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First visit? Drop me an email @ John J Perricone, or pin my Guest Map.

.... Guest column

I asked and I shall receive. Aaron Gleeman, who runs Aaron's Blog, there on the left, posted a truly spectacular playoff preview, and I asked him if I could post it as a guest column, and he said yes!!! Hooray.

And now the moment you've all been waiting for...

Aaron Gleeman's 2002 Playoff Previews and Predictions:



Arizona Diamondbacks (98-64) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (97-65)

Pitching matchups:

Game 1: Randy Johnson (24-5, 2.32 ERA, .743 SNPct) vs. Matt Morris (17-9, 3.42 ERA, .587 SNPct)

Game 2: Curt Schilling (23-7, 3.23 ERA, .682 SNPct) vs. Chuck Finley (11-15, 4.15 ERA, .540 SNPct)

Game 3: Rick Helling (10-12, 4.51 ERA, .514 SNPct) / Miguel Batista (8-9, 4.29 ERA, .481 SNPct) vs. Woody Williams (9-4, 2.53 ERA, .701 SNPct)

Game 4: Johnson vs. Morris

Game 5: Schilling vs. Finley




Team stats (NL ranking):

Runs scored: Arizona 819 (1) / St. Louis 787 (2)

Runs allowed: Arizona 674 (5) / St. Louis 648 (4)

Defensive efficiency: Arizona .7115 (7) / St. Louis .7208 (3)

Team EqA: Arizona .265 (4) / St. Louis .267 (3)

Relievers adjusted runs prevented: Arizona 4.2 (10) / St. Louis 57.9 (2)

My thoughts:

This is a rematch of last year's NLDS, which Arizona won 3-2. In last year's series, no team scored more than 5 runs in any of the five games and they were all decided by 3 runs or less. I expect a very similar series this year, although there are a few differences this time around.

Last year, Arizona's rotation was Schilling, Johnson, Batista, Albie Lopez and Schilling again. St. Louis started Morris, Williams, Darryl Kile, Bud Smith and Morris a second time. Schilling beat Morris 1-0 and 2-1 in their two matchups. The Cards did manage to beat Randy Johnson in his only start. And St. Louis went 1-1 against the non-Schilling/Johnson starters.

However, this time around, instead of two starts being made by people other than The Big Two, there will only be one. So the Cardinals are looking at 4 games against Johnson and Schilling, which means they almost have to win game 3 in order to have any shot at winning this series. As of right now, I haven't heard whether Batista or Helling will be the D-Backs game 3 starter, but in either case, the Cardinals absolutely need to win that game. On the Cardinals side, they are without Darryl Kile, who very likely would have pitched games 2 and 5.

Let's just assume St. Louis wins game 3. Do they have any shot at going 2-2 against Johnson and Schilling? I really doubt it.

On the offensive side of the ball (can you say that for baseball, or is that cliche only reserved for football?), Arizona is without their best hitter, left fielder Luis Gonzalez, who injured his shoulder last week and is out for the entire post-season. In addition to Gonzalez, they are also without last year's playoff hero, Craig Counsell.

Any time you lose a hitter as good as Gonzalez it is going to hurt a team, but the D-Backs do have some decent options to fill in for him. Against St. Louis' right handed starters (Morris and Williams) they can shift Erubiel Durazo from 1st base to outfield and insert Mark Grace at 1st base, where he started last year. If Brenly doesn't want to have Durazo roaming the outfield, he can leave him at 1st base, put Grace on the bench and put David Dellucci in the outfield.

And against Chuck Finley, they can sub Greg Colbrunn in for either Durazo or Grace. Durazo would be the much better choice to sit against Finley, as he struggled big time against lefties this year (.167/.274/.296), while Grace actually hit them very well (.325/.379/.500). However, I am not sure how comfortable Brenly would be using Colbrunn in the outfield, so we may see Colbrunn at 1st base against lefties, with someone like Felix Jose or possibly Danny Bautista (who may or may not be healthy in time to play in the 1st round) in the outfield. If I were Brenly, I would take the chance defensively with Colbrunn in the outfield and Mark Grace at 1st base against lefties.

All that being said, I would expect the Arizona lineup to look something like this:

SS - Tony Womack

2B - Junior Spivey

1B - Mark Grace / Greg Colbrunn

RF - Erubiel Durazo / Greg Colbrunn / Felix Jose

3B - Matt Williams

CF - Steve Finley

LF - Quinton McCracken

C - Damian Miller

That's not a bad lineup top to bottom, which is why (along with a home ballpark that favors hitting) they ranked 1st in the NL in scoring runs. Adjusting the hitting performance to take into account the ballpark they played in, the D-Backs drop to 4th in the NL in EqA, which is still pretty good.

They would be better off with McCracken leading off and Womack batting 8th, but I doubt Bob Brenly would ever do that. He might hit Spivey a little more in the middle of the lineup and shift McCracken to the 2nd spot though.

The Diamondbacks, even without Luis Gonzalez, have some guys who do a good job getting on-base and they have enough power, with Durazo, Finley and Colbrunn (when he plays) to score some runs, and they won't need to score that many to win with Johnson and Schilling starting 80% of the games.

The D-Backs ranked 1st in the NL in scoring runs but, as good as they are offensively, the Cardinals might be little bit better, especially considering Luis Gonzalez's injury.

The Cardinals ranked 2nd in the NL in runs scored. But, Busch Stadium is a slight pitcher's park, while Bank One is a big hitter's park, so the Cardinals actually have a better team offensively when accounting for ballparks. They had the 3rd highest team EqA in the NL, while Arizona was 4th.

I would expect the Cardinals lineup to look something like this (although, with Tony LaRussa, you can never assume anything lineup wise):

2B - Fernando Vina

SS - Edgar Renteria

CF - Jim Edmonds

LF - Albert Pujols

3B - Scott Rolen

1B - Tino Martinez

RF - J.D. Drew / Eli Marrero

C - Eli Marrero / Mike Matheny

But with LaRussa, like I said, who knows. You might see a lot of Miguel Cairo or something equally as mind boggling.

These are two very good offensive teams, but I think Johnson and Schilling 4 times in 5 games will just be too much for the Cardinals hitters to deal with and the Diamondbacks offense should be able to score runs off of Finley and Williams.

Prediction: Diamondbacks in 5.

Atlanta Braves (101-59) vs. San Francisco Giants (95-66)

Pitching matchups:

Game 1: Tom Glavine (18-11, 2.96 ERA, .634 SNPct) vs. Russ Ortiz (14-10, 3.61 ERA, .550 SNPct)

Game 2: Greg Maddux (16-6, 2.62 ERA, .683 SNPct) vs. Kirk Rueter (14-8, 3.23 ERA, .547 SNPct)

Game 3: Kevin Millwood (18-8, 3.24 ERA, .612 SNPct) vs. Jason Schmidt (13-8, 3.45 ERA, .524 SNPct)

Game 4: Damian Moss (12-6, 3.42 ERA, .587 SNPct) vs. Livan Hernandez (12-16, 4.38 ERA, .450 SNPct)

Game 5: Glavine vs. Ortiz

Team stats (NL ranking):

Runs scored: Atlanta 708 (10) / San Francisco 783 (3)

Runs allowed: Atlanta 565 (1) / San Francisco 616 (2)

Defensive efficiency: Atlanta .7300 (2) / San Francisco .7194 (4)

Team EqA: Atlanta .260 (9) / San Francisco .283 (1)

Relievers adjusted runs prevented: Atlanta 91.5 (1) / San Francisco 48.2 (3)

My thoughts:

Somewhere along the line, Barry Bonds became my favorite baseball player.

Since I was introduced to the world of Sabermetrics and I started learning that batting averages and RBIs weren't where it was at as far as looking at hitters, I became a big believer in walks, homers and on-base percentage. I suppose that, like anyone else who is a believer in walks, homers and on-base percentage, I think Barry Bonds is about as close to God as one can get in a baseball uniform. He now holds the major league record for walks in a season, home runs in a season, (slugging %, intentional walks) and on-base % in a season.

He might be jerk and he might not give the greatest quotes to the media, but Barry Bonds is the greatest baseball player I have ever seen play. And as the walks keep piling up and the home runs keep splashing into McCovey Cove, I become more and more of a fan of Superman (aka Barry Bonds). So I'm glad he is back in the post-season, after having possibly the greatest regular season in baseball history. Because Barry Bonds deserves a chance to do better than he has in past post-seasons. I would like nothing better than to see Barry Bonds put up a .500/.750/1.250 playoff series on someone and watch as that "not a clutch player" label comes flying off of him.

If Bonds is going to have that .500/.750/1.250 series in the opening round, he is going to have to earn it. Because the Braves, as always, will be riding their starting pitching as far as it will take them.

In the past, the Atlanta bullpen has been a problem, but this season the Braves' pen was the best in all of baseball, by a pretty huge margin. They can come at you with righties (Darren Holmes) and lefties (Mike Remlinger), rookies (Tim Spooneybarger) and and guys who have already retired (Chris Hammond), former Cy Young winners (John Smoltz) and former Independent Leaguers (Kerry Ligtenberg). And all of them can get the job done. The question will be, can the Atlanta offense score enough runs?

Over the years, Bobby Cox has had a tendency to give too many at bats to guys who just can't hit. Along with their sometimes weak bullpens, their "automatic outs" in their lineup have hurt the Braves more than anything else in past post-seasons.

And this year is no different. The Braves gave almost 300 at bats to Keith Lockhart this season, despite the fact that Keith Lockhart has shown a real tendency to not be able to hit a baseball and despite the fact they have had much better options readily available to them at second base (namely Marcus Giles and/or Mark DeRosa). They also wasted 221 at bats on Henry ".204/.267/.335" Blanco and another 210 on Wes "At least I look like a good hitter" Helms. Along with Lockhart, Helms and Blanco, the Braves are also using Vinny Castilla to dispose of a lot of their allotted 27 outs each game. Castilla has been, without a doubt, the least valuable regular in all of major league baseball this season. There are others who hit worse than Castilla (not very many, but some) but none of them play a position like third base, which is usually occupied by people who hit a lot higher than .232/.268/.348.

But it is way too late to be making trades or waiver wire pickups, so the Braves are stuck with what they have. And if the past is any indication, Bobby Cox is not going to be sticking Lockhart and Castilla on the bench. Unless Gary Sheffield or one of the Jones Boys gets extremely hot during this series (which is a distinct possibility) the Braves are going to struggle to score runs.

The Giants on the other hand, even against pitching as good as the Braves will throw at them, should be able to get some runs on the board.

At first glance, the Giants offense looks pretty good, they are 4th in the NL in batting average, 1st in on-base % and 2nd in slugging %. When you delve a little deeper, you find that their offense is even better than it appears. The Giants play their 81 home games in the most extreme pitcher's park in all of baseball, PacBell Park. We all know that a .350 batting average or 50 home runs doesn't mean as much in Coors Field as it does anywhere else, so why shouldn't the opposite be true for great pitcher's parks?

Need some proof? Check out the Giants' hitting splits for this season, and keep in mind that teams usually do a little bit better at home than on the road:

Home = .258/.338/.409

Away = .273/.350/.471

So away from PacBell, Superman and Friends see their batting averages go up 15 points, their on-base percentages jump 22 points and their slugging percentages skyrocket up an amazing 62 points! The reason for the massive dropoff in home slugging % is mostly due to the fact that PacBell is an extremely tough place to hit home runs, which makes what Bonds did last season all the more impressive. When ballpark is taken into account, the Giants actually have the best hitting team in all of baseball, sitting head and shoulders above the rest of baseball with a .283 EqA.

Dusty Baker also has a tendency to play some pretty horrible hitters, giving hundreds of at bats to guys like Tom Goodwin, J.T. Snow and Tsuyoshi Shinjo. The difference between Dusty's scrubs and Bobby's scrubs is that Dusty's scrubs are made to look a lot worse than they are by their home ballpark, whereas Bobby's scrubs are about as bad as they look. Goodwin, Snow and Shinjo had .252, .263 and .244 EqAs, while Lockhart, Castilla and Blanco checked in at .216, .216 and .201 respectively.

In addition to the great offense, the Giants also have a pretty good bullpen of their own, ranking 3rd in the NL.

The Giants weakest area is their starting pitching, which ranked 7th in the NL this year. At first glance they appear to be very good, with a 3.85 ERA this year. But, as with the offensive stats, the pitcher's performances must be taken in the context of the ballpark they pitched in, which makes them only slightly better than average. That said, the Giants starting pitching was better in the 2nd half than it was in the first half, and at its best down the stretch in September.

So... Can the Braves, with their great pitching and mediocre offense beat the Giants, with their mediocre pitching and great offense? Almost every baseball cliche will tell you that great pitching beats great hitting. But guess what? My journalism teacher told me that if you have heard a cliche before, you should never use it. So I, who worship at the feet of the great Barry Bonds, will say that great hitting (especially when it includes someone with a .580 OBP and a .800 SLG in a severe pitcher's park) will beat great pitching, at least in this series.

GO BARRY, GO!

Prediction: Giants in 5.

New York Yankees (103-58) vs. Anaheim Angels (99-63)

Pitching matchups:

Game 1: Roger Clemens (13-6, 4.35 ERA, .523 SNPct) vs. Jarrod Washburn (18-6, 3.15 ERA, .658 SNPct)

Game 2: Andy Pettitte (13-5, 3.27 ERA, .601 SNPct) vs. Kevin Appier (14-12, 3.92 ERA, .558 SNPct)

Game 3: Mike Mussina (18-10, 4.05 ERA, .536 SNPct) vs. Ramon Ortiz (15-9, 3.77 ERA, .584 SNPct)

Game 4: David Wells (19-7, 3.75 ERA, .526 SNPct) vs. John Lackey (9-4, 3.66 ERA, .520 SNPct) / Washburn

Game 5: Clemens vs. Washburn/Appier

Team stats (AL ranking):

Runs scored: New York 897 (1) / Anaheim 851 (4)

Runs allowed: New York 697 (4) / Anaheim 644 (1)

Defensive efficiency: New York .7079 (8) / Anaheim .7314 (1)

Team EqA: New York .278 (1) / Anaheim .265 (5)

Relievers adjusted runs prevented: New York 31.6 (4) / Anaheim 68.0 (1)

My thoughts:

The Evil Empire vs. The Rally Monkey.

Walks and Homers vs. Batting Average and Doubles.

$120 Million vs. $60 Million.

East Coast vs. West Coast.

Steinbrenner vs. Disney.

Suzyn Waldman vs. Rex Hudler.

41 Playoff Appearances, 38 Pennants and 26 World Championships vs. 3 Playoff Appearances, 0 Pennants and 0 World Championships.

This series should be real interesting.

The Angels lead the American League in batting average and hits and were 3rd in doubles and stolen bases. On the other hand, Anaheim was only 11th in walks and 10th in homers.

The Yankees lead the AL in on-base %, slugging %, walks and runs and were 2nd in homers. These are two very good offensive teams that rely on completely different offensive skills. The Angels are a bunch of doubles hitting hackers. The Yankees are a bunch of home run hitting walkers.

New York has 4 hitters with more than 80 walks and 6 hitters with at least 45.

Anaheim has 1 hitter with more than 80 walks and 4 hitters with at least 45.

And if you read the Giants/Braves part of this entry, you know how much I like walks, homers and on-base %. I know which type of offense I would rather have in the regular season (the homer/walking kind) but I am not 100% sure which one I would rather have in the playoffs. Will the Angels struggle to score runs when the hits start drying up and they don't get anyone on base via the walk? Or will the Yankees struggle to score runs when the walks aren't as plentiful and they aren't getting as many opportunities to hit a 3-run homer.

I think the Yankees will be able to score runs off of Anaheim's pitching staff, particularly off of Appier, Ortiz and the middle relief. However, the Yankees pitching and defense is their main weakness and I think the Angels are the perfect team to exploit it. You see, statistically, the Yankees have the worst defense among the eight playoff teams. Basically, they convert less balls in play into outs than the other teams. They can generally "get away" with it because their pitchers strike so many guys out. The Yankees were 2nd in the AL in strikeouts, which means they don't allow as many balls in play for their defense to deal with as most teams.

But if there is one thing the Angels hitters can take advantage of, it is a team that struggles when the ball is put in play. The Angels simply do not strikeout. They whiffed only 805 times this entire season, which was far and away the lowest total in all of baseball. In fact, they were the only team with less than 920 strikeouts. So... the Yankees rely on their pitching staff's ability to limit the amount of balls put into play, thus limiting the effect their sub par defense has. But one thing the Angels do is put the ball in play.

It is really an interesting contrast.

A team that racks up big strikeout totals and a team that doesn't strikeout.

A team that has trouble converting balls in play into outs and a team that hits the most balls in play in all of baseball.

We should be seeing a lot of bouncing ground balls that get by the outstretched gloves of Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano. We should be seeing a lot of balls flying past Bernie Williams and bouncing into the gaps. I think the Angels will be able to score runs off of the Yankees. However, whenever you have a team that relies almost entirely upon batting average, as Anaheim does, there is always the danger of a slump. Batting averages tend to go into a lot more slumps than walks do. In that regard, the Yankees offense is a lot easier to count on in the post-season. But I think the Angels offense will be okay, especially considering the performances and injuries that some of the Yankee pitchers are having this year. The Yankee pitching is vulnerable and Anaheim is in a perfect position to take advantage, and I think they will.

So the question becomes, can the Angels stop the Yankees from scoring? I think the answer to that, outside of Jarrod Washburn and Troy Percival, will be no. The Yankees offense is simply too good and too deep. They hit for power, they hit for average, they get on base, and they do it up and down the lineup. Plus, they have a deep bench that includes good pinch hitters like John VanderWal (against righties) and Shane Spencer (against lefties).

As much as I would like to see the Yankees go down in round 1, I just don't think it is going to happen. I see a lot of 6-4 and 7-5 games, with the Yankee middle relief (Mendoza, Weaver, Stanton, Karsay, El Duque) doing a better job than the Angels' (Weber, Donnelly, Levine, Schoeneweis, Shields).

Prediction: Yankees in 5.

Oakland Athletics (103-59) vs. Minnesota Twins (94-67)

Pitching matchups:

Game 1: Tim Hudson (15-9, 2.98 ERA, .645 SNPct) vs. Brad Radke (9-5, 4.72 ERA, .489 SNPct)

Game 2: Mark Mulder (19-7, 3.47 ERA, .618 SNPct) vs. Joe Mays (4-8, 5.38 ERA, .461 SNPct)

Game 3: Barry Zito (23-5, 2.75 ERA, .683 SNPct) vs. Rick Reed (15-7, 3.78 ERA, .551 SNPct)

Game 4: Hudson vs. Eric Milton (13-9, 4.84 ERA, .499 SNPct)

Game 5: Mulder vs. Radke

Team stats (AL ranking):

Runs scored: Oakland 800 (8) / Minnesota 768 (9)

Runs allowed: Oakland 654 (2) / Minnesota 712 (6)

Defensive efficiency: Oakland .7193 (3) / Minnesota .7143 (6)

Team EqA: Oakland .266 (4) / Minnesota .258 (8)

Relievers adjusted runs prevented: Oakland 12.6 (7) / Minnesota 51.8 (2)

My thoughts:

I could probably write about this series forever.

The Twins are my hometown team and the A's are my favorite non-Minnesota team in all of sports. But, this entry is already extremely long and I have already written in great depth about this series, so I will try to keep it reasonably short now. If you are interested in reading some of my longer, more in-depth thoughts on the A's/Twins series, check out some of my previous entries:

September 23rd: My reaction to the Twins announcing their post-season pitching rotation.

September 10th: My analysis of the Twins' pitching for the post-season / What I thought their pitching rotation should have been.

September 9th: My analysis of the Twins' hitting for the post-season / What I thought their batting lineups should have been.

August 23rd: During the A's billion game winning streak, I decide I want absolutely no part of the A's in the post-season.

If you aren't interested in reading those prior entries (and why the heck aren't you?!), I will try to sum up my thoughts as quickly as possible right now...

I think the A's are the worst possible opponent for the Twins to be playing in round 1 of the playoffs. There are a lot of reasons for this, but two main ones.

1) The Twins do well against right handed pitching and struggle tremendously against left handed pitching and the A's just happen to be starting two of the best left handers in all of baseball, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder, 3 times during the 5 game series.



Here are exact numbers on the Twins hitting this year:

Versus righties = .282/.339/.449 (ranking them 1st in batting average, 4th in slugging % and 7th in on-base % among AL teams against righties)

Versus lefties = .252/.318/.411 (ranking them 8th in batting average, 8th in slugging % and 9th in on-base % among AL teams against lefties)

2) The A's, much like the Twins, do way better against right handed pitching and the Twins will be starting right handed pitchers in games 1-3 and game 5.

Here are the same stats on the A's hitting:

Versus righties = .266/.345/.441 (9th in batting average, 7th in slugging % and 3rd in on-base %)

Versus lefties = .247/.320/.404 (10th in batting average, 9th in slugging %, and 8th in on-base %)

So basically, the A's are taking advantage of the Twins biggest weakness, while the Twins are playing into the A's biggest strength. You put that together with the A's having homefield advantage and the Twins being only 40-40 on the road this year and you get a series that I don't think the Twins have much chance of winning.

If the Twins have any chance of winning, a couple of things are going to need to happen.

1) Ron Gardenhire is going to have to be willing to sit Jacque Jones and David Ortiz, in favor of Bobby Kielty and Matthew LeCroy. But the way Gardy has been making his lineups out lately, it looks like Jones is going to be starting in left field and leading off versus lefties. And that's bad news for Twins fans because Jacque hit .213/.259/.331 against southpaws this year and .182/.224/.200 off them last season. I also heard Gardy say that he likes the idea of having Bobby Kielty around as a late inning pinch hitter. Bobby Kielty is a very good hitter (and one of my favorite players), so he would obviously be a nice guy to have available to pinch hit in a playoff game. Heck, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez would also both be nice guys to have as pinch hitters.

You can't assume that you are going to be in a close game, let alone a close game with a situation for a pinch hitter in a key spot. So, why would you leave Kielty on the bench in order to use him in a situation that may not even occur, instead of using him to replace someone who hits horribly against left handed pitchers. In the playoffs, and especially in games against the caliber of starting pitching that Oakland has, you need to maximize your chances of scoring runs, which means getting your best hitters the most possible plate appearances you can get them. Which means getting Bobby Kielty and his .374 on-base % versus lefties into the lineup for 4 at bats, instead of maybe 1 at bat as a pinch hitter.

