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Primate Studies
— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Bi-Weekly Review: A.L. Central

The A.L. Central through April 20th.

PURGATORY, HELL—Temperatures reached a low of negative twenty-two degrees yesterday, shocking local residents. “You live here all your life and you just never expect it to freeze over, it?s very strange and unexpected,” Satan said.

CHICAGO, IL—At approximately 6:15 Monday night a group of about 100 pigs were spotted flying above U.S. Cellular Field. Other instances of flying pigs have also been reported across the country, including in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Cleveland, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan. Experts say they wouldn?t have believed it if they hadn?t seen it with their own eyes.

KANSAS CITY, MO—The Kansas City Royals defeated the Detroit Tigers 4-3 yesterday, to complete a three game series sweep over the Tigers. The Royals are now 14-3 and are in first-place in the AL Central Division, with a 3.5 game lead over Chicago and 5.5 over Minnesota.

(***All stats and standings through April 20th***)

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

TEAM

W

L

WIN%

GB

HM

RD

RS

RA

PYTH

1-R

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

14

3

.824

8-0

6-3

90

57

12-5

4-1

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

11

7

.611

3.5

7-2

4-5

95

66

12-6

2-2

MINNESOTA TWINS

9

9

.500

5.5

3-6

6-3

72

74

9-9

0-2

CLEVELAND INDIANS

6

12

.333

8.5

3-7

3-5

64

83

7-11

0-3

DETROIT TIGERS

1

16

.059

13.0

1-7

0-9

34

93

2-15

1-3

KANSAS CITY ROYALS (14-3 - 1st Place)

Who?s playing (and where) and who?s not (and why):

Prior to the return of Carlos Beltran late last week, the Royals had a fairly stable lineup throughout the first few weeks of the season. Now that Beltran is back and playing centerfield everyday, Michael Tucker, who was the leadoff man in all of the team?s first 16 games, will slide over to right field. That shift will mean a lot less playing time for Brandon Berger and Dee Brown, who had been forming a semi-platoon in RF.

The rest of the lineup has been pretty much set in stone thus far. Raul Ibanez gets the bulk of the playing time in left field, while rookie Ken Harvey (my #38 prospect coming into the season) DHs. In the infield, Mike Sweeney missed a couple games with the flu, but he is the everyday first baseman. Joe Randa has played third base and batted second in the lineup throughout the year and Carlos Febles and Angel Berroa have been the everyday double-play combo and have typically batted 7th (Berroa) and 9th (Febles). Brent Mayne is the everyday catcher and usually bats between the middle-infielders.

Desi Relaford has gotten quite a bit of playing time all around the field off the bench and has already started games at third base, shortstop, second base and right field. Mike DeFelice is the backup catcher, but has not gotten a whole lot of playing time thus far because of Mayne?s hot start (more on that in a moment).

Rontrez Johnson was the backup centerfielder at the start of the year (he appeared in eight games and got three at bats), but was let go once Beltran came back, and is now back with the Rangers.

The rotation has also been set, with Runelvys Hernandez, Jeremy Affeldt, Chris George and Miguel Asencio each taking their turns, and Darrell May acting as the fifth starter and getting skipped once. Affeldt had to leave his start on Saturday because of a blister on his pitching hand. He was placed on the disabled list and is expected to miss at least one start, which may mean Albie Lopez gets a turn or two in the rotation. Pitching prospect Jeremy Hill was called up to take Affeldt?s place on the roster and will pitch out of the bullpen.

Mike MacDougal is the closer and already has an MLB-leading seven saves. Jason Grimsley is the setup man and appeared in 11 of the team?s first 17 games, pitching a total of 11 2/3 innings.

Stats, stats and more stats:

Perhaps the only thing more incredible than the Royals? hot start as a team is the incredible start that Brent Mayne is off to. Mayne, a career .268/.336/.354 hitter coming into the season, is hitting .405/.458/.690, ranking him fifth in the American League in OPS.

Mike Sweeney is off to a bit of a slow start, but is still hitting .255/.369/.490 which isn?t that far off his career totals since becoming an everyday first baseman in 1999 (.324/.396/.535). Sweeney, who drove in 144 runs in 1999, already has 15 runs batted in this season, despite missing a couple games.

Joe Randa is off to a very good start (.340/.429/.604) and is hitting for power (three homers, five doubles) and walking quite a bit more than he normally does (eight BBs in 15 games). He has “only” seven RBI, but has scored 11 runs.

The only Royal that is not hitting at least reasonably well is Carlos Febles, who is off to a .234/.294/.298 start and has started to lose playing time to Relaford.

