Al's Ramblings

Friday, January 31, 2003

(1/31/2003 10:51:00 AM) - Al


Talent evaluator Mike Gimbel has accepted an invitation to be interviewed for the Ramblings web site. Gimble was one of the first to sell information designed to help fantasy baseball players, and worked under Dan Duquette for the Boston Red Sox in the mid 90's. He was probably a decade ahead of his time, ahead of GM's like Beane and Epstein that use numbers to evaluate, moreso than most.

Mike is a straight shooter and tells it like it is. I look forward to posting his interview soon.

If anyone has a question for Mike, please e-mail it to me.

1/31/2003 10:51:00 AM

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

(1/29/2003 10:34:00 PM) - Al

Just read a very interesting article on the "real" replacement level. As many of us know, replacement level has pretty much been used as a generic term to describe "freely available talent". This could mean anything from veteran AAA players to cheap free agents to whatever the author wants it to mean on a given day.

Through this fella's research, he defines replacement level as about 90-91% of the average of the starters in MLB. That seems high, but BP has used 88.35% of league average for years. Basically, if you believe this new definition, the bottom 2-3 starters at each position are probably at or below replacement level.

The article can be found at Baseball Primer:

1/29/2003 10:34:00 PM

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

(1/28/2003 05:56:00 PM) - Al

And finally, the pitching staff for the Ramblings Underutilized Talent Team (RUTT). My rotation consists of Bruce Chen, a 25 year-old lefty who pitched well for ATL at a young age. His career numbers include a 20-18 mark, a 4.53 ERA, and a 2-1 K/BB ratio. Still, since he is usually unable to go more longer than 6 innings (heaven forbid, a starter that can only give you six quality innings!), he has been used as a situational LH out of the bullpen, for the most part. Chen should be going every fifth day, and fails to find that opportunity, for whatever reason. Next up comes Jose Acevedo, a 25 year-old that Cincinnati keeps yanking up and down. Jose went 12-7 with a 3.20 ERA in AAA last year, with a 4-1 K/BB ratio. The mere fact his name was bandied about in a failed Jose Hernandez deadline deal makes it guaranteed he will have success. Paxton Crawford is my next starter, and yet another 25 year-old who has experienced success, but no slot has given to him. 5-1, 4.15 ERA with solid secondary numbers is good enough for me, as those are his major league numbers. Finally, Jamey Wright is still a 28 year-old with more potential than proven success. Still, Jamey has been reduced to signing a minor league deal with SEA. That said, he has rarely missed a start, and the past four years has had ERA's of 5.29, 4.90, 4.10, and 4.86. There are many lesser starters who have long-term deals with numbers quite similiar. I still say Jamey has a breakout year in him as well.

My bullpen will be made up of 7 pitchers, as I am a firm believer in using your 4 best starters whenever your schedule allows. My main late inning relievers will be Brian Mallette, a former Brewers farmhand that has posted a nice 2.31 ERA in AAA, to go with a 3-1 K/BB ratio. John Bale is 28 and has put together a 3.14 ERA and a 3-1 K/BB ratio in AAA time, and will be a lefty set-up man. Ricky Stone fought through his non-prospect label to spend the entire '02 season with the Astros, and put together a 3.49 ERA and a 2-1 K/BB ratio. At 27, he should be given some higher leverage situations to pitch in. Eric Knotts has mediocre numbers as a AAA starter in Tucson (a tough place to pitch), but someone needs to think out of the box here. A 4-1 K/BB ratio, and only 39 walks in 263 AAA innings means this is the rare lefty who can put the ball where he wants to. Finally, Amaury Telemarco has been used mainly as a starter in the bigs, and again seems to be misused. He throws very hard, but has no durability to last late into games. A career 5.13 ERA is passable, and should improve a lot only going through the order one time. He's still 29, and throws strikes.

My last two relievers will also be used as my 5th starter when needed, and I believe I've found a couple overlooked options. Steve Woodard has better numbers than many 4th/5th starters in the bigs. He's 27 and has a career 4.93 ERA, to go with a 3-1 K/BB ratio. In AAA, he put together a 3.61 ERA and a 9-1 K/BB ratio. His one weakness is that he gives up the longball. He'd be my #5 starter in a pitcher's park, or against a poor power team. Chad Durbin would be the other #5 starter/long man. Chad put forth a nice year for a 23 year-old in '01, sub 5 ERA pitching every 5th day. Now, he's 25, and still has not been signed. This may be an injury issue, but Chad deserves better. Misuse as a youngster by Tony Muser in KC should be easily a forgive and forget situation.

There are plenty of RH middle relievers I did not mention, Jay Tessmer and Robbie Crabtree come to mind off the top of my head, while Jeff D'Amico will pitch pretty well when healthy. He can't be counted on for 35 starts, but 20 decent starts makes a big difference for a contender.

1/28/2003 05:56:00 PM

(1/28/2003 05:18:00 PM) - Al

Nice signing by the Crew today, inking John VanderWal to a minor league contract. Like all high reward, no risk signings, there's no guaranteed money involved, and the player is a proven big leaguer having trouble finding a job, for a myriad of reasons.

John looks to be the Brewers' top reserve at 1B/LF/RF, as well as the top lefty PH off the bench. Because of the health risks of both Jenkins and Hammonds (and Sanchez, for that matter, moving Jeff to CF and opening up RF), I'm sure VanderWal looked at his options and decided his best chance for playing time was in Miller Park in 2003.