2) The Twins are going to have to take advantage of the one area of strength that they have over Oakland, their bullpen. The A's have great starting pitching, but if the Twins can work some long at bats and get those pitch counts up, they can get into the Oakland pen and do some damage. It is a lot easier said than done obviously, as Zito, Hudson and Mulder are all complete game shutouts waiting to happen at anytime and in any game. But the Oakland relief corps are vulnerable, starting with the closer, Billy Koch (6 blown saves), and working all the down through Jim Mecir (4.26 ERA) and Chad Bradford (4.86 post all-star break ERA).

The Twins need to get decent pitching performances from their right handed starting pitchers, get them out of the game before they can allow any damage and then turn the game over to the three great lefties in their bullpen, Johan Santana, J.C. Romero and Eddie Guardado. And on offense, they need to find a way to get the Oakland starters out of the game earlier than the 8th or 9th inning and then take advantage of the A's (primarily right handed) middle-relief.

The Minnesota Twins fan and "Homer" in me says that they can do all (or at least some) of that stuff I just mentioned. But the baseball fan and realist in me says they most likely won't be able to do any of it on a consistent enough basis to do any good.

Boy do I hope I'm wrong!

GO TWINS!

Prediction: A's in 4.



There you have it, my complete previews and predictions for all four Division Series. As always, if more than 1 of my 4 predictions turn out to be wrong, I deny having ever written any of this. If this entry somehow vanishes into cyberspace, never to be seen again, I had nothing to do with it. Sit back, relax and enjoy the baseball.

Oh yeah, before I forget, GO TWINS!!!!!!!!!!!! (did I say that already?)

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 30, 2002


.... Aaron's Baseball Blog

Aaron Gleeman has an absolutely terrific playoff preview in today's post. I have asked him if I could post it here as a guest column, and we'll see what he says. in the meantime, if you have the time, go here and see for yourself.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 30, 2002


.... Unbelievable



I couldn't be more pissed off right now. After watching 161 games, rooting for the Giants, writing and reading about them, and living and dying and even traveling with them; the league's absolutely idiotic schedule makers put the Giants first game of the playoffs on at 10am on the West Coast. Out of every single possible choice they could have made building a schedule, they chose the one that was the absolute worst for just one franchise, the San Francisco Giants. Not only do we get screwed out of watching the game, but the Giants, who are used to a West Coast time zone, have to play at a time when they would normally be arriving at the ballpark. And get this, it's the only 1:00 start for any game in the playoffs. Why hell is that? Why the hell don't the Giants say no, and lodge a formal complaint? What a bunch of bullshit.

They could have put the Yankees on at 1:06 Eastern time, but OK, not the Yankees, they get the highest ratings, I'll grant you that. But why in the hell would they start the Oakland game (that is being played on the West Coast) at 4:06 and not the Giants. That means after a whole season of hoping that my team gets into the playoffs, I can't even watch a single inning of the first game.

I just cannot believe that. Major League Baseball is run by idiots, stupid, short-sighted, clueless ignoramuses. Screw all of us San Francisco Giants fans, why bother figuring out a way for all regions to have the best possible options, we'll just play their game first and get it out of the way.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 30, 2002


.... Try with a little help from my friends

To all my readers and guest writers, see that Visit Blogster.net link below my counters? It would be a big help if you could click on that link and vote for Only Baseball Matters. The more of you that visit that site, the more new visitors they'll send to OBM. Thanks in advance.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 30, 2002


.... Bakerman

Dusty has announced his rotation, and it is a bit different than I posted last week. He has decided to start with Ortiz and Rueter on the road for game one and two, and then finish with Schmidt and Hernandez at Pacbell for games three and four. Here are the home/away splits for the Giants four starters:

Ortiz

Home 5-4 3.41 ERA 8.6H/9IP

Away 9-6 3.77 ERA 8H/9IP

Rueter

Home 5-5 3.02 ERA 9H/9IP

Away 9-3 3.44 ERA 9H/9IP

Schmidt

Home 8-5 2.37 ERA 6H/9IP

Away 5-3 5.02 ERA 9H/9IP

Hernandez

Home 7-9 3.99 ERA 9H/9IP

Away 5-7 4.89 ERA 10H/9IP

So he has clearly built his rotation with their splits in mind, and it's probably the best setup he could have chosen. Some other home/away splits that bear watching:

Manny Aybar

Home 7 baserunners in 9 IP 1.00 ERA

Away 12 baserunners in 5.1 IP 5.06 ERA

Aaron Fultz

Home 26 baserunners in 18 IP 3.86 ERA

Away 42 baserunners in 25 IP 5.56 ERA

Felix Rodriguez

Home 42 baserunners in 35 IP 2.80 ERA

Away 40 baserunners in 33 IP 5.61 ERA

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 30, 2002


.... emails and details

Reader Ed Loots writes:



John, the MVP award is not "the best player in the league award." When I see people voting for A-Rod, I see people who wish to make their own rules, and "to hell" with the real rules. Tejada is the AL MVP because Oakland would not be where they are without him. Texas is where they are, in last place, despite A-Rod. And, they would be there without him, too. So, A-Rod is somewhat meaningless to the Rangers' fate. However, when they start voting for the best player in the AL, my vote would go to A-Rod, just like yours. But, if you play by the rules, MVP and the "best player" are two very different things.



Ed, when the Baseball Writers Association of America sends out its MVP ballots to two writers in each major-league city, these are the instructions that accompany the ballot:



Dear Voter:

There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.

The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:

1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.

2. Number of games played.

3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.

4. Former winners are eligible.

5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot. Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, and that includes pitchers and designated hitters. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.



So, what rules did I break here? Actual value of a player to his team? David Pinto ran short form win shares for all of the MVP candidates yesterday. By that measure, Alex Rodriguez is second only to Barry Bonds. He's played virtually every game this year. He is a stand up guy, one of the most community minded, honest, and well-liked players in all of baseball. His offensive domination of his league was astonishing, and he will probably win the Gold Glove too, or certainly be in the top two or three in the voting.

You suggest that his team would be in the same place it is now without him. How is that possible? The Oakland A's have three starters with a total of 57 wins, and all three are ranked in the top ten in the AL in ERA, innings, wins, strikeouts, they have arguably the best three pitchers in all of baseball. The Texas Rangers have Kenny Rogers at 13-8, Chan Ho Park at 9-8, and Ismael Valdez at 6-9. That's 28 wins from their top three starters. That 29 win difference is almost exactly how far back the Rangers finished behind the A's.

I find it hard to place any blame for the Rangers poor season on Rodriguez, in fact, without him, they would have lost well over 100 games and would easily be the worst team in baseball. With him, they are a couple of pitchers away from contending. Can you say that about Tejada (Whom I placed second on my Internet Awards ballot) or any other player in the American League? I don't think so.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 30, 2002


.... Superman

The San Francisco Giants clinched a postseason berth with a tense 5-2 win over the Astros today. Barry Bonds hit his 46th home run of the season into McCovey Cove in the 5th inning to break a 2-2 tie and send San Francisco back to the postseason.



.... Superman, Part II

My votes (As if anyone cares) for the various regular season awards look like this:

NL MVP Barry Bonds. I have written about his dominance so many times I'm not gonna do it again. Anyone who votes for someone else should turn in their BBWAA card.

NL Cy Young Randy Johnson. His September, 6-0 with a 0.66 ERA separates him from teammate Curt Schilling.

AL MVP Alex Rodriguez. Miguel Tejada's had a great season, Rodriguez has had perhaps the greatest season in American League history, 57 home runs, 140 RBI, 123 runs scored, and maybe a Gold Glove at the toughest position in the game.

AL Cy Young Pedro Martinez. Too good, 'nuff said.

Tomorrow I'll do a playoff preview for the G-men.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 28, 2002


.... It ain't over 'til it's over

As if the immortal Yogi Berra was talking about the 2002 National League. The Giants currently stand two games behind Arizona, and a game and a half behind St. Louis. So what? you say. So they could still not only win the division, they could host a first round playoff. If the Giants win their last two games and the D'backs and Cardinals lose their last two, the Giants would fly to Atlanta to play for the division title. If they were to win that game, they would host the Cardinals in the first round.

The pitching matchups for Saturday's games:

St. Louis has Chuck Finley 6-4, 3.97 ERA against Glendon Rusch 10-15, 4.68 ERA.

Arizona has Rick Helling 9-12, 4.51 ERA against Chris Vance 0-0, 18 ERA.

San Francisco has Kirk Rueter 13-8, 3.22 ERA against Kirk Saarloos 6-7, 5.96 ERA.

Sunday:

St. Louis has Andy Benes 5-4, 2.93 against Wes Franklin 2-1, 3.71.

Arizona has Jason Patterson 1-0, 3.16 against Denny Stark 11-3, 3.69.

San Francisco has Russ Ortiz 14-10, 3.61 against Roy Oswalt 19-8, 2.93.

That's a tough road to hoe, but anything's possible in the NL this year.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 28, 2002


.... Musings

David Pinto has a Bill James win shares for 2002 posted here. Barry Bonds is so far above everyone else it's laughable, he's at 48.1 wins shares, number two in the NL is Berkman with 35.5. Berkman is closer to the number 25 guy than he is to Bonds.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 28, 2002


.... The Cub Reporter

Christian Ruzich, The Cub Reporter, special to Only Baseball Matters

While John is busy writing about what the Giants need to do this year in order to win the World Series, I'm going to focus on what they need to do in the off-season in order to get ready for next year. As a life-long Cubs fan, it's an activity that comes naturally to me; I've been thinking about the 2003 season since about mid-May.

Now, the Giants, of course, are not the Cubs, and there are thousands of Giants fans all over the Bay Area and beyond who are thankful for that... Every. Day. Of. Their. Lives. But even as they find themselves on the doorstep of the 2002 playoffs, there are some issues which will need to be addressed if they want to return to the post-season next year. In general, I'd like to stick to what is more-or-less possible, instead of the more blue-sky stuff: "resign Kent, then trade Snow for Helton, then sign Maddux as a free agent!"

Speaking of Snow, as a loyal reader of Only Baseball Matters, I'm sure you're aware of just how much he's hurting the team. John has very eloquently and persuasively shown that JT is an offensive liability, and only some strange sense of loyalty by Dusty Baker is keeping him in the lineup. Unfortunately, the Giants are still on the hook to him to the tune of almost $7M, which means he's nigh impossible to trade, and they're not about to just cut him loose. If they had a bona-fide prospect waiting in the wings, I imagine it would be harder for Dusty to not play him, but they really don't. Damon Minor might be a decent major league first sacker, but he's certainly not a can't-miss guy. And the Giants are somewhat restrained in their budget due to the debt on Pac Bell Park, so I don't they'll be in the market to sign a guy like Jim Thome.

The ideal first base candidate is currently on the roster: Jeff Kent. Kent has always been a barely adequate defensive second baseman who makes up for his lack of speed with smart positioning and a quick release. This year, though, he's struggled in the field, and now might be the time to approach him about moving to first base. Assuming he's at all interested in re-signing (which is a big if), that's the position he should be at in 2003. If he's not interested in moving, the Giants shouldn't be interested in re-signing him -- take half of the money he would command and sign someone like Lee Stevens or Todd Zeile as a stop-gap while Damon Minor learns to hit left-handed pitching. That way Snow sticks around purely as a defensive replacement, a role in which he would excel.

This would open up second base for Ramon Martinez, a guy who could probably start at short or second for any number of major league teams. Martinez is no longer a prospect -- he turns 30 in the off-season -- but he's a guy with a decent arm, good range, and a bat that doesn't disappoint: he has a career .334 OBP and though his numbers dropped in 2001 when he played a lot of 3B, I think he deserves a shot to play every day.

The left side of the infield is set -- regression to the mean would suggest that Rich Aurilia will improve next year, not to his 2001 level, but closer to his career OBM TC numbers .280/.330/.450, while David Bell has been a solid player and an improvement over Bill Mueller. His power numbers suggest that perhaps he shouldn't be stuck down in the 8 spot, although I can understand Dusty wanting to put a better hitter there so that opposing pitchers will not be as tempted to groove a pitch to the #8 guy in order to get to the pitcher. Aurilia is signed through '03, while Bell has a $3.5M option that should certainly be picked up.

Two thirds of the outfield is a mess. I think this is where the Giants should look to the free agent pool or try to make a trade with whatever meager scraps are left in the minor-league system. Reggie Sanders, Kenny Lofton, and Tom Goodwin are all free agents, and unless Lofton and/or Sanders are willing to sign for a decrease, I don't think the Giants should make too much of an effort to sign either one. Marvin Benard is, unfortunately, owed $4M next year, but that doesn't mean he should be in the starting lineup. Let him sit on the bench and act as the first lefty off the bench while he watches someone else patrol the outfield. Who, you ask? Well, someone like Steve Finley (who the Giants should have signed when he was available 4 years ago) may be on the market, and he is just the right age for the Giants. A few younger options who might work out include Todd Hollandsworth and Alex Ochoa, both of whom come with their own set of problems, but should be available for not too much money and will not be liabilities at the plate.

Behind the plate, Benito Santiago can't possibly do what he's been doing for another year, can he? He's under contract for one more year, and if he can catch 120 games again and hit .280 while he teaches Yorvit Torrealba how to catch, that would be just great.

On the mound, Schmidt, Ortiz and Rueter form a credible 1-2-3 punch, with Ryan Jensen as a work in progress in the #4 slot. While Livan Hernandez will still be around (unless Sabean can somehow move him and his $3.5M contract), Kurt Ainsworth and possibly Joe Nathan should be around in the spring to challenge him for the #5 spot in the rotation. In the bullpen, Todd Worrell's option should be picked up, and if Jason Christiansen can come back from injury, the Giants would be set with Worrell & Rodriguez from the right side and Christiansen from the left to get to Nen. Guys like Scott Eyre, Jay Witasick, Aaron Fultz and Manny Aybar are eminently replaceable -- if they want to stick around, that's great, but no significant effort or money should be spent making sure they return.

At the beginning of this season, I was worried that 2002 might be the last gasp of a rapidly aging team. Looking more closely, though, I don't think the situation is so dire. The only difficult issue is re-signing Kent, and assuming that could be done, I envision a line-up along the lines of:

1. Lofton CF

2. Aurilia SS

3. Bonds LF

4. Kent 1B

5. Hollandsworth RF

6. Santiago C

7. Bell 3B

8. Martinez 2B

That wouldn't be so bad, would it?

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 28, 2002


.... I'll try not to pull a muscle patting myself on the back

In this post a couple of days ago, with no inside information or anything, I correctly predicted three-fourths of the likely Giants playoff rotation. More importantly, I accurately ascertained that Dusty had to make sure Livan pitched at home. Not too shabby, eh?

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 27, 2002


.... Superman, infinity

I called in to the Rick Barry show on KNBR 680, the Sports Leader, earlier this week, I think it was Tuesday, and I got on the air with him to talk about how Barry Bonds is such an unappreciated superstar. I believe I referenced Neo from the Matrix at one point. Anywho, I found this article by Rick, published about a month ago, and not surprisingly, he and I are in complete agreement.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 27, 2002


.... emails and details

Regular contributor Eric Chabot corrects my inaccurate explanation of the schedule for the makeup game:



Been a while since I've written, but been reading the site regularly. Two quick things ...

(1) You refer to the potential makeup game with Atlanta as being on Sunday in your post today, but the game would obviously be Monday. And you're right, they definitely wouldn't see Maddux, and maybe not even Moss.

(2) What are your thoughts about MLB potentially "forcing" the Giants to play the makeup game Monday if the NL West is on the line? This is obviously a huge longshot since I think Arizona will win two this weekend, but the explanation from MLB was just lame (from SF Chron today):

"We want to protect the integrity of the season," said Katy Feeney, baseball's vice president of scheduling and club relations. "We want all teams to play all their games to get into the playoffs. We want 162 games to be played and have won-loss records that make sense."

That statement is false on so many levels ... Atlanta just had a rainout with Pittsburgh cancelled last night, as a matter of fact, so they'll only be playing 161 games. And every year a team or two plays less than 162 for the same reason. Anyway, if I'm the Giants I think I'd rather have the day to get ready for Atlanta as opposed to travelling from San Francisco to Atlanta on Sunday, playing Monday and then potentially travelling to St. Louis to play at noon on Tuesday. Not worth it for the small possibility of hosting Arizona in a division series, if you ask me.



(And that doesn't even get into the "who would you rather play?" debate, of which I vote for the Braves over the Cardinals).



In the Chronicle article Eric mentions, MLB isn't potentially forcing them to play the game... well, you read it:



If the Giants finish their regular schedule Sunday a half-game behind Arizona for the NL West title, they must play the makeup game in Atlanta on Monday, the commissioner's office ruled Thursday.



So, there's nothing to say really. If the makeup game has any impact on the final standings that would change playoff seedings, the Giants have to play it. I don't really have a problem with that, I mean, yeah, it's tough to have to add that game, but that's life. It's too bad they blew that lead, because not only could they concentrate on the games at hand and not worry about the extra game, they would have more breathing room for the wild card right now, and they'd also be putting more pressure on the D'backs.

And forget about the who would you rather play deal, because it always seems to work out that the team you hope to play kills your season.

Anyway, thanks Eric. Glad to hear from you again.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 27, 2002


.... Rotate once

Playoff rotations have been announced, ESPN reports today.

The Giants vs. the Braves will look like this:

Game 1 in Atlanta: Russ Ortiz (if he doesn't have to pitch Sunday) vs. Greg Maddux

Game 2 in Atlanta: Jason Schmidt vs. Tom Glavine

Game 3 in San Francisco: Kirk Rueter vs. Kevin Millwood

Game 4 in San Francisco: Livan Hernandez vs. Maddux/Damian Moss (if neccessary)

Game 5 in Atlanta: Ortiz vs. Maddux/Glavine (if neccessary)

Obviously if the Giants need to win the makeup game on Sunday, the whole rotation shifts. You can bet they won't be facing Maddux on Sunday, in fact, they'll probably see Moss again. They've already seen him twice, here's how he's done:



ResultIPHER
May 14thL 2-07.072

Aug 15thT 3-38.043



That's pretty good, if they have to win that game, it won't be easy, and it'll disrupt their playoff rotation, although as long as Hernandez pitches at PacBell they should be OK. As you can see, Moss was the starter in the tie game that they may need to replay, that's kind of interesting, isn't it? He was all set to take the loss too, if Nen hadn't blown the win for Jason Schmidt, giving up a two-out, two-strike, two-run single to Chipper Jones.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 27, 2002


.... Something to think about

What makes a good hitter? What makes a great hitter? How do we measure that ability? For as long as I've been a fan, batting average has been the simplest and easiest to understand baseball stat. What percentage of the time does a player get a hit? And getting a hit has long been assumed to be the hitters job, (no pun intended). Over the last couple of decades, baseball sabermeticians and analysts have deepened our understanding of how teams are or aren''t successful, and today, it is widely accepted that it is more accurate to say that a hitters job is to score runs, and that hitting is how he does his job. It's kind of like saying that a plumbers job is to make water come out of your faucet, and installing pipe is how he does it. One is a means to the others end.

Back to batting average. Because of its easy to understand format, it remains the single most discussed aspect of a hitters ability, particularly when you watch or listen to a game. It is the first stat shown in a statistic line, and a batting title is considered extremely important, an honor, if you will. Why is that? I think it's because baseball players, and maybe more importantly, the ex-ball players who make up many of the voices we listen to while watching the games understand that measuring a hitters ability to just get hits is important. Hitting a pitched ball safely is an important, if not the most important skill a baseball player has to develop. If a player cannot master this basic aspect of hitting skill, all of his other abilities are diminished accordingly. A great power hitter is less effective if he hits .235, right? Even Rickey Henderson is much less effective hitting .220 than .290, regardless of how many walks he gets.

Perhaps the deepening of our awareness of the complexities of a teams offense has brought us to this point, where writers say things like, "I hate batting average." or some other such nonsense. You can rest asssured that any player who has won a batting title has been an excellent hitter, an outstanding offensive contributor. Some more than others, but even a singles hitter like a Rod Carew has been an extremely effective creator of runs. Of course, when you add in excellent plate discipline, Rod Carew becomes Wade Boggs. Then you have a player who starts to become an unavoidable problem for the opposition. Combining the ability to put the ball in play safely and consistently with the ability to recognize and avoid pitches that are not in a hitters zone of effectiveness marks the first level of true superstars. While Rod Carew was recognized as a great player during his time, Wade Boggs was being compared to the all-time greats by the end of his third year in the majors.

Perhaps it was during Boggs' career that the work of Bill James found its first wide audience. Because Wade Boggs was accomplishing things that hadn't been accomplished since the days of Ruth and Gehrig, Bill James had a platform of authentication to present his new and more polished attempts at understanding offense. When you say that this player is a historic-level hitter, and you say he is doing something that hasn't been done since these immortals did it, well, that's a good way to start an argument, wouldn't you say? I would. It worked too. I first learned about Bill James during the mid 1980's, right about the time Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs were battling it out for batting titles. And Bill was the first writer who could argue that Boggs was better than Mattingly and not sound like an idiot, no easy chore, believe me. I thought that the edge Mattingly had in power compensated for his unwillingness to take a base on balls. Bill James was able to explain how the cost of his power advantage, outs, put Donnie Baseball at a distinct disadvantage. Those outs were at bats taken from teammates, the hidden cost of not developing a truly outstanding level of plate discipline.

The difference between Mattingly and Boggs highlights the final component of the truly great hitters, power. If you can combine the art of hitting the ball safely with the discipline of ignoring bad pitches, perhaps, not unlike a Wade Boggs or a Tony Gwynn, you are only able to do so by minimizing your swing power, by building a controlled, efficient swing. Both Gwynn and Boggs talked all the time about not overswinging, about controlling the strike zone, not getting unbalanced. Both sacrificed power for average, both spoke about it and acknowledged they were doing it. Mattingly sacrificed walks for power and production, or RBI's. All three of these hitters are excluded from the pantheon of all-time greatest hitters because of these sacrifices, because that open acknowledgement was an admission of failure, an admission that they couldn't combine all three elements and still maintain the same level of excellence in all of them. In fact, Ted Williams constantly chided both Boggs and Gwynn for not being more aggressive, for not doing more to accentuate their power swings, as I'm sure he must have mentioned to Mattingly that taking a walk every once in a while wasn't the worst thing in the world.

