Monday, November 01, 2004

       G   AB   H  2B  3B  HR  SO  BB  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS+  EqA  ZR(CF)

2004 108 285 79 11 4 7 54 46 18 3 277 372 418 118 .292 .837(9)
Car. 108 277 73 12 3 10 57 38 14 4 263 348 428 107 .280 .878
Pro. 87 228 62 10 2 7 43 33 13 3 273 360 428 109
(For an explanation see here. The career column is prorated to the number of games played last season.)

I can't remember if I've mentioned this in this forum before, but did you know Jeff DaVanon was such a good basestealer? I mean, 18 stolen bases isn't shaking the world or anything, but 18 for 21 is an excellent rate, and he has a 75.5% career success rate in 49 attempts. I honestly had no clue about this. Can you remember him ever stealing a base? Does he seem like a particularly graceful runner to you? But it works.

You'd think that, given his excellent walk rate and the stolen bases, DaVanon would scream top of the lineup. However, DaVanon played only eight games in the 2-hole last season; when Eckstein led off, Figgins batted second (during and after Erstad's injury), and when Figgins won the lead-off job, Erstad returned to second. Most of DaVanon's plate appearances last year came from the six spot.

DaVanon and Figgins are well-suited to the number 2 slot, but is Darin Erstad? Though DaVanon has been much better at reaching base the last two years, they actually have similar career numbers: Erstad has a .344 OBP to DaVanon's .348.

Erstad and DaVanon are an odd match of players, actually.

Career    PA   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS+   DOB 

DaVanon 874 263 348 428 105 12/8/73
Erstad 5010 289 344 424 98 6/4/74
Erstad was a number one pick in 1995 and a ballyhooed prospect. DaVanon was a 26th round pick that same year. Erstad ripped through the minors, playing only 114 games before reaching the majors, and hitting 328/392/488. DaVanon has 601 minor league games under his belt, in which he has hit 300/403/467. And yet, it appears that on a rate basis DaVanon has been at least the equal of Erstad as an offensive player in the major leagues.

Of course, Mike Scioscia has turned DaVanon into a platoon player; he rarely gets a chance to hit against left-handers. However, in the last three years, he has an OPS of 796 against RHP and 729 against lefties -- that's only a 9% difference.

Darin Erstad, by contrast, has a 722 OPS against righties and a 674 against southpaws over that same period -- a similar difference, 7%. But note: DaVanon's OPS againgst LHP over the three years is higher than Erstad's!

But where The Punter is considered an indispensable part of the everday lineup, DaVanon will have to fight for playing time. He will be in the mix in center and DH for 2005, and there are a few scenarios that provide for him to be a starter:

1. DaVanon could win the starting CF job (with The Punter at 1B).
2. Casey Kotchman could win the 1B job, putting Erstad into either CF or LF and Garret Anderson at LF or DH, with DaVanon taking whichever spot is left open.
3. The Angels can sign Carlos Beltran to play CF, Kotchman might get sent back to AAA, and DaVanon and Anderson would take over LF/DH.

Of course, if the Angels were to sign Beltran and Kotchman won the 1B job, Erstad would end up in LF and Anderson would DH, and DaVanon would go back to being an excellent fourth outfielder.

If the Angels signed Beltran, that makes the decisions quite a bit earlier. But what if Beltran ends up in pinstripes? Who else might be available? Examine the free agent list here; here are CF highlights:

1. Carlos Beltran
2. J.D. Drew
3. Steve Finley

That's it.

We all know about Beltran; J.D. Drew finally realized his potential last season, staying healthy and having a fantastic year. But his health has been a humongous question over his career, and even listing him as a center field option is speculative: though many say he could handle the position, he has been a right fielder for most of his major league career. (By the way, did you know that Drew's name is "David Jonathan Drew"? Why the hell does he go by "J.D." when his initials are "D.J."? What is that about?)

Steve Finley was excellent in 2004, but is roughly 398 years old, and has been on a defensive skid for years.

I still believe that the opening day center fielder for the Angels in 2005 will be either Darin Erstad or Carlos Beltran. Unless the Angels pick up a CF for Jose Guillen, I just don't see them starting the season with DaVanon out there. DaVanon is a valuable reserve, and might even be the best fourth outfielder in the majors, but I don't think his glove carries him in center, and I don't think his bat carries him as a corner outfielder or DH -- especially considering the fact that he'll be 31 next year, and his peak is likely behind him.

The only other in-house CF option is Legs Figgins, who will have spell Adam Kennedy at second for an undetermined amount of time.

If the past is truly prologue, the fact is we're going to see quite a bit of DaVanon in the starting lineup in 2005. The Angels have a number of notably fragile players, and DaVanon has a good spread of skills to fill in gaps. He's been a productive and valuable member of the Angels, and I expect that to continue in 2005, whatever role he ends up filling.

He still scares the hell out of me on fly balls. He juse never looks comfortable.
Yeah, he's an uncomfortable looking player in general, I think. He has a lot of awkward mannerisms. But he gets results in many aspects of the game ... as I said, I can't really see him starting regularly in CF.
He is arbitration eligible - my bet is he's tradd or released by opening day.
I doubt that, it's not like he's going to make a whole lot of money in arbitration, and he's a valuable reserve at worst. Is there a better fourth outfielder out there? I don't think there are many.
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