June 21, 2004


That's what Luis Rivas is hitting. Seriously, .299/.327/.476. I don't know how to explain it either. And if you think that's amazing, consider that Rivas missed about three weeks with a groin injury and has the following before and after numbers ...

TIME PERIOD          AB      AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS      GPA

Pre-Injury 111 .222 .259 .342 .601 .202
Post-Injury 36 .528 .541 .889 1.430 .466

To be honest, I just don't know what to say. Yes, it's only 36 at-bats and, yes, his season totals still aren't that great, but my god, the man is hitting .528 with an .889 slugging percentage this month! And not only that, his defense has been extremely impressive too.

Since coming back off the DL, Rivas has a four-hit game, two three-hit games, two two-hit games, and five one-hit games. And he's only played a total of 11 times! In fact, the only game this month in which he appeared but didn't get a hit was when he came into the June 11 game against the Phillies as a defensive replacement and never got to the plate.

It's as if ... you might want to sit down for this ... Luis Rivas is actually improving as a player. Imagine that, huh? A young player getting better the more he plays. This whole time I had been looking for gradual improvements that never came, but apparently Luis just wanted to save it all up for about five years and then surprise us with it some random month.

Here's what I said on Friday:

I have decided that, as long as Luis Rivas is hitting like he is right now, I won't say a negative word about him. I don't expect this to last very long, but I certainly wouldn't mind if he continued like this for, say, the next 10 years or so.

He's hitting .538/.538/.846 since coming off the disabled list and is up to a semi-respectable .279/.305/.434 on the year (the average MLB second baseman is hitting .271/.332/.402). Basically, if he hits, I shut up, because I have nothing against the man aside from his established levels of ineptitude from 2000 until about two weeks ago.

Well, I'm still giving Rivas the silent treatment, because he went 5-for-10 with a walk, a homer and two doubles in the weekend series against Milwaukee. The man is on fire, there's just no way around it. In 36 at-bats he has gone from horrible numbers, leap-frogged over "semi-respectable" and is now approaching a .300 batting average and .500 slugging percentage.

This is as good as Luis Rivas has ever played and this is as good as his numbers have ever been. I remain silent, hopeful and skeptical.

Meanwhile, Johan Santana is on a hot streak of his own. He had perhaps his best game of the season yesterday afternoon, going eight innings against the Brewers while allowing two runs. He had 12 strikeouts, gave up just four hits, and won his third game in a row. Check out what Santana has done so far this month ...

GS       IP      ERA     W     L     SO     BB     OAVG

4 30.2 2.64 3 1 36 6 .160

I know everyone is all excited about Rivas, and rightfully so, but those numbers just make me smile. In addition to his dominant pitching performance yesterday, Santana also went 2-for-4 with two singles and an RBI at the plate. He had a single and an RBI in his last start, too, so he's hitting .375 with two RBIs on the year and .313 in 16 career at-bats. I heard a rumor that he also sells popcorn and cotton candy between innings.

Finally, Twins play-by-play man Dick Bremer said something during yesterday's game that I wanted to comment on, before I forgot about it. During one of Lyle Overbay's plate appearances, Bremer said (roughly paraphrasing, since I was actually eating lunch at the time):

"It's not enough to just say that Lyle Overbay is someone who had good minor league numbers and is now putting up good numbers in the major leagues, because there are a lot of hitters who have good minor league numbers and never get it together like Overbay has in the majors. David McCarty had minor league numbers that were great, just like Overbay, and the Twins waited for him to hit and he never did."

I am someone who believes that, for the most part, minor league numbers can be used to accurately project major league numbers, at least if they are used correctly. Now, certainly there are plenty of examples of guys who do well in the minors and never do well in the majors, but I disagree with the assertion that David McCarty is one of those guys, and I vehemently disagree with the assertion that his minor league hitting was similar to Overbay's.

Lyle Overbay put up some huge minor league numbers over the years. Just take a look at his batting averages at various stops along the way, while in the Arizona organization ...

YEAR     LEVEL            G      AVG      OBP      SLG

1999 Rookie 75 .343 .418 .588
2000 Single-A 71 .332 .397 .498
2000 Double-A 62 .352 .420 .533
2001 Double-A 138 .352 .423 .528
2002 Triple-A 134 .343 .396 .528

Now, Overbay played in some nice parks for hitting, but that is still some serious batting averages and some great all-around offense. All of which is why it is not that surprising that he is among the NL leaders in batting average this season.

In fact, here's what I said about Overbay two years ago, when I ranked him as my #38 prospect in all of baseball:

He won't hit many homers, but he is a left-handed hitting first baseman in the Mark Grace mold -- lots of doubles, lots of singles and some walks ... Overbay is very capable of hitting about .315/.365/.500 as a full-time first baseman.

In case you're wondering, he is currently hitting .345/.408/.554 this season and .308/.381/.472 for his career. He leads all of baseball in doubles, with 29.

Anyway, compare Overbay's string of huge minor league batting averages to what David McCarty did in the minor leagues while a member of the Twins' organization ...

YEAR     LEVEL            G      AVG      OBP      SLG

1991 Single-A 15 .380 .530 .620
1991 Double-A 28 .261 .350 .409
1992 Double-A 129 .272 .356 .434
1993 Triple-A 40 .385 .477 .629
1994 Triple-A 55 .253 .379 .382

I think it's pretty apparent that the comparison is not a good one at all. Lyle Overbay hit over .330 in each of his first five minor league stops, including hitting .352 in a full season of Double-A and .343 in a full season of Triple-A.

Meanwhile, David McCarty's "good minor league numbers" consist of one 15-game stretch in 1991 and one 40-game stretch in 1993. Surrounding those 55 total games of good hitting were about 200 games of sub par offense, including a .272/.356/.434 performance in a full season at Double-A.

If you're not a big believer in minor league numbers foreshadowing major league numbers, that's perfectly fine. But David McCarty is not someone you want to use to prove your point, especially when you pair him up with Lyle Overbay who, as of right now, looks like the poster-child for minor league performances translating to major league performances. Overbay was a hitting-machine everywhere he went; McCarty was a bust before he made it to the majors.

New article at The Hardball Times: My All-Stars

Today's picks:

Cleveland (Sabathia) -110 over Chicago (Schoeneweis)

Total to date: -$2,570

W/L record: 105-141 (1-1 on Friday for +50.)

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