"Now, it's time for the happy recap." - Bob Murphy
Baseball 2005 Archives
December 27, 2005
BASEBALL: From Closer to Crook
December 22, 2005
BASEBALL: How To Get To 300
I was talking to some people about Roger Clemens, and thought I'd take a look at precisely how remarkable it is for a guy who has pitched in a 5-man rotation to win 300 games . . . anyway, what I decided to do was chart out the number of starts and relief appearances made by the 22 men who won 300 games. It's actually surprising, when you look at the numbers, how relatively few seasons of 40 or more starts the post-1900 300-game winners have compiled.
I left off complete games and innings, which is another issue; I wanted to focus just on how frequently these guys started and relieved. The chart lists career wins, starts, relief appearances, total seasons, seasons of 40 or more starts, seasons of 50 or more starts, and career high in starts (which is how I ranked the chart, from low to high):
A few notes. Lefty Grove won 300 games while starting only 457. Even with his high number of relief appearances, just think about that. In fact, Grove started more than 33 games only once. I was surprised to see quite how few starts Walter Johnson got per year for a guy who won over 400 games despite pitching for mediocre to lousy teams until his mid-30s; granted, he completed a ton of starts (all 29 in 1918) and like Grove, he doubled as his team's relief ace. In fact, until you get down to Cy Young, there's really nobody who was a 40-a-year guy for more than a couple of seasons. You can also see here how similar Nolan Ryan's and Don Sutton's career totals are.
December 21, 2005
BASEBALL: Between-Starts Trivia Quiz
I'm working on a longer post on a related topic, but thought I'd tease it with a trivia quiz (answer to follow tomorrow): Name the three 300-game winners to make more than 100 career relief appearances.
BASEBALL: How You Like Them Big Apples?
So Johnny Damon signs with the Hated Yankees, reportedly for 4 years, $52 million; he'll be with the Yanks through age 35. I guess he's not the greatest leadoff man ever after all. And I can't wait for the day when he and Bernie are in the outfield at once. Opposing teams won't even need third base coaches anymore.
The $52 million price tag isn't that bad, given the current market (e.g., $102 million for AJ Burnett & BJ Ryan) and while Damon seems to me to be a bad bet to be worth it by age 35, he will at least provide some solid value. (On the other hand, this is a guy whose OBP from age 27 through 29 was .339, and he's leaving Fenway for a tougher park - Damon's batted .310/.442/.383 at Fenway the past four years, .281/.440/.342 on the road). Still, were I the Yanks I would have sacrificed some offense, pursued a better, cheaper glove man like Mike Cameron, and tried to come up with a younger solution long-term.
On the other hand, the loss of Damon hurts the Red Sox more than it helps the Yankees - Damon is, at present, still a very good player - and that's worth something to the Yankees by itself. With the loss of Damon, the dumping of Renteria, the continuing efforts to deal Manny and the arrival of Josh Beckett and Andy Marte, the Sox are clearly leaning towards a semi-rebuilding mode, as was made necessary by the collapse of Schilling and Foulke.
UPDATE: Lyford thinks the Yankees are way overpaying Damon, given the various reasons to believe he will be less productive the next four years than the last and the fact that he's no better a leadoff man than Jeter, and rounds up some thoughts from Sox fans. I don't entirely disagree, but the Yankees' decision looks wiser when you consider how it hurts the Sox and the fact that, as I've noted before, it ought to be a seller's market for quality center fielders this offseason.
Also, following up on a point in the comments: in his career, Damon has batted an anemic .252/.346/.301 in 63 games at Yankee Stadium, compared to .298/.438/.373 in 66 home games against that same Yankee pitching.
December 19, 2005
BASEBALL: Just to Be On The Safe Side
I'm glad to see Teepee Talk noting that the Indians have signed Danny Graves. Just in case Minaya & Randolph got any ideas about bringing him back.
December 18, 2005
BASEBALL: Nomar Goes West
No-maaaaahhhhh signs another one-year deal, this one with the Dodgers. The Dodgers' infield situation is now something of a jumble, featuring Jeff Kent (2B/3B), Nomar (SS/UT), Rafael Furcal (SS/2b?), Bill Mueller (3B/1B?), Oscar Robles (3B), Cesar Izturis (SS), with Hee Seop Choi and Olmedo Saenz apparently platooning at first. Presumably, the addition of both Furcal and Nomar signals the Dodgers' lack of faith that Izturis will return at all in 2006 from Tommy John surgery. Which is wise; Izturis is at best adequate and at worst horrific with the bat, so it's prudent to make sure he doesn't rush back from surgery and damage his ability to make a full recovery as a defensive player, which is his primary asset.
You could argue, I suppose, that given the age and injury history of Kent, Nomar and Mueller, it just makes sense (budget be damned) to have all three of them around and just play whoever is available (especially as insurance if Furcal gets hurt). But if I were Derek Lowe, I'd be heading for the hills; this is not going to be a pretty defensive lineup.
As for Nomar, I fear he's skipped the "Fred Lynn in Anaheim" stage of his career and fast forwarded directly to the "Fred Lynn in Baltimore" stage. Ask Juan Gonzalez what happens to guys who keep needing to sign one-year deals because their health never holds up, to say nothing of the difficulty of putting up Nomar-style numbers at Dodger Stadium. Still, it should be fun to see if he can pull out a second act.
December 16, 2005
BASEBALL: Blooper Time
I don't know who will win the NL Central next year, but it won't be the Cardinals.
December 13, 2005
BASEBALL: How Old Is He?
Well, with the Mets signing Julio Franco to a contract that runs through age 48, it's time to play "how old is Julio Franco"?
*He was drafted by the Phillies in 1978. Players acquired or traded by the Phillies that year included Davey Johnson, Pete Rose, Jay Johnstone, Gene Garber, Ted Sizemore, Butch Metzger and Joe Charboneau.
*Franco was acquired by the Indians in the Von Hayes deal, along with, among others, Manny Trillo.
*Franco's double play partner in Cleveland, Tony Bernazard, is an assistant to Omar Minaya. Bernazard had a 10-year career in the major leagues and retired 14 years ago.
*Franco is a friend of George W. Bush, who attended Franco's wedding. Franco is closer in age to Bush than he is to Mets veterans Pedro Martinez and Carlos Delgado. He's also older than Bill Clinton was when Clinton was elected president, and the same age as Theodore Roosevelt when he was re-elected as president.
*Franco was born in 1958. Other players born that year include Alan Trammell, Mike Scioscia, Dave Righetti, Wade Boggs, Dickie Thon, Alan Wiggins, Orel Hershiser, Neil Allen, Scott Holman, Tim Leary, Teddy Higuera, Atlee Hammaker, Bruce Hurst, Joe Cowley, Marty Bystrom, Nelson Norman, Dan Petry, Tim Teufel, Walt Terrell, and Rafael Santana.
*Franco is older than Harold Baines and Tim Raines. He's two years older than Cal Ripken, Kent Hrbek, Andy Van Slyke, Frank Viola and Fernando Valenzuela. He's three years older than Kirby Puckett and John Kruk. He's four years older than Bo Jackson. He's five years older than Ozzie Guillen. He's six years older than Dwight Gooden. He's nine years older than Robin Ventura.
*Franco is older than Lawrence Taylor, Marcus Allen, Magic Johnson, Ronnie Lott, Freeman McNeil. He's two years older than Eric Dickerson, Ralph Sampson and Joe Morris, three years older than Isiah Thomas, Terry Cummings, Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason, four years older than Patrick Ewing and five years older than Charles Barkley and Al Toon.
*Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson, Lou Gehrig, Roberto Clemente, Tony Lazzeri, Addie Joss, Ross Youngs, Arky Vaughan, Ed Delahanty, Buck Ewing, Pud Galvin, John Clarkson, King Kelly, Rube Waddell, Frank Chance and Old Hoss Radbourn were all dead by the age Franco will be when his contract is up.
*Franco in 2006 will be the same age Sandy Koufax was . . . in 1983.
December 11, 2005
BASEBALL: Random Trend Line
Noticed while looking up something else: Placido Polanco's Total Bases the past 5 seasons: 216, 221, 220, 222, 224. And in fairly consistent - the past three years, very consistent - numbers of plate appearances: 610, 595, 554, 555, 551. Polanco's one of baseball's more underrated players, a lifetime .300 hitter with a good glove at two infield positions - how many people even noticed him batting .331 this year?
December 9, 2005
BASEBALL: Winter Meeting Roundup
*Well, the Blue Jays are back in the game with the acquisitions of BJ Ryan, AJ Burnett and Lyle Overbay, and they're not done yet. All are good baseball moves, although spending $102 million on Burnett and Ryan seems like a financial decision they may come to regret, especially given that they're still basically working towards building a third place team unless the Red Sox go into rebuilding mode, which seems unlikely with the acquisition of Josh Beckett and Mark Loretta.
*Tough times, by contrast, in Baltimore, even with the arrival of Leo Mazzone and Ramon Hernandez; Hernandez creates a bit of a logjam with Javy Lopez, and the revival of the Jays only makes the division more competitive.
*The trade of Edgar Renteria for Andy Marte - which I know will make at least one of our regular readers happy - is a fascinating challenge. If you apply the basic principles of modern sabermetrics, this looks like a heist for the sabermetrically-oriented Red Sox, who unload a player who is expensive, 30, coming off two straight off years at the plate and a terrible year in the field, and has lost a significant amount of speed (his signature skill) in exchange for a 22-year-old who the Baseball Prospectus named as the best prospect in baseball entering the 2005 season. (Marte batted .275/.506/.372 in AAA Richmond this year, unspectacular but impressive for a 21-year-old in what, if I recall correctly, is a pitcher's park, plus Marte cut his strikeouts as he moved up, a good sign). Even with the Braves needing a shortstop and even given that the Red Sox are eating part of the contract, I have to say that unless the Braves know more about Renteria and/or Marte than we do, this is a steal.
But you know what? They're the Braves. So there's a good chance that they do know more than you or I or the Red Sox know about these two players.
*I could live, I suppose, with the Mets possibly getting Mark Grudzielanek (thank heavens they wouldn't be playing him with Mientkiewicz), if he's cheap and, ideally, a bench player. But I don't like the idea. Grudzielanek is 36 and only useful if he bats .300, and players of his type tend to hit the wall very abruptly around 35-36 (Tommy Herr was 34 when the Mets got him). On the other hand, Jose Valentin is my kind of player, a guy who has had great range and made up for low batting averages with power, some patience, and an ability to avoid the DP. But he's also 36 and batted .170 last season (he also had a huge spike upward in walks, which Bill James thinks can sometimes be a trouble sign for an old player); I don't want to get the tail end of Valentin's career just because he was useful a few years ago. Mercifully, it appears that they've only signed him to a 1-year deal.
But I'm glad the Mets passed on Bernie Williams. You never know anything for sure in this game, but it's hard to be surer about anything than that Bernie is done. With little range and no arm, he's a liability in the field; he's got minimal power now, and has batted .263, .262 and .249 the last three years. Bernie should retire, but he's apparently returning to the Yankees, to do what I can't imagine.
Julio Franco, I like, but a two-year deal for a 47-year-old?
And the Rangers can keep Laynce Nix and his career .285 OBP in Coors Field South.
*Gee, what were the odds that things would end badly for Roger Clemens in Houston, and over money? I still say, as I've said for the past six years, that this ends with Clemens trying to go into Cooperstown in a Devil Rays hat . . . much as I hate to say so, Clemens owes it to baseball to keep pitching. You can't retire while you're that good, you just can't.
*Alfonso Soriano remains a talented slugger who can play in the middle infield, but his decline at the plate the past two years really has been masked by the park, plus the Nationals are getting him while they still have Jose Vidro, so if they can ever get Vidro healthy they will have to move one of them. I think the Rangers got the better of this deal, adding a guy, Brad Wilkerson, who has power and a lot of plate discipline, although he did have a poor 2005. Wilkerson's a year younger, and as recently as 2004 hit more homers and scored more runs. I wonder how many fewer pitches opposing starters will have to throw this year by exchanging Wilkerson for Soriano.
More on some of the other moves another day, if time permits. It's been a busy winter.
December 8, 2005
BASEBALL: Overtaken by Events
First of all, I continue to be tied up with work stuff, so apologies if blogging has been a bit light around here . . . I was going to blog on the Kris Benson for Mike MacDougal and Jeremy Affeldt rumor, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside now.
Still, I wouldn't be heartbroken to see Benson go:
1. Pedro-Glavine-Heilman-Trachsel-Seo, possibly with Zambrano as a long man/emergency starter, sounds fine to me. They can afford to part with Benson for help elsewhere, say in the bullpen (presumably, they can't find anyone dumb enough to take Benson with one of the Mets' other starters for a better starter).
2. Benson's K/9 rates by month, 2004-05 (Sept. 04 includes one October start, and he missed April 05):
Call me paranoid, but especially with Benson's poor durability record, that severe dropoff the last two months of 2005 scares me. I'm concerned that Benson is a ticking time bomb, and an expensive one.
December 7, 2005
BASEBALL: Johnny O Hangs It Up
For Mets fans, at least, a sad day: John Olerud has retired. Olerud can still play - he batted .289/.451/.344 this season, and he drove in 37 runs, which projects out to 128 RBI per 600 at bats - but he's really a bench player at this stage of his career, and I suppose he didn't want to keep playing in that role. Olerud could possibly have been a Hall of Famer if he'd (1) not had a couple of lost years at age 26-27 with the Blue Jays and (2) kept chugging rather than falling off after age 33; his career .295/.465/.398 line is a very solid one, but like Keith Hernandez he was the kind of player who really needed a long career and some milestones to be immortalized.
You'll never see another player cooler under pressure as Olerud - the guy is absolutely unflappable. Throughout his career, he always had a knack for hitting when the rest of his team was cold. I'll always remember his crucial grand slam off Greg Maddux on September 29, 1999, giving the Mets the juice to snap a 7-game losing skid in the heart of the pennant race and set up their miraculous run to the wild card, as well as his reaching base 14 straight times over a key weekend in mid-September 1998. The Mets might well have won the World Series in 2000 if they'd kept Olerud, and even with his later struggles at the end of his Seattle contract, they would have avoided the Mo Vaughn fiasco. Olerud's three-year tenure at Shea left him as the Mets' career leader in batting, OBP and OPS. At his absolute peak, Olerud was a monster offensive force, a fine glove man, and a calm, steadying presence.
December 5, 2005
BASEBALL: LoDuca To Queens
So, the Mets plug another hole by going back to the same well that produced Mike Piazza, Al Leiter, Dennis Cook and Carlos Delgado, trading in two relatively unknown (to me, at least) pitching prospects at the Marlins' garage sale for Paul LoDuca. LoDuca's a solid, unspectacular player, 34 years old now, a lifetime .283 hitter but with only modest power and patience who is owed $6.25 million per year in 2006 and 2007. Not a great pickup in the abstract, but probably cheaper and more durable than Ramon Hernandez and a better bat than Bengie Molina. LoDuca's no great shakes defensively. One good sign is that LoDuca, like Piazza, comes to the Mets from two NL pitcher's parks, so what you see on paper is likely to be what you get.
The big decision, of course, is whether to try to ride LoDuca hard in the first half or rest him with a lot of Ramon Castro; LoDuca is just about the most notorious first half hitter in the game, with a lifetime split of .308/.453/.362 before the All-Star Break and .257/.375/.312 after. The question is whether that's a persistent fatigue issue or just a seasonal pattern. The pattern was nearly absent in 2005 (.286/.375/.338 vs. .279/.388/.328), as he got more time off, which could suggest fatigue, or it could just be a sign of decline that he had a typical second half without the great first half.
I assume that the LoDuca deal, coming on the heels of acquiring Delgado and Billy Wagner, is the end of the Mets' shopping spree - after this, they may still deal, but not from need and not to acquire new salary obligations to mop up all the payroll room they cleared with the departures of Piazza (who is now definitively not returning at any price), Cameron and Looper.
December 2, 2005
BASEBALL: Sox Sue Minky
This isn't a lawsuit you see every day.
BASEBALL: Bert Belongs
Via Repoz, I see that there's a campaign afoot to promote Bert Blyleven for the Hall of Fame, including the website Bert Belongs. I strongly support this effort. You can see my case for Blyleven (written in December 2000) here, and more on Bert's place among the great pitchers here and here.
November 29, 2005
BASEBALL: Billy and Tike
I have to like yesterday's moves by the Mets. I've been arguing for a while that they should prefer BJ Ryan over Billy Wagner, but they simply got outbid on Ryan, and Wagner was certainly the best remaining option. His contract - 3 years, $43 million, with an option of a fourth year pushing the deal to $50 million - is pretty overpriced for a 34-year-old closer with an injury history, but that's the market right now, and with the departure of Piazza and Cameron, the Mets have money to spend. As with Pedro, if Wagner's healthy for at least the first two years of the deal he will be worth it.
They also grabbed 29-year-old free agent center fielder Tike Redman, fresh off playing himself out of a regular job with the Pirates. Redman is a weak bat - he should remind Mets fans of Jermaine Allensworth - but he's reputed to be a good glove, and should spell the end of Gerald Williams' Mets career. Minaya has done a very good job of getting guys like this to upgrade the bench. Hopefully, with Redman and Nady, we shouldn't see any middle infielders in the outfield this season.
November 27, 2005
BASEBALL: The Ryan Contract
Well, looks like JP Ricciardi is even more bullish on BJ Ryan than I was, giving him a 5-year, $47 million contract to come to Toronto, the largest ever for a relief pitcher. Ken Rosenthal thinks the deal is nuts, and as enthused as I am about Ryan, I'm half inclined to agree with him - that's a lot of money for any closer, especially for a team that's a long way from filling all its other roster holes, and that much money is a lot of pressure on Ryan. I can't blame the Mets for not matching a deal that big, even if it does pan out well. Of course, I assume Wagner will use this contract to squeeze more money out of the Mets, Phillies and other bidders.
November 23, 2005
BASEBALL: Resuelva los Metropolitanos!
The Mets get Delgado and $7 million for Mike Jacobs and Yusmiero Petit. Some disjointed thoughts on the deal and on other rumored deals:
1. Hey, if the Yankees had traded Kevin Maas for a big established power hitter after 1990, that would have been a good idea. Jacobs' stock will never be higher. I regard Jacobs as the next Rico Brogna, who came to the Mets at age 24 (same as Jacobs) and batted .351/.626/.380 in 131 at bats, compared to .310/.710/.375 for Jacobs in 100 at bats. Brogna, like Jacobs, could hit for a good average with middling power but had little plate discipline; he had one more good year the following season (.289/.485/.342) but was at best a league-average hittter after that, which is poor for a 1B. (Then again, maybe Jacobs he could pull a Mike Sweeney and take a huge step up with the bat now that he's not catching anymore; he's never had a full season where he wasn't catching).
3. Delgado is worth Petit, although I do think Petit could be a star at Shea. But he's a pitching prospect with only a handful of AAA innings, and those are always risky. And this way they keep Lastings Milledge, as long as they don't go and stupidly trade him for Soriano or something. I think it makes more sense to get a 1B than an OF, given the internal alternatives of Diaz and Milledge (and, yes, Nady, who can step in if Diaz falters).
BASEBALL: Ryan v. Wagner
I just don't understand this, as I've said before. The Orioles are offering BJ Ryan $18 million over three years, $6 million per. The Mets have offered Billy Wagner $30 million over three years, $10 million per. Ryan put it all together in August 2003; since 8/1/03, here are their numbers (via Pinto's database, except for the Blown Saves numbers):
And bear in mind that Ryan is 30, Wagner is 34. Both are lefthanded. Both throw hard. Yes, you can make the argument that Wagner's been the better pitcher, but it's awfully close. Ryan strikes more guys out, he gives up half as many homers - a highly significant fact in big games, as Wagner's been known to get touched by the longball in big situations - and he has age and durability on his side. Yes, the save and save % numbers favor Wagner, but Ryan has certainly proven he can hold a closer job with 36 saves in 2005, and the blown saves figure is always uglier when you're working primarily as a setup man. How can you look at these two guys and think Wagner is worth an extra $4 million per year?
November 18, 2005
BASEBALL: Cameron for Nada?
You know, I can understand the theory behind trading Mike Cameron to get rid of his salary. With the Mets looking to add salary at other positions, Carlos Beltran holding down center field, and Victor Diaz ready to get a shot playing everyday as an inexpensive right fielder, Cameron at $8 million for 2006 is an expensive luxury item.
But I can't understand the execution - trading him for Xavier Nady - even assuming that some of these scenarios are in the works, unless it's really the case that some other GM (Chuck LaMar?) lusts after Nady and wants him, specifically, in a deal.
It's not that Nady is a terrible player. He's a decent fourth OF who can also play 1B, and he'll be 27 this year so he could take a modest step up. But if he gets regular playing time he's at best a guy who doesn't kill you; he's a lesser player than Benny Agbayani, Darryl Boston, or Danny Heep. I thought maybe at least there was a thought that he'd improve leaving Petco, which is the toughest pitcher's park in baseball, but he batted .258/.408/.314 on the road the past three seasons.
November 16, 2005
BASEBALL: Pitcher Name Game Trivia
Let's try a quiz that will mostly be easy to the history buffs . . . A surprising number of baseball's great pitchers haven't gone by their given first names, preferring either a nickname or their middle name. See if you can match the pitcher with the first name. First, the pitchers:
1. Bert Blyleven
Now, the first names:
Answers below the fold.
Read More »
1. Rik Aalbert Blyleven
« Close It
November 15, 2005
BASEBALL: The Blowout Maker
So, A-Rod wins what should have been his fourth MVP Award, and could easily have been his fifth or sixth; he was robbed of the award in 1996 and 2002, and could easily have won it in 2000 and/or 2001. And yet, you will hear endless cries that he is overrated.
Clearly, on the raw numbers, A-Rod had a better year with the bat, finishing ahead of Ortiz in batting, slugging, OBP, games, runs, total bases, steals, and fewest GIDP. He did this while playing in a much less favorable park, as a better baserunner, and as a good fielding third baseman compared to a DH.
Really, then, the whole case for Ortiz is clutch hitting. Now, there are only three hitters I've ever seen who had such extensive resumes as clutch hitters that you couldn't possibly dismiss them as having a real ability to rise to the occasion - George Brett, Eddie Murray, and David Ortiz. But what is Big Papi's real advantage in clutch situations? Gordon Edes noted that "[a]gainst the other playoff teams, A-Rod hit .325 with 13 home runs and 30 RBIs, Ortiz .273 with 9 home runs and 33 RBIs." (h/t David Pinto). That's one way of looking at it; I looked at how the two hitters' production broke down by the games they appeared in, to examine the charge that A-Rod did all his hitting in meaningless situations:
*A-Rod either drove in or scored at least as many runs as the margin of victory in 21 Yankee wins (including a 12-4 win where he drove in 10 runs, and two 3-run victories over the Red Sox). The comparable number for David Ortiz is 24. By contrast, the Yankees lost 13 games by 1 or 2 runs in which A-Rod neither drove in nor scored a run; for Ortiz, the number was 10. Overall, a slight advantage for Ortiz.
*In the 51 games the Yankees won by 3 runs or less, A-Rod batted .310, slugged .545, had a .430 OBP, scored 35 runs, drove in 36, and hit 13 homers. In other words, he contributed very substantially in games the Yankees won and might otherwise have lost.
*That said, Ortiz did have insane numbers in close games. Overall, in 88 games decided by 3 runs or less, A-Rod hit .278/.506/.379 with 50 Runs and 57 RBI - solid numbers, considering that close games excludes the laughers where people run up big numbers. But Ortiz, in 94 such games, hit .296/.601/.393 with 65 Runs and 80 RBI. In 43 1-run games, A-Rod batted .253/.525/.331 with 26 Runs and 29 RBI, but Ortiz (in 42 games) batted .319/.712/.413 with 33 Runs and 35 RBI.
*So, where did A-Rod make his real mark? Well, besides the 51 victories by 3 runs or less, the Yankees won 44 other games by 4 or more runs. Now, they may not be as dramatic as 1-run wins, but blowouts count just as much in the standings, and they mean an awful lot to a team with a shaky pitching staff.
Was A-Rod just hitting with a big lead in these games? I went through the play by play to see how he had hit in his first and second plate appearances in those 44 games, to see how much he had contributed to putting 44 wins in the bank, a good start for any playoff contender.
In his first plate appearance in those 44 games, A-Rod was 21 for 35 with eight homers, 17 Runs scored, and 14 RBI. In his second plate appearance, he was 11 for 37 with 4 homers, 11 Runs, and 11 RBI. Total batting line: 36 for 72, 6 2B, 12 HR, 28 R, 25 RBI, and a batting line of .500/1.083/.576.
So, A-Rod is a dangerous hitter in close games, if not as dangerous as Ortiz or as he is otherwise. But like the young Mike Tyson, he's very, very good at putting games away early. Who can say the ability to win baseball games with ease isn't valuable?
November 14, 2005
BASEBALL: Now Catching, For The Mets . . .
One of the big question marks for the Mets this offseason is the catching job. Mike Piazza's 7-year contract is up, and all signs point to the Mets looking to go in a new direction.
Now, as long as you don't compare them to the Piazza of old, Mets catchers did OK with the bat: .245/.436/.322 with 36 doubles, 26 HR and 99 RBI. That's about even with the 2005 production of Ben Molina, apparently one of the leading candidates for the job, who batted .295/.446/.336 in a career year with the bat in his walk year at age 30. Molina is a career .273/.397/.309 hitter who hasn't had 450 at bats since he was 25 and would get lapped in a footrace with Piazza. Let's turn to Matt Welch, who's watched Molina on a daily basis:
I'm not sure Bengie's even a good defensive catcher at this point. His throwing has deteriorated -- from 36 of 81 base-stealers (44%) in 2003, to 18/69 (26%) in 2004, to 20/64 (31%) this year; even while his barely younger brother has been improving from 28% to 49% to 53%. And more noticeable on a day-to-day basis is Bengie's increasingly desperate habit of jabbing with his glove at pitches in the dirt, instead of trying to move his fat body in the way.
Other than the batting average, Molina's career numbers are a pretty good match for Ramon Castro, the for-the-moment incumbent (.222/.387/.304). Not that I think Castro is up to the job of catching every day, but unlike Molina he's not just a singles hitter with a sketchy history as far as hitting those singles. (I'm assuming for now that Mike Jacobs can't handle the glovework and/or would blow his arm out if he caught everyday; obviously, if he's up to the job, he'd be ideal).
Then there's Ramon Hernandez, who reportedly is interested in the Mets. Hernandez, unlike Molina, can actually hit a little: .283/.463/.330 the past two seasons in the best pitcher's park in baseball. On the other hand, Hernandez is turning 30 and has missed 114 games over those two seasons.
Honestly, I don't think Hernandez gives me a lot of comfort with the bat. He'd never hit nearly that well until he turned 27. More to the point, I took a look at baseball-reference.com's list of comparable players through age 29, and it was a gruesome list of guys who aged badly, including Jody Davis, Rich Gedman, Terry Kennedy, and Tony Pena.
In fact, that got me wondering: who's a better bet over the next two years, a decent hitter just off his prime like Hernandez, or an old superstar like Piazza? I looked at what those 10 catchers did at age 29, 30 and 31. To do the same for Piazza, I only had 5 catchers to work with, since four of his most-comparables are non-catchers and one (Bill Dickey) either retired or went in the military after batting .351 in 1943. Those five were Yogi Berra, Gary Carter, Lance Parrish, Gabby Hartnett, and Carlton Fisk, and I looked at their numbers at 36 (Piazza's age in 2005), 37 and 38.
Let's look at the results. First, Hernandez at 29, followed by his comps at 29, 30 and 31:
Now, Piazza at 36, followed by his comps at 36, 37 and 38:
As you can see, while the Piazza-style old guys are still a better bet with the bat, neither player's comps give much in terms of reason to hope (although Hernandez was ahead of his comps the last two years; several of them had hit the wall by 28). If Piazza at one year is a realistic option, the Mets could do far worse than to re-up him and spot Castro in there.
I guess my real bottom line here is this: Hernandez and Molina have value because catchers are scarce . . . but they're just not that good, and they're at least as likely to depreciate rapidly in value as Piazza is. Scarcity or no, you don't win pennants by throwing tens of millions of dollars at players who just aren't that good. Better to save the money, maybe get Castro a cheap platoon partner or something, and spend elsewhere to upgrade with genuine quality.
Oh, and one more thing I saved for last because it seems so implausible: Tom Verducci claims that the Hated Yankees are looking to move Jorge Posada, or - even more bizarrely - shift him to first base. I understand why the Yanks would be unhappy with Posada's $12 million price tag, but look at alternatives like Hernandez and Molina, far inferior players asking $8-10 million per, and Posada doesn't look so bad. (As far as I know, the Yanks' only other internal option is John Flaherty, who barely his enough to survive as Randy Johnson's personal catcher at this point). Of course, the Mets are the one team that would regard Posada as a younger, cheaper replacement for the outgoing incumbent, and they do have one thing the Yankees could use: a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder to spare. If it weren't the Mets and the Yankees, that deal might make some sense.
November 10, 2005
BASEBALL: Low Leaders
Bartolo Colon's Cy Young Award raises a question I'd been thinking about late in the year, when Kevin Millwood first grabbed the AL ERA lead: whether this was an unusually weak year for pitchers in the AL. One way to look at that is to look on baseball-reference.com at the league leader in ERA+, the league/park adjusted measure of which pitcher stands furthest below the league in ERA (the stat divides the park-adjusted league ERA by the pitcher's ERA, so the higher the ERA+, the better, with a league-average pitcher clocking in at 100).
Colon's ERA+ this year was 120, not in the top 10 in the AL. The league leader was Santana, at 153. Is that one of the lowest league-leading figures ever? Not really, as it turns out.
I went back and looked over the league leaders in this category going back to the dawn of the National Association in 1871 - 256 major league seasons in all. The league leader in ERA+ has been below 150 in 40 of those (15.6%). The lowest league-leading total was 127 by Tommy Bond in 1879, which is unsurprising; the NL was the only major league in 1879, there were only 8 teams, and each team used one pitcher most of the time, so that the league's top 8 pitchers threw 76% of the innings. Hard to stand out in a crowd that small.
So, I put together a list since 1893 (when the mound moved back to its curtrent 60'6" from 50 feet), which gave a list of 13 pitchers who finished below 144 and yet led their league. Here they go:
Interestingly, other than Seaver and Maglie, a number of these guys were fluky leaders anyway (Denny was sort of fluky, but he did win the Cy Young Award legitimately in 1983). Note that the 50s to early 60s were the golden age of pitcher parity . . . Garcia's ERA+ was 139, but the Indians' ERA+ as a team was 132; that had to be one of the most well-balanced staffs ever.
One name that jumps out here is Gene Conley. Did you know that Conley had been the best pitcher in the National League one year - and still found the energy to go play 1,300 minutes for an NBA-winning Celtics team that offseason, including being third on the team in rebounds? Amazing. I'd always thought of Conley as sort of a failed experiment in two-sport play, but for a while there he really made it work.
November 9, 2005
BASEBALL: Beltre Back?
More from the rumor mill: Jon Weisman speculates on Adrian Beltre poentially returning to the Dodgers. Hey, I traded Beltre and his $33 salary for Joe Nathan in May on my Roto team; I can only imagine how frustrated the Mariners were suffering through the whole season cutting him real paychecks. A Beltre encore makes some sense, although given how eerily similar his 2005 numbers were to 2001, 2002 and 2003, there's a very real risk that those numbers represent his real performance level at this point.
BASEBALL: Best Trade Yet
The Mets will promote Gary Cohen to the lead play-by-play job on their new cable network. Via Repoz, who notes that this spells curtains for Fran Healy. Of course, I get more games on the radio than TV, so I'll be awaiting word on Cohen's replacement.
BASEBALL: Trivia Question of the Day
Who is the oldest player ever to win a Gold Glove?
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Phil Niekro. Niekro was 44 when he won the NL Gold Glove for pitchers in 1983. Yeah, it was a trick question.
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BASEBALL: Cy Colon
I have to say, I was surprised and disappointed in the AL Cy Young vote for Bartolo Colon, a vote that signals the continued sway of W-L record to the exclusion of all else. Yet again, anti-statistics sportswriters prove themselves to be slavishly devoted to a single statistic. Johan Santana was clearly still the best starting pitcher in the league, but given the absence of a dominant starter, I would have given the award to Mariano Rivera, who had a remarkable year (albeit one that exceeded his usual standards mainly just because 2/3 of the runs he allowed were unearned).
November 7, 2005
BASEBALL: Firing Back at Plaschke
Plaschke apparently never bothered to learn the well-documented basics of the philosophies discussed in "Moneyball," so he could write howlers such as this one on Oct. 4: "It's a vision that has yet to result in a playoff series victory in the three places where it is prominently pushed - Oakland, Los Angeles and Toronto." Every baseball beat writer in the country (including the Times' own capable Bill Shaikin) could tell you that "Moneyball" tenets played a big role in the 2004 World Champion Red Sox, who employed the movement's godfather, Bill James.
Read the whole thing.
November 4, 2005
BASEBALL: Is He Back?
Roberto Alomar, that is:
Roberto Alomar [was] reinstated from the voluntary retired list Thursday by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and . . . filed for free agency.
Hmmmmm. Via Rob McMillin.
November 3, 2005
BASEBALL: Equal Opportunity
Now that the World Series has concluded with a sixth different champion in six years, it may be time to retire the idea that baseball is suffering from a crisis of lack of competitive teams. That's not to say there aren't imbalances; even rich teams like the Mets, Red Sox and Phillies spent barely half the budget of the Hated Yankees this year, for example. But even if nobody else can be the Yankees, the number of teams that have the chance to be competitive from time to time is much larger than Bud Selig has argued in the past.
I ran a chart four years ago breaking out the last time each team was in the postseason or finished within six games of the postseason (division or wild card). Six may not be a round number but it seemed like as good a line as any - the Indians, for example, finished six games out this year; the Royals finished 7 out in 2003. So, I'll use the same standard again. With that in mind, let's update the chart to show the last time each team was within six games, the last time each team made the postseason, the last World Series appearance and the last championship:
(Chart corrected per reader comment - when I did this in 2001 I must have missed the 1988 Tigers. My bad.)
