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Fast and Flurry-ous There have
2002-12-08 18:46
by Mike Carminati

Fast and Flurry-ous

There have been many developments in the last few days. So here goes:

- Steve Finley re-signed with the D-Backs for two years at $11.25. He is 37 and had a poor year in 2001. But he still has a good bat and plays a good center field. He also improved his walks total (career high 12.9% of his ABs), strikeout rate (K's comprised 14.5% of his ABs in 2002 down from career high 16.6% in 1998), and stolen base percentage (his 80% success rate in 2002 was his highest stolen base total with that high a success rate in a decade). He will probably decline in the next two years, but it appears that he is making some small adjustments to keep himself productive and that will help.

One last thing about Finley, his rep was that he was a no-hit, speedster of a center fielder until his second season with San Diego, in which he hit 30 home runs-almost trebling his career high and more than his three previous seasons combined-at age 31. He has been considered somewhat of a run producer ever since. Well, he is actually more of a study in park- and era-adjusted stats. For example, compare the following two seasons:

1992 Hou 162 607 84 177 29 13  5  55 58 63 44  9 .292 .355 .407 .762 .694  120
2002 Ari 150 505 82 145 24  4 25  89 65 73 16  4 .287 .370 .499 .869 .788  120

They look from two seasons from two different ballplayers. In 1992, he stole more bases and got many more at-bats, and in 2002 he hit 20 more home runs and drove in 44 more runs. However, in both case, Finley has an OPS (on-base plus slugging avg) that is 20% better than the league and park adjusted average. His on-base and slugging increased substantially but can be explained by the differences in playing in the Astrodome in 1992 and in the BOB in 2002. It also is a nice indications of how irrelevant RBI totals are and how they depend more on a player's position in a lineup rather than on his productivity. Finley has had a few poor seasons ('90, '93, '98, and 2001) as well as some very good ones mixed in with the rest, but he has basically been a ballplayer with an OPS around 10% than adjusted league average for most of his career.

- The Giants are all over the map. Their $13 M offer was turned down by Steve Finley. Free-agent Second baseman Jeff Kent was offered arbitration. And they signed second baseman Ray Durham and center fielder Marquis Grissom. However, the Giants still claim that they will continue to negotiate with Kent.

Durham is a good pickup for the team. He can lead off and is coming off arguably his best season in 2002 though he will be 31 next year. Durham is a very interesting selection and a strong replacement if they had decided that they couldn't re-sign Kent.

Grissom had a very good year with the Dodgers as a semi-regular with the Dodgers in 2002. He slugged over .500 for the first time in his career. He raised his average 50 points from 2001. He also collected almost as many total bases in 100 fewer at-bats while striking out almost 40 fewer times and walking 6 more times. However, he is 36, had five poor seasons in a row prior to 2002, and can no longer produce double-digit steal totals. He also has lost a good deal of range in center and had been used in left field about a third of the time by the Dodgers, something the Giants would be loath to do. Grissom signed for $4.25 M over two years. He could be a good fourth outfielder if used judiciously, but appears to be the starting center fielder right now.

Then there's Kent. The Giants left the Door open to signing him. The possibility of moving Durham to center field and Grissom to the bench was mentioned. There are a few problems with this. First, Durham has never played the position in his professional career, and it is a key defensive position. Second, Grissom believes that he will be a starter:

''In my 14th season, I'm kind of happy to become an everyday starter once again,'' Grissom said. ''I think I'm in the prime of my career, and healthy. My main interest in going to any team was to get out there and play every day. I think I've got a lot left. I'm nowhere near a fourth outfielder on nobody's team.''

And third, the may not be able to sign Kent. If they do re-sign Kent, then that means that they will have to add Durham to the outfield mix and that they will have to find time for Grissom lest he become disgruntled. If they cannot re-sign Kent, Durham stays at second and Grissom becomes the everyday centerfielder. Either way, they will continue to have outfield problems.

I cannot understand why the Giants signed Grissom when they could have pursued a choice with a higher ceiling in Hideki Matsui, or used the money to retain Reggie Sanders, who might be the best rightfielder available right now. Sanders made "only" $1.75 M in 2002 and is not being offered arbitration by the Giants. Fellow Giant-cum-free-agent center fielder Kenny Lofton was not offered arbitration as well though he played well in his short stint with the Giants and made around $1 M in 2002.

- The Phils re-signed lefty reliever Dan Plesac to a one-year, $2 M contract. Plesac will be 41 next season. The Phils have been vilified by some for giving free-agent signees David Bell and Jim Thome too much in their negotiations. I can defend those transactions on the basis of generating fan and media support, but this one is almost indefensible.
First, it generates no fan or media interest. Second, why give a player who pitched 36.1 innings last year and hasn't pitched over 50 since 1996, that much money? He pitched poorly (4.70 ERA) after being acquired by the Phils last year. He had had a pretty good seasons in 6 of the last 7 and with Toronto prior to the trade. But two million still seems excessive for a left-handed specialist.

- Like a salmon returning to spawn, Hidecki Irabu returned to the Japanese leagues where he once flourished. Irabu was actually pretty good his first full season with the Yankees but never did live up to expectations. He is only 33 and could enjoy a productive few years in Japan. Major-league batters will lament his passing though.

By the way, his deal is only for one year, which opens the door to a return in 2004. One as eagerly anticipated as the Star Wars Episode I, I'm sure.

- Frank Thomas re-signed with the White Sox after his 10-day free-agent oats-sowing foray (which consisted of basically reading the want ads over breakfast). Thomas got a deal that gives him a few options should he return to his former glory.

Thomas is a far cry from his glory days, but who of us isn't. He was a productive hitter last year with a an OPS 17% better than the league average and ranking second among DHs in home runs and tied for first in RBI. Thomas still is a possible Hall-of-Famer and his treatment by his employers for showing his age has been extremely unkind. Besides his post-All-Star- break number indicate that he could have some gas left in the tank I would love to see Thomas have a comeback season and then sign for lots of mullah with the Yankees or Red Sox in 2004.

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