The hitters who are included in the argument for greatest of all time are men who mastered all three of these aspects. They are men who have dominated baseball history, who've established the standards of excellence in each area, and in all three areas. Their names are part of baseball history, and they are the immortals. Hornsby, Ruth, Williams, Musial, Cobb, these are the men who have defined excellence, and their statistical records are memorized and repeated and compared and catalogued, over and over. Many spectacular talents have failed to dominate in all three of these areas, including Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Duke Snider, Hank Aaron. These players were dominate in two areas, but only good or even, if we can put it this way, only great in one of these skills. Willie Mays and Stan Musial dominated the National League for over a decade, trading batting titles, slugging crowns and on-base marks.

With three games left in the regular season, Barry Bonds is about to join the roster of superstars who have put together some of the very best seasons of all time. Recently, many national media outlets have published stories about Barry reaching some milestone or another, the first hitter since Ruth to reach base 350 times, the highest batting average with 40 home runs since Ruth (My apologies to Larry Walker and Todd Helton, but the Coors effect removes them from these conversations. They are great hitters, but not all-time great). At Only Baseball Matters, we are poised to recognize Barry Bonds as the first man to lead all of baseball in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging since George Brett in 1980, the 2002 Only Baseball Matters Triple Crown.

Barry has just missed winning an OBM TC several times before in his career, but not this year. Hitting against the Ted Williams shift, often with the second baseman in short right field, against teams whose entire defensive strategy is designed to neutralize him, walk him, anything but pitch to him, Barry Bonds is on his way to perhaps the greatest offensive performance in the history of baseball. Coming on the heels of his historic, record-shattering 73 home run, .863 slugging percentage season of 2001, with the entire league gearing up to stop him, with his team in a desperate race for the postseason; his accomplishments this year are simply staggering. He is about to complete a two year run of domination the likes of which hasn't been seen in 80 years, perhaps never. You can rest assured, you will never see someone dominate the league like this again, not in your lifetime, not in your children's lifetime, nor their children's.

Baseball fans, enjoy this while it lasts. One day, you and I will tell our kids that we saw Barry Bonds, the greatest baseball player of all time.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 27, 2002


.... Odds and ends

How much credibility do I sacrifice if I write good things about the Giants now that the postseason seems inevitable? I don't know, but if I'm gonna write, I'm gonna write what I want, right? All of this is contingent on the Giants making the playoffs. If they fold, I look like an idiot. Nevertheless, carry on....

The Giants have the best offense in the National League, of course led by Superman, aka Barry Bonds. If you just look at their away stats, they are blowing the rest of the league away, playing at PacBell makes the whole team look much worse than they really are.

Their team OBM TC away stats are awesome, .273/.350/.471, with an .820 OPS. No other team has an OPS above .800. They have hit 126 home runs on the road, the Cubs are second with 101. They've scored 426 runs, the Dodgers are second with 399.

In September, the Giants have scored 114 runs in 23 games, fourth in the NL behind the Cards with 135, and the Rockies and Mets. The NL playoff qualifiers September OBM TC stats:

Giants .276/.366/.430 with a .796 OPS and 24 home runs

Cards .287/.356/.467 with an .823 OPS and 33 home runs

D'backs .253/.335/.398 with a .733 OPS and 20 home runs

Braves .262/.337/.431 with a .768 OPS and 27 home runs

Pitching stats for September:

Giants 78 runs allowed, 3.03 ERA

Cards 78 runs allowed, 3.10 ERA

Braves 84 runs allowed, 3.83 ERA

D'backs 128 runs allowed, 5.12 ERA

Let's look at how the Giants offense matches up against the three other playoff teams:

Against Atlanta .241/.318/.388 a .706 OPS with 6 home runs in 7 games

Against St. Louis .251/.324/.382 a .706 OPS with 6 home runs in 6 games

Against Arizona .244/.326/.402 a .728 OPS with 21 home runs in 19 games

Here's how these three teams have fared against the Giants:

Atlanta .237/.318/.331 a .649 OPS with 3 home runs in 7 games

St. Louis .270/.343/.386 a .729 OPS with 4 home runs in 6 games

Arizona .247/.332/.319 a .652 OPS with 6 home runs in 19 games

Well, these raw numbers appear to favor the Giants a little, although the Cards have a pretty decent OPS off the Giants staff. The Giants sure hit a lot more home runs than they give up though, don't they?

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 26, 2002


.... At the Ballpark

Our good friend Chris Hartjes has a terrific piece on what's needed to win in the postseason. Read and learn.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 26, 2002


.... Tsunami

The surging Giants continued their march towards baseball immortality last night, with a 6-0 pasting of the San Diego Padres. Livan Hernandez matched his career-best by allowing just two hits in a complete game shutout, his third of the season, and fifth of his career. (Side note, I've now been in attendance for three of them.... weird) If they manage to pass the D'backs, they'll have out done even the historic 1978 Yankees (only 7 1/2 out on August 24th) by picking up twelve games on a team in thirty-four games! The Giants were 11 1/2 games out as late as August 24th, they've gone 22-8 over their last thirty games while the D'backs have gone 12-19. Ouch. By the way, the Yankees went 30-9 from August 24th on, while the Red Sox ran out a 21-17 pennant drive.

.... Snow job? I don't think so

Reggie Sanders and JT Snow seem determined to rebut this writers recent negative comments about their inability to generate any offense, Benito Santiago is looking like he found a fountain of youth.... this team is peaking at exactly the right time. Meanwhile, the D'backs are staggering. Curt Schilling lost for the third time in his last five starts, 6-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals; allowing all six runs on a pair of first-pitch fastball three-run home runs. Suddenly, the Giants are only two games back, with four games to play. But remember that horrible, rained out tie game in Atlanta? The Giants play that makeup game if they are a half game ahead or behind the Dodgers, and they can choose to play it if they are a half game behind the D'backs. Why the difference? Because if they are a half game behind the D'backs, they could win the division by winning the makeup game; if they want, they can decline and accept the wild card, a likely scenario because of the brutal schedule that makeup game would create. They won't decide a playoff qualifier on tie-breakers, so if the Giants are a half game either way with the Dodgers, they have to play the makeup game, although with a three game lead and four to play, it's looking like their only real issue is whether they can catch the D'backs.

By the way, the Giants open on the road in the first round no matter what. They only team they would have home field against would be the D'backs if they catch them, and they wouldn't face them until the second round.

.... Superman, et al

Alan Schwarz, in a special to ESPN, has a terrific, if highly techincal article on ESPN.com today in which he introuduces Harvard statistics Professor Carl Morris' brand new runs created formula that, among other things, derives the exact number of runs a team of nine Barry Bonds would score. I like it, and will figure out how to build an excel sheet to run guys in and out. In the meantime, Professor Morris' piece is just one more way of saying that Barry is from Jupiter.

.... emails and details

Reader Aaron Loomis asks:



John, what do you take from Livan's performance last night? Did he just not care through the middle of the season and not give as much effort and decide to turn it on at the end? I can see something happening from this that can turn out to be disasterous. Dusty is going to take this performance and let Livan pitch in one of the first 3 games of the playoffs and Livan is going to stink it up.

On a sidenote, I'm a little surprised on the quick turnaround of your stance on Dusty. It was almost overnight that you went from carrying his bags to the airport so that he could get out of here as fast as possible to now lobbying for him to stay.



I was at the game last night, and everyone was saying the same thing all night, that Livan was pitching for a playoff start. I disagreed, because I just can't see Dusty suddenly changing his managerial approach, he'll probably have a four man rotation, Livan is one of his four starters, and Dusty and the Giants will go as far as they'll take him. Livan shouldn't, and probably won't start a game on the road, his numbers on the road are pretty substantially worse, and I think Ortiz and Schmidt have earned those first two starts anyway. So I guess I'm saying that I think we'll see an Ortiz, Schmidt, Hernandez, Rueter rotation for the playoffs.

As for my Dusty turnaround, two things happened. I promised my wife that if Dusty could keep the team from collapsing after the grand slam game in LA, that I would have to just let up on him because of how difficult a situation that must be to handle. Well, I'd say he's handled it pretty well, no? That combined with the fact that I had really gone after him pretty hard for about a solid week really left me with not very much new stuff to say. I still feel the same way about how he manages, especially regards allowing players as much leeway as he does, but I didn't want my site to degenerate into a run Dusty out of town on a rail site.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 26, 2002


.... Keep on continuous

The Giants won again, and the Dodgers lost a heart-breaker that may turn out to be the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. I was at PacBell last night, and I must say, the team looked awesome. They came out with a swagger and an edge I haven't seen in them since 2000. They looked like they were gonna destroy the Padres, come hell or high water, and that's just what they did. Terrific all around performance, the team is peaking at exactly the right time, and with all of the injuries to the D'backs and the recent stumblings by the Braves, well, anything can happen.

.... Stark contrast

Jayson Stark gives us not one, but two Useless Information columns today. Both are awesome, with lots and lots of amazing but true Barry Bonds stuff. In the second, he writes about Livan's efforts at immortality.



Worst to first. While we're on the subject of pitchers who lead their league in losses, Giants "ace" Livan Hernandez has a shot at one of the most impossible feats of the century. He went into the last week tied with Milwaukee's Ben Sheets for the league lead in losses. But at least Sheets' team has lost 100 games. Hernandez's team is probably going to the playoffs. We took a trip through Total Baseball to determine that no pitcher has ever led his league in losses for a team that made it to the postseason. So for Livan Hernandez, this week is dramatic in more ways than one.


..... Some other good stuff

In this post, David Pinto explains why teams that are dependent on walks to get on base can be susceptible to getting shut down against high-octane pitching staffs that don't allow a lot of walks.

That made me think of something that I probably wouldn't have if I hadn't read it just the way he wrote it. The converse of the A's would have to be the San Francisco Giants, right? They have many players whose on base percentages are very dependent on their batting averages. And when they go against pitchers who don't give up a lot of walks, they seem to have done pretty well. Against the D'backs, who have given up the fewest walks of any staff in baseball, by a substantial margin, the Giants have scored 4.15 runs per game, which has them ranked third, behind only the Dodgers and Rockies. They've gone 11 and 8 against the D'backs, and against the two big boys....

Against the Giants, Johnson has gone 2-2 with a 5.00 ERA. Schilling has gone 3-1 with an ERA of 2.90. In only one of those eight games were the Giants hitters shut down, they've scored, in no particular order, 3, 2, 3, 7, 3, 1, 3 and 3 runs. Their 5-3 record against the big two is miles better than league average.

As we head into the post-season, that bodes well for the G-men. In the playoffs, when every at bat is important, patience is stressed for everyone, and the end result is usually more walks. Every additional time they can get on base will have a dramatic effect on a team that is used to scoring without walks, like the Giants. Hmmmm....

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 25, 2002


.... Sad Sox

In this post, David Pinto suggests the Boston Red Sox, perennial disappointments that they are, might need a Paul O'Neil-type of player, or maybe they should consider him as a manager. I think that's a pretty good idea, actually, although knowing what a perfectionist Paulie is, he'd probably want to be a hitting instructor or bench coach for a couple of years before taking the reins.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 24, 2002


.... In the news

In today's San Jose Mercury News, Reggie Sanders is quoted as saying his swing is starting to come around. I sure hope so, because he couldn't be more of an offensive liability right now. It's bad enough that JT the Outman has left about six hundred men on base the last month, but lately Reggie's been working hard to catch him.

In other news, the Arizona Diamondbacks are starting to resemble a Mash unit, with a different player getting hurt daily. They've lost Brian Anderson for the season, Craig Counsell is hurt again, Matt Williams is too, and now Luis Gonzalez separated his shoulder as D'backs lost their fourth game in a row. They are really staggering to the finish line, with only a four game lead over the Giants now, and they're playing a Cardinal team that would love to take home field away from them. Brenly had thought about resting Schilling and Johnson, but if he wants that home field, he won't be able to.

.... Storm tide

Talk about a surging tide, take a look at the standings in the NL West on August 24th and now:





8/249/24Surge
D'backs82-4794-6212-17

Dodgers75-5488-6813-14

Giants70-5890-6620-8



The Giants were eleven and a half games out of first a month ago, and they were four and a half games behind the Dodgers for the wild card. That's a pretty impressive push right there, made even more effective by the Giants going 5 and 2 against both the Dodgers and the D'backs over these last thirty days.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 24, 2002


.... Then and now, Part II

Since we're in the last week of the season, now's a great time to take one last look at my attempt at predicting the final results of the NL West showdown between the Dodgers and the Giants. My last update was about three weeks ago, I'll update the Now and the Revision to show a third incarnation:

ThenNowPredRev.3
Giants62-5090-6692-7094-68

Dodgers62-5188-6888-7491-71



On September 11th, I wrote that the Giants hot streak had begun to level out some of their poor Pythagorean performance, while the Dodgers recent losing streak had done the exact opposite, slowly bringing them back to their expected winning percentage. The Giants have sustained that surge, while the Dodgers have actually held steady, just off the pace. When I first put this post together, it was in late July, and the Giants had just started to get healthy after that horrible stretch in which every member of their starting outfield was injured. It took them a while, but they've gone 28 and 16 (.626 winning %, and don't forget that tie in Atlanta) since then, while the Dodgers have been just slightly worse, at 26 and 17 (.604). It's just enough to put them in a real tough spot.

I'd say the expected wins theorem has worked pretty well, wouldn't you? By the way, if the every team had gone the whole year winning at their expected rate, there'd be a hell of race for the NL West, with a half game separating the D'backs and the G-men, and another half game between the D'backs and the Braves for home field advantage.

I'd also say that, given the closeness of these three teams expected winning percentages, there's no telling who will advance to the World Series from the National League. In fact, that's true in both leagues. Nobody should be a prohibitive favorite to win the Series this year.

Thanks again to Bill James and ESPN for their expanded stats page, with conveniently located Pythagorean expected winning percentages.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 23, 2002


.... Keep it continuous

Dan Lewis, there on the left, has a great piece villifying Peter Gammons for his incorrect, foolish piece on "competitive imbalance." Need I mention that he agrees with moi?

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 23, 2002


.... Superman, Part II



In case I haven't stated the case for Bonds as the NL MVP clearly enough, I checked out BP's daily reports.

Bonds' Equivalent average is .457, well over 100 points higher than anyone else in baseball.

He has created 176 equivalent runs, number two man Sammy Sosa has created 125.

His runs above replacement is equal to Sammy and Brian Giles added together.

His runs above his position is three times the number two man.

His runs above replacement player for his position is again greater than Giles and Sosa added together.

HR/AB

Bonds 8.90

Sosa 11.12

Green 13.30

Berkman 13.33

Guerrero 15.57

RBI/AB

Bonds 3.69

Berkman 4.37

Pujols 4.58

Green 5.03

Kent 5.66

Runs/AB

Bonds 3.46

Sosa 4.45

Pujols 4.99

Green 5.22

Helton 5.07

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 23, 2002


.... Pain in the ass

I have finally had to hard-link all of my archives, after Blogger Pro, Blog*Spot, Pyra, and all of the support guys at Blog have ignored me for over a week. Can I just mention what a stick in the eye it is to be ignored after I have paid cash, up front, to have a professional blog control panel. I couldn't be more pissed off right now.

Anyway, any new guys, please read my older stuff if you have a second, get you up to speed.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 23, 2002


.... Out in left field

Peter Gammons, continuing in his inexplicable role as Seligula's shill, writes that...



When the season ends next Sunday, eleven teams likely will have won 90 games, which tells you that that plateau ain't what it used to be and may say more about the dozen teams that are more than 12-games under .500. The Expos crept two games over .500 by beating the Mets in Shea Friday night and the White Sox have fought their way back to .500, but in the final days, if both teams do fall below .500, then there will be 12-winning teams, 18-losing teams, 11 90-game winners, as many as nine 90-game losers, as many as four 100-game losers and a dozen teams at least a dozen games under .500.That's what they mean by competitive imbalance.



What the hell he's talking about I don't know, but it's sad to see someone with so much to offer offering so little. Is he suggesting that all teams win 81 games? Is he saying no teams should win more than 89? There are a finite number of wins in a 30 team league, 2,430 to be exact, and if his numbers are correct, then nine teams win win about 1000 of those games, and another nine will lose about 1000 of those games, and 12 teams will split the rest, falling somewhere within ten games or so of the .500 mark, give or take. So?

In 2001, in a thirty team league, there were eight 90 win teams, and eight 90 loss teams.

In 2000, in a thirty team league, there were eight 90 win teams, and eight 90 loss teams.

In 1991, in a twenty-six team league, there were five 90 win teams, and five 90 loss teams.

In 1990, in a twenty-six team league, there were five 90 win teams, and three 90 loss teams.

In 1980, in a twenty-six team league, there were seven 90 win teams, and six 90 loss teams.

In 1979, in a twenty-six team league, there were six 90 win teams, and seven 90 loss teams.

I could continue, but why bother. Competitive imbalance is a sham, a term made up by Bud Selig and the rest of the hard-line owners to use as a lever to force the players to make major concessions in the recent labor negotiations. There is no such thing, it is a smoke-screen, created because the owners knew they couldn't just say we want more of the $3.5 billion dollars in revenue then we are getting now.

Sports history is filled with sportswriters like Gammons pouring out praise for the great teams of all time, the Murderers Row Yankees of the 1920's, the Lombardi Packers, the Steelers of the 1970's, Showtime Lakers, the Montreal Canadiens', The Big Red Machine... the list is endless. Without teams to beat the crap out of, these teams wouldn't be great, would they? Of course not! For one team to win, another has to lose, that's competition, it's inherently unbalanced, that's why they call it competition!!!

My best against your best, winner take all. Competing means winning and losing. You can't have one without the other.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 23, 2002


.... emails and details

New reader Ed Loots asks if any team has ever made the playoffs with their top winner having only 12 wins. While I do the research, it's interesting to note that Kirk Rueter is 12-8, but the Giants are 11-0 in his no-decisions... Thanks to today's San Jose Mercury article on yesterday's 3-1 win over the Brewers.

Meanwhile, the Giants get a day off after a 40 games in 41 days stretch. The team went 25-14-1 over that span, and are now in control of their future with a two game lead over the Dodgers, and five games at home to finish out the season. Win 'em all and it's on to Atlanta for the first round of the playoffs.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 23, 2002


.... Keep on continuous

The Giants managed to win 5-1 without very much offense from Superman last night, and the Dodgers were pasted by the Padres, 8 to 4, increasing the G-men's Wild Card lead to two games. Rich Aurilia had a home run and a couple of RBI, and Ryan Jensen won for the first time in six weeks.

He looked shaky early, but was able to overcome the woeful Brewers to run his record to 12 and 8. Not too bad for a rookie, even if he is 27 years old. Looking ahead, if the Giants can sweep the Brew Crew, they would put a lot of pressure on LA.

Peter Magowan is quoted on the Giants clubhouse page as saying that he definitely wants Brian Sabean back next season. Next up would be Sabean saying he wants Dusty back, and then everyone agreeing with Bonds that Kent has to be re-signed as well.

By the way, that game last night was pretty blase' compared to those awesome Dodgers matchups.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 21, 2002


.... Superman



By now everyone knows that Barry Bonds is the best baseball player on the planet. His pursuit of his first batting title at age 38, his on-base perventage, his home runs.... This writer has just recently outlined why Bonds is head and shoulders above everyone else, not only in the National League, but in all of baseball, and that includes Alex Rodriguez, who's only advantage over Bonds is his age.

But even I am amazed at what I just discovered in doodling through Barry's numbers this year. At the All-Star break, Barry's OBM TC numbers were awesome, .345/.562/.780, with a 1.342 OPS. Wow! That is out of this world, no? Well, if that's out of this world, then since the All Star break, he's left the solar system.

Barry Bonds has a .417 (!) batting average in the second half of the season, with a .614 (!) on base percentage, an .848 (!) slugging percentage, and an OPS of 1.462 (!). Read that sentence two or three times, because its likely you'll never see someone write that again. I'm about 95% certain no one's ever written that before. I'd bet that Babe Ruth had some pretty impressive half-season runs, but a .614 on-base percentage would be the best in some fast-pitch softball leagues. Shown as an OBM TC line, it looks like this:

.417/.614/.848, with a 1.462 OPS



Over the last seven days, while the Giants have been fighting for their lives in their efforts to secure the Wild Card berth, Bonds has been even better:

.526/.735/.789, with a 1.524 OPS



I really don't have anything else to say.... just look at those numbers.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 20, 2002


.... Ouch

A couple of things here... First, I should have gone on the record yesterday with my feelings about Livan having no chance whatsoever against the Dodgers. The way they were taking pitches, hitter after hitter, patiently waiting for something good to swing at, I mean, really, he had no chance at all. His numbers, by the way, are simply staggeringly bad. You take Mike Hampton out of the picture, and Livan is in a class all by himself. As I've said before, it's not a matter of if he'll give up a bunch of hits, it's a matter of when.

He's done a real good job of derailing the team all year, and last night was no different, essentially ending the game in the third inning, something he's done over and over. I was going to do a home away piece here, figuring that he was going to show me a big ERA and H/9 split, but actually, he's been so bad at PacBell that there is only a small difference. Here, you take a look:

Home 6 wins, 9 losses, 115 IP, 167 baserunners 4.30 ERA

Away 5 wins, 7 losses, 92 IP, 134 baserunners 4.89 ERA

Opponents OBM TC numbers: .290/.342/.430

PacBell is only helping him a little, I would think that that would be pretty unusual, that the Giants should be getting a lot of help at home. It doesn't show up for everybody though.

Kirk Rueter has a 3.61 ERA on the road and a 2.99 at home, 17 % better.

Russ Ortiz has a 3.77 ERA on the road and a 3.36 at home, 11% better.

Jason Schmidt has a 5.40 ERA on the road and a 2.46 at home, that's less than half!

Ryan Jensen has a 5.55 ERA on the road and a 3.89 at home, 30% better.

As a team, the split is more substantial...

The team home ERA is 3.15

The team away ERA is 4.22

That's a 25% improvement, and Livan is only getting about half of that. If he were getting all of it, his home ERA should be around 3.66. What it really means is that any way you slice it, his season has been a disaster. If you take out his 4 and 0 start, he's 7 and 16 in his last twenty-eight starts, that's simply awful.

PS.... with Jensen's road ERA so high, tonight is no guaranteed win against the Brewers, especially with the Giants having to fly all night after that exhausting four game series with Dodgers. I guess the fact that last night was a blowout might help them a little, as they weren't involved in another tension-filled four hour war.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 20, 2002


.... The good guys

I've had a lot to say about the Giants who have played poorly these last few weeks, especially the hitters. I thought I would take a moment to write about the guys who've been instrumental in driving the team towards the postseason. Here's the five everyday players who have been really doing their jobs over the last thirty days, with their OBM TC stats, as well as some other numbers:

Bonds .427/.622/.878

7 2B 10 HR 29 RBI 41 BB 5 SO 4 steals

Kent .279/.347/.577

9 HR 19 RBI

Bell .280/.364/.419

7 XBH 13 RBI

Aurilia .266/.341/.385

8 XBH 17 RBI

Lofton .272/.348/.369

39 times on base 5 steals 15 runs

There you go. These are the guys who've been carrying the team lately. Let's go Giants.

