August 24, 2003

Making me look good

As anyone who has been reading this blog since the beginning can tell you, I am probably the biggest Johan Santana fan/supporter/booster outside of his immediate family. I have devoted countless entries and literally thousands of words to Johan Santana throughout last season and this season, and I have told anyone and everyone who would listen to me that he was going to be an extremely special pitcher, if only the Twins would give him a chance in the starting rotation.

Well, the Twins finally gave him that chance last month and Johan has been their best pitcher ever since. I have to admit that I take a little additional pleasure in watching each of Johan's outings. Not only do I love watching him pitch because I am a Twins fan and not only do I love watching him pitch because he is a great pitcher, I also love watching him pitch simply because I feel proud when I think of all the things I said about him before he got a chance to prove himself. I sort of feel like I was on the Johan Santana "bandwagon" before most people and with each impressive start, I feel like I was "right" about him more and more.

After yesterday's start against the Royals (6 innings, 1 run, 10 strikeouts), Johan has now started 12 games this season. Here are his numbers in those 12 starts:

GS     W     L       IP      ERA     SO     BB     OAVG

12 7 2 78.1 2.41 79 17 .192

What can I say, other than "I told you so!" Santana has been particularly impressive this month, going 4-0 with a 1.25 ERA in 5 August starts, while posting a 40/10 strikeout/walk ratio in 36 innings.

This guy is a special player and every time I watch him pitch I come away thinking even more highly of him than I did the time before. He has incredible stuff (most notably a blazing fastball and one of the best changeups I have ever seen), he already "knows how to pitch" and is learning even more with every outing, and he has incredible composure out on the mound and the type of "bulldog" mentality you want in a starting pitcher. Plus, he is still just 24 years old.

Of course, after seeing how great Santana has been since being put into the starting rotation, some people would probably bring up the fact that he should have been in the rotation all season, and not just the last two months or so. After all, the Twins are currently 1.5 games out of first place and I don't think it is crazy to suggest that Johan Santana being in the rotation instead of Joe Mays (6.51 ERA in 19 starts) during the first half of the season would probably have them sitting in first-place right now. But, what's done is done and the important thing is that Johan Santana is in the starting rotation right now and he's doing extremely well.

Despite only making 12 starts and totaling just 126.1 innings all year, Johan is currently 9th in the American League in strikeouts, with 139. In fact, among all American League pitchers with at least 100 innings so far this year, here is what the strikeouts per nine innings leaderboard looks like:


Pedro Martinez 10.15
Johan Santana 9.90
Roger Clemens 8.67

That's some pretty nice company Johan has surrounding him on that list, huh? No other AL pitcher with 100+ innings has a K rate higher than 8.50/9 IP. And this isn't some fluke thing, check out the exact same leaderboard for last season:


Johan Santana 11.38
Pedro Martinez 10.79
Roger Clemens 9.60

Same three names atop the leaderboard - two of the greatest pitchers in baseball history and Johan Santana.

Combined, over this season and last season, Santana has the following numbers:

   IP      W     L      ERA      SO     BB     HR     OAVG

234.2 16 9 2.91 276 86 20 .211

234.2 innings is just about the amount a #1 starter would have in one full season in the rotation. Over that stretch of innings, Johan has a 2.91 ERA, 16 wins and a .211 batting average against. He also has 276 strikeouts and, for those of you without your calculators, that comes out to 10.6 strikeouts per 9 innings.

From the time I was born in 1983 through last season - a span of 20 seasons - only 5 pitchers have thrown at least 230 innings in a season with a K rate of 10.0/9 IP or better:

Randy Johnson (6 times)

Curt Schilling (4 times)

Pedro Martinez (1 time)

Roger Clemens (1 time)

Nolan Ryan (1 time)

Now, Johan didn't pitch those 230+ innings in one season, he pitched them in two. And he didn't do all of that pitching in the starting rotation, like those 5 guys did. But it's still pretty interesting to look at what pitchers have racked up strikeout totals similar to Santana's and it's certainly an encouraging sign for his future.

Beyond the strikeouts and the impressive ERA, another positive thing coming from Johan's time in the rotation this year is that his control is improving significantly. He walked 4.07 batters per 9 innings last season and he walked 3.75/9 IP while in the bullpen this year. In his starts this season however, he has walked just 1.95 per 9 innings, which is extremely good for a young strikeout pitcher.

While watching Johan pitch out of the bullpen earlier this season, I was upset about the situations in which he was being used (for example, he would come into a blowout after the starter got yanked early, a complete misuse of his talents), but I was also concerned that he was the type of pitcher who was not suited for short stints.

Johan does struggle with his control at times, as most young power pitchers who rack up huge strikeout totals do. So, when he is asked to come into a ballgame to face only one or two batters, perhaps with men on base, it is only magnifying his control problems. As a starter, he is able to work through his own problems without having to worry about getting yanked if he walks a guy and, most importantly, he is able to get into a rhythm, where he can better harness his incredible stuff by "pacing" himself a little more.

I believe this not only leads to him walking fewer batters and throwing fewer pitches per batter, but also to fewer strikeouts. While striking out fewer hitters is never a good thing by itself, when it means also walking fewer and throwing fewer pitches, it is definitely a good tradeoff and one that many relievers turned starters will make. Plus, "fewer strikeouts" for Johan Santana still means he is striking out a guy every inning, so it's not exactly a troubling drop-off.

The numbers so far this year seem to support that, as Johan struck out 11.25/9 IP while in the bullpen and has struck out "only" 9.08/9 IP as a starter. He has also yet to walk more than 3 batters in any of his 12 starts and his walk rate is nearly cut in half as a starter compared to as a reliever.

With the control problems gradually working themselves out as he matures as a pitcher and gets more experience in the rotation, Johan's lone remaining "concern" is the amount of homers he has allowed this season. In 108.1 innings last year he allowed just 7 homers, or one every 15.5 innings. So far this year he has served up 13 homers in 126.1 innings, or one every 9.7 innings pitched. That's a significant increase and it becomes even bigger when you break it down into relief appearances and starts.

As a reliever Johan gave up 3 homers in 48 innings, or one every 16.0 innings. As a starter, he has given up 10 in 78.1 innings, or one every 7.8 innings. Now, a rate of one homer allowed every 8 innings or so is certainly not horrible. Over the course of 230 innings that works out to about 28 homers allowed. That is around the same rate as guys like Roy Halladay, Kerry Wood, Javier Vazquez, Randy Wolf, Bartolo Colon, David Wells, Andy Pettite and tons of other successful starting pitchers - in other words, it's nothing out of the ordinary. And it is far from the "home run danger zone" inhabited by guys like Jarrod Washburn, Rick Helling, Brett Tomko, Ryan Franklin and Freddy Garcia.

