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Speaking of budding dynasties, or at least columns about them, my latest A’s garbage is up. With all due respect to the up-and-coming Blue Jays, they can’t match the A’s dynamite 1-2-3 punch at the top of the rotation, so I give J.P.’s former boys the slight edge in the next few years. Soon after I finished gibber-gabbering, I also checked out, once again, Gary Huckaby’s Hot Stove Heater for the Athletics, and I took another look at his projected batting order.

2B Mark Ellis
1B Scott Hatteberg
SS Miguel Tejada
DH Erubiel Durazo
RF Jermaine Dye
3B Eric Chavez
LF Terrence Long
CF Chris Singleton
C Mark Johnson/Ramon Hernandez

In addition to how legitimately awful the back end of the order is, what jumps out is why Eric Chavez, a proven stud who is still improving (assuming he amps up his walk rate), would hit sixth and why Erubiel Durazo, who has yet to play a full season in the majors, would hit fourth. Durazo certainly has clean-up-hitter makeup, but maybe Huckaby thought Art Howe was still the skipper, because this is exactly the kind of thing Howe would do: not put pressure on Chavez to be “the man.” Chavez is entering his fifth season in the majors; if he’s not going to be ready this year, he’ll never be. He’s earned the right to hit fourth, and I think Huckaby made, for a BP guy, a rare mistake. At any rate, I started wondering about the topic: is batting order important? (Rob Neyer, among others, has done more exhaustive examinations of this topic.) Maybe it’s the dinosaur in me, but I think it is. Though I’m mainly using the A’s in this minor example, don’t worry: there’s a Toronto link to all this. (Here’s a hint.)

Last year I was frustrated with Howe for his insistence on hitting Scott Hatteberg third for nearly two months while the A’s languished around the .500 mark. Finally, Howe came to his senses, and the A’s offense finally got going with the confluence of Miguel Tejada hitting third, Jermaine Dye finding his stroke and the acquisition of Ray Durham. Hatteberg then fell into the #2 hole, and, despite playing 136 games and getting on base at a nice .374 clip, he managed to score only 58 runs—and 15 of those came on his home runs. Herein lies my sole complaint with sabermetric clubs like the A’s: their dependence on home runs. (An ancillary complaint is that, while effective on the whole, there’s a lot of standing around and little action, like a Merchant-Ivory film.)

The Yankees have built their dynasty with more than dollars; they’ve done it by adopting the power and patience model, but they’ve also done it with people who can run. Not necessarily steal, but who can run. The A’s have two people who can generally be called “fast”: Eric Byrnes and Chris Singleton. Problem is, Byrnes is stuck behind Terrence Long, who is terrible, and Singleton is, well, terrible himself; if his OBP is .300, the A’s will be lucky. Mark Ellis, while not exactly fast, is not as slow as Hatteberg, but his presence in the lead-off slot—he would make an ideal number-two hitter—means Hatteberg will continue to clog the basepaths from the two-hole. Fortunately, I’ve found a solution right here in Toronto, and if you followed the link above you already know the answer: Shannon Stewart. The A’s need a right-handed hitter desperately, and since they are loath to give Byrnes a full-time job, Stewart, despite his health problems, would be an immediate upgrade over Long. Not to be a talk-show caller here—“I think the Jays should trade Kelvim Escobar for Jason Giambi and Nick Johnson and Jeff Weaver”—but if the A’s got Stewart then I’d revamp the lineup like this:


Now THAT’s a lineup that will score some runs, assuming Durazo can stay healthy and get on base at his expected .400 clip. I don’t have the numbers to back this up—that is, I’m too lazy to research them—but I imagine there were many times last year when Tejada or Chavez or Dye smoked a double to the alleys, only to have Hatteberg get stuck and eventually die at third because of his speed, or, more precisely, his lack of it. Stewart is not as fast he once was, but he’s certainly faster than Hatteberg or Ellis, and he gets on base as much or more; and with three guys at the top of the lineup with OBPs of .370 or higher (projecting Ellis’), Tejada and Chavez could knock in 130 runs each. Now, Durazo is actually slower than Hatteberg, so there is the risk of him clogging up the bases; but it is a risk I will take, assuming they acquire someone like Stewart, because the A’s are going to miss Durham more than they think, and because batting order does matter.

