All Stars: Today and Beyond
Before I get going today, I want to say a little something about the All Star game. Not necessarily about the game itself, which was pretty non-descript after Pedro Martinez left, but about what happened in the pregame ceremonies. They carted out Ted Williams to throw the first pitch. The Boston fans gave him a very warm reception after his 40 year absence. For those not familiar with his career, the Splendid Splinter had a rather cool relationship with the Boston fans and the media. He was often criticized as being a selfish player, taking walks (godforbid) instead of swinging at everything. When he won the triple crown in 1947, the Boston sportswriters didn't even give him a 10th place vote! He was often booed and heckled, harassed to the point of spitting at the fans once. After homering in his last at bat, he went straight to the dugout, head down, and never came back out. Maybe he had a fishing charter to catch. Maybe not. Regardless, there has always been a grudge held against him by the Red Sox Nation for never acknowledging their support, such that it was. Well, Ted Williams finally tipped his cap to the fans as his cart drove around Fenway. And they loved him for it. But that's not really the part that's worth mentioning.
The plan was that Williams would arrive at the pitcher's mound, throw the first pitch to Carlton Fisk and be out of there in a matter of minutes. But as his cart arrived at the pitcher's mound, the players from both All Star teams literally swarmed him. They were like little kids seeking the autograph of their favorite player. The excitement in their eyes was easy to see. Sixty of the best players in the game and several more from the recent past gathered around with hopes of a closer look and perhaps a handshake from the greatest hitter who ever lived. Ted Williams, often compared to John Wayne in stature and in character, was moved to tears. He shook hands with many and spoke to a few. It was amazing. The ceremonial pitch was supposed to take a few minutes. In ended up taking nearly 30. But that 30 minutes of coverage was as important as any this decade because it showed that the players, no matter how cynical they may seem, are just like you and me when it comes to this game: kids with an undying love for a great game and the people who played it.
OK. Enough with the emotional stuff. Let's talk 2nd half roto. Last week, I looked at the pitchers who have likely peaked. Today, I'll put my Karnac hat on and attempt to divine who will come on strong in the second half.
Steve Trachsel has had a horrible first half. And he's been extremely unlucky. He shoulda just stayed in bed for the first half of the season. Take his April 17th start in Milwaukee: he took a 4-0 2 hitter into the ninth. There, he gave up a bunt single, a ground out fielder's choice and then another single. Riggleman decided that was enough and pulled him. So after 8 1/3 of 4-hit shut-out ball, Trachsel got pulled. Absolutely ridiculous. Trachsel had only thrown 102 pitches. The Cub bullpen then gave up 5 runs to lose the game. And that's pretty much the way Trachsel's season has gone so far: nothing to show for it when he pitches well and remorselessly hammered when he doesn't. I'm not saying he's the next Tom Seaver, but Steve Trachsel is a much better pitcher than his record indicates. He has maintained a good strikeout to walk ratio and his last couple of outings have been promising. If he can get some run support, he should be good for 8-9 wins and decent ERA (high 3 to low 4 range) and ratio (1.30 range) in the second half.
Just about everyone predicted a 20-win season for Chan Ho Park this year. Unless he wins every start for the rest of the year, that's not gonna happen. Park certainly has the talent to turn things around, as he did in the second half last year. But last year at this time, he had only given up 9 home runs. He's already given up 23 in 1999. That's an amazing number considering 14 of those homers have come at Chavez Ravine, a historically tough place to go yard. There doesn't appear to be anything physically wrong with him and no one has spotted anything mechanically wrong, so it's hard to figure what exactly is going on in Park's head, which might be the source of the problem. I imagine being the first guy in history to give up 2 grand slams in one inning to the same guy would be pretty devastating, especially for a guy who comes from a culture where pride, honor and shame are taken so seriously. Frankly, I think that's a bit of a reach but I'm at a loss to explain his season so far in any other way. However, his ratios are similar to Trachsel's and thus, I'm predicting a turnaround, but I'll hedge by saying that it also wouldn't surprise me to see him finish the season in the dumper.
You no doubt already know about Jose Jimenez success against the Diamondbacks - a no-hitter and a two-hitter. Against the rest of the league he hasn't been so good. That'll likely change in the second half. He's pitched well, going 7 innings or more in his last three starts and seems to be over his rookie jitters. He's got an above average repertoire and potentially very good run support. It wouldn't be all that surprising to see him make a second half run similar to Andy Benes' in 1996 (13-2, 3.18 ERA, 1.26 ratio). Of course, being a rookie, it also wouldn't be surprising to see revert back to his first half form. My guess is that he'll be closer to the former than the latter.
There are two other youngsters with even higher upside than Jimenez who look poised for a second half surge. Neither of them will get the necessary run support to win a ton of games but Carl Pavano and Jose Silva have the talent to post very respectable ERA, ratio and strikeout numbers in the second half..
Lastly, there's one guy who has had an off year to date, but if his last few starts are any indicator, will have a monster season after the break: Greg Maddux. Get him.