As you can see, two things are clear from this chart. One is that, much as it still bothers me on a number of levels, the wild card really has opened up a lot of playoff opportunities (without the wild card, even the Red Sox would not have appeared in the postseason since 1995). And second, the number of true have-nots in the game is pretty small. 21 of the 30 teams have been at least seriously competitive for a playoff spot in the past six seasons, and only three of those have failed to make the playoffs in that period, one of whom (the Rangers) had just ended a run of winning three division titles in four years and followed that up by signing the largest free agent contract in the history of sports. Another, the Phillies, plays in the largest one-team market in the nation. The Blue Jays were also coming off a successful run in the early 90s and have generally drawn well, but have suffered partly from poor management and partly from sharing a division with the Yankees and Red Sox.
Of the remaining nine hard-core long-term losers, one has been given a solution to its economic problems, as the Nationals got a new city and are on their way to a new stadium and new ownership. The Rockies have a substantial and growing market to themselves, but have been victimized as much by altitude and bad management as by economics. The Orioles are always big spenders but share Toronto's problem of being in the AL East. Four of the six of the remaining sad sacks (Reds, Pirates, Tigers, and Brewers) play in brand-new ballparks, plus the Devil Rays opened in 1998. Only the Royals combine all the worst problems of baseball's underclass - low payroll, small city, old ballpark, and a track record of poor management.
Now, in a game with winners and losers, someone has to lose, and baseball's always had teams that spent a long stretch in the wilderness (read the history of the Phillies and A's some time). I would, for now, classify four teams as being genuinely handicapped by economic circumstances, not as a complete excuse for failure but as a contributor to long-term stagnantion: the Reds, Pirates, Brewers, and Royals. Three others have serious long-term futility problems, but less economic issues: the Tigers, Devil Rays and Rockies. It is a legitimate concern that even new parks don't seem to do much for the hard-core underclass of the game. But the good news is, the chance to be competitive has rarely been so widespread as it is today.
UPDATE: Another interesting note here, after the last two seasons: there's now no team whose last World Championship came between 1955 and 1978. There's 19 teams that have won the Series in the past 27 seasons, plus 8 expansion teams that have never won it (3 of whom entered the league since 1977), leaving just three teams (the Cubs, Indians and Giants) with a serious long time wait since their last flag. The fourth longest drought is the Rangers.
November 2, 2005
BASEBALL: Baseball Links 11/2/05
*Ryan McConnell has a big roundup of Mets and other news, including the Mets picking up the 2006 option on Steve Trachsel but not on Doug Minky and Braden Looper. Good riddance to the Blooper.
*Kevin Cott on why you see fewer African-American players these days:
Before the MLB Draft was instituted in 1965, teams relied on training academies to find and develop young talent. But with the draft, it was no longer economically efficient to spend money developing players that, upon turning 18, could then be drafted away by other teams. Teams eventually found a loophole to this by turning to Latin American countries, where the players weren't subject to the same draft eligibility (unlike basketball, where the draft is international). That's why there has been such an accelerated growth in Latin ballplayers - early scouting still pays off. The other result is that baseball development in the States is now dictated largely by socioeconomic conditions - it's a more expensive and specialized sport. So you could argue that the onus is on baseball to establish more inner-city clinics and developmental programs, but that's about it.
In other words, there's two tracks: an expensive track for homegrown players, which favors white players from areas with the financial werewithal to have good Little Leagues and the like, and a cheap track for foreign players. The poor, inner-city or rural Americans who used to be baseball's lifeblood are thus less common (they're more apt to turn to basketball in the cities and football in the rural areas), and black players feel the impact of that disproportionately, especially when you take away the black players who go into baseball because their dads played in the big leagues.
*Matt Welch gives what for to Bill Plaschke, the LA Times columnist who spent the past two years trying to run Paul DePodesta out of town for the offense of being a smart young guy who questioned traditional ideas. Welch also links to some other good commentaries on DePodesta's departure, including Jon Weisman. And Will Carroll draws larger lessons from the White Sox' World Championship as a "Moneyball" backlash. Really, There's only one solution that makes sense at this point. Three simple steps:
1. Give Plaschke the GM job.
*Pinto has some thoughts on Derek Jeter's Gold Glove, and also links to a fan ballot for Hall of Fame announcers, where you can - I swear I am not making this up - cast a ballot for Fran Healey.
*Tom G notes that Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito clings to a bizarre, irrational and superstitious faith: that's right, he's a Phillies fan.
*Leo Mazzone's departure for the Orioles is certainly the biggest news to hit the NL East thus far in the offseason. Recall, of course, that while Mazzone deserves enormous credit for his accomplishments in Atlanta, Bobby Cox did have good pitching staffs in Toronto, too. Also, Mazzone has already proven he can't do much for Bruce Chen.
*On a similar theme, Son of Brock Landers looks at Roger Clemens' playoff rap sheet and why he has a bad reputation in the postseason. Actually, the answer is simple: Clemens' reputation stems from his time with the Red Sox - he had just 1 win in 9 postseason starts with them, and a 3.88 ERA in the postseason compared to 3.06 in the regular season. By the time he started a postseason game in another uniform, he'd been in the league 16 years and cemented the reputation.
*Jeff at USS Mariner links to a rundown of possible Japanese imports to Seattle or other major league teams.
*Meant to link to this before the Series: the parallel lives of Frank Thomas and Jeff Bagwell.
November 1, 2005
BASEBALL: Franchise Quiz
History buffs will know this: the AL, of course, has been in existence since 1901, the NL since 1876. Name the only two NL teams that have been part of the league continuously since 1876.
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October 31, 2005
BASEBALL: DePodesta Evaluated
Chris Lynch looks at Paul DePodesta's moves as Dodgers GM. The record is a pretty solid one, not worthy of getting him fired, although you can argue that, for example, the Derek Lowe and Jeff Kent signings are worse in combination than taken separately, given that Lowe requires a good middle infield defense. (On the other hand, Lynch doesn't discuss the non-signing of Adrian Beltre, which doesn't look that bad right now). And it does seem that DePodesta botched some of the other parts of the job, specifically backing out of deals that other GMs thought they had with him, a problem that may have resulted from the Dodgers' decisionmaking process. That smells like a combination of rookie mistake and perhaps meddling by ownership.
On the whole, I'd be glad to have DePodesta running my team. And, hey: he was a great #2, and Jim Duquette is gone . . . the Mets could do far worse than trying to get him on board, although he is doubtless looking for another #1 job.
October 30, 2005
BASEBALL: Cube It!
You will notice that I have added a new tool on the left-hand column: a search box you can use to go directly to the minor league statistics of current and recent minor leaguers, through 2005, at The Baseball Cube. I've used the Cube myself for a while.
Just rememeber to come back here when you're done!
October 27, 2005
BASEBALL: Sox Sweep NL Central Team, Break Curse
Deja vu all over again. Congrats to the White Sox and their long-suffering fans.
You have to feel for the Astros, who fittingly went down 1-0 in the last game of a season where they struggled all year to score runs; after staging four of the toughest postseason games you will ever see, all anyone will rememeber within a few years is that they go swept. Let the record show that, unlike the 2005 Cardinals and 1999 Braves, this team did not go down easy. Instead, in a season when they lost Carlos Beltran and Jeff Kent, started without Lance Berkman and had to weather most of the season without Jeff Bagwell, they fought their way through some of the most epic postseason games in history and ended up going further than any Astros team ever has. Well played.
October 26, 2005
BASEBALL: Dewey Defeats Astros
An informed source sent me a copy of this morning's Chicago Tribune print edition, which contains an early version of this Phil Rogers column, referencing events through the 8th inning of last night's game, in which Rogers noted that White Sox pitchers like Dustin Hermanson were getting a chance to brush off the rust and get into the series, but concluding:
"It's too bad for the likes of Geoff Blum that playoff baseball rarely features garbage time."
BASEBALL: And Going, And Going, And Going . . .
This post seems pretty relevant right now.
UPDATES: Really, I had harbored hopes of doing a detailed post on this game, but at this point I'm just gonna go to bed when this is done. I may add to this in the morning.
A few random thoughts from my notes about the game that probably did the Astros in:
*Adam Everett being hit with the pickoff throw in the 3rd definitely brought back memories of Reggie, one of the earliest World Series moments I vividly remember.
*"Scooter" explaining what the pitches are doesn't bother me as much now that I'm watching the game with kids.
*When Crazy Carl was cursing out Oswalt, the cameras caught a little much of Garner telling Carl Everett, "f__ you motherf___". At least, that's sure what it looked like to me.
*Doesn't Cliff Politte look just like Dann Florek, who's played Capt. Cragen on two of the Law & Order shows? He even has the same grimace.
*Joe Buck managed to squeeze in a totally non sequitur Bill Buckner/1918 reference in the fifth inning.
*There was a huge roar from the crowd when Berkman was called for a strike on a check swing trailing 5-4 in the eighth; you could tell, at that point, that the crowd was palpably desperate.
*Why was I not surprised to learn that the three White Sox who made a Journey song the team's theme song were Crede, Rowand and Pierzynski?
October 25, 2005
BASEBALL: The Taste of Defeat
Just throwing it out there to sidetrack the Baseball Crank's day, but after Brad Lidge's second demoralizing walkoff homer, is there any way to figure out the ratio of "Closer eventually bouncing back and becoming effective again" to "Closer who was never the same"? For instance, Calvin Schiraldi was probably the best pitching prospect in the Boston farm system before the '86 playoffs - look at his regular-season stats in 1986 compared to everything that followed in his career. And what about Byung Hyun-Kim, Donnie Moore, Mitch Williams, Mark Wohlers, Tom Niedenfuer ... really, the only guy I can remember who kept chugging along was Dennis Eckersley after the '88 World Series. Anyway, let's see what the Crank can dig up on this.
Well, I can't well turn down that challenge, can I? So, I decided to walk through every example I could find of a relief pitcher blowing the big game in the postseason, and see how they fared the next few years. A few observations:
*I limited myself to the postseason and season-ending playoffs rather than the regular season.
*I limited myself to relievers. That knocks out both starters who blew the big one (think: Mike Torrez), and starters pitching in relief, which eliminated Ralph Branca in 1951, Ralph Terry in 1960 (Mazeroski's homer), Bob Moose in 1972 (the wild pitch that ended Game 5 and the NLCS), Pat Darcy in Game 6 of the 1975 WS (the
*I ended up limiting the study to 1972-present. Before that period, there just weren't enough examples of relievers blowing the big game; starters tended to stay in longer, and before 1969 the postseason was a lot shorter. The only one that came to mind was Johnny Miljus throwing the wild pitch that ended the 1927 World Series; while Miljus struggled the next season and was swiftly put on waivers, I have a hard time thinking a guy who contributed to his team being swept by the 1927 Yankees was much of a goat.
*I noticed that the combination of more relievers, longer playoffs, more scoring in general and more home runs in particular has led to a massive upswing in recent years of huge game-breaking reversals of fortune in the postseason. Just in 2003-04 I counted 17 pitchers, counting guys who collaborated in big collapses including three in the 2003 Red Sox-A's ALDS and four apiece in the 2004 NLCS and ALCS.
Here we go. I broke the pitchers into three categories: guys who survived, guys who were ruined, and guys who came away in some sense damaged but not destroyed.
Dave Giusti, 1972 NLCS Game 5:
Moose threw the wild pitch, but it was Giusti, the Pirates' veteran closer, who blew the 3-2 lead in the ninth inning of game 5 of a best-of-5 series. Mitigating factor: the Pirates were already the defending champs. Giusti was just-y (hah!) fine the next season. Survived.
(Side note: Pittsburgh's Game 5 starter, 19-game winner Steve Blass, mysteriously lost the strike zone the next season).
Rawly Eastwick, 1975 WS Game 6:
The 24-year-old Eastwick served up
Mark Littell, 1976 ALCS Game 5, 1977 ALCS Game 5:
Our first serial offender, Littell gave up Chris Chambliss' home run and the following year participated with four other pitchers in blowing a 3-1 lead in Game 5. Mitigating factor: Littell wasn't mainly responsible for the 1977 disaster. He was traded after 1977, but pitched effectively for two more years. Survived.
Rich Gossage: 1980 ALCS Game 3:
Gave up George Brett's massive game-breaking homer to cement a humiliating ALCS sweep. Mitigating factors: the series was a sweep, and the Goose already had the 1978 playoff game and championship under his belt. Gossage would also allow a famous but less crushing home run to Kirk Gibson in the 1984 WS. Posted an 0.77 ERA the next season, and kept on cruisin'. Survived.
Dave Stewart, 1981 NLDS Games 1 & 2:
A few mitigating factors: these weren't notably crushing losses, and the Dodgers won the series and went on to win the World Series. Stewart, a rookie reliever, pitched decently the next two years before the struggles that would land him in Oakland, but took years to establish himself as a star. We can count him as Damaged.
Luis Sanchez, 1982 ALCS Game 5:
Blew a 3-2 lead in the 7th inning of the deciding Game 5. A solid setup man rather than a closer, Sanchez continued in the same vein for two more years. Survived.
Lee Smith, 1984 NLCS Game 4:
The backbreaking Steve Garvey homer. Smith was fine. Survived.
Dan Quisenberry, 1985 ALCS Games 2, 4:
These were fairly routine losses. The Quiz had some decent years thereafter, but dropped from 37 saves in 1985 to 12 and never recovered as a big-time closer. May have been his age and workload, but the postseason shot to his confidence may have contributed. Damaged.
Tom Niedenfeur, 1985 NLCS Games 5 & 6:
The Ozzie Smith and Jack Clark homers; Niedenfeur, a successful closer through 1985, is the best comp for what has happened to Brad Lidge. Fell off sharply in 1987 and, while he had a few effective moments, was never the same again. Ruined.
Todd Worrell, 1985 World Series Game 6:
Major mitigating factor here - everyone blamed 1B umpire Don Denkinger, not the rookie closer. Worrell Survived.
Dave Smith, 1986 NLCS Game 3:
Gave up the walkoff homer to Lenny Dykstra. Survived. Teammate Charlie Kerfeld didn't handle postseason failure that well, though.
Donnie Moore, 1986 ALCS Game 5:
The Dave Henderson, one-strike-from-the-World-Series homer. Moore was mostly hurt in 1987, but never recovered as a pitcher and eventually shot himself. Ruined.
Calvin Schiraldi, 1986 ALCS Game 4, 1986 World Series Games 6 & 7:
Schiraldi had only a half-season of good pitching under his belt before beaning in the tying run in the 9th in Game 4; Games 6 and 7, you know about. Ruined.
Bob Stanley, 1986 World Series Game 6:
The Steamah was running out of steam by 1986 anyway, and the Sawx converted him back to a starter the next year with disastrous results. He did pitch OK in 1988, but was done as an effective year-in-year-out pitcher. We can count him as Damaged.
Dennis Eckersley, 1988 World Series Game 1:
The Kirk Gibson homer. Eck, with a long and checkered career already behind him (a no-hitter, living through the 1978 collapse, battle with the bottle), shrugged it off and got even tougher. Survived.
UPDATE: An emailer also calls attention to Eck allowing a 2-run homer to Roberto Alomar to blow Game 4 of the 1992 ALCS.
Alejandro Pena: 1991 World Series Game 7:
Pena wound up losing the classic Morris-Smoltz duel. This brought an end to his string of effective years. He pitched OK in 1995, including in the NLDS and NLCS, before losing Game 3 of the 1995 WS in extra innings. We can count him as Damaged.
Stan Belinda, 1992 NLCS Game 7:
The Francisco Cabrera/Sid Bream game, which the Pirates led 2-0 when Belinda entered the game. Belinda was sent packing the following season, but his overall effectiveness in 1993-95 was about the same as in the prior three years. Survived.
Mitch Williams, 1993 World Series Games 4 & 6:
Before the Joe Carter game was Game 4, a raucous 15-14 affair where the Phils had a 4-run lead when Williams entered the game in the 8th. Williams was utterly Ruined and threw less than 40 more major league innings.
Mark Wohlers, 1996 World Series Game 4:
The Jim Leyritz home run. Wohlers actually saved 33 games the next year before falling apart, so we'll list him as Damaged, but he was never quite the same.
Mariano Rivera, 1997 ALDS Game 4, 2001 World Series Game 7, 2004 ALCS Game 4:
Rivera survived blowing three huge season-killing postseason games, beginning with the Sandy Alomar home run, for the same reason Bill Gates survives losing $10 million in a bad day for Microsoft stock. Survived.
Armando Benitez, 1997 ALCS Game 6, 1999 NLCS Game 6, 2000 World Series Game 1:
This is the abridged version of Benitez' regular- and postseason rap sheet of big game disasters. Let's list him as Damaged; he's never let the big ones stop him from being an effective closer, but you have to think the long series of big-game implosions are more than just a coincidence and have fed off each other.
Jose Mesa, 1997 World Series Game 7:
Two outs away in the bottom of the ninth, and Mesa couldn't shut the door. He has had successes since then, but 1998-2000 was a stretch in the wilderness. We'll list him as Damaged.
Tom Gordon, 1998 ALDS Game 4, 2004 ALCS Game 5:
The 2004 debacle was partly mitigated by the fact that four pitchers (including the revered Rivera) participated in it, and the 1998 game wasn't a really unusual loss, nor a particularly close series. Gordon has Survived untouched.
Matt Mantei, 1999 NLDS Game 4:
The Todd Pratt walk-off series-ending homer. I'll list Mantei as having Survived, since his on-and-off effectiveness before and after the homer were the results of injuries; he remained the same pitcher he was before.
Kevin McGlinchy, 1999 NLCS Game 5:
McGlinchy, a promising rookie, had the lead entering the bottom of the 15th of the Robin Ventura "grand slam single" game. I guess we can label him Ruined since he has pitched just 8.1 innings since then, although this was due to injury.
Aaron Fultz, 2000 NLDS Game 3:
As a rookie, surrendered Benny Agbayani's walk-off 13th inning homer in a tie game, which turned the series. Fultz was the same mediocrity he'd been before for the next four years, before finding himself in 2005. Survived.
Arthur Rhodes, 2000 ALCS Game 6, 2001 ALCS Game 4:
The main one is the 2000 David Justice homer, but the game-tying Bernie homer in 2001 hurt too. The Colossus went on to the best years of his career in 2001-02, so he Survived. (Jose Paniagua, the losing pitcher in the Justice game, didn't fare so well).
Steve Kline, 2001 NLDS Game 5:
The great Morris-Schilling duel was a tie game when Kline took over in the 9th. He has Survived allowing Tony Womack's series-winning single.
Billy Wagner, 2001 NLDS Game 1:
Allowing a back-breaking homer to Chipper Jones in a tie game was actually the last of Wagner's postseason failures; we'll list him as Damaged, as his record is a smaller version of Benitez' and he has kept blowing big regular-season games. Personally, I expect Lidge to follow the Benitez-Wagner career path.
Kaz Sasaki, 2001 ALCS Game 4:
Walk-off 2-run homer to Soriano in a tie game effectvely finished a 116-win team that was down 2-1 in the ALCS. Sasaki Survived, though he quit the majors two years later.
Byung-Hyun Kim, 2001 World Series Games 4 & 5:
Kim had a great 2002 and solid 2003 but hasn't been the same since, and can't pitch in the postseason or against the Yankees. Damaged.
Tim Worrell, 2002 World Series Game 6, 2003 NLDS Game 3:
Worrell was the chief culprit in the Game 6 fiasco, bounced back with 38 saves in 2003, then blew a 1-run lead in the 11th inning in the 2003 game. Survived.
Robb Nen, 2002 World Series Game 6:
Nen's arm gave out over thr course of the last half of 2002, culminating with the Troy Glaus double that sealed the Giants' fate, and he hasn't pitched since. We'll list him as Damaged, since this wasn't really a psychological thing but he did see his career end.
Felix Rodriguez, 2002 World Series Game 6, 2003 NLDS Game 4:
Rodriguez was already in decline by 2002, and has Survived since his role in these two late-inning collapses.
Keith Foulke, 2003 ALDS Game Four:
Foulke found the best way to get over David Ortiz' 2-run double that blew a 1-run lead in the 8th: join Ortiz' team. His 2004 performance showed he Survived.
Kyle Farnsworth, 2003 NLCS Game 6:
The real goat of the 2003 Cubs' demise was Farnsworth, not Steve Bartman or a tired Mark Prior. The mercurial Farsnworth recovered this year after a lousy 2004; while he'd always been inconsistent, we'll label him Damaged.
UPDATE: An emailer points out that Farnsworth's damage assessment should also include Game 4 of this year's NLDS.
Francisco Rodriguez, 2004 ALDS Game 3:
Another David Ortiz victim. K-Rod had a rough postseason again this year, but I'll count him among those who Survived.
(UPDATE: A commenter notes that I remembered wrong - it was Washburn who surrendered the Ortiz homer. K-Rod, of course, had also been the losing pitcher in Game 2. So you can discount him from the list if you like).
Dan Miceli, 2004 NLDS Game
The Edmonds homer was the final straw in a horrific postseason for Miceli, who was ineffective in brief action this season after being exiled to Colorado. For now, we can mark him Ruined.
Paul Quantrill, 2004 ALCS Game 4:
An overworked Quantrill ran off the rails in the middle of 2004, so his ALCS meltdown was just part of an ongoing process on his way from 2003 star to 2005 batting practice pitcher. We'll mark him Damaged.
Jason Isringhausen, 2004 NLCS Game 5:
The Jeff Kent homer. Izzy's team lived to win the series, and he had a career year in 2005. Survived.
Conclusion: Even using a fairly broad definition of "Damaged," and understanding that in any season a certain number of successful relievers will fall off, we come up with a list of 22 relief pitchers (55%) who Survived a major postseason disaster, 12 (30%) who came away in some sense Damaged, and just 6 (15%) who were thoroughly Ruined by the experience, those being a mixture of young guys (Schiraldi) and established veterans (Niedenfeur, Williams).
UPDATE: Comments closed on this post.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:16 AM | Baseball 2005 | Baseball Studies | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
October 23, 2005
BASEBALL: Game Two Notes
Mr. Lidge? Mr. Lidge? Mr. Niedenfeur on line one.
Early in the game, my 8-year-old son predicted that the game would go extra innings, the Astros would score and take the lead, and the White Sox would then rally and win. Now, mind you, this is the first year he has followed the baseball standings (as opposed to just watching individual games), and when the White Sox jumped out to a big lead early in the regular season, he kept saying they were going to win the World Series, and I kept explaining to him that no, they really aren't that good. Bear also in mind that he was insisting during the early innings of tonight's game that Scott Podsednik was the White Sox' best hitter, and asking how many home runs he had hit this year.
I may never again convince him that I am right and he is wrong.
I thought the Red Sox last year had the hammerlock on the record for most bad baseball karma reversed in one postseason, but really, what more can break the Pale Hose's way? Jermaine Dye gets hit on the barrel of the bat with two outs and very mistakenly awarded first base, and does the blown call pay off? Next batter, BAM! Konerko hits a grand slam. (You can't even get odds right now on Konerko signing an extravagantly large offseason deal with the Mets and batting .246 with 7 home runs at the 2006 All-Star Break).
You know, with the beard and all, Willy Taveras certainly looks like Frank Taveras.
You gotta give some serious credit to Jeff Bagwell for triggering the Astros' game-tying ninth inning rally by singling off Bobby Jenks. Bagwell didn't really look any less overpowered than last night, but he managed to fight a pitch into center field, and that was enough. And that game-tying slide by Chris Burke was just amazing - it was like a Lance Johnson slide. You couldn't duplicate the way Burke managed to land with his body in front of the tag and the hand that actually touched the plate behind the tag. It's one of those reminders of how elevated the quality of postseason baseball is; it's practically a different game from what you see in April.
Humorous Joe Buck quote of the night: calling Jose Vizcaino (career OBP: .318; career high in slugging: .397) a "professional hitter." Of course, then McCarver brought back ugly memories of the 2000 Subway Series . . . I was looking back in the Win Shares book one day and noticed that, in 1995, Vizcaino led the Mets in Win Shares. When Jose Vizcaino is your franchise player, you have problems. But he came up big tonight, for what it was worth for one exciting half-inning.
October 22, 2005
BASEBALL: One For The White Sox
A few random thoughts on a good, solid Game One:
*Well, I guess the White Sox' record of not facing a healthy #1 starter continues. Those are the breaks people forget three years later when they're trying to remember how the heck that team won the World Series.
*It was a wierd sort of deja vu sitting with my 8-year-old son watching Clemens go out of a big game early - I remembered back when I was in college, seeing Clemens get ejected from the deciding game of the ALCS for arguing balls and strikes, or back to when I was 15, watching Clemens and Dwight Gooden both get shelled early in Game Two of the World Series. On a related note, I loved the graphic showing that the White Sox' GM, manager and coaches had more career at bats vs. Clemens than their players.
*They don't give points for style - it counted just like Albert Pujols' moonshot - but it's pretty hard to hit a less impressive home run than Mike Lamb's shot to tie the game at 1-1 - not only did it clear the fence by just a foot or so, it was caught pretty much on the fly by a middle-aged woman in the first row.
*Dumbest quote of the night, from Joe Buck: "Even with the DH, the White Sox are showing they are not getting away from small ball in the World Series." Yeah, funny how an American League team adjusts to playing with the DH.
*I really felt bad for poor Jeff Bagwell facing Bobby Jenks in the 8th inning - here Bagwell has had shoulder surgery and barely swung a bat against live pitching in months, and he's facing a guy throwing 100 mph heat. Two or three years ago he would have put a heater like that in orbit, but now, after Jenks' first pitch, Bagwell had a distinct look on his face that said "I'd really rather be watching that pitch from a recliner in my living room."
BASEBALL: My World Series Pick: White Sox in 7
I find this one a tough one to call. Rational analysis gets you only so far in the postseason; I often find it more effective to look backward at which storyline seems more likely to unfold. On the one hand, the Astros have better front-line talent; they have two big-time bats (Berkman & Ensberg) to the Sox' one (Konerko), they can go 1-2-3 with an inner-circle Hall of Famer who had his best career ERA, followed by a guy who has four World Series rings and posted his career-best ERA, followed by the only picther in baseball to win 20 games each of the past two years. They have the fire-breathing closer (granted that Lidge doesn't seem as scary after the Pujols Bomb). The White Sox, by contrast, have depth - four real good starters vs. three great ones, four tough relievers vs. the Astros' three, a leadoff man who gets on base (Houston has nothing of the sort at this juncture), and an overall deeper lineup. All in all, they're pretty well-matched teams.
It's worth noting that the Sox got this far by beating two teams that were without their ace starter, whereas the Astros have three of them. In fact, let's rank the starters the White Sox have faced or will face in the playoffs by ERA+ (for those of you who are unfamiliar, ERA+, the baseball-reference.com stat, adjusts ERA for league and park - the higher the better):
1. Clemens 221
So, you have to figure they will have a lot more trouble with the Astros, other than Backe. And the small-ball approach will have trouble against Clemens (because of the strikeouts) and Pettitte (who can strangle the running game with baseball's best pickoff move).
For all of that, I have the feeling that this is, at long last, Chicago's year. The team is deep and well-balanced, and the storyline of Ozzieball seems destined to be written. This will be a tight, tough series (although expect one or two high-scoring games, just because baseball is like that). White Sox in Seven.
October 20, 2005
BASEBALL: Pythagoras and the Wild Card
For what it's worth, the Pythagorean record of both the White Sox and Astros this season was 91-71.
While I was rooting for Houston, I must say my one disappointment from the NLCS was missing the chance to see two first place teams in the World Series for the first time in four years. In the past 9 seasons we've had 7 Wild Card teams in the Series, which just feels like too much, especially given that only one of those teams - the 2000 Mets - lost the series to a first-place team. Overall, Wild Card teams are 24-17 in postseason serieses dating back to 1995, and that just doesn't seem right.
October 19, 2005
BASEBALL: Your World Champion . . .
. . . Chicago White Sox?
. . . Houston Astros?
Either way, should be a novelty. The Astros led the NL in ERA this season; the White Sox were second in the AL. The lesson: never underestimate teams with outstanding frontline starting pitching in the postseason.
BASEBALL: The King of Oakland
Blez has a nice tribute to A's announcer Bill King, who died earlier this week.
October 18, 2005
Man, what a back-breaking ending to the Astros' hopes of putting away their first pennant last night. That was, if possible, a tougher ending than the Notre Dame-USC game on Saturday, which is saying quite a lot. Roger Clemens, sitting in the Houston dugout, had a distinct "I've seen this movie before and I don't like how it ends" look on his face. The home run itself was as impressive as its context, like George Brett's homer off Goose Gossage in 1980; that's what happens when a guy as strong as Pujols makes soldi contact off a guy who throws as hard as Brad Lidge.
Pujols is one of those guys you have to take in while he's in his prime, because we'll be telling stories about this one for years. As I noted after last season, baseball-reference.com not only says that the most similar player at the same age is Joe DiMaggio, but that the most similar player at the same age to Joe D is Pujols. That's amazing. In fact, Pujols is a better hitter, if you adjust for the fact that the late-30s AL was even higher scoring than today . . . DiMaggio was still better because of his glove, though; in fact, a good modern analogy for DiMaggio is a guy who hits like Pujols and plays center field like Andruw Jones.
(By the way, I noticed that George and Barbara Bush stayed through the bitter end again last night at Minute Maid, like Giuliani at Yankee Stadium. One of the benefits of being a retired politician is you get to stay for the whole game.)
October 17, 2005
BASEBALL: Leo, or Andruw?
Can you tell the difference between these two pitchers?
I'd say Pitcher B is clearly the better pitcher, but only by a small margin - a few less homers, a few more Ks, but also a few more walks.
A: Jorge Sosa, 2003 (4.62 ERA)
B: Sosa, 2005 (2.55 ERA).
BASEBALL: Mario Encarnacion
Former A's prospect and sometime Rockie Mario Encarnacion died recently in Taiwan, where he was playing professionally:
Professional baseball player Mario Encarnacion of the Dominican Republic was found dead yesterday morning in his dormitory. The cause of death is not yet known pending an autopsy, but investigators said his room had not been broken into and that a post-mortem examination found no signs of external injury.
BASEBALL: White Sox Triumphant
Well, anyone who predicted before the season that the Chicago White Sox would win the American League pennant, stand up and take a bow. My own Established Win Shares Levels system was very mildly optimistic before I adjusted for age, picking the Sox as the best of a bad lot in the AL Central, but the final age-adjusted numbers had them in second place at 78-84. More on that later. The Sox are, of course, yet another testimony to what you can accomplish in the postseason with good starting pitching.
One guy who has to be kicking himself now is Shingo Takatsu. Takatsu, himself a famously dominant postseason performer in Japan, was lights-out as the White Sox closer in 2004, and opened 2005 not only as the closer but as one of the team's strengths. By the end of the season, he was in the Mets' reclamation heap with Danny Graves, hanging on to any kind of a major league job.
As for last night's game, I have to wonder whether the umps would have upheld the original call in favor of the Angels in that disputed play at first base if Kelvim Escobar had sold it better - the fact that Escobar made a throw after tagging Pierzynski killed any chance the Angels had of claiming with a straight face that he had made the tag.
UPDATE: By the way, I'm glad to see some chatter building about my theory that the White Sox are the real cursed franchise (first suggested in 2001).
BASEBALL: Dandy Andy
I can't think of any major league ballplayer who did more in 2005 to help his chances of possibly making the Hall of Fame someday than Andy Pettitte (and yes, if you're clicking the link, baseball-reference.com now has the 2005 stats up). Entering 2004, Pettitte was a guy who'd racked up an impressive number of career wins (regular season and postseason) through age 31, but had never pitched away from the Yankees, had posted an unspectacular-looking 3.94 career ERA, and always seemed to be on the verge of an arm injury that would derail his career. In 2004, Pettitte played down to those expectations, losing half the season (including the Astros' magical playoff run) to an injury.
So, this season's comeback of 17 wins, a career-low 2.39 ERA, and 222.1 injury-free innings, and some solid postseason starts has done wonders for Pettitte's credentials. With 172 wins through age 33, Pettitte has a plausible outside shot at 300 wins and a pretty good shot at 250; he has just 5 fewer victories than John Smoltz and 20 fewer than Curt Schilling, both of whom are 5 years older (granted, Pedro Martinez, who is the same age as Pettitte, has 27 more wins, but you don't have to be Pedro to make the Hall of Fame). Better yet, Pettitte started, in 2001, transitioning to a top-notch control pitcher, but this was the first time since then that he was able to sustain that kind of control record (1.66 BB/9) over a full season without getting tagged for a very high number of hits (1997 was the only year of Pettitte's Yankees career that he allowed less than a hit per inning). The ability to throw a lot of strikes without getting totally shelled is something that will serve Pettitte well in his 30s.
Predicting where Pettitte goes from here is another matter. Baseball-reference.com's list of similar pitchers through age 33 is loaded with active and recent pitchers: Mike Mussina and Jimmy Key are the two guys over 900 in similarity scores, and Kevin Brown is on the list as well. There are two Hall of Famers on the list, at #9 and 10: Warren Spahn and Lefty Gomez, neither of whom really had a similar career, although both - like Pettitte - pitched in pitchers' parks in high-scoring eras for powerhouse offensive teams most of their careers. Tommy Bridges, pitching hero of the 1935 World Series, is perhaps a better comparison, but pitcher career paths are notoriously hard to compare anywyay.
October 12, 2005
BASEBALL: A Hypothetical Conversation With A Moneyball-Bashing Sportswriter
In the style of Jeff Goldstein:
Grumpy Old Sportswriter: That Billy Beane sure thinks he's smart, writing that Moneyball book.
Me: Um . . .
Grumpy Old Sportswriter: Not that I've read the book. That would be wrong.
Me: Of course.
Grumpy Old Sportswriter: But him and his number-crunching friends don't understand baseball. You know how you can tell that? Because his teams don't win in the playoffs. The playoffs are the real thing. That's what separates the men from the boys.
Me: So, who's the best GM?
Grumpy Old Sportswriter: John Schuerholz. The Braves are the anti-Moneyball team. That's how you run a major league organization. Old school, my friend.
Me: So, how have the Braves done in October?
Grumpy Old Sportswriter:
Grumpy Old Sportswriter:
Grumpy Old Sportswriter: RALLY MONKEY!!!!
October 10, 2005
BASEBALL: The Yankee Killers
Here's a fact for you: until this season, the only franchise to beat the Yankees in two consecutive postseason matchups was the New York Giants, who defeated them in the Yankees' first two World Series appearances in 1921 and 1922 (before the Yanks got revenge when Yankee Stadium opened in 1923). The Red Sox, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Indians, Mariners, Royals, Reds, Pirates and Braves have each beaten the Bronx Bombers just once in the postseason, and the teams that beat them twice each took at least one defeat in between: the Dodgers lost in 1977 and 1978 between the 1963 and 1981 World Serieses, and in 1956 between 1955 and 1963. The Cardinals lost in 1943 between the 1942 and 1964 Serieses, and lost in 1928 between the 1926 and 1942 Serieses.
