Saturday, April 30, 2005

The straw that stirs the drink

Interesting fact in Friday's Philadelphia Inquirer:

Going back to last year, the Phillies are 62-32 in games that Jimmy Rollins scores a run and 33-61 in games that he doesn't cross the plate.

Philadelphia is 7-3 this season in games that Rollins scores.

Friday, April 29, 2005


The Tigers head to Chicago for a big series against the first-place White Sox. Detroit has won four straight since manager Alan Trammell juggled the middle of the lineup, putting Pudge at No. 2, Carlos Guillen at 3, Rondell White at 4 and Dmitri Young at 5.

Those four hitters have combined to go 25-for-63 (a whopping .397) with 13 R, 3 HR and 9 RBI since the move.

It also doesn't hurt to have your starters allow 9 ER in 22 2/3 IP (a 3.57 ERA) in the last four outings. Plus, the Farnsworth-Urbina-Percival bullpen finally on Thursday had its first collective scoreless appearance. Percival got the save, tying him with Rick Aguilera for 11th on the career list with 318.

Now the boys have got to keep the momentum in Chicago. The pitching matchups, according to the Detroit News, are: Tonight, Nate Robertson (0-2, 6.46) vs. Jose Contreras (0-0, 3.48); Saturday, Jason Johnson (2-1, 4.35) vs. Orlando Hernandez (2-1, 4.35); Sunday, Wilfredo Ledezma (1-1, 5.82) vs. Jon Garland (4-0, 1.80).

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Ed Wade's shining moment

Ed Wade has come under fire for his work as general manager of the Phillies, but he pulled off one of baseball's great heists when he traded SS Kevin Stocker for OF Bobby Abreu in 1997.

Abreu, though, is not fully appreciated by fans -- especially Philly fans. OK, he turns some fly balls into adventures, but he also has one of the best arms in the game. (He also gets accused of not hustling on defense, but I think it's more apprehension than lack of hustle. I don't think he's comfortable fielding balls). His arm prevents more runs than he causes with his defensive lapses. Last season he erased 13 baserunners. Plus you have to think of all the runners that don't try to take a base because of his arm.

Offensively, Abreu is a player unlike many in the majors.

Only one player has batted .300 or better, hit at least 20 HR, driven in at least 100, and stolen at least 20 bases in each of the past two seasons. His name is Bobby Abreu. In fact, Abreu was the only player to accomplish the feat in 2004 and was joined by just Carlos Beltran in reaching those levels in 2003.

Abreu is only the fourth player in MLB history to record six consecutive 20 HR - 20 SB seasons. He is the only Phillies player ever to have a 30 HR - 30 SB season, and he's done it twice. He has a career on-base percentage of .412, which is the 30th best in MLB history.

So give Ed a pat on the back for this one, and show Bobby some love.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Say Hey

"I'm not sure what the hell charisma is, but I get the feeling it's Willie Mays." - Ted Kluszewski


It's looks like the return of Maggs to the Detroit lineup will be two or three months from now, following hernia surgery, which will be like getting an All-Star at the trading deadline. This is how I try to find the silver lining, forgetting the fact that signing Maggs as a free agent was supposed to be like getting an All-Star for the whole season.

On the bright side, it appears the Tigers' offense will roar without Maggs. If Nook Logan develops during the next couple months, Detroit might be able to deal at the trade deadline. The Tigers have too many outfielders: Rondell White, Marcus Thames, Craig Monroe, Bobby Higginson, Logan, Maggs. And they've got Chris Shelton and prospect Curtis Granderson at Triple-A Toledo. Shelton is batting .344 with 4 HR and 15 RBI.

Ugie Urbina might add value to any trade offered by the Tigers. It could be interesting. Detroit's weakness now is consistent starting pitching, but Rob Henkel is 3-1 with a 1.25 ERA at Double-A Erie and Justin Verlander is 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA and 18 K in 16 IP at Class-A Lakeland. Both have been considered top prospects for the Tigers. According to today's Detroit News, the Tigers also have a couple of unheralded 19-year-olds (Dallas Trahern and Jair Jurrjens) that fans should keep an eye on.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Farewell to The Duke

Former Tiger pitcher Earl Wilson, 70, died Saturday. He was a member of the 1968 world championship team and compiled a 64-45 record with 3.18 ERA for Detroit over five seasons. He tied for the AL lead in wins with 22 in 1967.

