Blue Jays report card for May 2003: Part I, Hitting

Sunday, June 01 2003 @ 10:18 AM EDT

Contributed by: Dave Till

I enjoy doing monthly report cards, so here's one for the Jays' hitters for May.

Writing this is about as much fun as one can have with one's clothes on, as the Jays basically kicked ass and took names all month. By the end of the month, Mike Wilner, who is more cynical on the air than any other Jays radio talking head in history, was basically reduced to helpless awe. As was I. By my count, they scored 193 runs in the month, or 6.65 runs a game (in other words, the entire American League was turned into one giant Jeff Tam). They were only held to two runs or less four times in May - and three of those were against the White Sox.

Figures shown are OBP, SLG, AVG, and are taken from MLB's official web site. I can't vouch for their accuracy, but I'm too lazy to do the darn things by hand.

Dave Berg, 2B/3B
.325 .389 .250
Actually had a fairly ordinary month, striking out in one-fourth of his at-bats. But his value has not changed - he'll play anywhere you put him, and he hits better than the average team's 25th man. Will become very useful over the next few weeks while Hinske is on the shelf. Is the very model of the Gritty Middle Infielder (sounds like a Gilbert and Sullivan song, doesn't it?), complete with jutting chin.
Grade: B-

Mike Bordick, 3B/SS
.296 .373 .255
Wow - I thought he was hitting better than that, given how highly he's been praised. Brings exactly the same skills to the table that Berg does, and hits a little better than most teams' backup shortstops. (Often, that's how you win: just be a little bit better than the guy next to you.) Hit one double, one triple, and one home run in May. The Jays' team defense improved a lot this month, and Bordick deserves a lot of the credit for that.
Grade: C

Frank Catalanotto, RF/LF
.345 .534 .291
Is starting to draw more walks, now that pitchers are pitching to him a bit more cautiously. Whacks the baseball all over the yard, seemingly at will. Has roughly the same offensive skills as Ichiro!, but without the thousands of Japanese media personnel following him around and asking him what he ate for breakfast this morning.
Grade: A

Howie Clark, IF
Wears his socks high. Will only play when both Berg and Bordick are too pooped to play third, or when Carlos Tosca wants to intimidate opponents by deploying batters wearing high socks.
Grade: Insufficient Data

Carlos Delgado, 1B
.414 .626 .299
His OPS this month was 1.040 - which is off more than 100 points from last month. In other words, he's declined from otherworldly to merely awesome. Now content to occasionally punt the ball into left field and wait for the next guy up to drive him in. His May stats, projected over a whole season, would run to roughly 60 doubles and 45 home runs. You might want to back up and re-read those numbers, just to let them sink in. If this man does not start the All-Star Game, a Congressional Inquiry will be called for.
Grade: A+

Eric Hinske, 3B
.324 .351 .211
Aha! Now we know what the problem was! Hinske has been criticized for, essentially, being too stupid to realize that he shouldn't be playing - but, if you have a high pain threshold, it's hard to tell whether an injury is just something that will clear up in a day or two, or is something more major. (I speak from personal experience: I have a relatively high pain threshold too, and once went to work not realizing that I had a badly pulled muscle in my lower back.) I don't think we need to worry about him - if a player can be up among the league leaders in doubles while playing with a broken bone, chances are that he'll probably earn his salary in the long run.
Grade: C-, plus a Get Well Soon card

Orlando Hudson, 2B
.380 .473 .330
I don't know exactly when it happened, but have you noticed that nobody talks about trading the O-Dog anymore, or questions whether he fits into the team? Hudson hustles on every play, his defense has improved, and he's hitting with much more confidence. One of the reasons that the Jays have done so well is that they have no holes in their lineup: most teams have one regular middle infielder with no power and a cruddy OBP, whereas everybody in the Jays' lineup is at least average.
Grade: A

