May 29, 2003

Is the season one-third empty or two-thirds full?

With most teams playing their 52nd or 53rd game of the season last night, I figured it would be a good time to pause and take a look at how everything stands as of right now, one-third of the way through the 2003 season.

I think the 50-game mark is probably right around the time where the stats people are putting up finally start becoming "real." Nobody is hitting .420 anymore, the only .500 on-base percentages belong to Barry Bonds, and the leaders in wins are Mike Mussina, Jamie Moyer, Mark Mulder and Kevin Millwood, not Runelys Hernandez, Jeff Suppan and Albie Lopez.

Of course, I can't really rationalize Esteban Loiaza's place atop both the ERA and wins leaderboards. But, at this point, he's looking at a pretty good season even if he goes back to pitching like Esteban Loaiza at some point.

I thought it might be fun to make my MVP choices for the first 33% of the season today. Keep in mind, all of my rankings are based solely on the performances of players through the first 33% of the season. My picks have nothing to do with how I think players will perform for the rest of the season or how they performned last season - it is based 100% on what they have accomplished through the first 50 or so games of the 2003 season.

So here they are, my top 5 choices for AL and NL MVP - in reverse order, of course (you know, for the suspense!)...

(All stats through Wednesday, May 28th)

AMERICAN LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:

5)

Edgar Martinez | DH | Seattle Mariners

 G     AB     PA     AVG     OBP     SLG    HR    2B    3B    RBI    RUN

44 156 190 .308 .416 .590 12 8 0 42 23

The top four AL MVP candidates have all separated themselves from the rest of the pack at this point and, after them, there is a glut of 1B/LF/RF/DH-types having very good seasons. Guys like Carl Everett, Raul Mondesi, Aubrey Huff, Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez and Mike Sweeney. All of them are having very good offensive seasons and are definitely MVP candidates, but I chose Edgar Martinez over them (and other guys) because Edgar has put up his impressive offensive numbers while playing in Safeco Field, a very tough park for hitters.

In fact, according to Baseball Prospectus' Equivalent Average (EqA), which adjusts for ballparks, Edgar Martinez has been the third-best hitter in the AL this season. Of course, as a DH, all of his value comes from his hitting, which is the only reason why I think there is some question as to whether he's been a better player than Everett (a left fielder) or someone like Troy Glaus (a third baseman), who adds a lot value on defense. Still, I think Edgar's hitting has been extremely impressive this season and, when you take playing environments into account, he has been one of the most dominant offensive players in baseball this year.

Edgar ranks 15th in the AL in batting average (.308), 5th in on-base percentage (.416), 4th in slugging percentage (.590), 9th in homers (12), 3rd in RBIs (42) and 7th in walks (29).

Random stat: Edgar Martinez is hitting .338/.443/.738 on the road this year.

4)

Alex Rodriguez | SS | Texas Rangers

 G     AB     PA     AVG     OBP     SLG    HR    2B    3B    RBI    RUN

51 201 228 .294 .377 .572 15 11 0 35 36

Alex Rodriguez is one of three American League middle-infielders having a superb offensive season thus far. I rank ARod just slightly behind the two other guys (Alfonso Soriano and Bret Boone), but the difference between all three is so small that, within a week, the order could be completely switched around.

ARod gets lots of credit from me for his very good defense at shortstop, but his offense, when home ballparks are taken into account, is a step below the other two guys. Rodriguez is hitting .294/.377/.572, so that's really saying something about the seasons Soriano and Boone are having.

ARod ranks 26th in the AL in batting average (.294), 22nd in on-base percentage (.377), 8th in slugging percentage (.577), 3rd in homers (15), 14th in RBIs (35) and 9th in runs (36).

Random stat: Rodriguez is hitting .328/.371/.638 against lefties, after hitting only .239/.331/.453 against them last season.

3)

Alfonso Soriano | 2B | New York Yankees

 G     AB     PA     AVG     OBP     SLG    HR    2B    3B    RBI    RUN

53 233 260 .313 .377 .584 16 9 3 39 44

Alfonso Soriano and Bret Boone both play second base for playoff contenders and they are having almost identical offensive seasons. Soriano is hitting .313/.377/.584, while Boone is hitting .301/.372/.571. Soriano has driven in 39 runs and scored 44, while Boone has driven in 38 and scored 42.

I give Bret Boone the slight edge over Soriano for two reasons: 1) he plays in a more difficult park to hit in and 2) he plays better defense at second base. I think Soriano has a slight edge in offense numbers (slightly higher OBP and SLG, plus more SBs), but whatever edge he has is wiped out because of the difference between Yankee Stadium and Safeco (Soriano has a .329 EqA, Boone has a .330 EqA). So, they are essentially equals offensively thus far, which means Boone's superior defense at the same position gives him a definite edge.

Soriano is 10th in the AL in batting average (.313), 22nd in on-base percentage (.377), 7th in slugging percentage (.584), 1st in homers (16), 7th in RBIs (39), 3rd in runs (44) and 2nd in stolen bases (13).

Random stat: Soriano is hitting .391 on the road this year and .237 at home.

2)

Bret Boone | 2B | Seattle Mariners

 G     AB     PA     AVG     OBP     SLG    HR    2B    3B    RBI    RUN

50 196 224 .301 .372 .571 13 14 0 38 42

Remember how we all thought Bret Boone's 2001 season was one of the flukiest in baseball history? Take a look at the following two seasons:

 OBP     SLG    HR    2B    RBI    RUN

.372 .578 37 37 141 118
.372 .571 41 44 121 134

Okay, now which one of those two lines belongs to his 2001 season and which one is his projected full-season numbers for this year? Pretty tough to tell them apart, huh? The first one is 2001 and the second is this year.

I left out batting average from both lines because his average, along with walks, is really the only difference between the two seasons. Boone's batting average is .301 this year, which is 30 points lower than it was in 2001. The fact that his slugging percentage and on-base percentage can be the same as they were in 2001 despite a 30 point drop in batting average shows that Boone is both hitting for more power this year and exhibiting a whole lot more plate discipline. In fact, he is on pace to walk about 70 times this year, almost double his total from 2001 (40).

If Boone can keep up his MVP-caliber play this season, it will bring up an interesting question regarding his 2001 season: At what point does a "fluke season" cease being a fluke season? In other words, Brady Anderson hit 50 homers in 1996, but if he had followed that up with 47 homers in 1998, would 1996 have been taken off the "incredibly fluky season" list?

Boone ranks 20th in the AL in batting average (.301), 26th in on-base percentage (.372), 11th in slugging percentage (.571), 8th in homers (13), 9th in RBIs (38), 5th in runs (42) and 22nd in walks (22).

Random stat: Boone is hitting .353/.418/.647 against right-handed pitchers, after hitting .272/.331/.438 against them last season.

1)

Carlos Delgado | 1B | Toronto Blue Jays

 G     AB     PA     AVG     OBP     SLG    HR    2B    3B    RBI    RUN

53 192 233 .328 .446 .651 15 17 0 51 45

Quite simply, Carlos Delgado has been the best player in the American League so far. I generally consider myself someone who takes a player's defensive position and defensive contributions into account a great deal in my MVP choices (see picks 2-4 for evidence), but Delgado has been head and shoulders above the rest of the AL offensively, so much so that it makes up for the fact that he plays first base and doesn't play it particularly well.

He leads the AL in all of the advanced offensive metrics: EqA, Equivalent Runs (EqR), Runs Above Replacement Position (RARP), Value Over Replacement Position (VORP) - the list goes on and on. He also leads the AL in slugging percentage (.651), RBIs (51), runs (45), extra-base hits (32) and walks (37). He is 2nd in homers (15), 7th in batting average (.327) and 2nd in on-base percentage (.446).

Delgado has been one of the better offensive players in the AL for quite a while now, but his 2001 and 2002 seasons were a step below his fantastic 2000 season, when he finished 4th in the AL MVP voting. So far this year, his season looks a lot like it did in 2000.

Here are his final 2000 numbers and his projected 2003 numbers:

Year     AVG     OBP     SLG    HR    2B    RBI    RUN     BB

2000 .344 .470 .664 41 57 137 115 123
2003 .328 .446 .651 45 51 154 135 112

Those are monster years and, if Delgado keeps this up, he may be able to hold off those offensive middle-infielders for his first MVP.

Random stat: Delgado is hitting .480/.629/.860 with runners in scoring position.

NATIONAL LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:

5)

Albert Pujols | LF | St. Louis Cardinals

 G     AB     PA     AVG     OBP     SLG    HR    2B    3B    RBI    RUN

50 173 197 .347 .416 .671 14 14 0 40 45

First of all, before I say anything else about Albert Pujols, I feel the need to let everyone know that I simply do not believe he turned 23 years old last January. He doesn't look like he's 23, he doesn't act like he's 23 and he doesn't play like he's 23. And yeah, I know he went to college in the United States and most people don't think there is even a chance that he is older than he says he is, but I still don't buy any of it, not for a minute. I don't even have a real reason for thinking this way, it's just something I feel.

That said, if he really is 23, how awesome is this guy's career going to be?!

Check out what his first 3 seasons would look like, if you project his current 2003 stats over a full-season:

Age      G     AB     AVG     OBP     SLG    HR    2B    RBI    RUN

21 161 590 .329 .403 .610 37 47 130 112
22 157 590 .314 .394 .561 34 40 127 118
23 159 559 .347 .416 .671 44 44 130 143

Like I said, if he's 23 years old right now, that is absolutely amazing. Heck, if he's 27 or 28 right now, that's pretty amazing.

Of course, this MVP ranking is only about this year, and Pujols has been awesome for the Cardinals. Despite suffering through an elbow injury for the majority of the season, Pujols is hitting .347 and has driven in 40 runs in 50 games.