Also, Santana's style of pitching lends itself to giving up homers. He is one of the most extreme fly ball pitchers in all of baseball and when you get most of your non-strikeout outs by way of fly balls, some of them are going to go over fences.

Santana had a 0.70 GB/FB ratio last season and he has a 0.62 ratio so far this year. To put that into some context, here are the most extreme fly ball ratios among pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title this year:


Jarrod Washburn 0.66
Garret Stephenson 0.74
Darrell May 0.74
Ryan Franklin 0.76
Javier Vazquez 0.77
Wayne Franklin 0.77
Rick Helling 0.77

You may recognize a few of those names from the "home run danger zone." All 7 of those extreme fly ball pitchers are on pace to allow at least 30 homers this year and most of them are among the league "leaders" in worst home run rate. It just goes with the territory for being an extreme fly ball pitcher like Johan Santana, whose fly ball rate would rank 2nd in all of baseball behind only Washburn.

Aside from the possibility of the Twins sticking him back into the bullpen or the chance of him getting injured, that is really the only major concern I have about Santana's future at this point - that his way of pitching makes him very susceptible to giving up homers and, at some point, he is going to go through a rough stretch where he allows a ton of them.

And finally, since Johan has now made 25 starts over the last two years and that is about the amount starting pitchers who have been in their team's rotations all season long have made at this point, I thought it might be fun to look at the numbers the Twins could have gotten from Johan this year. You know, if they had listened to me from the very beginning and not putzed around with Joe Mays for 3 months...

GS      IP      W     L      ERA      SO     BB     OAVG

25 153 14 6 2.76 168 45 .203

Just by performing the way he has when given a chance to start over the past 2 years, Santana would rank 7th in the American League in wins, 7th in strikeout/walk ratio, 4th in ERA, 1st in strikeouts, and 1st in opponent's batting average.

Sure beats the hell out of Joe Mays (6.16 ERA), Kenny Rogers (4.67), Brad Radke (5.04), Kyle Lohse (5.00) and Rick Reed (5.10) now, doesn't it?

Link of the Day:

Contractor Peon - "Hi. I'm Black!"

Today's picks:

San Diego (Peavy) +190 over Arizona (Johnson)

Philadelphia (Wolf) +110 over Montreal (Hernandez)

Total to date: + 2,380

W/L record: 214-212 (2-0 on Friday for +275.)

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

August 21, 2003

And down the stretch they come!

The American League Central division was born in 1994. That year ended prematurely because of the strike and, at the time, the White Sox held a 1 game lead over the Indians, with the Royals 4 games back. Had each team been allowed to play their final 50 or so games that season, who knows what may have happened. It was shaping up to have been a pretty interesting finish though.

Since then, there haven't been many interesting finishes in the AL Central.

For the 5 seasons following the 1994 strike, the Cleveland Indians dominated. They went 100-44 in the strike-shortened 1995 season and won the division by 30 games. They then won 99, 86, 89 and 97 games in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999, winning 5 straight division titles by a total of 81 games, and never fewer than 6 games.

Then, in 2000, the White Sox ended Cleveland's run by going 95-67 to beat the Indians by 5 games, becoming the first non-Cleveland team to reach the playoffs out of the AL Central. Cleveland came back the next year and, after fighting off an early season push from the Minnesota Twins, won the Central by 6 games for their 6th division title in 7 seasons.

And just like that, the Cleveland Indians were done competing for division titles, at least in their present form. The Indians began rebuilding last season and finished the year 74-88, 20.5 games behind the Twins. Minnesota won the AL Central for the first time and won any division for the first time since 1991, going 94-67 to beat the White Sox by 13.5 games.

Now it is 2003 and, for the first time since that first year of the AL Central, when the strike put an end to the 1994 season, it looks like there is going to be a real race for the division championship that goes well into September. And not only just a race, but a 3-team race, and one without the Cleveland Indians and with the Kansas City Royals.

As a 20 year old baseball fan who has really only been a hardcore fan during this current divisional alignment, I'm not sure if it is more shocking to me that the Indians are not involved or that the Royals are.

As a Twins fan, I have long hated the Cleveland Indians. For years they dominated the division, like a scaled-down, midwestern version of the Yankees. They bashed teams into submission, they had a beautiful new ballpark, and they had players like Albert Belle and Kenny Lofton and Manny Ramirez and Roberto Alomar and Jim Thome.

Meanwhile, my team couldn't find .500 from the time I was 10 years old until the time I was 18, they played in one of the worst stadiums in baseball, and they had guys like Ron Coomer, Scott Stahoviak, Pat Meares and Marty Cordova.

While I was hating the Indians for being so good and so unlike the Twins, the Royals were essentially in the same boat as Minnesota. After going 64-51 in the abbreviated 1994 season, they never reached .500 again, lost 90+ games 4 times in 8 years and lost 100 games last season. I really didn't have any feelings about the Royals. They were a team just like the Twins, simply games on the schedule for the Indians of the world for many years. If anything, I saw them as allies, with the possibility of them starting to win again being the next best thing to the Twins doing so.

In 20 years, if I am asked to describe the first 5 months of the 2003 AL Central race, I think I would do it like this...

The Royals jumped out way ahead early, while the defending champion Twins struggled from the very beginning. For months, the Twins kept making up ground on Kansas City, only to lose it when they went into another one of their many tailspins. The entire time, everyone kept waiting for the Royals to falter, but they just kept on winning. And, as they did, the White Sox lurked in the background, flying under the radar for months at a time, before finally emerging as perhaps the division favorites at the end of August.

While that is an accurate description of the division race, or at least an accurate desciption of how it has felt for me, it is also a description that makes it sound a whole lot more exciting than it actually has been. The truth is that all three of these teams are incredibly flawed and none of them have played particularly good baseball for any extended length of time at any point this season.

But here we are, nearing the end of August, and the standings in this morning's paper look like this:

AL Central

W L Win% GB
Chicago 67 61 .523 --
Minnesota 66 61 .520 0.5
Kansas City 65 61 .516 1.0

Sure, if these three teams were racing for 100 wins instead of 85 wins, it would probably be a lot more exciting. On the other hand, if they were better teams, this would stop being a true pennant-race, because the teams that lost out on the division title would still have a chance at the Wild Card.

