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Monthly archives: February 2003

 

The Dawning of a Whole
2003-02-28 11:01
by Mike Carminati

The Dawning of a Whole New Joe Morgan Chat Day

Spring still makes spring in the mind,
When sixty years are told;
Love wakes anew this throbbing heart,
And we are never old.

-Emerson (i.e., the inventor of crappy electronics equipment)

Today in the Northeast people are more concerned with snow than baseball. Spring seems as far away as a Barry Bonds home run ball. But unbeknownst to the locals, the new season has begun. How do I know? The first Joe Morgan Chat Day is in the books. And unbeknownst to Speed, Racer X is actually his long-lost brother Rex, but I digress.

We-I can't decide if that's the royal We or I'm schizophrenic, and so am I-here at Mike's Baseball Rants love the Joe Morgan and we love the Joe Morgan Chat Days even more. Joe was the greatest second baseman we've ever seen. He had one of the greatest stances in baseball history. And he was a member of the 1983 "Wheeze Kid" Phils, not to mention an earlier team referred to as the Big Red something-or-other. Joe is also a charming and affable gentleman, or appears to be so. He knows tons more about baseball on the field than we will ever know.

But as a baseball analyst, Joe is the most infuriating in the business. He is not as execrable as the di-a-bo-lical sab-o-tag-E (to quote Bugs) that is being perpetrated during a Steve Lyons- Thom Brennaman broadcast. Joe is far more subtle and insidious. He can make a great point followed by one of the most inane and backward statements you will ever hear. Sometimes he does both at the same time. This is JMCD nirvana for the initiated.

Joe has spent the offseason holed up somewhere out of the baseball spotlight, probably playing golf as is his wont. He has chosen this propitious time (i.e., right after the Veterans' Committee failed to elect anyone to the Hall) to spring his head out of his self-imposed hibernation like a groundhog and survey the baseball landscape. Indeed, Joe casts himself as a baseball harbinger, a precursor foreshadowing what is to come.

Joe is baseball's intrepid groundhog. In this pivotal year in which labor strife, contraction, Bud's ugly mug, and decent major-league pay (apparently) are a distant memory, baseball needs to forge ahead and in a forward-thinking, fan-tabulous spirit. It needs new ways to attract fans like demanding that it's players sign autographs before games and that its mascots give that little extra when he is sweating off 10 pounds on a sultry summer night.

Joe, the most stalwart of the new generation of "it was just better in our day" curmudgeonly old-timers needs to instead embody a new spirit of open-minded analysis. The first step this offseason wasn't the most positive: the old Hall-of-Fame Vets rejected all candidates. However, perhaps Joe in his new State of the Unionized, i.e., his chat session can change that direction.

If groundhog Joe comes out of his hole and does not see his shadow, it means that there will be murkier baseball horizon but one rife with positive change in the near future. That is, Spring, a new dawning is near.

If Joe casts his eyes down and sees his shadow, he and stalwarts like him will forever be dwelling on their baseball pasts. This means that we will remain in the cold baseball winter of our discontent for some time to come.

C'mon, Joe, we need Spring very badly.

I can't say that he starts with the most positive step:

Lil JoeJoe Morgan: As Vice Chairman of the Hall of Fame, I think we have to give the Veteran's Committee Process one more chance before we say it doesn't work. I think it needs one more turn. As a player and HOFer, I wish there was voting again next year. I think a lot of people understand the process better now. Instead we have to wait two more years. Therefore, I'm not pleased with that. But as Vice Chairman, I do think the process will work in the long run.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: Ok, there's positive tone in there. I disagree with him though. I think that the Mike Schmidts of the Committee are of the mindset of, "These bums weren't selected by the writers, so why should I pick them? They're just not Hall of Famers"-not realizing that that mindset invalidates the existence of the Vets' Committee in the first place. It's also incorrect in some cases. But I'm afraid that the Vets will be unable to agree-at least to the required degree of 75% concordance- on any candidate. No one was over 60% this year and given that the only new candidate in two years will be Jim Kaat, the odds do not increase. I think that the Vets Committee embodies the same stagnation that the writers had in the mid-Forties and it will be scrapped by the time that the next vote is released, if not sooner. Maybe they'll let 'em vote again next year instead of waiting.

But that's not very positive of me. Let's give it another chance, Mike. Who cares if White Herzog is dead by the next time he is eligible or if arguably the best available manager, Gene Mauch, is not even on the ballot? There, I feel better already.]


The Good: No Shadow


Andy Nunez, NY: Joe,
Do you think the Veteran's Committee was being objective in their decision or just trying to prove a point that they won't be practicing cronyism? I think it is a shame that Gil Hodges didn't make it in. What do you think?
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: I don't think anyone was trying to prove a point. You have to respect everyone's opinion, even if they differ with yours. My voting differed with most of them but they have that right. It's a big step. The HOFers are deciding who will sit next to them. That's important. They take it very seriously. It had nothign to do with anything that has happened before.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: I agree: It was not cronyism. You have to like someone for cronyism to work. They didn't like anyone. They don't want anyone to "sit next to them". They're the women on the subway who take up an extra seat with her shopping bags. "It's my Hall of Fame and you can't have it." But I have to hand it to Joe for respecting everyone's opinion.]


Thom..Providence ,RI: Joe: What's your take on Red Sox GM Theo Epstien's new "Bullpen By Commitee" approach? Dud or Stud?
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: My understanding is they hired Bill James and are using his stats to set up the bullpen. They think they can get it done with lots of folks. They are basically pinning their hopes on Bill's stats. We'll just have to see how it works. Some teams have been successful that way. There isn't just one way to do it.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: OK, that's fair. I'm not sure that it will work either, though I think James' theories are superior to the approach bringing in Jay Witasick and Aaron Fultz in the middle-to-late innings of the World Series to blow a lead, thereby never allowing you to use your best reliever, Robb Nen.
Think positive, Mike. He's keeping an open mind. Right!]


John: Has Reds managemetn strained its relationship so much with Ken Griffey Jr. that they will be forced to trade him? If so, wouldn't Atlanta be a perefect fit for everyone involved? The Reds get young pitching, the Braves get more offence, and Griffey gets to play closer to his family.
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: I don't think they will be forced to do that but they have strained the relationship. I'm sure the Reds felt the same way when Griffey said he wanted to be traded. In my opinion, they are even. From what I have heard from Ken, that's OK. I think he will prove he is still one of the best, if he can stay healthy.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: Well, I think Griffey has fallen off since his prime. He had an OPS that was just the league adjusted average in 70 games last year. He wasn't that great in his last full year in 2000 either. But who knows how much of that is due to injury, though some may be attributed to age as well.

That said, Joe's point is a good one. If Griffey is healthy his play should improve and everything in Cincy will be hunky-dory. That's 3-for-3 for Joe. Maybe he's turned over a new leaf. Uh oh!]


Carl (Chicago): Why hasn't Ron Santo been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The numbers are there, and everything he's been through should defintely put him in. And 5 gold gloves!
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: IHe got one of my ten votes. That's all I can say. I was shocked that Marvin Miller didn't make it. I thought Gil Hodges would make it. I thought Maury Wills and Ron Santo would make it. I voted for ten guys I thought would make it including Tony Oliva. I just get one vote for each guy and I used on on Santo.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: OK, Joe. I'm not such a big fan of Wills, but kudos for knowing enough to vote for Santo, one of the top 10 at his position all-time.

Well, Joe finally got another "Good", but it took him a half-dozen questions to get there.]


The Bad: Shadow


Pete (Washington DC): Is Jeter as lazy and unfocused as George thinks he is? I think he will be a distraction this year, how did your teams handle problems like this when you were a player?
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: I don't think it will be a distraction. He is not unfocused. I just think George has a way of trying to push buttons. Some players respond to that and I think Jeter will. It's not the party life or any of that that has affected his BA. Hitting .349 was very special. He's a good hitter but he's not a .350 hitter. His actual average is lower than that and we should find out this year.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: Look, Jeter had an off year in 2002. No one is really arguing that. But he batted .297 and is 65th all-time in batting average with a .317 (actually, .3168 which ties him with Larry Walker and is right ahead of Edgar Martinez). His career high yet far is .349, but he also batted .339 and has never been lower than .291. Batting average is a spurious basis for a player's worth at best (Jake Stenzel batted .339 for his career for crissake), but to hold him to being a .350 hitter is just not fair. There are only three players who have batted over .350 in their careers. Tony Gwynn and Todd Helton are the only men since Musial to bat over .330 for their careers. The problem with Jeter is the 130-point dropoff in his slugging percentage. I don't think the Yankees will complain if he bats his average and slugs a good .475.]


Jake, Bloomsburg PA: Mr. Morgan, how do you feel about the comeback seasons of Hampton, Alomar, Juan Gonzalez, and Kevin Brown?
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: I think if you put them in order, it's Hampton first. He'll be with Leo Mazzone and he gets the best out of his pitchers. He just needs his sinker to work again. Then Roberto Alomar. He has been such a good player and was adjusting last year. Gonzalez just needs to stay healthy. Kevin Brown is a different story. He has had so many injuries, you just don't know what is going on. No doubt, when he is healthy, he is one of the top pitchers in baseball.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: I couldn't disagree more. Hampton is most suspect from where I am sitting. He had a couple of decent seasons and one great one, so he wasn't that great a pitcher to begin with. Then he fell completely apart in Colorado. True, his sinker didn't work at Coors, but it didn't work on the road either. Nothing worked for him. He may bounce back to his, but he has a quite a journey ahead of him to get there.

Alomar had an awful season in 2002. He was literally half the player he was the year before. If you took a number of his stats (HRs, RBI, etc.) and divided his 2001 totals in half, you would approximate his 2002 totals. He had the worst year of his career by far. It has to be a little more than "adjusting." This is a man who has played for five different teams, 3 in the AL and 2 in the NL, in his 15 seasons. He's used to re-adjusting to new surroundings. He will also 35 in April. Comebacks get harder for players as the get up in years. I think Alomar will bounce back but wouldn't be entirely surprised by another sub-par season.

As for Gonzalez, he is passing the magic age of 32 and may be just finding his level for the final third of his career. He wasn't that great in 2000 either. He'll probably recover somewhat, but his glory years may be behind.

I agree with Joe about Kevin Brown, his injuries and advanced may catch up with him like they did in 2002. That said, if healthy he has the best chance to bounce back. He has had a nine-year stretch in which he was one of the best in the game. That's hard to ignore. It's something that Gonzalez and Hampton cannot say about their careers.]


Adam (NY): Yo Joe!

Ya think Soriano can eclipse 50 home runs this year? I sure think so. Also what do you think of Matsui's potential?
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: 50 is a lot of HRs even in today's game. I dont think he can do that, he only hit 39 last year. Matsui won't have the same impact that Ichiro had, they are different players. Ichiro was immediately one of the best. Matsui can become one of the best, but not right away.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: C'mon, Joe. 50 home runs is a lot, but it's only 11 more than Soriano hit in 2002. It's only his second full season in the bigs, and he hasn't yet hit his prime years.I wanted expect him to hit 50 but it would be far from unprecedented. I don't know much about Matsui, but he is a different type of player than Ichiro. He has much more power. Whether that power translates into the game on this side of the ocean remains to be seen. But if it does, I don't know why he wouldn't have as big an impact as Ichiro.]


Chris(Cincinnati): Joe, my Dad says that you were the best second baseman who ever played the game. What was the locker room like during the hey-day of the Big Red Machine?
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: It was indescribable. Fantastic. To walk into a lockerrom with all those guys, Seave, Rose, Griffey Sr., Bench, etc. Just imagine. There were about six or seven HOFers in that room each day. It's a pretty special feeling.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: By the time Joe is done, they will all be Hall of Famers. The friggin' bat boy will be in Cooperstown. That is pretty special.]


Birdie (STL): How does the Cardinals pitching look to you? Is Eldred healthy? All we get is propaganda in STL...
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: You have to remember you won the division last year! But it will be more difficult this year. LaRussa always gets the best out of his guys. The one thing about baseball, there aren't any great teams. The Cardinals have a pitching flaw, but every team has a flaw. The one thing in this game today, you can go right from last to first. Anyone can win .. with a few exceptions.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: Joe, offer an opinion. If you don't know about Cal Eldred's condition, you can always say that he has not been a good pitcher since the mid-Nineties, so who cares if he's healthy? Morris should continue to be the staff leader. Williams and Stephenson should be reliable starters if healthy. The rest (Tomko, Carpenter, Simontacchi, Hermanson, Eldred, whoever) should be able to round out a decent staff. As always for the Cardinals' rotation, injuries will be the issue. That was the issue last year (along with Darryl Kile's untimely death) and they still were fourth in the NL in ERA.

Besides, every team has holes. You're storied Big Red Machine had a rotation in 1976 led by the ever-average Gary Nolan. And " you can go right from last to first"-I thought that we were adrift in a sea of predictability in which the big-money teams always win. Isn't that what the analysts have been telling us for years. Sorry, negativity. I'm back on board.]


Tom Nampa, ID: I was wondering why doesn't baseball follow all of the other sports and have drug testing like they do?
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: I've said this for a long time, that they should. The real reason is Kim Caminiti, Jose Canseco, when they said a lot of guys were using steroids, that's coming from actual players. It's not writers speculating. I thought at that point, they should have started trying to prove that the problem wasn't as bad as Ken and Jose said. But they should be testing.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: Way to support the Union! The last CBA settled this for steroids. Maybe the players could have been more forthcoming, but it's done. As for the rest of the drug world, the union is proceeding very slowly and cautiously. We'll have to wait to see if we can add wisely to that list. You could have mentioned ephedera, Joe.]


Joe, Queens, NY: Mr. Morgan, how do you think the Mets will do after so much expectation was put on them last year and they were horrible.
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: You have guys who have proven they can have good years. Vaughn, Alomar, they all have great potential. The addition of Floyd will help. Art Howe will be a little different than Valentine. We'll just have to see how that works.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: Who are these young players, Alomar and Vaughn, with so much potential? I've never heard of them. First, the Mets had a .466 winning percent last year, not great, not good, but also not "horrible". They are a team that is getting long in the tooth that had some veteran players have off years. Whether that trend can be reversed, we'll have to see, but the odds should not improve as they get older, not matter how many tons Vaughn sheds this offseason. Also, Howe will be much different from Valentine. Unfortunatley, Steve Phillips is still Steve Phillips.]


Brandon, Spencer: why isnt roger maris in the hall? Hes a legend but i see he only gets 22% of votes to get in. I dont care if he only had a couple of good years he should be in the hall. What do you thing?
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: Again, that's the great thing about baseball. It's more sujective than you realize. I voted for Maris as well. But it's not all stats. Some have said he wasn't consistent enough. He didn't have 400 HRs. So a lot of people didn't feel he deserved it. But I felt breaking Babe Ruth's record was so special and he won two MVP's. I believe he should be in the Hall, but again, I just get one vote.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: Hey, how about puuting Ned Williamson in then? He held the homer record before Ruth. How about Earl Webb, who owns the doubles record? Maris had some great years, but he was basically washed up by thirty. Is that a Hall of Famer? He was a home run hitter who hit 275 home runs. Bob Allison is the most similar batter in Maris in history. Maris is not a Hall of Famer. Make a nice display case for 1961 and move on.]


Lindsay, Seattle: Do you really think the Tigers will lose 100+ games, or do they even have 1/2 of a chance of being .500?
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: I don't think they will lose 100. There will be a differnet attitude with some of the guys from the glory days around. To say they will be .500 is difficult. But they will be better.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: What, is Alan Trammell going to pitch for them? Guys from the glory days mean nothing. This is a bad team, a very bad team. Wish it into the cornfield.]


Teddy (Milwaukee): Hi Joe. Love your chats! You're the best ESPN analyst. A question for you--I'm very worried about my Brewers and don't know whether the front office has a real plan to compete. What's your take on this?
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: A lot of changes were made when Lopes left. Even in the front office. Wendy Selig is not the President anymore, so you expect some chaos. But they will have to get their act together. I don't know much about Ned Yost.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: They lost their best player and cut payroll wherever they could. What do you think their direction is? To the head of the welfare line to take Steinbrenner's money away by the wheelbarrow-ful.


Jeff (Ohio): Joe, have you had a chance to see Great American Ballpark? Will it truly be a great American ballpark?
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: I haven't seen it. I should have seen it but I haven't. I was there for the final game in Riverfront and meant to go look at it but I was running late. But I hear it is going to be something special. I will be there for Opening Day.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: Thanks for taking an interest in the old club during the offseason, Joe.]


Doug ( Detroit ): Joe, Will the DH ever leave baseball...I hope so....
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: No. Most of the folks in the NL want to do away with it but it's an AL thing. If the leagues every truly combined you would probably lose it. But as long as there is an AL and NL, probably not.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: Why? Opinions change on a yearly basis. I remember a time when there were strong rumors that the NL was going to institute the DH. I also remember a time when the AL was discussing ridding itself of the artifice. Baseball has been too concerned with beating down the players and fleecing the Yankees of their wealth to deal with this issue.]


Doug ( etroit ): Quick Joe, i have the third pick in Fantasy baseball draft....A ROd and Randy Johnson are gone.....Should I take Vlad???
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: That's not a bad choice!! Somebody asked me for about the most underrated player the other day and he may be it. He is as good as anyone. He just plays in a bad situation. If he played for the Yankees or Dodgers, he would be considered the best player in the game. He is among the best .. as good as ARod.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: You've got to be kidding me. Vlad is so underrated that he's overrated now. It's trendy to select him as the most underrated. The media jump through hoops to prove he's more valuable than A-Rod and Bonds (or just ignore Bonds altogether). I have to update my "About Me" because I still list him as underrated. How about Brian Giles, languishing in Pittsburgh. Vlad is a great player, but not as good as A-Rod or Bonds, not yet.]


The Ugly: Bill Murray and Punxsutawney Phil going over a cliff in flames in Groundhog's Day after being awakened to Sonny & Cher's I Got You, Babe for, literally, the umpteenth time


Phil - St. Cloud, MN.: Greetings to the man I regard as the greatest 2B of all time (yes, greater than Eddie Collins)--Who, in your opinion, is history's best LF? Has Mr. Bonds eked his way past Williams, Musial & Henderson with his single-season OBP & SLG records and monster World Series, or will his so-called "attitude" drag him down in history's eyes? (You can probably tell that I think he's already there.) Thanks Mr. Morgan-- P.S: My wife thinks you're handsome & wants to know if you're ever mistaken for Quincy Jones...
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: That's a generation type of question. Baseball, you used to be able to compare guys, Cobb to Mays, etc. But the game has changed so much. It's hard to compare across decades. The parks are smaller and the parks aren't as big. Barry is unbelievable. But my point is if Williams and Musial played in the game today, their stats would be far better than what they were. Williams would hit 50 HRs every year and probably be close to .400. It's just not fair to compare guys that far back. It's 'hard to even compare Bonds to a guy like Willie Stargell. There is no doubt in my mind Stargell would hit 60 HRs in today's game. But Bonds have certainly set himself apart from everyone else in his era.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: This is Classic Joe if I have ever seen it. "Things were better in my day, you young whippersnappers. Stargell would hit 60 homers today." There's just so much to choose from. Where do I start?

First, you can not compare Cobb and Mays straight up, and you never could. Mays played in an era with much lower batting averages and on-base percentages than Cobb. And Cobb played in an era with fewer home runs and a much lower slugging average. In Cobb's first full season (1907), the league leader in home runs had eight, eight dingers!. At 35 Cobb batted .401 and finished a distant second in the batting race to George Sisler's .420 average. I would feel more comfortable comparing Mays straight up with today's players. Even though that is problematic at best, the stats mean the same thing today for the most part as in Mays' day.

Second, yes the stats of Williams and Musial would be better but that does not mean that players like Bonds who have better stats than Williams or Musial ever recorded can just be ignored.

Third, thanks for patronizing us, Joe. "Bonds to a guy like Willie Stargell. There is no doubt in my mind Stargell would hit 60 HRs in today's game. But Bonds have certainly set himself apart from everyone else in his era." Bonds is a nice player today, young'uns, but Stargell now that was a real ballplayer. Stargell broke 40 home runs in a season twice and amassed 475 homers in his career. There's doubt in my mind that he would hit 60 in a season. He's far behind contemporaries like Schmidt, Jackson, Killebrew, and McCovey. Bonds is 114 home runs ahead of the next active player. Besides that Bonds has stolen fitfty bases in a season, something Pops never came close to. Bonds has eight Gold Gloves; Stargell, none. Bonds' OPS is 77% better than the adjusted league average; Stargell's is 47% better. No offense meant to Stargell, who is a clear-cut Hallof Famer, but he couldn't carry Bonds' body armor.

Last, nice sidestep of the Quincy Jones comparison.]


Jamison(Fair Lawn, NJ): Hi Joe, I like to compare my swing to pros. Which ones do you think have the nicest overall swings? I like Piazza's, but is he a good choice? Thanks
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: Barry Bonds! It's the most effective! There are a lot with nice swings but Barry's is so short, quick and powerful.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: This would have gone under The Good, but Joe cannot have it both ways. Either Bonds is exceptional or he's not.]