The Angels, in 2002 and 2005, become the second.
BASEBALL: Conditioning Matters
So, like the overweight David Wells in 2003, the overweight Bartolo Colon pulls up with a bad
BASEBALL: For the Record . . .
Maybe it's just my Yankee-hatred and pessimism working together, but I was convinced, when the Angels had a 2-0 lead last night in the 6th inning, that if they didn't hold the lead, their moment, their chance to win this ALDS was gone. So I'll be very surprised if they recover tonight to take Game 5.
The Houston Astros have now played 45 postseason games - and 11 of them have gone extra innings, including an 18-inning game yesterday, a 16-inning game in 1986 (both series-deciding), and three 12-inning games (in 1986, 1999 and the 2004 NLCS), for a total of 34 extra innings. Put another way: the average Astros playoff game lasts 9.76 innings. So, yesterday's marathon takes its place among the classics, but the Astros already have quite a collection, from the heart-stopping 2004 NLCS, to the 1986 NLCS that featured a walkoff homer in game 3 and 12- and 16-inning games on consecutive days in New York and Houston, to the 1980 NLCS that concluded a best-of-5 series with four consecutive extra inning games.
October 8, 2005
BASEBALL: Losing The Big One
Well, the Hated Yankees are certainly up against it now, having lost last night with Randy Johnson on the mound and having drained the bullpen to do it. I knew the Yanks were really in trouble when Scott Proctor and his 6.04 ERA came trotting out, although of course by then, Al Leiter (6.13) had already done his share of damage in one of his last steps on the way out of the majors. One thing that struck me last night was the extent to which the game felt like an elimination game, and the managers approached it with that urgency. One thing you have to say about Joe Torre as a playoff manager is that he has a great sense of what games and moments are really important, and throws everything he has at them. If the game had been at all close at the end, we would have seen Mariano Rivera.
That leaves the Yankees' season in the hands of Shawn Chacon, an unthinkable turn of events six months ago. Chacon isn't a terrible pitcher, just a mediocrity (career ERA of 4.39 away from Coors Field), but like last night's losing pitcher, Aaron Small, he has won the trust of Yankees fans by a few months of solid pitching. Against Jarrod Washburn, fourth in the AL in ERA and the winning pitcher in the Game 4 elimination of the Yankees in the 2002 ALDS, the Yankees will probably need to depend on their bats and Mariano.
October 5, 2005
BASEBALL: Quick Quiz
Name the only pitcher since 1920 to throw 4,000 or more innings with a career ERA below 3.00. Answer below the fold.
Read More »
Tom Seaver, who cleared both hurdles easily, with a 2.86 ERA in more than 4,700 innings. Jim Palmer fell just short of 4,000 innings, and Greg Maddux, who joined Seaver in this exclusive club in 2004, saw his career ERA pushed to 3.01 this season (Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson are also above 3.00). The other pitchers besides Palmer with between 3,000 and 4,000 IP since 1920 and a sub-3.00 ERA: Carl Hubbell, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, and Don Drysdale.
« Close It
October 4, 2005
During Saturday's game, some of the Red Sox employees were kind enough to bring me and my buddy J-Bug into their offices to show us the 2004 trophy. At least, I think that's what happened -- laying eyes on that trophy was like seeing someone remove their head, then hand it to you and say, "Hey, here's my head." There's simply no adequate reaction other than complete disbelief -- not just that it was the World Series trophy, but that it belonged to the Red Sox.
BASEBALL: Cleveland Collapse
Working backward from Baseball Prospectus' daily odds of each team making the playoffs (a calculation that appears to take in things like the standings, schedule strength, and games remaining at home), Clay Davenport rates the collapse of the 2005 Indians as the eighth-worst of all time, given that at as of Sunday, September 25, Cleveland rated as having a 96.5% chance of making the playoffs, slightly higher than the best odds held at any point by the 1964 Phillies. Davenport rates the seven biggest collapses, by odds of making the playoffs as of August 1 or later:
1. 1995 Angels (99.9%)
Amazingly, there are no Red Sox teams on this list, whereas the Dodgers and Giants take a beating. A few of these teams, notably the 1993 Giants and 1942 Dodgers, are more noted for how well the team that caught them played. The 1983 Braves mainly unraveled because of the loss for the season of Bob Horner, who'd been integral to the team building a big lead in the NL West.
You can see the 1983 Braves' collapse - which brought to a gruesome close the one brief moment between 1969 and 1991 when the Braves were a contender - by viewing their batting stats through and after August 10, and their pitching stats through and after August 10. You can see that the other major culprit on the offensive side was Chris Chambliss (who dropped off from .290/.521/.377 to .248/.358/.333). On the pitching staff, Pascual Perez dropped from 13-3, 3.02 ERA to 2-5, 4.41, Pete Falcone from 8-1, 2.96 to 1-3, 6.23, Steve Bedrosian from 7-5, 2.84 and 16 saves to 2-5, 5.74 and 3 saves. Phil Niekro also pitched poorly down the stretch, leading to his release after 20 years as a Brave. Of course, the panic trade for Len Barker, completed after the season with Brett Butler and Brook Jacoby, didn't help. Joe Torre was fired a year later.
BASEBALL: 2005 Playoff Predictions
Somehow, like clockwork, I always wind up being swamped at work just as the playoffs start, and thus unable to offer a proper playoff preview. This year being no exception, I'll just offer a few quick picks:
*ALDS: Hated Yankees over Angels. Yes, I know the Angels match up well with the Yanks and give them fits, but this Yankees team has too much firepower to go down this quiclkly.
*ALDS: White Sox over Red Sox. The Pale Hose finished with a rush after an extended slump, and are hot again at just the right time. They have better pitching than the champs, and while they're not as good a team all around, I don't see a Red Sox-Yankees replay in the cards. So, I pick the White Sox to win their first postseason series since throwing the 1919 World Series.
*ALCS: Yankees over White Sox. If this is indeed the matchup, I predict a sweep.
*NLDS: Braves over Astros. On paper, the Astros are a better team with better frontline pitching, but there's a history here - the Astros have drawn Atlanta in the first round in their last four playoff appearances and five of six playoff appearances since 1997. Last year, when Beltran went bonkers, was the only time they won. Of course, the health and stamina of Clemens and Smoltz is key. Maybe it's my superstitious awe of Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone, but I go with the Braves.
*NLDS: Cardinals over Padres. St. Louis' pitching has unraveled in the last few weeks, but the Padres give them the chance to get healthy again. Probably a 3-1 series.
*NLCS: Cards over Braves. Pujols & Co. are on a mission; the Braves by this point will be firmly in over their heads.
*World Series: Cards over Yankees. All bets could be off if Carpenter and Mulder can't get straightened out, but otherwise this St. Louis team is the class of the field, and so I'll predict them to win it all. I'm not counting out the Yankees, but they are definitely vulnerable with their pitching.
Of the other six teams, probably the best bet to stage a surprise run would be Houston, with the Big Three. But I'll go with my picks.
October 2, 2005
BASEBALL: A Full Season
Many things can be said about Jose Reyes' season, but getting from start to finish without missing a beat due to injury has to be a huge accomplishment. If you had "696" in the "how many at bats will Reyes have" pool, you can tip your cap. Yes, Reyes has a lot to learn in terms of plate discipline, but you can't learn the game until you can play the game. Getting a true full season in the big leagues under his belt is a big one.
I was out at Shea today, and it was a nice sendoff for Mike Piazza (hint: teams that expect to re-sign a free agent don't do a video montage retrospective so the fans can say goodbye). It was also, in other ways, a fitting end to the Mets careers of Victor Zambrano and (please) Danny Graves, both of whom got roughed up. I wish Zambrano well, but I have to figure he'll be non-tendered and go somewhere where he won't be haunted by the rise of Scott Kazmir. Graves, meanwhile, should consider a career that does not involve throwing a baseball.
October 1, 2005
BASEBALL: Frankie The Cat
The Red Sox, coming into their series with the Hated Yankees this weekend, ran into a buzzsaw in the person of Frank Catalanotto. And there's nearly nobody in baseball who gets hotter - at least relative to how good he is otherwise - than Frank Catalanotto.
Over the past 9 games, Catalanotto is batting .417/.722/.464. That may sound like quite a hot stretch for a career .296/.454/.359 hitter, but it's really pretty common for Catalanotto:
And the total line from these thirteen red-hot streaks, amounting to about a full season's worth of at bats:
Wow. Those are Rogers Hornsby numbers. Unsurprisingly, Catalanotto's career line drops off sharply if you take these streaks out; the rest of the time, he's a .252/.385/.318 hitter. Now, it's true enough that you can cherry-pick hot streaks from any hitter's career. But I have to think that few guys I can remember have been as consistently streaky as Catalanotto.
BASEBALL: Random Observation on Today's Yankees-Sox Telecast
Who replaced Tim McCarver with Moe Green?
BASEBALL: The Numbers Game
I received in the mail about a month ago a review copy of The Numbers Game, by Alan Schwarz, which is now out in paperback and which I had somehow missed when it was first released in hardcover. I strongly recommend this book; if you like baseball statistics half as much as I do, you will enjoy it too.
The Numbers Game is a history of baseball statistics and the people who take them seriously, from the beginnings of box scores and newspaper tabulations up through the modern age of sabermetrics, live-updated internet stats, and Rotisserie madness, covering everything in between: stats in the broadcast booth, stats in tabletop games, controversies over batting titles, stats on baseball cards. It's an easy read; Schwarz uncorks a few good one-liners, but mainly his writing style is clear and straightforward, as he's content to let the story tell itself. If there's one flaw, albeit an unaviodable one, it's that there's only so many ways to tell the basic biographical background story of "but as a kid, what really fascinated him was baseball statistics . . . other people thought he was wierd . . . he did it on the side for his own enjoyment for years before he found an outlet . . ." This essential formula is repeated over and over in the book, as it is indeed the story of so many of the book's protagonists.
Schwarz begins with Henry Chadwick, the inventor of box scores and the game-scoring system and, essentially, the father of baseball statistics. One of the themes of the book's opening chapters is that many things we take now as newfangled modern innovations - from on base percentages and range factors to the obsession with rating players by the numbers in the first place - were there from the very beginning in the work of Chadwick and others in the 1860s and 1870s. Schwarz notes that one of the early enthusiasts about using statistics to manage a roster was Harry Wright, player-manager-proprietor of baseball's first-ever professional team. Today's stathead-bashing old fogeys may think they are old school, but it is not possible to be more old school than Chadwick and Wright.
The first challenges for the author of a book about a subject I know so well already are to (1) not leave out the stuff I know and expect to see in the book, and (2) tell me some things I don't already know. Schwarz succeeds on both fronts. Every time I kept thinking he needed to discuss a particular topic, he got to it. And there were a lot of new tales told along the way.
The older parts of the book were familiar to me from Bill James' work, among others; for example, James' book on the Hall of Fame had already recounted the stories of Ernest Lanigan and Lee Allen. And the more recent parts were familiar from having lived through them, from a chapter on James to the story of STATS, Inc. and Project Scoresheet to a summary of Voros McCracken's findings to the whole Oakland A's/Moneyball saga. Although I had not been familiar with the work of Eric Walker, who Schwarz identifies as the man who passed the torch of OBP to Sandy Alderson before it went to Billy Beane. (And I hadn't previously read about how the teenaged Beane used to set underperforming Strat-O-Matic cards on fire, a mental image that should chill anyone who plays for him today). And Schwarz makes the point about baseball owners that, hesitant as they were to use statistical analyses to evaluate their players for the mere purpose of winning games, they were much faster to adapt to new ways of thinking when it came to winning salary arbitrations, where money was on the line.
In between is where the real new-to-me material lies: profiles of the men who developed baseball's historical records and kep the spirit of inquiry alive through the dark ages from about 1910 through the stats bonanza that followed the 1969 publication of the Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia (the compilation of which is the subject of its own chapter in Schwarz's book). The book's villian is Seymour Siwoff of the Elias Sports Bureau; Schwarz tries to give Siwoff's story a sympathetic rendering, and makes clear that his feud with Bill James was in large part a result of James' own prickly personality and iconoclastic writing style. But Siwoff just keeps popping up, fomenting litigation, pushing around idealistic rivals and upstarts, sneering at things in public while selling them in private, and generally playing Scrooge. (Of course, Siwoff's not the only bad guy - even Barry Bonds makes a cameo to deliver a gratuitous insult - but he's the one who persists throughout the book's second half).
Like I said, it's a fun book - a book about my people, as it were. Enjoy.
BASEBALL: I'd Like To See Him Do It Again
So, Pedro Martinez finishes with 217 innings pitched, as compared to 217 in 2004.
Tom Glavine finishes with 211.1 innings pitched, as compared to 212.1 in 2004.
Both pitchers struck out fewer batters than the previous year, but sharply cut their walks and home runs allowed; Pedro also reduced his hits allowed from 193 to 159, while Glavine allowed more hits.
I have to say, I gave up on Glavine repeatedly from 2003 through early this season, but after altering his pitching style (i.e., recognizing that he couldn't win anymore doing the same old thing), he really rebounded to be a whole new pitcher the second half of the season.
September 28, 2005
BASEBALL: Make 'Em Earn It
Well, the Mets were finally eliminated from the wild card race last night, but at least they made the Astros win to do it, putting an end to a classic too-little-too-late charge. Not being eliminated until September 27 is a decent moral victory, if you're counting them. With the team standing 80-77 and 4 of its last 5 games at home against the hapless Rockies, there are still a few more candidates:
*2 wins gets them a winning record.
*3 more wins gets them their best record since the 2000 NL Champions.
*They're a half game up on the Marlins and Nationals, so holding third place is a realistic goal.
*They're 2 games up on the Padres, who are in first place.
September 27, 2005
BASEBALL: Double Your Pleasure
The most amazing number about Jimmy Rollins' 31-game hitting streak entering tonight's game - which apparently ties the club record set by Ed Delahanty - is that he has hit 17 doubles in 31 games.
BASEBALL: All Tied Up
Scenario #5: If three Clubs in a League are tied with identical winning percentages at the end of the championship season and two of those tied Clubs are from the same Division and are also tied for first place in that Division and the third tied Club has the highest winning percentage among the second-place Clubs in the remaining two Divisions, the Division Champion shall first be determined by a one-game playoff on Monday, September 29. Any playoff games played to determine a Division champion shall not count in determining which Clubs are deemed tied for a Wild Card designation. Clubs that were originally tied with a Club or Clubs for a Wild Card designation shall still be considered tied.
September 26, 2005
BASEBALL: The Game's Appeal
Baseball's season is long, and a game occurs virtually every day. Someone cooped up and housebound can have a daily appointment with something outside of his/herself, an activity that lasts a number of hours and becomes engrossing, when there are precious few other activities that fit that bill.
Read the whole thing.
September 23, 2005
BASEBALL: Making The Most of It
To give him his due, Jose Reyes has managed to score 93 runs this year despite a dismal .303 OBP (to say nothing of the quality of the Mets' #2 hitters and the disappointing production of Carlos Beltran). Alfonso Soriano has scored 99 runs with a .310 OBP.
Reyes, at least, still has an outside shot to be the first player to score 100 runs in a season with an OBP below .300 since Jake Beckley and Tom Brown in 1892, back when the average NL team scored 1.82 unearned runs/game (recall that reaching via error counts as an out in OBP); it was done 6 times between 1883 and 1892.
Five players since 1894 have scored 100 runs with an OBP below .310, all of them between 1984 and 1999: Juan Samuel twice, and Neifi Perez, Tony Armas and Devon White once each, with Armas' .304 OBP in 1984 being the lowest, as well as the only example of a guy managing the feat mainly through power rather than speed. Thus, if Reyes scores 7 more runs without raising his OBP, he will have the lowest mark for a player scoring 100 runs in 113 years.
(List of players scoring 100 with a .309 or lower OBP here).
September 22, 2005
BASEBALL: BJ on the Block
As I noted below, the Mets may well be in the market for a free agent closer this offseason, and if they are, Orioles closer BJ Ryan should be at the top of their list. If you're wondering why Ryan - a stud closer in his prime, pitching for a team with deep pockets - would be on the market, the O's are apparently looking at 23-year-old rookie reliever Chris Ray as a potential closer of the future, and could either let him close in 2006 or give the job to a stopgap veteran (Ray's minor league numbers are here).
I'm not a huge fan of building through free agency generally, or of free agent closers in particular (they tend to be overpriced), and of course the Mets do have some passable internal options, notably Heath Bell. But I don't see Bell as a highly reliable closer in 2006; he looks like a guy who needs more seasoning in a setup role. And Ryan is the real deal, 30 years old next season, just hitting his stride in late 2003 and blossoming over the last two seasons. Of course, given the heavy investment in the great-now-who-knows-later Pedro, and Cliff Floyd entering the last year of his contract, the Mets are sensibly in win-now mode despite the extreme youth of some of their key players.
(The only Mets closer I ever really trusted was Randy Myers - Benitez blew too many big ones, Franco, McDowell, Orosco and Neil Allen all lived too close to the edge, and Looper, Dale Murray and Skip Lockwood were all just arsonists.)
I'd certainly much rather go after Ryan than Billy Wagner; Wagner's a wonderful pitcher, but he will be 35 in July, has had injury problems in the past, and has had a bad case of Benitez Disease in big games (7.71 career postseason ERA). And the other options aren't that appealing: Trevor Hoffman is still deadly effective, but he will be 38 next year, presumably prefers to re-sign with San Diego, and wants big bucks to leave, and Octavio Dotel may not pitch again until 2007.
A free agent closer makes more sense if the Mets are shedding some other salary this offseason (Piazza, for example, will either re-sign for less or go elsewhere, and Cameron could be dealt) and aren't pursuing other free agents. The rest of the crop is fairly slim. AJ Burnett is the prize, but other teams more desperate for starting pitching will lead the chase; Kevin Millwood is the only other starter worth looking at. Johnny Damon will inspire bidders, but the Mets have two expensive center fielders already; the surplus of outfield options will probably also keep them from chasing Hideki Matsui, Brian Giles or Milton Bradley (although Matsui would be worth it). The Mets aren't going to pursue Nomar, and presumably wouldn't sign Rafael Furcal to play 2B. Ramon Hernandez, reputedly a catching option, isn't all that impressive, and I'm not thrilled about Paul Konerko, although he'd be a major upgrade (Bryan Smith has more on the 1B market).
Oh, and: signing Ryan would keep him away from Atlanta . . . forcing them to get a 1.50 ERA and 35 saves out of some minimum-wage journeyman instead.
September 21, 2005
BASEBALL: Pack Your Bags
Braden Looper, having now lost his closer job, proves tonight that he's equally capable of blowing a lead in the 8th. Time to shut Looper down for the season and have the doctors get to work on whatever's been sapping his sinking fastball.
Go to #3 on this list for the guy the Mets need to pursue this offseason. (And for those of you having Benitez-vu, he's also #2 on this list over the same time period).
BASEBALL: Card Collection
September 20, 2005
BASEBALL: Buy High, Sell Low
This would not be a good idea.
BASEBALL: Getting to First
Following on yesterday's thoughts, you can see the list here of all players, through 2001, who posted a .370 OBP in a season of 500 or more at bats with a slugging percentage below .400. 27 players have done the feat more than twice, and thus established themselves, at least at some point in their careers, as "pure" OBP guys; I will group them by era.
It does seem to me that a disproportionate number of these guys played for a lot of successful teams, notably Henderson, Randolph, Ozzie, Gilliam, Reese, Sheckard, Stanky, Hack, Pesky, and Jones.
September 19, 2005
BASEBALL: Clendenon Passes On
1969 Mets World Series MVP Donn Clendenon has died, taking with him another piece of Mets history.
BASEBALL: Follow The Leadoff
Where did all the good leadoff men go - or were they always this rare? It seems, at least, like finding guys who do the basic job of getting on base is awfully hard these days, especially if you think of a leadoff man in the traditional terms of a guy who can run and steal some bases but isn't a big power hitter. I decided to compare this season to some seasons in the not-too-distant past to see how much has really changed.
What I did was to look at all players with an On Base Percentage (OBP) of .370 or higher (in at least 450 plate appearances), which is a good cutoff to identify the mark of excellence in getting on base (it's 40 points above the MLB average). Then, I asked two questions:
1. How many of these guys can steal any bases?
Of course, I quickly discovered that I needed a control group to measure how unusual the distribution of the OBP leaders was, so I compared 2005 to 1977 and 1987. I chose 1977 and 1987 because they were the seasons in the 1970s and 1980s most similar to today in terms of league offensive production: In 1977, the NL batted .262/.396/.327 and the AL .266/.405/.329. In 1987, the NL batted .261/.404/.327 and the AL .265/.425/.332. In 2005, the NL is batting .262/.413/.330 and the AL is batting .268/.424/.330. You can see the league leaders in OBP for 1977 here, 1987 here (both based on a full-season 502 plate appearances) and 2005 here.
Let's look at the breakdown of the .370-and-up OBP crowd in each league by steals and slugging. First, as base thieves:
Of course, since steals are a cumulative category, you'd expect 2005 to be just a little low, since the season's not over yet. But still: in 1977, 7 of 31 of the top OBP guys stole 20 or more bases; in 1987, the figure is 12 of 40. In 2005, it's just two guys - Bobby Abreu, whose .515 career slugging percentage makes him awfully expensive to use as a leadoff man, and Brian Roberts.
Now, your real slap hitter, with a slugging percentage below .400, is hard to find here in any era: in 1987, even Brett Butler slugged .425. But in each of the two older seasons, you could find a decent selection of guys below .500: 15 of 31 in 1977, 20 of 40 in 1987. This year? 10 of 34. And that group of 10 includes two bona fide mashers who are just below .500 (Abreu and Brian Giles), two slow-moving catchers (Victor Martinez and Joe Mauer), and three guys who don't run particularly well and have had careers marked by injury and inconsistency, to the point where nobody would have banked on them as leadoff men (Sean Casey, Nick Johnson, and Marcus Giles). That leaves three guys you would legitimately consider as elite leadoff hitters: Derek Jeter, Luis Castillo, and Placido Polanco.
The era of Raines and Rickey, this is not. A corollary is that it may be worth it for more teams to give up on locating a traditional leadoff man and just stack the top of the lineup with sluggers who get on base, especially if they run well (e.g., 1-Beltran, 2-Wright . . .)
September 15, 2005
BASEBALL: Free Fallin'
If there's anything in baseball more depressing than watching a team that had been hanging around contending suddenly go into free fall and start losing all the time and playing listless baseball, it's watching this happen for the fourth year in a row. The Mets, 68-60 on August 26, are now 3-14 since . . . they're like the Bizarro Mets: Kaz Matsui's hitting about .350 in that stretch, and the rest of the team is helpless. Ugh.
UPDATE: Numbers for the 17-game-and-counting swoon here and here. Matsui's hitting .353/.529/.382, most likely ensuring himself the chance to compete with Anderson Hernandez for the starting job again next year, Beltran's hitting .338/.492/.411, and Castro and Piazza are hitting a combined .260/.520/.356, and basically nobody else is hitting anything. On the pitching side, the big disaster (aside from Looper, which was entirely predictable) has been Benson, who's been a batting practice pitcher for the past month.
SECOND UPDATE: My prediction (linked above) had been two games blown by Looper against NL East foes in September. Well, we're only halfway through the month and he just blew #2, the first being the game in Atlanta on September 7 where he blew two leads, one in the 9th and one in the 10th, to go with two games (September 1 and 13) where he coughed up an insurance run in the 9th inning of a 2-run loss. This follows two losses and a blown save (in a game they'd led by 8 runs against the Nationals) in August. It's time for Looper to leave town, now. (And Matsui, Ishii, Offerman, and Gerald Williams should be right behind him).
OF COURSE, elsewhere, it's Benitez time.
September 13, 2005
BASEBALL: The Ace Has Arrived
Who has the highest strikeout/inning ratio in baseball since the All-Star Break? Read it, and weep.
Also: in one of my fantasy leagues, I bailed out and traded Dontrelle Willis (for BJ Ryan, a deal that makes sense only if Dontrelle was out of gas) at the end of July. But Willis has a MLB-best 1.23 ERA since August 1.
BASEBALL: No Longer Just A Humble Carpenter
Yes, this is basically an edited version of the email Bill posted. And in my defense, I didn't see his email in my Yahoo! box until at least a half hour after he sent it . . .
Bill Simmons and I were having a discussion about how much precedent there is for Chris Carpenter having the sort of dominant, Cy Young-caliber season* he's had this year, given that Carpenter is 30 years old and has had a mediocre, injury-riddled career.
The obvious precedent is Mike Scott. Scott through age 29 had career bests of 10 wins, a 3.72 ERA, 154 innings, and 83 strikeouts. At age 30, Scott went 18-8 with a 3.29 ERA and 137 K, and the next year exploded on the league, going 18-10 with a 2.22 ERA in 275 IP, striking out 306 batters, throwing a division-clinching no-hitter, and winning the Cy Young Award.
So, who else is similar to Carpenter? Well, recall first that, like Scott, Carpenter built up to this with what looked, just a year ago, like a career year: he was 15-5 last year with a 3.46 ERA (121 ERA+) and 7.52 K/9. I don't think anyone predicted this season after he broke down (yet again) at the end of last year (me, I've been arguing for years that he should be converted to a closer due to his fragility). If you look at guys with big bust-out seasons in their 30s, there's a bunch of examples of less dramatic turnarounds by guys who were inconsistent or injury-prone in their 20s (Mike McCormick, Kevin Brown, Curt Schilling, Mike Cuellar, Bob Tewksbury), were previously relievers (Wilbur Wood, Hank Aguirre), pitched OK and got huge run support (Steve Stone) or just didn't get a shot in the majors until they were past 30 (Dazzy Vance, Spud Chandler, Sal Maglie). But I could think of four others who have a similar profile:
1. If you look at the top 10 most similar pitchers to Carpenter entering 2005 on baseball-reference.com, you'd find Jason Schmidt at #9. Schmidt's career-bests through age 29 were 13 wins, a 3.45 ERA, and 196 K, all set or matched at age 29 (his age-29 season is quite similar to Carpenter's). At 30, Schmidt went 17-5, 2.34 ERA, 208 K, pitching comparably to Carpenter, if winning a few less games and throwing a few less innings.
2. Bucky Walters, through age 29, had career bests of 15 wins (at age 29) and a 4.17 ERA. At 30, he went 27-11 with a 2.29 ERA and won the MVP Award; other than Scott, he's probably the most similar case.
3. John Tudor's career bests were 13 wins and a 3.27 ERA, until at age 31 he posted the 1.93 ERA in 275 innings and won 21 games. Getting out of Fenway and getting Ozzie behind him had a lot to do with that, of course.
4. Dave Stewart's career high in wins through age 29 was 10, and he'd never tossed 200 innings before. Stewart at 30 started the string of four consecutive 20-win seasons, although he didn't instantly dominate the league.
I could be forgetting someone - I didn't exactly do a systematic study - but I think those are the most dramatic examples.
* - I'll save for another day the Carpenter vs. Roger Clemens Cy Young debate. Suffice it to say that Carpenter's season is of legitimate Cy Young quality; the question is whether you can give the award to someone other than Clemens, given how well he's pitched.
September 8, 2005
BASEBALL: No Night Owl
How's this for a split? Mike Mussina, 2004-05:
Day games: 7-4 in 14 starts, 3.02 ERA in 92.1 IP
The odd thing is, Mussina's K/9 and BB/9 are about the same in both situations - but his HR/9 rise from 0.88 by day to 1.33 by night, accounting for the difference. Mussina hadn't shown a similar pattern before 2004, so it's hard to say if this is just random luck.
September 7, 2005
BASEBALL: Blamen Looper
Well, it's too soon to give up hope for 2005 (and at this writing it's still too soon to abandon hope for tonight's game), let alone a full accounting of the goats in the event that the Mets fail to make the postseason. But I can say this: Braden Looper is very high on my list.
UPDATE: Can the same pitcher be charged with two blown saves in the same game?
UPDATE: !#^$#^ Looper. I can't really blame Takatsu, who came into an impossible situation (bases loaded, nobody out), and nearly got out of it, although it would have been nice if he'd put the game away once he got the first two outs.
BASEBALL: Mets Notebook
*If you've been following the team closely this season, of course, you'll know the answer to this one. But still: look at the following table and tell me which one of these players signed a $119 million contract before the season:
Answer below the fold. Yes, Beltran's had injuries. Yes, he's hit well in clutch situations. Yes, he's played wonderful defense and run the bases well. Still can't avoid the fact that the Mets are not in the position in the wild card race they'd be in if Beltran was hitting like Beltran.
*Kaz Matsui is really running well now, and actually starting to hit; he looks healthy and lively for the first time in more than a year. Too little, too late, although at least the Mets now have a reputable second baseman for a few weeks.
*Shingo Takatsu looks sort of like a Japanese Dennis Cook. And David Wright looks like he could have stepped out of an old black-and-white baseball photo from the 20s or 30s. With his compact frame, Wright is built sort of like Rogers Hornsby (of course, Hornsby was even better, younger than Wright, leading the league in slugging as a 21-year-old shortstop).
*Jeff Francouer really has to be the NL Rookie of the Year, doesn't he? So much for the historical unlikelihood of a late-arriving candidate.
I'll have to do a more careful player-by-player analysis, but it's clearly the rookies like Francouer who made the difference from the Opening Day roster that my EWSL projections rated as the weakest team in a strong NL East.
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Player C is Beltran. A is Chris Woodward, B is Victor Diaz, D is Ramon Castro, and E is Doug Mientkiewicz.
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September 3, 2005
BASEBALL: Don't Say A Word
I can barely even think about the Mets at this juncture, let alone blog about them. Man, this is depressing.
September 1, 2005
BASEBALL: Charity At Home (Plate)
There's charity drives springing up all over for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and you can see a list over at Instapundit. Personally, once I sit down with my wife and figure out how much to give, I'll probably chip in to the Red Cross, which has the relevant experience in this type of thing, or possibly to Catholic Charities.
But here's one more for your attention: the Baseball Think Factory crowd is looking for volunteers and donations to bring baseball equipment to people displaced by the hurricane. It's not the most immediately urgent need, but it can do some good once things settle down a bit.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:09 AM | Baseball 2005 | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
August 31, 2005
BASEBALL: The Kaz-alry
Mets announcers just reported the Mets are calling up Kaz Ishii, Shingo Takatsu, and Tim Hamulack when the rosters expand tomorrow.
*Ishii, we know all too well; he has pitched well at Norfolk (1.76 ERA in 15.1 IP)
*Takatsu, who had a terrible year that started with him as the White Sox closer and ended with him getting released, could be useful; he pitched very well in June (0.96 ERA, 9 IP, 4 H, 1 HR, 3 BB, 10 K) before backsliding in July, and he's pitched fairly well in Norfolk, although he's continued to be homer-prone.
August 30, 2005
BASEBALL: 30 Days
Over the next 30 days, starting with tonight's game against the Phillies, the Mets play 28 consecutive games against teams with winning records that are either in the playoffs (the Cardinals), probably in (the Braves), or still in the race (Phillies, Marlins, Nationals). This would be an excellent time for Carlos Beltran to have a month of hitting like Carlos Beltran, among other things, and for Kris Benson to shake off whatever has been bothering him his last two starts.
This is, of course, what we Mets fans have been waiting for. But I can't help but feel that, when it's all over, we will be looking back at two or more of these games that were blown by Braden Looper as being the point where it all got away.
UPDATE: Seconds after I post this, Beltran goes deep for the first time in a month.
August 25, 2005
BASEBALL: Jacobs' Ladder
Well, the Diamondbacks can't see Mike Jacobs leave town too soon. But the bigger question is, what do the Mets do with him? Jacobs is just up from spending most of the season at AA Binghamton, where he batted .321/.576/.389 in 433 at bats, impressive numbers but not necessarily numbers that scream "big league star" in a 24-year-old in his second crack at AA (he batted .329/.548/.376 there in 2003 before having 2004 ruined by injury: Baseball Prospectus translated that as .285/.493/.328). The major issue is patience - 35 walks and 94 K this year, 28 and 87 in 407 at bats in 2003, 25 and 95 in 467 at bats in the Florida State League in 2002. He's reportedly not much of a defensive catcher and has little defensive experience at first base. In short, he looks a lot like Jason Phillips 2.0.
But projecting him to stardom or even giving him the everyday 1B job now (Minky has hit well when healthy since his horrendous May, so the Mets will want him back when he's ready) or the everyday catcher's job next year is one thing; sending him back out when he's this hot is another. Even if everyone gets back healthy, I'd keep him as a bat on the roster over, say, Jose Offerman (Jacobs has hit 4 home runs in a week; Offerman's never hit more than 9 in a full season).
Wow. The highlights include Wright batting .383/.667/.448 (making him fifth in the majors in slugging, fourth in OBP, first in batting average, tied for first in runs, and second in RBI in that stretch; his OPS of 1115 compares well to Pujols at 1113 and Manny at 1130), Reyes batting .321/.457/.355 (leading the majors in hits and steals and tied for second in triples), and Castro with 20 RBI in 58 at bats. Now, if they can just get Beltran's home run swing back . . .
August 23, 2005
BASEBALL: The Other Champs
I was discussing this over the weekend with family, and decided to do a little digging: what player or players won the most World Serieses without winning one with the Hated Yankees? I looked at all the non-Yankee teams to win the World Series, and came up with a list (I excluded guys like Babe Ruth and Wally Schang who won multiple championships away from the Bronx and won with the Yankees). Of course, the list was complicated by the number of guys who appeared in a season for a World Championship team as opposed to the guys who were actually part of the team in the postseason. The record for most non-Yankee World Championship teams played for in a season without playing for one with the Yankees is five. Two trivia questions, and then the answers after the break:
1. Name the
2. Name the three players to appear in the World Series for four non-Yankee World Champions since 1920. Hint: one appeared four times for the same team, one three times for the same team, and one twice each for two teams.