For good or for bad, there will be no Wild Card winner from this division. If one of these teams wants to make the playoffs, they are going to have to beat the other two. Personally, I love that, although it would be nice if it didn't have to be a division with lousy, non Wild Card-contending teams for a true pennant-race to take place.

So, who's going to win this thing? I'm really not sure what to think and, even if I was sure, I probably wouldn't be the best guy to ask. Prior to the season, I predicted the Twins would win 90 games, narrowly defeating the White Sox, who I said would win 88. No one here is going to win 90 games and I think it's pretty safe to say 88 wins is probably out of the question as well.

Of course, I also predicted that the Royals would finish fourth and, even while they were in first-place for months at a time, I kept telling everyone who would listen that they weren't for real and that, come the end of the season, the cream would rise to the top and the Royals would fall to the bottom. Well, it turns out there isn't a whole lot of cream in this group, and it also turns out that the Royals have as much business trying to win this division as Minnesota and Chicago.

I think a key factor - perhaps the key factor - for deciding who comes away with the division title is going to be the remaining schedules for the three teams.

Here is how the schedules compare:

              MIN       CHI       KAN

Games 35 34 36

Home 17 18 17
Road 18 16 19

Win % .434 .508 .436

Home % .445 .518 .440
Road % .424 .496 .433

vs .500 10 25 11

Last 10 .312 .551 .439

(All team records and winning percentages through August 21st)

Before we get to the good stuff, some definitions...

Games = Total games remaining

Home = Total home games remaining

Road = Total road games remaining

Win % = Opponents' combined winning percentage

Home % = Home opponents' combined winning percentage

Road % = Road opponents' combined winning percentage

vs .500 = Games remaining against teams at or above .500

Last 10 = Final 10 opponents' combined winning percentage

Lots to discuss here...

First of all, the Twins and Royals have essentially the exact same schedule remaining.

In fact, if you get rid of identical opponents and the games the two teams play against each other, the only difference in the entire schedule is that the Royals have one extra game, an inter-league makeup game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on September 4th. Other than that, the Twins and Royals play the exact same teams, the exact same amount of times each. Even the home/road breakdown is the same (when you ignore the Arizona game), with both teams playing 17 home games and 18 road games.

Meanwhile, Chicago's remaining schedule is extremely difficult. The combined winning percentage of Chicago's 34 remaining opponents is .508, or more than 70 points higher than the winning percentages of Minnesota and Kansas City's remaining opponents. One reason for the big discrepancy is that Chicago still has to play 11 games against the Yankees and Red Sox, while both Minnesota and Kansas City are done against those two teams.

Of Chicago's 34 remaining games, 25 of them (73.5%) are against .500 or better teams. Kansas City has 11 games against .500+ teams, while Minnesota has just 10.

Where I think it gets really interesting is the differences in each team's final 10 games of the season. The combined winning percentage of Chicago's final 10 opponents is .551. Meanwhile, Kansas City's final 10 opponents have a combined .439 winning percentage and Minnesota's last 10 have an amazingly low .312 winning percentage.

In their last 10 games, Chicago gets 3 against the Yankees and 7 against the Royals, including the last 4 games of the year in Kansas City. The Royals finish the year with 7 of their final 10 games against the White Sox, but have a 3-game series with the Tigers in between.

While the Royals and White Sox are beating each other up 7 times in the season's final 10 games, the Twins finish their home schedule with back-to-back home series with the Tigers and Indians, and then end the year with a 4-game series in Detroit.

What the Twins are able to do against Detroit in those 7 games in late September is going to be extremely important. The Tigers have the worst record in the major leagues and are on pace to become one of the worst, if not the worst, teams in major league history. And, the Twins have dominated the them this season. The Twins are 11-1 against Detroit so far this year and they went 14-4 against them last season and 15-4 against them in 2001.

Of course, the Tigers will have some motivation for winning those games too, because they will be trying to avoid the all-time record for losses in a season. Still, you would think that a team that is 40-9 against the Tigers in the last 3 seasons and is fighting for a playoff spot should be able to dominate and take, at a minimum, 5 of the 7 games, with there being a definite possibility for a 7-game sweep.

If the Twins can win 7 or 8 of those final 9 games against Cleveland and Detroit, I really think they will win the division. In a race this close, one team reeling off a stretch like that to end the year while the two other teams battle each other will be, in my opinion, too much for Chicago and Kansas City to overcome.

In the end, I still think the division title will come down to the Twins and the White Sox. Unless the White Sox can completely dominate the Twins in their remaining 7 games against each other, Chicago's difficult schedule, particularly at the very end of the season, should allow Minnesota to overtake them in the final week. Of course, whether or not the Detroit Tigers lie down for the Twins is going to have a big impact and, if there's one thing I've learned this year, it's that you can never go wrong assuming the Tigers will lose.

And yes, that would be me counting out the Royals for about the 50th time this year. Don't get mad at me Royals fans, because you've been doing just fine all year with me counting your team out the entire time.

Here is my official prediction (otherwise known as a "Wild Ass Guess") of how the final AL Central standings will look:

AL Central

W L Win% GB
Minnesota 86 76 .531 --
Chicago 85 77 .525 1.0
Kansas City 83 79 .519 3.0

Whatever happens, the only things I am completely sure of is that one of these three teams is going to be playing in October and the next month of baseball is going to be interesting.

The 2003 American League Central: Okay, so maybe we're not that good, but at least we're all equally mediocre!

Thanks for stopping by today. If you missed any of the entries from earlier this week, make sure to check them out...

Monday: Reader Mail (Piling On Edition)

Tuesday: Let's make a deal!

Wednesday: Elderly Gentlemen

Thursday: The Ballad of Phil Rogers

This Week's Featured Links:

Monday: The Athletic Reporter

Tuesday: Only Baseball Matters

Wednesday: Redbird Nation

Thursday: The Red Sox Rag

Today's picks:

Chicago (Zambrano) +175 over Arizona (Schilling)

San Francisco (Ponson) -125 over Florida (Willis)

Total to date: + 2,105

W/L record: 212-212 (1-1 yesterday for +60.)

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

August 20, 2003

The Ballad of Phil Rogers

Whenever's Phil Rogers writes something really dumb, which is quite often, I get bombarded with emails from people telling me about it, and asking me to comment on it here. His latest offering on the National League MVP race is no different and perhaps contains some of his worst work yet, which is really saying something.

