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Saturday, August 09, 2003

Bi-Weekly Review: N.L. West

The N.L. West through August 8th.










3 wks


San Francisco










W 1











W 3

Los Angeles










W 4











W 2

San Diego










L 3



Vs. East: 42-59

Vs. Central: 73-60

Vs. AL: 48-35

I noted at the All-Star Break: “There are two weeks of division play coming up, so the wheat may separate from the sand.”

And the Giants proceeded to add 6 games to their lead.

San Francisco took advantage of the intra-division play, going 10-1. While much ado is being made about the Braves, the Giants have every bit of the lead the Braves do.

The Giants also went and added one of the season?s best pitchers from the American League, trading Damian Moss and Kurt Ainsworth to the Orioles for Sidney Ponson. Ponson was excellent in his first Giant start, keeping up the performance he had in the AL. In my opinion, the Ponson trade was as much about the NL playoffs as the regular season. Well, that?s not true ? it had to be all about the playoffs. And Schmidt, Ponson, Rueter/Williams are going to be very tough in the playoffs. The loss of Robb Nen as a “problem” has been more than mitigated ? it has been eradicated.

The last three weeks have seen Marquis Grissom begin to show signs of Marquis Grissom. His OPS is down to .800, a level it hasn?t seen since May 21. Edgardo Alfonzo, a huge disappointment this season, posted a .838 OPS in July, so he is showing signs of being the player the Giants wanted. When a player is going as poorly as Alfonzo has been, getting a hit in 12 of 15 games is something. With an 11-game lead and 6 weeks to play, it probably doesn?t matter if Alfonzo gets hot, but it will soothe the Giant faithful.

Barry Bonds is unreal. I really wish people would understand that Barry Bonds is the equivalent of Ted Williams. I mean Ted Freakin? Williams. His hitting is astounding. His OBP is over .500 and his SLG is over .700. All that in a park that severely decreases hitting stats. I watch Giant games just for his PAs.

Rich Aurilia just got back and was hitting pretty well, and then had an emergency appendectomy and is sidelined for three or four weeks. That means another month of Niefi Perez ? maybe 11 games isn?t enough. Jim Brower has been outstanding in his move to the rotation. The bullpen has remained steady, with Nathan and Rodriguez setting Worrell up nicely.

This division is just about wrapped up, and the Giants need to start getting everyone healthy for the post-season. If anyone can score me tickets, let me know.

Up Next

Philadelphia August 8-10

At NY Mets August 12-14

At Montreal August 15-17

The Arizona Diamondbacks came back from the dead ? in the sense they are not going to be an embarrassment. They are in the wildcard chase, but really aren?t likely to win that either. They have positioned themselves very well, considering they haven?t had Randy Johnson nor a full season of Curt Schilling. Brandon Webb has been so good, he?s probably the second best “hidden” rookie in the league (Jason Phillips is probably the best ? everyone: “who?” See?).

Johnson has had three excellent outings and one poor outing. Schilling has pitched very well and I expect him to win the ERA title. Webb is just sneaky good. Miguel Batista is having a career year. Oscar Villareal gets some disdain from the only Snakes fan I know, but he has given up just one run since the ASB in 11 outings. Mantei has pitched well too. The Snakes pitching, if Batista doesn?t turn back into a pumpkin, should keep them in the wild card hunt. Someone who hasn?t been good is Mike Myers ? 5.1 IP; 3 home runs.

Luis Gonzalez has great numbers ? a nice .955 OPS. That?s a very good year, and would be one of the leaders at his position, if he played a non-Barry Bonds position, that is. He?s still been an excellent player. Steve Finley got really hot after I bad-mouthed him in May and raised his OPS to .976 the second game after the ASB, but has dropped 70 points in the last two weeks. It?s hard to tell where he will go. Stupid aliens. Shea Hillenbrand has kept up his remarkable season. The trade of Kim hasn?t been as damaging because the pitching has been good and Hillenbrand has been very good. The Dbacks even had the good sense to dump Tony Womack.