If you don't know John, a good comparison can be made to a Brewers reserve from '02.

VanderWal--.264/.354/.441, 795 OPS, 156 OXS, 37 years old
Matt Stairs--.263/.358/.493, 851 OPS, 176 OXS, 35 years old

John is Matt with doubles power, and a bit more range in the field. Very good move by the Crew today. VanderWal is light years better than Lenny Harris, at the very least. Having John and Brady Clark as reserve OF's is a pretty solid duo.

1/28/2003 05:18:00 PM

Sunday, January 26, 2003

(1/26/2003 09:57:00 PM) - Al

I watch the Super bowl to see the new ads, so I'm far from even a fan. That said, allow me to question the loyalty and heart of Jerry Rice. After having agreed to wear a microphone for ABC (who, along with FOX and CBS, pays the NFL about $14 jillion to broadcast the league), he took it off and refused to wear it during the 2nd half.

Rice may be a HOF player, but he is a poor example of a human being. Good people keep their word, and real men don't lose it when the going gets tough. Tonight, Rice will go home to his kazillion dollar mansion, paid for solely by TV money, and he did all he could to spite them today.

Rice is a loser in more than one way tonight.

1/26/2003 09:57:00 PM

Saturday, January 25, 2003

(1/25/2003 03:07:00 PM) - Al

Through some research and some info received from a source, I am ready to make a few guesses regarding 2003 Brewers attendance.

The team's season ticket base is likely to be in the 8500 range. This is down about 23% from 2002, and includes both full and partial season tiks.

As of 1/1/03, the team was budgeting for a 15-20% drop in ticket revenue. That would mean they are expecting about 1.6-1.7 million folks to come through the gates this year at Miller Park.

I guess we will wait and see.

1/25/2003 03:07:00 PM

(1/25/2003 02:56:00 PM) - Al

The JS reported that the Crew reported a loss of between $5 and 10 million for 2002. This has been met with some skepticism, and perhaps rightly so. The Brewers do not have to make their financial records public, so the "loss" could be completely paper related, things such as depreciation, investing in the club with hopes of a return later, etc.

My feeling on the matter is pretty simple: I doubt 2002 was as successful as 2001, as the team drew about 800K less fans. The Crew reported revenues of $25 million LESS in 2002, and their operating profit/(loss) went from about $14 million to about $7.5 mil, a difference of $21.5 million. Considering they likely tried to lower expenses based on declining attendance, this seems reasonable to me.

Is the loss a bit staged, due to paper deductions? I hope so. Remember, however, those deductions are "real", according to US tax laws. The Brewers would be fools not to take them. With attendance doomed to be lower in 2003 (more on that later), I hope the Crew is cutting expenses wherever they can, that isn't related to player scouting and development, customer service, and marketing.

1/25/2003 02:56:00 PM

Thursday, January 23, 2003

(1/23/2003 08:26:00 PM) - Al

The Crew plucked Brady Clark off waivers from the Mets. Brady has spent some time in Cincy the past few seasons, but has never received any consistent playing time. I've thought Clark would be a decent platoon/reserve guy, so I was pleased to se the move made. Also, he has the same birthday as myself, though he is 4 years younger.

Brady put together solid stats in AAA, .295/.377/.457, though the majority of those AB's come after he was 27, so he was as good as he'd get, in theory. The reason I like him is he can play all 3 OF slots. I believe he has also filled in at 1B in the minors.

Clark certainly isn't as young as I'd like to see, but other than that, he's a perfect guy to take a flyer on. Good minor league numbers, versatile, walks a ton, cheap, needs a chance to play. I have to think that as of today, he's the Brewers 4th OF. While he may be better suited to be a 5th OF, that's the least of the Crew's troubles.

1/23/2003 08:26:00 PM

Sunday, January 19, 2003

(1/19/2003 08:20:00 PM) - Al

Looks like the Rockies may be using the Brewers' DP combo of Jose Hernandez & Ronnie Belliard in 2003. Not sure if Ronnie will be healthy to start the year, or if Jose will be playing SS or 3B, but both have signed contracts to play in the altitude of Colorado.

What's really sad is the fact COL's middle IF is better and cheaper...and not a bit older than Clayton and Young. If you're going to suck, you need to do it cheaply, and give guys playing time that may get better. The fact is, our fellas are not just painfully mediocre, they peaked years ago.

1/19/2003 08:20:00 PM

Saturday, January 18, 2003

(1/18/2003 05:41:00 PM) - Al

In the e-mail today, the inevitable Twins fan overreaction:


How can you feel the Twins paid far too much for Torri Hunter? I feel Hunter is a very good CF, still getting better, and he should continue to do so a couple more seasons. He was an all-star last year, and as you stated, is a defensive CF worthy of mention with the best that have ever played. I would have hoped for a bit less total, say $25-28 million, but we signed him for what should be his peak years. I have no hesitation saying I'm glad we locked him up.


There are many things I need to say to respond to this, but I feel Torri Hunter is a $3 mil a season man. The Twins have him through 2004 regardless of what they did, as he had two arby years left. That would have given MIN Torri's prime seasons of 27 & 28, without the long-term committment.

