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Back in The Saddle
Steve Wulf
April 05, 1989
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April 05, 1989

Back In The Saddle


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Vital Statistics

In order of '88 finish; games out of first in parentheses




Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers' leadoffand number 2 hitters had the worst combined on-base average in the majors: .303.

NL average OBA (.328) would add runners for Kirk Gibson and Eddie Murray to drive in, and give L.A. five wins.

65%. Leading off with Willie Randolph (.373 career OBA) might help, but the number 2 spot remains a mystery.

Cincinnati Reds (7)

Lefthanded hitters (.263) hit much better against the Reds than righties (.225) did.

Improvement by pitchers Ron Robinson (.331 vs. LHBs), Tom Browning (.277) and Danny Jackson (.255).

65%. Such a lopsided split is unlikely to continue.

San Diego Padres (11)

The Padres' slugging average was the lowest in the NL (.351); their cleanup hitter was even worse (.349).

Someone to drive in Tony Gwynn and supplant him as the team's main RBI threat. He had 70 RBIs in '88.

95%. Jack Clark (.433 SA) at cleanup for 120 games will be better than Keith Moreland (.331) for 162.

San Francisco Giants (11�)

The Giants' extra-innings won-lost record was 6-12. Reliever Joe Price was 1-4.

A closer to replace reliever turned starter Don Robinson. In the last three years, he was 5-1 in extra innings.

80%. The Giants' luck should change this year. Their extra-. innings record for"^86 and '87 was 24-21.

Houston Astrtos(12�)

Batters who led off the inning hit .267 vs. Astros. In the league, only the Phillies (.281) did worse.

An NL average (.251) vs. leadoff hitters would add two Astro wins. In the Astrodome they should be above average.

60%. The Astros should improve, but why did they sign Jim Clancy? (See Toronto.)

Atlanta Braves (39�)

The Braves gave up the highest batting average in the majors with runners in scoring position (.291).

If Zane Smith (.311) improved and the staff lowered its mark to the NL average (.257), the Braves would win seven more.

80%. Getting rid of Rick Mahler (.307) was a good move, but the Braves' staff is still unpredictable.

Marge schott, owner of the Cincinnati Reds, set the tone for the National League West race when she flipped a coin in March to determine whether outfielder Kal Daniels would get his asking price of $325,000 this year or accept her offer of $300,000. For instance: heads, Los Angeles's Kirk Gibson's knee heals in time; tails, the Dodgers fall to their knees. Heads, Jack McKeon the general manager makes one last trade to help the San Diego Padres; tails, McKeon the manager spends the season worrying about his defense. Heads, manager Pete Rose gets the best out of outfielder Eric Davis and Daniels; tails, the Reds remain stuck in second place. The one thing that is certain about this division is that no team will run away with the title, as the Dodgers did in '88. This year the Padres, Dodgers and Reds, and possibly the San Francisco Giants, are all capable of taking the division, but none of them appears strong enough to win many more than 90 games. Heads, this will be a tight division race; tails, this will be a tight division race.


The local citizenry is very excited about the acquisition of first sacker Jack Clark from the Yankees and southpaw Bruce Hurst from the Red Sox. How excited? Well. Oakland A's general manager Sandy Alderson recently received a call from a San Diego hotel, asking him if he wanted to book rooms for his team in mid-October.

The addition of Clark gives the Padres a formidable lineup: Second baseman Roberto Alomar (nine homers, 24 stolen bases) and three-time batting champion outfielder Tony Gwynn hit in front of Clark; outfielders John Kruk and Carmelo Martinez and catcher Benito Santiago hit behind him. Clark is so happy to have escaped New York that he might reward the Padres with an MVP season. Gwynn might give them one, too. He won the batting title last year with a .313 average, the lowest ever to win the National League crown, and he played most of the season with a badly injured right thumb.

The Padres' rotation is splendid, with Hurst (18-6), Eric Show (16-11), Dennis Rasmussen (16-10), Ed Whitson (13-11) and Walt Terrell, who had an undeserved 7-16 with Detroit. Lefthander Mark Davis blossomed as a bullpen stopper in '88, picking up 28 saves and 102 strikeouts in 98? innings. McKeon will have to find somebody to replace Lance McCullers, the righthanded reliever sent to the Yankees for Clark. His choices at this writing were his son-in-law, Greg Booker, and Mark Grant, a one-time starter with formidable stuff.

Although McKeon says he's comfortable with a third-base platoon of Randy Ready and Tim Flannery, there are others in baseball who say Ready is more willing than able, and that Flannery will get you nowhere. Then there's the Padres' outfield. Gwynn is still uneasy in center, and he will have to do a lot of running between Martinez in left and Kruk in right. If worst comes to worst, McKeon still has Marvell Wynne, a fine centerfielder who hit 11 homers last year. Trader Jack also has a terrific bargaining chip in Sandy Alomar Jr., who could beat out at least 21 of the majors' starting catchers for a job.

Even if McKeon doesn't make a trade, he might have enough to win the division. The Padres certainly love playing for him; they went from a surly, selfish club under Larry Bowa to a fun-loving, heads-up team under McKeon. And if he does make that trade for an outfielder and/or third baseman, the Athletics should go ahead and book those rooms.


The Dodgers beat Oakland last year in one of the most stunning upsets in World Series history, thanks primarily to the heroics of Gibson and Orel Hershiser, But Gibson is still suffering from tendinitis in his right knee, and Hershiser, the Cy Young Award winner who still has his record streak of 59 scoreless innings going, says, "I'm set up for the biggest fall of my life."

How big a fall the Dodgers themselves take depends more on Gibson than on Hershiser, who should win another 20 games again. Gibson was rightfully the National League MVP because of his power (25 homers), speed (31 stolen bases) and grit (see Game 1 of the World Series highlight film), and the Dodgers would be in trouble if his playing time were reduced.

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