Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
April 30, 2010
BASEBALL: Mark of Zito

Aaron Gleeman looks at the resurgence of Barry Zito. Oliver Perez could take lessons from Zito in how to survive when your fastball leaves you.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:52 PM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Afraid to Speak

Excellent column from Ross Douthat on Sunday on South Park and censorship in fear of Islamist violence.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:35 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Immigration Update

Byron York continues his excellent reportage on the Arizona law with two items. First, he notes some changes made to the law to clarify that its "lawful contact" provision requires a stop for a non-immigration-related reason, which should eliminate the main source of complaint about the bill but won't stop people like Mike Lupica from uninformed rants against it. And second, York looks at how the Holder Justice Department could lose legal challenges to the law.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:48 PM | Politics 2010 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Vladimir at RedState, our in-house expert on the energy business, has been following the platform accident in the Gulf since before it was a big national news story, and reminds us of the realities of the business:

We've placed promising areas like the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, the East Coast, offshore California, offshore Alaska and ANWR off limits. This current spill will provide ammunition for the anti development folks. But since our collective thirst for petroleum will be unabated, that will mean more oil and refined products will have to be imported in tankers, with their accompanying risk of spill.

BP looked for oil in the deepwater off Louisiana, partly because (paraphrasing Willie Sutton) that's where the oil is, but also, domestically, it's one of the few places where they had access.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:36 PM | Politics 2010 | Comments (26) | TrackBack (0)
April 29, 2010
POLITICS: The Border

There's been an enormous amount of heat and not much light on the new Arizona immigration law. I lose track from time to time of which state the Left is hating at the moment - I believe in the past year or so we've been through at least Massachusetts, Louisiana, Texas, Alaska, Virginia and Arizona, but I could be missing a few - but the mostly emotional response from people who have no idea how the bill actually works has consisted in large part of Democrats and media liberals taking a break from lecturing us about calling people Nazis to go back to their traditional practice of calling people Nazis themselves. Despite this, or perhaps as the cause of it, polls have shown fairly strong support for the bill; Gallup shows a 51-39 lead for the bill nationally among people who have heard of it, Rasmussen shows 60% support nationally for the bill's provisions and 70% support in Arizona, as well as surging approval ratings for Gov. Jan Brewer. It's harder to get a fix on the reaction from Latinos; a Rasmussen poll seems to suggest a majority of Arizona Latinos also approve, while Markos Moulitsas is pushing PPP polling data suggesting a dropoff in support for Brewer among Latino voters.

In terms of the bill's actual effects, Andrew McCarthy and Byron York shed some useful light on the real workings of the legislation, and I recommend you read both. There's a lot more care that went into drawing this legislation up in response to public outcry in the state than the news reports might suggest.

I won't rehash here the full scope ofall my views on immigration (I wrote here and here about the pros and cons of the McCain-Kennedy bill), save to say that I think I'm basically a moderate on the issue, and largely where Jonah Goldberg is. Like a lot of people on the Right, I'm comfortable with the basic idea that police who (1) have already stopped someone for other lawful reasons or (2) have very good reasons for suspecting that someone is an illegal immigrant should be able to check their citizenship status but do have some concerns that the law could end up leading to too many stops intended to check citizenship status without a particularly good reason. Matt Welch reasonably notes the plethora of justifications police already have for stopping a car, for example. McCarthy and York make clear that the law is carefully written to reduce that problem, but it's a balancing act, and how the courts read the law's definition of lawful contact will go a long way to working out whether the law makes things worse.

Overheated rhetoric aside, federal law already requires lawful permanent residents to carry ID, and the Democrats' own legislation would create a national ID card for employment purposes, so we're hardly dealing with a radical step here; what's different in Arizona is mainly that the state is creating a mechanism to enforce laws that are already on the books. As it is, our immigration system is kind of a worst-of-all-worlds system, with largely draconian laws that are only sporadically enforced, and a Byzantine bureaucracy that discourages legal immigration while looking the other way at illegal immigration. Meanwhile, the Border Patrol suffers three assaults on an officer per day, among other problems created by the inability to control points of entry, while companies looking to hire legal immigrants face long waits for visas. As Marco Rubio - who is also sympathetic to the Arizona law's goals but uneasy about how it will play out in practice - notes, we have come to the pass of states trying to enforce the law because the federal government has failed to handle any aspect of the problem correctly.

And the Democrats huffing and puffing about the Arizona bill are really not serious about immigration reform themselves. There's little sign that comprehensive legislation could pass Congress today, and even left-wing sites acknowledge that the Democrats' motives for bringing comprehensive bills back up now are more or less nakedly political. Kos is trying to play racial wedge politics on the issue in the hopes that Latino voters in Arizona will hold a grudge over this bill, while white voters in Arizona won't hold a grudge against its critics. As for the President, Obama himself cast the deciding vote on a 'poison pill' amendment to McCain-Kennedy in 2007. And the hypocrisy doesn't end there, as Mexican leadership brays about the law while Mexico's own immigration laws are far more draconian and even explicitly permit the government to deny immigration if it would upset the racial/demographic balance of the nation.

The McCain-Kennedy bill was not, in fact, a good bill, but the Democrats aren't proposing to fix any of its problems. What they should do, if they were really serious about fixing the system, is do what Bush should have done, and what Rubio is currently pushing - drop the whole business of trying to do yet another "comprehensive" thousand-page nobody-read-the-whole-thing bill, pass piecemeal (likely with strong bipartisan support) the various parts of McCain-Kennedy that had broad support - more border and employer enforcement, more visas, guest worker programs - and then if the Democrats want to, they can campaign on the narrow pieces that remain sticking points, most notably the "path to legalization"/"amnesty" parts of the bill. That is how a party serious about immigration would run things. The GOP failed that test in 2007, and Obama - imitating Bush's and McCain's mistakes - seems bent on failing it as well.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:54 PM | Politics 2010 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
April 23, 2010
POLITICS: Et Tu, George LeMieux?

When Charlie Crist picked his long-time campaign manager and chief of staff George LeMieux to serve out the balance of Mel Martinez' term in the US Senate, it was a natural selection of a close ally to keep the seat warm without threatening Crist's own ability to run. But now, Crist is openly contemplating bolting the GOP to stage a kamikaze run as an independent rather than accept the verdict of the GOP primary voters' support - shown overwhelmingly in the polls - for conservative rising star Marco Rubio. It's a step that would burn every bridge Crist has in the state: with party loyalists, who don't want a sore loser to stage a 3-way race that could elect otherwise unelectable Democrat Kendrick Meek; with conservatives who see Rubio as a long-term star in the party; with Cuban and other Latino groups that wonder why Rubio isn't good enough to get the treatment usually accorded to primary winners; and with the NRSC, which backed the wrong horse by encouraging Crist to enter the race after Rubio had already announced (rather than run for re-election as Governor) and now would have enormous egg on its face for having created a monster.

And now, even, with George LeMieux. LeMieux may have been content to play seat-warmer this time around, but he has his own ambitions, including a possible 2012 challenge to Bill Nelson for the state's other Senate seat, and all that could be torpedoed if he is seen as complicit in his boss' treachery. So, the Hotline reports that LeMieux may back Rubio against Crist if Crist runs as an independent:

LeMieux now has a choice to make: If Crist bolts the GOP and runs as an independent, LeMieux will have to decide between backing his old friend and angering the very GOP primary voters he'll need in '12, or sticking with the party and throwing his pal overboard.

Sources close to LeMieux said they believe he has made his decision, and that he will stick with the party over the person. LeMieux has talked the decision over with his advisors and staff, and they believe LeMieux would endorse ex-FL House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) if Crist makes his switch official.

"He's made his position pretty clear. He's been a life-long Republican," said one source who asked not to be named revealing internal discussions.

LeMieux is said to feel bad about the decision personally, but it won't come as a surprise to Crist. LeMieux has counseled Crist to remain a GOPer, and as recently as last week he urged Crist to continue his underdog bid against Rubio, he said on a conference call with reporters.

I've written before that if you want loyal aides who stick with you in the long run, don't pick people who are loyal to you personally; pick people who are loyal to your cause and your ideals, because when the going gets tough, they will stick with their beliefs even if they no longer see benefits in sticking with you. Crist is facing a corollary of that: because he doesn't really have principles - to be a Crist true believer, what would you believe in? - his support is only as broad as the personal loyalty he inspires, and his betrayal of his party is likely to leave him nearly alone. By November, it could just be him and his tan.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:01 PM | Politics 2010 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
April 22, 2010
BASEBALL: The Met-Killers

See if you can guess the 12 players to post an OPS of 1.000 or greater in their careers against the Mets (minimum 100 plate appearances; source). Some are deeply obscure, but most are familiar, even household names. Answers below the fold.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:54 PM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
April 21, 2010
BASEBALL: Play At The Plate

The Sporting News bring us some baserunning even Joey Gathright might envy,
as Fordham infielder Brian Kownacki evades a plate-blocking catcher in spectacular fashion:

HT Ben Domenech.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:09 PM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
April 20, 2010
WAR: Socialism Plus Racial Resentment Equals Ruin

John Noonan at the Weekly Standard has a long, sad look at the vibrant nation Robert Mugabe inherited and how he ruined Zimbabwe in three decades in office. As Noonan notes, Mugabe's reign wasn't always all bad, and the nation still prospered in his first decade in office, but the poison of Maoism and racial resentment was there from the beginning, and grew worse over time, as "the jewel of Africa" fell to a place so ruined that life expectancy dropped nearly in half, unemployment reached 95% and the government was powerless to prevent an outbreak of cholera. One wonders how many of Mugabe's left-wing champions, like Jimmy Carter, would rather live the life of a black Zimbabwean in 2010 than a black Rhodesian in 1980. (On the other hand, the fate of Zimbabwe gives one a renewed appreciation, by contrast, for Nelson Mandela; Mandela has his own checkered ideological history, and like many national heroes his eventual presidency was not without its stumbles, but he successfully set aside the bitterness of his long imprisonment, steered clear of most of Mugabe's sins, and left when it was his time to go).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:10 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Good Riddance

Thomas Joscelyn on the late, unlamented al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al Masri, killed by Iraqi security forces - and how an Al Qaeda jihadist and terrorist, veteran of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and associate of Zawahiri, came to be in Iraq in the spring of 2002, before the 2003, invasion in the first place.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:33 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links 4/20/10

*The Mets have had some questionable decisions already this year. We saw Fernando Tatis try to score on a wild pitch with two outs, the bases loaded, down 3 and David Wright at the plate against a pitcher having trouble throwing strikes. We saw Jerry Manuel pinch run Tatis for Mike Jacobs and then have to use Alex Cora to pinch hit in the same inning. We saw Manuel play for one run on the road with Joe Mather pitching and Jose Reyes on first base, asking Luis Castillo to bunt before Mather had proven the ability to get anybody out. But perhaps none worse than Manuel on Saturday having K-Rod staying warmed up for 12 innings and possibly as many as 125 pitches in the bullpen before coming in tired to blow the save. Let's hope that doesn't linger. That's why you use the closer as soon as you hit extra innings on the road.

*Craig Calcaterra looks at the curious suspension of Ednison Volquez.

*Joe Posnanski's all-time NBA top 10. His mini-essays on Wilt, Kareem and Jordan are all spot-on, and in Jordan's case reminded me of his obvious, though smiling, irritation earlier this year when Jay Leno asked if he could still dunk. This, about Wilt, is an excellent point:

You know, if you think about Wilt Chamberlain's career - it really is staggering to think that he has through the years been labeled as a guy who did not win enough. I mean, Jim Kelly or Dan Marino or Charles Barkley or Barry Bonds - fair or unfair, it is true they didn't win championships. Chamberlain won TWO. What's more, he led his team to the Finals four other times. What's more than that, his teams were beaten by the Celtics six times in those years, and while so many would like to make that a Russell vs. Chamberlain thing, the truth is those Celtics teams had 10 Hall of Famers. TEN HALL OF FAMERS! Two starting lineups of Hall of Famers. Those teams at various times had Havlicek and Sam Jones and Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman and Tommy Heinsohn and K.C. Jones and so on and so on ... all in addition to Russell. They also were coached by Red Auerbach and Bill Russell.