Prior to the Cardinals' acquisition of Scott Rolen last year, Pujols afforded them a great deal of flexibility with his ability to play first base, third base, left field and right field. With Rolen manning the hot corner though, Pujols' services are no longer needed there and, with the elbow injury, he has had problems throwing this year anyway, so he's played primarily left field and some first base.

It's not hard to see why the Cardinals have scored the third-most runs in the National League this season (second-most among non-Colorado teams): They have 4 serious MVP candidates in their everyday lineup in Pujols, Rolen, Edgar Renteria and Jim Edmonds. Plus, they have a suddenly healthy J.D. Drew back and hitting like he was a few years ago.

Pujols is 2nd in the National League in batting average (.347), 8th in on-base percentage (.416), 1st in slugging percentage (.671), 4th in homers (14), 8th in RBIs (40) and 3rd in runs (45).

Random stat: Pujols is hitting .488/.511/.902 as a first baseman and .307/.390/.614 as a left fielder.

4)

Scott Rolen | 3B | St. Louis Cardinals

 G     AB     PA     AVG     OBP     SLG    HR    2B    3B    RBI    RUN

51 180 220 .306 .423 .600 11 20 0 45 32

Scott Rolen won the NL Rookie of the Year Award with the Phillies in 1997 and never really improved upon his numbers with the Phillies much from that first season. Apparently all he needed was a trade to the Cardinals, a team that has "rejuvenated" the careers of Jim Edmonds and Mark McGwire recently.

I'd say Rolen is officially "breaking out" this year. He hit .266/.357/.503 last year, so it's not like he was bad or anything, but he's at a whole different level right now. After hitting 29 doubles in 155 games last year between Philly and St. Louis, Rolen already has 20 doubles in just 51 games this season. He is also on pace for 35 homers, which would be a career-high. Plus, he's walking a ton...

Plate Appearances/Walk:

Year      PA

1997 8.7
1998 7.7
1999 7.4
2000 10.6
2001 8.8
2002 9.3

And so far this year...

Year      PA

2003 6.3

It's still early, but it does look like Rolen has made a significant improvement in his strike zone judgement and plate discipline. He has 35 walks and only 29 strikeouts this year. If he keeps up that pace, it would be the first time in his career that he walked more than he struck out.

Oh, and he's a legitimate Gold Glove third baseman too!

Random stat: Rolen is hitting .422/.533/.933 with runners in scoring position.

3)

Gary Sheffield | RF | Atlanta Braves

 G     AB     PA     AVG     OBP     SLG    HR    2B    3B    RBI    RUN

50 186 218 .349 .427 .645 13 16 0 46 42

Last year, when Gary Sheffield joined the Atlanta Braves, this is the type of performance I thought they would get from him. I always felt like Sheffield was one of the best, most underrated players in baseball for most of his career and I thought moving to the Braves would help his exposure (TBS) and his hitting stats (moving from Dodger Stadium to Turner Field). Instead, Sheffield hit "only" .307/.404/.512 and was limited to just 135 games. Despite the move to a better ballpark for hitting, the .404 on-base percentage was his lowest since 1994 and the .512 slugging percentage was his worst since 1997.

This year, Sheffield is on fire. He hit .340/.432/.638 in April and is hitting .360/.417/.663 so far in May. One of the most impressive things about Sheffield's game has always been his ability to work a ton of walks without striking out very much. He hasn't had more strikeouts than walks in a season since 1993 and has had several seasons (1996, 1998) when he had twice as many walks as Ks. This year is no different, Sheffield has 25 walks and has struck out only 16 times.

Sheffield is 1st in the National League in batting average (.349), 4th in on-base percentage (.427), 2nd in slugging percentage (.645), 5th in homers (13), 2nd in RBIs (46) and 4th in runs (42).

Random stat: Sheffield is hitting .452/.515/.774 on the road this year.

2)

Barry Bonds | LF | San Francisco Giants

 G     AB     PA     AVG     OBP     SLG    HR    2B    3B    RBI    RUN

42 134 187 .299 .497 .642 13 7 0 26 36

For those of you that have been reading this blog for quite a while now, seeing me put Bonds' name beside anything but a "1" in an MVP ranking is probably a little shocking. Trust me, it shocked me a little bit too.

When he has played, Barry Bonds has been the best player in all of baseball again this year. Unfortunately, he has already missed 10 of the San Francisco's first 52 games. He's on pace for about 130 games played over the course of the entire season and, most likely, 130 games of how he is playing right now will make him the MVP of the National League. However, through 33% of the season, there is one player in the NL that has been more valuable to his team and, in the interest of being completely honest and unbiased, I have ranked him ahead of Superman here.

While Bonds has been much less dominating this year than he has been in the past two seasons, he is still the class of baseball. He leads the world in on-base percentage at .497 and is 3rd in the NL in slugging percentage (.642), despite playing in the single worst park for hitting in all of baseball. He leads baseball in walks with 48 and has hit 12 homers (8th in the NL) despite only totaling 134 at bats all season.

He also leads baseball in Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC27) with 11.82 and leads the majors in EqA (.387) and the NL in RARP (29.5).

Random stat: Barry Bonds has only been allowed to bat (has not been intentionally walked) 27 times the entire season with runners in scoring position. To put that into some context, there are 240 players right now in major league baseball that have more ABs with RISP than Bonds has and there are 36 players that have at least twice as many ABs.

Next time someone tries to tell you Bonds isn't that great because he only has "X" number of runs batted in, bring that little tidbit up. By the way, Barry is hitting .296/.642/.630 with runners in scoring position.

1)

Rafael Furcal | SS | Atlanta Braves

 G     AB     PA     AVG     OBP     SLG    HR    2B    3B    RBI    RUN

53 223 253 .341 .406 .565 8 12 7 21 54

So, this is the guy that I think has been more valuable than Superman this year. Must be having a pretty good season, huh? Well, yeah!

Here is what Rafael Furcal's current numbers look like, projected over the full-season:

  G     AB     AVG     OBP     SLG    HR    2B    3B    RUN    SB    CS

162 682 .341 .406 .565 24 37 21 165 31 0

Oh, did I mention he also plays shortstop?

I could stare at those numbers all day. You've got to love a guy that fills up a statsheet like that. 24 homers, 37 doubles and 21 triples?! 31 stolen bases without getting caught once?! 165 runs scored?!

I think it's probably a safe bet that Furcal will slow down quite a bit at some point, but that is irrelevant when considering who has been the best player thus far. Furcal and Bonds are fairly close in the number one offensive stat I like to use, "Runs Above Replacement Position." Basically, that number tells how many runs a player has been worth offensively over a "replacement level" player at his defensive position.

Here is how Raffy and Superman stack up:

Bonds     29.5

Furcal 28.0

What that means is that Bonds has been worth 29.5 runs over a replacement level left fielder and Furcal has been worth 28.0 runs over a replacement level shortstop. And that only accounts for offense. So, I think it's fair to say that Furcal's defensive contributions at shortstop compared to Barry's in left field more than make up for the 1.5 run difference in their offensive value.

Of course, Bonds dwarfs Furcal in all of the "rate" stats like EqA (.387 to .330) and RC27 (11.82 to 9.38). However, Furcal has played in 53 games and has totaled 253 plate appearances this year, while Bonds has been limited to 42 games and 187 plate appearances. 10 games without Bonds in the lineup is big and 10 games with a guy who is the best shortstop in baseball right now is also huge.

If Barry can stay healthy, this is his award to lose, as always. But Rafael Furcal has been the most valuable player in the National League this season.

Furcal ranks 5th in the National League in batting average (.341), 9th in on-base percentage (.406), 12th in slugging percentage (.565), 1st in runs scored (54) and 8th in extra-base hits (27).

Random stat: A switch-hitter, Furcal is slugging .580 right-handed and .561 left-handed.

Today's picks:

Houston (Miller) -110 over Chicago (Estes)

Atlanta (Maddux) -130 over New York (Glavine)

Chicago (Wright) +120 over Cleveland (Sabathia)

Seattle (Pineiro) +110 over Minnesota (Lohse)

Oakland (Lilly) -150 over Kansas City (Wilson)

Total to date: + $1,360

W/L record: 106-103 (I finally had a decent day for picks yesterday, going 4-0 for +495.)

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

May 28, 2003

Reader Mail (300 Win Edition)

As I suspected it might, my entry from Tuesday about the 300-Win Club generated a ton of emails.

(For those of you that missed the entry, click on the following link to check it out: Reexamining 300)

Obviously I can't respond to all of the emails here (well, I could, but that would take up a lot of space...), so what I have done is pick a couple of emails that I think represent some of the main points that were found throughout the emails.



(Thanks to everyone who sent me an email, including you Heidi)

Here we go...

Our first email comes to us from "Matt":

Hey Aaron,

It's tough to figure out where to rank active players in terms of All-Time status, but with Clemens saying that this will be his last season, where do you think he stands in terms of the greatest pitchers ever - or maybe to make it a little easier, in terms of the greatest pitchers after WWII?

After WWII, I would rank him about even with Tom Seaver, a notch or two ahead of Bob Gibson, Greg Maddux, and perhaps Steve Carlton and Warren Spahn. The next group includes guys like Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine. Putting Johnson and Glavine in the right spot is tough since they are still pitching, and the same goes for Pedro Martinez. If Pedro can pitch another 7-10 years at his current level without getting hurt, he might be the Greatest Ever by the time he's done. But while speculation is fun, its still just speculation.

Hey, enjoy your summer. Get a job with the Twins yet?

Matt

First and foremost, no, I don't have a job with the Twins yet. Thanks for rubbing it in! To Terry Ryan or anyone in the Twins front office - I will work for free. Seriously, drop me an email and I'll start tomorrow.

Regarding where Roger Clemens ranks among the all-time great pitchers, I actually covered that topic a while ago (August to be exact), when I ranked my top 20 hitters and top 20 pitchers of all-time. For those of you that weren't around back then, here are the links:

One man's opinion (Part 1: Hitters)

One man's opinion (Part 2: Pitchers)

In my top 20 ranking for pitchers, I had Clemens #3 all-time, behind Walter Johnson and Lefty Grove. The next "modern" pitchers on the list were Greg Maddux (#6), Tom Seaver (#7) and Bob Gibson (#9).