The OF is MIN's strength, as they have two exceptional young corner OF's that should be playing every day in '03, Cuddyear and Restovich. They have a young CF named Lew Ford who hit .340 in AAA last year. Jacque Jones and Bobby Kielty both can play CF, though neither is a joy to watch like Hunter is.

The Twins have a SS who seems to be getting worse, and a 2B who is well below league average. I'll be the first to say they are both young and should get better, but MIN is contending NOW.

To me, it just seems like that if you look at the Twins from a unbiased viewpoint, devoid of goofy things like "loyalty" and "fan favorite", Torri Hunter's greatest value was not playing CF, but in garnering the last piece or two of the puzzle that should lead to the World Series. Say what you will, but Torri cannot play middle infield.

Now, just a bit more about the comparison of the OF's I presented last night:

Jeff Hammonds--.276/.340/.455, 795 OPS, 155 OXS, 93 runs produced
Darin Erstad------.291/.346/.433, 779 OPS, 150 OXS, 90 runs produced
Jose Cruz Jr.-----.251/.330/.467, 797 OPS, 154 OXS, 92 runs produced
Torri Hunter-------.271/.317/.458, 775 OPS, 145 OXS, 87 runs produced
Ave CF, 2002----.268/.336/.428, 764 OPS, 144 OXS, 86 runs produced

Excuse me, but while I know Torri is entering his supposed peak season of 27, I simply do not see him as a $8 mil a year player. He's an average offensive player as of today, and I certainly don't expect him to be a superstar tomorrow.

Finally, one last note I find interesting, and I hope you do as well:


Seems like a steady progression doesn't it? Actually, those are his 2nd half stats in 2002, while it is his complete season numbers in '99-'01. He had a stellar first half in 2002, .306/.347/.564, but returned to "normal" after the break, almost exactly in line with what you'd expect from Hunter.

It seems to me the Twins signed the guy who played in early 2002, while they are much more likely to be paying Torri $32 million for .260/.315/.470 production. That's just better than his career norms, but pretty damn close to what classifies as "mediocre" as far as MLB CF's.

1/18/2003 05:41:00 PM

Friday, January 17, 2003

(1/17/2003 11:05:00 PM) - Al

I ripped ANA a while back when they signed Darin Erstad to a 4y/$32M deal, and I will do the same with MIN and Torri Hunter. Torri is twice the defensive player Darin is, and is going into his year of 27. That said, Torri's career OBP is a far from robust .317, and his career OPS is 775, while Darin's is 789.

What's particulary amusing to me is Jose Cruz Jr. is available as a free agent, is a fair CF, and has a career OPS of 797, while Jeff Hammonds is much maligned in MIL, and he has a career OPS of 795. MIN would have been much better off trading Hunter, signing Cruz (or playing Bobby Kielty), and banking the difference. As it stands, they are paying an average CF a very high percentage of their team payroll.

Don't get me wrong, Torri is an excellent defensive CF, by far the best I've ever seen. And, he may improve his offense, as he had a sub 700 OPS as a 23 year-old rushed early from the minors.

That said, today the Twins paid $32 million for a guy that they hope improves. You cannot pay that kind of money for potential, you have to save it for proven production. Whenever you can make the argument that a player is mediocre, or just a bit better, he isn't worth anywhere near that kind of money.

1/17/2003 11:05:00 PM

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

(1/14/2003 04:08:00 PM) - Al

A few minor signings to discuss in the last few days. Keith Osik was signed as a minor league FA, and is the epitome of why you do not trade for a veteran reserve catcher.


These guys are all but the exact same player, but we dealt Bako to the Cubs for a middling prospect, and signed Osik for nothing.

We also signed Mike Buddie as a FA, to a minor league deal. Mike was abused by the Lopester regime in '02, and subsequently released. He's not a great pitcher, but he'll pitch every day if needed, and he'll do whatever it takes. It's unlikely he'll make the 25 man roster, but it's nice to see good depth at Indy.

Two starters also came into the fold. Dave Mlicki signed a non-guaranteed contract for one year, $750K. He's 34 and nearly the epitome of free talent. They'll be worse pitchers take the mound every 5th day in '03, but they'll have "potential" or "velocity" on thier side. Todd Ritchie also signed, terms have not been found yet. Todd is 31 and had one excellent year, won 15 games with an ERA a run under the league average, and has struggled since. He's always been an innings eater until '02, when he suffered arm trouble. Not a bad pickup, depending on money.

My one fear is whether these 30+ fellas will take roster spots from kids who are out of options. Quevedo, Franklin, and Kinney would both have to be exposed to waivers before going down to AAA, and Matthews would as well, I believe. All these guys should be handed spots and allowed to work out problems rather than risk losing them. I like Ritchie's chances of bouncing back, but I wonder if the Crew is the best team for him. Mlicki is cheap insurance, a proven vet who will get 2-3 chances before a junkballing minor league vet, nothing more, nothing less.

1/14/2003 04:08:00 PM

Friday, January 10, 2003

(1/10/2003 08:44:00 PM) - Al

Going to visit the family for a post holiday weekend, so I'll see you folks Monday or Tuesday, hopefully with the Rambling pitching staff complete.

