Learning to Fly

Woollum Mammoths 40 Game Writeup

Omar Daal instead of Armando Benitez. Will that be the decision that haunts the Woollum Mammoth G.M. to his Summer League 2000 grave? At the 40 game mark, Daal has been the biggest disappointment of the draft so far for this first-year franchise. With a team high 7.94 ERA and a not-so-stellar 16.7 baserunners and 2.12 home runs per 9 innings, Daal is possibly the worst #2 starter in the league. At the same time, Benitez has a league high 19 saves, albeit for a team that has won 11 more games than the Mammoths. The Woollum G.M. was terrified of the "W" on Benitez's card, but so far the "W" has translated into a league relief-pitching low 7.7 baserunners per nine innings and a solid 1.62 ERA. I guess it helps to strike out almost 1 batter per inning.

Posing a similar hypothetical to the one offered by Keith in his 1999 Draft Notes, what would happen if Woollum could trade Daal, Hernandez, Johnstone and Venafro for Sele, Reynolds, Benitez and Wetteland? Two better starters and two dramatically better relievers? On paper at least, Wetteland should have been an obvious pick ahead of the "Fro". So what was I doing trying the corner the market on lefthanders?

As for the rest of the pitching staff, it is difficult to complain about southpaw Mike Hampton. Each of the league members should be receiving their "Hampton for Cy Young" promotional Cd-rom in the mail during the next few weeks, and should give strong consideration to Hampton's league-best 1.77 ERA and .168 opposition batting average. Add 3 shutouts to the mix and Woollum has no regrets about its' number one pick. Tim Hudson has also performed about as expected, if I can invoke the Steve Trachsel "it takes a pretty good pitcher to lose 6 games by the 40 game mark" argument. The Rich Garces Experiment has not worked quite as well as I might have hoped, but a solid outing against the Yips in Woollum's final series of the first 40 has fans hopeful for a resurgence.

On the offensive side, I think we can all agree that Woollum's league-dominant 294 baserunners stranded is pretty offensive. Combine a league-leading .356 OBP with a below-average .455 slugging percentage and you end up with Jermaine Dye carrying a lot of gloves and caps with him on his way to RF. I wish I knew how many baserunners I had left on 3B with less than two outs, but we should find out how critical the answer to this question might be with the addition of Gene "Windmill" Glynn as our third base coach for the final 122. Woollum is also last in the league with a 66.7 stolen base percentage, which (as Rob Neyer disciples already know) isn't adding a darn thing to the offense.

A couple other things stand out on the league offensive side of the ball that also deserve mention. Woollum is scoring 5.5 runs per game, tied for third best in the league. Who are we tied with? Corsica, the league's other 17-23 team. Which might suggest that good pitching beats good hitting, and not vice versa. Corsica's pitching staff has allowed a league-leading 239 runs, with Woollum in second at 207. So what was Keith doing trying to corner the market on starters? (Not to question one of the masters...after all, there are a lot of games left to play).

How did we end up talking about pitching again? It all seems to come back to pitching. As Greg Nims once told me, "it is easier to fake offense." It may also be easier to fake a starting rotation. The importance of the bullpen is perhaps best evidenced by the SL 2000 Club Scoring Report. Of the five teams that had completed 40 games at the time of this report, Woollum, Corsica and Chilliwack were doing the best jobs of scoring runs early. The H2O and the Mammoths were doing the best job of shutting teams down early. But Woollum is only scoring 19 percent of its runs in the last 3 innings, suggesting that we are overmatched against the league's closers. Add this to the fact that we are surrendering 29 percent of our runs late (as compared to 17 percent for Austin and 20 percent for the Yips) and you end up with a lot of blown leads.

I will end this writeup on a sentimental note, I guess. I confessed to Greg as we sat in the LF bleachers not too long ago that APBA blows away any fantasy league I have ever been in. Not even close. I am incredibly grateful that I have joined the Summer League, and I hope to be a long time member. As long as you will keep serving me foam in foam and letting me play this crazy game, I will keep bringing the Oke-doke. And, even if this year ends up as a painful learning experience, I pledge to keep on smiling. I owe that much to Uncle Stanish.

Written by Dave Basler, 5/00