Up Next

NY Mets August 8-10

At Cincinnati August 12-14

At Atlanta August 15-17

The Los Angeles Dodgers tried to make a run by trading for Jeromy Burnitz and signing Rickey Henderson. Didn?t help. It stabilized the lineup a little, but really didn?t get the run scoring up. They traded for Robin Ventura. Ventura is going to play first base mostly so they can keep Beltre?s bat in the lineup? Next they fired hitting coach Jack Clark. Evidently Clark?s teachings weren?t cutting it. George Hendrick took over for Clark and the Dodgers promptly won a couple of games. I don?t know if the Dodgers have a plan past this season. It seems they noticed they have pitchers have great seasons and want to capitalize on that by making the playoffs. It just isn?t coming together with the collection of offensive players they have assembled. I mean, Burnitz, Ventura and Henderson were on the Mets recently, and that doesn?t seem to be the path one would want to take. Playing Beltre, Izturis and Cora really suck the “O” out of offense. There isn?t a Dodger with 30 PAs that has an OPS over .800. I know Dodger Stadium is a pitchers? park, but that?s a truckload of suck too. And I apologize for not reporting anything new. It should be noted that Shawn Green has 40 doubles. He has 50 games to get 20 more (pace = 57). One good week, and Green gets 60+ doubles. I happen to think that?s cool. Everyone wonders where his home runs went ? they are falling just short and are two-baggers.

The Dodgers only used 12 pitchers in July and one pitched just 4 innings. Kevin Brown has allowed 4 ER in 26.2 IP since the ASB. That?s a 1.35 ERA. He went 1-1 with two NDs. The Dodger offense scored 9 runs in those four starts. Nice 2.25 runs per game of support. Since the ASG, Eric Gagne has pitched 9.2 innings and allowed 2 hits. He has allowed 3 ER in 10 weeks. Hideo Nomo has baffled hitters. I don?t know who the Dodgers have to get, but were I the Dodgers, I would have worked harder on landing a big bat at the break. Ventura is nice, but how about getting Richie Sexson?

Up Next

Cubs August 8-10

At Florida August 11-14

At Cubs August 15-17

The Colorado Rockies really aren?t too bad. They need to get settled, but really have a potential star in Mark Bellhorn. The outfield is very, very good if Walker can stay healthy. Sure, Jay Payton doesn?t hit a ton, but he?s an outstanding fielder. That’s a lot of defense in Coors and probably is a big reason for their success at home. I always liked Chris Stynes, ever since watching him play as a Knoxville Smokie at Bill Meyer Stadium. If the Rockies could stabilize the infield with Stynes at second, Bellhorn at third and Juan Uribe at short, the Rockies may start to contend. While Hutcheson is saying the Rocks can?t climb over a handful of teams to get the wild card this season, he?s just wrong. The Rocks could catch the Snakes and Dodgers in abut three days. That really just makes them behind the Phillies/Marlins with any difficulty, and those teams play each other and one will eliminate the other. I?d enjoy it, because Todd Helton can flat out rake. He?s just a sweet swinger, and has a nice glove. Is there a better first baseman?

On the hill, Jason Jennings, Shawn Chacon and Darren Oliver make a nice rotation. Give the Rockies a road win, and they can take a short series from anybody. The Rockies have called up Taiwanese pitcher Chin-hui Tsao to start. He hasn?t pitched poorly, with two good games and one not so good. He allowed just two hits and one run against the Phillies on August 6. He seems to be adjusting nicely to the bigs. He has allowed a leadoff home run in two of his three starts (Eric Young and Marlon Byrd). Adam Bernero, picked up from the Tigers for Ben Petrick, has pitched well, with a 1.74 ERA in 10 IP. Hey, it?s a start and he?s plenty young.

The Rockies should compete next year, and might claw their way back this year.