Getting Stewart is a fantasy, of course; the A’s can’t afford him unless they move more payroll, which is unlikely, since T-Long is the only player the A’s would be willing to deal. And J.P. may be grateful to his mentor, Mr. Beane, but nobody is that charitable. On the other hand, isn’t it about time J.P. repaid his old friends here in the Bay Area? Now, I wouldn’t want you friendly Canadians to suffer from an excess of Terrence Long, but some prospects would be acceptable, no? After all, the Jays get a stud like Hinske and the A’s get Kardiac Koch? Where’s the love, J.P.?
The importance of being (an) Earnest (clean-up hitter), or why I hate writing headlines | 30 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Coach - Monday, January 20 2003 @ 04:05 PM EST (#98712) #
John broke my blog! I don't know what happened; there were so many strange problems with Entry 179, JMG's first attempt to add this piece, that I ended up deleting it and re-posting. Thanks for the nice Batter's Box plug in your column, Gitz; we are glad to have you even if it involves extra tech support for my "staff".

I'm not sold on Durazo as an everyday 3-4 hitter; is there any evidence he can hit lefties? He's also one of those guys who can get injured brushing his teeth, it seems. The only way I can see Stewart ending up in Oakland is to get another team involved, one dumb enough to actually want T-Long. (Hello, Allard?) But if Rich Harden comes to Toronto, tell Beane we're open to suggestions...
Gitz - Monday, January 20 2003 @ 04:12 PM EST (#98713) #
Yeah, I agree with your assessment of Durazo, and have said as such, at the peril of drawing the wrath of the A's fans, during my first few posts of the year. Frankly, I think he's going to be a huge flop, but, in theory, he would be a hell of a middle-of-the-order type if he lives up the hype.

My suspicion is that even Allard Baird won't take Long, and that the A's will have to, regrettably, eat T-Long's salary. I am not really an A's fan, and I'm unemploy(able)ed, but I would donate $5 to the cause.
Dave Till - Monday, January 20 2003 @ 04:16 PM EST (#98714) #
After looking at the original A's batting order (the one without Stewart in it), my first thought is that it's not exactly a threatening bunch of bats. Tejada is great, Chavez is very good, Durazo will probably be good; after that, you've got a bunch of guys who are sort of OK, and a couple of major holes.

Of course, with the A's starting rotation, you won't need to score a lot of runs. Perhaps the way to win these days is to start by building a starting rotation, and then assembling an offense consisting of a couple of stars and a bunch of bit parts. Call it the Atlanta model.
_R Billie - Monday, January 20 2003 @ 04:49 PM EST (#98715) #
Well let's face it, the A's success depends on their starters and Beane's ability to continue to cobble together good bullpens for minimal dollars. I'm not sure that there's a rotation in baseball that's as good as Hudson, Zito, Mulder, Lilly, and Harang. You back those guys up with Foulke, Rincon, Mecir, and Bradford and it almost doesn't matter that the A's may not much more than 800 runs. If they A's can get a good righty bat to compliment Durazo and/or Long, they won't exactly be pushovers.

All things being equal, I prefer a guy who can hit and run like Stewart, but these guys also tend to ask for $7.5 million in arbitration.

For Toronto, it may be a while before they can boast a strong, stable rotation. However, an effective bullpen and good offence can go a long way towards hiding defficiencies in the starting rotation (just ask the Cleveland teams pre-2002). It doesn't mean post-season success or even making the post-season, but you have to walk before you can run...I don't think there's necessarily a "right" approach. The Jays won the World Series with both a pitching heavy approach (1992) and a line up worthy of nightmares (1993).
_Matthew Elmslie - Monday, January 20 2003 @ 04:58 PM EST (#98716) #
Not only that, but you can fake a bullpen. Any competent GM should be able to take a shoebox of cigarette butts and paper clips and put together a reasonable relief pitching corps. I've read quite a few comments on this or that board from people who are worried about the Toronto bullpen, and I just don't see it. The Jays have a big stack of plausible arms behind Escobar and Politte and that's really all you need. It's really the starting pitching that's the rate-determining step.
_Gwyn - Monday, January 20 2003 @ 05:26 PM EST (#98717) #
I wonder whether the A's would hit Durazo fourth too. Durazo is a bit of a BP poster boy though so maybe Huckaby is just projecting where he would want him to hit, rather than where he will actually end up.
_Chuck Van Den C - Monday, January 20 2003 @ 07:25 PM EST (#98718) #
What I'd like to know is this. Why wouldn't the A's pony up a bit more cash and make Jose Cruz their CF rather than Singleton? What Cruz gives up defensively he should more than make up offensively.