So, to answer Matt's question: I think Roger Clemens is the best post-WWII pitcher in the history of baseball and I would still rank him #3 all-time, just because it is very difficult for someone to jump over the amazing duo of Johnson and Grove. That said, I do think that a very good case could be made for Clemens being the greatest pitcher of all-time, I'm just not ready to make it - yet.

The other interesting thing Matt brings up in his email is his statement that, "If Pedro can pitch another 7-10 years at his current level without getting hurt, he might be the Greatest Ever by the time he's done."

First of all, I have more chance of the Twins emailing me about a possible job than Pedro Martinez has not "getting hurt" for "another 7-10 years." It's just not going to happen. Heck, he's hurt right now.

Here's what I said about Pedro in my entry on Tuesday:

"Other than [Mike Mussina], the next guy on the list under 35 is Pedro Martinez, with 156 wins. I love Pedro and he might just be the greatest pitcher in baseball history when all is said and done, but he has almost no shot at getting 144 more wins."

If Pedro Martinez somehow managed to pitch even 7 years "at his current level without getting hurt," he would be the greatest pitcher of all-time and I don't think it would be particularly close.

Here's what Pedro's career stats look like, right now:

  G     GS      IP     ERA      W     L    Win%      SO     BB       H

335 268 1953 2.63 156 65 .706 2282 524 1451

First of all, those numbers are ridiculous.

I am not exactly sure how to figure what 7 years "at his current level without getting hurt" would be, since his actual "current level" involves him being on the disabled list. For the sake of simplicity and my sanity, let's just say that his current level is the average season he has had since joining the Red Sox in 1998.

He has played a total of 5 seasons with them (prior to this year) and, if you figure out the straight average season of those 5 years, it looks like this:

GS     IP     ERA     W    L     SO    BB      H

28 196 2.27 18 5 250 40 140

Of course, this is far from perfect. First of all, one of those 5 seasons (2001) was an injury-filled one and Pedro pitched only 116 innings, which brings his "average" way down. Secondly, his K rate appears to be slowly sliding downward from where it was when he first joined the Sox, although it is still very good.

But okay, the "average" is good enough for our purposes. So, let's credit Pedro will 7 of those average seasons, on top of what his current career numbers are. His "new" career totals look like this:

  G     GS      IP     ERA      W       L    Win%      SO     BB       H

531 464 3325 2.47 282 100 .738 4032 804 2431

Remember how I talked on Tuesday about how amazingly hard it is for a pitcher to win 300 career games? Look at Pedro's "new" stats. I credited him with 7 more seasons of 196 innings and a 2.27 ERA per season and he still only comes out to 282 career wins! If that isn't reason enough for "300" no longer being the "magic number" for pitchers, I don't know what is.

Anyway, here is how Pedro's new numbers would stack up on the all-time lists:

(I only counted pitchers after 1900 and, for any "rate" stats, only pitchers with 1,500+ career innings)

3,325 IP - #64 all-time

2.47 ERA - #20 all-time

4,032 Ks - #3 all-time

282 Wins - #20 all-time

.738 Win% - #1 all-time

10.9 K/9 - #2 all-time

6.6 H/9 - #2 all-time

8.8 H+BB/9 - #1 all-time

5.0 SO/BB - #1 all-time

Pretty impresive stuff. Plus, he would be far and away the leader in perhaps the most important category, career adjusted ERA+. Which would mean, compared to the leagues and enviroments he pitched in, he was better than anyone in history.

Of course, while this is a lot fun, it's never going to happen. Right now Pedro is struggling to start 7 more games, let alone 7 more full, injury-free seasons. I suspect that, whenever he's done playing, Pedro's real numbers will be impressive enough to force him into any discussion of the greatest pitcher of all-time, despite what is going to be a very "short" career compared to guys like Walter Johnson and Lefty Grove, and contemporaries like Clemens and Maddux.

I also suspect that, like baseball arguments often do, the "is Pedro the greatest pitcher ever" debate will come down to "peak" versus "longevity." If you're a fan of peak, it simply does not get any better than Pedro Martinez.

People (including myself) like to talk about the greatness of Sandy Koufax's magnificient 6-year run. Guess what? Pedro has been having "Koufax in his prime" seasons his entire career.

Here are Koufax and Martinez's top adjusted ERA+ seasons during their best 6-year stretch, along with where their innings pitched ranked in their league that year:

(Koufax's stretch is from 1961-1966 and Pedro's is from 1997-2002)

Koufax          Martinez

ERA+ Rnk ERA+ Rnk
190 1 285 8
187 14 245 9
161 3 221 4
160 1 196 20
143 28 189 60
124 4 160 6

Look, I'm as big a Sandy Koufax fan as you'll find, but if those two 6-year periods are comparable, I'm Rob Neyer. Pedro Martinez is Sandy Koufax - if Koufax was better and right-handed.

The thing that makes Pedro so great is that, in addition to what is probably the greatest 6-year stretch in baseball history, he also has the following numbers prior to 1997:

  G     GS      IP     ERA      W     L    Win%      SO     BB       H

154 89 671 3.39 48 31 .608 665 239 544

In other words, that is Pedro before he was "good." Plus, what he's done so far this season (60 IP, 2.83 ERA, 62/17 K/BB ratio) isn't too shabby either.

Let me try to phrase this in a way that makes at least a little bit of sense: I think that Pedro Martinez is the greatest pitcher of all-time. However, when actually trying to figure out the "greatest pitcher of all-time," it is actually figuring who the most valuable pitcher of all-time is. Because of that, Pedro Martinez loses points as a result of his lack of durability.

In other words, if you go back in time and give Pedro some sort of potion that will keep injuries away, I think there is no doubt that he is the single greatest pitcher in baseball history. But there are guys that are close, and most of those guys have so many more innings pitched and games won than Pedro that it makes it difficult to justify ranking him ahead of them.

You make everyone healthy and Pedro is the best of the best. Does that make any sense?

If we were to add "7-10 more healthy years" onto Pedro's career, it becomes incredibly easy to see who the greatest and most valuable pitcher in the sport's history is. Of course, adding a half-dozen healthy years to players' careers opens up a gigantic can of worms, but it sure is fun...

Our second email comes to us from "Bill":

ESPN didn't even pick the best young pitchers [in their "who is the most likely to get 300 wins" poll].

Kevin Millwood has 78 wins through age 27 (85 with his 7 this year) to edge Hudson. Javier Vazquez has 51 through age 25 (56 as of now), edging Wood, without any truly great seasons. Plus, there's always the chance he'll get traded to a much better franchise. Brett Myers (8 wins through age 22 so far, not that anyone with 8 wins should be thinking of 300), can match Clemens' pace with 8 more wins this season, which he shouldn't have any trouble exceeding. Jake Peavy has 10 and counting at age 22. Oliver Perez has 5 at age 21. Mark Buerhle has 39 through age 23, though he's falling rapidly off the pace this year (41 so far). Jon Garland has 22 through age 22 (24 so far this year).

But the real 300 game prospect among young pitchers right now would have to be CC Sabathia with 30 wins through age 21, 33 so far through age 22. He's already way ahead of the pace set by Maddux and Clemens, though he's going to need a good Indians team to develop behind him soon, or get traded to the Braves or somewhere similar like Maddux did (not to mention he'll have to stay healthy for 15 more years). Sabathia is also a highlight for what you need to get on pace: reach the majors early and get established without any major setbacks.

For what it's worth, most of today's real 300 win candidates are at another disadvantage, having lost a dozen or so starts to work stoppages in '94-'95. Clemens would already have 300, and the 6 or so wins it probably cost Glavine might mean the difference for him, especially if some mediocre Mets teams keep him from getting close enough to 300 by age 40 for him to be able to hook on somewhere for the final push. Of course, the last several 300 game winners lost at least as much time to the '72 and '81 strikes. In fact, Blyleven and John both lost enough wins (6-8) to potentially cost them shots at one final season to go after 300.

Bill

I chose Bill's email because it discusses two points (other young pitchers and time lost to the strike) that were touched on in numerous emails I received.

Figuring out how many wins various pitchers probably lost because of the strike in 94/95 is a lot easier than figuring out which young pitchers should also be in the 300-Win discussion with Prior, Mulder, Hudson, Zito and Wood, so I'll discuss that first...

I think Greg Maddux probably lost more wins than any other pitcher because of the strike, because he was the best pitcher on the planet in 1994 and 1995, by far.

Maddux won the Cy Young Award for the NL in 1994 and led the league in wins (16), ERA (1.56), innings (202), complete games (10) and ERA+ (273). His 1.56 ERA in 1994 is the 3rd lowest total in baseball since 1920, behind only Bob Gibson (1.12 in 1968) and Dwight Gooden (1.53 in 1985). And Maddux posted that 1.56 in an environment that had a 4.26 league-ERA, whereas Gibson posted his 1.12 in a 2.90 ERA league and Gooden put up his 1.53 in a league that had a 3.45 ERA.

Because of the huge difference between Maddux and the rest of baseball in 1994, his adjusted ERA+ of 273 is 4th best figure in major league history and the 2nd best since 1915. Any guesses for who is #1 all-time? Pedro, of course.

After his historic 1994 season was cut short, Maddux followed it up with another unbelievably good season in the shortened 1995 campaign. He again won the NL Cy Young Award and led the league in wins (19), ERA (1.63), winning percentage (.905), innings (210), ERA+ (259) and complete games (10).

Combined between the two strike-shortened seasons, Maddux put up the following numbers:

GS     IP     ERA     W    L    Win%     SO    BB      H

53 412 1.60 35 8 .814 337 54 297

Obviously, those are just crazy, video game-type numbers.