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1. Eddie Collins, Stuffy McInnis, and Jack Barry, 3/4 of Connie Mack's "$100,000 Infield" that won the World Series in 1910, 1911 and 1913. (UPDATE: A fourth, pointed out by an astute reader, is Dal Maxvill, who played for the 1964 & 1967 Cards and the 1972-74 A's and appeared in the 1964, 1967 and 1974 World Serieses). Barry (a Holy Cross grad and later longtime baseball coach at the Cross) also played 2B regularly for the 1915 and 1916 Red Sox, but missed the 1916 Series (he also played for the Sox in 1917 and 1919, so he just missed a sixth ring). McInnis was the everyday 1B for the 1918 Red Sox and appeared in the series in 1925 as a pinch hitter for the Pirates, but was a teenage backup who didn't get into the 1910 Series. Collins played for the 1917 White Sox and played 9 games as a 42-year-old player-coach for the 1929 A's, but didn't appear in the Series that year.
2. Jim Gilliam, Gene Tenace, and Frankie Frisch. Gilliam played for all four of Walter Alston's Dodger teams to win the Series, in 1955, 1959, 1963 and 1965. Tenace played for the 1972-74 A's and the 1982 Cardinals. And Frisch played for the 1921-22 Giants, 1931 and 1934 Cardinals, and managed the 1934 team.
Here's the rest of the list, excluding guys who just got three rings in short succession for the A's in the 1970s, the Dodgers in the 1960s, or the A's or Bosox in the teens:
4 Teams/3 Series:
4 Teams/1 Series:
3 Teams/2 Series:
* - Was playing on a different team by season's end.
3 Teams/1 Series
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August 22, 2005
BASEBALL: Picking His Spots
The Mets' chief opponents this season are the 4 other NL East teams and the Astros, who are the only non-NL East team seriously in the Wild Card hunt. So, how has Pedro Martinez performed against these 5 teams?
Well, first of all, he's faced them in 12 of his 25 starts (10 vs. the East and two vs. the Astros), a scheduling feat (even in light of the imbalanced schedule) for which Willie Randolph deserves credit, and which accounts to some extent for the fact that the Mets, along with the Braves, are the teams in the NL East that have played better against their own division.
Look at these numbers:
That "hits" column is especially staggering. The only blight on Pedro's record here is three frustrating no-decisions, which were not his fault.
BASEBALL: Marked Graves
Now that we've added "entering in the 7th with an 8-run lead" to the list of "situations in which it is not safe to bring Danny Graves into the game," I think it's high time the Mets sent him packing.
The Mets are now in the unfortunate position of having to do continued triage on their roster, while still hanging on the edge of the wild card race (the division race is probably over and in Atlanta's hands again), and while it is too late in the season to do too much about it. They've got too many starters, no first or second baseman, injury-created lack of depth in the outfield and at catcher, and a bullpen that's getting grants from FEMA.
August 19, 2005
BASEBALL: The Wisdom of Steve Phillips
A few more baseball links:
*A patented way to locate the exciting parts of a baseball game? (via the Primer). Of course, this is like identifying the exciting parts of a mystery and only showing you whodunit - the concept that excitement is something that builds over time is lost on these guys.
*The collective record of the NL East this season outside of the division is 202-162, a .555 winning percentage (i.e., a 90-win pace - for an entire division). On Baseball Tonight the other night, they were waxing enthusiastic about Florida's chances at the Wild Card. Well, I was high on the Marlins before the season and I'm certainly not giving up even on the Mets, but let's face facts: given that the NL East will play itself in September, the Astros have to be the overwhelming favorites to win the Wild Card just by virtue of their schedule. The Astros have 12 games remaining against teams above .500, compared to 32 for Florida, 28 for the Phillies, 28 for the Mets, and 29 for the Nationals.
August 18, 2005
BASEBALL: The Phenoms
There's been a lot of buzz lately, and justifiably so, about Felix Hernandez and the way he has thus far (through three starts) lived up to even the most extravagant hype. We will yet see how good Hernandez is really going to be in the short run, but barring injury I don't doubt he'll be good, and maybe great, possibly very soon. Aaron Gleeman pens a fine tribute to King Felix here, and Joe Sheehan provides some perspective here (subscription required, I think).
Sheehan studies the past track records of pitchers who made the majors as teens. It's a fine study, but I had a different angle I wanted to look at. What if Hernandez really does become an instant superstar - what does that mean for his long-term career prospects?
I decided to look at the greatest phenoms in the game's history since 1900 (before then, it was common to see very young pitchers atop the leaderboards). I pulled together a list of pitchers who were, or could plausibly be argued to be, one of the two best pitchers in their league in a season at age 22 or younger.
This turned out to be a fairly demanding test, but I did come up with 23 pitchers who fit the bill, including four who won the Cy Young Award at that age - Dwight Gooden, Vida Blue, Bret Saberhagen and Fernando Valenzuela (yes, I'm working with his reported age here). I may have missed someone who could arguably have qualified, but I don't think I missed anyone glaring. Based on the earliest season in which they qualified, here's the list:
19 Years Old
20 Years Old
21 Years Old
22 Years Old
As you can see, the list includes a phenomenally talented group of pitchers - but also a very high proportion of just the worst horror stories you can imagine. Nobody wants to see their favorite young pitcher compared to Fidrych, Score, Wood, or even Tanana. The list also includes a high proportion of extreme power pitchers, although there are a few glaring exceptions. The two guys who didn't strike people out even as young phenoms - Fidrych and Bunker - were effectively finished by age 23, while the guys who were merely above-average in the power department (Reulbach, Leonard, Dierker, James, Saberhagen, Krause, Ruth) were more of a mixed bag (Mathewson was a big strikeout guy in his first few years, at least by his time's standards).
Let's take a year-by-year look at how, on average, these guys fared. Keep an eye on the # column, which shows how many of the 23 pitchers in the sample actually pitched at that age. A few notes: I excluded the pitching numbers for Mark Prior for 2005, so he drops off the chart after age 23. I excluded Ruth and Wood for years when they were used almost exclusively as outfielders, so Ruth drops off after age 24 and Wood after age 27. And Feller was in the military ages 23-25:
I'm not sure the chart quite captures the horrific attrition rate for these guys, although you can see that barely half of them were still pitching at 30, an appalling figure (even if we throw out Ruth and Prior it's 13 of 21) for such a talented bunch. Even among the best of the group in terms of longetivity, Mathewson was finished by 34 and retired by 36, Drysdale was done at 32, Blyleven needed arm surgery at 31; even Walter Johnson had a sore arm at 32, although Johnson gradually recovered his effectiveness. Tanana was a shell of his former self after age 24, Valenzuela after age 26, Feller after 29. McDowell was done at 29, Wood at 25, James at 23, Krause at 22. Gooden tore his rotator cuff at 24. Saberhagen threw 200 innings for the last time at 25, Leonard at 29. Others declined more slowly, like Blue, Reulbach and Martinez.
The chart does suffer from some illusions. You can see the tremendous dropoff in strikeout rates, but (1) it would be more severe than that except that Fidrych and Bunker drag down the average for the younger years, and (2) the uptick at age 35 is mostly the result of Mathewson retiring, as Mathewson had been an extremely low-K pitcher throwing 300+ innings a year in his early 30s. Also, the small sample size goes haywire from 30 on: Johnson's staggering ERAs at age 30 and 31 have a large single-handed effect, and by age 38, only Johnson, Blyleven and Tanana were still pitching, and the first two had good years (their last). Finally, among those who survived into their 30s, a large number of them moved into much more hitter-friendly conditions: Blyleven, Blue and Tanana came out of the pitcher-happy 70s, Gooden and Saberhagen had to deal with the 90s, Johnson hit the lively ball era at 32. The "League ERA" from which the ERA+ is calculated (which bottoms out at 3.44 for the age-21 sample) jumps up from the 3.57-3.82 range to 4.01 at age 31, then to 4.32 and 4.40 at age 36-37. Thus, the ERA+ column may be more instructive.
The more complicated question is whether the gruesome health record (and other factors: Wood tripping on a baseball, Score getting drilled by a line drive, Gooden's and Blue's drug problems, McDowell's drinking, Feller going to war, Ruth's hitting prowess) was the result of overuse at a young age, or whether it's just been the case either that (1) guys who have this sort of gift at a young age are usually destined to burn out early as well or (2) no matter what age you start at, there's only so many good pitches in most guys' arms. That will be a tough one for the Mariners if Hernandez can scale the hieghts the way these others did. My own sense is that life has its own plans: you don't want to see Hernandez throw 270 innings a year, but if he can do the job of a front-of-the-rotation starter now, he should be asked to do it while he has that precious gift.
August 3, 2005
BASEBALL: Magic Beanes
If you're wondering how the A's, after a dismal start, wound up the hottest team in baseball, going 43-14 since May 30, David Pinto's Day by Day database provides answers yet again:
A few quick thoughts:
*The return from injury of Bobby Crosby and the arrival of Dan Johnson seem to have coincided with the awakening of Eric Chavez, Nick Swisher and Jason Kendall from deep slumps, giving the A's the offensive core they'd lacked in the early going. They actually now look like a pretty good offensive team, if still not the Yankees.
*Harden, Zito and Haren are 24-3 over that stretch, bringing back memories of the May 2002-May 2003 golden age of the Big Three, when Hudson, Zito and Mulder went a combined 61-16 over a 162-game stretch.
*If Ryan Glynn hadn't gone 0-4 with a 6.88 ERA subbing for Harden, the A's would look really scary.
*Smoked Joe Blanton has actually been striking people out, a crucially important development.
*Huston Street is already one of baseball's elite closers. And Justin Duchscherer and Kiko Calero are one heck of a 1-2 setup punch.
*Of course, some credit should go to Bobby Kielty, who was one of the few guys hitting before this run.
August 2, 2005
BASEBALL: The Benefits of Steroids
Palmeiro wasn't the only one; Mariners starter Ryan Franklin has also been suspended for violating the steroids policy. And look what steroids did for Franklin: helped make him the losingest pitcher in baseball in 2004-05. (More here).
BASEBALL: Famous Last Words
Perhaps, in retrospect, the denial under oath before Congress was a bad idea. On the other hand, Bill Simmons looks like a prophet for writing this last week:
The current era of juiced balls, ravaged pitching staffs and a drug program best described as "Um, you guys shouldn't do that stuff" has rendered everything else irrelevant.
POSSIBLY UNRELATED NEWS STORY: Barry Bonds will not play this season.
UPDATE: If you like, you can take this survey on steroids and Palmeiro.
BASEBALL: Zack Shellacked
From Baseball Prospectus 2005 (p. 385-86):
His profile is so unique that trying to project his future is a fool's errand, although the fact that PECOTA projects a collapse rate of 0% is astonishing for a young pitcher. All we can say is that in the past 30 years, the pitcher Greinke best compares to as a rookie, both statistically and stylistically, is [Bret] Saberhagen. As a sophmore, Saberhagen won the Cy Young Award.
(More on that "just about zero chance of collapsing" bit here).
Observant fans will note, at this point, that Greinke is a bit of a long shot for the 2005 AL Cy Young Award, seeing as how he is 3-13 with a 6.14 ERA. I think it's safe to say that the Greinke hype from this year's edition of BP will not be listed on the cover of next year's book.
Now, we all make mistakes and bad predictions. But in this case, there was a major and obvious red flag that BP should have warned its readers about. As I noted back in March, in previewing the Royals:
Then there's nearly the team's sole cause for optimism, Zack Greinke, who Jay Jaffe and Studes have identified as a guy who could take a step back this year because he was lucky on balls in play in 2004. I wouldn't go shining that Cy Young Award the Baseball Prospectus guys are hinting at just yet.
Specifically, Greinke's FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) stats for 2004 had him at 4.94, about a run higher than his 3.97 ERA. In other words, Greinke was likely to regress this season unless he improved enough in other areas to offset the likelihood that he would not be so lucky on balls in play, a factor over which pitchers have far less control than other aspects of the game. In fact, he actually has improved in the one major area he needed to work on (home runs) but has seen his K/BB numbers fall off a bit:
Greinke's problem is that he has done far worse on balls in play than just revert to the mean; in fact, his defensive support has been so bad (unsurprisingly, considering the team that plays behind him) that his ERA exceeds his FIP by a greater margin than any pitcher in baseball this season except for Mark Hendrickson of the Devil Rays; the Hardball Times gives him a FIP of 4.63, which is actually better than last season, but opponents' batting average on balls in play has risen from .267 to .333, resulting in the unsightly ERA. And it's been getting worse: overall, the league hit .383 against Greinke in June and .343 in July.
At the end of the day, if you look just at the HR/9, K/9, BB/9 and FIP figures, Greinke is just a very young pitcher, well thought of by scouts, who has yet to become more than a slightly below-average major league pitcher. There's no shame in that; you could have said the same of Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine at the same points in their careers, and Greinke could yet develop into a star if he can keep cutting down on the home run balls (his Groundball/flyball ratio increased this year, a positive sign in that direction), get a few more strikeouts, avoid losing his confidence over the debacle of 2005 (in fact, Greinke may be a poster boy for the need to have a stat guy on hand who can help explain to a young pitcher that he's not as far from success as it looks), and get himself onto a team where good pitching is at least occasionally rewarded with offensive and defensive support.
But that said, BP missed a big one here, when the reason to be cautious was staring them in the face.
August 1, 2005
BASEBALL: No Deal
While I do miss the drama a bit, I can't say I'm disappointed that the Mets didn't make any deadline deals, especially when you consider how ill-advised last year's moves were. The main deal under discussion, of course, was the three-way trade that would have brought Manny Ramirez to Shea for Mike Cameron, Lastings Milledge and possibly Aaron Heilman. I might well have done that deal; Milledge is a fine prospect, but the odds on him ever being as good as Manny are pretty slim, and while the Mets should be building for the future, as long as the team is built around Pedro, that future is 2006-07, not years down the road. But hanging on to Milledge and the team's other chips is hardly a bad idea.
Another rumor I saw floated was some variation on Heilman and Yusmeiro Petit for Danys Baez. Given that Baez was supposed to go to Shea in the Manny deal, I'm unwilling to leap to any conclusions about Minaya from the fact that this may have been discussed, but obviously nobody in their right minds trades two young pitchers with the capacity to be starters for a non-elite closer in his thirties, particularly not to a team still as far from championship-caliber as the Mets.
Tougher times, though, for the Yankees, adding neither Randy Winn (or anybody else capable of playing center) nor a creditable starting pitcher. The Yanks will finally, for once, have to sink or swim with the team they assembled in the offseason.
Naturally, the Braves did improve, grabbing the rejuvenated Kyle Farnsworth from Detroit to shore up their bullpen and apparently not giving up a lot in return.
July 29, 2005
BASEBALL: The Rivalry
There's a long, long history between the Hated Yankees and the Red Sox, and as any baseball fan can tell you, over that time the Yankees have tended to outplay the Sox down the stretch run, even when the two teams appear to be evenly matched.
OK, we know that. But by how much? Let's look at the numbers. I went through every season since the Yankees' 1903 arrival in New York in which both teams were in some sense still in the pennant race - i.e., both were within 10 games of first, or one was and the other was just a few games behind them - on July 31, and then compared their records from August 1 through the end of the season. Overall, that amounted to 38 seasons.
The net result? In the 38 seasons, the Sox were 2130-1676 (.560) through July 31, and the Yanks were 2190-1615 (.576). But from August 1 on, the Sox teams slowed to 1255-1070 (.540), while the Yankees heated up to 1360-968 (.584). Overall, the Yankees gained ground on the Sox, in absolute terms, 23 times, while the Sox gained ground 15 times (oddly, not once did they share the same post-August 1 record; the closest seasons were in 1904, 1948 and 2000, when the two teams were separated by a half game down the stretch). The biggest gains for the Yankees were 1952 (+14.5 games), 1985 (+13.5 games), 1937 (+12.5 games), and 1955 and 2001 (+10 games). The biggest gains for the Sox were 1973 and 1991 (+12.5 games), 1916 (+9 games), 1972 (+6.5 games), and 1949 (+6 games). The longest number of consecutive seasons in the study when the Yankees gained ground: 8, from 1934 to 1945. Longest for the Sox: 4 from 1986-91.
Of course, the Yankees, on average, started ahead. 1937 is probably the season in the study closest to the edge: the Yanks had a 9 game lead on the Sox, and were never really in any danger of not winning the pennant. Even in relative terms, though, the effect held up: the Yankees did better than the Sox relative to their winning percentage through 7/31 in 25 of 38 seasons.
Let's break the numbers out by groups of seasons:
Seasons in study: 1904, 1910, 1916, 1934, 1935, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1944, 1945, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1955, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004.
July 28, 2005
BASEBALL: That Troubled Red Sox Outfielder
Lyford has some thoughts about the Red Sox' problem child. Read the whole thing.
July 27, 2005
BASEBALL: Sore at Soriano
Fact one: The Mets are last in the National League in OBP at .320 (the Phillies and Marlins are first at .346 each).
Fact two: Since his arrival in Texas, Alfonso Soriano's batting line on the road is as follows:
Conclusion: Yes, I'd take Soriano; his power and speed would still be an upgrade on Miguel Cairo, and I'd expect him to hit a little better than the numbers above. But I wouldn't give up much of value for him - nothing on the order of, say, Lenny Dykstra, Roger McDowell and Tom Edens or Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino.
July 25, 2005
BASEBALL: Mets, Random
*I wasn't a big fan of the Kris Benson contract, but you certainly can't complain about the results so far. His wife has even produced more than the expected comic relief.
*I know I've made this point before, but Carlos Beltran this season is hitting .388/.653/.423 in the late innings of close games, .320/.569/.374 with men on base, .295/.547/.351 with runners in scoring position, .353/.569/.450 with runners on base and two outs, and .458/.958/.438 with a man on third and less than two outs. Complain, if you will, that Beltran has not hit enough, in general. But complaints that Beltran hasn't risen to the occasion in clutch situations are absurd. His problem has been the opposite of the A-Rod issue: he's come up with the big hits when needed, but he hasn't done enough to put games away in the first few innings.
*I've never seen a systematic study of the issue, but Marlon Anderson's remarkable success this year is further support for the idea that slap hitters who make a lot of contact are uniquely well-suited to pinch hitting duty.
*I was having the discussion again about Jeff Kent as a Hall of Fame candidate, a subject I intend to return to in more detail later. But here's the amazing thing: when the Mets traded Kent for Carlos Baerga, Kent had done nearly nothing to make himself a Hall of Fame candidate, and Baerga was washed up. Today, Baerga is still playing - and in the time since he proved himself decisively over the hill, Kent has been able to amass an arguable Hall of Fame career. Amazing.
*As frustrating as Jose Reyes has been - and doubly so, Willie Randolph's failure to understand that Reyes is not a leadoff man - consider that the average NL #1 and #2 hitters are batting .274/.285/.336 and .266/.396/.327 (and both of those OBP figures are up quite a bit in the past two weeks). So, the Mets aren't the only ones having trouble getting guys on base.
*Doug Minky's numbers, projected to 600 at bats: 29 homers and 72 walks. For all the concern about bringing in a 1B without any punch, that hasn't been the problem; it's his .227 batting average that's been killing him. Since June 1, Minky is batting .265/.515/.333. More of that, please.
July 21, 2005
For what it's worth, Tom Glavine's 269th career win yesterday pushes him ahead of Jim Palmer on the all-time list.
UPDATE: Let's update this chart through July 20:
* - And counting
Pedro, of course, is still just 33.
July 18, 2005
BASEBALL: Time To Listen
As I have stressed repeatedly (see here and here), today's off day is decision day for Mets management. Given the need to gain ground on the NL East, I argued that the Mets needed to go at least 11-6 against the NL East in their now-concluded stretch of playing 17 of 23 against their own division, and at least 3-3 in the other six games. As it turned out, they went 10-7 against the East and 4-2 in the other six, for the same
The Mets now won't see their own division again until August 30. It's possible that they could hang around, maybe gain a little ground in the interim, and then get blazing hot in September. That possibility is fairly distant, and they shouldn't fool themselves into surrendering anything of real future value to chase it.
Then again, the value of staying in the race is nothing to sneer at. Even if the Mets win 83 games, they can say they've posted their first winning record in four years and their best record since winning the pennant in 2000, and that would be something positive to build on for next year.
More to the point, the team isn't bursting with guys with a high ratio of present trade value to future value. Piazza's the top "old guy who's contract's up," but (1) the dropoff in 2005 to Ramon Castro is severe, and (2) Piazza's hitting has been mediocre enough that he wouldn't draw a lot of value. Floyd and Cameron would, but they're also signed for one more year apiece (I believe) at reasonable enough prices. Looper is at a low ebb right now, and might be more useful in the future.
As a result, perhaps the best posture for the Mets entering the deadline is to listen to offers - I wouldn't hesitate to deal any of those three guys - but not feel the need to trade them. In other words, rather than letting the desire to win now panic you, use it to convince people they need to make it worth your while to drop out of the race.
That said, there are guys they should dump. Glavine still has his moments, but the Mets should not want to pick up his option for next year. If a contender is willing to part with anything at all, they should move him. Ishii should be given his walking papers if no one will take him, and Graves should be sent back to AAA. Matsui would be addition by subtraction at this point, although no one would be interested in him for the 2005 stretch run.
Fans always like to be buying or selling at the deadline, and for the right price the Mets could sell. But if the right price doesn't come, they should know when to hold em.
July 15, 2005
BASEBALL: Brewing Success
Following yesterday's look at teams that have departed from their preseason EWSL numbers, I decided to take a look at the Brewers, who are #2 on the list of teams furthest from their EWSL, and first compared to their Pythagorean record thus far this season; EWSL is prorated to 88 games (through the Break):
WSAB is a measure of marginal Win Shares against the number expected of a replacement-level player with a similar amount of playing time. I included it here so you can see which guys are falling short of their EWSL due to poor quality play vs. lack of playing time. I included three players here (Weeks, Fielder and Krynzel) who I hadn't projected in the preseason but who have contributed. Of course, adding three extra players means the team should come in a bit ahead of its preseason numbers.
You can see a substantial improvement in the lineup, which only promises to get better as Hall, Weeks, Branyan and Cirillo (!) soak up the playing time previously given to the departed Spivey. Aside from Hall and Weeks, Brady Clark and Carlos Lee have been the big improvements, although in Lee's case I'm a little puzzled, as he's having your basic Carlos Lee season. I'm less optimistic that Clark can sustain quite this level - he's 32 and never played regularly until last year - but even so, he's been quite a find and should continue to help.
Now to the pitchers:
The extra share for the pitchers is smaller, in large part because Ben Sheets has been hurt and because Gary Glover has underperformed some very low expectations. It's hard to see Victor Santos as part of the solution when he's 2-9, but he's pitched well. Capuano and Turnbow, the rookie closer, have been the big steps forward.
Check out Al Bethke's roundtable on the Brew Crew's first half for a more in-depth look.
July 14, 2005
BASEBALL: EWSL At The Half
While we're stopped for the All-Star Break, I thought I'd look at the projected standings I did before the season (see the NL standings here and AL here) by comparison to the actual standings at the break. I'm presenting the teams in order from the teams most overachieving compared to their EWSL standings to those falling furthest off the pace (I've prorated the EWSL wins to the number of games each team has played so far):
Overall, the divisions come in as follows: AL Central, +28; NL Central, +7; NL East and AL West, -3 each; AL East and NL West, -16 each; AL overall, +7; NL overall, -12; MLB in total, -5, which means that some of the differences here can be explained just by rounding. On average, AL teams were 5.21 games off their EWSL records, NL teams 4.25 off, MLB as a whole, 4.7.
That's not a great record, but it's too early even now to declare it a big failure. Some teams will always deviate from even the most perfect pre-season estimates, due to trades, unforeseeable injuries, unexpected rookies.
No surprise that the biggest underachievers have been the Giants, since the pre-season EWSL standings were predicated on them having Bonds for half the season, and he hasn't arrived yet.
Also unsurprisingly, several of the teams that are out of whack with their EWSL numbers tend to be the same teams that are way over or under their Pythagorean projections - in other words, their players are playing closer to expectations than their records would suggest. Conspicuous examples include the White Sox (+16 vs. EWSL, +6 vs. Pythagorean record), Nationals (+6/+8), and Mariners (-5/-3). But there are counterexamples as well: the Brewers are +9 vs. EWSL while being -4 vs. their Pythagorean record, the Braves (+5/-4), the Indians (+7/-2), and the Diamondbacks (0/+7). On the whole, the average distance between the EWSL and Pythagorean records is 4.7 games - just exactly the same as with actual records.
I was surprised to discover that EWSL had consistently failed to grasp how bad the really bad teams would be - all the moreso because I thought before the season that the method was being unduly harsh on the Royals, Rockies and Devil Rays. Not hard enough, apparently.
Anyway, I may take a look at some of the big outliers, and I'll have to go back at the end of the year and see how EWSL did, and why, and whether there are further refinements to the method that will improve its predictive value, or whether its shortcomings as a predictor are just the inherent limitations of using past performance to predict the future.
July 13, 2005
You know, it's easy to get cynical about the All-Star Game when you've seen so many of them and seen the way they are treated as something of a circus, with players run in and out of the games to get everyone an at bat. I've almost reached the point where watching the game is a chore, something I do as much as anything to make sure I don't miss something memorable, in case something memorable happens (like the year they ended the game in a tie - that was about the most excitement we've had in an All-Star Game the past 15 years).
So it was quite a different experience last night watching the game with my son. It was his 8th birthday, so we let him stay up late to watch most of the game, and he and I set up on the living room floor watching the All-Stars and building Star Wars-themed Lego sets; does it get better than that? Once I explained the concept of the game, he really got into rooting for the National League, and kept complaining "that's not fair" when, say, Carlos Beltran hit into a double play. (I had some difficulty explaining the difference between David Wright and Cliff Floyd being the Mets best hitters this year vs. Beltran and Piazza starting the All-Star Game, but that's another issue; at least the DH rule meant that I didn't have to explain why Albert Pujols wasn't starting the game even though he's the best player in baseball right now).
Anyway, some other random thoughts that came to me:
*I guess the Carlos Lee for Scott Podsednik deal has worked out about as well for both sides as could possibly be imagined, with Lee leading the NL in RBI and S-Pod (OK, never mind that one) leading off for the team with the best record in baseball.
*I had to explain to my wife why Kenny Rogers was booed, and that this was for different reasons from why he would be booed at Shea Stadium, which is for for different reasons from why he would be booed at Yankee Stadium.
*Fox is premiering a new sitcom called "The War at Home" . . . on September 11? Please tell me that's a mistake.
*I was retelling the story about how Bret Saberhagen's wife gave birth during the 1985 World Series and didn't tell him until after he'd pitched. Then it hit me: Saberhagen was 20 then, and that was 20 years ago, so the kid is now the same age Saberhagen was at the time. That really made me feel old.
*Ex-Mets and ex-Mets farmhands in the All-Star game: Jeff Kent, Jason Bay, Melvin Mora, Kenny Rogers, Jason Isringhausen. Please don't ask me what they got in return for any of those guys.
July 11, 2005
BASEBALL: None But The Braves
It would be difficult - especially in a non-division game against a mediocre team - for the Mets to suffer a more demoralizing loss than Friday night's game, in which they squandered all the momentum from taking 3 of 4 from the first-place Nationals by blowing a 5-1 lead over the Pirates in the ninth inning. I'm not yet expecting a second-half collapse such as the team had had in each of the past three years, but it's hard to watch a game like Friday's and not come away convinced that this team will never get far from .500.
Looking at the standings, it's obvious that this is Atlanta's division to lose. Only the Braves and Nationals are more than two games over .500, and the Nationals have allowed more runs than they've scored and are hobbled until Nick Johnson, their best player, returns from injury; they've lost 5 of their last 7 games. The Braves, meanwhile, have reloaded rapidly with young players, plus they're the Braves. I'm not optimistic about the second half being anything but a replay of the last decade.
July 7, 2005
BASEBALL: Now, The Hard Part
I said two weeks ago that the Mets needed to go at least 11-6 against the NL East in their current stretch of playing 17 of 23 against their own division, if they wanted to remain sufficiently serious 2005 contenders to justify hanging on to veterans they could otherwise deal at the deadline. With yesterday's victory over the Nationals, the Mets are now 7-5 in that stretch, leaving them 42-42 and in last place, two games behind third place Florida, five behind wild-card-leading Atlanta and nine behind the overachieving Nats (who have allowed more runs than they've scored, strongly suggesting a second-half collapse). I stand by what I said: the Mets are still just outside the race looking in, and if they can't take the dramatic step of taking four of five between today's game against Washington and the four game set against Atlanta, they shouldn't be maneuvering themselves for a futile pennant chase this fall.
July 6, 2005
How hot are the Indians? Just check out their numbers since May 21, via David Pinto's Day by Day database:
If you're in a Rotisserie league, I hope you were able to snap up Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner and Jake Westbrook while their stock was down earlier in the year (I was able to snag Martinez in one of my leagues). And has their been a bigger dark-horse rookie this year than Jhonny Peralta?
June 30, 2005
BASEBALL: Nobody On Base
Pedro is now allowing 0.817 baserunners per inning pitched. If he keeps this up, he will place 7th on the all-time single-season list (the record is 0.737, set by Pedro in 2000; Greg Maddux in 1995 is the only other pitcher to place in the top 10 since 1913).
June 29, 2005
BASEBALL: Show Me
I'll believe that the Mets are or were close to dealing Mike Cameron and Miguel Cairo for Gary Sheffield when I see such a deal go through. That's a deal that sounds like something a Mets fan would get laughed at for peddling on WFAN, not something Brian Cashman would agree to, no matter how desperate the Hated Yankees are for a center fielder and how well Cameron has hit this season and how much Joe Torre loved Cairo and even how willing the Mets might be to take on additional salary. Aside from the various quotes from Sheffield about how he won't go anywhere, Sheffield is the Yankees' third-best player at the moment, a career .298/.527/.400 hitter who shows no sign of slowing down, and the Mets could get him without parting with a pitcher or anybody under 30? That only makes sense if he's in more hot water over the steroids issue than we know.
Would I do the deal if it was offered, were I the Mets? Of course. The Mets lose nothing from their ability to win in the future, and greatly help their odds to win now. But it's not gonna happen. George wouldn't green-light something that carries such a large risk of looking bad at the expense of the Mets.
BASEBALL: "Mr. Steinbrenner, Tear Down This Wall"
BASEBALL: Not His Year
It is officially time to worry about Keith Foulke. After last night's debacle, Foulke has a 6.03 ERA and the numbers to back it up - he's allowed 8 homers and 14 walks in 37.1 innings, compared to 8 and 15 in 83 innings last year. His K/9 are down to less than 7 from close to 9. This is now past the point of "bad start" to "bad year," and maybe then some. I have to wonder if he's physically 100%.
BASEBALL: And Henchmen, Too?
The link on CBSSportsline to this article read "Boss summons his minions to Tampa." I figured Steinbrenner must be the only person in public life who gets to have "minions." Then again, this Google News link suggests the term is more commonly used than I thought.
June 28, 2005
BASEBALL: What Ails The Yankees
As you will recall, my preseason Established Win Shares Levels analysis concurred with the general consensus that the Hated Yankees had the most talented team in the American League. But the 2005 season has thus far had other plans for the Yanks. Over at The Hardball Times, we can look at the semi-current (through last Thursday, when they were 37-34) Win Shares totals for the Yankees. Where have they gone wrong? Let's compare the EWSL totals, projected over a 71 game season, to the Yankees' actual Win Shares through 71 games to identify the culprits. First, the non-pitchers:
WSAB is a measure of marginal Win Shares against the number expected of a replacement-level player with a similar amount of playing time. I included it here so you can see which guys are falling short of their EWSL due to poor quality play vs. lack of playing time. I included one player here (Damian Rolls) who I had projected in the preseason but hasn't played, and two (Crosby and Cano) I didn't project who have. Of course, adding one extra player means the team should come in a bit ahead of its preseason numbers.
As you can see, while the Yankee lineup has some problems - principally the aging support players Giambi, Bernie, Tino and Womack falling short of even their modest, age-adjusted expectations - the Yanks have more than covered this by getting greater even than expected performance from their stars, notably Sheffield, A-Rod and Posada.
You know what that means. The pitchers:
There you have it: a falloff of 15 Win Shares (5 whole wins) from the guys who were counted before the season, and a net loss of 8 Win shares (almost 3 wins) even including the guys who weren't counted. The damage was mainly done at the back of the rotation and bullpen: Mussina at +1 and Randy Johnson at -1 vs. their expected Win Shares are actually a wash, and Mariano, like the stars in the lineup, is doing his best to carry the stragglers. But Pavano, Brown, Wright, Quantrill, Stanton and Felix Rodriguez at -16 are just killing the Yanks; all that money spent on added pitching depth in the offseason went straight down the tubes.
Looking at these numbers also reassured me that my age adjustments weren't too harsh, and in some cases were too mild: the eight Yankees age 37 and over are at a net loss of 11 Win Shares against even their diminished expectations.
June 27, 2005
BASEBALL: Looper Blows It
Not much to add to last night's bitterly disappointing missed opportunity to sweep the Hated Yankees while they were playing defense like a beer league softball team that had gotten out of shape over the winter. Braden Looper just blew it, with a little help from David Wright not guarding the line with a man on first, nobody out and a 1-run lead in the bottom of the 9th. Looper's not a terrible closer and he's not a particularly expensive one, but he's definitely not a positive in his role.
BASEBALL: Manny Slammer
BASEBALL: Home Sweet Home
The Wall Street Journal had an entertaining article Friday ($) about how home teams screw around with the schedule to have more night games on getaway days, leaving the visitors to depart bleary-eyed; apparently this has become a particularly common tactic in an escalating war of minor indignities fought between the Devil Rays and the Hated Yankees.
The NY Times also had an interesting article - no longer web-available - on the question of what to call the Mets' new stadium, which presumably will not be named after William Shea, the lawyer who brought National League baseball back to New York. Of course, Shea's family has no cause to complain (as, mostly, they don't) - it was honor enough that the Mets played in a park bearing his name for four decades, and that
UPDATE: Dr. Manhattan reminds me that Yankee Stadium was, in fact, open in time for the 1976 World Series.
As I should have noted, the candidates for a new Mets stadium name would be either Jackie Robinson Stadium or a corporate sponsor. I'm fine with a corporate sponsor as long as it is (1) not something ridiculous (I think my favorite, from college football, is the infamous Poulan Weedeater Independence Bowl), and (2) not a bank, telecom company or other company likely to change its name every three years.
June 26, 2005
BASEBALL: Vinny No Go
Vinny Castilla, month by month:
Yup, after that hot start, Castilla has been worse than worthless. Another reason why my Hacking MASS team over at Baseball Prospectus has surged to #65 out of 1,859 teams. My roster:
The interesting question is whether the Nationals will eventually bail out on Castilla. Naturally, the hot April has made it that much harder to do.
