 46/15 4
AA (SOU): 4.43 34/40.2 39/25 5
As I have previously noted, Lambert impressed me as much as any other player in the Futures Game. He has his issues, but probably also has the best stuff in a St. Louis organization that is slowly developing some talent. If his fastball control can tighten up, Lambert is going to take off. He's not as raw as it sounded when drafted out of BC, but he's certainly not a finished project either.
71. Jason Kubel: Minnesota Twins (OF/DH)- 23
NO STATS- INJURED
If Kubel was still a good prospect this winter, when we knew about his knee, you have to consider him a good prospect now. True tests won't be until instructional league, or the AFL, or winter ball, and we'll be watching closely. I just pray he doesn't go all Matt Whitney/Alex Escobar on us.
70. Matt Moses: Minnesota Twins (3B)- 20
A+ (FSL): .306/.376/.453, 28/59, 13/17 SB in 265 AB
Still, proving that back problems have been the cause for his previous bad seasons, after being chosen in the first round. His health puts him on this list, and Michael Aubrey off, but anyone knows back problems can arise at any time. Moses is the future at the Minnesota third base bag, only if one bad swing doesn't derail that track first.
69. Brandon Moss: Boston Red Sox (OF)- 21
AA (EL): .264/.339/.439, 37/93 in 326 AB
Talk about a player I can't read, Moss suddenly got extremely hot this year, bringing himself from an average Eastern League hitter to an all-star. Part of me is such a huge seller of Moss that I would take David Murphy before him, but that is probably a bit extreme. Like Markakis, I'm just not sure he has the power for an outfield corner, meaning he may end up as a bench bat.
68. Glen Perkins: Minnesota Twins (SP)- 22
A+ (FSL): 2.13 41/55 66/13 2
AA (EL): 3.38 24/26.2 22/18 1
Along with a few others, proving accomplished college pitchers can handle high-A, but really face their first test in AA. Perkins hasn't been great in the Eastern League so far, lessening expectations that were too high during his FSL dominance. Perkins is a good middle-of-the-rotation guy, but not one that is going to save a rotation.
67. Jason Vargas: Florida Marlins (SP)- 22
A- (SAL): 0.80 16/33.2 33/10 1
A+ (FSL): 3.42 47/55.1 60/14 6
AA (CAR): 2.84 13/19.0 25/7 3
Really on a tour of America this year, Vargas is currently on his fourth level of the season in Miami. He has seen success at each stop, and his first start against the Diamondbacks went fine. Four walks is way too much for five innings, and they look to be the result of falling behind in the count, in which Vargas does not pitch very effectively. A lot of people would kill for the southpaw trio of Willis, Olsen and Vargas in one rotation.
66. Cole Hamels: Philadelphia Phillies (SP)- 21
A+ (FSL): 2.25 7/16 18/7 0
AA (EL): 2.08 8/13 14/7 2
This time around I have promised myself to be cautiously optimistic on Hamels, who has made a habit of disappointing believers in the past. He has come back with the form we remembered, not showing ill effects of his broken hand. Cole is a special player that needs to avoid the health and make-up issues that have haunted his past.
65. Miguel Montero: Arizona Diamondbacks (C)- 21
A+ (CAL): .349/.403/.625, 26/52 in 355 AB
The current favorite for the Reed-Kinsler breakout of the year award, Montero is now in AA after making fools of high-A pitchers. I'm more skeptical of Montero than most players on this list, but that roots more from his newfound skills than anything else. If this just had been Francisco Hernandez, I wouldn't be thinking twice about his placement.
64. Jeff Niemann: Tampa Bay Devil Rays (SP)- 22
A+ (CAL): 3.98 12/20.1 28/10 3
Niemann is part of the ESP (Electric Sore Prospect) club, which I'll detail later, now that he's been sore since the end of his sophomore season at Rice. Ryan Anderson, who has been mentioned in 525,600 Peter Gammons columns, will be quick to tell Niemann that when you are 6-9, people give you some patience. My guess is that Niemann will never be the dominant pitcher we saw during his amazing sophomore campaign, one that all-but-guaranteed a top pick the following year. Amazing what difference a sore shoulder can do, huh?
63. Jered Weaver: Anaheim Angels (SP)- 22
A+ (CAL): 4.85 24/26 39/5 3
Really coming on strong after a rough start. His pitchability is off the charts, second maybe only to Yusmeiro Petit on this list. But, his G/F that Rich listed is concerning, as is the stuff that scouts have long and outspokenly doubted. Look for him to prove the scouts wrong, settling nicely into a number two/three role in the Majors.
62. Shin-Soo Choo: Seattle Mariners (OF)- 22
AAA (PCL): .257/.374/.391, 48/66, 15/22 SB in 261 AB
I've come to two conclusions about Choo, I'm just not sure which one is right. On the one hand, what I've seen from him is indicative of his potential, a solid-hitting corner outfielder that hits better than Jeremy Reed. On the other hand, I'm just good luck for Choo, who never disappoints when I'm watching.
61. Chris Young: Chicago White Sox (OF)- 21
AA (SOU): .261/.356/.525, 44/90, 17/22 SB in 322 AB
Simply put, Young is a dynamite prospect once you can accept him for his faults. Now it's those faults -- or more specifically, his contact skills -- that are also holding him back from becoming a top prospect. But everyone seems to be catching on to my argument that Young is a better prospect than Ryan Sweeney, because he trumps the right fielder both in power and defense...by a lot.
60. Gaby Hernandez: New York Mets (SP)- 19
A- (SAL): 2.43 59/92.2 99/30 4
Now in St. Lucie, where he replaced Philip Humber, who replaced Brian Bannister, before Humber went down with Tommy John. Most organizations would kill to have Hernandez as their number three prospect in the system, as Gaby has been a steal since being drafted. His control could stand a bit of improvement, but that's nitpicking in some pretty flawless peripherals in his first full-season league.
59. Anthony Reyes: St. Louis Cardinals (SP)- 23
AAA (PCL): 3.08 68/84.2 83/18 8
I have recently determined that Reyes is one of the current top members of the aforementioned ESP club. He is joined by Angel Guzman and Jeff Niemann at the top, and they recently honored former member Bobby Bradley with an award. Reyes has been sore since his days at USC, and I'm just not sure it's going away. At this point we have to assume the worst, and accept that Reyes might just always tease us with his potential, but come up lame when it matters the most.
58. Wes Bankston: Tampa Bay Devil Rays (1B)- 21
A+ (CAL): .387/.513/.629, 15/17 in 62 AB
AA (SOU): .331/.400/.549, 17/30 in 142 AB
Over at Rays Baseball, an argument has arisen that Bankston is the best first base prospect in the minors, ahead of Conor Jackson. The surprising thing is that the argument isn't too outlandish, and Bankston really does have a case. I'm a big Bankston believer, but I think that is probably a bit too over the top. Wes has been extremely impressive after a late start this year, and has caught up with the Elijah Dukes track. When they hit the Majors, meeting Delmon and Upton, this team will have no choice but to be improved.
57. Chris Snelling: Seattle Mariners (OF)- 23
AAA (PCL): .363/.447/.500, 33/40 in 215 AB
Or should I say Doyle? Snelling has been lights out in his one millionth return from his two thousandth freak injury. The only thing he has to prove to be better than Eddy Martinez-Esteve, a very similar player offensively, is that he can stay health for a few months. The Mariners handled Snelling inappropriately in a recent call-up, but they sound very high on his future. I can tell you this: I'm just praying the Mariners throw Snelling and Bucky Jacobsen into their 2006 lineup...and many more after that.
56. George Kottaras: San Diego Padres (C)- 22
A+ (CAL): .294/.380/.462, 43/55 in 299 AB
Similar player to Martin, because he is a very disciplined hitter with at worst, average power. Besides patience, I like Kottaras' bat more, but there is no question that Martin is the better defense. I also learned from Calleaguers.com that Kottaras is an extreme pull hitter, a flaw that must be improved in higher levels. I just wish we could put Nick Hundley's power on Kottaras, which would make him super-hitting-catching-prospect, also known as Brian McCann.
55. Adam Miller: Cleveland Indians (SP)- 20
SS (NYPL): 5.06 17/10.2 6/4 0
A+ (CAR): 2.16 19/16.2 8/6 1
Not back yet, so it isn't quite far to evaluate his results. In fact, it will probably be too early to do so this entire season. But he's pitching and not throwing it seems like, as his results have been good despite bad peripherals. Not sure he'll be hitting 101 again this year, but Miller is still something special.
54. Jose Capellan: Milwaukee Brewers (RP)- 24
AAA (PCL): 4.28 75/75.2 59/36 3
I jinxed Jose in my relief article from a few weeks ago, in which I talked about his scoreless streak as a reliever. That has since ended, but Capellan has continued to have success in the bullpen. It's obviously a better home for him the rotation, in which he is throwing 80ish fastballs per every 100 pitches, and not with the same velocity he can bring in the bullpen. I would like to see a few more strikeouts from the closer spot, but Capellan still screams Armando Benitez to me. And I don't mean that as a bad thing.
53. Hunter Pence: Houston Astros (OF)- 22
A- (SAL): .337/.413/.667 35/52 in 276 AB
It's hard for me to evaluate players like Hunter Pence and Eric Patterson, along with (to a lesser degree) Sergio Pedroza. These guys are simply doing what we expected, which is dominating competition that they should be dominating. But Pence is the best of the group because of his size, power and position. Before we can get a perfect handle on Pence, though, he needs a challenge.
52. Nick Markakis: Baltimore Orioles (OF)- 21
A+ (CAR): .294/.375/.464, 39/56 in 306 AB
At this point, I can't decide about Markakis. Option 1, he is going to be the player he has shown in nearly a year and a half of playing time: fine hitter, but certainly not the production you would hope from a right fielder. Option 2, he is the player he was for a month or so last year, and the player I think he can be: star. It all lies in that bat, where the question will always be whether his power will play in Peoria...err, right field.
51. Asdrubal Cabrera: Seattle Mariners (SS)- 19
A- (MID): .318/.407/.474, 30/32 in 192 AB
A+ (CAL): .341/.378/.537, 6/12 in 82 AB
Probably the surprise ranking on this list, but I admit to have fallen in love with Cabrera's credentials as a prospect. Everyone I've talked to uses words like "exceptional" and "special" to describe his defense...at the age of 19. He's also proven to be versatile in the field, already playing three positions this season. But on top of that, Cabrera has shown very solid offensive skills. He makes consistently good contact, and hits for more than enough more given his position. While the patience has evaporated of late, it's still there. I can only imagine a future double play combination of Cabrera and Betancourt, who project to be one of the best defensively of this generation.
50. Eddy Martinez-Esteve: San Francisco Giants (OF/DH)- 21
A+ (CAL): .319/.429/.528, 59/59 in 326 AB
A complete hitter that needs to get challenged with a promotion. EME has recently started to play the field more, as the Giants hope they can turn him into a left fielder, or at worst, a first baseman. His bat will play anywhere in the field, as it has very few flaws. Shame on 29 teams for passing on Esteve's bat because he couldn't play defense.
49. Merkin Valdez: San Francisco Giants (SP)- 23
AA (EL): 2.85 73/85.1 74/34 3
One frustrating player. The Giants at this point must be good confused about Valdez, because they just don't know what they have. Sometimes it's a future ace, sometimes a player in need of a move to the bullpen. Sometimes, he might just be a middle of the rotation guy. But the caveat to all this is that Valdez has very good stuff, and should survive in the Majors no matter what role the Giants decide on. Expect them to keep him in the rotation until his ERA dictates otherwise, a la Capellan.
48. Ian Kinsler: Texas Rangers (2B)- 23
AAA (PCL): .262/.326/.461, 29/62, 10/13 SB in 343 AB
Some days Alfonso is as good as gone, others he's going to stay in Texas for quite some time. I'm not sure what to believe anymore, I just hope that Kinsler has a 2006 job. You can bet the Soriano rumors would be louder if Kinsler had a better OBP, but I expect that to rise along with his batting average in the second half.
47. Anibal Sanchez: Boston Red Sox (SP)- 21
A+ (CAR): 2.40 53/78.2 95/24 7
AA (EL): 2.35 6/7.2 11/4 2
Along with Edison Volquez and to a lesser degree Fernando Nieve, the three are proving that a little patience is all that is needed from live Latino arms. The most impressive thing I have seen on Sanchez is just how enthusiastic Chris Kline of Baseball America was after seeing Sanchez in the Carolina League All-Star game. I wasn't blown away with him in the Futures Game, but I certainly saw reason for excitement. He may end up better out of the bullpen, with a fantastic 1-2 punch, and certainly gives the Red Sox a good trading chip.
46. Troy Patton: Houston Astros (SP)- 19
A- (SAL): 1.94 59/78.2 94/20 3
Everyone has known the Astros had the steal of the 2004 draft since last season ended. But, for a long time, they thought that steal was Mitch Einertson. With the Appy League home run champ struggling in low-A, Patton has taken off after Houston surprisingly talked him out of a college commitment. Given his confident, solid three-pitch arsenal, expect he and Gio Gonzalez to be battling for top southpaw prospect spot very soon. Recently promoted to the Carolina League.
45. Eric Duncan: New York Yankees (3B)- 20
AA (EL): .240/.348/.386, 49/85 in 337 AB
The Yankees are believers in Duncan, who probably should have at least started the year in the FSL. His start was very bad this year, and his numbers improve when considering that. If you simply throw out his first 55 at-bats this year, in which Duncan collected nine singles, Duncan't line improves to about .265/.360/.450. That's not great, but for a 20-year-old in AA with a lot of undeveloped power, the Yanks will take it.
44. Chuck Tiffany: Los Angeles Dodgers (SP)- 20
A+ (FSL): 3.36 64/80.1 92/28 10
Very unsung player that has been really good since ending the season in the largest of ways last year. I'm concerned with the home run rate, especially considering the park and league, but everything else looks good with Tiffany. Where the team has been aggressive in the past to move such players up the ladder quickly, they seem to be learning from past mistakes. Expect Tiffany to be in Jacksonville next year, for most of the season, unless he pushes the envelope.
43. Curtis Granderson: Detroit Tigers (OF)- 24
AAA (IL): .290/.355/.506, 36/108, 16/22 SB in 362 AB
Last year his hot streak came in August, where Granderson went from being a 100-200 prospect to landing himself in the top 75. This year, his breakout seems to be happening in July, where he is really hitting the accelerator in the International League. Like Brian Anderson, I don't see too many things wrong with Curtis, he just doesn't blow you away. And like Shin-Soo Choo, he plays a sketchy centerfield, and his defense there may just make or break his tenure as a Tiger.
