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2003 OQ REPORT

2003 OFFENSIVE LEADERS BY POSITION

AMERICAN LEAGUE  
     
C Jorge Posada  
1B Carlos Delgado  
2B Bret Boone  
SS Alex Rodriguez  
3B Bill Mueller  
LF Manny Ramirez  
CF Carlos Beltran  
RF Trot Nixon  
DH Frank Thomas  


NATIONAL LEAGUE  
     
C Javy Lopez  
1B Todd Helton  
2B Marcus Giles  
SS Edgar Renteria  
3B Scott Rolen  
LF Barry Bonds  
CF Jim Edmonds  
RF Gary Sheffield  

Bold
indicates 2002 leaders.

To qualify for this list, a player must play at least half his team’s games at the defensive position indicated.

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2003 AMERICAN LEAGUE OQ LEADERS

 
Rank
 
Player
Team
OQ
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
Delgado
TOR
158
 
 
2
 
Ramirez
BOS
158
 
 
3
 
Rodriguez
TEX
149
 
 
4
 
Nixon
BOS
148
 
 
5
 
Giambi
NY
145
 
 
6
 
Thomas
CHI
144
 
 
7
 
Ortiz
BOS
143
 
 
8
 
Posada
NY
139
 
 
9
 
Mueller
BOS
137
 
 
10
 
Martinez
SEA
135
 
 
 
 
 
11
 
Beltran
KC
134
 
 
12
 
Ordonez
CHI
132
 
 
13
 
Huff
TAM
131
 
 
14
 
Boone
SEA
129
 
 
15
 
Young
DET
128
 
 
16
 
Wells
TOR
126
 
 
17
 
Palmeiro
TEX
125
 
 
18
 
Koskie
MIN
123
 
 
19
 
Chavez
OAK
122
 
 
20
 
Anderson
ANA
121
 
 
 
 
 
21
 
Varitek
BOS
121
 
 
22
 
Mientkiewicz
MIN
121
 
 
23
 
Blalock
TEX
121
 
 
24
 
Everett
TEX/CHI
121
 
 
25
 
Salmon
ANA
119
 
 
26
 
Garciaparra
BOS
118
 
 
27
 
Durazo
OAK
117
 
 
28
 
Soriano
NY
115
 
 
29
 
Millar
BOS
114
 
 
30
 
Jeter
NY
113
 
 
 
 
 
31
 
Lee
TAM
112
 
 
32
 
Stewart
TOR/MIN
112
 
 
33
 
Lee
CHI
111
 
 
34
 
Gerut
CLE
111
 
 
35
 
Catalanotto
TOR
109
 
 
36
 
Williams
NY
109
 
 
37
 
Tejada
OAK
108
 
 
38
 
Teixeira
TEX
107
 
 
39
 
Ibanez
KC
107
 
 
40
 
Conine
BAL
106
 
 
 
 
 
41
 
Randa
KC
106
 
 
42
 
Matsui
NY
106
 
 
43
 
Cameron
SEA
106
 
 
44
 
Hinske
TOR
106
 
 
45
 
Kielty
MIN/TOR
106
 
 
46
 
Valentin
CHI
105
 
 
47
 
Pierzynski
MIN
105
 
 
48
 
Olerud
SEA
105
 
 
49
 
Pena
DET
105
 
 
50
 
Gibbons
BAL
104
 
 
 
 
 
51
 
Spiezio
ANA
104
 
 
52
 
Jones
MIN
102
 
 
53
 
Hernandez
OAK
102
 
 
54
 
Young
TEX
102
 
 
55
 
Hunter
MIN
101
 
 
56
 
Suzuki
SEA
100
 
 
57
 
Damon
BOS
100
 
 
58
 
Walker
BOS
100
 
 
59
 
Berroa
KC
99
 
 
60
 
Winn
SEA
99
 
 
 
 
 
61
 
Kennedy
ANA
96
 
 
62
 
Hatteberg
OAK
95
 
 
63
 
Baldelli
TAM
94
 
 
64
 
Crede
CHI
94
 
 
65
 
Hudson
TOR
92
 
 
66
 
Konerko
CHI
91
 
 
67
 
Higginson
DET
91
 
 
68
 
Blake
CLE
91
 
 
69
 
Roberts
BAL
90
 
 
70
 
Harvey
KC
90
 
 
 