I'm a fan of Billy Beane's just like everyone else, but having Long and Singleton form two thirds of your outfield is nothing to brag about.
_R Billie - Tuesday, January 21 2003 @ 01:37 AM EST (#98719) #
I honestly thought the A's would be interested in Cruz but I guess the dollars just never worked out correctly. Either that or the A's really feel that Rontrez Johnson can win the job and do it for minimal dollars.
Gitz - Tuesday, January 21 2003 @ 02:44 AM EST (#98720) #
Cruz would have been a nice fit, but the A's wanted to upgrade their defense in CF and, believe me, if you saw Long out there every day, or even one day, you'd know why. The A's aren't concerned about their offense right now; if it needs a kick-start in June or July, Beane will get someone. It's what he does.
_jason - Tuesday, January 21 2003 @ 05:07 AM EST (#98721) #
I also thought the Giants would be interested in Cruz to play CF and/or RF for them. I heard they still have to dump salary though.
_jason - Tuesday, January 21 2003 @ 05:09 AM EST (#98722) #
I think the other problem with the sabernetics approach to baseball is that it may result in a great regular season record, but it seems to be clubs that put the ball in play ala the Angels and Yankees(from a couple years ago) that succeed in short playoff series.
_Jordan - Tuesday, January 21 2003 @ 08:34 AM EST (#98723) #
I don't have anything to add to this thread other than the fact that by coincidence, we rented The Importance of Being Earnest over the weekend, and it was terrific. My wife got to watch Colin Firth and I got to watch Reese Witherspoon, so everyone came away happy. Also, Judi Dench rocks.
Craig B - Tuesday, January 21 2003 @ 09:16 AM EST (#98724) #
Jason, I think you've been bedevilled by a few isolated samples and a lot of media foofaraw about the reasons Angels' success. The reason the Angels won had very little to do with putting the ball in play and a lot with hitting 24 home runs in the postseason.

Their World Series counterparts, the Giants, were the exact opposite to a "balls in play" team... lots of walks, tons of strikeouts, tons of home runs. They went 10-7 in the postseason and took the WS to Game 7... certainly a successful playoff.

The 1998-2000 Yankees didn't really have a "balls in play" offense either. The 2000 team was fourth in the AL in walks and sixth in home runs but only sixth in batting average and eighth in doubles. The '99 team was third in walks and tied for third in batting average. The '98 team was first in walks and second in batting average, fourth in home runs but only 11th in doubles.

The '98 team in particular had a very mixed offense... two low-average, high-walk, low-power players in Curtis and Knoblauch, the sort of guys who make great #9 hitters in the AL. Two low-average, high-walk, high-power sluggers (classic #5 hitters) in Posada and Strawberry. A very balanced hitter in Tino Martinez, three high-average, moderate-power #3-type hitters in Jeter, Brosius and O'Neill, and finally an MVP-type all-around offensive superstar in Bernie Williams. It was a season of terrific offenses, but the Yankees scored almost a run per game better than average.
_R Billie - Tuesday, January 21 2003 @ 10:55 AM EST (#98725) #
One can argue that the Giants should have won the series in (I think) Game 6 when Worell came in to pitch the 8th instead of bringing in Nen to close out two innings; the most extreme example of pampering a one-inning closer I've ever seen. Would it have killed Nen to pitch two innings that day? Even if the game was blown he could still have pitched an inning or two the next game as it was the end of the season.

After seeing that (and a similar situation with Percival in Game 1) it further strengthened the theory for me that the manager almost doesn't matter if they can have success in the long term despite such boneheaded decisions.
Gitz - Tuesday, January 21 2003 @ 01:47 PM EST (#98726) #
Jordan, did you know Colin Firth has a collection of short stories? I picked the book up one day, and, while I didn't buy it, the stories were good.