42. Kendry Morales: Anaheim Angels (Corner)- 22
A+ (CAL): .344/.400/.544, 6/11 in 90 AB
AA (TEX): .264/.310/.425, 7/20 in 106 AB
During the winter, we had no idea what we had in Morales, other than a few scouts claiming he would have made up for the club not signing Jered Weaver. We saw quickly that the California League wasn't tough for Morales, and the team did not hesitate correcting their assignment mistake. It appears that Arkansas will be the make or break place for Morales, as his performances have been up and down so far. We still don't really know what the Angels have in Morales...we just know it could be something very good.
41. Fernando Nieve: Houston Astros (SP)- 22
AA (TEX): 2.65 62/85 96/29 7
AAA (PCL): 3.38 33/32 20/13 3
While the Astros have been very quick to aggressively promote prospects this year, they have taken the correct route with Nieve. Slow to develop in the minors, the Astros are milking Nieve's breakout in the minors. My guess is that he breaks camp with Houston next year, and should be considered one of the favorites to come second to Conor Jackson in the Rookie of the Year race.
40. Howie Kendrick: Anaheim Angels (2B)- 21
A+ (CAL): .384/.421/.638, 14/42, 13/17 in 279 AB
The little guy just keeps on hitting, showing his bat speed is pretty unparalleled in the minors. He fine power to go with those fantastic contact skills, putting him some patience away from the complete hitting prospect. The team was willing to push Alberto Callaspo just to keep Kendrick's path on track, so you can see they have confidence in their young second baseman.
39. Edison Volquez: Texas Rangers (SP)- 21
A+ (CAL): 4.19 64/66.2 77/12 9
AA (TEX): 4.06 45/44.1 35/15 4
He wants to be Yusmeiro Petit, just does not have the same results. Volquez has been a little too hittable this year to justify Pedro comparisons, but Mr. Dominguez in the same organization can tell you that tends to happen easily. I'm not nearly as sold on Volquez as other places, since he really has not had a dominant season. I need one more dominant string of starts, at least, before I really jump on the bandwagon.
38. Edwin Encarnacion: Cincinnati Reds (3B)- 22
AAA (IL): .301/.380/.543, 33/51 in 269 AB
I agree with John Sickels that it's amazing this guy isn't believed in more than he has been. I will also admit to being a naysayer in the past, but am one that is converting. Encarnacion is very similar to Andy Marte, in the fact that he's always been solid, while kept us waiting for that huge, HUGE season. He may be a rich man's Mark Teahen in the end (a poor version of his defense), but that wouldn't be so bad. Edwin is certainly reason for the Reds to take the best offer they can get for Joe Randa come deadline. He's also reason for the Twins, Padres, and whoever else enters the fray to not offer much.
37. Gio Gonzalez: Chicago White Sox (SP)- 19
A- (SAL): 1.87 36/57.2 84/22 3
A+ (CAR): 4.34 16/18.2 23/6 2
You could say that Gonzalez has had an up and down first season, but the downs are strictly small injuries that have kept him out. Besides that Gonzalez has been lights out, making mincemeat of Sally League hitters. I've said before that Johan comparisons are off, but Gio is also better than Jeremy Affeldt, a fellow southpaw with a similar hammer curveball.
36. Casey Kotchman: Anaheim Angels (1B)- 22
AAA (PCL): .268/.343/.373, 31/37 in 306 AB
In danger of really slipping, Kotchman might be the disappointment of the 2005 season. It's too early to give up on him, but it looks like the Angels made the right decision to use Darin Erstad at the first base bag this year. If he finishes the season like he has started it, Howie Kendrick, Kendry Morales, Jered Weaver (to name a few) will not be behind him next time.
35. Elijah Dukes: Tampa Bay Devil Rays (OF)- 21
AA (SOU): .300/.364/.514, 30/60, 15/22 SB in 313 AB
Let the Rocco Baldelli v. Elijah Dukes debates begin! Another debate has been happening over at Minor League Ball, where many have argued against the merits of Dukes against Lastings Milledge. The latter has a higher ceiling at this point, and that still wins out, especially considering what he's done since healing from injury. But Dukes screams out Milton Bradley to me, and has for quite some time.
34. Russ Martin: Los Angeles Dodgers (C)- 22
AA (SOU): .317/.440/.421, 53/41 in 271 AB
By far, the most complete catcher in the minors. Martin has been high on the Dodgers radar since a lights-out Spring Training, and you can bet Paul DePodesta is noticing an OBP which is about as good as anyone on this list. You can bet the Dodgers won't be spending big money on third base or catcher this offseason, as both positions should be filled by (at worst) 2007.
33. Jeremy Sowers: Cleveland Indians (SP)- 22
A+ (CAR): 2.78 60/71.1 75/19 5
AA (EL): 1.57 21/28.2 27/7 3
In a recent chat, John Manuel of Baseball America talked about how the Padres coulda-woulda-shoulda gone the safe route with Sowers last year with the top pick. The left-hander has been absolute dynamite this year, actually improving with a promotion to the Eastern League. The Indians might be daring enough to give their '04 pick a September start, as the team really gears up to win the AL Central in 2006. Sowers should help that campaign, giving the Indians a southpaw trio that matches that in Miami.
32. Phil Hughes: New York Yankees (SP)- 19
A- (SAL): 1.97 46/68.2 72/16 1
A+ (FSL): 4.76 3/5.2 8/2 0
You can bet that after a string of bad drafts, coupled with a newfound Yankee dependence on the farm system, the 2003-2005 drafts are especially important for the employment of the Yankee scouting staff. With that being said, many of them are probably hanging their hats on Hughes. Early results bode well, as Hughes has quickly become the best high school pitching prospect from last June's draft. He was extremely consistent in his dominance of the Sally League, and should be ahead of Duncan on the Yankee untouchable list.
31. Dustin Pedroia: Boston Red Sox (2B)- 21
AA (EL): .324/.409/.508, 34/26 in 256 AB
AAA (IL): .246/.343/.344, 6/4 in 61 AB
Still behind Hanley because of ceiling, but the gap has closed considerably. Pedroia is going to be the 2006 Red Sox Opening Day second baseman. And you can bet he's a sure thing to be a favorite in Boston, like David Eckstein, but with good play.
Please leave any and all minor league questions below, as I hope to make a mailbag of such comments for next week. Also, please come back tomorrow as I count down the top thirty.
If I Were a Carpenter
News item: In a matchup of Cy Young Award candidates, Chris Carpenter outdueled Roger Clemens on Sunday as the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Houston Astros, 3-0. The National League's starting pitcher in the All-Star game won his 14th game while lowering his ERA to 2.34. Carpenter is tied along with Jon Garland for the major-league lead in wins and is second in ERA behind Clemens (1.47).
In addition to ranking at or near the top in wins and ERA, Carpenter is unique in averaging one strikeout per inning (with some rounding help) combined with a groundball/flyball ratio exceeding 2.00. To wit, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound right-hander ranks fifth in the majors in K/9 (8.91) and ninth in G/F (2.11). No other pitcher in the top ten in K/9 has a G/F higher than 1.38. By the same token, nobody in the top ten in G/F has a K/9 higher than 6.58 other than A.J. Burnett (2.50 G/F, 6th; 8.65 K/9, 7th).
Why is this combination so important, you ask? Well, if you strike out a bunch of guys and get the vast majority of the remaining outs via groundballs, you're not likely to allow too many home runs. Granted, groundball pitchers tend to give up more hits than flyball pitchers, but the extra hits generally go for singles rather than homers.
Carpenter is actually giving up fewer four-baggers in 2005 than at any point in his career. In fact, this is the first time that the 30-year-old has allowed under one HR per ten IP in a full season. More than anything, his success this year is attributable to career-high strikeout and groundball/flyball rates. His walk rate (2.15 BB/9) is outstanding but is still above his pace from last year (1.88).
To determine just how rare Carpenter's double is, I checked the available data on ESPN.com for the past five years and determined that Brandon Webb in 2003 and Kevin Brown in 2000 were the only pitchers who came close to striking out one batter per inning while getting two times as many groundballs as flyballs.
In 2004, Matt Clement had the highest G/F ratio (1.60) among pitchers in the top ten in K/9 and, lo and behold, Carpenter had the highest K/9 (7.52) among hurlers in the top ten in G/F.
Webb, like Carpenter this year, was in the top ten in both in 2003 (3.44 G/F, 2nd; 8.57 K/9, 7th). Chuck Finley placed in the top ten in both in 2002 (1.77 G/F, 9th; 8.21 K/9, 10th).
In 2001, Roger Clemens had the highest G/F ratio (1.48) among pitchers in the top ten in K/9, while Matt Morris had the highest K/9 (7.70) among those in the top ten in G/F.
While pitching for the Colorado Rockies in 2000, Pedro Astacio had the highest G/F ratio (1.63) among hurlers in the top ten in K/9. Meanwhile, Brown had the highest K/9 (8.45) among those in the top ten in G/F.
If anybody else has data going back beyond 2000, I would be curious to know the last time a pitcher averaged a strikeout an inning coupled with a groundball/flyball ratio greater than 2.00. No pitcher has cleared those two hurdles this decade although Carpenter stands a good chance of doing so this year.
Based on this combo, I predict that Daniel Cabrera will break out next year and become one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Interestingly, the Marlins were asking for Cabrera when discussing the possibility of trading Burnett to the Orioles earlier this month. Baltimore wisely turned down Florida's offer. Cabrera and Burnett are two of the hardest-throwing pitchers in the game.
Cabrera, a 6-foot-7, 251-pound starter, is 8-7 with a 4.70 ERA in 2005. More importantly, he is averaging 8.12 K/9 and 1.74 G/F. His totals are nearly identical to Carlos Zambrano, another big guy who throws heat, and only Carpenter and Burnett better him in both categories.
Over his last three starts, Cabrera has thrown 20 innings, allowing nine hits and three runs while striking out 19 against nine walks. He is not without a weakness though. The 24-year-old RHP needs to develop a more effective off-speed pitch that he can use against LHB. If and when he masters that, the Dominican with a mid-90s fastball and a plus curveball will rank among the most dominant starters in the game. Cabrera is closer than you might think to becoming such a pitcher. Get this, he is already blowing away RHB to the tune of .150 BAA/.215 OBP/.189 SLG with 0 HR in 180 AB along with 51 SO and only 11 BB.
Carpenter, in the meantime, is overpowering righties as well (.189/.219/.256). Although not quite at the level of Clemens on the road, he has also put up extraordinary numbers away from Busch Stadium (7-0, 1.69, .183/.239/.292). Ironically, the former Blue Jay is averaging more pitches per batter (3.91) while averaging fewer pitches per inning (14.4) than at any point in his career.
How can that be? It's simple once you think it through. Carpenter is facing only 3.69 batters per inning this year vs. a previous low of 4.10 in 2004 and 4.35 for his career prior to 2005. Yes, if I were a Carpenter, I would continue to throw strikes, get ahead of the hitters, and put them away via Ks and groundouts. That's a recipe for success.
* * * * *
Update: In Daniel Cabrera's next start (vs. the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, July 19), he had the following line:
Pitchers IP H R ER BB SO HR PC-SR
D Cabrera 5.1 5 2 2 4 7 0 106-61
Of his sixteen outs, Cabrera struck out seven and retired the other nine on the ground.
Jered Weaver struck out 11--including a half dozen in a row--en route to a six-inning, three-hit, one-run outing while earning the win over the Lancaster JetHawks Saturday night. Weaver has now won his last three starts but, more importantly, pitched the best game of his four-week-old professional career.
Fellow Scott Boras client, June 2004 draftee, and holdout Stephen Drew went 0-for-2 against Weaver. Hitting third, Drew struck out swinging to end the first inning, walked in the fourth, and flied out to left in the sixth. The shortstop was the first of six consecutive strikeouts for the 6-foot-7 right-hander from Long Beach State.
After a reasonably impressive debut, Weaver was hit hard by the Stockton Ports and the Lake Elsinore Storm in his next two starts. He righted the ship in his fourth outing vs. Bakersfield and followed that up with a strong performance last Monday against High Desert. Saturday night's game was the first time Weaver completed six innings this year.
IP H R ER BB SO
6/20/05 3.0 3 1 1 2 4 --
6/25/05 2.1 5 4 4 0 5 (L, 0-1)
6/30/05 4.0 8 7 5 1 4 --
7/05/05 5.0 2 2 0 0 7 (W, 1-1)
7/11/05 5.2 3 3 3 1 8 (W, 2-1)
7/16/05 6.0 3 1 1 1 11 (W, 3-1)
Totals 26.0 24 18 14 5 39
H/9 SO/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 WHIP ERA
8.31 13.50 1.73 7.80 1.04 1.15 4.85
Over his last three starts, Weaver has thrown 16 2/3 innings, allowing 8 hits, 6 runs (4 earned), and 2 walks, while striking out 26. He has gradually increased his pitch count from approximately 50 toward 100 and his arm strength apparently is close to where he was a little over a year ago when he led the Dirtbags to the Super Regionals and was honored by winning all of the collegiate player of the year awards.
In total, Weaver has K'd 36% of the batters faced. By comparison, Johan Santana and Pedro Martinez, the respective leaders in the American and National Leagues, have whiffed 28% of the hitters. Of the 78 outs, Jered has gotten 39 of them by strikes, 10 on the ground, 27 via the air, one pickoff, and another trying to stretch a single into a double. Weaver has given up three home runs but only one in his last 20 innings of work.
Now that Weaver has found his groove after a long layoff, I would expect that the Angels will promote him to Arkansas, their Double-A affiliate in the Texas League, sooner rather than later. Former teammate Howie Kendrick (.384/.421/.638) was called up to Arkansas on Saturday prior to the game. Look for Quakes shortstop Brandon Wood (.307/.371/.656), who slugged his minor-league-leading 30th home run on Wednesday, to join his longtime keystone partner before the year is out.
In the meantime, Drew is tearing up the California League and should be in line for a promotion to Tennessee, Arizona's Double-A affiliate in the Southern League.
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
24 94 22 35 10 2 8 28 73 15 19 0 0 .372 .464 .777
Weaver is scheduled to face the Inland Empire 66ers for the first time on Thursday, July 21. Another dominating performance could send the four-million-dollar man from his native California to Little Rock, Arkansas before the month is out. You know, he just might be a Traveler in more ways than one.
First Half Surprises...
Three days with nothing but minor league games, exhibitions, and an all-star contest. It rivals only February for the worst time of the year for baseball fans. The little good it does provide, however, is time for reflection. With one half in the books and the second already underway, Rich and I went out looking for the clubs that have left our jaws dropped through almost 90 games.
