December 6, 2002
Catching Up (Weekend Edition)
Wanna know something interesting?
Of course, you do!
During the weekend, this website only gets about 40-50% the amount of visitors it gets during the week.
What? You don't think that's interesting? Well, who asked you anyway?
I was thinking about skipping posting something until Monday, but then I thought, "Hey, I love my readers and I can't make them wait 3 whole days for their next fix!"
Actually, I don't think I can wait 3 whole days without babbling about baseball...
This is just a perfect deal all around.
John Olerud gets to stay with his hometown team, he gets a lot of money and he gets a multi-year deal.
The M's get to keep one of their best and most consistent (more on that in a second) players for a reasonable price and only have to commit for 2 seasons (Olerud is already 34 years old).
Olerud is one of my favorite players and he is a perfect example of how a first baseman can be a very valuable player without hitting 40+ home runs.
John Olerud is what every Twins fan should be praying Doug Mientkiewicz can turn into (just for the record, I don't think he will).
Olerud is a great defensive first baseman (he won the AL Gold Glove this year).
He hits .300 almost every single season (.290+ in 8 out of the last 10 seasons).
He draws about 100 walks a year (80+ walks in 7 out of the last 10 seasons).
He hits about 20 homers and 35-40 doubles.
And he is very durable (154+ games played in each of the last 6 years).
Basically, John Olerud is a gold glove first baseman that will hit .300/.400/.475 every single year.
I think he is one of the most overlooked players in baseball and he has an outside shot at a Hall-of-Fame career.
You thought I forgot about Glavine didn't you? C'mon, tell the truth.
I already talked about Glavine's free agency a couple weeks ago.
For those of you that missed it (or weren't paying attention) here is some of what I said:
Strike outs per 9 innings:
2002 = 5.1
2001 = 4.8
2000 = 5.7
Glavine has never been much of a strike out pitcher, which makes his great success pretty amazing.
I see no signs of him slowing down in the strike out department.
Walks per 9 innings:
2002 = 3.1
2001 = 4.0
2000 = 2.4
Glavine's walk rate has been jumping around for a while now.
He cut almost a walk per game off his totals from a year ago, which is always good.
Glavine has always walked a fair amount of hitters and his recent rates look pretty much in line with his career.
Home runs per 9 innings:
2002 = 0.84
2001 = 0.99
2000 = 0.90
This is the one area that I see Glavine slipping just a little bit.
Earlier in his career he barely gave up any homers - 6 in 225 IP in 1992, 9 in 199 IP in 1995, 13 in 229 IP in 1998 - but in the last few seasons, he has given up a fair amount.
Nothing really drastic, but a significant increase for sure.
Okay, so Glavine's strike outs are basically the same, his walks fluctuate quite a bit, but are okay and he is giving up a few more homers than he used to.
Another important thing, his durability, has always been outstanding and continues to be so - he has pitched at least 219 innings in each of the last 7 seasons.
Glavine's rates all look pretty stable and his durability remains very good.
The only area of concern, other than his age, is the fact that he has one of the highest fly ball tendencies in baseball, which is a good thing when you have Andruw Jones behind you in center field, but might not be such a good thing if he signs with a team that doesn't have one of the best defensive center fielders of all-time on its roster.
For a team with a spacious park and/or a good outfield defense, Glavine would be my choice.
I was comparing Glavine and Greg Maddux, which is why you see that "my choice" thing.
So, the question is...are the Mets a team with "a spacious park and/or good outfield defense"?
Well, sort of.
Shea Stadium is a great park for pitchers, one of the best in baseball.
As for their outfield defense, it is tough to tell because who knows which players will be out there come opening day.
Last year, the Mets primarily had Roger Cedeno in left field, Jeromy Burnitz in right field and Jay Payton and Timo Perez splitting time in center field.
That group is probably, at best, slightly above average and that is being generous (plus, Payton was traded to the Rockies).
I think Glavine can be a successful pitcher for several more years, but I don't understand why the Mets would want to sign a 38 year old pitcher to an expensive 3-year contract.
They are in danger of becoming the Baltimore Orioles of the National League - signing aging veterans to lengthy, expensive contracts and struggling to get to .500 every season.
Mike Piazza had a down year in 2002 and he is already well past the age that most catchers continue to play well.
Al Leiter is still pitching well, but he is 37 already.
Robbie Alomar is 34 and he had an awful year.