Up Next

Pittsburgh August 8-10

At Montreal August 11-13

At NY Mets August 15-17

The San Diego Padres are not going to contend. Nor next year. Some publications like to pick the Padres, but I just don?t see it without an infusion of talent. It looks to me like Ryan Klesko?s patented hot dog swing has taken its toll on his back, and decreased his effectiveness. After watching Xavier Nady for a bit, I don?t see him as a long-term starter. Phil Nevin coming back will help, but it?s a heavy load to carry. Sean Burroughs hasn?t made much progress, although there is some. He is hitting .280, but with an average (minus) walk rate and very little power. He is just 22, which, now that I look at it, is pretty impressive. He?s probably still two years (or more) away from stardom. There?s lots of talk about getting Brian Giles, who would help every MLB team, so maybe the Pads: 1. are trying, and 2. understand which players are actually valuable. It?s hard to tell.

The last three weeks have seen the Padres play much better than they did before the ASB. Phil Nevin is back, as he said he would be and playing pretty well. It?s just 50 PAs, but he has an .809 OPS and 3 home runs. Ryan Klesko is having a “not very good year,” and is still playing like an average 1B. He is playing as well as Sean Casey ? for what it?s worth.

Mark Kotsay is one of my favorite players ? no, he can?t hit much, but he is an excellent fielder. Technically and statistically.

Rod Beck is back and is pitching really well. He has 15 saves and an ERA of 1.99. Pretty good. With the Tigers duo of Jeremy Bonderman and Mike Maroth getting all the press, Brian Lawrence is quietly sneaking up on Brian Kingman. Lawrence was supposed to break out this year and just hasn?t gotten over the hump. The last three weeks have shown what Lawrence has been all season ? some really good outings, and some really not good outings. Adam Eaton and Jake Peavy have shown the same pattern. Lawrence is 27, while Eaton is 25 and Peavy is 22. Oliver Perez has also shown a good deal of promise the last month. There is a future there, but it probably is 2005-06.

Up Next

Cincinnati August 8-10

At Atlanta August 12-14

At Florida August 15-17


Chris Dial Posted: August 09, 2003 at 06:00 AM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Boileryard Posted: August 09, 2003 at 02:33 AM (#612538)
Shea Hillenbrand has kept up his remarkable season. The trade of Kim hasn?t been as damaging because the pitching has been good and Hillenbrand has been very good.

I don't get it. So has the trade been damaging or not? If you're sincere when you say Hillenbrand's been "very good" then the trade doesn't seem to be damaging at all.

The best I can tell it looks like "hasn't been as damaging" means, in a backhanded sort of way, that maybe Joe G. got lucky again.
   2. Robert Posted: August 09, 2003 at 02:33 AM (#612540)
Jon is right, Green's doubles are all down the 1st base line... He has 40 doubles because he looks for the oppertunity for the second base to make up for the fact he is not hitting. Something is very wrong with him. Any team that shifts the 1st baseman to guard the line will decrease Green's production to nil.
   3. Robert S. Posted: August 10, 2003 at 02:33 AM (#612542)
Kim/Hilly is a trade which we probably won't be able to fully judge until 2005/2006. I still think Kim is more valuable now even with Hillenbrand's solid offensive season. I imagine a D-Backs rotation with Kim instead of Dessens and it is a beautiful thing.

Hillenbrand's offense has been in decline a bit as of late, but he hasn't had the big drop-off (YET). He's played almost as many games in AZ as in Boston and has basically duplicated what he did in there with more power. Not enough to make up for his pathetic defense though. If the D-Backs are forced to keep him at first, he loses a significant amount of his value.

It's not a terrible trade given the performances of each player this season. However, in a couple of years when Kim is just hitting his traditional peak years and Hillenbrand (barring intervention from Jesus)is washed up, it will look significantly worse.
   4. Chris Dial Posted: August 10, 2003 at 02:33 AM (#612549)
Jon -
as Realist notes - he isn't hitting them in the same manner. Yes, I am guilty of "turning a phrase" rather than looking hard at it in this instance. I looked at his hit chart. He does have quite a few balls to the warning track, that may have been HRs last year, but as you note, he has a ton right down the line. He'd really only need to convert 10-12 2Bs into HRs to have his "paces".