Rich: The biggest surprises of the first half were unquestionably the Chicago White Sox and the Washington Nationals. Although both teams have played over their heads, they have performed much better than I ever imagined. At 57-29, the White Sox have the best record in baseball. I have to tip my hat to Jerry Reinsdorf, Ken Williams, Ozzie Guillen, and all the players. I mean, these guys have been nothing short of sensational. I thought they were no better than a .500 team in the spring and didn't even give them proper respect after they got off to such a great start, thinking the Sox would revert to winning one out of every two games the rest of the way and finish with somewhere around 88-92 victories.
To show you just how good Chicago has been thus far, they can play .500 ball from here on out and still finish with 95 wins. The Minnesota Twins would have to go 47-29 in the second half to catch the White Sox. That's not impossible but it's highly improbable. The Twins are on a 90-win pace as is--which is exactly where I had them last March--but I had no clue that there was a ballclub in the AL Central that could exceed that victory total.
Bryan: Yes, I think it's safe to say that anyone who made a preseason White Sox bet might as well cash in now. And for those of us that bet in the other direction (we'll call this group, "Cub fans"), well, just try to avoid the Sox fan. Simply put, this team is not getting caught this year...until the playoffs, that is.
What's interesting to me is just how polarized this lineup is. I went to a game recently in which a third of the starting lineup(Thomas, Dye, Konerko) was responsible for almost half of the club's home run total. Another 30-35% (Crede, Pierzynski, Everett) was sitting on the bench. Ozzie's lineup had six players that cumulatively had 18 homers for the season! And worse...they won! As I said earlier in the season, no manager can have that kind of a midas touch forever.
I just ain't betting against it.
Rich: If anything, I thought the Cleveland Indians would be the surprise team in that division. I was looking equally silly with my prediction prior to the Tribe taking 12 out of 13 in the middle of June. They've since cooled off, losing five of their last six games going into the All-Star break. Losing the first game of the second half by a score of 1-0 to the White Sox has gotta hurt. It's also sure to bring back some memories as Chicago beat Cleveland by the same score in the first contest of the year.
Bryan: You think you looked bad early because of the Indians? I picked them to win the division, making me the only one of Rich, Aaron Gleeman and Brian Borawski. I really liked this offense, which must not have received the memo about the season starting in April, not June. Conversely, I didn't get the memo that the Indians big season will be 2006, not this year.
It's a good team, but I think Mark Shapiro needs one more year of patience from the Cleveland fans. He has proven to be very adept at building depth, but has received horrid luck in the output of players like Alex Cora and Aaron Boone. Also, to turn what was once a disastrous pitching staff into the contending one the Indians currently have was a bit of mastery from the John Hart understudy.
Is there anything more exciting for 2006 than to see what this offense is going to turn into? Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez are legit stars already, and should have one more All-Star Game under their belt, as Hafner's merits easily trumped those of Konerko and Shea Hillenbrand. Furthermore, Grady Sizemore and Jhonny Peralta are very close to reaching stardom. Add in solid players in the rest of the slots, and at some point, this offense is going to breakout in a big, big way. I can't wait.
But enough already about the American League! Let's move on to door number two...
Rich: With respect to the Washington Nationals, I still don't think they are going to win the NL East. I know they are tied with the third most wins in baseball, but -- so help me, Preston Wilson -- I'm not buying whatever it is they are selling in the nation's capitol. To paraphrase Will Rogers, I'm not a comedian. Instead, I just look at what the Nationals are doing and report the facts. And the facts are this: Washington miraculously went 52-36 in the first half while getting outscored by four runs. C'mon now. Something is out of whack there, and I'm betting that it is the team's record and not the number of runs scored and allowed.
The Nationals are 24-8 in one-run games. That's a record they should be proud of, but it's also one that makes me highly skeptical of their ability to sustain their place atop the standings in the NL East. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say the only way the Nationals finish in first place is if the players go on strike like they did in 1994, which ironically is the last time the franchise had the best record in its division.
Bryan: With apologies to Lance Armstrong and the entire town of Boston, this is the feel good sports story of the year. While critics will constantly complain about how this is two years too late -- blah, blah, blah -- we need to step back and enjoy the Nationals for what they are. Overachievers that, in half a season, have created a fan base that is envied in more than a few places around the Majors.
The winning isn't going to last, you're right. If only Jose Vidro and Nick Johnson never got hurt. If only Jim Bowden hadn't signed Cristian Guzman, and instead spent on one more pitcher. If only so many things, this Cinderella story might go past August. But it won't. Even with Bowden making nice reactive moves in acquiring Junior Spivey and Preston Wilson, this isn't a good enough team to fend off the getting-healthy Braves.
Also, am I the only one who thinks the Marlins are giving up way too fast? In baseball's craziest division, in which all teams were over .500 into June, a seven-game deficit isn't too much. If this team is down by a double-digit margin by July 31, I could see trading Burnett, but no one else. It's interesting, but hardly surprising, that the Mets and Marlins have been so candid about heading into complete different directions from a buyers/sellers standpoint, despite having the same record.
Rich: Elsewhere in the National League, I actually picked the San Francisco Giants to win the West. (Boy, that sure feels good coming clean with that one. I already feel about ten pounds lighter. Gosh, maybe I should start another new fad diet. I'll call it Long Beach. Yeah, that's the ticket.)
Let's face it, despite Alan Greenspan's efforts to push up interest rates this year, the yield on Bonds has been pretty low thus far. OK, it's been zero. The guy hasn't played a single game. No VORP. No WARP. No nothing. He's had more palimony suits than home runs. At $22 million per year, the four-time reigning MVP is the highest-paid blogger around. Maybe Barry is using the time off to work on building up the muscles in his arms.
Is Bonds going to make a comeback in the second half? If so, will he return in time to hit enough home runs to catch the Babe this year? Don't look at me. When it comes to the Giants, my crystal ball is worthless.
Bryan: With the AL Central finally showing up on our radars again, the division now most likely to be completely forgotten becomes the NL West. This division just isn't good, and would be looking even worse if the Padres hadn't had a 20-game stretch of looking like World Series contenders. They aren't, and if they hang onto this division, will be given very long odds to win a series.
As for the other teams, we see a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness. The Dodgers were the best team on paper before the season, but have been hit so hard by the injury bug that in July, they had a lineup with no player making $400,000. Does anyone else get the feeling that soon Los Angeles will become embarassed of the lineup, and ask the Dodgers to use "Anaheim"?
And your Giants, Rich, are just not really worth watching. It's too bad that they won't trade Jason Schmidt, because it was pretty much a guarantee to have them find their way into a national baseball story. Besides Barry, those kind of offers are few and far between these days.
I'll take Arizona at this point, but nothing would surprise me. Not even ESPN pulling the plug on Pedro Gomez' year-long assignment. What did Pedro ever do to get that gig, anyway?
Rich: Across the Bay, I get a kick out of watching the ups and downs not of the Oakland A's but the spinmeisters who abhor Billy Beane and that bestseller
he Michael Lewis wrote. The naysayers came out of the woodwork to blast Beane when Oakland was 17-32 on the last Sunday in May. "I knew trading Hudson and Mulder was the wrong thing to do. . .The team can't hit or score runs. . .They don't know how to bunt or move runners over." Well, I've got one letter for that--zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!
I wonder what Joe Morg...err, they think now that the A's are 45-43 (with 28 wins in their last 39 games)? Hey, I admitted my mistakes. Why can't these guys? You and I both know why. It's because they have an axe to grind. They can't stand the fact that Billy looks at things a bit differently and does it so well. Including this year--you know, the one in which the A's have finally met their match--Oakland has won more regular-season games since 1999 than any team in baseball not named the Atlanta Braves and the New York Yankees. Contrast the A's $50-$60 million payroll with the $200 million payroll of the Yankees. Make no mistake about it, Oakland has been Money the past seven years. Here says the A's are going to win more games per payroll dollar than any other team over the next seven years as well.
Bryan: So quick to pile on, and so quick to shut up. And it always seems that Beane's naysayers are gone when the A's are winning, and when Billy is trading. Personally, I wish we could all just forget Moneyball and appreciate Beane for what he is: the best multi-team trader alive. In any sport. If three or four teams are involved, Billy's getting the best end of the deal, every time.
Of course, there was no exception this week, when the Red Sox, Rockies, Nats and A's kind of had a four-team trade. While every team improved on paper, I think you have to give Beane the best grade. The Red Sox and Nats simply filled holes by dealing disgruntled surplus players. The Rockies found a Coors-improvement on Joe Kennedy (in Day), a cost-effective replacement to Preston (Byrnes) and Clint Barmes' future double-play partner (Quintanilla). Still, if you told me before the season that the Rockies were going to trade an innings-eater and .800+ OPS centerfielder and just land those three players, I would have called bluff.
As for Beane, he essentially landed that innings-eater for an average-dependent AA second baseman. Kennedy could post very similar numbers to Mark Redman playing in Oakland, which will be much more friendly on the southpaw's flyball tendencies. Despite Juan Cruz pitching wonderfully in Sacramento, this team needed a sure-fire answer in the fifth spot. Besides improving there, it's certainly possible that Payton and Witasick will be better than the players they are replacing. And for all that touching up, all Beane had to give up was Quintanilla, who quite honestly, didn't have a future in this organization.
In one direction, Omar was stacked up against Mark Ellis, a much better defender with pretty similar offensive skills. In the other, 2005 first-rounder Cliff Pennington should close fast after showing better contact, defense, speed and patience in college.
So, with the dust settling, it looks like things might be clearing up a bit. It seems the White Sox might really be playoff caliber, but the Nats certainly aren't. The NL West is a division in shambles, and Billy Beane can't be knocked down for too long before getting up.
And if you're wondering why the AL East and NL Central got no mention, it's because simply, the Cardinals and Red Sox don't shock us, and we didn't want to talk about the Yankees. Some surprises are better left unanalyzed.
Predictions for the second half and beyond?
Would You Like Some Baseball With Your Ham?
Armed with a free ticket to go anywhere in the world (well, the world as defined by United Airlines) thanks to a globetrotting brother who travels extensively on business, I decided to make sure that I got close to the maximum mileage out of it. So I packed my suitcase, tossed in my scorebook, and headed for Japan. I was last there in 2003 when I took a lightning trip through the country to see all 12 of Japan's teams in their then 11 different home stadiums. But since 2003, the Japanese leagues have seen one team move from Tokyo to Sapporo, two teams merge, a two-day players strike, and a new team fill out the circuit in the city of Sendai.
So, I decided to go check out the new team and the new stadium and took in three games in a much more relaxed eight-day span. Despite the changes in Japanese baseball, there is one thing that is constant: if you want to go see a long baseball game, go to Japan. While I was there, I took in 11 hours and 38 minutes of baseball that covered just 28 innings.
The first game I took in was at the Sapporo Dome on June 29. In 2004 the downtrodden Nippon Ham Fighters, who always seemed to rank seventh in popularity among the six teams in the Tokyo metropolitan area, moved up to the northern island of Hokkaido and made the Sapporo Dome their home. They changed their uniforms, mascot, and even team name from the Nippon Ham Fighters to the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Someone must have figured out that a hyphen might keep people from calling the team the Ham Fighters.
The Sapporo Dome uses a twist on the retractable roof idea. The Sapporo Dome uses a retractable field. For baseball, artificial turf is used, but for soccer, a grass field from outside is rolled in through the back of the stadium and then the seats are rotated 90 degrees. You can see the whole process here and scroll down to the link for the QuickTime movie. The Sapporo Dome is one of the few Japanese parks with an organist, although recorded music predominates.
The game experience at the Sapporo Dome is fairly typical of a Japanese game. The Fighters have a loud and organized cheering section like all teams. When you enter the Sapporo Dome, you come in below the seats and the sound from the field doesn't carry down into the concrete vestibule. So when you're waiting in line to buy your food during the game, you can hear the PA announcements and the organist, but no crowd noise.
The game on June 29 was not a thing of beauty. The Fighters, managed by American Trey Hillman, started Australian lefty and former Twin Brad Thomas against the defending Japan Series champion Seibu Lions. Thomas lasted just two innings and threw 71 pitches, but the Fighters won a 4-0 shutout behind some great relief pitching from Naoyuki Tateishi and a 2-run homer from Fernando Seguignol. The game was over in a "brisk" 3:28.
Both teams were scuffling along in the bottom half of Japan's Pacific League as the first place Fukuoka Softbank Hawks (formerly the Daiei Hawks), managed by Sadaharu Oh, and the formerly woebegone Chiba Lotte Marines, managed by Bobby Valentine, were both playing over .600 ball. But you only need to finish third in the Pacific League to make the playoffs. Presently, Seibu, Nippon-Ham, and the newly amalgamated Orix Buffaloes (the merged version of the old Orix Blue Wave and the Kintetsu Buffaloes) are all battling for the final playoff spot in the Pacific League. The second and third place teams play a best-of-three series with the winner facing the first place team in a best-of-five series. The Central League as of now has no playoffs and the Hanshin Tigers have a comfortable lead over the Chunichi Dragons.
After Sapporo, I headed down to Sendai, which is a little under 200 miles north of Tokyo on the Pacific Coast to go see the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles take on the Fighters. The Friday night July 1 game was washed out, so I headed out for the Saturday afternoon game. I arrived over 90 minutes before the first pitch, but was surprised to find the game sold out. I assumed that a game between a last place expansion team that was 21-55 and the fourth place team in the Pacific League would not be a tough ticket. However, the Eagles, who were put together quickly in the offseason, are playing the 2005 season in tiny Miyagi Fullcast Stadium, which seats just under 20,000. After about 20 minutes of wandering around the stadium looking for a scalper, two women offered to sell me their extra ticket in the bleachers and I was in.
The seat, such as it was, was a portion of concrete in the left field stands. But there was a fine view of the field and it was a sunny and warm day in Sendai and not too humid for July. Turned out it would be a nice evening, too.
The game had poked along for six innings in a leisurely 3:08. Every inning seemed to feature runners on base, full counts, pickoff throws, pitching changes, and breaks to go wake up spectators who may have dozed off. Going to the bottom of the ninth, the Fighters led 6-3.
In the ninth, Hillman brought in his closer Yokiya Yokoyama. But he got off to a bad start, walking the leadoff man, DH Takeshi Yamasaki. Yamasaki had notched his 1000th career hit during the game and it was stopped briefly to give him a bouquet of flowers, which he opted not to carry around the bases. After Fumitoshi Takano flied out, pinch hitter Ryutaro Tsuji (but he only uses his given name professionally) singled to right. Then Daisuke Masuda singled to load the bases. Catcher Akihitio Fujii, hitting .212, singled in a run to make it 6-4.