To believe that Wilt Chamberlain - with the help of a Hal Greer here or a Tom Meschery or Paul Arizin there, guided by an Alex Hannum or Dolph Schayes - somehow SHOULD have beaten those Celtics teams is to believe that there has never been a more dominant presence in basketball than Wilt.

*Ronald Reagan and James Dean, together on film.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:30 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Basketball • | Blog 2006-14 • | Pop Culture • | War 2007-14 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
April 19, 2010
WAR: Strangling North Korea

Joshua Stanton looks at the current crisis in Korea and what options South Korea may have short of war, which for a variety of reasons (some strategic, some more obvious) isn't really the best answer:

President Lee still has options.

First, he can stop feeding the beast - he can cut off South Korean economic aid to the North. For cosmetic purposes, he can offer to resume aid if Kim Jong Il cooperates fully with the investigation and personally apologizes to the sailors' families (don't worry; he won't). Lee can stop importing goods from North Korea and cut this flow of hard currency. The other main conduits of South Korean hard currency for Kim Jong Il include the Kumgang Tourist Project, whose property the North has just begun to confiscate anyway, and the Kaesong Industrial Park, which has fallen victim to North Korean political meddling and clearly won't ever become a profitable export manufacturing center now. Lee can also order his banks to take a more aggressive approach to enforcing the financial provisions of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874. Politically, he should increase his government's support for a community of 17,000-plus North Korean defectors who are leading efforts to broadcast independent news back into their homeland, news that seems to have attracted a significant following in North Korea. He can increase the number of defectors his government admits, and do more diplomatically to force China to let would-be defectors in China travel to South Korea safely. He might even permit defectors to establish a North Korean transitional government-in-exile on his country's soil; after all, with proper education and training, those defectors could be a key part of President Lee's strategy to re-stabilize post-Kim Jong Il North Korea if, as seems increasingly likely, the Kim Dynasty ceases to exist within the next five years.

Stanton's piece got me thinking about a broader point. As a general matter, I'm not much convinced by the power of persuasion or the suasion of law in international affairs. And I don't believe that diplomacy is ever the answer to cause anything to happen; at best, diplomats exist to prevent things from happening, and to work out the endgame once sufficient force has been used or threatened.

War is the use of force, but it's not the only type, and during the Cold War we eventually got good at finding ways short of open war (including proxy wars as well as other tactics not involving military force) to impose costs on our adversaries for purposes of retaliation and deterrence. One of my ongoing concerns in the two decades since the Cold War is that as a nation, we seem to lack the will or the creativity to find meaningful ways to put pressure on misbehaving states short of bombing or invading them, which naturally means you end up resorting to force in the absence of meaningful alternatives. In some cases, it inevitably has to come to that anyway, but you'd like to keep those to a minimum. Economic sanctions regimes, for example, have proven all but impossible to enforce been riddled with corruption. Unlike the U.S. - and more like the U.S. relationship with Cuba - South Korea may actually have the leverage to use economic muscle in a way that has some real impact on the North without unduly harming its own economy (Stanton thinks so). But in the usual course - even recognizing that the best means of leverage against hostile governments sometimes happen far out of public view - too often we seem to lack the (for lack of a better word) deviousness to make tyrants awake every morning wondering what we will do to them.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
April 16, 2010
POLITICS: Barack Obama Will Decide Who Can Visit You In The Hospital

By a directive to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, "President Obama late Thursday ordered most hospitals in the country to grant the same visitation rights to gay and lesbian partners that they do to married heterosexual couples," an order that applies to "all hospitals getting Medicare and Medicaid money." Now, as it happens, I'm in agreement on the merits with the idea that same-sex couples should have had hospital visitation rights a long time ago, without the need for a redefinition of marriage; it's a simple matter of recognizing that these are consenting adults and leaving them to arrange their affairs their own way. So what's wrong with this picture? As it happens, quite a lot.

Let's step back and consider what we are seeing:

(1) The President of the United States, without any Congressional authorization on the subject, is unilaterally announcing a policy that will affect the day-to-day ground-level operations of every hospital in the nation.

(2) The federal government is dictating national policy on a divisive social issue having nothing to do with any expenditure of federal money or any federal program, simply by virtue of the leverage created by the financial dependence of hospitals on the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

All of which vividly illustrates exactly what conservatives have long warned about with regard to the expansion of federal programs in general and health care in particular, which touches on so many of the most intimate relationships and events in life: once Uncle Sam is footing too much of the bill to say no to him, he'll start deciding to make federal rules about everything.

That problem comes in two ways. One is that sometimes, pervasive federal regulation means that taking a position on a divisive social issue is unaviodable. I explained at some length previously why Obama's healthcare bill rendered neutrality on abortion impossible; either you have an enforceable ban on the money going to fund abortions, with the collateral consequence of reducing insurance coverage for abortions generally (as part of the broader phenomenon of reducing the available pool of insurance coverage that's not under the federal thumb) or you do not. The Bush Administration's decision in 2001 to begin federal funding for embryonic stem cell research created the same problem: either Bush would fund research into stem cell lines from destroyed embryos, or not, or (as happened) he would have to draw some unsatisfactory middle-ground position between those two poles.

The second hazard is what's at work here: when Uncle Sam isn't content to make those unavoidable decisions and starts using the power of the federal purse to nationalize all sorts of things that have no business being matters of federal concern. Here, there's no rational connection to any expenditure of federal expenditure; Obama just figures that because Medicare/Medicaid money is too much for the hospitals (or the states) to turn away, he has them over a barrel and can dictate terms on unrelated matters like visitation. This Administration has likewise used federal strings attached to impose controls on the states that restrict the ability of state governors to present a competing model of governance, as we've seen with the stimulus and healthcare bills.

And lest liberals complain that Republicans do this too: that's part of the problem. You leave power sitting around, it's gonna get used.

Sometimes, it's nanny-state moderates, as with the campaign that established the legal precedent for this kind of mischief, Elizabeth Dole's project as Reagan Administration Transportation Secretary to use federal highway funds as leverage to compel states to adopt a 55 mile per hour speed limit. Sometimes it's neoliberalism, as with No Child Left Behind using federal education dollars to put more strings on local schools. And sometimes, it's conservatives, as with the Solomon Amendment (which likewise passed muster with the Supreme Court), requiring universities that accept federal funds to let the ROTC on campus (something many colleges have refused to do, ostensibly on grounds of protesting Don't Ask, Don't Tell but in some cases likely due as well to a more general antipathy to the military and its missions). The Solomon Amendment, at least, vindicated a compelling interest of the federal government (military recruitment), but it nonetheless was yet another example of how the universities' dependence on federal money left them vulnerable to dictation from Washington.

How would liberals like it - they may live to find out - if a future GOP president used the same authority to ban federally-funded hospitals (effectively all of them) from disconnecting feeding tubes, regardless of contrary hospital policies or state laws? The Terri Schiavo contretemps in Congress and the courts would have been resolved with a single stroke of the President's pen. Or imposed restrictions or disclosure requirements on their performing abortions? Or a ban, for that matter, on visitation rights for gay couples? While in some cases the Left would undoubtedly rely on having federal judges' policy preferences on these issues trump those of the federal executive branch, the resolution of the drinking age and Solomon Amendment cases underscores the fact that they would not in every case succeed with that strategy.

And of course, everywhere you look, the Obama Administration is extending the tentacles of federal spending and regulation further into every imaginable sort of economic endeavor, from automakers to school loans to financial services of every kind. One day, liberals may awaken to realize that the Right is running Washington again - and there's nowhere left to hide from it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:00 PM | Politics 2010 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: The White Brothers

So, right after I wrote about the Blues Brothers, up pops a new music video from Hanson doing a homage to the Ray Charles music store scene from the film (keep your eyes peeled for Wierd Al Yankovic on the tamborine):

Thinking 'Bout Somethin'

HANSON | MySpace Music Videos

Yes, that Hanson. No, it's not 1997 again. I didn't like their boy-band hits back then, but I always thought they were talented enough musicians that they'd eventually grow up to make good music once they outgrew the Tiger Beat scene and got some maturity under their belts. I actually have on my iPod two songs they did around 2000 (If Only and This Time Around - the harmonica work on If Only is done by the incomparable John Popper of Blues Traveler), but unfortunately just when they seemed to be getting pretty good, they dropped off the face of the earth, and have apparently been putting out obscure independent records in recent years that I haven't paid any attention to.

I really like the song they do in this video, which is apparently off a new record; it's the kind of Motown-throwback pop we don't get nearly enough of these days (it's not coincidental that you get good pop music from people who respect their musical heritage), with a horn section and vintage Ray Charles-style keyboard work. That's apparently the plan for their new album, featuring Motown veteran arrangers and session players. They'll never be confused with Wilson Pickett - whichever Hanson brother it is who sings still kind of has a boy-band voice - but compared to most of what passes for pop music these days, it's a breath of fresh air.

All of that said: after watching this video, I would not recommend they dance again in public.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:02 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
April 15, 2010
BASEBALL: Master Melvin, Home & Away

Speaking of the splits, one of the more interesting cases is Mel Ott. As is well-known, Ott has the biggest home-field advantage in the 500 home run club, having hit 323 of his career homers at home, just 188 on the road; the short porches in the Polo Grounds, especially in right field, were an inviting enough target to help convert the diminutive (5'9", 170-lb) Ott into the only man in the first 88 years of National League history to crack the 500 home run barrier (at his retirement, Ott was the NL home run king by a margin of 211 homers over Chuck Klein). But as Bill James has pointed out, while the Polo Grounds was a great home run park, it was actually not a hitter's park at all, so Ott's accomplishments aren't to be devalued by virtue of the park.

We now have the data to back that up, at least for 1926-39, covering Ott from age 17-30, including the bulk of his prime (Ott hit 30 homers in a season only once after age 30). Ott in those years hit 211 homers at the Polo Grounds, 158 on the road (this does mean the split got wider as he aged - 112 more homers at home to 30* on the road). But he batted .297/.418/.553 at home, compared to .331/.421/.563 on the road, thanks in good part to hitting nearly twice as many doubles in the more normal-shaped parks around the league (235 to 124). The extreme example is 1930-31, when Ott hit 41 homers and drew 108 walks at home, compared to 13 homers and 77 walks on the road; yet, his overall line was .297/.419/.588 with 116 Runs and 121 RBI at the Polo Grounds, .345/.422/.537 with 110 Runs and 113 RBI on the road - nearly the same player in terms of value, but a completely differently-shaped batting line.

Let me illustrate this with a chart showing Ott's percentages, batting average on balls in play, and doubles, triples, homers, walks, strikeouts, runs and RBI per 600 at bats at the Polo Grounds and in each of the other NL parks (I'm leaving out here Shibe Park, where the Phillies moved in 1938, presumably one of the causes for Ott's homers drying up on the road after age 30):

NYG-Polo Grounds3783.297.418.553.2722444112153124128
CIN-Crosley Fld571.307.364.458.3214689524674106
PIT-Forbes Fld606.323.434.549.3134382511337124141
STL-Sportsman Pk589.305.404.527.300286319564117118
CHC-Wrigley Fld572.345.423.621.341357397768119132
BRO-Ebbets Fld554.304.395.518.304446249155108101
PHI-Baker Bowl557.415.508.774.3884855210840181209
BSN-Braves Fld517.330.426.531.336461216964212886

As you can see, Ott was scarcely a home run hitter at all in Boston and Cincinnati, whereas his ability to get hits on balls in play was severely constrained at home. And, like Chuck Klein and pretty much everybody else, he was a holy terror at the Baker Bowl.

