30 April 2007

Snakes Preview: A bunch of 24 year-olds

I tried to come up with the typical recent Snakes lineup, but it just isn't possible. The Snakes have so many young players starting up their major league careers that they don't seem to have any set lineup. They have 4 outfielders who play a lot, a near platoon at first base, and a 3 man rotation on the left side of the infield.


Hairston -- LF
Young -- CF
Quentin -- RF
Byrnes -- CF, LF, RF


Drew -- SS
Tracy -- 3B
Hunson -- 2B
Callaspo -- SS, 3B
Jackson -- 1B
Clark -- 1B
Snyder -- C

The pitching matchups are Wolf v Webb, Penny v Hernandez, and Hendrikson v Davis. I think Wolf will do well and give the Dodgers a fighting chance against the Snakes ace, but the Snakes still have to be favored in this game, especially since the Dodgers may rest some starters after their 17 inning victory of the Padres. If Hendrickson continues his great pitching then the Dodgers should win the last two. The Dodgers better plan on winning at least two out of three at home with first place on the line. I'll be at the first game of the series, and I'll have observer's notes on the game tomorrow.

The Snakes have a good young team that hasn't quite put it all together offensively yet. None of the big four prospects of Drew, Jackson, Quentin or Young is playing like the Snakes hope so far. Even so they've still scored a healthy amount of runs, 107, good for 4.1 per game. They've also given up 107 runs, so they're a bit lucky to have a record of 15-11 so far. In contrast, the Dodgers record of 15-10 goes along with a 120-92 runs scored to runs allowed record. The scary thing about the Snakes is that it seems like just a matter of time before all these young players start hitting. If they do, the Dodgers will really have to play well to stay ahead of them.

Player capsules:

Orlando Thill Hudson

age: 29

0.340 -- 0.402 -- 0.510

"Thill the thrill" is the anchor of the Snakes offense. He's the only constant in the lineup, having batted third and played second base in every game. He leads the Snakes in on-base percentage and is second in slugging to only part time first baseman Tony Clark.

This is the good news. The bad news is that his terrific production may not last. The following chart compares his batting averages along with his and on-base percentages minus batting average and slugging percentages minus batting average during his career.

Year -- AVG -- (OBP-AVG) -- (SLG-AVG)
2002 -- 0.276 -- 0.043 -- 0.167
2003 -- 0.268 -- 0.060 -- 0.127
2004 -- 0.270 -- 0.071 -- 0.168
2005 -- 0.271 -- 0.044 -- 0.141
2006 -- 0.287 -- 0.067 -- 0.167
2007 -- 0.340 -- 0.062 -- 0.170

His power hasn't improved this year, nor has ability to draw a walk. All the improvement is in the batting average, so if that falls off, he's back to being the same player he used to be.

Or perhaps not quite ... Hudson does appear to have improved slightly since coming over to Arizona after the 2005 season, even if his batting average falls back down to 0.290 or so. A second baseman who puts up a 0.800 OPS is still pretty good. Or he could keep the batting average gain, for all anyone knows. I may have a deeper look at his numbers at hardballtimes.com later in the week.

The Dodger pitchers will want to keep the ball in on him, or try to get him to chase low stuff out of the strike zone.

Christopher Brandon Young

Age: 23

0.208 -- 0.262 -- 0.351

He hasn't shown anything yet in 150 major league at bats. He's still considered a player with a bright future, though. He was ranked 23 among prospects by Baseball America in 2006, and Baseball Prospectus's projection system really likes him. He might have the biggest upside of any Snakes prospect/young player, but right now he's just a hole in the lineup.

Stephen Oris Drew

Age: 24

0.264 -- 0.350 -- 0.368

He had a 0.874 OPS last year. He's having a slightly slow start, but still decent numbers. A 0.350 OBP from a shortstop is always nice, and the Snakes know that will only improve. His seems to hit lefties better than righties, which is strange since Drew is a lefty batter. He was ranked 5 in Baseball America's prospect list in 2006. The Snakes had him leading off to start the year, but since he's been dropped in the order.

Carlos J. Quentin

Age: 24

0.184 -- 0.295 -- 0.342

Another big-time prospect who isn't yet producing for the Snakes. He did well in 166 AB last year with a 0.872 OPS. Was ranked 20 in Baseball America's prospect list in 2006.