I have discussed Phil Rogers' work here in the past, several times. In fact, when I discussed his article on Fred McGriff back in February, I tried to explain my bizarre fascination with the man's writing by way of some song lyrics:

And there could be no other way 'cause you're so lame

Your tired words are all, your tired words are all the same

And I would walk, you know I'd surely walk away

If I wasn't such a sucker for you

I see your world with rosey colored glasses on

Wanna right what I see wrong

I could never have that power over you

Someday, I'm gonna pack up and leave this town

I'm gonna get my own things goin on

And when I do, I'll forget

I'll forget

I'll forget about how, how you're so, you're so lame

Your tired words are all, your tired words are all the same

And I would walk, you know I'd, I'd walk away

If I wasn't such a sucker for you

I wasn't such a sucker for you

I wasn't such a sucker for you

--- John Mayer, "Sucker"

Try as I might, I just can't "walk away" and everytime I read Phil Rogers' "tired words," I get this incredible urge to "right what I see wrong." It's almost as if that song was written about Phil Rogers and I. Heck, if you want to go even deeper, it is quite obvious that, while I am obsessed with dissecting his articles, "I could never have that power over" him. And also, I am trying to start my own writing career, so I am definitely trying to "get my own things going on." Hmmm...

Anyway, I know I said a few days ago that I don't want to get back into the habit of tearing apart other people's articles on a daily basis, but when it comes to Phil Rogers, I just can't help myself. I am definitely a "sucker" for him.

I think my favorite line in his most recent article is the very first line of the entire thing:

"Two years ago, Albert Pujols did more to get his team into the playoffs than any other hitter in the major leagues."

Now, just to be incredibly clear here, Phil Rogers in talking about the 2001 season - Albert Pujols' rookie year and Barry Bonds' 16th major league season.


Bonds 664 .328 .515 .863 73 .428 144 262
Pujols 676 .329 .403 .610 37 .329 65 158

Barry Bonds won the National League MVP that year, receiving 30 of the 32 first-place votes, with the other 2 going to Sammy Sosa (who hit .328/.437/.737 with 64 homers and 160 RBIs).

A little later on in his article, Phil Rogers writes:

"Pujols would have gotten one first-place vote had it been a year when I was given an MVP ballot."

Albert Pujols had a great season in 2001, one of the best rookie years in baseball history. He was one of the top players in the league and he helped lead the Cardinals to a 93-69 record and a post-season berth.

Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001 - the most in the history of baseball. He walked 177 times - the most (at the time) in the history of baseball. He had a slugging percentage of .863 - the highest in the history of baseball. He also did all that (and hit .328 with a .515 OBP and 137 RBIs) while playing in one of the most extreme pitcher's parks in baseball. And, of course, Bonds' team went 90-72 and missed the post-season by 2 games.

I could rant about this issue for a few thousand words with no problem. But I won't. I've made similar arguments plenty of times before and, at some point, it becomes pointless to argue about something like this.

If a person can look at this...

           AVG      OBP      SLG

Bonds .328 .515 .863
Pujols .329 .403 .610

...and conclude that Pujols was a more valuable player than Bonds was...well, I think it's pretty much a lost cause.

Fast forward now to the current season. I'm not going to sit here and argue about who deserves this year's NL MVP, because I have done so already in the past and, much like the argument in 2001, I suspect it is all lost on people like Phil Rogers.

What I do want to discuss is that, once again, Phil Rogers is of the opinion that Albert Pujols is a more valuable player than Barry Bonds. His reasoning however, has changed quite a bit in just two years.

Regarding why he would have voted for Pujols over Bonds in 2001, Rogers says that:

"[Pujols], and not Bonds, lifted his team into the playoffs."

Yet, when it comes to this season, Rogers has changed his tune 180 degrees, saying that:

"[Bonds'] only major edge over Pujols is the Giants' standing as an almost-certain playoff team. Pujols, once again, is playing a huge role for a flawed La Russa team. It's time he steps out of the giant shadow Bonds has cast throughout Pujols' brief career."

So, let me get this straight. Two years ago, Rogers would have voted for Pujols over Bonds, despite Bonds' vastly superior season, on the basis of the Cardinals winning two more games than the Giants, and advancing to the post-season. Yet, this year, the fact that the Giants have more wins than St. Louis and are headed to the playoffs, whereas the Cardinals may or may not make it, is not reason enough for Bonds to get Rogers' vote? And now Pujols playing for a "flawed team" is seen as a positive for his MVP case?

Near the end of the article, Rogers tries to make one last point in Pujols' favor:

"Many players are their statistics. Only a handful of the great players mean even more than the numbers they produce."

When filtered through the bulls--- detector, I believe that sentence comes out, loosely translated, as:

"Bonds has better statistics than Pujols, so let's say Pujols deserves huge amounts of credit for things that no one can really quantify."

As if all this stuff weren't enough to make you crazy, Rogers said one thing about past MVP voting that really makes me wonder if he's mentally insane. Regarding the 2001 MVP voting, where Bonds won despite missing the playoffs by 2 games, Rogers writes that:

"Obviously a team's success is not a decisive consideration for the majority of voters."

Seriously, does Phil Rogers live on the same planet that I do? How is it even remotely possible that he believes this to be true?

Bonds had one of the greatest seasons in the history of baseball in 2001 and won the NL MVP, despite his team winning "only" 90 games, compared to Pujols' 92. So, because of that, Phil Rogers takes that to mean the MVP voters are somehow not placing enough value on team performance.

Meanwhile, for the past year I have been constantly ranting about how the MVP voters place far too much emphasis on team performance. The most obvious example being last year's AL balloting, of course.

                    AVG     OBP     SLG    HR    RBI     EqA    RARP    OPS+

Alex Rodriguez .300 .392 .623 57 142 .334 87.6 152
Miguel Tejada .308 .354 .508 34 131 .300 56.9 122

Despite all that, plus the fact that Alex Rodriguez won the AL Gold Glove at shortstop, Miguel Tejada won the American League MVP. Why? Well, the A's won 103 games and the AL West division, while the Rangers won 72 games and finished 4th.

I really don't see any other conceivable way in which you could argue for Tejada being better than Rodriguez last season, other than to make team performance an integral part of the equation. Yet, because Barry Bonds won the MVP in 2001 and his team didn't make the playoffs, Phil Rogers is of the opinion that team performance is not being given nearly enough weight.