PS..... would you look at Bonds!?!? That's a 1.500 OPS for a month!!!

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 19, 2002


.... War

War. That's what these last three games have been, a war. These have been just about the best regular season baseball games I have ever seen. Every pitch, every at bat, every inning has felt like the ninth inning of a game seven. Great great stuff.

The Giants won again last night, a 7-4 final score that was closer than that. After a couple of walks and a hit, the Dodgers had the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, but Rob Nen was able to make some terrific pitches to get the final two outs.

Russ Ortiz was the star of the game, not only pitching well, but hitting a tie-breaking home run in the top of the fifth inning to give the Giants a lead they would never relinquish.

After the team lost the first game of this series in such heart-rending, gut-wrenching fashion, I told a friend that I thought that the season was at stake in these next two games. I said that if Dusty could somehow keep the team from collapsing under the pressure and strain and dismay that comes when your team gives up a game like that, and win the next two games, that he would have done something that probably only a handful of managers in the game today could have done. No challenge could be greater for a manager than the one he is in the midst of right now, and he has made all the right moves, and his players have responded. They came out Tuesday after that devastating loss, and promptly put the Dodgers in a 5-1 hole. They haven't trailed since.

I know I've given Dusty Baker a lot of grief.... I've been one of his harshest critic over these last two seasons. I am here to say now that I have been a bit too harsh in my criticism, and perhaps even wrong on some of my points. He's done a terrific job getting the team this far, and the work he's done in Chavez Ravine these first three games is among the very best managing I've ever seen. Take away that one terrible, terrible pitch to Jordan, and the Giants might be going for the sweep tonight. My hats off to Dusty Baker.

.... Is it ever gonna stop Snowing?

By the way, what'd I tell you about Snow and Sanders? Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. Even after the RBI double, Snow still ended up striking out with men on second and third in the third inning, he struck out with a man on first in the seventh, and then again with a man at first in the ninth. He was 1 for 4 with runners on, driving one in and leaving five men on base. That leaves him with a combined 2 hits in 14 at bats with men on, with one RBI and twenty-two runners left on base in six games. Of those fourteen at bats, last night's ground rule double constitutes the one time he was able to get the ball out of the infield.

Sanders chimed in with a second and third strike out in the second inning, a fielder's choice with men on second and third in the third inning, a strike out with a man on first in the seventh, and then he finally got a single with Santiago on first in the ninth.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 19, 2002


.... Let it Snow, let it Snow, let it Snow

Reggie Sanders has been pretty useless lately, leaving a tremendous number of men on base. On August 6th, Reggie Sanders had 68 RBI to Jeff Kent's 67. Kent currently has 105 and Sanders' 78. Put down your abacus, I'll do the math here... Jeff Kent has driven in 38 men in the last five weeks while Reggie Sanders has driven in 10, in about 40 fewer at bats. Ouch. But, that's nothing compared to my nemesis, JT Snow. I mean, if you think that's bad....

JT Snow has accumulated the anemic total of just 49 RBI in 392 at bats, good for 11th among National League first basemen. But as bad as that is, he's actually been much worse. On April 20th, he drove in 5 runs. On May 8th, he drove in 3. And on August 4th he again drove in 5 runs. That's 13 RBI in three games, meaning that he drove in 26% of his season's total in just three games!!! That means that he actually has produced 36(!) RBI in 378 at bats!!! That is astonishing, and I don't mean astonishing in a good way. 36 RBI would have him ranking 17th in the NL, behind two different Arizona first basemen, as well as Andres Galarraga, with 38 in over 100 fewer at bats.

Looking at his game log, you see runs of 13, 12, 10, and 18 games in a row with no RBI, runs of 14, 11, and 14 games in a row where he scored no runs. He has 4 RBI and 2(!) runs scored in 52 at bats in September. He had 5 RBI in 46 at bats in July, and July was easily his best month of the year, his OBM TC line ran out at a sparkling .326/.448/.522. 6 RBI and 5 runs scored in 50 at bats in June.

Amazingly, he's batting .400 over the last five games, with eight hits in 20 at bats. However, as I detailed in an earlier post, that is one empty .400. Six at bats with runners in scoring position in the first two games with the Dodgers, 0 RBI, one infield hit, eleven men left on base. On Sunday, he never came to the plate with men on, but on Saturday, he came up in the first inning with runners on first and second and popped up to the first baseman. In the third inning, he came up with a runner on first and hit a medium flyball to center that Santiago fell asleep on, getting doubled off first. So that's three more left on base.

On Friday, he batted in the top of the first with runners on first and third and grounded into an inning ending fielder's choice. In the third inning, he batted with a runner on second and grounded out again. That's three more, for a total of seventeen runners left on base in the last five games... Seventeen runners left on base in five games!?!?

Read that a couple of times so you're ready tonight when Krukow comes out with his obligatory, "Snow is red-hot," comment, which he will as soon as Snow has a nice-looking swing-through.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 18, 2002


.... Snow job

The Giants regained the Wild Card lead with an exhausting 6-4 win last night. They again took an early lead, but unlike Monday, they were able to hold on. Bonds continued his drive towards immortality, driving in two runs in the second inning, and walking three more times. Tim Worrell and Rob Nen were effective in the eighth and ninth innings to put a stop to the relentless Dodgers.

JT Snow has now come to the plate six separate times with at least one runner in scoring postion and failed to get the ball out of the infield. On Monday, he came up with the bases loaded in the first and struck out, first and second in the sixth and popped up, and with a man on second in the ninth and struck out. Last night, he came up in the first inning with men on second and third and he struck out, men on first and third in the third inning and he grounded weakly to the pitcher, and in the ninth, after Reggie Sanders' double, he again grounded weakly to the pitcher, who misplayed it into an infield single.

That's eight men left in scoring position in two games, and of the eleven men that have been on base when he's come to the plate in these two games, he has been able to advance just one of them one single base. With the Dodgers starting their rookie right-hander, Kevin Beirne, I guess there's no chance Dusty will bench Snow and go with Kent at first, Bell at second and Mueller at third, is there?

One more thing.... if Snow starts tonight and finally gets a hit with a runner in scoring position, that doesn't mean Dusty was right to play him all along. Eventually, I'd get a hit if you just kept running me out there.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 18, 2002


.... Oh... my... gawd!




Travis Nelson has a simply awesome post about my Dusty and the No-Can-Hit crew in San Francisco. Funny, insightful, and he agrees with me, for the most part. He suggests, subtly, that perhaps a change in direction could come from an unlikely source.




Also, he has a post explaining to any idiot out there how there can be no doubt that Barry Bonds is the National League MVP, including a seemingly glowing reference to the Only Baseball Matters Triple Crown.

Good stuff. Thanks Travis.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 17, 2002


.... From the news desk, what is he thinking?

Mike Scioscia has decided to start Jarod Washburn on three days rest, something I picked up on David Pinto's site. Wow. I just don't understand why Scioscia would do this. Barring a historic collapse, the Angels are virtually assured of making the playoffs, so all he's really doing is risking the whole season for the possibility of picking up a single game. If Washburn blows his arm out or hurts himself in some other way, or just suddenly has his arm go dead because of this, what's Scioscia gonna do then? I mean, he's only their best pitcher.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 17, 2002


.... News flash

Tom Verducci says Bonds is the MVP.

Wow, that's a risky statement, really going out on a limb there, Tom. But then again, if you wait until two weeks are left in the season to say it....

Bonds is not only a mortal lock to win the inaugural National League Only Baseball Matters Triple Crown, (for those of you new to the site, that's leading the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage), he's also going to become just the 14th player to lead all of Major League Baseball in these three categories in the same year, and only the third since 1943.

Oh yeah, he's also broken his own record for walks in season (179 and counting), Willie McCovey's record for intentional walks in a season (60 and counting), he's going to break Ted Williams record for on-base percentage (Williams went .552 in 1941, Bonds is at .580 and counting), and he's about to join Babe Ruth as the only players to ever have a slugging percentage above .800 twice.

He's got a shot at Ruth's OPS record (1.379 in 1920, Bonds is currently at 1.391), and Ruth's advantage in OPS over the #2 man in the league (.308, also in 1920, Bonds is currently .350 ahead of Brian Giles).

He's looking to become the first player in two decades to have more home runs than strikeouts in a season (44 to 42), having just completed a run of 97 at bats without a strikeout, the longest such streak in at least thirty years.

And finally, he's on his way to the fifth highest batting average in the last fifty-one years.

Anyone voting for someone else for NL MVP should be forced to watch Shawon Dunston run real hard after a ground ball to the pitcher for about 12 hours straight.

All stats courtesy of ESPN and Baseball-Reference.com.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 17, 2002


.... Numbers, numbers and more numbers

Jayson Stark wonders how the Arizona Diamondbacks could be leading the National League in scoring while having virtually no one leading the league in any offensive category. I'm sure that Jayson knows this, but in the one category that matters, on-base percentage, the D'backs are simply the best team in the league.

Checking out ESPN's awesome stats page, you can see that overall, the D'backs lead the league in OBP by just a few percentage points, certainly not enough to overcome their noticable lack of front-line production, right? Wrong. There's more there than meets the eye. Take a look at the OBP numbers, from each position in the lineup, D'backs vs. Giants, the number two team in the league in runs scored:







D'BacksGiants
RankOBPRankOBP
First1st.35015th.313

Second1st.38810th.306

Third11th.3741st.479

Fourth12th.3601st.424

Fifth7th.34013th.330

Sixth4th.34114th.307

Seventh1st.3508th.329

Eighth5th.3337th.326

Ninth4th.2428th.233



Lotta numbers, I know, I know.... but within this little chart, anyone can see the secret to the D'backs success. It's in their consistency. The Giants, as I've bemoaned over and over, rely so much on Bonds and Kent, and as a consequence, they will score 10 runs one game and 2 the next, as they've done many many times these last two seasons. But look at the D'backs.

Even where they aren't leading the league, it's only relative to the league that they are showing a drop. Relative to themselves, their lineup essentially never ends. They constantly produce rallies from the bottom of the order, something the Giants almost never do, and it's obvious why. The Diamondback's 6-7-8 hitters have a better on base percentage than every spot in the Giants lineup other than Bonds and Kent! That's the bottom of the lineup, the scrubs! Even Arizona's pitchers get in on the act, having a pretty comfortable OBP advantage over the much more heralded Giants' pitchers.

What the D'backs have is a lineup built for October success, much like the Yankees lineup's of the last six years. It takes a lot of pitches to get through nine innings against a lineup like that, and with so many guys on base all the time, all you need are singles and walks to keep the cash register ringing. Not to mention, walks never slump.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 17, 2002


.... Oh... my... gawd!




Travis Henry has a simply awesome post about my Dusty and the No-Can-Hit crew in San Francisco. Funny, insightful, and he agrees with me, for the most part. He suggests, subtly, that perhaps a change in direction could come from an unlikely source.




Also, he has a post explaining to any idiot out there how there can be no doubt that Barry Bonds is the National League MVP, including a seemingly glowing reference to the Only Baseball Matters Triple Crown.

Good stuff. Thanks Travis.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 17, 2002


.... Southside Johnny and the Ashbury Dukes

My good friend Christian Ruzich (great Chicago name, huh?) runs the Cub Reporter. In today's post, he takes our Dusty Baker critique and examines the potential benefit/cost of bringing the Bakerman to the Southside. As he explains, since the Cubs and Giants are essentially the same team, (One superstar, two or three very good players and a lot of has beens or never beens) it wouldn't appear to be a very good idea.

As I said to him in an email, don't discount the terrific effect Dusty has on a pitching staff. The Giants pitchers never seem to get hurt, they are all exceptionally consistent, and often they are very good. If you want to make an argument for Dusty here, you'd best focus on him getting the most out of his starters, something the boys at Baseball Prospectus have written about for several years. I'd say that his "blind spot" I've written about, that once the team is set, run 'em out there and watch 'em produce, is probably an excellent way to handle s pitching staff, particularly starters; consistency being a hallmark of a well-run staff. You could also argue that poor handling of the pitchers could very well be the main reason the Cubs have failed to take advantage of Sosa's astonishing production these last few years. And no, I'm not trying to pawn Dusty off on Christian, I'm not so sure I'd want to see him leave, even though his poor utilization of his marginal talent is giving me an ulcer.

Also, I wanted to mention something that yours truly caught the minute it happened last night. That grand slam by Jordan was the first allowed by a Giants pitcher this year. I thought so, and said as much to my wife immediately after I pulled the TV out of the swimming pool.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 17, 2002


.... Who's the man?

Is Jason Schmidt the dominating starting pitcher the Giants so desperately need? He has the stuff of an ace, with a fastball in the mid to upper 90's, three other quality pitches. He's a big right-hander, and he's entering his prime as a major leaguer. That said, he's not gotten the job done down the stretch so far, and he's running out of chances.

In his last five starts, Jason Schmidt has pitched 30 2/3 innings, allowing a total of only 30 hits, but because of what appears to be an inability to pitch from the stretch, he's allowed 16(!) earned runs, for an ERA of nearly 5.00. He's had three innings where he allowed four runs, and out of the 19 total runs he's allowed, only once did he allow a single run in an inning.

How is that possible? I can see giving up four runs on five hits once in a while, but he's given up 4 runs on 5 hits, 4 runs on 6 hits, and 4 runs on 7 hits just within his last five starts! And it's not because of the long ball, last night notwithstanding. Is it an inability to pitch from the stretch? Let's look at how he does when an inning starts with a leadoff batter reaching safely:

Last Night:

3rd inning started with Cora reaching on a leadoff single. Four runs scored.

4th inning started with Grudzielanek singling. No runs scored.

5th inning started with Lo Duca reaching on a leadoff error. Two runs scored.

September 10th:

6th inning started with a walk. No runs scored.

7th inning started with a leadoff home run. Two runs scored.

September 5th:

1st inning started with a walk. Four runs scored.

August 30th:

2nd inning started with a walk. Four runs scored.

3rd inning started with a walk. No runs scored.

August 25th:

1st inning started with a walk. No runs scored.

4th inning started with a walk. No runs scored.

That's it. Five starts, 30 plus innings, and he allowed the lead man to reach base only 10 times. But he allowed 16 runs to score in just five of those ten innings! That is meltdown city. Some of those innings were screwed up by errors and other issues, but he's just got to do a better job of finishing hitters off when it gets tough. Watching him last night, he clearly started to overthrow once he got into a jam. The home run pitch to Jordan was a horrible, horrible pitch, literally right over the heart of the plate.

It's tough to talk about him being the man if he can't figure out how to get out of trouble without thinking he's just got to throw harder.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 17, 2002


.... Lost season?

Jason Schmidt continued his unfortunate habit of suffering game-turning meltdowns in the face of adversity last night, losing to Hideo Nomo and the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-6. He allowed a grand slam to Brian Jordan after a couple of fielding miscues in the bottom of the third following a tough two-strike hit by Joey Cora and a beautiful drag bunt single by Dave Roberts; and then, after the Umpire Jerry Meals improbably failed to call Adrian Beltre out on a fan interference play in the sixth with two outs and two men on, he allowed a two-run double into the right field corner.

Actually, the Giants pitchers made three bad pitches last night, and the Dodgers turned them into a grand slam, a solo home run and a two run double. From the center field camera, every one of those hits were off batting practice pitches, unfathomably bad pitches considering the game and the circumstances.

From Nomo's point of view, the Giants hit solo home runs off him, he allows a ton of baserunners in two games, he throws about seven hundred pitches, and his team scores seven runs for him in both games, off of arguably the Giants two best starters, giving him two wins.

As for my nemesis, JT Snow, obviously Dusty has decided to bench Damon Minor (34 AB's since Aug. 1st) and go with Snow pretty much every day, an astonishing development really. In that same period of time, he's given Snow 120 at bats, and Snow has gotten exactly 30 hits, for a sizzling .250 batting average, with 2 home runs and 13 RBI. Last night, he batted with runners on second and third in the 1st inning and struck out, runners on 1st and third in the 3rd inning and grounded weakly to the pitcher, and a runner on second in the 8th and he struck out again. For those of you scoring at home, that's four men left in scoring position in three at bats, and not once did Snow hit the ball past the pitcher!

Good thing Brian Sabean picked up Billy Mueller, so he could sit on the bench next to Dunston and reminisce about how great Chicago is.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 17, 2002


..... Snow job, just one more thing

JT Snow's home and away splits, OBM TC style:

2001 Home .183/.331/.289

2001 Away .308/.410/.469

2002 Home .222/.336/.307

2002 Away .269/.356/.413

The last two seasons, Snow has had a total of 65(!) hits at home, 4 home runs, 31 runs and 28 RBI in 318 at bats(!) with an astonishing .204 batting average and a slugging percentage below .300! Under what calculation could anyone justify his presence in the lineup at Pacbell? He would have to play at least two defensive positions at once to make up for the nine plus outs he makes for each run he drives in.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 16, 2002


.... emails and details, continuum

Reader Tom Germack chimes in:



John, I’m really having fun with the Baker debate. I’d say for the most part I’m on the same page as you. Quite simply Dusty wastes scoring opportunities. The telling stat: with runners in scoring position and two out the Giants are 15th in the NL in runs scored. At least part of this has to be attributed to Dusty not putting the team in position to succeed by having the right batter at the plate in these situations.

Also, a quick aside….I’ve noticed you’ve argued both sides of the “protection” argument. Or possibly I’m missing something and you are arguing different points….. Today you wrote:

"As for Kent, I have been pretty hard on him for a while, only recently have I begun to appreciate how solid he is. That said, his production is certainly related to his hitting behind and/or in front of Barry."

But on September 3rd, you sung a different tune:

“It has been established by Bill James, Rob Neyer, and a host of other sabermeticians, that the idea of "protection" in a hitting order is not backed by data. So, when I wrote earlier about Jeff Kent getting red-hot a month before being moved in front of Barry Bonds, or when Barry was hitting in front of Kent, and he was still being walked two times a game, I was simply stating that the idea of one hitter somehow "protecting" the other is flawed. That's not to say that walking Bonds with a one run lead late in the game wouldn't happen if he was hitting in front of Babe Ruth, or that in the same situation with Kent at the plate and Bonds on deck that Kent might not expect to see a hittable pitch; it is to say, however, that the statistical record does not show any real advantage for any hitter based on who he hits behind or in front of in the lineup.”



Tom,

Thanks. I was wondering if I was alone on the desert island.

You're right, that's what it looks like I'm saying about Kent. Let me clarify... I'm not talking about protection, I'm talking about opportunity, although I can see how poorly I worded that sentence. My point, badly stated, was that Jeff Kent has had the benefit of hitting behind the greatest hitter since Babe Ruth for the last six years. Sure, Kent is an excellent hitter, but what if Kent had spent the last six years hitting behind, say, Reggie Sanders, what would his numbers look like then?

Professor Abrams sees the Giants offense as a whole, and as a whole, it is a terrific offense. I see it differently, I see it as, in fact, an inefficient offense whose bulk production comes from one player's astonishing excellence. That inefficiency has to be traced, at least in part, to Dusty Baker, who has failed to get the most out of virtually everyone in the lineup not scheduled for a Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 16, 2002


.... Interesting tidbits

At Baseball News Blog, the unthinkable has happened. My name and my writing appear on the same page as the man who is responsible for me having an opinion about baseball that is more than just, "I really like Don Mattingly," Bill James. I couldn't be prouder. My humble thanks go to my friend Pete Sommers, who is the webmaster at BNB.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 16, 2002


.... emails and details, ad infinitum

Reader Jim Abrams continues the Dusty Baker discussion, I'll chime in with my responses one by one:



John, thanks for posting my thoughts on Dusty Baker. Having read your response, I see that you and I are not destined to agree on this issue -- but one of the things I enjoy about your web site is that you're willing to publish dissenting opinions! Anyhow, here are a couple of responses to your latest arguments:

1) Most of your criticisms of Dusty relate to his decisions concerning the offense: namely, that he's made poor choices about his lead-off man, that he continues to give opportunities to unproductive hitters like JT Snow and Dunston, that he makes bad choices about who and when to pinch-hit, etc. I think the problem with criticizing Dusty as an offensive manager can be seen by looking at the results Dusty gets: namely, the Giants have one of the best -- quite possibly THE best -- offense in baseball. True, they don't score the most runs because (as you have amply documented) they play half their games in Pac Bell, which is a pitcher's best friend. Yet despite playing in a terrible hitter's park, the Giants are second in the league in runs scored. They lead the league in runs scored on the road, which is a much fairer test of a team's offense. Another way to see this is to look at the Giants' ranking on the Baseball Prospectus web site, which ranks all 30 ML teams according to "Equivalent Average," which is a measure of offensive production adjusted for the team's home park. The Giants rank first in this category -- better than the Yankees, better than the Diamondbacks, better than anybody. (BTW, the Colorado Rockies rank 25th in EQA out of 30 teams, because when you account for the fact that they play half their games at Coors field, you have to let a lot of air out of their offensive statistics (as you have documented with respect to Todd Helton and Larry Walker).



If you check the little post I did yesterday, you'll see that, in fact, Barry Bonds, is so far above the rest of the league that he is almost single handedly carrying the team. Offensively, the Giants rely almost completely on Bonds. In games in which he drove in at least 2 runs, the Giants are 21-4, when he has no RBI, the team is under .500. That's why he has 175 walks, because the rest of the players cannot produce. Even Jeff Kent's awesome season pales in comparison. And without Bonds in front of him to drive in, or Bonds behind him to force pitchers to pitch to him, what would Kent have produced? The Giants have all kinds of offensive statistics that look great, because Bonds is having his second consecutive historic season, with a level of production that compares favorably to Babe Ruth(!) something that has never happened before in the history of baseball. But when you remove Bonds from the equation, the Giants are a mediocre offense at best, with well below average production at first base and center field, below average production in right field, and average production at shortstop and third base. Benito Santiago's year looks great compared to the very weak group of National League catchers, but really, 14 home runs and 64 RBI isn't something you shout from the rooftops about, if he has done this last year he would have ranked about fifth or so among all NL catchers. Anyway, my point is simple, Bonds is like Neo, he distorts and bends reality, making the team seem much better than it actually is, something you go into great length discussing in the next section of your post, which seems to undermine your argument and support mine.



