sanchez (santa barbara): When will Grady Little figure out that Jonathan Broxton is his best reliever? The big kid with the upper-80's slider shouldnt be pitching to the bottom of the order.On that latter question, Pujols' chase of the single-season home run record is the topic of a piece I'm working on for the New York Sun. I caught flak from one rather annoyed reader for affixing an asterisk to the number 73 (which I also did in this week's Hit List), but I'll maintain that the gripe is misplaced. I didn't put that asterisk there, Barry Bonds did. Bud Selig did. The owners and MLBPA did. It may be the major league baseball record for home runs in a single season, but the circumstances surrounding it are tainted enough by the weight of evidence that's been offered that I feel quite justified in referring to the record as a sham. Three quick points on this topic, then I'm back to work:
Jay Jaffe: I watched Broxton pitch last night against the Rockies and wow, that guy's slider IS nasty, plus he can flat-out Bring It.
It's very clear to me that Little likes Broxton, but it's important to remember that the kid has just 24.2 innings of big-league work under his amply-sized belt. What's impressive, even given the small sample sizes of this year's stint in LA and last year's is that he's not having the control problems he did in '05: 14/3 K/BB compared to 22/12 last year.
It's also important to remember that the last time the Dodgers got excited about a young reliever, they pitched his arm off. Yhency Brazoban is out with Tommy John surgery after less than two years in the bigs. I don't think the team wants to repeat that mistake.
The bottom line is that Broxton is on his way to being one of the Dodgers' go-to guys, and likely Eric Gagne's heir apparent. I think he'll be a part of whatever setup crew the team has going forward this year.
Zach Tavlin (Essex, Vermont): When is the Randolph/Minaya tag-team, in their infinite wisdom, going to wake up and move Heilman to the rotation? I guess it's sometimes hard to wrap your mind around the idea that having your good pitchers pitch more innings at the expense of bad ones leads to an increase in the number of wins attained. Heilman's peripherals indicate that he's the third-best starter on the Mets. Do you see this as a potential Ishii situation that will go on for far too long, or is this just another bout of easily corrected "Mets logic"?
Jay Jaffe: Multiple Heilman questions here. In fact, I think "Why isn't Aaron Heilman in the Mets rotation?" might be the most popular question in Big Apple baseball right now given the team's depleted starting corps.
The answer, as best I can tell based more on the opinions of others and less on having seen him pitch (I've only seen him for a few innings here and there), is three-fold:
1. The Mets have consciously built their bullpen into a strength by keeping Heilman in place.
2. Heilman's results as a starter (4.71 ERA, 7.3 K/9 last year) were inferior to those as a reliever (2.18 ERA, 9.2 K/9).
3. Heilman's repertoire isn't deep enough to withstand facing a hitter multiple times. He's got a decent, above-average fastball and changeup, but his split-finger has been described as "iffy," and his slider isn't loved by many. Given that a reliever can gain a few MPH because he doesn't have to pace himself as much, the fastball/changeup combo works well for Heilman as a reliever, but if he had to take a few MPH off he'd have less contrast in changing speeds, and diddn't have other effective pitches to fall back upon, that performance wouldn't carry over.
The bottom line, I think, is that Heilman has to show Randolph and Minaya that he's got an above average third pitch before they consider him for a rotation slot.
Nick (Currently Berlin, but back home to the EV soon): How likely is Pujols to snag the triple crown this year? What about breaking 73*?
Jay Jaffe: Berlin! I'm telling you, I'm HUGE in Europe.
I think Pujols has a better shot at 73* than he does at the Triple Crown; he's got substantial leads in homers and RBIs but his average is already outside the top 10, and that's tough ground to make up, particularly if you're less than 100% healthy and aren't likely to leg out too many infield hits.
I'd love to see him top 73*, of course, but that too requries staying healthy, and he's already had some back problems. That simply doesn't bode well no matter what kind of pace he's on.
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