January 30, 2003

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I have some good news, some bad news and some weird news.

First the good news...

Remember about 4 weeks ago, when I wrote about this website going over the 20,000 visitor mark and I talked about how December was, far and away, the month with the most traffic in the short history of this website?

Well, if you don't remember, here is what I said:

This lil old website reached a bit of a milestone yesterday, when it surpassed 20,000 total visitors!

It is a pretty huge accomplishment for me because when I created this blog back in August I wasn't sure whether or not anyone other than my immediate family would visit it on a daily basis.

Thanks to some plugs on other websites and word of mouth I now have a pretty good sized audience and a consistent amount of daily visitors.

About two months ago, I said my goal at the time was to get the monthly visitor amount to over 5,000.

And guess what? December was the biggest month yet and the site got almost 7,500 visits!

So now my new goal is to get 10,000 in a month, so get to work!

Sadly, we did not reach 10,000 visitors in January.

However, we are inching closer to that number and January surpassed December as the biggest month yet.

Depending on how many people check out the site today, the visitor total for January will very likely creep over the 8,500 mark.

I just want to say thank you, not only to all the visitors, but also to all the people who have posted links to this blog on their various sites.

That 10,000 number still sounds pretty good, so that'll continue to be my goal.

If you have any friends you haven't yet told about the site, please do.

Or if you feel like telling some enemies or maybe even complete strangers about the site, feel free.

There is room enough for plenty more baseball nuts.

Now the bad news (for me at least)...

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I sent my laptop to HP to get fixed?

I don't want to repeat my entire anti-computer rant, but here is a little snippet of what I said:

I called up the customer support help line at this computer company that I won't name here (The company name is two letters and it starts with a "H" and ends with a "P" but that is all the clues I am going to give).

The guy on the other end was very friendly and he really wanted to be helpful, but he wasn't.

The guy from the un-named company informed me that it would take between 3-5 business days to get it fixed and that "includes shipping time."

Well, I just got the computer back yesterday.

In case you're counting, that is exactly 15 days from the time I sent it in.

As for their claim that it would take 3-5 business days to get back to me, fixed?

It took 10 business days.

And that's not the worst of it.

Apparently the problem with the computer was determined to have been "user caused" so it did not fall under the warranty.

So, instead of getting it fixed for free like the guy from HP told me, it cost over $200!

Again, that wasn't the worst of it.

Apparently, the computer took so long to get here because it was just sitting in some warehouse somewhere for an entire week.

Once it was determined that the problem didn't come under warranty, it gets sent to a different place to get fixed, at which point HP is supposed to call and get your credit card number, so they can charge you and begin work on the computer.

The problem in this case was that no one bothered to call me.

The computer just sat there, waiting for a credit card number and authorization from someone that no one bothered to call.

Finally, when I called HP, they basically said, "Oops, no one called you?"

So, they finally got my information and fixed the damn thing.

But wait, that's not the worst of it.

The worst of it is this: In order to fix a problem with the power cord plug in, someone decided that they needed to wipe out my entire hard drive.

I have no clue what a problem on the outside of the computer has to do with the inside parts, but all I know is all my stuff is now completely gone.

Before I sent it away, I did make a disk with some of my Word files and other stuff like that, so I could use them while I was on another computer.

However, I didn't figure on them wiping everything out to fix the power cord problem, so I didn't back up everything.

Now I wish I had.

Now, here is the ugly...

A few days ago, someone arrived at this website by entering in a Google.com search for "aaron's baseball blog", overrated.

That got me thinking and I had myself a nice little rant about it, where I (jokingly) called for this person to show himself.

Well, the person did.

Two people actually.

Yesterday, I received emails from two different people claiming to be the person who had typed in that search.

That's obviously a bit of problem, as only 1 such search was conducted.

Which reminds me of a bit I heard Bernie Mac do about a father and son, which basically goes like this:

Father: Mr. Johnson says you broke his window.

Son: I didn't break his window.

Father: So you're saying Mr. Johnson is a liar?

Son: No, he's not a liar.

Father: Oh, so you did break his window?

Son: No, I didn't break his window.

Father: So he's a liar?

It goes on for days.

My point being that 1 of the 2 emailers is quite simply a liar.

I don't really hold that against them, but it's the truth.

I thought it might be interesting to present portions of the two emails and let you, the audience, decide for yourselves which one is telling the truth.

Emailer #1 (Michael):

Hey, can you guess who this is? In a caffeine and nicotine induced stupor (I'm trying to quit both, apparently unsuccessfully) I did a search on Google that seems to have got you spooked.

Clarification: I was searching for things you may have written about players being overrated. I had gone through the entire Prospectus archives searching for that, and seeing as I had hours left before I would pass out (insomniacs of the world unite!) I decided to try your site too. So don't worry, I don't think your site is overrated. Hell, it's one of my favorites. So don't worry about it.