Maddux made 53 starts in 1994/95 and won 35 of them, which works out to a win in 66% of his total starts. Assuming he would have made 35 starts in each season if not for the strike (he made 36 in 1993 and 35 in 1996), that means Maddux missed 17 starts. If you figure he gets a win in 66% of those games, that means he lost about 11 wins.

11 wins doesn't sound like a whole lot, but it would mean Maddux had 287 wins right now, instead of 276. Which means he might have an outside chance of joining Clemens in the 300-Win Club this season.

Using the same "method" to calculate how many wins Maddux likely lost in 1994 and 1995, here are wins lost by some other pitchers:

Roger Clemens - 8 wins

Randy Johnson - 10 wins

Tom Glavine - 9 wins

Mike Mussina - 9 wins

Pedro Martinez - 7 wins

Obviously this is just a "quick and dirty" way to figure out the lost wins and I am sure there is a better way to do it, but I think this gives a good enough idea. At most, some of those guys probably lost half of a pretty good season's worth of wins. That's siginficant, but is it enough to seriously affect history or anyone's run at 300 wins? I really doubt it, although I suppose 8 or 9 more wins might mean Tom Glavine would hang around for another season at age 42 to try to get his 300th win or something.

By the way, if you add those 8 wins to Clemens' career, it means he would have won game #300 on September 3rd of last season, at Yankee Stadium - against...the Boston Red Sox! Funny how that works...

As for who the other young pitchers that should be talked about, along with the 5 ESPN.com's poll mentioned, I am not so sure they didn't do a very good job picking the 5 they did.

As Bill mentioned, some other possibilities are Kevin Millwood, C.C. Sabathia and Javier Vazquez. He also mentioned some other guys like Brett Myers, Oliver Perez, Jake Peavy, etc - but I think those guys are way too young and have way too few career wins to even discuss.

Of course, the same could be said about Mark Prior, whom I said I think has the best chance of any young pitcher to eventually reach 300 wins. But, unlike Prior, I don't think any of those guys are going to be the greatest pitcher of their generation. Plus, I never said I was always completely logical. Bill also mentioned Mark Buehrle, but with his miniscule K rate and struggles this year, I will be shocked if Mark Buehrle wins 150 career games, let alone 300.

Let's take a look at Millwood, Sabathia and Vazquez.

If you remember from Tuesday, I projected Zito, Prior, Mulder, Hudson and Wood through this season (using their current stats) and came up with the following career win totals:

Pitcher      W    AGE

Zito 67 25
Prior 23 22
Mulder 72 25
Wood 58 26
Hudson 77 27

Now let's do the same for Millwood, Sabathia and Vazquez...

Pitcher      W    AGE

Millwood 97 28
Sabathia 40 22
Vazquez 67 26

Millwood is a year older than Hudson (in seasonal "age") and he would have 20 more wins. Vazquez is the same age as Wood and would have 9 more wins. So, in that respect, Bill is probably right that Vazquez and Millwood would have been better choices for the ESPN.com poll than Wood and Hudson.

On the other hand, I said the following about the 300-Win chances of Wood and Hudson:

I give Hudson and Wood almost zero chance. Hudson is already 27 years old and, while his 77 (projected) wins are good, they are also about 40 wins off the pace. Wood is also way off the pace and he has had injury problems in the past and just doesn't strike me as someone that is going to stay completely healthy for the next 12-15 years.

The "pace" that I am referring to is the year-by-year win totals of Clemens and Maddux, by age:

Pitcher     22    23    24    25    26     27     28     29     30

Clemens 16 40 60 78 95 116 134 152 163
Maddux 26 45 60 75 95 115 131 150 165

While there is certainly no one way to reach a statistical achievement like 300 wins, I do think that the path of Clemens and Maddux is the best and, barring some sort of complete freak of nature like Randy Johnson (with a better knee), the only likely way to get to 300 wins.

Just as Hudson and Wood are way off the pace, so are Vazquez and Millwood. So, while they may be slightly ahead of Hudson and Wood in the race to 300, neither of them are going to get there or even get particularly close.

Sabathia, on the other hand, is actually ahead of Clemens and Maddux's pace. If he is credited for the 10 wins he is on pace for this season, that would give Sabathia 40 career wins through the age of 22. At 22, Clemens had 16 wins and Maddux had 26.

However, while Sabathia is "technically" one of the favorites for 300 wins among young pitchers, I don't think he has much more of a chance than Hudson, Wood, Millwood or Vazquez, which is to say he has almost zero chance.

Why not, if he is ahead of the pace?

Three main reasons:

1) His K rate is dropping steadily.

Year     IP      K     K/9

2001 180 171 8.53
2002 210 149 6.39
2003 66 43 5.86

That is not the kind of pattern you want to see in a 22 year old pitcher, especially one that struck out nearly a batter per inning as a 20 year old rookie. It's possible that he has changed his style since 2001, it's possible he is injured, it's possible he has been abused - a lot of things are possible. Whatever the reason for the dropping K rate, it is not a good sign for his long-term prospects.

2) The Indians stink.

Quite simply, good pitchers on good teams win more games than good pitchers on bad teams. It is one of the reasons why judging a pitcher on his won-loss record is deceiving, but it is also something that can keep Sabathia from making a run at 300.

In his first year, Sabathia made 33 starts and posted a 4.39 ERA - 3% better than league-average. The Indians won 91 games and the AL Central, and Sabathia won 17 games.

In his second year, Sabathia made 33 starts and posted a 4.37 ERA - 3% better than league-average. The Indians won 74 games and finished 3rd in the AL Central, and Sabathia won 13 games.

This year, Sabathia is on pace to make 33 starts with a 2.73 ERA - approximately 30-40% better than league-average. The Indians are on pace to go 62-100 and finish 4th in the AL Central, and Sabathia is on pace for only 10 wins.

It's a very obvious pattern. Sabathia won 17 games in 2001 and then, despite preventing runs at the exact same rate and actually pitching nearly 20% more innings in 2002, he won only 13 games. And this year, despite being on pace for over 200 innings pitched, with by far the best ERA of his career, he is on pace for only 10 wins.

It all comes down to the quality of the team he plays on and, more specifically, the quality of the offense hitting for him. This year, the Indians are 25th in MLB in runs scored, 29th in on-base percentage, 25th in slugging percentage and 27th in OPS.

Of course, the Indians are admittedly "rebuilding" and I do expect them to have good teams in the near future. Will they have a good offense in place by next year? It certainly doesn't look that way. How about 2005? Maybe 2006? They'll be good at some point soon but, by that time, Sabathia will be in his mid-20s and all of those 200 inning/12-win seasons will have taken him completely out of the running for anything resembling 300 career wins. That is, if the 3rd thing doesn't ruin his chances first...

3) C.C. Sabathia is a very large human being.

Not only "large" like Randy Johnson, but "large" like University of California softball superstar Veronica Nelson (pictured below, after hitting a homer)

(Nelson finished the year with the following hitting line: .359/.665/.692, with 13 homers - and 0 doubles or triples - in 117 at bats, along with 107 walks in 66 games. And she did that in an environment where Cal's entire pitching-staff had a 1.25 ERA. Billy Beane is said to be intrigued by her 107/21 BB/K ratio...)

Anyway, back to C.C...

With the way Cleveland has worked him (lots of high pitch-counts already and he's only 22), he is going to have enough trouble keeping his left arm healthy. He's also going to have to worry about the nagging injuries that come with being a really big guy and simply being out of shape, as well as potential back or knee problems that may arise. ESPN.com lists him at 6'7" and 260 pounds. To steal a great Bill James line about Cecil Fielder: "Sabathia acknowledges a weight of 260, leaving unanswered the question of what he might weigh if he put his other foot on the scale."

I'm not saying he won't stay healthy, just that I wouldn't say his chances of staying healthy long enough to give him any sort of a serious chance at 300 wins is anything but remote.

So, here is my revised ranking of the most likely young pitchers for 300 career wins (keeping in mind I have said it is most likely that none of them will win 300):

1) Mark Prior

2) Barry Zito

3) Mark Mulder

(Big dropoff)

4) C.C. Sabathia

5) Tim Hudson

6) Javier Vazquez

7) Kerry Wood

8) Kevin Millwood

By the way, for those of you who emailed me to express your amazement that I would rank Mark Prior ahead of Zito, Mulder and the rest...Prior won his 6th game of the season against the Pirates yesterday, giving him 12 career wins. So there! He's only 288 away!

Today's picks:

Montreal (Ohka) +115 over Florida (Penny)

Houston (Redding) +180 over St. Louis (Morris)

Seattle (Meche) -105 over Minnesota (Radke)

Texas (Valdes) -120 over Hentgen (Baltimore)

Total to date: + $865

W/L record: 102-103 (1-3 yesterday for -205, dropping me below .500 and back under $1,000! This is why gambling is not good boys and girls...)

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

May 27, 2003

Looking directly at the sun

Don't look now, but the Toronto Blue Jays are hot:

Month      W     L     AVG     OBP     SLG     ERA   |   RS/G     RA/G

April 10 17 .279 .353 .452 6.08 | 5.52 6.59
May 19 6 .306 .366 .508 3.67 | 6.56 3.84

There are a lot ways to win baseball games: defense, pitching, hitting, luck - they're all fun. But nothing, and I mean nothing, beats simply bashing the hell out of your opponent. The Blue Jays have basically been doing that all season.

Look at the production they have gotten from each position, along with the corresponding AL OPS (on-base + slugging) ranking:

Position             AVG     OBP     SLG     Rnk

First Base .319 .443 .649 1
Second Base .287 .344 .395 7
Shortstop .273 .330 .390 5
Third Base .233 .320 .368 10
Left Field .298 .352 .444 7
Center Field .300 .342 .541 1
Right Field .335 .361 .543 3
Catcher .304 .377 .489 1
Designated Hitter .264 .351 .457 4
-------------------------------------------------
Overall .291 .358 .476 1

Not surprisingly, the Blue Jays lead the American League in runs, on-base percentage, OPS, hits, total bases and doubles. They rank second in batting average and slugging percentage, and third in walks and homers.