So Firth is good-looking, a talented actor in a Byronic sort of way (he was outstanding as Darcy in A&E's production of Pride and Prejudice), and he can write. It's just not fair.
_Marshall - Tuesday, January 21 2003 @ 03:19 PM EST (#98727) #
Regarding Nen and game 6 of the Series, I think I remember hearing rumors at the end of the season last year (before the playoffs) that his velocity had dropped and that the Giants were concerned about his shoulder and that they didn't want to overwork him. The Giants didn't lose the Series because of Worrell, they lost because of poor decisions by Baker and poor defense, especially in the OF with Bonds and Lofton having numerous bobbles and drops where the agressive Angels baserunners ended up scoring. Speaking of Lofton, is there anyone in baseball history who has gone from being a highlight-film center fielder to a defensive liability in such a short time?

Coach - Tuesday, January 21 2003 @ 03:25 PM EST (#98728) #
Jason's got courage, to question the sabrmetric gospel around here, but as Craig pointed out before, we're very polite, even when we disagree. Obviously, a short series can be won for the "wrong" reasons, but that's no excuse to build your team randomly.

This thread, which I'm finally getting around to, is full of gems:

the manager almost doesn't matter if they can have success in the long term despite such boneheaded decisions

Should this become known as the Bob Brenly Theorem?

Chuck says "having Long and Singleton form two thirds of your outfield is nothing to brag about" and Dave compared the A's to the Atlanta model. Now please don't get all over me for putting Beane and Scheurholz in the same sentence, but (especially after the panicky Millwood trade) more people are finally questioning whether the Braves dynasty was a result of the GM's genius, or just the good fortune of having Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz together so long. I'm just saying that Beane, who does deserve his rep, can only benefit from the Zito-Hudson-Mulder coincidence, and has been given plenty of immunity on John F. Mabry and 2/3 of his current OF. Not much public complaining about his catcher, either, because they keep winning 100 games.

The Atlanta-Oakland comparison is valid (both capable of sweeping a series of low-scoring games, both with some weak spots in the batting order) but while one dynasty may be crumbling at last, the other should remain strong. Beane's biggest decisions in the next few years will be who to keep among his soon-to-be-rich superstars (they can't afford Tejada, Chavez, and all three starters; I'm assuming Dye will have to go) and which prospects to target for whomever he decides to flip. If the A's are still competitive after the inevitable turnover, which began with Jason Giambi, Beane will prove what most of us suspect -- he's in a different league from the vast majority of his peers.

You can call me a Ricciardi apologist, but I've given him a pass on Brian Cooper (just a name so they could call the Fullmer dump a trade) and Luke Prokopec (he and Chad Ricketts both needed surgery; not quite Sirotka-gate, but terrible luck) and Felix Heredia (I'm sure the Cubs weren't that keen on A-Gone and wanted to swap problems) so I don't think J.P.'s made his first bad deal yet, and he's made lots of good ones. Give him time; among all these very reasonable moves, sooner or later he'll come up with a Long or a Singleton.
_J.P. - Tuesday, January 21 2003 @ 03:44 PM EST (#98729) #
... sooner or later he'll come up with a Long...

Don't you guys remember, it was I who advised Billy to bring over Long?!!
_DS - Tuesday, January 21 2003 @ 04:29 PM EST (#98730) #
Maybe JP, but you didn't advise Billy to sign him to a long term deal. He was useful when he was a bargain, now he's just lineup filler with a hefty paycheck.
_Sean - Tuesday, January 21 2003 @ 05:31 PM EST (#98731) #
Gitz, Jordan,

Firth also had a fling with Jennifer Ehle. I am *so* jealous! :(
_jason - Wednesday, January 22 2003 @ 12:05 AM EST (#98732) #
I only questioned the sabrmetric approach in terms to its post-season effectiveness. I believe it is the best system for regular season success.

