Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Jack's back. A lot happened while I was at a wedding (my first ever) in Florida - the Astros won the last 3 games of their series against the Brewers, with Roy and Roger dominating and the offense going crazy for one game. And we traded college pitcher and minor league pitcher extraordinaire Kirk Saarloos to the Oakland A's for Chad Harville.

Unfortunately for both Kirk and the Astros, it seemed like this was inevitable. I think people have forgotten how good this guy was in the minors:

18-3, 190 IP, 175 K, 41 BB, 7 HR, 1.99 ERA.

That is simply awesome. He hasn't been great in the majors, but he hasn't been painfully bad, either, and I can't see why a 25 year old with those minor league career stats can't eventually be a succesful major league pitcher.

As for Harville, Andy reminded me that we had seen him in the bullpen on our road trip, but I still don't remember him, so I'm going to have to break out the old copies of Baseball Prospectus Annuals. Here's what they have to say about Harville:

2002: He's a small right-hander who can flat-out bring heat...often called a right-handed Billy Wagner, but that's overstating the case...has the stuff to be a closer in the bigs.

2003: Once called "The Right-Handed Billy Wagner" because of his diminutive stature and vicious fastball, Harville's been struggling with injuries and mechanics.

2004: The whole right-handed Billy Wagner thing just hasn't worked out...He still throws very hard, but didn't look completely comfortable with his improving curveball...he's still a reasonable bet to be a good pitcher in some role.

GM Gerry Hunsicker also said today in the paper that the team had considered drafting Harville in 1997 in the 1st round, but went with Lance Berkman instead (good choice!). I think maybe this is a case of seeing a guy as you would like to see him - yep, he was dominant in college, and occasionally great in the minors, but Harville has struggled in the majors. Sound like anyone? Although Harville and Saarloos pitch nothing alike (Harville brings the heat, Saarloos can't throw over 85mph), they've both had success at the collegiate/minor league level, but it hasn't translated well to the bigs. Harville has had more injury trouble, and is older than Saarloos (27 to 25). All in all, I gotta give this trade a thumbs up...for the A's. They were getting ready to have to drop Harville because they had a full 25-man roster and he had refused demotion. Saarloos could definitely be a solid back-of-the-rotation starter for the A's for a few years - maybe he was rushed to the majors, or maybe he just needs to be put in a role and left there for a whole year instead of being jerked around. Either way, although this trade might help us this year, I don't like it long-term. I think we could have gotten more (say, a C or OF prospect?) for Saarloos. Harville has immediately been placed on the 25-man roster, with Eric Bruntlett sent down to make room. Andy Pettitte's just about back from the DL, which means we have to send someone down to AAA. I'd recommend Duckworth, because I still think he fits in better as a future starter - he gives up a few too many HRs for a reliever. Put him in AAA for a year and maybe he'll make a great #5 starter next year. That would leave us with Dotel/Lidge/Miceli/Harville/Stone/Gallo/Backe, which I like. No spot-starter/long-relief guy, but with 7 relievers, I think it's all right. Just don't use Harville or Lidge for too long - both those guys have injury history.

Anyway, back to the team on the field. We're looking really good. Our offense can't keep this up, obviously, but if Biggio continues to drive the ball (10 extra-base hits!), Bagwell and Berkman keep drawing walks, Hidalgo keeps ripping up, and Ensberg finally gets it going (which he will - he's done it at every level, over time), we should have ourselves a very solid offense. Ausmus and Everett will almost certainly regress, but that's to be expected. Our bench has actually looked ok, at least from the Lane and Palmeiro point of view. Raul Chavez isn't going to hurt anybody, Mike Lamb is a butcher in the field but has some pop, and Jose Vizcaino is batting .077 / .143 / .154 with 3 K's in 11 AB's. Can't win 'em all...

Tonight: Wade Miller vs. Jeff Suppan.

Watch for a 'hangover' from Miller after throwing 121 pitches last start.

Tomorrow: An article about a friend of a friend who might just be the next great Braves outfielder.

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