The Royals are hitting .280/.352/.452 as a team after hitting only .256/.323/.398 last season. In fact, after posting a team SLG of .398 last year, every single player with at least 30 ABs has a SLG of at least .400 - save for Febles.

Runelvys Hernandez is 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA in four starts, despite striking out only 4.85 batters per game and walking 3.1/9 IP. The reason? Good defense and not allowing a single homer. In fact, if you take out Chris George?s homerific start (six allowed in 16 2/3 IP) the Royals have allowed only six homers in 136 innings.

After being out-homered 212-140 last season, the Royals are out-homering their opponents 20-12 this year. They are also out-doubling them 36-22.

Kansas City?s starting pitchers have been very good (3.89 ERA), but their bullpen has been incredible. Six relievers have made appearances and their ERAs are 0.00, 0.96, 1.59, 2.16, 2.31 and 2.57. The bullpen as a whole has a 1.62 ERA in 55 2/3 innings pitched, with a 5-1 record and 8 saves. They have 54 Ks in those 55 2/3 IP.

Fun with paces:

Angel Berroa - 57 doubles, 19 walks, 143 strikeouts

Raul Ibanez - 38 homers, 48 doubles, 209 hits, 10 steals, 114 runs, 105 RBI

Mike Sweeney - 143 RBI, 105 walks

Brent Mayne - 95 RBI, 162 hits, 29 homers, 29 doubles

Mike MacDougal - 67 saves, 86 innings, 67 strikeouts, 67 walks, 29 hits, 0 homers

Down on the Farm:

At Triple-A Omaha…

Before being called up to replace Affeldt on the major league roster, Jeremy Hill had an 8.10 ERA in 10 innings. He struck out 11 and walked seven, while allowing two homers.

The Royals claimed second baseman Brent Abernathy off waivers from the Devil Rays recently and assigned him to Omaha, where he is hitting .333/.368/.540 through his first 15 games. He could be a potential replacement for Febles at some point.

Minor league veteran Morgan Burkhart is the starting first baseman and is hitting .231/.306/.354. Outfielder Alexis Gomez, one of the Kansas City?s top prospects, is hitting only .196/.245/.348 in 46 at bats. Outfielder Aaron Guiel, who played quite a bit with the Royals last year, is off to a hot start, hitting .323/.457/.538 with two homers, six doubles and a triple in 65 at bats.

Former #1 pick Kyle Snyder is doing well, with a 3-0 record and 2.74 ERA after four starts. Major league veteran Sean Lowe is pitching in relief in Omaha and has a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings. He could make an appearance in the KC bullpen before the season is over.

At Double-A Wichita…

Carlos Beltran played in three games as part of his rehab assignment and hit .333/.455/.556 with a stolen base. One of KC?s best pitching prospects, Jimmy Gobble, has started the season 4-0 with a 2.16 ERA after four starts.

In the low-minors…

Second base prospect and one of KC?s best, Ruben Gotay, is hitting .362/.418/.569 after 58 at bats at Single-A Wilmington. Gotay hit .285 with nine homers, 42 doubles, nine triples and 73 walks last season at Single-A Burlington. Pitcher Zack Greinke, the #6 overall pick in the 2002 draft, is 2-0 with an 0.56 ERA in 16 innings of work, with a 15/2 K/BB ratio.

Former #1 draft pick Colt Griffin, who had a very poor 2002 season (5.36 ERA, 66/82 K/BB ratio), continues to struggle. Griffin has a 2.65 ERA, but has walked 12 batters in 17 innings, while striking out 11 at Single-A Burlington.

Random stuff:

Kansas City?s record after 17 games:

1998 - 7-10; 5.0 GB Cleveland

1999 - 6-11; 7.0 GB Cleveland

2000 - 8-9; 2.0 GB Cleveland and Chicago

2001 - 5-12; 8.5 GB Minnesota

2002 - 6-11; 6.0 GB Minnesota

Coming up:

4/22-4/24 - Minnesota

4/25-4/27 - @Toronto

4/28 - Off Day

4/29-5/1 - @Boston

5/2-5/4 - @Baltimore

After playing the Tigers and Indians six times each in their first 17 games, the Royals get a tough home series against division-rival Minnesota and then go on the road for back-to-back-to-back three-game sets against Toronto, Boston and Baltimore.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX (11-7 - 2nd Place)

Who?s playing (and where) and who?s not (and why):

Paul Konerko is playing first base, Frank Thomas is DHing, Carlos Lee is in left field and Magglio Ordonez is in right field. Other than that, the White Sox are doing a lot of shifting in the lineup.

