With its unveiling of the top 500 players in baseball, ESPN.com is launching Triple Play, a weekday feature that will run throughout the season and include three ESPN contributors answering three topical questions. For now, the feature will focus on the top 500 rankings, but Triple Play's concentration will shift to the daily MLB buzz once the season begins.
Today we'll look at Part 4 of our ESPN 500 series, which focuses on players who rank from 251 to 300. Feel free to chime in on Twitter with the hashtag #ESPN500.
1. Among qualifiers, R.A. Dickey (No. 279) is 11th in ERA (3.08) over last two seasons. Why is he so low?
Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN), ESPN New York
Dickey, who happens to be the lone knuckleballer remaining at the major league level with Tim Wakefield's retirement, shouldn't be so lightly regarded. Until Johan Santana establishes he can work every five days following shoulder surgery, Dickey is the ace of the Mets' staff. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning Thursday against Houston and has demonstrated that while he still may be slightly under the radar after reinventing himself as a knuckleballer, he is no fluke.
Dave Gershman (@Dave_Gershman), Marlins Daily
Dickey should very well be ranked higher but his strikeout rate has been rather low over the years (5.8 per nine in 2011). Other than that, there shouldn't be any reason he doesn't deserve a higher ranking.
Matt Philip (@fungoes), Fungoes
Ever since Phil Niekro retired, fans have viewed knuckleballers like you view that goofy-looking center on your college's basketball team: He gets the job done, but you're not exactly proud that he's affiliated with your team. Let's face it, the only people who enjoy ground-ball pitchers who seldom strike anyone out are Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan.
2. True or false: Carlos Zambrano (No. 261) will have a renaissance under Ozzie Guillen?
Rubin: True. Zambrano is out of the glare in Chicago, and in a far more comfortable environment with Guillen. And Zambrano no longer is required to be an ace. He's actually the No. 4 or 5 starter in Miami's rotation. He's also in a pitchers' park and out of the not-so-friendly Wrigley confines (at least when the wind is blowing out). Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told Marlins reporters that Zambrano looks the best he can recall physically in some time.
Gershman: True. The spacious new ballpark in Miami should at least knock down a few more Zambrano fly balls than in the past. Additionally, a fresh start with a new team might calm the right-hander down a bit, letting him enjoy playing baseball slightly more.
Philip: False. Tough dilemma for Guillen: Pull his brawny pitcher from the game and risk an irate Big Z; leave him in and risk an irate rest of the team. Seriously, though, if you factor in the abnormally high home-run rate Zambrano had last year (1.17 home runs per nine; career of 0.75), he doesn't have anything to have a renaissance from, as the rest of his peripherals have been close to identical for years.
3. Which player here will be out of the top 500 next year?
Rubin: Not for lack of performance, but Kerry Wood certainly could drop out of the top 500 in 2013. Wood had tossed out retirement as a possibility late last season before Theo Epstein changed ZIP codes and the sides agreed to a $3 million deal that includes a team option for the following season, also for that sum.
Gershman: I'll go with Mike Pelfrey. Big Pelf is notorious for his inconsistency and continues to have difficulty finding success with his lack of stuff. He gives up way too many runs (4.74 ERA last year) to be in top-500 consideration.
Philip: Adam Lind. He's had back-to-back seasons with a sub-.300 OBP at a position (first base) that doesn't exactly have a paucity of available replacements. Those factors don't bode well for the injury-riddled Blue Jay.