April 9, 2003

Aaron in (boxscore) Wonderland

I went to see my little cousin in Alice in Wonderland (the community center version) last night (Amy, if you are reading this, you were an incredible Alice!), so I only got a chance to see the final inning of the Twins 2-1 loss to the Yankees. I can't really comment on the game, since I didn't see it, but I will say that, from the boxscore, it appears as though the same basic things that have been killing the team so far this season continued to kill them last night.

Their pitchers gave up homers (Kyle Lohse pitched very well, but gave up solo shots to Jorge Posada and Raul Mondesi).

Their hitters didn't walk (Minnesota had a total of 2 walks - 1 by Bobby Kielty, of course, and the other by Luis Rivas, amazingly).

No one could get a base hit with a runner on base (They went a combined 1-7 with runners in scoring position).

And, of course, they continued their streak of not turning a double-play and Rivas grounded into his 2nd DP (and the Twins' 9th) of the year.

They had a great chance to score some runs in the fifth, when they loaded the bases with 1 out. Jacque Jones hit into a fielder's choice (Kielty out at home) and Cristian Guzman ended the inning with a grounder to second.

It's frustrating to lose a game to such a good team when you get good pitching (Lohse gave up only 3 hits in 7 innings - it's just that 2 of them were homers), but the offense better find a way to start scoring some runs or it is going to be a long season.

Today's game is Rick Reed versus David Wells. If Reed gives up less than 3 homers I will be absolutely shocked.

The game I did see yesterday was the afternoon contest between the Cubs and the Expos, featuring 2 of the best young pitchers in the National League. 22 year old Mark Prior took on 26 year old Javier Vazquez.

I've said it before on this blog, but I have a lot of new visitors this week, so I'll say it again: I think Mark Prior will be the best pitcher of his generation and will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in about 25 years. How's that for a prediction?

Prior did not disappoint, pitching a complete-game shutout with 12 strikeouts and 0 walks. He looked absolutely un-hittable out there for much of the game. His fastball was coming in at 94-96 and his off-speed stuff had the hitters looking silly.

Vazquez was pretty damn good too. He went 7 innings and struck out 14, also without a walk. But he gave up a 2-run homer to Damian Miller in the 2nd inning and that was more than enough for Prior to work with. Actually, Prior provided enough offense to win the game all by himself, with an RBI single in the 8th.

Both pitchers were definitely on top of their games yesterday, but the umpiring helped a lot too. After the first inning I could really tell that Phil Cuzzi's strike zone was going to be very pitcher friendly, but I never expected it to be 27 Ks and 0 walks friendly! (Montreal reliever Luis Ayala pitched an inning and K'd a batter too)

With Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling both off to not-so-great starts this year, Mark Prior is definitely a serious Cy Young contender, and there isn't a pitcher in baseball I would choose ahead of him if I were starting a team right now.

While watching the Cubs/Expos game, I heard what is perhaps the dumbest thing I have ever heard said by a major league baseball announcer. It was definitely the dumbest thing I have ever heard Chip Carey say, although I guess you could call that one in the same. Anyway, he said this:

"Jason Kendall is off to a good start in Pittsburgh and the Pirates signed a few veteran hitters in the off-season, so Kendall is no longer the only RBI threat in that lineup."

Think about that for a moment. Now look at these numbers:

Jason Kendall 2000-2002

Year RBI
2000 58
2001 53
2002 44
Brian Giles 1999-2002

Year RBI
1999 115
2000 123
2001 95
2002 103

Two things:

1) I left out Jason Kendall's 1999 season because he missed a ton of time with an injury.

2) Chip Carey is a horrible baseball announcer.

I have talked about how Brian Giles is one of the most underrated players in baseball history before (several times), but I thought that was mostly because he played for the Pirates. Now I finally get an announcer talking about the best RBI-man on the Pirates and who does he bring up? Jason Freaking Kendall!

This is Brian Giles' 5th season in Pittsburgh. In his first 4 seasons he hit .309/.426/.604 and averaged 37 homers, 36 doubles, 6 triples, 109 walks and 109 RBI per season! I know it is Chip Carey, so I shouldn't really care, but can Brian Giles please get some love from someone?!

Since I watched "only" 1 game yesterday, I thought I would just take a cruise through all the boxscores and see if anything caught my eye...

In what has to be the most shocking development of the 2003 season so far, the Detroit Tigers scored 6 runs yesterday. Of course, they also gave up 9 runs and lost their 7th straight game. The flip-side of that is that the Royals are now 6-0 and way out in front in the AL Central. At this time, I am still refusing to acknowledge them as a serious division title contender because a) I don't think they are one and b) my team will have more than enough trouble with the White Sox and don't need anyone else to worry about.

Detroit rookie pitcher Jeremy Bonderman had his 2nd straight rough game and now has a 15.63 major league ERA. I have yet to hear a decent reason as to why he is pitching in the major leagues at the age of 20, having never pitched a single inning above A-ball, but it's the Tigers, so they probably don't need a particularly good reason, I guess.

The good news for the Twins yesterday was the Indians knocked off the White Sox 5-2, behind Brian Anderson's 2nd straight very good start. Anderson had a 5.20 ERA in 2001 and a 4.79 ERA last year - and is now 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA this season. I've decided that, as long as he's beating the White Sox, I won't point out that he's pitching way over his head right now.

Toronto doubled-up the Red Sox for the 2nd straight game, which probably has my buddies Craig and Kent from the Batter's Box pretty excited. Also, now I don't feel so bad that the Jays came to the Metrodome and swept the Twins last weekend.

The man whom I said I would trade Torii Hunter for (if their contracts remained the same), Vernon Wells, hit a grand-slam and now has 14 RBI in 8 games.