Perhaps the most amazing stat about their offense this year is that their first sacrifice bunt of the entire season came on Monday against the White Sox - their 51st game of the year! Meanwhile, the Tigers lead the AL with 24 sacrifices.

The Toronto offense is lead by two guys, Carlos Delgado and Vernon Wells. Delgado has been one of the better offensive players in the AL for a while now...

Year     AVG     OBP     SLG    HR    RBI    OPS+

1998 .292 .385 .592 38 115 150
1999 .272 .377 .571 44 134 137
2000 .344 .470 .664 41 137 182
2001 .279 .408 .540 39 102 141
2002 .277 .406 .549 33 108 153

That is some serious production. So far this year, Delgado has been the best hitter in the American League. He is hitting .335/.454/.665 and leads the AL in runs (45), RBIs (51), homers (15), extra-base hits (32), on-base percentage (.435) and slugging percentage (.665). He also leads the AL in the more advanced hitting metrics, like EqA (.361), EqR (48.9), RAR (33.0), RAP (23.2) and RARP (30.0).

While Delgado has been the best overall hitter in the AL, Vernon Wells has been the best centerfielder. Wells is hitting .299/.340/.540 and has driven in 49 runs, which is second in the AL to Delgado. Back at the beginning of this season I said I would trade Torii Hunter for Vernon Wells. At this point that looks like a pretty safe thing to say, but I actually got quite a few emails when I said it, most of them basically calling me an idiot. Wells is younger, cheaper and appears (so far this season) to be a better player than Hunter, at least offensively. Plus, Wells is a damn good defensive centerfielder too. The only thing "missing" from his game right now is plate discipline. He walked only 27 times in 159 games last year and, although he is walking much more this season, he still has only 15 walks in his first 53 games. If that ever comes, look out.

In addition to ranking first in the AL in offensive production at first base and centerfield thus far, the Blue Jays also rank #1 in the AL in offense by their catchers, which is more than a little surprising. The Jays have accomplished that with perhaps the best platoon in all of baseball: Greg Myers (against righties) and Tom Wilson (against lefties). Now, neither of those guys are great defensively, but they aren't horrible. And boy do they make a perfect combo.

Greg Myers vs righties - .359/.451/.590

Tom Wilson vs lefties - .300/.390/.420

(Wilson has actually done even better against righties than he has against lefties, hitting .300/.352/.560 against them in just 50 at bats)

Here is what Toronto's two-headed catching-machine's numbers look like, projected out to a full season:

 AB     PA     AVG     OBP     SLG    HR    2B    BB    RBI    RUN

605 688 .318 .396 .518 25 47 78 105 111

That line would be awesome coming from a star first baseman. The Blue Jays are getting it from two journeyman catchers that are being paid a combined $1,116,000 this year and required absolutely nothing to acquire.

Greg Myers is 37 years old and in his 16th season as a major league baseball player. He started his major league career with the Blue Jays in 1987, after they selected him in the 3rd round of the 1984 draft. Since then he has bounced around from Toronto to Anaheim to Minnesota to Atlanta to San Diego to Baltimore to Oakland and now back to Toronto, where it all started. Myers is on pace for a career-high in plate appearances this season.

Tom Wilson has an even better story. When you hear people talking about there being "freely available talent" in the minor leagues, Tom Wilson is the type of player they are referring to. Wilson was a 23rd round pick of the Yankees all the way back in 1990. He made his major league debut on May 19, 2001 - approximately 11 years after he was drafted.

Perhaps more amazing than his willingness to stick around in the minor leagues for over a decade without playing a single day in the majors is that no team was willing to give him a shot at some point between 1990 and 2001. Wilson put up some very impressive numbers throughout his various stops in the minor leagues...

.269/.390/.486 at Triple-A Buffalo (Indians) in 1996.

.296/.416/.516 at Double-A Norwich (Yankees) in 1997.

.303/.380/.462 at Triple-A Tucson (Diamondbacks) in 1998.

.288/.405/.510 at Double-A Orlando (Devil Rays) in 1999.

.279/.410/.591 at Triple-A Durham (Devil Rays) in 1999.

.276/.410/.518 at Triple-A Columbus (Yankees) in 2000.

Look at those numbers and tell me how a catcher that puts them up cannot get even a sniff of the major leagues? Tom Wilson was one of the best hitting catchers in minor league baseball from 1996-2000 and he couldn't even get a cup of coffee with any of the four organizations he played with.

Finally, after he hit .282/.394/.440 for Oakland's Triple-A team in 2001, the A's gave Tom Wilson a call-up to the majors and he played a total of 9 games for them. After the 2001 season, it didn't look like the A's would be giving Wilson a major league job anytime soon. At that point, I bet Wilson thought he had just seen his last/only/best chance at a major league career vanish. I mean, if the Oakland A's, the team for giving minor league vets a chance and the only team to give him a chance decided he wasn't worth keeping on a big league roster full-time, what chance did he have at finding another team willing to do so?

Well, Wilson finally found himself a little luck. J.P. Ricciardi left Oakland's front office and took over as the General Manager of the Blue Jays. Ricciardi, who no doubt saw Wilson as a hidden gem and player that could be valuable to a major league team while they were both with Oakland, traded a fringe minor leaguer to the A's in exchange for him. Wilson not only played for the Blue Jays in 2002, he appeared in 96 games and totaled 265 at bats. He did fairly well playing catcher and first base and did particularly well hitting against left-handed pitchers (.337/.412/.506). So well in fact, the Jays brought him back for this season and made him one half of their catching platoon (his half being the "lefty-masher" portion).

It's really a great story all-around. Tom Wilson finally gets a chance to be a major league baseball player after more than a decade of struggling through the minor leagues. And J.P. Ricciardi and the Blue Jays get themselves a valuable player because they were willing to do what no other team was willing to do during Wilson's entire career - give him a chance.

The Blue Jays' offense has been outstanding all season long and completely dominant in May, but the reason for their complete turn-around this month has been the dramatic improvement of their pitching:

                     - APR -             - MAY -

Pitcher IP ERA IP ERA
Corey Lidle 36 5.75 39 3.20
Roy Halladay 33 4.91 45 3.22
Tanyon Sturtze 32 5.57 18 6.50
Mark Hendrickson 31 7.26 30 3.20
Pete Walker 24 5.92 2 13.50
Jeff Tam 16 6.32 12 1.54
Cliff Politte 12 3.65 11 4.22
Aquilino Lopez 12 5.40 13 4.15
Kelvim Escobar 10 13.06 15 1.20
Trever Miller 9 6.75 7 4.91
Doug Creek 9 4.00 5 1.93
Doug Linton 7 3.86 -- ----
Jason Kershner 5 10.80 -- ----
Doug Davis -- ---- 23 4.70
---------------------------------------------------
Total 237 6.08 221 3.67

Anytime a team drops its ERA from 6.08 one month to 3.67 the next, the improvements are going to come from all over, and they have for Toronto. Almost everyone has been as good or better in May than in April, with the exception of Tanyon Sturtze and Pete Walker. Not coincidentally, both Sturtze and Walker were bumped from the starting rotation recently.

The main cause for the pitching improvement has been the starting pitching and specifically the front three starters - Roy Halladay, Corey Lidle and Mark Hendrickson. After going 4-7 with a 5.94 ERA in April, those three starters are currently 14-0 with a 3.23 ERA in May. 14-0!

I still think the Blue Jays are a year away from beginning to put their best team on the field. They have a ton of talented young hitters, both at the major league level and in the minor leagues. Their pitching quality and depth are not nearly as strong, but Halladay is a guy to build a staff around, Lidle has proven to be a dependable #2/#3 starter type (although he is a free agent after this year) and the Jays have a prospect named Jason Arnold in Triple-A that I think will be a very good starting pitcher, possibly as soon as late this year (I rated Arnold as my #37 prospect in baseball back in January). Plus, they also have some other "interesting" pitching prospects in the lower-minors.

Waiting for the future and the full development of this Toronto team is nice and I do think they are set up for a very successful run from here on out, but this team is definitely ready to seriously compete right now. We are one-third of the way through the season and, despite Toronto starting the year 10-18, here is what the AL East standings look like:

Team         W     L    Win%     GB

Boston 31 20 .608 ---
New York 30 22 .577 1.5
Toronto 29 24 .547 3.0

I don't know if they will contine to stay as close to the top of the division as they are right now, but I do think they can continue to play .547 baseball (their winning percentage as of last night's win). This is a very good offensive team and the pitching staff is starting to come around. Plus, it's kinda fun to root for an "underdog" against the two "big dogs" in the AL East, isn't it?

What J.P. Ricciardi and the rest of the Jays' front office have been able to do with this team and the entire organization since taking it over just a short time ago is amazing. They have been making outstanding "minor" pickups like Tom Wilson, Greg Myers, Frank Catalanotto, Corey Lidle and Mike Bordick, which has led to them having a serious contender on their hands this season. And, at the same time, they have set up a phenomenal core of young talent in preparation for what appears to be a very successful run of winning in the very near future. Oddly enough, the winning seems to have started just a little bit before a lot of people (including myself and possibly even the Blue Jays) anticipated, but, as good as this current Toronto team is, the Blue Jays teams you see in the next several years are going to be even better.

It is no longer a two-dog division.

For more on the Toronto Blue Jays, visit my good friend Craig Burley and those wacky Canadians over at the best team-specific site on the internet...

Batter's Box: Opinions and observations about the Pastime, from a Toronto perspective

Finally...

Minnesota 4, Oakland 3

From ESPN.com's "play-by-play":

B Kielty hit for L Rivas.