Emailer #2 (Chris):

Hey Aaron.

My name is Chris and I am the mystery Google searcher. Sorry to get you all hot and bothered. I am actually a big fan of the website so don't worry about anyone thinking you are overrated or anything like that.

I was looking for something you said about Ken Griffey's defense a while back and I ended up finding it (Google works!).

Keep up the good work.

Both seem like reasonable young men.

In the end though, one of them is lying.

And what a thing to lie about!

Speaking of reasonable young men...

When this site first started, one of the staples of my writing was to pick out a Phil Rogers column from ESPN.com and just bash the hell out of it.

I have cut back on it, if only because I think most people that read this site think Rogers is an idiot too, so bashing him doesn't really do much good.

Plus, I heard he was looking for me, so I'm in hiding.

Fortunately for the anti-Phil Rogers group out there (which still includes me), Bryan from "Bryan's Baseball Banter" and Christian from "The Cub Reporter" have decided to take up for the cause.

Bryan and Christian each pick out Rogers' "Hot Stove Heater" on the Cubs that he did for ESPN.com and just completely tears it to shreds.

It is fun for the whole family.

Here is:

Bryan's version.

Christian's version.

And finally, because 1 bit of bad news isn't bad enough...



The Twins made the cover of the "Sporting News 2003 Baseball Preview Magazine" with the caption, "Believe it...Twins are No. 1."

The always entertaining "TwinsGeek.com" alerted me to the cover.

John seems to be happy about the Twins being #1.

I, being a gigantic pessimist, am sort of worried that some sort of "cover jinx" will take place.

If the Twins season should go down the tubes as the team suffers a rash of injuries like slipping in the shower or injuring necks while sleeping, let's just say we'll know who to blame (The Sporting News, not John).

By the way, besides posting the thing about the Sporting News cover, TwinsGeek also has a really good article on Bobby Kielty currently posted.

You all know I have been shouting "FREE BOBBY KIELTY" from the rooftops for a while now and it just so happens that John's article begins:

"Free Bobby Kielty!"

That call has been shouted from the mountaintop...

Just to clarify, I am currently only shouting from rooftops and the occasional large hill, but if he doesn't get 500 at bats in 2003, I will be taking my laptop and moving to the mountains.

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

January 29, 2003

Cruising

Before I get to today's entry, I need to call upon my readers to help me with something.

I am currently in 2 Diamond-Mind keeper leagues.

One league has 24 teams, the other has 20.

Both are currently in the off-season stage, but are in need of a couple of new owners before we can get going on the new season.

They are great leagues, with a lot of really cool guys.

Among the owners in the leagues:

Kent Williams (aka "Coach") from the Batter's Box.

Robert Dudek from Baseball Primer and the Batter's Box.

Joe Dimino from Baseball Primer.

Craig Burley from Baseball Primer and the Batter's Box.

As you can see, the leagues are jam packed with baseball writing celebrities!

Not to mention Yours Truly.

And I am sure I am forgetting some other guys too.

The leagues are very well run and a lot of fun, with good owners and strong competition.

You would be taking over existing teams, with full rosters of players.

If you are interested in joining one (or both) of the leagues, please drop me an email by clicking here.

I am sure that out of the hundreds of baseball nuts that visit this site everyday, we can find 3 or 4 that want to join a couple of really good Diamond-Mind leagues.



Back in 1997, I thought Jose Cruz Jr. was going to be a superstar.

Let me try to explain.

In 1997, I was 14 years old.

I had yet to start reading Rob Neyer or Baseball Prospectus and I am fairly sure that if you asked me what "OBP" was, I would have thought you were talking about a Naughty By Nature song.

All I knew was batting average, home runs and runs batted in.

I also loved Ken Griffey Jr. and the Mariners, like most young baseball fans did at the time.

The 1997 Mariners had a rookie left fielder by the name of Jose Cruz Jr.

He came up about 1/3 of the way through the season and began playing everyday alongside Griffey.

He was a much-hyped prospect and the son of a Jose Cruz, an All-Star outfielder in the 70s and 80s.

And, It seemed like every game he played, he'd hit like a man possessed.

After playing 49 games for Seattle, the Mariners decided they needed some help for their bullpen and they traded him to the Blue Jays for Mile Timlin and Paul Spoljaric.

At the time, every baseball source that I looked at thought it was an idiotic trade and I simply could not figure it out.

Cruz had hit 12 homers and 12 doubles in only 49 games and had driven in 34 runs.

I thought he was going to be something special.

Looking back on it now, I still don't understand why you would trade a 23 year old Jose Cruz Jr. for Mike Timlin and Paul Spoljaric, but the trade was far from the massively one-sided deal I imagined it would be.

Here is some of what I wrote about Jose Cruz Jr. back in December, when the Blue Jays declined to offer him arbitration:

Cruz's minor league numbers weren't all that great and they showed he would likely have a lot of trouble hitting for a decent average, which he definitely has.