He also was a very good hitting pitcher. In 1966, Wilson batted .240 with 7 HR and 22 RBI. He hit 7 HR again in 1968 -- and no other pitcher has reached that mark since then. He also was the first black player signed by the Boston Red Sox, although Pumpsie Green was the first black to play for the Red Sox.

In 1962, Wilson tossed a no-hitter for Boston against the Angels and homered in the same contest.

He was the longtime president of Baseball Assistance Team (BAT), an organization which helps indigent former players.

Farewell to The Duke.

Who am I answer

Charlie "The Mechanical Man" Gehringer, who played for Detroit from 1924-42.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Snakes in the grass

Nobody gave the Diamondbacks much of a chance to compete in the NL West this season, but here they are in second place at 11-8 and ready to take on the first-place Dodgers.

Brandon Webb (3-0, 2.63 ERA) appears to have rediscovered his sinker and 24-year-old lefty Brad Halsey (2-0, 2.74) is showing why he was a highly regarded prospect. Russ Ortiz and Shawn Estes also have ERAs under 4. If Arizona can continue to pitch like this and get Javier Vazquez straightened out, watch out. Brandon Lyon has 8 saves in 9 chances and a 1.64 ERA.

Meanwhile, newcomer Troy Glaus, who spurned the Tigers to sign in the desert, is batting .268-6-15 and Luis Gonzalez has rebounded from his injury-plagued 2004 campaign to go .286-3-12. Tony Clark and Chad Tracy are both batting over .300 and have driven in 10 runs apiece. Plus Shawn Green and Jose Cruz Jr. add some punch.

Of course, the biggest addition was the return of Craig Counsell. The Diamondbacks never were worse than 84-78 in Counsell's four years with the team.

Rocket Man

Roger Clemens, 1-0 with a 0.32 ERA in four starts this season, has driven in more runs (2) than he has allowed (1).

Unfortunately for Clemens, he also has driven in more runs than his Houston teammates (1) in those four starts. Hence, Roger's record.

AL East Vitriol Update

In the late '70s/early '80s, vitriol reigned supreme in the AL East. There were seasons where the 4th or 5th place team in that division was arguably the 4th or 5th best team in the league. Everybody had a good team. Every game was big. Nobody took no crap from nobody else.

AL East teams have been playing each other this month and the following teams have engaged in hit batsmen/retaliation sequences.

Boston vs. NYY
NYY vs. Baltimore
Baltimore vs. Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay vs. Boston

Toronto is conspicuously absent from this list, however, their current 5 game losing skid may provide them with an attitude adjustment.

It's difficult to say how long this can last, but, at least for this month, vitriol has reemerged across the AL East.

Here's hoping the O's, Blue Jays and D-rays can play well enough to keep the AL East from becoming a 2 team race. Vitriol makes good baseball.

Sunday, April 24, 2005


No, that's not a reference to Ro White.

Even when the Tigers appear to catch a break against Minnesota, it fails to work out.

Twins relievers Juan Rincon, J.C. Romero and Joe Nathan entered Detroit with a 3-1 record and 0.79 ERA this year. But the group had combined for 23 appearances in Minny's first 16 games, so manager Ron Gardenhire was going to attempt to limit their use this weekend.

Detroit took advantage Friday night by tagging Terry Mulholland with a loss in 10 innings. That snapped a nine-game losing streak against Minny. (The Tigers are 20-59 against the Twins since '01.)

So what happens next? The games Saturday and Sunday get SNOWED out. Unbelievable.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Who am I?

Joe Morgan is considered by some to be the game's greatest second baseman, but I hit .320 with 1,774 runs, 184 HR, 1,427 RBI and 181 SB in my 19-year career (although I played a total of just 13 games my first two seasons). My 162-game average is .320-13-100 with 124 R and 13 SB.

I was a league MVP and finished second once, losing to a teammate (we had four of the top six players in the voting that year). I finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting eight times.

