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Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Updated: July 31, 7:07 PM ET
Boston believing in new Theo-logy

By Rob Neyer
ESPN.com

Just wanted to answer a couple of inquiries today, while at the same time I try to figure out how to ask Billy Beane -- I'll see him this weekend in Oakland -- why on earth he'd want to lock up Scott Hatteberg for two more seasons ...

Theo Epstein
Theo Epstein is thus far enjoying a sucessful first year as Red Sox GM.

Based on what we've seen since Epstein took over last winter, I'm inclined to agree. I'm not the biggest Todd Jones fan in the world, but Byung-Hyun Kim, Scott Sauerbeck, and Scott Williamson all are quality relievers.

When the season started, the standard criticisms of the Red Sox bullpen were 1) they had the wrong plan, or 2) they had the wrong pitchers, or 3) both.

Well, now they've got everybody else's plan and they've got a lot of the right pitchers, so it seems to me that if the Red Sox bullpen is not a strength down the stretch, then it's on the manager.

And you know, I don't really buy the notion that it's only now that Theo Epstein has proved his worth. In addition to building what now looks like a pretty good bullpen, isn't Epstein also the guy who, months ago, built a roster that's leading the major leagues in runs scored?

There's really not much more that Epstein can do. Sure, the Sox could use a quality starting pitcher, as neither John Burkett nor Ramiro Mendoza inspire great confidence these days. But whatever happens from this point forward, it's been a great first year for the youngest general manager in major-league history.

We have that!

I don't blame you for not knowing. We've got a lot of things that even I don't know about, because 1) we've got people adding stuff all the time, and 2) I don't spend as much time zipping around the site as I should.

New this season, ESPN.com's sortable stats allow you to look at just the rookies, and doing that turns up some interesting stuff.

The most interesting? Well, here's a little quiz for you ...

Among the nine American League rookies with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, who has the highest OPS?

a. Hideki Matsui
b. Rocco Baldelli
c. Mark Teixeira
d. none of the above

The answer, as I'm sure you've guessed, is d) none of the above.

The answer, as you might not have guessed, is Kansas City's Angel Berroa.

Matsui's going to be the Rookie of the Year unless a few of the voters decide they're tired of voting for veteran Japanese players, and all things considered he probably deserves it. But Berroa's actually got the higher OPS -- .838 for the shortstop, .805 for the outfielder -- and he's easily the single biggest difference between 2003's first-place Royals and 2002's fourth-place (and 100-game losing) Royals.

With no National League rookie hitters doing all that much, the battle for the hardware is between two pitchers, and it's wide open.

IP BB/K W-L ERA Dontrelle Willis 90 30/85 9-2 2.59 Brandon Webb 112 31/99 7-4 2.42

Willis has a slight edge in wins and a big edge in magazine covers, but Webb's got a slight edge in both innings and ERA. So while Willis has to be considered the front-runner because voters like big stories, if Webb finishes the season with the better ERA and more wins, that would be pretty hard to ignore.

Senior writer Rob Neyer writes four columns per week during the baseball season. His new book, "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups," has just been published by Fireside. For more information about the book, visit Rob's Web site.