The power has always been there, but when you're hitting .240 and not walking much it isn't that valuable.

Cruz is passable as a center fielder.

He has decent range and an adequate arm.

In either of the corner outfield spots, he is a very good defender.

At the plate, Cruz had a bit of a "breakout" year in 2001, but he came back to his normal performance level in 2002.

He is basically a .245/.325/.450 hitter.

He'll hit some homers, which look nice, but his overall value is pretty average for a center fielder and below average for a corner outfielder.

Cruz is a switch-hitter and, prior to this year, he has hit lefties and righties equally, so he isn't much of a platoon candidate.

Some team will probably give Cruz a multi-year contract worth quite a few million, but they'll be making a mistake. As J.P. Ricciardi figured out, Cruz isn't worth millions a year and there are plenty of guys that can do what he does for a lot less.

Turns out I severely overestimated the free agent market this off-season.

Not only did no team "give Cruz a multi-year contract for quite a few million," he struggled just to find a decent 1 year deal worth any kind of good scratch.

He had some talks with the Orioles, but really, who wants to play in Baltimore right now?

Instead, Cruz chose to sign with the Giants, for 1 year and $2.5 million dollars.

I think this is a very nice deal for the Giants.

Cruz is not great, but most of the remaining free agents are a whole lot worse and San Francisco was in desperate need of another outfielder.

If they hadn't signed Cruz, they might have been looking at Marquis Grissom getting 600 at bats (and making 400 outs) or maybe moving Ray Durham to the outfield, at which point they would be looking at Neifi Perez getting 600 at bats (and making 400 outs).

From what I've read, the plan is for Cruz to play right field, not center.

He'll be a good defender out there, draw some walks and pop some homers, which is exactly what San Fran needed.

One downside is that Cruz's batting average is never very good, so most of his offensive value comes from his home run power.

As a switch-hitter, he'll hit left handed for the majority of the year and Pac Bell is absolute death to any and all left handed power hitters that don't wear a big red "S" on their chest.

His "raw" power numbers will probably take a hit, but because I am no longer 14 years old and I know about such things, I will able to figure out that the reason is not Cruz playing any worse, it is simply an effect of the place he plays half his games.

One of my favorite things to do over the past few months has been to "project" San Francisco's lineup.

I've done it several times on this very website.

With Jeff Kent leaving and Durham, Alfonzo (and now Cruz) coming, along with the fact that they have Superman, it's always entertaining to try to figure out how Felipe Alou will fill out the lineup card.

Here's my latest guess:

2B     Ray Durham

3B Edgardo Alfonzo
LF Barry Bonds
RF Jose Cruz Jr.
SS Rich Aurilia
C Benito Santiago
1B J.T. Snow
CF Marquis Grissom / Marvin Benard

It might not look it at first glance, but that is a very good lineup.

Here are each player's EqAs from last year, along with MLB average at their position:

Durham = .296

AVG 2B = .259

Alfonzo = .307

AVG 3B = .264

Bonds = .457

AVG LF = .283

Cruz Jr. = .267

AVG RF = .283

Aurilia = .256

AVG SS = .256

Santiago = .271

AVG C = .246

Snow = .263

AVG 1B = .287

Grissom = .289

AVG CF = .270

For those of you without calculators handy...

1 position was as far above average as a human being can possibly be: Barry Bonds +.174 over the average LF.

4 positions were significantly above average: Durham +.037, Alfonzo +.043, Santiago +.025 and Grissom +.019.

1 position right at league average: Aurilia +/- .000.

2 positions significantly below average: Snow -.024 and Cruz Jr. -.016.

As much as I worship him, I do not expect Barry Bonds to hit .370 next year, so I would suspect he will not be +.174 over the average LF in 2003.

I also think Santiago is almost a sure thing to decline quite a bit and Grissom is a good bet to do the same.

Those declines should be somewhat off-set by what I think will be a bounce back year by Aurilia and an improvement by Snow, because he simply can't be any worse.

In 2003, I would predict the Giants will have 4 players significantly above average: Bonds, Durham, Alfonzo, Aurilia.

3 players hovering right around league average: Cruz Jr., Santiago and Grissom.

And 1 player way below average: J.T. Snow.

That is the formula for a very good offense, particularly when 1 of the 4 "above average" guys hits like Babe Ruth dreamed of.

What I just did is one way of looking at the offense.

Another way to do so is to look at what the Giants did in 2002 and see how that might be different in 2003.

Bonds, Snow, Santiago and Aurilia are the only guys that return from last season.

As I said, I expect Bonds to "decline" a little bit and Santiago a lot.

But, I also expect Snow and Aurilia to improve, which should off-set that.

As for the newcomers...

Durham replaces Jeff Kent at second base.

