OK...It is a long article but at the bottom the last line gives me a little hope...
The OPS for Jr during the second half of 2005 also was amazing..
Annual rite: Clubs angle
for stability in their bullpens
By Peter Gammons
Special to ESPN.com
John Schuerholz tried to re-sign Kyle Farnsworth, but the $15 million for three years and opportunity to close wasn't enough. He went after Tom Gordon and Todd Jones and the prices all went beyond his budget, which means Bobby Cox begins spring training in a familiar position, in which he has no real idea who will be the Braves' closer.
Chris Reitsma is the incumbent favorite to be Atlanta's closer, but history indicates the role changes hands without warning in the big leagues.
"Just a couple of weeks ago Bobby said to me, 'Don't worry," says Schuerholz. "He's been through this. He believes that he can put together a viable bullpen and that the roles will come together. He believes he"ll find a way."
The Braves' remarkable 15-year run began during Bush I, when Senor Smoke, Juan Berenguer led the staff in saves with 17. The next year Alejandro Pena led with 15. Mike Stanton, Greg McMichael and Kerry Ligtenberg led Atlanta in saves, all for a season apiece. There was the John Smoltz Era, when he was a dominant closer for three years, but that was the only time in Cox's tenure that he enjoyed stability at the end of games. Oh, Mark Wohlers and John Rocker also had three-year runs as staff saves leaders, but their names hardly are associated with stability or tranquility.
Which brings the Braves to 2006. Chris Reitsma is the incumbent favorite, as he closed after the disaster that was Danny Kolb and before the trade for Farnsworth, and led the team with 15 saves. There is Oscar Villarreal, whom Schuerholz acquired from Arizona in the Johnny Estrada deal, who they think is past the arm problems that resulted from a heavy workload as a rookie (5.27 ERA for the D-Backs). There is rookie left-hander Macay McBride, the apple of the staff's eyes despite compiling one save in Atlanta and two in Richmond. And Joey Devine, the first-round pick last June out of NC State who had a penchant for allowing grand slams.
Schuerholz does not publicly bemoan the shrinking budget of Time-Warner, nor does he applaud the knowledge that the club is for sale and has some very interested, potential buyers. But with Smoltz, Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones, et al, there isn't a lot of money to spend on the bullpen. In fact, if Cox decides to go young, the entire pen won't make much more than Farnsworth will receive in New York to set up Mariano Rivera.
"We have a history of not panicking, letting Bobby sort things out and relying on the great work our scouting and development people do, year in, year out," says Schuerholz. "So we're confident that once again we will put a competitive team on the field."
Relievers are the most unpredictable commodities in the game. Just ask the Braves about Kolb, who is back in Milwaukee with Mike Maddux and could very well bounce back. One October, Keith Foulke was a dominant, world championship closer; the next season he was Dan Kolb with a 617 area code.
The White Sox had no idea that Bobby Jenks would end up a world champion closer, any more than the other Angels reject, Derrick Turnbow, would end up saving 39 games for the Brewers. "I'll be honest," Brewers GM Doug Melvin says, "we had no idea who'd be in our bullpen last year at this time." And the Milwaukee bullpen turned out to be very good.
Twice in this decade the Twins started spring training with only hypothetical closers, and ended up with All-Stars in Eddie Guardado and, later, Joe Nathan. The Angels pulled Francisco Rodriguez out of Double A in September 2002.
Less than half the teams think they know their closer situations. Boston doesn't know if Foulke will come back; for that matter, the White Sox don't know for sure if Jenks will become a reliable 40-save closer. Do the Phillies know if Tom Gordon and Arthur Rhodes are going to shut down batters in the eighth and ninth innings, or do the Tigers know if Todd Jones is going to duplicate his 2005 Florida surprise, or the Indians know if they will get another 45-save season out of Bob Wickman? The Orioles are handing their closer job to rookie Chris Ray, who doesn't have a major league save to speak of. Arizona, Florida, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay are effectively on search missions.
Chances are, at least two of those situations will implode, just as some club -- perhaps Atlanta -- will find someone by chance. It would surprise few if Mike Gonzalez emerged as an All-Star in Pittsburgh. "Sometimes it depends on the market," says Melvin. "It's a lot more difficult to break in a young kid at the end of games in New York, Boston or Philadelphia." Hence Boston's early-season support plan for Foulke is Mike Timlin, Julian Tavarez, Rudy Seanez and David Riske, because they do not want their three prized bullpen prospects -- Craig Hansen, Edgar Martinez and Manny Delcarmen -- rushed into the heat of the Fenway fire and be set back.
The Yankees, Blue Jays, Twins, Angels, Athletics, Mariners, Rangers, Mets, Nationals, Cardinals, Astros, Giants, Padres and probably even the Rockies believe they are set at the end of games. If Eric Gagne comes back, as expected, the Dodgers could have a strong power bullpen, with Danys Baez, Yhency Brazoban and Jonathan Broxton in front of Gagne. But if Gagne doesn't ...
"The Yankees can afford to spend big closer money for setup men for Rivera," says one AL GM, "so they can pay Steve Karsay or Farnsworth $6 million a year, or close to it. But there's no guarantee that Farnsworth in New York will be better than some Seanez or Turnbow that crawls out of the wreckage.
