Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
August 31, 2001
BASEBALL: Hating Barry Bonds, Scoring Rey Ordonez and the 1962 MVP Race

Originally posted on Projo.com

Happiness is a 3-game series at Shea Stadium where even Rey Ordonez gets a game-winning hit and Barry Bonds doesn't homer. But then Bonds has to go and spoil it in the fourth game . . .

Sports is entertainment, and entertainment needs good guys, heroes. But it also helps to have villains. And Barry Bonds, like John Rocker, hasn't just blundered into the villain role; he's embraced it so thoroughly it might as well have been scripted for him by the WWF.

Bonds' improbable late-career assault on the home run record -- a record he never challenged until Mark McGwire raised the bar -- has provoked a new round of that all-American sport, Barry Bonds hating. Rick Reilly of SI, who never met a moral high horse he didn't mount, led the way with a series of Jeff Kent quotes slamming Bonds as a selfish, me-first guy who surrounds himself with a staff of acolytes and won't give his teammates the time of day, let alone a seat in his comfy chair and a gander at his big screen TV. (Never mind that Kent has never been well-liked anywhere he's played, and that none of his teammates is exactly hard up for cash to buy a recliner and a TV at home). Bob Klapisch piled on with innuendo that Bonds uses steroids and/or corks his bat -- fair enough charges if Klapisch has a good faith basis for levelling them, but he wouldn't phrase them the way he does if he did. Klapisch should think back to when Bobby Bonilla called him names one time, and remember that this is not always a great strategy. As much fun as we have maligning Bonds, a little fairness and objectivity wouldn't be a bad thing, for the sake of the readers, if not the man himself.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:48 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
August 24, 2001
BASEBALL: Was Jimy Williams A Rational Manager?

Originally posted on Projo.com

My first reaction to the Jimy Williams firing was, has anybody ever fired a manager in August in the middle of a pennant race? Let alone, done so and win? Other teams have rallied to win around the halfway mark, but it looked from the published reports (such as Jayson Stark’s column) like the answer was no. Not so fast. In 1981, the strike season, Dick Williams left the Expos – I believe he was fired, if I remember right -- with just 27 games left in the second half of the spilt season. The perennial runner-up Expos had finished third in the season’s first half, and stood just 14-12 in the second half with the season winding down. New manager Jim Fanning guided the Expos to a 16-11 mark, taking the second half title, and eventually winning the divisional series over the defending World Champion Phillies and coming within a Rick Monday home run of the World Series.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:23 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
August 17, 2001
BASEBALL: The 2001 AL Pennant Race Outlook

Originally posted on Projo.com

At the three-quarters mark, with scarcely more than 40 games left on the schedule and major roster overhauls unlikely, the pennant races are now set: barring injury, teams will either win with who and what they have, or they will lose. What lies ahead for the new man at the Red Sox helm?

Let’s look at how the AL contenders stack up by position grouping similar positions together. (I’m being generous in considering the Angels as a "contender," but stretching the definition out to the White Sox seemed a bit too far, plus trying to evaluate how good the White Sox new starting rotation really is made my head hurt) I’m rating the players on one simple standard: who would you rather have on the roster from now through October? Thus, I’m not interested in what Bret Boone or Nomar has done so far this year, except insofar as it shows where they are headed. Nonetheless, this year’s performance so far does bear some serious weight in that discussion.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:17 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
August 10, 2001
BASEBALL: Best-Hitting Catchers Ever

Originally posted on Projo.com

I?m writing from vacation this week, so forgive me if I digress from the pennant races . . . I?ve come across this question a lot lately: where do Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez rank, really, among the best-hitting catchers of all time? It is so widely said that Piazza is the best-hitting catcher of all time that nobody even bothers, it seems, to look behind the spectacular numbers and ask how he stacks up when you take account of the high-scoring context of the past decade. And there are many who argue that Rodriguez, with the fastest gun in the West, is on his way to being the best catcher ever, period; is he?

There?s a number of ways to skin this particular cat, and I won?t try to go through them all here. For example, my personal view is that, when rating players in general and catchers in particular, we need to zero in on the block of seasons that constitute their productive years, and not judge, say, Mickey Cochrane or Roy Campanella or Thurman Munson ahead of Gary Carter just because the violent ends of their careers prevented them from hanging on as subpar part-time players way past their prime. Eddie Epstein and Rob Neyer take a useful look at the ?big four? catchers (Cochrane, Bench, Berra, and Campanella) from this perspective in their book ?Baseball Dynasties.?

For a quick measurement, I took a look at the historical ?player cards? database on the Baseball Prospectus site to compare the all-time and active catchers by EqA and see what came up. (Scroll to the bottom here for an explanation of EqA and my thoughts on the player cards). Unfortunately, the answer I got back was one that just didn?t seem right ? the number 2 hitting catcher of all time, for example, came up as Gene Tenace. Now, Tenace was indeed a fine hitter; he hit for power and drew tons of walks in an extreme pitcher?s park in a pitcher?s era. Joe Rudi?s batting averages notwithstanding, Tenace was probably the third-best hitter on the ?mustache gang? A?s, behind Reggie and Bando. But I?m suspicious of relying on a formula to conclude that he was really better than Yogi Berra.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:03 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
August 3, 2001
BASEBALL: Nomar v. Joe D, Giambi v. Gehrig, 2001 Sox/Mets/Yanks Deals

Originally posted on Projo.com

This week we round up some semi-random observations on a few of the deadline deals and developments. . .

THE RED SOX

Let’s start with the Red Sox:

PlayerGABHRRRBIAvgSlgObp
A59230114544.357.595.415
B76272145867.346.596.459
C76292165366.315.562.392

Player A is Nomar, 2001, projected from his 1998-2000 “established performance level” (((three times 2000 totals) + (two times 1999 totals) + (1998 totals))/6) over the 59 games remaining on the schedule starting with his return on Sunday.

Player B is Joe DiMaggio, 1949, the year he missed the first half of the season
with a heel injury only to return and drive a stake through the heart of Boston.
Player C is DiMaggio’s 1946-48 established performance level projected to 76
games; as you can see, Joe D did basically what you would have expected him to do if completely healthy, and then some. Not everyone is Joe Dimaggio – but
Nomar certainly returned with a bang last Sunday, and getting the old Nomar back or better is really no more improbable than what Joe D did way back when.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:56 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)