Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The LA Times declares today that The Punter may be on the verge of becoming a platoon player.

There are two requisite steps to this becoming reality: Tim Salmon to emerge as a DH (and given his spring performance, this seems almost inevitable), and Juan Rivera demonstrating an ability to handle center field.

If these things happen, Erstad will sit against left-handed pitchers, allowing Rivera to patrol center and Old Man Salmon to DH.

If Rivera can handle this, this is a fairly exciting prospect. Over the last four seasons, Darin has been a weak hitter against southpaws, managing a pathetic 261/309/346 line. That adds up to a Weighted On Base Average (Runs per Plate Appearance scaled to OBP) of .295; the league average is around .340.

Rivera, on the other hand, has hit lefties to an adequate 273/319/454 line -- a .330 wOBA, which given that a significant amount of his playing time came in the pitchers' league and/or in pitchers' parks, is acceptable.

(Interestingly, Rivera has actually been better against RHP, with a .346 wOBA, and Tim Salmon has also hit righties better over in recent years, .367-.348. Rivera has less than 100 at-bats against lefties in that time, so sample size may well be an issue.)

The big question is whether or not Ruben can handle the defensive end. He's a good corner outfielder, which is not the same as being a good center fielder. Nothing about him screams "speed"; he grounds into a lot of double plays (26 the last two season), doesn't hit triples (only two in his career), and last year was an unseemly one-for-ten at stealing bags.

But, if he can be adequate for six or seven innings when the opposing team starts a lefty, he can always be replaced by Darin for late-inning work, so it could be workable. And the Angels have often thought outside the box for their defensive alignments, and this thinking has often worked, so this might pay off.

Something to watch. If you're a fantasy owner in a fairly deep AL-only league that differentiates between the various outfield positions, Rivera's value might have shot up quite a bit in mid-April.


I just tore through Sam Walker's Fantasyland in two days, and in many ways it's the most entertaining baseball book I've read this spring. Walker, the national sports correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, somehow talked himself into being a competitor in Tout Wars, a rotisserie competition of rotisserie and baseball "experts", for the 2004 season. This was Walker's first experience ever with playing fantasy.

So he hires a couple of guys (one a scout-type guy, one a stats guy) to help him and goes on his way. The book is a hilarious and readable account of his encounters with his various players, managers, and executives as he seeks advice on who to acquire -- and then, when the going gets tough, tries to exert his own influence, lobbying real-life GMs for trades that will help his team and pointing out to pitching coaches how their common players' performances can be maximized.

Not to mention his distribution of team t-shirts to his players, and a Player of the Month trophy to April star Jacque Jones.

Walker is out of it as the season draws to a close, but wants to top Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus, the only other fantasy rookie in the contest. His chances take a big blow when, with about a week of the season left, the Angels suspend Jose Guillen.

When the reinstatement hearing for Guillen is announced, Walker and his two assistants do what any self-respecting fantasy owners would: they make signs and fliers and protest outside of the hotel where the hearing is being held.

This causes a lot of confusion for passers-by, three lunatics holding up signs like "Sciame Scioscia", claiming that fantasy owners have rights too. It also draws the attention of Mike Scioscia and Bill Stoneman as they exit the hearing.

And what do they do?

They laugh.

"That's beautiful," says Scioscia. He takes a flier, which characterizes the suspension as "rash." "It wasn't rash at all," Mike insists. "It was a long time coming."

Mike and Bill and some (unidentified) coaches get into a cab and drive off. But, a few minutes later, none other than Darin Erstad and Troy Percival emerge, headed for a limo. The fantasy clowns approach Darin, asking if he wants a flier.

"Uh, nooooooooo," he says.

Percival uses language, that is, um, direct, unequivocal, and disapproving. (This is, I guess, a family site because it's about baseball, so if you want the language you can highlight the following: "Suck my dick. I don't give a shit about your fantasy team." [This is, I believe, perfectly acceptable smacktalk in any fantasy league.])

Percy opens the limo door, but before getting in, puts out another riposte re: Guillen: "The guy's an asshole."

He gets in and the limo leaves, leaving Walker and his guys in shock.

I love this team.

I'm going to have to buy that book! Just finished my fantasy league draft. Last week when we met Mike Scioscia in Chandler, he said that John Lackey was looking good this year. I responded "Good, He's on my fantasy team" and Scioscia cracked up!

We're closing in on opening day! WOO HOO Go Angels!
Great news on the potential platoon. Rivera may be slow for CF, but I've seen Garret and Finley play out there the last 2 seasons. I can take it.
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