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    Baseball Told the Right Way
    In-depth Baseball analysis on various topics regarding the sport we all love!

      "You may run like Mays, but you hit like shit."
    Scott Podsednik is one of those guys that just comes out of nowhere. Never really a big time prospect, he bounced around from the Rangers, to Brewers, to Mariners, and back to the Brewers systems before getting called up last year. Needless to say, Scott never looked back and finished the year with a .314/.375/.440 in 558 at bats, including 43/53 in stolen base attempts. Scott's minor league numbers in nine seasons (.265/.344/.347) werent all that impressive, so a lot of people wrote it off as one of those Dwayne Hosey, Tuffy Rhodes, flukey type seasons. In 2004 pitchers would soon find his weakness and exploit it until he gave up and left for Japan, right?

    Well, so far it ain't happening, Scott is hitting .281/.366/.483 in his first 21 games, and is on pace for 93! stolen bases. Is it possible for a non-prospect to exceed his minor league numbers in the majors? Well, yeah its possible, but how likely is it really? Its a great story, even greater if he can keep it up. His GM, Doug Melvin is optimistic,
    I'm a big believer that guys with speed develop late. Otis Nixon, Lance Johnson, Dave Roberts. You want them to hit when they're 22. Sometimes, it takes longer.
    I got to thinking about this a little bit, he does give three pretty good examples. It also makes sense. Think about it, there are plenty of guys who get drafted based on their 'tools'. Why not draft a sprinter and let him spend six or seven years in the minors learning to hit a curveball? Donnie Sadler comes immediately to mind. Unlike Sadler, the guys who make it might just be the ones who learned how to hit, and they might learn a little later than is typical.

    So I went back over the last ten years or so and picked out anyone I could think of that was a similar type player to Podsednik. Basically I picked anybody who put together at least a couple full seasons at the major league level, and whos biggest asset was their speed.

    I first excluded guys that are too young to really make a judgement on their careers (Pierre, Furcal, Crawford, Sanchez, Baldelli, Rollins). All these guys, with the possible exception of Alex Sanchez, made the majors at a relatively young age (21-23) and still might have their best years ahead of them. After that I split up the rest of the players depending on whether they peaked quickly or late in their career, and also by when they made their debut. Early I considered age 20-24, normal I considered 24-28, and late I considered after age 28. This ought to bring back some memories,
    Late BloomersQuick PeakNormal
    Normal DebutLate DebutNormal DebutEarly DebutCareer
    Lance Johnson
    Mark McLemore
    Brett Butler
    Devon White
    Otis Nixon
    Dave Roberts
    Kenny Lofton
    Eric Young
    Brian Hunter
    Tom Goodwin
    Tony Womack
    Doug Glanville
    Luis Polonia
    Roger Cedeno
    Luis Castillo
    Chuck Carr
    Quilvio Veras
    Johnny Damon
    Darin Erstad
    Chuck Knoblauch
    Delino DeShields
    Vince Coleman
    So where does Scott Podsednik fit in this chart? He would fit well in column 2, and on the older side of column 1 or 3. Most of the guys on the list peaked within a few years of their debut and faded into ineffectiveness and obscurity. Out of the players with similar paths, only Lofton, Young and Nixon achieved any level of sustained success. If we can make a general observation it is that the guys who turned their speed into a successful major league career all showed the ability to get on base. This bodes well for Podsednik who has shown the ability to take a walk in both the minors and to a lesser extent so far in the majors, but the company he is placed in suggests his chances of maintaining his success are pretty small.

    Even though I think Melvin might be on to something with Podsednik, I don’t think his theory that speedsters develop later holds too much ground. In fact, there are not many players at all who broke into the majors past the age of Podsednik and had any kind of success, regardless of whether they were speedsters or not. If there is a theory to be made about speedsters, it would have to do with the fact that most of them flame out quickly and become pinch runners and part time players.

    More accurately, if a guys best asset is his speed, its very likely that he won't age well as a ballplayer. Think about it, a good hitter can still hit well until his bat speed becomes too slow (Edgar Martinez anyone?). As a speedster gets older he is going to lose a step on the basepaths. If he is no longer successful stealing bases or reaching on infield singles then its likely he is no longer a productive ballplayer. A lot of times he either has to bulk up like Marquis Grissom or he becomes a liability pretty quick and is out of baseball by the age of 32.

    Recent history is against Podsednik continuing his success, as most of his comparable players burn out quickly. I like the guy as a ballplayer though, I think he plays the game the right way and is fun to watch. So here's hoping Scott Podsednik proves me wrong and turns into the next Otis Nixon and stays productive into his mid-30s.