One year I led the league in batting, twice I led in runs, doubles and hits. I led the league in triples and stolen bases once and finished in the Top 10 for RBI four times. Three times I was in the Top 10 for homers. My career OBP+SLG is .884, second among all Hall of Fame second basemen and only trails Rogers Hornsby.

Defensively, I led the league in both assists and fielding percentage seven times each. I batted a record .500 in 20 All-Star Game at-bats.

An opposing pitcher once said of me, "He hits .350 on opening day and stays there all season."

Panic in Detroit?

It's still very early in the season, but is the glass half full or half empty for the Tigers?

The Detroiters won their first one-run game of the campaign Friday night, beating nemesis Minnesota 5-4 in 10 innings. It was the Tigers first win over the Twins in their last 10 meetings. Glass half full.

Despite the victory, however, a disturbing trend continued. Kyle Farnsworth couldn't protect a 3-2 lead in the seventh and Troy Percival blew his first save chance by failing to protect a 4-3 edge in the ninth. It took Pudge Rodriguez's second HR of the season to bail out the team. Glass half empty.

Percival hadn't allowed an earned run against Minnesota in his career prior to this season. Now he has twice given up runs. The bullpen, a major trouble spot last year, was supposed to be much improved with Farnsworth brought in to pitch the seventh, Ugie Urbina moved from closer to eighth-inning specialist and Percival was signed as a free agent to preserve wins.

So far, Farnsworth has given up five runs in 9.2 innings, Urbina seven runs in 8.1 innings and Percival four runs in 7.1 innings. It's the primary reason the Tigers are 1-5 in one-run games. Detroit led or was tied in the seventh inning in five of those six one-run contests. Glass half empty and leaking.

But, at least the team has been competitive. That's something that couldn't be said two years ago when the Tigers were losing 119 games. And the Farnsworth-Urbina-Percival relay is too good to be this bad over the entirety of the season, right? It's only April. It's cool weather. Worry in June. Glass half full.

The bats are producing for the most part. Brandon Inge is proving last year wasn't a fluke by hitting .369-2-11 and Carlos Guillen, .393-0-6, is showing no ill effects from his knee surgery. Speedster Nook Logan is batting .414 in his audition for CF job. Pudge is Pudge, batting .344-2-10. Dmitri Young, the most overlooked Tiger, is .328-4-14 and Rondell White is .291-3-10. That's five regulars batting .328 or better, from a club that could barely hit .200 two years ago. And Magglio Ordonez has hardly played. Glass half full.

Detroit is 4-2 against KC but 0-2 vs. the White Sox, 1-2 vs. Cleveland and 1-3 vs. Minnesota. Glass half empty.

So it's really hard to get a handle on this team. There was some talk a week ago that Alan Trammell's job might be in trouble, which hardly seems fair. I have to believe the hitters will keep hitting, and getting Maggs back at some point will be an additional boost. The starters have been inconsistent, which is to be expected given their age and experience. But they should continue to improve. The bullpen should get better.

No less a baseball sage than Sparky Anderson recently was quoted in the Detroit Free Press as saying, "Give the season some time -- they've only played 15 games, which means there are still 147 to go. I always used to say, when I managed, to give it 40 games and let me be 20-20. That gives you a chance to win it -- how far behind can you be if you're .500 after 40 games?"

Or maybe what we've seen so far is what we're going to get and the Tigers struggle to win 70.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

My streak has been broken but so has another.

My streak of hearing or watching part of the Phillies game gets snapped at 15 games. Funny that I missed all of today’s game and somehow it’s the day Thome finally hits one out.

My streak should have ended on Sunday night since I was working that night and had already had my break when game started. Lucky for me they went to extra innings, and won as well.

Well I guess I’ll just start again tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Adventures of the Moderately Stupid

Sydney Ponson is in his 8th season with the Orioles. His career record is 71-81 with a 4.73 ERA. In his first 7 seasons, he's averaged nearly 200 innings per (4 seasons over 200, 3 seasons under 200). Since 1998 (his rookie campaign) he leads all AL pitchers in Complete Games. In all of ML baseball, he trails only Randy Johnson in complete games (he is tied with Schilling). He's done all of this for a baseball team that has not posted a winning record during his career. After his big year of 2003 (17-12 ERA under 4) he was knighted by the Aruban Royal Family. He is "Sir" Sydney.

