The Terrence Long Disease

By Jason Wojciechowski on May 6, 2004 at 1:40 PM

I saw a good bit of the A's game last night, and took some notes, but I left those at home, so we'll talk about them later. For now, let's see what else happened last night. Hopefully, nothing will add to the Oakland debacle.

  • The Red Sox lost again, which brings me no joy, especially coupled with the Yankees win. Boston scored four runs in the top of the ninth, three of them on Johnny Damon's first homer, against some Cleveland relievers, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Indians' five run fourth that was helped along by two Mark Bellhorn errors.

  • All kinds of fun numbers and happenings in the Chicago-Baltimore tilt. Magglio Ordonez hit his eighth homer of the year in the first, but his team scored just once more the rest of the way, while the Orioles scored at least once in six of their eight innings. Brian Roberts stole four bases, giving him thirteen for the year. Miguel Olivo, the Sox catcher, was known in the minors for having a cannon for an arm. The four steals, along with Melvin Mora's steal of second, all came against Esteban Loaiza, though, so it's possible that it's more the pitcher than the catcher in this case, similar to the way the A's ran roughshod over Jose Contreras last night. Olivo also made a throwing error in the game, but from the box score (it's cheating to go outside it), it's hard to know whether it was on a steal or in another situation. If it was on a steal, I'd argue that as more evidence for the contention that the steals were on Loaiza more than Olivo. Runners getting good jumps puts enormous pressure on catchers, making them attempt throws they might not normally, whether by throwing from their knees or by not getting their feet set properly, or any number of other possibilities.

  • Jeromy Burnitz hit his seventh homer of the year against Montreal last night, in a losing cause. Burnitz should be falling off a cliff. Instead, he's playing center field, hitting .274/.378/.631, good for 6.3 VORP, which puts him seventh in the NL; in other words, league average. His raw numbers are obviously Coors-inflated, and I'd bet his defense hurts his value (is there any reason to think he's even a decent center fielder?), but how many people thought he'd even be a league-average center fielder? He's performing at right around his 90th PECOTA percentile right now, so the Rockies have to be happy with what they're getting.

    All those keystrokes aside, he's still short of 100 plate appearances for the year, so we're quite likely talking about an early-season hot streak. Even, of course, if he continues to hit like this all year, he'll be a terrible risk for next year at 36. We're getting way ahead of ourselves, but it's fun. Anyway, five years ago, if Burnitz had a good year this year (or even if he didn't and it just looked like he did because of Coors), somebody'd probably sign him up for a couple million bucks and (more importantly) two or three years. Now he'll be lucky to get an NRI. And rightfully so. It's contracts like those to players like those that keep players like Eric Byrnes and Billy McMillon and Craig Wilson and Ramon Castro out of jobs and money.

  • Darrell May's having an ugly year. His 7.09 ERA after last night's game is, clearly, awful, and about the only redeeming factor of his stat line for the year is a higher-than-normal (for him) strikeout rate: about seven per nine innings, by my calculation. No one's expect him to put up a sub-4 ERA again, like he did last year, especially in Kansas City, but sub-6 would be a nice goal.

  • Florida dropped their fourth straight by losing to the Dodgers in eleven innings. The Dodger offense was essentially two singles by Adrian Beltre and three by Alex Cora. The pitching side is prettier: Josh Beckett had another nice game, striking out seven while allowing just five baserunners (three hits, two walks) and two runs, and not throwing a terrible number of pitches to do it (111); Oliver Perez kept the Marlins to three runs in six innings, a quality start, and did it without striking out a batter, a feat I'm sure his defense is appreciative of; the Dodger bullpen made up for that lack of bat-missing ability by striking out nine in their five innings, including three by Eric Gagne in the bottom of the eleventh.

    That's the Gagne we all know and love, even if he did give up a single in the inning. Through Gagne's first six games, I was down on him for not being the flame-breathing monster we'd come to expect, but he's picked it back up in his last five games: six and a third innings, 13 strikeouts, including two games where he struck out all three men he faced. His non-perfect ERA comes solely from back-to-back games against the Giants in which he gave up a home run, one of those a two-run shot to Barry Bonds. In other words, he's fine.

  • Half of Philadelphia's eight hits were homers hit by their three offensive stars, but the Cardinals' nine singles (and one Albert Pujols double) won the day, as three of the four homers were solo shots. Bobby Abreu hit two of the home runs, giving him seven of the year, Jim Thome hit his eighth, and Pat Burrell, whose batting average has come back but missing a little bit of his power early on, hit his fourth.

  • Milwaukee used a six-run third, propelled by a Lyle Overbay grand slam, to beat the Reds 6-2. Cincinnati's two runs were a token pair scored in the bottom of the ninth against the Brewer bullpen.

  • The only bigger dropoff in talent from Barry Bonds to Jeffrey Hammonds in left field for the Giants might be Alex Rodriguez to whoever would play third if he weren't for the Yankees. Hammonds started yesterday, so the Giants were predictably short of offense, scoring just two runs against Steve Trachsel and the Mets.

    Todd Zeile had a bit of an embarassing day. An 0-5 is bad enough, but when you're the only guy in the lineup without a hit, it's worse. When that includes the pitcher (Trachsel had a single), it's a lot worse. When that further includes the guy who pinch-ran for Mike Piazza and only got one at-bat (Vance Wilson), it's downright miserable. He's a veteran, though, and a crummy one at that. He's used to abject failure.

  • Adam Eaton gave up four runs in seven innings to an injury-riddled Atlanta offense and lost, due in no small part to Terrence Long batting fifth for the Padres. It doesn't even matter how well or badly Long hit in this game; what matters is that the presence of Long in left field and that high in the batting order is a symptom of something else being wrong. The A's had the disease last year. Luckily, they traded it for a real center fielder.

  • If I'm at good at my job as Steve Finley is at his age, I'll be a happy man. Finley hit his seventh homer of the year last night, and while he's hitting .243 without walking too much, he's still hitting for good power. Who would've thought he'd still be a valuable player at this age?

  • Andy Pettite struck out eight Pirates in five innings, but took 90 pitches to do it, so even though he'd only given up one run, he was done at that point. The bullpen overcame Dan Miceli being ... well, being Dan Miceli, and Brad Lidge got his first save of the year.

  • Texas finally lost, as Tampa Bay scored five runs on five home runs, one by Julio Lugo (!), two by Geoff Blum (!), and two by Tino Martinez (!), the second a top-of-the-ninth tie-breaking shot off of Jeff Nelson.