Kent was good for 123 "Equivalent Runs" last year, Durham clocked in at 97.

I would expect Durham to play at about the same level, which would mean a dropoff of about 25 runs.

At third base, Alfonzo replaces David Bell.

Bell created 80 EqR last year, while Alfonzo had 88, in slightly less playing time (he had some injuries).

If Alfonzo plays a full-season, he should be worth at least 20 runs over David Bell's performance last year.

In the outfield, Grissom and Cruz replace Reggie Sanders and the Lofton/Shinjo/Goodwin/Benard 4-headed monster.

Last year Sanders and the group of CFs combined for 180 EqR in 1449 plate appearances.

Shinjo, Goodwin and Benard all appeared some as left fielders and pinch hitters too, which is why the plate appearance totals are more than a "normal" center fielder/right fielder combo.

Meanwhile, Cruz Jr. and Grissom combined for 121 EqR in only 881 plate appearances.

Cruz missed some time with injuries and Grissom was a platoon player some of the time.

Add in some Marvin Benard and some Tony Torcato to fill in some of those remaining plate appearances and the Giants should definitely be able to equal or better the production of their 2-non Barry Bonds outfield positions from last year.

So, here's what we've got...

LF, SS, C and 1B are all the same players and I expect them to, as a group, produce similarly in 2003.

2B will probably be worth about 25 less runs offensively this season than it was in 2002.

3B will probably be worth about 20 runs more, at least.

And CF and LF should be about the same, total.

What we've really got here is a whole lot of new faces and a very similar offense as far as overall quality is concerned.

And, if the Giants can have a similar offense to last year's, it will be among the best in the league.

The Giants scored the 3rd most runs in the National League last year, but that stat is extremely misleading because of how tough Pac Bell Park is on hitters.

Their team EqA (which adjusts for everyone's home ballpark) was the best in all of baseball, at .283.

Assuming Bonds doesn't go McGwire on us this year, the Giants should once again have one of the top 2-3 offenses in the National League.

Pitching and defense?

Well, that's a subject for another time.

Don't worry though, as long as #25 is still hitting them into McCovey Cove, I'll be talking about the G-Men quite a bit.

Thanks for stopping by today and if you're interested in joining a really great Diamond-Mind keeper league, don't forget to drop me an email.

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

January 28, 2003

Who are you and how did you get here?

One of the more interesting aspects of having this website is my ability to track how people arrive here.

I am able to find out how many people visit this site every hour, every day, every month.

More interestingly, I am able to see how they get here.

Most people arrive by way of some sort of "bookmark" (or "favorite place" for you AOL users).

They have stumbled across this site at some point in the past and liked it enough to make a point to save the address and come back again.

This fact pleases me to no end.

I like the idea that there are people out there that stop by here every single day by simply clicking on something they have chosen to save to their computer.

I imagine that many people stop here at about the same time every day, while sitting at the same place.

Perhaps upon waking up in the morning before school, maybe during their lunch break at work or possibly before going to bed at night.

The possibilities are endless, at least in my imagination.

While many visitors to this site come because they have made an effort to do so on a regular basis, others do so purely by accident.

Each and every day, dozens of people come here by way of "links" on other baseball websites.

One of those silly Canadians from the "Batter's Box" might enjoy something I write and make mention of it on their site.

100 of their readers will head this way right away, many of them for the first time.

John Bonnes from "TwinsGeek.com" has me set up as a permanant link near the top of his page, so every day a few people that enjoy reading about the Twins from John decide to check out the link and find themselves here.

And still, others find this site by true accident.

About 30 times a day, someone will go to Yahoo or Google or some other search engine, type in some words for a search and end up at this website.

I am able to see not only which search engine they used to get here, but which words they typed in when they did the search.

Quite often, the results are very amusing.

The most common search is for "Aaron Gleeman."

This fact always feels strange to me.

It doesn't seem natural to me that there are people in this world sitting at their computer trying to find things about me.

Can you imagine finding out that some guy in Oregon did a search for your name on Yahoo.com at 3 am last night?

It is both flattering and strange.

The second most popular search is for "Aaron's Baseball Blog," which makes more sense to me than searching for my name.

I figure people might hear about the site from a friend, but maybe not know the actual address of the website, so they go online and search it out.

This excites me because I think about people talking about this site with their friends and co-workers.

There are many other searches that pop up quite a bit.

Things like "Minnesota Twins stats" or "Theo Epstein" or "Billy Beane" or "Kevin Millar traded to Japan" or "Hall of Fame candidates" or "Luis Rivas sucks" (okay, I made that last one up).

No matter how many times someone comes to this site from a search about a player or a team or a GM, it always fascinates me a little bit.

And then there are the weird searches.

Last October, during the World Series, I was involved in a "Baseball Primer chat" where a bunch of the Primer authors watch the game and have a conversation online in a chat room.

