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I spent the weekend watching the Mariners play like, well, the Mariners, and I also had a brief glimpse of the Roger Clemens/Kerry Wood match-up Saturday. All I can say about Clemens being denied his 300th is this pulchritudinous platitude: Boo-hoo

Some years ago Joe Sheehan, among others, used the expression "Free Erubiel" to describe Erubiel Durazo's plight at being stuck on the bench in Arizona. Aaron Gleeman has played with this as well, with his Bobby Kielty and Johan Santana liberation watch. In the spirit of liberation, I present these two players:

Player A (BA, OBP, Slug)

.344/.448/.670, 103 at-bats, ten home runs

Player B (BA, OBP, Slug)

.264/.307/.402, 174 at-bats, five home runs

Player A is Morgan Ensberg, Houston's occasional third baseman and a fellow University of Southern California alum. Player B is Geoff Blum, Houston's more occasional third baseman and a UC Berkeley alum. Simply put, Ensberg has been killing the ball, while Blum has been, well, Blum. Ensberg is hitting home runs, he's getting pinch-hits, and he's drawing walks. He's even got two steals. He has no obvious shortcomings, right now, with the possible significant exception that he is not Geoff Blum, who Jimy Williams is absolutely obsessed with -- though not as infatuated as Dusty Baker is with Lenny Harris in Chicago.

Given that Ensberg had been getting so much PT, it looked like even Williams couldn't keep him out of the lineup. But, after clubbing five home runs in seven games, Ensberg went 0-3 -- with a walk -- in Saturday's win against Tampa Bay. This was a good test for Williams; if Ensberg was now the man, he'd start Sunday despite his one-game "slump." If Williams was looking for an excuse to get Blum in there, here it was, in the form of an isolated 0-3. Naturally Blum trotted out to third base on Sunday. Blum is a switch-hitter who can play anywhere in the infield, so he has obvious value to any team, but some of these managerial decisions defy belief

No liberation issues present in this one, but here is one more player comparison:

Player A

2000: .265/.367/.435, 230 at-bats
2001: .245/.332/.345, 278 at-bats
2002: .280/.374/.433, 496 at-bats
2003: .262/.346/.362, 210 at-bats

Player B

2000: .259/.364/.498, 259 at-bats
2001: .314/.374/.557, 449 at-bats
2002: .306/.371/.509, 438 at-bats
2003: .303/.360/.511, 181 at-bats

One of these players has had a chapter in a book written about him, the other belongs to one of the particularly dark chapters of the 1994-1995 strike. Player A, of course, is Scott Hatteberg, of recent Moneyball fame, while Player B is Kevin Millar, of replacement player infamy. Millar devoured the Brewers over the weekend, and, as I was flipping through my Baseball Prospectus, I came across Millar's entry. Here's what BP says about him: "Millar will play anywhere and get his uniform nice and dirty, but confusing willingness and competence would be a mistake."

Meanwhile, here's a fragment about Hatteberg: "A fantastic low-risk, low-cost acquisition, much like this off-season's pickup of Mitch Meluskey." Meluskey's been released, but that's not the story. If Old School GMs have a blind spot for Kevin Young, Randall Simon, Marquis Grissom, et al, then New School analysts and stat freaks have a blind spot for the Athletics. As I say in my latest ESPN column, Hatteberg's value to the A's rests in his ability to work the count and get on base. But that has its limits, and even the most strident A's worshippers would encounter jagged rocks trying to claim that Hatteberg has been "competent" this year. Try to imagine, if you can, the reaction from the New School if the Brewers had a first baseman with a .362 slugging percentage. Apparently BP has a unique definition of "competence," because if Millar has been incompetent -- and they're not just talking about Millar's defense -- what does that say about Hatteberg? Or, in a turn of the screw, if Hatteberg was a "fantastic" pick-up, what does that say about Millar?