Rakuten manager Yasushi Tao then turned to pinch hitter Koichi Oshima. The slap-hitting infielder was hoping to extend the inning in some way to bring the top of the order back up. But Oshima was able to line a Yokoyama offering down the first base line and into the right field corner for a sayonara triple to clear the bases and give the Eagles an improbable 7-6 win, delighting what was left of a sellout crowd of 19,083. When the game ended, the clock on the scoreboard showed the elapsed time: 4:20. The game featured 13 runs, 26 hits, 8 walks, 3 errors, and 25 men left on base. 13 pitchers combined to throw 337 pitches. And by the time the game ended, the lights were on at Fullcast Stadium and the bright sun had dipped behind some clouds.
A triple in Japanese baseball is a fairly rare play. The leaders in each league have 7 or 8 triples, but no one else is close to them with the second place batters in each league having three. Japanese parks are symmetrical with shallow gaps and corners that don't lend themselves to bad bounces. The shallow gaps allow slow players like Tuffy Rhodes and Benny Agbayani to play center field. The fences tend to be higher than MLB parks all the way around, so there aren't many ground-rule doubles either.
Although the Eagles have taken their lumps in 2005, it appears that the people of Sendai have taken quite a shine to them. The team's logo appears on signs hanging from just about every fixed object in the city of Sendai. Department stores and the stadium shop cannot seem to sell enough of the Eagles gear. The Eagles mascots, Clutch and Clutchina, along with a motorcycle-riding crow called Mr. Carrasco, are a big hit with the crowds. However, the Eagles better be ready for the inevitable drop in attendance that will happen when the people of Sendai realize that they have a bad team on their hands. A new stadium is in the works, or at least is advertised as such from what I could make out, for the 2006 season.
My tour of Japan ended on July 4 at the Tokyo Dome. The Fighters returned to their old home to play a three-game series against the second place Chiba Lotte Marines. Although the Fighters left the Tokyo Dome after the 2003 season, they reserved the right to play a series or two each season in Tokyo as the home team.
The game afforded me the opportunity to see the Fighters' much heralded rookie Yu Darvish, the team's first round draft pick. Darvish, an 18-year-old from Osaka who went to high school in Sendai, had won his first two starts for the Fighters. The Marines countered with their own #1 draft pick, Yasutomo Kubo, a 24-year-old from Japan's industrial leagues.
Both pitchers were sharp for most of the game. Darvish's only blemish came when he surrendered a 492-foot, two-run home run to Chiba's Seung-Yeop Lee in the second inning. The homer netted Lee a one-million yen bonus for hitting an advertising sign with Shigeo Nagashima's face on it, the Japanese version of "Hit Sign, Win Suit" (Lee won about $9000.) Kubo gave up a pair of solo home runs and the game went to extra innings tied 2-2.
In the top of the tenth, Thomas came out of the pen. But he was cursed by bad luck. Chiba second baseman Koichi Hori led off with a popup that Nippon-Ham center fielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo (whose name does not appear on scoreboards written in Japanese characters, but rather as SHINJO) lost in the canvas roof of the Tokyo Dome. The ball dropped and Hori was at second. However, all the infielders had run into the outfield to help and no one was covering third, so Hori just kept on running and took third with what was ruled a double and a fielder's choice. (The choice being to not cover third apparently.) Eight batters later, four runs had scored and Chiba led 6-2.
But the Fighters still had something left. Seguignol led off with a single. Shinjo came up with a chance to redeem himself after a night where he had misplayed the popup and struck out four times (giving me a chance to teach my Japanese friends the phrase "golden sombrero"). Shinjo didn't strike out this time. Instead, he bounced into a 6-3 DP and the Marines went on to win. This 10-inning affair lasted 3:59.
Most of you in the U.S. are probably wondering if there were any future major leaguers that I saw. Well, if I had the slightest bit of scouting acumen, I could tell you something of value. But I really don't. After all, I have a Nori Nakamura bobblehead. One would assume that Darvish, an 18-year-old who is already pitching fairly well, would be the likeliest candidate, but the fate of any pitching prospect is always tricky. Darvish has to hope that he does not run into the burnout problem that many young Japanese pitchers face. He hasn't pitched enough innings to make a judgment about him.
The Fighters' third baseman Michihiro "Guts" Ogasawara had batted .327 with a .411 OBP and a .560 SLG in his first eight years in Japan, but he seems to have lost his stroke a bit in 2005. He has 22 home runs as of July 11, 2005, but he was batting just .248 and his OBP had dropped to .329. His fielding at third base also seemed a bit awkward, although he did break in as a first baseman. Ogasawara's biggest handicap may be that he is 31-years-old and will likely not be a free agent until he's 33. But you have to root for a guy called "Guts."
Bob Timmermann is a librarian who lives in South Pasadena, CA. He is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research and has given presentations at SABR annual conventions on Japanese baseball and the life of the only major leaguer born in China, Harry Kingman.
Never on Break
My guess is by the time you have reached our site today, you have read dozens of articles on the boring All-Star Game and even worse Kenny Rogers saga. There will be none of that today, as I take a look at the place that never stops: the minor leagues. Today will be, again, primarily a notes column. Expect what's below to grow in size as the day wears on. Besides that, please enjoy the All-Star Break.
THE NEXT BATCH -- Unfortunately my midseason top 75 will not include some of my favorite prospects: the ones I predict to breakout. While I have written two articles in the past on the issue, one before the 2004 season and another before 2005, there are constantly players that catch my eye. I want to take some time out right now to look at two that are really in my head. They may, of course, be repeated as breakouts for my pre-2006 article, but in case they have huge second halves, I don't want you to think my eyes were completely closed.
- GARRETT MOCK (RHP, AZ): Last season, Jon Lester was one of my favorite prospects despite a relatively high ERA. I noticed that much of Lester's ERA derived from his first two starts, in which the big lefty allowed twelve runs in four innings. After that he calmed, and had a great rest of the season (3.23 ERA). Given that ideology, one of my breakout's next season will likely be Garrett Mock. The big right-hander was drafted in the third round from the University of Houston in 2003, where he had left after his sophomore season. Mock is a sinkerballer with stuff similar to Ben Petrick, a player on many breakout lists before 2005.
In his first four starts of the season, Mock was not a very good pitcher. In 23.1 innings, he allowed 19 earned runs, 33 hits and four homers. True to form, he still had a good K/BB of 20/4, but teamed with his other numbers, things were not looking good. But starting with his last April start -- his only double-digit strikeout performance of the season -- Mock has turned his season around. In 90.1 innings since those first four, Mock has a 3.39 ERA, just 8 homers allowed, and a strikeout-to-walk ratio over five (76/15).
Arizona was formerly a farm system set up for pitchers to fail, with hitter's stadiums in the Cal, Texas and PCL Leagues. The organization made a good decision moving to the Southern League this year, and while it might not be helping Zeringue (.258/.293/.355), it's sure to help the next decent pitching prospect this organization tries to develop. And in my mind, it's sure to help harness a big breakout in 2006 from Garret Mock.
Note: There is suddenly lots on the Internet that I've found about Mock. First, Chris Kline of Baseball America did an interview with the big right-hander as the site's Daily Dish. Also, I recently stumbled across a beautiful site in calleaguers.com, in which Garrett Mock is scouted in a very detailed fashion.
- ADAM LIND (LF/1B, TOR): For some reason, Lind has become one of my favorite prospects in minor league baseball. Lacking any trace of athleticism, Lind has been very respectable in the Florida State League this year, showing the potential for more. His .288/.351/.401 line wouldn't stop you on the street or drop your jaw, but when a few of those 25 doubles start going over the fence, he just might. With Aaron Hill graduating, Lind is the offensive player to be watched in this system, and I think the Eastern League is going to bring big things next season. Looking at Lind I see him becoming like two Rangers offensively: first David Dellucci, who hit 25 doubles and just 6 HR between A+ and AA at 22, but then twenty homers the next season. Also, Michael Young's .313/.392/.428 line from Dunedin in 1999 caught my eye, as it is so similar to Lind, who I could see hitting 60 extra-base hits in the Majors, like Young did last year.
The caveat with Lind is that he doesn't have the versatility like Dellucci or the forgiving position like Young, and since both of those players took about three years to develop, the Blue Jays are going to need to have patience. Rather, Lind has proven to be -- according to Batter's Box -- pretty inadequate in left field. He very well may shift to first base next year, certainly putting him two steps behind both aforementioned Rangers. But I do believe that Lind is worth notice, and that he can become something maybe even greater than those two Rangers...maybe someone Toronto fans remember more vividly: Paul Molitor.
DON'T FORGET QUITE YET -- Rick Ankiel is currently riding a seven game hitting streak that dates back to June. The Swing have been careful with their tender ace-turned-slugger of late, playing him in the DH spot and pinch running for him late in games. Once his recent injury is healed -- and it's nothing serious -- Ankiel will go back into learning the centerfield positon.
But what the Cardinals have seen from their troubled player has to be comforting. During this seven-game streak he's hit .417/.500/.708, with an extra-base hit in four of those games. He also has struck out just three times while walking four, a peripheral you would expect from his 2000 playoff performance, not as a hitter.
Sooner or later the Cardinals are going to have to challenge Ankiel seriously, rather than constantly babying him given a dark past. Ankiel's age cannot be overlooked, and a trip to the Florida State League might do him well. But, consider stage one of this experiment a success: somewhere, Michael Jordan is jealous.
THE SHORTER STARS -- Recently, I have received e-mails on the two early stars of short-season baseball: Sergio Pedroza (Pioneer) and Jeff Bianchi (AZL). In honor of Bianchi raising his average to .500 yesterday -- now 30/60 according to Kevin Goldstein -- I thought I would sum up my comments in this space.
Pedroza was the Dodgers third-round pick from Cal State Fullerton, a pick that likely satisfied both Logan White and Paul DePodesta. During his first two seasons as a Titan, Pedroza hit about .330/.405/.530, before having a big season with 16 home runs. He has now become the star of the Pioneer League with 23 hits, four home runs and six walks in 46 at-bats. But, what I told the person who e-mailed me is, Pedroza's PL sample-size is the wrong one to look at.
College hitters are supposed to dominate short-season baseball, and if you'd like, I could give you a million hitters who have done so en route to flaming out. But, my interest was what had Pedroza done against college baseball's best in his final season -- against the top of the heap. What I found was that Pedroza had 91 at-bats against Boyd Nation's top 20 teams, and he had done very well. In those games, Pedroza hit .275/.405/.670 with 11 home runs, 15 walks and 30 strikeouts. And there, my friends, is a scouting report. Expect Pedroza's contact skills to decline at more advanced levels, and that -- not his power, which is RF worthy -- to hold him back.
As far as Bianchi goes, his breakout is more impressive, even given the context of an easier league. Bianchi was drafted out of high school, so at very worst, his .500/.558/.883 line is coming against people his old age or older. Bianchi is showing power, with 12 extra-base hits in 60 at-bats, and patience, with ten walks. He was considered by many to be an overdraft, and possibly would have fallen to Kansas City in the third round. But, something must be said that the Royals scouting staff fell in love with Bianchi, and that the organization was afraid to not draft him.
At this point, using John Sickels' scale, both are probably C+ prospects, with Bianchi currently a bit higher. Wait to judge Pedroza until he's playing in Vero Beach (Update: He's one level closer,as a reader reports Pedroza will try full season ball in the SAL), and simply enjoy that for the rest of this year, the Royals scouting staff will probably be patting themselves on the back.
MY FIRST DRAFT RECAP -- Now is also an appropriate time for an update on this June's first-round picks. I have created a spreadsheet of all the players in the first round that have signed, and how they are doing thus far. Let's get to the table first, and then we'll have some notes on it:
Name League AB/IP AVE/ERA
Zimmerman EL* 57 0.607
Braun SAL* 15 0.467
Romero ^NYPL NA NA
Tulowitzki CAL 34 0.594
Townsend NYPL 1.0 0.00
McCutchen GCL 42 0.916
Bruce GCL 38 0.643
Snyder APPY 17 1.076
Crowe SAL* 30 0.742
Broadway CAR 20.2 2.61
Volstad GCL 14.0 2.57
Henry GCL 53 0.858
Carillo CAL 7.1 1.23
Mayberry NWL 77 0.617
Pawelek AZL 8.2 0.00
Pennington MID 74 0.773
Thompson GCL 6.0 13.50
Ellsbury NA NA NA
Bogusevic NA NA NA
Garza APPY 19.2 3.66
Devine SOU* 4.0 0.00
Rasmus APPY 68 0.787
Marceaux NYPL 14.1 9.42
Greene NYPL 22 0.838
Note: A * after the league means that the player has already dominated a previous level, and has been promoted. In Ricky Romero's case, the carot indicates he has been assigned, but has not thrown.
A few notes:
*** Ryan Zimmerman might not look too impressive at the top, but he has been wonderful. Originally assigned to the South Atlantic League, Zimmerman took four games to prove it a mistake, going 8/17 with five extra-base hits before the Nats decided to promote him to AA. After starting his AA career 6/21 with two doubles, Zimmerman has gone into a 6/36 slump. OK, so playoff roster expectations were a bit lofty, but Zimmerman has a legit 2006 ETA, which is more than most offensive draftees can say.
*** The other dynamite pick has been Joey Devine, who cruised through the Carolina League in five innings before earning a promotion. With a bullpen in shreds, expect the Braves to try and get Ryan Wagner-like dividends with Devine this season. If his scoreless streak extends about 6-11 more innings, they will have to be thinking about another promotion.
*** It's really too early to be down, but early disappointments have included John Mayberry, Aaron Thompson and Jacob Marceaux. Mayberry should be doing a Pedroza or Stephen Head (10 XBH in 37 AB) impression, but instead has really struggled. Many considered the Texas selection a reach, and they could certainly end up disappointed. Both Marlins pitchers have ERAs over nine, with Marceaux especially disappointing considering he is out of college. I thought Thompson was a reach -- I liked HS pitchers Roe and Atilano better -- but Marceaux should be good value. Have patience.
*** First five of these players to make the Majors, in order: Devine, Cesar Carillo (read Ducksnorts' review!), Zimmerman, Lance Broadway, Trevor Crowe.
Any early impressions welcome on this draft class.
