Four at the Crossroads   (06/15/01)

My mind drew a big blank when attempting to come up with a clever movie theme for this week's Sandbox column.  Sorry.  I guess I haven't drunk enough Arizona Rx Memory tea this week.  My supply did run out on Monday.  The good news is that I got a resupply yesterday and so I should be back to coming up with clever - ok, some of them have been kinda lame - themes for my columns.  But for today, it's just gonna be straightforward.

Carlos Delgado

I've been a little surprised with the production I'm getting out of Carlos Delgado this year.  I expected him to produce around 550-575 points, but his current pace has him finishing below 500.  I knew going in that he probably wouldn't equal last year's .344 batting average.  His career average is .282.  All things being equal, even should he finish with his present average of .265, he would still top 500 by a nice margin.  There's certainly nothing wrong with his home run pace, which is currently pointed toward a career best 47.

So why isn't he producing?  He's not hitting doubles.  Over the past 4 years, he's averaged over 45 doubles a year.  Last year he hit 57.  This year he has 8.  At that pace he'll end up with 20.  The last time he hit fewer than 25 doubles was 1995, when he only got 91 at bats.

I have no idea why he's not finding the gaps very much this year.  I expect that he's being a little too pull conscious, trying to justify his new contract with extra home runs.  That might also explain his lower batting average and the fact that he's striking out more than walking.  Whatever it is, he needs to realize that the Jays (and I) need his doubles and walks to produce runs just as much as we need his homers.

Vladimir Guerrero

Vladimir Guerrero is starting to show signs of meeting the high expectations set for him before the season.  Through the end of May, his batting average and slugging percentages were uncharacteristically soft, sitting at .285 and .528 respectively.  Something must have clicked on June 1st though, when he went 3-for3 with a double and a homer.  Ever since then he's been on a tear, raising his average 26 points and his slugging nearly 50.

I don't know why he wasn't hitting for the first two months.  He got hit on the wrist with a pitch early in the season, so maybe it took a while for it to heal.  And perhaps Jose Vidro's absence in the line-up in May made it easier for opposing pitchers to pitch around him.  With Vidro's return lengthening the Expo line-up - the more good hitters in a line-up, the tougher it is to pitch around a single hitter - Guerrero's new pace should continue.

Kerry Wood

A reader asked me if I was worried about Kerry Wood's recent spate of wildness; more specifically, his high walk total (10) in his last two outings.  While they are a concern, I'm not overly worried about their long term significance.

Three points to consider: 1) most of those walks came in the first couple of innings, and they came in big games - the first against a heated division rival battling for first place, and the second, against one of the NL best pitchers.  So they could just as easily be the result of him overthrowing from too much adrenaline to start the game as any more serious problem.  2) he stranded those runners.  This shows that he's matured enough to deal with his mistakes rather than panic or beat himself up over them.  And 3) the walks have come against some pretty good hitting teams.  The D-backs and Cards are in the top 5 in the NL in slugging and on base.  Not giving teams like that good pitches to hit seems like a good thing as long as one can get out of tough situations.  For the most part, Wood has.

If you need proof that Wood will be OK, look how he's done against less disciplined teams like the Brewers - 22.1 innings, 8 hits, 7 walks, 36 strikeouts.  Two of those games against the Brewers came just before his last two outings.  As the season wears on, I expect he'll figure out how to pitch to the good teams without giving up the walks as well.  So while I'd love to see him go 7 innings without walking a batter on a consistent basis, for now I'm satisfied that he'll prevent hits and strike out batters enough to lessen the impact of his walks.

Jaret Wright

Jaret Wright's starting efforts have been of some concern.  Last start, he got bombed by Cincinnati - 8 runs in a little over an inning.  Ouch (fortunately for ...Jumanji!, he was sitting on the bench).  The mitigating factor is that his team played lousy defense behind him, making 5 misplays that cost him baserunners but weren't scored as errors.  Cleveland's defense is not prone to those kind of games so that was a one-time deal in all likelyhood.

However, there is some concern regarding his strikeouts and walks.  More to the point, he has yet to pitch a game this season where he has struck out more batters than he's walked.  This might be a symptom of his continuing recovery from off-season shoulder surgery.  Last year, while pitching with his injury, he managed to strike out more batters than he walking in 5 of his 9 outings.

Or it could be a sign of struggles to come.  He's had occasional dominant outings in his career, but has never been able to pitch well consistently.  His father, Clyde Wright, was much the same way until he was 29.  Jaret is still only 25.

Unless he starts to improve in this area fairly soon, his value could be limited this year, despite the fact that he plays on a team that will provide enough run support for plenty of wins.  Without the strikeouts, he'll be less likely to work his way out of jams.  And with as many walks and hits as he's giving up, he'll have a hard time going deep into games, either due to pitch counts or the opposition scoring runs.  He needs to regain command of the strikezone or those wins will be picked up by the bullpen.

If Wright can't get things under control, it might be time to take a chance on a particular Cardinal pitcher who was dropped from one of the rosters earlier in the season who might be turning things around...

The Standings

                                    Starting P       Relief P         Hitters FP
Rank  Team                         FP   G  FP/G    FP   G  FP/G    FP    G   FP/G    Total
1     ...Jumanji!                 984  59  16.7   509  54   9.4   2030  630   3.2     3523
2     BaseballHQ Bombers         1000  57  17.5   458  63   7.3   1947  625   3.1     3405
3     SF Mock Woodmen             799  66  12.1   367  50   7.3   2185  618   3.5     3351
4     Fantasy Baseball HQ        1018  68  15.0   551  64   8.6   1690  622   2.7     3259
5     Sandbox Sports              943  69  13.7   447  61   7.3   1856  627   3.0     3246
6     Dr. Stats Juggernauts      1335  66  20.2   412  57   7.2   1436  602   2.4     3183
7     The Write Stuff            1064  58  18.3   340  53   6.4   1668  618   2.7     3072
8     Press Room Pundits         1091  71  15.4   278  44   6.3   1663  627   2.7     3032
9     WSS Hurlers                1078  70  15.4   333  53   6.3   1612  589   2.7     3023
10    Desert Dwelling Scalawags  1064  84  12.7   204  55   3.7   1683  614   2.7     2951