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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Pickoff Moves

Shooting Fish With Both Barrels

Lies They Tell In Spring Training Dep't:
Dodgers manager Grady Little said Friday the club's revamped roster will allow for a more aggressive running game, especially with veteran speedsters Rafael Furcal and Kenny Lofton hitting first and second, respectively.

"I think with the personnel we have assembled here, that will definitely be the case," Little said. "But we'll try to use good, common sense and do whatever is right in a particular situation. Guys who can run and guys who can steal a base are different things."

Kenny Lofton, speedy? Did I read that right? A guy who made only 201 putouts in center for the Phillies last year in 97 games, down from 420 in 143 for Cleveland in 1992, and whom PMR ranks as having significantly-below-average range? The guy who only stole 22 bases last year, down from a career high of 75? About the only thing in his favor is his 109 Rate2 score, which, amazingly, places him as a superior center fielder -- as good as Milton Bradley was last year. But I dunno. A guy about to turn 39 looks to me to be a guy whose wheels are gonna fall off, and if they're couting on him for speed, they could be counting too much on the wrong guy.

Memo To NL West Teams: Hit It To Right

... and always run on anything landing in front of Drew, because he's making scary noises about being 100% by the time the regular season starts (from the same article above):
"It's just a matter of getting the strength built up and not trying to overdo it in spring training," he said. "I'll just play it by ear. I have gone up to 150 feet just playing long-toss, but it's more of a high-arcing throw than a power throw. But we'll build on that as spring training progresses."
In Drew's case, the Dodgers should be grateful his wrist is still attached...

An Angels Conundrum

A brain-teaser for Mike Scioscia:
"The thing about Ersty is that when he gets on base he has a knack to create runs," Scioscia said. "Last year, if he would have stayed in the No. 2 spot, he'd have scored well over 100 runs."
Well, yeah, except that he wasn't producing enough to justify batting so high in the order. OBP. They're just three letters. Make them your friend, Mike. Maybe not all the time, but at least, maybe, at the top of the order?

Pinto Beans

Thanks to the Rev for posting David Pinto's positive analysis of the Angels' offseason:
I really like what the Angels did this winter. Very quietly, they got younger. Finley and Molina are gone, Kotchman and Mathis are going to be everyday players, and McPherson is looking to get significant playing time. That's three players 25 or under moving into the lineup. And if McPherson can play third, I suppose it's possible to get Erstad's bat out of the lineup with Figgins moving to center (although that may not be the best defensive alignment).

Bullet Dodged

How happy is Kevin Towers not to have Brian Lawrence on his squad now that he's torn his labrum and will miss half the season?

Erstad is certainly not the prototype #2 hitter, but I'd rather see him in this spot than OC again.
Or better, let's get a psychiatrist for Kennedy to remove his irrational fear of batting higher than 9th!
Actually, believe it or not, Scioscia's on the mark here. In 263 ABs out of the #2 spot last season, Erstad was bating .289 with a .358 OBP. 48 of his runs came out of the two-spot, as did 28 of his 47 walks. That does project to more than 100 runs over Erstad's 600+ ABs last year.

Which makes it all the stranger that Scioscia wants to retain Cabrera in the #2 spot, since he batted .262 with a .317 OBP out of that position (in 248 ABs) last season.
Actually, you're all wrong, Erstad should be hitting third. No, really.

If you take the Angels ALCS lineup (Figgins, OCab, Vlad, Anderson, Molina, Erstad, Rivera, Finley, Kennedy) and plug their 2005 numbers into Pinto's lineup generator, the best lineup is: Figgins, Vlad, Erstad, Rivera, Molina, Anderson, OCab, Finley, Kennedy. This lineup would give you 4.870 runs a game. In 15 of the 30 top lineups, Erstad hits third.
The reason why Erstad batting third gives you the best lineup? Beyond the Boxscore says:

"This was the biggest surprise: the 3 hitter should be the player that doesn't fit into any of the other spots. Every other spot has some significance, but if I were building a lineup, I would just put the leftover player in the 3 hole. This seemed very counterintuitive to me when I first heard it, but David Pinto noted, 'Part of what it's telling us is that you need to spread out your easy outs.' I still struggled to get this, but I'm starting to, now. Marc said something to the effect of 'the worst players have to go somewhere.' I guess this is really it; the other spots just have greater needs. If you can get a good hitter here, it means that your lineup is very deep."

I'm not denying that the reason that Erstad should bat third is because he's an easy out, but I'm still surprised that the 3 hole is better suited for Erstad than Vlad. It just seems totally counter-intuitive.
Torn labrum = 1/2 season??

Given the history for labrum tears, the upside is missing a year and coming back as Gil Meche. The downside .....
Well, we did see Orlando Palmeiro bat third every now and then when the Angels still had him, so....
I'm debating drafting JD Drew for fantasy, how unhealthy is he? Different from other years?
His latest injury was a broken wrist due to a hit by pitch. So it's a new one for the medical catalog for him. Supposedly, cadaver cartilage inserted into his knee in offseason surgery in 2003 fixed his recurring knee problems, but I dunno. Some guys are just magnets. If you can get him cheap, do it, but otherwise, forget it.

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