Here, just for comparison purposes, is how Ott hit team-by-team against each opponent when batting at home. As you can see, some 'park' effects could be the pitching staffs - for example, the Reds' control-oriented staff was less apt to walk Ott in either venue - while, say, Ott's home runs against the Braves and Pirates were clearly held down only by their home parks, his ability to get hits on balls in play was the same against the Pirates wherever he played:

Cincinnati Reds545.290.387.539.263205409650119134
Pittsburgh Pirates567.340.464.621.3102204913450141143
St. Louis Cardinals538.300.413.493.2861833111950109105
Chicago Cubs563.268.366.509.25326635946899108
Brooklyn Dodgers499.288.411.532.2683133712756132121
Philadelphia Phillies551.287.430.547.2572963914640130145
Boston Braves520.310.433.636.2672145513255143138

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:03 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Worst Ever?

This is a good read, and the conclusion is unsurprising. Rey Ordonez managed to escape this ignominious fate, finishing with the 9th worst career OPS+ among all hitters with 3000 plate appearances, 8th worst if you don't count Cy Young (and second worst among Mets). My favorite facts about Bill Bergen, even beyond his .194 career OBP and his career per-600-plate appearances average of 26 Runs and 35 RBI: his career high in runs scored, in a decade-long career as a #1 catcher, was 21.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:21 PM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Lefty Splits, #42 has in recent months been expanding the years for which it has data, and I've been having some fun with the splits for older ballplayers - the breakdowns are now available for 1952-present and 1920-39. Here's a few fun ones.

Don't Get Jackie Mad

Today being Jackie Robinson Day, it's worth recalling that the Cardinals were tough on Jackie at the beginning of his career, being the most Southern team in the NL. From 1952-56 (the last five years of his career, the only ones for which we have data), Robinson hit .337/.424/.498 against the Cards.

On a related note, my dad dug up some newspaper accounts of the April 15, 1947 Boston Braves-Brooklyn Dodgers game at Ebbets Field that saw Robinson make his debut and score the winning run. The newspapers did not treat Jackie as the big news story, possibly out of a desire to keep his debut low-key, possibly because off-field controversies were not seen in those days as ideal fodder for beat writers, and in some cases possibly because the writers may not all have been on his side. The big story, as you can see from the box score, was a big game by the hoped-for star of that ultimately pennant-winning Dodgers team, Pete Reiser.

Reiser was the same age as Jackie Robinson (28), and both had missed prime years in the military service, but while Robinson was a rookie, Reiser's best years turned out to be already behind him. He'd hit OK in his return from the service in 1946, batting .277/.361/.428 (122 OPS+; it was a low-scoring season, with fresh pitching arms facing off against rusty hitters as everyone returned from multi-year layoffs and tried to get their timing back) and leading the league in steals with 34, but also missing 32 games and falling far short of his 1941-42 form (.328/.392/.513, 155 OPS+). Reiser ended up having his last really good year in 1947, batting .309/.415/.418 (the Dodgers had three players with OBPs between .414 and .415, and counting their top 3 bench players had 10 players slugging between .410 and Arky Vaughan's team-leading.444) but missing another 44 games.

Lefty Grove, Closer

I also used the splits to break down Lefty Grove's performance as a starter and as a reliever over the five years that both he and the A's were at their peak (1929-33, although there's some fun stuff in the game logs I could use to revisit my account of the 1928 pennant race, including Grove going 14-0 with a 1.43 ERA and 3 saves between June 29 and September 7, 1928 to get the A's caught up with the Yankees).

Anyway, here is Grove as a starter and a reliever, 1929-33:

Starter: 157 starts, 116 CG (102 of his 110 wins as a starter were CGs, and 14 of his 26 losses), 1268.1 IP (more than 8 IP/start), 110-26 W-L (.809; Grove won more than 70% of the games he started), 2.80 ERA, 8.7 H/9, 0.3 HR/9, 2.3 BB/9, 5.3 K/9.

Reliever: 65 G, 153.1 IP (2.35 IP/G in relief; these were not short outings), 18-7, 31 SV (86% of his relief appearances were a decision or a save), 1.70 ERA, 7.3 H/9, 0.2 HR/9, 2.8 BB/9, 6.8 K/9 (note - a trend I noticed with a number of pitchers of that era, unsurprisingly - a markedly higher K rate in relief. Besides night baseball, lighter bats, an increased focus on power hitting, reduced stigma from striking out, and an increase in the variety of breaking pitches, the increased use of relievers and fewer tired starters has definitely driven the rising K rates from the 1920s to today)

Chuck Klein, Home Boy

You probably knew that Chuck Klein benefitted from playing in the tiny Baker Bowl in his prime years. But how much? In his five full seasons in his first go-round with the Phillies (also 1929-33), Klein batted a ridiculous .424/.470/.772 at home, .294/.352/.501 on the road. His career line at the Baker Bowl: .395/.448/.705, compared to .253/.319/.386 at the Polo Grounds, .244/.294/.335 at Braves Field, .276/.316/.451 at Crosley Field and even .284/.354/.487 at Wrigley. Klein is perhaps more a creation of his home park even than Dante Bichette or Vinny Castilla.

The Babe's Hot Hand

We think of Babe Ruth as an immediate success with the Yankees, but he actually had quite a rough start in 1920, given the fanfare that accompanied his arrival, his breaking of the home run record the prior year and continuing controversy at the time over whether it was really advisable for him to stop pitching altogether to play every day. On May 9, 20 games into the season, Ruth was batting .210/.290/.371 with just 2 homers, 8 runs scored, 10 RBI and on a pace to strike out over 100 times, a then-unheard-of figure; the Yankees were 8-10 in games Ruth had appeared in. What followed, of course, was the 25-year-old Ruth putting on the most sustained, ridiculous hitting display in the game's history, batting .403/.564/.924 the rest of the way; in 124 games he scored 150 runs, hit 52 homers and drew 143 walks, and the Yankees went 80-44 in those games.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:38 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
April 14, 2010
POP CULTURE: A Bluesy New Year, 1979

In the annals of unusual but awesome concert bills, this one has to be up there: the last show at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, on New Year's Eve 1978-79, headlined by Winterland habitues the Grateful Dead, and featuring, as one of their opening acts, the Blues Brothers.

The Blues Brothers remain one of music's most improbable success stories, a band fronted by two comedians, including a lead singer (John Belushi) who was actually a latecomer to the blues (Wikipedia says that he started listening to blues records in 1977 while filming Animal House), and both visually and sonically completely out of step with the prevailing disco trend of 1978. While Belushi and Aykroyd were already TV and film superstars (Animal House was released in the summer of 1978), this performance was just at the point where the Blues Brothers were taking off as a genuine music phenomenon - they debuted on Saturday Night Live in April 1978, Briefcase Full of Blues had been recorded live in September 1978 and was released in late November 1978 and would hit #1 on the Billboard album chart in February 1979, and Soul Man would be released as a single in January 1979 and peak at #4 on the pop charts in February 1979. The movie and a concert tour would follow in the summer of 1980. Belushi died in 1982, and while Aykroyd and the band have had other projects since, some of them musically productive, it's never been the same. They weren't just a comic novelty - the band, largely assembled by Paul Shaffer (then Saturday Night Live's musical director) was astonishingly talented, Belushi turned out to be a remarkable vocalist, and Aykroyd even contributed some impressive harmonica work. Their version of Jailhouse Rock may be the best Elvis cover ever, and arguably tops the original.

Anyway, the video clips are below the fold - it appears that this performance was televised and these were recorded off the TV.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:00 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
April 13, 2010
BASEBALL: Pagan Sacrifice?

Craig Glaser at Sabometrics argues that the Mets should convert Jason Bay into a first baseman to get Angel Pagan's bat in the lineup long term while eliminating the Hobson's Choice between Daniel Murphy and the Jacobs/Tatis platoon. More broadly, Glaser argues that "[w]hen you have five above average major league hitters available to you (Wright, Reyes, Bay, Francoeur, Pagan) it's a really glaring mistake to keep one of them on the bench" in favor of Gary Matthews.

Leave aside the wishful-thinking assumption that Jeff Francouer will continue to be an above-average major league hitter, as he has been with the Mets (.323/.353/.532, 132 OPS+ in 81 games in blue and orange, averaging 200 hits, 46 doubles, 24 homers and 94 RBI per 162 games) but was not with the Braves (.266/.308/.424, 89 OPS+ in 632 games as a Brave), I question whether Pagan is really good enough to be more than adequate as a major league regular. His career line is .281/.332/.441 (99 OPS+), which you can live with from a good defensive center fielder, but is nothing to write home about offensively, and totally inadequate for a corner outfielder or - more significantly, if you're moving your left fielder to first base to make room for Pagan - a first baseman. While Pagan may be a slightly better hitter than the Jacobs/Tatis platoon or than Murphy, the difference isn't enough to justify forcing a $66 million acquisition to learn a new position.

I'm not opposed on principle to moving Bay to first at some point during his contract; he's not that much of a glove man in left. But the Mets clearly have a plan at first, which is to hold out until Ike Davis is major-league ready. Davis, who's 23, struggled in his first year of short-season exposure to A ball in Brooklyn in 2008, but took huge strides forward last season, batting .288/.376/.486 in 59 games in high-A St. Lucie and .309/.386/.565 in 55 games in AA Binghamton, and through the season's first week he's batting a scorching .375/.545/.938 at AAA Buffalo. Admittedly, if Davis and Fernando Martinez (who's off to a poor start at Buffalo, as are pretty much all the hitters there except Davis) both develop rapidly into quality players, that will create some issues of where to put Bay, Pagan and/or Francouer (assuming Beltran's back in center), but that's a good problem to have and most likely best solved by dealing Frenchy when you get to that point. And right now, Davis looks like a much better bet to contribute to the Mets in 2010 or 2011 than Martinez.

As for Pagan against Matthews, that's a much easier question, and I agree entirely that Pagan should be a no-brainer to play every day while Beltran is out; the 35-year-old Matthews' .214 slugging percentage thus far says about all you need to know about his ability to convince people that his .245/.326/.358 line in 837 plate appearances the past two seasons was some sort of fluke, and it's not like Matthews is such a great defender anymore.

What is even clearer is that as long as Beltran is out, and maybe even when he returns, Pagan should never be out of the lineup at Citi Field. For a guy who has never played in one of the really tremendous hitters' parks like Colorado or Texas or Cincinnati (Wrigley's not what it once was), Pagan's career home-road splits are jaw-dropping: .314/.366/.522 at home, .246/.295/.354 on the road. His career line in 49 games at Citi Field? .332/.372/.547, with a per-162-games average of 46 doubles, 20 triples and 17 homers. Even given the small sample size, you have to like how well he's acclimated to the park's spacious power alleys and good hitting backdrop, in contrast to guys like David Wright (.298/.378/.434 at home, .314/.401/.458 on the road last year) and Beltran (.292/.376/.403 at home in 2009, .354/.448/.585 on the road).

Indeed, Pagan's success at home may point the way towards a different kind of offensive team than what worked at low-average, high-strikeout Shea, where the best offensive game was the Darryl Strawberry/Howard Johnson model of homers, walks and steals to make up for the difficulty of winning by trying to put the ball in play (I will pass without comment the irony that HoJo became the Mets hitting coach only as the team left Shea behind). Jose Reyes, a similar style of hitter to Pagan, has thus far played just 22 games at Citi Field but has hit .323/.400/.473 there, averaging 52 doubles, 15 triples, and 7 homers per 162 games at Citi. Luis Castillo last season batted .350/.429/.402, at home, .250/.341/.284 on the road. Murphy, who is less of a speed player but also a line-drive type more than a power hitter with a lot of loft in his swing, batted .294/.323/.500 at home in 2009 (averaging 50 doubles, 9 triples and 16 homers per 600 plate appearances), .238/.304/.358 on the road. Francouer's career line in 45 games at Citi is .310/.348/.530 with per-162 game averages of 54 doubles, 7 triples and 22 homers. (Granted, this is similar to his line overall as a Met.)

