February 20, 2003

I feel like Santa Claus

You know how little kids write letters to Santa Claus, telling him that they've been very good this year and informing him of the presents they want?

They write the letter, put it in an envelope and simply write "Santa Claus" on it - no address, no state, no zip code - and yet somehow they think it'll just magically get to where it needs to go.

Well, today I was Santa Claus.

About a week ago, I got an email from a reader in Iowa and he told me about a story that appeared in his local paper (The "Ankeny Press Citizen").

The story was about two former Ankeny boys that are trying to make it in baseball - Todd Sears who is currently the Twins' Triple-A first baseman and Benj Sampson, who is currently with the Cleveland organization, but who used to pitch for the Twins in 1998 and 1999.

Anyway, he thought I might be interested in reading the article and the "Ankeny Press Citizen" doesn't have a place on the web where people can read articles, so he decided he would send it to me.

After class yesterday I checked my mailbox and there was a big envelope waiting for me.

Here is how it was addressed:

Aaron Gleeman

University of Minnesota

100 Church Street SE

Minneapolis, MN 55455

There are a few minor problems with that.

First, I don't live on Church Street.

In fact, I don't think anyone lives on Church Street, it just has a bunch of big buildings and classrooms.

Secondly, he not only didn't mention my room number (which the dorm tells us is a must to receive mail!), he didn't even mention the dorm I live in.

And yet, somehow, it was sitting in my mailbox today when I got home from school.

It's not quite as if he addressed it to "Santa Claus," but it's damn close.

Wrong street/address, no mention of the actual building and no mention of the room number.

I want to thank "Aaron H" for sending me the article on Sears and Sampson.

Next time, maybe just send it to "Aaron Gleeman" and leave the rest blank.

I want to put this whole me as Santa Claus theory to the test.

Speaking of readers...

A couple days ago I discussed the legend of Tim Spehr batting cleanup for the Red Sox, which was mentioned in a USA Today article I read.

Here is the quote from the USA Today article:

"The Red Sox have had problems with stats guys. In 1997 one of their stats experts suggested, on the basis of research, that Tim Spehr, a weak-hitting catcher with a .198 career average, bat cleanup."

And here is a portion of what I said:

It is almost as if people around baseball think that guys that use computers and talk about on-base percentages are walking around with 2 heads and 3 eyes or a 3rd arm growing out of the side of their head or something.

The actual quote used here is just completely ridiculous and flat out false.

First of all, Tim Spehr never even played for the Boston Red Sox, which makes the entire "story" completely implausible.

How could a Red Sox "stat guy" have suggested they bat Tim Spehr cleanup when Tim Spehr wasn't even on the damn team?!

It sounds like something some old-time baseball guy said one day when he was asked about some guy in the front office working on "stats."

I got about a dozen emails yesterday in regard to this story, most of them with some info that I didn't have - mainly that Tim Spehr was actually a member of the Boston "organization" several years ago, although he never played for them in an actual Major League, regular season game.

A lot of people sent me a lot of different variations of the story, but basically a Red Sox "stats guy," most likely Mike Gimbel, suggested during spring training that Spehr bat cleanup.

I'm glad to have learned more details about the story, but it doesn't change my feeling on the quote being used in the USA Today story.

To say that "the Red Sox have had problems with stats guys" because someone suggested that Tim Spehr bat cleanup in a spring training game is just idiotic and something that should never find itself in a serious baseball article in a serious paper like USA Today.

For God's sake, Garth Brooks played in spring training games!

So, I stand by my original point, although I certainly was not aware of all the facts.

That said, Spehr most certainly did not play for the Boston Red Sox, at least not in a game that counted for anything.

Anyway, I don't want to spend anymore time on this subject, but I do thank everyone who emailed me about it.

It's probably the most Tim Spehr has been discussed in his whole life!

I also got a lot of emails yesterday regarding my crappy day.

Thanks to everyone that offered kind words - and even to those of you that didn't!

You should all be happy to know that my group's "skit" went very well and I didn't screw up at all! We were far and away the best of the 6 groups that went. Of course, I may be a little biased on this issue.

In other news...

I meant to talk about this a while ago, but I completely forgot.

Last month I was introduced to Steve Goldman's writing on YESNetwork.com.

For those of you that may not be familiar with it, the YES Network is the "Yankees Entertainment and Sports" Network and it's run by the Yankees and is the home for Yankee games during the season, as well as an extraordinary amount of "Yankee programming" including "ESPN Sports Century" type features on everyone from Lou Gehrig to Luis Sojo. It's basically 24 hours of Yankees, everyday, which makes some people (including me) want to throw up at times, but is probably pretty cool for New Yorkers.