Maybe, just maybe, Bonds won that MVP in 2001 because he was the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER and had ONE OF THE BEST SEASONS IN BASEBALL HISTORY. What do you think Phil? Nah, couldn't be, because the Giants only won 90 games and the Cardinals won 92, right? Those damn voters aren't paying enough attention to team performance! Someone might want to break the news to Alex Rodriguez though.

Oh, by the way, since the strike in 1994, there have been 8 completed seasons and 16 MVP awards given out. Of those 16 MVPs, 14 of them (88%) played for playoff teams.

Okay, enough about Phil Rogers and MVPs...

I was out of the house and away from my precious DirecTV (or any TV) last night, so I went an entire day without baseball for one of the first times all year.

Without me watching every single pitch for maybe the 10th time this season, the Twins beat the Indians 4-3. Also yesterday, the Royals lost to the Yankees 8-7 and the White Sox beat the Angels 5-3.

All of which means...

AL Central

W L Win% GB
Kansas City 65 60 .520 --
Chicago 66 61 .520 --
Minnesota 65 61 .516 0.5

Well, whaddya know, it looks like we've got ourselves a good, old-fashioned pennant-race. More on this exciting development tomorrow. Assuming Phil Rogers doesn't write anything new between now and then, of course.

Link of the Day:

The Red Sox Rag - "Observations and ramblings of a lifelong, 31 year old Red Sox fan"

Today's picks:

Milwaukee (Davis) +160 over Philadelphia (Padilla)

Texas (Lewis) +175 over Chicago (Colon)

Total to date: + 2,045

W/L record: 211-211 (3-0 yesterday for +405, which means I am back to .500, over +2,000, and officially rolling.)

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

August 19, 2003

Elderly Gentlemen

Back in July, when Rickey Henderson signed with the Dodgers , I wrote an entry discussing where Rickey's 2003 season could possibly rank among the best of all-time by a 44 year old (or older) hitter.

I found that there were only 9 seasons in baseball history when a hitter that old had at least 125 plate appearances, I ranked those 9 seasons, I took a guess at what type of season Rickey might have this year, and then I tried to figure out where that would rank. You'll have to go back and read the entry to find out my conclusions, which you can do by clicking here.

Thanks to some emails from readers though, I quickly found out that I had overlooked something that is very important to any discussion of 44 year old hitters. I'll let "D" - one of many readers to email me on this subject - explain:

"Has Rickey been an amazing player for two decades? Sure. Did he contribute the last few years even while his slugging and batting average plumetted? Yeah, somewhat.

But he isn't the best hitting 44 year old in baseball THIS SEASON, let alone ever. Julio Franco, of the Braves, is listed in most publications with a birthdate of August 23, 1958. In other words, he will shortly be turning 45!

The only question is Franco's true age. ESPN lists him with a 1961 birthdate rather than the 1958 one at baseball-reference, waymoresports, and others. Franco was first signed by the Phillies (before becoming part of the famed Von Hayes deal) in June 1978. If his ESPN birthdate is correct, he was signed as a 16 year old rather than a 19 year old. Certainly either is possible. However, that the next year, he was already an all star in his league and the following year was the AA MVP lends credence to the multitude of sources listing his 1958 birthdate."

I don't have anything to say, other than I definitely dropped the ball on this one. The main sources I used for my little "study" on the best 44 and over hitters in baseball history were Lee Sinins' Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia and And, both of those places list Julio Franco as having been born on August 23, 1958. They also both list 2002 as Julio Franco's "age 43" season, which means he is officially playing 2003 at 44 years old - the same age as Rickey.

It's weird too, because I have had conversations with people in which I marvel at what Julio Franco is doing and I have certainly made my fair share of Julio Franco age jokes. I guess I just got caught up in the Rickey excitement and, in searching throughout baseball history, I forgot to think about other guys playing right now.

Anyway, here is how the two geezers compare so far this year:

                          PA      AVG      OBP      SLG      EqA     RARP

Rickey Henderson 60 .235 .350 .373 .260 0.5
Julio Franco 187 .291 .369 .424 .277 4.8

It's not even that close, really. Julio Franco has more than 3 times as many plate appearances as Rickey (although that will change, now that Franco is on the DL) and he has a higher batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Rickey has been essentially a "replacement-level" left fielder thus far (+0.5 "Runs Above Replacement Position"), whereas Franco has been worth almost 5 runs more than a replacement-level first baseman this year.

So there you go - Rickey Henderson is in the middle of having one of the best seasons ever by a 44 year old hitter, but it isn't even the best year being had by a 44 year old hitter this season. Heck, it isn't even the best year by a 44 year old hitter in the National League!

At 44, Julio Franco has turned into the perfect platoon first baseman. He does his main job - mashing left-handed pitching - as well as anyone in baseball. Check out his numbers against lefties since he returned to the major leagues near the end of the 2001 season:

Year      AVG      OBP      SLG

2001 .400 .464 .520
2002 .382 .442 .526
2003 .366 .451 .561

Now, he has no business hitting against righties (.217/.270/.289 against them this year), but he destroys lefties, which makes him an excellent guy to have in a platoon-role or as a pinch-hitter.

Since we're talking about old guys, I thought it might be fun to try to make an entire team of elderly gentlemen. At first, I thought it might be sort of tough to find old guys to play the premium defensive positions like shortstop, catcher and center field, but it is actually pretty easy. Making "40 and over" the cutoff for an "old guy" makes for a very small pool of players (only 4 hitters with 25+ at bats and only 8 pitchers with 20+ innings pitched), so I dropped the number to 38 years of age and older. And, so as to not get into any debates about birthdays and cutoff dates and all that, I simply used everyone's "seasonal age," according to

So, put your dentures in, put your glasses on and crank up your hearing aids, because here they are...

The Elderly Gentlemen of Baseball

The Lineup

C Benito Santiago .275 .324 .433 .267 13.9 3/9/1965
1B Rafael Palmeiro .261 .360 .517 .298 25.5 9/24/1964
2B Mike Bordick .282 .331 .394 .252 5.8 7/21/1965
SS Barry Larkin .284 .349 .384 .258 7.0 4/28/1964
3B Mark McLemore .225 .308 .316 .243 2.3 10/4/1964
LF Barry Bonds .341 .519 .751 .417 83.8 7/24/1964
CF Steve Finley .297 .370 .519 .287 22.4 3/12/1965
RF B.J. Surhoff .327 .370 .447 .297 11.7 8/4/1964
DH Edgar Martinez .305 .415 .524 .339 44.5 1/2/1963

That's a hell of a lineup. First of all, it includes the best hitter in baseball, Barry Bonds, who leads the world in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, Equivalent Average and Runs Above Replacement Position. It's far from a one-man show however. The DH, Edgar Martinez, is 4th in the American League in EqA, and Rafael Palmeiro and Steve Finley are both in the top 5 in RARP for their respective leagues and positions.

