— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Thursday, July 03, 2003
Bi-Weekly Review: A.L. East
The A.L. East through July 1st.
versus AL Central: 50-40, .556
versus AL West: 38-34, .528
versus NL: 41-48, .461
This division is like an accordion: it compresses and expands, but all the teams stay in the same position. The Yankees have had a productive stretch against weaker clubs (winning 12 of 14 including 8 of 9 decided by less than 3 runs and/or in extra innings). Boston has had its typical up and down period, while Toronto disappointed its fans with only a 7-6 record against weak or tired opposition (they played the Expos when the later returned after a 22-game absence from their nominal home town). The Orioles had a rough ride against +.500 foes, putting paid to their hopes of contention pending an influx of pitching talent. The Rays will have another high draft pick to look forward to in 2004 as they struggle to avoid 100 loses.
Let?s see if we can find some interesting things to say about a division as stable as the Canadian Shield. Here’s a closer look at each squad, in the reverse order of the standings.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays (3-10, 48-62 RS-RA)
Amidst a challenging stretch in the schedule, it must have been particularly galling to lose all 3 contests to the state rival. Only 11 runs were scored in that series.
In the first game, Mark Redman shut down a Rays lineup that featured Julio Lugo, Damian Rolls, Terry Shumpert and Carl Crawford. Fresh off the scrapheap Rob Bell pitched well in his 6 innings. The Rays kept the score tied at 1 for 10 innings despite walking 7 batters, until Miguel Cabrera hit a walk-off 2-run shot in the 11th off Al Levine.
Game 2 was a rain-shortened affair. Dontrelle Willis spun his left-handed magic for 5 innings before the game was called with the homeside up 2-0. The Marlins plated their two runs in the 4th with back-to-back RBI doubles by Juan Encarnacion and Derrek Lee.
Game 3 was the scene of the South Fish?s most improbable victory. Freshly-minted Devil Ray Jeremi Gonzalez was dealing, allowing only 2 hits and 3 baserunners in 7 innings. Jesus Colome struck out the side in the 8th. Yet the Rays went down 3-2.
The average attendance for the 3 games was 12,768 at (formerly) Joe Robbie Stadium. No further comment is necessary.
The big news was the first sighting of Mount Piniella in quite some time. Lou, miffed at Ben Grieve?s passivity at the plate and on the field in general, aired his views in public in no uncertain terms. I don?t know about you, but I don?t think Grieve looks too happy in Tampa Bay. He?s probably looking forward to free-agency, though there may not be much of a market for a light-hitting, iron-gloved version of John Olerud.
Rocco Baldelli ...............94 AB, 10 xbh, 13 runs, 8 rbi, W/K 4/21, .293 obp,.426 slg, 7 steals in 9 tries
Carl Crawford ..............79 AB, 3 xbh, 9 runs, 8 rbi, W/K 6/16, .291 obp, .291 slg, 7 steals in 7 tries
Aubrey Huff .................98 AB, 13 xbh, 11 runs, 15 rbi, W/K 6/13, .376 obp, .490 slg
Ben Grieve ...................59 AB, 2 xbh, 9 runs, 6 rbi, W/K 16/17, .364 obp, .237 slg
Victor Zambrano ...........42.0 IP, 2 HR, K/W 31/23, 2.36 ERA
Jeremi Gonzalez ............36.0 IP, 5 HR, K/W 24/17, 4.00 ERA
Dewon Brazelton ..........13.0 IP, 2 HR, K/W 4/11, 9.69 ERA
Jesus Colome ???...14.7 IP, 0 HR K/W 15/15, 3.07 ERA
Baltimore Orioles (3-10, 59-86 RS-RA)
Camden Yards is a pitcher?s park. Once again, it?s among the most difficult parks in baseball to score runs in. This distortion causes Orioles pitchers to be overrated and Orioles hitters to be underrated. The incredible seasons of Melvin Mora and Luis Matos look even better when accounting for the difficult environment they have to hit in. Will it last? Most likely not, but a closer look at these new "stars" is warranted.