In the early years of Ponson's career he had an uncontrollable temper. Not the kind of temper such that he would throw a fit, but the kind of temper where when things went against him, he'd lose his cool and things would inevitably get worse. It took several seasons, but Sydney finally overcame this shortcoming and had his first winning season in 2003. It now appears, however, that Sydney did not conquer this "stupid anger" but has merely relocated it to other parts of his personality.

After the 2003 season, the Orioles signed Ponson to a free agent contract. They also signed Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez and Rafael Palmeiro. For the first time in Ponson's ML career, the Orioles would have some offense. Ponson showed up for spring training 30 lbs overweight and started the season 3-12. The O's benched him for his last start prior to the All Star break and dropped him to fifth in the rotation after the All Star break which gave him 2 weeks w/o a start. He lost 20 lbs and went 8-3 the 2nd half of last year.

The O's hired the scout that originally signed Ponson to be his offseason trainer. Ponson did stay in shape this past offseason. However, he also picked a fight (a fist fight) with an Aruban judge on a beach in Aruba.

After this incident he decided he was too famous to live in Aruba anymore (i.e. he could no longer tolerate the spotlight there), so he moved to Florida permanently. Two weeks later he got arrested in Florida for DUI.

He missed several spring training starts while dealing with his legal troubles in Aruba and while he is 2-1 this season, he has not been impressive. Now, it turns out that he may miss his turn in Toronto this weekend because the DUI arrest in Florida has delayed his acquisition of a permit to work in Canada.

This dumb SOB is pissing me off. He not only could be good, he should be good. He is not good, he's just stupid.


I don't want to play golf. When I hit a ball, I want someone else to go chase it. -- Rogers Hornsby

The Boss means business

Buddy Groom to the rescue!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Just a few great forgotten or underrated players from my lifetime:

C - Ted Simmons, St. Louis
Lifetime: .285 - 248 HR - 1,389 RBI in 21 seasons.
162 Game Ave.: .285-16-92.
My word: Six times among the Top 10 in hitting and RBI. Led league in intentional walks twice. A great doubles hitter, ranking 57th in history with 483. Compare his numbers to Hall of Famer Gary Carter. Of the catchers in the Hall, only Yogi Berra drove in more runs.

1B - Cecil Cooper, Milwaukee
Lifetime: .298 - 241 HR - 1,125 RBI in 17 seasons.
162 Game Ave.: .298-21-96.
My word: Coop was one of my favorite players as a kid. Two-time Gold Glove winner and four-time Top 10 finisher in MVP voting. Led AL in RBI twice and was second once. Sweet swing.

2B - Jeff Kent, Los Angeles
Lifetime: .289 - 302 HR - 1,207 RBI in 13 seasons entering '05.
162 Game Ave.: .289-28-110 with 95 R.
My word: Bobby Grich, who averaged .266-18-70 and won four Gold Gloves, was my initial choice until I started thinking about how little recognition Kent receives. He was NL MVP in 2000 and entered this season ranked 13th in RBI among active players.

SS - Alan Trammell, Detroit
Lifetime: .285 - 185 HR - 1,003 RBI in 20 seasons.
162 Game Ave.: .285-13-71 with 87 R and 17 SB.
My word: You knew he would be here. Four-time Gold Glove winner, World Series MVP, three-time Silver Slugger winner. Three times in Top 10 for MVP. Four times in top five for batting average. Twice led league in sacrifices. Did everything. The man Ripken and A-Rod patterned themselves after.

3B - Bill "Mad Dog" Madlock, Pittsburgh
Lifetime: .305 - 163 HR - 860 RBI - 174 SB in 15 seasons.
162 Game Ave.: .305-15-77 with 83 R and 16 SB.
My word: This was the toughest position to fill. Four-time batting champion who hit better than .300 in 9 of his first 11 seasons.

OF - Brett Butler, Dodgers
Lifetime: .290 - 54 HR - 578 RBI - 1,359 R - 558 SB in 17 seasons.
162 Game Ave.: .290-4-42 with 99 R and 41 SB.
My word: Led the NL in triples four times. If you were the opposing team, this guy was a big-time pain in the butt. Especially because you always felt he was overachieving. Greatest bunter of his time, maybe of all time.