Jose Valentin and Tony Graffanino have become a platoon at shortstop, with Valentin starting against right-handed pitchers. This is a smart move and long overdue (and something suggested in my season-preview of the White Sox), as Valentin has hit .196/.284/.344 against southpaws over the last three seasons.

D?Angelo Jimenez is the everyday starter at second base, although Graffanino has gotten a couple of starts there. At catcher, Sandy Alomar Jr., Miguel Olivo and Josh Paul are all getting playing time. Alomar has started nine games, Olivo has started eight and Paul has started once.

In centerfield, Aaron Rowand started the season playing everyday, but has gotten off to a slow start (.143/.200/.190) and has been on the bench in favor of Armando Rios quite a bit of late. Overall, Rowand has started 12 games in CF, while Rios has started six.

The rotation has been set so far, but that is likely about to change. Dan Wright, who gave the White Sox 196 innings last year, has been sidelined for the entire season, but is due back very soon. He will likely replace rookie Josh Stewart in the rotation, although Stewart has pitched fairly well thus far (1-1 with a 3.71 ERA in three starts).

The bullpen has already established a set pattern. Billy Koch closes games, while Damaso Marte and Tom Gordon set him up from the left and right sides. Kelly Wunsch is the LOOGY and Rick White is the “backup setup man” and occasional long-reliever. Gary Glover is in the mop-up/long-man role.

Stats, stats and more stats:

The Chicago offense has been very good as a whole (.271/.352/.462), but they are doing so while getting a mix of some great performances and some awful performances.

D?Angelo Jimenez, Jose Valentin, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Tony Graffanino are slugging .712, .673, .563 and .640. On the other hand, Paul Konerko is hitting .197, Frank Thomas is hitting .218 and slugging .382, Aaron Rowand is hitting .143 and Brian Daubach has one hit in 14 at bats.

The ChiSox have out-homered their opponents 23-14, which is nothing new for them. While they are hitting homers, they have also cut down on their strikeouts and have a 86/69 K/BB ratio, after striking out 952 to 555 walks last year.

Magglio Ordonez has 15 runs batted in, but has only scored eight times - partly because of his .333 OBP (he is hitting .296, but has only walked four times).

The White Sox are hitting .343/.418/.594 against left-handed pitching and only .245/.333/.414 against righties. This isn?t so surprising, because their offensive core of Thomas, Ordonez, Konerko, Lee and Crede are all right-handed hitters.

Mark Buehrle?s K rate has always been poor, but it is down even more this season. He has K?d only 3.82 batters per nine innings. Buehrle?s K rate was discussed in my season-preview of Chicago and it is worth keeping an eye on this season.

On the other hand, Esteban Loaiza has struck out 19 batters in 20 2/3 IP, after striking out only 5.17/9 last season. Of course, two of his starts have been against the Tigers…

Sox starters, including Loaiza, have struck out only 70 batters in 111 1/3 innings (5.66/9) and Loiaza is the only starter with a K rate above 6.5/9. Their bullpen has 43 Ks in 42 1/3 IP (9.14/9) and Marte, Gordon and Koch each have 10+/9 IP K rates.

Billy Koch has two blown saves in four chances and has already given up three homers after only allowing seven in 93 2/3 IP last season.

Fun with paces:

Magglio Ordonez - 135 RBI, 72 runs, 36 walks, 99 strikeouts, 18 steals

D?Angelo Jimenez - 27 homers, 45 doubles, 36 triples, 225 hits, 117 runs, 90 walks

Frank Thomas - 18 homers, 27 doubles, 108 hits, 153 walks, 99 strikeouts, 54 RBI

Billy Koch - 18 saves, 18 blown saves, 27 homers allowed, 75 innings, 90 strikeouts, 36 walks

Down on the Farm:

At Triple-A Charlotte…

Chicago?s top prospect, outfielder Joe Borchard (my #15 prospect) is off to a good start, but is not hitting for any power (which is his calling-card). Borchard is hitting .308/.341/.382 with zero homers in 10 games.

Minor league veteran Cliff Brumbaugh is hitting .372/.471/.767 with four homers and five doubles in 13 games. Willie Harris, who played quite a bit with Chicago last year and was in the backup infielder mix during spring training, is hitting .418/.475/.727 with four homers, three doubles and a triple in 55 at bats. He has started 11 games at 2B and three in CF.