This particular night's chat lost its focus and went from baseball to women, as most chats with a bunch of guys that lose their focus do.

One of the topics that came up in the chat was Jennifer Aniston and her butt.



I am not proud to say this, but I am an honest person and I aspire to tell my readers the truth, so I will admit that I was the one that brought this subject up.

The next day, I wrote an entry on this blog in which I discussed some of the stuff that was talked about in the chat the night before.

I mentioned the part about Ms. Aniston's butt.

(I say "Ms." Aniston because I refuse to acknowledge that she is married, in the hopes that she is not that happy and desperately searching for me, perhaps by doing a search of "Aaron Gleeman" on Yahoo.com from Oregon at 3 am)

But, I digress...

Anyway, shortly after I made passing mention of Jennifer's rear end, people started arriving at this website from searches of "Jennifer Aniston's Butt."

Such is the beauty of the internet.

Something I say on my tiny little blog one day in passing can somehow find a place in Yahoo's database of websites and be found by people searching for something relating to a celebrity's butt.

I always get a chuckle out of someone arriving here by searching for that, if only because I imagine how utterly disappointed they are when they get here and realize that all this website contains is a bunch of stuff about baseball written by some kid in Minnesota.

"Aniston's butt" is the most common of the "strange" search phrases, but there are many others.

Remember when those two idiots ran out on the field in Chicago and attacked the Royal's first base coach?



I wrote an entry about it and it apparently included the phrase "shirtless guys."

Every couple of days or so, someone will come here by way of a Google search for the phrase "shirtless guys."

I have come to the conclusion that they do not find here what they were looking for.

During the Twins/Angels playoff series last October, I watched one of the games at my aunt and uncle's house.

While there, I played some Nok Hockey with my 3 cousins and when I wrote an entry about the game the next day, I said so.



Now, at least once a day, someone comes here after trying to find information about Nok Hockey on the internet.

Like I said, I always get a kick out of seeing these searches.

Then, yesterday a new one popped up that has me a little flustered.

At 1:02 AM, someone using AOL on a Macintosh computer and living on the west coast went to google and typed in the following:

"aaron's baseball blog", overrated

What do I make of this?

Well, as far as I can tell, there are two distinct possibilities.

The first one, and the one I hope is true, is that this person was looking for an entry on this site where I talked about someone or something being overrated.

Maybe they wanted to find the entry from a few weeks ago where I wrote about Rey Ordonez signing with Tampa Bay and I said, "They'll say they wanted Ordonez's defense for their young pitching staff, but what good does that do you when his defense isn't even that good anymore and has always been overrated?"

I am sure that I have desrcibed a player or an aspect of a player's game as overrated many times on this blog and I am hoping that is what this person was searching for at 1:02 AM.

The second possibility, and the one my paranoid mind has latched onto as the truth, is that the person was sitting in California late at night, trying to find something on the internet about this very website being overrated.

At first I found this highly implausible, mostly because I don't think I have reached the level of notoriety that there are other websites talking about me, let alone writing that I am overrated.

But then I thought to myself that there doesn't have to actually be other websites writing that about me, this person is simply searching for such a thing.

As I said, this is what my mind has latched on to.

I am now confident that there is a person living on the West Coast, using AOL at 1:02 AM on a Macintosh to do Google searches that has thought to themself, "I really hate that Aaron's Baseball Blog and I think it is really overrated...I wonder if anyone else feels the same way."

To that person, I have a message:

Shame on you!

This website is obviously one of the most UNDERrated things since Honus Wagner and that thing on the informercial that hooks into a vacuum cleaner and cuts hair.

It deserves massive amounts of attention and incredible praise.

You want an overrated website, try ESPN.com!

Phooey!

What the heck does Peter Gammons know anyway? And so what if I first got interested in writing about baseball because of Rob Neyer! They have stats and player profiles that I link to every single day? Big deal!

And finally, to this AOL using, Macintosh owning, google searching, up past midnight on the West Coast, Aaron's Baseball Blog hating person, I say this:

SHOW YOURSELF!

Don't hide behind your (Macintosh) computer (that contains AOL and is located on the West Coast).

Show yourself!

I think you won't, because you are afraid.

Do you want to know why?

Because it is you that is overrated!

I know atleast 10 other people living on the West Coast that do much better 1:02 AM Google searches on AOL with a Macintosh computer than you do!

A lot of people think you are in the top 5 overall in that category, but I don't even think you make the top 20.

What do you think about that?!

AHA!

That's the last time you do that Google search, isn't it?

This is the end of this entry.

You are now hereby excused from reading this website so that you may head over to Yahoo or Google and enter in searches for "Aaron Gleeman is a crazy, paranoid, overrated, Luis Rivas-hating, Bobby Kielty-loving weirdo."

Oh, I almost forgot...

