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The Old Dogs Report -- 1999 Year in Review

Written 10/17/99.

All of the former Dawgs have finished up for the year, with Powell, Shave, and Palmeiro going out in the first round of the playoffs, so it's time for a year-end look at how things went this year.

As always, none of this is intended to be derogatory toward anyone personally. I have great fondness for most of these guys and a good bit of respect for all of them -- they'll always be Bulldogs. But when we get into professional baseball, even at the low levels, we're talking about the extreme end of a very wide Bell curve, and everyone reaches their peak eventually. Some of these guys have reached their peaks, and I'll need to mention that to make an honest evaluation.

As a group, this was a very good year despite some injury problems, mostly due to the fact that any small group that contained both Piatt and Palmeiro this year had a good year.

Major-league pitchers:

Brantley, Jeff      Philadelphia      Philadelphia    National          MLB
            G    ERA  IP     R    ER   SO   H    BB   HR   W    L    SV   
Brantley*   10   5.19 8.2    6    5    11   5    8    0    1    2    5    

The asterisk next to Brantley's name up there is my marking for a player on the disabled list. That pretty much summarizes Brantley's season. He got off to a good start, probably his best in several years, and then ran into shoulder problems again. He tried to get through it with cortisone, lasted another couple of games, and then went under the knife to end his season. He's 36, so my best guess is that he's through with what has been a long, strong career, although he'll may well turn up next spring in camp somewhere before hanging it up.

Loewer, Carlton     Philadelphia      Philadelphia    National          MLB
            G    ERA  IP     R    ER   SO   H    BB   HR   W    L    SV   
Loewer      20   5.12 89.2   54   51   48   100  26   9    2    6    0    

Loewer's was another year cut short by injury, but in his case the news is probably better. The injury that cost him a little over half the season was a stress fracture of the humerus, which was caught early enough that he didn't end up with a full break. That means that he got half a season off at age 25 after being overused for most of a season and a half, which could well be a career-saver, and the injury is unlikely to recur. Loewer so far has been the very definition of an average MLB starter, the kind of guy who chews up a lot of innings and gives you close to league average ERA. He's young, though; he could still be Roger Clemens on one end or out of the league in three years on the other.

Powell, Jay         Houston           Houston         National          MLB
            G    ERA  IP     R    ER   SO   H    BB   HR   W    L    SV   
Powell      67   4.32 75.0   38   36   77   82   40   3    5    4    4    

Pitching middle relief is a lot like playing offensive line -- you're there, you get paid, and you're awfully important, but nobody really notices. Powell seemed to get comfortable with the role over the course of the year. Until the All-Star break, he was right around average by most of the more useful statistical measures. After the break, he improved, to the point where he was worth a win or so above average for the course of the year. Since the Astros won the division by one game, that mattered.

Given the state of the closer lottery in MLB, where a middle reliever can be pushed into the closer job for a couple of months due to injury, randomly hit a hot streak, and get a huge contract offer the next year, his career has a very high potential upside.

Rath, Gary (1)      Salt Lake City    Minnesota       Pacific           AAA
Rath, Gary (2)      Minnesota         Minnesota       American          MLB
            G    ERA  IP     R    ER   SO   H    BB   HR   W    L    SV   
Rath (1)    20   5.62 99.1   76   62   67   129  27   12   3    8    0    
Rath (2)    5    11.574.2    6    6    1    6    5    1    0    1    0    

Sometimes in life, it comes down to one brief chance. You get one project that the CEO notices; your book hits the top of the slush pile and the editor's got a slow afternoon; injury wipes out the major league rotation and you get a spot start. We'd like to think that the best and brightest always take advantage of those opportunities, but sometimes you just have a bad day at the worst possible time.

Gary Rath got his best shot at the majors so far this year. He pitched three great innings in his first game, but then he got lit up in the fourth. He never really got another chance -- he sat on the bench in Minnesota for about six weeks, never getting another start or any regular work. He finally got sent back to Salt Lake City, where the inactivity had apparently thrown his form badly off and his numbers plummeted the rest of the way. I suspect that he'll hang around for another couple of years, but I'm not optimistic about his chances at this point. The one thing he has going for him is that he does have the talent to make it if he can get a chance and put a run together.

Major-league position players:

Clark, Will         Baltimore         Baltimore       American          MLB
            G    OBP  SLG  AVG  AB   H    BB   2B   3B   HR   SB   CS   R    
Clark*      77   .395 .482 .303 251  76   38   15   0    10   2    2    40   

Clark's summary is a short one -- he put up slightly-below average numbers for a first baseman and only played 77 games due to injury. He's with the one organization which has tended to play much older players than they should, but they'll be under new management next year, so I'd expect him to get only sporadic playing time next year.