Of course, you have to win on the road, too, so it's not necessarily a bad idea to have guys like Wright, Beltran and Bay who play a more traditional offensive game. But in the long run, in allocating resources at the margins, guys who can rack up the doubles and triples in the gaps may well be the ideal Citi Field hitters, much as was true of the Royals and Cardinals of the 70s and 80s; the Mets may need to start thinking of themselves as a turf team.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
April 12, 2010
BASEBALL: 2010 NL Central EWSL Report

Part 6 of my preseason previews is the NL Central; this is the sixth and last of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. (As usual, the large and depressing NL Central brings up the rear; I almost never seem to get to the NLC until after Opening Day). Notes and reference links on the EWSL method are below the fold; while EWSL is a simple enough method that will be familiar to long-time readers, it takes a little introductory explaining, so I'd suggest you check out the explanations first if you're new to these previews. I've also resurrected for this season the team ages, which are weighted by non-age-adjusted EWSL, so the best players count more towards determining the age of the roster.

Prior previews: the AL West, AL East, AL Central, NL West, NL East.

Some players are rated based on less than three seasons or given a rookie rating. Key:
+ (Rookie)
* (Based on one season)
# (Based on two seasons)

St. Louis Cardinals

Raw EWSL: 214.50 (85 W)
Adjusted: 231.22 (90 W)
Age-Adj.: 212.35 (84 W)
WS Age: 29.79
2010 W-L: 84-78

C27Yadier Molina1718
1B30Albert Pujols3633
2B30Felipe Lopez1715
SS28Brendan Ryan99
3B27David Freese*11
RF31Ryan Ludwick1916
CF23Colby Rasmus*716
LF30Matt Holliday2422
C236Jason LaRue22
INF30Skip Schumaker1614
OF27Joe Mather#12
1225Allen Craig+04
1328Nick Stvinoha*11
SP128Adam Wainwright1616
SP235Chris Carpenter117
SP332Brad Penny75
SP431Kyle Lohse76
SP523Jaime Garcia+04
RP137Ryan Franklin119
RP237Trever Miller44
RP326Kyle McClellan#46
RP428Jason Motte*22
RP533Dennys Reyes43

Subjective Adjustments: None, but obviously Freese will either exceed 1 Win Share or lose his grip on anything like an everyday job. But bear in mind the eccentric nature of "everyday" under LaRussa, given the flexibility of Lopez and Shumaker in roaming the infield. Rasmus, by contrast, is appropriately projected to take a step forward this season.

Also on Hand: Position players - Tyler Greene.

Pitchers - The perennially rehabbing Rich Hill, Blake Hawksworth.

Analysis: By LaRussa standards, this is a youth movement, as the Cards are still breaking in Rasmus (career .277/.366/.485 in the minors, all at age 21 or younger), Freese (career .308/.384/.532 in the minors, including .304/.363/.542 in 735 plate appearances at AAA) and Craig (career .306/.366/.513 in the minors, including .322/.374/.547 last season in a full year at AAA), while deploying prime talents like Pujols, Holliday, Wainwright, Molina, and Lopez. The Cards remain the class of a weak division but potentially face competition from the Brewers and Cubs.

Pujols should be due for his first career off year somewhere between 2010 and 2012, but thus far this season he's at .375/.444/.875, so don't bet the ranch against him just yet.

Milwaukee Brewers

Raw EWSL: 199.83 (80 W)
Adjusted: 211.27 (84 W)
Age-Adj.: 203.30 (81 W)
WS Age: 30.00
2010 W-L: 81-81

C39 Gregg Zaun86
1B26Prince Fielder3034
2B27Rickie Weeks1112
SS23Alcides Escobar*25
3B27Casey McGeehee*918
RF40Jim Edmonds53
CF24Carlos Gomez810
LF26Ryan Braun2933
C227George Kottaros*11
INF39Craig Counsell118
OF28Corey Hart1314
1232Jody Gerut54
1332Joe Inglett54
SP124Yovanni Gallardo78
SP233Randy Wolf107
SP334Doug Davis97
SP430Dave Bush43
SP535Jeff Suppan43
RP142Trevor Hoffman107
RP229Todd Coffey43
RP337LaTroy Hawkins86
RP429Mitch Stetter#33
RP526Carlos Villanueva45

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Mat Gamel, Norris Hoppes, Luis Cruz.

Pitchers - David Riske (on the DL), Claudio Vargas, Manny Parra.

Analysis: As with so many teams, the pitching staff is the big question mark for the Brewers, who aside from Gallardo have largely loaded up with the sorts of veteran arms one settles for at small-market prices, which in turn puts a premium on their defense (most of the veteran arms throw a lot of strikes, but few are high-K pitchers), which in turn is one reason why they need Carlos Gomez and have to hope for good glovework from erratic-at-best fielders like Weeks, Braun and McGeehee. I'd be worried about Edmonds running into Gomez, though.

A big offensive key will be getting Hart to avoid a repeat of his underachieving 2009 while getting McGeehee, who had never hit well in the minors (.279/.332/.409 over six seasons and more than 2,800 plate appearances, including three full years trying to master AAA pitching), to repeat his seriously overachieving .301/.360/.499 line.

Alcides Escobar (I do love the Latin American guys with classical-allusion names like Escobar and Asdrubal Cabrera) has thus far lived up to his minor league rep as a high-average, little-else hitter, but he's young yet; he's still working on translating his minor league success as a base thief.

Chicago Cubs

Raw EWSL: 215.67 (85 W)
Adjusted: 234.51 (91 W)
Age-Adj.: 202.57 (81 W)
WS Age: 30.74
2010 W-L: 81-81

C27Geovany Soto#1214
1B34Derek Lee2118
2B30Mike Fontenot88
SS30Ryan Theriot1614
3B32Aramis Ramirez1915
RF33Kusuke Fukudome#1414
CF32Marlon Byrd1613
LF34Alfonso Soriano1412
C231Koyie Hill43
INF29Jeff Baker66
OF31Xavier Nady87
1230Chad Tracy43
1324Tyler Colvin+04
SP129Carlos Zambrano1311
SP233Ryan Dempster139
SP334Ted Lilly1410
SP427Tom Gorzelanny33
SP527Randy Wells*712
RP127Carlos Marmol1110
RP227Sean Marshall54
RP331John Grabow65
RP426Esmailin Caridad+26
RP531Carlos Silva22

Subjective Adjustments:

Also on Hand: Position players - Micah Hoffpauir.

Pitchers - Jeff Samardzjia, Justin Berg, James Russell. Angel Guzman is out for the season.

Analysis: The Cubs, as you can see, are functionally tied in the EWSL analysis with the Brewers. They're actually the strongest team in the division before applying the age adjustments, so expect people to want more from their roster "on paper" than they can deliver. Even some of the younger guys like Zambrano are showing their mileage. The great disappointment here is Soto, who is batting .091 and already at risk of losing playing time, having lost his power last season to shoulder troubles.

Using the age adjustments I had at the time, when the Cubs signed Soriano in November 2006 for 8 years and $136 million ($17 million/year), I rough-estimated that if he followed a predictable aging pattern, Soriano would be worth 13 Win Shares per year for the life of the deal, which obviously was a pretty grim assessment at the time. Three years in, he's averaged 15 WS per year so far and age-projects for 12 in 2010; looks like I may have been optimistic.

Wells was something of a low-key pleasant surprise last year, finishing with the 10th-best ERA in the league (6th best if you park-adjust), although he's had great control records and good K and HR numbers throghout the minors. I'm sure Toronto, which returned him to the Cubs after a Rule V claim in 2008, could use him back.

Houston Astros

Raw EWSL: 190.67 (77 W)
Adjusted: 206.51 (82 W)
Age-Adj.: 181.60 (74 W)
WS Age: 31.58
2010 W-L: 74-88

C26JR Towles11
1B34Lance Berkman2723
2B34Kaz Matsui1412
SS27Tommy Manzella+011
3B35Pedro Feliz1410
RF27Hunter Pence1819
CF27Michael Bourn1515
LF34Carlos Lee2017
C230Humberto Quintero33
INF30Jeff Keppinger77
OF34Jason Michaels54
1237Geoff Blum85
1330Cory Sullivan32
SP132Roy Oswalt1310
SP231Wandy Rodriguez1210
SP329Brett Myers55
SP425Bud Norris*23
SP526Felipe Paulino*00
RP130Matt Lindstrom43
RP230Brandon Lyon98
RP330Jeff Fulchino*46
RP436Tim Byrdak54
RP538Brian Moehler43

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Pitchers - Chris Sampson, Samuel Gervacio, Yorman Bazardo, Wilton Lopez.

Analysis: The Astros may not be as bad as their 0-6 record, but they're pretty bad. Adding insult to grinding mediocrity, they're the second-oldest team in the majors by weighted average EWSL, behind only the Yankees. And the Yankees have a reason to be old. In fact, four of the nine teams with an EWSL age of 30 or older are in the NL Central; no other division has more than two (the AL Central has none). If you're looking for a winning business model for fielding a quality team in small markets in hard times, this division is not where you shoud look. In Houston's case, the primary culprits are the team's dependence on Berkman, Lee and Oswalt; this team should probably tear it up, deal the three of them along with Matsui, Feliz, and spare parts like Moehler and Blum if they can (as they did in jettisoning Miguel Tejada), and start over. Older players are harder to keep healthy (Berkman hasn't played yet in 2010) and harder to keep motivated when they're playing pointless games. Jeff Bagwell's not walking through that door, Craig Biggio's not walking through that door, and if they did, they'd be old and gray.

Paulino earned his zero Win Shares last year by giving up 1.8 HR/9 and getting pounded for 11.6 Hits/9, but 3.4 BB/9 and 8/6 K/9 indicate a sign of a guy who might be able to contribute; he didn't have longball issues in the minors, but of course he wasn't pitching in Minute Maid to big-league hitters (then again, look at his home run log and you see a lot of guys like Jay Bruce and Corey Hart and Elvis Andrus, not Pujols and Braun).

It would be hard to fail more completely as a major league hitter than JR Towles, who has batted .299/.390/.473 in the minors and debuted with a 14-game, .375/.432/.575 cup of coffee in 2007, and then went on to faceplant to the tune of .144/.238/.268 in 283 plate appearances since 2008. The Astros, however, really have nothing better to do than wait and see if Towles can come around and recapture the brief glory days of Mitch Meluskey.

Cincinnati Reds

Raw EWSL: 174.00 (71 W)
Adjusted: 189.11 (76 W)
Age-Adj.: 173.02 (71 W)
WS Age: 30.12
2010 W-L: 71-91

C34Ramon Hernandez119
1B26Joey Votto1921
2B29Brandon Phillips1918
SS35Orlando Cabrera1813
3B35Scott Rolen1411
RF23Jay Bruce#710
CF25Drew Stubbs*36
LF29Jonny Gomes77
C229Ryan Hanigan#66
INF27Paul Janish*24
OF28Chris Dickerson#56
1229Laynce Nix33
1336Miguel Cairo22
SP132Aaron Harang86
SP233Bronson Arroyo128
SP324Johnny Cueto#67
SP424Homer Bailey33
SP522Mike Leake+04
RP135Francisco Cordero128
RP228Nick Masset66
RP325Danny Herrera*36
RP440Arthur Rhodes64
RP527Micah Owings54

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Wladimir Balentien, Aaron Miles.