Barry Zito pitches to Bobby Kielty

Pitch 1: ball 1

Pitch 2: ball 2

Pitch 3: strike 1 (foul)

Pitch 4: strike 2 (foul)

Pitch 5: ball 3

Pitch 6: foul

Pitch 7: in play

B Kielty homered to left, D Mohr and A Pierzynski scored

(A Gleeman smiled from ear-to-ear)

Today's picks:

Oakland (Halama) -100 over Minnesota (Mays)

Seattle (Moyer) -155 over Kansas City (Affeldt)

Detroit (Maroth) -105 over Cleveland (Rodriguez)

Texas (Benes) -100 over Tampa Bay (Gonzalez)

Total to date: + $1,070

W/L record: 101-100 (1-4 for -370 yesterday, with one rainout. Ouch.)

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

May 26, 2003

Reexamining 300

In honor of Roger Clemens' first attempt at 300 wins, ESPN.com ran the following poll yesterday:

Which young pitcher has the best chance of winning 300 games?

Barry Zito - 44.8%

Mark Prior - 30.2%

Mark Mulder - 9.6%

Kerry Wood - 8.5%

Tim Hudson - 6.9%

I don't know why, but stuff like this always interests me. It apparently interests a lot of other people too, because over 125,000 votes were cast. The reality is that, most likely, none of those 5 pitchers will win 300 games. Heck, the reality is probably that none of them will even win 250 games.

Why? Well, for one thing, the "300-Win Club" has become the toughest of the 3 major "clubs" to get into.

All-time:

3,000 hits - 25 members

500 homers - 19 members

300 wins - 20 members

Within the next year or so, the 300-Win Club will swell to 22 members (Clemens, Greg Maddux) and the 500-Homer Club will grow to 21 members (Fred McGriff, Ken Griffey Jr.). The next closest active player for 3,000 hits is Rafael Palmeiro, with 2,680.

So, it would appear, from the all-time membership totals, that the "500-Homer Club" is the toughest to get into. While that is true historically, it is no longer the case in recent years.

Here is how the 3 clubs have grown "recently"...

Members        1960     1970     1980     1990     2000     2003

3000 Hits 7 9 14 15 23 25
500 Homers 4 9 12 14 16 19
300 Wins 12 14 14 20 20 20

Since 1960, 8 pitchers have reached 300 wins, 15 hitters have reached 500 homers and 18 hitters have reached 3,000 hits.

And, since 1990, zero pitchers have reached 300 wins, while 10 hitters have reached 3,000 hits and 5 have reached 500 homers.

Of course, that is about to change. Roger Clemens will pass the 300-mark very soon and Greg Maddux will join him a little later. After those two, there are really only two possibilities for the near future: Tom Glavine (247) and Randy Johnson (225). Before this year, I said that I thought Johnson would reach 300 career wins, but his injury this season is really going to hurt that chance and probably makes it close to impossible. Glavine is "only" 53 wins away, but that is at least 3 full, good seasons and, if Glavine gets to 300, he's going to do it limping across the finish-line.

After Glavine and Johnson, all the active leaders in wins are nearing 40 and still need 100+ wins to get to 300. Mike Mussina has 189 career wins and is only 34, so I guess he has a chance. Other than him, the next guy on the list under 35 is Pedro Martinez, with 156 wins. I love Pedro and he might just be the greatest pitcher in baseball history when all is said and done, but he has almost no shot at getting 144 more wins.

So, let's add Clemens and Maddux to the 300-Win Club and also add McGriff (486) and Griffey (472) to the 500-Homer Club. Here are the "new" totals...

Joined after 1990:

3,000 hits - 10 members

500 homers - 7 members

300 wins - 2 members

Like I said, the 300-Win Club is now the toughest of the three to join. And I think it will remain that way for a while. Eventually, like in 20 years or so, I think that the new standard for pitching excellence will be 250 wins. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown, Curt Schilling - these are the great pitchers of this era and it is very likely none of them will reach 300 wins. At the same time, guys like Bert Blyleven, Fergie Jenkins, Tommy John, Jim Kaat, Jim Palmer, Bob Gibson - all great, durable pitchers with less than 300 wins.

Somewhere along the line, while starters were pitching 40 or 50 (or more) games a season and many of the good pitchers were clearing 200+ career wins with relative ease, "300" became the "magic number" for a pitcher. I think it is a little silly to continue to think of the magic number for pitchers as 300 wins when only 8 pitchers have reached that number in the last 43 years, while 33 different players have reached the two "magic numbers" for hitters - 3,000 hits and 500 homers. If you want a benchmark for pitchers that is equal to 500 homers and 3,000 hits for hitters, the adjustment from 300 wins to 250 wins should probably be made.

Of course, no such adjustment will be made - at least not anytime soon. And, every once in a while, one of the 5 or 10 greatest pitchers in baseball history will finish his career with 300 wins, like Clemens and Maddux. At the same time, guys Rafael Palmeiro, Fred McGriff, Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield - great players, but certainly not among the greatest handful of hitters in baseball history - will be joining the other two clubs at a much more frequent pace.

During ESPN's broadcast of Clemens' try for 300 against Boston yesterday, Rick Sutcliffe (who has 171 career wins and is one of the worst announcers ever) said, "After Clemens and Maddux and maybe Tom Glavine, I honestly do not think there will ever be another 300 game winner."

First of all, that statement reeks of ridiculousness. How can you say that it will never happen again, right after two guys (and possible a third) reach the mark. That's like saying, "after McGwire, Sosa and Bonds hit over 61 homers, no one will ever reach that mark again." It is just remarkably short-sighted and not very logical.

That said, I do think that, in the current era of baseball, 300 wins is a lot more difficult than it once was and is a lot more difficult to achieve than 500 homers or 3,000 hits. I don't have any problem with that on the surface, but when having 280-some wins starts keeping players out of the Hall of Fame (Bert Blyleven for one), then it is time to reexamine our standards and our "magic numbers."

All of this brings me back to the original ESPN.com poll question:

Which young pitcher has the best chance of winning 300 games?

Barry Zito - 44.7%

Mark Prior - 30.2%

Mark Mulder - 9.6%

Kerry Wood - 8.4%

Tim Hudson - 6.8%

Here is how the 5 pitchers stand right now, if we project them through the 2003 season, using their current numbers for this year:

Pitcher      W    AGE

Zito 67 25
Prior 23 22
Mulder 72 25
Wood 58 26
Hudson 77 27

That projection credits Zito with 20 wins this year, Prior with 17, Mulder with 23, Wood with 13 and Hudson with 13.

Here's where Clemens and Maddux stood through each age:

Pitcher     22    23    24    25    26     27     28     29     30

Clemens 16 40 60 78 95 116 134 152 163
Maddux 26 45 60 75 95 115 131 150 165

First of all, their year-by-year win totals are remarkably similar. What you don't see is that Greg Maddux kept moving along at about the same rate after he turned 30, while Roger Clemens won only 9, 10 and 10 games during his age 31, 32 and 33 seasons. Of course, Roger turned it back on and won back-to-back Cy Youngs as a 34 and 35 year old, but that "lull" right after he turned 30 is why Maddux is nearing 300 wins at age 37 and Clemens is nearing 300 at age 40.

Secondly, Prior and Mulder are right on pace with where Clemens and Maddux were and Zito isn't far off. Hudson and Wood are way off.

Of course, this doesn't mean being on pace with Clemens and Maddux is the only way a young pitcher can reach 300 wins. You can always take the Randy Johnson route, which is to win 49 games through age 28 and then 177 (and counting) from 29 and beyond. Of course, that's a whole lot tougher to do and...well, Randy hasn't even been able to do it.

If I had to rank their chances, I think I would do it like this:

1) Mark Prior

2) Barry Zito

3) Mark Mulder

4) Tim Hudson

5) Kerry Wood

I give Hudson and Wood almost zero chance. Hudson is already 27 years old and, while his 77 (projected) wins are be good, they are also about 40 wins off the pace. Wood is also way off the pace and he has had injury problems in the past and just doesn't strike me as someone that is going to stay completely healthy for the next 12-15 years.

I give Prior the best chance, which might surprise some people. I think he is going to be the greatest pitcher of his generation and, as I have said, I think 300 wins requires a pitcher that is beyond just "great." Plus, he got started young and is off to a quick start. I give Zito and Mulder essentially equal chances and would rank them just slightly behind Prior.

That said, I would be willing to bet that none of those 5 great, young pitchers will ever reach 300 wins.

Think about it. Roger Clemens is now pitching in his 20th season in the major leagues. He started when he was 21 and has been racking up wins (and Cy Young awards) ever since. He will likely retire at the end of this season, at the age of 40. And, he will likely leave with about 305-310 wins. If Roger Clemens, one of the greatest handful of pitchers in the history of the sport, pitches 20 years and is essentially injury free the entire time and he can just barely squeak over the 300-mark, what chance do mearly "great" pitchers have?

There will be more members of the 300-Win Club in the future, but the number is no longer effective in identifying great pitchers - it is good at identifying extraordinary pitchers.

That's all fine and good, but it's keeping Bert Blyleven and his 287 career wins out of the Hall of Fame and, in 20 years or so, if nothing changes, it's probably going to do the same with Barry Zito and his 256 career wins or Mark Prior and his 281 career wins.

If we are going to use "magic numbers" to judge the value of a player's career, we should at least recognize when the numbers start getting easier or harder to reach.

Today's picks:

Montreal (Hernandez) -130 over Florida (Tejera)

Los Angeles (Ishii) -130 over Colorado (Cook)

Boston (Chen) +170 over New York (Pettitte)

Toronto (Halladay) -130 over Chicago (Colon)

Oakland (Zito) -140 over Minnesota (Rogers)

Kansas City (George) +130 over Seattle (Garcia)

Total to date: + $1,440

W/L record: 100-96 (1-1 yesterday for +$50, including correctly predicting Roger losing his bid for 300!)

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

May 25, 2003

Gophers and Fatboys

Before I get to today's topic, I need to address something that bugged me all weekend...