Juan (New York): What if any, do you see as a common misjudgement amongst GM's and other team officials when assessing talent?
Lil JoeJoe Morgan: When they just look at stats, esp. power stats. Many teams do that. Oh, he hit 24 HRs last year, instead of looking at when they happened, what he does to start rallies, how he hits with guys on base, etc. You can't judge a player with just two stats.

Are you talking to me?[Mike: You mean like evaluating pitchers based on wins? Now, who would possibly do that?]


Lil JoeJoe Morgan: In closing, I know a lot of fans are disappointed that no one was elected by the Veterans Committee yesterday and I'm disappointed myself. Let's hope in the future some of these guys get in. This Committee was set up to help guys who had fallen through the cracks. It wasn't set up to be on a par with the writers. There have actually been more guys elected by the Committee than the baseball writers in the time period that the Committee has been around. The Committee has inducted a lot of guys, just not this year.

I'm looking forward to talking with you again after the season starts when I start up again with my weekly chat. Take care and enjoy Spring Training!
Are you talking to me?[Mike: Ah, now I feel bad for castigating him. He's really a nice optimistic, cheerful sort. Take care, Mr. Morgan.]


Stark Discipline Jayson Stark published
2003-02-28 01:04
by Mike Carminati

Stark Discipline

Jayson Stark published a piece on ESPN today congratulating the Veterans' Committee on their inability to select a Hall of Famer. He also continued to prove why he is sports journalism's answer to Carrot Top.

Apols to Mr. Top aside, Stark's article is basically a means to cozy up with Mike Schmidt. Michael Jack is quoted copiously by Stark like a schoolgirl citing Aaron Carter from rote after her weekly perusal of Tiger Beat.

Mike is one of my favorite players but seems to still be a smug egomaniac:

"I looked at them all," Schmidt said. "And I go back to what I said before. They had great, great careers. But you only ought to vote for them if they were one of the best of all time at their position for an extended period of time. But if they were that, they'd already be in the Hall of Fame, right?

"The Hall of Fame," said this particular Hall of Famer, "is for no-doubt guys."

Well, that's fine for you, Schmidty. You were a Hall of Famer by any standard. But that standard went by the boards the first time that the Veterans' Committee was formed. As Bill James once wrote, "The Hall of Fame selection process was an afterthought to an accident." Schmidt's argument obviates the need for a Veterans' Committee in the first place. If the writers are always 100% right then why re-vote later?

Well, if the writers had been getting it right all along, then the Vets' Committee never would have existed. The writers failed to elect a Hall-of-Famer in 1940, '41, '43, '44. '45, and '46. You may notice 1942 is missing from that list. That year the writers deigned to induct the lowly Rogers Hornsby. Basically, the problem was that there were too many qualified candidates. The voters couldn't concentrate their energies on one or two to get them elected. And we're not talking about Ron Santo and Dick Allen. These were Lefty Grove and Jimmie Foxx for goodness sake.

The Veterans' Committee, then called the Permanent Committee, was appointed by Judge Landis before his death in 1944 (and subsequent apotheosis in the Hall) to oversee the selection process as well as 19th century players. They changed the writers' rule of voting every two years (sound familiar) to a yearly vote but they created a two-tier system, which only created more gridlock for the writers. And they started to induct bushels of the Roger Bresnahans and Tom McCarthys, to which we have since become accustomed.

From James:

"From the standpoint of the Hall of Fame's membership, the things we talk about, the selection of these eleven men [by the VC in 1946] was the critical moment in the history of the Hall of Fame. From that moment on, the argument that the Hall of Fame should be only for the greatest of the great was irretrievably lost. It is strange that even now, 48 years later, so many people still don't realize this, that there are still people around who think that the standards of the Hall of Fame are being diminished whenever anybody below the level of Mickey Mantle is inducted. That standard died a long, long time ago.

Beyond that, though, the selection of these eleven men would ultimately make it impossible for the Hall of Fame discussion to reach any kind of firm consensus about who should and should not be selected. Why?

Because they created a gray area, so large that it could never be made dark."

Well, why not reverse the trend and go back to Mantle-or-better standard? First, it won't work because there are so many Ken Keltner devotees who can compare their favorite player favorably to any of a number of Hall-of-Famers. Second, because it is extremely unfair to the post-Fifties players, who are grossly underrepresented (about 50% of the norm)-I did a study on this a couple of months ago but can't seem to find it right now.

Stark sums up in his inimitable style:

"So after all the hoopla, what did this new system accomplish, anyway -- other than to make sure Eddie Murray and Gary Carter can make longer acceptance speeches next July?

"I don't know that this (system) resolves anything," Newhan said, "except that, in my mind, it validates the way the writers have always gone about it."

Bingo. We may have had our own differences with the writers' take on certain players over the years, but we know this: The writers devote more time, more passion, more thought and more care to the business of electing Hall of Famers than they're ever given credit for.

And thanks to the players and the newfangled Veterans Committee, at least we know now what we've always suspected -- that the writers have done exactly what they're supposed to do in life:

They got it right."

First, the past problems with the BBWAA's vote clearly display that the writers have not always gone about it right. Second, Stark employs some faulty logic. To be exact he disobeys the rule of Modus Tollens.

Modus Tollens is a basic rule of inference, which is best demonstrated by example: Where there is smoke there's fire. There is no fire. Therefore, there is no smoke. If A then B. Given Not B, we can derive Not A.

Stark assumes that if the writers would pick someone then the Vets' Committee would pick them as well. Otherwise, his statement that the Vets' dismissal of the available players validates the writers' wouldn't make sense.

However, you can go through the voting over the years and find the Mazes, Whitey Ashburns, and Nellie Foxes that were writers overlooked and the Vets voted in. Well, he may be saying that they were mistakes, and maybe some of them were. But the argument invalidates the existence of the Veterans' Committee in the first place. Well, maybe we don't have a problem with that either.

But my mind keeps going back to the stagnation in the writers' vote in the Forties. Without the Vets' Committee safety net, how can that be avoided in the future?

Also, we now have better tools to evaluate who fits the Hall's de facto standard. Guys like Santo, Blyleven, Kaat, John, and Dick Allen, who were or are being overlooked by the writers, are demonstrably average Hall of Famers. They would not lower the standard. They are the standard. Maybe that not only proves that the Vets' Committee didn't get it right. Neither did the writers in the first place.


The Mind-Forg'd Manacles, II The
2003-02-27 23:17
by Mike Carminati

The Mind-Forg'd Manacles, II

The Elephants in Oakland boys inform me that Mark Kreidler is a venerable scribe for The Sacramento Bee, whose stuff is sometimes picked up by ESPN. As I told them, my apologies to ESPN and my condolences to the Bay Area. Why ESPN picked up this piece of tripe I'll never know.


Dying to Get Into Cooperstown
2003-02-27 16:33
by Mike Carminati

Dying to Get Into Cooperstown

After failing to get into the Hall of Fame this year, Whitey Herzog has pronounced, "That's the end of it. It isn't ever going to work out now." Herzog is apparently anticipating the demise of his supporters by the time the next vote rolls around in 2007, four years from now.

Whitey then proceeded to put down every manager since Harry Wright, who is already in the Hall:

"Earl Weaver never put on a sign in his life," said Herzog, only half-kidding. "He had two switch-hitters who hit 30 home runs and he had four great starting pitchers.

"Are those guys better managers than me? I don't think so. I'm not popping my own bill but I'd venture to say that Lasorda would say the same thing. And Sparky always said that I'd handled pitchers better than anybody he'd ever seen."

Get 'em up against the wall, Whitey. And stop popping your bill-you'll go blind.
He also is not too pleased with the players who were active when he was a manager:

"You worry about guys like Mike Schmidt and Reggie Jackson," Herzog said candidly. "They really don't care who gets in. They've always been kind of self-centered guys, like 'Who cares if anybody else gets in?' Maybe they didn't vote for anybody. Maybe Reggie voted for Billy Martin, who he played for.

Whitey, I can't imagine why anyone would not vote for you.


The Mind-Forg'd Manacles In every
2003-02-27 15:57
by Mike Carminati

The Mind-Forg'd Manacles

In every cry of every man,
In every infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.

-William Blake

It was announced today that baseball will ban ephedera use in its minor-league system. ESPN touts this as the first step towards a universal ban. However, it should be pointed out that baseball has been using drug testing with its minor-leaguers for years.

Donald Fehr of the players' union says that the union will wait for the toxicology reports on Steve Bechler's death. It is already saying that its players should not be prohibited from taking legal, over-the-counter drugs.

Mark Kreidler of ESPN disagrees. He judiciously opines:

You know what baseball already knows? This much exactly: Athletes cheat. Not all of them cheat -- not even most of them, maybe -- and even the cheaters don't cheat 365 days a year. But athletes cheat.

They will do just about anything to gain an edge, and if that includes the ingestion or injection of questionable or outright dangerous substances, so be it. And if those substances are legal, so much the better -- but it's not the No. 1 concern...

It [baseball] already knows, in this very particular case, that players have taken, are taking and will take the legal, over-the-counter substance ephedra and abuse it wildly.

What the union's many critics do not understand is that the underlining assumption that the players are cheaters adds to the players' apprehension. Yes, some players "cheat" but do they "abuse [drugs] wildly", and do "anything to gain an edge"? Ken Caminiti admitted to steroid use. Others acknowledge its use. However, when Caminiti and Jose Canseco claim, with only anecdotal proof, that steroid use is so widespread to be the rule rather than the exception, the media are ready to accept it as gospel-players "abuse it wildly."

That said, the union should act on ephedera testing and it should have acted more quickly on steroid testing. But I disagree with Kriedler that the issue is about cheaters. The issue, my friends, is about power. The union has the power to say "No" and doesn't want to cede that power. Why would they when they can't trust the owners anyway?

Besides the issues of power and trust, the union has to ensure that it is protecting its members' rights. This is the difficult issue. If the union caves in to pressure because of over-the-counter drug like ephedera, what about prescription medication and illegal substances, not to mention other over-the-counter drugs.

Should some of those substances (especially the illegal ones) be monitored? Sure, the union would probably agree to that. But who decides which? And what are the repercussions and penalties?

The union is correct not to cede too much power too quickly. They have an obligation to their constituents. However, the power that they wield is theirs at the fans' behest. If the fans decide not to come to the ballpark or watch on TV, then the union has power over a bunch of unemployed superstars. The union has to remember that P.R. is an important part of their obligation to the players. Without a favorable public image, the players as a union would have as little power as the Richie Phillips-led umpires.

Again, it's not so simple an issue as the media portrays it, but negotiations are never easy about easy solutions. For a union that had once seemed morally and intellectually superior to the owners in the woebegone days of Marvin Miller, they have apparently lost the capacity to lose some battles to win the war-something for which Miller was famous. They don't seem to remember what the war is and have lost sight of it as each new issue appears. After being fleeced by the owners in the last negotiations, the union now looks more disorganized and misdirected than the Democratic party.

The "war" for the players' union is to get the best working and living conditions for its constituency, the players. That means ensuring that they receive salaries commensurate with their talents, that they have a healthy working environment, and that they don't die from over-the-counter drugs. When the union treats a drug-related death like a complaint about player accommodations or lost per-diem checks, it is not doing its players a favor. So, Donald Fehr, take the required time to make a decision, but when you make it, be certain it is the right one. Otherwise, you may not be making decisions for the players for much longer.


Son of Dock LSD David
2003-02-27 14:14
by Mike Carminati

Son of Dock LSD

David Wells is preparing for a Barbara Walters special. First, he admitted to using ephedra for weight loss, apparnetly unsuccessfully. Now, he has admitted to pitching a perfect game "half drunk" and on only one hour of sleep. He at least did not go so far as to murder (allegedly) his wife like Robert Blake did, but his rhetoric is escalating.

"As of this writing, 15 men in the history of organized baseball have ever thrown a perfect game,'' he writes in galleys of the book. "Only one of those men did it half-drunk, with bloodshot eyes, monster breath and a raging, skull-rattling hangover. That would be me.''

The book, Perfect I'm Not! Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches and Baseball, will be published April 1 by William Morrow, a subsidiary of News Corp.

The pungency of Boomer's breath aside--maybe monster breath is as close to minty fresh as he can get--, I beg to differ on the difficulty involved in the event.

Dock Ellis never pitched a perfect game, but he had a no-hitter in 1970 and he pitched it on an hallucinogen. Ellis disclosed it in his autobiography as well. I guess some sort of addictive substance is required in a baseball tell-all.

I remember the story reading like something by Hunter S. Thompson. Ellis claimed that sometimes the catcher's glove was a tiny dot and other times it seemed as large as a house. And all he was trying to do was hit that amorphous, Technicolor glove with the ball. Why a crappy movie about him featuring Christina Ricci was never made, I do not know.

Ellis and Wells also shared flaky personas. Ellis wore curlers in his hair in the locker room, had a flare for polemic, and once hit three batters in a row to tie the still-standing record. Not to sound like John Rocker, but they also both pitched for the Yankees. Of course, the mid-Seventies Yankees were a much different team from today's and that tends to accentuate Wells peccadilloes a bit more even without monster breath.


"Baseball's Glad Lexicon" These are
2003-02-26 22:47
by Mike Carminati

"Baseball's Glad Lexicon"

These are the gladdest of possible words:
"Joe Morgan Chat Day tomorrow."
Reductio ad absurdum, his facts fleetly blurred,
Joe Morgan Chat Day tomorrow
Ruthlessly promulgating gonfalon babble,
Making a giant hit with the ole rabble--
His words numb your brain like a bad game of Scrabble:
"Joe Morgan Chat Day tomorrow!"

Lou Lou Lou Piniella must
2003-02-26 15:55
by Mike Carminati

Lou Lou

Lou Piniella must be thinking of his new managerial job as a form of Floridian retirement, a time for him to putter around the house, or rather the clubhouse. Or maybe there's something in the Florida water that makes men of Piniella's years senile. Otherwise how does one reconcile his plan to bat Greg Vaughn leadoff and Rey Ordonez second?

"You're going to laugh at this one," explains the skipper. "We'll try it out in spring training and see what it looks like. It seems to me he [Ordonez] can handle the bat. Put some speed in front of him and a good hitter behind him and he'll get a lot better selection than he did when he was with the Mets.

"He should be able to bunt, we should be able to hit and run with him, hit the ball behind the runner. And what that will do is allow us to keep some left-handed hitting stacked up a little deeper into the lineup. I like balance throughout the lineup. To me, balance is the most important thing."

Well if by balance he means posting a lineup with your worst hitters in the most prominent positions than he's done it. Pitch selection? Ordonez has never broken 50 walks, he only once had an on-base percentage over .300, and his adjusted OPS has never broken 70% of average. He's a horrible hitter. He can apparently bunt (double digits in sacs on four occassions), but should that be the basis of his batting second? Piniella should be toying with whether Ordonez can start any longer (or ever should have) on a major-league team. There's no way he should bat higher than ninth.

Vaughn leading off?:

"The reason being he has a good on-base percentage, he can steal a base, he's going to get good fastballs to hit in the leadoff spot," Piniella said. "It's just something that runs through my mind, nothing more, nothing less."

Vaughn has stolen more than 11 bases twice (15 in 1992 and 1999). His stolen base percentage is average, 67%. He stole three bases in five attempts last year. And he is 37.

Good OBP? His OBP was under .300 last year. It has been in the .360s as late as 2000, but if it ever gets that high again, the Rays are going to need him in the middle of the lineup.

Basically, there is more casue to believe that Vaughn and Ordonez are no longer major-league caliber players than top-of-the-order men. If Piniella does not see that, then the Rays fans (or is it fan?) may look back on 2002 as those halcyon days when the Rays could win 55 games a season.


Too Many Chefs? ESPN reports
2003-02-26 13:10
by Mike Carminati

Too Many Chefs?

ESPN reports that no one gained admittance to the Hall in this year's Veterans' Committee vote.

According to the source, former Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman Gil Hodges came the closest to election, falling 11 votes shy. Former umpire Doug Harvey was next, getting within 18 votes of election.

It seems that the new system may not be able to concentrate its attention on the large field of candidates. Perhaps, next time they will narrow the field a bit more (say 25 men) to let the voters focus on fewer, better-qualified candidates. The Hall faced this isssue in the early days when there were too many qualified candidates available. That's what caused the ill-conceived Vets' Committee in the first place.

We've come full circle, grasshopper. It's another tied-All-Star-game-like black eye for the sports' showcase.


Robbing Gil to Elect Ron
2003-02-26 13:01
by Mike Carminati

Robbing Gil to Elect Ron

Rob Neyer has a nice overview of the men eligible for the Vets' Committee voting.

He supports the apotheosis of Ron Santo, Minnie Minoso, Wes Ferrell, and Carl Mays. I agree about the first two (and also with his assessment of who should not get in): Santo's case has been stated clearly by Bill James for years. Basically, given the dearth of hot corner men and our ability now to assess Santo's worth, he should get a nod.

Minoso is a tough nut to crack. His career after the age of 28 would rank with many all-time greats. However, his missed years have cost him a plaque. Some of those years were lost to the color line, and he was a two-time All-Star in the Negro Leagues (as a third sacker). The real crime came when he was kept in the PCL for two years while in the Indians organization. Here are Minoso's home run, runs batted in, and runs scored totals for his career and projected out for the lost years:

	HR	RBI	R
Actual	186	1023	1136
W/ 1949-50	215	1180	1311
W/ 5 years 	258	1416	1573
extra

Basically, all post-1900 players with 1550+ runs who are eligible are in the Hall of Fame. The players with at least 1400 runs are pretty consistently in Cooperstown.

Does that mean that all of Minoso's "lost" years should be used to get him in. Well, no, or Lyman Bostock And Mark Fidrych would be a Hall-of-Famers. Those years should be weighed in evaluating him given that a) the performance of Negro League players has been used as the basis of a numebr of Veterans' Committee picks and b) his performance in the nearly major Pacific Coast League indicates that he should have been a major-leaguer. I would count his PCL years as Negro League service given that the Indians' prejudice against him kept him in the PCL.

Now to the pitchers. Neyer's picks just do not overwhelm me. they apparently don't overwhelm him either:

I'm not going to spend a lot of time on Ferrell and Mays, because they have absolutely no chance of getting elected and, to be honest, there are days when I'm not completely convinced myself. Today, though, I'm writing in support of both old-time pitchers.

Ferrell's 4.04 career ERA doesn't look like much, until you notice that he did much of his pitching in hitter's ballparks and that he did all of his pitching in a hitter's era. Oh, and he was maybe the greatest-hitting pitcher ever, which helped him post a .601 career winning percentage (193-128). Give him a small dollop of extra credit for his 31 career pinch-hits, and he looks like a Hall of Famer to me.

Mays never got much support from the writers, and it's hard to say exactly why. It might be because he threw the pitch that killed Ray Chapman. It might be because he was suspected of trying less than his hardest in Game 4 of the 1921 World Series. But it's obviously ridiculous to vilify Mays for head-hunting when Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale are lionized for the same, and Mays was cleared of the World Series accusation by none other than Judge Landis himself. So it seems to me that his 208 wins and .623 career winning percentage should be enough to get him elected.

Wes is probably a better candidate than his Hall-of-Famer brother and batterymate, Rick Ferrell, but two wrongs yudda yudda. Ferrell had had six very good seasons by age 28, but he was basically washed up in a year. It may have something to do with leading the league in complete games and innings for three years straight, but as opposed to rewarding Minoso for time he was prevented from serving due to circumstances beyod his control, I cannot credit Ferrell for the years lost. His body may be to a certain degree beyond his control but as an athelete, it's part of the package.

As for Mays, I would think a number of things barred his entrance to the Hall: the beaning, the Series rumors, the ugly schism caused by his trade demand in 1919, and probably his curmedgeonly demeanor. Mays has a stronger case than Ferrell given that he was productive for a longer span, about 15 years. He, however, had no great years after the age of 29 (even though he won 20 at the age of 32). I cannot get behind his candidacy until Blyleven, Kaat, and John get their due. I see Mays as an early Ron Guidry, great in some years and average in others, not the worst choose for the Hall but just not the best.


Miller Time? Murray Chass has
2003-02-26 11:08
by Mike Carminati

Miller Time?

Murray Chass has a good though slight article on the Hall-of-Fame voting by the Vets' Committee, the resultf of which will be announced today. Chass reports that Marvin Miller may have some strong support. It is encouraging given his importance to the game in the last 35 years. And I guess it makes sense given that "younger" veterans are now involved. When Miller first headed up the players' union, Teddy Ballgame, the man who had the most pull in the old Vets' Committee, was a retiree and then a representative of management.

Chass also has a good assessment of how Torre's managerial career may help him even though it's still active and therefore, not supposed to be part of the review.

I guess I would put Miller, Santo, Herzog, and Minoso in. There are a lot of 'tweeners in that group, and who knows about the execs and the ump? I guess Hodges is expected to garner the votes he needs. It will be interesting.


Lee Way I have been
2003-02-26 00:25
by Mike Carminati

Lee Way

I have been enjoying Lee Sinins' free ATM Reports for over a week now. Lee includes little tidbits that you can't get on most MLB-wide new wires like the one at ESPN.

Here are some choice cuts from his reports over the last couple of days:

Real Gonzo

"The Diamondbacks plan on giving LF Luis Gonzalez occasional days off this year and may limit him to about 150 games."