I think my batting order would probably look like this:

1) Larkin - R

2) Finley - L

3) Bonds - L

4) Martinez - R

5) Palmeiro - L

6) Santiago - R

7) Surhoff - L

8) Bordick - R

9) McLemore - B

I would lead Barry Larkin off and bat Steve Finley second because they both have good OBPs and could set the table for the Bonds/Martinez/Palmeiro portion of the lineup, which is incredibly good. Then you still have Santiago and Surhoff batting 6-7, before you get to Bordick and McLemore. Other than Palmeiro, the infield is pretty weak offensively, but they all have positive RARP totals, which is more than can be said for a lot of starting infields around baseball. I would guess that lineup would be among the best in all of baseball.

Defensively, it is not a great group, but it's not horrible either. Steve Finley is still very solid in center field and Mike Bordick is great at whichever infield position you want to play him at. I'll stick him at second base instead of shortstop, because, while he is a better shortstop than Barry Larkin, Larkin has not played a position other than shortstop in his entire career. Overall, I'd say this is a slightly below-average defense.

The Bench

C Tom Prince .200 .319 .400 .260 1.6 8/13/1964
1B Julio Franco .291 .369 .424 .277 4.8 8/23/1958
IF Jeff Reboulet .263 .350 .347 .254 4.1 4/30/1964
1B Andres Galarraga .299 .358 .508 .293 9.7 6/18/1961
OF Rickey Henderson .235 .350 .373 .260 0.5 12/25/1958

That's a really nice bench. I had to cheat a little to find a catcher, because Tom Prince was actually released by the Twins a little while back and has since signed a minor league contract with the Royals. You've got Julio Franco and Andres Galarraga (.299/.358/.508 this year) to spell Palmeiro and Martinez at 1B and DH, and they both make awesome pinch-hitters too. Jeff Reboulet is the utility infielder and you've got Rickey to backup all the outfield spots (don't laugh, he started 3 games in CF last season).

Beyond those guys, there are plenty of other good options for the bench. Ellis Burks would be a great bench player and might even push Surhoff to the bench and start in RF, but he's on the disabled list with a pretty serious hand injury. Mark Grace stinks this year, but he wouldn't be a horrible guy to have on the bench. There's also Fred McGriff, who is hurt, but could certainly be a nice platoon first baseman and pinch-hitter. If you want another backup infielder, Keith Lockhart is old, available and actually hitting reasonably well this season (.253/.350/.437).

The Rotation

IP ERA W L Birthdate
SP Kevin Brown 158 2.28 12 6 3/14/1965
SP Roger Clemens 164 3.57 11 7 8/4/1962
SP Jamie Moyer 157 3.60 15 5 11/18/1962
SP David Wells 157 3.91 12 3 5/20/1963
SP Kenny Rogers 147 4.70 10 6 11/10/1964

Not a bad rotation, huh? Those 5 guys have a total of 1,030 major league wins between them, and they all have at least 150. Not only have they been great during their long careers, they have actually been very good this season too.

Brown, Clemens and Moyer all rank among the top 30 major league starters in ERA and also place among the top 30 MLB starters according to Baseball Prospectus' "Support-Neutral Win/Loss" stat. And Wells and Rogers are certainly a solid back-end of the rotation. Plus, like most veteran starters, all five of these guys can give you innings in bulk (they are all on pace for 190+ innings), which will help take a little pressure off of what is not a great bullpen...

The Bullpen

IP ERA W L Birthdate
CL Randy Johnson 62 5.08 3 5 9/10/1963
LH Dan Plesac 27 1.35 2 0 2/4/1962
LH Terry Mulholland 71 4.29 3 3 3/9/1963
LH Buddy Groom 34 6.29 1 3 7/10/1965
RH Steve Sparks 89 4.63 0 6 7/2/1965
RH Rick Reed 125 5.10 5 12 8/16/1965

The good news is that, as long as all the batters they have to face are left-handed, the bullpen should be in good shape. The bad news is that there is only one guy with an ERA below 4.00 in the whole bullpen and he has only pitched 27 innings all year.

I made Randy Johnson the closer on this team, mostly because there were plenty of good candidates for the rotation without him, but also because he doesn't seem to be completely recovered from his knee injury. Maybe a lighter workload will be better for him. Plus, if you think Eric Gagne and John Smoltz are intimidating to face coming out of the bullpen in the 9th inning, how scary would The Big Unit be?

Dan Plesac is the main setup man and, despite being used sparingly by the Phillies (45 games and only 26.2 IP), he is doing a very good job against both righties (.176/.256/.206) and lefties (.203/.235/.328). Buddy Groom has really struggled this year, but he used to be good (1.60 ERA in 62 IP last season), so he can handle the tough left-handed hitters, along with Terry Mulholland, who is holding lefties to just .237/.318/.330 this year.

From the right side, you've got a guy who throws complete junk that is lucky if it gets above 85 miles per hour...and then you've got Steve Sparks too. Actually, Rick Reed has done a much better job against lefties this year than he has against righties, but he's right-handed and he was good against righties last season, so that'll be his job. Reed can also spot-start when one of the old starters sleeps wrong on his back or breaks his hip or whatever it is that old people do. Sparks will be the "super utility" guy in the pen, just like how the Tigers have used him this season. Whether you need someone to mop-up a blowout or pitch long-relief when a starter leaves early or get a key out late in a game - he can fill the role.

The bullpen is definitely the biggest weakness on the team, which surprises me quite a bit. I mean, when you think of what roles old players are able to remain effective in, don't you always think of relievers first? Well, I do. Although maybe that is because of Jesse Orosco, who, sadly, did not make the cut for this team, even with the weak bullpen (get the ERA below 8.00 Jesse, and then we can talk).

The 38 and over boys could definitely do some serious damage and I think they'd probably be one of the best teams in baseball. Plus, if they got to the post-season, they'd have more "Veteran Leadership" and "Experience" than any team in the history of baseball, and I think I heard Joe Morgan say that stuff is the key to winning.