Mo Vaughn is big, fat, declining and already 34.
Jeromy Burnitz was horrendous is 2002 and he is 33.
I could keep going, but you get the point.
It is certainly possible that a lot of the Mets could have "comeback" seasons in 2003 and they could be contenders for the division title, but with most of the stars over 30 and some nearing 40, it isn't very likely.
Steve Phillips is still making decisions like he is trying to fine tune a division winning team and all that is going to do is lead to even more mediocre (or worse) seasons down the line.
"Bad move for the Mets. If you have an old wooden tool shed in the backyard that's rotting and falling apart, you don't fix it by taking a hammer and nailing some new boards to the old ones. You tear and down and build a new one."
The Rangers acquired Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese from the Indians, in exchange for Travis Hafner and Aaron Myette.
Texas then declined to offer Pudge Rodriguez arbitration, effectively ending any shot he had at returning.
In that same column from 2 weeks ago in which I talked about Glavine's free agency, I also had some words about Rodriguez's:
Ivan Rodriguez |C| Age: 31
If Ivan Rodriguez retires today, he is a Hall-of-Famer.
Pudge came up with the Rangers as a 19 year old defensive whiz in 1991.
He won his first of 10 straight Gold Gloves in 1992 and then, in 1994, his hitting started to catch up to his defense.
Rodriguez has never been a big fan of the walk, but he does everything else well at the plate.
His .314 average this season was his 8th year in a row with an average in the .300s.
Along with the great batting averages, Rodriguez also hits for very good home run and doubles power - posting slugging percentages over .500 in each of the last 5 seasons.
While his hitting has been greatly improved from his early days with the Rangers, his durability, which was once extraordinary, has let him down.
After logging at bat totals of 639, 597, 579 and 600 and games played totals of 153, 150, 145 and 144 from 1996-1999, Rodriguez has played in only 91, 111 and 108 games over the last 3 seasons and has not managed over 450 at bats in any of them.
Catchers on the wrong side of 30 usually don't get more durable with age, especially when they have as many innings behind the plate as Rodriguez does.
I don't think Pudge can be counted on to catch 140-150 games a year anymore (and he probably never should've been).
His hitting is showing no signs of slowing down and for team that is willing to play him like a "normal catcher" (100-110 starts a season) he would be extremely valuable.
That said, catchers don't age real well and Pudge's once amazing throwing arm seems to be a little less powerful than it used to be.
He threw out 36.6% of baserunners this year, which is a very good number for a catcher (4th in the AL).
But, 36.6% was the lowest of his entire career and only the 2nd time (first since 1994) that his CS% has been lower than 44%.
For a guy that has had many years in the 54%-56% range, 36.6% is a pretty big dropoff.
If a team signs Rodriguez for more than 2-3 seasons, they are making a gigantic mistake.
His health will be the biggest issue and pretty soon his defense is going to be more of a liability than it is an asset.
I think he will be able to hit forever, but he becomes a whole lot less valuable as a DH.
So, I have no idea what will happen to Pudge.
Is there another team willing to sign a suddenly injury prone catcher on the wrong side of 30 to a multi-year deal?
Or might there be a team interested in trying to convert him to another position, like second base?
Frankly, I have no clue, so we'll all just have to wait and see.
I wouldn't mind seeing him try to learn second base at the Metrodome...
I have been "studying" minor league prospects while putting together my next article for BaseballPrimer.com and I am convinced Travis Hafner could be a very good 1B/DH in the Major Leagues.
Check out his minor leagues numbers over the last few years:
2000 (Single-A) = .346/.447/.580 with 22 HRs and 34 doubles in 436 ABs.
2001 (Double-A) = .282/.396/.545 with 20 HRs and 25 doubles in 323 ABs
2002 (Triple-A) = .342/.463/.559 with 21 HRs and 22 doubles in 401 ABs.
Travis Hafner can hit.
He hits for average, great power and he walks a lot - everything I want in a 1B/DH.
His Major League Equivalency (MLE) for 2002 = .318/.427/.512, which would be better than about 75% of Major League first basemen.
Hopefully Cleveland will give him a chance to play everyday.
If they do, they will have a good, cheap replacement for Jim Thome.
I hope to have an in-depth look at the 2003 Hall-of-Fame candidates posted here first thing Monday morning, so please make sure to stop back and check that out.
Also...make sure to have a good weekend!
See ya Monday.
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