If the D-Backs think that limiting Gonzo's appearances will improve his game, well, they just may be right. Here are his 2000-2002 stats per month:

Month	AB	AVG	OBP	SLG	OPS
April	287	.272	.382	.624	1.006
May	303	.347	.454	.558	1.012
June	301	.326	.407	.628	1.035
July	296	.345	.426	.632	1.058
August	276	.293	.404	.572	.976
September	263	.259	.360	.433	.793
October	25	.360	.433	.760	1.193


He appears to be wilting in the Arizona sun by late August.

That said, it's unlikely that Gonzalez will re-capture his 2001 stroke. It was just so far out of character. He nearly doubled his previous high in home runs and his slugging percentage was almost 150 points higher than the previous high. Also, the man will be 36 by the end of the season so those sorts of aberrantly high, career years will be harder to acquire.

Non-Dancing Homer

"Homer Bush announced his retirement, saying he's been bothered by pain in both of his hips. Bush was in the Padres camp as a non roster invitee and GM Kevin Towers says Bush might try a comeback next year, if his hips feel better.

Bush had a .685 career OPS, compared to his league average of .780, and
-39 RCAA in 400 games, including a .265 SLG, .266 OBA, .531 OPS, -10 RCAA in 63 games with the BlueJays and Marlins in 2002.

His -33 RCAA in 2000 was tied for 4th worst on the BlueJays single
season list-"

Bush was awful in 2000. His only full year, 1999, wasn't anything to write home about but it was OK (96 adjusted OPS) for a rookie. At 26, this kid had a World Series ring and appeared to have a nice career, if not stardom, ahead of him. Who knew that it would be his peak.

GM: 2 And 2 Make, I'll Get Back to You on That

Check these two items out:

"According to the Boston Globe, trade talks for Redsox 3B Shea
Hillenbrand had stopped, at least for now. "

And...

"The candidates for the Indians starting 3B job are Casey Blake, Greg LaRocca and Bill Selby.

Blake may be the early frontrunner. Blake, 29, has a .643 OPS/-5 RCAA in 49 major league games, LaRocca, 30, has a .671 OPS/-3 RCAA in 34 games and Selby, 32, has a .673 OPS/-19 RCAA in 171 games."

What's wrong with this picture? The Red Sox have two viable starting third basemen. The once proud Indians have none, just a bunch of journeyman nobodies. Can't they work out some sort of deal-Hillenbrand should still be cheap and the Red Sox would love to part with him. The best that can be said of the three Indian never-was-es is that they are cheaper than-and, at this point, probably better than-Travis Fryman, one of the worst starting third baseman in the majors last season (he was the fourth worst in OPS behind, or really ahead of, Castilla, Cirillo, and Truby).

If I were stuck with those three stiffs, I would probably be scouring the waiver wire. Offensively Greg La "Coca" Rocca may be the best of the lot based on his offensive numbers last year. He at least drew six walks, scored 12 runs, and had a 95 adjusted OPS in his 52 at-bats in 2002. That's a small sample and it may not mean a thing, but the other two guys have not recorded any sorts of numbers that would make me confident that they are major-league hitters. If no one better surfaces, I guess you look for the best defensive player of the three and take your lumps.

A's Hole

"The candidates for the A's 4th and 5th starters spots are Ted Lilly, John Halama, Aaron Harang, Erik Hiljus and Ed Yarnall.

Lilly and Halama are considered the front runners. "

Lilly and Yarnall? What's Brien Taylor up to?

Season   G  W  L  ERA  K/9 K/BB WHIP HR/9  ERA+ Age
Lilly   64 10 14 4.92 8.13 2.38 1.35 1.53  92   27
Halama 136 42 32 4.54 5.09 1.81 1.47 1.00 100   31
Harang  16  5  4 4.83 7.35 1.42 1.57 0.80  96   24
Hiljus  34  8  3 4.72 7.19 2.06 1.47 1.52  96   30
Yarnall  7  1  0 5.40 6.30 1.08 1.75 0.90  85   27

Nothing all that impressive there, but then again, how good did Cory Lidle look before joining their rotation? He couldn't even make the D-Rays rotation.

I guess that Lilly and Halama are the logical choices. Harang has the most room for improvement, but the A's don't have to wetnurse another young arm at the end of the rotation when they have three of the best in the game at the front of the rotation. Hiljus has good strikeout numbers but is prone to the long ball. Yarnall is the worst of the lot.

Sticking Lilly and Halama at the end of the rotation and trading Harang to a team hungry for young arms would probably be the best course of action.

Rockie Start

"The candidates for the Rockies starting 2B job are Pablo Ozuna, Brent Butler, Chris Stynes and Ron Belliard. "

And Belliard sprained his ankle today. There's no possibility for platooning since they all bat right-handed. Butler was pathetic at the plate last year. Ozuna is a 28-year-old Triple-A player. Stynes has never played over 43 games at second in any season.

I guess the best option is to use both Stynes and Belliard and hope one can channel past success. Failing that, Belliard is probably the best defensive player and the most logical choice.

Boone Doggle

"The battle for the Reds 5th starter's job are Jose Rijo, Pete Harnsich, Osvaldo Fernandez, Jimmy Anderson, Lance Davis, Seth Etherton, Luke Hudson, Bruce Chen, Jose Acevedo, Chris Reitsma, Brian Reith and Blake Williams. "

What does Bob Boone have against Chris Reitsma anyway? He had a pretty good year last year (121 adjusted ERA) even with a 6-12 record. He's young (25). The job should be his, not the avuncular Rijo or Harnish's.

Hicks Taken By City Slickers

"According to the Hartford Courant, the Yankees could be showcasing Sterling Hitchcock for a trade to either the Reds or Rangers."

Playing Out the String

"A's SS Miguel Tejada had previously stated he's looking for a new 8-10 year contract. But, now he says, 'I really don't look for particular years. I just want to play baseball, and Billy Beane will decide how many years I'll be here.' "

Not So Schoeneweiss, Better to Go the Callaway

"The Angels don't expect Aaron Sele to be available until at least May, possibly even June. So, Scott Schoeneweis and Mickey Callaway are the top candidates to take his spot in the rotation, with there being speculation both ways as to who which pitcher is the frontrunner. "

I would have to go with Callaway for the 5th spot, and not because the Mickster is such a hot prospect. I would do whatever is possible to keep Schoeneweiss in the bullpen. Here's his breakdown from last year:

2002      ERA  G  IP    AVG WHIP K/9 IP K:BB HR/9IP
Total    4.88 54 118   .264 1.42 4.96 1.33 1.30
Starter  5.38 15  90.1 .276 1.51 4.38 1.10 1.20
Reliever 3.25 39  27.2 .225 1.16 6.83 2.33 1.63

In the pen, he was prone to the long ball, but all of his numbers improved dramatically. He may be a major-league reliever. He certainly is not a major league starter (never had an ERA under 5.00).

"Big Tub Of Goo"

David Wells says players using ephedrine is the team's fault because they have imposed the unfair expectation of requiring players to not come into camp overweight.

The clown also says, "The Orioles should be accountable [for Steve Bechler's death]. They didn't realize the kid was so eager to make the team. He was going to take whatever it took."

David Wells and weight loss-what a contradiction in terms.

Dusting Off the Old Rocking Chair

According to Cubs MGR Dusty Baker, Eric Karros "is working his butt off. He is out there in the morning hitting early and still out there hitting when I leave. It's a positive sign he is healthy or he couldn't do all these things."

It's not a good sign when a manager with a reputation for preferring veterans sings the praise of someone like Karros when the team has a rookie like Hee Seop Choi who's ready to claim the job.

The Hee Seop Choi career death watch begins today. I like Dusty Baker, but he may be the wrong man in the wrong place with the youthful Cubs. A bad start may drive this team down a path that will take them years to recover from.

Marquis de Sod

Braves MGR Bobby Cox says the 5th starter's job is "wide open."

Horacio Ramirez, Andy Pratt, Jung Bong and Trey Hodges would be
attempting to take Jason Marquis's job away from him. That is, if Cox is really serious and isn't just attempting to motivate Marquis.

What is it with the Braves and fifth starters? A year ago the Braves had both Marquis and Moss to work into the rotation. Marquis appeared a hair better so Moss was relegated to the fifth spot.

Moss ended up having the big year and Marquis is looking for a job. Marquis was pretty bad last year. It may be more than motivation. He may have simply been lapped by younger, probably better prospects.

Pudgy Logic

Orioles MGR Mike Hargrove says Geronimo Gil will retain his starting C job, but he also wants to use Brook Fordyce more often this season.

Gil hit .363 SLG, .270 OBA, .632 OPS, -26 RCAA in 125 games in his first year as a starter in 2002, while Fordyce is coming off a .315 SLG, .301 OBA, .616 OPS, -7 RCAA season in 56 games and has a .718 career OPS, compared to his league average of .776, and -25 RCAA in 461 games.

Why not? Fordyce did slug .500 and hit 14 home runs two years ago and Gil was pathetic at the plate last year.

Got Any Cubans In There?

The Rockies say they'll use a humidor to store the baseballs at Coors Field again this year.

Good to know. But will it help them win this year?

Brother, Can You Spare a League Minimum?

Lance Johnson showed up in the Pirates camp yesterday, looking for the job, and wasn't offered a contract.

I guess he heard the Pirates needed outfielders. 38-year-olds who have not played in two years and have not been good for 6, need not apply.

Two Timing

The Phillies re-signed P Carlos Silva to a 1 year, $310,000 contract, which will pay him $160,000 if he's in the minors.

Silva had a 3.21 ERA/5 RSAA in 68 games as a 23 year old rookie in 2002.

The Phils are big on the split contract of late. The signed Vicente Padilla, an All-Star last year, to one. Silva looks like a pretty good (118 adjusted ERA), young (still 23) righty reliever, and not only do the Phils sign him to only ten grand over the league minimum, they force him to take a split contract. Nice.


Expos, Hey! The Expos signed
2003-02-25 15:40
by Mike Carminati

Expos, Hey!

The Expos signed veteran Jose Offerman to a minor-league contract today....Really.

The Expos, who cannot afford the veterans that they already have, signed another and a bad one at that.

OK, so maybe he will play for the league minimum, but Montreal still is getting a 34-year-old player who was awful last year (77 adjusted OPS), has not played acceptably since 1999, and cannot play the field any longer (well, maybe first base). The only real spot for Offerman defensively is DH and his weak bat and the Expos' residence in the NL limit his use there.

Why would the Expos even bother to look at Offerman when there must be a spare Roberto Petagine or two floating through the minors who will play for the league minimum and can be acquired for a song? Oh, I forgot--it's because Omar Minaya is an impenetrable genius. My bad.


Grab An Abben I have
2003-02-25 14:17
by Mike Carminati

Grab An Abben

I have added a new site to my links, Abben's Baseball. Actually, Abben writes about many topics on his site. Amongst his weaponry is baseball.

Abben has also asked to reproduce some of my stuff on his site. So if I ever say anything that merits repeating, you may see it there.


Take Off, Roser! So Pete
2003-02-25 13:52
by Mike Carminati

Take Off, Roser!

So Pete Rose didn't end up making the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Grill, but Joe Carter did.

I don't get those wacky Canucks: I mean, why allow him on the ballot if you're not going to elect him? I know his career in Montreal was brief but he did collect his 4000th hit and break the singles record there.

Maybe they wanted a little publicity but didn't want to tick off the commissioner's office entirely. Maybe the Candian Hall of Fame, perhaps, means a little bit more.

But Carter over Rose? Why not Wayne Garrett?


"Smell-A-Vision Replaces Television" Today is
2003-02-25 12:46
by Mike Carminati

"Smell-A-Vision Replaces Television"

Today is officially the slowest baseball news day of the year. The following is an actual ESPN headline:

Yankees' Matsui has root canal

If the writer had been a little more creative he could have come up with Godzilla vs. Toothra or something.

And for those enquiring minds who must know, tooth and Yankee are doing fine. Thanks for asking.


Jose, Can You Play Short?
2003-02-25 00:07
by Mike Carminati

Jose, Can You Play Short?

Jose Valentin is going into spring training for the first time in three years as the White Sox starting shortstop reports MLB.com. After putzing around in center field and at third base, Valentin replaces the disappointing Royce Clayton, his one-time replacement at short, and 24-year-old Joe Crede takes over hi first full season at third.

The concern is that Valentin does not have what it takes to start at short. After all his last full season at short, 2000, did result in 36 errors and a .950 fielding percent, didn't it?

I think that this is shear nonsense. Valentin may not be the next Ozzie but he has always had better than average range at short. He is rated a B by Bill James defensive Win Shares. And whatever shortfall he does have defensively, he makes up for it with the bat. Incidentally, he plays even better offensive when used as a shortstop. Take a look at his numbers since being rotated in position like a volleyball players (i.e., 2000-2002):

POS AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI BB HBP  SO SB CS  AVG  OBP   SLG   OPS
3B 501  71 118 24  4 28  85 45   5 117  6  6 .236 .302  .467  .769
SS 882 166 242 55  7 45 133 95   4 176 22  2 .274 .345  .506  .851
CF  70   9  19  5  0  3   9  8   0  19  2  2 .271 .346  .471  .817
RF   4   0   2  1  1  0   4  0   0   1  0  0 .500 .500 1.250 1.750
OF  74   9  21  6  1  3  13  8   0  20  2  2 .284 .354  .514  .868
DH   1   0   0  0  0  0   0  0   0   0  0  0 .000 .000  .000  .000
PH  23   5   5  0  0  2   4  4   0   6  0  1 .217 .333  .478  .811

He hits for more power, takes more walks, and even runs the bases better. Maybe it's just a comfort thing. Moving Valentin to short will strengthen the Sox at two positions as Crede appears to be a pretty good prospect at third (112 adjusted OPS in his half-season). Just eliminating Royce Clayton (and his contract) improves this team immensely.


"Sounds Great, Greg" The D-Backs
2003-02-24 23:43
by Mike Carminati

"Sounds Great, Greg"

The D-Backs Greg Swindell is contemplating using his knuckleball in real live, honest-to-goodness games. Given his precipitous dropoff in the last few years, anything is worth a shot.

Take a look at his ERA and relative ERA (thanks to baseball-reference.com) since converting completely to a reliever:

Year	Age	ERA	Adj ERA
1997	32	3.58	130
1998	33	3.59	130
1999	34	2.51	177
2000	35	3.20	147
2001	36	4.53	101
2002	37	6.27	70

That's four very good years, one average to subpar (given that "average" is actually poor for a reliever), and one god-awful year. It looks to me like his arm has reached the end of the line. Maybe a knuckleball can save his career-he wouldn't be the first pitcher to extend his career via a trick pitch.

The sad part is that the D-Backs bullpen is so poor and so starved for a quality left-hander (Eddie Oropesa? C'mon!) that he may make the team even if the knuckler doesn't pan out.

[By the way, bonus points to anyone who knew that the headline was a line from the Brady Bunch.]


"Welcome to the Hall's of
2003-02-24 11:36
by Mike Carminati

"Welcome to the Hall's of Relief", VII

Previous entries:
The 1870s, '80s, and '90s
The 1900s and '10s
The 1920s, '30s, and '40s
The 1950s
The 1960s
The 1970s

The 1980s

These growing feathers plucked from Caesar's wing
Will make him fly an ordinary pitch,
Who else would soar above the view of men,
And keep us all in servile fearfulness.

- Flavius in Julius Caesar, act 1, sc. 1, l. 72-5 by William "Moose" Shakespeare

Since the turn of the century relief pitching had been a tool in the manager's bag of tricks, but rarely was a valuable member of the staff used exclusively for relief. An odd Firpo Marberry might appear here and there, but mainly a swingman, someone used as a starter and a reliever, either the star or the 10th man on the staff, would act as the reliever. Sometimes whole staffs were used as the support structure for a failing starter. And that's a key point: only when the starter began to fail did the manager turn to a reliever.

These trends changed extremely slowly. More pitchers were used per game and fewer pitchers completed games as time wore on, but the process took literally decades and it was far from a linear progression with retreats and lurches along the way. In the Fifties things began to accelerate as star relievers like Joe Page and Jim Konstanty took center stage. The better starters rarely if ever relieved and swingmen started to be eclipsed by the pure reliever.

In the 1960s the baseball cognoscenti started to experiment more with relief pitching. After the 1950s finally established the bullpen as a key element on the pitching staff, they started to push the envelope. Barriers like 30 saves and 90 relief appearances in a year were crossed. Career relievers like Hoyt Wilhelm, Roy Face, and Lindy McDaniel relieved in more games than anyone who came before them.

The role of the reliever was still being defined, especially that of the closer. The Seventies proved a mercurial time for relievers. Five-man rotations, the designated hitter rule, and expansion caused staff leaders to be worked harder than in the previous few decades. They started more games and completed more games as well. The reliever's role was also becoming one of endurance: 80 appearances and 130 innings pitched were common. Finally, in 1979, Bruce Sutter, who had broken down in the second half because of overuse in the three previous seasons, was used in limited situations. No longer was he asked to pitch almost daily. No longer was he asked to pitch 3 or more innings. He came in in save situations and pitched fewer innings. This came in a year in which two men were used as closers and still appeared in 90 games (Kent Tekulve and Mike Marshall).

Managers, who were looking for the correct way to use their closers and were afraid that the envelop-pushing approach was abusing them, were given a guide. Though it seemed they had been railing for a decade against using a closer in save situations exclusively, the results with Sutter was the tipping point. And the modern reliever that we boo the manager for not bringing in in the seventh inning with the game on the line was born.

Now that this rather lengthy preamble is complete, what exactly did happen in the Eighties, that era when Michael Jackson was still cool and not a pedophile (allegedly, of course, if any of Mr. Jackson's lawyers are reading-he was allegedly cool as well)? The view from 50,000 feet tells us that:

a) the first 40-save season was recorded (45 in 1983 by Dan Quisenberry)

b) Rollie Fingers became the first pitcher to surpass 300 saves in his career, the number that has since become the standard much like 300 wins for a starter, and c)

c) For the first time since the advent of unlimited substitution, relievers outnumbered swingmen by the end of the decade. That trend has continued and now there are almost twice as many pure relievers as swingmen.

d) Higher save totals: Since the beginning of the Eighties there has never been a full season in which someone has not save at least 30 games. Since 1983, when Quisenberry was the first to eclipse 40 saves, there has not been a full season in which someone has not saved 40 games.

e) The number of men who amassed 300 or more relief appearances increased from 31 in the Seventies to 54 in the Eighties. However, the number of men who made 500 or more relief appearances (7) stayed the same: the abuse was subsiding.

f) The number of men with 100 saves for the decade went from 12 in the Seventies to 23 in the Eighties.

g) The top relievers were now saving a larger percentage of their relief appearances. Compare the 100-save relievers of the Seventies and Eighties:
The Seventies:

First	Last	RA	Sv	%Sv
Rollie	Fingers	611	209	34.21%
Sparky	Lyle	600	190	31.67%
Mike	Marshall	618	177	28.64%
Dave	Giusti	467	140	29.98%
Tug	McGraw	533	132	24.77%
Dave	LaRoche	538	122	22.68%
John	Hiller	409	115	28.12%
Gene	Garber	436	110	25.23%
Clay	Carroll	436	106	24.31%
Bruce	Sutter	240	105	43.75%
Rich	Gossage	322	101	31.37%
Terry	Forster	321	100	31.15%
Total	 	5531	1607	29.05%


The Eighties:

First	Last	RA	Sv	%Sv
Jeff	Reardon	629	264	41.97%
Dan	Quisenberry	637	239	37.52%
Lee	Smith	580	234	40.34%
Rich	Gossage	494	206	41.70%
Bruce	Sutter	421	195	46.32%
Dave	Righetti	393	188	47.84%
Dave	Smith	518	176	33.98%
Steve	Bedrosian	438	161	36.76%
John	Franco	393	148	37.66%
Greg	Minton	625	146	23.36%
Willie	Hernandez	564	140	24.82%
Todd	Worrell	281	126	44.84%
Tom	Henke	320	122	38.13%
Ron	Davis	433	121	27.94%
Rollie	Fingers	243	120	49.38%
Jesse	Orosco	476	119	25.00%
Bob	Stanley	465	118	25.38%
Jay	Howell	323	117	36.22%
Gene	Garber	485	108	22.27%
Bill	Caudill	404	106	26.24%
Roger	McDowell	322	103	31.99%
Kent	Tekulve	687	101	14.70%
Dan	Plesac	210	100	47.62%
Total	 	10341	3458	33.44%


Note that only Sutter records a save in more than 40% of his appearances in the Seventies while nine relievers do so in the Eighties.

h) Further note the appearance among the relief appearance leaders more men who were setup men as opposed to closers. Kent Tekulve shows up in the list above even though he was a true closer for only a short period (around 1978-'80). So even though save totals are skyrocketing, men like Craig Lefferts, Larry Andersen, Frank DiPino, and Ed Vande Berg are among the leaders in relief appearances (all 396 or above). And as you go below 400 relief appearances, more and more setup men appear. Frank Williams and Dan Schatzeder both have over 300 relief appearances but have single-digit save totals. No one in the Seventies could claim to have done that. The closers are more dispersed in the relief appearance list as they are used in fewer games but save a higher percentage.