1/10/2003 08:44:00 PM

Thursday, January 09, 2003

(1/09/2003 10:36:00 PM) - Al

Just for fun, the RUTT batting order and bench would be:

CF--Bobby Kielty
2B--Jarrod Patterson
RF--Craig Wilson
1B--David Ortiz
LF-Jack Cust
3B--Mike Lamb
C---Ben Petrick
SS--Marcos Scutaro

C----Javier Valentin
2B/3B--Ronnie Belliard
IF/OF-Lou Collier
IF-Morgan Ensberg
OF--Gabe Kapler
1B/3B/OF--Russ Branyan

Somehow, this underutilized club has two pretty decent, proven major league players (Kapler & Branyan) and a solid prospect (Ensberg) sitting on the bench most days. That's not a bad team, though I have to believe finding a pitching staff won't be that easy.

1/09/2003 10:36:00 PM

(1/09/2003 10:23:00 PM) - Al

The OF of the Rambling Team has been announced, allow me to inform you of the choices.

LEFT FIELD--Jack Cust is one of those guys who has dominated AAA ball so thoroughly, he should be in his 2nd or 3rd full season. Jack's main "fault" is that he has never played in the AL, where he could DH and not have to worry about his glove. Personally, I hire me a fine former OF to coach 1B (is there a more meaningless coaching position in all of sports?), and let him play LF. Most games, he'll catch a couple fly balls and throw the ball harmlessly into SS several times on singles and doubles. Jack's AAA numbers are frightening:

Cust-----------.272/.412/.524, 936 OPS, 216 OXS (216!!!!), 130 runs produced
Ave LF, '02--.271/.355/.452, 807 OPS, 160 OPS, 96 runs produced

Assuming a production drop of 25%, Cust would still produce 98 runs a year. Will he strike out a ton? Yep. Walk once every 4-5 AB's? That too. Also, Jack will be 24 this year, meaning he likely won't peak until 2006 or thereabouts. I'll take the risk that he might turn a single into a double once in a while.

Reserves are plentiful in the corner OF slots, but I went with Russ Branyan as my choice. .230/.317/.478, 795 OPS, 152 OXS, and he can also play 1B and 3B on occasion. I still just wish he'd get 500 AB's and just see how many HR's he'd hit.

CENTER FIELD--Bobby Kielty somehow sat on the bench behind Dustan Mohr in MIN last year, despite being superior to him in speed, defense, BA, OBP, and SLG. Bobby is the perfect CF, as he hits like a corner OF, yet covers enough ground to play the middle spot. Bobby's numbers in his part-time play over two seasons:

Kielty----------.280/.377/.458, 835 OPS, 173 OXS, 104 runs produced
Ave CF, '02--.268/.336/.428, 764 OPS, 144 OXS, 86 runs produced

26 year-old Kielty is not just 18 runs better than your average CF, he's 8 runs better than your average LF. Damn. While most folks debate whether the Twins should trade Hunter or Jones, I argue to trade 'em both, and put Bobby in between Restovich and Cuddyear. If one fails to there an easier spot to fill than LF or RF at the deadline?

Gabe Kapler is my reserve CF, as he's put together a career of .272/.335/.435, 780 OPS, 146 OPS, almost exactly in the middle of all CF, but he isn't even expected to start in COL, as he's stuck behind the immortal Preston Wilson, who's being paid one billion dollars over the next few years.

RIGHT FIELD--Craig Wilson has spent the past couple seasons in a real life Far Side cartoon; the slugging 1B/OF has sat on the bench...while Kevin Young, the worst everyday 1B since he was moved across the diamond several years ago. So as the Pirates let Young, who hits like a middle infielder, play 1B daily, here is Wilson's career output:

Wilson---------.278/.365/.487, 852 OPS, 178 OXS, 107 runs produced (yes, these are MLB stats)
Ave RF, '02--..271/.353/.458, 811 OPS, 162 OXS, 97 runs produced

Wilson will spend his 26th year on Earth hoping to gain everyday playing time, even though his numbers aren't that far from those of Brian Giles.

Backing up Wilson is John Barnes, who in 1000+ AAA AB's, has struggled mightily to numbers of .322/.392/.498, 890 OPS, 195 OXS. While the expected drop would put him at a 146 OXS, he certainly should be platooning somewhere, or coming off the bench instead of guys like Shawon Dunston and Lenny Harris.

1/09/2003 10:23:00 PM

(1/09/2003 07:55:00 PM) - Al

Kevin Millar apparently wants to play in Japan, for a couple mil a season. Word is hot and heavy that Theo Epstein was interested in trading for him to play in BOS, and Millar can flat out hit the ball. I believe he's a career .300/.350/.500 guy, certainly worthy of a quality job in the bigs. The fact he'd rather play in Japan makes you wonder if he feels he can use it to "springboard" back to the States like Cecil Fielder, or if he's just a fella not afraid of a new culture.

1/09/2003 07:55:00 PM

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

(1/08/2003 10:52:00 PM) - Al

THIRD BASE--Mike Lamb is the Rambling 3B. Mike has done what has been asked of him by TEX, and has been punished for it every step of the way. Thye seem to be trying him as some sort of super utility guy, even teaching him how to catch in AAA for a short time last year, then abandoning the attempt after Lamb proved not to be Johnny Bench his first time out. Mike would be well off to complain to the media and get shipped out of TEX, to someone who would realize at the very least they have a platoon 3B on their hands.