Former Baseball America Minor League Pitcher of the Year Jon Rauch, who has had a ton of injury problems, is off to a very good start and is 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA in 18 innings, with 15 Ks and four walks.

At Double-A Birmingham…

Pitching prospect Corwin Malone, who was once very highly thought of but struggled big time with his control last season, is off to a horrible start. He has walked 19 batters in 19 innings, while striking out 12. Malone had an 89/89 K/BB ratio last season. Neil Cotts, whom the Sox got from Oakland in the Foulke/Koch deal, has 25 Ks (and 11 walks) in 15 innings. Cotts struck out 178 batters in 138 innings last season.

Random stuff:

The White Sox have yet to play a game outside the AL Central. They are 5-1 against Detroit, 2-4 against Kansas City and 4-2 against Cleveland.

Coming up:

4/22-4/24 - @Baltimore

4/25-4/27 - Minnesota

4/28 - Off Day

4/29-5/1 - Oakland

5/2-5/4 - Seattle

After playing their first 19 games in their division, the White Sox have three of their next four series outside of the Central, including a nine-game home stand featuring two of the tougher teams in the AL, Oakland and Seattle. The first three games of the home stand are against Minnesota, which will be the first time the teams have met this season.

MINNESOTA TWINS (9-9 - 3rd Place)

Who?s playing (and where) and who?s not (and why):

The Minnesota lineup has been fairly stable thus far, except for two places: DH and right field. Michael Cuddyer (my #4 prospect) began the year as the starting RF and has gotten the bulk of the starts there, but Dustan Mohr (4 starts) and Bobby Kielty (2 starts) have also gotten time in right. Meanwhile, the DH position has seen a complete change. Matthew LeCroy started nine of the first 13 games at designated hitter, but Kielty started four out of the next five.

In addition to RF and DH, Kielty has also seen time in center field, as Ron Gardenhire gradually tries to find ways to get him into the lineup everyday. Gardenhire, much like Tom Kelly before him, really tries to make an effort to use his bench players. Chris Gomez has gotten three starts at shortstop and two at second base, while Denny Hocking has gotten one each at SS and 2B and has entered as a defensive-replacement several times. The only Twin not seeing much action is veteran backup catcher Tom Prince, who has only six at bats on the year.

Gardenhire has some platoon opportunities, particularly in left with Jacque Jones, but does not seem interested in doing much to take advantage. Jones, who is a .211/.255/.298 hitter against lefties over the past three season, has continued to play everyday against southpaws and has hit extremely well. He is hitting .364/.400/.500 in his first 22 at bats against lefties. If his performance against lefties stays anywhere near that level for the majority of this season, I will eat my Twins hat. Seriously.

The pitching rotation has taken its full turn every time, with no one being skipped. Johan Santana has served as the Twins long-man, often relieving an ineffective starter in the middle-innings. He was pitched 14 innings in seven appearances.

Eddie Guardado is once again the closer and has appeared in only two games that have not been save situations. J.C. Romero is the true setup man, against both lefties and righties, while LaTroy Hawkins is the second setup man, generally coming in to face predominantly right-handed portions of the lineup.

Tony Fiore has done nothing but mop-up this year and has been very ineffective in doing so. Mike Fetters appeared in two games early in the year before getting injured and put on the DL. He returned Sunday and pitched a scoreless inning, his third such appearance of the season. While Fetters was on the DL, Juan Rincon was called up and pitched in long-relief, doing very well.

Stats, stats and more stats:

The “Free Bobby Kielty” movement seems to be catching steam. Kielty is hitting .366/.435/.683 with three homers, four doubles, eight RBI and seven runs scored in only 11 games. He also has a hit in every game he?s played in this year. Gardenhire has stated that he will find ways to get him into the lineup more often and he has done so recently.

Besides Kielty, none of the other Twins regulars are slugging over .470. Torii Hunter is off to a horrible start, hitting .172/.236/.297. Michael Cuddyer has not taken advantage of his starting role and is hitting only .200/.273/.340. And Dustan Mohr has gotten sporadic playing time, but has been horrible in it, getting only three hits in 28 at bats and zero for his last 17. He is hitting .107/.107/.214 on the year.

In fact, the Twins offense as a whole has been pretty bad this year. They are hitting only .261/.313/.405, which ranks 12th in the AL in OPS. They have drawn fewer walks than every team except Tampa Bay, have homered less than every team except Detroit and have the third most strikeouts. Perhaps the only bright-spot thus far has been their improved work on the bases (10/14), which was an area of great weakness in 2002.

