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Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.



Posted by Mike on Sunday, March 14, 2004

What Are You Talking About?

Sometimes people say things that make me wonder how they could possibly say such a thing without feeling foolish. Jon's post the other day was the first here to bring attention to Dusty Baker's most recent comments. He was out on the west coast for years managing the Giants but because of the distance not as many of his comments seemed to reach the east coast. Ever since the Giants made it to the World Series in 2002 and his switch to the Cubs last season I've been hearing more and more of his comments. From what I gather, he may be the next incarnation of Joe Morgan. If you know how I feel about Joe Morgan then you know this is wonderful. Anyways, Dusty spoke out against the walk the other day when he was quoted as saying:
''Walks help, but you aren't going to walk across the plate,'' Baker said. ''You've got to hit across the plate. Who has been champions quite a bit the last seven, eight years?''
Ok... I suppose I could let it slide if he has stopped there. Walks do help quite a bit but they will not make up for an offense that just cannot hit. More than anything they are a means to get men on base so when a hit comes those baserunners can be driven in. I'm sure if the Dodgers were taking more walks it wouldn't help them as much as having good batters but that's aside the point. Dusty then went on to say:
''Now, have you ever heard the Yankees talk about on-base percentage and walks?''
First of all, the Yankees are rich. They can buy whatever offensive players they desire and more often than not they aquire big names to appease Steinbrenner's big ego. Big name players don't make their name by taking huge amounts of walks over the course of a season, they get their name from smacking home runs and putting up other "wow" stats like RBIs. There's no reason for the Yankees to be talking about walks when they can talk about their recent success or Derek Jeter's intangibles. The funny thing is that while the Yankees don't talk about walking often they've been doing it more than any other team in the American League over most of the last decade. Take a look, here's the Yankees team OBP and BB numbers since 1995 and their rank in relation to the rest of the teams in the American League.
YEAR...OBP...RANK...BB...RANK...RECORD...RESULT
1995...357....1.....625...1......79-65...WILD CARD
1996...360....3.....632...7......92-70...WS CHAMPION
1997...362....1.....676...1......96-66...WILD CARD
1998...362....1.....653...1.....114-48...WS CHAMPION
1999...364....2.....611...5......98-64...WS CHAMPION
2000...354....4.....631...4......87-74...WS CHAMPION
2001...334....6.....519...7......95-65...AL CHAMPION
2002...354....1.....640...1.....103-58...AL EAST
2003...356....2.....684...1.....101-61...AL CHAMPION
That's right, the Yankees led the American League in walks five times over the last nine years. Good job Dusty. What makes his quote even more interesting is that Dusty's Giants relied on walks heavily while he managed them. In fact, most of the Giants best years when Dusty was in charge were the years that their offense took the most walks.
YEAR...OBP...RANK...BB...RANK...RECORD...RESULT
1995...317....12....472...7......67-77...-
1996...328....6.....615...1......68-94...-
1997...336....5.....642...2......90-72...NL West
1998...352....1.....678...1......89-74...-
1999...353....3.....696...3......86-76...-
2000...362....1.....709...1......97-65...NL West
2001...342....3.....625...2......90-72...-
2002...344....2.....616...3......95-66...NL Champion
The three playoff teams that Dusty managed were second, first, and third in the National League in walks. Starting in 1997 the Giants finished no worse than third in the National League in team walks and won 90 games four times. They won no less than 86 games over than span. I'm willing to bet that Dusty doesn't attribute much if any of that success to a consistent patient and disciplined offense.

Interestingly enough when Dusty left San Francisco for Chicago he took over a very impatient team. Here's how the Cubs offense fared last year.

YEAR...OBP...RANK...BB...RANK...RECORD...RESULT
2003...323....13....492...16.....88-74...NL Central
The Cubs won 88 games and barely squeeked into the playoffs over a Houston team that probably would have won the NL Central had Roy Oswalt or Jeff Kent played full seasons or if Lance Berkman performed closer to how he did in 2002. The Cubs relied heavily on their starting rotation to pick up those 88 wins. Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, and Matt Clement all add up to a great starting pitching. The Cubs had a very weak offense even with Sammy Sosa as an anchor, he lost a few PR points after that corking scandal but he was still a very productive batter. Maybe if the Cubs had a more disciplined offense then they would have scored more than 724 runs (9th best in the National League).

In the end, Dusty's comments look more and more bizarre. How can a manager who had been in control of a team that relied on the walk and succeeded with it for most of the last decade speak out against it? If you look at the Giants on a year-by-year basis their offense resembles something the Oakland A's would put on the field today but with Barry Bonds hitting third. I hope Chicago has fun with Dusty, he may not be the manager that his reputation makes him out to be.

An Observation

Remember in the late 1990s when Brad Radke was being touted as the ace of the Twins? He never really became that ace but he did develop into a consistent workhorse starter. There's really nothing wrong with an above average ERA and a pile of innings every season.

.........IP.....ERA.....ERA+
1995....181.0...5.32.....89
1996....232.0...4.46....115
1997....239.7...3.87....121
1998....213.7...4.30....109
1999....218.7...3.75....135
2000....226.7...4.45....118
2001....226.0...3.94....115
2002....118.3...4.72.....94
2003....212.3...4.49....103
---------------------------
Career.1868.3...4.32....111
I wouldn't want to have to rely on Radke to be an ace but he certainly has his value. This isn't about Brad Radke though, this is about Kevin Millwood. I used to think he was good and I used to think he could be an ace but the more I look at him the more I realize that he cannot carry a team. Big things are expected of the Phillies this year but they really do not have the dominant ace that they are going to need.

.........IP.....ERA.....ERA+
1997.....51.3...4.03....104
1998....174.3...4.08....104
1999....228.0...2.68....162
2000....212.7...4.66....100
2001....121.0...4.31....102
2002....217.0...3.24....127
2003....222.0...4.01....103
---------------------------
Career.1226.3...3.78....114
Millwood's ERA in comparison to Radke's is lower but that is partially because of the difference between the American and National Leagues (the DH factor). So why is Millwood more covetted than Radke? Millwood asked for something in the $13 million range in arbitration this offseason and ended up compromising with the Phillies for $11 million. In terms of performance he is essentially Brad Radke and without that 1999 season Millwood would actually look worse than Radke.

They're both free agents at the end of the 2004 season and it will be interesting to see what the market gives each of them. Millwood is more impressive to watch with all that power behind his fastball and he has that no-hitter to his credit. Radke has, well, been in Minnesota for a long time. I'm willing to bet that Radke will receive less money and years than Millwood even though they will likely put up the same numbers in the coming years.


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