BASEBALL: Another Sox Guru
June 24, 2005
BASEBALL: That's Your Daddy
Well, Pedro quieted the howling masses at Yankee Stadium tonight, with a little help from two great center fielders and some horrible defense by the Hated Yankees. You know, the whole "who's your daddy" chant is just tiresome. And worse: it's a clear message that you should never show respect for the Yankees, because it will just get rammed back down your throat for the rest of your career. Good riddance, for one night, at least.
BASEBALL: Decision Time
I was down this road last week, but I thought it would be worth revisiting in more detail today. The Mets through 72 games now stand 35-37. Does that mean that this team is going to finish around .500, let alone contend? Hardly, given recent history:
The "average" does not include 2005. Clearly, this Mets team the past three years, like the early-90s Mets, has shown the ability to hang around for about half a season and then run off the rails. Now, with the NL East as close as it is, it would be silly to run up the white flag today. But Mets management needs to be preparing in every way for the possibility that, by the time mid/late July rolls around, they will be dealing from the position of a team rebuilding for 2006-07, rather than contending. That means putting people like Floyd and Cameron and Glavine on the table.
Specifically, a final decision will have to be made on the Mets' scheduled off-day of Monday, July 18. Counting the just-completed series in which the Mets took 2 out of 3 from Philadelphia, the Mets are in a stretch where they play 17 of 23 games between June 21 and July 17 against their own division, culminating with a 4-game set at Shea against the Braves. To my mind, they need to win at least 11 of those in-division games, while at least splitting the other 6, if they are going to be anything like serious contenders the rest of the way; otherwise, they are just treading water. Of course, if - like last season - the team suddenly runs off the rails the last 10 days of July, they should reconsider any effort to make trades to help in 2005. But by preparing themselves mentally and emotionally now to play for the bigger game later, Mets management can help avoid a repeat of last season's futile panic deals near the deadline.
June 23, 2005
BASEBALL: Does Whatever A Spivey Can
On a gut level, I liked the Nationals' gamble in dealing Tomo Ohka for Junior Spivey, at least as far as the fact that Ohka has been playing with fire thus far this year and is likely to crash and burn.
As for Spivey, he's a lot less impressive than he seemed a few years ago. But he may have a role. The righthanded hitting Spivey, for his career, is batting .305/.568/.409 against lefthanded pitching, as opposed to .257/.379/.331 against righties. If Spivey is used as a role player, he can be spotted more against lefties.
Of course, dealing a starting pitcher, even a combustible one, for a role-playing infielder isn't usually a long-term winning strategy. But if Frank Robinson uses Spivey properly, he can get the most out of this deal.
June 22, 2005
BASEBALL: Here We Go Again
If you are a Mariners fan, you really don't want to see "Felix Hernandez" and "shoulder" in the same sentence.
June 21, 2005
BASEBALL: Anything You Can Do . . .
Minky and Daubach both go deep in the 8th inning tonight, proving either (1) that competition is a good thing or (2) that batting against Ugueth Urbina is a good thing.
BASEBALL: Dumping DeJean
I'm not sure there are easily fox-able answers to what ails the Mets at the moment - especially the lack of a second baseman - but I do know at least a few things that will help and a few that won't.
1. Dump Mike Dejean, as the Mets did last night. The Mets have a bevy of young pitchers with potential upside - Heilman, Seo, Bell, Ring, Koo. Each of them has some reason to believe they could pitch effectively in the majors now or very soon. And even Manny Aybar has posted great K/BB ratios. DeJean, alone among the bullpen crew (since the departure of Felix Heredia) offered no cause for optimism. Might as well at least see what the kids can do backing up Looper and the rejuvenated Roberto Hernandez.
2. More Daubach, which we're starting to see. Brian Daubach's nothing special, but Minky has been so totally lost at the plate that you need to try somebody with a little power.
3. Get Reyes out of the top of the lineup. Reyes in the lineup every day is a good thing despite his low OBPs; he can hit for a good average (despite recent slumps), give you extra base power, speed and defense, and he's learning and improving. But there's no rational excuse for a guy with a .280-ish OBP (lowest in the majors over the past year) batting ahead of the big boppers. At this point, I'd just set the table with Cameron and Wright.
4. Replace Ishii with Heilman. Ishii's just not getting the job done. I don't know if he can hack it in the bullpen, but the more important thing is getting starts from guys who can keep you in the game.
1. Boo Beltran. Really, do we need another Bonilla or George Foster situation with a guy with a seven-year contract? Beltran's yet to get really hot, but he was hitting at about 80-90% of his expected production until he got hurt. When healthy, Beltran will be fine. As is, he's batting .327/.561/.385 with men on base, .306/.486/.375 from the seventh inning on, and .417/.722/.447 in the late innings of a close game. Can you say "clutch"? Give the guy a break.
2. Fire Willie Randloph.. Rookie managers have to learn, and by all appearances Randolph has handled the "respect of the players" part of the job well, and has done some things (like sticking Heilman out there) that have paid dividends. But if he's going to succeed long term, he really needs to show he understands the basics by getting Reyes out of the top of the order; he's finally at least taken the first step by dropping him to #2 lately.
June 16, 2005
BASEBALL: You Know You're Having A Bad Year When . . .
I see that Rocco Baldelli, who is almost recovered from a torn ACL, will now miss the rest of the season with Tommy John surgery. (I guess the $5 I gambled on Baldelli in my Rotisserie draft is now officially wasted).
BASEBALL: Treading Water
The Mets are now 32-33. At this point last year, they were 31-34, before a hot streak that pushed them to 44-41 two games before the All-Star Break. Lesson? You can hang around .500 this long and longer and still have the kind of miserable year they had last season.
Granted, an awful lot went wrong in the second half - Glavine, Leiter, Traschel, Looper, Piazza, Floyd, and Hidalgo were all awful, and Matsui got hurt. I don't see that many people dropping off badly this time, but there could certainly be injuries.
What this means most of all is, the Mets should play their cards very carefully as far as making trades. Last year, they made two win-now deals about a week after it became clear that they were out of the race. This division race could go down to the wire, but they should tread very lightly in terms of sacrificing any part of their future to compete now.
For example, I'm interested in the rumored Matsui-for-Alfonzo deal possibilities. The deal only makes sense if Alfonzo can still play second, which is doubtful. That aside, though, whether such a deal would be a good one depends on what prospect(s) get thrown in to balance it out. Yusmeiro Petit, who appears to have a high upside, would be too much. Jae Seo, who can pitch but is unlikely to ever be any kind of star, on the other hand, I'd be willing to part with (although I'm doubtful that Matsui and Seo would be enough to make that deal).
June 15, 2005
BASEBALL: Questionable Management
If, as Jim Tracy asserted in today's Los Angeles Times, Hee Seop Choi is "probably the hottest hitter in baseball," then why in the world did he drop him into the sixth slot against Jose Lima? Utterly disconcerting....
BASEBALL: Amazing Stat of the Day
In the past 365 days, Jim Edmonds has hit into one double play. Among players with 502 plate appearances (enough to qualify for a batting title) over that stretch, the top 6 guys in fewest GIDP are Edmonds and Carl Crawford (1 each), Ichiro (2), Bobby Abreu, Jimmy Rollins and Kevin Mench (3 each). Other than Mench, that group is three speed merchants, a fleet-footed slugger, and Edmonds - a 35-year-old power hitter with a long injury rap sheet. Very impressive. Plus, he's batting .309/.647/.431, ranking him first in the majors in slugging and fourth in OBP for that stretch. Gotta take your hat off to the man. To be more specific, gotta vote for him for the All-Star Team. The third OF spot may be tough; Beltran is tempting for a Mets fan - though I'd rather he have the days off - but Giles, Dunn, Drew and Cabrera are also worthy contenders; I probably vote for Giles. (I regard Bonds' injury as giving me an excuse not to feel compelled to vote for him). But the top two outfielders in the NL shouldn't be hard: Abreu and Edmonds.
UPDATE: The rest of my NL All-Star Ballot, off the top of my head: Pujols over Derrek Lee at 1B, Kent at 2B, Khalil Greene at SS, David Wright over the injured Chipper at 3B, and I'm voting for Piazza at C but I can't blame you if you vote for Johnny Estrada.
BASEBALL: 30 Not Likely
David Pinto muses over whether Dontrelle Willis might have a shot at 30 wins. I looked back at the numbers, and this much is clear: Willis would have to do something totally unprecedented.
When Lefty Grove won 31 in 1931, he made 11 relief appearances in between his starts and threw 27 complete games. When Dizzy Dean won 30 in 1934, he made 17 relief appearances and 24 complete games. When Walter Johnson won 36 in 1913, he made 12 relief appearances and 29 complete games.
Those are the only three pitchers ever to win 30 games while starting fewer than 37 in a season. And of the 6 other times a pitcher has won 30 with between 37 and 39 starts, they've averaged 7 relief appearances and 33 complete games.
I just don't see a modern pitcher, making 35 or fewer starts and not relieving between starts, winning 30, especially without a lights-out closer or a wrecking crew offense, neither of which the Marlins have.
UPDATE: From Chris, in the comments, a Retrosheet breakdown of wins as a starter for the last four 20-game winners:
McLain '68 -- 31 as a starter, 0 as a reliever
June 12, 2005
BASEBALL: One to Win
If you're gonna win a division, at some point, you have to start winning the kind of games the Mets won last night against the Angels. If you missed this one - easy enough to do, given the long rain delay - the highlights included:
*Kris Benson walking with the bases loaded in the 2d
*Carlos Beltran taking away a 2-run homer by Ben Molina with a leaping grab in the 7th.
*Trailing 2-1 against Francisco Rodriguez with one out in the bottom of the ninth, Marlon Anderson hits an inside-the-park pinch hit home run to tie the game. Anderson drilled a sure double to right center; Steve Finley made a dive for it, and Vladimir Guerrero, playing by the book, ran behind Finley to back him up if the ball got past him. But instead of rolling by Finley, the ball ricocheted off his knee into the right field corner, at which point I knew Anderson had an easy triple and a shot at the inside-the-parker, apparently the Mets' first at Shea in 16 years. The play ended with a bruising collision at the plate between Anderson and Molina, opening a couple of gashes on Anderson's face from where he went face-first into Molina's mask.
*Cliff Floyd's walk-off three-run homer, trailing 3-2 with two outs in the bottom of the tenth. Here's the pitch-by-pitch sequence of that marathon tenth inning, in which Floyd managed to stay alive after nasty changeups from Brendan Donnelly put away Beltran and Piazza:
Jose Reyes: Strike (looking), Strike (foul), Foul, Ball, Ball, Foul, J Reyes singled to shallow left
Mike Cameron: Ball, Strike (looking), Ball, Ball, Strike (swinging), Foul, Ball, M Cameron walked, J Reyes to second
Carlos Beltran: Strike (bunted foul), Ball, Strike (foul), Strike (swinging), C Beltran struck out swinging
Mike Piazza: Strike (swinging), Ball, Ball, Strike (swinging), Strike (swinging), M Piazza struck out swinging
Cliff Floyd: Strike (swinging), Ball, Ball, Strike (foul), Ball, Foul, Foul, Foul, J Reyes stole third, C Floyd homered to right, J Reyes and M Cameron scored
(Reyes stole third totally uncontested, if you're wondering if he was crazy to run with two outs. His threats to steal also contributed to Donnelly walking Cameron, including a failed pitchout).
I really hope Floyd can finally stay healthy this year - he's just playing with such tremendous enthusiasm and flair this season, cracking big homers and throwing out baserunners by the bushel.
June 11, 2005
BASEBALL: Blog Links
Tom Elia compares the misery of the Cubs to the misery (past tense) of the Red Sox. And Doctor Horsefeathers reviews Jerry Crasnick's book "License to Deal : A Season on the Run with a Maverick Baseball Agent", including a behind-the-scenes look at Dontrelle Willis.
June 9, 2005
BASEBALL: Perhaps the Final Beltre Bash?
Last month, I compared Adrian Beltre unfavorably to his Dodger replacements. But he's now beginning to show signs of life: since the start of June, he's managed to compile a .292 average and a .370 on-base percentage. True, these numbers aren't exactly going to propel him onto the leadership boards, especially with a paltry .375 slugging percentage accompanying them, but they're at least better than his seasonal .242 AVG and .277 OBP.
What truly strikes me, though, is his 8 total walks. For perspective, consider that Antonio Perez, who's more or less become the regular Dodger third baseman, has 9 -- in 155 fewer plate appearances (235 vs. 80). Indeed, Perez has spent time on the disabled list, as well as in AAA to improve his fielding at the hot corner, yet he's drawn more. And this advantage has translated to an 11.3 VORP, compared to Beltre's -2.1.
Maybe Adrian's finally found his groove. If so, then we can start missing him, because Antonio's been just fine.
BASEBALL: Unsteady Eddie
If I think about it, I'm sure I can come up with some worse major league hitters than Kevin Hench's list. For example, shortstop Enzo Hernandez had an OPS+ of 61 in 1971, compared to 53 for Rey Ordonez in 1998 and 37 for the legendary John Gochnauer in 1902. And for bad-hitting pitchers, I'm not sure Al Leiter tops Bob Buhl's 1962 season, when he went 0-for-70, although Buhl did draw 6 walks.
June 8, 2005
BASEBALL: Pitching's Dark Ages?
BASEBALL: Texas Rocket
Maybe I've been looking in the wrong places, but I wonder why we haven't seen more talk about Roger Clemens possibly being traded to the Rangers later in the season. Clemens is obviously making way too much money for the Astros to want him around the rest of the year if they can find a willing suitor. I've seen the Yankees mentioned, of course, but why not the Rangers? They have an excellent offense and look like they will stay in the AL West race; they have a deep-pocketed owner who, while he's been more financially conservative since the A-Rod deal, has shown a willingness to spend; they are, as always, in need of a #1 starter (don't tell me "Kenny Rogers"; just don't); and, of importance to Clemens, he could pitch there without leaving his home state of Texas.
Am I missing something?
BASEBALL: National Deficit
The Washington Post has a fairly good article on the Nationals' surprising emergence, but it seems to miss the most crucial point. This summary is fine:
How, exactly, have they won seven of their last eight [note: with today's victory, the string is now eight of nine--RT], overtaking everybody in the process? They don't lead the NL in any significant category. In fact, they are statistically unremarkable, in some cases abysmal. Only two teams in the NL score fewer runs per game than the Nationals' 4.09. No team in the league has hit fewer home runs than the Nationals' 40. Their starting pitching is not dominant; their bullpen is, statistically speaking, quite ordinary.
But I'd be more apt to note, as Baseball Prospectus does, the Nats' overall negative run differential. After all, if you plug their total runs scored (235) and total runs allowed (244) in the James Pythagorean formula, you get an expected record that drops below .500, putting them in the cellar of the NL East. They're playing five games above their heads right now. Without a surge in run production, they're likely to falter.
(Aside: Somebody needs to tell ESPN that their sabermetric columnist is named Rob Neyer, not Rob Never. See the header.)
June 7, 2005
BASEBALL: And They Play in a Pitchers' Park?
The Dodgers' recent woes can be easily traced to the pitching staff, especially its penchant for yielding the long ball. If you want just one simple indicator, take a look at the Beane Count, which examines team rankings in walks and homeruns. While the hitters are respectable in both areas, the pitchers are among the worst in HR-allowed, despite giving up the second-fewest bases on balls.
The story doesn't get any better within the rotation. In calculating the average game scores of the 105 pitchers who've started enough games to "qualify," we get a major-league figure of roughly 51.3. Pedro Martinez, whose 68.6 ranks highest in the game, is over two standard deviations from the mean. By contrast, Dodger starters are, at best, mediocre. Derek Lowe (52.9), Brad Penny (52), and Odalis Perez (51) offer nothing spectacular. Jeff Weaver (45.3), Scott Erickson (38), and Wilson Alvarez (27) are miserable, particularly if you consider their home park.
What these numbers tell us is that the Dodgers have yet to get consistently good starts. I suspect that they'll improve as folks like Penny (and, hopefully, Perez) recover from injuries, but Paul DePodesta is taking no chances: he's in the market for a starter.
BASEBALL: Feel the Draft
There's already so much good coverage of the draft that it'd be fruitless for me to live-blog it. Hence just check out John Sickels. And pay a special visit to Baseball America, which deserves considerable praise for projecting the first eighteen selections, as well as twenty-two of the top thirty.
But let me note that, in using their supplemental pick to draft Luke Hochevar, the Dodgers have essentially found their way to the first round. As John notes, this Tennessee right-hander could have gone in the top five. His affiliation with Scott Boras is a significant wild card, though perhaps the fact that the Dodgers initially selected him in 2002 could avert negotiating snafus.
BASEBALL: The Impossible
Yesterday, before the Dodgers' first game against the Tigers, Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke revisited the 1988 World Series with Kirk Gibson. The resulting article has interesting tidbits, most notably Plaschke's own recollection of the historic fist-pump. But this point stands out:
How much did that home run typify his season? Consider that he was voted MVP despite hitting only 25 homers with 76 runs batted in and a .290 average.
Gibson's modesty is admirable, and indeed, if we truly want to "be honest," we should agree that -- by Hall of Fame standards -- his career was "very, very average."
On the other hand, as a journalist, Plaschke should know better than to provide statistics without appropriate context. Yes, Gibson hit only 25 homers. But, back then, that was good enough for seventh in the league. And, while he had a mediocre batting average, he finished fourth in on-base percentage, ninth in slugging percentage, fourth in OPS, third in OPS+, second in runs scored, and seventh in runs created. He had a very productive season.
Perhaps he didn't deserve the MVP award. Two years ago, Crank laid out a very strong case against Gibson (and for Darryl Strawberry), providing support for Plaschke's assertions. But, as Aaron Gleeman has noted, Gibson also accumulated the second-highest Win Share total, so his selection was not entirely unjustified. It certainly wasn't something to be dismissed in the interest of immortalizing the homer.
Then again, we've come to expect such sloppiness from Plaschke, right? (He's a far cry from Bernie Miklasz, to be sure.) But, if there's anything from the column worth saving, it's this admission:
"There were personality defects in the deal, it's what made me who I was," he says. "Some people didn't like it. But they didn't take the time to understand it."
Maybe he'll write similarly of Paul DePodesta seventeen years from now.
BASEBALL: The Mets Rotation
The Mets' pitching staff has been coming along nicely lately, although I still have serious concerns about several of the starters. But it also occurred to me that just looking at ERAs wasn't getting at some of the important distinctions between these guys. I decided to break them down by starts, into three groups: Quality Starts (6 or more innings, 3 or fewer earned runs; I always thought 3-in-6 was a pretty poor excuse for a quality start, but less so now than 20 years ago); Disaster Starts (at least 1 earned run per inning pitched); and Mediocre Starts (the rest). Let's see how the seven men to start games for the Mets this year break out:
How about the Mets' record in those starts?
As you can see, this is a classic breakdown for a team with an OK but not great offense: the Mets are extremely hard to beat when they get a quality start, lose most of the time when they don't, and are incapable of coming back when the starter gets blown out.
For the quick math, the Mets are 18-10 when Pedro, Benson, Heilman or Seo starts, but 12-17 when Glavine, Zambrano or Ishii starts.
Now, each pitcher's ERA broken out by Quality Starts, Mediocre Starts and Disaster Starts:
Now, some conclusions. While some of us - myself prominently included - have given up on Tom Glavine, what we see here is a guy who can still give you plenty of quality outings, as long as you live with the fact that he's the one starter most likely to take you completely out of the game. In fact, Glavine's ERA in his 9 non-disaster starts is 2.62 - exactly the same as Pedro's in his 11. The difference is that Pedro has yet to have a game completely get away from him, whereas it has happened to Glavine three times, two of them against division foes. Of course, the overall result is still a losing record for the Mets when Glavine starts.
Then there's Zambrano, Ishii and Heilman. These numbers confirm for me that Zambrano is contributing, and Ishii isn't and should be replaced by Heilman. Note that while Zambrano is the least effective Mets starter in his Quality Starts, he's the most effective in his Mediocre starts, because he's the most likely to be lifted before 6 innings even if he has only allowed 2 or 3 runs. On a great offensive team, this would make him very valuable, as he usually doesn't get blown out, only once in 10 tries compared to 2 in 7 for the other two. On this team, a little less so, but at least Zambrano gives you a chance. As with Glavine, his performance so far would be more valuable with just a little more offense behind him.
Ishii's ERA in his QS+MS is 3.27 compared to 3.46 for Zambrano, but the difference is that he's far less consistent, as his Mediocre Starts aren't far removed from a Disaster Start. Basically, unless Ishii's completely on top of his game, he kills you. That could be useful for a truly awful offensive team that wants to steal a win every now and then, but it won't cut it for a contender, which the Mets still hope to be. Heilman has been better at keeping the team in games, and is currently in the bullpen mainly just because Ishii isn't suited to relief, either. Unless the Mets really think they can trade Ishii soon, I'd bury him in a mop up role.
June 6, 2005
BASEBALL: Street Talk
Via Barry Zito Forever, I see that newly-installed A's closer Huston Street is writing about his experiences over at ESPN.com. I loved his opening line:
Every kid who has dreamed of being a baseball player has stood in his front yard with a bat and said to himself, "Bottom of the ninth, Game 7 of the World Series, the bases are loaded," and then envisioned hitting a home run to win the game. My job is to shatter that dream.
BASEBALL: Marte Is Here
The Braves have called up super-prospect Andy Marte to fill in for Chipper Jones. Looks like some of the voters in Mac Thomason's preseason pool were real close.
June 5, 2005
BASEBALL: The Real Curse
From a reader in Bill Simmons' mail bag, a pet peeve:
[E]very time I even begin to talk about how everything goes wrong with my Cubbies ... there is some Boston fan that gives me the ole "hang in there, if the Red Sox can do it, then the Cubs can do it too." The last thing I want to hear is someone reminding me that the Cubs are now the only cursed team. I realize that both the Cubs and the Red Sox went a long time without winning the World Series, but why do you guys feel the need to hold our hand while we try and win one.
Um, only? There were three of the 16 "original" NL/AL franchises that had not won a World Series since before World War II. Now there are two. A Cubs fan ought to have the common decency to have heard of the other one. I mean, if anybody has a claim to a curse, it's the franchise that threw the freaking World Series and has not won another postseason series in 85 seasons since then, despite having the best record in baseball in 1959 and 1983 and the best in the AL in 2000.
Of course, the White Sox have the kind of curse you would put on a team if you really wanted their fans to suffer: White Sox fans aren't pitied, just ignored. They don't finish last for years at a stretch (in fact, they've finished last only twice since 1935), they don't have spectacular collapses in pennant races, they don't lose postseason serieses in memorable fashion (they've never gone the distance in a postseason series and have scored just 56 runs, less than 3 per game, in 19 postseason games in the past 85 years). They don't get to cry "small market" as the Royals or Brewers do, and they've rarely had fire sales of their players. They never get to be the best team in town, nor the city's saddest sacks. They just plod along in perpetual mediocrity, never any closer to the goal.
Anyway, I'm wondering how far we have to get into 2005 before this particular exorcism starts to become an object of some real attention.
BASEBALL: Dumb Things Joe Morgan Says, Part...
...well, I lost count. The guy amazes me sometimes; it's like if Larry Bird became a broadcaster and we discovered that the guy had no clue about how you win basketball games, or if it turned out that Bill Clinton didn't know anything about politics.
Anyway, today's gem was a bit of historical ignorance. John Miller was discussing headfirst slides - mainly in the context of guys going headfirst into first base - and Joe was contributing some sort useful color, discussing his own preference until late career for sliding feet first, and how great base thieves like Lou Brock and Maury Wills always went feet first. Then Joe declares that the guy who popularized the headfirst slide was Omar Moreno.
Now, OK, maybe Moreno was the first big time base thief to go mostly headfirst, I don't remember. But most of us would consider it faintly ridiculous to discuss who made headfirst slides more popular without mentioning the man who was synonymous for decades with the headfirst slide, who indeed made it his signature: Pete Rose, of course. How could Morgan, who played side by side with Rose for seven seasons in the prime of their careers, have possibly forgotten Rose? It boggles the mind.
June 3, 2005
BASEBALL: Dotel Down
So Octavio Dotel is having surgery and done for this year and into next season. Tough blow for the A's, who had hoped to have a primo closer in his walk year to shop, but maybe good news for the Mets, who now have one fewer reason to get fleeced by Billy Beane (but hey, there's still Barry Zito). Actually, Dotel might not be a bad guy for the Mets to take a jon Lieber-style flyer on this offseason.
UPDATE: Obviously, of course, this is great news for Huston Street (and, ahem, people who own him in fantasy leagues), as Street now steps in to what will no doubt be a long tenure as A's closer.
June 2, 2005
BASEBALL: Only For You
Carlos Beltran just went yard, and the Mets announcers pointed out that all 7 of his home runs have come in games started by Pedro.
BASEBALL: At Norfolk
Far as I can tell, there are three guys now at Norfolk who might reasonably help the Mets in the near future. One is a familiar major league face, 33-year-old Brian Daubach (see the Norfolk stats here), who's hitting .358/.628/.429; Baseball Prospectus' forecast (subscription only) for Daubach this season, following a .274/.530/.403 campaign at Pawtucket last year, is .260/.452/.371, which even when adjusting for Daubach's poor defense at first base would be a heck of an improvement over Minky.
The second is Jeff Keppinger, batting .332/.446/.373. I'm not a huge Keppinger fan, but he's someone to consider in the second base mix if things continue to go awry with Matsui. I'm not sure he'd be a real improvement over Cairo.
The third and perhaps most immediately interesting is an ex-Yankee farmhand, reliever Juan Padilla, who posted a staggering 52/6 K/BB ratio and just 1 homer allowed in 58 innings at Columbus in 2004 and has followed up with a 1.01 ERA in 35.2 IP this season, striking out 36, walking 5 and allowing just 1 home run. Numbers like that demand some attention.
(Jae Seo, of course, also continues to pitch well in AAA).
June 1, 2005
BASEBALL: When Do Rookies Emerge?
Well, the AL Rookie of the Year race has a clear favorite; not only has Tadahito Iguchi raced out to a hot start - .302/.450/.355 and 7 steals through yesterday's action - but he's been one of the major improvements behind the surprising White Sox having the best record in baseball. (Jeremy Reed, Chris Young, Gustavo Chacin or Huston Street could still catch him over the course of the season). The NL race is much murkier - Clint Barmes is off to a real good start even adjusting for Coors, but Brad Halsey has been outstanding as well.
But could we be missing someone? (Say, Felix Hernandez or Andy Marte, for example?) Well, we could be forgetting someone who's played a little but not got going yet. But the odds are against anybody arriving for the first time after this point in the season. I took a look back at when the Rookie of the Year made his major league debut in each year since 1947. The results, out of 116 Rookies of the Year:
*18 debuted more than one year before winning the award. The longest wait was five years - Lou Piniella broke in in 1964 with the Indians but had to wait for the 1969 expansion draft to get an everyday job.
*43 debuted the year before winning the award. Although historical trends aren't that clear, it does appear that this has become more common in the past 20 years, with 23 of the last 38 winners appearing in the majors one or more seasons before being Rookie of the Year (the proportion rises to 23 of 35 when you count out veteran Japanese imports).
*45 debuted in April, many of them apparently on Opening Day or in their first turn in the rotation. The times within April have varied based on when the schedule started.
*Just 8 waited until May to appear, including Hideo Nomo, who was in the Dodgers starting rotation in 1995, when the season started late due to a lockout. The others: Joe Black (May 1), Darryl Strawberry (May 6), Dontrelle Willis (May 9), Don Newcombe (May 20), Don Schwall (May 21), Willie Mays (May 25), Chris Chambliss (May 28). Black, despite the late start, managed to throw 142.1 innings in 56 appearances, all but two in relief, plus 21.1 innings in the World Series. Unsurprisingly, this was his last good year.
*Only two men have won the Rookie of the Year Award having debuted after June 1: Bob Horner, who came straight out of college on June 16, and Willie McCovey, who did not arrive until July 30. McCovey may be the most famous example of a late arriving impact rookie, but he's also essentially the only one to win the award.
*By the way: Iguchi's early progress indicates that the AL is nearly as dominated by an influx of star-quality Japanese rookies in recent years as the NL was by Negro Leaguers in the late 40s/early 50s. The award has gone to Kaz Sasaki in 2000 and Ichiro in 2001, and could have gone to Hideki Matsui in 2003 if two sportswriters hadn't refused to rank him on their ballots. Similarly, 6 of the first 7 men to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award were former Negro League players - besides Newcombe, Mays, and Black, you had Jackie Robinson, Sam Jethroe, and Jim Gilliam. An impressive group, indeed.
May 31, 2005
BASEBALL: Hang It Up, Scott
Well, maybe it was a nice idea, but Scott Erickson, who's lost his slot in the Dodgers' starting rotation, is not just done, but long past done. It's been six years now since Erickson posted an ERA lower than 5.55. Since 2000, Erickson's ERA is 6.46, the highest of any major league pitcher to throw at least 250 innings in that period. Over that stretch he's walked more men than he struck out and allowed 11.34 hits per 9 innings. This season, he's walked 18 and struck out just 9 while allowing 11 home runs in 42.2 innings. It's over.
BASEBALL: Cameron Gets It Done
Entering tonight's action, Mike Cameron has now played precisely 162 games as a Met. The results? .252/.510/.342, 97 runs, 87 RBI, 40 doubles, 35 HR, 71 walks, 26 steals in 32 tries, just 8 GIDP. Not bad.
May 27, 2005
BASEBALL: The Old Master
Man, Pedro's 8 shutout innings were just an absolute pitching clinic tonight, as he methodically dismantled the Marlins lineup like he was picking the wings off a fly. In, out, faster, slower . . . he was just one step ahead with his changes in speeds and locations, just getting in their heads and outsmarting them. Tom Seaver, in the broadcast booth, is just completely energized when Pedro's out there -you can feel his enjoyment of great pitching like this, as he and Fran Healy spent the last few innings guessing where they'd call the next pitch - "I think he's got him here, Fran, I'd go up a couple inches and just move a little outside and he'll bite."
For the record, though, I would have pulled Pedro for a pinch hitter after 7, when he came up with a runner on second and one out, a 1-run lead, and already having thrown 100 pitches. He moved the runner over - as if this is a big deal, getting a man to third with two outs - and Jose Reyes went Bobbing for Bad Pitches to strike out and leave Pedro and then Looper to cling to a 1-0 lead.
BASEBALL/WAR: Save Ali
(You can go to the main page here if the link above won't open).
BASEBALL: Worth A Thousand Words
You know, numbers alone just can't capture the distance between the Hated Yankees' payroll and everyone else's:
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BASEBALL: Yankee Bat Boy
The brother of a friend just published a book about his experience as a bat boy for the Hated Yankees in the early 90s. (His experiences were also the inspiration for the short-lived TV series "Clubhouse").
May 26, 2005
BASEBALL: No Straight A's
Three stats fairly well summarize the season the A's are having:
*Oakland's team ERA: 3.65 in April, 5.94 in May.
*American League Avg/Slg/OBP: .263/.411/.327. A's: .245/.348/.319.
*Team OBP with nobody on/nobody out (i.e., in most cases, leading off an inning): .286.
At his peak, from August 1993 through the end of 1995 (about two full seasons), Greg Maddux was one of just three pitchers with an ERA below 3.20: Jose Rijo at 3.00, Randy Johnson at 2.74, and Maddux at 1.57. On the road during that period - when the Braves still played in The Launching Pad - Maddux was 28-2 with a 1.23 ERA.
May 25, 2005
BASEBALL: Eternal Truths
Negro League pioneer Rube Foster, quoted in Only the Ball Was White, on why as a manager he generally ordered his players to take two strikes early in the game:
If you let a player make the pitcher pitch four or five balls to him, he will tire around seven innings, and if you can hit him at the beginning you can hit him when he is weaker and less effective. It is at this point I always center my attack. In most cases it is successful.
BASEBALL: The Sisco Kid
One of the few bright spots for the Royals this year has been Andy Sisco, a Rule V pick (from the Cubs) who's been put to maximum use in middle relief, appearing in 20 of KC's 45 games, on a pace to toss 92.1 innings out of the bullpen. The 22-year-old Sisco is a big, big guy, listed at 6'10" and 270 pounds, he's lefthanded and he throws in the 90s (Christian Ruzich has more), so he inevitably draws comparisons to Randy Johnson; his Rule V status also brings to mind Johan Santana, who was obtained the same way by the Twins.
Those are unfairly weighty comparisons, but Sisco has pitched impressively: he's striking out 10.87 batters per 9 innings, among the highest rates in baseball, and has allowed just 2 home runs and 17 hits in 25.2 innings of work. He's still an unfinished project, of course, walking 5.61 batters per 9, a rate that's been closer to 1 per inning in recent outings. KC fans can tell you, from watching Mike McDougal, what that kind of control can do to a pitcher with electric stuff. But fortunately for Sisco, the Royals have an inexhaustible supply of meaningless games in which a young middle reliever can work on his control.
UPDATE: I should note, by the way, that Sisco was a starter in the minors. I assume the point of investing major league innings in him now - other than the fact that he's actually one of the team's most effective relievers already - is to groom him to join the rotation in 2006 or 2007, mush the way Santana did with the Twins.
If you look down that K/9 list, some more interesting notes:
*The only guy to throw at least 20 innings with a K/9 of 7 or better and not allow a home run so far is Huston Street, who's stepping into the closer's role (possibly for good) while Octavio Dotel is on the DL for a few weeks. Street's been a bright spot in an A's pitching staff that has collapsed after a hot start: he's been almost as wild as Sisco (their numbers are actually rather similar), but if you can strike enough guys out and keep the ball in the park, you can be real tough to beat. Street is reminiscent of a young Billy Wagner at this point.
*At the opposite pole is Joe Blanton, the Oakland prospect who has bombed, striking out 13 in 43.2 innings of work. The rest of his numbers have now caught up (or, more properly, caught down) with his inability to fool anyone (shades of Jimmy Gobble, another well-regarded prospect who the league caught up with in a hurry last season). Blanton can't survive in the majors with those kind of numbers.
*Another guy who's very low in the K department is Jon Garland, whiffing 4.18 men per 9. Garland has cut his walks and slashed his HR/9 numbers (just 3 in 66.2 IP compared to 34 gophers last season), and his ability to keep that up will determine whether he can remain near his new level of effectiveness. Garland's never been terrible, but he's never hinted that he was about to be this good, either; he's in many ways a data point in favor of the idea that even modestly talented starting pitchers, like NFL quarterbacks, are bound to have at least one really good year if they can stay healthy for enough years and keep taking the ball.
