Hatfield Rainmakers Season Review

In my 40 game review, I predicted that a dark storm was brewing for the Hatfield Rainmakers. Unfortunately, I was correct. Sitting at 22-18 at the 40 game mark, the Rainmakers proceeded to go on a 49-73 run to finish the season. The Rainmakers, who were third in the SL in runs scored, were outscored by their opponents 959-853. This 106-run negative run differential was the worst in the league by 31 runs. In one way, then, I guess I overachieved. I didn't finish last....just second to last.

As a wise manager once said: "Baseball is a simple game. You hit the ball, you throw the ball, you catch the ball." This review will focus on each of these key areas.

Hitting the Ball

Following the draft, I felt reasonably good about my offense. I had a formidable looking heart of the order and for the first time in my involvement in the SL I had some legitimate power. Bonds, the eventual MVP, looked like he was going to have some help in Pujols, Alou, and Piazza. They did provide some help as I ended up with four players in the league top 24 in runs created per game: Bonds (1st at 17.6), Alou (15th at 6.9), Pujols (16th at 6.8) and Pizza (24th at 6.4). Only one other team had as many as 4 players in the top 24: Savoy with an amazing 4 in the top 10.

Of course, one of the things that helps win games in the SL and in MLB is depth from the top of the lineup to the bottom and also depth on the bench. What really hurt my offense was needing to run Tejada (4.2 rc/g), Koskie (4.8 rc/g), Biggio (4.8 rc/g), Davis (2.4 rc/g) and Jones (2.3 rc/g) out there along with my talented top 4 hitters. What also hurt is that Griffey (4.1 rc/g), Uribe (4.4 rc/g) and Durazo (2.9 rc/g) didn't turn out to be the offensive contributors I thought they would be as part time players. Just too many easy outs once you get past the big four. My team OBP of .333 and SLG of .481 look pretty good until you realize how awesome Bonds (.518 and .813) really was. Without Bonds in the lineup these numbers drop considerably. Also, only Koskie was really a threat to steal bases as the rest of my lineup was hampered either in rating or in number of attempts.

It is difficult to comprehend how a player with 108 extra base hits could only drive in 131 runs. Or how a number 3 hitter could fail to have a single sacrifice fly in 153 games. These things are difficult to comprehend until one considers that the two hitters who were regularly batting in front of Bonds (Koskie and Biggio) had OBPs of .315 and .324. Biggio's .262 average looks even worse when you consider he got the benefit of a H&R 3 every time Koskie was on base in front of him. It now looks like I should have had Alou and Pujols batting in front of Bonds rather than behind him. If that had been the case, however, it is doubtful Bonds would have scored 162 runs.

Some interesting trivia about my offense: Koskie, my leadoff hitter, led the team in strikeouts at 132. Bonds had 180 walks (39 intentional) and the next closest player had 67. Uribe had 10 triples in 65 games. Durazo had 5 HRs in 14 hits. Mark Grace had 2 triples. Mike Piazza had 2 triples. Barry Bonds had 1. My offense left 1117 runners on base. Next worst in the league was 1074. Pujols led the league in LOB with 299 runners stranded in 697 plate appearances. Bonds was first in the league in plate appearance per HR at 10.7, Piazza was second at 13.5.

Throwing the Ball

Lack of depth was a big problem with my offense but the key to my losing season was probably still my pitching staff. After leading the SL in era last year, I finished dead last in '02. Hatfield was the only SL team with an era above 5.00 and ended up safely above at 5.36. The difference between Hatfield's stinky era and its next closest competitor was .39, which was approximately the spread of difference between the top 6 teams in the league. When it came to giving up earned runs, we were undisputed champions.