Johan Santana has 18 strikeouts in 14 innings, has yet to allow a run and has limited the opposition to a .160 batting average.

While the Twins? offense isn’t hitting any homers, the Twins? starting pitchers are getting killed by the long ball. They have given up 19 homers in only 103 innings pitched, or one every 5.4 innings. Compare that to the bullpen, which has given up three homers in 53 1/3 innings. As you might expect from that stat, the starters have a 5.07 ERA, while the relievers are at 2.02.

The Twins have hit into 15 double-plays and have only turned four on defense.

Fun with paces:

Jacque Jones - 621 at bats, 18 walks, 126 strikeouts, 9 homers, 54 doubles, 108 runs, 36 steals

Torii Hunter - 54 walks, 9 homers, 27 doubles, 9 triples, 99 RBI, 27 runs

A.J. Pierzynski - 27 walks, 36 strikeouts

Cristian Guzman - 0 homers, 27 doubles, 27 triples, 27 walks, 99 strikeouts, 18 RBI

Luis Rivas - 9 walks, 108 strikeouts, 0 homers, 9 doubles, 9 triples, 27 steals

Bobby Kielty - 369 at bats, 27 homers, 36 doubles, 72 RBI, 63 runs, 9 steals, 135 hits

Eddie Guardado - 54 saves, 72 strikeouts, 0 walks

Johan Santana - 63 games, 0 starts, 126 innings, 162 strikeouts, 54 walks, 0 homers

Down on the Farm:

At Triple-A Rochester…

The Twins? glut of AAA outfielders and DHs are off to a slow start. First baseman Todd Sears is hitting .275/.321/.353. Outfielder Mike Ryan is hitting .255/.309/.431 and outfielder Lew Ford is hitting .214/.254/.250. Outfielder Michael Restovich (my #29 prospect), one of the Twins? top prospects, is hitting only .250, but has a homer, six doubles and a triple in 48 at-bats, which is good for a .479 SLG.

Reliever Grant Balfour, whom I have been talking up as an overlooked bullpen option is serving as Rochester?s closer and has four saves and a 1.80 ERA in five appearances.

Former #1 pick Ryan Mills, who has battled problems with control and effectiveness throughout his pro career, has been moved to the bullpen and has made four appearances thus far, with a 3.72 ERA and 6/4 K/BB ratio. Left-handed pitcher Brad Thomas made two starts with a 1.23 ERA before injuring his arm, had surgery and is out for the year, most likely.

At Double-A New Britain…

First baseman of the future Justin Morneau (my #11 prospect) is off to a great starting, hitting .306/.370/.612 with four homers after 12 games. Outfielder B.J. Garbe, a former #1 pick, broke him arm on a dive in center field and will be out for a couple months. Garbe has struggled as a hitter his entire career and was hitting .231/.355/.269 in eight games prior to the injury.

In the low-minors…

Former #1 overall pick and current Twins? top prospect, catcher Joe Mauer (my #2 prospect), is hitting .258 at Single-A Fort Myers, but has yet to have an extra-base hit. Mauer has been a consistently good hitter for average in his two pro seasons, but has yet to show any sort of power development. Mauer?s brother Jake serves as the team?s utility infielder and is hitting .250/.313/.250.

Random stuff:

The Twins have now played six series. They have either swept or been swept in all six of them. They swept Detroit to begin the season, then were swept by Toronto and New York, followed that by sweeping Toronto and were just swept by New York a second time.

Coming up:

4/22-4/24 - @Kansas City

4/25-4/27 - @Chicago

4/28 - Off Day

4/29-5/1 - Tampa Bay

5/2-5/4 - @Boston

The Twins get their first taste of the red-hot Royals and then travel to Chicago for their first series against their new rivals, the White Sox. After that, it is back home for three against Sweet Lou and the D-Rays, before heading to Boston.

CLEVELAND INDIANS (6-12 - 4th Place)

Who?s playing (and where) and who?s not (and why):

This ain?t your older brother?s Cleveland Indians. This Cleveland team has a lot of new faces starting, including Josh Bard (catcher), Travis Hafner (1B), Brandon Phillips (2B) and Casey Blake (3B).

Ellis Burks, Omar Vizquel and Matt Lawton are still around at DH, SS and LF, and Milton Bradley is still patrolling center. Karim Garcia is getting the bulk of the time in right field, with Shane Spencer getting starts several times a week in right and left. Backup infielder Jon McDonald has gotten two starts each at second base, third base and shortstop, and often enters the game at 3B as a defensive replacement.