*Tomo Okha is really playing with fire with a 21/16 BB/K ratio and 5 homers in 43.2 IP.
May 24, 2005
BASEBALL: Dodgers' Win-Share Items
In his interview with Paul DePodesta, Steve Henson of the Los Angeles Times writes that "Jeff Kent has been as advertised offensively and significantly better defensively at second." The latter characterization is slowly becoming the conventional wisdom among the mainstream press. It expresses pleasant surprise at the slugger's glove. Well, as of May 18, Kent trailed only Craig Counsell in fielding win shares among NL second basemen.
Meanwhile, Cesar Izturis stands alongside Clint Barmes and David Eckstein at the top of the league's shortstop list. But the reigning gold-glove winner has been doing it more at the plate than at the hole. He's the position leader in batting win shares (5.0). On defense, his 1.5 ranks fourth.
Lastly, as Studes points out, the Hee Seop Choi-Olmedo Saenz platoon has a combined 10 win shares, which tie MVP contenders Derrek Lee and Bobby Abreu (and exceed Albert Pujols). Of course, Saenz has logged some time at third, so some apples are mixed with the oranges. But we can say, at the very least, that the Dodgers' problems do not lie at first. (It's actually in the rotation.)
BASEBALL: Wright and Wrong
We've certainly been treated lately to some reminders that David Wright, likely as he is to be a major star in the near future (among other things, he's now #10 in all of baseball in number of pitches seen per plate appearance), is still a very young player who is prone to young player's mistakes - fielding errors and, last night, running outside the baseline to break up a double play, resulting in the nullification of the tying runs and Wright's ejection from the game. (It's an open question whether Rafael Furcal would have turned the DP if Wright hadn't veered in his direction, although MIke Cameron wouldn't have scored the 7th run on the play.
May 23, 2005
BASEBALL: The Remainders
Tonight's starting lineups:
BASEBALL: Good Weekend for the Empire
This Mets-Yankees series was deeply disappointing, as the Mets were in all three games and had the third one well in hand before the bullpen let it get away. (The Hated Yankees sure didn't look like Pedro's "daddy," but with the Mets bullpen they sure didn't need to). (Speaking of which, that expression comes from Pedro paying respect to the Yankees, and their fans will never let him hear the end of it. So much for being graceful in victory).
Some random thoughts from a topsy-turvy weekend, where the Mets won Randy Johnson's start and the Yankees won Pedro's:
*I guess Beltran's quad injury explains why he hasn't been stealing bases. The Mets sure could have used a steal in the 7th inning on Friday.
*If you missed it, the humor highlight of the series was the Dae Sung Koo show on Saturday. Mister Koo had drawn much mockery from the press box (and, apparently, his teammates) for his first big league at bat earlier in the week, when he made clear that he had no intention of taking the bat off his shoulder and took three easy strikes. Randy Johnson, presumably having read the scouting report on Koo, grooved a fat fastball to him - and the lefthanded hitting Koo ripped the ball 400 feet to center field for a double. Then, to top that off, when the next batter bunted him over and nobody covered home plate, Koo took off and wound up scoring from second on a sac bunt (leading to a disputed play at the plate).
*Man, does Tony Womack ever stink as a leftfielder - they guy is just a disaster with the glove, and this from a guy who barely hits enough to play every day as a middle infielder.
*Are the Mets trying to kill Piazza with the Zambrano/Ishii Axis of Wild in the rotation? Some of the pitches Piazza has to dive for are just way out there. And then he usually doesn't even get to enjoy working with Pedro.
*Bottom of the 8th on Friday against Tom Gordon: after David Wright walks on four pitches, Matsui and Valent each come up hacking and strike out on three pitches. Grrrr.
May 20, 2005
BASEBALL: Back To The Lab, Leo
Losing John Thomson for up to three months should, by the normal laws of baseball, be a crippling blow to the Braves; as I've noted before, since last year's All-Star Break, Thomson has been one of the very best pitchers in baseball.
Then again, Thomson arrived in Atlanta with a career ERA of 4.93, including 4.48 on the road, with a 2.1 K/BB ratio and 1.16 HR/9 allowed on the road; with Atlanta, his overall numbers are a 3.66 ERA, 2.5 K/BB and 0.80 HR/9, and the road numbers are similar, with the HR/9 rate dropping to 0.59. Which raises the question again of how hard it can really be for the Braves to find a guy with similar credentials to Thomson pre-Braves (such as Kris Benson or Victor Zambrano), knowing what Leo Mazzone can do with him.
BASEBALL: Starting Badly
Leadoff hitters for NL East teams:
In other words, the Mets aren't alone in this problem. But that makes it no less in need of fixing. And we also see reason #1 why the Nationals are competitive with the rest of the division - Brad Wilkerson is setting the table in a way nobody else in the division is.
UPDATE: A few additional thoughts. First, the Mets also have little to show from the #2 slot, a problem they share with Atlanta and Washington. Second, I don't doubt that Willie Randolph is a smart guy. I'm sure he knows that Reyes is not a major league leadoff hitter and won't be until he adds significantly more patience (or starts hitting .330). The difference between the Mets and the Nationals is that Frank Robinson has the guts to use an unconventional leadoff man, a power hitter who strikes out a lot. Randolph hasn't demonstrated that he has the self-confidence to buck the conventional wisdom (even widely discredited conventional wisdom like batting a fast guy who doesn't get on base in the leadoff slot), and he won't be a successful major league manager unless he develops it.
May 18, 2005
BASEBALL: Less Than Zero
I've had a couple of people ask me to explain this in the past few days, so I figure there must be interest in the question: Robinson Cano of the Yankees is presently batting .327 with a .320 on base percentage. For those of you wondering how that can happen, OBP counts Sacrifice Flies as outs, while they don't count in batting average. So a player with no walks and who hasn't been hit by any pitches can have a lower OBP than his batting average if he's hit a Sac Fly.
May 16, 2005
BASEBALL: Matt Welch and Dave Hansen
If you missed it, Matt Welch had a cool article on knowing Dave Hansen growing up.
May 14, 2005
BASEBALL: Hall of Bloggers
Via The Corner, I came across the latest MLBlogs. Two of note: Tommy Lasorda and Brooks Robinson. Unlike politics, which really requires sustained attention to the back-and-forth on particular issues to avoid waddling in to a debate a day late and a few facts short (see Jim Lampley), a sporadic, dilettante-ish celebrity baseball blog can still be entertaining if it's run by someone who can dispense good yarns and occasional dollops of insight.
Robinson's blog is not off to an auspicious start, however. Here, for example, he goes on at some length responding to a reader inquiry for his thoughts on who is better with the glove - Scott Rolen or Eric Chavez - explaining why he isn't going to say one guy is better than another. Which is a good-natured and gentlemanly thing for a baseball 'insider' to say, but it's not going to make for interesting reading.
Then there's Tommy, whose blog so far seems like the real unfiltered Lasorda. This post opens with an anecdote that captures the man pretty well:
My father had five sons, and one day he called a family meeting, sat us down, and told us he wanted to bring his brother's son, Mario, to America. He told us to treat him as an equal because he was family. When Mario arrived, my father told Mario he could live with him so while he worked hard, he could save his money and eventually bring his own family to America too.
The emotion, the pride, the self-reliance, the protective family bonds - and also the chip on his shoulder, the impatience with his lazy cousin (who Tommy is willing to slam on the web these many years later) - it's all there. And, of course, it's all a segue into a lecture on preserving the special relationship of the Dodgers with their fans, as Lasorda keeps on bleeding Dodger blue.
BASEBALL: Bradley Takes Center Stage
Last night, I intended to write bitterly about poor Dodger game management, which started when the blistering Hee Seop Choi was benched, and continued until a fatigued Jeff Weaver gave up a critical grand slam in the eighth inning. But I'll pass. This market, after all, is already cornered by Fire Jim Tracy.
So instead I'll discuss Milton Bradley, who hit two homeruns, including his own grand slam, from both sides of the plate. As FJT correctly observes, he hasn't been perfect this year. His walk rate is down: he's projected to draw fewer than 40 bases on balls. Relatedly, he's been seeing fewer pitches per plate appearance (3.59) than at any time in his career (3.84, though it reached 3.96 in 2003).
But, otherwise, he's been great. In fact, he's been perhaps the best centerfielder in the National League. Compare him to a couple of notables:
I haven't been following the defensive end quite as much, so I can't make any credible assertions there. But I suppose it doesn't hurt that Bradley has five assists, which is the highest total among all major league outfielders.
May 13, 2005
BASEBALL: Hitting Rockets
Roger Clemens is closing in on a surprising milestone. Not his 330 wins, or his .667 winning percentage, or his 4367 strikeouts. Clemens is flirting with a lifetime .200 batting average. He's batting .357 (5 for 14) this season, raising his lifetime regular season average to .198; it would go to .200 even if he goes 1 for his next 4.
Entering 2004, Clemens was a most unlikely hitting prospect; while his lifetime average sat at .200, that was in only 20 at bats, for a 41-year-old who'd never batted more than 4 times in the same season and who'd gone 1 for 8 in his postseason career. But superior athlete that he is, Clemens rapped out 12 hits last season, including his third career double, driving in 7 runs in 32 starts.
A .200 batting average is not easy for a pitcher. Mike Hampton, of course, is the undisputed champ, a lifetime .243 hitter with 15 career home runs who sports a 900 OPS this season. Hampton's presently batting over .260 for the sixth time in eight years. After that, even the best hitting pitchers struggle: Tom Glavine's career average is .185, Greg Maddux .177, Dwight Gooden finished at .196. A few have done it in recent years: Orel Hershiser at .201, Fernando Valenzuela at .200, Rick Aguilera .201. If Clemens manages to match that, given the late start to his batting career, you gotta tip your cap to the guy.
May 12, 2005
BASEBALL: The Hitless Wonders
At a glance, it may seem that the White Sox are pitching unusually well this year, and thus winning like crazy despite poor starts with the bat from players like Jermaine Dye, Aaron Rowand and Paul Konerko. But is that what's really afoot? Or has the park changed, resulting in the Sox batting .240 at home and .270 on the road, yet posting an 11-3 record at home? Let's look at the runs scored in games played at US Cellular this season vs. White Sox road games, as compared to seasons past:
Could be the small sample size (14 home games this year), and could be that park factors fluctuate even from year to year due to luck. But the park has been repeatedly renovated over the past five years. Maybe this year, between that and the weather, something's new. Either way, scoring is way down in what had been one of the top hitters' parks in baseball in recent years.
BASEBALL: Choi's Charge
In the last seven days, Hee Seop Choi has posted the highest OPS among all major league players with at least 10 at-bats. His 1.766, which includes two doubles and three homeruns, edges Brian Giles' 1.771 (though, in truth, the latter has been more impressive, collecting eight walks along with four doubles and two homeruns). Choi has also raised his seasonal batting average from .246 to .302.
May 11, 2005
BASEBALL: Disco Demolition Night
Michele has a post about disco vs. rock that mentions Disco Demolition Night. I present, through the miracle of Retrosheet, Game One of the Disco Demolition Night doubleheader. Attendance: 47,795. As it turns out, the evening featured an even more astonishing event: a stolen base by Rusty Staub (the White Sox' presumably startled catcher apparently threw the ball away, allowing Lou Whitaker to score from third on the play).
LAW/BASEBALL/FOOTBALL: Stadium Shuffle
Interesting article in Reason Magazine arguing that the big Supreme Court takings case this term, as well as another rather flimsy-sounding lawsuit against the Bengals could spell real trouble for future efforts to soak the taxpayers for publicly-funded stadiums (via Bashman). Personally, I've long thought that - as a condition of exemption from the antitrust laws - it would be perfectly legitimate for the federal government to intervene by statute to prevent big-time pro sports teams from extorting public money as a condition of not relocating. While that would go against my usual disinclination to over-regulate business and interfere in state and local government, a statutory solution could be necessary to protect state and local taxpayers from the undue leverage created by the ability of sports teams to relocate and not be replaced.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:13 AM | Baseball 2005 | Football | Law 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)
May 9, 2005
BASEBALL: Phillips Propels to the Top
With last night's monstrous game, which included his first career grand slam, Jason Phillips became the leader in SLG, OPS, EQA, and VORP among National League catchers.
It's worth noting that Lo Duca, who preceded Phillips in the Dodger backstop, is the league leader in AVG and OBP. Piazza, who preceded Lo Duca, is the league leader in homeruns. But they all basically trail the elite corps of AL catchers, most notably Joe Mauer, Jason Varitek, and Javy Lopez.
BASEBALL: Fun Facts
Quick facts about the Mets so far:
*As a team, they're batting .291/.495/.358 against lefthanded pitching - and without facing Tom Glavine!
*Team batting average with RSIP: .237, but a .433 Slg (compared to .427 overall). RSIP and two outs: .194 (*cough* Piazza *cough*). But late innings of a close game: .310/.535/.364.
*Mets leadoff hitters: 4 walks. Mets #9 hitters: 5 walks. 'nuff said.
*Highest OBP: Mets #8 hitters, followed by #7, followed by #6. It's the Bizarro Lineup!
*All Met outfielders: .317/.558/.403
*Home: 11-5, 3.82 ERA, .385 team Slg
May 8, 2005
BASEBALL: Dinner for Four
"Malcolm X. Michael Jordan. Harold Baines."
I also liked the closing line of this interview, which pretty well captures adulthood:
Q: You were the class clown in school?
BASEBALL: Division and Conquest
Each of baseball's divisions, of course, has a .500 record against itself. Take those out, and what are the records of each division solely against out-of-division opponents? Let's rank them by winning percentage through Sunday's action:
(Current standings here). The NL East is 11-4 vs. the West and 18-9 vs. the Central, so it's not just having a lot of games against the weak sisters of the Central; the East is one tough division even in spite of the apparent lack of a single dominant team. Note that the powerhouse Cardinals are 3-7 outside their division, 16-4 in their own pond.
May 7, 2005
BASEBALL: Ghame Over*
Eric Gagne is, of course, the last reliever to win the NL Cy Young Award. If the season were to end today, who would be the top candidate to repeat this accomplishment?
You guessed it: Yhency Brazoban, the current replacement of the injured Dodger closer. According to the Neyer/James model, Brazoban ranks seventh overall among NL contenders -- one place ahead of Pedro Martinez. But this ranking depends more on circumstance than on dominance. For instance, Brandon Lyon and Jose Mesa actually have better save totals and ERAs, among other statistics. But Lyon has two losses, which amount to a 4-point penalty. And, whereas Brazoban plays for a first-place team -- good for a substantial "victory bonus" -- Mesa is stuck with a poor club.
So, if I were Gagne, I wouldn't worry too much about being eclipsed any time soon.
(*The title comes from this Dodger Thoughts post.)
May 6, 2005
BASEBALL: How Bad Has Adrian Beltre Been?
Well, let's just put it this way: Dodger fans have been less than impressed with Norihiro Nakamura and his .369 OPS. But Beltre hasn't exactly been tearing it up himself. In fact, though his OPS is at least above .500, other metrics suggest that he's closer to the futility of the former Japanese superstar.
Jose Valentin has been superior to both, posting a .722 OPS, 2.8 VORP, and 3.9 RARP. Surprisingly, however, his contributions have not come in the form of power; he only has 2 homeruns with his .164 ISO. Rather, they have come in the form of plate discipline, as his 16 walks and .364 OBP suggest. He's also the league leader in pitches per plate appearance: 4.41. This ranking isn't as anomalous as it may appear, since his career P/PA is just slightly under 4.0.
Update: For additional comments, see this post by the new and insightful Blue Think Tank.
BASEBALL: Clutch Hitting
Elan Fuld, a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, apparently has evidence on this elusive phenomenon:
[H]is calculations provided statistical evidence that players such as Eddie Murray, Frank Duffy and Luis Gomez were clutch hitters.
This information comes from a university press release. It sounds interesting and plausible, but I'd like to see the data for myself. I'd also like to know how he weighted game situations.
BASEBALL: DIPS and Downs Part II
The second half of yesterday's post: the weaker pitchers.
4.51 to 5.00
A few people here, like Clement and Oliver Perez, I was surprised to see rank so low. Some of these guys are doing better in the 2005 portion, like Brett Myers and Vazquez. DIPS seems pessimistic on Bruce Chen's improvement.
If you're below Chan Ho Park in anything, you got problems.
5.01 to 5.50
No bad luck for Glavine, just bad pitching. Trachsel was nothing so hot, either; he had a fine run with the Mets but was running on fumes the second half of last year. And you can see, especially in contrast to where Danny Haren ranked yesterday, why the Mulder deal is a real risk for the Cardinals. Garland is low because he pitched a lot of innings last year, so this year's numbers don't make much of an impact yet. Wakefield, being a knuckleballer, can be expected to outperform his DIPS ERA anyway.
5.51 to 6.50
You can see here why the pitchers on my HACKING MASS team over at Baseball Prospectus are Russ Ortiz and Jose Lima, both of whom moved into tougher parks to pitch in this year. Hopefully, the Ishii Experience will be brief now that the Mets are developing other options, but it's debatable whether he's the most flammable of the Washed-Up Ex-Dodgers Club along with Park, Pedro Astacio and Hideo Nomo (what, Ramon Martinez can't find work?).
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:57 AM | Baseball 2005 | Baseball Studies | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Working the Umps
Sabernomics runs some numbers comparing ball and strike calls in Questec vs. non-Questec parks to see if some managers, in the non-Questec parks (i.e., where balls and strikes are still solely a human judgment call) have a greater effect on the umps. Conclusion: about the only managers with a major positive impact are Tony LaRussa and Jim Tracy.
May 5, 2005
Just noticed that the Tigers have no hits off Bronson Arroyo through six innings. Check in here.
UPDATE: Never mind. Carlos Guillen homers to tie it up 1-1.
BASEBALL: DIPS and Downs
Now that we're a bit of the way into the season and have a little 2005 data to weigh a bit into the balance (most of your significant starting pitchers have thrown between 25 and 45 innings), I thought I'd take a look at some DIPS numbers (see here; I used the simplified DIPS formula). Using David Pinto's Day by Day Database - which easily enables copy & pasting into a spreadsheet - I ran the DIPS numbers for every major league pitcher who threw at least 70 innings between the 2004 All-Star Break and Tuesday. Bear in mind, of course, that DIPS isn't perfect, and the rough formula is a bit, well, rough. But this is shorthand for whose numbers back up the idea that they've pitched well since the middle of last season.
For ease of reading, I'll break out the DIPS ERAs in groups; bear in mind that the average DIPS ERA for the group was 4.42, and the median (Brett Tomko) was 4.46. Today, we'll do roughly the top half, the pitchers at 4.50 and under:
3.00 and Below
Pretty heady company there for Peavy and Burnett.
3.01 to 3.50
You see with Schmidt, as with Pedro, that the elite guys rank higher here than they do on the ERA charts, suggesting that their rough patches are largely poor defense or luck. On the other hand, few pitchers have received less attention for a stretch of outstanding pitching than John Thomson.
3.51 to 4.00
Yes, that's Kevin Brown, he of the 5.38 ERA over this period; while Brown's problems obviously run deeper than his stuff, at this point he may have more gas left in the tank than Tom Glavine, who we will meet much lower on these lists. (Would you trade Brown for Glavine, or Glavine for Brown? I might do that deal if I were the Mets, and I might if I were the Yankees). And you can see why the Mets will be banking on Kris Benson to step in as their #2 starter beginning tonight. The emergence of Jeremy Bonderman, Erik Bedard, Dontrelle Willis and Danny Haren is also in evidence. And Carl Pavano is what he is: a slightly younger, better version of Jon Lieber.
4.01 to 4.50
Hamton, unlike Thomson, hasn't really pitched as well as his ERA, although Hampton's extreme ground ball tendencies help him in other ways, like DP balls. I was surprised to see Mark Hendrickson up with guys like Mussina and Radke and Kerry Wood. Jarrod Washburn, once the Angels' ace, is the fifth Anaheim starter listed here. You can also see Maddux and Zito regressing, although in Maddux's case that's part of a lengthy period of slow erosion; a few years as a league-average starter will do nothing to dim his legend and could get him a truly staggering career win total.
BASEBALL: BJ Blowing It
BJ Upton's struggles afield continue, which is undoubtedly why we saw Nick Green rather than Upton getting a shot in Tampa's infield shuffle. Upton has made 17 errors in 25 games at AAA Durham, a Gochnauerian figure, mainly on throwing errors. But Tampa still projects him as a shortstop. All of which suggests we won't see him until after the break at the earliest.
BASEBALL: Yankee Go Wrong
Obituaries for the Hated Yankees are entirely premature, but this long excerpt from Buster Olney's book is nonetheless worth reading, from Olney's description of the Yanks "treating championship building like a hot dog-eating contest" to the unintended humor in saying that "Jason Giambi knew all about chemistry" to the account of Toronto's reaction when they called for Raul Mondesi to this:
Shortly after the Yankees lost to Anaheim, Gordon Blakeley, the Yankees' director of international scouting, was sent to Nicaragua, under orders from Steinbrenner to sign Jose Contreras. The bidding between the Yankees, Boston, and the Mariners began in earnest at four years, $24 million, for a pitcher without a single day of major league experience. But Blakeley told rival executives that he had come to sign Contreras, no matter the cost; Steinbrenner promised Blakeley that he would be fired if he failed to land the pitcher. Hearing this, another executive realized his team had no chance to sign Contreras, so he decided to at least make the Yankees pay exorbitantly and kept matching the Yankees' offers, driving up the price. The Yankees signed Contreras to a four-year, $32 million deal – a contract much larger than that signed by many established players in the same offseason.
May 3, 2005
BASEBALL: Counsell Walks Away
Has anyone else noticed that Craig Counsell leads the National League in walks*? The guy has 22 in 25 games. That's almost 40% of what he drew all last season -- and we still have yet to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
Here I was marvelling at JD Drew's eight walks in the past three games. But the Barry Bonds impersonation may be taking place in the desert, not the ravine.
[*Brian Giles also has 22.]
BASEBALL: What We Don't Know
I meant to link to this a while ago - via David Pinto, you can now access Bill James' pot-stirring SABR article criticizing the common sabermetric methodology - used many times by James himself - of comparing season-to-season results to determine whether things like clutch hitting and platoon differentials are persistent skills rather than transient statistical flukes caused by luck. James' main point: several of the items he lists are just unknowable by this method because the year-to-year sample sizes are so small they can't be useful for any study.
Of course, in some cases, like the Voros McCracken hypothesis about balls in play, there are alternative ways to attack the problem by looking at the extent to which performance over time tends to level off. It's not that the questions James revisits can't be answered, but he's probably right (as usual) that the answers we have so far are unsatisfactory to the extent that they are based on this methodology.
(Of course, for selfish reasons I'm glad to see a movement away from a type of study that was always beyond my computational skills; I don't do regression analyses).
April 29, 2005
Continuing on the Tom Glavine kick, comments here got me thinking about Glavine as a Hall of Fame candidate, and specifically about the fact that he has won 20 games in a season five times. How much of a lock is a 5-time 20-game winner for Cooperstown?
Not certain. But aside from winning 300 games, there are few achievements more likely to send a pitcher to the Hall of Fame than a large number of 20-win seasons. With the aid of Aaron Haspel's search engine, I put together a list of all the pitchers who have won 20 a significant number of times.
Among pitchers who pitched primarily before 1900, winning 20 five times was no guarantee of immortality; 10 of the 22 pitchers to do it are in the Hall. All but one of those (Al Spalding, who's in for a variety of reasons) did it at least 7 times, and there are guys on the outside looking in with as many as 8 20-win seasons. A good example of why can be seen with Jim McCormick, an 8-time 20-game winner who went 20-40 in 60 starts in 1879 and 26-30 two years later. (For what it's worth, Cy Young holds the record for 20-win seasons with 15).
Among pitchers who pitched mainly since 1900, there are 39 pitchers with three 20-win seasons; 6 are in the Hall, 30 are not, and three are ineligible (Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling are still active and Ed Cicotte is banned).
Among 4-time 20-game winners, 10 are in and 13 are out; the post-war pitchers in the latter group are Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally, Johnny Sain, Dave Stewart, Luis Tiant and Wilbur Wood.
Among 5-time 20-game winners, 8 and in, 3 are out and Glavine's still pitching. Among those with 6 or more, 16 are in, 3 are out and Roger Clemens is still pitching. In short, only 6 pitchers have won 20 five or more times in the last century or so without making the Hall.
So, how do you not make the Hall with 5 or 6 20-win seasons? Well, three of the six are not all that modern; Pirates teammates Deacon Phillippe and Jesse Tannehill, both 6-time 20-game winners (like their teammate, 4-time 20 game winner Sam Leever) both had their last 20-win season in 1905, and neither won 200 games. 5-timer George Mullin was 21-21 in 1905 and 20-20 for a pennant winning team in 1907, and even his 29-8 season in 1909 had more to do with Ty Cobb hitting .377; Mullin's ERAs were barely better than the league for his career. 5-timer Hippo Vaughn was a great pitcher in the late teens, but had a very short career and won just 178 games. 5-timer Carl Mays is probably the most similar to Glavine of this group, with a 207-126 career record and a 2.35 ERA in four World Series, but Glavine never killed a man with a pitch. 6-timer Wes Ferrell, the most recent of the bunch (his last 20-win season was in 1936), retired with 193 career wins and a 4.02 ERA. Ferrell was a tremendous pitcher in his prime and a much better hitter than his brother, who's in the Hall as a catcher, but the era and parks he pitched in did his numbers no favors, and he was finished as an effective pitcher at 29 (his ERA in just under 500 innings after age 28 was 5.41). (How good a hitter was Ferrell? In 612 at bats from 1931-35, he batted .294/.493/.361 with 29 home runs, 101 runs scored and 123 RBI).
So, if Glavine's 5 20-win seasons alone don't make him a lock for Cooeprstown, they get him so far that little else is needed.
April 28, 2005
BASEBALL: Tom Glavine, Double Agent
Picking up on a thought here:
Now, if you signed Pitcher A as a free agent and got the numbers in row B out of him, you'd feel like you got your money's worth, wouldn't you? Well, except for one little problem:
If you take out his performance against the Mets and Braves, A is Tom Glavine's pitching record as a Brave, and B is his record as a Met; astonishingly similar, actually. But C is Glavine's record against the Mets, and D is his record against his former teammates in Atlanta. Glavine went 16-7 career against the Mets, a .696 winning percentage compared to .620 against all other teams. With the Mets, he's gone 1-7 against Atlanta, .125 compared to .455 against all other teams.
BASEBALL: Missing Trachs
I noted last month that the Mets would find Steve Trachsel hard to replace, given how well he'd pitched from June 2001 (when he returned from a brief trip to Norfolk) through the end of 2004, a period of more than three and a half years. Well, David Pinto's Day by Day Database gives us a chance to revisit Trachsel's numbers and compare him to others for that period. See if you can guess, before you click the link, which of the following pitchers is Trachsel, and which are Leiter, Glavine, Clemens, Mussina, Maddux and Mulder:
Of course, some of those guys pitched in the AL, and Trachsel himself, much like Leiter and Glavine, may find it hard to return to that level. But it's still an impressive run.
Speaking of returns from injury, one of the hot issues right now is what to do with Mike Cameron, specifically whether the Mets are likely to be able at some point to get good value if they trade him. I was thinking that one of the teams that could actually use Cameron is the Hated Yankees, who (1) with the Sierra injury are down to at most 9 guys on the roster you could write into the starting lineup on consecutive days with a straight face and (2) could desperately use a defensive upgrade from Bernie in center field. But aside from the difficulties in doing a Mets-Yankees deal, there's another problem that points to a bigger issue with the Yanks: for all their money, aside from the core players they won't part with, they've got nothing left worth trading for. That's one reason for Yankee fans to worry: while the current roster is still the strongest in the game, I have trouble seeing how they can make a significant deal in season this year. They're thin on prospects, they won't and shouldn't part with their surplus in middle relief, and you can't sign free agents in July. That will mostly leave them picking over guys whose teams will dump them for a song just to get rid of their contracts. For once, George may have to dance with the roster that brung him.
April 26, 2005
BASEBALL: High Risk
OK, I'm just listening on the radio here, but Mike Piazza - who just entered the game as a pinch hitter in the 9th inning - just ran the risk of getting thrown out going first to third on a single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. On Raul Mondesi's arm, no less. Gulp.
UPDATE: So, Cliff Floyd pops out to lose the game. Grrr.
BASEBALL: Lumber Company
After last night's action, the Mets are second in the league in runs scored, 6th in OBP but tied for the lead in HR. While it's still early to judge any individual player, through 20 games, Mets non-pitchers have 631 at bats - about a full season's worth for a regular player. What have they done with those at bats?
That's a portrait of a player with a solid base of offensive skill, maybe could improve the K/BB rate and cut down a bit on the DPs. But not bad at all for an entire team.
BASEBALL: Crooked Nails?
Lenny Dykstra's longtime friend and business partner has accused the former Philadelphia Phillies center fielder of using steroids and gambling illegally during his baseball career in a civil lawsuit, according to a newspaper report.
The suit also includes a sworn statement from a Florida bodybuilder and convicted drug dealer who said Dykstra paid him $20,000 plus "special perks" during their eight-year association to "bulk up" the once-slight ballplayer.
The bodybuilder, Jeff Scott, told the Times in an interview that he injected Dykstra with steroids "more times than I can count," and that Dykstra stepped up his steroid use in spring training of 1993 because it was a contract year.
While the sources here are of dubious credibility, I have little doubt that Dykstra used steroids; the guy bulked up way too quickly from being skinny in his Mets days, and returned way too quickly to his original size as soon as his playing career ended.
As to the gambling, while gambling in general seems in character for Dykstra, I'd like to believe he wasn't stupid enough, especially in the immediate aftermath of the Pete Rose debacle, to bet on baseball, even indirectly (it would be a more interesting rules question if a player advised a friend to bet on games but took no financial stake in the bets). Presumably, there will be some effort to investigate this. For now, he's saying it ain't so.
April 25, 2005
BASEBALL: Yet Another Look at Steroids
April 24, 2005
BASEBALL: The White Sox Channel the Dodgers
As Chicago enjoys its major-league-leading record, I think back to Los Angeles. But not the Dodgers crew that, until its current three-game skid, had the most wins -- I have in mind the 2003 vintage. That team had a notoriously awful offense, ranking last in many batting categories. It was also involved in a considerable number of one-run games, as it employed a "small ball" strategy to manufacture runs. The dominant pitching staff ended up keeping the club in contention.
The White Sox, while perhaps not at the same level of offensive futility, is nonetheless pretty unimpressive themselves. They have the AL's lowest on-base percentage at .300. Despite their 20 homeruns (good enough for 4th in the league), their slugging percentage of .408 and OPS of .707 put them at 10th. Meanwhile, the pitching staff has been awesome. Its top-ranked 3.18 ERA is 0.34 better than the next competitor. It also boasts the second lowest opponent OPS at .650.
With this kind of formula, I question whether the White Sox can remain atop the majors for much longer. I know that, with the Dodgers, it certainly wasn't enough to be a real force.
Update: By the way, nine of Chicago's first fifteen wins are by one run.
April 21, 2005
BASEBALL: Grand Mientkiewicz
Minky goes deep with the bases loaded in the second off Al Leiter, his first career grand slam. I love a 3-run lead with Pedro on the mound.
UPDATE: Make that 6-1 in the second. Leiter just doesn't have it tonight.
7-1, and Cliff Floyd has stolen two bases in one inning. Don't see that every day.
LAST UPDATE: Well, that was satisfying. The radio guys were discussing the fact that we saw little of Pedro's fastball tonight and whether that was because he was pitching on regular (4 days) rest for the first time this season. Hardly mattered, but we'll see how that goes later in the year.
April 19, 2005
BASEBALL: BABIP Research
Clay Davenport looks at the numbers and finds that pitchers who make the majors are slightly but consistently better at preventing hits on balls in play in the minor leagues than are pitchers who don't. (Subscription required)
April 18, 2005
BASEBALL: Pigs Fly . . .
And Aaron Heilman throws a 1-hit shutout, among the things happening while I've been too tied up with work and other stuff to blog (as the papers noted, there have now been 23 complete game 1-hitters in Mets history, but still zero no-hitters; what are the odds of that?). Certainly is shaping up like a classic Mets season - improbable wins, improbable losses, low-scoring games with late comebacks, lots and lots of strikeouts.
Matsui's been disappointing thus far, but I just don't get the boos and calls for him to be replaced with Cairo. Maybe Matsui's back really is worse than we think, but if not, he's still got more upside than Cairo, who played to 100% of his upside last year and still was only just OK.
I'll be in and out of blog this week, hopefully back to blogging regularly after April 22.
UPDATE: I see where Kerry Ligtenberg, who I'd been stumping for as a possible addition to the Mets pen, has signed a minor league deal with the D-Backs.
April 17, 2005
BASEBALL: Out West, A Study in Contrasts
Prior to the start of today's games, the five NL West teams occupied the top six spots in on-base percentage. The Giants and the Diamondbacks were practically tied for number one, with .367 and .366. The Dodgers' .359 were right behind them. At numbers five and six, the Rockies and the Padres had .349 and .348.
By contrast, three of the four AL West teams ranked in the bottom sixth: the Mariners' .307 put them at 25th, the Angels' .301 at 26th, and the A's .289 at 28th. Texas had a respectable .338, which was good enough for 11th.
I doubt that these rankings will hold for much longer, but they're interesting to note in the first 10+ games of the season.
April 13, 2005
BASEBALL: Compare and Contrast
BASEBALL: Power Surge
Orioles speed merchant Brian Roberts has hit four home runs already this season, one shy of his career high. I should have seen this coming. Roberts smacked 50 doubles last season, and even considering that a number of those were "leg" doubles, guys in their twenties who hit that many doubles tend to hit more home runs in following seasons (Roberts is 27). Roberts also cut his groundball/flyball ratio last season to 1.09 from 1.37 the prior year, although he's as unlikely to stick to his current pace of 0.36 G/F as he is to slug .931 for a full season. But 15-20 homers, maybe a little more than that, might not be such a big surprise.