Pitchers - Aroldis Chapman, the latest in a long list of hyped Reds prospects. Jared Burton, Mike Lincoln, Travis Wood. Also Jose Arredondo and Ednison Volquez, neither of whom is expected to pitch after Tommy John surgery.

Analysis: The Reds have a stable infield, but everything else is either a crapshoot or just crap. Stubbs seems like a Gary Pettis type player, but maybe with more power in this park. Leake recently became the rare first-round draft pick to debut directly in the majors without minor league seasoning; he had a great college career, but pitching in this bandbox has traumatized plenty of young pitchers. There's still hope that Cueto and Bailey could become a 1-2 punch, but progress has been slow.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Raw EWSL: 118.67 (53 W)
Adjusted: 144.49 (61 W)
Age-Adj.: 142.55 (61 W)
WS Age: 28.11
2010 W-L: 61-101

C29Ryan Doumit109
1B26Jeff Clement#11
2B31Akinori Iwamura1210
SS27Ronny Cedeno56
3B26Andy LaRoche78
RF29Garrett Jones*59
CF23Andrew McCutchen*922
LF25Lastings Milledge78
C227Jason Jaramillo*12
INF30Bobby Crosby55
OF31Ryan Church108
1228Delwyn Young#55
1326John Raynor+04
SP127Zach Duke77
SP228Paul Maholm87
SP327Ross Ohlendorf#66
SP426Charlie Morton#23
SP527Daniel McCutchen+14
RP136Octavio Dotel65
RP228Joel Hanrahan44
RP338Brendan Donnelly22
RP427Evan Meek*24
RP533DJ Carrasco53

Subjective Adjustments:

Also on Hand: Position players - Brandon Moss. The Padres didn't get equal value from Brian Giles when they traded Jason Bay to get him, but of the four teams to deal away Bay, they were the only ones who didn't get completely ripped off. The sad spectacle of Moss and Craig Hansen giving Pittsburgh essentially nothing from the deal that sent Bay to the Red Sox and Manny to LA has just been the icing on the cake for this franchise.

Pitchers - Hayden Penn, Javier Lopez, Jack Taschner, Hansen (on the DL).

Analysis: Not every major league franchise rates a profile in Failure Magazine, but the Pirates are unique; last season they displaced the 1933-48 Phillies' record for the most consecutive losing seasons in major professional team sports history by notching their 17th consecutive losing record. Indeed, only twice since Barry Bonds' departure as a free agent following NL East-winning seasons of 95, 98 and 96 wins in 1990-92 have the Bucs topped 75 wins in a season, topping out at 79 in 1997. Not coincidentally, in terms of both cause and effect, the Pirates' 11th place finish in the NL in attendance in 2001 - the year they opened PNC Park - is the only time in that period that they finished higher than 12th or drew 2 million fans. 1962, when they still played in Forbes Field, was the last time the Pirates finished in the top 4 in the league in attendance, and they've led the league only once, with the 1925 World Champions. Even the 1908 Pirates, finishing a game out of first place in the NL's most legendary pennant race and with Honus Wagner having his greatest season, finished fifth in attendance.

All of this is a way of saying that the monotony of the Pirates' condition is such that really any discussion of their present roster is almost pointless; it is long past time to move this franchise. I feel for the Pirates fans; this is a venerable franchise, tracing its Pittsburgh roots back to 1882 and having played continuously in the same city in the National League since 1891. And I don't buy the idea that the game's economic structure is fundamentally broken; the Pirates and Royals are the only two teams that plainly can't be saved. Nor is contraction the answer, since the union won't allow it and the owners would just turn around and re-expand at the next available opportunity. No, the Pirates have to move on to a better market, and bid a fond, wistful farewell to a city that hasn't been able to support them for a very long time.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:00 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
April 8, 2010
BASEBALL: The Path to Cooperstown: Third Base

If you're wondering what I was working on lately besides the division previews, my fifth annual Hall of Fame column is up today at The Hardball Times, and it's on the third basemen.

UPDATE: I'll have to post the full tables here when I get a chance, the plate appearance figures are crucial to the column, and it looks like the editors at THT removed them to save space. They took out the steals, caught stealing and GIDP data, too. Urk.

Charts below the fold:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:15 AM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Columns • | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
April 6, 2010
WAR/POLITICS: Quick Links 4/6/10

*Streiff looks at the disingenuous uproar over a cameraman and reporter affiliated with Reuters who were embedded with insurgents during a firefight in Bagdad in 2007 and got killed in an American helicopter attack on the insurgents

Bill Roggio has more here. I've written frequently about the idiocy of the left-wing "chicken hawk" argument - i.e., that only people who have served in the military can advocate for war, while anybody can advocate against it - but on stories like this, that involve not the security of the nation writ large but rather the nitty-gritty of how rules of engagement are put into practice during combat - it really is a very bad idea to have people with no military background jumping to conclusions just from watching a video and adding in a huge presumption that the U.S. military is always in the wrong.

Left-wingers have attempted to spin the belated release of the video as some sort of "cover-up," but as you can see from the Washington Post report at the time that streiff quotes, the basic facts were never concealed, and if the video - taken out of context - would be propaganda for the enemy, I see no reason why the military ought to have an obligation to publicize it. We don't have real-time reporting of all military and intelligence activities on C-SPAN (yet) for a reason.

UPDATE: Rusty at the Jawa Report examines the evidence showing, unsurprisingly, that left-wing blogs are flatly misrepresenting the evidence by claiming that the Apache attack at issue did not target armed men.

SECOND UPDATE: The WaPo reporter on hand sees nothing the military could have done differently:

"An operation took place. And it was an operation with merit because it was preceded by soldiers just getting banged up all over the place and they had to do something about it. ... The operation was planned thoroughly for days and days and out they went. ...

"Here came some guys walking down the street -- one with a (rocket) launcher; one, at least one, with an AK(-47). And in the middle of them were two guys, one of whom had something long (a camera) hanging around his neck. And there was no word to the soldiers that journalists were going to be there.

*Rudy Giuliani on the insanity of Obama's adherence to nuclear freeze movement thinking circa 1983 (which, if you'll recall, is Obama's longstanding posture, going all the way back to a 1983 college newspaper piece he wrote in which he viewed the Nuclear Freeze movement as insufficiently ambitious). Here's Rudy:

"The president doesn't understand the concept of leverage," Giuliani continues. "He's taken away our military option and it looks like he would prevent Israel from using a military option. He also hasn’t gotten Russia or China to agree. With Russia, he should have made them put their cards on the table. Instead, like with the missile shield, he gave up and got nothing for it. He negotiated against himself. That is like reducing the price of your house before you get an offer."

"Leverage means the other guy has to be afraid of you," says Giuliani, a former associate attorney general. "I worked for a president, Ronald Reagan, who understood that brilliantly, and that’s how he won the Cold War. You need to appear to be unpredictable. [Reagan's] State Department understood that you need to create pressure, to create something they're afraid of. Tell me where Obama has done that."

Conservatives like to joke that Obama would be tougher on our enemies if he'd pretend they were Republicans, but of course this equally describes one reason why he's been unsuccessful in getting Republicans to support his domestic initiatives: he's given the GOP no downside to opposing him. Meanwhile, Charles Krauthammer looks at some (but not all; he doesn't even get to Israel) of Obama's mistreatment of U.S. allies. An open question is whether Obama thinks we shouldn't have allies, or just have the wrong ones.

*The Cinderella story of Butler's basketball team brings back thoughts of Mitch Daniels' Butler commencement speech in 2009, reflecting among other things on his youth as a Butler hoops fan and "the Butler Way"; it's one of the best political speeches of recent years, all the moreso because at the time he wasn't expecting to run for office again (as of now, Daniels appears to be at least thinking of running for President in 2012). Tony Lee at the Atlantic expands on the "Butler Way" theme and how it fits with Daniels.

*Mark Bowden's profile of General Petraeus is compelling and a must-read.

*Jim Geraghty catches a hilarious example of pop culture/historical ignorance from Katrina vanden Heuvel.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:01 PM | Politics 2010 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
April 5, 2010
BASEBALL: 2010 NL East EWSL Report

Just in time for Opening Day: Part 5 of my preseason previews is the NL East; this is the fifth of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. Notes and reference links on the EWSL method are below the fold; while EWSL is a simple enough method that will be familiar to long-time readers, it takes a little introductory explaining, so I'd suggest you check out the explanations first if you're new to these previews. I've also resurrected for this season the team ages, which are weighted by non-age-adjusted EWSL, so the best players count more towards determining the age of the roster.

Prior previews: the AL West, AL East, AL Central, NL West.

Some players are rated based on less than three seasons or given a rookie rating. Key:
+ (Rookie)
* (Based on one season)
# (Based on two seasons)

National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies

Raw EWSL: 285.67 (108 W)
Adjusted: 293.93 (111 W)
Age-Adj.: 248.82 (96 W)
WS Age: 31.17
2010 W-L: 96-66

C31Carlos Ruiz119
1B30Ryan Howard2523
2B31Chase Utley3126
SS31Jimmy Rollins2219
3B34Placido Polanco2017
RF31Jayson Werth2118
CF29Shane Victorino2018
LF38Raul Ibanez1913
C233Brian Schneider76
INF31Greg Dobbs54
OF28Ben Francisco#810
1238Juan Castro21
1334Ross Gload54
SP133Roy Halladay2114
SP226Cole Hamels1415
SP329Joe Blanton109
SP427JA Happ*1514
SP547Jamie Moyer96
RP133Brad Lidge75
RP229Ryan Madson97
RP332Chad Durbin54
RP438Jose Contreras54
RP534JC Romero43

Subjective Adjustments: None. As has been the case for a few years now, the Phillies have few players whose value isn't established. That said, Joe Blanton being out 3-6 weeks and Brad Lidge and JC Romero opening the season on the DL mean that their EWSL may be slightly aggressive.

Also on Hand: Position players - None expected to contribute.

Pitchers - Danys Baez, who should sub early for Lidge and Romero; Antonio Bastardo and Kyle Kendrick.

Analysis: The Phillies, like the Tigers of the 80s, have a core (aside from Hamels) that's all around the same age, so as I've been noting for a few years now their window is limited - but there is a time when you have to take a team with two pennants and a World Championship, ride it as far as it will go and live with the downfall that follows. (Heck, the Yankees are still riding Jeter, Posada and Rivera, who apparently last night became the first trio of teammates in the history of the major pro sports to spend a 16th consecutive season together). For now, the team's good enough that there's no point in worrying about the core passing 30.

Aside from the freak abdominal injury, the Halladay for Lee deal remains controversial, but Halladay should benefit from coming to the NL, and he helps balance an overly lefty-heavy rotation. I would not bet against a big bounce-back year for Hamels.

New York Mets

Raw EWSL: 213.67 (84 W)
Adjusted: 230.07 (90 W)
Age-Adj.: 214.40 (85 W)
WS Age: 29.79
2010 W-L: 85-77

C34Rod Barajas108
1B25Daniel Murphy#710
2B34Luis Castillo1311
SS27Jose Reyes1617
3B27David Wright2526
RF26Jeff Francouer1011
CF33Carlos Beltran2118
LF31Jason Bay2521
C238Henry Blanco43
INF29Mike Jacobs88
OF28Angel Pagan88
1235Fernando Tatis86
1334Alex Cora54
SP131Johan Santana1714
SP226Mike Pelfrey67
SP329John Maine65
SP428Oliver Perez55
SP523Jonathon Niese+14
RP128Francisco Rodriguez1312
RP233Pedro Feliciano64
RP320Jennry Mejia+06
RP435Hisanori Takahashi+06
RP527Fernando Nieve22

Subjective Adjustments: None; I would have adjusted Beltran and Reyes downward for their injuries, but both are already valued on the basis of missing a huge amount of time last season, and Reyes is expected back early anyway. Murphy joins them on the DL to open the season.

