BASEBALL : Statistically Speaking, Real Value Is Found in Unlikely Places

From Associated Press

Maybe Jose Oquendo really is worth $2 million a season after all.

OK, so he has only 11 career homers and the kids are unlikely to circle the calendar for the day Oquendo and the Cards hit town. But the 1991 edition of the Elias Baseball Analyst examines Oquendo's real value to St. Louis and uncovers just about everything else under the artificial rug.

In 1989, Oquendo broke Ryne Sandberg's National League fielding percentage record and last season surpassed his own mark. Oquendo enters 1991 attempting to become the first second baseman to lead the NL in fielding for three straight seasons since Claude Ritchey (1905-1907).

Oquendo, who averaged one error per 227 chances last season, starts the year with a streak of 188 consecutive errorless games on artificial turf.

Maybe the San Francisco Giants knew what they were doing by giving Bud Black $10 million. In recent years, left-handers moving from the American League to the NL have found success. Danny Jackson went from 9-18 for Kansas City to 23-8 for Cincinnati, Bob Ojeda went from 9-11 for Boston to 18-5 for the New York Mets and Neal Heaton went from 7-15 for Cleveland and Minnesota to 13-10 for Montreal.

Some other interesting tidbits from the seventh Elias Analyst:

-- Detroit's Cecil Fielder walked 90 times, struck out 182 times and was hit by five pitches -- a total of 277 plate appearances in which he failed to put the ball in play, the fifth highest in major league history.

-- Fernando Valenzuela's eight career at-bats against Nolan Ryan without a strikeout are the most among all active players who have never been fanned by the all-time K leader.

-- Junior Felix' move to the California Angels may have been the best thing that ever happened to him. Felix has a .347 career average on the west coast -- .385 at the Kingdome, .346 at the Oakland Coliseum and .304 at Anaheim Stadium.

-- Mackey Sasser of the New York Mets led NL catchers in errors (14) despite playing in only 87 games. The last catcher to lead the NL in errors in fewer games: Bob Uecker (11 errors in 76 games in 1967). Who else?

-- Kansas City right-hander Bret Saberhagen has averaged 1.76 walks per nine innings. Since 1920 (start of the live-ball era) only four pitchers with as many starts as Saberhagen (198) had lower marks: Grover Cleveland Alexander ( 1.31), Red Lucas (1.61), Fritz Peterson (1.73) and Robin Roberts (1.73).

-- Cleveland's Alex Cole stole 40 bases in 63 games last season. Only two players in this century reached 40 steals faster than Cole: Vince Coleman (44 games) and Tim Raines (51).

-- Speaking of stolen bases ... In 1961, Yankees left-hander Whitey Ford did not allow a stolen base in 283 innings. Of course, Coleman or Raines weren't around then.

-- In 1983, Dennis Eckersley's 5.61 earned-run average was the highest in the major leagues. Last season, it was 0.61.

-- Cory Snyder is 2-for-22 vs. Roger Clemens with 12 strikeouts.

-- Switch-hitter Tim Raines has career averages of .301 from both sides of the plate. Only three other switch-hitters in major league history had combined career averages of .300 or better (minimum-1,000 hits): Tuck Turner (.320), Frankie Frisch (.316) and Pete Rose (.303). Rose hit .293 batting right-handed.

-- Ramon Martinez, 20-6 for the Dodgers last season, is in pretty good company. Over the past 25 years, 11 pitchers who played for the Dodgers as rookies went on to win at least 100 games. Orel Hershiser, with 99 wins will be No. 12. The others: Don Sutton (1966), Bill Singer (1967), Jack Billingham (1968), Doyle Alexander (1971), Charlie Hough (1973), Geoff Zahn (1974), Rick Rhoden (1975), Bob Welch (1978), Rick Sutcliffe (1979), Fernando Valenzuela (1981) and Dave Stewart (1981).

-- The 1990 New York Mets became the first NL team since the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers to outscore their opponents by a margin of at least a run per game and not finish in first place.

-- In the 81-year history of Chicago's Comiskey Park, no White Sox player managed to hit 100 home runs there. Carlton Fisk will go down in history as the all-time Comiskey leader with 94. Bill Melton's 91 ranks second.

Red Rings: The Cincinnati Reds are planning several World Series-related promotions, including a giveaway of replica World Series rings. The first 15,000 fans, 16 years and younger, will get the replicas on the day of the promotion.

"It's proven to be a tremendous promotion and has drawn great excitement at other parks that were lucky to be world champions," said Steve Schott, executive vice president.

There's no truth to the rumor, however, that Marge Schott will give any leftover replica rings to the players.

Tiger Talk: Ernie Harwell, entering his 31st and final season as the Detroit Tigers' play-by-play broadcaster, has written a second book of baseball anecdotes.

"Ernie Harwell's Diamond Gems," contains stories about Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Leo Durocher, Casey Stengel, Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams.

More than 100,000 copies of Harwell's first book, "Tuned to Baseball," have been sold. That collection of stories and essays is in its seventh printing.

Firemen Award: The Minnesota Twins opened their new Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Myers, Fla., with an exhibition Thursday against Edison College before a capacity crowd of 7,500. The paid attendance of 6,980 was a Twins home spring-training record, topping the 5,488 they drew in Orlando against the Dodgers in 1964.

Splashing fountains and a Dixieland band greeted those who welcomed major-league baseball to Lee County, which lost the Kansas City Royals to Haines City in 1987.

Pregame fireworks caused a blaze in a pasture outside the stadium, but the flames were quickly doused -- and not by Steve Bedrosian or Rick Aguilera.

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