The Return – Featuring Pat Burrell & Barry Sanders

by Rich

Morning, everybody. I’m Rich, and if you’ve been around the Roost for long enough, you may remember me from the somewhat distant past. So yeah, I’ve been out of the game for a while and I’m still rounding back into form, but hopefully I’ll be able to lighten the posting load on Ryan a little before the dude totally loses his mind. At the moment, the appropriate analogy for his role in this blog is somewhere between Minnesota-era Garnett and Barry Sanders…well, the whole time he was on the Lions. Actually, those are both pretty depressing. Pre-Pippen MJ, maybe? That’s better, I guess (although I lack both the arm length and rebounding ability that comparison implies).

ANYWAY, on to the item that actually spurred my comeback. In the past, I’ve bitched about awful sportswriting quite a few times, but at the moment my issue is with the complete lack of attention being paid to one recent Hot Stove transaction: Pat Burrell’s signing as the Rays DH.

If you’ve been within 30 feet of a television during the past month or so, you probably noticed that the Yankees got some attention for spending roughly $800 trillion on a fat guy, Carl Pavano 2.0, and Mark Teixeira. That’s all well and good, and I’m not here to talk trash about King Hank I’s little spending spree (there’s a lot of offseason left and believe me, I will get to it). The media showing New York love is nothing new, and it’s certainly not something that’s going to change any time soon. I do think it’s a little lame, however, when people go crazy over everything the Yankees do while ignoring the fact that the team that won their division (and the American League, for that matter) added the one thing they needed for relatively cheap.

Last year the Rays shocked everybody with their run to the World Series, and they did it with Cliff Floyd DH-ing and nobody on the team that could handle left-handed pitching. Burrell pretty much covers both of those weaknesses. Check out the head-to-head comparison (or lack thereof):

Cliff Floyd:

.268 / .349 / .455 , 24 extra-base hits (11 HR), 28 walks in 246 AB

Pat Burrell:

.250 / .367 / .507, 69 extra-base hits (33 HR), 102 walks in 536 AB

So yeah, little bit of a difference there. Some may point out that Burrell’s numbers are obviously going to be much higher in “counting” stats because he accumulated more than twice as many at-bats as Floyd last year. They’re right, but that’s because Cliff Floyd can’t play against lefties. Burrell rakes against lefthanders, OPS-ing .952 last year compared to the Rays as a team, who managed just .726 (hat tip to Tim Dierkes at MLBTR for having those numbers so I didn’t have to look for them at 5 in the morning).

I guess what I’m saying is this: yeah, the Yankees added a ton of names this offseason, but the defending AL champs added the one thing they were missing; a full-time DH who murders lefthanders. Oh, and all those other guys in Tampa? They’re just another year more polished and now they know how good they actually are. The AL East is going to be a war this year, no matter how much cash the Yanks shovel into the furnace.

I can already hear the cowbells.