OF - Amos Otis, Kansas City
Lifetime: .277 - 193 HR - 1,007 RBI - 341 SB in 17 seasons.
162 Game Ave.: .277-16-82 with 89 R and 28 SB.
My word: Won three Gold Glove awards. Finished in the Top 10 for MVP four times. A great blend of power and speed. Batted .295 with 18 HR, 90 RBI, 100 R and 30 SB in 1979. Would make him worth about $9 million a year today.

OF - Harold Baines, White Sox
.289 - 384 HR - 1,628 RBI in 22 seasons.
162 Game Ave: .289-22-93.
My word: One of the most underrated players of his day, without question. Another personal favorite. Just a steady professional hitter, much like …

DH - Rafael Palmeiro, Baltimore
Lifetime: .289 - 551 HR - 1,775 RBI in 19 seasons.
162 Game Ave: .289-33-106.
My word: The new version of Eddie Murray, steady, consistent and overlooked. Will probably be the member of the 500-HR club that no one will be able to name five years from now. Not to mention he will end his career with 3,000 hits.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Power outage

It's probably way too early to worry about Jim Thome's lack of power production so far this season (he's yet to homer), but at age 34 one must wonder how much Thome has left in the tank.

Of course, Thome has hit no fewer than 37 HR and driven in no less than 105 runs in each of the past five seasons. Even last year, with a thumb injury, Thome hit 42-105. But an examination of the great power hitters of all time reveals numbers can drop dramatically when players reach their mid-30s.

The first set of HR-RBI numbers is the player's average through age 34. The second set is the player's average after age 34.

Hank Aaron 34-108/31-84
Willie Mays 36-100/19-63
Frank Robinson 32-97/19-60
Harmon Killebrew 40-103/17-65
Reggie Jackson 29-88/22-67
Mike Schmidt 35-98/25-83
Mickey Mantle 31-88/20-55
Willie McCovey 27-78/17-58
Ernie Banks 34-102/18-68
Eddie Mathews 33-93/10-33
Jim Thome 32-89/??-??

Banks drove in 106 runs and hit 23 homers at age 38, but that was the exception, not the rule. Only Aaron and Schmidt really continued to hit for power consistently after 34.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Oh Happy Day!

It's been a long time since I've seen this. If you wish to see it as well, I advise you to look quickly.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Friday, April 15, 2005

Crunching numbers

One of the hot stats for determining the offensive productivity of a player has become on-base percentage plus slugging percentage. So I was wondering whether OBP+SLG was useful in determining the success of a team.

Last year, Boston (.832), the New York Yankees (.811), St. Louis (.804), and Colorado (.800) had OBP+SLGs of .800 or better. Colorado's figure is most likely inflated by playing at altitude. Boston led the majors in runs and the Yanks were second while St. Louis was sixth and Colorado was 11th.

St. Louis won 105 games, New York won 101 and Boston had 98. Colorado limped home with 68. So then I realized another factor would be to determine their opponents' OBP+SLG. For example, teams posted an .843 mark against Colorado pitchers. So the Rockies, despite their .800 clip were a minus-43 overall.

Boston's foes were .726 (making the Red Sox +106), New York's were .760 (+51) and St. Louis' were .716 (+88). Perhaps it's no surprise Boston and St. Louis met in the World Series.

Atlanta won the NL East by 10 games over Philadelphia. The Phillies actually had a higher OBP+SLG (.788 to .777) but the Braves had the better overall mark (+48 to +10) when factoring in pitching.

The Dodgers (.770/+39) won the NL West by 2 games over San Francisco (.795/+40). Houston (.778/+33) got the wild card spot by a game over the Giants and 3 over Chicago, although the Cubs (.786/+70) and Giants had better marks.

Minnesota (.763/+34) won the AL Central by 9 games over the White Sox (.790/-1) while Anaheim (.770/+29) was 1 game better than Oakland (.776/+35) in the AL West.

Among the also-rans, the Orioles were .777/+25 while Texas was .786/+10, Cleveland was .795/+8, San Diego was .756/+7 and Detroit was .786/+5. All other teams posted an overall minus result.