April 10, 2005
BASEBALL: Break on Through
Today's Mets game was as classic as a 6-1 victory in the first week of the season could possibly be. You really had to see it, Pedro and John Smoltz bringing their best stuff - Pedro hitting the mid-90s with his fastball on the way to a complete game 2-hitter (and keeping the pitch counts low enough that you didn't even worry about him going out for the 9th inning), Smoltz tying his career high with 15 strikeouts through the first 7 innings, to the point where the Mets announcers were discussing whether Smoltz had a chance to strike out 20. For a long while there, it looked like the 1-0 lead the Braves had staked Smoltz to would be all he needed, until Carlos Beltran nailed a line drive home run to right field. That got Smoltz out, and I just had that feeling that Cliff Floyd was going to go deep against the next pitcher, as he did, followed by a double for Minky and a homer for Wright, and all of a sudden all the frustration of the 0-5 start was washed away.
Oh, there was frustration. Perhaps the most vivid demonstration was Saturday night, when the ever-combustible Aaron Heilman gave up a second inning grand slam to Brian Jordan, and the cameras cut to Willie Randolph with what looked like a perfect addition to the Bill Simmons pantheon of faces - the Willie Randolph "Why Did I Ever Take This Job" Face, which was topped only when they panned down the dugout to Pedro and he had the exact same expression on his face.
For the record, Pedro has now struck out 21 and walked 3 while allowing 5 hits in 15 innings. You can say "small sample size" all you like, but it's been a damn long time since the Mets had anyone who could do that even in a 2-start sample. Hey, as long as Pedro continues to improve on his career ERA and K/9 . . .
Wright is really starting to remind me of Robin Ventura. The comparison he usually draws is to Scott Rolen, but Ventura was at least 90% of the player Rolen is, and Wright could do much worse.
I continue to fear the Mets' non-Pedro pitchers, other than my inexplicable faith in Victor Zambrano, who (1) managed a 35-27 career record in Tampa Bay, giving him almost half of the .500-or-better seasons in Devil Rays history, and (2) has whiffed 20 batters in 19 innings with a 3.79 ERA as a Met. But I'm really feeling good about the everyday lineup. Floyd has looked rejuvenated, to the point of throwing out two guys at home on Saturday night. Beltran, as he showed last October and again today, has icewater in his veins. And if the high/next highest comps on Wright are Rolen and Ventura, the matches for Jose Reyes are Barry Larkin and Rafael Furcal. Reyes is just one exciting baserunner, as he showed in legging a routine groundball single past second into right center into a double today.
Need the pitching to come through. If it doesn't, we'll have to settle for sending a championship team out to play only once every five days.
BASEBALL: Not Right
Something still appears to be wrong with Javier Vazquez, as he pitched poorly again last night after being shelled by the Cubs in his first start. At least this time he managed 7 whiffs in 7 innings, and a few good starts after this could yet make the Opening Day disaster look like a blip. But if I was a Diamondbacks fan, I'd be concerned.
April 8, 2005
BASEBALL/LAW: Lawyer for Bonds Trainer Pleads Guilty
Defense attorney J. Tony Serra pled guilty on Tuesday to misdemeanor federal income tax evasion charges for failing to pay more than $40,000 in taxes. Serra has been involved in the BALCO steroids case:
As famous for his rumpled suits and love of marijuana as he is for delivering blistering cross-examinations, Serra has railed against what he sees as government overreaching in criminal prosecutions. He's now defending Greg Anderson, a personal trainer for San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds. Anderson is accused of distributing steroids along with three others at the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative in U.S. v. Conte, 04-0044.
BASEBALL: New Toy
Still having fun with some of the new toys at David Pinto's site - can it really be true that Ichiro is batting .509 on the road since the All-Star Break last season?
UPDATE: Here's another: visiting players of the 1980s with the best slugging percentages at Shea.
Same for the 1990s (no surprise to see Chipper and Brian Jordan near the top of that list).
You can run the same search for your favorite team (here's the all-time list for Coors Field, which is less dramatic than I'd expected).
Or, one last eye-opener: the feared 1975-79 Red Sox offense, on the road.
I should add the disclaimer here: The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet. Interested parties may contact Retrosheet at 20 Sunset Rd., Newark, DE 19711.
Well, the Mets sure know how to take the enthusiasm out of you. Nothing like getting swept by a mediocre team to start the season on the wrong foot. All in all, even with yesterday's shutdown by Aaron Harang, I'm still very optimistic about this team's offense and defense, and despite the early 3-run homer on Opening Day you can't help but be impressed by Pedro's first outing. But the pitching staff is a disaster. I've never really trusted Tom Glavine, who's now 3-7 with a 6.22 ERA since the beginning of last August. Ishii and the bullpen have been as bad as advertised, Trachsel's down for half the season or more, Benson's hurt already . . . not a good sign.
April 7, 2005
Willie Randolph laced into Victor Diaz with a profanity-laden stream of insults today... well, actually he didn't, but he's batting him eighth, behind career .215 hitter Ramon Castro, which amounts to the same thing. This, after Randolph batted David Wright 8th during the spring. This has no logical basis - you bat your weakest hitter 8th in the NL, not a blossoming slugger like Wright or even a guy like Diaz who's only playing, in an outfield corner, because of his bat.
Unless Randolph somehow got the idea that starting at the bottom of the order is a necessary learning experience for a young hitter. Where would he get that idea? Well, in Randolph's major league debut with the Pirates in 1975, he batted leadoff. He was still hitting leadoff two weeks later and batting .115. For the season, Randolph batted .130 in the leadoff spot, but .250 elswhere. He finally started hitting in a doubleheader where he batted 8th and went 3-for-6. In 1976, as an everyday player with the Yankees, Randolph spent 103 games in the 8 hole, and only in 1977 did he begin to bat leadoff regularly.
So, perhaps Randolph is generalizing from his own experience.
BASEBALL: Dump the DH
Michele noted the dubious anniversary yesterday of the introduction of the DH. I had long tolerated the DH rule - and, more controversially the hybrid DH/no DH AL/NL setup - maybe just because it's what I grew up with. But I've recently come to the conclusion that, like Astroturf in outdoor parks, it's time for the DH to go. I have two major reasons for this.
Eliminating the DH would have two overdue beneficial effects. First, it would reduce the number and stress of pitches thrown by starting pitchers (it's easier to get past Al Leiter in the lineup than David Ortiz), improving the ability of pitchers to go deep in games and to stay healthy. Seeing more of the best starters and less of marginal middle relievers is good.
Second, the DH is an extra everyday player. The more everyday players, the more opportunities for some teams to spend more money and thus gain advantages solely through their financial position. This is especially true of DHs, who tend to be well-paid veterans rather than cheap rookies. (Of course, the fact that dumping the DH would reduce payrolls by eliminating well-paid jobs is precisely why the union would never let it happen).
In other words, eliminating the DH would mean better pitching and less economic inequality. It's time for the DH to go.
April 6, 2005
BASEBALL: What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Nothing quite says "Yankee fans" quite like booing Mariano Rivera for blowing the third game of the season.
Who's Rivera's daddy now? Though I must say, Simmons is awful cocky here for a guy whose team is 1-2 and who wrote that Keith "Foulke's gritty October performance vaulted him past Rivera as the premier money reliever in baseball" just a day or so before Foulke got tagged for a walk-off homer by Derek Jeter.
Of course, it's a long season. But any Yankee fan tempted to boo Rivera should contemplate how all those banners got there the past 9 years.
BASEBALL: Omens of Spring
With real games being played, we're just a day or two from completely forgetting spring performances. And mostly just as well, despite the fact that some managers still determine jobs based on spring stats.
But there could, nonetheless, be good news there for some sluggers:
Could David Ortiz be in for even a bigger year than the monster season he had in 2004? It wouldn't come as a shock to number-cruncher John Dewan. The Stats Inc. researcher says you normally can't put any stock in spring training numbers, but there is a possible exception.
I didn't see the original Dewan article - was it on ESPN? Personally, I expect a step back for Ortiz, but I am very bullish on Andruw Jones this year, just as many people are despairing that he will ever have the year.
Erik Siegrist over at Baseball Prospectus (subscription-only) has a more detailed list of spring's winners and losers.
April 5, 2005
BASEBALL: Heilman's Chance
Looks increasingly like Aaron Heilman may end up taking Kris Benson's slot in the rotation for the next few weeks (although for Saturday he's unavailable), as the Mets' hopes for ever putting the "on paper" 2005 Mets on the field grow dimmer. In December 2003, I looked at the prospects for guys who get pounded as badly as Heilman as rookies. Me, I'd still give Jae Seo the shot.
April 4, 2005
BASEBALL: Did You Know . . .
(The bad news: that's just against the Mets).
All that and more at David Pinto's new Retrosheet-powered pitcher database, which stretches back to 1974. Mets fans will particularly enjoy this excerpt, the 50-start stretch wherein Dwight Gooden went 37-5 with a 1.38 ERA, struck out 8.24 batters per start, and tossed shutouts in almost a quarter of his starts. I can remember talk that Gooden was "babied" at the time, but looking back it's unbelievable the workload he carried for such a young pitcher: over a year and a half he completed half his starts and averaged more than 8 innings a start.
BASEBALL: Lightenberg For A Song
With today's bullpen implosion, perhaps the first of many (although I wouldn't have expected Looper to be the culprit), I thought it might be worthwhile to wrap up a post I'd started and not finished this morning . . . I was very disappointed to see the Blue Jays release Kerry Ligtenberg last week. We hear a lot of talk among analysts about how important it is to get decent relief pitchers for a song these days. Well, the Jays are eating Ligtenberg's $2.5 million contract; anybody else can have him for the league minimum. A team like the Mets, desperate to shore up their bullpen, ought to jump on Ligtenberg with both feet.
Entering last season, Ligtenberg was one of baseball's more reliable relievers, with a 3.06 career ERA since 1997 and four straight years of 52 or more appearances since missing 1999 to injury. Let's look at Ligtenberg's core performance numbers last season, compared to his career:
UIBB/9 is unintentional walks/9 IP. As you can easily see, Ligtenberg was basically the same pitcher as ever last season, notching a slightly lower strikeout rate but otherwise doing all the same old things. So why did he get the boot? Well, you know where this is going: balls in play. It wasn't that the balls in play against him were hit particularly hard; according to the Hardball Times, Ligtenberg's LD% - the percent of balls in play that were line drives - was .152 compared to an AL average of .177. His Fielding Independent Pitching ERA was 4.39, and his DIPS ERA was 3.77.
So how did Ligtenberg end up with a 6.38 ERA and a pink slip? Four things:
*A rough calculation indicates that the batting average on balls in play against Ligtenberg shot up from .284 to .386 (I'd use the more sophisticated comparisons done by Jay Jaffe and the Hardball Times guys, but I needed to be able to compare to the 1997-2003 edition of Ligtenberg). That could easily be bad luck and bad defense at work, and it goes a long way to explaining why his H/9 jumped from 7.40 to 11.95.
*The percentage of balls in play against Ligtenberg going for doubles rose from 5.3% to 8.5%. That can also be partly explained by the Blue Jays' outfield defense, although it's possible that some of it is also Ligtenberg getting hit harder. Still, you don't expect to see a guy getting smacked for a lot more doubles if he's surrendering the same old number of fly balls and home runs and has a good record allowing line drives.
*The number of GIDP against Ligtenberg dropped from 1 per 43 at bats to 1 per 189 at bats. This may well be attributable to the defense, in combination with a slightly elevated number of stolen bases.
*His rate of intentional walks doubled, from 0.61/9 IP to 1.15/9 IP. As I've noted before, intentional walks tend to be an occupational hazard of middle relief work, and Ligtenberg got stuck with an awful lot of them last season. The intentional passes were solely responsible for the rise in his walk rate, and it's not his fault.
Anyway, even if you accept that Ligtenberg was somewhat responsible for his poor performance last season, there was a reason:
Health-wise, Ligtenberg says there's no lingering effects from the inflammation in his left hip that pretty much crippled his season last year when he was 1-6 with a 6.38 ERA.
Of course, he's going to say that. And maybe he'll have another rotten year this year, or have injury troubles, if someone gives him a shot. But I wouldn't be even mildly surprised if he threw 60 appearances with an ERA around 3.00. Wouldn't you rather see him do that for the Mets than for the Braves?
BASEBALL: Pumped, But Not Up
We've all had a good laugh, and deservedly so, at the expense of Alex Sanchez, the first player to (apparently) get caught using steroids. Apparently it was easier for the Tampa Bay speed merchant to take steroids than take a pitch. As my older brother put it, "We can only guess how many of Sanchez's two home runs might have been the result of steroids... " Ex-teammate Brandon Inge:
He's the farthest guy from testing positive that I ever thought would happen . . . You'd think a red flag would go up in someone's mind. I can't believe it. When I heard his name, I thought it was a joke. You don't need steroids to bunt like he does. Actually, I'd think he'd be taking the opposite of steroids.
That said, the idea of a speedy guy taking steroids isn't that far-fetched; if you think about it for a few minutes, the name "Ben Johnson" may come to mind.
Of course, there's still Inge's other point:
I didn't think anyone would test positive. Everyone had enough notice, I mean they've been talking about it since midseason of last year.
Yes, Sanchez is apparently an idiot.
BASEBALL: See The Ball, Miss The Ball
I was forced to watch the Yankees-Red Sox game tonight on the YES Network, which meant choking down the usual Hated Yankees propaganda along with the game. But there was one point that Paul O'Neill made that, while familiar enough in some respects, I hadn't really thought of this particular way before. O'Neill - who freely admits that he couldn't hit Randy Johnson at all - was explaining that, because of Johnson's height, long arms and sidearm delivery, his release point is way further behind a lefthanded hitter's back than most lefthanded pitchers. The particular problem this causes is that a lefthanded hitter, just to see the ball at its release, has to turn to look more towards the first base side than usual - thus opening up his hips and effectively bailing out on the pitch from the moment it is released.
Of course, not all lefthanded hitters have been helpless against Johnson - the Yankee broadcasters noted Don Mattingly as a guy who hit for a good average against him, albeit mainly before Johnson had really mastered his command - but Johnson's unusual release point does start them out in a terrible hole even before you start to talk about his velocity.
April 2, 2005
BASEBALL: Sweating the Small Stuff
I haven't been thrilled with some of the Mets' smaller moves lately. On the one hand, it was a good sign that the team didn't hang on to Joe McEwing or Andres Galarraga out of sentiment. On the other hand, you have the team signing Kelly Stinnett, only to release him three days later on discovering that he was hurt. Then there's the latest, dealing Matt Ginter to the Tigers for Steve Colyer. Ginter's nothing special, and I'm sure he's probably out of options (whereas Colyer is headed to Norfolk), but Ginter was at times a useful swing man, and Colyer thus far has shown no indication that he can throw strikes. And Benji Gil . . . I guess he can hit at AAA, but really.
April 1, 2005
BASEBALL: NL EWSL Standings
As you can see below, I've finished my EWSL (Established Win Shares Levels) review of the National League. As I did with the AL (the reasoning is explained here), I'll now wrap the review by adjusting the team win totals upward to get enough wins (1296, for a 16-team league) to get to .500, i.e., 81 wins per team.
Specifically, EWSL produces enough Win Shares for 73.6 wins per NL team in 2005 before applying the age adjustment, and 71.2 wins (almost exactly the same as the AL) after. (Note also that I'm using the half-season-of-Bonds figures for the Giants). If we project those totals upwards proportionally across teams, what do the age-adjusted EWSL standings look like?
These, like the AL standings, mostly look right to me (other than the Braves), much as I'd like to be more optimistic about the Mets. Boy, these would be some pennant races, huh? Two divisions decided by one, and the Phillies beat the Cubs for the Wild Card. And with the adjustments we now see the strength of the NL East, with no losing teams in the division.
Let's also stack up how the age adjustments affect various teams. Here's a table showing the net age adjustment to each team's record, with 100 being a team with no adjustments, higher being a team that was adjusted updward, etc.; in short, the teams most likely to have young, improving talent are at the top, the teams that depend most on declining older players are at the bottom (although given the nature of the method, pure rookies aren't included):
You'll see there's nobody in the NL who gains as much as the Twins, who were +11%, but only the Giants are anywhere near the age of the Red Sox and Yankees (they'd be slightly worse, at 87, if I rated Bonds on a full season, but still not as old as the top two AL teams). On average, NL teams lost less to the age adjustment (96.7) than AL teams (95.3). Lastly, the non-age-adjusted standings:
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BASEBALL: 2005 NL Central EWSL Report
We come, at long last, to the sixth and final installment of my 2005 EWSL review (Established Win Shares Levels are explained here, the AL East EWSL report is here, the AL West EWSL report is here, the AL Central EWSL report is here, the AL EWSL standings are here, the NL East EWSL report is here, and the NL West EWSL report is here). Again, recall that the 23-man rosters used here will slightly depress the team win totals: as I demonstrated with the AL standings, the total EWSL for the league requires rounding up by about 7-10 wins per team. Now that we have all the NL teams, I can run a similarly adjusted standings table soon.
St. Louis Cardinals
RAW EWSL: 261.83 (87 Wins)
My age adjustments, based on last year's experience across all major leaguers who were rated on EWSL entering 2004, project a 37% improvement for 25-year-old players. Of course, in last year's sample there weren't any 25-year-old hitters whose Established Performance Level was .337/.644/.420, leading to EWSL of 39. (This assumes the truth of Pujols' reported age, a subject I won't revisit here). However, if you look historically at Pujols' most-comparable players, you'll see that the guys at the top took a small step backwards at age 25 - DiMaggio, Foxx, Vlad Guerrero (Ted Williams was in the military). On the other hand, two of his ten comps, Foxx and Joe Medwick, won the Triple Crown at 25, Frank Robinson won the MVP, and Aaron and Joe D won the batting title, so I wouldn't be losing much sleep. Just saying that 53 Win Shares is a bit much of an improvement for a guy already performing at Pujols' elevated level.
(Of course, it's not just that DiMaggio is the most similar player to Pujols; what's more impressive is that for age 21-23, the most similar player to DiMaggio is Pujols. Think about that.)
Speaking of comparables, they also provide a caution on Jim Edmonds, who hits the magic 35 this year. I ran a quick weighted average, and Edmonds' comps, on average, aged OK at 35, sliding from .291/.537/386 to .287/.499/.365, about a net 7% dropoff, albeit with a severe drop in playing time, from 462 at bats to 310. But even the good performance is largely the doing of Ellis Burks batting .344 at 35; of the 8 usable comps (Wally Berger and Hack Wilson retired after age 34), three (Tim Salmon, Larry Doby and Mo Vaughn) wiped out completely, ending Doby's and Vaughn's careers and possibly Salmon's, two others (Fred Lynn and David Justice, both in some sense genuinely similar players) dropped off sharply, Lynn from .287/.499/.371 to .253/.487/.320, Justice from .286/.584/.377 to .241/.430/.333. I can't tell you what will happen with Edmonds, but he's part of a larger issue, masked to some extent in EWSL by Pujols, of age creeping up on the Cardinal lineup. (I guess if you're a fourth outfielder - or a fifth, or sixth - you have to be happy backing up a starting three of Edmonds, Walker and Sanders.)
Staying on the age thing, do we also need a new model for the aging process for .300 hitters with modest supporting skills? Grudzielanek, like Joe Randa and Mark Loretta, has aged surprisingly well. Then again, there's Jeff Cirillo.
RAW EWSL: 231.17 (77 Wins)
Obviously, Prior could easily surpass 15 Win Shares, but he could fall short as well; this is a fairly reasonable estimate in between. Zambrano, on the other hand, I suspect peaked last year, although if he can maintain something close to that peak for a few years, that's a heck of a pitcher.
Basically, the Cubs are behind the Cards because they lack depth - Dempster's got an ugly recent track record, the bullpen's a bit shallow, and there's really no competent left fielder on hand unless Dubois really seizes the job and cranks out 25-30 homers. The ifs can come true, there are just more of them than with St. Louis, where the ifs are all about avoiding declines rather than hoping things will happen that haven't happened before.
RAW EWSL: 186.17 (62 Wins)
The Astros are both overrated here (since I don't account for Berkman's knee injury at all) and underrated (since Lane, a solid-looking player, is valued as if he's a bench jockey). On the whole, I'd lean to the latter (I can't help but think they'll get more than 7 WS out of Pettitte), but this will nonetheless be a sad, sad season in Houston, as the aging of Bagwell and Biggio grows more urgent while the loss of Beltran, Kent and Wade Miller makes itself felt. By mid-season, it should be clear that an era has ended.
Yes, the Astros are reportedly moving Biggio back to second, although that doesn't affect the calculations here, since either way the alternative is a raw rookie, Taveras or Burke. In the abstract, the move makes sense if Biggio can presumably handle second no worse than his outfield play, which was poor in center, and his bat is better suited to the middle infield at this stage. In practice, though, all that matters is Taveras vs. Burke, since those are the options. Unless Biggio is being shopped to a contender later in the year, that is.
RAW EWSL: 195.00 (65 Wins)
Speaking of sad, what a collection of broken dreams and disappointments make up the Reds' starting rotation. . . When you build your offense around the longball and lard up your pitchint staff with guys who see more gophers than Bill Murray in Caddyshack, you've pretty much designed a team that's equally ill-suited to any ballpark.
Looking at Dunn, I wonder: would he, and other big NL sluggers, have lower WS totals if they played in the AL, even if they performed in the same way? The DH means more offense across lineups and thus reduces the value of any given hitter (i.e., the offensive pie is bigger when you replace Al Leiter with Frank Thomas, so each slice is smaller).
RAW EWSL: 172.17 (57 Wins)
The Buccos have the benefit of a stable starting rotation and a deep bullpen, which ought to count for something. Fifth place is what it counts for, when your most accomplished player is Jack Wilson. You gotta have stars, no matter what your depth and baalance is.
Yes, I know they sent Grieve down to AAA, but there wasn't another established player worth rating in his place. I do think he should be able to eke out a Dave Magadan-like second career as a pinch hitter who's a tough out, even absent power, speed or defensive abilities.
RAW EWSL: 145.83 (49 Wins)
The less said by me about this team the better; I want to believe the Brewers are turning things around, but clearly this roster does not yet contain personnel capable of doing that. I'd expect Sheets to do better than this, but the point here is that last year's performance is not yet his established level. And after Sheets, the deluge.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:24 AM | Baseball 2005 | Baseball Studies | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
March 31, 2005
BASEBALL: Mets in the Central
Here's one thing I noticed in pulling together my NL Central report. If you're not keeping score at home, the list of former Mets presently employed in the NL Central includes the following:
March 29, 2005
BASEBALL: 2005 NL West EWSL Report
Part Five of my 2005 EWSL review (Established Win Shares Levels are explained here, the AL East EWSL report is here, the AL West EWSL report is here, the AL Central EWSL report is here, the AL EWSL standings are here, and the NL East EWSL report is here). Again, recall that the 23-man rosters used here will slightly depress the team win totals: as I demonstrated with the AL standings, the total EWSL for the league requires rounding up by about 7-10 wins per team.
San Diego Padres
RAW EWSL: 235.33 (78 Wins)
This is a deceptively old team, but with the opening in the West created by the Bonds injury, they're well-positioned to make a run. The biggest question marks heading into the season are at the head of the rotation: can Jake Peavy pitch at something like last year's level for a full season's workload? (An ERA of 3.27 rather than his major-league-leading 2.27 would be fine if he can carry 220 innings; striking out better than a batter per inning was a good sign). And does Woody Williams still have some gas in his tank?
EWSL has Khalil Greene with an age-adjusted 29 Win Shares, which would be good for the MVP if he was in the AL (where nobody rates at over 28). This suggests to me that the age adjustments are overrating guys who play everyday at his age, but we'll see. If Greene can take a step forward with the bat and continue to dish out great glove work, he could come close to that.
San Francisco Giants
With 1/2 Season of Bonds
Normally, the absence of any injury adjustments in EWSL isn't a big deal. Maybe Steve Trachsel will be back at the All-Star Break, but I didn't list him, whereas I listed guys who are out for April. But the combination of Bonds' huge impact and the level of uncertainty as to when he'll return creates havoc - the whole division turns on him. The 1/2 season Bonds rating - which also includes half a season of rookie Todd Linden - is probably the best guide.
I had expected the age adjustments to go through the Giants' lineup like Sherman through Georgia, but actually the really gruesome adjustments are for the 33 and 35 year olds, and most of these guys have already crossed that bridge.
Deivi Cruz may be overrated here - he shouldn't get that much playing time - but then, the age of Vizquel and Durham and Alfonzo could keep him busy.
Of course, the longer Bonds is out, the fewer big games the Giants will play, and the better Benitez will be . . . the Giants really need Lowry and Williams to develop (although Williams has had a crummy spring and nearly lost his job) to offset the age and mediocrity of Rueter and Tomko. Then again, it's always been mysterious how Rueter wins games year in and year out, but he keeps on going.
Los Angeles Dodgers
RAW EWSL: 211.83 (71 Wins)
The Dodgers have a sort of slapped-together look, neither young nor old, no real stars but Gagne, but they should at least be playing meaningful games into late August or September. A look at the lineup tells you they really needed to re-sign Beltre, but that's not exactly news; it goes double when his replacement is a glove-first shortstop who's unlikely to handle Dodger Stadium well. I've said it before, but this could still be the year for Hee Seop Choi . . . Having Alvarez and Dessens on hand will be necessary with Erickson and possibly (later in the season) the unreliable Edwin Jackson taking their shots at the fifth starter job. Perez is probably the actual staff ace, unless Penny gets 100% healthy, but nobody seems to like to admit that.
The Dodgers also have in camp Norihiro Nakamura, who almost signed with the Mets a few years back and who still needs to be called "Chief."
By the way, the new Bill James Handbook's Win Shares figures are missing career and pre-2004 figures for a number of players who had gaps in their careers - Scott Erickson and Olmedo Saenz, for example, didn't appear in 2003 and are thus listed as if they were rookies in 2004. I had to go back here for their 2002 Win Shares.
RAW EWSL: 174.50 (58 Wins)
Strangely, despite the departure of by far their best player, the D-Backs seem poised to rebound from last year's shipwreck. Like the Dodgers and Padres, this is a team built for adequacy, only just a little less so. Cintron should eat either Counsell's or Clayton's lunch by mid-season.
I could easily have given Snyder the rookie rating, but giving that boost to both him and Hill would have spotted them 18 unearned Win Shares at catcher, and most teams only aspire to that.
RAW EWSL: 125.00 (42 Wins)
EWSL, being a rating based on established major league performance, breaks down in the face of a team with nearly no established players, like the Rockies. Still, the absence of any bankable productive players beyond Helton, Kennedy and Jennings - with the latter two being dependable pitchers but hardly guys you want anchoring a rotation - is a pretty strong indicator of a last-place team, so I'm comfortable with the ultimate position here, notwithstanding the fact that Arizona is the one that lost the 111 games last year.
Helton accounts for just under 25% of the Rox' Raw EWSL, compared to Barry Bonds accounting for 17.5% of the Giants' . . . I could have rated Closser as a rookie, I suppose, but I try to do that only when there's no major league data to go on.
March 28, 2005
BASEBALL: Hauling Down The Jolly Roger
If you look at the schedule, the Bucs were 76-40 and led the second-place Giants by 7.5 games on August 22, but went 14-23 thereafter, including losing their next 7 straight meetings with the Giants, a very efficient way to blow a lead. Only one of those games was decided by one run; the Pirates' pitchers got clobbered, allowing 5.4 runs/game in those meetings, while scoring just 7 runs in 7 games. By September 19, when they won their last meeting with the Giants, the Pirates were 3.5 games back. Corruption? Not that I know of, but it was certainly a dramatic collapse.
March 24, 2005
BASEBALL: Posner on Steroids
7th Circuit judge/author/academic/blogger Richard Posner, in the course of a critique of the War on Drugs:
Oddly, one of the strongest cases for prohibiting drugs is the use of steroids by athletes. The reason is the arms-race character of such use, or in economic terms the existence of an externality. Ordinarily if a person uses a drug that injures his health, he bears the full costs, or at least most of the costs, of the injury. But if an athlete uses steroids to increase his competitive performance, he imposes a cost on his competitors, which in turn may induce them to follow suit and use steroids themselves, provided the expected costs, including health costs, are lower than the expected benefits of being able to compete more effectively. There is no offsetting social benefit from an across-the-board increase in athletes' strength. Football games are no more exciting when linesmen weigh 500 pounds than when they weigh 200 pounds; and baseball would be totally unmanageable if every player could hit every other pitch 1000 feet.
March 23, 2005
BASEBALL: Up, Up and Away!
As baseball fans, we have certain expectations, grounded in experience - our own lifetimes' experience, as well as the collective experience of 130 years of the game's history. Among those expectations are a set of boundaries about how players age: some burn out early, and some bloom late, and some are remarkably consistent. But age comes to all.
Until Barry Bonds.
At any time in the game's history, if you had to identify the everyday player most likely to show dramatic and sustained improvement compared to his prior accomplishments, about the last person you'd pick would be a 35-year-old slugger with a first-ballot Hall of Fame career already behind him. And the fact that Bonds has done precisely that is so fundamentally jarring to our expectations that we'd be talking about him doing something unnatural even if we'd never heard of steroids. You can point to his talent, but plenty of players had the same talents, the same determination, and plenty of players today have access to the same conditioning and equipment. Yet Bonds stands alone, and even if he's out for half or all of 2005, that's why the questions won't go away. More than anything else, even more than Bonds' own prickly personality or the shape of his head, that explains why the steroid debate has come down so hard around Bonds. Because we can't seem to explain Barry Bonds any other way.
How unique are Bonds' accomplishments? There are many ways to measure, and many have tried. But I wanted to get to the heart of the Bonds enigma: not the greatness itself, or even the greatness at an advanced age, but the dramatic improvement at that age compared to his own prior self. The closer you look, the more unique Bonds is.
To measure Bonds' improvement, I set up a study. First, I needed to decide what to study; I focused on comparing Bonds' seasons from age 35 to age 39 (2000-2004) to his career averages as a hitter through age 34. Second, I needed a measuring stick, one that was readily available and wouldn't be distorted by changes in offensive conditions over time (after all, a lot of players' careers look more volatile than they are because the league scoring average has changed over time). I settled on OPS+ (i.e., On Base Plus Slugging - OPS - compared to the league average OPS and adjusted for park effects), which is compiled at Baseball-Reference.com; Bonds has posted the top 3 OPS+ seasons of all time in 2001, 2002 and 2004. OPS itself isn't a perfect metric, but it's a quick and dirty way to estimate offensive value. And through the Similarity Scores charts, you can get a player's OPS+ through age 34; Bonds' was 163, combining a .559 slugging percentage and .409 OBP through 1999, the numbers that got him voted to the All-Century Team and won him three MVP Awards.
Third, I needed a group to compare him to. We know Bonds is unusual, so rather than establish a similar-through-34 control group, I selected a group designed to capture as many players as I could find who had big slugging seasons after age 34; using Baseball-Reference.com's age-based leaders, I picked out every player who finished in the top 10 for a single season at age 35 through age 39, or in the top 10 for their career after that age, in any of four categories: OPS+, Slugging, Home Runs, or Extra Base Hits (the latter to pick up guys from the pre-home-run era). I then went through each season from age 35 to age 39 and divided each player's OPS+ at that age to his own career OPS+ through age 34. To keep fluke small-sample-size seasons out, I limited the study to seasons of 400 at bats or more.
I believe the criteria worked; I came up with 76 players (plus Bonds), including nearly everyone I could think of who had a big year in their late 30s. The 400-at-bat thing knocked out six players who had no seasons between 35 and 39 of that many at bats - John Lowenstein, Johnny Grubb, Bill Dickey, Ed Delahanty, Estel Crabtree, and Bob Thurman. The remaining 70 players collectively gave me 248 seasons to study. Of those:
*159 (64%) were below 100, meaning their OPS+ was lower than their career mark. This is unsurprising; most players that age decline, and for the great ones, the bar is high (Ty Cobb came in below 100 for his age 35 season when he hit .401; for what it's worth, the lowest figures in the study were 49 for Carlton Fisk at age 38 and 52 for Nap Lajoie at 39).
*44 (18%) were between 100 and 109, meaning less than a 10% improvement over career norms.
*19 (8%) were between 110 and 114, for a total of 222 (86%) showing less than a 15% improvement.
Let's look more closely at the 31 seasons (including Bonds) at a 15% or greater improvement:
Wow. Bonds absolutely towers over everyone else in his ability to . . . tower over himself. Was the young Bonds really such an underacheiver that he was leaving historic levels of talent untapped when he batted .336/.677/.458 for what looked like his career best season at age 28? Note that, of the other seven players to clear a 25% improvement in one season, two - Bob Johnson and Phil Weintraub - are marked with a * because those seasons came in 1944 against war-depleted competition (another, Ellis Burks, was a teammate of Bonds when he had his big year in 2000). The things Bonds has done are just not done.
Here's a fact almost as impressive as what's above: while Bonds has topped his career norms by at least 17% five years running, no other player among the other 70 in the study was even able to post five straight seasons above 100. And remember, this is in a study deliberately stacked to include guys who aged well. (Other than Bonds, Gaetti's the only 39-year-old on the chart). Only three players did it four times - Galarraga, Downing, and Edgar Martinez. Six players other than Bonds cleared 110 three times, and five (shown above) cleared 115 twice.
Those three groups have some overlap, amounting to ten players who showed something like a sustained improvement past age 34: Galarraga, Downing, Edgar, Burks, Henrich, Aaron, Molitor, Gaetti, Cy Williams, and Darrell Evans. There are some common threads with these guys: Edgar, Molitor, Burks and to some extent Galarraga had big chunks of their twenties wrecked by injuries, while Henrich was in the military from 30 to 32 (Bonds, by comparison, played less than 140 games only once between 1987 and 1998, and that was the strike season). Downing, Molitor, and Edgar had been switched to DH in their late 30s, Downing having started out catching and Molitor, at second base (even so, Downing's career high OPS+ was at age 28, Molitor's at 30, Edgar's at 32). Cy Williams was a home run hitter who just hadn't done well in the dead ball era; he was 32 in 1920. In other words, the guys with some similarities to Bonds' late-career charge are few and not all that similar. No wonder people think he's doing something unusual.
Read More »
[At some point, I'll try to update this post to include the complete list of the other players in the study]
« Close It
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:21 AM | Baseball 2005 | Baseball Studies | Comments (21) | TrackBack (1)
March 22, 2005
BASEBALL: NL East EWSL Report
Part Four of my 2005 EWSL review (Established Win Shares Levels are explained here, the AL East EWSL report is here, the AL West EWSL report is here, the AL Central EWSL report is here, and the AL EWSL standings are here). Again, recall that the 23-man rosters used here will slightly depress the team win totals: as I demonstrated with the AL standings, the total EWSL for the league requires rounding up by about 7-10 wins per team.