Also on Hand: Position players - A cast of thousands, and they'll be needed. Gary Matthews jr., Frank Catalanotto, Ike Davis, Nick Evans, Omir Santos, Josh Thole, Ruben Tejada, Wilmer Flores, Fernando Martinez, Russ Adams.

Tejada's been rushed to the Opening Day roster, but he's a 20-year-old who hit .289/.351/.381 last year in AA; he's obviously not ready to hit major league pitching.

Pitchers - Kelvim Escobar, Bobby Parnell, Pat Misch, Sean Green, Kiko Calero, Nelson Figueroa.

Analysis: Mind you, I tried to play it conservative with the Mets, not listing established players like Matthews, Escobar, Calero, and Catalanotto (of whom Matthews and Catalanotto are on the roster, and Matthews in today's lineup), and they're still second. That's a testimony to how much established talent is still on hand here, even with all the injuries, as well as the mediocrity of the Phillies' competition.

EWSL's standard rookie-reliever adjustment could be optimistic about the two new guys. Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya are definitely going out on a limb using untested pitchers like Mejia and Takahashi over Green, Parnell and Calero, but it's not as if Green and Parnell set the world on fire last season. Mejia's walked almost 4 men per 9 innings in the low minors, which makes me skeptical of him.

Pelfrey, Maine and Perez remain the biggest variables here. Pelfrey needs to have a little better luck on balls in play and keep his walk and homer rates low. Perez needs to get his velocity back. Maine is probably the best bet of the three for quality, but the most dubious in terms of durability; this may be his last chance to establish himself as being able to carry a full rotation starter's workload, especially given how many pitches he throws per inning.

Murphy's injury may not be a bad thing, with a Jacobs/Tatis platoon likely to produce some power, at least. Jacobs had a horrific year last season, but his career slugging percentage against right-handed pitching is .505; while that's the sum total of his value as a major leaguer, if he can put up those kinds of numbers that could be a productive platoon. Murphy, by contrast, has 14 homers and 56 walks in 707 career plate appearances; even with great doubles power (47 career doubles, 7 career triples), Murphy - like Rico Brogna before him - needs to hit over .300 to be of any use as a first baseman with those numbers and glovework that's not spectacular.

I'll reiterate quickly my views on the rest. Bay, of course, is a quality acquisition, assuming he has no concealed injury risks. Francouer, I still hope, can have a Joe Guillen-like prime in which he's briefly able to have his natural talent overcome his impatience for a couple years, but he's still basically a hacker whose only reliable skill is his throwing arm. Josh Thole should be the starting catcher, and hopefully will be once he establishes himself in AAA. Blanco and Barajas are both decent enough weak-hitting veteran backup catcher types, but combining the two doesn't accomplish much.

And hopefully, Wright's first-inning homer today is a good sign. I think he was pressing last year after Beltran went down, and don't see any reason why his power numbers should continue to lag.

Atlanta Braves

Raw EWSL: 202.67 (81 W)
Adjusted: 226.01 (88 W)
Age-Adj.: 213.89 (84 W)
WS Age: 29.89
2010 W-L: 84-78

C26Brian McCann1920
1B33Troy Glaus98
2B26Martin Prado910
SS27Yunel Escobar1819
3B38Chipper Jones2215
RF20Jason Heyward+011
CF28Nate McLouth1920
LF25Melky Cabrera1113
C233Dave Ross65
INF32Eric Hinske65
OF32Matt Diaz108
1228Omar Infante77
1330Joe Thurston*35
SP124Jair Jurrjens1314
SP237Derek Lowe119
SP323Tommy Hanson*511
SP434Tim Hudson86
SP534Kenshin Kawakami*45
RP138Billy Wagner65
RP240Takahasi Saito96
RP331Peter Moylan54
RP425Eric O'Flaherty33
RP524Kris Medlen*23

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Jordan Schafer, last year's failed rookie experiment.

Pitchers - Jo-Jo Reyes, Scott Proctor.

Analysis: 13 Hall of Fame outfielders have had 400 or more plate appearances as rookies at age 22 or younger; their average season was .302/.362/.467 with 85 Runs, 76 RBI, 14 homers and 10 steals. The best modern ones of the bunch - Ted Williams, Frank Robinson and Joe DiMaggio. Not included in that group - Mickey Mantle, who hit .267/.349/.443 in 386 plate appearances as a 19-year-old rookie, Barry Bonds (age 21, .223/.330/.416); Ken Griffey (age 19, .264/.329/.420); Manny Ramirez (age 22, .269/.357/.521 in a strike-shortened season). All of which is to say, keep your expectations in check for Jason Heyward - maybe he'll be as great at age 20 as Williams, Robinson, Ty Cobb, A-Rod, Mel Ott, Mantle, or Kaline, but Williams and Robinson are the only ones of those guys who were making their first trip around the league. More likely, even if he's Cooperstown-bound, is something more like Mantle at 19.

The Braves have a regular UN going - Saito and Kawakami from Japan, Jurrjens from Curacao, Moylan from Australia, Escobar from Cuba, Prado and Infante from Venezuela, Melky from the Dominican.

Undoubtedly, the biggest problem Atlanta faces, even with a possibly healthy Hudson, a full season from Hanson, and the veteran imports in the pen, is replacing the productivity of Javier Vazquez (219.1 IP, 2.87 ERA), Rafael Soriano (75.2 IP in 77 games, 2.97 ERA), and Mike Gonzalez (74.1 IP in 80 games, 2.42 ERA); over 369.1 IP those three combined to strike out 430 batters (10.48 per 9 IP), walk 104 (2.53 per 9), allow 33 homers (0.80 per 9) and surrender just 290 hits (7.07 per 9).

Florida Marlins

Raw EWSL: 170.33 (70 W)
Adjusted: 204.11 (81 W)
Age-Adj.: 209.92 (83 W)
WS Age: 27.35
2010 W-L: 83-79

C29John Baker#1011
1B26Gaby Sanchez+011
2B30Dan Uggla2018
SS26Hanley Ramirez3236
3B28Jorge Cantu1515
RF29Cody Ross1514
CF23Cameron Maybin*22
LF25Chris Coghlan*1126
C229Ronny Paulino76
INF25Emilio Bonifacio#46
OF29Brian Barden10
1234Wes Helms54
1327Brett Carroll*35
SP126Josh Johnson1212
SP226Anibal Sanchez33
SP327Ricky Nolasco 87
SP423Chris Volstad#46
SP532Nate Robertson32
RP126Leo Nunez77
RP227Reynel Pinto44
RP328Dan Meyer*36
RP431Brian Sanches*35
RP527Burke Badenhop#33

Subjective Adjustments: None, but I'd bet on Maybin to beat his EWSL, as well as Anibal Sanchez, if healthy. Brian Sanches starts the season on the DL with a hamstring issue.

Also on Hand: Position players - Mike Lamb

Pitchers - Clay Hensley, Rick Vanden Hurk, Andrew Miller, Jose Veras.

Analysis: The youngest team by Win Shares age in the five divisions I've reviewed so far, the Marlins are the Brazil of baseball: the team of the future and always will be. Well, except that they do have two World Championship flags with teams that acquired veterans in a timely fashion...but this is not such a team, unless they make some big strikes at the trade deadline - these Marlins are yet another young-talent outfit. And as per usual of late, recent pitching injuries are the main source of uncertainty.

As always, a downside to doing these previews in serial format is having at least one guy every year who shows up twice, in this case Nate Robertson, penciled out of the Detroit rotation and into Florida's.

Washington Nationals

Raw EWSL: 165.67 (68 W)
Adjusted: 179.84 (73 W)
Age-Adj.: 170.07 (70 W)
WS Age: 29.53
2010 W-L: 70-92

C38Ivan Rodriguez86
1B30Adam Dunn2220
2B34Adam Kennedy1210
SS24Ian Desmond+111
3B25Ryan Zimmerman1721
RF32Willie Harris97
CF29Nyjer Morgan99
LF31Josh Willingham1311
C225Jesus Flores67
INF32Cristian Guzman1210
OF28Willie Taveras66
1228Mike Morse11
1327Alberto Gonzalez#44
SP125John Lannan89
SP231Jason Marquis129
SP335Livan Hernandez43
SP426Craig Stammen*23
SP527Garrett Mock#11
RP126Matt Capps66
RP228Jason Bergmann32
RP325Tyler Clippard*36
RP428Brian Bruney44
RP539Miguel Batista54

Subjective Adjustments: None. I take no legal responsibility for the accuracy of Livan Hernandez' reported age.

Also on Hand: Position players - Justin Maxwell, Wil Nieves, Chris Coste, Eric Bruntlett.

Pitchers - As always, plenty of arms indistinguishable (at least) with the guys being trotted out. Stephen Strasburg is supposed to be the next Dwight Gooden if not the next Walter Johnson; I buy him as the next big thing, but as with Heyward the record of rookie pitchers gives some caution - Strasburg's unlikely to have a better career than Roger Clemens or Greg Maddux, who had rookie ERAs of 4.32 and 5.61, respectively. Also the rehabbing Jordan Zimmerman and Chien-Ming Wang, Scott Olsen, Tyler Walker, Sean Burnett, Doug Slaten, and Shairon Martis. Ron Villone was cut recently.

Analysis: For a team that's supposed to be rebuilding, there's a surprisingly small number of un-established players here until Strasburg descends from the clouds, although with the addition of veterans like Kennedy, the Nats should at least not match last season's 103-loss fiasco. How sad is the pitching staff? Aside from Strasburg, who will probably be mentioned in almost every sentence written about this team this year, Baseball Prospectus projects Jason Marquis to lead the staff with 90 strikeouts.

Aside from Strasburg, the other rookie on the radar here is Desmond, who looks like a prospect if you look at his 2009: he batted .306/.372/.494 in 189 plate appearances at AA, .354/.428/.461 in 205 PA at AAA, and .280/.318/.561 in 89 PA for the Nats. Unfortunately, even including those numbers, his career minor league line is .259/.326/.388.

As with Mark DeRosa in San Francisco, Willie Harris starting in an outfield corner is diagnostic. Strasburg can't arrive soon enough.

Ivan Rodriguez is fading fast; at age 38, he's clearly on hand mainly to provide a veteran to work with Strasburg. He's batted .278/.304/.418 the last five seasons, and the Nats will be thrilled if he can match even that after last year's .249/.280/.384. Even Pudge's legendary arm is not quite what it was; the past three years, he's caught 31%, 32% and 35% of opposing base thieves, allowing 47, 52 and 41 steals - still good numbers, but down from catching at least 48% of opposing baserunners 9 of the prior 12 years and the first time he'd allowed more than 40 steals in a season since 1996, when he caught a career-high 1223.1 innings. Can he keep an everyday job for three more years? He has 2,711 hits, and two more years of about a hundred hits a year (he's averaged 108 the past two) would get him close enough to possibly reach 3,000 by hanging on as a backup. How amazing would that be? Ted Simmons, with 2,472 hits, is a distant second among players to spend at least half their career games at catcher, but Pudge has caught 96% of his career games - Jason Kendall, with 2,084 hits, is the only other catcher with 2,000 hits to catch 90% of his career games.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:00 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
April 2, 2010

Bernie Carbo and his performance non-enhancing drugs. Carbo was a heck of a hitter (career .387 OBP and OPS+ of 126), and doubly so to do the things he did while stoned, but if you ever wondered why he underachieved in the big leagues, well, wonder no more. Good to see he's gotten his life straightened out since finding the Lord, though.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:54 PM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Bill Simmons Joins The Revolution

The Sports Guy gives an overdue thumbs-up to sabermetrics. It's only fair to note that I was using context-translated pitching stats, using OPS and discussing the latest research on BABIP, looking at zone ratings and getting linked by Baseball Prospectus a decade ago when I was writing for Bill's site, so really this stuff should not have been news to him in 2010, but converts to the cause are always welcome. Bill's a great basketball writer and does a number of other sports well, but realistically he'd fallen behind the times in writing about baseball by ignoring the revolution in statistical analysis.