LUCK GOING WELLS -- Many of the names on Kevin Goldstein's recent Prospect Hot Sheet will be in my midseason top 75. Some of the few that aren't (Janssen, Lindsay) I don't know much about. But, the exception to that is Jared Wells. A big San Diego right-hander drafted out of Junior College, Wells has been solid if unspectacular in his short minor league career. His strikeout rate has never been what you hoped, and that was all that was holding him back from being a very good pitching prospect.
Currently, Wells is trying to become that big pitching prospect without the strikeout rate being there. In his last four starts, spanning a whopping 32.1 innings, Wells has allowed just one run. He's also only struck out 21 batters, which is just fair, no matter how impressive five walks allowed are. What has been best for Jared, who had a 10+ H/9 last year, is giving up just nineteen hits. And just like that, Wells' star is rising.
But in the words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend." During those four starts, Wells has had a BABIP of .200, almost reminiscent of Ryan Franklin in Seattle early this season. In fact, Franklin (with a 3.92 ERA and 6.62 K/9 for a career in the minors) works as a very good comparison to Wells. Both are innings-eaters (Wells has had just 2 starts this year under 6 IP) that are very dependent on their defense. Wells has a 1.41 GB/FB this year, but has been inconsistent on a start-by-start basis in getting the ball down.
Ryan Franklin did not pitch a full season in the Majors until he was 28 years old. He spent his time in the minors, collecting up the same solid-at-best numbers that Jared Wells has. These types of pitchers are almost entirely dependent on luck, and while Wells is in a good stretch now, expect that ERA to get back over 3.50 by the end of the season.
Personally, I'd take Sean Thompson in that system before Wells any day.
My Kind of All-Stars
With Delmon Young among the three Americans on base, a grand slam was all that separated the U.S. from their opponents in the final inning of the Futures Game. Given that opportunity, George Brett had no choice but to send Kevin Frandsen to the plate. Kevin who, you ask?
Despite being a second baseman that tore up the Cal League before a recent promotion, that was the disappointed question in the minds of thousands yesterday. They were expecting speedster Marcus Sanders, or Eric Patterson, or Dustin Pedroia to back-up Josh Barfield at second base. Instead, we were left with a 12th round pick lacking of any star potential.
Four singles. Two from Andy LaRoche, one infield single from mL home run leader Brandon Wood, and one (of course) from Delmon Young. That's all the United States could manage against the World staff that Willie Hernandez beautifully controlled. And he did just that right up to Adam Loewen's forced 1-2-3 double play to end the game.
Through two innings, it looked like a pitching duel on both sides. After struggling in his Tiger debut last week, Justin Verlander began his first Comerica Park start well. With four fastballs to lead it off -- all between 95-98 mph -- Verlander retired Mariner top-of-the-order hitters Rafael Betancourt and Shin-Soo Choo. Both an impressive opposite field double by Kendry and a Nelson Cruz pop out were at-bats that started with Verlander's nice high 70s breaking ball and ended with 96 mph fastballs.
After Verlander, the World sent WTNY favorite Francisco Liriano to the mound. The big left-hander impressed, throwing twelve pitches en route to a 1-2-3 first inning. True to form, Liriano threw just one pitch under 85 mph (and 84 at that), and two fastballs under 96. Also validating his scouting report, half of Liriano's pitches were balls. This guy should be in Minnesota's bullpen at the end of the season, as very few southpaws even in the Majors can throw 89 mph sliders, as Liriano showed against B.J. Upton.
Unfortunately sandwiched between Liriano in the first and Edison Volquez in the bottom of the second was Anthony Lerew. Not Baseball America's first choice to attend the game, Liriano did struggle a bit in his one inning of work. With a quick delivery, Lerew struck out Edwin Encarnacion to start his inning using fastballs at 93-94 mph. He then walked Miguel Montero on four pitches, and gave up a single to William Bergolla on another fastball. As a side note, I liked Bergolla more than I thought I would, but he looked completely fooled by Lerew's nice curve, and seems to be a dead-red fastball hitter. With two runners on base, Lerew forced Hernan Ibibarren and Luis Montanez into ground balls, ending the inning.
Then came Volquez, who I was very excited to see, after Jamey Newberg has assured me that Edison should be considered Rangers prospect #1b. I have had a hard time believing that -- I'm a big John Danks and Thomas Diamond fan -- as I have both ahead of Volquez currently. That didn't really change after Sunday, though I did find out the hype is probably not going away. Delmon Young singled on the first pitch Volquez threw, a 96 mph fastball that the Rays super-prospect hammered up the middle. It seems the 96 fastball was a bit of an overthrow for Edison, as he did not top 94 in his six fastballs after that. That included a Jeremy Hermida fly out on three straight fastballs, an Andy LaRoche single on a hit and run, and a Ryan Garko double play. There is no question his fastball is heavy, and his breaking ball is good, but I will warn that the Volquez talk is a bit overdone right now.
Following Volquez was Zach Jackson, a player of completely different caliber, a southpaw with the most interesting of deliveries. It is an extremely hyper delivery, with a huge right leg kick before he throws. Jackson mixed in a 90-94 mph fastball, a mid 80s cutter and high 70s breaking ball. I liked Jackson, despite allowing a Shin-Soo Choo home run on one of his cutters. Choo continues to impress me whenever I see him, despite falling behind both Chris Snelling and Jeremy Reed on the M's organizational depth chart.
The World squad countered with Yusmeiro Petit in the bottom half of the inning, as the big Venezuelan right-hander went throw the inning 1-2-3. I didn't exactly see the reasons that Petit strikes out so many hitters on Sunday, but his arsenal that never left the 81-90 mph range did prove effective. Although, there are easier lineups to face than Josh Barfield, Chris Young and Kevin Thompson.
Fire was the theme of the fourth, as the inning featured two of the game's hardest throwers in Joel Zumaya and Juan Morillo. The hometown Zumaya probably created the most buzz, especially after striking out Miguel Montero on a 99 mph fastball. In many ways reminiscent of Jose Capellan's performance at the game last year, Zumaya threw just one curve in his twelve pitch inning, the rest fastballs from 95-99 mph. He is going to be a good one -- I'm not doubting that -- but Joel must learn to trust his secondary pitches more to stay in the starting rotation.
Before Morillo was Scott Mathieson, as Willie Hernandez decided the final four innings would be split evenly among six pitchers. So, Mathieson drew the tough job of B.J. Upton and Conor Jackson in his six-pitch, 2/3 inning performance. Mathieson nearly added Delmon Young to that list of hitters, but was helped by Rafael Betancourt going past the second base bag to throw out Upton. Betancourt's defense looked fantastic in the one day, and while he's still about the third or fourth best shortstop prospect in the system, could definitely have a moment in the sun at some point.
Following Mathieson was Morillo, a Rockie relief prospect that began his day with two 99 mph fastballs. He finished off Delmon with a 96 mph fastball that was very heavy, prompting Young to ground out to second base. In the fifth inning, Morillo finished his two batter outing against Jeremy Hermida, striking out the Marlin outfielder on six pitches. He finally threw a breaking ball on his tenth pitch, striking out Hermida, who had seen five straight fastballs from 93-98.
In between Morillo was when the World added insurance to their 1-0 lead. Without looking back into my records, I still remember not being enthused by John Danks' rocky half-inning last year. The left-hander who left that impression on me this year was Paul Maholm, the Pirates former first-round selection. Maholm faced five batters in his Futures Game stint, and recorded just one out, via a Hanley Ramirez sacrifice bunt that he almost beat out. Besides that, he had Hernan Ibibarren single on the second pitch, he hit Luis Montanez on the second, and walked Javi Herrera on six pitches. His first seven pitches were all 89-91 mph fastballs, none of which were particularly effective. He finally decided to show his decent curve in the middle of Herrera's at-bat, throwing three balls with it, including a 3-2 pitch that would lead the bases. After that, Justin Huber doubled en route to his MVP award on a second pitch fastball.
Luckily the book was closed on Maholm after that, as Chris Lambert came in and saved his game. There was no pitcher at the game that increased my interest in him more than Lambert, who struck out one, walked another, and then ended the inning on an infield pop out. During that time, Lambert showed confidence both in a change up and breaking pitch, as he did not throw a fastball until his fourth pitch, after recording the strikeout. My one concern would be his fastball command, as he threw three balls in five attempts with the 90-94 mph pitch. Despite his recent struggles in AA, I like Lambert, and it appears he is a fastball tune-up away from becoming the club's best prospect.
Back to the bottom half of the inning, where we already have seen Morillo strike out Hermida. Just six pitches into the inning, Willie Hernandez brought in Fernando Nieve. On a first pitch fastball, Andy LaRoche smacked a 93 mph heater right back up the middle, nearly hitting Nieve in the process. After seeing his two singles, there is no doubt in my mind that LaRoche is a fastball hitter. Nieve would come back to force Ryan Garko into a ground out and strike out Josh Barfield on a good looking slider. No complaints on Nieve that showed three pitches and good control of his 92-94 mph fastball.
Good things from Troy Patton in the top of the sixth inning, as he showed all three of his pitches against William Bergolla to start. A steal from last June, the southpaw started the inning with a 93 mph fastball, the only velocity the pitch hit in four throws. He also showed an impressive change in the dirt, and forced a ground out from Bergolla on a mid 70s, loopy curve. Hernan Iribarren followed that up with a strike out on a change up, which Patton had previously set up with a fastball and two nice curves. If Lambert impressed me the most, there is no doubt that Patton came a close second.
But for some reason George Brett decided he would go all Willie Hernandez on us, and try to split the pitching up equally. Bad decision. James Johnson was exactly what the world as looking for, the right-handed version of Maholm, with a fastball that didn't top 91 and some unimpressive breaking stuff. You know a pitcher's stuff is shaky when in just six pitches he has given up two singles and a bloop double on a 3-0 count. While Johnson came back to strike out the MVP Justin Huber to end the inning, the damage to the American's chances and Johnson's resume.
With just six outs to go and second-hand choice Fausto Carmona beginning the bottom of the sixth, it was time for the Americans to come back. They didn't. Chris Young, one of my favorite prospects, bounced out to third on Carmona's second pitch, a 94 mph fastball. Young showed some fantastic speed getting done the line, though, nearly beating out the throw from Jose Bautista. It was too bad Lastings Milledge didn't show the same effort on his ground out, as Milledge didn't run hard down the line, but still had a close play on a tough play by Hanley Ramirez. The good part about Milledge was that on his first pitch -- a 95 mph heater -- he swung early. The bat speed is there.
And just like that, with four fastballs, Carmona was out and the Americans would have to amass a rally with Anibal Sanchez on the mound. Sanchez has been gaining serious steam as a prospect after an amazing April followed by the Carolina League All-Star Game, where he apparently shined. Now in AA, Sanchez did show big league stuff despite some rough results. Brandon Wood hit the first pitch he saw up the middle, where Hanley Ramirez had a tough play (Betancourt would have made it) and could not throw out the minor league home run leader. But Sanchez came back and struck out another recent high-A promotee, Daric Barton, on an at-bat that included three 94 mph fastballs and two 86-88 mph change ups.
In what would be their last chance, the World almost tacked onto their lead in the top of the seventh. To continue to show off a weaker pitching staff, the Americans brought in Travis Bowyer to finish the game. And despite having been the International League's best closer this year, Bowyer struggled. He began impressively, striking out his first batter with a fastball that got up to 98 mph. But the velocity did not impress Jose Bautista, who singled, nor Russ Martin, who drew a seven pitch walk. And like that, fourteen pitches into his inning, Bowyer still had not thrown a fastball. And he should have abandoned the pitch more against William Bergolla, who watched a 99 mph pitch go by before hitting his second single on another Bowyer fastball. But with the bases loaded, the Twin came back to strike out Iribarren and force Luis Montanez into a fly out.
And, of course, the Americans would come back in the bottom half of the seventh and lose the game on Frandsen's double play. The bases did get loaded on three walks, two from Anibal Sanchez and one from Adam Loewen. I liked Loewen more than Sanchez from what I saw that inning, as the big Oriole southpaw profiles to be a reliever down the road. He threw four fastballs to Scott Moore, the last of which the ex-Tiger nearly doubled on...though Javi Herrera tracked it down. And he also showed a good, high 70s breaking pitch that accounted for two of the four Chris Iannetta balls.
And like that, the anti-climatic game was over. I was left with good impressions from Lambert, Patton and Bergolla, and bad ones from Maholm, Ryan Garko and James Johnson. And while the game had not been the most exciting one I've ever seen, I was able to close my fake-scout's eyes at the end of the night a happy man.
Roger Clemens: Going, Going. . .And Still Going
You've heard of the seven-year itch before, right? Well, how about the nine-year twilight?
Roger Clemens, in defying Dan Duquette and Father Time, is pitching about as well as ever in what is now his 22nd season in the majors and the ninth since the former Boston Red Sox general manager deemed the then 34-year-old future Hall of Famer "in the twilight of his career." Duquette let Clemens become a free agent after the 1996 season, and the Rocket has gone on to win more Cy Young Awards after his departure than before.
The Red Sox-turned-Blue Jay-Yankee-and-now-Astro great is gunning for his eighth Cy Young Award and the fifth since leaving the franchise that originally signed him as their first-round pick (19th overall) in June 1983. If Clemens were to win another one this year, it would mark the third time that he has been saluted in consecutive seasons.
The soon-to-be-43-year-old had another strong outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday (7 IP, 8 H, 2 R/ER, 1 BB, 4 SO), yet increased his major-league leading ERA from 1.41 to 1.48. Clemens has now thrown 122 innings this year and is on pace for 232, his highest total since his second season north of the border in 1998.
If history is any guide, it is unlikely that Clemens can maintain a sub-1.50 ERA for the remainder of the year. To wit, Bob Gibson (1.12) is the only pitcher to go that low over a full season since 1919, and he did it in 1968 in the so-called Year of the Pitcher when the league ERA was under 3.00. Should Clemens regress to his career norm (3.14) the remainder of the way, he would end the season with an ERA of 2.27. Interestingly, only Pedro Martinez (1997, 1999-2000, 2002-2003), Greg Maddux (1994-95, 1997-98), Kevin Brown (1996), and Clemens (1997) have bettered that mark since the offensive explosion began in 1993.
Chris Carpenter (13-4, 2.51 ERA) and Dontrelle Willis (13-4, 2.39) are Roger's main competition for the Cy Young Award this year although I wouldn't rule out Pedro Martinez (9-3, 2.80), Roy Oswalt (11-7, 2.44) or, based on what the voters look for, Livan Hernandez (12-3, 3.48). Chad Cordero (2-1, 1.17 ERA, 31 saves), in the midst of an Eric Gagne-like 2003 season, might get a lot of support, too, especially if the Washington Nationals win the NL East.