If you haven't already, please head over to BaseballPrimer.com and check out my latest article:

2003's Top 50 Prospects

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

January 27, 2003

Hot off the presses

After weeks of furiously researching, ranking and typing, my latest article for Baseball Primer is posted and ready for mass comsumption.

It is called "2003's Top 50 Prospects" and it is simply my ranking of the top 50 prospects in baseball, along with stats and comments for each and every player.

One of the easiest ways to start an argument about baseball is to start talking about prospects.

The truth is that no one, no matter how many games they watch, how many scouts they talk to or how many numbers they crunch, can tell you for certain what the Major League career of a minor leaguer is going to end up like.

Because of that, any ranking or discussion of "top prospects" is really no more than pure opinion, with a lot of educated guessing thrown in.

And, that's always a good formula for some heated "debate."

Let's say I think that minor league center fielder Joe Blow is going to be extremely great as a Major Leaguer, but another guy thinks he is going to be a total bust.

There is really no way to prove one way or another that someone is wrong about it (unless you wait 10 years or so), because when it all comes down to it, it's all just a guessing game.

All of that is the reason why it took me about 10 years to write this article.

The majority of the entries on this blog are written in one sitting.

I am usually tooling around the internet and I read something that catches my attention and I think "Hmm...maybe I should write something about this..."

So, I dig up a few stats, form an opinion and sit down and start typing.

That's not to say I don't spend a lot of time on each entry or that I don't think about what I'm writing, just that I am usually able to just let the words flow and then re-read it once it's done just to make sure I don't sound like a complete idiot.

With this latest Baseball Primer article though, I had a very hard time just letting the words flow.

Another reason for that is the fact that trying to come up with 50 unique and interesting things to say about 50 different minor league players is a difficult thing to do.

How many times can I say that a pitcher has a lot of potential, but he needs to develop a change up and avoid injuries? And how many different ways can I say it?

Plus, I have an internal need to be funny, or at least try to be.

But, it is still a serious article with serious analysis, so I had to be careful with what I said and how I said it.

Plus (or should I say plus plus?), an article that contains stats and comments for 50 players, as well as a lengthy introduction, is just going to be a really long article and take a ton of time to write.

All of this is my very long way of saying that I spent an incredible amount of time on the article and I really would like all of you to take the time to read it.

Despite (or possibly because of) the time involved, it is my favorite article of any that I have written.

I am a prospect nut and comparing stats, looking up background information and basically just learning more about each of the 50 guys (and the dozens that didn't make the cut) was a lot of fun for me.

I hope the article is a lot of fun for you too.

And, as always, you can let me know what you think of it.

Just by being an article about opinions on baseball prospects, it is sure to produce a lot of different emotions and go against a lot of different opinions, which is always fun.

So, please head over to BaseballPrimer.com and check it out:

2003's Top 50 Prospects

In other news...

Just a few days ago, I wrote the following:

"No column about minor transactions would be complete if I didn't mention the Twins newest acquisition, Jose Cabrera.

The Twins had been talking about signing Rick White or Mike Fetters, both of whom I would have liked a lot more than Jose Cabrera.

White signed with the White Sox yesterday, which makes it even worse."

While Rick White is not going to be a Twin in 2003, Mike Fetters just might be.

The Twins signed Fetters to a minor league contract yesterday, which makes me very happy, mostly because I have said previously that they should have.

I don't think Mike Fetters is anything special, but he is a useful part of a bullpen.

And, since the Twins don't appear very willing to give the job to a minor leaguer like Grant Balfour, Fetters is nice choice for 2nd righty in the bullpen and certainly a better option than Jose Cabrera.

Here are his 2002 numbers, pitching with Arizona and Pittsburgh:

55 Innings / 4.09 ERA

53 Stike outs / 37 Walks / 4 Home Runs

.252 Batting average against

Breaking that down a little further:

versus righties = .230/.329/.311

versus lefties = .306/.451/.435

As you can see, Fetters was extremely good against right handed hitting and extremely bad against left handed hitting.

His season totals really took a huge hit during the last month of the season, when he completely fell off a cliff.

April = 2.08 ERA

May = 2.38

June = 5.19

July = 3.24

August = 1.64

September = 12.86

Basically, for 4 of the first 5 months of the season, Fetters was an extremely effective reliever.

He just fell apart in September, exactly why I am not sure.

Take out the September numbers and his pitching line for 2003 looks like this:

48 Innings

2:45 ERA

43 Strike Outs

27 Walks

4 Home runs

38 Hits

Those are some damn good numbers and, as long as Fetters wasn't injured last September and has yet to recover, I think he could very well post similar numbers for the Twins.

That's the good news...

The bad news for the Twins and Fetters is that he is an extreme groundball pitcher.