RAW EWSL: 241.17 (80 Wins)
Yeah, you could've knocked me over with a feather: the Marlins in first place? (Just wait until we get lower in the division). When you look at the roster, with solid players all over the lineup and good young starting pitching, it makes a lot more sense, especially when you remember that they are just a year removed from winning it all. Still, there may be a playing time glitch with the outfield - Conine and Aguila can't get that many Win Shares if Cabrera, Pierre and Encarnacion are playing that regularly, and Delgado's arrival means that Cabrera and Conine are done playing first base except in emergencies.
If you looked carefully at the AL, you'd see that the top age-adjusted EWSL for any player was 28 for A-Rod, Mark Teixeira and Adrian Beltre; the steep youth adjustment for a 22-year-old pushes Cabrera ahead of that, and he doesn't even rate as the top player in the NL East (and just wait until we get to Pujols and Bonds).
If you look at Defense Independent Pitching Stats for 2004, one pitcher towers above all others as far as his ERA overstating how well he actually pitched in 2004: Al Leiter, who has returned to the control issues of his youth (now more from excessive nibbling at the corners) while striking out fewer and fewer batters - K/BB of 117/97 last year in 173.2 IP. It's been inspirational watching Leiter squeeze the last drops out of his declining abilities, but the jig should be about up this season.
RAW EWSL: 261.67 (87 Wins)
Probably the real class of the division, and trailing the Marlins only by a hair when EWSL is adjusted for age. Removing Bowa from the picture should improve the Phillies' outlook, although the starting pitching is still highly suspect, and Citizens Bank Park doesn't help that. Seriously, late September, pennant race tied, key series between Florida and Philly - don't you have to pick the Marlins, with the starters they can throw out there?
Rany Jazayerli penned a nice tribute to Abreu on the Baseball Prospectus site (subscription only), although "A Star No One Sees" is a bit dramatic, as few BP readers are likely to be unaware that Abreu is a superstar. He pushed his value to new heights last season by improving the little things - 40 steals in 45 tries, career high in walks, just 5 GIDP in over 700 plate appearances (while batting with enough men on base to drive in 105 runs).
Kenny Lofton is likely to disappoint, so Byrd and Michaels will have opportunities to pick up playing time; Byrd, age 27 and stock at an all-time low, could be a sleeper in some NL fantasy leagues. Polanco has some of the same playing time issues as Conine with the Marlins, but (1) that offsets the fact that Utley is rated only on part-time play and (2) Polanco could get playing time at third if Bell struggles or gets hurt (or if Thome goes down, and Bell slides over to first). Doesn't "Chase Utley" sound like the snooty boyfriend in a John Hughes movie?
RAW EWSL: 206.50 (69 Wins)
Third place? Not likely, but EWSL sees this team as nearly even with the Mets and Braves. I'm not sure this lineup works defensively, but anything they can do to keep Chavez on the bench and Johnson in the lineup will help. Castilla is aging better than expected, although he's still not that good, even with all the RBI he had last year at Colorado. . . If Frank Howard can be the "Capitol Punisher," will Nick Johnson be "the Filibuster"?
New York Mets
RAW EWSL: 204.83 (68 Wins)
On the whole, it's not hard to see, looking player by player, why the Mets have the greatest upside and downside from these figures than any team in the division. The key to the team becoming a legitimate contender is Reyes and Matsui exceeding the numbers above, but they could just as easily be hurt again . . . you'd think Wright should do better, but the age 22 multiplier assumes that players his age are often transitioning from half- to full-season play; 16 Win Shares isn't an unfair expectation for a 22 year old in his first full season, no matter how talented . . . Pedro last year, even in an off year, had the second-highest strikeouts-per-inning of any 32-year-old pitcher in the game's history, higher than Clemens or Ryan at the same age (but behind Hideo Nomo, so maybe that doesn't mean so much).
The teams here are close enough that the Mets would be rated in third last week before downgrading from Trachsel and Phillips to Ishii and Castro, although they'd be behind Philly and Florida if you added two wins for the difference between Minky (10 WS) and Delgado (16). Or so I tell myself, but Delgado does seem a much better candidate to rebound to where he was two or three years ago than Minky.
Bear in mind once again that, where there are questions about players on the end of the bench/bullpen, I err on the side of the more established player; Victor Diaz will also be in the mix, and the bullpen's still unsettled.
RAW EWSL: 208.67 (70 Wins)
"You predicted the Braves to finish last?"
"Well, see, I have this system . . . "
"Must be something wrong with the system."
I should probably add an arbitrary adjustment that starts the Braves at 100 wins regardless of who the players are. But as long as I'm rating them by the same system as everyone else, last place it is, albeit by just a hair behind Washington and the Mets. Everyone gets bad breaks, but the Braves always seem to save theirs for October, so it's always a question of what can go right, not wrong. It's not hard to see how they beat these numbers: Marcus Giles, Hudson and Smoltz stay healthy for a full season. One or two of the bullpen castoffs has the usual 1.80 ERA. Mondesi and Jordan break down but get replaced by Langerhans and Chipper in the corners, and Andy Marte comes up to play third.
Or, they could be the 1965 Yankees.
I didn't realize until just now that Chipper's 33. Time does fly . . . I'll get to this another day, but someone should do a study now that we actually have a fairly large number of examples of starters who became closers and then went back to starting (Derek Lowe, Kelvim Escobar, etc.)
March 20, 2005
BASEBALL: His Head Got Bigger, But . . .
Did Barry Bonds' ex-girlfriend implicate him more deeply in the steroid scandal? Of course, from ESPN's writeup, she doesn't necessarily sound like the most credible witness (disgruntled ex-girlfriends can be like that as witnesses).
This whole thing has just been depressing, even the Bonds part, and that's coming from someone who has no love for Bonds. (I'll have more on the historic uniqueness of Bonds's late-career power surge some time in the next week or two). I'll actually confess I was a bit surprised to see the evidence mounting heavily against Mark McGwire. Yes, I know Big Mac got to be a huge guy and had the big power years in his mid-30s, but (1) he was a guy with a huge frame when he came into the league, and always looked like he'd fill out and (2) after all, you'd expect the home run record to be broken by a guy who broke the rookie home run record. Maybe it was too easy to ingore the warning signs because he already fit the part.
Anyway, nobody involved has covered themselves in glory - this is a story with no heroes - from the players, agents, trainers, owners, league and union executives and dealers who were all either in on it or actively looking the other way, to the reporters and politicians looking to grandstand or use the scandal to settle scores with guys they never liked. And who keeps leaking all this grand jury stuff? Yuck.
BASEBALL: The Missing Submariner
Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald has a long profile today of Byung-Hyun Kim, not that there's any real information about why he hasn't been pitching - his problems increasingly seem to be mental rather than physical:
"It's a mystery. It has us totally befuddled," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "There's no physical problem. I just don't think he's responded to the pressure of playing in Boston and I take responsibility for that." Said Sox manager Terry Francona when asked if the 26-year-old Kim could resurrect his career: "I think he can do it. I'm not sure he wants to do it here."
Yet, the results have clearly been physical:
"He was a prodigious worker. In fact, it was an issue with us," [Joe] Garagiola [Jr.] said. "Kim would throw all the time. We'd finish a game and you'd hear this THUMP, thump, thump and he would be throwing in the cage." This spring, finally, Red Sox officials have had success in getting Kim to back off his workouts. Sox officials believe his fastball touched 90-91 mph in side sessions before exhibition games began, but Kim was clocked between 84-86 mph in the 2 2/3 innings he pitched prior to coming down with the flu. The reason for the drop in velocity? That, too, remains a mystery. Kim is healthy. He is 26. But some Sox officials believe that the demands of pitching in a baseball-obsessed town like Boston has completely overwhelmed the pitcher, whom most everyone believes is sensitive, delicate, even fragile.
[B]y the middle of last season, Kim was a lost cause. His velocity was down considerably -- Sox officials attribute this largely to Kim's unhappiness -- and his desire to play in Boston was destroyed. Kim went 5-6 with a 5.34 ERA at Triple-A Pawtucket and finished 2-1 with a 6.23 ERA for the Sox, and there wasn't a team in baseball that would touch him and the balance of his $10 million contract over the winter.
For what it's worth, Kim returned to pitch a single perfect inning and strike out one today against the Pirates. It's been reported that the Mets are interested in Kim, and of course I've always been a huge fan of sidearmers as well as picking up guys who have had great K numbers, decent control, and are still young and healthy. That said, the Sox are looking for someone to eat Kim's contract, and that could be tough to take, plus the Mets aren't really a low-pressure environment, although they do have a number of other players from Asia, including the Korean Jae Seo if he ever makes the roster. Perhaps more importantly, there's a huge Korean community in Queens, centered in Flushing (large sections of which look like an Asian city), and perhaps Kim would feel more at home here and get to know more people outside of the game.
"He was at 84 miles an hour," said one major league scout. "I thought my [radar] gun was stuck. He might have touched 85. He's just a shadow of the pitcher he was in Arizona. This is a guy who threw in the 90s when he was in Arizona, and his slider had incredible movement. Now, his slider is flat."
March 19, 2005
BASEBALL: Alomar's Sunset
A sad end to a great career - though in some ways less sad than if he'd played this year in Tampa and played badly - as Roberto Alomar hung up his spikes today. David Pinto, as always, has perspective on Alomar's career, which after five years' time to forget the last few seasons will yet again be remembered as an easy choice for Cooperstown, a lifetime .300 hitter who was, over the twelve years of his peak (1991-2001) the total package of average, power, speed, patience, good defense at a key position, and clutch hits in the postseason, perhaps most memorably his home run in the 12th inning of the deciding Game Four of the 1996 ALCS.
The Mets announcers today were, predictably, ripping Alomar, noting that one reason the Mets got rid of him may have been to avoid having his poor work habits rub off on Jose Reyes, and speculating that Alomar's decline may have stemmed from a loss of competitive drive. Personally, I suspect that Alomar may not have been much of a conditioning fanatic, and that may have contributed to his sudden decline as well as the injuries that finished him.
Or not; maybe there was nothing he could have done. While I defended the Alomar deal at the time, one of the most (almost accidentally) prescient things I've ever written was this, from my 2002 Mets preview column:
Warning: Baseball-Reference.com lists the most similar player to Alomar at the same age as Robin Yount, with Ryne Sandberg third and Joe Morgan (probably the player, along with Jackie Robinson, most genuinely similar to Alomar's talents) seventh. Yount, the AL MVP at 33, lost 71 points off his batting average at 34 and was never again an above-average player. Morgan went from .288, 22 homers, 113 runs and 49 steals to .236, 13 HR, 68 R and 19 SB, and never again scored more than 72 runs in a season, only hitting above .250 one more time. Sandberg dropped from 26 homers to 9, lost 100 points off his slugging average, and was never a star again. Joe Torre is also on the statistical list and fell off sharply at 34, but the fact that the Similarity Scores system thinks Joe Torre, the second-slowest man in baseball in his prime (ahem, Rusty) was similar to Robbie Alomar shows why you can't take it too literally. The news isn't all bad: Frankie Frisch tailed off slowly, Robinson started missing games but stayed productive, and Charlie Gehringer at 34 batted .371 and won the MVP Award. Similarity Scores aren't destiny; all they do is give us the cautions of history. History says that even players as good as Alomar - including several players with similar talents - can just lose it overnight at his age.
(You can check out those comparables now here and their remaining career totals compared to Alomar here; Yount and Sandberg turned out to be eerily good guides to the way Alomar's career would play out).
BASEBALL: Roto Team 2005
For those of you who are interested to see where I put my money in my 2005 Rotisserie draft, held last Saturday (March 12), here's the roster - AL league, traditional roto rules (4x4, 12 teams, $260 for 23 slots, 10 reserves):
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The first striking thing here is, no $1 players; that's gotta be a first. This team is a throwback, and a break from my usual patterns, in spending big money - too much money, really - on a primo closer and base thief. Still, there are only two players in the AL who stole more than 36 bases last year, and the other one batted .244 last season. (Foulke was the league's most expensive closer, and I regretted getting him when guys with a shot at a piece of the closer job elsewhere started going for low single digits, like Howry at $2, Jorge Julio at $3 and Jason Frasor at $1.
You can see my panic in the starting pitching column, especially the money I spent on Lilly, my first starter. I can't entirely bank on the five guys I have, so it will be a big help if Chen comes through or Felix Hernandez gets a major league look this year. I'm also heavily invested in the A's dealing Eric Byrnes to create space for Thomas and/or Johnson somewhere in the OF/1B/DH rotation, and on Baldelli getting back in enough time to chip in some value in the second half. I'm actually not that high on Beltre, but he is young and a heck of a hitter, and he'll be worth that price if he comes within 60 points of last year's .334 average. As for Bartlett, his low SB% in 2003 and dropoff in attempts last season don't bode well for him as a big stolen base threat, but at that price he's worth the hope that he'll win the everyday job, notwithstanding a Tom Kelly-inspired organizational tendency to break in youngsters very slowly and in stages.
I didn't set out to have seven Blue Jays and four A's; with Toronto, that's just where the opportunities were. Hudson is the only returning player from last year's draft (although I've often owned Howry, Menechino, and Carter before), and he's the very picture of the kind of player you want in a roto draft - still young, not too expensive, safe everyday job, some power, some speed, and thus contribution in all categories and the hope of maybe busting out with a big improvement in one or more of them.
In the end, even with a few dollars' overspending here and there, I like most of my players, but I'm less confident that they hang together well as a team; batting average and Wins in particular could be a problem. While I like Bonderman's upside a lot, his team's not that good, and the same goes for Lilly. As for Escobar, we'll soon enough find out where his ceiling is - either 2004 was the setup for a career year, or it was the career year.
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BASEBALL: Stirrup The Drink
The professional sterility of the full length baseball pant, and the occasional monotone bobby-sock/knickers look of J.T. Snow and a handful of others, are draining the cheer and boyish charm out of the aesthetics of the game. . . Stirrups are as important to the game as a dark blue-clad umpire, a white-chalked field, a dark-green fence, or the team logo on the cap's crown.
Speaking of boyish charm, one of the charms of spring training is some of the amateurish fields on which the games are played; I was watching a Yankees-Indians highlight today from Winter Haven and Tino Martinez hit a home run that basically landed in the neighbor's yard, as a large house was right over the back of the stands.
BASEBALL: Not Another Kaz Deal!
First, the Mets brought in Kaz Matsui. I'm pretty optimistic about Matsui this season, but he last season was a mild disappointment with the bat and a catastrophe with the glove (despite a glove-wizard reputation in Japan) before his season was cut short by injury.
Then, they dealt Scott Kazmir, still thought by many to be a potential future rotation ace, for Victor Zambrano, who promptly went down with an injury.
Now, the Mets are pursuing Kaz Ishii, apparently offering in return to deal Jason Phillips while his stock is down.
This would be a bad deal coming and going. Phillips' lousy season last year disabused anyone of the idea that he's any kind of star-caliber player, but I still think he can hit enough to provide decent insurance on the aging Mike Piazza behind the plate and, in a pinch, the injury-prone Doug Minky at first. Piazza is almost a certainty at this juncture to spend a 2- or 3-week stretch on the DL, and possibly months; if Phillips is dealt (with the team having dumped its top catching prospect in the Kris Benson deal), the Mets' only option will be lifetime .212 hitter Ramon Castro, who batted .135 last season.
Phillips is hardly untouchable, though, and dealing him for something resembling a productive rotation starter would be worthwhile. Despite the Dodgers' desperation to land a catcher, Ishii is not that guy; the huge dropoff in his strikeout rate last season (from 8.57 to 5.18 K/9) eliminated the advantage that had offset his dismal control (career rate of 5.80 BB/9). With the Mets' defense shaping up to possibly be outstanding this season, I'd rather give anothers shot to with Jae Seo, who will at least throw strikes and take his chances with the defense.
UPDATE: Rob at 6-4-2 notes that "Phillips made league minimum last year, while Ishii will make $3.23M in 2005, and is owed $5.4M overall with a 2006 buyout clause." The news just gets better and better . . .
SECOND UPDATE: Shea Hot Corner has a roundup of reactions from other Mets blogs, a disturbing number of which seem to like this train wreck of a deal. If I actually thought Ishii would be a league-average-ERA innings-eater, I'd agree; I think he's more likely to have an ERA that would make Chan Ho Park cringe. And Rob from 6-4-2 notes in the comments that the Dodgers may be eating some of Ishii's contract, although frankly I'd rather they just ate Ishii.
March 18, 2005
BASEBALL: AL Predicted Standings
If you've followed my EWSL reports thus far (Established Win Shares Levels are explained here, the AL East EWSL report is here, and the AL West EWSL report is here, and the AL Central EWSL report is here), you'll notice that the total wins for the American League's 14 teams don't add up to 1134, i.e., 81 wins per team. Assuming for the sake of argument that the AL finishes with a .500 record in interleague play, however, 1134 wins have to come from somewhere. That's not necessarily a flaw in the system; I rate 23 players per team, but each team will get a few wins from the end of the bench and a few more from new arrivals (I don't have figures handy but if I recall correctly the average team uses something like 35-40 players a year). There's also a natural process at work: if the established players in the league were producing exactly what they did last year, there would be no room for the turnover in personnel - new arrivals, old players departing - that is a constant in the game.
Specifically, EWSL produces enough Win Shares for 74.7 wins per AL team in 2005 before applying the age adjustment, and 71.2 wins after. That does seem low to me, but there you have it. If we project those totals upwards proportionally across teams - a debatable assumption, I know, but an unavoidable one if we're trying to keep the system essentially objective - what do the age-adjusted EWSL standings look like?
For the most part, that looks just about right to me, and naturally it looks a lot like last year's standings. In general, I would expect the Twins and Indians to be most likely to exceed these records, and maybe the Tigers, although it's debatable at whose expense (although a few wrong turns could lead the Royals to a 110 losses).
Let's also stack up how the age adjustments affect various teams. Here's a table showing the net age adjustment to each team's record, with 100 being a team with no adjustments, higher being a team that was adjusted updward, etc.; in short, the teams most likely to have young, improving talent are at the top, the teams that depend most on declining older players are at the bottom (although given the nature of the method, pure rookies aren't included):
Of course, it's probably not a coincidence that the teams most likely to see decline from their established talent are the teams with the most of it, and it's no surprise that the overall trend is for the league's established players to decline. For completeness, here are the standings you'd get from EWSL if you don't apply the age adjustment:
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BASEBALL: Fenway's Other Monster
Dick Radatz has died, in a fall down stairs at his home. "The Monster," a Fenway legend in the early 60s and more recently a radio personality on WEEI, was 67. Radatz wasn't a man given to restraint, either on the mound, in his personal life (as the obit notes, he weighed around 400 pounds at times and was a heavy smoker), or on the air.
There are many candidates for "first modern reliever," depending how you draw the line, but other than Ryne Duren, who was less durable and whose success was shorter-lived, Radatz, a tremendous workhorse, was the first reliever to put up modern-day strikeout numbers over a period of years - he struck out 627 batters in 557.1 IP in just over four years in Boston, with a high of 181 in 1964 - and one of the first star-quality flamethrowers to make a career in the bullpen. R.I.P.
UPDATE: Rich Lederer has more. Also, check the comments here re: Radatz vs. Mickey Mantle.
March 17, 2005
BASEBALL: Fear Leads To Anger
BASEBALL: Two Sickels
You should definitely be reading John Sickels' blog community Minor League Ball (one of many blogs I myself don't read nearly frequently enough). Sickels is pretty much Mister Minor Leagues. Here's Sickels doing what he does best, and summarizing his rankings of which are baseball's most star-studded farm systems. And here he discusses the comps to Mark Prior at the same age (be very afraid!).
BASEBALL: Trachsel of My Tears
The news just gets worse for the Mets, as Steve Trachsel is now likely out for the year. David Pinto thinks Trachsel "shouldn't be difficult to replace," but I disagree. You'll recall that, when Trachsel first came to the Mets, he started in an awful funk, 1-6 with an 8.24 ERA in 39.1 innings in his first 8 starts in 2001, leading to a brief demotion to Norfolk. But since his return in June 2001, Trachsel has been everything you could ask for from a pitcher of his unspectacular pedigree: in 116 starts over more than 3 1/2 years, he's 49-41 (.544, vs. 219-317, .409 for the rest of the team sine June 8, 2001), with a 3.66 ERA in 715.1 IP, almost never missing a start. He's averaged 8.67 H/9, 1.03 HR/9, 3.16 BB/9, and 5.65 K/9 over that span. Compare that to 20-28, 4.03 for Glavine as a Met; the next time Benson or Zambrano has an ERA below 3.80 in more than 100 innings will be a first. Even Pedro's ERA was higher last year than 3.66, albeit in Fenway. And that production has come relatively cheap, with the Mets paying just $3.8 million per year, a pittance compared to many other contracts out there for far less successful and effective pitchers. Trachsel's been durable and relatively cheap for some time now. Guys like that don't grow on trees; ask Texas or Kansas City or Cincinnati.
It's true enough that Traschel benefits from Shea Stadium, and that his declining strikeout rates and good luck on balls in play marked him anyway as a guy likely to decline this year, but we shouldn't underestimate what Trachsel has meant to the Mets the past four years.
March 16, 2005
BASEBALL: Platoon The Kid!
I know I'm something of a broken record on this point, having urged that the aging and injury-prone Cliff Floyd and the declining Rafael Palmeiro could both benefit from a platoon arrangement to keep them fresh and healthy and alleviate their growing ineptitude against lefthanded pitching. But I've got one more candidate for a platoon: Ken Griffey. It'd be a shame to move Griffey to an AL team to DH, losing the value of his glove, but something has to be done to try to keep him healthy. And the splits are getting more and more pronounced:
The same problem arises as with Floyd: how do you justify making a guy with that salary a platoon player? Well, you accept that this is the best way to use him. And how do you tell a guy with a big ego that he's now a platoon player? Sell it to him as regular rest, I guess, although for a guy who thought he was chasing Hank Aaron for much of his career, that'd be hard to take.
BASEBALL: So, How Do I Look?
BASEBALL: 2005 AL Central EWSL Report
Part Three of my 2005 EWSL review (Established Win Shares Levels are explained here, the AL East EWSL report is here, and the AL West EWSL report is here). Again, recall that the 23-man rosters used here will slightly depress the team win total.
RAW EWSL: 189.5 (63 Wins)
Yes, the team with the most youth-driven upside in the division is also the the three-time defending champs, as the Twins continually reinvent themselves. As with last year's Rangers, EWSL is almost certainly lowballing Mauer and Morneau by rating them on partial season totals, although in Mauer's case that could yet be all the Twins get if his knees won't hold up to catching every day. Obviously, getting more than 1 WS worth of production out of Joe Mays would be a big plus as well, but EWSL reminds us that this would require him to exceed what he's been able to give the Twins in recent years.
Juan Castro and a couple of other non-hitters are in the infield mix, with some sources giving the 33-year-old Castro the inside track at shortstop. I'm treating Restovich as a rookie since he's never had 60 at bats in a season.
Chicago White Sox
RAW EWSL: 215.5 (72 Wins)
The White Sox' primary problem, with the decline of Frank Thomas into an injury-prone .270 hitter, is a lack of star power - this is a fairly well-balanced roster, but teams with Mark Buehrle or Juan Uribe or Scott Podsednik as their best player do not win championships. Of course, like the rest of the division, these guys are built to take on the Twins, not the Yankees.
You tell me which one you would call the White Sox' third starter - but at least Garland is young and still could show the improvement EWSL projects . . . Willie Harris probably won't be the odd man out for too long, since he can play second and the outfield.
RAW EWSL: 174.33 (58 Wins)
The Indians are rated pretty weakly here, but that's a consequence of holes in the pitching staff and at shortstop (you could add 3 or 4 wins to the total by rating Alex Cora instead of Peralta). The outfield and middle infield mixes still look fluid, and also include Cora and Brandon Phillips on the infield side. The bullpen has a titular closer in Wickman, but I wouldn't bet on him holding the job, given his age, injuries, conditioning, recent performance and an abundance of qualified alternatives.
Gonzalez, of course, is ailing again, which is why it's futile to list him as the starter.
Before you give up on Sabathia, recall that he's two years younger than Ben Sheets, who just finally had his big breakthrough last year.
RAW EWSL: 193.83 (65 Wins)
The Tigers, like an undersea mountain, look like they are about to peak without ever breaking sea level. This should be around a .500 team, especially if Bonderman has the big breakout season a lot of people are expecting from him. They're also reportedly trying to deal Urbina for something of more immediate use than a second closer.
EWSL docks the Tigers one win for cutting Alex Sanchez, which tentatively replaces him on the roster with Nook Logan. While the move may turn out to be for the best - Sanchez wasn't really helping the cause, given his poor defense and atrocious percentage base thieving - it definitely makes the Tigers lineup, in which Logan and Chris Monroe are battling for the center field job, a little less of a proven commodity.
Kansas City Royals
RAW EWSL: 126.2 (42 Wins)
Gack. The Royals promise to make the mediocre teams that constitute the middle class of the AL Central look a whole lot better. What a dismal team, even compared to the hopes with which they entered 2004. 52 wins is not a fair projection, but then, EWSL recognizes that a lot of things have to go right for the first time just to get this team to 100 losses.
Then there's nearly the team's sole cause for optimism, Zack Greinke, who Jay Jaffe and Studes have identified as a guy who could take a step back this year because he was lucky on balls in play in 2004. I wouldn't go shining that Cy Young Award the Baseball Prospectus guys are hinting at just yet.
EWSL underrates John Buck, who gets credit for 4 Win Shares for 2004 based on about a half-season's worth of games; he should actually project out to about 10 or 12 EWSL, not 5 (a similar analysis could apply to Greinke). On the other hand, it seems strange after all these years to be rating Calvin Pickering as just a second-year player. . . I penciled in Teahen as the starting 3B when Chris Truby went down this week with a broken wrist. The Royals may say they don't intend to rush Teahen, but without Truby there isn't even another credible alternative at third, so why keep Teahen waiting? When you add in the rookie adjustment, EWSL actually adds four wins to the Royals' total when you swap an everyday rookie Teahen for scrub outfielder Abraham Nunez.
March 15, 2005
BASEBALL: "Former Yankee Baseball Star"
I was incensed Sunday night when watching NBC and the teaser for the 11pm news, referring to Dwight Gooden's arrest after a fight with his girlfriend, said, "a former Yankee baseball star in in trouble with the law." Former Yankee? You say that in the very city where Gooden won the Cy Young, the Rookie of the Year . . . oh, the indignity.
On the other hand, as my wife pointed out: "if he's beating his wife, let him be a Yankee."
March 11, 2005
BASEBALL: Floyd and Diaz
I had meant to ask this question a few months back - I wonder if, as long as Mike Cameron is settled in right (at least once he's healthy enough to go) the Mets might be wise to consider platooning Cliff Floyd and Victor Diaz in left field. I am, of course, on record as believing that platooning is a good way to deal with an aging player's declining skills, stamina and durability (the latter being a perennial problem with Floyd since his youth, but hopefully regular rest could keep him healthier) while still taking advantage of the things he can do, plus it would give the Mets a look at Diaz before handing him an everyday job. And the numbers bear out the notion that Floyd would benefit from a platoon situation:
(I don't have useful splits for the right-handed hitting Diaz, since he's only got 51 big league at bats)
BASEBALL: 2005 AL West EWSL Report
Remember again that EWSL, by rating only 23 players per team (whereas a typical team employs closer to 35 or 40 players in the course of a season), tends to understate by a few wins the wins a team can expect to compile. I'll run an adjustment for that when we get to the end of the AL, but for now the wins totals are mainly for comparison to the other teams.
Angels of California at a City That's Sort of But Not Quite a Suburb of Los Angeles and Includes Disneyland
RAW EWSL: 244.33 (81 Wins)
His name was Best, Best of the West . . . It remains to be seen how serious McPherson's back troubles are; that could put a big crimp in the Angels' power, depth and flexibility, particularly with Kennedy already hurt and Tim Salmon down for the count. Perhaps McPherson will be the new Glaus in more ways than one. . . It seems odd to me, given his great finish last year, that Rivera isn't being penciled in for a larger role on this team. . . The age adjustment's weakness can be seen in the projected improvement of K-Rod, although by Win Shares he actually should improve by virtue of having more save opportunities (it's close to impossible for him to improve his pitching, at least not without becoming Gagne).
RAW EWSL: 208.5 (70 Wins)
My gut tells me the A's will be a force to be reckoned with this season. But EWSL is much more sober about the rebuilding job the team needs to suffer through before the A's can be considered a bankable contender rather than a maybe-if-everything-breaks-right longshot. Do the math and you'll see that the bulk of the problem is that Oakland has handed over 3/5 of the starting rotation to guys with no major league track record of success. That may be an inspired move, but even so we could be talking "2002 Marlins," "1990 Braves" or "1968 Mets." Recall that Mark Mulder's ERA as a rookie was 5.44; Rich Harden's was 4.46. Even the Cox/Mazzone Braves can't boast a success rate with rookie (or, like Haren, still unproven) pitchers that's any better than a 50/50 proposition - think of Steve Avery (5.64 ERA), Tom Glavine (4.56), Jason Schmidt (5.70), Odalis Perez (6.00), and Bruce Chen (5.47). And except for Chen, those guys all went on to be good pitchers. The point here isn't that the A's won't have success with Haren, Meyer or Blanton, but that it's highly unlikely we'll see all three of them getting the job done in 2005, and more likely that two out of three will take more lumps than the A's can afford if they expect to win 90 games this season with a good-not-great offense (this isn't the 1999 Indians).
Unlike the likes of BJ Upton, I'm rating Nick Swisher as an entirely non-established rookie, since he only got 60 major league at bats last season. He should be expected to break in well, since he's a little old for a rookie. . . like Rivera, I had expected when the A's traded for Charles Thomas that they had bigger plans for him than being a bench player (if the A's succeed in trading Byrnes, that would open up a job for Thomas and/or Dan Johnson in left).
RAW EWSL: 218.83 (73 Wins)
Jamie Moyer, who's 42, couldn't break eggs with his fastball, and probably less than a 50/50 shot to still be pitching when he's 43, led the Mariners pitching staff in strikeouts last season, with 125. The staff is deep but not terribly impressive.
I rated Reed as a rookie, since he had just 58 at bats last season, although he certainly made the most of them (3 WS). He'll have an uphill battle to hit for average at SafeCo, but as Ichiro has shown, it can be done (not that the park hasn't taken a big bite out of Ichiro).
RAW EWSL: 189.67 (63 Wins)
In case you hadn't noticed, EWSL doesn't like teams with a shortage of established, accomplished pitchers. The Rangers, with only two starting pitchers with as many as 3 EWSL and a few more weak resumes in the bullpen, fit that bill perfectly. Teixera seems like the most likely bet to lead the league in homers, although the race should be tight with guys like A-Rod, Manny, Beltre, Sexson, Vlad and maybe somebody like Chavez busting out a big year (there's also the off chance of a Sosa revival).
Analyzing the Ranger pitching staff is a little dicey - it's hard to say at this point, at least from where I sit, who the rotation will be after Rogers, Drese and most likely Young. I'm actually skeptical that Park will make the Opening Day roster. On the other hand, the Rangers still have upside: it's easier for a team with established sluggers to suddenly get some unexpected pitching success than the other way around.
March 10, 2005
BASEBALL: Bad Omen
BASEBALL: Stubbed Toe
He's got a great future behind him: how quickly the legendary Toe Nash turned from a heartwarming human interest story who might be a real prospect to a has-been/never-was with a depressing rap sheet.
BASEBALL: Who's Afraid of EWSL?
Also, check out Brian Gunn's eulogy for Rick Ankiel's pitching career.
March 9, 2005
BASEBALL: Mr. 4000?
One tends to overlook the possibility due to his late arrival in the United States, but with 924 career hits through age 30, Ichiro Suzuki now needs 2076 more hits for 3000. Difficult? Extremely. But impossible? No way. In fact, five players have gotten more than 2076 hits after age 30 (Pete Rose, Sam Rice, Cap Anson, Honus Wagner, and Paul Molitor), and a sixth (Ty Cobb) got 2053. Five of the six - all but Anson - were in some sense similar hitters to Ichiro, with Rice, Cobb and Molitor all being fairly lean guys who held their speed into their late 30s (Wagner did as well, but Wagner was built like a truck and was the game's most powerful hitter from his mid-20s to mid-30s). Impressively, four of the six managed to churn out the hits without the benefit of the 162-game schedule; Anson was 32 the first time his team played 100 games in a season, and the Cubs averaged 127 games per year from age 31 to the end of Anson's career, reaching a 140 game schedule only once, in 1892.
Now, I wouldn't put the Japanese leagues on a par with the U.S., but it has to be worth something that Ichiro already had 1278 hits when he arrived in the U.S. (he broke in at age 19 in Japan), giving him 2202 hits already as a professional ballplayer. In the majors, only one player had rapped out more than 2085 hits through age 30 - Cobb, with 2361. 1798 hits would get Ichiro to 4000 between the US and Japan, and that's definitely do-able (it's 90 less than Doc Cramer) if he plays through age 40, as it amounts to five years averaging 200 hits a year (Ichiro has averaged 231 hits a year over the past four seasons) and five more averaging 160 hits a year.
In either event, of course, it will take a remarkable performance. But Ichiro has shown he's a remarkable player.
BASEBALL: 2005 AL East EWSL Report
Time to kick off the 2005 division-by-division EWSL reports (Established Win Shares Levels are explained here). And where else could we start but the home of the reigning World Champeeen Boston Red Sox?
The Hated Yankees
RAW EWSL: 325.2 (108 Wins)
Every time I think the age adjustments are just too brutal on veteran players, I remind myself that they are based on my actual results from last season. Of course, more years' data will help, but the fact is, we generally underestimate how consistently the aging process erodes players' productivity. What you see above is right on the two big things: (1) the Yankees would win close to 110 games if everyone performs to their recent levels of established success; and (2) given the advanced age of the roster and the declines already underway, that's not gonna happen. Is 90 wins (tweaked upward a bit by the contributions from those last few roster spots) too few? We'll see.
I prefer to err on the side of the more established player, here by listing Damian Rolls here instead of Bubba Crosby . . . typically, the Yankees have a large number of other familiar faces in camp besides these guys. Steve Karsay may also have a key role in the bullpen if he can get up to 100% at some point and stay there.
World Champion Boston Red Sox
RAW EWSL: 295.66 (99 Wins)