The Yankees tried to apply a sabremetric approach this past year, and while it is not the only reason for their elimination, they were soundly trounced by the Angels. And the A's were eliminated by a very un-sabremetric team in the Twins. I wonder if the Angels propenscity for HRs this past post-season had as much to do with their tenacity at the plate, dragging at-bats out and wearing pitchers down, as it had to do with anything else. Because certainly during the regular season they didn't display a tremendous amount of power. (And so they had 24 hrs in the post-season but wasnt that over like 17 games? Thats about 1.4 homers a game which doesnt seem that overwhelming to me.)

But to paraphrase Tommy Lasorda, the post-season is about bullpens. And utlimately thats what lead to the Giants and A's defeat and the Angels and Twins post-season success.
Coach - Wednesday, January 22 2003 @ 08:04 AM EST (#98733) #
A's were eliminated by a very un-sabremetric team in the Twins

Two reasons: a five game series, with days off between games, while not quite meaningless, isn't a fair test. More significantly, Art Howe forgot that the Twins are vulnerable to lefties, and he had two of the best at his disposal.

If anyone could explain to me what possible reason Howe had to start Barry Zito against the Rangers, so that he would get just one postseason start against a team that managed a .196 AVG off him during the season, I would be grateful, and surprised. Howe -- did you notice he no longer works there? -- could have gone Zito-Mulder-Hudson-Zito-Mulder, and there would have been a great Angels-A's ALCS; maybe even another cross-bay Series.

Bullpens are certainly critical in the postseason, but there's no way to "build" one that's guaranteed to be effective in October. You need good luck in the health department, the guys you're counting on have to rise to the occasion, and it never hurts to have a phee-nom like Frankie R. show up on the scene in the nick of time.

There's no right or wrong answers, and your observations are valid, Jason, but I disagree that the "smart" teams (Oakland, NY, Toronto under J.P. and now Boston) have, or will, hit a wall because they're not made for playoff baseball. The Yankees met a buzzsaw, but the fact is, they didn't pitch like they usually do. The A's were shot in the foot by their own skipper. In addition to assembling a high-OBP attack, the Jays have opted for "character" guys over pouters and whiners, so when they get back to the playoffs, perhaps as soon as 2004, I like the mix of sabrmetric logic with dreaded intangibles, both epitomized by Eric Hinske.
_jason - Wednesday, January 22 2003 @ 03:35 PM EST (#98734) #
"...five game series, with days off between games, while not quite meaningless, isn't a fair test."

A fair test of what? I think its a fair test of how well a team can compete in a short post-season series. Maybe the A's would have beaten the Twins in a longer series but they weren't playing in a longer series. My whole contention all a long is that while the sabremetric approach is impressive during the regular season PERHAPS its not as effective in shorter 5-7 game series. I dont understand why a five game series is deemed any less or more unfair to the A's than to the Twins or Angels. Its just the nature of the post-season beast.

"Bullpens are certainly critical in the postseason, but there's no way to "build" one that's guaranteed to be effective in October."

I respectfully disagree with you here too, Coach. Minus Frankie R., the Angels had assembled a good bullpen in the regular season, Frankie was just a bonus. What about the great Blue Jays bullpens from the two WS teams? They seemed pretty well constructed and assembled to me. They didn't just come together in the post-season all of a sudden. The Yankees and their great bullpens from the last few years are a good example as well. Good regular season performers, and good performers multiple times in the playoffs. In fact, I surmise its easier to build a bullpen that's guaranteed to be effective in October than it is to build an offense that is. The team with the stronger bullpen in the WS almost always wins.
Gitz - Wednesday, January 22 2003 @ 08:52 PM EST (#98735) #
Coach, I'm not sure I would lump Boston into the "smart" category, at least not yet. While the hiring of both Bill James and Theo Epstein are courageous and bold steps, nothing can substitute for good solid scouting and a willingness to admit that using sabermetrics is just one approach to the process. I am speaking, of course, of my anti-poster boy for a sabermetric approach, Jeremy Giambi. Listen, this guys draws walks and he has some power; that much is clear. But he is NOT a major-league regular, and if anyone really watched him play they would see this.