Hall of Fame second baseman and mediocre broadcaster Joe Morgan does a "chat" on ESPN.com every Friday. Over the years, Joe has become extraordinarily predictable in his opinions on things, to the point that I no longer read the majority of his chats (or listen to the majority of what he says).

Over the weekend though, I decided to check out what he had to say this week. As usual, most of the answers were what I would expect - cliches and old baseball knowledge. As he usually does, Joe provided one response that made me shake my head...

Maria (Wimberley, TX): Joe, enjoy your work. Have you read the new book "Moneyball" about Billy Beane? What do "insiders" such as yourself think about what the book says?

Joe Morgan: I read an excerpt in the NY Times. It's typical if you write a book, you want to be the hero. That is apparently what Beane has done. According to what I read in the Times, Beane is smarter than anyone else. I don't think it will make him popular with the other GMs or the other people in baseball.

"It's typical if you write a book, you want to be the hero. That is apparently what Beane has done."

There is, however, one slight problem with the above statement:

BILLY BEANE DID NOT WRITE THE BOOK!

Okay, now that I have that off my chest...

I have written about my Diamond-Mind "keeper league" teams a couple of times (here and here) in the past and I got a surprising amount of positive feedback each time. I haven't written about either of my two teams recently though and I have actually started to get emails from people wondering how they are doing. It truly amazes me that a) people remember that I have two Diamond-Mind league teams months after the last time I have written about them and b) people care enough about the teams to email me and ask for updates.

So, today's entry is for those of you interested in hearing about the progress of my two teams. For those of you that aren't interested, I appologize. You'll just have to bear with me for today. I promise it won't be a frequent thing and, at most, I'll give another update in a month or so.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Diamond-Mind, it is a baseball simulation game that allows leagues to replay entire seasons, using real stats that include lefty/right splits for pitchers and hitters, defensive ratings, ballpark factors and all sorts of other incredibly detailed stuff. The two leagues that I am in replay the season that just finished. So, right now we are replaying the 2002 season, using 2002 stats and ratings (in other words, Randy Johnson is really good and Esteban Loaiza isn't).

I took over the "Dallas Rustlers" of the "Three Run Homer League" prior to last season and immediately relocated the franchise to Minnesota and renamed them the Minnesota Gophers (real original, I know).

The team I took over wasn't a particularly good one, so I planned on a rebuilding year last season, with an eye towards seriously competing this season. Somewhere in the middle of that rebuilding, I actually won my division and my first round playoff series last year, before losing in the American League Championship Series.

This year, I expected to have a much improved team and to again compete for the division championship. So far, things are looking good. Here are the current standing in the American League Central of the TRHL:

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Team W L Win% GB RS RA
Minnesota Gophers 21 12 .636 --- 196 111
Mississauga IceDawgs 15 18 .455 6.0 107 130
Tennessee Tuxedos 12 21 .364 9.0 147 194
Springfield Homers 12 21 .364 9.0 145 174

Through the first 33 games of the year, I rank first in the 12-team American League in runs scored and first in runs allowed. With 196 runs scored and 111 runs allowed, my pythagorean winning percentage is .757, which is quite a bit higher than my actual winning percentage. The main reason for that is my horrible 0-5 record in 1-run games. Last year, I made the playoffs despite winning only 82 games and I was actually outscored during the season. So, this year's team is definitely looking a lot more promising.

As a team, the Gophers are hitting .277/.360/.475, which is about the same as the Yankees are hitting so far in 2003 (.273/.357/.460). I lead the league in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, walks and runs scored.

The offense is led by and built around my first baseman, Jim Thome. Thome is currently hitting .342/.466/.769, with 15 homers and 45 RBIs in 33 games. That projects to 74 homers and 221 RBIs over the course of a full-season, so I'm guessing he'll cool down a little bit at some point. Aside from the 15 homers and .342 batting average, the reason for Thome's gaudy RBI total is that he bats #3 in the lineup and the first two guys are doing a great job getting on base in front of him.

Johnny Damon leads off and is hitting .256/.357/.414. Those numbers are below his actual performance last season (.286/.356/.443), so I am expecting him to improve a little bit. Still, he's getting on base 36% of the time in front of Thome, which is great.

My #2 hitter, Mark McLemore, is hitting .319/.404/.516 in 27 games. McLemore is my starting second baseman, but only against right-handed pitching, because he hit just .152/.348/.273 against lefties last year. When southpaws are on the mound, Mark DeRosa plays second base. DeRosa is hitting .324/.366/.351 so far, which is a little more OBP and a little less SLG than his real-life numbers (.297/.339/.429). McLemore's .404 OBP ranks 5th in the AL (Thome's .466 ranks first).

Aside from the table-setters (Damon and McLemore) and the table-clearer (Thome), I am also getting good performances from a few other hitters. Ellis Burks hits #4 (behind Thome) and is currently hitting .326/.366/.545, with 6 homers and 9 doubles. My centerfielder and #5 hitter, Andruw Jones (Damon plays LF), is hitting .252/.333/.521. That's a little below his actual 2002 numbers (.264/.366/.512), but it's definitely solid from a CF. He is second on the team in runs batted in, with 26. My third baseman, Mark Bellhorn, is hitting only .241, but has drawn 21 walks in 30 games, giving him a very nice .374 on-base percentage. He also has 5 homers and 5 doubles in only 102 at bats, which works out to a .442 slugging percentage.

Aside from Thome, Damon, McLemore, Jones, Burks and Bellhorn, I am not getting a whole lot of production from anyone else. My catching tandem of Ramon Hernandez (.228/.299/.329 in 79 at bats) and Greg Myers (.233/.333/.467 in 30 ABs) has been okay, but nothing special. And the rest of my guys (Placido Polanco, Andy Fox, Gary Matthews Jr., Moises Alou) have all performned below their actual 2002 levels.

As good as the hitting has been, I think the pitching has been even more impressive. I have a team ERA of 3.22 and the staff has a combined 286 strikeouts in 288 innings pitched. Of course, most of that comes from one pitcher: Randy Johnson.

During the off-season, I needed a #1 starter and I had quite a bit of salary cap room to spend. I decided that I would trade for Randy Johnson and take on his gigantic $98 salary, which took up exactly 24.5% of my $400 total salary cap. I am sure some of the other owners thought I was crazy and I definitely had my doubts, but so far I think it is working out great.

Here are Johnson's numbers:

GS   CG   IP    ERA   W   L    K   BB   HR

7 6 61 1.62 6 4 88 9 5

Not too shabby, huh? Randy has made 7 starts and has completed 6 of them. And 2 of the 6 complete games were shutouts. He has 88 strikeouts in only 61 innings and has a 88/9 K/BB ratio. The only real "human" number on that pitching line is the 5 homers he has allowed. In case you're wondering, his DIPS ERA is 2.30.

Here are his game-by-game performances:

IP    ER    SO   BB

9 0 10 0
9 4 12 2
9 0 15 1
8 3 12 2
8 2 13 3
9 1 12 1
9 1 14 0

As amazing as Johnson has been, he doesn't even have the lowest ERA among my starting pitchers! No, Ryan Rupe (yes, I said Ryan Rupe) has a 1.43 ERA in 37 2/3 innings pitched. He is also 4-1 with a 33/6 K/BB ratio and has allowed only 21 hits.

The other three starters have been pretty good too. A.J. Burnett, my #2 starter, is 5-1 with a 3.78 ERA in 7 starts. Rick Helling is 3-2 with a 4.29 ERA in 6 starts and Andy Ashby is 3-3 with a 3.95 ERA in 6 starts. I have also gotten two decent spot starts so far, one each from Johan Santana and Tony Fiore.

Because the starting pitching has been so good, the bullpen has remained largely un-used. My closer, Joey Eischen, has appeared in only 10 of the team's first 33 games and has only 5 saves. He has pitched fairly well, but the staff has 9 complete games, so he hasn't had a chance to close much (which is fine with me). My main setup man, Mike Koplove, has worked even less. Koplove has appeared in only 5 games the entire year and has pitched a grand-total of 6 innings with a 1.50 ERA.

In fact, not one of my pitchers has pitched in more than 10 of the team's 33 games. I have a feeling Ryan Rupe isn't going to keep pitching like this and even Randy Johnson will slow down a bit from his current pace, so the bullpen will definitely be needed more than it has been at some point.

My general plan for Diamond-Mind keeper leagues is to always be working on both the current season and the next season. I generally try to stay away from planning for 3 or 4 years down the road, but I always have an eye on what I can do to improve myself for the next season.

As you may have noticed, none of my current starting pitchers - Johnson, Burnett, Ashby, Rupe, Helling - are having very good 2003 seasons. Randy Johnson pitched very poorly at first and has been on the DL for a while now. A.J. Burnett logged a total of 23 innings before his arm blew up. Andy Ashby has been demoted to the bullpen and has barely pitched the whole year. Ryan Rupe is in AAA. And Rick Helling is...well, Rick Helling.

So, my pitching staff for next year isn't looking real good. In fact, Rick Helling, who currently has a 6.63 ERA in 58 innings, was looking like the only starting pitcher I would have for next season. With that in mind, I decided to see what I could get in trade for A.J. Burnett, my #2 starter.

As you all know by now, Burnett suffered a season-ending injury a few weeks ago, underwent "Tommy John surgery" and is likely out until sometime next season, at least. However, during the season we are replaying right now (2002), A.J. Burnett is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Last year, he pitched 204 innings with a 3.30 ERA and had the 4th lowest OPS-against of any starting pitcher in baseball. In other words, he gave my team two legit "aces" - along with that Johnson guy. Burnett is definitely a big key to my current season.

On the other hand, I am always looking forward to next season and Burnett isn't going to be of much use then. He pitched a total of only 23 innings before going down with the injury, which means he could only pitch a total of 23 innings for me next season. I decided that it would be in my team's best interest to attempt to sacrifice some of the value that Burnett is going to be able to give this season and trade it for a pitcher that is less valuable right now, but will be more valuable next year.