I'm not sure that this proves anything, but clearly Boston and St. Louis were the best teams. All of the postseason teams had the best overall numbers of any teams in their leagues, with the exception of Houston. The two closest division races also produced the closest OBP+SLG races. The Cubs appeared to underachieve.

Finally, do we watch the also-rans that finished in positive numbers to see if they improve this year in the standings? I guess we O's, Tigers and Phillies fans hope so.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Who am I?

I played 22 seasons in the bigs, starting in 1980. I batted .293 or better 13 times, including eight years over .300. At the age of 40 I hit .312 with 25 HR and 103 RBI. I hit 384 career homers and rank 23rd all time with 1,628 RBI. I was a six-time All-Star.

Feel free to submit your guesses under the "comments" section. All correct answers will receive a free membership renewal for Death to Flying Things! The answer will be posted Friday afternoon.

Baseball returns to DC

Baseball returns to the nation's capital today, which led me to learn more about the old Washington Senators. The original club played in Washington from 1901-1960 before becoming the Minnesota Twins. Those Sens won 1 World Series in their history. It came in 1924 behind the bat of Goose Goslin (.344 with 12 HR, 129 RBI, 100 R) and the arm of Walter "Big Train" Johnson (23-7, 2.72 ERA, 20 CG, 6 shutouts).

The "expansion" Senators played in Washington from 1961-71 before becoming the Texas Rangers. Those Senators never made a playoff appearance. In fact, only once did they finish above .500, in 1969 as first-year manager Ted Williams guided them to a 86-76 record.

Which brings us to an interesting piece of trivia. Williams was the last person to manage a team in Washington. Frank Robinson is the skipper of the new Washington Nationals. Both men won baseball's Triple Crown, Williams in 1942 and 1947 and Robinson in 1966. That means Washington has its current team and its most recent team managed by different Triple Crown winners. Unprecedented.

The Case for Kenny Lofton

Over the off season and the beginning of this season I’ve heard a lot of talk of how Kenny Lofton is not the answer in center field for the Phillies, and I’ll even admit that I had no idea why the Phillies would want Lofton at all as well. I mean sure maybe five years ago he would have been huge but now? At his age? That is until I looked at two factors of what Kenny’s bat will mean for the line- up and I am now of the belief that Kenny Lofton will help the Phillies more than people think.

Now I know Kenny Lofton is not going to be the long term solution to the centerfield issue, for a team that’s built to win now and with only Jason Michaels and Marlon Byrd as the only other current options, the move for Lofton is yet another of Ed Wade’s safe, smart yet boring moves.

First the obvious thing that Kenny brings to the table is his experience. He’s been in the bigs for 14 seasons. He’s got a ton of playoff experience (something that this team has sorely needed) including time in Cleveland with Thome and Charlie Manual. He use to be the prototypical led off man, but he has dropped down in that regard, good for us Phillies fans Jimmy Rollins has grown into that roll. His defense, while again falling off over the years, should be at the very worst ok. I’m giving him a pass for now until he has time to adjust to playing at The Zen (that’s at least what I’m calling Citizen’s Bank), a new pitching staff, and new out fielders that he’ll have to adjust too. But now to my main point what Kenny’s bat will do for the line-up.

Given that most days Kenny will be hitting at the #2 slot behind Jimmy Rollins it’s important to see that one of the two biggest things Kenny is going to give the team is a guy who just doesn’t strike out very much. Just to be fair I’m looking at only his last two seasons. In 2003 Lofton had 610 plate appearances with only 51 strike outs and in 2004, while splitting time with Bernie Williams in NY, 313 plate appearances with 27 strike outs. Why is this so important? The reason is in situations with Jimmy Rollins on base the last thing you want is to give the opposing team a free out or even worst, two outs in a hit and run scenario. In those two seasons Lofton only struck out in ’03 8.4% and ’04 8.7% of the time. That means the other 91.6% and 91.3% of the time Lofton has gotten a hit, walked, sacrificed, or at the very least put the ball in play, giving Lofton many opportunities of advancing the runner.

Now compared to the other centerfield options the teams has over the same two year period.