Bill also echoes a point I made recently about the obstacles that some of the more complex stats face in gaining public acceptance (although oddly he picks as his example OPS+, which to me is one of the more easily intuitive stats - like ERA+, it's a simple ratio that compares you to the league average):

In my opinion, the biggest challenge for sabermetricians (not just in baseball, but every sport) is making their numbers more accessable to all types of sports fans.

The 1980s were about introducing sabermetrics (with Bill James leading the way). The 1990s were about working out the kinks. The 2000s were about three things: a generation weaned on the James Era creating their own formulas and pushing things to another level; front offices incorporating advanced metrics into their own evaluations; and the mainstream media begrudgingly accepting that there were new ways to look at the sport (although there's a ton of work left, obviously). Now we're here. We have so many precise ways to break down baseball players that you could skip watching an entire season and still know exactly what happened, and yet, a disconnect between sabermetricians and regular fans remains. Why? Because regular fans don't want to spend clutter their brain with things like, So we start at 100, and then every point you're better than a 100 equals half of a percentage point that you're better than everyone else ...

Important note: I'm not absolving regular fans, although you can't put a gun to their heads and force them to care about this stuff. Nor should media members be absolved. (For example, any mainstream writer, announcer or talking head who discusses someone's 2010 power credentials solely by referring to homers and RBI needs to hop in the Hot Tub Time Machine and go back to 1986.) But we don't want sabermetrics to be exclusionary, either. What good does that do? A stat like OPS+ just seems stubborn to me: Its appeal could be broadened with a simple tweak, only nobody wants to make it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:16 PM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Hard Contact

This came up in the comments of my JD Drew post and I thought it would make an interesting post of its own. Manny Ramirez is 15th all-time in strikeouts, tied with Dale Murphy, and should enter the top 10 this year (Jim Thome is #2 on the list, but assuming he's done as an everyday player, he's likely to fall short of the 284 Ks he needs to catch Reggie). But Manny is #1 on the career K list of lifetime .300 hitters. Here's the top 10, or rather top 12 since #10-12 were so close together. I included in the chart BA-K, which is batting average when not striking out; BABIP, which is average on balls in play (i.e., when not striking out or homering); K/plate appearances; and BB/K ratio.

1Manny Ramirez17480.31394377962249454612830.4010.34418.5%0.73
2Alex Rodriguez17380.30596118304253158310600.3850.32618.1%0.61
3Willie Mays15260.3021249310881328366014640.3510.30212.2%0.96
4Derek Jeter14660.3179809865927472248850.3820.36214.9%0.60
5Frank Thomas13970.301100748199246852116670.3630.31013.9%1.19
6Hank Aaron13830.3051394012364377175514020.3430.2959.9%1.01
7Babe Ruth13300.342106178399287371420620.4060.34012.5%1.55
8Jimmie Foxx13110.32596708134264653414520.3880.33613.6%1.11
9Paul Molitor12440.3061216010835331923410940.3460.33010.2%0.88
10Chipper Jones12310.30792737825240642613430.3650.32113.3%1.09
11Larry Walker12310.3138030690721603839130.3810.33615.3%0.74
12Roberto Clemente12300.31710212945430002406210.3650.34612.0%0.50

A few interesting notes:

-Manny and Babe Ruth are the only guys on the list to bat .400 career when not striking out. Without checking, they may be the only ones ever; Rogers Hornsby batted .391 when not striking out, Ted Williams .379, Ty Cobb .385 for the years when we have strikeout data (1913-28, during which he hit .367, a point above to his career average), Ichiro .369, Albert Pujols .375.

-Only Jeter and Clemente here top Manny's .344 average on balls in play. Jeter's got to be near the top of that list all-time (Cobb's at .378 for the years we have strikeout data, Hornsby for his career is at .365, Ichiro .359, Pujols .321).

-Manny and A-Rod easily top the chart in stikeout frequency, not just totals, making their career averages that much more impressive.

-Clemente, unsurprisingly, has the worst BB/K ratio on the list, followed by Jeter and A-Rod; Ruth, of course, had the best.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:30 PM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
April 1, 2010

Is JD Drew a disappointment in Boston? Depends who you ask. Certainly Drew can't have surprised anybody with his performance in Boston. From age 24-30 in St. Louis, Atlanta and LA, he batted .291/.399/.517 and averaged 75 Runs, 21 HR and 65 RBI/year in 472 plate appearances per year over 120 games per year. In three years in Boston from age 31-33, Drew has batted .276./.390/.485 and averaged 82 Runs, 18 HR and 65 RBI/year in 516 plate appearances per year over 129 games per year. This is just about exactly what you would expect for a player of his age with his prior track record. But his contract still draws flak - here's the Globe's Tony Massarotti:

Despite the recent assertions of one longtime major league evaluator and executive that the Red Sox really have not signed any bad contracts during the Epstein Era, there have been mistakes. The Sox are still paying Julio Lugo. Until last year, they were still paying Edgar Renteria. J.D. Drew wouldn't be nearly the lightning rod he is if his salary were $10 million instead of $14 million...

H/T Patrick Sullivan, who responds that "J.D. Drew wouldn't be nearly the lightning rod he is if [Massarotti] & friends knew what constituted a good baseball player." In one sense, Massarotti is correct: the market has gone down since Drew was signed in the 2006-07 offseason, and you would no longer pay $14 million per year for a guy who does what Drew does and misses as many games as Drew misses. But Drew's been hearing this since the deal was signed, and it does rather miss the point of the relative scarcity of guys who can put up a .390 OBP with solid power, and how useful those guys are to your team.

Has Drew been less than clutch? That charge sticks to him, and while the sample sizes in Boston aren't large enough to accuse him of a tendency to not hit in clutch situations, on the whole you can't blame people for concluding that his performance is less aggressive in certain situations. The flip side is that Drew walks in clutch situations a lot, and that has value of its own.

Here's how Drew's numbers break down over his three-year Red Sox career.

First, over 453 plate appearances with men in scoring position in Boston, Drew has batted .243/.411/.451, compared to .288/.381/.497 in his other 1094 regular season plate appareances. He's reached base by walk or hit batsman 104 times with RISP, compared to 82 hits; in non-RISP situations the ratio is 144 to 273. That may suggest that he's pressing or that pitchers are working around him, or both, or be simply a statistical fluke; it does indicate that over his Sox tenure, he's been less of a threat to hit the ball and more of a threat to draw a walk when there are men in scoring position. I think the extra 30 points of OBP are more than enough to balance the scales out (you almost never find yourself in a better situation after walking a guy when there are already runners in scoring position), but it's at least a noticeable difference.

Then there's the late innings of a close game, much the same story: .234/.382/.354 over 220 plate appearances, with 21 RBI (an average of 49 RBI per 516 plate appearances compared to the 65 he's averaged overall), reaching base by BB or HBP 43 times compared to 41 hits. Some criticism can fairly be laid here for Drew slugging .354 in these situations, granting that it's only 220 plate appearances and probably a disproportionate number of those are against Mariano Rivera and other closers.

Finally, there's the postseason, in which Drew as a Red Sox has been the opposite way, batting .286/.346/.459, an improved batting average but one with less power and a lot less walks (he's reached by BB/HBP in the postseason 9 times vs 28 hits). Of course, postseason games are against a tougher cut of competition, and there's a hidden factor at work; whereas he's missed an average of 33 games per year the past three seasons, Drew has played in all 28 Boston postseason games over that period, with per-162-game averages of 23 homers, 64 Runs, and - wait for it - 109 RBI. You can't very well fault Drew as an RBI man without noticing that he's stepped up his RBI game in the biggest games of his Boston career.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:24 PM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: 2010 NL West EWSL Report

Part 4 of my preseason previews is the NL West; this is the fourth of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. Notes and reference links on the EWSL method are below the fold; while EWSL is a simple enough method that will be familiar to long-time readers, it takes a little introductory explaining, so I'd suggest you check out the explanations first if you're new to these previews. I've also resurrected for this season the team ages, which are weighted by non-age-adjusted EWSL, so the best players count more towards determining the age of the roster.

Prior previews: the AL West, AL East, AL Central.

Some players are rated based on less than three seasons or given a rookie rating. Key:
+ (Rookie)
* (Based on one season)
# (Based on two seasons)

Los Angeles Dodgers

Raw EWSL: 242.67 (94 W)
Adjusted: 250.60 (97 W)
Age-Adj.: 230.19 (90 W)
WS Age: 30.48
2010 W-L: 90-72

C27Russell Martin1819
1B26James Loney1618
2B24Blake DeWitt#46
SS32Rafael Furcal1411
3B36Casey Blake1713
RF28Andre Ethier2021
CF25Matt Kemp2126
LF38Manny Ramirez2215
C241Brad Ausmus53
INF35Ronnie Belliard107
OF38Garret Anderson128
1233Reed Johnson65
1335Jamey Carroll86
SP125Chad Billingsley1213
SP222Clayton Kershaw#810
SP332Vicente Padilla75
SP435Hiroki Kuroda#75
SP537Ramon Ortiz00
RP126Jonathan Broxton1314
RP233George Sherrill107
RP327Ramon Trancoso#55
RP427Ronald Belisario*46
RP528Hong-Chih Kuo55

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Nick Green. Jason Repko was cut, and Brian Giles retired.

Pitchers - Charlie Haeger is in the long-term mix for fifth starter. Jeff Weaver appears to be on the Opening Day roster. Russ Ortiz joined Ramon in this spring's Night of the Living Ortiz spectacle. Also James McDonald, Carlos Montaserios, Justin Miller, Luis Ayala, Josh Towers and Cory Wade. Fifth starter candidate Eric Stults was sold to the Hiroshima Carp.

Analysis: The NL West is not baseball's strongest division, but it remains its most competitive, with no dominant team and four of five primed to battle for first place. That said, the Dodgers should still be the strongest of the five, with a talented outfield, two possible rotation anchors, a good bullpen and the steady leadership of Joe Torre.

Age keeps coming up here, age and what it does and doesn't mean. EWSL values three Dodgers (Martin, Loney and Billingsley) as improving young players, not the worn-down veterans or they looked to be at times last season. It's easy to forget that Martin's still just 27 and Billingsley only 25. Billingsley's probably the most crucial Dodger - Kershaw continues to improve but may not quite be ready for center stage and a full #1 workload at age 22, so keeping him as the #2 man will be valuable. Martin, by contrast, looks unlikely to recover his past offensive glories. Manny's age matters too, as he showed it at times last year, batting a most un-Manny-ish .251/.378/.431 from July 24 through the season's end. At 38, the end of his years as a dominating slugger may be at hand, although he's likely to remain a dangerous bat. Blake's age (36) suggests that he's unlikely to sustain last year's pace, although his big improvement was in walks, an area where older players tend to retain improvements. And the bench is geriatric even by the standards of Joe Torre benches (assuming Belliard doesn't end up as the starting 2B; that situation remains unstable).

Kuo starts the year on the DL. It's anybody's guess whether the fifth starter will end up being Ortiz, the other Ortiz, Weaver, Haeger, or somebody else (Kuo's probably not returning to starting).