I shopped Burnett around the league and got three interested owners. After trying unsuccessfully to get Bartolo Colon from one team and Russ Ortiz or Ted Lilly from another, I decided to trade A.J. Burnett for Vincente Padilla.

Here is what I am losing for the current season:

2002 STATS

Pitcher IP ERA AVG OBP SLG
Burnett 204 3.30 .209 .302 .309
Padilla 206 3.28 .254 .312 .367

As you can see, both Burnett and Padilla were very good in 2002, but Burnett was significantly better. They both pitched right around 200 innings and Burnett limited hitters to a batting average about 50 points lower and a slugging percentage about 60 points lower.

I definitely downgraded my team for the current season, but I feel as though it is worth it, because Burnett will be essentially useless next season, while I expect Padilla to be a front-of-the-rotation starter for me. Plus, while the hit for the current season is a significant one, I think I have enough to win my division with or without Burnett.

The added bonus for me is their salaries. Burnett will make $20 next season, while Padilla will make only $9. The $11 difference may not seem like much, but that is 3% of the total team payroll, which is fairly significant. Of course, if Padilla gets injured this year or has a bad season for the Phillies, I will have worsened my current team for absolutely no reason. It's definitely a risk.

Here is what my 25-man roster looks like, after the completed trade:

MINNESOTA GOPHERS
STARTERS                      RELIEVERS

SP Randy Johnson CL Joey Eischen
SP Vincente Padilla SET Mike Koplove
SP Andy Ashby LH Scott Eyre
SP Rick Helling RH Mike Fetters
SP Ryan Rupe MID Tony Fiore
MID Johan Santana
LINEUP VS RHP                 BENCH

LF Johnny Damon IF Placido Polanco
2B Mark McLemore IF Mark DeRosa
1B Jim Thome OF Moises Alou
DH Ellis Burks OF Michael Cuddyer
CF Andruw Jones C Ramon Hernandez
RF Gary Matthews Jr.
3B Mark Bellhorn
C Greg Myers
SS Andy Fox

While the Minnesota Gophers have had their plans for next season changed by some injury problems (Burnett, Johnson), they look like the healthiest team in the history of the world when compared to my second Diamond-Mind squad...

Last year, in the middle of my first season playing Diamond-Mind, I was having such a good time with the Gophers and the Three Run Homer League that I decided to join a second keeper league. There was a mid-season opening in the "Long Ball Baseball League" when a manager quit in the middle of the season. The team I took over was in last place and had no prospects of improving during that season, but they had a lot of good players on the roster and a lot of players in the middle of very good 2002 seasons. I took over the team, moved them to Minnesota, renamed them the Fatboys and made some blockbuster trades.

And now, it's 2003, we are replaying that 2002 season and I have myself a very good ballclub.

Here are the current standings in the LBBL American League "Kaline Division":

AMERICAN LEAGUE KALINE DIVISION

Team W L Win% GB RS RA
Minnesota Fatboys 32 18 .640 --- 329 205
Dayton Dynasty 28 22 .560 4.0 250 230
Durham Dogs 19 32 .373 13.5 206 256
Mississauga Redbirds 18 32 .360 14.0 193 259
Duluth Dukes 8 42 .160 24.0 168 309

As you can see, things are looking pretty good for this season, but it's next season that I am worried about. Here are the injured players I have on the roster:

Sammy Sosa

Pedro Martinez

Brian Giles

Derek Jeter

Mo Vaughn

Karim Garcia

Some of those players' injuries are more serious than others, but all of those guys have missed and/or will miss significant time with an injury this year and a lot of those guys are superstar players. For example, even if Jeter stays healthy for the rest of this season, I will not be able to use him as my everyday shortstop for a full season in the LBBL next year, because he won't have a full-season's worth of playing time in real life. Same with Sosa, Giles, Garcia, etc. And Mo Vaughn stunk when he was healthy and is now out for the year, so I have lost my starting first baseman for next year.

But, like I said, things are going well this year, so I can't complain too much. With 329 runs scored, I rank 2nd in the entire 20-team league and am one of only two teams with 300+ runs so far. In fact, only 5 out of the 20 teams have scored even 250 runs. My 205 runs allowed ranks 5th in the 20-team league and 2nd in the 10-team American League.

Like the Gophers, the Fatboys have a very good record and a very good pythagorean record, but they stink in 1-run games, where they are just 5-10. Both teams are good, but have horrible 1-run records. Hmm...maybe it is the manager...

Also like the Gophers (with Jim Thome), the Fatboys have a hitter in the middle of a monster season offensively: Sammy Sosa. Through 49 games, Sosa is hitting .344/.425/.749 with 25 homers, 60 RBIs and 47 runs scored. Projected over a full season, that comes out to about 82 homers, 155 runs scored and 198 runs batted in. Unfortunately, the LBBL plays only a 154-game schedule, so he won't get those extra 8 games to pad his stats. Sammy is driving in all of those runs because he constantly has guys on base for him.

Derek Jeter plays shortstop and leads off and, even though his numbers (.269/.350/.453) are down from his real life performance from 2002, he is still getting on base at a good clip. The #2 hitter, batting right in front of Sosa, is Brian Giles, who is also having a monster year. Giles is hitting .331/.465/.731 with 15 homers and 13 doubles in 145 at bats. Any time you get a guy batting in front of Sosa and he's on base 47% of the time, Sammy is going to drive in a ton of runs.

After Jeter, Giles and Sosa, I get to what I call the "hacking portion" of my lineup. Those first three batters walked a total of 311 times between them last year. The next four hitters - Alfonso Soriano, Aubrey Huff, Torii Hunter and Ivan Rodriguez - walked a total of 120 times.

While Hunter (.335/.375/.665) and Huff (.310/.368/.520) are doing very well, Alfonso Soriano is struggling big time. Soriano, who hit .300 last year, is hitting just .237 and has a horrible .299 on-base percentage. He has only 27 RBIs in 46 games, despite batting behind Jeter, Giles and Sosa the entire time.

As bad as Soriano has been though, it is nothing compared to the ridiculously awful play of my starting first baseman, Mo Vaughn. I am not a big fan of Mo's, but he had himself a decent season last year (.259/.349/.456) and, as my #8 hitter, I thought he'd do well enough. Boy was I wrong. Mo is currently hitting a completely putrid .194/.262/.335. The strange thing is that he is actually doing okay against lefties (.216/.293/.486), but has been absolutely useless against righties (.188/.253/.293).

The sad thing about it is that, on a team with Sosa, Giles, Soriano, etc., I don't have a decent option to play first base besides Vaughn. So, he's basically stuck there, sucking up outs at the bottom of an otherwise awesome lineup. Unless I make a mid-season trade for a first baseman that is, which I may try to do.

The high-scoring offense has actually been able to hold up a pitching staff that has performned a lot worse than I expected. My starting rotation includes the top 3 vote getters in the AL Cy Young balloting from last year, so I just figured I'd have one of the better pitching staffs in the league. Not so, at least not yet.

AL Cy Young winner Barry Zito is just 3-5 with a 4.12 ERA in 11 starts and has served up 12 homers in only 74 innings pitched. Derek Lowe has pitched well and is 6-1 with a 3.52 ERA, but even that is slightly below his actual stats from last year. Pedro Martinez has held up his end of the bargain. He's 7-2 with a 2.91 ERA in 10 starts and has racked up a 75/14 K/BB ratio in 68 innings. My fourth starter, Al Leiter, has been awful (4-5, 5.43 ERA), but my fifth starter, Jason Jennings, has been awesome (7-0, 2.49 ERA).

All in all, not a bad rotation, but I expected better from Zito and Leiter. Strangely enough, the bullpen has been much better than the rotation.

Reliever            IP     ERA    SO    BB

Steve Reed 13 0.67 9 2
Braden Looper 14 2.51 9 5
Damaso Marte 10 2.70 13 3
Brendan Donnelly 17 2.65 18 9
Mike Williams 15 3.52 18 5
TOTAL 70 2.44 67 24

Actually, the worst of the bunch is Mike Williams, who is the closer. He is 9/11 on save chances and has an 0-2 record.

Here's what my current 25-man roster looks like for the Minnesota Fatboys

MINNESOTA FATBOYS
STARTERS                      RELIEVERS

SP Barry Zito CL Mike Williams
SP Derek Lowe SET Braden Looper
SP Pedro Martinez LH Damaso Marte
SP Al Leiter RH Brendan Donnelly
SP Jason Jennings MID Steve Reed
MID Jeremy Affeldt
LINEUP VS RHP                 BENCH

SS Derek Jeter IF Ramon Martinez
DH Brian Giles OF Karim Garcia
RF Sammy Sosa OF Moises Alou
2B Alfonso Soriano OF Ron Gant
3B Aubrey Huff C Todd Pratt
CF Torii Hunter
C Ivan Rodriguez
1B Mo Vaughn
LF Mark McLemore

So there you have it, the state of the franchise(s). If you enjoyed today's entry and actually have an interest in hearing about my two teams in the future, make sure to email me and let me know, so I don't feel like I bored everyone to death today.

Finally...

Ben Jacobs of the "Universal Baseball Blog Inc." has a really good entry about the Hall of Fame candidacy of Barry Larkin. I have been doing a lot of entries lately about guys and their Hall of Fame prospects (Palmeiro - McGriff - Williams) and, after seeing Larkin say that he is probably done being a full-time player, I was actually sort of planning to do one on Larkin, but Ben has done an excellent job on his, so there's no need for me to do it too!

Go head over there...

Universal Baseball Blog Inc. - Barry Larkin, Hall-of-Famer?

Today's picks:

Montreal (Vargas) -110 over Florida (Pavano)

Boston (Wakefield) +160 over New York (Clemens)

Total to date: + $1,390

W/L record: 99-95 (5-2 on Friday for +330)

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

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