Kenny Lofton

PA/ SO/ % of time player strikes out
’03: 610/ 51/ - 8.4%
’04: 313/ 27/ - 8.7%

Marlon Byrd

PA/ SO/ % of time player strikes out
’03: 553/ 94/ - 17.0%
’04: 378/ 68/ - 18.0%

Jason Michaels

PA/ SO/ % of time player strikes out
’03: 125/ 22/- 17.6%
’04: 346/ 88/- 25.4%

Even in Marlon Byrds “break out” year of ’03 Lofton was still 10% less likely of being struck out. And while both players are more likely to bring more power, especially Michaels, in the # 2 spot the team’s bigger need is runners and runners in scoring position for the heart of the lineup.

So what about the player that most held the # 2 spot for most of last year? Placido Polanco did a fine job in that spot, in fact Polanco struck out even less than Lofton, (only 6.9% in ’03 and 7.0% in ’04) but now will be playing less thanks to Chase Utley (’03: 14.5%, ’04: 14.0%) which hurts but that brings us to the second big factor that Lofton brings to the table and that is his speed.

Even with losing a step or two or three Lofton is still the faster of the two players. Last year Lofton was able to steal 7 bases the same as Polanco, but with 227 less at bats. The year before with 55 more at bats, Lofton stole 30 bases to Polanco’s 14. It’s Lofton’s speed that gives him the ability to beat out the double play better than Polanco, or get on base in situations where Polanco can’t.

All of that means less chances for the Phillies opponents to get out of jams with the heart of the order coming up. With no outs a double play with a man on first, turns into one out with a man on first or second. With one out, an inning ending double play turns into two outs with a man on first or second and another chance for the heart of the line-up to knock in a run. Lofton flat out gives the team more options and more opportunities to score runs, especially at the centerfield position. Given the fact that Rollins is going to need a day off here and there the Lofton also fills the void for a more than competent lead off man as well. It’s for all these reasons that Lofton makes the Phillies a better team more than most realize.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Maybe the Tigers just aren't meant to beat the Twins in Minnesota. Detroit has struggled for years there (8-30 the last four season including a 5-5 slate in '04) and the first trip of '05 is not off to a start that make us Motor City Kitties fans jump for joy.

Troy Percival, the Tigers big-ticket free agent signing, hadn't given up an earned run against the Twins in 10 years, the length of his career, all with the Angels. That was a span of 39 games and 40 innings. WAS a span because it ended Tuesday night when Minnesota beat Percival and the Tigs 5-4.

Making matters worse is the fact Detroit's former closer, Ugie Urbina, failed to hold a 4-3 lead in the eighth. And starter Mike Maroth couldn't keep hold of a 3-1 advantage in the 5th inning. Oh well, it's a long season and that's just the first of 19 games between the Tigers and three-time defending AL Central champs.

However, I recently saw a story in the Detroit Free Press that began, "Casey Stengel, the Kansas City native who became a Hall of Fame manager, is said to have believed in this guideline: No matter what, a major league team usually will win one-third and lose one-third of its games every season. The remaining one-third are up to that team -- the one-third that determine whether the team finishes first, last or in between."

If this formula is correct, the Tigers are showing signs of being an also-ran rather than a contender. Detroit is 3-4 with wins of 11-2, 7-3 and 11-1. The losses have been 7-2, 4-3, 7-6 and 5-4.

The 11-2 and 11-1 wins obviously go into the "win one-third" category and the 7-2 loss goes into the "lose one-third" category. The remainder leaves Detroit 1-3 in the "up to that team" category.

Of course, the fact that I'm considering the Tigers' chances of being a contender just one season removed from 119 losses is remarkable.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Is he for real?

It seems like we've seen this act before from Pat Burrell. Burrell is batting .448 and has 4 HR and 17 RBI so far, an incredible start. He is 5 RBI shy of the Phillies record for April, set by another player who baffled and frustrated Philly fans -- Von Hayes, in 1989.

Last year, Burrell hit .289 with 2 HR and 16 RBI in April and .333 with 8 HR and 26 RBI in May. From there, his season was a wreck, hitting .220 in June and .221 in July. He only got 8 at-bats in August and batted .235 in a full September.

That means he was .313 with 10 HR and 42 RBI through May and .225 with 14 HR and 42 RBI the rest of the way.

And, of course, he hit .209 with 21 HR and 64 RBI in 2003.

So, is this Pat the Bat fulfilling his potential, or just a tease?