Talking Baseball

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Posted by Jon on Thursday, April 01, 2004

April Fools'?!

It's April First, our allotted annual chance to fool our friends, co-workers, and of course, our blog-readers. Throughout the baseball blogging community, parodic stories and clever quips will no doubt abound, referring to headlines of utter impossibility, like "Bavasi Makes Shrewd Move" and "Beane Claims Randall Simon Off Waivers." Some would certainly be believable: "Orosco un-retires in coup for Astros," or maybe, "Dodgers Bolster Offense, Complete Ausmus-for-Green Deal."

But do we really need to make this stuff up? The biggest surprises seem to be baseball actualities. For example: "Devil Rays sign GM Chuck LaMar through 2006." I'm sure any sane D-Ray fans wish this one was an April Fools prank...

Following are some other baseball actualities. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. It's the First of April, but these are no April Fools.

· Shawn Estes: Rockies' Ace. Estes slated as the Colorado' Opening Day starter. Could anything be more unbelievable after Estes' 2003 campaign as the Cubbies fifth starter? Following a season of such lowlights as a 5.73 ERA and a WHIP of 1.74, this man couldn't even eke out one Win Share and ended with a VORP of -20.3, dead last among pitchers. Amazingly, Estes is 4-1 with an ERA under 2.00 this spring. But Manager Clint Hurdle had best not be counting his chickens before they hatch. Last season, Estes allowed 4.89 walks and struck out 6.09 batters per nine innings. This spring? He's walking slightly fewer hitter (4.35 per nine), while at the same time missing noticeably fewer bats (4.35 strike outs per nine). I don't see a better pitcher. I see a lucky guy. Clint, don't be fooled! Baseball Prospectus 2004 credits Shawn's successes from 2000 to 2002 to the parks in which he played. At Pac Bell and Shea, he allowed fewer home runs. All that changed last season at Wrigley. So here's one baseball actuality that should be an April Fools' joke: Estes is being considered an ace. And in Colorado, watch his home runs allowed to soar to new heights. If anybody is really expecting an ace-type of year from Estes, he or she is in for a huge April Fools'. (As if i needed to prove that Estes was a poor pitcher...)

· Reds' Closer on team: "We had a good thing going." You might assume he followed that remark with a hearty "April Fools'!" of his own, but Denny Graves made this comment in total seriousness. Umm, pardon me Mr. Graves, but I'm trying to get my records straight. To which year were you referring? The 1995 team who last led the Reds to a playoff berth? He couldn't possibly be referring to the 2003 squad that, when projecting their Equivalent Runs Created and Equivalent runs allowed, should have enjoyed a 59-103 record...could he? The fact that Graves is on the trading block but doesn't want to leave could be an April Fools' joke unto itself.

· Brad Ausmus hitting over .400 (for real). Now, if somebody said that last phrase to you today, you'd just assume it was an April Fools' joke. Haha, very funny..."Haha, very funny...but don't pick on the guy with the flaccid bat!" Any other day and you'd wonder what kind of miracle steroids the listless Ausmus had come across. Heck, I know Spring Training stats mean nothing (remember Estes?), but even this hot spell catches me off-guard. For the record, Brad hit .229/.303/.291 last season with four home runs in 450 at-bats. This spring he's already accumulated almost a sixth of his total hits in 2003. But which is the biggest surprise, that Ausmus is hitting .444 this spring or that a Major League hitter can retain his starting job while posting a slugging percentage of .291--the worst in baseball, aside from Bill "the Brain" Bavasi's new pet, Ramon Santiago.

Oftentimes, and especially in baseball, truth is stranger than fiction.

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