Sunday, September 28, 2003


So the 88-74 (85-74 ExW-L) Cubs and 90-72 (85-77 ExW-L) Twins get their shot at the World Series this year, while the 86-76 (87-75 ExW-L) Blue Jays disperse until the Spring.

Man, those Central divisions suck.

At least it'll be fun to see Santana take the mound against the Yankees, and Prior do battle against the Braves.


Diamond Mind's Tom Tippett wrote this piece about the Boston Red Sox, but I think it can also apply to the Astros' woes despite their statistical advantage.


Well, the Cubs won the Central.

And with Prior, Wood, and Zambrano, and a decent bullpen to back them up, they could go very very far. (What would the sound of a million baseball traditionalists simultaneously coming in their pants over a Cubs-Red Sox World Series sound like?)

I picked the Cubs to win the Wild Card back in the pre-season, thinking the Jeff Kent energized Astros would run away with that division. And I know the Astros have had some bad luck--namely losing their ace (and my pre-season Cy Young pick) Roy Oswalt. And it's not just losing Oswalt. Like the Red Sox last year, the Astros will finish the year with the best ExW-L in their division (94-67--8 games better than their actual record, tied for the worst discrepancy in baseball this year), and still not make it to the postseason. Maybe that's just more bad luck, and out of Jimy's hands, too. But I still think the Astros should have one that division easily had Jimy made one simple decision: play Morgan Ensberg everyday.

Ensberg got the start today against the righty, a rare move for Jimy, and he came through with a single and a homer (2 for 4). But it was too little too late--and not just because the Astros lost today. Astros' post-season hopes shouldn't have come down to the last weekend of the regular season.

Is there anything about this line .263/.297/.380 that makes you think it's worth wasting 447 PA? It's a little better against righties (.279/.310/.409), but that's hardly awe inspiring. Yet Jimy Williams not only continued to give the unfortunate owner of those lines, Geoff Blum, regular playing time, he routinely sat one of his best hitters to to it.

Morgan Ensberg had a tough rookie campaign last year, and maybe Jimy isn't convinced he's got heart. But the "kid" (he's 28) proved he can rake: .288/.375/.524 this year in 427 PA. Jimy clearly tried to play the splits, but if he's Lance Berkman against lefties (.313/.427/.594), he's still Kevin Millar against righties (.280/.356/.500). Ensberg's even better with the glove than Blum (higher ZR and RF despite identical fielding percentages).

Granted, there's nothing to prove that Ensberg would have continued his hot hitting had he been given another 200 or so PA (although he did hit .299/.400/.510 in AAA and .300/.416/.545 in AA which to me suggests his numbers this year weren't the victim of the sample size gremlin). And in fairness, Ensberg did struggle a bit after the All-Star break (.790 OPS in July, .732 in August), but even struggling Ensberg is better than Blum (.679 OPS in July, .604 in August).

Intuitively, I've got to think playing splitting their playing time in half cost the Astros three or four games.

Let's see what the numbers say. Despite their near equal playing time, Win Shares credits Ensberg with 15 WS, and Blum with 5 WS. Guestimating, a full season of Ensberg is probably worth another 7 or 8 WS (150% playing time = 150% WS?), and Blum's playing time would be cut in half (he also subbed at 2B when Kent was injured and also provided a little pop at SS), for a total of 25 WS between the two of them.

Conservatively, that's at least a game. Maybe two.

And would mean the Astros would at least still be alive to fight for a playoff spot tomorrow.

Where's Dierker when you need him?

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