Palmeiro, Rafael    Texas             Texas           American          MLB
            G    OBP  SLG  AVG  AB   H    BB   2B   3B   HR   SB   CS   R    
Palmeiro    158  .420 .630 .324 565  183  97   30   1    47   2    4    96   

Palmeiro, on the other hand, had an absolutely remarkable year. By most measures, he was the most valuable DH in the league this year; most reasonable analysis puts him as one of the ten most valuable players in the league this year; he'll get some votes for MVP and has an outside chance of winning it. The move to DH is a bit worrisome in a long-term sense, but he still played well at first in the games that he got in there, so that move for this year was made mostly for personnel reasons and not because of his age.

Palmeiro finished the decade with the most games played in the majors and the second-most hits, behind Mark Grace. His case for the Hall of Fame was considerably strengthened this year, although I think he still needs a couple more years as the most valuable first baseman or DH in the league to make it in.

Shave, Jon          Texas             Texas           American          MLB
            G    OBP  SLG  AVG  AB   H    BB   2B   3B   HR   SB   CS   R    
Shave       43   .350 .342 .288 73   21   5    4    0    0    1    0    10   

Shave drew a major-league paycheck this year, and if anyone ever earned a break, it's him. Unfortunately, those are bad numbers by most any standards, and I'd be surprised to see him back around next year. His defense has improved but still isn't good enough to earn him a starting spot or a defensive specialist slot.

Minor-league pitchers:

Dubose, Eric        Midland           Oakland         Texas             AA
            G    ERA  IP     R    ER   SO   H    BB   HR   W    L    SV   
Dubose      21   5.49 77.0   57   47   68   89   44   10   4    2    1    

Dubose began the year high on most people's top prospect list for the A's, but injury problems and the offensive nature of Midland combined to make this a down year for him. He's still talented, and the A's still need pitching, so I suspect that this is just a speed bump.

Ginter, Matt (1)    AZL White Sox     Chicago W Sox   Arizona           Rookie
Ginter, Matt (2)    Burlington        Chicago W Sox   Midwest           A
            G    ERA  IP     R    ER   SO   H    BB   HR   W    L    SV   
Ginter (1)  3    3.24 8.1    4    3    10   5    3    0    1    0    1    
Ginter (2)  9    4.05 40.0   20   18   29   38   19   3    4    2    0    

Relievers are notoriously hard to develop, but this is a good start, especially since the Midwest League is fairly advanced for an A league.

Hooten, David       New Britain       Minnesota       Eastern           AA
            G    ERA  IP     R    ER   SO   H    BB   HR   W    L    SV   
Hooten      52   3.56 103.2  55   41   89   94   49   10   6    6    1    

Decent numbers, but he's too old to be pitching middle relief in this league. I suspect that he'll be around again next year, though, and strange callups happen all the time, so he's still got a chance.

Jackson, Jeremy (1) Charleston, WV    Kansas City     South Atlantic    A
Jackson, Jeremy (2) Capital City      New York Mets   South Atlantic    A

For some reason, Jackson's number don't show up in my sources now, so I'm working from memory. He pitched well but not overwhelmingly so this year. On the other hand, someone bothered to trade for him, which is an encouraging sign.

Polk, Scott         Kingsport         New York Mets   Appalachian       Rookie
            G    ERA  IP     R    ER   SO   H    BB   HR   W    L    SV   
Polk        23   3.19 48.0   24   17   70   32   30   2    4    5    4    

Decent numbers in a short season; I suspect that he'll get another chance if he wants to next year.

Reinike, Chris      Columbus, GA      Cleveland       South Atlantic    A
            G    ERA  IP     R    ER   SO   H    BB   HR   W    L    SV   
Reinike*    11   4.31 48.0   28   23   41   55   21   3    3    4    0    

He started the year hurt, he ended the year hurt, and the organization doesn't have a huge amount invested in him. On the other hand, he pitched well at times when he was healthy. I'd be surprised to see him come back next year, but I'm surprised a lot.

Thoms, Hank         St. Paul                          Northern          Indy
            G    ERA  IP     R    ER   SO   H    BB   HR   W    L    SV   
Thoms       13   3.55 71.0   34   28   46   68   25   8    5    2    0

Good numbers in a league that plays generally at a high A level by most accounts. Going independent at his age is an unusual career choice -- I'm curious to see how it plays out next year, or if this was just a one-year adventure before going to find a real job.