Conor S. Jackson

Age: 24

0.217 -- 0.351 -- 0.267

The last of the big 4 Snake prospects, and the second in a row that I couldn't find a middle name on. Grrr. Anyway, he gets on base but that's it so far. The dilemma the Snakes have here is that they have another first baseman on the team who is hitting a home run every 10 at bats: Tony Clark. If they want to go all out and win now, they might want to play Clark more often. But the Snakes are going with the youth movement, with an eye to dominating in 2008 and beyond, so it makes sense that Jackson has started most of the time at first base. And truthfully he will likely outperform Clark for this year anyway. He did pretty well in 2006, with an OPS of 0.809 in about 500 at bats. He was ranked 17 on the 2006 Baseball America list.

Chad Austin Tracy

Age: 26

0.293 -- 0.398 -- .0476

Right now Hudson has better percentages, but Tracy will likely retake the lead in OBP and SLG by the end of the eyar. 2006 was actually a down year for him after a great 2005, and he appears to be hitting more like 2005 so far. The Snakes offense is scary, when you consider that in addition to the big four, and all the other prospects still in the farm system, that they also have a terrific 26 year old hitter like Tracy.

One caveat with him is that in his career his OPS gets a 90 point bump at home. He's not quite the same hitter on the road that he is in the Disneyfied confines of Bank Ballpark. The other red flag with him is that he only has a 0.631 OPS against lefty pitchers. Two of the Dodger starters in the series will be lefties, and obviously the series is away from Phoenix, so the Dodgers have a leg up on stopping him.

Scott Alexander Hairston

Age: 26

0.220 -- 0.313 -- 0.373

Finally, a young player who isn't good or supposed to be good. I'm not sure why he'd ever get a start over Byrnes.

Tony Clark

Age: 34

0.250 -- 0.295 -- 0.575

4 homers in 40 at bats, but not much else. If he plays, the Dodger pitchers better watch it, though. A switch-hitter, he's doing all his damage as a left-handed batter, so only Penny needs to worry about him among the starters. He won't start against Wolf or Hendrickson most likely.

Eric James Byrnes

Age: 31

0.270 -- 0.339 -- 0.420

One of Vin Scully's favorites. Strangely he does better on the road than at home since he came over to Arizona. He also mashes lefties, so unlike Tracy, everything sets up for him in this series. In fact he should be more dangerous than Tracy if all goes according to past numbers. The Dodger pitchers will want to keep it inside on him.

Alberto Jose Callaspo

Age: 24

0.212 -- 0.268 -- 0.258

Another prospect-type who's struggling so far. Only he's doing far worse than any of the others. Like all the other 24 year olds, it's way too soon to know how he'll turn out.

Christopher Ryan Snyder

Age 26

0.211 -- 0.340 -- 0.316

He had an OBP of 0.349 last year, and he's following that up nicely in spite of the crappy batting average. His backup Montero has more power but doesn't get on base as much. Catcher is not a position where the Snakes are expecting to find any offense.

Brandon Tyler Webb

Age: 27

ERA: 3.60

Webb is walking more batters than usual so far this year, which is why his OBP allowed is up to .333 from 0.289 last year. He'll probably recover from this. His ground ball to fly ball ratio is even better than ever at over 6, up from 4 the last two years. His strikeout ratio is also better than ever. It's those walks that are keeping him from a sub 3 ERA so far. The Dodgers have to draw some walks and hope their grounders find the holes; this is still a really tough pitcher to hit.

Colorado seems to have figured out how to hit him; in two games against the Rockies he's allowed 10 ER, and he's allowed just 4 ER in his other three starts combined.

One odd note: in spite of all the extra baserunners and extra ground balls, he's only induced 3 double play balls this year. At that rate he'll only have 20 or fewer on the year; last year he induced 30.

Eisler Livan Hernandez

Age: 32

ERA: 3.94

He's had one bad start this season, at Petco of all places. Otherwise he's been very good. I'm not sure how he's doing it, though. He only has 13 strikeouts to 19 walks on the year. Only 1 HR given up so far helps. If the Dodgers are patient against him, I think they can really hit him. No first pitch swinging!

Douglas P. Davis

Age: 31

ERA: 2.79

He wasn't much last year for Milwaukee with a 4.91 ERA. He's rotation filler off to a hot start this year. He's another starter not allowing home runs: the three Snake starters in the series have only allowed a total of 5 combined so far. But he has 16 walks allowed so far to only 21 strikeouts. Maybe he'll pull a Matt Morris on the Dodgers, but I don't think so. They should hit him.

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