Saturday, August 30, 2003

FAT BASTARD TRADING CARDS This is the first in an ongoing series highlighting fat bastards who through the miracle of baseball can actually list their occupation as "athlete". In this inagural post I'd like to make it a "classic fat bastard playing card". Rich Garces doesn't play anymore but right now he's slapping his gut and laughing at you while you swim those laps and pump that iron because no matter how hard you train you'll never know what it's like to play in the show. And who with a straight face listed Garces's weight as 215? He's closer to 315. That's a worse offense than that Almonte kid who lied about his age in the little league WS.
IT'S THE STARTING PITCHING STUPID The Oakland A's are a full two games ahead of the Seattle Mariners and my brain is telling me they shouldn't be. By a long shot. Seattle has the fifth best offense (4th in OBP) and the best defense in the AL, while Oakland has the eleventh best offense (11th in OBP) and fifth best defense. Seattle has Ichiro, Boone, and Martinez while Oakland's two best offensive (and defensive) players Tjeda and Chavez are having regressive seasons. Oakland does bost the edge in the pitching department but its a very slight edge; Oakland has a team ERA of 3.53 while Seattle sits at 3.87. Thats a pretty slim whisker. But apparently a 0.34 difference in ERA negates Seattle's decisive advantages in defense and offense. "Porqoui?" I ask myself. So I looked a little deeper. In terms of Runs Scored, Seattle puts up an average of 4.97 to Oakland's 4.72. That's a difference of .25 runs/game, which is signifigant, but more than trumped by Oakland's 0.34 advantage in ERA. At this point I began to see how much greater the disparity in pitching is between teams than hitting, and how a difference of 0.34 in ERA is actually closer to being a full-on Selleck than the aforementioned slim whisker. Extra runs are good to have but if you have a good pitching staff you really don't need them. Especially if you can win close games. Oakland has played in 15 more one-run games than Seattle this year; an indication of how many close games Oakland plays. The fact that they come out on top in a majority of them is a testament to their bullpen, but more so to a starting staff that has thrown 16 complete games, 11 more than Seattle. I don' t think Oakland has a better bullpen than Seattle, in fact they don't, but because of the stamina of the A's starting staff their bullpen has had to throw 30+ fewer innings than Seattle's bullpen. For those looking for chinks in Beane's armor this is it. For all the talk of the emphasis on OBP and drafting college players at best it's given Oakland an average offense. Nothing impressive in that department. Beane wouldn't be heralded as a baseball genius if he didn't draft Mulder, Hudson, and Zito. The question, in my mind at least, is was it a fluke that he drafted the magnificent three? (which the aquisition of Ted Lilly might suggest.) Or, just further proof of his genius? I'll side with the latter. For all the noteriety Oakland has gotten for drafting bad body players, "the fat guys who can hit", this is a team that is decidely without excess. Beane has put all his eggs in the right basket and been content with the amusement of patching together an average offense every year to just give his pitching staff the run support they need. In the end, pitching is more reliable and will always beat good hitting (exhibit A: the Indians and Rangers teams of the 90's) and I think even more so in this current era of baseball where SS's who hit 30+ HRs are commonplace. So, my grand conclusion is this; Seattle is a more complete team, a sexier team, and much funner to watch but because of the A's starting pitching they are the better team. We'll see how this theory plays out when the A's and Mariners go head-to-head about 50 times in the next month.
From Lee Sinins' ATM reports:

"According to the Oakland Tribune, the A's were interested in BlueJays P Kelvim Escobar, but the Twins blocked a deal by submitting a waiver claim. The BlueJays subsequently pulled him off waivers."

Interesting. I wonder what J.P. could have gotten in return from Billy?

And another:

"According to Orioles VP Jim Beattie, he doesn't expect to make a trade this week. Pat Hentgen, Buddy Groom, Tony Batista and Jeff Conine have reportedly cleared waivers."

Boy, if I'm Pat Gillick, I'd give a long hard look at Batista. Given his contract and his current performance, I bet he could be had on the cheap. I know the good folks over at U.S.S. Mariner are desperate to pick up Matt Stairs and Tony Clark. I can't blame them on Stairs--who wouldn't want a lefthanded bat with a career .860 OPS (.951 so far this year) making less than $1 M? (How the hell did he clear waivers?) Both Stairs and Clark would be substatial upgrades to the Mariner "bench" (I'm looking at you, McLemore). But is Tony Clark worth taking over Batista?

Batista's a career .767 OPS, but he's only hitting .685 this year. Clark's got an .810 OPS this year, due to an impressive .507 SLG. But Batista could fill in and be the everyday 3B, pushing Cirillo to the bench or the road, whereas Clark is, shall we say, more limited where he can play. Batista, a former shortstop, might even be an improvement with the glove over the Mariner's current 3B. (Batista leads Cirillo in ZR and RF this year.) Batista's only 29 (assuming his Dominican passport is correct), and it's hard to believe that he's really washed up already.

After looking like the best, most balanced team in baseball, the Mariners are seriously faltering. Gillick's smart not to panic, and, say, trade Brandon Clausson for Aaron Boone. But if it's just a matter of a couple of million and not giving up anybody good, I think Batista is worth the risk for Seattle (he's even a free agent in '04). The clock is ticking.

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