Okay, I'm sick of talking about old guys, let's talk about a young guy. Here is a quick Johan Santana-update, just because he is pitching extremely well and I feel like gloating...

Johan started against the Indians last night, his 4th start so far this month. He pitched 8 innings, allowing 2 runs, while striking out 10 and walking 1.

Here are his combined numbers in August:

GS     IP      ERA     W     L     SO     BB      H     HR

4 30 1.20 3 0 30 8 19 2

Not only does he have a 1.20 ERA and a 30/8 strikeout/walk ratio in 4 starts, he's going extremely deep into games, having thrown 8 innings in each of his last 3 starts.

Overall as a starter, Santana is now 6-2 with a 2.49 ERA in 11 starts. He has a sparkling 69/15 strikeout/walk ratio in those games and has held opponents to an amazingly low .186 batting average.

For the season - starting and relieving - he has the following line:

 G     GS        IP      ERA     W     L      SO     BB     OAVG

38 11 120.1 2.92 7 3 129 35 .207


And finally...

San Francisco 5, Atlanta 4 - 10 innings

Welcome back Superman.

Link of the Day:

Redbird Nation - "A St. Louis Cardinals Obsession Site"

Today's picks:

Chicago (Prior) -150 over Houston (Fernandez)

Cincinnati (Harang) +205 over Arizona (Johnson)

Texas (Dickey) -140 over Detroit (Cornejo)

Total to date: + 1,640

W/L record: 208-211 (1-2 yesterday for -10)

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

August 18, 2003

Let's make a deal!

There is, in my opinion, a very major story related to the trade deadline that is not getting enough attention. I know that's hard to believe with the abundance of stories devoted to trade rumors and speculation, not to mention the massive amount of attention that is given to each trade that actually does happen.

I mean, I like Aaron Boone and he's certainly a nice player, but when ESPN did their "Trade Deadline Show" last month, they essentially devoted an entire hour of programming to analyzing the trade of a 30 year old third baseman who is a career .269/.331/.446 hitter.

Lost in all the hoopla however, is a trade that is potentially one of the biggest deals in recent memory. For whatever reason though, it has been able to fly under the radar without receiving much attention at all.

According to almost every source I can find on the subject, the Padres and Pirates have long been discussing a deal that would send Brian Giles and Jason Kendall to San Diego, in exchange for several young players. The Padres are attempting to make themselves competitive for the move into their new ballpark next season, and the Pirates are once again "rebuilding" and trading Giles and Kendall would allow them to both shed payroll and bring in young talent.

If the stories about this potential deal are true, the Padres and Pirates have essentially agreed upon the deal and most of the particulars, but the Padres want to wait to pull the trigger until the off-season, when they will have a better feel for the free agent market and the state of their team.

There was some talk that the deal could have been completed prior to the July 31st trading deadline, but that obviously never happened. There is also still some talk that it could happen yet before the end of the season. Obviously neither Pittsburgh or San Diego needs to worry about adding players in time for them to be eligible for the post-season, and San Diego, with the worst record in the National League, would be first in line to claim both Giles and Kendall according to the waiver rules, so the two teams could basically do the trade at any time.

Here's a quote from an story from earlier this month:

"[Brian] Giles has said he expects to open the 2004 season as a Padre, but it's looking like he might have to wait until the offseason to find out if he actually will. Padres GM Kevin Towers has decided to wait until the winter and see how the free agent market shapes up before making any major decisions about adding a bat.

'I doubt anything will happen until then,' Towers told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. 'It doesn't mean everything is dead now, but I don't expect us to revisit it until the winter.'"

Am I wrong, or is this a pretty big story? I know it doesn't involve the Yankees or the Red Sox and Aaron Boone isn't on the move again, but this is a deal that would send one of the best hitters in all of baseball and one of the best catchers in all of baseball to the Padres in exchange for what is rumored to be at least 2-3 good, young players.

My immediate reaction to this story is to ask what the heck the Pirates are thinking. I know teams need to rebuild and I don't fault the Pirates for deciding to do that, but it seems to me that if you are trying to build or rebuild a team into a playoff contender, you don't start that process by trading away someone like Brian Giles.

To me, a "rebuilding" team should be working on a 3 year plan, whereas it seems like most teams are working on a 5+ year plan. I just think when you start planning that far into the future, you leave too many things to potentially go wrong and you end up doing things like trading away championship-level players because they are too old. Plus, I believe it is extremely possible to rebuild a major league roster (and the lower parts of a minor league system) in the course of 3 years.

Brian Giles is and has been one of the best players in all of baseball and, at the same time, one of the most underrated players in all of baseball.

Here are his numbers since joining the Pirates:

Year      AVG      OBP      SLG      EqA     RARP

1999 .315 .418 .614 .330 63
2000 .315 .432 .594 .335 71
2001 .309 .404 .590 .323 61
2002 .298 .450 .622 .349 74
2003 .302 .433 .524 .325 50*

*Giles' projected total for this season

Maybe I'm crazy, but if you get a player like that, you don't trade him away. You stick in the middle of your lineup and do the best you can to build a team around him.

"RARP" stands for "Runs Above Replacement Position." Basically, since 1999, Brian Giles has been 319 runs better offensively than a "replacement-level" player at his position. His projected total for this season would be his lowest as a Pirate, but that's just because he missed a little time with an injury earlier in the year.

Besides RARP, another stat I like to use is "Runs Created Above Average" or RCAA. Instead of a "replacement-level" player, this stat (created by Lee Sinins) compares a player's offensive production to an "average" player at his position, which is a higher standard than replacement-level.

Giles' RCAA since joining the Pirates are: 58, 66, 57, 75 and 37 (so far this season). That is a total of 293 Runs Created Above Average for Giles since the start of the 1999 season.

Here are the leaders in all of baseball during that same time:

Barry Bonds         551

Jason Giambi 393
Manny Ramirez 332
Sammy Sosa 303

Brian Giles 293

That's it, that's the entire list of players with a higher RCAA total than Giles since 1999.

Now, obviously, this stat isn't perfect. For one thing, it doesn't adjust offense for the position a player plays, which is hugely important when determining someone's value. What it does do is show who the best hitters are, regardless of anything else. And when you talk best hitters since 1999, you get Bonds, Giambi, Ramirez, Sosa and Brian Giles. That's some pretty good company. You think if any of those other guys were about to be traded it would be talked about just a tiny bit more?