I think the Giants' offensive success undercuts your criticisms. To make the case that Dusty Baker's decisions have significantly hurt the Giants' offense, you've got to demonstrate that absent Dusty Baker's decisions, the offense would be even more powerful. This entails arguing that the Giants' offensive talent is so overwhelming that IN SPITE OF DUSTY BAKER'S OFFENSIVE MISTAKES, they have still managed to be extremely productive. This strikes me as a difficult case to sustain. Do the Giants really have overwhelming hitting talent? Yes, Bonds and Kent are great, and Aurilia is talented even though he's having a down year. But those three aside, here is a complete list of all Giants players who have batted at least 100 times this season: Santiago, Torrealba, JT Snow, Damon Minor, David Bell, Pedro Feliz, Ramon Martinez, Marvin Benard, Shinjo, Lofton, Sanders, Tom Goodwin. Does this look like an offensive powerhouse to you? Would you expect this group of hitters to lead the league in runs scored on the road, and be second in runs scored overall? Do you really think that this level of offensive performance represents an indictment of Dusty Baker? I don't.



I do. I don't have to demonstrate that absent Dusty's decisions the Giants offense would be more powerful, I just have to demonstrate that it would be more effective, effectiveness as defined by me denotes consistency and maximizing opportunities. The Giants have used the fewest pinch hitters in the league, and when they do use them, they are the least effective. How do you evaluate Dusty's handling of the offense if not by analyzing his utilization of his resources? When he plays Dunston, where does he bat? Top of the order, even though he is virtually useless in a leadoff role. When he plays Shinjo, where does he bat? Top of the order, even though he has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he cannot handle the responsibilities of a leadoff man. JT Snow batting cleanup? On August 24th, the Giants faced Montreal, the day after an embarrassing 7-2 loss. Dusty chose that day to rest both Bonds and Kent, even though the team was reeling and desperately needed a win. Why do that? Because he had planned it that way a month ago? Because they were tired? Are you kidding me, he couldn't figure out a way to rest them one at a time?

Look at yesterday's game, sixth inning, down 3-1, man on first, one out, right hander on the mound, Yorvit Torrealba up next. You'll remember my post last week lamenting the obvious failure of Dusty to pinch-hit for Torrealba in a bases loaded, one out situation because of his penchant for hitting into double plays, this was a similar situation, an obvious pinch-hit situation. Dusty had on his bench left-handed Damon Minor, Marvin Benard, and Tom Goodwin. Who did he send up as his first pinch hitter? Ramon Martinez, who struck out, and frankly, was completely overmatched. Mike Krukow made a big point at the time explaining that Dusty must've had a reason for using Martinez, maybe he'd faced this guy in the minors, Martinez hits righties well, he went on and on. You know why? Because Dusty was going against common knowledge and strategy using a righty against a righty. And Dusty was wrong. Martinez against righties runs out at .274/.325/.393. Against lefties, he's at .273/.369/.473. Obviously Dusty was playing some hunch or another, one that had no basis in reality. He followed that mistake with another, pinch hitting Santiago for the pitcher, again going against known, established fact, that the platoon advantage is real and it is universal, and he failed again, as Santiago also struck out. Santiago against righties, .273/.298/.435, lefties .269/.339/.463. Are you telling me that Dusty chose these two players because they had batting averages that were a combined .005 points higher against righties?!? What other explanation could there be? Neither one of them is such an established run producer or home run threat or great pinch hitter that they demand utilization regardless of the situation. Marvin Benard is better against righties than lefties, and his splits agianst righties show that he is a better option than either of these two hitters. Goodwin is almost useless against lefties, so if you're not gonna use him against righties, when would you? Minor has hit 70% of his home runs against righties. And then there's the fact that of the right-handed hitters he had at his disposal, he chose these two, as opposed to David Bell, a much better hitter and a much greater threat to hit a home run and tie the game than either of them. This kind of mis-use is more common than you think, and it's not just how he uses pinch hitters. Watch the games through a different lens, listen to how often the announcers subtly critique his moves. They constantly find themselves having to come up with some "He must know something we don't" explanations for one of Dusty's patented hunches.



2) On a more general note, I think you and I see things differently because you evaluate Dusty Baker according to whether you agree with his decisions at the time he makes them, while I tend to wait to see whether Dusty's decisions -- whether or not I agree with them at the time -- ultimately succeed or fail. I can't say that my criteria are more sensible than yours, but I think this is why we reach different conclusions about Dusty. Certainly many of the "mistakes" you attribute to Dusty Baker look very different if you look at how the decision turned out. Let's deal with a couple of the specific criticisms you raise:

Dusty should have benched Marvin Benard last year

You may be surprised to learn that I agreed with you about this, at the time. By last year's All-Star break, I thought that Bernard's lousy hitting and fielding should earn him a spot nailed to the bench. Dusty disagreed with both of us, and continued to play Bernard semi-regularly in the second half of last year -- and over the second half Bernard responded by hitting ..331 with 10 home runs! So does Dusty's decision to stick with Bernard really constitute evidence that he's a bad offensive manager, as you suggest, or does it instead suggest that Dusty knew something that you and I didn't know?



It constitutes being asleep at the wheel for me. Waiting out Benard's revival probably cost the team four or five losses. Whatever he did the second half doesn't in the least make up for Dusty doing nothing during the first two months of the season while Benard swung so hard at every pitch he saw, I was surprised he didn't hurt himself. Forget about the idea of Dusty being bad or good, he did nothing, or at least, nothing he did made a bit of difference; Benard tanked so badly he was being booed every time he walked onto the field, something a feisty fan favorite should never be allowed to do. Another aspect of the managers responsibility is to see that his players don't lose their confidence, can you argue that Dusty manages to do this well, with so many players having utterly horrible, wasted seasons going on two years in a row?



Dusty should have benched JT Snow and gone full-time with Andres Galarraga

At the time, I also agreed with you on this point. By last year's All-Star break I had decided that JT Snow's lack of production was killing the team, and that they just had to get him out of the lineup. Like you, my inclination was to go with Galarraga full-time, once he came over in the trade. Dusty again disagreed with both of us, and played Snow about half-time over the second half of the season -- and over this period Snow hit .306 and drove in 19 runs in just 119 at-bats (all second-half stats are from the STATS INC. Scouting Notebook 2002). Again, do these results show that Dusty didn't know what he was doing, or do they instead suggest that Dusty knew something you and I didn't?



Jim, don't go there. At the time it was the wrong move, there is absolutely no doubt about it. In this post, I go into great detail explaining how Dusty blew the Snow/Galarraga decision. In summary, the Giants won 17 of their first 20 games after they inserted Galarraga in the starting lineup, averaging almost 2 runs per game more than previously. Galarraga batted .295 during that stretch, with 3 home runs and 18 RBI. Upon re-inserting JT Snow into the lineup, the Giants won just 9 of their next 20, as their offense completely tanked. In those 20 games, Snow batted .222, with 8 hits and 4 RBI. Nothing was more damaging to last year's lost season. Nothing was more avoidable.



Of course, not all of Dusty's personnel decisions have worked. Like you, I have difficulty understanding what Dunston contributes to the team, and I also find JT Snow's struggles so frustrating that I'd prefer to see Damon Minor play, even though objectively I doubt he'd be much improvement. In fact, to go off on a tangent, I think JT Snow irritates me for much the same reason that Bill Clinton drove the Republicans crazy: it isn't so much that he does bad things, but that he does bad things AND REMAINS POPULAR ANYWAY. I could tolerate Snow's failings much more easily if just once, an announcer or a sportswriter or a fan would point out that he's a lousy hitter for a first baseman. But everyone ignores this, and instead goes into raptures anytime he pokes a single or makes a moderately difficult defensive play. Somehow when it comes to JT Snow, everyone just rolls over and plays dead. But my emotional reaction to JT Snow isn't really relevant to Dusty Baker's qualities as a manager. I submit that if you evaluate Dusty according to what comes OUT of his decisions -- that is if you look at the results, and evaluate whether his decisions usually work -- then Dusty looks pretty good. If you evaluate Dusty according to what goes INTO his decisions -- that is whether you agree with his decisions at the time he makes them -- the picture may look different. Which criterion is appropriate? I honestly don't know. But I choose to focus on results, and this is one of the main reasons why I like Dusty Baker.



Jim, for the most part, I like Dusty as a manager too. In my humble opinion, he can do better. As for decisions that are obviously, transparently, questionable at the time, why shouldn't those decisions be evaluated when they are being made? Any at bat can result in a home run or a triple play, but the utilization of the resources that lead to that at bat are somewhat predictable. Tyuoshi Shinjo can hit a home run, but that doesn't mean that when he hits a home run he was the right man at the plate. In my opinion, Dusty fails to get the right man to the plate, again and again.

He gives players way too much leeway when they are struggling, often to the point of damaging their confidence more than if he just sat them down in the first place. He doesn't seem to recognize the abilities of his players as they are, consequently we constantly see low on-base percentage hitters leading off, or we see strikeout pitchers being brought in when a double play is needed, or we see the wrong pinch hitters being used, or we see struggling players being entrusted with the biggest games of the season. And finally, his biggest weakness is his distorted version of loyalty, in which he stubbornly attempts to prove to sportswriters and fans that he knows more about baseball than they do, at the expense of the team and winning. His failures with Marvin Benard, Shawon Dunston, Livan Hernandez, and JT Snow are only the most obvious examples of this. There are only a handful of players thriving under Baker's watch right now, and a whole bunch who are struggling mightily.

The Giants have lost numerous games they could have won, had the right moves been made. And when you lose after making the right moves, it's always a positive, because your players know when you've handled them and the game situations well. Furthermore, how many games have they won because of some move or strategy or decision of Baker's? Can you come up with more than two or three? I have cited literally dozens of games where his moves have backfired, can anyone cite dozens of games where they haven't, other than penciling in Bonds' name in the lineup?

That's it. That's all I have to say about Dusty. Could the Giants do better than him? I don't know, but he could do better than he has, that's for damn sure.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 16, 2002


.... emails and details, Part II

Here's my response to Mr. Adams' terrific piece. Jim, your basic point is that:



UNDER DUSTY BAKER, SEVERAL KEY GIANTS’ PLAYERS HAVE PERFORMED AT A LEVEL THAT IS JUST MILES ABOVE WHAT ANY REASONABLE PERSON COULD HAVE EXPECTED.



Well, I just don't see how you could attribute Bonds, Kent and Ellis Burks' production spikes to Baker. Bonds has been producing at an MVP level for 15 years, his recent power surge is hardly attributable to some magical Dusty Baker way of being. As for Kent, I have been pretty hard on him for a while, only recently have I begun to appreciate how solid he is. That said, his production is certainly related to his hitting behind and/or in front of Barry. Ellis Burks' production, while impressive in 2000, was right in line with his career numbers in 1999. Who else are we arguing has performed above their expected levels? Santiago? Reggie Sanders? Come on.

Here's another take, under Dusty's tutelage, the only players who have flourished have been the very best players on the team. This season, the Giants have gotten astonishingly bad production from Shinjo, Snow, Goodwin, Dunston, Torrealba, Feliz, Martinez and Sanders. They have gotten mediocre production from Aurilia, Sanders, and Minor and they have gotten solid production from Santiago and Bell. They've gotten spectacular production from Bonds and Kent.

They have gotten very little from Tom Goodwin and Kenny Lofton, although Kenny seems to be coming on a bit lately

In 2001, the team got season-derailing production from Marvin Benard, JT Snow, Russ Davis, Calvin Murray, Pedro Feliz, Eric Davis and Edwards Guzman. They got mediocre production from John Vanderwal and Bobby Estalella, and they were carried by Bonds, Kent and Aurilia.

If, as you suggest, good performance should be credited to the manager, who gets the credit for the team-wide failure over these last two years? His inability to get the most out of his backups has to be accounted for somehow, doesn't it?

As for in game and player personell management decisions, I see more problems.

I don't blame Dusty for failing to recognize that Felix Rodriguez was hiding an injury, but I do blame him for not only failing to realize that regardless of why, Feliz was ineffective; and then continuing to use him in the most important situations, against the toughest opponents, at the absolutely most critical times.

He continues to insist that Livan Hernandez is his ace.

He continues to insist that JT Snow should play every day, even though Snow has been the least productive first baseman in all of baseball for two years running.

He continued to insist that Dunston was still able to hit, while Dunston's failings were killing the team.

Lest you think I am being short-sighted, let me remind you that last season the Giants finished two games back of the eventual World Champions. Dusty Baker made two decisions that in all probability were the reason why.

He allowed Marvin Benard to start in center field for almost a third of the season, even though Benard was completely lost at the plate. This decision meant that at the end of the first half, Rich Aurilia, batting an eye-popping .356/.398/.558, with 40 (!) extra base hits, 120 hits overall, had only 38 RBI. Benard, in 214 season-derailing at bats, had 45 hits and had scored only 35 (!) runs leading off in front of the most formidable 2, 3, 4 lineup in recent memory, three hitters who went into the All Star break with 138 extra base hits!!!! The Giants went into the All Star break last year only four games over .500.

Then, when Brian Sabean made the trading deadline deal of the season, he benched Andres Gallarraga as soon as JT Snow was healthy, against all logic, after the Giants had ripped off a 17-3 stretch upon inserting the Big Cat into the starting lineup.

These decisions are made because he treats everyone the same, as if they were superstars. So, yes, guys like Bonds and Kent flourish under his guidance. But guys like Benard and Shinjo and Minor, these guys are the difference between making the playoffs and not. Dusty gets next to nothing out of these types of players. He fails to recognize a players inability to perform, continues to put that player in situations beyond their current ability to handle, eroding their confidence, and, I would suggest, sending them into lengthy spirals of failure.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 14, 2002


.... emails and details

Professor Jim Adams writes,



THE CASE FOR DUSTY BAKER

John, the gist of your argument against Dusty Baker seems to be “Yeah, the players like and respect him, but he really leaves a lot to be desired in terms of in-game strategy, personnel management, etc.” While I have no inside information about the Giants – like most fans my impressions come entirely from watching the games, listening to the announcers, etc. – I read the situation somewhat differently. Specifically, my impression is that Dusty Baker’s handling of his players has much more positive value to the Giants than you grant it, and that because of this Dusty has gotten more out of his teams than most comparable managers would have.

Let's start with the impact Dusty Baker has on his players. First, I agree with you that there's much more to being a successful manager than getting the players to like you. After all, Chuck Tanner's players liked him a great deal, and the end result (in Pittsburgh, anyway) was that they got fat, lazy, and developed drug problems. History is littered with teams that ran roughshod over “nice-guy” managers like Chuck Tanner, Steve Boros, and Jim Frey. To me the relevant question is: Do the Giants' players tend to perform above or below expectations, relative to their abilities? Now “expectations” are in the eye of the beholder, but nevertheless I believe that the following proposition is self-evident:

UNDER DUSTY BAKER, SEVERAL KEY GIANTS’ PLAYERS HAVE PERFORMED AT A LEVEL THAT IS JUST MILES ABOVE WHAT ANY REASONABLE PERSON COULD HAVE EXPECTED.

At the beginning of 2001, what odds would you have given that Barry Bonds would have performed as he has over the past two years? 1000-1? Well, maybe 100-1, conservatively. At the time the Giants acquired Jeff Kent, what odds would you have given that he would play at the level he has from 1997-2002? Again, 100-1 seems conservative. And to me the performances of Ellis Burks in 1999-2000 and Rich Aurilia from 1999-2001 are almost equally surprising. (True, Ellis Burks’ stats don't look very different in SF than they did in Colorado, but when you adjust for park effects – and for the fact that Burks was in his mid-30s when he joined the Giants – I think you'll agree his Giants’ performance was very surprising). Note what I'm saying here: Its not just that one or two Giants players are playing a little bit better than expected, but that several key players are completely off the charts in the degree to which they've exceeded expectations. When you add in the fact that all of these cases except Aurilia’s involve veteran players making a sudden leap in performance – which is much rarer than a young player improving – the record is even more remarkable. How many position players, in the history of baseball, have improved as much in their late 20s-early 30s as Jeff Kent did? The only three that come immediately to mind are Dwight Evans, Brian Downing, and Terry Pendleton (and the last two are arguable). How many position players in baseball history had their two best seasons at ages 37-38, as Barry Bonds is doing?

Can I prove that Dusty Baker is responsible for these players’ performances? Of course not. But, to paraphrase Bill James, when players perform well the manager deserves a reasonable share of the credit. Particularly in this case, when we're dealing with a manager who is known for being liked and respected by his players, I think you have to draw a connection between Dusty’s people skills and these players’ astonishing on-field performances. And given how much these players have contributed to the team – the Giants wouldn't be within shouting distance of the playoffs this year if Bonds and Kent weren't playing like all-time greats – I assign a great deal of weight to this. In my opinion, Dusty would have to be awfully, awfully bad in most other areas of managing to outweigh the extra games won due to the surprising performances of Bonds, Kent, Burks, and Aurilia.

Of course, since I've focused on just four players one can argue that there are other Giants who have turned in disappointing performances (like Aurilia and Felix Rodriguez in 2002, JT Snow and Livan Hernandez in 2001-2002, etc.). Fair enough. It still seems to me that there are no examples of Giants players’ being as unexpectedly bad as Bonds, Kent, etc. have been unexpectedly good. In fact if you adjust for park effects, I think that players like Santiago, David Bell, and Reggie Sanders are also playing better than expected this year (at least they've exceeded my expectations). One way to see this is to compare these players’ current equivalent averages, as posted on the Baseball Prospectus website, against the equivalent averages that were projected for them before the season started, as published in the 2002 Baseball Prospectus book.

This leaves the “other” areas of managerial performance, such as in-game strategy, roster composition, preference for old versus young players, etc. I don't have much to say here, since it's difficult for me to assess these factors as I lack much of the relevant information. But first a general observation: Since baseball history shows that managers can succeed with wildly different types of strategies, I'm leery about evaluating Dusty Baker according to what I would have done in a game situation. For instance Earl Weaver was successful working with a stable four-man pitching rotation and a set line-up; Casey Stengal was successful with the Yankees while yanking pitchers in and out of his starting rotation and rotating his infielders with mad abandon. Whitey Herzog liked giving young players a chance; Leo Durocher preferred to rely on veterans. I don't feel qualified to tell Earl or Casey or Whitey or Leo that he was wrong, and that suggests that we should be cautious about deciding that Dusty Baker made the “right decision” or the “wrong decision” with regard to when he pinch-hits, which players he uses, etc. That being said, I’ll touch briefly on three of the points you made in your article:

1) With respect to Dusty’s decision not to pinch-hit for Torrealba last night, there's an item on the Giants’ team website today stating that Santiago was suffering from a bad back. So I assume that if Dusty had pinch-hit in that situation he would have been forced to bring in the double-A catcher Lunsford in the 7th inning, not to mention leaving himself without a backup if Lunsford got hurt. I think Dusty’s decision was reasonable.

2) With respect to letting Shinjo hit in the 8th inning of the Giants-Dodgers game, with the Giants holding one-run lead, I think Dusty made a reasonable decision to keep his best defensive outfielder in the game. Particularly when you consider that the Giants didn't have a quality hitter on the bench.

3) Like you, I wail and gnash my teeth every time JT Snow hits (yet another) four-hop ground ball to second base. But does Dusty Baker really have a better option available? True, Damon Minor has hit better than Snow in very limited playing time, but he has nearly 2500 minor league at-bats that suggest he's really not a very good hitter. Personally, it would be easier on my psyche if the Giants played Minor anyway, since I find Snow’s repeated failures so frustrating. But that's an emotional reaction, not an intellectual one. Given that Snow and Minor are probably about equal in ability at this point in their careers, I think it's defensible to play the veteran in the stretch drive for the playoffs, as Dusty has done. I think the real problem is that the Giants didn't make a Gallaraga-type pickup at the trading deadline, so that Dusty would have an attractive option at first base.



Well, my intention isn't to justify every decision Dusty has made. John, you undoubtedly follow the Giants more carefully than I do, so if you claim that Dusty Baker pushes the wrong buttons sometimes (perhaps even many times!), then I won't argue with you. In any case, these are some of the reasons why I have a positive view of Dusty Baker. As I mentioned above, I think the biggest difference in how you and I view Dusty revolves around the weight we attach to the performances of players like Bonds, Kent, Burks, etc. If Dusty Baker really doesn't deserve much credit for these players’ performances – and John, I infer that this is your interpretation – then perhaps his weaknesses as a manager outweigh his strengths. But given the fact that so many of Dusty’s players have performed at a truly astonishing level, relative to expectations, I feel that Dusty’s plusses as a manager greatly outweigh the minuses.



Jim, great great piece. Since it's Saturday, and the wife says it's OK, I'm gonna take a stab at some of your points. Actually, my baby wants me to read to her, so I'll do it later. In the meantime, I still haven't done an adequate job stating my overall satisfaction with the job Dusty has done. I like Dusty, I like the way he handles the team and himself and all of the incidental parts of managing. I think he is a little bit oversensitive when criticized, and as I poorly explained yesterday, I believe he has a blind spot when it comes to player evaluation, and utilization.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 14, 2002


.... Twins Geek and me

John Bonnes, the Twins Geek, says to read this, so I did.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 13, 2002


.... More more more

I am not an ex-baseball player, and I am not affiliated with any team or front office. My experience of baseball is strictly that of an obsessive fan, raised on the New York Yankees, watching that team from the Yogi Berra, Billy Martin years, through the Lou Pinella years, the beginnings of sanity with Buck Showalter, and then finally, Nirvana, when Joe Torre arrived. Although almost all of my baseball opinions are based solely on the rich statistical record that is available for virtually any player or team, indeed, it is my opinion that hidden within each players record we can find their abilities realized, baggage-free, as it were. Furthermore, by dint of my experience watching the Yankees as a team and an organization, grow from the immature, topsy-turvy world of Martin and the younger, quick-tempered Steinbrenner, into the cool and calculated, never ruffled Brian Cashman/Joe Torre led juggernaut, I believe that I have developed a worthwhile perspective on the game. Hence, Only Baseball Matters.

Watching this San Francisco Giants team over these last couple of years, I have come to the conclusion that, for the most part, this team is made up of a group of individuals, not really working together as a team, not particularly well-schooled in the fundamentals of baseball, yes, they turn a terrific double play, but they miss the cut-off man, they run themselves out of innings, they don't hit behind the runner, they are extremely poor with runners in scoring position, the pitching staff throws way too many pitches, going from 0-2 counts to 3-2 counts more often than I have ever seen, a handful of pitchers are well-taught in the art of stopping the running game, and some could care less. I have read and heard countless stories about players on this team lying, disagreeing with the coaching staff, and either refusing to utilize game plans that have been put together by the staff, or not following through on an off season workout regimen; really, it goes on and on.