Reed Johnson, RF
.400 .514 .314
It's way too early to tell, but if Johnson keeps this up, the Jays might be able to trade Stewart for pitching and play to win this year too. I suspect that enemy pitchers haven't found the holes in Johnson's swing yet, but until they do, he's basically "Catalanotto II: This Time, It's Personal". May the search for holes be a long and frustrating one. Also has been known to wear his socks high, thus providing a vital intimidation factor.
Grade: A (would be A+ if the sample size was larger)

Greg Myers, C
.426 .639 .361
I'm convinced that aliens are among us - beings with powers far beyond our mortal comprehension. Every now and again, for kicks, an alien takes over a major league player's body, and takes his captive's game to unimaginable heights. There is no other explanation for why Myers has suddenly started outhitting Delgado. Eventually, the alien will return to the star system from whence it came, and Myers will go back to being a sort of okay hitter. Either that, or Mike Barnett deserves a raise, bigtime.
Grade: A+ (with the Close Encounters theme playing in the background)

Josh Phelps, DH
.327 .406 .260
Aaa-ooo-gaaa! Aaa-ooo-gaaa! Danger, danger: Phelps's walk rate is down, and his strikeout rate is up. You don't need to have the baseball acumen of Billy Beane to know that this is a warning sign. Still is a useful hitter, as pitchers tread carefully around him - they know that if they put one in the wrong zone, he'll crush it. You have to feel for him: he's battling both the sophomore jinx and the Cover of Baseball Prospectus Curse. That's a lot of powerful mojo to overcome.
Grade: B-

Shannon Stewart, LF
.349 .484 .295
Was having a typical Shannon Stewart year before his hamstrings started going boing. Mind you, that's part of a typical Shannon Stewart year, isn't it? Think of it: each hamstring pull will cost him at least a million dollars on the free-agent market. Yow.
Grade: A-

Vernon Wells, CF
.353 .569 .317
Right now, the only difference between this man and Carlos Delgado is about ten walks a month. Oh yeah - and Wells is much younger, and plays centre field like Devon White. (Though I think he won't retain his CF skills as long as Devo did - he's got too wide a body for that.) He's getting better in a hurry, and the Jays have him locked up until 2007. That brought a smile to your face, I'll bet. If he takes two more steps forward with the bat, and stays at that level for a few years, he could very well have a Hall of Fame career. (Now there's a prediction nobody's made yet, and I want to be the first!) Only struck out nine times all month - how many players have nearly twice as many extra-base hits as strikeouts?
Grade: A+

Jayson Werth, RF
.300 .700 .300
Actually hit .300 with power in his 20 at-bats in May. But he drew no walks - and if you draw no walks in J.P.'s Brave New World, it's time for you to explore the scenic beauty of the upstate New York region (specifically, Syracuse). Werth needs to play every day, and the Jays need to find out whether he will be one of the outfielders of the future, or whether he needs to be cleaned out to make room for one or more of the cast of They Came From New Haven. Right now, I'd bet on Rios and Gross passing him.
Grade: Deferred

Tom Wilson, C
.361 .474 .333
And to think that, back in the spring, some people were seriously suggesting that the Jays' catchers were just keeping the seat warm until Kevin Cash arrived. May have earned himself a job for several years - once he is dislodged from his current platoon catcher role, he can help the Jays (or someone) as a bat off the bench. I'm impressed - most long-time minor leaguers lapse into mediocrity their second time through the league, and Wilson is getting better. Only drew three walks all month, mostly because he was finding good pitches to hit and whacking them; this implies that he's made an adjustment, and the league is still trying to get him out the old way.
Grade: A

Chris Woodward, SS
.337 .423 .308
Had a similar month to Wilson, only on a slightly smaller scale - walks went down, batting average went way up, OBP went up slightly. Because everybody's hitting, everybody's getting better pitches to hit, as punch-drunk pitchers start serving up meatballs. This won't last forever, but it's sure fun while it lasts. Like Hudson, Woody has pretty much eliminated all doubts about his ability to hold his job.
Grade: A-

Next up: the pitchers.