The Giants bludgeoned the Padres into submission, pounding them for 15 runs off of 16 hits - none of them homers. 11 Giants had an official at bat and 10 of them got at least 1 hit. Wanna take a wild guess which of them didn't? That's right, Neifi Perez.

Barry Bonds went 1-3 and is now hitting only .231, but it is perhaps the most productive .231 in baseball history. He has 3 homers, a double, a steal and 8 walks - good for a .444 OBP and .615 SLG. When some of those singles start dropping (and they will), he'll be back up in .600 OBP land again, don't worry.

San Fran's offense has been incredibly impressive this year. Bonds is hitting like the best hitter in the league instead of the best hitter of all-time, and yet they still have scored 62 runs in 9 games and are hitting .281/.374/.511 as a team.

Jose Cruz Jr. is doing his best Barry Bonds-impression and is currently hitting .378/.477/.865 with 5 homers, 3 doubles and 7 walks. Meanwhile, the only real down side to the Giants' season thus far is that Neifi Perez is doing his best Neifi Perez-impression, hitting .077/.077/.077 in 13 at bats.

Greg Maddux got destroyed for the 2nd straight start, giving up 10 runs (7 earned) off of 12 hits and 3 walks to the Phillies. I have been saying that I think the Philadelphia offense is going to be among the best in the league, but I am still pretty shocked at this.

Jim Thome and Pat Burell each went deep twice (although only Burrell's were off Maddux) and 7 different Phillies had at least 2 hits. The Phillies are really my kind of offense. 3 stars and a lot of league-average hitters, with a lot of patience and power. If Philadelphia doesn't win the NL East by at least 6-8 games, I will be shocked.

It's still too early to get overly concerned about Maddux, but my god, 29 hits and 24 runs in 14 innings?! I really hope Maddux can turn it around and I think that he probably will, but even if he does, his ERA is gonna be real ugly for quite a while. He would need to throw 27 straight scoreless innings just to get his ERA below 4.00.

Besides getting demolished by the Phils yesterday, Atlanta also announced that Paul Byrd will need elbow surgery and will probably be out for a quite a while. Hell of a decision, that Millwood/Johnny Estrada trade...

Defying all rational explanation and thought, the Brewers beat the Pirates for the 2nd straight day and are now well on their way to another 100-loss season.

One of my favorite young pitchers and a frequent topic on this blog, A.J. Burnett, returned from the disabled-list and made his first start of the season yesterday, against the Mets. I didn't see any of it, but the boxscore line looks very encouraging.

He went 7 innings, striking out 4 and walking only 1. He did give up 5 hits and a homer to Jeromy Burnitz, but allowed only 2 runs and, most importantly, was taken out of the ballgame after throwing only 80 pitches. I am still not confident about his long-term success, simply because of his idiot manager and the way his arm has been abused and likely will be abused, but I will hold off on more bashing of Torborg as long as he keeps those pitch-counts reasonable. Who knows, maybe he has seen the light.

Also in that game, Pudge Rodriguez walked 2 more times, bringing his 2 game total to 7! For those of you that missed yesterday's entry (What?! You had something better to do?!), here's what I said about The Walking Man:

Ivan Rodriguez walked in all 5 of his plate appearances last night, producing what is definitely one of my favorite boxscore lines of all-time:
0   0   0   0   5   0

5 walks ties the all-time major league record for a 9-inning game. The most amazing thing about it? Prior to last night, Ivan Rodriguez had walked a total of 305 times in 6,087 career plate appearances, or once every 20 plate appearances.

If you wanna get really statistical about it (which I usually do)...

Among all catchers in the history of baseball, Ivan Rodriguez has walked the 2nd fewest times of anyone (compared to league-average). Here's the official leadboard for this very special category:

Player               BB    LGAV     DIF

Manny Sanguillen 223 488 265
Ivan Rodriguez 304 558 254
Benito Santiago 393 646 253
Sandy Alomar Jr. 189 402 213

If you're confused by those stats, here is what it basically means: Ivan Rodriguez has walked 304 times in his career. If he walked at a "league-average" rate for his entire career, he would have walked 558 times, meaning his walk total is 254 fewer than league-average over his career. Makes sense, right?

You know, lots of people (including myself) make a big deal of how special it is that we are able to watch 4 of the greatest pitchers in baseball history right now, but I think I have overlooked the fact that we are also able to watch three of the hackiest hacking catchers that ever hacked the earth!

Pudge probably had a pretty decent shot at taking over the all-time lead in this prestigious category, but he may very well have ruined any chance he had with that ridiculously patient game last night. He should really be ashamed of himself and he deserves to be passed on the list by Benito Santiago, who has had the good sense to swing away! this year and has walked a total of 2 times in 7 games.

Big numbers make my head hurt, so I won't attempt to give you an actual answer to this question, but what are the chances of someone that has walked once every 20 plate appearances throughout their very long career walking 7 times in 2 games? I am guessing it is right around the chances of Jeff Torborg being cautious with Burnett's arm for more than a week (Yeah, yeah, I know I said I wouldn't bash him...).

Finally...

Yesterday I asked you guys to come up with a good nickname for everyone's favorite useless, overrated second baseman and I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of suggestions I got. I'll see if I can sort through them all and find the best of the bunch and maybe we can have a vote for Luis Rivas' official nickname tomorrow.

Today's picks:

Cincinnati (Graves) +140 over Houston (Robertson)

New York (Wells) -190 over Minnesota (Reed)

Detroit (Maroth) +110 over Kansas City (Asencio)

Toronto (Halladay) -125 over Boston (Burkett)

Chicago (Buehrle) -170 over Cleveland (Davis)

Total to date: - $125

W/L record: 17-17 (Went 2-2 yesterday and can't quite get over the .500 mark)

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

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