Where does the responsibility for these breakdowns lie, if not with the manager? I have received a fair amount of email from people noting that I seem to think that Dusty Baker is a poor manager. Let me clarify, once and for all, I do not think he's a poor manager, but I think he has blind spots in how he handles his players and how he handles in-game managerial decisions. His weakness lies in assessment and utilization. His actions and decisions lead me to believe that he does not have the capacity to accurately assess his players abilities, and that contributes to his inability to get the most out of them. That combination is ascerbated by his failure to recognize in-game situations accurately.

First of all, let's look at how he handles players. Dusty Baker is from the old school, as such, he uses an approach that can best be described as man to man managing. He prefers to allow the players to work out their problems on their own, intervening only when he feels it is absolutely necessary. He feels, as a former top-flight player, that the players should be treated as men, and they should be given a certain amount of respect and leeway when it comes to practicing, performing, interacting with teammates, etc.. This is a terrific approach to handling players, especially on a veteran club like San Francisco. One frequently reads about how much other players around the league want to play for Dusty, and I believe it.

Therein lies the rub. It is a fine line between being the favorite teacher and being the easy teacher. Not all players are self-correcting and managing. Not all players should be entrusted to handle their own affairs, to figure out how to do it. Not all players have earned their at bats with runners in scoring position, or the right to pitch to the top hitters in the lineup for the third time through the lineup. Not all players have shown that they can figure it out, that they know the right way to do things. Dusty, in his playing days, was known as a heads up, hard charging, man's man type of player. He knew how to be a major leaguer, he knew the fundamentals, and he got the most out of his ability.

Everyone has some ability to empathize, to put themselves in someone else's shoes, some have more of this ability, and some have less, but pretty much everyone has a little. When you have only a little bit of effective empathy, one of the ways it is evident is in your assessment of other people's problems or difficulties. I have a friend who always says, "I just can't understand why someone would do that." He says that so often that it's obviously true. He cannot adequately empathize, and the end result is that he only sees things through his own minds eye. He always sees things as if it were him. Consequently, he's always thinking, "Well, if I were in that position, I would....."

I think that's what Dusty Baker does. I think he treats players as if they were Dusty Baker. It's an approach that's inherently effective, because everyone wants to be treated with respect and held both accountable and capable. But all players aren't Dusty Baker. Shawon Dunston is a good example here. Shawon is a seventeen year major league veteran with a rookie skill set. He hustles, swings hard at everything, and has a great attitude. That is what you should expect from any rookie. It is not what you expect from a veteran. A veteran skill set would include plate discipline, the ability to hit behind the runner, to get the ball in the air with a man on third with less than two outs, the ability to work a walk; Shawon has virtually none of these abilities. No matter how much you like Shawon, he has never earned the right to manage himself, if anything, he has a career that suggests that he has to be directed at virtually every turn. Allowing him to bat lead off, for instance, is a responsibility he has not only never earned, it is one he has proven is beyond his capabilities. Treating Dunston as if he has a veteran's skill set is guaranteed to fail, over the long haul and the short, as anyone who takes even a sit down one morning over a cup of coffee review of the statistical record of Shawon Dunston's career could see.

Dusty Baker fails to see this, as he fails to see JT Snow's career spiral, as he fails to see the baserunning mistakes and the missed cut off men and the nibbling pitchers. He fails to see this because he looks at these players and he thinks about how he would feel if he were in the players shoes, and he also knows how he would correct himself if he were. Again, the majority of players have neither Dusty Baker the player's talent, nor his drive.

The other way this failure shows up is in his game management. Because of this blind spot, he cannot put together a lineup that maximizes the abilities of his players. Because of this blind spot, he does not accurately assess the teams opportunities and pinch hit accordingly. Because of this blind spot, he frequently mis-uses his relievers, inaccurately assessing their abilities to handle the responsibility he gives them. He allows undeserving players to have high profile opportunities, an example of this weakness came last night, when he allowed Yorvit Torrealba to bat with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning, Giants down 2-1. This was clearly a mistake, it was an obvious time for a pinch hitter. The cameras panned through the dugouts of both teams, focused on both managers, Bochy had pitchers warming up in case Dusty pinch hit, and then.... nothing. Mind you, there was no doubt in my mind that Dusty would not pinch hit for him, because he never does.

He didn't, even though by every measure of success and failure, every statistical point of review he absolutely should have, he didn't. Torrealba is a slow, low-average, right-handed batter, hitting with the bases loaded against a tough, right-handed, ground ball specialist. Going into last night's game, in just under 100 at bats against righties, Torrealba had grounded into 7 double plays. At that point in the game, Dusty had to have seen that the Giants weren't going to get many more chances to get runs, they had already squandered an earlier bases loaded opportunities, in the fourth, when JT Snow grounded out with bases loaded and two outs, . He had to know that he had Marvin Benard, Tom Goodwin, Bill Mueller, and Damon Minor available, all who would have neutralized the platoon advantage, and other than Minor, all of whom would have been far less likely to hit into an inning ending double play. In my opinion, Dusty decided that it was better to allow Torrealba to hit in that situation than to give the team the best chance to win the game. Why? In the last three games, the Giants have had the bases loaded four times and have scored two runs on Barry Bonds' two-run single. They've had runners on second and third four other times and have scored once, on an Aurilia groundout. That's eight opportunities with sixteen men in scoring position (twenty men on base total) and they've gotten one hit and three RBI(!) JT Snow has two of those at bats, Torrealba has one. Why?

I could cite scores of situations just like that. I am not advocating wholesale pinch-hitting and in game replacements galore. But the Giants just lost consecutive games where their offense failed them. In both of those games, Dusty gave marginal players pivotal at bats, in situations they clearly didn't deserve. The other day, he allowed Shinjo to bat with a man in scoring position and two outs in a one run game in the eighth inning, despite the fact that Shinjo was already 0 for 4, batting an astounding .239 for the season. Despite the fact that he has two other veterans who can play the outfield, sitting on the bench waiting to be used, despite the fact that he was facing a right-hander, who Shinjo has hit .215 against this year (.215! Are you kidding me, .215!), despite the fact that he had, conservatively, five better hitters sitting on the bench available. Despite all of that, he allowed possibly the worst hitting player on his team to make one more out, to waste one more scoring chance.

The Giants picked up the switch-hitting Bill Mueller a week or so ago. At the time, Brian Sabean and Ned Colletti were both quoted as saying Mueller would give Dusty the flexibility to put Kent at first base, Bell at second and Meuller at third. Dusty hasn't done that once so far. Why? Why has Snow become a fixture in the lineup again? He's started 10 of 12 games, going 7 for 35 over that span, a sizzling .200 batting average. Meanwhile, Bill Meuller, a switch hitter, with more home runs and better stats across the board than Snow in virtually every category, has six at bats. The one time he started, Dusty sat David Bell, who has been roughly four times the hitter Snow has. How do you do that? How do you take four at bats from David Bell and give them to Snow? Why get Mueller if you're only gonna use him as a pinch hitter, especially given Dusty's refusal to even do that?

The Giants have used the fewest pinch hitters, have the fewest pinch hits, the fewest pinch hit runs, they are last in virtually every pinch hitting category in the league, by a wide margin. The Giants have 1 pinch hit home run, 10 runs and 14 RBI. For comparison, the D'backs have 6 pinch hit home runs, 24 runs scored and 29 RBI, in 60 more pinch hit appearances. Why is Dusty so slow to pinch hit? The Giants have some of worst hitting regulars in the National League. If you're not gonna' pinch hit for Shinjo and Dunston and Snow, who do you pinch hit for? And by the way, if Dusty's double switch was such a shining example of his managerial prowess, why are Krukow and Kuiper so quick to recognize when it's coming? Because he uses it only when it's obvious, just like virtually all of his moves. There is nothing to managing when all you do is pencil in your lineup and pinch hit for the pitcher in the seventh inning. That's not managing, that's common sense.

Putting marginal players in situations that are clearly beyond their abilities time and again, that's a failure to manage. That failure contributes to the team-wide hitting malaise, as it erodes confidence. When you put players in situations that are within their abilities, their success breeds confidence. The Giants have ten players on their roster who are batting at or below their career levels this season, last season was hardly any different. Do you think it's because every one of them suddenly became a worse hitter than they ever were before? It's the managers job to see that players are utilized in a way that brings out their best. The Giants could hardly be farther from that goal.

The team needs more from him. They need him to recognize their abilities, and put them in situations that maximize them. They don't need a manager who won't pinch hit for somebody because he's afraid he'll "lose" the player's respect or loyalty. Leave Shinjo in and eventually one of his swings will result in a home run. That one home run doesn't mean that Dusty Baker made the right move leaving him in. In-game management demands that a manager recognizes the situation for what it is, and then get the player with the highest chance for success in the game at that moment. In my humble opinion, Dusty consistently fails to recognize such situations when they occur. In my opinion, the Giants win in spite of Dusty's failings. They do so because his basic managerial style is conducive to winning, because treating his players with respect is a terrific starting point. From that point forward, Dusty stumbles, big time. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for him to have a Don Zimmer on the bench with him, someone to say, hey, that guy's not getting it done, let's take some pressure off of him, that kind of thing.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 13, 2002


.... Ugly ugly ugly

The Giants went through a frustrating and depressing loss to a team that had no business beating them last night, leaving oodles of runners in scoring position throughout the game. Bruce bochy, tough guy manager, walked Barry five times last night, never once challenging him, leaving Reggie Sanders, JT Snow, Rich Aurilia and the rest of the team to come through in the clutch. Sadly, no one was able to do so.

In defense of the Giants, it must be mentioned that there were a couple of instances were the Padres defense was simply stellar, taking away hits from Snow, Bell and Sanders with men on. That said, boy oh boy, somebody needs to give this team some smelling salts. You cannot do this again. Last year, down the stretch in a dogfight with the D'backs, the Giants repeatedly failed to take advantage of Arizona losses, eventually it came back to haunt them. That pattern is repeating again, and they have to put a stop to it. Dusty has to put a stop to it, and I don't think he's capable.

JT Snow cannot be allowed to have four or five at bats anymore. Rich Aurilia cannot hit in the top of the order anymore. Kent needs to go back to cleanup, because no one else forces teams to even consider pitching to Bonds. These things aren't news flashes or breakthrough discoveries. If Dusty cannot see this, I am at a loss to explain why.

By the way, great line in the Chronicle today, "Shawon Dunston led off the ninth with a pinch hit, his first since July 30th." Classic. This is the guy who Dusty was willing to go to war with some of the Giants beat writers about, arguing that history showed that Dunston would hit at his previously established levels (of mediocrity, of course). Then the guy goes a month and a half without a hit. PS... he wasn't on the bench the whole time, either.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 13, 2002


..... Follow up to leading off

I read and re-read my last post, and I finally decided that it was time for me to help Dusty out. I looked up the Giants team stats leading off an inning, and each players individual performance. The Giants, in the 16 team National League, are 13th in batting average, 10th in on-base percentage, and 11th in slugging. Here's the team OBM TC line:

With Bonds .254/.322/.417

Without Bonds .248/.305/.372

Taking Bonds out of the lineup, it seems that the Giants have almost no one who can handle the responsibilities of leading off an inning or a game. Here's the Giants regulars OBM TC when they lead off an inning:

Bell .223/.311/.363

Sanders .309/.402/.573

Santiago .222/.222/.374

Aurilia .229/.282/.406

Shinjo .221/.308/.337

Snow .211/.290/.300

Bonds .346/.514/.705

Kent .297/.341/.517

Interesting. Apparently, Reggie Sanders enjoys leading off, and with his speed, it wouldn't be the worst idea to put Sanders at the top of the order and see if these numbers are a fluke. Continuing to put Shinjo there is a significantly worse idea. Here are the OBM TC leadoff numbers for the Giants irregulars:

Goodwin .211/.286/.263

Lofton .229/.275/.438

Feliz .359/.375/.385

Minor .308/.341/.692

Martinez .189/.250/.189

Benard .333/.415/.472

Dunston .278/.297/.361

Torrealba .344/.344/.438

More good stuff. First of all, what is it with the Giants catchers? No walks leading off an inning at all?! By the way, look at Torrealba and Feliz. Young players, maybe it gets in their heads a bit when they bat with men on, but when they start things off, look out. Also of note, maybe we should start to see if Benard has anything to contribute from the leadoff slot (I know, I know, I can't believe I'm writing that either).

Other than that, what I see here is pretty much what I thought I'd see, a team with 5 regulars sporting on-base percentages under .311, with another four more on the bench, ouch. A team that could use a jolt at the leadoff slot, and one that multiple players who, maybe, just maybe, could be more effectively utilized. How about a lineup that looks like this, with situational OBM TC stats:

Sanders RF .309/.402/.573 (Leadoff)

Bell 3B .439/.500/.683 (Runner on 2nd)

Bonds LF .429/.615/.1.000 (Runners on 1st and 3rd)

Kent 2B .417/.500/.583 (Bases loaded)

Shinjo CF .409/.409/.500 (Runners on 1st and 2nd)

Santiago C .331/.374/.532 (One out)

Snow 1B .261/.469/.391 (Late innings)

Aurilia SS .270/.400/.439 (Ahead in the count)

Sanders leading off gets me excited, I'd love to see him utilized more effectively, and when he leads off he's obviously been much more selective. After he reaches, he's also the Giants best base stealer, so you let Bell take a few pitches and Sanders steals. The you have Bell, who has been awesome this season with a man on second. Switching Bonds and Kent probably doesn't matter, they both have great numbers in either spot in the lineup. Fifth could be a reall good spot for Shinjo, and his numbers with runners on 1st and 2nd show something, and if you have Bonds fourth, the constant walks would mean Shinjo would be batting in that situation frequently. Santiago, restarting the lineup in the sixth spot makes sense, given his upgrade batting with one out. Snow at number seven works, because even without any power, he's a threat to reach base, thereby allowing Aurilia to hit with men on, and as you can see, Richie's a tough hitter ahead in the count... in front of the pitcher, he's certain to see a lot of balls out of the strike zone.

There's the Only Baseball Matters San Francisco Giants lineup card. What do you think?

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 12, 2002


.... emails and details

A reader writes:



I very much agree with your comments today. Why does Dusty give Damon Minor so little playing time? Because he's a rookie? His power and on-base numbers are not bad over a limited sample period. Is he in the dog house that Bobbie Estelella and Edwards Guzman apparently fell into towards the end of their time with the Giants? Or, as outsiders, must we trust Dusty/Sabean's judgment in these matters given their success to date with the Giants.



Hmmmm...

Trusting Dusty's judgement? Not for me, thanks.

JT Snow, Shawon Dunston, Tsyuoshi Shinjo, Pedro Feliz, Marvin Benard last year.... failure like this, at such a significant and broad-based level, has to be considered a managers failings. It has to. It's one thing to not have talent. It's one thing to be a marginal player. It is a completely different thing to have no command of the fundamentals of baseball; to fail to move the runner, to hit a fly ball with a runner on third and less than two outs, over and over and over again. (Not to mention the astounding number of times the Giants have hurt themselves on the base-paths this year)

It is Dusty's job to get the most out of these guys; in fact, given how little in-game managing he seems to do, it's his main responsibility.

On that count, he has failed miserably. Can we say it's only Dusty? Well, I firmly believe that the Giants hitters weaknesses are a product of coaching, and as such, Gene Clines has to, absolutely has to be taken to task as well. As a group, they Giants non-stars are at or near the bottom of the league in virtually every measure of production, they routinely fail in the most basic situational hitting requirements.... well, I'm not gonna do a whole rant and rave. Anyone who reads my site knows what I am talking about.

Yesterday typified the whole season for this team. The Giants had ample opportunity to put the Dodgers in their graves. Bases loaded twice in the first three innings, and all they could get out of it was two runs. All they needed was a fly ball, a ball in play, let alone a frickin' hit, and they could not do it.

Second inning, Lofton comes up with the bases loaded and one out, and continuing his mystifying commitment to swing at every single pitch he sees, grounds into a fielders choice. Aurilia, continuing his wasted season, cannot follow with a teammate-pick-me-up single.

Third inning, JT Snow at the plate, first and third, one out. Strike out. Monumental failure, completely consistent with everything he's done for the last two seasons. Put the ball in play, just get the bat on the ball, anything.... hit one of your patented warning track fly balls. Nope. Nothing.

Go back to Tuesday, a game they won in spite of themselves.

First inning, after Bonds' hit, Santiago at the plate, second and third no out. Pop up to short. Snow at the plate, second and third, one out. Pop up to second. Sanders up, second and third, two outs. Just as he gets ready, Krukow says, "This is an opportunity for Reggie Sanders to pick up his teammates." Yeah, right. In reality, it was a chance for Sanders to foul a batting practice fastball straight back for about the 100th time this season (Encouraging Krukow to say, for about the 100th time, "Oooh, he was right on that one." I mean, really, can anyone remember a player having more straight back foul-tips on pipeline fastballs than Reggie Sanders this year? He does it at least once a game.), and finally, for him to strike out.

Am I focusing on the negative? Maybe I am, they are tied for the Wild Card. But, they should be on cruise control. Why aren't they? Because too many of the Giants hitters are fundamentally unsound. When the pitcher bears down, they go down. Foul off three or four pitches, try to see if you can work the count in your favor? No one on this team knows how to do that, other than Bonds and maybe Kent.

Whose fault is that?

Who makes out the lineup card with Shinjo and Dunston and, frankly, Rich Aurilia at the top of the order? Is it any wonder the Giants struggle when the top two guys in their lineup can't get on base 32% of the time. In the last seven games, the top of the order has gone, 1 for 8, 1 for 6 with 2 walks, 1 for 7 with 3 walks, 1 for 6 with 2 walks, 3 for 9, which includes Shinjo's 0 for 5 from the leadoff slot, 4 for 8, and 1 for 9, which includes Lofton's 0 for 5 from the leadoff slot. That's a .210 batting average, and a .296 on-base percentage from the table setters.

Who puts them there? Who allows Shinjo to get five at bats in a game? Why not shake things up a little, put Goodwin, or even Bonds in the leadoff slot, or David Bell in the number two hole? Anything is better than Shinjo, or Kenny-I gotta-hit-a-home-run-every-at-bat-Lofton, or Dunston for that matter.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 12, 2002


.... Wild man, wild

Over at Mike's Baseball Rant's, the proprietor posts another, "The wild card is bad," column. I hate to beat a dead horse, but why? Why is a system that will allow two great teams to make the playoffs instead of only one of them bad? Why is it bad for baseball if the Marniers and Red Sox aren't strong enough to set up a stretch run with all or nothing consequences?

There's no logic in this attitude. If you enjoy great teams playing great baseball, and you don't like watching bad teams fumble around, then the Angels and A's are everything you want in two teams. They are playing for the division, and probably for the best record in the league. In both the AL and the NL, we're looking at four terrific teams in each playoff bracket, any one of which could arguably win the World Series. The season has worked its magic, and the contenders have separated from the pretenders.

What more do you want? You want only one team from the AL and one team from the NL, with 30 teams? Come on. There is nothing wrong with the wild card. It is a needed and worthwhile addition to the baseball landscape.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 12, 2002


.... Let it Snow

JT Snow, continuing in his efforts to derail the Giants run for the postseason, is 4 for his last 20, with one double, no runs and no RBI. That is a .200/.400/.250 run, during which time the Giants have continued to surge despite his failures. His OBM TC for the season, .243/.340/.361 is woeful. He is, without question, the worst hitting first baseman in all of baseball. His inability to even get the ball out of the infield is a never-ending problem for the team. His recent string of outs include a number of runners in scoring position pop-ups, strike-outs, etc.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 11, 2002


.... Then and now

As we move into the final three weeks, let's review my attempt at predicting the final results of the NL West showdown between the Dodgers and the Giants. Using the same Bill James Pythagorean formula I used when I posted my update about three weeks ago, I'll update the Now and the Revision:

ThenNowPredRev.2
Giants62-5083-6192-7094-68

Dodgers62-5182-6288-7492-70



So, the Giants hot streak has begun to level out some of their poor Pythagorean performance, while the Dodgers recent losing streak has done the exact opposite, slowly bring them back to their expected winning percentage. It's interesting, the theory that your runs scored and runs allowed represent an environment that you compete within, as such, how many you score should be an effective predictor, given the environment of runs scored that your team competes within.

Originally, my calculations would have had the Giants beginning to stretch out a little bit of a lead by now, in reality, the Giants have gone 21-11 since my first run, the Dodgers have gone 20-11. That's a hell of a battle down the stretch.

Thanks to ESPN for their expanded stats page, with conveniently located Pythagorean expected winning percentages.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 11, 2002


.... I say tomato, you say tom(ah)to

Every time I write something, it seems the opposite happens. I just posted a comment about the Giants moving inexorably towards elimination, and of course they pick up four games in four days immmediately afterwards, beating the Dodgers again yesterday to take the Wild Card lead.

On August 24th, the Giants were 4 1/2 games behind the Dodgers. They've gone 13 and 3 since, taking 5 of 7 from the D'backs, and now two in a row from the Dodgers, to surge into the Wild Card lead for the first time in almost a month. They've done it with terrific front-line pitching, timely hitting, and of course, the Jeff and Barry show.

Over their last 23 starts, the Giants big four of Rueter, Ortiz, Schmidt and Hernandez have an ERA of 2.55, and they've averaged almost seven innings per start. Out in the bullpen, Felix Rodriguez, free from the pain in his throwing hand, has gone 4-0 in the last month, with an ERA under 2.5 (Actually, he's been better than that, he gave up two runs a day ago, otherwise he's allowed one run and three hits over his last 11 innings). Rob Nen appears to be getting his confidence back, the spot relievers are getting Dusty the tough outs when needed, really, Ryan Jensen is the only pitcher struggling right now.

The hitters are not really doing anything out of the ordinary, although it bears mentioning that Rich Aurilia has consecutive multi-hit games for the first time since August 2nd and 3rd. Aurilia, after leading the National League in hits last year, has had consecutive multi-hit games just five times this year. David Bell has gotten some very clutch hits, Santiago finally made good on his promise to hit one on to the short porch in right, Bonds and Kent have continued to simply destroy anyone the Giants face, and the other hitters have gotten a few timely two-out hits to bolster their strong pitching.