Shea isn't this good. Kim is as good as he is presently performing. The "badness" of the trade has been mitigated by Shea having a good season. He's still not as good as his first half.
   5. Boileryard Posted: August 11, 2003 at 02:33 AM (#612551)
First off, I can't figure out how to put prior comments in italics.

As for the Shea-Kim trade, I was as critical of it as anyone at the time. But looking back on it, this season the Diamondbacks are a better team for having Hillenbrand then they are Kim. I could be wrong, but I doubt they'd be this close to the playoffs if no move was made. And I guess that's where I think he deserves the credit. Where I (and plenty of like-minded folks on this site) felt it was time to start a overhaul of the team, he recongnized that with a move or two the team could get back into the playoff race. If I can still criticise him for the Durazo trade then I'll give him (early) credit for this one.

I never had a problem with him trading Kim, it's just that I always thought he didn't get enough in return. But seeing how the trade deadline panned out, I don't know how much more he could have received (without taking on extra payroll). And waiting for the offseason was not an option. Aramis Ramirez? With his pending arbitration figure it's very questionable whether he'd been a better pickup. Juan Gonzo or Palmeiro? Maybe, but neither have shown any inclination to move. Boone? Maybe, although I don't think he was being actively shopped at the time...

Yes, playing Hillenbrand at 1B decreases his value to the team in the long-term, but in the short-term its the best move. I hate to see Overbay sent to AAA (why is Grace being kept over him???), but for now I'd rather see Hillenbrand out there every day then him anyway. If you play Hilly at 3B (and maximize his value) you force the team to sit either Spivey, Cintron, Counsell, or Kata (all of whom, at this point, seem to bring more value to the table then Overbay).

And why is it so inevitable that Hilly falls off the table? He is after all in his prime age 27 season isn't he? If we're paying for a career year so be it. I don't think paying Kim beyond next season (when his arbitration figure can start getting into the $5-$7MM range) is all that great a use of resources anyway so it's not like we're losing a lot. And as has already been pointed out, the Diamondbacks have good alternatives to Kim (Valverde, Mantei, even Dessens if he keeps up his recent success (doubtful)).

When a team with excess resources in one area (say, the Twins with their abundance of corner positional players) doesn't move some of that depth in exchange for upgrading a weekness (say, the Twins middle infield), that team is rightly criticised. I see the Kim-Hilly trade in the same light. We traded an area of strength for one of weakness.

Anyway, I agree with FJM that this trade should ultimately be judged by whether the Diamondbacks make the playoffs or not. However, even if they don't at least the trade (for now) has made them a better team and given Diamondback fans a reason to look at the box scores and standings every morning.
   6. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 11, 2003 at 02:33 AM (#612553)
Some comments about the Rockies:

1. Bellhorn is on the DL at the moment. He wasn't getting a whole lot of PT when he wasn't on the DL, and with the recall of Garrett Atkins there probably won't *be* a whole lot of PT in his future. I doubt that he'll be around after this year.

2. Carlos Delgado can't carry Helton's glove.

3. The Rockies have a lot of good young arms (add Aaron Cook and Jason Young to Jennings, Tsao and Chacon), and Oliver lends a nice veteran back-end inning-eater to the mix. If they don't all implode due to having to pitch in Coors Field, the Rox should be able to piece together a pretty decent pitching staff.

-- MWE
   7. Old Matt Posted: August 19, 2003 at 02:36 AM (#612704)
I don?t know if the Dodgers have a plan past this season.

From what I've read in the LA Times, it actually seems like the Dodgers do have a plan past this season, and that's why they weren't able to get a guy like Sexson. For the first time in recent memory, their GM elected to hold on to their pitching prospects instead of dealing them away for some 35-year old retread for one year. Okay, I don't really know if they've done that every year, but it sure feels that way. This year they explicitly said that they would not trade away their best pitching prospects.

As every wag notes, their minor leagues are apparently horrible, and they are always "hamstrung" (everyone's favorite word) by stupid contracts from the previous administration. So their offense sucks and there wasn't much they could do about it.

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