The fact that Clemens has had eight no-decisions thus far works against him even though it should have virtually no bearing when voting for the best pitcher in the league. His 7-3 record projects to 13 or 14 wins and 5 or 6 losses.
No starter has ever won the Cy Young with fewer than 16 victories (Rick Sutcliffe, 1984). Sutcliffe was a special case in that he was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Chicago Cubs in the middle of June, and he was perceived as the catalyst for the Cubbies finishing atop the standings for the first time in nearly 40 years. However, his combined record wasn't particularly impressive (109 ERA+), owing to a 5.15 ERA over 94 1/3 IP with the Tribe prior to the trade.
In fact, there have been just two winners with 17 victories over the course of a full season (Pedro Martinez, 1997 and Randy Johnson, 1999) and only four with 18 (Clemens, 2004 and 1991; Martinez, 2000; and Pete Vukovich, 1982). Based on the above, Clemens will have a difficult time convincing voters to give him the nod unless he wins at least 10 more games this year.
One stat the writers might want to take into consideration before filling out their ballots is the home-road splits. Clemens has been nearly flawless away from Minute Maid Park, the eighth-most hitter friendly ballpark in MLB.
IP H R ER BB SO ERA
Home 69 50 19 17 18 64 2.22
Road 46 24 1 1 15 44 0.20
The only run Clemens has allowed on the road this year was in Colorado! He gave up a solo home run to Preston Wilson at Coors Park on June 28.
As shown above, Roger has pitched 60% of his innings in Houston despite the fact that the Astros have played an equal number of games at home and away. Last year, Clemens pitched 62% of his innings at Minute Maid. His unbalanced schedule isn't a surprise though. When he signed with the Astros, it was agreed that the father of four wouldn't always travel with the team--allowing him to spend more time with his wife Debbie and their sons Koby, Kory, Kacy, and Kody.
Speaking of splits, the funny thing is that managers are trying to beat Clemens by stacking their lineups with left-handed hitters. Guess what, guys? The Rocket has been mowing down LHB (.181/.238/.222) at an even better clip than RHB (.181/.249/.293). Home or away. Lefties or righties. Day or night. Early innings or late innings. Ahead of the count or behind the count. It doesn't really matter. Clemens has been dominating hitters all season long.
With Eric Gagne on the disabled list, I believe it is safe to say that Clemens throws the best splitter of any active pitcher in the game. He disguises it like a fastball, running it up there at close to 90 MPH. But, unlike his heater (which sits in the low-90s and can easily get as high as 95 or above), the bottom drops out of the ball just as it approaches home plate. Although the splitter has undoubtedly become his "out" pitch, Clemens can still go up the ladder on hitters with his four-seam fastball, and he can mix in an occasional slider (usually as a backdoor pitch to left-handed batters) and slow curve (which serves as nothing more than an off-speed offering to keep 'em guessing).
As a power pitcher, Clemens uses his strong legs a la Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver, and Nolan Ryan. He is a warrior on the mound and his competitive--maybe even arrogant--nature adds an intangible element to his pitching akin to Ryan, Don Drysdale, and Bob Gibson. What separates Clemens from his idol Ryan is the fact that the younger Texan has always had better control. Nolan arguably was more overpowering at times (as evidenced by his all-time best seven no-hitters and 5714 strikeouts), but it's hard to ignore Roger's two 20-strikeout, 0-walk outings in 1986 and 1996 when discussing the best single-game pitching performances ever.
One of the keys to Clemens' success this year has been his ability to keep the ball in the park. The man who began his major-league career in 1984 has only had two seasons in which his home run rate has been lower than 2005--in his fourth Cy Young Award season in 1997 and in his Cy Young Award-snubbing campaign in 1990. Looking at that latter year, can anyone please tell me how Bob Welch won and not Clemens?
IP H R ER HR BB SO W L ERA ERA+
Clemens 228.1 193 59 49 7 54 209 21 6 1.93 211
Welch 238.0 214 90 78 26 77 127 27 6 2.95 126
Let's hone in on those metrics which the pitcher has the most control over.
K/9 BB/9 HR/9
Clemens 8.24 2.13 0.28
Welch 4.80 2.91 0.98
Must have been the park factor, right? Nope. Clemens pitched his home games at cozy Fenway Park and Welch pitched his home games at spacious Oakland Coliseum. Fenway had a park factor of 104 and Oakland a 95. Granted, Clemens may have won an extra Cy Young Award or two along the way, but he was obviously much more deserving than Welch in 1990.
Clemens won his third and final Cy Young Award as a Red Sox the following year. He was allowed to leave Beantown five years later when Duquette made the mistake of thinking that Roger was losing his effectiveness and fast approaching the end of his career. Duquette, a numbers man, should have been able to see past Roger's misleading 10-13 record as the Rocket topped the AL in strikeouts (257) and K/9 (9.53), placed second in H/9 (8.01), fourth in ERA+ (142), and seventh in ERA (3.63) and WHIP (1.33).
Not only did Clemens put up numbers that made him one of the best pitchers in the league in 1996, but he finished the season by going 6-2 with a 2.09 ERA in his final 10 starts. Moreover, in his third-to-last appearance in a Boston uniform, Clemens fanned 20 without walking a single batter while holding the Detroit Tigers to four hits en route to a 4-0 shutout. If that's "twilight," I'd sure like to see what daybreak or sunrise looks like.
Duquette later admitted, "I think I motivated Roger, don't you? I think I did him a service." A free agent, Clemens signed a three-year contract for $24 million with the Blue Jays. He strung together two of his best seasons, winning back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 1997 and 1998 when he led the AL in ERA, wins, and strikeouts--the Triple Crown of pitching.
Discouraged by the fact that Toronto finished more than 20 games back both seasons, Clemens forced a trade to the New York Yankees in February 1999. He helped the Bronx Bombers win the World Series in each of the next two seasons, then won his sixth Cy Young in 2001 on the back of his stellar 20-3 record.
Clemens, who announced his intention to retire following the 2003 season, filed for free agency in November that year, giving himself the option to negotiate with other teams if he changed his mind. After former teammate and close friend Andy Pettitte signed with the Astros, Clemens was persuaded to ink a deal with his hometown club, too. He accepted a below-market contract that guaranteed him $5 million, of which $3.5 million was deferred without interest until July 1, 2006. He earned an additional $1,825,000 in bonuses based on his selection to the NL All-Star team and Houston's home attendance.
On the heels of winning his seventh Cy Young last year (and the fourth during the "twilight" of his career), the 6-foot-4, 235-pound right-hander signed an $18 million contract with Houston for 2005. The transaction made him the highest-paid pitcher in the history of baseball.
Will Clemens return for a 23rd season in 2006? Given the fact that Houston just drafted Koby, a third baseman from Memorial High School in Houston, in the eighth round, is it possible that Roger and his oldest son could spend February and part of March together in Kissimmee, Florida? Stay tuned. In the meantime, the elder Clemens has some business he needs to take care of prior to worrying about what he's going to do in the twilight of his career.
Ranking the Best Pitching Seasons Ever
What was the best pitching season ever? We could look at the lowest ERA, but in some eras, ERAs were naturally low, like in the deadball era before 1920 when there were many seasons with ERAs under 2.00. We could look at the seasons with the most wins or highest winning percentages, but those are determined not just by the quality of the pitching but also by the run support a pitcher gets.
We could get around this problem by comparing a pitcher's ERA to the league average. Two pitchers might be judged equal if their ERAs are both 25% below the league average. Pitcher A might have an ERA of 3.00 with the league average being 4.00 while pitcher B has an ERA of 2.25 in a league with an average ERA of 3.00.
But a problem that often emerges in this approach is that the best seasons often come when runs per game were very high or very low. In extremely high scoring seasons, it may be easier to go far below the league average since the average is so high. Extremely low scoring seasons might increase the chances of any pitcher having a very low ERA.
One possible solution is to compare the best pitcher in the league to the other good pitchers in the league. If it is easy for one pitcher to go far below the league average, it should be easy for a few others. By comparing the league leader in ERA (or any measure of pitching quality) to the other very good pitchers, the problem mentioned above might be lessened.
ERA can also be affected by the home ballpark of the pitcher. So in addition to comparing the best pitchers to other good pitchers, their performance should be adjusted for park effects. Pitchers in high scoring parks will have their runs allowed adjusted downward and vice versa.
One measure that allows for this is called RSAA. It comes from the Lee Sinins Sabermetric Encyclopedia, a commercial database that can be purchased by any baseball fan. Here is the definition: "Runs saved against average. It's the amount of runs that a pitcher saved vs. what an average pitcher would have allowed."
I looked at how the RSAA of league leaders since 1900 compared to the average RSAA of the pitchers who finished 2-10 (hence, the idea of comparing top pitchers to other good pitchers). For example, Walter Johnson had 75 RSAA, meaning he allowed 75 runs less than the average pitcher. The next 9 best pitchers in 1913 averaged 25.56. So Johnson was 49.44 better.
But having, say, 30 more RSAA than the next best nine pitchers might mean more in a low scoring year than a high scoring year. In a low scoring year it will take a lower number of runs to add one over the course of a season. But how many? I used the formula which says it takes 10 times the square root of the number of runs scored per inning by both teams (found in Total Baseball, 5e). If each team scores .5 runs per inning, the total is one. The square root is 1 and 10 times that is 10, so it would take 10 additional runs over the course of a season to win one more game. The Lee Sinins Sabermetric Encyclopedia can call up the top 10 each season in RSAA.
Who were the top pitchers according to this method? The top 10 in the AL are listed below:
Pitcher Year RSAA RSAA Diff* R/W Extra Wins
Walter Johnson 1913 75 25.56 49.44 9.39 5.26
Pedro Martinez 2000 77 24.56 52.44 10.89 4.81
Lefty Grove 1931 75 26.67 48.33 10.73 4.50
Lefty Grove 1932 75 26.70 48.30 10.81 4.47
Walter Johnson 1912 74 29.56 44.44 10.02 4.44
Walter Johnson 1918 56 16.92 39.08 8.97 4.36
Cy Young 1901 72 25.11 46.89 11.08 4.23
Pedro Martinez 1999 71 28.11 42.89 10.87 3.95
Lefty Grove 1926 62 23.33 38.67 10.34 3.74
Hal Newhouser 1945 59 24.44 34.56 9.34 3.70
Lefty Grove 1936 70 29.78 40.22 11.32 3.55
In 1913 it took 9.39 runs to win one more game. Since 49.44/9.39 = 5.26, Johnson added 5.26 more wins than the average of the next best nine pitchers in the league (I have eleven pitchers here--Hal Newhouser's season was a war year, when many good pitchers may have been in the military).
For the NL, the top 10 were:
Pitcher Year RSAA RSAA Diff* R/W Extra Wins
Grover Alexander 1915 69 15.80 53.20 9.00 5.91
Dolf Luque 1923 66 24.00 42.00 10.40 4.04
Bob Gibson 1968 56 21.78 34.22 8.72 3.93
Greg Maddux 1995 64 24.80 39.20 10.17 3.86
Christy Mathewson 1905 61 25.33 35.67 9.62 3.71
Dwight Gooden 1985 58 22.75 35.25 9.51 3.71
Dazzy Vance 1930 64 22.36 41.64 11.33 3.68
Carl Hubbell 1933 52 18.10 33.90 9.44 3.59
Dazzy Vance 1924 56 20.78 35.22 10.07 3.50
Bucky Walters 1939 58 23.11 34.89 9.99 3.49
One problem can be seen--if you know some baseball history--is that we still see the best pitching performances coming from what are generally fairly high or fairly low scoring years. I really don't know the solution. Comparing players using standard deviations instead of simple averages might be better. I ran this study and ranked pitchers in ERA based on how many standard deviations below the average of all qualifying pitchers they were. Pedro Martinez in 2000 was the best, being 3.79 SDs below average.
Looking at ERA has an advantage over RSAA, since it only includes earned runs whereas RSAA includes both earned and unearned runs. Unearned runs may not be the fault of the pitcher. I also looked at the best ERAs relative to the 2-5 pitchers each year.
But both RSAA and ERA are, in part, determined by the quality of the fielding behind the pitcher. In his Win Shares methodology, Bill James attempted to rate pitchers solely on their contribution to winning, independent of the fielders. Using the electronic Win Shares database, I found the best seasons by taking the league leader and seeing how many Win Shares he had as percentage of the pitchers who finished 2-5.
Pitcher Year WS Ratio
Alexander 1915 43.32 1.87
Maddux 1994 25.96 1.86
W. Johnson 1913 50.28 1.81
Alexander 1917 39.11 1.77
Grove 1931 41.83 1.74
Walsh 1908 46.62 1.74
Alexander 1916 41.95 1.72
Maddux 1995 29.87 1.72
Vance 1924 35.57 1.68
W. Johnson 1915 39.34 1.67
Carlton 1972 40.38 1.67
Martinez 2000 28.86 1.64
Chesbro 1904 51.80 1.63
Luque 1923 38.97 1.63
Walters 1939 34.50 1.59
Gibson 1968 36.36 1.52
Clemens 1997 31.66 1.52
Martinez 1999 26.89 1.52
Perry 1972 39.04 1.50
The same pitchers seem to be near the top on all of these lists (including the lists at the links given above). There could be a problem that the quality of pitchers they are being compared to is relatively low (which might explain why they all do so well in simple comparisons to the league average as well). Maybe some years just did not have many good pitchers. I don't know how that could be determined. One suspicion I have about some of Pedro Martinez's good years is that there were no other very good pitchers. Roger Clemens was in decline. Randy Johnson was traded to the NL. But maybe the same could be said about Bob Gibson in 1968. Sandy Koufax was gone. Tom Seaver had yet to hit his prime. Maybe it could be said about any of these pitchers.
Some pitchers who stand out even among this crowd are Walter Johnson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Greg Maddux, and Pedro Martinez. They each have two consecutive seasons that both appear near the top of these lists. They proved what they did was no fluke.
Cyril Morong teaches economics at San Antonio College and is a lifelong White Sox fan. A member of SABR since 1995, his articles have appeared in The Baseball Resarch Journal, By the Numbers and on line at The Chicago Sports Review.
[Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]
Minor League Notes (7/6/05)
Since I didn't have time for a normal full-length article today, I wanted to post a notes column, and I will be adding to it as the day goes on.