Mora was signed out of Venezuela by Houston (around the same time as fellow Venezuelans Bobby Abreu and Richard Hidalgo ? the Astros struck a pretty rich vein, it seems). Several average-ish seasons followed before he earned his release. The main problem Mora seems to have had is attracting attention. He didn?t have a lot of power, walked some, didn?t strike out a lot, stole bases (but not efficiently enough for it to be an asset) and played the infield and outfield. In short, he could do just about everything fairly well, but nothing that caused the higher-ups to take notice. He was released at the age of 25, and went to play in Taiwan.
The Mets signed the (then) 26-year-old, and after showing promise at AAA Norfolk, they brought him to the Show in 1999. While getting regular ABs as a super-utility man for the playoff-bound Mets in 2000, he was deemed expendable. He was traded with 3 other players for a half-year rental of Mike Bordick. The Orioles put him to work in the middle infield, where Mora?s bat made him valuable.
After re-acquiring Mike Bordick for 2001, Mora was shuttled between the outfield and the middle infield, just as he had been for most of his minor league career. In 2002 as a 30-year-old, he became a Tony-Phillips type super-utility man, playing in 149 games at 6 different positions.
1999-2000 Norfolk?.. 90 games, 331 AB, 101 H (19 doubles, 2 triples, 8 homers), 48 W/ 57 K, 20/28 sb/att, .305 avg
1999-2000 NY Mets?145 games, 246 AB, 61 H (13 doubles, 2 triples, 6 homers), 22 W/ 55 K, 9/13 sb/att, .248 avg
2000-2002 Baltimore... 330 games, 1192 AB, 297 H (67 doubles, 7 triples, 28 homers), 128 W/ 231 K, 32/54 sb/att, .249 avg
Two things have kept Mora from becoming an above-average player: 1) being allowed to concentrate on playing shortstop and 2) his batting average. A shortstop with decent power and plenty of walks is a valuable commodity if he can hit at least .270. Judging by his results this year, Mora doesn?t look like a .250 hitter anymore.
2003 Baltimore ??.. 65 games, 234 AB, 82 H (16 doubles, 1 triple, 12 homeruns), 40 W/ 47 K, 5/8 sb/att, .350 avg
Matos is a different kettle of fish. Drafted out of Puerto Rico, the Orioles brought up Matos as a 21-year-old in 2000 and gave him a 72-game trial, in spite of the fact that Matos had not yet establishing himself as a successful minor league hitter. Such "force-feeding" rarely pays off in the short-term, and there is concern that it may do long-term damage to a prospect. Matos shares a lot of the same skills-set with Mora: good but not great power, very good speed, decent but not exceptional strikezone judgement (for his age). For that reason, even thought the 24-year old is performing exceptionally well this year in an Orioles uniform, we should expect a few rough patches over the next few years.
1999-2000 Bowie (AA)?. 116 games, 464 AB, 116 H (18 doubles, 6 triples, 11 homers), 32 W/ 62 K, 22/34 sb/att, .250 avg
2001-2002 Bowie (AA) ?. 75 games, 264 AB, 74 H (19 doubles, 2 triples, 10 homers), 37 W/ 52 K, 14/19 sb/att, .280 avg
2000-2002 Baltimore ??. 120 games, 311 AB, 66 H (14 doubles, 3 triples, 5 homers), 24 W/ 66 K, 21/25 sb/att, .212 avg
2003 Baltimore ????33 games, 143 AB, 49 H (9 doubles, 2 triples, 5 homers), 7 W/ 26 K, 9/11 sb/att, .343 avg
The common denominator here is the exceptional rise in batting average over what Mora and Matos have previously posted. Matos might be the better player in the long-term, since he is Matos? junior by 6.5 years.
