Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 20, 2003
BASEBALL: The Poor 44, Part 2: 113-118
This is Part Two of a series on the worst-hitting everyday players of 2002.
108-124: The Weak Spots (Stats listed as Avg/OBP/Slg (OPS))
2002 with Cardinals/Phillies: .288/.330/.403 (733 OPS) (604 PA)
Polanco's actually playing everyday, but his time has been restricted by injury. You can do worse than Polanco, as we shall be reminded as we descend the list. And nobody's more aware of this than the Phillies, who for the last several seasons have suffered through Marlon Anderson (695 OPS) at 2B. Last season, Polanco played 131 games at third base; this season, he's been used exclusively at second, which immediately moves him from "critical lineup hole" to "slightly subpar player." On top of that, Polanco - always a good hitter for average - has been walking more this season (he's also been hit by 5 pitches compared to 8 all last year), and as a result has brought his OBP up to a respectable .359.
VERDICT: Polanco's still better suited to utility duty; he's still not a guy who will hit for much power, draw a lot of walks or hit .300, but he murders lefthanded pitching (.368 this year, .341 the prior 3 seasons). But the Phillies have intelligently (if expensively) addressed the situation by moving Polanco to second to replace Anderson with David Bell. That, at least, is progress.
2002 with Dodgers: .281/.330/.402 (731 OPS) (614 PA)
Yes, Paul LoDuca; the rookie sensation of two years ago has left those 25-homer days only a memory. LoDuca hit .281 last season as an everyday catcher in Dodger Stadium, and there are some indications that he was playing hurt.
VERDICT: While his overall numbers are disappointing, you wouldn't consider replacing him, and the Dodgers - short as they are on bats - haven't. They did bring in a shell of the former Todd Hundley, who's scarcely played. LoDuca, like Polanco, has helped himself this season by walking more, and if that holds up, he'll recapture a little more of that 2001 magic.
2002 with Pirates: .246/.322/.408 (730 OPS) (518 PA)
2002 with Brewers: .257/.332/.397 (729 OPS) (500 PA)
Ye wasteful spendthrifts, repent! Young and Hammonds are still working off their horrendous contracts, although "working" for Hammonds is a relative term; he's back to his usual position on the DL. The Pirates have at least taken Young out of the lineup, albeit to replace him with a younger Kevin Young (Randall Simon).
VERDICT: These guys are done as everyday players. Anyone with half a brain would have seen that they were never worth the many millions these purportedly poverty-stricken teams showered on them. The Brewers may try to play Hammonds when healthy, but John Vander Wal (even at his own advanced age) remains a better option with the bat, and Hammonds lacks the glove to challenge the weak-hitting 26-year-old Alex Sanchez in center field.
2002 with Dodgers: .257/.303/.426 (729 OPS) (624 PA)
My first baseball blog post, last August, argued that Beltre had made The Leap, pointing to his .372/.410/.649 AVG/OBP/SLG line over the prior month. I've been at a loss as to what's happened to him; maybe the abdominal surgery has never quite healed? One likely culprit that's at least partially responsible: plate discipline.
BB/K Per 600 PA, and OPS:
Hmmmm. Sometimes, it really is that simple. And notice that it's not the strikeouts, which have been fairly level; it's the fact that his walks fell off the cliff in 2001 and have not recovered.
VERDICT: You don't give up on a guy like Beltre quite yet, but the words "Fernando Tatis" are starting to sound familiar. At a minimum, the Dodgers shouldn't build their pennant race plans around the assumption that he'll just bounce back.
2002 with Devil Rays: .254/.330/.396 (727 OPS) (633 PA)
Cox is off to Japan, freeing up at bats for . . . well, actually for Travis Lee.
VERDICT: I'd always expected better from Cox, who had good minor league numbers and hit well in 2000 before regressing, particularly in the power categories. Replacing him with the punchless Lee isn't much, if any, improvement.