You all know how I feel about Guzman and Rivas' defense up the middle (and, for those of you that don't know, I think it stinks!), so Fetters might find himself giving up a lot more groundball hits than he did with the D-Backs and particularly the Pirates last year (Pittsburgh had a great defensive middle infield of Pokey Reese and Jack Wilson).

With the Twins' great outfield defense, I tend to think they should be looking for extreme flyball pitchers (like Eric Milton) instead, but I still think Fetters is a good signing.

Here is my prediction for Fetters in 2003 (if he makes the team):

50 Innings

3.80 ERA

38 Stike outs

25 Walks

5 Homers

That aint bad.

And, it doesn't take into account the best part of having Mike Fetters on a ballclub: watching him pitch!

There is simply nothing like it.

The way I heard the story is that Fetters has asthma and he learned to combat it by taking a gigantic breath before delivering each pitch.

So, what he does is get into the stretch with his head facing third base...

He takes a gigantic breath of air...

And then snaps his head into position to look at home plate, where he proceeds to stare like a madman at the sign from the catcher.

Stare at third base.

Giant breath.

Snap head.

Stare at catcher.

Pitch.

Repeat.

If you haven't seen it, just wait.

You'll love it.



Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Fetters is, for lack of better words, a big fat guy, which makes everything infinitely more fun to watch.

With the loss of fellow big fat guy David Ortiz, the Twins were severely lacking in big fat guy depth, so this Fetters signing (along with Matthew LeCroy getting more playing time) will help out a lot in that area.

In fact, LeCroy and Fetters could have been separated at birth:

That's it for today.

Please make sure to go check out my latest article at Baseball Primer:

2003's Top 50 Prospects

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

January 26, 2003

Astroville

Before I get to today's entry, I want to let everyone know that the voting for Baseball Primer's Primey Awards are done and this blog finished second in the "Best Internet Weblog" category.

Baseball Prospectus won in a landslide, but I am more than happy to finish 2nd to them.

On to the baseball...



The Dodgers got Daryle Ward from the Astros for minor-league pitcher Ruddy Lugo.

This deal is a relatively inconsequential one.

The Dodgers have Fred McGriff at 1B and Brian Jordan and Shawn Green in the outfield corners, so Daryle Ward doesn't have much chance of starting in 2003.

However, just a couple of years ago, Ward was a pretty good prospect.

Check out his minor league numbers:

Year    Level     AB     AVG     OBP     SLG    AB/HR    AB/2B    AB/BB

1997 AA 422 .329 .398 .524 22.2 16.9 9.2
1998 AAA 463 .305 .361 .525 20.1 15.0 11.3
1999 AAA 241 .353 .416 .772 8.5 16.1 10.5

Those are some very good minor league numbers.

Strangely, Ward's plate discipline went down (albeit slightly) as he got more experience, which is the opposite of what usually happens.

As he got older, some of his doubles started becoming homers, with some of his singles becoming doubles.

Ward looked to be a .300+ hitter capable of 35+ homers, lots of doubles and a few walks.

The problem was, when he got to the minors, he was no longer able to hit for a great batting average and, since he never walked very much to begin with, his on-base % was usually pretty awful.

Year       AB      AVG      OBP      SLG     AB/HR     AB/2B     AB/BB

1999 150 .273 .311 .473 18.8 25.0 16.7
2000 264 .258 .295 .538 13.2 26.4 17.6
2001 213 .263 .323 .460 23.7 14.2 11.2
2002 453 .276 .324 .424 37.8 14.6 13.7

Now, that is a strange career progression.

Ward broke into the Majors at 24.

Since then, his home run power has gradually disappeared, while his doubles power has increased.

Normally it is the exact opposite.

And, like I said, he has not been able to hit for the same type of average that he did in the minor leagues.

His career Major League average is .269.

A .269 hitter that doesn't walk at all is going to have a tough time being very valuable, unless he hits for some major power.

And it looked like Daryle Ward would hit for some major power and he even did for a little while.

But his power is regressing, to the point that he hit a homer every 40 at bats in 2002, which is not a very good number at all.

Daryle Ward was a very promising minor league prospect and his game was based on a high batting average and lots of power, both homers and doubles.

His one major blemish in the minors was that he never walked.

And, once he got to the Majors, his average plummetted and his home run power has gradually vanished and, with his plate discipline continuing to be crappy, he has become a very mediocre player, at best.

Unless he has been hiding an injury over the past couple of seasons, I am inclined to think that the sudden drop off in power is because of something wrong in his swing, a hitch or hole or something.

His average has maintained the same level throughout his ML career and his doubles power is actually rising, so I think it is simply some adjustment he made that has caused his home run power to dry up.

Ward is in some serious need of a good hitting coach.

He would be best served to learn a little plate discipline, which would help him be a more valuable player, regardless of whether or not his batting average ever approaches his minor league levels.

Another possibility for the drop in Ward's power is that pitchers and coaches around the NL have learned that they simply don't have to give him anything good to hit.

