Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.

Posted by Ben K. on Thursday, January 22, 2004

The Beauty of a Triple, in a matter of speaking

As my oh-so-witty title suggests, I have three things for you all today. So without further ado, let me get started. Today marks the beginning of a new feature of the Talking Baseball blog. It's the part where I answer your e-mails. You see that link on the left of your screen? The one that says e-mail TalkingBaseball (a) hotmail.com? Well, that's where our readers, all 328 of you up to 1:10 a.m. on Thursday, January 22, 2004, should be e-mailing us. So opening our inbox, I see...hmmm...one message from Dave checking to make sure that the e-mail account was working properly, and nothing else. So I'm going to answer the e-mail.

Dave, yes, indeed, our e-mail address is working. No need to worry, my friend.

Phew, I'm glad I got that one off my chest. Seriously, dear reader, we want to hear from you. E-mail us your thoughts on how we're doing so far. Do you agree with us? Do you disagree? Do you like our four-man rotation? I know J.P. would; the Blue Jays pitchers, as they showed last spring, wouldn't be so keen on it. Furthermore, send us any topics you want us to tackle. We're certainly open to suggestions. We know you're out there, and we want to start hearing from you. Now on to the baseball...

Age before beauty, or baseball's Energizer battery finally stops

Wednesday was the end of an era for modern baseball. Iron man Jesse Orosco retired after 24 years of big league service. As this article shows, Orosco leaves baseball having pitched in a record 1,252 different regular season games (1,248 of them as a reliever) since debuting for the New York Mets in 1979. While he was signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks this winter to a minor league contract, the lefty will be turning 47 shortly after opening day, and who can really blame him for moving on?

Hopefully, Orosco will be remembered in baseball for many generations to come. Over the course of his career, Orosco threw 1295 innings for 9 different teams. Based on his career numbers, it's highly doubtful Orosco will make the Hall of Fame. He saved only 144 games in his career, compiled a W-L record of 88-80, had a career ERA of 3.16 and a career WHIP of 1.26. Yet, while his career stats are decidedly human and many starting pitchers throw more innings than Orosco did in his career, his career should not be any less revered. Orosco was able to carve a niche for himself that led to his playing on three teams this past season at the age of 46. His record of most career games pitched will be a tough one to reach with not too many pitchers pitching into their 40s. As the trend these days is to flame-throwing relievers like Billy Wagner, Troy Percival, and Mariano Rivera, these pitchers' bodies break down more easily. Orosco is some kind of marvel for our age.

While us Yankee fans, Red Sox fans, and Mets fans will remember Orosco as the one on the mound as the Red Sox lost game 7 of the 1986 World Series, he should remain with baseball outside of any petty rivalries. He's one the greatest iron horses in the history of the game, and his accomplishments must not be forgotten.

A Hidden Gem Among Aces

In glances over the headlines on ESPN.com in between deadlines for my college newspaper of which I am the editor, I noticed a story about the Cubs sort of sneak on to the Top Stories list. In the story--a fairly mundane one for the deadzone of the offseason--the AP reported that the Cubs signed Ryan Dempster to a one-year contract with a team option for 2005. Dempster, as you may recall, missed the last two months of the season with the Reds because he went in for ligament surgery. In much the same way that the Yankees have gambled with Jon Lieber recovering from major arm surgery, the Cubs are hoping for some luck with Dempster, who will probably pitch again in July or August. Yet, if this gamble turns out for the best, the Cubs could have landed themselves a major prize. If Dempster can regain his touch from the 2000 and 2001 campaigns, the Cubs could have cemented the NL Central for the next few years.

In 2000, Dempster was 14-10 with a 3.66 ERA, a really high 1.37 WHIP, and 209 K in just over 226 innings. If you want to get really technical, his numbers from that season look even better with positive values in the RAA column. (That just means he allowed fewer runs than the league average per inning. It's a stat to show, in essence, that his ERA was below the league average.) Even if Dempster pitches at his 2001 level, when he threw a 4.94 ERA, striking out 171 in 211 innings but with a very high WHIP of 1.56, the Cubs will still have found a more-than-adequate fifth starter.

Currently, the Cubs have Prior, Wood, Zambrano, and Clement as their top four starters, making them my pick as the team to beat in the NL Central. If they manage to add a rapidly aging Maddux, they'll just be that much better. But even so, I think Dempster could provide the Cubs' rotation with a solid back-end starter in 2005, when his Opening Day age will be only 28. It's clearly a gamble on a pitcher who hasn't pitched very well for a number of seasons, but in the end, the Cubs could end up drawing maybe not an ace, but at least a very competent 5th starter.

Let's score that run as a triple and an error

Yes, I know at the beginning of the post I said three topics, but there's one more I want to throw in. In a change from their usual format, ESPN has issued a series of analytical articles for this season's Hot Stove Heaters feature. If you aren't reading them on a regular basis, I urge you, as a loyal reader of Talking Baseball, to read the one ESPN posted yesterday. In it, Senior Writer of Baseball America Alan Schwarz wrote about the 8 most important stats used in baseball analysis today. Since the four of us here write using stats a lot, this article serves as a primer to decoding some of what we're talking about. Just follow this link and all of your questions about WHIP, Run Differential, and a few other key stats will be answered.

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