i) Of the ten men who made 80 or more relief appearances in a year in the Seventies, only one was not the team closer (it is somewhat problematic to designate some pitchers as closers in the Seventies since teams used their pens in a diverse way and save totals for the main reliever varied greatly). Of the 14 men who appeared in 80 games or more in a season in the Eighties only two were closers (Quisenberry in '85 and Guillermo Hernandez in '84).

j) Check out the all-time career saves leaders (with 100 or more) after the 1969, 1979, and 1989 seasons:

After 1969         | After 1979         | After 1989 
Name            Sv | Name            Sv | Name              Sv
Hoyt Wilhelm   210 | Hoyt Wilhelm   227 | Rollie Fingers   341
Roy Face       193 | Sparky Lyle    223 | Rich Gossage     307
Stu Miller     154 | Rollie Fingers 221 | Bruce Sutter     300
Ron Perranoski 138 | Roy Face       193 | Jeff Reardon     266
Lindy McDaniel 127 | Mike Marshall  187 | Dan Quisenberry  244
Dick Radatz    122 | Ron Perranoski 179 | Sparky Lyle      238
Don McMahon    119 | Lindy McDaniel 172 | Lee Smith        234
Al Worthington 110 | Stu Miller     154 | Hoyt Wilhelm     227
Ron Kline      107 | Don McMahon    153 | Gene Garber      218
Johnny Murphy  107 | Ted Abernathy  148 | Roy Face         193
Ted Abernathy  106 | Dave Giusti    145 | Dave Righetti    188
John Wyatt     103 | Tug McGraw     145 | Mike Marshall    188
Ellis Kinder   102 | Clay Carroll   143 | Kent Tekulve     184
Firpo Marberry 101 | Darold Knowles 143 | Tug McGraw       180
                   | Jim Brewer     132 | Ron Perranoski   179
                   | John Hiller    125 | Dave Smith       176
                   | Jack Aker      123 | Lindy McDaniel   172
                   | Dick Radatz    122 | Steve Bedrosian  161
                   | Dave LaRoche   122 | Stu Miller       154
                   | Frank Linzy    111 | Don McMahon      153
                   | Al Worthington 110 | Greg Minton      150
                   | Gene Garber    110 | John Franco      148
                   | Fred Gladding  109 | Ted Abernathy    148
                   | Ron Kline      108 | Willie Hernandez 147
                   | Wayne Granger  108 | Dave Giusti      145
                   | Johnny Murphy  107 | Darold Knowles   143
                   | Bruce Sutter   105 | Clay Carroll     143
                   | John Wyatt     103 | Gary Lavelle     136
                   | Ellis Kinder   102 | Bob Stanley      132
                   | Firpo Marberry 101 | Jim Brewer       132
                   | Rich Gossage   101 | Ron Davis        130
                   | Terry Forster  100 | Terry Forster    127
                                        | Bill Campbell    126
                                        | Todd Worrell     126
                                        | Dave LaRoche     126
                                        | John Hiller      125
                                        | Jack Aker        123
                                        | Tom Henke        122
                                        | Dick Radatz      122
                                        | Jesse Orosco     119
                                        | Jay Howell       117
                                        | Tippy Martinez   115
                                        | Frank Linzy      111
                                        | Al Worthington   110
                                        | Fred Gladding    109
                                        | Wayne Granger    108
                                        | Ron Kline        108
                                        | Johnny Murphy    107
                                        | Bill Caudill     106
                                        | John Wyatt       103
                                        | Ron Reed         103
                                        | Roger McDowell   103
                                        | Tom Burgmeier    102
                                        | Ellis Kinder     102
                                        | Firpo Marberry   101
                                        | Dan Plesac       100

Or to break it down by plateaus reached (with percent increase):

Saves	1969	1979	% Inc.	1989	% Inc.
300	0	0	0%	3	Inf
250	0	0	0%	4	Inf
200	1	3	300%	9	300%
150	3	8	267%	21	263%
100	14	32	229%	56	175%

These numbers accelerated into the Eighties.

k) Closers were being used in fewer situations in which their teams trailed or were tied with these opponents. They also pitched fewer innings per appearance. How do I know this?

Below is a table of cumulative stats for all closers in the Eighties and Seventies (min. 20 saves per season in the Eighties and 15 in the Seventies-I tried to compensate for the job's changing). The total games, relief appearances, wins, losses, saves, and innings pitched are listed along with the percentage of games in which the pitcher was used in relief and the percentage of games won, lost, and saved and innings-per-game.

Decade     G   RA    W   L   SV    IP     %RA       %W     %L    %Sv    IP/G
1980s   8892 8890  869 854 3980 12753.2  99.98%   9.77%  9.60% 44.76%   1.43
1970s   8422 8364 1025 885 2873 14101    99.31%  12.17% 10.51% 34.11%   1.67
%change                                   0.67% -19.70% -8.60% 31.21% -14.34% 


So what changed? Closers wee used in relief slightly more often-no biggy. They had a drop of nearly twenty percent in wins-per-game, nine percent in losses-per-game, and fourteen percent in innings-per-game and an increase of about thirty-one percent in saves-per-game. The saves come as no surprise. But why the decrease in wins, losses, and innings-per-appearance?

The innings-per-game dropoff represents managers attempting not to overwork their closers to save them for key situations.

The decrease in wins represents the resistance on the manager to use the closer when the game is tied or the team is losing. These situations produce a win, but as the role changed the closer usually came in after the lead was established in his team's favor. Also, fewer innings pitched meant that the pitcher had less time in which his team could recapture a lead once he had given it up.

The decrease in losses represents managers not using the closer in tie ballgames. Also, fewer innings had an effect. The loss decrease is less because wins also were affected by the team-trailing scenario being removed from the closer's possible situations.

The closer was being used more often in save situations for shorter periods.

l) The number of pure starters reached 20% of all pitchers by the end of the decade. This was the first time since 1902 that they comprised such a large segment of the pitching corps.

m) Pure reliever relievers now averaged an ERA that was .15 points better than a pure starter. In the Seventies the relievers' average ERA was .11 point worse than starters. And swingmen lagged far behind.

Well, that's the view from on high. I also have three little studies that I think might shed some light on this seemingly homogeneous decade:

Rollie Fingers in 1981

Brewers Rolled Behind Rollie

[From The Sporting News 1982 Baseball Guide]

It was fitting that Rollie Fingers was the winning pitcher when the Brewers clinched the East Division's second-half title on the next-to-last day of the season.

Without Fingers, the fourth relief pitcher ever to win the Cy Young Award, where would the Brewers have been? "Probably three games behind Toronto," said Manager Buck Rodgers.

The Brewer manager may have been stretching it a bit, but there isn't much doubt that they wouldn't have won their first title ever without the THE SPORTING NEWS' American League Fireman of the Year.

The Brewers had been a relief pitcher short of being a legitimate pennant contender for three seasons, and the addition of the tall man with the famous mustache proved to be even better than anybody had expected. Fingers led the major leagues with 28 saves and had a 6-3 record. He had an earned-run average of 1.04 in 78 innings.

He was phenomenal in the second half with a 5-1 record, 16 saves and a 0.72 ERA. The Brewers won 31 games to clinch the second-half title, and Fingers figured in 21 of the victories. In 1981 Rollie Fingers won the AL Most Valuable Player award.

Now compare that to what Bill James said of Fingers in his New Historical Baseball Abstract:

One player that I will be criticized for omitting [from his 100 best pitchers] is the Hall of Fame's second reliever, Rollie Fingers. But again, meaning no disrespect to Fingers, or anyone else who has a moustache you could weave into a carpet, I don't really see what is uniquely wonderful about Rollie Fingers' career. Yes, Fingers won an MVP Award in 1981, but...why? He faced 297 batters that year. Yes, he posted a 1.04 ERA, but Goose Gossage posted an ERA of 0.77 that same season, Rob Murphy posted an ERA of 0.77 in 1986, Dale Murray had a 1.03 ERA in 1974, Tim Burke had a 1.19 ERA in 1987, Frank Williams a 1.20 ERA in 1986. Jim Brewer and Ted Abernathy had ERAs of 1.27. Bob Veale in 1963 pitched the same number of innings (78) and allowed the same number of earned runs (9) as Fingers in 1981. It's just not a remarkable accomplishment.

Veale, for pitching 78 innings and allowing 9 earned runs, was credited with 10 Win Shares. Fingers, for doing the same, was credited with 17 Win Shares. That is a reasonable recognition of the importance of Fingers' role on the team. The BBWAA, however, gave Fingers an MVP Award. This is excessive. In my opinion, the BBWAA did something dumb when they gave Fingers an MVP award, and compounded the dumbitude by using that as a reason to put him in the Hall of Fame.

Rollie Fingers' proponents used the argument that Fingers was remarkably consistent for a relief ace. But for a relief ace, an ERA a full run better than the league is a basic standard of competence. Fingers met that standard only six times in his career, and pitched all of his career in pitcher's parks. Gossage met that standard 11 seasons, seven straight seasons, and pitched as many innings per year in tougher parks while doing it. Quisenberry met that standard his first nine seasons in the league, ten overall, also pitching more innings in tougher parks.

Fingers' ERA, adjusted for the parks he played in, was 16% better than league (2.90 vs. 3.45) [Baseball-Reeference.com says 19%]. Quisenberry's ERA was 31% [46%] better than league, Gossage's was 20% [26%] better than league, Sutter's 26% [36%] better, Wilhelm's 31% [46%] better. Kent Tekulve and Lee Smith were 24% [both 32%]better than league, Sparky Lyle 21% [27%] better than league. Fingers is more in a class with Jeff Reardon (17% [21%] better than league), Ron Perranoski (18% [21%] better), Gene Garber 11% [17%] better), and Don McMahon (16% [19%] better).

What lifted Fingers out of that class, I believe, was simply that he had exceptionally good taste in teammates-and the same is true of Jesse Haines and Rube Marquard. Haines in his career was ten games better than his teams; Marquard was two better than his.

Those are two quite different takes on Fingers' 1981 season. I believe that there's a little truth in both excerpts and that this season is illustrative of relievers of this era as a whole.

First, neither makes direct mention of the fact that Fingers lost a large segment of the season (53 games) to the strike and yet appeared in 47 games, pitched 78 innings, and tallied more saves (28) than he had in three years. That said what would Fingers' prorated season totals look like?

Year Ag Tm  Lg W L  G GS CG SHO SV  IP  H ER HR BB SO  ERA ERA+ WS
1981 34 MIL AL 6 3 47  0  0  0  28  78 55  9  3 13 61 1.04 331  17
1981 34 MIL AL 9 4 70  0  0  0  42 116 82 13  4 19 91 1.04 331  25

Well, that's a bit more impressive. 42 saves would have been the first time that a reliever reached 40 in a season, and therefore, a record. His 25 Win Shares are a little more respectable than the 17 James sites (and besides I am not completely sold that Win Shares measures relievers worth accurately, especially as the role has changed over time, but that's an argument for another day).

How many closer's have saved 42 games, won 9 others, and had an ERA in the 1.07 range? Just one comes close, John Wetteland in 1993. Wetteland had 9 wins, 43 saves, and a 1.37 ERA in 85.1 innings. So maybe Fingers deserved that MVP award after all?

Maybe. But I'm not willing to give it to him based on that argument. I cannot accept a player's projected totals as fact, especially a pitcher's. Why? Because a veteran pitcher like Fingers in 1981 (34 years old) benefits greatly from a 50-odd game break in the middle of the season. The most grueling part of the season is removed to provide a breather. Note that, as James points out, Gossage produced an even lower ERA in that season.

Second, pitcher's ERAs tend not to represent the pitcher's actual value-they appear more impressive or much less impressive-over short spans. This is especially true of relief pitchers, whose effectiveness may not show up as readily in ERA. This is due to ERA being zero-bound at the lower end (i.e., a pitcher cannot give up negative runs) and unbounded at the upper end (i.e., a pitcher in theory could give up infinite runs and infinite ERAs are possible if a pitcher allows a run without recording an out). Therefore, one bad outing does more damage to a pitcher's ERA than a few good outings do to help his ERA, especially if the pitcher throws very few innings at a time like a reliever. Look at John Smoltz last year for example. He gave up 8 earned runs in two-thirds an inning in his second outing in 2002, raising his ERA to 43.20. He gave up one run in his next 11 games (13 innings) and had a 5.52 ERA to show for it. At that point he had thrown 13 scoreless innings in 11 outings and had given up 9 runs in 1.2 innings in two outings. The two subpar outings had much more affect on his ERA than the many good ones. However, as the season wore on the good outings were able to overpower that one atrocious outing on April 6. It still had some effect though since his 3.25 ERA on the season would have only been 2.37 without that outing. Therefore, had Fingers pitched an entire season, they likelihood of a damaging outing would go up. One outing like Smoltz' would have almost double Fingers' ERA (to 1.94).

Third, Fingers' MVP candidacy benefited from the Brewers' pennant race in the second half of the split season. The Brewers may not have been in a pennant race had it not been for the strike. They "finished" the first half three games behind the Yankees, won the second half by 1.5 games over Detroit, and had the best record in the division. However, the Yankees were one game under .500 in their meaningless second half and finished two games back. A little incentive could have helped them bury the Brewers by the All-Star break.

Finally, I cannot reward Fingers for games he never pitched because he never pitched them. Lyman Bostock and Mark Fidrych may have been Hall-of-Famers had they been able to lead normal, uninterrupted careers. So might have Stan Bahnsen for that matter and probably a hundred-odd other players, but they didn't. So we'll never know. We cannot reward players for time not served. It's just too dangerous. Fingers was limited to 109 games in 1981 and that's perhaps too bad, but it's all we've got.

However, I think his prorated value had something to do with his winning the award, but I'll return to that later.

Now back to his effectiveness in the season: Apart from the impressive ERA, the most compelling argument promulgated by TSN was, "The Brewers won 31 games to clinch the second-half title, and Fingers figured in 21 of the victories." I wondered if the percentage of total wins and saves compared to team wins was that impressive. I found that Fingers' 54.84% was very good but was only 67th on the all-time list for relievers (with 30 relief appearances). There are 25 over 60% and here they are:

Name              Year  W SV GP Tm  W+Sv   W+Sv
                                 W  /GP   /Tm W
Bryan Harvey      1993  1 45 59 64 77.97% 71.88%
Ugueth Urbina     1999  6 41 71 68 66.20% 69.12%
Mike Williams     2002  2 46 59 72 81.36% 66.67%
Randy Myers       1993  2 53 73 84 75.34% 65.48%
Roberto Hernandez 1999  2 43 72 69 62.50% 65.22%
Bobby Thigpen     1990  4 57 77 94 79.22% 64.89%
Antonio Alfonseca 2000  5 45 68 79 73.53% 63.29%
Dan Quisenberry   1983  5 45 69 79 72.46% 63.29%
Lee Smith         1991  6 47 67 84 79.10% 63.10%
Dick Radatz       1964 16 29 79 72 56.96% 62.50%
Doug Jones        1990  5 43 66 77 72.73% 62.34%
Rollie Fingers    1977  8 35 78 69 55.13% 62.32%
Jeff Montgomery   1993  7 45 69 84 75.36% 61.90%
Trevor Hoffman    2000  4 43 70 76 67.14% 61.84%
Ugueth Urbina     1998  6 34 64 65 62.50% 61.54%
Jose Mesa         2002  4 45 74 80 66.22% 61.25%
Neil Allen        1981  7 18 43 41 58.14% 60.98%
Eric Gagne        2002  4 52 77 92 72.73% 60.87%
Trevor Hoffman    2002  2 38 61 66 65.57% 60.61%
Jeff Shaw         1997  4 42 78 76 58.97% 60.53%
Dennis Eckersley  1992  7 51 69 96 84.06% 60.42%
Dave Righetti     1986  8 46 74 90 72.97% 60.00%
Rick Aguilera     1998  4 38 68 70 61.76% 60.00%
Rod Beck          1998  3 51 81 90 66.67% 60.00%
...
Rollie Fingers    1981  6 28 47 62 72.34% 54.84%

Note that, even though the list is predominately season from the last 20 years, Fingers' 1977 season shows up in the list along with Radatz in 1964 and Neil Allen in 1981. Also, of the 142 season at or above 50%, 22 were from 1981 or before, and of the 66 seasons that rank higher than Fingers in 1981, seven were from 1981 or before (the three above and Ken Sanders in 1971 (55.07%), Sparky Lyle in 1972 (55.70%), Mike Marshall in 1973 (56.96%), and John Hiller 1973 (56.47%)). So it's not as if his performance were unprecedented at the time.

We'll maybe it's just easier to do on bad teams, given the fewer games that they win, and we all know how MVP voters dislike players on losing teams. What if we limit it to teams with winning records?

Name              Year  W SV GP  Tm  W+Sv   W+Sv
                                  W  /GP   /Tm W
Randy Myers       1993  2 53 73  84 75.34% 65.48%
Bobby Thigpen     1990  4 57 77  94 79.22% 64.89%
Lee Smith         1991  6 47 67  84 79.10% 63.10%
Jeff Montgomery   1993  7 45 69  84 75.36% 61.90%
Eric Gagne        2002  4 52 77  92 72.73% 60.87%
Dennis Eckersley  1992  7 51 69  96 84.06% 60.42%
Dave Righetti     1986  8 46 74  90 72.97% 60.00%
Rod Beck          1998  3 51 81  90 66.67% 60.00%
Armando Benitez   2001  6 43 73  82 67.12% 59.76%
Bruce Sutter      1984  5 45 71  84 70.42% 59.52%
Dan Quisenberry   1984  6 44 72  84 69.44% 59.52%
Bryan Harvey      1991  2 46 67  81 71.64% 59.26%
Trevor Hoffman    1998  4 53 66  98 86.36% 58.16%
Doug Jones        1992 11 36 80  81 58.75% 58.02%
Tom Gordon        1998  7 46 73  92 72.60% 57.61%
John Smoltz       2002  3 55 75 101 77.33% 57.43%
Dennis Eckersley  1991  5 43 67  84 71.64% 57.14%
Mariano Rivera    2001  4 50 71  95 76.06% 56.84%
Lee Smith         1992  4 43 70  83 67.14% 56.63%
John Hiller       1973 10 38 65  85 73.85% 56.47%
Trevor Hoffman    1996  9 42 70  91 72.86% 56.04%
Sparky Lyle       1972  9 35 59  79 74.58% 55.70%
Jeff Brantley     1996  1 44 66  81 68.18% 55.56%
Keith Foulke      2001  4 42 72  83 63.89% 55.42%
John Wetteland    1993  9 43 70  94 74.29% 55.32%
Rollie Fingers    1981  6 28 47  62 72.34% 54.84%

Fingers rises to number 27 but is still behind Hiller and Lyle, who preceded him.

Let's give this argument one last try. Let's look exclusively at playoff teams:

Name              Year  W SV GP  Tm  W+Sv   W+Sv
                                  W  /GP   /Tm W
Dennis Eckersley  1992  7 51 69  96 84.06% 60.42%
Rod Beck          1998  3 51 81  90 66.67% 60.00%
Dan Quisenberry   1984  6 44 72  84 69.44% 59.52%
Trevor Hoffman    1998  4 53 66  98 86.36% 58.16%
Tom Gordon        1998  7 46 73  92 72.60% 57.61%
John Smoltz       2002  3 55 75 101 77.33% 57.43%
Mariano Rivera    2001  4 50 71  95 76.06% 56.84%
Trevor Hoffman    1996  9 42 70  91 72.86% 56.04%
Rollie Fingers    1981  6 28 47  62 72.34% 54.84%
Billy Koch        2002 11 44 84 103 65.48% 53.40%
Todd Worrell      1996  4 44 72  90 66.67% 53.33%
Robb Nen          2002  6 43 68  95 72.06% 51.58%
John Wetteland    1998  3 42 63  88 71.43% 51.14%
Mariano Rivera    1997  6 43 66  96 74.24% 51.04%
Dennis Eckersley  1990  4 48 63 103 82.54% 50.49%
Mariano Rivera    1999  4 45 66  98 74.24% 50.00%

Fingers rises to ninth and he was the first to exceed 50% for a playoff team. But I'm still not sure that constitutes much of an argument for his MVP award.

Now for James' argument against Fingers winning the award: "Yes, he posted a 1.04 ERA... It's just not a remarkable accomplishment." Is that true given Fingers' save total? For example, of the comparable pitchers James cites, Murphy was rookie pitcher who threw 50.1 innings and saved one game. Gossage saved 20 but pitched only 46.2 innings. Murray had 10 saves and 69.2 innings in his rookie season. Burke had 18 saves and 91 innings pitched. Williams had one save in 52.1 innings. Brewer, 17 saves and 78.1 innings, and Veale had 3 saves in 77.2 innings. Abernathy did save 28 games and pitch 106.1 innings in 1967, but that does make Fingers' accomplishment a bit more remarkable.