 
 
71
 
Anderson
TAM
89
 
 
72
 
Relaford
KC
86
 
 
73
 
Ellis
OAK
86
 
 
74
 
Rivas
MIN
84
 
 
75
 
Long
OAK
84
 
 
76
 
Guzman
MIN
81
 
 
77
 
Hall
TAM
81
 
 
78
 
Batista
BAL
81
 
 
79
 
Crawford
TAM
79
 
 
80
 
Eckstein
ANA
77
 
 
 
 
 
81
 
Cruz
BAL
75
 

The 2003 American League base-to-out ratio was .709.

This list includes every player who had at least 3 (at bats + walks) for each game his team played.

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2003 NATIONAL LEAGUE OQ LEADERS

 
Rank
 
Player
Team
OQ
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
Bonds
SF
245
 
 
2
 
Helton
COL
183
 
 
3
 
Pujols
STL
179
 
 
4
 
Lopez
ATL
162
 
 
5
 
Sheffield
ATL
161
 
 
6
 
Edmonds
STL
156
 
 
7
 
Thome
PHI
149
 
 
8
 
Giles
PIT/SD
149
 
 
9
 
Berkman
HOU
144
 
 
10
 
Gonzalez
ARI
143
 
 
 
 
 
11
 
Hidalgo
HOU
142
 
 
12
 
Jones,C
ATL
141
 
 
13
 
Sexson
MIL
140
 
 
14
 
Walker
COL
138
 
 
15
 
Rolen
STL
135
 
 
16
 
Abreu
PHI
134
 
 
17
 
Sosa
CHI
134
 
 
18
 
Jenkins
MIL
134
 
 
19
 
Bagwell
HOU
133
 
 
20
 
Giles
ATL
133
 
 
 
 
 
21
 
Lee
FLA
132
 
 
22
 
Sanders
PIT
130
 
 
23
 
Lowell
FLA
128
 
 
24
 
Renteria
STL
127
 
 
25
 
Vidro
MON
126
 
 
26
 
Wilkerson
MON
125
 
 
27
 
Wilson
COL
125
 
 
28
 
Finley
ARI
123
 
 
29
 
Payton
COL
120
 
 
30
 
Kent
HOU
119
 
 
 
 
 
31
 
Jones,A
ATL
119
 
 
32
 
Rodriguez
FLA
118
 
 
33
 
Cruz
SF
115
 
 
34
 
Alou
CHI
114
 
 
35
 
Green
LA
114
 
 
36
 
Podsednik
MIL
113
 
 
37
 
Loretta
SD
111
 
 
38
 
Cabrera
MON
111
 
 
39
 
Lieberthal
PHI
110
 
 
40
 
Lofton
PIT/CHI
109
 
 
 
 
 
41
 
Furcal
ATL
108
 
 
42
 
Polanco
PHI
107
 
 
43
 
Martinez
STL
106
 
 
44
 
Kendall
PIT
106
 
 
45
 
Burnitz
NY/LA
106
 
 
46
 
Ramirez
PIT/CHI
105
 
 
47
 
Castillo
FLA
105
 
 
48
 
Helms
MIL
105
 
 
49
 
Byrd
PHI
104
 
 
50
 
Belliard
COL
103
 
 
 
 
 
51
 
Grissom
SF
103
 
 
52
 
Castilla
ATL
101
 
 
53
 
Casey
CIN
101
 
 
54
 
Stynes
COL
100
 
 
55
 
Grudzielanek
CHI
100
 
 
56
 
Encarnacion
FLA
100
 
 
57
 
Burrell
PHI
98
 
 
58
 
Biggio
HOU
98
 
 
59
 
Burroughs
SD
98
 
 
60
 
Young
MIL/SF
98
 
 
 
 
 
61
 
Kotsay
SD
98
 
 
62
 
Alfonzo
SF
97
 
 
63
 
Gonzalez
FLA
97
 
 
64
 
Aurilia
SF
95
 
 
65
 
Pierre
FLA
94
 
 
66
 
Beltre
LA
92
 
 
67
 
Gonzalez
CHI
92
 
 
68
 
Rollins
PHI
92
 
 
69
 
Wigginton
NY
92
 
 
70
 
Lo Duca
LA
90
 
 
 
 
 
71
 
Cedeno
NY
89
 
 
72
 
Clayton
MIL
81
 
 
73
 
Hernandez
MI/CO/PI
81
 
 
74
 
Wilson,J
PIT
80
 
 
75
 
Chavez
MON
80
 
 
76
 
Ausmus
HOU
73
 
 
77
 
Cora
LA
71
 
 
78
 
Izturis
LA
69
 

The 2003 National League base-to-out ratio was .698.