As Mike enters his Year of 27, his career efforts look pretty good from here:

Mike Lamb---.287/.341/.394, 735 OPS, 134 OXS, 81 runs produced
Ave 3B, '02--.259/.330/.420, 750 OPS, 139 OXS, 83 runs produced

All but average at the MAJOR league level, mind you, and TEX just signed Herb Perry, career journeyman, reserve 1B/3B to a TWO year deal, at least double of what Herb is worth. Meanwhile, Lamb has to fight for every AB, and split his time between 1B/3B/DH, and maybe even a couple games in LF. Mike Lamb should be thinking of nothing but improving his gap power and raising his OBP a bit, not when and if he'll be playing.

His reserve at 3B is another 27 year-old from the Lone Star state, Morgan Ensberg. Morgan has produced at an incredible level at AAA, .299/.400/.510, 910 OPS, 204 OXS. Even allowing for a 25% decline, a 153 OXS is far better than your average MLB third sacker. After putting up stunning numbers like that, HOU isn't sure who'll they'll play at 3B in '03.

1/08/2003 10:52:00 PM

(1/08/2003 09:44:00 AM) - Al

Wynegar, who is coaching in the big leagues for the first time, stressed the importance of on-base percentage and having a game plan at the plate.

On base percentage? What kind of new fangled notion is this?

1/08/2003 09:44:00 AM

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

(1/07/2003 09:15:00 PM) - Al

SHORTSTOP--Marcos Scutaro is the choice at SS, which regular readers should have guessed long ago. Scooter, 27, does everything well for a SS except have good range. In 2-3 careers worth of AAA AB's (over 1800, I kid you not), let's look at Scooter's production:

Scutaro------.289/.371/.418, 789 OPS, 155 OXS, 93 runs produced
Ave SS '02--.265/.324/.398, 722 OPS, 129 OXS, 77 runs produced

Scooter has continued to improve over the past two years, with SLGings of .432 and .475, so it's unlikely he'll fall off a full 25%, but if he did, he STILL would be less than 10 runs off the pace of a MLB SS. Considering he's entering his Year of 27, this guy needs to get some playing time so he can have a career worthy of his talent.

His reserve is yet another ex-Brewers player, Lou Collier. This 29 year-old can play anywhere on the diamond except as part of the battery, and has even better AAA numbers than Scooter, .316/.387/.480, 867 OPS, 186 OXS. Collier has over 600 MLB AB's, however, so at least he's had a shot. The majority of them came as PIT's regular SS several years ago, and his MLB numbers are far from Ordonez like: .240/.314/.339, 653, 106, about 15 runs less than mediocre, a good step up from replacement level, not to mention Rey, Rey, Neifi, and the rest. It's a pretty safe bet Lou would improve handily if allowed to play on a regular basis. Collier also signed with BOS, meaning Theo seems to be assembling quite a OBP laden bunch.

He obviously doesn't get it, huh?:)

1/07/2003 09:15:00 PM

(1/07/2003 08:50:00 PM) - Al

SECOND BASE--Jarrod Patterson is the exact type of player that we love to uncover. I had planned to use Ronnie Belliard as my 2B, but because of his broken finger (wrist?) suffered in winter ball, I decided to make him my reserve. So, I went about finding me a good, young 2B who is not considered a true "prospect". And looked. And, looked. I am not sure why exactly this has become such a hole in baseball. There are many more quality offensive shortstops than 2nd basemen, which simply makes no sense. Every 2B that hit at all was 30+. The only other players I found were Marcus Giles and Keith Ginter. Giles, a quality player seemingly stuck on the ATL bench for no apparent reason. However, Marcus is both under contract and in the hunt for playing time, thus ineligible for RUTT. Ginter is stuck behind Eric Young and Wes Helms in MIL, though neither is a bit better than Keith. Given Helms' lack of production and the Crew's desire to trade EY, Ginter seems likely to see plenty of action as well.

That left Patterson, a 29 year-old 2B/3B, who is a AAA veteran very worthy of getting a shot. He's also a LH bat, which means he should have garnered at least a platoon job by now. In oodles of AAA time, Jerrod's numbers are:

Patterson---.300/.368/.481, 849 OPS, 177 OXS, 106 runs produced
Ave 2B, '02-.268/.331/.392, 723 OPS, 130 OXS, 78 runs produced

Assuming a 25% decrease in Patterson's productivity, that'd lower him to a 133 OXS, still better than your average second sacker. The Royals were wise enough to sign Jarrod, going against that organization's tendency to sign guys that can run and play lots of positions...but can't hit a lick.

As already said, Ronnie Belliard is my backup, hopefully he'll get healthy quick enough to contribute...looking over 2B, in the AL especially, there's plenty of spots available. Despite an awful '02, in which he was yanked between 2B & 3B unjustly and played sparingly for the first time in his pro career, Ronnie still has career stats of .263/.340/.396, 736 OPS, 135 OXS...which are better than average. If '02 was a fluke season caused by MIL using him poorly and setting him up to fail, the team that signs him will likely be plenty happy with his production.

1/07/2003 08:50:00 PM

(1/07/2003 04:24:00 PM) - Al

FIRST BASE--David Ortiz is spending his Year of 27 patrolling 1B for RUTT, and we're happy to have him. David was the Twins DH until they had to let him go in a cost cutting move. David is a cheap alternative who takes plenty of walks (one every 8 AB's) and has HR & doubles power. Let's compare him the MLB average:

Ortiz----------.266/.348/.461, 809 OPS, 160 OXS, 96 runs produced
Ave C, '02--.272/.361/.461, 822 OPS, 166 OXS, 100 runs produced

Considering Dave will likely sign for under a million per year, and is entering what could well be his peak age, we can expect league average production at a very minimal cost.