Melvin Mora ...................... 76 AB, 7 xbh, 15 runs, 13 rbi, W/K 15/19, .463 obp, .553 slg
Luis Matos ........................104 AB, 8 xbh, 17 runs, 13 rbi, W/K 7/17, .342 obp, .462 slg, 7 steals in 8 tries
Brian Roberts ....................116 AB, 7 xbh, 17 runs, 6 rbi, W/K 9/13, .328 obp, .362 slg, 7 steals in 7 tries
Tony Batista ......................104 AB, 11 xbh, 15 runs, 18 rbi, W/K 2/23, .262 obp, .490 slg
Deivi Cruz ...........................94 AB, 12 xbh, 11 runs, 16 rbi, W/K 2/10, .323 obp, .553 slg
Sidney Ponson ....................43.0 IP, 3 HR, K/W 29/14, 3.77 ERA
Rodrigo Lopez ....................14.3 IP, 3 HR, K/W 3/6, 8.16 ERA
Omar Daal ..........................18.3 IP, 3 HR, K/W 5/9, 10.80 ERA
Toronto Blue Jays (7-6, 75-69 RS-RA)
The surprise offense of 2003 has finally slowed down. They?ve scored only 6 runs in their last 3 games and are now on pace to score "only" 986 runs. While Boston looks certain to smash the all-time record for team doubles (currently set at 373) in a season ? they have collected 221 on pace for 448 ? the Jays have a shot at owning second place on that list (current pace: 406 doubles).
Howie Clark and Reed Johnson filled in admirably for Shannon Stewart and Eric Hinske. When the regulars returned, Clark had a ticket back to AAA, but Johnson had convinced the skipper that he was everyday material. Accordingly, Reed Johnson has become the regular right-fielder, with Catalanotto and Phelps now platooning at DH. Toronto fans are waiting for the seemingly inevitable trade of Shannon Stewart and the restoration of Josh Phelps to everyday status (Catalanotto would then become the everyday leftfielder).
Kelvim Escobar has been the pitching find of the season. After an average year last year and a terrible April as the closer, Escobar was moved into the rotation. He?s responded with quality starts in 4 of his last 5 appearances. Cory Lidle continues to baffle ? he?s been a frequent victim of the big inning. His ERA (5.32) doesn?t square with his other numbers: 75K, 27 W, 11 HR in 116.7 innings. Roy Halladay?s 11 consecutive starts with a win steak ended with a no-decision against Montreal on Friday, June 27. He?ll pitch against Detroit, Boston and the Yankees before the all-star break.
The Curse of the Toronto Closer has claimed Cliff Politte as its next victim. Politte was Escobar?s successor and proceeded to serve up gopher balls at a rate I?ve rarely seen. 11 ding-dongs in 33.7 innings this year and, mercifully, a trip to the DL because of a sore shoulder he had been keeping secret. Scott Service and Juan Acevedo were brought in to try to help out one of the weakest bullpens in the majors.
Vernon Wells ...................... 111 AB, 17 xbh, 25 runs, 24 rbi, W/K 7/12, .417 obp, .676 slg
Carlos Delgado ......................95 AB, 15 xbh, 19 runs, 34 rbi, W/K 17/22, .387 obp, .621 slg
Reed Johnson .......................104 AB, 10 xbh, 24 runs, 16 rbi, W/K 4/7, .368 obp, .529 slg
Franken-catcher ....................101 AB, 12 xbh, 14 runs, 17 rbi, W/K 19/19, .463 obp, .564 slg
Stewart/Hinske .......................52 AB, 7 EBH, 11 runs, 7 rbi, W/K 3/5, .316 obp, .500 slg
Roy Halladay ......................... 45.7 IP, 3 HR, K/W 36/8, 3.15 ERA
Kelvim Escobar .............................41.7 IP, 3 HR K/W 41/10, 3.24 ERA
Cory Lidle ..............................35.3 IP, 5 HR, K/W 20/11, 7.90 ERA
Cliff Politte ........................... 9.7 IP, 4 HR, K/W 6/4, 13.03 ERA, 2 saves in 4 tries
Boston Red Sox (8-5, 93-58 RS-RA)
The Red Sox have overtaken the Blue Jays as the top offense in baseball, and are in with a shot at becoming the second post-WWII team to score 1000+ runs. You?re bound to have a great offense when you have 2 superstars and the front office has a talent for filling the rest of the lineup with talented hitters without excessive regard for defensive skill. This is a lineup with no Doug Flynns or Rey Ordonez?s. Boston is on pace to score 1037 runs this season, helped by a 25-run barrage against the beleaguered Florida Marlins. Here is a chart which shows OBP and SLG for Boston and the American League by batting order position:
The Bosox productive core extends all the way to the #7 spot in the order, while many other teams have only the 3 and 4 spots they can rely on and their production quickly dwindles from the #5 to the #9 slots. Only the leadoff man, mostly Johnny Damon, has been relatively unproductive so far this season.