This list includes every player who had at least 3 (at bats + walks) for each game his team played.

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AMERICAN LEAGUE RECAP

On September 1 Peter Gammons wrote: “The third annual late-season slide for Ichiro Suzuki is partly an adjustment factor, as the American season is a month longer. But it raises a legitimate issue that has been much-discussed in Seattle: wouldn't he be a far better offensive player if he were more selective and worried less about hit totals. Those who wish he would be more selective think it would raise his on-base percentage in the leadoff position, and, more important, get him more hitters' counts which would in turn increase his power and production numbers.”

In the three years Ichiro has spent in Seattle, he’s proven that he’s a classic streak hitter, given both to long slumps and long hot streaks. Ichiro’s three seasons have produced similar results, OQs of 108, 111, and 100 with excellent baserunning and outfield defense. He’s never injured. With Ichiro in the lineup the Mariners have been winners.

You can “coulda, shoulda, woulda” all you want, but here’s the way I see it. Do you try to remake Ichiro, or be satisfied with what you have? How malleable is he? Ichiro will be 30 on opening day. What you see is what you get. He is who he is; he gives you what he has. If he doesn’t give it to you, he probably doesn’t have it to give. If the GM of the Mariners (whoever that will be) thinks the team will win more games with a power-and-production guy in right field, go out and get one. But they’ve done fine with Ichiro.

I’ve never heard of a game ending when a baserunner falls down and is tagged out after rounding third with the potential tying run. But that’s what happened to Baltimore’s Jack Cust with two out in the ninth inning on August 16. For the record, it was a 9-4-5-2-5 putout.

Oddly, because Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove was a famously patient offensive player in his day, not a single Oriole drew as many as 50 walks in 2003.

Did Hargrove deserve to be fired? Absolutely not. When you have to play an entire season with Deivi Cruz as your shortstop (worst OQ among AL regulars and no range in the field), what chance do you have? That the Orioles didn’t lose 100 games in either of the last two seasons is a tribute to Hargrove, who proved in Cleveland that he can win big if given talent to work with. Who could have done better with the dead wood Hargrove was handed in Baltimore? Orioles management should have offered him an extension instead of a pink slip. The fans did, after all, serenade Hargrove with chants of “Four more years!” at Baltimore’s final home game.

The 2003 American League OQ finish was the closest in history. Carlos Delgado edged Manny Ramirez by just .0014 (1.5839 to 1.5825).

Man-Ram was a double also-ran. While he rode the bench on the final day of the season, Bill Mueller copped the batting title by a single point, .326 to .325. Delgado, whose OQ stood at 1.5698 with a game to play, batted once in the finale and hit a home run, a grand slam to boot, to lift himself over the top. Why didn’t Manny play? Who knows?

Perhaps this was the revenge of the baseball gods. Earlier in September Manny was excoriated when he begged out of the lineup, too sick to play but not too sick to paint the town that night. After this incident Ken Rosenthal of The Sporting News expressed the conventional wisdom when he labeled Manny a “one-dimensional, high-maintenance knucklehead.” I wonder why everyone acted so surprised. When the Red Sox signed Manny in December 2000, what did they think they were getting? He’s exactly the same guy now that he was in Cleveland. And when you add it all up, Manny giveth a lot more than he taketh away. (And, like Ichiro, his first name alone is sufficient to identify him.)

The 2003 Boston Red Sox, incidentally, were the first team in history to boast 9 regulars with base-to-out ratios above the league average. The 1976 Cincinnati Reds had 8 (no DH).

OQs of 2003 Boston Red Sox (9 qualifiers)

C Jason Varitek 121
1B Kevin Millar 114
2B Todd Walker 100
SS Nomar Garciaparra 118
3B Bill Mueller 137
LF Manny Ramirez 158
CF Johnny Damon100
RF Trot Nixon 148
DH David Ortiz 143

Note: the OQs of both Walker and Damon were 1.0014.