Minor-league position players:

Bryan, Brooks       Evansville                        Frontier          Indy
            G    OBP  SLG  AVG  AB   H    BB   2B   3B   HR   SB   CS   R    
Bryan       77        .475 .285 263  75        9    4    11   23        53

Excellent numbers. Lousy league. This is more of a hobby than a career at this point, but it's an awfully fun hobby.

Curry, Chris        Eugene            Chicago Cubs    Northwest         A
            G    OBP  SLG  AVG  AB   H    BB   2B   3B   HR   SB   CS   R    
Curry       41   .271 .318 .227 132  30   5    6    0    2    0    2    18   

Not great, although catchers sometimes get a second chance. I'd expect him to be done, though.

Freeman, Brad       Potomac           St. Louis       Carolina          A
            G    OBP  SLG  AVG  AB   H    BB   2B   3B   HR   SB   CS   R    
Freeman     109  .346 .313 .234 342  80   45   17   2    2    9    13   36   

Below average offense, even for a shortstop. Unless his defense has improved considerably, I'd imagine that he's through.

Lotterhos, Chris    Mahoning Valley   Cleveland       NY-Penn           A
            G    OBP  SLG  AVG  AB   H    BB   2B   3B   HR   SB   CS   R    
Lotterhos   41   .340 .323 .210 124  26   23   7    2    1    5    6    21   

Well, he got to go be a professional baseball player for a couple of months, and he got to hit a home run and get paid for it. There are far worse fates in life.

Piatt, Adam (1)     Midland           Oakland         Texas             AA
Piatt, Adam (2)     Vancouver         Oakland         Texas             AAA
            G    OBP  SLG  AVG  AB   H    BB   2B   3B   HR   SB   CS   R    
Piatt (1)   129  .451 .704 .345 476  164  93   48   3    39   7    3    128
Piatt (2)   6    .417 .278 .222 18   4    6    1    0    0    0    0    1    

At first glance, Piatt had an absolutely astounding year. He won the first Texas League Triple Crown in 75 years. He was Baseball Weekly's Minor League Player of the Year and made every minor league All-American team I've seen.

At second glance, it was still an astonishing year. He also led the league where it really counted, in both OBP and slugging, leading by more than 100 points in slugging. His Major League Equivalencies for this year (a projection of what a given season would be in a neutral major league park) comes in around a .950 OPS at age 24. That's very, very good.

At third glance, there are one or two bumps in the road ahead. His defense is a bit weak, and the A's are absolutely loaded at hot young prospects on both corners. His best hope is probably a trade for some pitching, although this season for him and a weak rookie year for Eric Chavez may end up with the A's trading someone else to make room for him. At this point, he's just going to have to be patient and hope it goes well.

Scioneaux, Damian   Charleston, SC    Tampa Bay       South Atlantic    A
            G    OBP  SLG  AVG  AB   H    BB   2B   3B   HR   SB   CS   R    
Scioneaux   5    .200 .111 .111 18   2    2    0    0    0    2    0    1    

Scioneaux played five games in April and then disappeared from my radar; I have no idea what happened.

Wiese, Brian (1)    Lowell            Boston          NY-Penn           A
Wiese, Brian (2)    Augusta           Boston          South Atlantic    A
            G    OBP  SLG  AVG  AB   H    BB   2B   3B   HR   SB   CS   R    
Wiese (1)   21   .400 .582 .316 79   25   9    4    1    5    2    2    16   
Wiese (2)   23   .265 .147 .118 68   8    10   2    0    0    1    0    7    

On the down side, Wiese didn't exactly shine in Augusta. The good news is that the hardest transition in all of baseball is getting out of the short-season A leagues, and he did that before the end of his first season. He'll get another chance next year and has a good shot at advancing from there. The Red Sox have a clue, so that's encouraging.

Wren, Cliff         Yakima            Los Angeles     Northwest         A
            G    OBP  SLG  AVG  AB   H    BB   2B   3B   HR   SB   CS   R    
Wren        64   .370 .516 .315 254  80   18   21   0    10   11   5    46   

A nice short season for Wren; I'd expect him to get another chance next year. He's stuck in one of the five dumbest organizations in professional baseball, so he may have some rocky times ahead, but he's got the tools to have a chance.

Boyd's World-> The Old Dogs Report-> 1999 Year in Review About the author, Boyd Nation