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Friday, April 22, 2005

Thirty-one

Calvin Pickering has been shipped off to Omaha. Matt Diaz has been recalled to take his place. Sorry all you Ken Harvey fans.

Apparently, 31 is the requisite number of plate appearences for proving yourself worthy of a big-league roster spot.

A few concessions are in order. Calvin Pickering has looked about as bad as a player can look so far this season. If I had never read a baseball stat line, I'd think, "What is this guy doing in the major leagues?" A strikeout may be just another out. But when you're striking out in over half your at-bats, you aren't swinging the bat well. It's a bad sign.

It seemed like Pickering lugged two strikes with him every time he came to the plate. Opposing pitchers were feeding him a steady diet off slow breaking junk and he was biting. Even when he did get a fastball to hit, he was either too late on the pitch to even make contact or he was fouling it off.

Here's what I know. Minor league statistics, for most players, are a good predictor of big-league numbers if adjusted properly. That is assuming the player gets enough playing time to have a meaningful sample of plate appearances. Quite a few players are so helpless in trying to hit big-league pitching that they never approach anything like a meaningful sample of playing time. Perhaps Calvin Pickering is one of those players. We may never find out.

In the minor leagues, Pickering has a .303/.407/.558 batting line in over 2,500 plate appearances. In the majors, his line is .223/.329/.428 line in 310 trips to the dish. Is that enough evidence?

No, it is not.

Pickering played in back-to-back games only once this season. The second of those games came against Seattle lefty Jamie Moyer. He started seven of the Royals' first 16 games. Two of the seven came against lefties, against whom he was 0-7. This deployment of a player who offers (potentially) the very things for which the offense starves seems a little bizarre.

So what do the Royals do if Pickering emerges from his slump and goes on a tear in AAA? How long do they leave him down there? I'll bet it's for more than 31 plate appearances.

As for Matt Diaz, he's an interesting prospect. Much like Pickering, he is a career minor leagurer who has posted some strong numbers. PROFITS generated a .290/.329/.459 line for Diaz. As you can tell from those numbers, he's a guy whose value is mostly derived from batting average. His contact rates in the minors don't bode well for that kind of a player at the big-league level. But he could do OK for awhile against pitchers who don't know him. His lack of patience will fit in nicely with this team. I'm not that high on Diaz but he has good enough record to merit an opportunity.

Will he get that opportunity? Sure - 31 plate appearances. Do your best.

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2:54 PM  
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11:02 PM  

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