Will Boston fans savor the remarkable success of this team? Don’t bet on it. Red Sox fans believe their team should never lose a game, their batters should never make an out, and their pitchers should never walk a batter or give up a hit. These beliefs produce a condition of chronic dissatisfaction that can never be relieved.

In August, when some of the Boston players protested this climate of negativity, they were accused of failing to understand that New England fans “live and die with the Red Sox.” That’s a phrase these fans often use to describe their feelings, and it’s only slightly exaggerated. But the players understand this perfectly well. They were simply asking, “Is this a GOOD thing?” They didn’t think so, and neither do I.

I can’t help but compare the atmosphere in Boston to what I witnessed in Montreal. The Expos draw 10,000 fans a game if they’re lucky, but those fans are tremendously enthusiastic, showering the players with encouragement and appreciation. After the Expos beat the Phillies, Expo Joe Vitiello told a reporter, “This type of crowd fires us up, and we want to go out there and give everything we’ve got.” Isn’t this a more satisfying experience for both athlete and spectator?

But how to explain the lack of numbers in the stands? I wonder if I have seen, in Montreal, the future of major league baseball. Montreal may be the cutting edge of a trend that is going to accelerate.

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NATIONAL LEAGUE RECAP

The Cincinnati bullpen’s sad lexicon: These are the saddest of possible words, Riedling to Rietsma to Reith.

Los Angeles manager Jim Tracy insists that he’s interested in Cesar Izturis as a leadoff man in 2004, after experimenting with Izturis in the number-one hole during the last month of the season. Izturis is the guy who just completed his season with a 69 OQ, one of the worst in history for a major league regular. With just 10 stolen bases, Izturis doesn’t even have the saving grace of speed. Why would it make sense to give “Izzy” more plate appearances? If Izturis does lead off next year, he’ll join the company of notorious leadoff busts Larry Bowa, Alfredo Griffin, and Ozzie Guillen, guys who made a million outs and gave you little back. Needless to say, the Dodgers won’t win. Jim Tracy: what an offensive mind!

Pittsburgh’s Jason Kendall has revived the lost art of choking up on the bat. A free swinger with no power, he’s got to hit .325, as he did this year, to help you on offense (106 OQ).

Baseball’s best-named prospect has to be Milwaukee outfielder Peter Zoccolillo. I’m going to disregard his September callup numbers: 4 for 37 (3 singles and a double) with 2 walks and 13 strikeouts.

Hard as it may be to believe, Zoccolillo was not the least productive Milwaukee position player. Shortstop Enrique Cruz went 6 for 71 (5 singles and a double) with 4 walks and 30 strikeouts. He’s the reason Royce Clayton (81 OQ) still has a job.

Atlanta’s Javy Lopez had one of the best years ever by a catcher, combining eye-popping offense with a superb won-lost record behind the plate. Statistically it was as good as Johnny Bench’s best season, 1972. Lopez’s 162 OQ ranks below Mike Piazza’s 173 in 1997, but, without having the figures, I’d be willing to wager that his 2003 catcher won-lost was better than Piazza’s in 1997, when the Dodgers finished second with an 88-74 mark.

It’s been written that Lopez lost 30 pounds in the offseason. I don’t believe the weight he lost was simple fat. Lopez’s pre-2003 body, with its inflated torso and Popeye forearms supported by normal-sized legs, looked steroid-enhanced to me. It’s ironic that the trimmed-down 2003 Lopez found enough power to set a home run record. I suspect that’s the difference between being muscular and being muscle-bound.

Over the years I’ve marveled at Gene Woodling, Dick McAuliffe, John Wockenfuss, and Jeff Bagwell, to name a few, but I have never seen a goofier batting stance than the one Arizona’s Craig Counsell employed this season. It didn’t help. Counsell’s OQ was just 82.

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THE CENTER OF INDIFFERENCE

The Mets were playing at Atlanta on Thursday, August 28. I watched the game on TV. Leading off the fourth inning, Mike Piazza hit a routine fly ball to right field. Atlanta’s Gary Sheffield didn’t need to move more than a step. As he lifted his glove with an air of cool indifference, the ball struck the leather and bounced out onto the grass. Unruffled, Sheffield ambled after it and returned it to the infield.