The starting rotation has had only five members so far, and the team has skipped Jake Westbrook?s spot a couple times.

In the bullpen, Danys Baez is the closer and is three for four so far on saves. He has appeared in a total of nine of their first 18 games, pitching 11 1/3 innings. Everyday Jose Santiago has pitched in 11 of their 18 games and has totaled 11 1/3 innings too. Cleveland recently sent reliever Chad Paronto back down to Triple-A and activated Aaron Myette off the DL. Myette could be a new member of the rotation.

Stats, stats and more stats:

Milton Bradley is finally hitting. Bradley is at .375/.425/.625 with three homers and nine doubles through 17 games. He also has already scored 15 runs. Bradley?s defense is center however, has not been so great.

Rookie Travis Hafner (my #21 prospect) got off to a good start, going 4-8 in his first two games as an Indian, but has since struggled tremendously. He was hitting .133 on April 13th and has done a little better of late to raise his season line to .211/.274/.386 with two homers and four doubles in 59 at bats. He also has 17 strikeouts and only three walks.

Cleveland?s other big rookie, Brandon Phillips (my #9 prospect), is hitting only .169/.210/.305 in 59 at bats, but has homered twice and stolen two bases.

The Indians are hitting only .247/.312/.395 as a team, which ranks 13th in the AL, ahead of only Detroit.

Brian Anderson got off to an incredible start. He pitched eight shutout innings in his first start and followed that up with six innings and only two runs allowed in his second start. Since then, he has turned back into Brian Anderson, allowing 15 runs (eight earned) and 19 hits over 11 2/3 innings. He is 2-2 with a 3.51 ERA for the season and has struck out only nine batters in 25 2/3 innings.

C.C. Sabathia?s dropping K rate continues. C.C. struck out 8.53/9 as a rookie in 2001, but only 6.39/9 last season. This year he has only 13 Ks in 26 innings (4.50/9). I don?t know if he is injured or not, but it wouldn?t surprise me if all the innings and pitches he threw for the Indians as a 20 and 21 year old are catching up with him. He topped 100 pitches in 22 of his 33 starts last year, including pitch-counts of 104, 117, 119, 119 and 108 in his final five starts of the season - all as a 21 year old. As a 20 year old rookie in 2001 he topped 100 pitches in 17 of his 33 starts.

Fun with paces:

Jose Santiago - 99 appearances, 102 innings, 0 wins, 0 losses, 0 saves

C.C. Sabathia - 215 innings, 107 strikeouts, 74 walks

Karim Garcia - 414 at bats, 27 homers, 9 walks, 63 strikeouts

Milton Bradley - 648 at bats, 81 doubles, 27 homers, 54 walks, 135 runs

Down on the Farm:

At Triple-A Buffalo…

Catcher Victor Martinez (my #3 prospect) is hitting only .225 but has six walks, two homers and a double in 11 games (.373 OBP, .400 SLG).

Outfielder Coco Crisp, who got some time with the Indians last season, is hitting .395/.527/.558 with three doubles, two triples, 11 walks and four steals in 11 games. Ben Broussard, who fought Travis Hafner for the 1B job during spring training, is hitting only .214/.283/.333.

Former top prospect Alex Escobar, who has struggled with injuries, is hitting .174/.208/.370 and has struck out 20 times in 46 at bats.

Major league veteran pitcher Dave Burba is in Buffalo?s starting rotation and has a 1.64 ERA in his two starts.

At Double-A Akron…

One of my favorite underrated minor league prospects, Grady Sizemore, is off to a .318/.370/.530 start, with two homers, six doubles and a triple in 66 at bats. Last year?s #1 pick, Jeremy Guthrie, is in Akron?s rotation and has a 2-0 record with a 0.63 ERA in three starts.

Random stuff:

Cleveland?s runs scored totals:

1999 - 1,009

2000 - 950

2001 - 897

2002 - 739

2003 - 576 (pace)

Coming up:

4/22-4/24 - @Seattle

4/25-4/27 - @Oakland

4/28 - Off Day

4/29-5/1 - Anaheim

5/2-5-4 - Texas

A steady dose of the AL West coming up for the Indians, which will be tough, to say the least.

DETROIT TIGERS (1-16 - 5th Place)

Who?s playing (and where) and who?s not (and why):

As you might expect from a 1-16 team, the Tigers are doing a lot of lineup shuffling. Bobby Higginson recently started a game in centerfield for the first time since 1997, so that the Tigers could get Craig Paquette?s “bat” into the lineup in right field. Minor league veteran Craig Monroe was recently called up and was the starting left fielder in each of his first three games.

