Sunday, April 11, 2004

2B 2B Do?

Did you really think the first week of baseball would get by without Sir Rantalot chiming in? Of course not, you know better. Now, I’ll admit that a week does not a season make. Hell, half a season does not a season make. Ask Eric Byrnes, almost and all-star, hit for the cycle, became a fan favorite, then went into a major slump after the all star break (9-95) which culminated in his participation in the big, team wide, brain lock game three performance against Boston. Still, with Detroit making noise and A-Fraud batting .154 it’s a great time to look at some early performances.

With the news that Mark Ellis is done for the year we have to look at the now murky situation at second base. Of course I’ve been a supporter of bringing in a vet to help secure the middle infield (see 10 second Rant below), but now there may be a problem developing. First, the guy I’ve supported thus far, Esteban German, failed to win the job in spring training, and will surely head back to AAA as soon as either Frank Menechino or Mark McLemore are ready to come off the DL. Right now, from what I’ve read in various places the powers that be are waiting for these two savvy vets to come back and take over 2B from the guy whose there right now, Marco Scutaro, who has a scant 75 major league games under his belt. But not so fast says Sir Rantalot.

While five games are too few to predict anything the fact is that Scoot has shown something during this first week. Namely, he reminds me a lot of Mark Ellis’ first few games at second in 2002. So, I looked at Ellis’ first five games after he took over the starting job (his first five consecutive games) and compared them to Scoot’s first five games. Here’s what I found:

Ellis 5 games: .400/0/5/.500/.450/..950
Scutaro 5 games: .313/0/3/.353/.500/.853

Ellis’ numbers are better, which we would expect, still Scoot’s numbers are very respectable. Ellis ended the year at .273/6/35/.359/.394/.753, never hit a major slump and never lost the starting job. Ellis also played stellar defense and was in the conversation for rookie of the year. I won’t say Scutaro is going to have the same success but the similarities are there. Scoot has saved a few runs with better than expected play in the field, and has already won a game with a combo of a bat and speed on the bases.

So, what does Oakland do when the vets come back? Well, I would suggest that its Scoot’s job to lose. In 2002 the A’s brought in Randy Velarde to compete with Menechino for the starting job. When Frankie was sent to the minors and Velarde got hurt Ellis took the job and never let go, even pushing trade acquisition Ray Duhram to DH. Now Scutaro has to hold off Menechino and McLemore in order to stay in the line up. Though I’ve endorsed two of the three other guys I’m rooting for Scoot. He’s plucky, he’s clutch, and he’s got a good nick-name.

In other position battle news catcher, 1B, and one outfield spot still seem to be up for grabs. Sure it’s only been a week, but I have thoughts (surprised?). First, News Flash! Damian Miller is not Ramon Hernandez! So far Miller is hitting .077/0/0/.077/.077/.154. What do all those identical .077s mean? It means that aside from hitting .077 Miller has no walks and no extra base hits, a steep price to pay for good defense and intangibles. I’m sure someone knows how many runs Miller has saved behind the plate, but that person aint me, I want some production at the plate.

So far the talk I’ve heard says that Bobby Kielty’s fast start will keep Eric Byrnes from getting much PT. However Macha is trying to find spots for him (Byrnesies only AB so far was his PH double that won the game against Texas on opening day). I see another path for Byrnes. Mark Kotsay has played below expectations and need. So far Kotsay is a decent but very Terrence Long like .250/0/2/.318/.300/.618. A’s brass once thought that Long would be a good lead off hitter too, Long thought he’d be a good five hole guy, the Pads seem to think he’ll be a good pinch hitter. Now Kotsay’s getting a shot at the lead off spot and giving slightly less than Jeremy Giambi did in 2002. So why not give Byrnes a shot? He’s fast, his career OBP is 25 points higher than Kotsay’s and he’s cheap which means we can trade Kotsay and Miller for a better catcher down the road.

Finally, was anyone else surprised to see Eric Karros starting against a RHP? Has Durazo’s early slump meant that much? Looking at the three year splits Karros is hitting .246/.298 against righties, while Durazo is hitting .267/.391 against RHPs ove rthe same time. Oddly, all of EK’s hits this year have come against RHPs and he still trails Durazo’s numbers against north paws. So, why is EK playing against RHPs? Who knows? I’d rather see Durazo and Hatteberg getting the majority of the ABs against righties, we’ll see what happens.

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