Nomar Garciaparra ????? 113 AB, 17 xbh, 25 runs, 16 rbi, W/K 10/6, .444 obp, .646 slg, 5 steals in 5 tries
Manny Ramirez ???????.94 AB, 14 xbh, 27 runs, 27 rbi, W/K 19/14, .448 obp, .691 slg
Trot Nixon ?????????90 AB, 14 xbh, 20 runs, 22 rbi, W/K 13/19, .437 obp, .689 slg
Bill Mueller ...................................99 AB, 13 xbh, 16 runs, 12 rbi, W/K 8/18, .312 obp, .434 slg
Freddy Sanchez ............................20 AB, 2 xbh, 3 runs, 0 rbi, W/K 0/3, .250 obp, .350 slg
Derek Lowe ...............................41.3 IP, 3 HR, K/W 20/12, 3.27 ERA
Byung-Hyun Kim ........................32.0 IP, 4 HR, K/W 19/8, 4.50 ERA
Brandon Lyon ???????18.3 IP, 2 HR, K/W 19/2, 4.91 ERA, 3 saves in 4 tries
John Burkett ????????24.7 IP, 1 HR, K/W 20/7, 2.92 ERA
New York Yankees (12-2, 82-58 RS-RA)
The Yankees continue to roll. It?s quite amazing how many times they get behind early, only to rally, take the lead in the middle of late innings and bring in the Sandman to put out the lights. What makes it particularly sickening is that we, courtesy of ESPN and FOX, have had to witness all of these torturous Yankees-Mets "clashes". Hey networks, we get it already! The Mets suck and the Yankees rule ? now please don?t show us every subway series next year because those of us outside of NYC really don?t care.
The Yankees were playing some of the weaker major league clubs and good fortune did smile on them in a few of those contests. But really, is/was there any doubt about this team winning over 100 games? Two of their best hitters, Bernie Williams and Nick Johnson, have been out for a long long time, and yet their presence has barely been missed.
That?s thanks to the hot bats of Giambi and Matsui and in part to a few odds and ends the Boys of the Bronx picked up while they wait for the big guns to come back. Less than 3 weeks after landing Ruben Sierra from Texas, Karim Garcia and Dan Miceli were donated to the Yankees by Cleveland. Miceli has asserted himself as the #3 man in the bullpen, behind Rivera and Hammond; Garcia is 5 for 10 with a homerun and a walk in 3 games as a Yankee.
Jason Giambi ??????.. 84 AB, 15 xbh, 27 runs, 29 rbi, W/K 33/20, .554 obp, .819 slg
Hideki Matsui ??????104 AB, 17 xbh, 20 runs, 29 rbi, W/K 15/18, .484 obp, .673 slg
Raul Mondesi ??????108 AB, 11 xbh, 12 runs, 12 rbi, W/K 11/15, .277 obp, .380 slg
Juan Rivera ???????.82 AB, 9 xbh, 7 runs, 10 rbi, W/K 7/7, .300 obp, .377 slg
Roger Clemens ??????42.0 IP, 5 HR, K/W 43/9, 2.79 ERA
Mike Mussina ??????27.7 IP, 6 HR, K/W 23/3, 3.90 ERA
David Wells ???????.41.3 IP, 4 HR, K/W 18/1, 3.27 ERA
Mariano Rivera ??????20.0 IP, 0 HR, K/W 21/2, 0.90 ERA, 11 saves in 11 tries