I think they also have the New Jersey Nets games too, but I could be wrong.

Anyway, Steven Goldman writes a column for the YES Network website and it is absolutely phenomenal and, I hate to say it, but it is completely out of place compared to the rest of the junk on the website.

Goldman has quickly become one of my favorite "mainstream" writers.

His most recent column is his 13th for the YES Network website and, if you're like me, you'll end up reading all 13 of them.

As for actual baseball news...

Well, there just isn't a whole lot going on, as most teams are just getting settled into their spring training sites and the player movement portion of the off-season is almost completely done.

A few extremely minor stories caught my attention:

There is some talk in the Seattle camp that this may be Edgar Martinez's final season.

Here's what Edgar had to say:

"I won't say it's 100 percent, but it's looking that way," Martinez said. "There's a high, high percentage this will be my last one. But you never know."

"I'm never going to say this is my last season until I know for sure. It could be one of those years where everything works perfect for me."

Edgar just turned 40 and he has had some injury problems the past couple seasons, but I think he is the type of player that could be a productive part of a team well into his 40s, sort of like that 44 year old outfielder I talked about earlier this week.

When the time comes, Edgar may be the first true designated hitter to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

At this point, I don't think he is a good bet to get in, but if he can put together another good year or two he would have a pretty nice case.

Martinez has been one of the best hitters in baseball throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. The problem with his career, as far as the Hall of Fame goes, is that he got a relatively late start. He didn't become a full-time player until he was 27 years old.

Once he finally got an everyday gig, he made the most of it, hitting .302, .307 and .343 in his first 3 full-seasons, before missing the majority of the 1993 season with an injury. He came back in 1994 and hit .285 in the strike-shortened season and then reeled off 6 straight years of a .320 or better batting average, including .356 in 1995. His averaged dropped to "only" .306 in 2001 and then .277 last year.

As with most players, batting average doesn't begin to tell the whole story with Martinez.

Early in his career, Edgar was pretty much a singles and doubles hitter that took a few walks.

Something "clicked" in 1995 and Edgar turned himself into a bonified power hitter with awesome plate discipline, which led to 4 straight seasons with 100+ walks and then 3 straight with 90+, to go along with 7 straight years with a .540+ slugging %.

Edgar's bat speed is inevitably going to diminish (if it hasn't started to already) and his batting average will likely go with it, but I think he can still be a very productive player because he'll always walk a ton and his power is still very good. Plus, he is just a smart hitter.

Martinez has had 8 straight years a .400+ OBP and I think he could probably get on base 35-38% of the time in his sleep (once again, sort of like that elderly outfielder I have been talking about this week).

I hope Edgar has a nice season in 2003 and I really hope it isn't his last.

It would be nice to see him reach 300 homers, 500 doubles and 2,000 hits this year, all of which are well within reach if he has a typical "Edgar" season.

Meanwhile, in the New Yorks Mets camp, there is talk of Roger Cedeno being their everyday center fielder in 2003.

I particularly liked this quote from their new manager, Art Howe: "He's got the potential to be an outstanding center fielder."

Yes, and I've got the potential to be the Queen of England.

No really, I do.

Despite being very fast and fairly athletic, Roger Cedeno was one of the worst defensive left fielders in all of baseball last year and just the idea of him possibly playing center field is enough to bump Tom Glavine's ERA up half a run.

If Cedeno is New York's CF in 2003, that means Glavine will have gone from Andruw Jones to Roger Cedeno as his #1 fly-chaser and that is about as steep a drop-off as you can get.

To make matters worse, Glavine is a fly-ball pitcher, which means he could be in for a tough year in 2003.

In addition to scaring their entire pitching staff with talk of Cedeno in CF, the Mets also made a minor move yesterday, signing Tony Clark to a minor league contract.

Tony Clark had a miserable season in 2002, one of the worst in baseball, and it really was a bit of a shock to me.

Check out Clark's stats prior to last year:

Year      AVG      OBP      SLG      EqA

1997 .276 .376 .500 .299
1998 .291 .358 .522 .298
1999 .280 .361 .507 .291
2000 .274 .349 .529 .293
2001 .287 .374 .481 .304

That is remarkable consistency.

His EqA was above .290 every year and topped out at .304 in 2001.

The only downside with Tony Clark, prior to 2002, had been injury problems.

He missed 100 games in 2000 and about 30 in 2001.

And here's what he did last year:

Year      AVG      OBP      SLG      EqA

2002 .207 .265 .291 .198

Well, there goes the consistency.