Here's the complete list of relief pitchers with ERAs of 1.50 or less in chronological order (note that a pitcher must have 30 relief appearances or 20 saves to qualify):

Name             Year SV  G RA    IP  SO BB  W L  ERA
Junior Thompson  1946  4 39 38  62.7  31 40  4 6 1.29
Terry Fox        1961 12 39 39  57.3  32 16  5 2 1.41
Bill Henry       1964  6 37 37  52.0  28 12  2 2 0.87
Frank Linzy      1965 21 57 57  81.7  35 23  9 3 1.43
Steve Hamilton   1965  5 46 45  58.3  51 16  3 1 1.39
Frank Linzy      1967 17 57 57  95.7  38 34  7 7 1.51
Hoyt Wilhelm     1967 12 49 49  89.0  76 34  8 3 1.31
Ted Abernathy    1967 28 70 70 106.3  88 41  6 3 1.27
Joe Hoerner      1968 17 47 47  48.7  42 12  8 2 1.48
Ken Tatum        1969 22 45 45  86.3  65 39  7 2 1.36
Steve Mingori    1971  4 54 54  56.7  45 24  1 2 1.43
Darold Knowles   1972 11 54 54  65.7  36 37  5 1 1.37
Jim Brewer       1972 17 51 51  78.3  69 25  8 7 1.26
John Hiller      1973 38 65 65 125.3 124 39 10 5 1.44
Dale Murray      1974 10 32 32  69.7  31 23  1 1 1.03
Bob Apodaca      1975 13 46 46  84.7  45 28  3 4 1.49
Bruce Sutter     1977 31 62 62 107.3 129 23  7 3 1.34
Tug McGraw       1980 20 57 57  92.3  75 23  5 4 1.46
Rich Gossage     1981 20 32 32  46.7  48 14  3 2 0.77
Rollie Fingers   1981 28 47 47  78.0  61 13  6 3 1.04
Jesse Orosco     1983 17 62 62 110.0  84 38 13 7 1.47
Steve Howe       1983 18 46 46  68.7  52 12  4 7 1.44
Frank Williams   1986  1 36 36  52.3  33 21  3 1 1.20
Rob Murphy       1986  1 34 34  50.3  36 21  6 0 0.72
Jeff Calhoun     1987  1 42 42  42.7  31 26  3 1 1.48
Tim Burke        1987 18 55 55  91.0  58 17  7 0 1.19
Jeff Montgomery  1989 18 63 63  92.0  94 25  7 3 1.37
Les Lancaster    1989  8 42 42  72.7  56 15  4 2 1.36
Dennis Eckersley 1990 48 63 63  73.3  73  4  4 2 0.61
Doug Henry       1991 15 32 32  36.0  28 14  2 1 1.00
Jim Corsi        1992  0 32 32  44.0  19 18  4 2 1.43
Mel Rojas        1992 10 68 68 100.7  70 34  7 1 1.43
John Wetteland   1993 43 70 70  85.3 113 28  9 3 1.37
Mike Jackson     1994  4 36 36  42.3  51 11  3 2 1.49
Jose Mesa        1995 46 62 62  64.0  58 17  3 0 1.13
Tony Fossas      1995  0 58 58  36.7  40 10  3 0 1.47
Randy Myers      1997 45 61 61  59.7  56 22  2 3 1.51
Trevor Hoffman   1998 53 66 66  73.0  86 21  4 2 1.48
Ugueth Urbina    1998 34 64 64  69.3  94 33  6 3 1.30
Ray King         2000  0 36 36  28.7  19 10  3 2 1.26
Robb Nen         2000 41 68 68  66.0  92 19  4 3 1.50
B. Villafuerte   2002  1 31 31  32.0  25 12  1 2 1.41
Chris Hammond    2002  0 63 63  76.0  63 31  7 2 0.95
Joey Eischen     2002  2 59 59  53.7  51 18  6 1 1.34

There are a good number of middle relievers and setup men in the mix but there are also closers, especially ones that predate Fingers and Goose Gossage, who did it the same year.

Well, maybe Fingers did something extraordinary that didn't show up in the numbers to enable the Brewers to get to the playoffs. Here are Fingers' game logs for the season.

Keep in mind that the Brewers were in third place at the time of the strike (31-25), three games behind division-leading New York (34-22). In the second half, they won the division with a 31-22 record, 1.5 games ahead of Detroit and Boston (29-23) and 2 games ahead of Baltimore (28-23). Fifth-place Cleveland (26-27) was just 5 games back and sixth-place New York, for whom the second half was meaningless since they had "won" the first, was also five back (25-26). Even last-place Toronto was just 7.5 games back (21-27). In the West the only team in striking distance of the second-half champs, the A's, was Texas, in second by five games. Therefore, any games with Detroit, Boston, Baltimore, Cleveland, Oakland, and Texas could be said to have playoff implications. I, frankly, don't know how to classify the Yankee games-obviously, their spirit was not in the second half and their record reflects this. However, they did have a playoff-caliber team, one that eventually represented the AL in the World Series that year.

Therefore, the question remains as to Fingers' contribution in the second half especially in those pennant race games and whether his MVP and Cy Young candidacy should be thereby enhanced. Fingers had 12 saves, one win, and 2 losses at the time of the strike with a 1.34 ERA in 23 relief appearances constituting 40.1 innings pitched in the first half. His second half numbers are even more impressive: 23 games, 37.2 innings, 5-1 record, 16 saves, and 0.72 ERA.

Here is a log of his second-half appearances ("*" indicates that he faced the tying or go-ahead run when he entered the game and a "-" indicates a blown save. Thanks to Retrosheet.com for the data.):

- Aug. 10 vs Clev: 1 IP, Blew save. Entered game with Brewers leading 2-1 n ninth and allowed a run to tie it. Milwaukee eventually won in 13, 5-2.
Aug. 13 vs. Clev: 1 IP, save in 8-5 win, pitched one inning and entered with game already 8-5.
Aug. 16 vs. Tor: 1.2 IP and save in 6-2 win-came in with one out men at first and second in the eighth (already 6-2).
*Aug. 16 (game 2) vs. Tor: 1.2 IP and save in 2-0 win-came in with one out and man on first in eighth (2-0).
*Aug. 18 vs. Tex: 1.2 IP and save in 3-1 win-came in with bases loaded, one out, and one run already across in the inning in the eighth inning (3-1).
*Aug 22 vs. Minn: 2 IP and win in 4-3, 10-inning victory-came in with score tied to start ninth (3-3).
Aug. 23 vs. Minn: 1.1 IP and save in 8-5 win-came in with man on third, two out, and two runs already across in the inning in the 8th (7-5).
Aug. 28 vs. Tex: 1.2 IP and save in 6-3 win-in 8th, came in with man on first, one out, 1 run already across in the inning (6-3).
Aug. 30 vs. Tex: 0.2 IP and save in 6-2 win-came in with men at first and second and one out in ninth (6-2).
*Aug. 31 vs. KC: 2.1 IP and save in 5-1 win-came in with men at second and third, 2 out, and score 3-1 in the 7th.
- Sept 2 vs. KC: 0.2 IP and loss in 5-4 defeat-came in to start the ninth of a 4-4 tie.
*Sept. 3 vs. Minn: 1.1 IP and save in 4-3 win-came in with man on first and two out in 8th (4-3).
Sept 5 vs. Minn: 1 IP and save in 5-3 win-came in with none out and none on in the ninth after Jim Slaton had lost his no-hitter by giving up three runs in ninth.
*Sept. 6 vs. Minn: 2 IP and win in 8-7 victory-came in to start ninth with score tied 7-7.
*Sept. 9 vs. NYY: 2.2 IP and save in 5-3 win-came in in 7th with one out, men on first and second, and score 5-2 (one inherited run scored).
Sept. 12 vs. Balt: 1 IP and save in 6-3 win-came in with man on first and none out in ninth (6-3).
*Sept 15 vs. NYY: 2 IP and save in 2-1 win-came in to start 8th (2-1).
*Sept. 16 vs. NYY: 2 IP and save in 3-2 win-came in to start 8th (3-2).
Sept. 19 vs. Balt: 2.2 IP and save in 11-8 win-came in with men on first and second, one out, and 7-5 Milwaukee lead in 7th (two inherited runs scored plus one uninherited).
- Sept. 22 vs. Bos: 2.2 IP and win in 10-8 victory-came in with one out, man on second, and score 8-7 Brewers in the 7th. Gave up inherited run to tie score and later win it.
Sept. 25 vs. Det: 1 IP and save in 8-6 win-came in to start ninth (8-6).
*Sept. 26 vs. Det: 1 IP and save in 4-3 win-came in with none on, none out, and 2 runs across in the inning in the 9th (4-3).
Sept. 30 vs. Bos: 1.1 IP in 10-5 win-came in with men at first and second and one out in the 8th (10-5).
*Oct. 3 vs. Det: 1.1 IP and win in 2-1 victory-came in with two out, man on first, and the Brewers trailing 1-0 in the 8th. This victory clinches the division for the Brewers.

Actually, it looks more impressive on paper than I anticipated, especially the September numbers. He has 11 of my qualified saves (i.e., facing winning or go-ahead run when he entered) and 3 blown saves. His numbers versus the pennant race teams that we mentioned earlier is 3 "saves" and 2 blown saves (plus 3 "saves" vs. the Yankees). They look more impressive because they helped clinch the pennant and were against the Yankees, but his stats are less impressive against the teams in the race.

Also, consider that Gossage finished 5th in Cy Young voting and 9th in MVP voting probably because his Yankees were never in a real playoff race, but as we documented above, Fingers was not as impressive as one would believe in the pennant race against the tougher teams. Further John Wetteland, whose 1993 season was similar to Fingers' 1981 as I indicated earlier, finished 24th in the MVP vote that year and got no mention in the Cy Young vote even though fellow closers Bryan Harvey and Randy Myers did.

It should also be pointed out that there were a number of players have very good season in 1981 (three of them on the Brewers):

Player	Win Share	Adj OPS
Rickey Henderson	27	150
Dwight Evans	26	163
Cecil Cooper	22	151
Bobby Grich	 21	164
Eddie Murray	21	156
Gorman Thomas	20	146
Robin Yount	20	114
Dwayne Murphy	20	129

One could argue that not only was Fingers not the AL MVP, not only was he not the Brewer MVP, he was the fourth most valuable on his own team.

How valuable was his season after all if his injury-plagued 1982 matches it in most stats but ERA but failed to garner a single Cy Young vote and finished 16th in MVP that year:

Year Ag Tm  Lg  W   L   G   GS  CG SHO SV   IP     H   ER   HR  BB   SO   ERA *lgERA *ERA+
1981 34 MIL AL   6   3  47   0   0   0 28   78.0   55    9   3   13   61  1.04  3.44  331
1982 35 MIL AL   5   6  50   0   0   0 29   79.7   63   23   5   20   71  2.60  3.80  146

I have to side with James in this argument. Fingers had a very fine season but was far from being MVP-worthy. So why did Fingers win? I think it was a combination of things. I think the shortened season threw off everyone's season numbers making it more difficult for voters. I also think Fingers to a certain degree gets the benefit for the time he lost. Why else would a closer with only 28 saves get the MVP when the record had been 38 for nine seasons and Bruce Sutter had had 37 just two years before? Why else would his 1981 season overwhelm voters while his 1982 season did anything but.

Besides Ted Abernathy had had similar statistics in 1967 (adjusting the saves per era): he lead the majors in saves with 28, won six games, and had an ERA a little over 1.00. And Abernathy did it 106.1 innings, a more impressive accomplishment. So why was Abernathy twentieth in the 1967 MVP vote? Well, the Reds did finish in fourth 14.5 games back, but third-place Roberto Clemente was not held back by his .500 team.

Obviously, the way that a closer was viewed in 1981 was fundamentally different from the way it was viewed in 1967. I submit that analysts of the day had an inflated view of the closer's worth. Sutter had just made the reliever's role a glamorous one (again) two years earlier. Writers were just waiting for the next big thing when Fingers and a strike-shortened season gave it to them.

I also submit that this view carried through until when Fingers was eligible for the Hall. Fingers had been the first man to break 300 saves, had the MVP season, and a very good career. He also retired one year removed from his peak at the age of 38. Compare him to near contemporary Goose Gossage: Gossage was, for many arguments that have been listed since he became Hall-eligible, as viable a candidate as Fingers-they are listed as the player most comparable to each other by Bill James Similar Pitcher system. Gossage was still a valuable pitcher when he retired at age 42 but was at least 5 good years removed from closing. However, he started his career four years after Fingers and ended it nine years after Fingers.

Fingers was voted into the Hall on his second ballot (1992). Gossage has yet to get in in three tries. He hasn't even been close. So what's the difference? Well, in 1992 Dennis Eckersley, Gossage's teammate at the time, was re-writing the record books or at least the margins thereof with only the second 50+ save season. It was the culmination of five dominant years by Eck. Fingers' excellent career was still fresh in the writers' minds. It proved to be Eckersley's last dominant season. By 2000, when Gossage first became available, the save was already becoming devalued as a means to measure closers. Saves were a dime-a-dozen, even Gossage's 310 of them. I would say that was the difference in Fingers' rather easy entrance into the Hall and Gossage's yet unsuccessful one.

Eckersley plays a big part in the momentary resurgence of closers in the late Eighties, the subject of our next study.

1987: The Year That the Modern Closer Almost Died (Bye Bye, Miss American Pie)

In 1987 everyone in baseball was talking about the number of balls flying out of the park. The talk didn't slow even though the home runs did after the All-Star break. The ball was juiced, that's what everyone said. They called it the "lively-ball" or "livelier-ball theory". Street and Smith's 1988 Baseball Annual quoted Bobby Bonds, then a 41-year-old coach for the Indians and a proponent of the livelier-ball theory, as saying that when he took an occasional turn in the batting cage:

"I hit the ball as far as I did when I was 25-years-old. I'm not that strong. I hit balls really terrible and they went over the fence. When I was playing, I'd hit balls and say, oh my Gos, and they didn't go out. During my batting practice now, I hit balls and said, oh my God, and they cleared the fence by 30 feet."

Bonds' "Oh my God!"'s may be more easily explained by his son's ability to hit the ball farther as he approaches forty than when he was twenty-five: Maybe it runs in the family. Or maybe Bonds was upset that so many players joined him in the exclusive 30-30 club in 1987, increasing the membership to 10 men, 4 from 1987 (i.e., Eric Davis, Joe Carter, Darryl Strawberry, and Howard Johnson).

However, no one could argue with the record number of home runs being hit. On May 9th alone, Eddie Murray homered from both sides of the plate for the second consecutive game, and weak-hitting Chris Speier hit his second grand-slam home run in a week, after going his first 15 seasons without one. May 27 Greg Gross hits his first home run since 1978. On May 28 Joe Carter hits three home runs and Mike Young becomes only the fifth player ever to hit two home runs in extra innings.

And that's just the anecdotal evidence. Here is a table of the number of home runs per game with the percent increase from the previous year and from five years previous to mitigate one-year spikes. I included every year because, heck, I do like numbers and I thought some of you might too:

Year	HR/G	% Change	5-year % Change
1871	0.185	-	-
1872	0.096	-48.32%	-
1873	0.128	34.00%	-
1874	0.091	-29.36%	-
1875	0.061	-32.75%	-67.10%
1876	0.077	26.37%	-19.56%
1877	0.067	-13.33%	-47.97%
1878	0.063	-6.25%	-30.95%
1879	0.090	44.55%	48.42%
1880	0.091	0.92%	18.53%
1881	0.113	24.04%	69.64%
1882	0.156	37.58%	148.95%
1883	0.152	-2.57%	67.80%
1884	0.223	47.40%	145.07%
1885	0.181	-18.79%	60.45%
1886	0.196	8.17%	26.16%
1887	0.286	45.90%	88.92%
1888	0.239	-16.70%	6.76%
1889	0.306	28.26%	68.61%
1890	0.236	-22.76%	20.39%
1891	0.264	11.79%	-7.76%
1892	0.226	-14.31%	-5.10%
1893	0.293	29.42%	-4.24%
1894	0.395	34.93%	67.29%
1895	0.304	-23.10%	15.08%
1896	0.255	-16.11%	12.66%
1897	0.227	-11.07%	-22.58%
1898	0.162	-28.44%	-58.94%
1899	0.190	17.06%	-37.50%
1900	0.223	17.47%	-12.49%
1901	0.205	-8.17%	-9.64%
1902	0.160	-22.11%	-1.65%
1903	0.150	-5.81%	-20.87%
1904	0.133	-11.87%	-40.63%
1905	0.137	3.11%	-33.34%
1906	0.107	-21.62%	-32.92%
1907	0.099	-7.22%	-33.92%
1908	0.107	8.02%	-19.01%
1909	0.105	-2.39%	-23.32%
1910	0.145	37.96%	34.95%
1911	0.208	43.76%	109.12%
1912	0.180	-13.46%	67.53%
1913	0.190	5.70%	81.41%
1914	0.189	-0.49%	30.85%
1915	0.170	-9.92%	-18.02%
1916	0.154	-9.84%	-14.58%
1917	0.134	-12.53%	-29.32%
1918	0.116	-13.90%	-38.84%
1919	0.200	72.86%	17.36%
1920	0.255	27.69%	66.22%
1921	0.381	49.34%	183.80%
1922	0.426	11.77%	268.43%
1923	0.397	-6.73%	98.79%
1924	0.364	-8.42%	42.57%
1925	0.476	30.79%	24.86%
1926	0.350	-26.54%	-17.93%
1927	0.373	6.66%	-6.15%
1928	0.444	19.03%	21.99%
1929	0.549	23.62%	15.30%
1930	0.634	15.54%	81.34%
1931	0.432	-31.80%	15.94%
1932	0.551	27.34%	24.04%
1933	0.435	-20.98%	-20.71%
1934	0.549	26.27%	-13.35%
1935	0.539	-1.82%	24.76%
1936	0.551	2.11%	0.04%
1937	0.577	4.75%	32.61%
1938	0.603	4.50%	9.75%
1939	0.587	-2.67%	8.79%
1940	0.636	8.28%	15.36%
1941	0.535	-15.82%	-7.30%
1942	0.438	-18.22%	-27.45%
1943	0.366	-16.46%	-37.72%
1944	0.416	13.89%	-34.50%
1945	0.409	-1.66%	-23.48%
1946	0.489	19.49%	11.80%
1947	0.630	28.70%	72.23%
1948	0.629	-0.16%	50.99%
1949	0.687	9.32%	67.85%
1950	0.837	21.85%	71.17%
1951	0.752	-10.20%	19.43%
1952	0.686	-8.70%	9.21%
1953	0.837	21.95%	21.83%
1954	0.783	-6.47%	-6.49%
1955	0.901	15.10%	19.86%
1956	0.926	2.73%	34.86%
1957	0.891	-3.70%	6.50%
1958	0.907	1.73%	15.83%
1959	0.909	0.20%	0.84%
1960	0.861	-5.27%	-7.01%
1961	0.955	10.89%	7.07%
1962	0.926	-3.03%	2.07%
1963	0.835	-9.79%	-8.10%
1964	0.849	1.71%	-1.34%
1965	0.828	-2.50%	-13.25%
1966	0.849	2.55%	-8.26%
1967	0.710	-16.45%	-15.03%
1968	0.614	-13.49%	-27.73%
1969	0.801	30.55%	-3.23%
1970	0.882	10.05%	3.85%
1971	0.739	-16.25%	4.10%
1972	0.682	-7.73%	11.03%
1973	0.798	17.12%	-0.39%
1974	0.681	-14.69%	-22.79%
1975	0.698	2.43%	-5.57%
1976	0.576	-17.37%	-15.44%
1977	0.866	50.33%	8.54%
1978	0.703	-18.84%	3.25%
1979	0.818	16.30%	17.24%
1980	0.733	-10.33%	27.23%
1981	0.637	-13.12%	-26.47%
1982	0.802	25.88%	14.04%
1983	0.783	-2.40%	-4.30%
1984	0.774	-1.12%	5.54%
1985	0.856	10.66%	34.44%
1986	0.907	5.86%	13.06%
1987	1.059	16.80%	35.31%
1988	0.757	-28.50%	-2.16%
1989	0.732	-3.33%	-14.53%
1990	0.788	7.64%	-13.09%
1991	0.804	2.04%	-24.08%
1992	0.721	-10.28%	-4.74%
1993	0.888	23.12%	21.33%
1994	1.033	16.34%	31.13%
1995	1.012	-2.08%	25.84%
1996	1.094	8.18%	51.73%
1997	1.024	-6.45%	15.29%
1998	1.041	1.69%	0.77%
1999	1.138	9.34%	12.53%
2000	1.172	2.94%	7.08%
2001	1.124	-4.13%	9.74%
2002	1.043	-7.20%	0.15%

Note how this trend was a long time coming with increases in 1977, 1979, and 1982. The largest increases were in the 1985-'87 period though, with 1987 reaching the then-historic (and now de rigueur) sum of one home run per game.

From The Sporting News 1988 Baseball Guide regarding the home run increase in the 1987 season:

Subpar pitching and the umpire's shrinking strike zone were theories advanced as explanations for the record home run output. Over the first half of the 1987 campaign, the homer total was well ahead of the previous year's record clip, though the pace slowed slightly after the All-Star break.