For my backup, I choose Julio Zuleta, a 26 year-old fromer Cubs prospect who signed with BOS as a minor league FA. Julio's AAA numbers are .302/.364/.560, 924 OPS, 204 OXS. He's a big RH hitter, who doesn't walk enough for my personal taste, but he gets on base and he's got nothing left to prove in AAA. Expecting a 25% falloff, a 153 OXS isn't going to embarass anyone, and it would probably be higher if he were either platooned or rested versus the best RH you play each series (this is what I call "setting up a player to succeed"). Heaven knows they're plenty of LH hitting 1B out there begging for a chance to get 200 PA's. Julio deserves to be on a 25 man roster next April 1st.

1/07/2003 04:24:00 PM

(1/07/2003 03:11:00 PM) - Al

I've decided to begin posting my Rambling Underutized Talent Team, an offshoot of my original idea of assembling a team made up of free talent, which has been done so often, it's painful. In order to qualify for RUTT, you have to be 29 or younger, unsigned as of today (1/7), and if signed, not be counted on to start and making less than $1.65 million (75% of the MLB average). Let us begin with behind the plate:

CATCHER--Ben Petrick has been a highly thought of catcher for the entire 21st century in Colorado, but has yet to be allowed to just go out and do the job. Instead, they've harped on his pitch calling, defense, and fiddled with him at other positions (LF being mentioned the most often). What is obvious to me is apparently unthought of in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains...if he's good enough to play LF, he'll be a star catching.

In his major league career, filled with sporadic playing time, and being told what he cannot do, he's managed these numbers:

Petrick-----.265/.350/.466, 816 OPS, 163 OXS, 73 runs produced
Ave C, '02-.250/.315/.379, 694 OPS, 119 OXS, 54 runs produced

Even figuring in only 450 AB's, rather than the full load of 600, Ben is 19 runs better than the average catcher out there. Is he a defensive stud? Probably not, but he can smack the ball, and is very deserving of a starting job.

My reserve is 27 year-old Javier Valentin, who was acquired by the Brewers this offseason from the Twins. Javier was Terry Steinbach's backup in MIN in '97-'99. He has spent his last three years in Salt Lake City and Edmonton, and has put up solid numbers in over 1000 AAA AB's, .293/.356/.511, 867 OPS, 182 OXS. Even expecting a 25% dropoff, there's nothing wrong with a 137 OXS from your reserve catcher, heck, it's still better than most.

1/07/2003 03:11:00 PM

(1/07/2003 02:54:00 PM) - Al

Just found out about another Brewers' blog, started by our good friend Jason Nelson. It can be found at Brewers Review. I urge you to bookmark this site right next to mine. Jason is just starting out, but I'm sure he will be updating his blog on a regualar basis.

1/07/2003 02:54:00 PM

(1/07/2003 11:39:00 AM) - Al

Looks like Aaron Boone will try to move to 2B in '03, to make room for 3B prospect Brandon Larson. If not for a meddling owner, Boone could be playing SS, where he would be the best in the NL, at least at the plate. Instead, they have an aging badly Barry Larkin hauling in $9 mil per, and a bunch of other problems brought on by the owner overruling Jim Bowden.

Sometimes, you gotta cut the cord, even with a hometown kid who's a "fan favorite". That one move has kept the Reds from adding players they need for the past few years, even contended with possibly in '02.

1/07/2003 11:39:00 AM

(1/07/2003 11:11:00 AM) - Al

Theo Epstein is quickly becoming a favorite GM among folks like me who take OBP seriously. Theo is a nerdy 28 year-old who could be called a "stathead", a term which used to be negative, but is now used mostly to differentiate between casual fans/media and students of the game. While Theo may say a phrase like "he's a good clubhouse influence" every once in a while to chuckle about at 2AM, it's obvious he doesn't give a damn about anything that isn't directly related to scoring more runs and/or preventing opponents from scoring runs.

Theo inherited a situation in which he has a 3B who was an All-Star last year, yet is on every most overrated list written since mid 2001. Shea Hillenbrand is a casual fan's dream, he hits about .300, and is a Caucasian, a race commonly known for adjectives such as "gritty, scrappy, hustling, and has a lot of heart". This is completely false, don't get me wrong, but is taught in Sports Journalism 101. Shea is also an error prone fielder, and walks as often as a 12 year-old with ADD who downs Jolt Cola by the gallon. It has been a poorly kept secret that Shea has been on the trading block, due to his inability to "not get out".

Now, Theo has signed Bill Mueller, a 3B who can best be described as "boring". If one were to look up every word written on him in his career, I'm sure the most utilized phrase would be "doesn't have the power to be an everyday 3B". Let's compare these two players, and look at the expected results from the hot corner:

Mueller-------.286/.370/.399, 769 OPS, 148 OXS
Ave 3B, '02--.259/.330/.420, 750 OPS, 139 OXS
Hillenbrand--.280/.313/.430, 743 OPS, 135 OXS

What's funny to me is Hillenbrand appears to me to be nothing more than a boatload of 3B who are in AAA, or sitting on the bench. Shea is in his peak age of 27, so he may well have a career year or two. But to think for even a second, that Hillenbrand is a guy that could put you over the top, is kinda laughable. Shea needs to work on improving his offense AND defense to the mediocre level before his name can even be mentioned in the top half of 3B in the big leagues.