Normally, when one of my favorite prospects receives word of a promotion, I'm ecstatic. But instead the recent Yankees decision to move Melky Cabrera to AAA leaves me confused and worried. This was not someone that dominated AA by any stretch of the imagination, hitting just .267/.310/.413 with the Trenton Thunder. Granted this was a player hitting just .214 on April 26, I don't believe Melky was showing AAA-caliber play. But, it appears this may be a situation of him proving me wrong and the Yankees right. Since being moved up to Columbus eight games ago, Cabrera is 11/32 with four walks and five extra-base hits, three of them via the home run. The Yankees plan with their young outfielder is anyone's guess at this point, but with a player as talented as Melky, New York is proving that it's hard to look wrong.
THURSDAY UPDATE: Melky has apparently impressed New York brass so much that he will be called up today and play centerfield against the Indians. From the Midwest League to the Majors in a little over a year...wow. But sadly for the Yankees, I must say that I don't think Cabrera is going to solve any of their problems. And in case you were wondering, Bernie Williams didn't top the .800 OPS barrier until he was 25.
Another prospect favorite, Jon Lester, is starting to really accelerate in the Eastern League. Lester has been absolutely dominant in three of his last four starts, all of which he pitched six innings (7 innings twice, actually) and struck out at least ten AA batters. In those four starts, spanning 22 innings, Lester has allowed just three earned runs while striking out 37 batters. You can bet that if the Red Sox make a big July trade, Jon Lester will be in it. I know if I was an opposing GM, any deal would have to start with him.
Posted by Bryan at 10:32 a.m. CT
After mentioning two of my favorite prospects above, I should also mention two of Rich's favorites that had good weekends. First there is Daric Barton, who was kind enough to give Rich an interview during his hot streak that has him sent to AA. I could tell you how hot, but Kevin Goldstein handles that well in his most recent Prospect Hot Sheet:
In his last 28 games at high Class A Stockton, Barton reached base by hit or walk a remarkable 68 times, scoring 26 runs and driving in 25 in the process. Promoted to Double-A over the weekend, Barton was initially thought to miss Monday night's game due to a late flight, but he showed up at the ballpark and was intentionally walked in his first plate appearance, so word is getting around.
Another reason Mr. Lederer went to the recent Quakes-Ports game was to see his long-time favorite, Jered Weaver. Despite disappointing in that game, and for much of his first three starts, Weaver seems to be getting back into his old groove. In his fourth start of the season last night, Weaver pitched five innings with no earned runs, allowing two hits and no walks against seven strikeouts. Granted, Bakersfield isn't exactly a prospect-laden ballclub, but there could not have been a more positive sign for the Angels bonus baby.
Posted by Bryan at 11:33 a.m. CT
This season, I have been lucky enough to come across two of the Midwest League's better pitchers, and a former first-round highly regarded hitter. I've been trying to find a spot for my thoughts ever since, so here goes. First, we have Anthony Swarzak:
On Sunday, June 5, Anthony Swarzak appeared to be a teenager in over his head. In the course of two innings -- the second and the third -- Swarzak both allowed more earned runs than he had all May, as well as more home runs than he had all season. The problem was, without question, the fastball (or lack thereof) that Anthony displayed. While the Floridian right-hander showed both the ability to keep his change-up down and garner strikeouts with a plus curve, the Clinton Lumberkings got the memo to lay off the slow stuff. Instead, Swarzak often found himself behind in the count, forced to throw strikes...and therefore, fastballs. The problem was that, in his first June start, Swarzak's velocity was down in the 87-88 region. On all three home runs the hitters pulled fastballs, which they had obviously expected, well over the fence. Furthermore, what Baseball America had described as a "tall and...lean frame" has noticeably added some weight. To continue to have the success he enjoyed in May, Swarzak must learn to control his secondary pitches while keeping his velocity in the low 90s.
Next we have the Midwest League pitcher of April who still has an ERA under 2.00, Sean Gallagher:
In a system that has been flush with pithcing from even before Kerry Wood, many were surprised when the generally unknown Gallagher dominated like no other Cub prospect in April. Gallagher did so with a bit of increased velocity -- in the 88-92 range -- and the slow, loopy curveball which is his strength. Gallagher's breaking pitch has the potential to be thrown for a strike, and froze enough Kane County Cougars to work as a strikeout pitch too. I found two significant problems when watching Gallagher, the first of which was -- as Michael Lewis would say -- how he looks in blue jeans. On the mound, Sean's delivery and appearance are reminiscent of Bartolo Colon, known best for his substantial weight. Gallagher's other problem is his lack of confidence in a third pitch, as he threw nothing but fastballs and his devastating hook. That could lead to problems in upper levels, but should he develop something else, I would guess he has Josh Fogg-type potential.
Finally, we have Cubs outfield prospect Ryan Harvey, who is being moved through the system at about the slowest possible pace. Here was my impression:
Harvey's presence at the plate is intimidating, as his large frame foreshadows the considerable power he has in his bat. Ryan's body is not too big to kick him from the outfield, as he should always have enough speed and certainly enough arm to stick in right. The problem for Harvey will always be contact, as his swing seems to be too long, yielding an all-or-nothing approach. Ryan seemed very similar to Jermaine Dye, so it would be good to expect plenty of good and bad seasons in the future.
Posted by Bryan at 2:58 p.m. CT
Yesterday marked a first for Jose Capellan, as the Brewer flamethrower notched win #1 as a reliever. While most relievers win games after having allowed a run, Capellan did not, as the Sounds pulled out a 2-1 win. In fact, Capellan has not given up a run since becoming a reliever, spanning nine appearances. I wrote about his move a little over two weeks ago, and his success only strengthens my opinion that this will not be a short-term move. In those nine games, Capellan has thrown 14 innings, allowing just nine hits and six walks while striking out 15.
Jonathan Broxton, the other subject of that article, has not been so lucky in the earned run column. But, in his ten innings as a reliever, Broxton does have better peripherals having allowed just six hits, three walks, and striking out 14 batters. He has allowed one home run coming out of the pen, but it's hard to blame him, as it was against Delmon Young. Look for Broxton's ERA to start coming down as he gets more acclimated with mid-game stints.
In other news, Bobby Jenks was called up by the White Sox, after having blown just two saves in 21 chances at the AA level. I drew considerable criticsm when I had Jenks ranked as baseball 31st best prospect before the 2004 season, in my first prospect list. But with this call-up, I'm not sure how many of the pitchers I ranked behind him I'd rather have: Joe Blanton (well, one), Gavin Floyd, Travis Blackley, Chin-Hui Tsao, John Maine, Adam Loewen, Jeff Francis (my other surprise inclusion on that list, and number two), Merkin Valdez, Denny Bautista, Ryan Wagner and Blake Hawkesworth.
Posted by Bryan at 3:39 p.m. CT
While working on my midseason top 75 prospect list -- which I promise to have soon -- I created some top positional lists. I thought I might give my top 12 catching prospect list today as a sort of teaser for things to come. Enjoy...
1. Brian McCann (ATL): Huge power potential, walks enough, great contact skills. Incumbent atop this list.
2. Russ Martin (LAD): Most complete catcher in the minors. You know DePo loves that .453 OBP.
3. George Kottaras (SD): Great plate discipline, and gap power. In my opinion, Kottaras is the one Cal League catcher on this list not being especially helped by his surroundings. Question is whether those doubles will ever turn to HR.
4. Jeff Mathis (ANA): Hitting in AAA, but you have to wonder how much of that is because of the Salt Lake atmosphere.
5. Jarrod Saltalmacchia (ATL): I love him right now, and I think he will play even better when he gets away from that current stadium.
6. Miguel Montero (AZ): Early favorite for the Jeremy Reed/Ian Kinsler award, Montero's breakout is beyond unforeseen. The Cal League is helping him, but some of this is real. I'll remain a skeptic for now.
7. Kurt Suzuki (OAK): I'm not as high on Suzuki as most, but his dedication to discipline is a major plus. His defense is apparently awful, and I'm not sure his bat is enough to forgive that.
8. Neil Walker (PIT): Isn't having the results of some of these players, but the potential is there. Better catchers than him have had worse ISOs (.138) in their first full seasons.
9. Dioner Navarro (LAD): His age keeps him somewhat high on this list, but I'm just not sure he'll ever be much more than league average. He's walking more, but a .138 ISO in Las Vegas?
10. Kelly Shoppach (BOS): In the wrong organization, as he could be starting for a half dozen sub-.500 teams. His power and discipline are both huge strengths and are enough to carry the rest of his game that has quite a few weaknesses.
11. Mike Napoli (ANA): Another with plus plate discipline and plus power. I made the comparison in Spring Training, and I still believe it: Napoli is Aaron Rowand offensively.
12. John Jaso (TB): With Chris Shelton and Ryan Doumit graduating, Jaso is the next to hear Matt LeCroy comparisons for the next three seasons.
Posted by Bryan at 5:25 p.m. CT
The Boy of Summer
July 5, 1955. My birth announcement in the Long Beach newspaper the following day read as follows:
THIRD CHILD TO LEDERERS
It may be another 20 years or so before it becomes a reality, but the Baltimore Orioles apparently have another future bonus baby in the George Lederer household.
George, night sports deskman on the Independent, announced very sleepily Tuesday that his wife, Pat, gave birth to their third child, Richard Allan, in the wee hours of the morning at St. Mary's Hospital.
Mrs. Lederer and the seven pound, eight-ounce "Little Leaguer" are doing fine as are Richard's brother, Tommy and sister, Janet. George is still fighting the cobwebs.
Well, I never signed with the Orioles. In fact, I never signed with any professional baseball team. I don't know what Baltimore was thinking, drafting a guy named Eddie Murray out of Locke High School in Los Angeles instead of me in 1973. Just because this catcher-first baseman (as he was listed in the regular phase of the June draft) went on to get 3255 more hits and 504 more home runs than me doesn't get the Orioles off the hook for not drafting me. I mean, take a look at the guys they drafted the year I graduated from college:
1. Drungo Hazewood, of
2. Dan Logan, 1b
3. Richard Moore, c
4. David Caldwell, of
5. Larry Jones, rhp
6. Will George, lhp
7. Mark Van Bever, 2b
8. John Denman, of
9. Mark Smith, rhp
10. Russ Brett, 3b
11. Michael Sherman, c
12. Steven Polan, 3b
13. William Marrero, of
14. David Lankster, ss
15. Mike Martin, 3b-c
16. Mark Bolton, rhp
17. Tom Eaton, 2b
18. Michael Lacasse, 2b
19. Steve Lesser, rhp
20. David Emala, 3b
21. Robert Whitfield, ss
22. Lorenzo Bundy, ss
23. Chris Jones, of
Granted, I couldn't play second base but apparently neither could Van Bever, Eaton, or Lacasse. Number of major-league games? Lederer, 0. Bever, Eaton, and Lacasse, 0. The rest of the players couldn't do much either. Get this, the Orioles got a grand total of six games out of that haul. Baltimore's draft was so bad, they would have been better off drafting George Will rather than Will George in the sixth round.
Only four players even made it to the major leagues. Drungo Hazewood, the team's #1 pick, was the only one who played for the Orioles. I don't know who whiffed more, Hazewood (four times in five at-bats) or Baltimore? If you combine all of the Oriole draftees, they had as many hits for the franchise as me. Zero.
Mark Smith pitched eight (very undistinguished) games for the Oakland A's in 1983, Mike Martin played eight (equally undistinguished) games for the Chicago Cubs in 1986, and Chris Jones appeared in 34 (totally undistinguished) games with the Houston Astros and San Francisco Giants in 1985-86. Add 'em all up and their composite batting record looks like this:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO AVG OBP SLG
48 44 2 6 1 0 0 1 1 5 15 .136 .224 .159
Bitter? Not me. Why would I want to spend my 27-year-old "peak year" playing alongside a rookie like Cal Ripken, Jr.? I don't even wear a wedding band so what would I do with a World Series ring from 1983 anyway?
The closest I came to being an Oriole was working in the front office with Harry Dalton. Not in Baltimore, mind you. In Anaheim, when Dalton later became the general manager of the Angels. "Working in the front office" might overstate my importance a bit. This Boy of Summer spent the months of July and August in 1972 and 1973 taking care of the fan mail. There weren't a lot of Angels fans back in those days but someone had to take care of those Nolan Ryan autograph requests, right?
Lots has happened since Dr. F. Lowell Bowton delivered me 50 years ago. The Brooklyn Dodgers celebrated my birth by winning the first world championship in the ballclub's history. The team moved to Los Angeles three years later and, boy, how that changed life in the Lederer household. It was kinda nice being on board for the next three World Series titles plus Sandy Koufax and his four no-hitters, let me tell you.
Similarly, the Angels hadn't quite made it to Anaheim when I was born. Instead, the big attraction in that city in 1955 was the opening of Disneyland. The Los Angeles Angels joined the American League in 1961 and moved to Anaheim in 1966. They had become the California Angels in 1965 in anticipation of their relocation to Anaheim Stadium the following year. My Dad joined the team in 1969, and the memories of my teenage years and early-20s are filled with Tanana, Ryan and two days of cryin', as well as a Clyde Wright no-hitter here and an Alex Johnson batting crown (and subsequent suspension) there. The evening of Tony Conigliaro's swan song as an Angel is as vivid today as it was in July 1971 when I watched the marathon game on TV with my Dad.
College. Full-time job. A great marriage. Two wonderful children. Buying my first house. Starting my own business. Coaching my kids. A close-knit family. My best friends are still those who date back to my childhood. Good health. Happiness. I mean, what else could a 50-year-old guy dream for?
OK, I'll admit it. I wish I could have played for those damn Orioles, too.
Bits and Pieces
Released on March 20, 1964, Bits and Pieces was one of The Dave Clark Five's 15 consecutive Top 20 American hits in a two-year span. Yes, 15 straight--more than The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, The Four Seasons, and The Supremes. In fact, the DC5 had more hits than any British or American group during that period other than The Beatles.
The Dave Clark Five, who sold more than 50 million records worldwide, was banned from playing Bits and Pieces at their live concerts because fans would jump up and down to the song's beat, and promoters feared this would damage the theatre. This weekend's Baseball Beat column, which focuses on "pieces, bits and pieces" of news, information, and opinions, is dedicated to the Mersey Beat tunes of the DC5 and fellow British invaders.
Roger Clemens lowered his major-league best ERA from 1.50 to 1.41 when he threw seven shutout innings against the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday. Interestingly, the Rocket is averaging more pitches per batter (4.20) this year than ever before but the number of pitches per inning (15.4) is his lowest total since 1991 and the third-lowest since the data became available in 1987. Hey, when You Got What It Takes. . .
