Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Why do good things happen to bad people?

Baseless promotion

Welcome back, Endy!:

Washington recalled outfielder Endy Chavez and purchased the contract of outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds. Chavez, 27, was hitting .269 with a home run and three RBI and Hammonds, 34, was hitting .250 with two homers and nine RBI with the Zephyrs.

These moves were precipitated, of course, by the injuries to lefty reliever Joey Eischen (arm) and lefty fielder Terrmel Sledge (hammy). The moves also killed a planned post of mine entitled "Baseless Speculation." In it, I was going to, ah, speculate that the Nationals might be working on a deal for lefty reliever Frank Brooks, who is currently toiling for Triple-A Richmond in the Braves' organization.

It's a juicy story, involving Skip Caray, a hot-tub, the waitressing staff at the Gold Club, and copious amounts of the sniffy-sniff. But I'll get back to that in a second.

More immediately, I have to wonder "Why?" Why Hammonds? Why Inning Endy? Why?

Actually, concerning Endy, I sort of understand. He's fast, he can play center, he gives us some late-inning flexibility. He's a decent fifth outfielder. In other words, I hope you enjoyed the Nationals' organization, J.J. Davis. When Tony Armas is ready to come back, you're gonzo. Fine. But:

1) I have this perhaps illogical fear that Endy will weasel his way into a starting role; and,
2) why Hammonds?

Okay, back to the Skip Caray story.

Well, first, it's not true, except for the Skip Caray part. Richmond is "Atlanta Braves' country," you know, and we get their radio broadcasts here. The other night, a night or two before the Eischen injury actually, Caray was discussing the Braves' lefty relievers and made specific mention of the good work Brooks is doing at Richmond. (He has pitched six scoreless outings.) He said that Atlanta is looking at him, but also that another team has made an inquiry to acquire his services. I figured, "Hey, maybe it's the Nats."

The notion reoccurred to me when I read reports like this one from "Rocket Bill" Ladson this morning:

In the meantime, the Nationals have not replaced Eischen on the roster. Both Robinson and pitching coach Randy St. Claire would like to add a left-handed reliever, but the Nationals have no one in the Minor Leagues who's ready for the big leagues. Left-hander Joe Horgan is not even on the Nationals' radar screen because he has yet to retire a batter and is experiencing shoulder pain. Right-handers Tony Armas Jr. and Claudio Vargas are candidates, but Robinson is
reluctant to bring them up to replace Eischen because Robinson considers them starters and he doesn't want to mess up the current rotation. Robinson also isn't sure if Vargas could handle working out of the bullpen on a regular basis because of his injured elbow.
Of course, by running the outfielder count to 57, Jim Bowden hasn't really addressed Robinson's desire to get a lefty reliever. So the Nats---if they were ever the team interested, of course---could still be looking at Brooks or any number of other lefties out there.

Robinson's convention wisdom and strategic preference aside, though, I wonder if a lefty reliever is at all necessary. Notably, Bill James, in his 1995 Player Ratings Book, devoted an entire essay to Felipe Alou's decision to go a long stretch of the preceding season (before the strike, of course) with a lefty reliever. After crunching the numbers germane to the platoon advantage, James concluded that the omission was no big deal. I can't recall the precise number, but, at worst, the decision cost the Expos a ridiculously low number of hits allowed, at least theoretically. I know I've seen critiques of the essay online before, but Google isn't helping now---and time is short. I'll explore the issue again later, rest assured.

And with that, and cognizant that in reality my boy is a righty and is probably sixteenth in line to get the inevitable bullpen call up, I would like to declare, sua sponte, that the man for the job is . . [look at the above post].

Do it now, Bodes!

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