In an earlier thread here at Da Box, someone posited, in so many words, that Carlos Tosca tossed out the idea of a four-man rotation to gauge public -- the non-ZLC fans and the media -- reaction. (And the reaction of his pitchers, naturally.) A diverse focus group, if you will. This is genius, folks. Float a suggestion in the press, then see what the public -- especially the public -- thinks. Then immediately do the exact opposite, a la George Costanza, and voila! The pennant will follow. Beat writers and Joe Fan think it's a good idea to trade Escobar? Better keep Escobar. Beat writers and Joe Fan think a four-man rotation is dangerous and stupid? Better implement a four-man rotation. My mom likes the shirt I'm wearing? Better go shopping. Right now.
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Coach - Monday, June 09 2003 @ 09:50 AM EDT (#100564) #
Gitz, your shirt looks fine to me.

The Hatteberg/Millar comparison doesn't include their salaries, or money paid to Japanese clubs for breaking contracts. That doesn't alter the difference in production, but any discussion of the A's and Red Sox' personnel decisions shouldn't overlook the slight payroll disparity.

Yesterday's interleague doubleheaders involving the AL West teams were kind of interesting. The A's lost twice, by a combined 15-4 count, to a pretty good Phillies club, while the M's thrashed the New York Mess with a 20-1 aggregate score. The inequity doesn't get any better; as I've complained elsewhere, Oakland gets six against the Giants while Seattle faces the lowly Padres. It's quite likely that will be too big a handicap for Beane's boys to overcome in the division, and it may even affect the wild card race.
robertdudek - Monday, June 09 2003 @ 12:04 PM EDT (#100565) #
I think Millar is a significantly better hitter than Hatteberg, not quite as good as Durazo but pretty close. Both players have very limited defensive usefulness.

Millar, Ortiz and Little G give the Sox 3 players for 2 positions (DH/1B). Playing any of the 3 in the outfield on a regular basis is not going to be a serious defensive handicap (perhaps Millar in for Manny wouldn't do any harm, but then Manny would DH).

At this point Millar has proven he's the best of the three, and that means Ortiz and Giambi will have to share the DH job (with occasional starts at first when Millar gets a day off).

I like the Red Sox offense a lot; I think they're going to pass the Jays and score the most runs in baseball this year. Their playoff hopes then depend on how many innings they can get from Pedro and how Lowe does in his second season as a starter.

I'd hate to face the Red Sox in a short series if Pedro is healthy.
_Joe C. - Monday, June 09 2003 @ 08:32 PM EDT (#100566) #
Coach----
Seattle and Oakland have played the exact same schedule thus far. All the same teams, the same amount of times. The Mariners swept the "pretty good Phillies club," over three games (including defeating Millwood) while the A's were not exactly killing the Mets. When the Mariners left for their 12 game road trip (longest in their history) they were up by 2 games. They return home now with an 8 game lead. There has been no disparity thus far, and no reason to cry foul at all thus far. I do agree that the Padres-M's is not the same as the A's-Giants, but what can the M's do about it. The unbalanced schedule messes up the Wild Card as well, even without the interleague games. So disparities are all around. Get rid of the unbalanced schedule and interleague, the novelties have worn off. How many fans do you think jump for joy in Seattle at seeing the Padres on the home schedule year after year?
_Lefty - Monday, June 09 2003 @ 11:13 PM EDT (#100567) #
(In an earlier thread here at Da Box, someone posited, in so many words, that Carlos Tosca tossed out the idea of a four-man rotation to gauge public -- the non-ZLC fans and the media -- reaction. (And the reaction of his pitchers, naturally.) A diverse focus group, if you will. This is genius, folks. Float a suggestion in the press, then see what the public -- especially the public -- thinks. Then immediately do the exact opposite, a la George Costanza, and voila! The pennant will follow. Beat writers and Joe Fan think it's a good idea to trade Escobar? Better keep Escobar. Beat writers and Joe Fan think a four-man rotation is dangerous and stupid? Better implement a four-man rotation. My mom likes the shirt I'm wearing? Better go shopping. Right now.)

I think that was me JMG. Most of my postings either draw no reaction or scorn, ridicule is a really nice change.
Gitz - Tuesday, June 10 2003 @ 12:33 AM EDT (#100568) #
Coach, Millar (he earns $2 million, according to ESPN) could have been signed, but the A's chose to sign Chris Singleton to a two-year/$4 million deal instead, despite having Eric Byrnes, who was never given a chance to prove himself until this year. Is he a .330 hitter? Of course not. But he can play a passable center, he'll take a walk, plus he brings those dreaded intangibles.
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