I often talk about a player "falling off a cliff" and Tony Clark's 2002 season is probably one of the best examples of cliff falling that I could possibly come up with.

He had been a .290-.305 EqA player for 5 seasons in a row and was still relatively young (he was 30 in 2002) and *boom* all of a sudden he fell of the cliff and hit like Neifi Perez's little sister.

As bad as 2002 was, he is still only a year removed from a .304 EqA and 5 straight very good seasons, so the Mets did well by signing him up to a minor league contract.

There is really no downside for them and, if Clark can turn it around, they'll have a nice 1B to possibly compete with Mo Vaughn or a great guy off the bench.

If he continues to stink, they aren't out any significant money and Clark will provide a great example of just how quickly a good player can become completely worthless.


Occasionally I get emails from people in Milwaukee or Tampa Bay or Kansas City and they want me to talk a little bit about their favorite ballclub, even though they stink.

Yesterday I got an email from "Sara," who is a frequent reader of this blog and a big Pirates fan.

This is the first email that I've received from a female reader, so I feel obligated to talk about the Pirates.

By herself, Sara is actually 1 more female reader than I thought I had, so I'm happy she decided to email me.

If there are any other ladies out there that check this blog out occasionally, send me an email, I'm a sucker for a girl that likes baseball.

I got her email and immediately went to work to try to find something on the Pittsburgh Pirates to discuss.

I've already talked about Brian Giles a few times, so I ruled him out.

Then I saw a couple of little blurbs on Rototimes.com and I had myself a Pirates topic!

"The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that, though nothing is definite, Randall Simon likely will get the bulk of playing time at first against right-handers for the Pirates, while Kevin Young likely will play against lefties and enter as a defensive sub."

"Kevin Young said yesterday that he expects this season to be his last with the Pirates, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He said he hasn't lived up to expectations and likely will lose playing time at first base to Randall Simon this year. While nothing is written in stone, he probably will start against left-handers and enter as a defensive replacement to Simon."

Before I say anything, let me remind everyone that Kevin Young has been one of the worst first basemen in baseball for quite a while.

Over the last 3 seasons he has hit a combined .246/.314/.414, including .246/.322/.408 last season.

That said, Kevin Young is not a completely useless baseball player, he is simply a bad starting first baseman.

Give him 450-500 at bats and he'll be at the bottom of the league in 1B value, but put him in certain situations - like playing only against lefties - and he can be pretty good.

The same goes for Randall Simon.

As a 500 at bat first baseman, he is below average.

As one half of a platoon he can be very productive.

Look what happens when we stop playing Simon and Young (that sounds like a law firm, doesn't it?) against all pitchers and start playing them against only lefties (Young) and only righties (Simon).

Kevin Young versus lefties:

Year      AB      AVG      OBP      SLG

1999 159 .308 .378 .535
2000 129 .264 .321 .488
2001 74 .270 .386 .486
2002 106 .283 .377 .519

Randall Simon versus righties:

Year      AB      AVG      OBP      SLG

1999 200 .325 .379 .460
2001 213 .319 .351 .437
2002 341 .320 .342 .510

Simon did not play in the Majors in 2000, which is why that line is missing from his stats.

Kevin Young and Randall Simon, like many "mediocre" Major League baseball players, can be valuable if used in the right situations.

A Young/Simon platoon could very easily combine to hit .285/.360/.500, which is pretty damn good.

I've decided that there are two different types of crappy baseball players:

1) The crappy-when-relied-upon-too-much type of player.

Kevin Young and Randall Simon are perfect examples of this. When you put them in full-time, everyday roles, they become a negative to a team, but when you limit them to spots where they can thrive and use whichever skills are their best, they can be valuable players.

Eric Karros is another good example of this type of player. He stinks as a full-time 1B (hit only .271/.323/.399 last year), but is very good at hitting lefties (.287/.369/.487 against them in the past 2 seasons) and would make an excellent platoon option at 1B, much like Kevin Young.

2) The crappy-when-relied-upon-at-all type of player.

I would classify this group as the Rey Ordonez/Neifi Perez's of the world.

They can't hit lefties and they can't hit righties and, to make matter's worse, they somehow seem to manage to convince multiple teams to waste hundreds of at bats on them every year.

Okay, Sara, how was that?

A few hundred words on Pittsburgh's first base situation.

I managed to say that Kevin Young and Randall Simon, together, form a nice first baseman.

And, while they are crappy players, they are the better classification of a crappy player, because they are not completely useless.

Somehow I don't think "they are not completely useless" is what Sara was looking for me to say in regard to the Pirates, but sometimes you have to take what you can get.

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

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