Did Sheffield’s nonchalance hurt the Braves? No, because Piazza couldn’t be bothered to run hard. After making contact he commenced a slow jog to first base. Halfway down the line he made a move to veer off toward the Mets dugout, which he arrested only when informed, by the first base coach, that the ball was still in play. Piazza completed his journey at the first base bag, although he should have been on second. He appeared almost disappointed that, thanks to Sheffield’s error, he would now be obliged to run the bases. As events transpired, the inning ended with Piazza on third. He would certainly have scored if he’d put forth a normal effort after hitting the ball.

One lazy play, then, cancelled out another. Net result: zero. It’s surely not the type of baseball I want to see.

“Hustle” is a word one rarely reads on the sports page any more. But if the concept has ceased to be important to many players and commentators, it still has meaning to the baseball fan, who remains, thank God, disinclined to pay top dollar to watch athletes loaf. Sadly, it always seems to be the big stars who play like they don’t care. They seem to feel that it isn’t cool to exert themselves, that their exalted status entitles them to coast. But this attitude produces a spectacle that is unappealing to most of the paying public.

Perhaps, if this trend continues, the panjandrums of baseball will consider restoring the old custom of the “courtesy runner.” In this age of specialization, anything is possible. Maybe I shouldn’t be putting ideas in anyone’s head. I can hear the discussion now: “The fans don’t pay to see Mo Vaughn run.” (“The fans don’t pay to see pitchers hit,” they used to say to justify the DH rule.) Then where? The courtesy fielder? 3-platoon baseball? Baseball is still the only major sport which does not allow a substituted-for player to return to the field.

If baseball is a world, in Montreal the crust and the mantle have worn away, leaving only the small molten core. The casual fans have opted out, and only the most devoted baseball lovers remain. It’s happening in every city, and in Montreal the process is simply more advanced. Attendance has eroded throughout the major leagues for the second consecutive season, while ticket and concession prices continue to rise. More and more fans have decided that the product isn’t entertaining enough to justify its cost.

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THE ANTI-DRAWING CARD

What team was baseball’s worst drawing card in 2003? That is, which team attracted the fewest fans when playing on the road?

The answer is the Cleveland Indians, one of only two teams not to draw 2 million fans on the road. (Detroit was the other.) Hard to believe now that the Indians were a powerhouse just a few years ago.

Last year’s Indians employed no fewer than 8 pitchers (Nick Bierbrodt, David Cortes, David Elder, Alex Herrera, Aaron Myette, Chad Paronto, Jason Phillips, and Jerry Riggan) with ERAs of 9 or higher. A 9.00 ERA means that you gave up a run for every inning you pitched. Collectively they pitched 74 innings and surrendered 114 hits and 83 earned runs. They struck out 50 and walked 47. They won 1 and lost 6 with a collective ERA of 10.09.

At least the Indians had the sense to get those guys out of there as soon as their ineffectiveness became obvious. Cleveland’s team ERA of 4.21 ranked 5th in the American League.

The Indians’ Phillips really ought to be pitching in New York, where he could confuse hitters by teaming up with Mets catcher Jason Phillips for an all-Jason Phillips battery.

Incidentally, the best goggles in baseball belong to Jason Phillips the catcher. He can hit, too (110 OQ). A future star?

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RUMINATIONS

* Countdown to Cooperstown: Robby Alomar has 2679 hits. He’ll be 36 on Opening Day. Whose uniform will he be wearing?

* Is Alfonso Soriano the modern Juan Samuel?

* 73 of Jim Edmonds’ 123 hits went for extra bases.

* Fred McGriff is still 9 HRs short of 500. He’ll be 40 on Opening Day. If McGriff reaches 500, he won’t be the last to do so. Before 2010 we’ll see many new members of this once-exclusive club.

* Luis Gonzalez is the Roy Scheider of baseball.

* Is this the end of Rickey? I’m afraid it is. With no kind of glove in left field and an 83 OQ that conspicuous failed to ignite the Dodger offense, he has surely sung his swan song.

* When in Leghorn, stay at the Hotel La Vedetta.

October 2003

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