Ready for a kinda long one? I just finished walking 2.5 miles uphill in the snow (sounds like one of grandpa's stories that starts, "Why, when I was your age...") and I had plenty of time to think about baseball.
First things first: remember a few posts ago when I said there weren't any good left-handed hitters in the NL Central? Well, that's crap. But try this one on for size: there aren't any good left-handed pitchers in the NL Central. Ok, Oliver Perez. But other than that: Glendon Rusch? Doug Davis? Eric Milton? What am I getting at? Well, the Astros play 81 games against the NL Central, and it looks to me like about 75 of those games we'll be facing right-handed pitchers.
Quick aside: back to Center Field for one sec. Check out Randy Winn's numbers against righties the last 3 years:
2004: .299 / .359 / .453 (812 OPS)
2003: .288 / .337 / .399 (736 OPS)
2002: .283 / .351 / .434 (785 OPS)
For his career, Winn has a 784 OPS against lefties and a 743 OPS against righties. Well, that wasn't what I was hoping for...but I guess a 743 OPS isn't terrible for a slightly above-average defensive CF.
Just for comparison's sake, here are Jose Cruz Jr.'s numbers against righties the last 3 years:
2004: .233 / .320 / .420 (740 OPS)
2003: .233 / .353 / .379 (732 OPS)
2002: .253 / .334 / .478 (813 OPS)
For his career, Cruz Jr. has a 817 OPS against lefties and a 781 OPS against righties.
I was hoping one of them would have especially good stats against righties, but I was wrong. How about one last guy, just for the heck of it..
Ben Grieve, against RHP, last 3 years:
2004: .254 / .356 / .411 (767 OPS)
2003: .241 / .381 / .384 (765 OPS)
2002: .262 / .365 / .476 (841 OPS)
For his career, Grieve has a 666 OPS against lefties and a 805 OPS against righties.
So, what does this all mean? Well, ignore Grieve for a second: we still need a center fielder. Just looking at Winn's and Cruz's raw stats, they're pretty similar, but apparently Tampa won't trade Cruz without getting Lane in return, so forget that. The only problem with Winn is I don't see how the Mariners trade him without getting an OF in return, UNLESS they play Sexson in LF, Ichiro! in CF, and Ibanez in RF, which I don't really see happening. But either of those guys would be fine by me, and we really need one of them (Winn / Cruz). I still think Grieve would make an excellent 4th OF, and that Palmeiro is much better suited as a 5th OF. In addition, both Winn and Cruz are signed for one more year only (both for around 3 million in 2005), so there wouldn't be any long term commitment, which could be nice if Taveras or Luke Scott suddenly dominate. My summary: trade for Winn or Cruz, sign Grieve, and your OF looks like Lane in LF, Winn/Cruz in CF, Berkman/Grieve in RF.
While I'm on the whole lefty pitcher vs. righty pitcher tangent, I'll post what I think our ideal lineups are against lefties and against righties:
1. Craig Biggio, 2B: (.303 / .385 / .513) Biggio rocked against lefties in 2004, and has a slightly better OPS against them for his career (817 vs. 804) I don't know why he was so much better against them in 2004; maybe it has something to do with the leg kick?
2. Lance Berkman, RF: (.272 / .404 / .432) What??? Berkman hitting 2nd??? Well, yeah. He's always had excellent OBP's but little power against LHP, which makes him an ideal candidate for batting 2nd against them.
3. Jeff Bagwell, 1B: You don't even want to know his stats against LHP in 2004. I'm going to chalk that up as an anomaly, because for his career he's hitting .321 / .447 / .579 against them.
4. Jason Lane, LF: He didn't really have enough AB's against LHP in 2004 to make the sample size relevant, but for his career his numbers are .308 / .376 / . 596 against them in 104 AB's.
5. Morgan Ensberg, 3B: Similar to Bagwell, he struggled against lefties in 2004 and had an all-around down year; I'm going assume he hits closer to his career numbers against them, which are .304 / .402 / .515.
6. Randy Winn, CF: (.293 / .347 / .436, for his career).
7. Adam Everett, SS: Again, similar to Ensberg and Bagwell, he struggled against lefties in 2004, but I'll assume his career numbers against them: .279 / .353 / .430.
8. Brad Ausmus, C: (.308 / .382 / .423) I still think he's terrible, but look at those numbers against LHP in 2004! A 382 OBP! Wow.
Some notes: I realize that I'm 'cheating'; for some players, I'm using their 2004 numbers (Biggio, Berkman, Ausmus), and for some I'm using their career numbers (Bagwell, Ensberg, Everett). What can I say? I'm an optimist.
Look at that lineup. The lowest OBP on there is Winn's 347. Quick rundown of the OBP's and OPS:
I'm no expert, but I think that's pretty good. Like 2003 Red Sox good. Too bad there aren't more lefties in our division.
And now, the much more important lineup: the one against righties.
1. Randy Winn, CF: (.299 / .359 / .453 in 2004) Biggio just doesn't cut it leading off against RHP; Winn does, and he has solid SB% numbers.
2. Morgan Ensberg, 3B: (.268 / .335 / .438 for his career). I know, not all that impressive, but for whatever reason, Ensberg was TREMENDOUSLY better hitting 2nd in 2003 than 6th in 2004; maybe it's because he saw much better pitches to hit. Whatever it was, we have to move him up to 2nd again, and in fact, it might be worth it to move him up to 2nd against LHP also. Whatever it takes to get him back to his monster 2003.
3. Lance Berkman, RF: (. 314 / .426 / .605 for his career) That is simply incredible. INCREDIBLE. That's a 1031 OPS in over 2,000 ABs against RHP. That's what you build an offense around, folks.
4. Jeff Bagwell, 1B: (.291 / .392 / .505 in 2004) He had a down year, but those are still excellent numbers against righties. I think his struggles against lefties were a fluke, and although he's not the player he once was, I don't really think he needs to change anything for 2005.
5. Jason Lane, LF (.258 / .331 / .469 for his career). He needs to start all year in LF. It's his time to prove himself.
6. Craig Biggio, 2B (.276 / .326 / . 459 in '04). Not a great OBP, but surprising power. He really shouldn't be leading off against righties. How often does he chase that slider down and away?
7. Adam Everett, SS (.251 / .306 / .350 for his career). Yech. This is a big chance for Everett to prove himself, too - it would be nice if he could bat higher because of his speed, but he just doesn't have the OBP for it.
8. Brad Ausmus, C (.253 / .318 / .349) Yech again. Three words: No. Better. Options.
A few notes: I'll assume Biggio gets the majority of starts at 2B, with Burke occasionally filling in. Although these stats aren't quite as impressive, it really comes down to what 2005 is all about: chances for the young players. If Ensberg, Lane, and Everett can come through, we could be a solid team. One thing I've noticed is how important it is to trade for a CF: Biggio, aside from being terrible defensively in the OF, just can't put up the production you'd expect from a corner OF. So please, Purpura, trade some combination of Lamb / Redding / Duckworth to Seattle for Randy Winn. He's good offensively, good defensively, and would be a shorty and somewhat cheap commitment.
Trade for a CF and hope the young guys step up. That should be the game plan in '05.