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Morgan by Numbers It will
2003-03-27 13:54
by Mike Carminati

Morgan by Numbers

It will soon be April and the regular season is just days away but Joe Morgan has apparently forgotten to get a new calendar. Morgan has a World Series preview that basically predicts that 2003 will be, well, 2002.

From the estimable Joe's scant article it is clear that there are no more than four or five teams per league that even have a shot of playing in October and one of them is the Rangers who lost their All-Star catcher and staff ace this offseason. Oh, and they finished last albeit in a strong division in 2002. But Joe's logic is "They have baseball's best player, Alex Rodriguez, and one of these years their pitching and defense could come around. Will this be the season they put it together?" No, it isn't and why would one think it were when they just lost their only starter with a sub-4.00 ERA? So Joe picks the lowly Rangers but ignores the Mariners (who won 116 games just two years ago), Red Sox, White Sox, Blue Jays, Phillies, Mets, Expos, Astros, and Dodgers, among other, all of which had better records in 2002 than did Texas.

Here are some other gems:

The Angels won the World Series not because of superior talent or dominant pitching or tremendous sluggers. They won because they understood what the word team means.

So they had the sense to look the word team up in the dictionary. The other teams thought there was an I in team, but the Angels knew better? Uh, no. They slugged .512 in the postseason. Thet's why they won the Series. The got to the postseason because of good pitching (second in the league in ERA, only 1 point behind Oakland), and an effective offense. They did have an unusual offense with very few walks, strikeouts, homers, and grounded-into-DP but a high batting average with lots of doubles, sacrifice bunts and flies, and hits batsmen. The 2001 Angels had largely the same stats, but in 2002 they reduced the strikeouts and upped the batting average. Oh and they learned the definition of team.

The fact that the Angels won in this manner will be reflected in the way other teams try to play this year. It's common for teams to attempt to imitate the success of other clubs and build their teams accordingly. This season, I believe we'll see teams being more aggressive than before -- taking the extra base, going from first to third, putting pressure on the defense to make plays.

Well, home runs are down slightly from their historic level a couple of years ago. Those sorts of strategies should be dusted off and given new life. However, keep in mind that the Yankees were an "NL"-style team during the late '90s, and their success didn't seem to produce too many converts.

The A's approach emphasizes on-base percentage, which works well during the season when you play inferior teams. But when you get to the postseason and face better pitching, you draw fewer walks and are forced to rely on the home run. This has contributed to Oakland's first-round exit the past three years.

Well, the A's did drew fewer walks and they did rely on their power, slugging .500 in the 2002 playoffs. I don't know if that is the reason that they lost. Their offense looked OK until the last two games of the series. They were done in by a poor defense and pitching in game four and lost a squeaker in game 5. I don't know if anything conclusive can be said other than Art Howe having to learn to set up his postseason rotation a little better.

Superior pitching has been the Braves' staple during their amazing run the past decade-plus. But after Gary Sheffield and Chipper Jones, their offense is suspect. And while their overhauled rotation appears to be weaker, Greg Maddux has said that this could be the best staff the Braves have had. When he says that, you take notice.

I don't know why Maddux said that, but it is not really a defensible position. Maybe it's hopeful thinking. Behind the aging Maddux are monumental washout Mike Hampton, the mercurial and often injured Paul Byrd, the underachieving and largely average Russ Ortiz, and the still untested Jason Marquis. Add in a rebuilt bullpen and there is a large potential for failure. I'm not saying that Cox and Mazzone won't do their usual miraculous job with the staff. I'm just saying that it is a longer shot than they've had in Atlanta since Charlie Leibrandt's day.

This year the Giants have added speed guys -- second baseman Ray Durham and outfielders Marquis Grissom and Jose Cruz Jr. -- while slugging second baseman Jeff Kent departed for the Astros.

Not really, Grissom hasn't been a speed guy since 2000. Cruz and Durham were acquired as the best players available to fill holes.Cruz only stole 7 bases last year and was acquired more for his bat. Durham does have good speed but he isn't exactly Rey Ordonez with the bat either. In fact, aside from losing Kent's pop at second, one could make a decent argument that the Giants have better sluggers at the four positions that changed hands (center, right, third, and second) than in 2002.

Mr. non-sequitor sums it all up in a stream of consiousness that flows nowhere:

So these are the favorites. But remember, the Angels went from 41 games out in 2001 to the world championship in 2002. And that can happen again -- other teams have similar potential this season. But they must commit to a total team effort for it to happen. So keep this in mind on Opening Day: More than just the big-market teams have a chance to win.

So anyone can win? Great Joe, I hadn't figured that out yet. I thought the Yankees already had a playoff spot assigned to them.

Joe, you have to do better than this. If you are going to make predictions, you have to pick somebody. You did the first stage, picking playoff teams. Well, that was easy because you just listed the 2002 playoff teams, but you did offer an opinion, I guess. So, now pick the league champs and World Series winner. Will the Angels continue to dazzle or will the new blood in the Bronx bring a championship to the Yankees? Can Johnson and Schilling bring another championship to the desert? Heck, pick the Rangers--it's nutty but it's at least a position.

Joe, on second thought just pick the Giants and Angels. They won last year, and that appears to be your main criterion anyway.

I do have to admit that the man is in mid-season form and the season hasn't even started. I can't take that away from him.

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