On and Off the Wagonsby Aaron Gleeman
April 21, 2004
The Rogers Wagon
As anyone who watched The Sopranos on Sunday can tell you, it is often very difficult to quit something "cold turkey." For some people that means gambling or drinking or doing drugs or whatever other stuff they had Tim Daly doing in his one-episode tour de force. In my case, I decided to quit something much more difficult and dangerous. My New Year's Resolution was to stop reading Phil Rogers' columns, cold turkey.
Sadly, as you can see by my quoting a recent Rogers column in my piece on Arthur Rhodes earlier this month, I fell off the wagon. I only made it about three months. However, I have a perfectly good excuse (as any person who has fallen off of the wagon no doubt has): I needed to read it because it was "research" for the Rhodes article. Seriously.
In other words, I was searching for articles that included mentions of Arthur Rhodes' "struggles" as a closer and when one by Phil Rogers popped up, I just couldn't resist. It wouldn't have been fair to you, my loyal readers, for me to ignore a perfectly usable quote by a national columnist just to hold off my own personal demons.
It's just a one-time thing though, I swear. In fact, today marks two full weeks sober, without even a peek at anything Phil Rogers has written. Not that I haven't been tempted. You guys are apparently a bunch of enablers, because I get e-mails alerting me whenever Rogers writes something particularly "interesting."
I was so proud of myself after three clean months, but that made my slip-up a couple weeks ago even more disappointing. So now, in an effort to make this attempt at Rogers sobriety more successful, I am choosing to keep you updated on the situation.
So, if anyone sees me out and about on the University of Minnesota campus, reading what looks like a printout of an ESPN.com article, don't hesitate to step and ask if it's Phil Rogers. Us addicts need help and I am man enough to admit that. I am strong, but not strong enough to do this on my own.
The Weaver Wagon
The Weaver bandwagon is filling up quickly. No, not Jeff (although I still think he'll have a good year with the Dodgers). I'm talking about Jeff's younger brother, Long Beach State ace Jered Weaver.
USA TODAY's David Leon Moore just penned a very nice piece on Weaver, whom he describes as "perhaps the best amateur pitcher in the country and possibly the first pick in baseball's June draft."
With all due respect to Moore, I am going to get rid of the "perhaps" and "possibly" and just say it: Jered Weaver is the best amateur pitcher in the country and he will be the #1 pick in the draft.
Those of you who are blog readers know this already, but Rich Lederer of All-Baseball.com has been following Weaver's amazing exploits all season on his blog, Rich's Baseball Beat. Lederer has attended and reported on a bunch of Weaver's starts and his recaps of the games and stories of the scouts sitting near him are must-reads.
Some other must-reads are Weaver's stats over the past two years:
YEAR W L IP ERA SO BB H 2003 14 4 133.1 1.96 144 20 87 2004 11 0 80.2 1.00 118 11 40 ---------------------------------------------------------- TOTAL 25 4 214.0 1.60 262 31 127Over his last 30 starts, Weaver has essentially been Pedro Martinez circa 2000, which some people consider the greatest pitching season of all-time. Take a look:
IP ERA SO BB H Pedro 2000 217.0 1.74 284 32 128 Weaver 03-04 214.0 1.60 262 31 127I'm not sure if it says more about Jered Weaver that he's been able to put up nearly identical numbers to Pedro's best season, or if it says more about Pedro that he was able to do what Jered Weaver has done, but in the major leagues. Either way...wow.
In two of his 11 starts so far this year, Weaver struck out the first 10 batters he faced, which is downright scary.
One of the ways I judge unique and extraordinary feats in baseball is by whether or not I think I could accomplish the same thing on PlayStation 2. In other words, a pitcher going 20-0 in a season, as amazing as it is, is not that amazing in the sense that I could, with some luck, accomplish that in a video game.
The two things happening right now that I don't think I could duplicate on PS2 are whatever you want to call what Barry Bonds is doing, and then striking out the first 10 batters in a game twice in 11 starts. Why do I bring this up? Well, because Weaver's pitching coach agrees with me! From the USA TODAY article:
"I don't care if you're playing high school, Little League or video games, that's incredible," 49ers pitching coach Troy Buckley says.
Mark Prior is often said to have been the best college pitcher ever and, as the USA TODAY article points out, Weaver's stats so far this season are very similar to Prior's numbers his final year at USC.
W L IP ERA SO9 BB9 H9 Prior 2001 15 1 138.0 1.70 13.2 1.2 6.5 Weaver 2004 11 0 80.2 1.00 13.2 1.2 4.5Prior's ERA was higher and he was easier to get a hit off of, but I'm not sure how much their home ballparks impact that. The amazing thing is that the strikeout rates and walk rates are identical.
Rich Lederer, covering all the bases when it comes to Weaver, wrote up a very good article comparing Weaver to Prior last month.
Weaver seems to me like a perfect match for the Padres, who have the #1 pick, and I will be shocked if they don't grab him. He's obviously a great player, which is the first reason. Beyond that, he's a college player, and the Padres have used their first round pick on college guys in each of the past three years. They chose a college pitcher, Tim Stauffer, with their first rounder last season. Finally, Weaver is a starting pitcher who, I would guess, many would describe as nearly "major-league ready," and the Padres certainly seem focused on the now.
Weaver got a chance to show San Diego what he could do earlier this year. He faced UCLA back in mid-March, helping to christen the Padres' new home, Petco Park. Weaver threw an eight-inning one-hitter, striking out 15 Bruins.
Rich Lederer was, of course, there to cover it. Here's a little of what he had to say:
Weaver made his pitch late Friday afternoon in front of Padres general manager Kevin Towers and scouting director Bill "Chief" Gayton.
I asked Gayton if he thought Weaver could pitch in the majors in 2005, and he nodded "yes". However, he believes Weaver will be in no hurry to sign with or without Scott Boras acting as his agent due to the number of innings that he will have pitched at that point over the past year.
Gayton brought up the fact that Jered "got away with some high pitches", probably referring to a high fastball that UCLA third baseman Brandon Averill pulled foul into the left field seats and a hanging curveball that catcher Chris Denove drove to left for a long out in back-to-back at bats in the third inning. Nonetheless, Gayton was impressed with Weaver hitting 94-mph on the speed gun in his eighth and final inning.
I'll have to double-check with the driver, Rich Lederer, but I'm fairly sure there's still a little room left on the Jered Weaver bandwagon. Let's just hope Phil Rogers doesn't decide to write about him anytime soon.
Aaron Gleeman is a freelance writer whose work can also be found regularly at AaronGleeman.com, Fox Sports, Rotoworld, and Insider Baseball. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions via e-mail.