What's silly is that not only did Theo upgrade 3B, he has several GM's very interested in Hillenbrand. I mean, we're talking about an ALL-STAR here, a hard worker, and insert your own favorite descriptive word from the list above.

To be fair, I think Epstein overpaid for Mueller a bit, $4.5 mil over 2 years is a bit high for Bill Mueller, ages 32 & 33, especially since the market seemed weak for him. Most clubs seem to share the view that he's a PH/reserve 1B/3B, or as it's commonly known in the sport, "a good LH bat off the bench". But, Theo has a loyal fan base who pays exhorbitant ticket prices to follow their Sox, and a regional cable network that pays well to broadcast their games. To him, to "overpay" $750K a season for the player he wanted is a minor infraction.

Especially one who gets on base 37% of the time.

1/07/2003 11:11:00 AM

Monday, January 06, 2003

(1/06/2003 07:57:00 PM) - Al

ANA signed Brad Fullmer for $1M in '03.

Fullmer------.282/.335/.489, 824 OPS
Ave 1B, '02--.272/.361/.461, 822

Almost exactly mediocre production, for an even million dollars per. Tell me again why PIT paid Kevin Young so much to suck. Ditto for SL and Tino Martinez. LA and Eric Karros. Whenever folks tell you that you need to pay for production at 1B, point out Brad Fullmer and tell them to shut up.

1/06/2003 07:57:00 PM

(1/06/2003 07:27:00 PM) - Al

Rob Fick signed with ATL today, $1.3 mil for 2003. What bothers me about Fick is that some folks see him as a 1B/OF, when the man should be a catcher first, utility man 2nd.

Robert Fick-----------.268/.336/.447, 783 OPS
Ave C in '02-----------.250/.315/.379, 694
Ave LF/RF in '02----.271/.354/.455, 809

Basically, Fick is an outstanding offensive catcher, and below average corner OF. $1.3 million certainly isn't a massive contract considering his production, and you could argue his numbers may well improve to average without including his career numbers when he was catching. My feeling is simple, however: Isn't a catcher that'll produce 15-20 runs over average worth some defensive problems?

Or, to look at it another way, the corner OF's with numbers like Fick's include Alex Ochoa (career reserve, platoon guy), Orlando Merced (ditto), and Jeffery Hammonds (decent CF, poor corner OF).

Meanwhile, catchers that are similiar include Ted Simmons, Carlton Fisk, and Gary Carter. Granted, this is a more offensive era, but from this vantage point, Rob Fick should be catching 2 out of 3 games every series.

1/06/2003 07:27:00 PM

Sunday, January 05, 2003

(1/05/2003 07:19:00 PM) - Al

I just watched the second half of the 49ers/Giants game, and again, I ask the age old questions:

Why doesn't some team just say, we're running the no huddle offense the whole year, let's see what happens.

And once again, on average, the pro football player must rank just above a bucket of spit on any intelligence scale worth its salt. What's that old saying...couldn't spell cat if you spot them the "k" and the "t". In the last two minutes alone, we saw taunting, several unnecessary roughness penalties (15 FRICKIN' YARDS), and the entire offensive line running down field to catch a pass.

I knew when I was 7 years-old that only the guys on the end of the line AND guys not on the line were eligible to catch a pass...and that doesn't change if it's a field goal. And sadly, many of these clods graduated college.

1/05/2003 07:19:00 PM

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

(1/01/2003 08:38:00 PM) - Al

Jason Nelson is a fellow Brewers fan who writes The Daily Brew over at, one of the best fan sites on the internet. He tends to think with his head rather than his hope with his heart. Once again, he was good enough to share his time with us as we present another edition of Jason & Al on the Crew.

Al: Jason, much time has passed since our last exchange. First of all, how do you feel about the new regime of Doug Melvin and Ned Yost?

Jason: Actually, I feel pretty good about it, especially with the Doug Melvin hiring. He took over a team in Texas that was in a similar situation as the Brewers are now, and within a handful of years that team was a division winner and a yearly contender. Whether he can do that same turnaround here in Milwaukee will depend on if the Brewers give Melvin the financial flexibility that they have never given any other GM in the past. One other thing about Melvin's track record that I like is his drafting history. Obviously, the main reason the Brewers are in the predicament they are in now is because of lousy drafts. Melvin had similar bare cupboards in Texas
when he started there, but now that franchise has prospects galore. As far as Ned Yost goes, he gets nothing but praise from Bobby Cox, who in my opinion is one of the top managers out there. I guess it will be a "wait-and-see" approach with Yost, but from what
he has said early on in terms of how important things like OBP are, he is off to a good start.

Al:I just barely touched on Ned Yost's choice of coaches. Any feelings other than "they're OK".

Jason: "They're OK" pretty much sums it up for me at this time as Yost, it will be a "wait-and-see" attitude with the coaches as well. I confess to only know about guys like Mike Maddux and Butch Wynegar as much as to know that they were once major leaguers.

Al: So, Doug's first 90 move...worst move?