1) His swing is geared toward hitting one pitch in a specific zone: low. If he guesses curveball, he'll hit it, as long as it's low.
2) He has a good eye, yes, but it is related to the above point; he is essentially looking for a pitch low, and if he doesn't get it, he doesn't swing. This could be called "selective," but true selective hitters can look for a pitch in any zone. Giambi cannot.
3) He is an absolutely miserable defensive player. With the signing of David Ortiz, he is now assured of playing left-field at least sometimes, and the only person more amusing in LF in Fenway would be Luis Polonia.
4) He has no baseball instincts to draw upon. I am convinced he will be out of the league in two years, if not sooner.

Twenty-eight other teams (excluding the A's and Phillies) could have had Giambi for nothing, twice, and yet they didn't offer anything more, and all it took from the Phillies was, as everyone knows and has talked about, John Mabry. And then Giambi couldn’t even beat out Travis Lee. Travis Lee!

Billy Beane took what he could get, because he knew Jeremy was a fraud, mainly kept around to lure Jason to stay. I find the comparison of Jeremy to Jason ludicrous, because while the statistics may look similar at particular points in Jason’s career, there is no comparison when you watch them hit. Walks and patience and power are nice, but it doesn’t mean anything if the player in question simply can’t play baseball—and why actually seeing players play is as important as ever. Now, I understand that the BP people can’t see everyone, but by now they have certainly seen Giambi, among others, and they are still selling their snake oil. It takes courage to posit a revolutionary way of thinking, and clearly the BP people are courageous and brilliant. However, part of courage also means admitting when you’re wrong—about such players like Giambi, Robert Fick, Billy McMillon, Mario Valdez and others who look fabulous on paper but who can’t, for a variety of reasons, actually play at the major league level.

And if Jeremy Giambi hits 35 home runs this year, you can point to me this link, and I will come clean.
robertdudek - Wednesday, January 22 2003 @ 11:05 PM EST (#98736) #
Are you saying that Jeremy Giambi, hitting like he did in 2002, is not a useful major league player? I don't understand why you would lump him in with guys like Valdez and McMillon, who have hardly played baseball at the major league level.
Gitz - Thursday, January 23 2003 @ 12:38 AM EST (#98737) #
That is not what I meant, and thank you for pointing it out.

I meant that I am tired of hearing how great Jeremy Giambi is going to be simply because his minor-league numbers say it will be so. While this is easily the best tool to measure future major-league success, it is not the only one. This is the third year in a row now that he's being hailed as a potential breakout player by statheads -- and I fit right into that category -- and I'm telling you: it's not going to happen.
Craig B - Thursday, January 23 2003 @ 08:57 AM EST (#98738) #
John, I think the breakout already happened.

Here's the list of guys who were better hitters last year than Jeremy Giambi (200 PA required):

C Jones
V Guerrero
Giambi Sr
E Martinez
B Williams

He missed being one of the top 20 hitters in the game by one place (this is done by Baseball Prospectus's "EqA" measure).

Among National Leaguers with 200+ PA in the NL, Little G was *fourth* in the league in EqA. Larry Bowa, of course, would prefer Larry Bowa to A-Rod, so Travis Lee got the time. But Little G is a terrific hitter.
Gitz - Thursday, January 23 2003 @ 01:19 PM EST (#98739) #
That's quite a list.

However, can you see a GM giving away any of those guys, like the A's and Phillies did? And are you saying Giambi deserves to be spoken in the same breath at those players? With the exception of Floyd, Palmeiro and Olerud, all of the guys above are either with their original or second organisation, and many of those players are in their 30s. Boston is already Jeremy's fourth team, and he isn't even 30.

Thus, my original thesis remains, despite the many good attempts by people on this to convince me otherwise: Giambi is massively overrated, stats and Larry Bowa's incompetence be damned. So there! (Until next time, that is ...)
Craig B - Thursday, January 23 2003 @ 09:29 PM EST (#98740) #
are you saying Giambi deserves to be spoken in the same breath at those players?

In short, no. Giambi is, for one, not nearly the defensive player that most of those on the list are. He has not has success as conistent as most of those players. He also may have been lucky.

But he did break out. He has become a very very good hitter. To me, there is no question of that.
Gitz - Friday, January 24 2003 @ 01:36 AM EST (#98741) #
Nothing new to add. Just wanted to break the tie between this and the "Cruz in" post ...
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