Both leagues attained new home run highs. With American League hitters unloading 2,634 and the National League accounting for 1,824, the total of 4,458 amounted to nearly a 17 percent increase over the record of 3,813 set a year earlier. Six A.L. teams-Detroit, Toronto, Oakland, Texas, Kansas City and Cleveland- established new marks, as did three N.L. clubs-Chicago, San Francisco and New York. One of the more unusual homers was hit September 5 by California third baseman Jack Howell at Yankee Stadium. Facing reliever Tim Stoddard, Howell drove a pitch into the left-field stands, even though his bat broke in half about 12 inches from the knob.

Oakland first baseman Mark McGwire was the A.L.'s leading home run hitter with 49, smashing the rookie record of 38. Outfielder Andre Dawson also had 49 for the Chicago Cubs to pace the senior circuit. New York Yankee first baseman Don Mattingly accomplished two remarkable feats, equaling one record with home runs in eight consecutive games and establishing another by hitting six grand slams...

The home run barrage stirred speculation that the baseballs had been "juiced up." Denials by representatives of the manufacturer, Rawlings Sporting Goods Co., were met with skepticism, but scientific tests arranged separately by USA Today and the league offices confirmed that the 1987 baseballs were no livelier than those of recent years. The newspaper had Hailer Testing Laboratories of Plain-field, N.J., perform tests early in July on 116 baseballs collected from all 26 teams. A few weeks later, at the request of the two leagues, the Science and Aeronautics Department of the University of Missouri at Rolla compared several dozen 1985 and 1987 balls manufactured by Rawlings.

The homer outburst also spawned several brawls and charges of cheating on the part of hitters as well as pitchers. Fourteen bench-clearing brawls erupted during the first half of the campaign. The biggest took place at Wrigley Field on July 7 after the Cubs' Dawson was struck on the face by a pitch from San Diego's Eric Show, causing wounds that required 24 stitches. Two days later, N.L. President A. Bartlett Giamatti issued an edict threatening "severe penalties, possibly including suspension," for any act clearly intended to maim or injure another player. The warning had a quick, positive effect.

Because certain pitchers long had been suspected of scuffing baseballs, Giamatti and his counterpart, A.L. President Bobby Brown, ordered umpires from both leagues to keep a close watch for illegal activity. And when the long-ball exploits of Mets infielder Howard Johnson, who hit 36 homers after totaling only 40 in five previous seasons, and other slightly-built players aroused suspicions of corked bats. Commissioner Ueberroth sent out an August 6 directive that permitted umpires to impound one bat per team per game upon request of the opposing manager. The confiscated bats were shipped to league headquarters to be X-rayed.

Three players, two of them pitchers, drew suspensions. Joe Niekro, veteran knuckleballer with Minnesota, was banned 10 days for doctoring baseballs; pitcher Kevin Gross of Philadelphia received the same sentence when umpires detected an illegal substance on his glove, and Billy Hatcher of Houston was suspended for 10 days for using a corked bat. No violations were found in the bats of other players that were examined...

While hitters generally fared well, pitchers struggled through a rough season. Boston's Roger Clemens and Oakland's Dave Stewart were the only hurlers to reach the coveted 20-victory level with 20-9 and 20-13 records, respectively. Clemens recorded his 20 wins despite a spring training holdout and 4-6 start. Rick Sutcliff e of the Chicago Cubs was the National League's top winner with 18 victories. Only four pitchers working the 162 innings required to qualify for earned-run honors finished under 3.00. The lone National League hurler to do so was veteran Nolan Ryan, who had a 2.76 ERA but a disappointing 8-16 record as a consequence of weak offensive support by his Houston mates. Jimmy Key of Toronto (2.76) edged Viola (2.90) and Clemens (2.97) for the American League's ERA title.

For the record, here are the men with a double-digit increase in their home run output between 1986 and 1987 (and played at least 100 games in 1986-the largest increase was 43 by rookie Mark McGwire). Only four men (Rickey Henderson (-11 but played only 95 games), Jesse Barfield (-12), Doug Decinces (-10 in his final year), and Don Baylor (-15, played 128 games)) experienced double-digit dropoffs:

Name		1986 HR	1987 HR	Diff
Andre	Dawson	20	49	29
Will	Clark	11	35	24
George	Bell	31	47	16
John	Kruk	4	20	16
Wade	Boggs	8	24	16
Brook	Jacoby	17	32	15
Dale	Murphy	29	44	15
Keith	Moreland	12	27	15
Ruben	Sierra	16	30	14
Eddie	Murray	17	30	13
Larry	Sheets	18	31	13
Darryl	Strawberry	27	39	12
Juan	Samuel	16	28	12
Ozzie	Virgil	15	27	12
Robin	Yount	9	21	12
Wally	Joyner	22	34	12
Alvin	Davis	18	29	11
Chili	Davis	13	24	11
Gary	Ward	5	16	11
Terry	Pendleton	1	12	11
Bill	Doran	6	16	10
Eric	Davis	27	37	10
John	Shelby	11	21	10
Nick	Esasky	12	22	10

The general consensus now seems to be that the ball was juiced and that it was then-commissioner Peter Ueberroth's attempt (and if so, then a successful one) to rejuvenate interest in the game. Although I do not know if any evidence was ever found to support that conclusion.

Okay, so a lot of home runs were hit. Big deal! What does that have to do with relief pitching?

Well, as home runs flew out of parks, staffs became jittery and managers changed styles. The percentage of games completed by starting pitchers dwindled from just over 20% in 1980 to under 14% in 1986 and '87. The percentage of all pitchers who were used solely as starting pitchers, which had been climbing steadily throughout the Seventies, plateaued and then increased by six percentage points after the home run explosion stopped in '88. The same goes for the falling percentage of swingman, which dropped almost nine points in 1988. Meanwhile all pitching roles were taking their lumps: all three (starter, reliever, and swingman) had average ERAs over 4.00 in 1987; that was the first time since 1950.

The way that relief pitchers were used changed dramatically as well. From 1955 to 1979 the number of pitchers used per game increased by just one-tenth of a man. Between 1979 and 1989 that number went up by more than a third a man. 1987 witnessed the lowest save leader over a full season (Steve Bedrosian with 40) for the period 1983 to the present.

Closers got fewer saves in 1987 as managers tried different ways to hold a lead. Here are the average number of saves for team's "closer" (i.e., pitcher with most saves prorated to 162 games):

Year	Sv/162G
1970	19.63
1971	15.13
1972	16.51
1973	16.63
1974	12.70
1975	13.90
1976	14.41
1977	17.60
1978	18.23
1979	17.60
1980	19.20
1981	19.23
1982	19.57
1983	19.86
1984	22.32
1985	22.15
1986	22.53
1987	19.93
1988	25.84
1989	27.38

The number of closers in baseball who met the typical closer-type numbers dwindled. Here are the number of "high-save" closers (>=15 saves 1970-'79, >=13 saves 1981, and >= 20 saves 1980, '82-'89 (total is prorates to 13 for the strike year of 1981)):

Year	High-Save Closers
1970	18
1971	13
1972	12
1973	14
1974	8
1975	10
1976	11
1977	17
1978	15
1979	15
1980	14
1981	11
1982	12
1983	14
1984	14
1985	13
1986	17
1987	10
1988	18
1989	25


Also, the percentage of games saved dropped in 1987:

Year	Pitchers/G	SV%	Sv/RA
1970	2.664	22.58%	13.57%
1971	2.493	17.78%	11.91%
1972	2.455	19.71%	13.55%
1973	2.370	21.08%	15.39%
1974	2.398	13.29%	9.50%
1975	2.397	17.30%	12.38%
1976	2.415	17.61%	12.45%
1977	2.525	20.09%	13.17%
1978	2.401	19.12%	13.65%
1979	2.520	20.02%	13.17%
1980	2.564	21.43%	13.70%
1981	2.668	21.70%	13.01%
1982	2.620	22.12%	13.66%
1983	2.603	23.16%	14.45%
1984	2.655	23.59%	14.25%
1985	2.735	23.23%	13.39%
1986	2.796	23.87%	13.29%
1987	2.888	23.06%	12.22%
1988	2.745	24.98%	14.31%
1989	2.875	25.38%	13.53%

Throughout the era of the "modern" closer, the percentage of games that resulted in saves had been increasing. Suddenly, it dropped almost a full percentage point in 1987. More pitchers were used per game than had ever been used before, the increase outpacing the modest, evolutionary snowballing of the last ten years. Note also that the percentage of relieve appearances that resulted in a save for the reliever took a hit during the 1985-'87 offensive increase, with 1987's 1+ point drop being the worst of the three. All of these numbers returned to the normal projections in 1988.

One would be lead to believe that the closer role was becoming less important as more pitchers with more appearances, fewer of which ended in saves, were becoming the norm. However, if a count of the total number of pitchers who saved games in a given were tallied, that would not seem to be the case:

Year	Savers/Tm
1960	6.875
1961	6.556
1962	7.600
1963	6.400
1964	7.000
1965	6.700
1966	6.700
1967	6.450
1968	6.450
1969	6.042
1970	6.250
1971	5.625
1972	5.833
1973	6.167
1974	4.875
1975	5.333
1976	5.292
1977	5.269
1978	5.154
1979	4.962
1980	5.615
1981	4.769
1982	5.615
1983	5.231
1984	5.577
1985	5.808
1986	5.769
1987	5.692
1988	5.577
1989	4.923
1990	5.654
1991	5.692
1992	4.885
1993	5.071
1994	5.071
1995	4.821
1996	4.893
1997	5.000
1998	4.933
1999	4.733
2000	4.500
2001	4.333
2002	4.367

Note that the number of pitchers who saved at least a game per team actually increased during the 1985-'87 period and has never been that high since.

One logical conclusion of fewer saves and more pitching changes would be that relief pitchers in general and closers in particular were throwing fewer innings. The number of 3-inning saves and endurance-based saves would therefore be the culprit. However, the number of 100-inning pitchers actually increased. Here is a table of the number of 100-inning relievers per year (with fewer than 10 starts (7 in '81), at least 20 relief appearances, and at least 100 IP (66 in '81)):

Year	100-IP relievers
1970	16
1971	11
1972	15
1973	17
1974	24
1975	17
1976	22
1977	40
1978	25
1979	18
1980	25
1981	28
1982	36
1983	23
1984	25
1985	19
1986	19
1987	22
1988	12
1989	18


Evidently relievers in general did still pitch 100 innings. So maybe the manner in which closers were employed was the culprit of fewer saves. To test this I selected the "closer" for each team per year. This was the man with the most saves on the team. I then took the average for all such closers in the majors for each year. If two or more men were tied for the team save lead, I averaged their stats before adding them to the majors totals and deriving the major-league average. Here are the results (MTL = Miminum Team Leader, the team leader with the most saves; all the other stats are based on the closer average):

Year   Sv/  MTL/  W    L     G    GS     IP   ERA   K/  HR/ K/BB WHIP
      162G  162G                                   9IP  9IP
1970 19.63  8.00 6.13 5.92 60.25 0.33  91.44 3.01 6.39 0.65 1.90 1.256
1971 15.13  4.01 6.15 5.67 54.56 1.58  90.15 2.93 6.41 0.64 1.71 1.274
1972 16.51  4.18 5.48 5.48 50.50 0.75  80.47 2.78 6.56 0.51 1.82 1.246
1973 16.63  6.00 6.32 5.65 54.99 1.25  97.06 2.88 6.05 0.61 1.73 1.266
1974 12.70  3.00 6.96 6.25 59.46 0.92 106.42 2.90 5.58 0.54 1.82 1.257
1975 13.90  5.03 6.02 5.60 52.88 0.50  87.98 3.13 5.97 0.55 1.62 1.311
1976 14.41  6.02 7.08 6.08 57.67 0.42  98.58 2.76 6.25 0.40 1.73 1.245
1977 17.60  8.01 7.65 6.50 60.69 0.92 106.23 2.97 6.66 0.67 2.11 1.235
1978 18.23  9.02 7.31 7.23 58.04 0.19  93.94 2.82 6.59 0.57 1.83 1.229
1979 17.60  6.02 7.35 6.73 57.19 0.96  94.50 2.89 6.32 0.58 1.78 1.268
1980 19.20  6.00 6.65 5.96 62.54 0.31  98.35 2.75 5.64 0.46 1.80 1.233
1981 19.23  4.53 4.35 4.08 41.40 0.23  65.41 2.75 5.63 0.48 1.61 1.254
1982 19.57  7.00 6.77 7.08 61.40 0.46 100.62 2.93 6.02 0.60 2.01 1.221
1983 19.86  6.99 6.35 6.69 59.81 0.27  93.41 2.97 6.29 0.60 1.99 1.231
1984 22.32  8.00 5.83 6.79 60.63 0.04  90.62 2.96 6.43 0.66 2.08 1.234
1985 22.15  9.01 6.46 6.17 60.85 0.42  90.78 2.95 6.50 0.71 2.22 1.210
1986 22.53 10.01 6.58 6.88 60.38 0.92  87.91 3.26 7.21 0.76 2.09 1.292
1987 19.93  8.00 5.23 5.65 56.27 0.37  84.40 3.36 7.71 0.88 2.41 1.261
1988 25.84 13.04 4.46 5.27 57.46 0.04  73.87 2.88 7.66 0.57 2.49 1.205
1989 27.38 15.00 4.17 4.27 59.35 0.04  73.82 2.61 7.77 0.57 2.39 1.181

A number of interesting conclusions may be drawn. First, note that the average number of saves per closer is lower in 1987 than in the surrounding years, just as we saw earlier with saves in general. Note also that the lowest team closer has a save total lower than expected. The lowest in 1988 would be more than 50% higher than 1987's.

Note too the ERA upswing in 1987. Clearly this was affected by that year's offensive/home run explosion. One logical consequence of a higher ERA for a closer would be fewer saves, but one would also expect more losses and possibly more wins, as the pitcher's team regains the lead with him on the mound. However, neither was the case as closers experienced historically low win and loss totals.

Closer's innings pitched did decrease in 1987 by three innings, but I cannot imagine that a few innings cost that many saves. It did portend the sub-80-inning closer that came thereafter. Note that the number of appearances per closer did decrease slightly but clearly closers pitched fewer innings per appearances. Compare the similar appearance totals for 1976-1983 and for 1987. Note that there are a number of years in the '76-'83 range in which the average closer had about the same number as he did in 1987. However, the closer in the earlier range was expected to pitch 90-100 innings as opposed to the 84 in 1987.

Note that 1987 was also a transition for the number of games started by the closer. Whereas closers would start an average of almost one game prior to the "modern" period (1977 and '79), the average closer started only 0.37 games in 1987, or rather only one in three closers started a game on average. As late as 1986, a start per closer was the norm, possibly to combat the offensive onslaught of the mid-Eighties by enlisting a starter as a closer or a closer as a starter. Note that the games started average plummets after 1987. Again this year is a transition point.

Also, note the increase in strikeout pitchers being used as closers. Both the strikeouts-per-nine-innings and the strikeouts-to-walks-ratio were historically high for closers. When scoring is high, even large leads can be lost quickly. Managers began selecting pitchers who would keep batters off the basepaths via the strikeout. These were fireballers who still had good control, which is evident by the slight increase in 1987 over the norm in Walks-Plus-Hits-Per-Innings-Pitched (WHIP). 1987's average closer WHIP is actually lower than 1986's. The strikeout stats remained high even after scoring returned to normal after 1987, and control improved as the closer's WHIP went down with the scoring.

I see 1987 as a year in which the "modern closer" established by Bruce Sutter in the late Seventies started to break down and a new closer who was a power pitcher with good control, pitched fewer innings per appearance, almost never started a game, and was rarely involved in win-loss decisions. The "post-modern" closer had more saves and was more widely used than the Sutter-type.

Of course, a man, who personified all of these elements, began his closer career in 1987 and would go on to be widely-held as the best reliever of all time. That man is, of course, Dennis Eckersley. Eck would walk few, strikeout many (anout one per inning), would never pitch more than 80 innings in a year as a reliever, and would set the standard for the next generation of closers.

Eckersley would never have been able to succeed without his excellent supporting bullpen staff in Oakland. The growth of the setup men is the subject of the last study.

Setting 'Em Up And Knocking
2003-02-24 09:03
by Mike Carminati

Setting 'Em Up And Knocking 'Em Down: A Brief History of Middle Relieving

So 1987 became a transition year for the closer. The "modern" closer established by Bruce Sutter was replaced by the "post-modern" closer, one that was even more geared to producing higher save numbers: shorter outings, more strikeouts, better control, fewer wins and losses, etc. The transition was spurred on by an offensive barrage that overwhelmed the suddenly outmoded 100-inning closer approach. The new approach has become calcified in the last 14 years, but more on that in the Nineties section.

What I am interested in finding out here is how closers were able to be used in the "post-modern" way. I believe that the rest of the bullpen, which had been secondary closers and extra starting pitchers in the past was now a unit with more individualized and more clearly defined roles. I feel that the bulk of the involvement in relief wins and losses was transferred from the closer to the middle relievers. Closers now just saved games. I also feel that this transfer of responsibility may have obviated the need for a closer, but more on that later.

For now we will look at the development of the non-closing relievers and explore their impact on team success. First, we must define our terms, which gets a bit difficult with relievers and especially closers since its sort of the negation of certain things that define what a pitcher does. That is, he doesn't start games or at least does not very often. With closers, you can go by save thresholds but they vary over time and across teams.

So what constitutes a closer? One would say that relief appearances (i.e., games pitched minus games started) and saves. So thresholds like, say, 20 saves won't work, but what about percentage of team totals? A closer is someone who records, say, 75% of a team's saves.

That seems reasonable, right? Well, maybe not. Check out this table of percentage of saves by team leaders. For each year the percentage of major league clubs that have save leaders that reach the prescribed levels is listed:

Year	100%	90%	75%	50%	25%	10%	0 saves
1871	22%	22%	22%	22%	22%	22%	78%
1872	18%	18%	18%	18%	18%	18%	82%
1873	11%	11%	11%	22%	22%	22%	78%
1874	25%	25%	25%	25%	25%	25%	75%
1875	8%	8%	8%	8%	15%	15%	85%
1876	13%	13%	13%	38%	38%	38%	63%
1877	17%	17%	17%	33%	33%	33%	67%
1878	17%	17%	17%	17%	17%	17%	83%
1879	0%	0%	0%	13%	13%	13%	88%
1880	25%	25%	25%	63%	63%	63%	38%
1881	0%	0%	0%	13%	13%	13%	88%
1882	14%	14%	14%	14%	14%	14%	86%
1883	31%	31%	31%	50%	50%	50%	50%
1884	24%	24%	24%	30%	30%	30%	70%
1885	38%	38%	44%	50%	50%	50%	50%
1886	19%	19%	19%	31%	38%	38%	63%
1887	63%	63%	63%	69%	75%	75%	25%
1888	25%	25%	25%	38%	38%	38%	63%
1889	44%	44%	44%	81%	94%	94%	6%
1890	28%	28%	28%	64%	68%	68%	32%
1891	18%	18%	18%	47%	76%	82%	18%
1892	42%	42%	42%	83%	83%	92%	8%
1893	17%	17%	17%	58%	92%	92%	8%
1894	25%	25%	33%	42%	75%	75%	25%
1895	33%	33%	42%	67%	100%	100%	0%
1896	42%	42%	42%	83%	100%	100%	0%
1897	33%	33%	33%	67%	75%	75%	25%
1898	25%	25%	25%	50%	50%	50%	50%
1899	17%	17%	25%	58%	67%	75%	25%
1900	50%	50%	50%	75%	75%	75%	25%
1901	19%	19%	25%	75%	81%	81%	19%
1902	38%	38%	44%	75%	94%	94%	6%
1903	31%	31%	31%	81%	100%	100%	0%
1904	31%	31%	38%	69%	81%	81%	19%
1905	25%	25%	25%	44%	75%	75%	25%
1906	6%	6%	19%	50%	94%	94%	6%
1907	6%	6%	13%	50%	100%	100%	0%
1908	6%	6%	6%	38%	88%	100%	0%
1909	0%	0%	13%	44%	94%	100%	0%
1910	0%	0%	0%	38%	81%	100%	0%
1911	6%	6%	13%	31%	100%	100%	0%
1912	6%	6%	6%	38%	94%	100%	0%
1913	0%	0%	0%	44%	88%	100%	0%
1914	0%	0%	0%	13%	79%	100%	0%
1915	0%	4%	4%	29%	96%	100%	0%
1916	0%	0%	0%	13%	94%	100%	0%
1917	0%	0%	0%	0%	94%	100%	0%
1918	6%	6%	6%	25%	94%	94%	6%
1919	6%	6%	13%	50%	94%	100%	0%
1920	0%	0%	6%	31%	94%	100%	0%
1921	0%	0%	0%	13%	100%	100%	0%
1922	0%	0%	0%	13%	100%	100%	0%
1923	0%	0%	0%	31%	100%	100%	0%
1924	0%	0%	0%	50%	94%	100%	0%
1925	0%	0%	0%	25%	94%	100%	0%
1926	0%	0%	6%	19%	94%	100%	0%
1927	0%	0%	0%	25%	100%	100%	0%
1928	0%	0%	0%	19%	75%	100%	0%
1929	0%	0%	0%	25%	94%	100%	0%
1930	0%	0%	0%	6%	94%	100%	0%
1931	6%	6%	13%	25%	88%	100%	0%
1932	0%	0%	0%	38%	100%	100%	0%
1933	0%	0%	0%	19%	100%	100%	0%
1934	0%	0%	0%	19%	88%	100%	0%
1935	6%	6%	6%	19%	94%	100%	0%
1936	0%	0%	0%	19%	81%	100%	0%
1937	0%	0%	6%	19%	100%	100%	0%
1938	0%	0%	6%	25%	94%	100%	0%
1939	0%	0%	6%	31%	94%	100%	0%
1940	0%	0%	0%	25%	88%	100%	0%
1941	0%	0%	0%	25%	100%	100%	0%
1942	6%	6%	25%	44%	100%	100%	0%
1943	0%	0%	0%	31%	94%	100%	0%
1944	0%	0%	6%	50%	94%	100%	0%
1945	0%	0%	0%	31%	81%	100%	0%
1946	0%	0%	0%	6%	88%	100%	0%
1947	0%	0%	25%	44%	94%	100%	0%
1948	0%	0%	6%	31%	94%	100%	0%
1949	0%	0%	6%	19%	81%	100%	0%
1950	0%	0%	13%	25%	88%	100%	0%
1951	0%	0%	0%	25%	94%	100%	0%
1952	0%	0%	0%	44%	94%	100%	0%
1953	0%	0%	6%	38%	94%	100%	0%
1954	0%	0%	0%	38%	94%	100%	0%
1955	0%	0%	13%	38%	100%	100%	0%
1956	0%	0%	6%	31%	94%	100%	0%
1957	0%	0%	0%	31%	100%	100%	0%
1958	0%	0%	0%	19%	100%	100%	0%
1959	0%	0%	6%	31%	88%	100%	0%
1960	0%	0%	6%	25%	100%	100%	0%
1961	0%	0%	0%	44%	94%	100%	0%
1962	0%	0%	0%	20%	90%	100%	0%
1963	0%	0%	10%	60%	100%	100%	0%
1964	0%	0%	15%	50%	100%	100%	0%
1965	0%	0%	10%	55%	95%	100%	0%
1966	0%	0%	0%	50%	100%	100%	0%
1967	0%	0%	0%	40%	100%	100%	0%
1968	0%	0%	10%	20%	90%	100%	0%
1969	0%	0%	4%	50%	100%	100%	0%
1970	0%	0%	0%	58%	100%	100%	0%
1971	0%	8%	8%	42%	100%	100%	0%
1972	0%	0%	8%	42%	96%	100%	0%
1973	0%	0%	8%	38%	92%	100%	0%
1974	4%	8%	21%	67%	100%	100%	0%
1975	0%	0%	4%	42%	96%	100%	0%
1976	0%	0%	13%	50%	100%	100%	0%
1977	0%	0%	12%	62%	100%	100%	0%
1978	0%	0%	12%	62%	100%	100%	0%
1979	0%	4%	8%	58%	96%	100%	0%
1980	0%	0%	12%	58%	100%	100%	0%
1981	0%	0%	19%	54%	100%	100%	0%
1982	0%	0%	12%	58%	100%	100%	0%
1983	0%	4%	15%	50%	100%	100%	0%
1984	0%	0%	19%	62%	96%	100%	0%
1985	0%	4%	27%	62%	100%	100%	0%
1986	0%	0%	12%	58%	100%	100%	0%
1987	0%	0%	15%	42%	100%	100%	0%
1988	0%	4%	27%	85%	100%	100%	0%
1989	0%	0%	31%	88%	100%	100%	0%
1990	0%	4%	23%	69%	100%	100%	0%
1991	0%	8%	35%	65%	100%	100%	0%
1992	0%	4%	35%	69%	100%	100%	0%
1993	0%	21%	43%	86%	100%	100%	0%
1994	0%	4%	32%	79%	96%	100%	0%
1995	0%	11%	54%	82%	100%	100%	0%
1996	4%	7%	54%	86%	100%	100%	0%
1997	0%	11%	46%	75%	100%	100%	0%
1998	0%	17%	53%	87%	100%	100%	0%
1999	0%	30%	57%	83%	100%	100%	0%
2000	0%	17%	53%	83%	100%	100%	0%
2001	0%	20%	57%	90%	100%	100%	0%
2002	3%	40%	77%	90%	100%	100%	0%

I included all years because the cumulative effect is to present the history of relief pitching in microcosm. At first very few clubs employ relievers at all. By the middle of the first decade in the 1900s, John McGraw has changed that approach forever (only one team has zero saves after 1906). The notion of a saver in varying degrees fell in and out of favor throughout the next fifty to sixty years. It wasn't until 1995 that over half the teams had closers who registered at least three-quarters of the team saves. It wasn't until the mid-Sixties that the closer recorded at least half of the saves on a regular basis. Also, the momentum is continuing until today. Note that 2002 was the first year since 1900 in which at least 40% of the teams had a closer who recorded at 90% of all team saves. So percentages don't appear to be the solution either.

I think the only definition that holds up throughout baseball history is that the closer is the man or men with the most saves on the team. I will define setup men as everyone else. It's somewhat arbitrary: to regard Jesse Orosco in 1986 as a setup man because he had one fewer save -22 to 21-than Roger McDowell seems a bit unfair. But it's the best I can do. Historically, there are only three teams with more than one 20-save pitcher. They are the 1986 Mets (above), the 1991 Blue Jays (Henke, 32, and Ward, 23), and the '92 Reds (Charlton, 26, and Dibble, 25). It's surprising that no one else has tried to duplicate their success given that the first two teams won a World Series and the third won 90 games. However, the ability to have dual savers may be a result of a highly talented organization, not the reverse. Also, the last two rounds of expansion may have put a crimp in this strategy.

The reason I say men is that a team could have co-leaders in saves. This happened last year in Comiskey when Keith Foullke and Antonio Osuna led the White Sox with 11 saves each (rookie Damaso Marte also had 10 of his own). Here are the occurrences of two pitchers leading their teams with 10 or more saves:

Year	Team	Team Saves	Saves
1989	KCA	38	18
1985	NYN	37	17
1987	OAK	40	16
1961	CIN	40	16
1999	BOS	50	15
1992	NYN	34	15
1975	PHI	30	14
1973	CIN	43	14
1982	BOS	33	14
1987	LAN	32	11
1963	SLN	32	11
2002	CHA	35	11
1981	CHA	23	10
1984	TOR	33	10

One more comment regarding multiple closers, the concept of a bullpen- or closer-by-committee further complicates this. How can you call a pitcher the closer if he just happens to have 12 saves when there are three other pitchers with 7, 8, and 10, for example? My defense is that somebody has to be the closer. Well, maybe not though. What if all of the relievers are simply designated short relievers under the middle reliever category if the team leader does not reach a certain threshold? Well, then we're back to our mess of setting thresholds that work over eras. I think that assigning the team save leader as the closer will work because it will produce average numbers that are not that much different, perhaps, from the average reliever when the by-committee approach is in vogue.

Okay, we now have a closer defined. On to middle relievers. So what's the difference between middle relievers and swingman and part-time starters filling in? Middle relievers are a negation of a negation: they are not closers, i.e., save leaders, who in turn are not starters. So what defines a middle reliever? First, he makes a good number of relief appearances. I would think 20 appearances would be a good minimum threshold. He may start (this is especially true historically) but not often. Let's limit him to under 15 starts.

A starting pitcher then will be a pitcher who starts at least 15 games. The rest of the pitchers will be lumped into "other", anyone who did not start 15 games or relieve in 20 games. This includes late season call-ups, early season injuries, cup-of-coffee guys, little used men without a defined role, and position players finishing up a shellacking. Note that by our definition some early ace relievers like Iron Joe McGinnity will appear in both the starter and the closer categories. I'm going to allow this because they really did have a dual role. That's why the called him Iron Joe. I want to capture how the roles have changed over time, so I will allow them to by defined as they were used.

Also, I want to incorporate how the roles were used differently by different teams. Therefore, a team leader with a dozen saves and one with fifty will both be considered closers. Take a look at the varying use of closers in the table below containing the major-league leader, the minimum team leader, and the maximum and minimum totals for all team in a given year from 1960 to today:

Year	MLB Ldr 	Min	Max Team	Min Team
		Tm Ldr	Total	Total
1960	26	4	42	14
1961	29	5	40	13
1962	28	4	47	10
1963	27	4	43	12
1964	29	5	45	15
1965	31	3	53	14
1966	32	7	51	22
1967	28	6	46	19
1968	25	6	40	16
1969	31	6	44	17
1970	35	8	60	20
1971	31	4	48	12
1972	37	4	60	13
1973	38	6	46	19
1974	24	3	29	12
1975	26	5	50	16
1976	26	6	46	15
1977	35	8	47	20
1978	37	9	55	20
1979	37	6	52	11
1980	33	6	50	13
1981	28	3	35	10
1982	36	7	51	22
1983	45	7	49	23
1984	45	8	51	21
1985	41	9	53	24
1986	46	10	58	24
1987	40	8	51	16
1988	45	13	64	25
1989	44	15	57	26
1990	57	8	68	29
1991	47	12	60	33
1992	51	13	58	29
1993	53	10	61	22
1994	33	5	46	20
1995	46	12	50	22
1996	44	8	52	22
1997	45	14	59	29
1998	53	9	59	24
1999	45	12	55	29
2000	45	13	53	27
2001	50	11	57	26
2002	55	11	57	23


(By the way, the 1981 team with only 3 saves for its leader was the Billy Ball A's, who completed 60 of 109 games (Jeff Jones and Dave Beard led the team). The next highest team had just 33 complete games. In 1994, Cleveland was led by Paul Shuey and mid-season acquisition Jeff Russell with 5 saves each-Jose Mesa, Steve Farr, and Jerry DiPoto, who all closed at some point in their careers, were also on the team.)

Now that we have our categories, let's compare them historically and, specifically, in the "modern" and the "post-modern" eras. Below is a comparison of statistics for closers, middle relievers, and starters over time. Please note that no one qualifies for the middle reliever role until 1910. That year both Lew Richie (with the Braves and Cubs) and Lou Schettler (with the Phillies in his only major-league year) qualified.

The first man to qualify multiple times-if we take that to mean the first with career role as middle reliever-was the seminal reliever, the Giants' Doc Crandall (1912-'13). The first man to be used solely as a middle reliever (i.e., no starts but 20 relief appearances for a someone who was not the team leader in saves) was Hooks Wiltse, also of McGraw's Giants, in 1914. The first used solely as a middle reliever and who did not "record" any saves was Jesse Winters, of course of the Giants, in 1920. McGraw as we discussed earlier evolved the bullpen into having men of specialized roles throughout his tenure at the Giants' helm.

I could not fit all three roles (closer, middle reliever, and starter) in one line so I have broken down the comparisons to closer versus middle reliever and then starter separate. For each role the yearly average for the typical stats are listed. There are also a few atypical ones that need explanation:

Age: based on player's age as of mid-season, i.e., July 1.

ERA+: the ERA adjusted to the league average, where 100 is average, over 100 is good, and under 100 is subpar. Basically, the Baseball-Reference.com statistic.

/Tm indicates the number of players for each role per team in the majors.
%Tm Sv is used only for closer. It indicates the percentage of average team saves is represented by the average closer save total.

(Also note that the criteria for the strike years-1981, 1994, and 1995-were readjusted to take into account the lower number of games played.)

 (By the way, the 1981 team with only 3 saves for its leader was the Billy Ball A's, who completed 60 of 109 games (Jeff Jones and Dave Beard led the team). The next highest team had just 33 complete games.  In 1994, Cleveland was led by Paul Shuey and mid-season acquisition Jeff Russell with 5 saves each-Jose Mesa, Steve Farr, and Jerry DiPoto, who all closed at some point in their careers, were also on the team.)

Now that we have our categories, let's compare them historically and, specifically, in the "modern" and the  "post-modern" eras.  Below is a comparison of statistics for closers, middle relievers, and starters over time. Please note that no one qualifies for the middle reliever role until 1910.  That year both Lew Richie (with the Braves and Cubs) and Lou Schettler (with the Phillies in his only major-league year) qualified.  

The first man to qualify multiple times-if we take that to mean the first with career role as middle reliever-was the seminal reliever, the Giants' Doc Crandall (1912-'13).  The first man to be used solely as a middle reliever (i.e., no starts but 20 relief appearances for a someone who was not the team leader in saves) was Hooks Wiltse, also of McGraw's Giants, in 1914.  The first used solely as a middle reliever and who did not "record" any saves was Jesse Winters, of course of the Giants, in 1920.  McGraw as we discussed earlier evolved the bullpen into having men of specialized roles throughout his tenure at the Giants' helm.

I could not fit all three roles (closer, middle reliever, and starter) in one line so I have broken down the comparisons to closer versus middle reliever and then starter separate.  For each role the yearly average for the typical stats are listed.  There are also a few atypical ones that need explanation:
Age: based on player's age as of mid-season, i.e., July 1. ERA+: the ERA adjusted to the league average, where 100 is average, over 100 is good, and under 100 is subpar. Basically, the Baseball-Reference.com statistic. /Tm indicates the number of players for each role per team in the majors. %Tm Sv is used only for closer. It indicates the percentage of average team saves is represented by the average closer save total.
(Also note that the criteria for the strike years-1981, 1994, and 1995-were readjusted to take into account the lower number of games played.)

Red Sox Get Personal The
2003-02-23 01:17
by Mike Carminati

Red Sox Get Personal

The Red Sox signed Robert Person to a minor-league contract today. The Sox are still thin at starting pitcher. After Pedro and Lowe, they have:

- Tim Wakefield, who the Sox seemed reluctant to move into the rotation for years and even in 2002 when he was pitching well.

- John Burkett, who was subpar in 2002 but will make $5.5 M in 2003.

- Rookie Casey Fossum, who pitched well but only started 12 games in the majors last year.

- Frank Castillo, who had a 5.00+ ERA in 2002 and is now being used out of the bullpen.

- Ryan Rupe, who has not shown much at the major-league level in four years and is set to work out of the bullpen.

- Steve Woodard, another failed starter working out of the pen.

I would expect that by mid-season, the Sox may be willing to eat the underproducing Burkett's remaining contract or may be ready to move Wakefield back to the pen for the umpteenth time.

Person is said to need more healing. By mid-year, he should be all healed and should have a good number of Triple-A starts under his belt. I wouldn't be surprised if he was brought up around the All-Star break to help out. Person probably won't be much better than adequate at best, but that could be an upgrade for one or more of the bottom three spots in the Red Sox rotation.


Ballpark Renovations At the Ballpark
2003-02-23 00:42
by Mike Carminati

Ballpark Renovations

At the Ballpark is back and as good as ever. Chris has already fired some salvos at a broadside of Boomer Wells. Go check him out.


Two Ways To Billy Sunday,
2003-02-21 16:09
by Mike Carminati

Two Ways To Billy Sunday, II

Peter Gammons has a good article on how the Brewers are looking to use Kieschnick. Said manager Ned Yost:

"(Kieschnick) could be a staff saver. A lot of times you bring a pitcher into a ballgame knowing that your pitcher is coming up the next inning. You have to bring in your pitcher, use a pinch-hitter and then have another pticher come in. If Brooks is doing what we think he can do -- he can come in, pitch that inning, hit for himself and then go back out and throw another inning. You save yourself two players doing that."

That makes a pretty convincing case if he can do both capably. They could also revive the old Paul Richards and Lou Boudreau trick of hiding a pitcher in the outfield for future retrieval saving even more players. Imagine how opposing managers will deal with having a lefty coming to bat with Kieschnick at first and a lefty on the mound.

And evidently, he has some heat:

In Puerto Rico this winter, Kieschnick pitched 10 scoreless regular-season innings, and two more in the playoffs. He was clocked anywhere from 92 to 97 mph.


Enquiring Minds Want to Know
2003-02-21 11:31
by Mike Carminati

Enquiring Minds Want to Know

We've become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change. Yes sir. How's that for a bit of homespun philosophy?

-Thelma Ritter in Alfred Hitchcock's great-on-many-levels Rear Window (before Jimmy Stewart cites Reader's Digest as the source of the quote)

The AP reports that Sandy Koufax has severed ties with the Dodgers over an article in a sister company's newspaper that questioned his sexual orientation.

Given Koufax's star status, the story gained more momentum after he severed ties. He may have been better off not making the stand at all but rather just turning a cold shoulder to the Dodgers. The Dodgers give themselves a black eye in the process by alienating one of their most popular stars.

That said, who cares about Koufax's sexual orientation? Or Mike Piazza's or that of any of a million other players about whom rumors have swirled. Or about Jeter shtupping Mariah Carey and half of the Upper Westside. Yes, they are ballplayers. They are entertainers. They are public figures. So? In our navel-gazing society we feel compelled to plumb the depths of every public person's soul until we find something we don't like in order to make ourselves feel superior. Leave them alone. Let them lead their own lives. We should lead our own (if we have any) while enjoying the sport for the drama on the field not off it. If the game is worthy of our attention then the on-field drama should be enough. If it isn't, why should we care in the first place?

To the people of the planet Earth, follow Chris Elliott's advice and get a life.


Two Ways To Billy Sunday
2003-02-20 22:27
by Mike Carminati

Two Ways To Billy Sunday

Rob Neyer has an interesting piece on Brooks Kieschnick, the washed-up, power-hitting corner outfielder turned pitcher that is a non-roster invitee for the Brewers.

I agree with Neyer that Kieschnick deserves a shot to be the first two-way player in decades. Check out his numbers with Triple-A Charlotte. First batting:

Player        G  AB  R  H  2B 3B HR  TB RBI BB  SO SB CS AVG SLUG  OBP  OPS
B Kieschnick 69 189 32  52 11  0 13 102  40 14  46  0 0 .275 .540 .325 .865
Projected   162 444 75 122 26  0 31 239  94 33 108  0 0 .275 .538 .325 .863

Now, pitching:

Player       W L  ERA  G CG SHO SV IP  H R ER HR BB SO WHIP K/9IP K:BB
B Kieschnick 0 1 2.59 25  0  0   0 31 30 9  9  1 10 30 1.29  8.68 3.00

Those are pretty respectable numbers. I don't know what Charlotte players' equivalency averages generally look like, but I don't see too many problems with either set. Yeah, he could walk more-a .325 OBP isn't lighting up the world, but it's not the worst, and these are the Brewers. Actually, I just checked and Baseball Prospectus projects him to a .253 major-league average with 11.6 runs above a replacement level, not bad.

Actually, that the Brewers are involved may put the kybosh on the deal. Why do you ask? Well, because to get the most out of having a two-way player, you have to have another productive player who would otherwise not make the team. The Brewers just don't have that many guys hanging around at the fringe of their roster who they will feel compelled to bring north with them.

Now, if the Braves of the Cards had a Kieschnick, they would relish him. Tony LaRussa could carry four catchers on the roster and Cox could clone Rafael Belliard.

One last comment on the Neyer article. He says that he isn't quite sure who the last two-way player was:

As I'm sure you all remember, major-league baseball's last two-way player was ... actually, I don't remember who was the last two-way player. There's Babe Ruth, of course; in 1919, he pitched in 17 games -- and went 9-5 with a 2.97 ERA -- and also played in enough other games to hit 29 home runs, a new major-league record.

C'mon, Rob, you did do research for Bill James once, didn't you? Define your terms and go.

Let's do the work for him. OK, to qualify as a two-way player, you have to appear in more than one or two games as a pitcher if you are a position player. We don't want to include Wade Boggs and Bert Campaneris. By the same token, a pitcher must play more than a game or two in the field. Paul Richards' old trick of hiding a relief pitcher in the outfield shouldn't qualify the player as a two-way-er.

Let's use ten games as the basis. A player must play 10 games in the field and pitch 10 games to qualify as a two-way player. Now, it's easy.

There are 350 player years all time that qualify. Ruth shows up there two times in 1918 and 1919.

The last player is Wonderful Willie Smith, who played for the LA Angels in 1964. He had batted .380, had a pitching record of 14-2, and been an All-Star pitcher for Syracuse in the International League in 1963. In 1964 he was 1-4 with a very respectable 2.84 ERA in 31.2 innings. He also batted .301 in 359 at-bats with an OPS that was 25% better than the league average, playing left an right field fairly regularly. He would be the Angels starting left fielder the next season and play nine major-league seasons in total, but he would only pitch part of one more year (1968). His career ERA was 10% better than the league average and his OPS was slightly (94%) below average.