Jason: The best move by far, in my opinion, is the trade that brought this team Matt Kinney and Javier Valentin...and I hope he
can pull off more trades like it. I think Kinney is a great talent and we were able to fleece him from the Twins after he had his worst year of his career. And while the Brewers think that Robert Machado will start season at catcher, I think Javier Valentin will win that job outright in spring training if given a fair chance to do so. The main prospect we dealt for those two, Matt Yeatman, may indeed turn out to be a pretty decent pitcher in a couple of years, but I think we have in Matt Kinney a player who will be better than Yeatman, or at the very least be about the same.

The key is, we have Kinney now - we still would have waited until at least 2004-05 for Yeatman.

As far as the worst move, I would have to say at this point it is the trade of Ray King to Atlanta for Wes Helms. King has been one of the most reliable and durable left-handers in the majors over the past couple of years, and all we were able to get was a guy like Helms, who has a very disappointing OBP and is already at his peak age? I will, however, withhold total judgment on Wes Helms until he actually puts on a Brewers uniform and plays everyday, because he does have the valid excuse of getting choppy playing time from a playoff team that put a lot of pressure on him to produce. But I just think that we could have gotten more for Ray...especially at the trade deadline, if we would have held on to him.Relievers like Ray, who produce and are dirt-cheap, could be worth a goldmine come July.

Al: Disappointed by the fact Doug and Ned have both spoken of "effort" and "giving 110%", but not as much about OBP and taking more walks?

Jason: Well, Ned has talked a bit about OBP, and more than once, which is pleasing to me. But yes, I don't like all of the talk about "effort" and "giving 110%", because in the end it really doesn't factor into how well a baseball team does. I was kind of disturbed, as I see you were as well in an earlier post of yours here at Ramblings, about Doug Melvin's comments about the Angels. The Angels won the World Series last year because they produced on the field, not because they were supporting their teammates the loudest, getting the loudest cheers from the stands, or having the best "High-Five" technique in baseball.

Al: What do you feel is the one area the Crew needs to shore up/improve before April 1st?

Jason: The offensive lineup, without a doubt. While I think it was the right move to not offer Jose Hernandez arbitration, his loss in the lineup is a big one to fill - and the team filled it with a guy that can't hit a lick in Royce Clayton. We have an unproven and so far
disappointing player in Wes Helms expected to play well at a very important offensive position, third base. Whether Geoff Jenkins will be any good again is anyone's guess, and Alex Sanchez will be utterly worthless if he has lost any speed from his leg injury last year. And if Jeffrey Hammonds would be producing the same kind of numbers he has recently playing in RF everyday...well, both you and I know that position will be a joke. If this is what our roster looks like after Spring Training, I have full confidence that this team will go down as one of the worst offensive ballclubs of all time. I certainly hope there
are more moves ahead, and I think there are.

Al: Rule 5 draft, how'd we do?

Jason: From everything I have read and heard - and I have to base my feelings on this, because I have never seen him play in person - Enrique Cruz is a pretty good prospect. I would have to see him in spring training and get views on him there before making a full ent, but paying $50,000 for a guy who has as high of a ceiling as Cruz does seems like a very fine investment by me. Matt Ford, the other pick from Toronto, seems to be a longshot at best to make the major league roster and a guy that the Brewers just hope to see something they could utilize. However, if the Brewers are able to sneak him through waivers if they cut him, he could be an interesting guy to watch down the road.

Al: Ronnie Belliard, should we have offered him arby?

Jason: This is a tough question, because I personally like Belly and think he can be a good player in the majors. My heart says "yes", because there is no way I see an arbitrator giving him more than 80% of what he made last year. But in the end, perhaps it was best to just cut ties with Belly- and, especially now since it looks like he would have been a question mark to even be ready for spring training with his broken wrist from winter ball.

The way this organization has jerked Ronnie around the past year or two, I personally think he would have declined arby should it have been offered to him.

Al: The Brewers player most likely to be traded before Opening Day. My bet would be on Glendon Rusch, he's a good innings eater, and could well break through and win 15 games in '03.

Jason: I think Melvin is going to try and do a "salary-for-salary" trade to rid himself of either Jeffrey Hammonds or Eric Young, and I wouldn't be surprised if he has already tried to do so. Even after trading Ray King, the Brewers still have good depth in the bullpen,
and I woudn't be surprised to see a guy like Mike DeJean traded.

Al:. Parting thoughts?

Jason: I know Brewers fans are sick of hearing a word like "patience", but I think its imperative that fans are patient and let this new regime put its stamp on the Brewers. Doug Melvin is a proven winner at GM and has turned a bad franchise into a good one in the past. Ulice Payne is a proven businessman and a guy with a reputation of being someone who demands the best from everyone around him. Getting these two were obviously steps in the right direction. But I think a lot of people, even "seasoned" fans, are
getting a sense of just how bad of shape this organization was left in by past regimes. So, my parting thought would be "patience".

1/01/2003 08:38:00 PM

These are the good old days. Some folks are just too busy wishing the streets were paved with gold to enjoy the good times.

Whatever strikes me as interesting, and serious Milwaukee Brewers thoughts. If you are a believer in respecting OBP, throwing strikes, and keeping the ball in the park, you may have found the place you've been searching for. I believe in low taxes, small government, and am not afraid to be labeled patriotic. If you are interested in sausage race results, walk up music, or professional wrestling, you may wish to click elsewhere.

The Ramblings' manifesto can be found here.

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