UPDATE: Haeger wins the 5th starter job. If we add him in for Ortiz, it won't change the EWSL picture much; he's 25 but has been kicking around the majors for four years now in small doses. His control remains iffy.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Raw EWSL: 194.50 (78 W)
Adjusted: 212.27 (84 W)
Age-Adj.: 226.73 (89 W)
WS Age: 27.63
2010 W-L: 89-73

C26Miguel Montero89
1B30Adam LaRoche1715
2B28Kelly Johnson1313
SS27Stephen Drew1818
3B26Mark Reynolds1820
RF22Justin Upton#1229
CF26Chris Young1213
LF28Conor Jackson88
C229Chris Snyder99
INF29Ryan Roberts*48
OF23Gerardo Parra*511
1235Augie Ojeda54
1325Tony Abreu11
SP129Dan Haren1917
SP231Brandon Webb119
SP326Edwin Jackson1213
SP425Ian Kennedy00
SP526Billy Buckner11
RP131Chad Qualls98
RP226Juan Gutierrez*49
RP326Clay Zavada*24
RP426Esmerling Vasquez*23
RP536Bob Howry55

Subjective Adjustments: None - obviously Upton's age adjustment is fairly aggressive, but he batted .300/.366/.532 as a 21-year-old last season, and earned 19 Win Shares in 138 games; 29 this season is not an especially unusual target.

Also on Hand: Position players - Brandon Allen, Cole Gillespie, Drew Macias, Rusty Ryal.

Pitchers - Aaron Heilman, Kris Benson, Kevin Mulvey, as well as some non-ex-Mets: Rodrigo Lopez, Blaine Boyer, Leo Rosales.

Analysis: If Chad Billingsley is the most critical Dodger, Brandon Webb may be the most critical player in the whole NL West. A healthy Webb would give the D-Backs a formidable 1-2 punch, and combined with the solid Edwin Jackson as the third starter, give Arizona's offense a lot of chances to win. But as of now, Webb hasn't thrown since early March and is expected to miss at least the season's first month, which makes you wonder how long he'll be out and what he'll be like when he returns. That bumps Jackson to the #2 spot, and he's miscast as a #2 starter despite a good ERA last season in a less challenging ballpark (albeit in a tougher division), and after Jackson you have the deluge Arizona can't compete unless it gets at least half a season's worth of something resembling the old Brandon Webb. I have to figure that Webb's health was a driving force behind the otherwise inexplicable deal that brought in Jackson in exchange for Max Scherzer - Jackson doesn't have Scherzer's A-list talent (granted, that talent only got him a 9-15 career record in Arizona), but he's started 95 games and tossed 558.1 regular season innings the last three seasons, whereas Scherzer retains a reputation for being brittle. That may have been more risk than this staff could absorb. As for Jackson, his main risk is whether he can retain the improvements in his control that saw his walks per 9 innings drop from 4.9 to 3.8 to 2.9 the past three years.

Of course, a big part of last year's 92-loss fiasco was the offense managing to finish 8th in the NL in runs scored despite playing in a high-altitude bandbox that inflates everyone's offensive numbers. LaRoche and the continued development of Upton should help that (Arizona first basemen last year hit an appalling .229/.321/.398, to go with .219/.293/.379 from their center fielders, mainly Young; Upton was their only outfielder with any punch). They'll also need better years from Young and Drew and a return to the land of the living by Conor Jackson and Kelly Johnson; the latter steps in for Felipe Lopez, one of the team's few bright spots last year.

Mark Reynolds should be a steady power source after 2009's breakout, and could be devastating if he could cut his strikeouts to the 160-170 range some year; he's whiffed 427 times the past two seasons. I wouldn't hold my breath, but it's the sort of thing he could pull off once.

Colorado Rockies

Raw EWSL: 218.00 (86 W)
Adjusted: 231.77 (90 W)
Age-Adj.: 224.05 (88 W)
WS Age: 29.45
2010 W-L: 88-74

C27Chris Iannetta1212
1B36Todd Helton1813
2B31Clint Barmes119
SS25Troy Tulowitzki1924
3B25Ian Stewart#913
RF31Brad Hawpe1815
CF24Dexter Fowler*819
LF24Carlos Gonzalez#710
C231Miguel Olivo87
INF38Melvin Mora118
OF27Seth Smith#810
1239Jason Giambi97
1330Ryan Spilborghs87
SP126Ubaldo Jimenez1415
SP231Aaron Cook1210
SP329Jeff Francis43
SP429Jorge De La Rosa87
SP527Jason Hammel66
RP126Huston Street1313
RP235Rafael Betancourt85
RP328Matt Daley*24
RP424Franklin Morales33
RP533Joe Beimel54

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Eric Young and Omar Quintanilla compete with Mora for the reserve infield role.

Pitchers - Manuel Corpas and Taylor Buchholz still fighting to get all the way back. Greg Smith, Matt Belisle, Tim Redding, Randy Flores, Justin Speier.

Analysis: The Rox have their own returning-injured-ace issue with Jeff Francis. Jimenez seems to have taken the ace reins; although I remain skeptical of the long-term prospects of any starter who carries the burden of Coors, he did finish second in club history in ERA and strikeouts last year (his 198 Ks second only to 210 by Pedro Astacio in 1999), and set a club record for fewest hits/9. He's a quality starter.

I was baffled last season why so many outlets were prematurely burying Huston Street, who rebounded well in 2009 (including a 70/13 K/BB ratio and a 1.71 road ERA), but Street has been shut down repeatedly this spring with shoulder stiffness, which may unsettle the bullpen.

He may not be the question mark that Billingsley or Webb or Francis is, but how critical has Tulowitzki been to the Rockies over his career? Since his arrival in August 2006, Tulowitzki has had an OPS above 750 in a month 10 times, and below 750 (or didn't play) 10 times. The Rockies' record in the ten good months? 164-109 (.601), with a winning record in 9 of the 10 months. Their record in his ten bad months? 117-154 (.432), with a losing record in 8 of the 10 months. Last season, the Rockies caught fire on June 4, turning from a 20-32 record, 15 1/2 games out of first place, to go 52-36 and pulling within a game of the Dodgers through October 2 before dropping the last two to LA and settling for the wild card. Tulowitzki's season went the same way: batting an anemic .216/.306/.377 on June 6, he tore the league up to the tune of .336/.414/.637 with 27 homers in 101 games through October 2, before going 0-for-4 against Kershaw and the Dodgers bullpen on October 3 and sitting out the final game. Still only 25, he'll have a chance this season to add the missing consistency that is the only thing holding Colorado's indispenable man back from superstardom.

San Francisco Giants

Raw EWSL: 220.83 (87 W)
Adjusted: 226.57 (89 W)
Age-Adj.: 209.10 (83 W)
WS Age: 29.86
2010 W-L: 83-79

C35Ben Molina1511
1B33Aubrey Huff1311
2B32Freddy Sanchez1411
SS34Edgar Renteria1210
3B23Pablo Sandoval#1623
RF26Nate Schierholtz56
CF32Aaron Rowand1613
LF35Mark DeRosa1713
C230Eli Whiteside*23
INF30Juan Uribe1211
OF32Andres Torres43
1225Emmanuel Burriss#23
1329Fred Lewis98
SP126Tim Lincecum2122
SP225Matt Cain1718
SP332Barry Zito86
SP427Jonathan Sanchez65
SP531Todd Wellemeyer54
RP128Brian Wilson1111
RP231Jeremy Affeldt86
RP330Brandon Medders44
RP436Guillermo Mota43
RP527Sergio Romo#34

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Travis Ishikawa, Buster Posey, Eugenio Velez, John Bowker.

Pitchers - Alex Hinshaw, Danny Bautista, Kevin Cameron, Byung Hyun Kim (who came out of retirement), and Santiago Casilla, who's been approaching triple digits this spring.

Hot prospect Madison Bumgarner is one of the people on the cover of this year's Baseball Prospectus, asking if he's the next Lincecum. The book overall isn't quite as hyped on Bumgarner, but even so. Obviously Bumgarner's a talented guy, and at first glance his numbers are eye-popping: 27-5 with a 1.65 ERA in 283 professional innings, an ERA below 2.00 at each of his four stops, including 10 innings in the big leagues. His walk and home run rates are microscopic. You do that at any level as a teenager, you're a serious prospect. But I also know he's 20 years old and has pitched a grand total of 117 innings above A ball, in which he has struck out 79 batters, just over 6 per 9 innings. I'm guessing that a guy who's barely striking out 6 men per 9 in AA isn't quite ready to take the majors by storm in 2010 (his K/BB was 164/21 in 141.2 innings in the Sally League, so he's not a low-K pitcher). Adjust your short-term expectations accordingly.

Analysis: One of the joys of looking at your favorite team's roster before the season is imagining what the team will look like if everything breaks right, if the guys with injuries get healthy, the guys with potential put it all together, the guys who are inconsistent get in a groove. For most teams in a given season, that daydream falls apart once the harsh reality of the season sets in, but there are always a few teams for whom most of the pieces fall into place.

Giants fans can't do much of that with this team, especially the non-pitchers. What room for growth is there? Who's going to blossom on this team? Most of the lineup is old (seriously: a 35-year-old second baseman in left field?), the rest aside from Sandoval has little potential, and Sandoval was pretty close to maxed out in 2009. The pitching staff, while much more talented, has mostly put it all together (or in Zito's case come as far back as he's gonna come), the main exception being Sanchez, who has struck out more than a batter per inning for his career while allowing less than 1 homer per 9, but has been held back by consistently poor control.

All this is another way of saying that the Giants will be fortunate indeed to match the 88 wins of last season. Their pitching should keep them in the hunt, but they're the least likely of the four contenders to close the deal.

San Diego Padres

Raw EWSL: 160.50 (67 W)
Adjusted: 179.10 (73 W)
Age-Adj.: 171.49 (70 W)
WS Age: 29.14
2010 W-L: 70-92

C26Nick Hundley#68
1B28Adrian Gonzalez2930
2B35David Eckstein1310
SS23Everth Cabrera*717
3B26Chase Headley#913
RF27Will Venable#56
CF30Scott Hairston1110
LF23Kyle Blanks*36
C231Yorvit Torrealba76
INF32Oscar Salazar54
OF34Jerry Hairston jr.87
1227Tony Gwynn jr.77
1342Matt Stairs63
SP131Chris Young43
SP230Jon Garland109
SP329Kevin Correia55
SP426Clayton Richard#45
SP522Mat Latos*11
RP132Heath Bell108
RP226Luke Gregerson*35
RP331Mike Adams54
RP426Edward Mujica#23
RP528Joe Thatcher22

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Josh Barfield, Eric Munson, Aaron Cunningham.

Pitchers - Sean Gallagher, Adam Russell.

Analysis: The Padres don't have the Giants' problem, but they do have a fairly narrow foundation to rebuild upon, at least so far, and it will get a lot narrower if they deal Gonzalez or Bell. (I assume Young will be dealt if he's able to recapture his 2006-07 form)

The mountainous Kyle Blanks showed some real pop last season (.250/.355/.514 in 172 plate appearances at age 22 after a .304/.393/.505 minor league career); the Pads hope the outfielder, listed at 6'6" 285, isn't the next Ken Harvey.

Mike Adams, who basically disappeared off the map due to injuries and ineffectiveness after being penciled in as the Brewers closer entering 2005, throwing just 15.2 big league innings over a three-year stretch, has had an amazing revival in San Diego, a 1.85 ERA and 10.5 K/9 the past two seasons, including an 0.73 ERA and just one home run allowed last season.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:00 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Who Is The Stupid Party Again?

A critical element of the self-image of partisan liberals, especially online, is their insistence on explaining why they are smarter than Republicans and conservatives (you will notice how frequently liberal writers link to polls and pseudo-scientific studies purporting to demonstrate how much smarter liberals and liberal politicians are). There's a longer essay to be had some day on the history of this self-image and why it keeps driving them to pick leaders like Obama, Carter, Clinton and Woodrow Wilson who are tremendously impressed with their own intelligence and not so good with other essential skills and traits, but for now, just go watch this video and laugh.

Or weep, if you consider that guys like this are responsible for running our health care, economy and financial systems.

Either way, I have to say that only a military officer could keep a straight face through this.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:46 AM | Politics 2010 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)