Of course, comparing RCAA totals since 1999 is in Giles' favor, since that's the first year he broke out. Looking at more recent years - let's say the 2001, 2002 and this season - here is the RCAA leaderboard:

Barry Bonds         423

Jason Giambi 233
Sammy Sosa 196
Albert Pujols 190
Jim Thome 185
Todd Helton 184
Manny Ramirez 173

Brian Giles 169

Again, that's it, that's the whole list. Incidentally, how freaking great is Barry Bonds?! He has 423 RCAA over the last 3 years, which is nearly double the next highest total. That is just crazy.

From everything I have read, the Padres are willing to pick up large portions of both Giles' contract and Kendall's contract and, by doing so, the Pirates are willing to take lesser players in exchange than they normally would. The main names I have heard talked about as potentially going to the Pirates are Xavier Nady and Oliver Perez.

I really like Perez and think he has a tremendous future (he has 202 strikeouts in 186 career innings!), but I am far less sold on Nady becoming a star. If that's what it will take to get Giles and Kendall from Pittsburgh, I would have no problem agreeing to that if I was San Diego GM Kevin Towers.

Another interesting thing about this potential trade is that Jason Kendall is being treated like he is a horrible player. He is part of the deal because the Pirates want to rid themselves of his contract and the only way for them to do that is to package it/him with Giles. At $42 million over the next 4 seasons, Jason Kendall may be an extremely overpaid player, but he is also a very good player.

Kendall is hitting .311/.395/.393 this season and, while that isn't anywhere close to his offensive performances from 1998-2000, it is still pretty damn good for an everyday catcher.

First of all, you've got to love that .395 on-base percentage from the catcher position. Kendall has always hit for good averages, he has always taken a few walks and he has never struck out much. Age and injuries have sapped him of his base stealing abilities, but he is still an above-average base runner. Basically, he is a perfect leadoff man, which is not something that can be said about many catchers.

He has additional value in that he is extremely durable. Aside from a freak leg injury in 1999 (he snapped his ankle while stepping on first base), Kendall has the following games started at catcher in the major leagues:








*Projected total for this season

That is amazing durability behind the plate. At the end of this season, he will have caught at least 1,000 innings in each of his 8 major league seasons, except for 1999. In addition to that, he can also handle left field or right field when he's not catching and he hits and fields well enough to make himself valuable out there.

He are the Runs Above Replacement Position leaders among catchers this season:

Javy Lopez          46.4

Jorge Posada 44.4
Ivan Rodriguez 38.9
Jason Varitek 34.6
Mike Lieberthal 28.6
Jason Kendall 26.1

Not too shabby for a guy who is being talked about like his contract is a Greg Vaughn-situation or something. Last season, Kendall ranked 8th among MLB catchers in RARP. So, depending on what you think of his defense, Kendall has been somewhere between the 5th and 10th best catcher in baseball during the last 2 seasons. While that's not a player who deserves the contract he has, it is the type of player I don't have a problem taking on my team if it means I also get Brian Giles.

To me, Giles and Kendall are 25% of an everyday lineup, and a very good 25% at that. If I were the Pirates, I would stop trying to trade them and start trying to find other good players to fill the remaining 75% of the lineup.

But let's not talk about what the Pirates should be doing, because that's no fun. Let's talk about what the Padres might look like should this deal take place between now and Opening Day of next season.

Assuming Xavier Nady is the only major league-ready hitter the Padres send to Pittsburgh in the deal, San Diego could be looking at the following lineup for next season:

C - Jason Kendall

1B - Ryan Klesko

2B - Mark Loretta

SS - Ramon Vazquez/Khalil Greene

3B - Sean Burroughs

LF - Brian Giles

CF - Mark Kotsay

RF - Phil Nevin

That is a very good offensive team. Defensively, they aren't so hot, although they aren't horrible up the middle.

There isn't a single "black hole" in that lineup. All 8 guys have the potential to be average or better offensively for their position. Kendall and Loretta are a great 1-2 punch, getting on base at very high clips (.395 and .384 OBPs this season) to set the table for what could be a devasting middle of the lineup in Giles, Nevin and Klesko. And the bottom of the lineup is pretty damn good to, with Vazquez (or possibly Greene), Kotsay and Burroughs all definitely capable of batting in the top 3 spots and all providing solid offense for their positions.

The pitching-staff is, of course, an entirely different issue. Jake Peavy, Brian Lawrence and Adam Eaton are all very promising young pitchers, but they also all have ERAs above 4.25 in an extreme pitcher's park this season. That said, I like Peavy an awful lot and I think those three could definitely be an above-average 1-2-3 in the rotation. If Oliver Perez isn't part of the Giles deal, he could easily step in an be a good #4 and then the Padres just need to find a 5th starter, which shouldn't be tough to do (I would give Dennis Tankersley another shot).

The bullpen should have Trevor Hoffman back and the Padres have done a very nice job finding solid guys to fill setup roles in recent years. In the last 3 years, they have picked up guys like Matt Herges, Steve Reed, Jay Witasick and Alan Embree for almost zero money, and then have cashed them in after they pitched well in San Diego's bullpen, by trading them for prospects. If they can find another couple of guys like that (or like Rod Beck, who has a 1.82 ERA for the Padres this year), the bullpen shouldn't be a problem.

I really think that if the Padres can get Brian Giles and Jason Kendall without giving up too many members of their future core, they should jump at the opportunity. It isn't often that you a team gets a chance to add someone like Giles without having to fork over a huge part of their future. And, with the team moving into the new ballpark, the ownership seems willing to add some payroll, which makes adding Jason Kendall and his contract even easier to handle.

The potential lineup I outlined above is a very good one and they have the pieces in place for a nice pitching-staff too. With Brian Giles and Kendall in the fold for 2004, there is no reason why the Padres couldn't make a serious run at the playoffs, which is exactly what they are aiming for in the first year in their new ballpark.

Link of the Day:

Only Baseball Matters - "Baseball history, analysis, and commentary from John J Perricone; born in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. Oh, and Barry Bonds. Lots of Barry Bonds."

Today's picks:

Chicago (Clement) -110 over Houston (Robertson)

Montreal (Tucker) +220 over Los Angeles (Brown)

Atlanta (Ortiz) -120 over San Francisco (Williams)

Total to date: + 1,650

W/L record: 207-209 (1-0 yesterday for +100)

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

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