The Cy Young Award appears to be a two-man race between a right-hander and a left-hander in both leagues. Clemens and Dontrelle Willis in the NL, and Roy Halladay and Mark Buehrle in the AL. I'm sure their attitude is Catch Us If You Can. That said, there are several other candidates, including former Cy Young winners Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz, but perhaps the sleeper in the group is Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Carpenter ranks second in the NL in wins (12), strikeouts (121), and complete games (3); third in innings (121.1); fourth in ERA (2.60); and fifth in WHIP (1.10). The 6-foot-6, 230-pound RHP may be this year's Johan Santana as he hasn't allowed more than three runs in a game since May 7. In his last ten starts, Carpenter has thrown 74.2 IP with 55 H, 14 R, 13 ER, 19 BB, and 81 SO. He has an 8-2 W-L record with a 1.57 ERA during that span.
Moreover, the 30-year-old Exeter, New Hampshire native has allowed just one run in his past four starts (4-0, 0.27 ERA). At a salary of $2 million, Carpenter is undoubtedly one of the best bargains in all of baseball. Walt Jocketty is Glad All Over.
Speaking of Santana, the southpaw is basically the same pitcher as he was last year. At first glance though, you might never know it. His 3.74 ERA is more than a full run over his AL-leading 2.61 in 2004. However, after going Over And Over the numbers, it is apparent that the main difference in his ERA is the change in batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Johan's BABIP was .240 in 2004 (second lowest in the majors) vs. .277 thus far in 2005 (45th).
Santana sits atop the league in Fielding Independent Pitching (or FIP) at 2.84. His FIP was 3.16 last year. FIP, a metric invented by TangoTiger, is similar to Defense Independent Pitching Statistics (DIPS), which was developed by Voros McCracken. Both stats measure a pitcher's effectiveness based on plays which are completely under his control: home runs allowed, strikeouts, and walks.
As further proof that Santana hasn't lost it, here are three other telling stats:
K/9 K/BB WHIP
2004 10.46 4.91 0.96
2005 10.68 6.09 1.01
Lesson? You need to look a lot deeper than ERA when comparing and evaluating the performance of pitchers.
Home runs are down slightly this year (1.02 per game vs. 1.12, 1.07, 1.04 the previous three campaigns), yet the National League has seven players who have gone yard at least 21 times through the halfway point in the season. Why? Because. Six players from the NL hit 40 homers in 2003 and 2004 and only four reached that mark in 2002. You have to go back to 2000 to find more than seven players who slugged 40 HR.
With 26 dingers, Andruw Jones is on pace to become the sixth center fielder to hit 50 or more during a season. Ken Griffey, Jr. hit 56 in back-to-back years (1997-98). Mickey Mantle (1956 and 1961) and Willie Mays (1955 and 1965) are the only other CF to reach the half-century mark twice. Hack Wilson also hit 56 in 1930. Brady Anderson slugged 50 in 1996, or greater than two times his next best season (24 in 1999).
On the subject of center fielders, Jim Edmonds hasn't grounded into a double play this year and, according to the Baseball Crank, has only hit into one during the past twelve months. The Cardinals CF has slugged a few HR during his career, too. With 15 more four baggers this year, Edmonds now has hit 317 and is within reasonable distance of becoming only the fifth CF ever to hit 400 HR in a career. The other four? The aforementioned Mays (660), Mantle (536), Griffey, Jr. (516), and Duke Snider (407). Other than this quartet, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Joe DiMaggio, can you name a better CF than Edmonds? I didn't think so. I Like It Like That.
Oh, I almost forgot. My favorite DC5 song was Any Way You Want It, a souped-up, hard charging track, featuring unique echo effects for the time. This lesser-known single peaked at #14 on the charts and was later a part of the Coast to Coast and Greatest Hits albums.
As it turned out, the Dave Clark Five should have been known as the Bobby Graham Five. Or perhaps the BG's. According to wikipedia, "Clark was not quite the multi-tasking specialist that publicity materials had suggested. Although he took a writing credit on each song, Clark didn't actually compose; rather, his name was on the songs as a contractural (sic) obligation with the members of the group. It was also revealed in 2004 that Clark, who had rudimentary drumming skills, did not play on the group's hit records. That work was done by session veteran Bobby Graham, as revealed in his 2004 autobiography."
[Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]
Introducing Monte Carlo Win-Loss
The flaws in pythagorean Win-Loss percentage (commonly the square of runs scored divided by the sum of the square of runs scored and the square of runs allowed) are fairly well known. 20-2 blowouts count as only one win, but may affect pythagorean win-loss percentages dramatically. One-run wins and losses count as a whole win or loss, while pythagorean win-loss will treat them as nearly half a win and half a loss. All of these are true, but the method is still pretty darn good.
There has been a fair amount of work on what just is the best exponent to use, and I've settled on 1.83 for Baseball-Reference, but other choices abound and some have even resorted to variable exponents to squeeze out those last three to four wins of error. I'm not going to go down that path here. I would like to look at a different way to approach this issue that accepts that teams have blowouts and one-run wins and incorporates this into the method.
At the 2004 SABR convention in Cincinnati, I presented a talk on monte carlo simulation of pennant races (http://www.bb-ref.com/sabr/). The idea behind Monte Carlo Win-Loss Percentage is similar. (Monte Carlo techniques are common computational solution techniques used to simulate complicated systems. Basically, you run a lot of simulations and aggregate the data.)
- Get the runs scored and allowed for a team's 162 (or whatever) games.
- Randomly order the runs scored values (doing both is redundant).
- Play 162 games by reading down the list of runs scored and allowed and when runs scored exceed runs allowed the team "wins" and vice-versa the team loses. (Ties do occur and are half a win and half a loss.)
- For example (with ten games),
|Team's actual results
||Randomly ordered and simulated
- Do this 1000 times (an arbitrary choice, but the numbers don't vary much in consecutive 1000 season runs) and aggregate the data.
What are the Flaws?
Well, this method assumes that runs scored and runs allowed are independent of each other and that clearly is not the case. Managers manage to the score and the four runs allowed by mop-up relievers in the bottom of the ninth could turn a real win into a monte carlo loss (the same thing happens with pythagorean to a lesser degree). However, I think this method more correctly handles the cases where a team has a lot of one-run wins or many blowouts. Suspended games are somewhat problematic and tie games are troubling, but I think all of this gets evened out over the long run.
Does it work?
Yes, but not well enough to supplant pythagorean win-loss records.
I've computed Monte Carlo Win-Loss Percentages (mcWL%) for every team from 1901 on and it does a little better than Pythagorean Win-Loss Percentage (pythWL%) with a 1.83 exponent.
Root-mean square error between mcWL%, pythWL%, and actual WL% for 2076 seasons since 1900.
RMSE monte carlo method: 0.025023
RMSE pythagorean method: 0.026026
So one measly percentage point, or one-sixth of a game better estimate over the course of a season. Also the mcWL% was as closer or better than pythag in 53% of the cases.
So not great, but competitive.
What can you do with this?
I have a couple of ideas, but I'll expand on those later. One thing that is neat about these simulations is that you can count how many times the team's actual wins exceeded the simulated seasons wins. For instance a team that exceeded the simulation all 1000 times was probably very lucky to do so, and a team that never did was very unlucky (I call this percentile). We can also track their best and worst results along with the average.
Luckiest teams by mcWL% - WL%
team_ID year_ID W L mcW mcL HighW LowW WP mcWP pythWP lucky %ile
BOS 1946 104 50 93.4 62.6 102.0 84.5 0.675 0.599 0.629 0.076 1.000
NYG 1909 92 61 83.1 74.9 93.5 74.5 0.601 0.526 0.560 0.075 0.998
NYG 1913 101 51 92.6 63.4 102.5 83.5 0.664 0.594 0.627 0.070 0.998
NYY 2004 101 61 89.8 72.2 98.5 78.5 0.623 0.554 0.548 0.069 1.000
BRO 1954 92 62 81.3 72.7 92.0 71.0 0.597 0.528 0.523 0.069 1.000
CHW 1959 94 60 84.9 71.1 94.0 74.5 0.610 0.545 0.559 0.065 1.000
CIN 1981 66 42 59.1 48.9 67.0 51.5 0.611 0.547 0.524 0.064 0.999
CIN 1944 89 65 80.0 75.0 91.5 71.0 0.578 0.516 0.530 0.062 0.999
NYY 1943 98 56 88.9 66.1 99.0 80.5 0.636 0.574 0.595 0.062 0.999
PIT 1908 98 56 88.9 66.1 99.5 79.0 0.636 0.574 0.600 0.062 0.997
SLB 1902 78 58 71.6 68.4 80.0 62.0 0.574 0.512 0.509 0.062 0.990
NYM 1972 83 73 73.5 82.5 83.0 65.0 0.532 0.471 0.459 0.061 1.000
PHA 1931 107 45 98.4 54.6 106.5 88.0 0.704 0.643 0.640 0.061 1.000
STL 1917 82 70 73.9 80.1 83.5 65.0 0.539 0.480 0.470 0.059 0.996
NYG 1925 86 66 77.0 75.0 86.0 66.5 0.566 0.507 0.522 0.059 1.000
CHC 1907 107 45 100.1 54.9 109.5 91.0 0.704 0.646 0.670 0.058 0.992
NYG 1906 96 56 88.0 65.0 97.5 74.5 0.632 0.575 0.592 0.057 0.997
PIT 1905 96 57 88.4 66.6 98.0 77.0 0.627 0.570 0.588 0.057 0.996
PIT 1909 110 42 102.0 51.0 113.5 94.0 0.724 0.667 0.694 0.057 0.997
BRO 1924 92 62 83.3 70.7 94.0 74.5 0.597 0.541 0.528 0.056 0.999
Unluckiest teams by mcWL% - WL%
team_ID year_ID W L mcW mcL HighW LowW WP mcWP pythWP lucky %ile
BSN 1935 38 115 53.3 99.7 64.5 43.0 0.248 0.348 0.327 -0.100 0.000
NYM 1993 59 103 71.4 90.6 81.5 61.5 0.364 0.441 0.454 -0.077 0.000
CIN 1937 56 98 68.2 86.8 79.5 59.0 0.364 0.440 0.434 -0.076 0.000
PHI 1936 54 100 65.6 88.4 74.5 55.0 0.351 0.426 0.416 -0.075 0.000
STL 1909 54 98 66.1 87.9 76.0 55.0 0.355 0.429 0.398 -0.074 0.000
SLB 1905 54 99 66.5 89.5 78.0 58.0 0.353 0.426 0.421 -0.073 0.000
PIT 1917 51 103 63.2 93.8 71.5 54.5 0.331 0.403 0.388 -0.072 0.000
BSN 1912 52 101 63.6 91.4 73.0 53.5 0.340 0.410 0.402 -0.070 0.000
DET 1952 50 104 61.3 94.7 71.0 49.5 0.325 0.393 0.374 -0.068 0.001
PHA 1945 52 98 63.3 89.7 72.5 53.5 0.347 0.414 0.385 -0.067 0.000
NYM 1962 40 120 50.9 110.1 61.0 41.0 0.250 0.316 0.313 -0.066 0.000
WSH 1907 49 102 60.3 93.7 69.0 51.0 0.325 0.391 0.361 -0.066 0.000
BRO 1912 58 95 67.9 85.1 79.0 58.5 0.379 0.444 0.433 -0.065 0.000
HOU 1975 64 97 74.8 87.2 83.5 64.5 0.398 0.462 0.469 -0.064 0.000
SDP 1994 47 70 54.5 62.5 63.5 46.0 0.402 0.466 0.453 -0.064 0.003
PHA 1946 49 105 59.0 96.0 68.0 50.5 0.318 0.381 0.387 -0.063 0.000
PHI 1930 52 102 62.4 93.6 73.0 50.5 0.338 0.400 0.392 -0.062 0.002
SLB 1911 45 107 54.5 97.5 63.5 42.5 0.296 0.358 0.341 -0.062 0.002
PHI 1923 50 104 59.8 95.2 69.5 47.5 0.325 0.386 0.367 -0.061 0.002
BSN 1911 44 107 54.9 101.1 63.0 43.5 0.291 0.352 0.333 -0.061 0.001
Teams for which pythWL% and mcWL% differ the most
team_ID year_ID W L mcW mcL HighW LowW WP mcWP pythWP %ile
BRO 1918 57 69 57.0 69.0 64.5 47.0 0.452 0.452 0.387 0.543
CHC 1905 92 61 96.2 58.8 106.5 86.0 0.601 0.621 0.680 0.083
BSN 1904 55 98 57.8 97.2 67.5 49.5 0.359 0.373 0.316 0.187
CHW 1905 92 60 91.8 66.2 100.0 81.5 0.605 0.581 0.636 0.563
BSN 1906 49 102 53.6 98.4 63.0 45.0 0.325 0.353 0.300 0.059
STL 1908 49 105 50.5 103.5 63.0 42.0 0.318 0.328 0.277 0.328
WSH 1903 43 94 49.3 90.7 59.0 40.0 0.314 0.352 0.302 0.015
CIN 1901 52 87 54.0 88.0 62.5 45.5 0.374 0.381 0.334 0.264
SDP 1972 58 95 62.6 90.4 73.0 53.0 0.379 0.409 0.362 0.075
WSH 1947 64 90 63.0 91.0 72.5 51.0 0.416 0.409 0.363 0.660
CHC 1909 104 49 102.9 52.1 111.5 92.0 0.680 0.664 0.709 0.651
CLE 1908 90 64 86.9 70.1 96.5 77.5 0.584 0.553 0.598 0.871
NYY 1939 106 45 104.8 47.2 114.0 94.0 0.702 0.690 0.734 0.683
BRO 1909 55 98 60.6 94.4 70.0 52.5 0.359 0.391 0.347 0.031
BSN 1905 51 103 54.6 101.4 63.0 46.0 0.331 0.350 0.306 0.119
DET 1905 79 74 72.4 81.6 81.5 61.5 0.516 0.470 0.426 0.993
HOU 1963 66 96 64.8 97.2 73.0 55.0 0.407 0.400 0.357 0.686
PIT 1918 65 60 64.6 61.4 72.0 55.0 0.520 0.513 0.556 0.581
STL 1944 105 49 102.8 54.2 112.5 93.5 0.682 0.655 0.697 0.784
BRO 1910 64 90 68.6 87.4 79.0 57.5 0.416 0.440 0.398 0.065
I've also made available a dump of my simulation results. The fields are tab-delimited. You can import this into excel easily using the text to columns command (the most useful command for any stathead, well after sorting). Simulation Data.
The columns are straightforward, except for stdW which is the standard deviation of the wins totals across the 1000 simulations, and bstW and wstW are the best and worst win totals of all 1000 simulations.
[Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]