Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Production Department to Blame for Poor Yield

April 28, 1999|RANDY HARVEY

Mike Piazza was hitting over .300 last season in New York. Yet, each time he went to the plate for a two-month period in July and August, Met fans booed him.

The reason couldn't be found in the box scores, but those who were paying close attention--which baseball fans in New York tend to do--knew that Piazza was hitting 100 points less with runners on second and third.

As front-office executives and agents involved in arbitration hearings during the off-season will tell you, Batting With Runners in Scoring Position is one the most important offensive statistics used in arguing a player's worth.

They call it a "run producer," and although teams don't include it in the daily statistical packages they distribute, managers are more aware of BWRISP than they are of batting averages, home runs and runs batted in.

That was one reason Davey Johnson called a team meeting Saturday night. Basically, he told the Dodgers, he had identified two reasons for their poor first month, pitching and hitting. Specifically, he told the hitters that they weren't hitting in clutch situations.

A good example occurred the next night in the Dodgers' 6-4 loss to St. Louis.

With no one on base in the seventh, Raul Mondesi homered to cut the Cardinal lead to 6-3. But with the score 6-4 in the eighth and runners on first and second, he grounded into a fielder's choice, ending the inning.

Mondesi appears to be off to a fast start. Before Tuesday night's game, he had seven home runs and 14 RBIs. With runners in scoring position, however, he was hitting .174, having driven home only four of 32 men on second and third when he was at bat.

As a result, Johnson dropped him to fifth in the batting order. Mondesi must have gotten the message because he responded with a two-run home run to give the Dodgers a 3-2 victory at Milwaukee.

But he isn't the only one who had failed to produce with men in scoring position. Their team average in that category through last weekend was .199.

Of starting position players, only Eric Young at .353 and Devon White at .333 were hitting over .300 with runners in scoring position. Todd Hundley was at .000, Mark Grudzielanek .056, Adrian Beltre .176, Gary Sheffield .190 and Eric Karros .200.

*

There was controversy when the Angels cut Cecil Fielder loose in the middle of last season, even though he was leading the team in RBIs with 66. But General Manager Bill Bavasi also was watching Fielder's missed RBI opportunities. He was hitting only .244 with runners in scoring position.

Through Sunday night's game, the Angels' team average in that category is a not-quite-satisfactory .262, about the same as last season's.

Orlando Palmeiro was at .385, Charlie O'Brien .333, Randy Velarde .286, Troy Glaus .278, Todd Greene .250, Darin Erstad .235, Andy Sheets .214 and Garret Anderson .200.

Then there is Tim Salmon, who was at .417, and, with two out, he was hitting a phenomenal .583.

Still have any questions about which team's right fielder is having a better April?

*

Unable to lure Trevor Denman to Hollywood Park, track officials did the next best thing in 1990. . . .

They hired a Denman sound-alike--at least to our North American ears--in Michael Wrona of Australia. . . .

A year later, South African Denman had a change of heart and Wrona got an unexpected opportunity to tour his new country as the announcer at tracks from San Francisco to Chicago. . . .

But now he's back at Hollywood Park, again delighting fans with some of the most creative calls this side of Brisbane. . . .

If you're as successful at handicapping as I am, you might hear him say of your choice, "This horse is farther behind than my last month's car payment," or, "He's headed for a photo finish with the ambulance." . . .

"Maybe I can give people who bet the horse a fleeting reason to crack a smile," Wrona says. . . .

Denman's predecessor at Hollywood Park, Luke Kruytbosch, moved to Churchill Downs and will fulfill every track announcer's dream Saturday by calling the Kentucky Derby. . . .

If you were smart, you could have gotten money down on General Challenge at 25-1 for the Derby when the year began. Depending on the post position drawn today, he could go off as the favorite. . . .

"Forget the Derby," says USC track Coach Ron Allice, predicting that the best races Saturday will be at Cromwell Field in the annual USC-UCLA dual meet. The Bruin and Trojan women are ranked second and third, respectively, in the nation. . . .

Former USC quarterback Pat O'Hara, who led the Orlando Predators to the Arena Football League title last season, has been benched. . . .

That's because he's still busy acting in Oliver Stone's new movie, "On Any Given Sunday." . . .

If you liked "Bull Durham," "White Men Can't Jump" and "Tin Cup," you should be looking forward to Ron Shelton's latest, "Play It to the Bone." . . .

Filming now in Nevada, it's a boxing movie starring Antonio Banderas, Woody Harrelson and Lolita Davidovich. . . .

If Phil Jackson isn't interested, the New York Knicks are expected to turn to Doc Rivers as their coach when--not if--they fire Jeff Van Gundy. . . .

Rivers was the Clippers' first choice after Bill Fitch was fired but wanted more money than they were willing to pay an inexperienced coach. Apparently they did OK with Chris Ford.

*

While wondering if Kobe Bryant has decided to coach the team too, I was thinking: The Lakers could have played this poorly without firing Del Harris, maybe Cal Ripken Jr. should retire while he can still walk away, Wayne Lukas deserves to be in the Hall of Fame even if he hasn't kept his promise to name a horse for Allan Malamud.

Randy Harvey can be reached at his e-mail address: randy.harvey@latimes.com.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|