They go for the sweep today, and I'll be there.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 11, 2002


.... Jeff must go, Jeff must stay

Rob Neyer writes about the Matt Williams for Jeff Kent trade that took place just over six years ago in today's column.

After all the crap I wrote in this site's debut hard statistics piece, Jeff Kent has absolutely demolished the National League, battering pitchers to the tune of .323/.377/.578, second in the league in hits, along with 33 home runs and 101 RBI. I could hardly have been more wrong.

Michael Wolverton also agrees that Kent has been a monster for the Giants, especially this year and in 2000. He also ends his piece by suggesting that Bonds and Kent are the two best players on the same team in the NL. Hmmmm... I seem to remember reading that about a month ago... where was that, again...? Oh yeah, it was here!!!

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 10, 2002


.... Odds and ends

David Schoenfield, special to ESPN, goes into great detail explaining the Oakland A's and Billy Beane's recent success. His research suggests that a lot of it is luck, especially drafting and developing three ace pitchers like Zito, Mulder and Hudson, within two years of each other; something so rare that he says it has never happened before.

Jim Caple follows David with an ode to the small market success offered by the Twins and A's. Of course, his column has no data or research or history to back it up, just another fluff piece designed to bash Seligula and company. Normally, I appreciate any effort towards that end, but he pales next to Mr. Schoenfield's work, which is illuminating because it takes something that seems unbelievable, the A's amazing four year run with a tiny payroll, and explains to us, at least in part, how it has been acheived.

And no, the Twins are not in the same boat as the A's, they aren't built nearly as well for the long haul, the A's have already run off four terrific years in a row and seem destined for at least two or three more. The Twins climbed out of the cellar last season and again this one, but only the staunchest Twins fan wouldn't trade pitching staff for pitching staff right now (Actually, only a handful of teams wouldn't make that trade).

Caple rightly reminds us that losing a Jason Giambi or an A-Rod shouldn't be treated as the Armageddon. And really, throughout history superstars have moved on, only a handful of times could you suggest that the end result has been especially bad for the left behind versus the new digs (Ruth, Bonds, Maddux, Reggie Jackson).

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 10, 2002


.... Follow up

Jayson Stark lays out the estimated revenue sharing gives and gets in today's column. Turns out I was incorrect when I said the Twins were gonna get $25 million. They're actually gonna get only $22.6 million. Oh well, a little macaroni and cheese and some of those ten packs of frozen burritos ought to help Mr. Pohlad get by.

Some of the other super duper people who are gonna get money for nothing are, of course, Seligula, whose revenue sharing bonus goes up an eye-popping 380%, all the way to $8 million per, Mr. Glass, whose woefully inept Royals will dance all the way to the bank to cash his $19.6 million dollar check, and the wonderful Mr. Moores, who will add $11 million dollars of Mr. Steinbrenner's money to the $400 million dollars he's received in tax and construction subsidies from the city of San Diego over the last four years. Good thing he's committed to the fans, come hell or high water, 'cause he sure is committed to sucking money out of everybody standing in the same room.

As Stark says, four years from now, when these gentleman and the rest of the black holes who own teams only so they can front for their money laundering schemes, have pocketed close to a billion dollars, while still fielding Triple A clubs; we can take them to task for not re-investing in their clubs.

Psst... Mr. Stark, we can take them to task now. They have no reason not to field competitive teams right now, they have been lying all along about not having enough money, and if I were Steinbrenner, I'd sue the pants off the lot of them.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 9, 2002


.... Happy happy, joy joy

Reader and new best friend Louis Campbell sponsored a page for Only Baseball Matters at Baseball-Reference.com. We are now the proud sponsor of the Dusty Baker page!! Add him in with Don Mattingly, and if you look there on the left, a little ways down, a new, hopefully growing list of sponsored pages. Grow grow grow.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 9, 2002


.... Some people say

Peter Gammons has the following tidbit in this week's Diamond Notes:



It was assumed that with the contraction threat eliminated, revenue-sharing increased and attendance rising with the Twins success that owner Carl Pohlad would allow GM Terry Ryan to keep his very talented team together. But Pohlad told the local media that to keep this team in 2003 would take payroll into the mid-$50 million range, which he may not be able to do.



That ought to make all the Minnesota taxpayers real eager to pony up the $300 million to build him a new stadium, don't you think? With the new revenue sharing plan, Pohlad will receive about $25 million dollars a year, and he won't even match the free money out of his own, so deep you can't even see the bottom, multi-billion dollar coffers. To my good friend John Bonnes, I hate to see you go through this Johnny, but your owner is a poor excuse for a human being, and you guys should run him out of town on a rail.

And in today's Baseball Prospectus Transaction Analysis, Chris Kahrl has a few choice words for Brian Sabean after his too late to place him on the post season roster acquisition of Bill Mueller:



Let me get this straight, the Giants are fighting for their October lives, and they just now get around to bringing in Bill Mueller? I'm usually the kind of guy who's half-full as opposed to half-empty, but why did Brian Sabean just now come around to noticing his club needs offensive help? What's stranger still is that he picked up something he didn't really need.

It isn't like having Mueller around is going to finally convince Dusty Baker to fix the lineup's most basic problem, and lock J.T. Snow in the woodshed. Mueller isn't going to chase David Bell to the bench. He isn't going to play third and move Bell to second so that Kent can play first, and get Snow benched. Baker's had the opportunity to replace Snow with Ramon Martinez in that scenario, and he won't, any more than he'll give more at-bats to Damon Minor at Snow's expense. No, what the Giants got was a pinch-hitter.

What's especially strange about the timing as far as adding Mueller is that it comes on the heels of getting Marvin Benard back, since they could definitely use Benard as an alternative to Reggie Sanders in right. So their bench isn't especially weak if they've got Benard and Minor and Martinez on it. They've even got a nifty pinch-runner in Tom Goodwin. Bill Mueller's just along for the Giants' ride, and that will only go, as always, as far as Barry Bonds can carry it. Which to Bonds' credit is as far as any player, anywhere, ever, could haul a team.



Bingo! That's exactly how he's been used since he got here, three pinch hit appearance. Although the Giants have won three of four since his arrival.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 9, 2002


.... Coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco

As the season is winding down, and the Giants are inexorably moving towards post season elimination, the chorus of, "PacBell is a tough place to hit," comments have begun to get louder and louder. A few weeks ago it was JT Snow, then it was the Coors Bashers, Helton and Walker. Yesterday Jeff Kent chimed in with his two cents. They're right, of course, but how right? Turns out they are very right.

Here's the OBM Triple Crown splits for the Giants, home and away, 2000, 2001, 2002, with peripheral data:

2000 Home .283/.362/.482 110 HR

2000 Away .273/.361/.463 116 HR

2001 Home .256/.338/.437 97 HR

2001 Away .276/.345/.482 138 HR

2002 Home .252/.329/.397 63 HR

2002 Away .274/.348/.477 114 HR

Well well well. That is some drop. The Giants had a .482 team home slugging percentage in 2000, this year they're at .397, almost a 100 point drop, with almost half as many home runs. How is that, you ask? Who is responsible for this? Well, everyone, actually. Take a look at some of the OBM TC splits, with peripheral support data:

2000 Ellis Burks .362/.446/.697 15 HR

2002 Reggis Sanders .258/.326/.460 9 HR

2000 Jeff Kent .335/.419/.567 14 HR

2002 Jeff Kent .318/.372/.523 11 HR

2000 Marvin Benard .269/.362/.415 57 Runs

2002 Center Fielders .225/.300/.320 34 Runs

2000 JT Snow .313/.373/.508 10 HR

2002 JT Snow .213/.324/.290 1 HR

2000 Rich Aurilia .287/.351/.492 12 HR

2002 Rich Aurila .243.279/.369 4 HR

2000 Barry Bonds .321/.449/.741 25 HR

2002 Barry Bonds .346/.565/.752 15 HR

2000 Catchers .250/.375/.460 28 XBH

2002 Catchers .260/.300/.370 23 XBH

So what happened? In my opinion, Brian Sabean miscalculated. To think that that kind of production from Ellis Burks at home was replacable, and that Benard and Snow would replicate their performance, were tremendous errors, errors that, at that time and not just in hindsight, were completely unsupported by data. There weren't ten players in baseball who put up Burks' kind of numbers at home, (Other than a few Rockies), and Snow and Benard had almost no historical data to suggest that they were worthy of the contracts they were offered. Instead of giving JT Snow and Marvin Benard big bucks, Sabean clearly should have retained Burks, gotten 130 league-bending games from him, and used Rios, Crespo, Murray and some waiver wire pickups to fill in the blanks in center and first base, and in right when Burks needed rest. For crying out loud, he picked up Reggie Sanders for $1.75 million this season. What made him think Benard and Snow were worth $34 million? What made him think Burks wasn't? I don't know, but it couldn't have been their actual historical production. One thing Brian Sabean has held fast to is the premise that numbers aren't all that you use in assessing a players value. What's clear is that whatever he does use doesn't take numbers into consideration enough.

JT Snow has completely fallen off the face of the earth, and again, a close look at his career numbers suggests that his decline was predictable. Aurilia did do a tremendous job last year, his injury plagued start proved too disrupting to overcome this season.

Only Kent, and the catching tandems to some degree, have been able to come close to repeating their performance in PacBell's inaugural season. Bonds has been awesome as well, but the opposition strategy of taking the bat out of his hands is working, obviously. Benard had a terrific 2000, and the team has never come close to getting that kind of production out of centerfield again (that's some statement, heh?). The end result is a team that follows its opponents lead of woeful offense at PacBell, and therefore has a winning percentage at home that is only slightly better than league average, as opposed to the 57-26 record they had in 2000, the Giants already have 29 losses with just 11 games remaining.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 7, 2002


.... Leaving Las Vegas, (or Coors Field, actually)

Derek Zumsteg, of the Baseball Prospectus, in today's Breaking Balls column, posits the following Seattle Mariners question:



... And then there's Jeff Cirillo. Yeah, I thought this was a good idea before the season started. And yeah, I feel really dumb now. Cirillo's said the departure from altitude was far tougher than he'd imagined it would be, and that he thinks it'll take a year or longer to get adjusted, during which he's going to need to put on 20lbs of muscle ("the natural way," he added). Anyone who knows what to make of him, and whether he's going to come around before he's chased from town by a torch-wielding populace, drop me a line, because I'm stumped.



Well, I have been hammering Larry Walker and Todd Helton lately, much to the chagrin of some of my loyal readers, so I though I'd do a little home and away on Jeff Cirillo, and see if I can't impress our good friend Mr. Zumsteg. Here's Cirillo's Only Baseball Matters Triple Crown stats, 2000, 2001, 2002, in order:

2000 Coors.403/.472/.607

2000 Away .239/.299/.329

2001 Coors .362/.404/.571

2001 Away .266/.327/.383

2002 Safeco .200/.268/.260

2002 Away .276/.315/.375

Well, what's there to say. After looking at these home and away splits so much lately, I would suggest that the easiest way to ascertain a hitters true abilities is to look at his away performance. Cirillo has been remarkably consistent in his road performance over the last three years, averaging about 15 extra base hits, around 70 total hits, almost everything is about the same year to year. He went from the greatest hitters park baseball has ever seen to one of the toughest in all of baseball. His away performance hasn't changed one iota, really. He just isn't much of a hitter. Even worse, David Bell has shown that the Mariners would have been much better off just keeping him, even playing half the time at PacBell, he's on pace for a 25 HR, 75 RBI season, which Lou Pinella would sell his soul for right now.

Here's Bell's OBM TC over the last three seasons:

2000 Safeco .244/.325/.356

2000 Away .249/.307/.406

2001 Safeco .257/.289/.420

2001 Away .262/.316/.410

2002 PacBell .226/.291/.353

2002 Away .280/.347/.500

Interesting. Bell was more consistent home and away at when he played for the Mariners, and he appears to be better suited to the National League, posting a pretty significant boost in slugging.

By the way, here's the Seattle Mariners team home and away splits, OBM TC style:

Home .264/.342/.402 Good for 11th in the AL

Away .288/.356/.443 Jumped up to 2nd, just behind the Angels

Team-wide that's less than a 10% drop, Cirillo's been much worse than that, more on the order of 40-50% overall. Why has it hurt him more? Probably because he's not that productive in the first place. The rest of the Mariners, Ichiro, Boone, Olerud, et al; are pretty well established as good hitters. Cirillo, away from Coors, is Pedro Feliz. And really, that's probably all there is to it. Park effects are real, and they can be very significant, depending on, of course, the park and the hitter. A marginally productive third baseman like Cirillo had very little chance of replicating his success at Coors in a park like Safeco, twenty pounds of muscle or not. Actually, I'm surprised Derek didn't see this coming.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 6, 2002


.... New friends

New site called the Cub Reporter. Excellent title, good looking, I would guess they'll be targeted by MLB for using the Cubs logo. Check 'em out.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 6, 2002


.... More on Mr. Magoo

This is from today's SF Chronicle:



Time is running out for the Giants, but manager Dusty Baker cringed when asked if he felt a sense of urgency. "What does urgency do? What does urgency bring about?" he asked a reporter, demanding an answer. "The more anxious you are the more mistakes you're going to make."

Anxiety can also come from watching your best pitcher spot the opponent four quick runs, as Schmidt did. He walked Womack to start the game. Dave Dellucci singled to right, and Junior Spivey dropped a bloop double down the right-field line to score the first run.

After a walk to Gonzalez loaded the bases, Erubiel Durazo and Matt Williams each hit sacrifice flies, and before Schmidt could get the third out, Steve Finley singled and Damien Miller doubled in the fourth run.



No, Dusty, he wasn't asking about anxiousness, he was asking about urgency. You know, when you make sure you handle all of the important details, when you take calculated risks, when you rely on your best players, when you make sure you have your best pitcher ready to go against the best pitcher in the world instead of coming out and losing the game before he gets three outs. Urgency. Look it up.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 6, 2002


.... emails and details

New reader Peter Grendler asks,



John, why does Dusty play Shawon Dunston?



Peter, I have no frickin' idea. He is a complete wash this year. He was only marginally useful last year. I've heard Dusty say, about Dunston, Snow, Benard, et al, crap like, "He's done it before," or refer to his career BA or some other BS. In the world of reality, saying things like that is called blowing smoke up my ass. The question isn't, "Why does Dusty play Shawon Dunston?" The question is, why does Dusty fail to see things the way they really are?

Dusty has an enormous blind spot, one that works really well with very talented players like Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent, Rob Nen, Ellis Burks, because they don't need micro-management. These players are not only self-motivating, their committment and talent level are so high they are mostly self-correcting as well. Left alone, they'll figure it out most of the time.

His blind spot works less well with blue-collar types like a Bill Meuller, David Bell, Benito Santiago, or a Rich Aurilia; these players have a little less talent, but they still have that ultra-high level of drive and effort accompanied by a Paul O'Neill type of hatred of failure. That combination is powerful enough that they can frequently self-correct too. It's a different form of self-correction, however, more based on sheer will power instead of skill or talent, and as such, it's less consistent. Dusty's put them in the lineup and wait to make the double switch approach is less effective with these players, because, as with Aurilia this year, or Santiago last, these players do need some guidance, or to be prodded and poked or benched or somehow challenged to rise up when things get tough.

With the majority of players, players who need constant work and coaching to maximize their abilities, his blind spot is THE SINGULAR PROBLEM ON THE TEAM. It is the number one reason the Giants have only managed to win but a single playoff game during his term as manager, even though they have one of the best overall records in baseball during that time. To sit back and let Tyuoshi Shinjo try to hit home runs, or put Dunston in the leadoff slot, or allow Scott Eyre pitch against Arizona in a one run game, or pinch hit Pedro Feliz against Randy Johnson, or... well, I could go on and on. His inability to distinguish appropriate levels of competence, and therefore assign appropriate levels of responsibility, has completely derailed this team again and again. I wrote this post a while back, about Felix Rodriguez's failures. What also needs to be remembered is that Dusty continued to use Felix in extremely important situations even as his ERA ballooned to 4.50, then 5.50, and finally above 6.40. Last night was one more perfect example of this weakness.

To allow Scott Eyre to start the eighth inning of that game borders on criminally negligent. After battling back against the best pitcher in the league to close a four run deficit to one, only your very best, most reliable pitchers should be entrusted with the responsibility of getting your hitters back to the dugout. Not only has Scott Eyre allowed more than one and a half runners per inning overall this season; with the Giants he's failed to even match that level of mediocrity, allowing 15 baserunners in just 7 innings. That doesn't matter to Mr. Magoo, who put him in to start the eighth inning of a one run game against the two best hitters in one of the more difficult lineups in the NL, with the season slipping away, with Felix Rodriguez and Tim Worrell sitting there ready to go. (Nice run on sentence there) Using some ancient Chinese secret logic that nobody understands but himself, Dusty chose the most likely to fail pitcher in his bullpen.

Why? How could he think that Eyre was going to be effective? Based on what? In just under 300 career innings he's allowed over 500 baserunners! How could you expect him to be effective against the two best hitters the D'backs have!!! Because he's a lefty? (Insert image of writer holding head in hands and screaming the Sam Kenison AUAUGHHH!!!!!)

Go through my archives. I've written about this a dozen times. Dusty's approach would be terrific in the minors, allowing players to work through their difficulties and figuring things out for themselves. He would be a patient and relaxed manager on a young team, with a group of players who are learning what it takes to win, to play every day at the major league level. As the manager of a veteran club with a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity, he has demonstrated no apparent ability to identify key moments and key games, and act with the concordant urgency and quick thinking needed to take advantage of those situations. Over and over again during these last three or four seasons, he has repeatedly treated August and September Diamondback and Dodger and Braves games like they were games against the Marlins in April.

They are not. Shawon Dunston is not Reggie Smith. Marvin Benard is not Rick Monday. JT Snow is not Steve Garvey. Livan Hernandez is not Fernando Valenzuela. This Giants team is not the Dodgers. Dusty is blind when he acts like they are.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 6, 2002


.... More bad news

Just looked at some more numbers on the Giants, ugly, ugly numbers. Here's each position ranked by NL OPS, in a typical Dusty Baker lineup:

Center .638 OPS 15th

Shortstop .737 OPS 5th

2nd base .947 OPS 1st

Left field 1.232 OPS 1st

Catcher .753 OPS 6th

Right field .753 OPS 13th

1st base .731 OPS 13th

3rd base .723 OPS 9th

Ouch. That is just one more way of saying that the Giants just cannot compete at all but two positions. Look at that lineup, how do they score any runs when Kent and Bonds are held at bay? Oh yeah, they don't. It's just impossible to bat around with a lineup like that, and it's just as unlikely that they can rally through the bottom and then the top of the lineup again to give Kent and Bonds a chance with men on. Hence the large number of solo home runs.

Third base isn't quite as bad as it looks, David Bell and company are pretty close to top five, and catcher is also not so bad; but just like last year, center field, right field and first base are woeful, horrible, empty, rally-killing positions. Rich Aurilia's year long struggle has hurt the team immensely, and no matter how you slice it, six positions are at or below league average in OPS. Must be real tough for Brian Sabean to sit there and watch this all over again, I know it's tough for me. Here's a post I ran a couple of months ago related to the poor offense of this team, it's arguably more relevant now.

Another thing I keep being amazed by is the astounding park effect PacBell has on the team, both offensively and pitching-wise. Take a look at some of the home and away disparities:

Offense

Home .252/.330/.398 .728 OPS (11th) 61 HR 285 runs 267 RBI 4.25 runs per game

Away .274/.348/.477 .825 OPS (1st) 114 HR 381 runs 374 RBI 5.3 runs per game

Pitching

Home 3.15 ERA (2nd) 236 runs allowed 35 home runs allowed 420 SO 204 BB Won loss 39-28 (Pythagorean expected 39-28)

Away 4.24 ERA (7th) 310 runs allowed 67 home runs allowed 428 SO 257 BB Won loss 39-32 (Pythagorean expected 43-28)

That's amazing, really. It's just as dramatic as Coors Field, only the other way. What a great pitchers park, better than Chavez Ravine, in fact.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 5, 2002


.... Help, I need somebody, help, not just anybody, help!

Any and all of my readers who enjoy my site can help me increase my readership, which will help make this site even better. Here's what you can do, visit this Heavy Hitters.com page, and rate my site, (You can give me a 1 to 10 rating). The better my site looks there, the more hits I'll get here, capeesh?

Thanks in advance to anyone who supports Only Baseball Matters.

John

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 5, 2002




Just got this email, funny stuff:



John, I've been enjoying your blog for about a month now, although I do have to overlook the Yankees bits. On your writeup of last night's game, I just want to point out the re-appearance of Dunston on the playing field, which to me signals the end of any attempt to make the post-season this year. Most of the Giants' vets know Dunston doesn't belong on a MLB roster, much less on the playing field. It's got to be disheartening to watch such a mediocre over the hill ne'er-was trotted out in key game situations. The Giants' recent good stretch occurred with Dunston on the DL. Now that he's back, they'll be a .500 team the rest of the way. Just to illustrate how awful Dunston's use was last night, consider this "team", made up of available pinch-hitters with better OPS against lefties:

Ortiz

Torrealba

Minor

Martinez

Mueller

Ransom (ok, I don't know his ML equiv OPS, but its got to be better than .548)

Benard

Shinjo

Torcato

I hope Dusty is fired after this season, with a one sentence severance notice: Dunston: 150 AB.

Peter



Thanks Peter. Funny stuff, funny, but sad too. It could also read, Snow: 350 AB. Or Benard: lead-off hitter.

I forgot about Dunston, but during the game, I ranted and raved about him getting a key AB in an almost must-win, one-run game. There can be no justification of him leaving the bench, none whatsoever. He is overmatched against any major league pitcher, period. Overmatched. It was embarrasing watching him try to catch up with an 89 MPH fastball on his swinging strikeout. That was in the seventh inning, when after a four pitch walk to Reggie Sanders, JT-I give 100%-Snow flied out on the first pitch, followed by David Bell, who also flied out on the first pitch.

For most of the game, the Giants seemed to be in a hurry to get back out on the field to turn some more double plays or something, I don't know, anyone else know why they were swinging at everything he threw?

1st inning: 7 pitches, 1 hit, leadoff single by Lofton

2nd inning: 10 pitches

3rd inning: 8 pitches

4th inning: 28 pitches, 2 hits, 2 walks, 1 run, left bases loaded

5th inning: 6 pitches

6th inning: 8 pitches

7th inning: 11 pitches, 1 walk

8th inning: 13 pitches, 1 walk

9th inning: 21 pitches, 1 hit, 1 walk, left tying run on second base

That's pretty bad, in fact, that's ridiculous. Four different innings that lasted about thirty seconds each. Awful.