Hatfield finished last in the league in era at 5.36 and the league average era was 4.72. Hard to say what the difference was, but I would note that Hatfield, like the league-leading Gretna squad, spent 5 of its top 6 draft picks on pitching. (Of course, we didn't spend our top pick on pitching, so we didn't make nearly the investment Gretna did.) We had fewer quality starts than anyone, but also struck out more batters than anyone. We ended up fourth in the league in walks allowed at 531 and second in base hits allowed at 1488. This resulted in a second-worst in the league OBP against of .263. It also didn't help that we gave up 255 home runs, although this put us in the middle of the pack as far as league-wide stats go. The real key, it appears, was our league-leading 10 balks. This was double the number of balks as the second-worst team in the league and it is worth noting that 3 teams surrendered 0 balks the entire season.

My good friend Greg is often quick to point out deficiencies in my character, and one of the things he criticizes is my use of the bullpen. It is true that I left some unused games and innings on the table at the end of the year. What makes this a particularly glaring sin, however, was the performance of my starters. Wolf's era was an almost league-worst 7.82. (Thanks Mike Hampton for making him look OK). Pettitte was an awful 6.18. Buerhle, my second round pick, finished at 5.82. Only Penny (5.75) and Vazquez (4.58) compare favorably to other starters drafted at or near their draft positions, and neither of them pitched like Cy Young.

I think it was Ken who observed late in the season that this was not the year to have 3 lefthanders in your pitching rotation, and I would agree that my three lefties were my biggest disappointment. It also appears that lefties like Johnson, Moyer, and Leiter had sub-par years. What certainly didn't help Buerhle and Wolf, however, was surrendering more home runs per batter faced than almost anyone else in the league. (Another poor performer in this area is the aforementioned Leiter). It also didn't help that Pettitte and Wolf gave up a ton of hits compared to other pitchers on a hits per batters faced basis, although this may be a function of fewer high-platoon rating lefty hitters.

In my bullpen, Jeff Fassero (my only lefty) was clearly my worst pitcher at 5.26 era, but he was also my lowest grade pitcher. He gave up 21 home runs in 104.1 innings pitched, a ratio of .20 HRs per inning pitched. This was by far the worst in my pen. My two Ws gave up too many walks, as one might expect. Dotel's K/BB ratio was 2.21 to 1. Fox's was 1.64 to 1. Fassero, who was a Z pitcher, did a nice job at 3.23 to 1. In 23 games, Fikac ended up leading my team in saves with 9, but this is probably due to the fact that I used him like a traditional MLB closer. When it came to getting the game's toughest outs, I still called on Foulke and Fox more than anyone.

Beane count numbers for the team were: OFFENSE: 1101 strikeouts, 606 walks. PITCHING: 1197 strikeouts, 531 walks. I led the SL in pitching strikeouts and batting walks. But my team sucked. Go figure.

Catching the Ball

Even though this end of season review is by now nothing more than a rambling, incoherent mess, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Pizza at catcher experiment. Piazza caught 66 games and allowed 170 stolen bases in 521.2 innings. He threw out 18 runners in 188 attempts for a 90.4 opponent stolen base percentage. Of course, this means he only surrendered an average of 2.93 stolen bases per nine innings. His replacement, Ben Davis, threw out 40 runners in 175 attempts for a 77.1 opponent stolen base percentage. He surrendered an average of 1.45 stolen bases per nine innings. Now, whether Piazza cost me more wins than Davis in light of Piazza's superior offensive numbers (.268, .314, .571 vs. .188, .251, .285) is for someone smarter than me to figure out. Keith, for example. Which is why we are all anxiously awaiting this year's draft notes. I didn't draft pitchers with very good moves, which didn't help any of my catchers. Just another example of how little things do add up in the SL.

Fielding trivia is as follows: My catchers had 39 errors, more than any other position and more than all of my middle infielders combined. Bonds had 5 errors and 20 assists. Alou had 19 errors and 19 assists. Alou played a part in 8 double plays.

As always, I am looking forward to next year. This is true even though '02 was my darkest season to date. I missed the fun of so many face-to-face games. I hope to do better next year, both in the stats and in league fellowship. Now where is that data disk???

by David K. Basler, 12.26.2002