Hiram Bocachica (which, incidentally, is the greatest name in the history of baseball to hear Vin Scully say) got 22 at bats while playing in left field and center field, but was designated for assignment last week and replaced on the roster by Monroe.

Gene Kingsale has been getting the bulk of the time in centerfield, with Higginson starting in right. Dmitri Young had been getting the playing time in left field before Monroe?s arrival, and started two of the three games at DH since Monroe joined the team.

Omar Infante (SS) and Ramon Santiago (2B) have been the everyday double-play combo, with Shane Halter getting four starts at SS and two at second base. Halter has also started two games at third base, in place of the regular 3B, Eric Munson. Dean Palmer has been the DH for most of the season, but seems to be in danger of losing playing time to Young/Monroe. Behind the dish, Brandon Inge has gotten the bulk of the playing time, with veteran Matt Walbeck backing him up.

The starting rotation has been a constant and actually surprisingly decent. Jeremy Bonderman appears to be the only starter in danger of losing his spot in the rotation, although the Tigers have said publicly that he will not.

Knuckleballer Steve Sparks, who made 63 starts and pitched 421 innings over the past two seasons for Detroit, has been moved to the bullpen. His role has not really been defined yet. Sometimes he mops up, sometimes he sets up. Sometimes he pitches in blowouts, sometimes he pitches in tight games. His innings totals in his five appearances are as follows: 6 2/3, 2/3, 2, 1 1/3 and 3 1/3. If you see a pattern there, you are more perceptive than I.

Matt Anderson is the ever important closer-on-a-horrible-team and has a grand total of one save opportunity so far (which he successfully converted!). Rookie Franklyn German appears to be Alan Trammell?s setup man of choice and Jamie Walker is the official LOOGY. The other three relievers, Wil Ledzema, Chris Spurling and Matt Roney - all Rule V picks - have been mixed and matched in various roles.

Stats, stats and more stats:

Oh boy, where do we start. This Detroit team has a ton of fun stats…

Mike Maroth is the official tough-luck pitcher of 2003. He has started five games, including two 7 IP/2 ER games and an 8 IP/3 ER game and has posted a relatively decent 4.55 ERA - yet he is 0-5 and the team has scored a grand total of 10 runs in his five starts.

The Tigers have scored 34 runs in their 17 games (2.0/game) and are hitting .180/.247/.245 as a team. For comparison, National League pitchers are batting .162/.162/.184.

The Tigers? team-leader in slugging percentage is Higginson, at .365. Gene Kingsale leads the team in batting average and OBP, and has good figures in both categories (.316 and .409) - but he has yet to have an extra-base hit and is 0/3 on steal-attempts.

In fact, several Tigers do not have an extra-base hit yet: Brandon Inge (41 at bats), Dean Palmer (39), Kingsale (38), Craig Paquette (25) and Craig Monroe (12).

Detroit has been out-homered 23-5 this season. They have been out-doubled 37-16 and out-tripled 7-2.

The Tigers have struck out in 22.3% of their at bats this season.

Despite their 1-16 record, the Tigers? pitchers rank 10th in the AL in ERA - which isn?t completely horrible. They have also thrown the fewest innings in the league, mostly because they never have to pitch the bottom of the ninth inning on the road.

Fun with paces:

Detroit Tigers - 10 wins, 152 losses, 324 runs scored, 886 runs allowed, 29 steals, 76 caught stealing, 48 homers, 220 homers allowed, 1,143 strikeouts

Gene Kingsale - 362 at bats, 0 homers, 0 doubles, 0 triples, 10 RBI, 0 steals, 29 caught stealing

Dmitri Young - 534 at bats, 0 homers, 10 doubles, 0 RBI, 19 runs, 19 walks, 133 strikeouts

Carlos Pena - 467 at bats, 181 strikeouts

Dean Palmer - 372 at bats, 133 strikeouts

Matt Anderson - 10 saves, 10 save opportunities (literally)

Mike Maroth - 222 innings pitched, 0 wins, 35 losses

Down on the Farm:

At Triple-A Toledo…

Before his call up, Craig Monroe was hitting .400/.449/.667 in 13 games. Outfielder Andres Torres is hitting .333/.406/.386 and already has 10 stolen bases in 16 games. Minor league veteran Kevin Witt is hitting .393/.443/.839 and probably has a good shot at getting called up at some point, like Monroe.

Steve Avery (yes, that Steve Avery) is pitching relief for the Mud Hens and currently has a 2.57 ERA in six appearances, although he has served up three homers in only seven innings.