Why throw him good, hittable strikes when he'll swing at anything?

You certainly are not in any danger of walking him most of the time.

Daryle Ward can still be a valuable player, in an outfield corner, first base or at designated hitter.

But, he is a perfect example of what not having plate discipline can do to a hitter when some of their other skills start letting them down.

Ward needs to learn to take a few more walks and he needs to find a way to rediscover his home run power.

The Dodgers are hoping he can find both.

I don't think he'll ever be a great hitter, but he's got a good chance of getting back to his 1999/2000 levels.

As for the guy the Astros got for Ward, Ruddy Lugo...

I think he is an interesting prospect.

Combined, between A and AA last year, Lugo pitched 120 innings, primarily as a reliever.

He struck out 100 batters (7.5/9 IP) and walked 39 (2.9/9 IP).

Those are pretty good numbers for a young pitcher.

Lugo's got a chance to be a decent reliever some day, but I think the point of this deal for the Astros was to rid themselves of Ward and open up playing time for some other people in the outfield.

Getting a decent pitching prospect back was just gravy.

For the Dodgers, like I said, Ward doesn't have a place to play at the moment.

It wouldn't surprise me if he became their left fielder in 2004, replacing Brian Jordan, or their first baseman, replacing Fred McGriff.

Meanwhile in Astroville...



Craig Biggio is requesting a contract extension.

This is exactly the sort of situation that a General Manager dreads.

Craig Biggio is one of the best players ever to play for the Astros.

In his prime, he was among the best second basemen and leadoff hitters in the game.

However, he is getting up there in age and has had some injuries in the past couple years.

His overall performance, offensively and defensively, has been in a serious decline for a while now.

Check out the stats:

Year       G      AVG      OBP      SLG     SB

1998 160 .325 .403 .503 50
1999 160 .294 .386 .457 28
2000 101 .268 .388 .393 12
2001 155 .292 .382 .455 7
2002 145 .253 .330 .404 16

Biggio's skills have gradually been vanishing, one by one.

His average was the first to go.

From 1994-1998, he hit .300+ in 4 out of 5 seasons.

Then his AVG dropped to .294 in 1999 and .268 in his injury filled 2000 season.

He bounced back to post a solid .292 in 2001, but his AVG fell all the way to .253 (his lowest since 1988) last season.

His speed on the bases is also pretty well gone.

From 1992-1998, Biggio stole 38, 15, 39, 33, 25, 47 and 50 bases.

His steals went from 50 in 1998 to 28 in 1999 to 12 in 2000 and then to 7 in 2001.

He actually had a nice year stealing bags in 2002, swiping 16/18, but 18 attempts is a very low number for him.

Finally, his plate discipline strangely vanished in 2002.

Biggio never walked a ton, but he was always good for 70-80 walks a year.

Last year he only walked 50 times, which was his lowest total since 1989.

A falling batting average and sudden disappearance of plate discipline is not a real good sign for a 37 year old player.

In addition to his struggles offensively, he has also declined quite a bit on defense.

Diamond-Mind ranks defensive players on a 5-point scale: Excellent - Very Good - Average - Fair - Poor.

Craig Biggio got a "Poor" rating at 2B in 2001 and a "Fair" in 2002.

He was once a very good defensive second baseman, but the drop in defense goes along with his drop in steals and speed.

Biggio's injury in 2000 was a knee problem and I think it has really sapped him of his quickness and laterness movement ever since.

That said, he won't be back at 2B anytime soon, as the Astros are planning to move him to the outfield, which is partly why they wanted to dump Daryle Ward.

I have seen suggestions that he could be a very good center fielder, but I just get buy it.

I think his main problem at 2B has been a lack of lateral movement and overall quickness.

And, those two things are just going to become even bigger problems in center field.

I do think he could become a very good defensive left fielder, but his bat would be among the worst in the league out there.

All of this is why Houston GM Gerry Hunsicker has a very tough decision to make.

Biggio is signed for 2003 and he'll play one of the Astros' 3 outfield spots and bat at the top of the order.

But, after this season, would you really want to be in the position of paying Biggio (presumably) a large amount of money for several more seasons?

I wouldn't.

His decline is just going to get worse, even if he can have a nice 2003 season.

But, if you don't offer him a new deal and you let him leave via free agency, you lose a lifetime Astro and one of the franchises biggest stars, which will no doubt anger the fans quite a bit.

If I were Gerry Hunsicker, I would bite the bullet and let Biggio play out his deal and leave after the season.

If he wants to sign a 1-year deal for a reasonable amount and come back to play in 2004, that's fine.

But I would never give out a multi-year deal to a player that is aging as poorly as Biggio is.

Obviously that's easier said than done, particularly since I am not the one that has to read Hunsicker's hate mail.

But, that's why GMs get the big bucks and the nice offices.

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

Older Posts »