The Giants currently have exactly two regulars with an OBP above .325(!), Bonds and Kent. That's on base percentage! Look at batting average and cry. After the two big bats, you have Santiago at .274, David Bell at .256, Sanders at .251, Aurila almost 100 points down from last year at .247, our afore-mentioned Shawon-I play hard-Dunston surging to .219... Endless reams of statistics all saying the same thing, who's kidding who? This team is going nowhere, playoffs or not. It's hard to see how they're 18 games over .500, to tell you the truth.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 5, 2002


.... Zzzzzzz

Well, while the A's were stunning, stumbling, crumbling, teasing and finally electrifying last night, the Giants were sound asleep. What a poor performance by a supposedly veteran club. Knowing they had a chance to gain a game on the Dodgers, they sleepwalked their way to being three-hit by Denny Neagle. I have nothing good to say about neagle, regardless of his recent stretch of decent pitching. He is an inning eater at best, and for some reason, the Giant hitters couldn't wait to try and hit home runs against him.

Trouble was, the wind was blowing in, it was cold, and they must have had about ten drives get caught on the warning track. Hey, they had plenty of men on base, how about somebody hitting a single? This stretch run is starting to look a lot like last year. We win, they win, they lose, we lose. They've now been 2 1/2 games back of the Dodgers for 13 straight games.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 5, 2002


.... Friends and family

Chris Hartjes, @The Ballpark, has the third part of his Veterans Committee piece complete. Read and learn.

I'm off to PacBell, see you tomorrow.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 4, 2002


.... Triple Crown, Part II

Well, that didn't take long. Apparently, I didn't do a very good job of selling my new Triple Crown of baseball, as I have gotten detailed email refutations, as well as the assorted, "I already wrote that the whole thing is crap." Let's see where to start....

Dan Lewis, a favorite writer of mine, wrote a piece over a year ago suggesting that the Triple Crown be abolished. So did Seth Stevenson of Salon.com. Funny, I thought I had come up with something original. Anyway, both of these guys suggest that the flaws inherent in the traditional Triple Crown should encourage us to stop using it altogether. Well, I am not advocating throwing it away; it's a catchy phrase, and the idea of coming up with a way to recognize excellence across the board is a good one, and; frankly, it's not going away no matter what we write.

In fact, I'd say that the fact that these terrific writers have already explained how it is faulty only reinforces my position. But I'd also say that i must have done a poor job at advocating my position, in part because of the feedback I've received, and also because my wife said so. Let me eleborate further, using my philosophy teachers standard argument form:

Premise One. A hitters dominance has commonly been asssociated with his Triple Crown statistics.

Premise Two. RBI, and to a lesser degree, home runs, are far too dependent on opportunity to merit be useful in an individual players analysis.

Premise Three. Batting average is an easily recognized measure of a hitters ability to reach base via a hit safely.

Premise Four. On base percentage presents a more comprehensive measure of a hitters ability to reach base, period.

Premise Five. Slugging precentage gives a very accurate measure of a hitters ability to advance baserunners towards home plate.

Premise Five. Using all three of these statistics coveys a hitters abilities to master all of the aspects of effective offense.

Conclusion. The Triple Crown should be based on these three statistics.

There. That should be a little clearer. Now, some of the emails have been fairly detailed, let me adress a few of them directly, using the above argument for reference. Kevin Reichard, of the great site, BallPark Watch, wrote me a couple, here's the meat and potatoes:



There is, of course, a great flaw in your argument: you can never negate the influence of teammates and opponents.



All batting (both in terms of specific at-bats and cumulative statistics) is influenced by teammates and/or opponents -- I don't believe for a second that you can statistically isolate this influence and negate it. Todd Helton benefits greatly from having Larry Walker batting behind him and from batting in Coors Field. When Rod Carew was at his prime (73-77), winning four batting titles, it would have been impossible for anyone to have won your mythical Triple Crown, as his slugging percentage wasn't near contention. In both cases, the hitter was directly influenced by teammates or opponents.



Are you going to throw out September at-bats against rookie pitchers making their debut, when the only reason these rookies are on the roster is because of expanded rosters? Players must deal with the circumstances presented to them and produce.



Plus, using Barry Bonds as an example weakens your argument, as he has never won your percentage Triple Crown. Yeah, he's having a great year and did last year, but that really doesn't have anything to do with your central argument. Plus, he's only played in 119 games this season and lost at-bats to injury. Of course he has fewer at-bats than Lance Berkman, who has played in 135 games. And don't even get me started about Coors Field. ;)



Thanks Kevin. It has been established by Bill James, Rob Neyer, and a host of other sabermeticians, that the idea of "protection" in a hitting order is not backed by data. So, when I wrote earlier about Jeff Kent getting red-hot a month before being moved in front of Barry Bonds, or when Barry was hitting in front of Kent, and he was still being walked two times a game, I was simply stating that the idea of one hitter somehow "protecting" the other is flawed. That's not to say that walking Bonds with a one run lead late in the game wouldn't happen if he was hitting in front of Babe Ruth, or that in the saem situation with Kent at the plate and Bonds on deck that Kent might not expect to see a hittable pitch; it is to say, however, that the statistical record does not show any real advantage for any hitter based on who he hits behind or in front of in the lineup.

The statistical record does, however, show an enormous advantage hitting at Coors Field over PacBell. Consequently, we see that since the Rockies entered the league in 1994, they have had a player lead the league in either BA, OBP or SLG 14 times in 30 opportunities!

As for the influence of others, well, so what. I'm attempting to make an adjustment to an existing measuring tool, one that has inherent flaws in its categories. Sure, influence exists in everything, but when it comes to the batter vs. pitcher confrontation; in large part, that is a strictly one on one battle, and the fact that Rod Carew can hit .380 only means that if you want to be known as the best overall hitter in the league that year, you better hit .381. Otherwise, you won't get to say you won the Triple Crown that year. Bonds not ever winning it before doesn't mean it doesn't work, it means that it is a stringent test of overall excellence. That fact that Ted Williams won it six times doesn't mean it's easy, it means that it recognizes the best of the best.

And finally, how does a 15 games played difference equate to the 155 at bat advantage Berkman has over Bonds? It doesn't. Bonds has the bat taken out of his hands in a tacit acknowledment that he is the most feared hitter in the league. My Triple Crown can accomodate the influence of the league in this way, just as it can accomodate the poor showing of his teammates, just as it can accomodate his keen eye. The traditional Triple Crown penalizes Bonds because the rest of the league has decided it simply cannot pitch to him. The traditional Triple Crown penalizes him because Tsuoshi Shinjo and Marvin Benard and Rich Aurilia and the rest of the SF Giants simply cannot get on base in fron of him with any consistency at all. My Triple Crown can accomodate these problems.

Finally, reader Tom Germack writes:



Combining any three statistics will ultimately lead to "an interesting accomplishment." Players like Boggs, Gwynn and Henderson have dominated in individual percentage categories for the last 20 years. Leading the league in three categories is always noteworthy but there will more likely be cases where dominant seasons are overlooked because only 2 of the 3 are within reality.



Thanks Tom. The Triple Crown already exists. Many writes have suggested throwing it away because of these types of concerns, as well as the ones I've articluated earlier. All I'm suggesting is that we have the means to acknowledge a hitters breadth of accomplishment. Sure, some players will have superlative seasons that get ovberlooked. That will happen far less often using my definition of a Triple Crown than the traditional one. All statistical analysis is imperfect, and as Bill James has stated; all of our efforts are aimed at attempting to lessen the impact of these imperfections, to move closer to fully understanding what makes a great team great, a great hitter great. That is what I am attempting to do here.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 3, 2002


.... Triple Crown

The Triple Crown is an interesting accomplishment. Not really an award, or even a real title, it has long been a part of the baseball vernacular, an acknowledgement of a season of singular excellence. It remains as one of the more elusive combination of accomplishments a hitter can achieve in baseball. Leading the league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in represents excellence in three fairly distinct categories. The difficulty of mastering three different aspects of hitting simultaneously is illustrated by the fact that only fourteen hitters have ever done it, Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams are the only members of an even more exclusive club as the only players to have accomplished this feat of dominance twice. Part of the mystique if the Triple Crown lies in the rarity of the accomplishment. Rare accomplishments are frequently associated with the extraordinary, and in many instances, this is appropriate. There have only been 16 perfect games, 13 four home run games, 100 or so no hitters. But these accomplishments are rare and they are examples of excellence. There have been only 11 unassisted triple plays in baseball history, these are recognized not as examples of extraordinary accomplishment, but more as flukes, strange confluences of opportunity and fate. Are Triple Crown winners rare because it represents mastery in three distinct areas, or because it represents a strange juxtaposition of ability and opportunity?

Triple Crown winners are rare because two of the three statistics that make up the accomplishment are outside of the batters control. Home runs are slightly out of the hitters hands, because the best hitters, hitters who combine all of the aspects of hitting excellence, will frequently be denied the opportunity to swing the bat. Ted Williams is the perfect example of this type of hitter, blessed with excellent strike zone judgement and excellent power; pitchers walked Ted as much as anyone in history. The same was true with Babe Ruth, and in today's game, Barry Bonds. The opposition's respect for these players' excellence often denies them the chance to lead the league in home runs, (this was less true with Ruth, since he was really the first player to hit a lot of home runs with any real consistency, he led the league in walks and home runs many times).

And this issue becomes even more problematic when these same hitters come to the plate with men on base. The oppositions' willingness to take the bat out of their hands severely limits their chances to lead the league in RBI. Case in point, Barry Bonds. As we head into the final month of the season, Barry Bonds has no chance to lead the league in either home runs or RBI. He has approximately 120 at bats fewer than players like Sammy Sosa, Shawn Green, Lance Berkman, all of the players he is "battling" for these titles. Does this in any way diminish his dominance? Hardly. Sammy Sosa has 4 more home runs than Barry in 129 more at bats! What's more likely, the Triple Crown as it is currently defined, is a flawed acknowledgement of excellence, or Barry Bonds isn't the most dominant player in the game today? As baseball analysts and sabermeticians have taken the study of the statistical record further and further, a consensus has emerged regarding the importance of RBI as a statistic, as many researchers and baseball analysts have come to the conclusion that using RBI as a measure of "clutch" hitting is simply wrong, that RBI is a matter of opportunity. This is the main reason runs batted in has begun to lose some of its importance in the vernacular of baseball and baseball research. Also, as noted on Baseball Prospectus and more recently, the Twins Geek, OPS, which is two of these percentage categories, on base and slugging added together, correlates extremely well with scoring runs; which is why OPS has begun to become more and more common as a tool for evaluating hitters.

Since batting average is now and always will be a fine measure of a hitters ability to influence the outcome of an at bat, I would like to suggest a new Triple Crown, one that uses the singular achievements of a hitter, those outside the influence of his teammates or opponents. My Triple Crown would be awarded to the player who leads his league in batting average, on base percentage, and slugging.

In 2002, Barry Bonds has a very good chance at this Triple Crown. He is leading the major leagues in batting average by 22 points, on base percentage by 136, and slugging percentage by 164. And as I watch him game after game, just having a simply astonishing offensive season for the second year in a row while the rest of his teammates (other than Jeff Kent) are completely useless at the plate; I can't help but feel that his weak hitting teammates are hurting not only the Giants playoff hopes, but also Bonds' chance at history. For instance, he just completed one of the more amazing four game series in recent memory at Coors Field. He went 10 for 16, including 5 solo(!) home runs. This isn't unusual, last year he had 73 home runs with only(!) 137 RBI, good for only eighth in the league in runs batted in! Should Bonds dominance be denied an opportunity to be recognized? No, it shouldn't.

In 2001, Bonds led MLB in OBP (.515) and SLG (.863) and finished sixth in BA (.328). He missed leading the National League and all of baseball in batting average, and winning his first percentage Triple Crown, by a measly 11 hits. Eleven hits! And Bonds' recent dominance isn't out of the ordinary for a player now being recognized as one of the all-time greats. Here are four different seasons of Triple Crown dominance, bold indicates the category in which he missed leading the league, with the league leading total in parentheses:

2002 .370/.570/.827

2001 .328/.515/.863 (.350)

1992 .311/.456/.624 (.330)

1993 .336/.458/.677 (.370)

His dominance of baseball right now is simply beyond belief, but it isn't out of alignment with the rest of his career. If he can continue his current pace, he would own the following single season records; walks (Babe Ruth), on base percentage (Ted Williams), slugging (Babe Ruth), and home runs (Mark McGwire).

Back to the Triple Crown. No one has won the regular Triple Crown since Carl Yastremski in 1967, but has anybody won the percentage Triple Crown since then? When was the last time a player led their league in all three categories. Baseball-Reference.com can answer that, let's take a look...

I looked at both leagues all the way back to 1950. A percentage Triple Crown is pretty rare, overall, I found only eight such seasons out of 104 league seasons, 7.5%. That's very close to the percentage of regular Triple Crown seasons, which I estimate is around 6%, depending on how far back you want to consider. Which hitters have won the percentage Triple Crown in the last 52 years? Here's the list:

2000 NL Todd Helton .372/.463/.698

1999 NL Larry Walker .379/.458/.710 Major League Triple Crown

1980 AL George Brett .390/.454/.664 Major League Triple Crown

1979 AL Fred Lynn .333/.423/.637

1970 AL Carl Yastremski .329/.452/.592

1967 AL Carl Yastremski .326/.418/.622

1966 AL Frank Robinson .316/.410/.637

1957 AL Ted Williams .388/.526/.731

That's it. Seven players, eight seasons of dominating their league. And a major league percentage Triple Crown is even more rare, it's only been done twice in the last 52 years, (once in Colorado, talk about an asterisk). It's pretty clear that this re-thinking of the Triple Crown isn't compromising our evaluation of players in any way, if anything, it could be argued that it raises the bar, as it removes some of the biases that have colored some of our previous interpretations of dominance.

A handful of the greatest players in baseball history have had seasons in which they narrowly missed accomplishing the percentage Triple Crown. During the fifties, Stan Musial and Willie Mays' shared brilliance essentially canceled each other out in one category or another, in fact, in 1957 the two of them finished first and second in all three categories:

Musial .351/.422/.616

Mays .333/.407/.626

Looking at this list, I would suggest that the percentage Triple Crown is a more useful tool for identifying great seasons than the regular Triple Crown. If that is true, what should we expect to find as we dig deeper into history? If we are looking at a standard of excellence, then obviously we would expect the accomplishment to be rare, and the winners to be made up of the greatest players of all time, right?

The National League records go all the way back to 1876, that's another 75 seasons beyond my initial cut off line of 1950. I found twenty percentage Triple Crown winners during that time period, 26% of the time. That's substantial, there were almost three times as many winners as there were regular Triple Crown winners, (seven).

Over in the AL, I found sixteen during the 50 seasons between 1901 and 1950, fully 32% of the time. Again, this is obviously many more times than a normal Triple Crown has occured, (six). Is this because the percentage Triple Crown is just easier or less noteworty an accomplishent?

I don't think so. A Triple Crown is inherently rare because of the reliance on events outside the hitters control, during that season, at the plate. The percentage Triple Crown is a more individual accomplishment, primarily because it attempts to qualify a players performance in a vaccum. No variable exists that limits or restricts a player from leading his league in any of these three categories, only the player himself. This shows up throughout history, because even though there have been a total of 44 percentage Triple Crown winners, in a total of 229 league seasons, (19%), these 44 seasons have been accomplished by just 23 players, sixteen of them are in the Hall of Fame. Here's the list of players and the seasons they've won the percentage Triple Crown (Hall of Famers in bold-face):

National League

Todd Helton NL 1 season. 2000

Larry Walker NL 1 season. 1999 MLB

Stan Musial NL 2 seasons. 1943 MLB, 1948 NL only

Arky Vaughn NL 1 season. 1935

Rogers Hornsby NL 7 seasons. 1920-24 NL only, 1925 MLB, 1928 NL only

Sherry Magee NL 1 season. 1910

Honus Wagner NL 4 seasons. 1904 NL only, 1907 MLB 1908 MLB 1909 NL only

Dan Brouthers NL 2 seasons. 1882 MLB 1883 NL only

George Gore NL 1 season. 1880 MLB

Ross Barnes NL 1 season. 1876 MLB

American League

George Brett AL 1 season. 1980 MLB

Fred Lynn AL 1 season. 1979

Carl Yastremski AL 2 seasons. 1967, 1970

Frank Robinson AL 1 season. 1966

Ted Williams AL 6 seasons. 1941 MLB 1942 MLB, 1947-49 AL only 1957 MLB

Jimmie Fox AL 1 season. 1938 MLB

Lou Gehrig AL 1 season. 1934 MLB

Babe Ruth AL 1 season. 1924

Chuck Klein AL 1 season. 1933

Ty Cobb AL 3 seasons. 1909, 1914, 1917 MLB

Tris Speaker AL 1 season. 1916 MLB

George Stone AL 1 season. 1906

Nap Lajoie AL 3 seasons. 1901 MLB, 1902, 1904

These seasons represent the best seasons of some of the very best players of all time. Most baseball fans know that Chuck Klein had a historic season in 1933, the percentage Triple Crown only recognizes the obvious. Nine regular Triple Crown winners also win the percentage title. 10 times the regular Triple Crown season coincided with the percentage Triple Crown season. I believe that the percentage Triple Crown does a better job of recognizing these hitters during their dominant seasons, and it does so in as close to a vaccum as possible, negating outside influences; and allowing us to look at hitters like Ted Williams and Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby through a clearer lens; to get a more complete appreciation of their greatness. The precentage Triple Crown is a simple and easy to use standard, and it is an accurate snapshot of single season dominance; more so than the regular Triple Crown, which relies on opportunity and teammates too much to be as defining.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 3, 2002


.... Ouch!

Tough tough loss. Other than Ryan Jensen continuing on his journey back to the minors, the game was horrible in many ways for the Giants. Another inexplicable call by an umpire in Arizona, this time a simply incomprehensible out call on the back end of a Reggie Sanders double play grounder. The league really ought to send a directive to the umpires working these games, I mean that call was ridiculous. The Giants finished two games behind the D'backs last year, they're in a race for their lives, two games behind the Dodgers and eight behind the D'backs, and so far this year they've lost two games here aided by absolutely ridiculous umpire decisions.

Apparently the umpire in both instances contacted a member of the Giants organization to admit their mistake and apologize. Yeah, great, we appreciate your feeling bad, but how about doing something about it during the games? You know, ask another umpire for help, or check the damn replays, something. Horrible.

Dusty Baker does a great job forgetting about crap like that, and he should be commended for not losing track of the task in front of him and the team. And that task is obvious. What he and the Giants really need to concern themselves with is the ongoing Rob Nen meltdown.

On August 1st, Rob Nen was 4-0 with 28 saves and a 1.31 ERA. He had three blown saves and had won all three of them. Since then, he has 6 saves in 11 opportunities, with 5 blown saves, including two losses and the tie in Atlanta. He has pitched a total of 15 innings, allowed 22 hits, 7 walks and 10(!) earned runs.

It all started with that blown save in Pittsburgh, the one where he gave up three consecutive two-out, two-strike hits, ending with the game winning double by Brian Giles. I don't know if he lost confidence in a particular pitch that night, or a location, or a pitch in a certain count or what, but he and Dave Righetti better figure it out, and soon. They have seven games with the Dodgers and four more with the D'backs, and you can bet there will be more barn burners like last night. The Giants have little hope of making the post season if they cannot close out these one run games down the stretch.

Ron Nen has been almost automatic over these last few years, but it seems that the league might be catching up to him just a bit. A closer look at his last three seasons is revealing.





IPHSOBBK/9IPK/BBBAOBPSLG
20006637921912.64.84/1.162.227.241

200177.258932210.944.27/1.203.260.308

2002635667179.573.94/1.237.287.318



Small sample, but it appears that he is in a bit of decline, especially because he was so awesome in 2000. Maybe the Giants should consider giving him more work, or maybe the hits are just dropping. Whatever is going on, the drop in his strike-out rate is what appears to be his biggest problem, highlighted by that Pittsburgh game. With his inability to slow the running game, if he's not striking guys out at a very high rate, he is increasingly vulnerable. Baseball Prospectus' Adjusted Runs Prevented report lists Nen as the 30th best in the majors, not too bad, but nothing spectacular. He's about half as effective as the best relievers in the game. Let's hope they can figure out how to get him back to finishing off those two-strike situations.

Just for the hell of it, here's his earned run average, going backwards from this season, for the last nine years: 2.43, 3.01, 1.50, 3.98, 1.52, 3.89, 1.95, 3.29, 2.95. Weird.

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 2, 2002


.... If you build it, they will come

Sunday morning.... here's a couple of items.

The Oakland A's won their 17th game last night, the longest winning streak in 49 years. I watched the last five innings, and there was never a time when it seemed like they were gonna lose, and they were playing the Minnesota Twins, who only lead their division by about twenty games. Impressive. Here's an ESPN link with a list of the greatest winning streaks of all-time. The longest ever was by the 1916 NY Giants, who ran off two historic winning streaks, another 17 gamer, and the big daddy, a 26 game winning streak! Amazingly, that team went 43-66 in the rest of their games, to finish 86-66.

Peter Gammons has a column today in which he explains that Bud Selig and MLB have a new task before them, repair the damage done over the last year. I agree with the sentiment, but really, this is more of that sand castles in the sky crap I've been talking about. Already there are reports out there with small market owners explaining that there's no way to tell whether they will be spending their shared revenue on players or how much they will be able to, or blah blah blah. The owners were never interested in competitive balance, they were never interested in the "good of the game," it was always always always about greedy owners of poorly run franchises wanting a bigger slice of the pie. You fans of the Royals, Twins, A's, Expos, Marlins, Tigers, Padres, Pirates, Brewers and Devil Rays, (did I miss anybody?) wake up and smell the coffee. I guarantee you that none of these teams will have significantly larger payrolls in two or three years, none, not even the A's or the especially the Twins. I can also guarantee you that Bud Selig and Carl Pohlad and John Moores and Mike Illitch et al will have more money in their pockets. Remember, in real life, watch what people do, not what they say, that's how you learn what their intentions are.

That said, I am glad we're back to baseball and not Bud and his band of nincompoops. I'm not gonna do any analysis of the agreement, I'll leave that to the boys at Baseball Prospectus, and I'll highlight their stuff when it comes out. I'm gonna pay attention to the races and the home runs and Bonds' gunning for the batting title, and, well, baseball. Play Ball!

Comment on this   [0]  »  September 1, 2002


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