At Double-A Erie…

Catcher Maxim St. Pierre is hitting .239/.327/.370 in 46 at bats. Why is that important? It isn?t really, I just wanted to say his name. Former Minnesota Golden Gopher star Jack Hannahan (whom I once saw score 60-something points in a triple-overtime basketball game at a community center) is hitting .306 in 49 at bats.

Random stuff:

The Tigers are second in the AL in fewest errors (Yay!). They have also hit into the fewest double-plays in the AL, although that is just because they never have any base runners.

Detroit is currently worst in all of baseball in: batting average, slugging %, on-base %, OPS, hits, homers, runs, RBI, total bases and doubles.

Coming up:

(You mean besides more losses?)

4/22-4/24 - @Oakland

4/25-4/27 - @Seattle

4/28 - Day Off

4/29-5/1 - Baltimore

5/2-5/4 - Tampa Bay

Uh oh. The Tigers went 1-16 playing the Central division, with eight of the games coming at home. Now they go on the road to play six games against two of the best teams in baseball, Oakland and Seattle. The good news is that they get a day off and then start a six game home stand against Baltimore and Tampa Bay, which should yield at least one more win, or so you?d think.

 

Aaron Gleeman Posted: April 22, 2003 at 06:00 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Boileryard Posted: April 23, 2003 at 01:59 AM (#610498)
"Steve Avery (yes, that Steve Avery) is pitching relief for the Mud Hens and currently has a 2.57 ERA in six appearances, although he has served up three homers in only seven innings."

How is this possible? Even if all three HRs were solo shots, his ERA would be 3.85.
   2. Buford Sharkley Posted: April 23, 2003 at 01:59 AM (#610501)
One or more of the home runs could be unearned.

Example: Pop out, ground out, error shortstop. Runner on first. Player hits two-run homerun. Pop out. ZERO earned runs.
   3. Chris Dial Posted: April 23, 2003 at 01:59 AM (#610506)
Grant Balfour? That has a nice ring to it.
   4. Marc Posted: April 23, 2003 at 01:59 AM (#610507)
So will the real Twins please stand up? The Twins of '02 or these boys of April? April is a small sample but it's getting bigger and no better. Horrible situational hitting (under .200 w/RISP, unable to move runners over, score from 2nd with nobody out or 3rd with 1 out), consistently horrible situational hitting, and the worst K/BB ratio around. This needs to stop and soon. They may already be in serious trouble.
   5. Bernal Diaz has an angel on his shoulder Posted: April 23, 2003 at 01:59 AM (#610508)
CC Sabathia's dropping K rate can be directly attributed to his stint on American Idol using his psyudonym Ruben Studdard. Travis Hafner is doing a fine job with is Hollywood career and all. Check him out this summer in "A Man Apart"
   6. bp Posted: April 23, 2003 at 01:59 AM (#610510)
Grant Balfour sounds like a hockey player.
   7. mike green Posted: April 24, 2003 at 01:59 AM (#610526)
Excellent article, as usual. The only additional piece of info that would help in understanding each team broadly is their BABIP and opponents BABIP.
   8. Comic Strip Person Posted: April 24, 2003 at 02:00 AM (#610533)
Excellent article. The minor league reports were very interesting, especially the Twins since they have so many good players in the minors. And thanks for projecting the stats out for a full season, especially the Tigers. It is amazing how the Tigers have been stockpiling useless "hitters" with multi-year contracts (Paquette, Young, Higgenson, Palmer, and the recently cut Easley).
   9. Aaron Gleeman Posted: April 25, 2003 at 02:00 AM (#610548)
Hi Guys -

Good article Aaron, thanks. Question - are there going to be 5 more of these for the other 5 divisions?

I'm sure you've already noticed that the other divisional articles are up. The reviews of each division will be a new feature on Primer and should be a lot of fun.

How is this possible? Even if all three HRs were solo shots, his ERA would be 3.85.

One (or more possibly) of the homers resulted in un-earned runs. Avery's current stats: 7 G, 9 IP, 2.00 ERA, 4 K, 1 BB, 3 HR, 2 ER, 4 R. So, 2 of his 4 runs allowed have been un-earned.

Looks like we're close to a "Free Kevin Witt" campaign the way he's hitting for those pesky MudHens.

Witt has dropped off a little bit since I wrote this, but is still hitting .358/.411/.746 with 7 homers and 5 doubles in 19 games.

Thanks for the questions/comments guys and I am glad you enjoyed the article.

Aaron

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