Saturday, June 30, 2007

And In This Corner...

After The Frisco Kid burst onto the local sports scene last night (and Frank the Tank continues to impress), the call for a more productive LF & RF will intensify as people will see how these “kids” can do better than Michaels and Nixon and dream about how a Ken Griffey, Jr. or an Adam Dunn immediately makes the Indians the odds-on favorite to win the World Series because of the increased run production.

But how important is it to have a stud corner OF if the other positions are producing runs (the Indians remain 2nd in MLB in runs scored) and the starting rotation finally looks to be healthy and intact for an extended run?

How have past WS winners been constructed in regards to their corner OF positions?

Using Baseball Reference, here are the players that manned the two corner positions (or played the most games that particular year at that position) for World Series Champs since 2000:
Note: The first three numbers refer to Batting Average / On-Base % / Slugging %
2006 St. Louis
LF – So Taguchi (.266 / .335 / .351, 2 HR, 31 RBI)
RF – Juan Encarnacion (.278 / .317 / .443, 19 HR, 79 RBI)

2005 Chicago
LF – Scott Podsednik (.290 / .351 .349, 0 HR, 25 RBI)
RF – Jermaine Dye (.274 / .333 / .512, 31 HR, 86 RBI)

2004 Boston
LF – Manny Ramirez (.308 / .397 / .613, 43 HR, 130 RBI)
RF – Gabe Kapler (.272 / .311 / .390, 6 HR, 33 RBI)

2003 Florida
LF – Todd Hollandsworth (.254 / .317 / .421, 3 HR, 20 RBI)
RF – Juan Encarnacion (.270 / .313 / .446, 19 HR, 94 RBI)

2002 Anaheim
LF – Garrett Anderson (.306 / .332 / .539, 29 HR, 123 RBI)
RF – Tim Salmon (.286 / .380 / .503, 22 HR, 88 RBI)

So, while it’s obviously nice to have a Manny Ramirez in the lineup, having a huge corner bat doesn’t automatically translate into World Series pennants.
So Taguchi?
Gabe Kapler?
Todd Hollandsworth?

Consider the outfield production of this pair:
LF – (.317 / .401 / .690, 50 HR, 126 RBI)
RF – (.308 / .402 / .558, 31 HR, 107 RBI)
Now that’s some corner production!

Yes, it’s Albert and Manny, circa 1995, the combination of unrivaled talent that has led a generation of Indians’ fans to believe that it is imperative to have two HUGE bats in the corner OF positions.

Not to discount that unbelievable team that 75% of Clevelanders can still name top to bottom, but that team didn’t win the World Series did they?
Got beat by some team that hung their collective hat on their starting pitching, right?

While I certainly agree that better production from RF is necessary as the team is getting nothing from Trot Nixon and should give Frank the Tank and The Frisco Kid a good long look, where exactly does it say that you MUST have corner OF that are MVP candidates to win the World Series.

It may be blasphemy, but the build of the 2007 Indians most closely resembles the Yankees teams of the mid-1990’s. Both teams feature exceptional catchers (Hip-Hip Jorge & The Stick), SS (Jeter & Peralta), CF (Bernie & Grady) and a 1B/DH (Tino & Pronk).

Between the Indians’ runs at the pennant, the Yanks pulled two rings in 1996 and 1998. Their starting corner OF production:
1998 New York
LF – Chad Curtis (.243 / .355 / .360, 10 HR, 56 RBI)
RF – Paul O’Neill (.317 / .372 / .510, 24 HR, 116 RBI)

1996 New York

LF – Gerald Williams (.270 / .319 / .433, 5 HR, 30 RBI)
RF – Paul O’Neill (.302 / .411 / .474, 19 HR, 91 RBI)

Paul O’Neill’s a nice little player, but Chad Curtis? Gerald Williams?
The rest of their 1998 lineup (the one that won 114 games) included Chuck Knoblauch , Scott Brosius, and Daryl Strawberry. The 1996 team had Mariano Duncan, Wade Boggs, and Ruben Sierra!

The point is that the production from one particular position gets overblown by expectations that your “power positions” should be generating RBI’s by the bushel every day. The fact is that run-producing corner position players don’t just grow on trees is lost on people who long for the days of Manny roaming RF (by the way, Dellichaels – or Dellucci and Michaels – have 45 RBI, Manny has 43) and Albert prowling around LF.

I’m all for giving the youngsters some AB’s in lieu of Nixon in the lineup, but let’s hold off the “they’re one or two bats away” talk and turn to the real issues that litter the 6th and 7th inning relief corps.


rick@waitingfornextyear said...

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t-bone said...

Was at the Jake last night, going into that bottom of the 9th you just knew we were going to win.

I skipped out on the Rock N Blast fireworks, but I'm told that I missed out Michael Stanley performing "My Town" live. Fantastic.

Voltaire said...

I love reading your posts. Well-organized, well-researched, and well-said, every one.

I've always wondered why people think certain POSITIONS must produce, when what really matters is the TOTAL number of "bats" in a lineup. Victor Martinez at C gives the Indians a huge bonus offensively and lets them get away with Nixon in RF (which obviously needs to change). I have no problem with the platoon in LF, and if a productive platoon could be formed in RF I wouldn't mind that either.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, we have a good offense, and we don't have anything better to do with the roster spots. I understand it, but that doesn't make me like it.

I think what frustrates many fans is not so much the fact that we're any better or worse off than championship lineups because of our superior hitting at defensive positions, but rather the way the Indians' management can come across as using that potential advantage as an excuse for seemingly lackadaisical pursuit of good hitters in the corners (e.g., "We can afford league-average LF production because of Grady").

Put another way: Sure, we've got corner-outfield offensive production up the middle...but what does that have to do with starting a guy in right who isn't hitting? Put still another way: More home runs is better than fewer home runs.

"Green jacket, gold jacket, who gives a shit?"

Yes, we'll always be spoiled by the Grover corners. No, there aren't many Matt Hollidays to go around. But DD and TN have been VFB any way you slice it.

Paul Cousineau said...

Msgr. Arouet,
Thanks for the love.

I certainly agree that we don't have to like it. But it's a luxury on this team, not a necessity. I can't stand seeing the Trotter in the lineup.

But your last statement about how there aren't many Matt Hollidays to go around gets to the crux of the point.

Would I like to see Matt Holliday, Miguel Cabrera, or Jason Bay in the lineup?
But, contrary to what a lot of Tribe fans think (because we were so spoiled by excellence in the 90's), these guys don't grow on trees.

It harkens back to the "All-Star at Every Position" vs. a "Rock Solid Rotation" debate.
I'll take the rotation every day.

LargeBill said...

The way I'd like to see this team emulating those late 90's Y-word is in pitch selection. It seemed like Torre's boys had the opposing pitcher up to 100 pitches in the 5th or 6th inning every game. The Tribe has had better success this year when they work the count and get to the bullpen before the 7th inning.