April 4, 2003

A Royal butt whoopin!

Thursday is my "long" day of classes and I didn't get back to the dorm until 4 o'clock. In between classes, I listened to the Twins beat the Tigers to improve to 3-0. I also taped the White Sox/Royals game, which started at 1 pm, so I could watch it when I got home.

I got home at 4 and figured the game was either recently over or still going on, so I decided I wasn't going to turn the TV on and would wait a little while, so I could make sure it was over, and then watch the tape of the game in it's entirety. Well, after about 30 seconds of waiting I realized I don't have the necessary patience to do that, so I turned on the TV and found myself right in the middle of a key spot.

Bottom of the 8th inning, Chicago up 6-5, 2 outs. There were runners on 2nd and 3rd when I turned on the TV, but seconds later Desi Relaford walked to load the bases and Chicago manager Jerry Manuel decided to bring in his closer, Billy Koch.

Twins fans (and Oakland fans) may remember Billy Koch as the guy that gave up the homer to A.J. Pierzynski in game 5 of the ALDS last year. They may also remember him as the guy who mouthed off during the off-season about how the Twins were just lucky last year and how he wasn't worried about them in 2003.

So Koch comes into a 6-5 game with the bases loaded and 2 outs. The first batter he faced was Ken Harvey, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite players (more on this in a minute). Harvey worked the count a little bit and then smacked a line-drive single right up the middle, plating 2 runs to give KC a 7-6 lead. Blown save #1 for Koch. But wait, it gets better.

So now it is 7-6 and there are runners on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs. The next batter he faced was Brent Mayne, he of the career .354 slugging %. Mayne hit the first pitch he saw for a 3-run homer to deep left field, giving the Royals a 10-6 lead.

Koch stayed in the ballgame and the next 4 batters he faced all reached base. He gave up a double, a single and a walk, and Carlos Febles reached on an error by Joe Crede, a play that scored another run for the Royals. Mercifully, Koch was taken out of the ballgame, after letting 6 runs score without recording a single out and re-loading the bases for Rick White, who replaced him and promptly walked in a run to make it 12-6.

I'm big on numbers on this website, so I thought it would be fun to look at Koch's from today:

0 outs recorded

4 runs allowed (2 Earned)

3 inherited runs allowed

4 hits allowed

1 homer allowed

1 walk

1 blown save

I've never seen a more beautiful pitching line in my life.

Well, one thing about Billy Koch...he might talk a lot, but at least he backs it up with his play on the field. Oh wait, nevermind.

Ken Harvey, the man that drove in the game-winning runs for KC, is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. Here is what I wrote about him in my "Top 50 Prospects" article for Baseball Primer:

#36) Ken Harvey

Kansas City Royals

Age: 22

Position: 1B

Bats: Right

If you went to "Central Casting" and asked for a designated hitter, they would probably show you Ken Harvey. He is big, fairly unathletic and, most importantly, he can hit.

Harvey came into the season with a career minor league batting average in the .350s but focused on improving his power in 2002. The end result was mixed. Harvey hit a career high 20 homers and also added 30 doubles, but he saw his batting average drop to .277, over 75 points below his career average.

Harvey will no doubt be looking to make one final adjustment in 2003, getting his batting average back up near what is was prior to 2002, while keeping his new found power. He got a head start on his adjustment period in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit an amazing .479/.537/.752 with 7 homers and 11 doubles in 117 at bats. Obviously all the small sample size caveats apply here, but it is an encouraging sign nonetheless.

Harvey is the odds-on favorite to be Kansas City's designated hitter in 2002, so he'll have to make those adjustments at the Major League level. I don't think Ken Harvey will ever be a truly great player, but he should be an upper-level DH/1B, hitting .300 with 20 homers and lots of doubles.

I still don't think he's going to be a great player, but he'll be a very nice DH for a long time and he'll be a lot of fun to watch. He takes a massive cut at the plate and seems to like pitches that are forehead high.

As you can probably guess, everything is pretty nice in Twinsville right now. Well, except one thing.

I wrote this the other day:

Luis Rivas, always wanting to impress me, singled to center in the top of the 8th and then advanced to 2nd on a Jacque Jones bunt. Then Guzman hit a little pop up into center field and Rivas, who apparently forgot their was only 1 out, just starting running ("I was running..."). Kingsale easily made the play in CF and tossed the ball back in to second base to double-up Rivas. Along with bad offense and bad defense, we can now add "baserunning mistakes" and/or "brain cramps" to Luis' resume.

Apparently Ron Gardenhire was a little upset about Rivas' baserunning blunder too and was also not pleased with his 0-4 with 3 strikeouts performance on Tuesday, so he benched him for yesterday's game and played Chris Gomez at second base.

Rivas getting benched for baserunning mistakes and not poor hitting and defense isn't quite what I was hoping for, but I'll take what I can get at this point.

By the way, The Official Trapped on the Bench Player of Aaron's Baseball Blog, Bobby Kielty, saw his first action of the season yesterday and went 1-4 with an RBI single. Not really breaking news, but I'm not sure when he'll play again, so I figure I'll mention it.