"Bobby Cox believes that one way or another he and [new pitching coach] Roger McDowell will figure out who pitches where and get the job done," says Schuerholz. Hey, he finished first with Ligtenberg, Rocker, Berenguer, Pena. He can do it again with Reitsma, McBride, Villarreal, Devine ...
Presentation requires no introduction
Few rookie pitching camps will ever have a better presentation than the one Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan put on for the Astros at Minute Maid Park in the last week. And after watching how rejuvenated Clemens seemed throwing BP to son Koby, the 'Stros believe Roger will be back come May or June.
Clemens and Ryan stressed the commitment and sacrifice it takes to be an extraordinary major league pitcher. "The young players really got an education," says one Astro official. "Roger's presentation is as good as it gets."
Write ways to look at the game
The forum that the Internet has provided for statistics and statistical analysis is one of the biggest changes in the way we follow baseball in this century. Granted, there are what one friend calls "stat Nazis who believe there is no human element." Granted, statistics are ways to lead us all to predictable truths. But what "Bill James Baseball Abstract" and the Hirdt Brothers' "Elias Baseball Analyst" opened our eyes to nearly 20 years ago have become daily necessities.
There cannot be a better, more thoughtful Internet journal than "Baseball Prospectus," which has the invaluable and unique resource of Will Carroll's "Under the Knife," bookmarked by every front office and media member. "Hardball Times" is daily must-reading, as well as "Baseball Analysts" and the "Baseball Think Factory." Now there are countless blogs, none better than David Pinto's "Baseball Musings," which also provide several significant tools.
Look, it may kill the scout in the field to hear that one can learn a lot from statistical analysis annuals geared to Rotisserie heads, but it's certainly true, starting with the annuals published by "Baseball Prospectus" and "Hardball Times."
But take, for instance, Ron Shandler's "Baseball Forecaster." Shandler makes no bones about the fact that he gears his book to Rotisserie players. But as one pours through all the statistical data, there are fascinating statistical prognostication tools, from measures of a pitcher's dominance and command, to percentages of balls hit on the ground, in the air and on a line. Or measures of a hitter's ability to make contact.
Meanwhile, there are several other gems that remind some of us what we thought we already knew.
• Kevin Youkilis' second-half OPS -- .973
• Alfonso Soriano away from The Bandbox at Arlington -- .224, .374 slugging
• Jhonny Peralta's second half OPS -- .917
• Carlos Pena's first/second half OPS -- .682/.898
• Wily Mo Pena's first/second half OPS -- .903/.719
• Junior Griffey's second half -- 21 HR, 1.082 OPS
• Rafael Furcal's first/second half OPS -- .402/.891
• Jeff Francoeur's OPS by month -- 1.326, .878, .739, .222
• Geoff Jenkins' second-half OPS -- 1.024
• Miguel Tejada's OPS before and after Palmeiro's suspension -- .934/.704
• Javier Valentin's first/second half OPS -- .715/.965
• John Patterson, off years of arm injuries, threw 100-plus pitches in 16 of his last 18 starts.
To Joe Sheehan, Lee Sinins, David Pinto, Ron Shandler, Rob Neyer, all those tireless bloggers, thanks. You make my job far easier, and far more interesting. And changed the way we look at the game.
Prospects until proven
Speaking of baseball's best of the Internet, there is the anti-Prospectus, "Baseball America," whose Web site now has become a daily warehouse for anyone who loves the new, new thing. BBA is baseball through the eyes of scouts and people who actually know players, and every bit as fascinating, especially given the level of passion Allen Simpson has engendered in his tireless staff. Its prospects annual, which came out this week, is every bit as important to a fan or journalist as the Prospectus work.
But as J.P. Ricciardi likes to say, "They're still prospects until they've done it in the big leagues." So, as a reminder to all of us who can't wait to see Andy Marte or Jeremy Hermida, here is Baseball America's Top Ten Prospects from 1998 through 2000:
1998 1999 2000
Ben Grieve, Oak J.D. Drew, StL Rick Ankiel, StL
Paul Konerko, LAD Rick Ankiel, StL Pat Burrell, Phi
Adrian Beltre, LAD Eric Chavez, Oak Corey Patterson, Cubs
Aramis Ramirez, Pitt Bruce Chen, Atl Vernon Wells, Tor
Kerry Wood, Cubs Jake Peavy, SD Nick Johnson, NYY
Matt White, Tam Michael Barrett, Mon Ruben Mateo, Tex
Kris Benson, Pitt Ryan Anderson, Sea Sean Burroughs, SD
Travis Lee, Ari Pablo Ozuna, Fla Rafael Furcal, Atl
Carl Pavano, Mon Ruben Mateo, Tex Ryan Anderson, Sea
Miguel Tejada, Oak Matt Clement, SD John Patterson, Ari
Around the majors
• The opportunity is there in Washington for Sammy Sosa to reclaim his career, after a year of changing leagues, the staph infection in his foot and the collapse that was the Orioles. Sosa also has someone who believes in him in Nationals GM Jim Bowden. Problem is, the Nats do not have money. Incidentally, one doesn't even want to think what will happen if the ballpark financing is turned down in Tuesday's vote.
• No, the Red Sox did not offer Manny Ramirez for Brandon Wood, Howie Kendrick, Johan Santana and Chone Figgins. And they will wait until spring training to see who needs David Wells and Tony Graffanino, although the Rangers, Cubs and Devil Rays have approached Boston about the reliable middle infielder.
• The Reds have explored trying to find a more appropriate ballpark for Eric Milton.