The nice thing about facing the Tigers to start a season is that your pitching staff gets a nice head-start on their ERA.

Here are the combined totals for Twins pitchers right now:

IP     ERA    SO    BB    HR    OAVG    OOBP    OSLG

27 0.67 16 2 1 .111 .130 .156

That'll keep the ol' team ERA looking good for a while.

I got the following email yesterday that made me realize I have been talking about 4/5ths of the AL Central quite a bit the past few days, without any sort of mention of the other 20% of the division (that would be me showing off my math skills!):

"Do you have any sort of comment on the Indians? I'm sorry to keep going on and on about them, but I can't find any good commentary on them. Would you comment on any of these things?:

Travis Hafner batting .750 (it's only two games, but .750 is .750!)

Ricardo Rodriguez


Why everyone at Baseball Primer hates Mark Shapiro?"

Since I aim to please here at Aaron's Baseball Blog, I will gladly touch on those 4 subjects.

Sadly, Mr. Hafner went 0-3 last night to drop his batting average to .364. This means he no longer is projected to get 450 hits this year, which could definitely keep him from winning the AL Rookie of the Year, since Ken Harvey is currently projected to get about 350.

But seriously folks (you ever notice that when a comedian says a joke that he realizes no one thought was funny, he almost always starts the next sentence by saying, "but seriously folks...")...

I really like Travis Hafner, and not just because he got 3 hits in his first 4 at bats this season. I liked him all the way back in January, when I ranked him as the 21st best prospect in baseball and said the following:

#21) Travis Hafner

Cleveland Indians

Age: 25

Pos: 1B

Bats: Left

"When the fox hears the rabbit scream, he comes running, but not to help." - Mason Verger, Hannibal.

Mark Shapiro heard the rabbit’s screams and he recognized them, because, well, he had heard them before. You see, John Hart has a bit of a history of giving up very good hitters for not much in return.

Exhibit A is, of course, Brian Giles - he of the back-to-back-to-back-to-back .400+ OBP / .590+ SLG / 35+ HR seasons with Pittsburgh - for whom Hart received Ricky Rincon.

Exhibit B is Richie Sexson - he of the 45 HRs in 2001 and 88 HRs in 2 and a half seasons with the Brewers - for whom Hart got Bob Wickman. There are other, lesser exhibits like Sean Casey.

And now, Travis Hafner.

Hafner was "stuck" behind Rafael Palmeiro in Texas in the same way Lyle Overbay has been stuck in Arizona. Fortunately for Travis Hafner, the Indians decided to free him (or FREE HIM! for you Durazo fans out there) and make him their replacement at first base for Jim Thome.

All they needed to give Mr. Rabbit...er, Mr. Hart, was Einar Diaz (a career .259/.309/.357 hitter) and Ryan Drese (a career 5.90 ERA pitcher). Hart even tossed in Aaron Myette, a pitcher at least as good as Ryan Drese, along with Hafner.

I am pretty sure that even if Shapiro wanted to ignore them, he couldn’t have. Those screams must have been pretty loud.

Hafner can flat out hit. He posted a .346 average in 2000 and a .342 average this season, with a .282 sandwiched in between. Hafner has good home run and doubles power and an excellent eye at the plate. His defense, even at first base, is pretty awful, which wasn’t helping his quest for a full-time job.

Hafner is already 25 years old, which means the time is now. He has an opportunity with Cleveland and really needs to take advantage of it immediately. If he struggles, he runs the risk of getting tagged with the dreaded "AAAA" hitter label for circumstances (read: Rafael Palmeiro) that have mostly been beyond his control.

His MLE for 2002 was .318/.427/.512, which would put him right alongside guys like Ryan Klesko (.300/.388/.537 in 2002), John Olerud (.300/.403/.490) and Jeff Bagwell (.291/.401/.518) near the top of the first base pile.

The Indians had a lot of nice pieces in place for their rebuilding job, but one thing they needed was a young replacement for Jim Thome. They have that in Travis Hafner and, given the chance, he’ll make John Hart scream again - for a different reason.

Actually, now that I think about it, that comment about Hafner covers 3 out of the 4 topics I was assigned by the email. It discusses Travis Hafner, who is also a "prospect," and it also touches on Mark Shapiro, who, judging by what I said about his acquisition of Hafner, is not hated by at least one person at Baseball Primer.

What does that leave us with? Well, Ricardo Rodriguez. However, I don't want to use up all of my Indians comments in the first week of the season, so I'll leave that subject for another day!

Today's picks:

San Francisco (Ainsworth) -150 over Milwaukee (Ritchie)

Montreal (Ohka) +105 over New York (Cone)

Toronto (Sturtze) +155 over Minnesota (Reed)

Arizona (Kim) -120 over Colorado (Chacon)

Total to date: - $130

W/L record: 9-9 (I am starting to think I have the ability to jinx the White Sox by betting on them...)

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

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