Here's the list of everyone who did it since Ruth:

Name              Year Team GP G Field
Willie Smith      1964 LAA 15 87
Johnny O'Brien    1957 PIT 16 10
Bob Lemon         1946 CLE 32 12
Rene Monteagudo   1945 PHI 14 35
Earl Naylor       1942 PHI 20 34
Bobby Reis        1938 BSN 16 15
Bobby Reis        1935 BRO 14 27
Wes Ferrell       1933 CLE 28 13
Johnny Cooney     1929 BSN 14 16
Ossie Orwoll      1928 PHA 27 34
Johnny Cooney     1926 BSN 19 32
Bob Smith         1925 BSN 13 37
Johnny Cooney     1924 BSN 34 17
Johnny Cooney     1923 BSN 23 12
Clarence Mitchell 1920 BRO 19 15
Lyle Bigbee       1920 PHA 12 13
Rube Bressler     1919 CIN 13 48
Babe Ruth         1919 BOS 17 116
Ray Caldwell      1918 NYA 24 19
Jack Coombs       1918 BRO 27 13
George Cunningham 1918 DET 27 20
Babe Ruth         1918 BOS 20 72

One more last note: Neyer cites Valenzuela and Schatzeder as pitchers used as pinch-hitters. There were two more recent examples that he overlooked: mike Hampton pinch-hit three times in 2001 and was 1-2 with a walk. In 2000, Jesus Sanchez appeared in 13 games as a non-pitcher (apparently as a pinch-runner-he didn't pinch-hit) for the Marlins.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention famous brother, Ken Brett's, 1974 season. He was 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA for the Pirates and batted .310 with 2 home runs, 15 RBI, and 13 runs in 87 at-bats over 43 games, 16 of which were as a non-pitcher (though he never played the field).


Who's Next, Dave Stapleton? (Bill
2003-02-20 16:09
by Mike Carminati

Who's Next, Dave Stapleton?

(Bill Buckner was too easy.)

In an effort to lock up every declining former Red Sox first baseman, the Mets signed Tony Clark to a minor-league contract.

You'll find that Clark was an All-Star in 2001 but that is only because the Tigers needed representation. Clark was a fairly productive hitter for five years from 1997-2001, but was a complete washout last year for the Sox. He is only 30 (31 in June), so old age should not be a factor yet. He could help the Mets but can only play first and there's a wide load blocking his way there in the form of Mo Vaughn.

I'm not sure what the goal is here: Do the Mets expect him to be a role player, something with which Clark may have some difficulty? Is he Mo Vaughn insurance? Is he there to motivate Vaughn? Do they expect to use him as trade bait? Was he just to cheap to pass up?

It just seems with all the other issues with this team right now (third base, aging rotation, center field, unwieldy contracts), Steve Phillips could channel his energies more effectively.


Ten Worst Baseball Movie Moments
2003-02-20 11:03
by Mike Carminati

Ten Worst Baseball Movie Moments

Baseball Weekly-Yes, I still call it that-ran a piece last week in which they listed the top-10 baseball movie moments. They did a pretty good job (though I don't think Bobby DiNero's big moment in Bang the Drum Slowly made it).

I thought it would be fun to compile the ten worst baseball moments on film, sort of like what baseball did in the fourth game of the World Series-and inadvertently created a new low by allowing banned-for-life pro tem Pete Rose to upstage the non-event. I have come up with my list, which is by no means exhaustive. I don't expect that I've seen more than a fraction of the horrible baseball movies made over the years. If you have some moments that I missed, send them to me and I'll post them.

Here goes, in no particular order:

- "TLAG"-The "Throws Like a Girl Award":

Tony Perkins in the otherwise fine film Fear Strikes Out threw with the wrong hand as Billy Crystal put it in Baseball like a Jerry Lewis "Hey Lady!"-ing.

Corbin Benson in Major League played a veteran third baseman whose throws in reality must have skipped off the mound or gone directly into the dugout. Of course, in the movie they were always a strike to the first baseman. Pathetic.

Madonna in A League of Their Own: At least she comes by it honestly, but it did look like she never even played catch before in her life and she played center in the movie.

Tony Danza in the remake of Angels in the Outfield: a two-foot pitcher with a one-foot stride.

- Life of Ruthey-William Bendix ham-handed, ham-fisted, and ham-faced portrayal of the Babe featured Bendix's unatheletic appearance, his wild gesticulations on the "Called Shot", his running in to the sick kid's room after hitting a home run still in uniform, his ordering milk in a bar, and his apocryphal submission to experimental cancer treatment. Felix Unger's comedic recreation of the home run for the sick kid for Oscar's radio show on The Odd Couple was less broad.

- "I'm a Buzz"-Ted McGinley causes the tottering Major League franchise to finally "jump the shark."

- "Debbie! The car! Debbie! The Car!..."-Freddie Prinze Jr. leaves his no-hitter with two out in the ninth to stop Jessica Biel from leaving on a jet plane in Summer Catch. This film was the anti-Casablanca.

- "Here's the Windup...."-The gut-wrenching sound effect used in Rookie of the Year to express the tendons tightening in Henry Rowengartner's freak arm before every pitch. Honorary mention: "Pitcher's got a big butt!"

-"Senator John Blutarsky and wife"-The tacked on endings in baseball movies to make it all the more nostalgic, tragic, or meaningful. Basically, ripping off the end of Stand By Me. Witness The Sandlot, a slight Jean Shepherd derivative in which the final minute shows the star's fiend as an adult playing for the Dodgers. Who cares?

- "Cubbies?"-An unidentified flying scifi film from the Saturday afternoons of my youth, in which the aliens are identified by asking them, "How about those Cubs?" When they respond, "The little bears?" in a thick Russian accent, open fire. Of course, aliens can perfect space travel, alter their appearance to look and sound like us, but the discipline of baseball evades them.

- "Let 'Em Play"-In The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, the Bears travel to Houston to play an exhibition in the Astrodome against the (Tucson?) Toros. The Bears stage a comeback to tie the game but must vacate the field to allow the major-league game to start. Bob Watson leads a cheer, while guards chase Tanner around second, to allow the kids to finish their game, which the Bears of course won. I won't even mention Tony Curtis in The bad News Bears Go To Japan, in which the "kids" are now thirty-two.

- "What You Talking 'bout, Mr. Kroc?"-The Gary Coleman vehicle From Left Field, in which the Padres are managed by a 10-year-old smart-mouth kid. The parallels between the "film" and reality with the Padres selecting Jerry Coleman to manage. The rote ending with Coleman's dad, Benson, a former star turned peanut vendor, becoming the manager.

- "Why there's no basement in the Alamo"-Brendan Fraser as Steve Nebraska on the roof of Yankees Stadium dealing with his movie-extending, second-act, inappropriately tacked-on psychological problems before throwing a 27-strikeout perfect game in the World Series in The Scout.

As a bonus, here are my top-10 baseball moments from TV:

Seienfeld (3): George and The Boss eating calzones, Keith Hernandez and "The Lone Spitter", and Kramer asking Paul O'Neill to hit two home runs.

SNL (3): Chico Escuela-"Beisbol be berry berry good to me", Billy Crystal and Chris Guest telling tall tales as former Negro League stars, and Chris Farley as Andrew Guliani climbing all over his mayoral pater at a Yankees game.

Simpsons (2): Dancing Homer and the major-league ringers on the power plant softball team.

WKRP: Jennifer poses on the mound to stymie opposing softball batters.

Brady Bunch: Don Drysdale teaching Greg how to throw a fastball on their Brady's astroturf. I think Joe Namath was waiting off camera to do his cameo at the time.


Woody? I Wouldn't The AP
2003-02-20 00:05
by Mike Carminati

Woody? I Wouldn't

The AP reports that the Giants have signed Kirk Rueter to a two-year contract extension through 2005. The contract extension will be for $12 M in total broken down as follows:

Rueter will receive a $3 million signing bonus to be paid out $1 million each on Jan. 31 the next three years. He will make $4 million in 2004 and $5 million in 2005.

Whatever, it boils down to $12 M for two years of Rueter. GM Brian Sabean is ecstatic:

"While not attracting much attention on the national stage, he has quietly become one of the winningest pitchers in baseball, and we want to reward him for that. We're ecstatic to have Kirk with us for the foreseeable future,'' he said.

See? So Rueter is not only winninger than your average pitcher; he's one of the winningest in baseball. Is that true? Does it really tell us what kind of pitcher he is?

Well, the first question is easy. Starting with Rueter's first full year with the Giants (1997), he has won 83 and lost 54, for a .606 winning percentage. That's pretty good. Look at the pitchers who have won fifty or more during that span:

Name               W L PCT
Randy Johnson    120 42 .741
Greg Maddux      108 48 .692
Pedro Martinez   105 33 .761
Curt Schilling   103 56 .648
Tom Glavine      103 51 .669
Roger Clemens    101 40 .716
Andy Pettitte     95 53 .642
David Wells       95 46 .674
Mike Mussina      92 61 .601
Jamie Moyer       92 46 .667
Aaron Sele        90 56 .616
Bartolo Colon     85 49 .634
Mike Hampton      84 59 .587
Chan Ho Park      84 57 .596
Kirk Rueter       83 54 .606
Darryl Kile       81 61 .570
Al Leiter         81 59 .579
Brad Radke        80 70 .533
Rick Reed         78 49 .614
Kevin Brown       78 38 .672
Denny Neagle      77 49 .611
Rick Helling      76 63 .547
Kevin Millwood    75 46 .620
Pedro Astacio     74 69 .517
Dave Burba        72 50 .590
Chuck Finley      71 59 .546
Hideo Nomo        69 60 .535
Livan Hernandez   69 69 .500
Shane Reynolds    68 57 .544
James Baldwin     68 62 .523
Russ Ortiz        67 44 .604
Bobby Jones       67 74 .475
Jon Lieber        67 64 .511
Shawn Estes       66 54 .550
Kevin Appier      66 62 .516
Woody Williams    65 56 .537
Tim Hudson        64 26 .711
Kenny Rogers      63 47 .573
Andy Ashby        63 56 .529
John Burkett      62 59 .512
Jason Schmidt     62 54 .534
Steve Trachsel    61 77 .442
Tim Wakefield     61 61 .500
Andy Benes        61 52 .540
Matt Morris       61 34 .642
Freddy Garcia     60 29 .674
Esteban Loaiza    59 61 .492
Dustin Hermanson  58 61 .487
David Cone        57 43 .570
Scott Erickson    57 52 .523
Eric Milton       56 51 .523
Jimmy Haynes      56 67 .455
Charles Nagy      55 49 .529
Pat Hentgen       55 52 .514
Jose Lima         55 58 .487
Omar Daal         54 59 .478
Jeff Fassero      54 53 .505
Orlando Hernandez 53 38 .582
Javier Vazquez    51 56 .477
Dave Mlicki       51 64 .443
Kevin Tapani      51 50 .505
Brian Moehler     50 55 .476
Ramiro Mendoza    50 29 .633

There are some big names on that list. Rueter is 15th.

Now, here's the harder question: does it mean anything? Well, if you're Joe Morgan it does. Otherwise...Let's examine Rueter's park-adjusted ERA to see how good he has bee. Here they are for his Giants years:

1997	120
1998	93
1999	76
2000	108
2001	91
2002	117

That's three good years and three poor years. No really great years, but two pretty good ones. His 2002 ERA was boosted by having a pitcher's park to call home (Pac Bell had an average park-adjusted ERA of 3.79). His average for the span would be about 101, which is coincidentally his career average.

I think that sums up what kind of pitcher Rueter is: ever-so-slightly above average. He has his good years but he also has his bad. He is probably not a bad guy to have on your staff, but I can't imagine him being your number one guy. Check out his strikeout numbers:

Season	WHIP	K:BB	K/9 IP
1993	1.20	1.72	3.26
1994	1.40	2.17	4.87
1995	0.99	3.11	5.32
1996	1.44	1.36	3.43
1996	0.99	3.20	6.17
1996	1.33	1.70	4.06
1997	1.28	2.25	5.43
1998	1.33	1.79	4.89
1999	1.48	1.71	4.58
2000	1.45	1.15	3.47
2001	1.43	1.26	3.82
2002	1.27	1.41	3.36
Total	1.35	1.65	4.25

Wow, that's really unimpressive. Rueter seems to win despite poor numbers, but that probably has more to do with the team and pure luck than what he has been doing on the field. That luck and team support could dry up pretty quickly.

If it were my money, I wouldn't plunk down twelve mil to find out, especially in this baseball economy. Well, maybe it's just a ruse to help deny collusion.


The Dread Pirate Sanders MLB.com
2003-02-19 16:35
by Mike Carminati

The Dread Pirate Sanders

MLB.com reports that the Pirates have signed Reggie Sanders. Sanders will reportedly play left and Brian Giles will get his wish and move to center field. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Sanders is a fine player, but he's 35. What a dead-from-the-neck-up team like the Pirates need him for is beyond me. I guess he came cheap. Of course, he will be long gone by the time the Pirates ever get good again.


Jeff Kent-Walt Weiss Memorial Baseball
2003-02-19 16:28
by Mike Carminati

Jeff Kent-Walt Weiss Memorial Baseball Darwin Awards, II

According to MLB.com, the Twins' Justin Morneau "fractured his right big toe last Friday in an accident at a friend's house in Arizona, trainer Jim Kahmann said. The friend pushed Morneau from behind while the slugger was on the phone, causing him to catch the toe on the carpet."


Metsa Metsa Robbie Alomar wants
2003-02-19 16:21
by Mike Carminati

Metsa Metsa

Robbie Alomar wants to be a Met for life or at least as long as is financially worthwhile. Unfortunately for him, the Mets are not extending his soon-to-expire contract. Apparently, they have a whole boatload of players that are in the final year of their contract, to whom they have not offered any extensions for next year.

Robbie is disappointed. You see, he told every newspaper reporter in New York that he wanted to retire a Met:

"Maybe I felt upset about it, because I wanted to be a New York Met," Alomar said. "I'm not offended that they didn't offer me a contract. Maybe I'm a little sad that I might not be here after next year."

"I want to be a Met until I retire," Alomar said. "But at the same time, you don't know what's going to happen. I have one more year to go, and I feel comfortable on the team."

Normally, I would say that this is bad business even with today's downward spiraling baseball salaries. This team could win their division and sneak into the Series. Or it could capsize on departure like last year. Either way, this is an old team that will be revamped, possibly from the GM on down.

Alomar is a probable Hall-of-Famer coming off the worst year (by far) of his career. The Mets could get him at a bargain-basement price if he returns to his 2001 brilliance. But then again he is 35 and may never play at his previous level again. This year will be his proving grounds. If he starts strong, the Mets may reconsider. However, given the Mets eventual rebuilding, having a 36-year-old starting second baseman in 2004 probably is not in their plans unless that second baseman is the Alomar of old. Then again, how many positions can the already-legendary Ty Wigginton cover?

In other Mets news: According to the AP, Shinjo arrived in camp in style:

Making a spring training entrance befitting a rock star, Shinjo stepped out of a stretch limousine Tuesday dressed in denim jeans and a denim jacket with the collar turned up. In his right hand, he carried a bat bag that some observers likened to a guitar case.

Great, now if he could only hit his weight...

Art Howe is pleased:

Howe thinks that Shinjo can return to being the hitter he was in his last stint with the Mets.

``It looks like he did two years ago,'' Howe said. ``He's had success with the Mets in the past and that should make him feel good mentally.''

Great, so instead of being an abysmal hitter, he'll just be a poor one.

And...

Mo Vaughn was a description, not a name, last year. Well, Vaughn showed up n camp a few (~25) pounds lighter. He thinks that this will help revive his career:

"I haven't had four good years," Vaughn said. "It's about time I'm capable of doing the things I'm capable of doing. I didn't play two years ago, but I showed signs in the second half what can happen if I get some consistency. I look forward to it now. I'm prepared. I have stuff going on in my mind that's positive."

Vaughn has certainly declined, though he is still a useful hitter. Perhaps he is better suited to the AL where he can DH at least part of the time. That said, even if Vaughn goes on the Jarrod-Subway diet, it is highly doubtful that he will be able to be the player he once was. The man is 35 and has suffered the typical decline attendant with his age.

Could Vaughn have another 40-homer, .300 BA year? Sure, stranger things have happened, but I don't think the Mets can bank on it. Four years isn't a slump, it's an established level.

Should that stop him from getting himself in shape? Of course not. It can't hurt, but how much it will help is debatable. If nothing else, it will help him field a grounder or two this year.


Eddie Cicotte, the Next Generation?
2003-02-19 14:35
by Mike Carminati

Eddie Cicotte, the Next Generation?

A.J. Burnett a.k.a "Burn-out" lost his arbitration case with the Marlins, and it got me to thinking. That's got to be trouble.

Burnett threw 133.1 innings before the All-Star break last year. He threw only 71 after the break. Here are his stats:

             ERA W L  G GS CG IP      H  R ER HR BB  SO  AVG WHIP K/9IP K/BB IP/GS
First Half  3.31 8 6 19 19  4 133.1 103 55 49  9 59 129 .210 1.22 8.71  2.19 7.02
Second Half 3.30 4 3 12 10  3  71    50 29 26  3 31  74 .200 1.14 9.38  2.39 6.83

Burnett was 12-9 after a 3-0 a complete-game, 3-hit shutout of the Giants on August 18. He wouldn't pitch again because of a bruised right (throwing) elbow for almost a month and would only start two more games. He had a complete game in three of his last four starts before the injury. Burnett tied for the major-league lead in complete games even with the missed time. Burnett just turned 26 last month.

A new level in Heck shold be added for Jeff Torborg. Maybe if Dante were around, I would ask him to rewrite his little trilogy to include it. Torborg has seen the error of his ways and will use pitch counts (Eureka!) for Burnett this year. With the fragility of his arm after returning last year, it may already be to late.

Aside from the implications of overusing young arms on a team going nowhere, there is the residual affect of Burnett's losing his arbitration case. The famous though perhaps apocryphal 1919 Eddie Cicotte story, in which he is kept from pitching to keep him fresh for the Series causing Cicotte to miss the incentive bonus of $10,000 for 30 wins. I find this even more egregious since at least there was a reason to keep Cicotte out and a big one, the World Series. There was no reason to keep A.J. Burnett on the mound until his arm fell last year, except for Jeff Torborg's inability to manage. Besides it cost him $575K. I'm not sure if that's more than $10K in 1919, but you get the point.


Forge Ahead That waxen seal,
2003-02-19 12:05
by Mike Carminati

Forge Ahead

That waxen seal, that signature.
For things like these what decent man
Would keep his lover waiting?
Keep his lover waiting?

- William Butler "Billy Two Times" Yeats

The Diamondbacks have announced that their players, save the starting pitcher, will be required to sign autographs for ten minutes prior to batting practice for every home game in 2003.

Quoth owner Jerry Colangelo:

"You better reach out, you better extend yourself, because it's the right thing to do. At this time and place, it's a requirement."

Whether he would keep his lover waiting for an authentic Greg Swindell was not mentioned. But the players are reportedly supportive:

"I don't mind,'" said closer Matt Mantei. "I sign anyway. (Colangelo) made a good point. The fans are the reason we're here."

Oh, how magnanimous! For a $4M closer with no saves and a 4.73 ERA last year, who will make $6.75 M in 2003, Mantei should by happy to scrub the clubhouse john.

The D-backs are concerned that ten percent of last year's season ticket holders failed to renew for 2003. Is that surprising given that 2002 was the season after winning the Series? Besides this is the BOB, not the Bronx. We're talking about tradition dating back to Michael Jackson's penultimate nose job (allegedly, in case legal representation is present).

Here is another thing that has been poisoned by our star-crazy society today. When I was a kid, an autograph from a sports star was a nice memento. Now, they are seen as assets to be auctioned on eBay. I don't blame the players for becoming jaded about it when the same souvenir seekers follow them everywhere that they go. I'm sure most of them would still feel honored and would take the time to sign if they knew that each signature would end up a treasured memento in someone's den, but they know better. Players are criticized for demanding a fee for autographs at appearances, but why should they hand over valuable merchandise for free? That's what the autographs have become.

So now they are forced to sign autographs. But since most of the autograph hounds are going to turn the scribble over for profit, they don't care what the circumstances are. It's so mercenary. It helps to kill off what was once a nice thing.

It reminds me of a spring training trip I made to see an Orioles game a few years back. As I was leaving, I heard that players were signing autographs. I thought it would be cool to get a souvenir so I investigated. The "players" turned into Bill Ripken on his second Oriole tour, egomaniacally signing an autograph or two through a chain-link fence while regaling the gathering crowd with stories of his exploits and fending off requests to retrieve his more famous brother. Cal never came out. Nobody seemed to want Billy's autograph except to placate him enough to get him to bring out Cal. I stuck it out since, as they said in Stripes, I was already dirty. I waited 20 minutes to get a signature that I didn't even want and vowed never to go autograph-seeking again. I do have the autograph still since it was on my scorecard, which I always keep. I am listing it for $50 on eBay if anyone is interested.


"Now Batting for Pedro Borbon,
2003-02-19 11:08
by Mike Carminati

"Now Batting for Pedro Borbon, Manny Mota..Mota...Mota" And Other Announcements, IV

Alex Belth over at Bronx Banter has the second part of his interview Ken Burns here.

I have added The View from the 700 Level to my links. It's by another Phillies fan named Michael. And here I thought I was the only one.


"We'll Split It" Greg Maddux
2003-02-18 13:28
by Mike Carminati

"We'll Split It"

Greg Maddux has signed the biggest one-year contract in baseball history ($14.75 M) as the Braves and Maddux split the difference in their arbitration offers. Apparently, Maddux and the Braves expect this to be his last year in Atlanta. Maddux wants to spent more time near his family in Las Vegas and the Braves will be--surprise!--looking to cut salary next year.

It's surprising given the D-Backs starting pitching needs and their proximity to Vegas that Maddux didn't draw an offer from that team while he was a free agent. Maybe not, given Arizona's already ample payroll and the almost fanatical devotion to cutting salary throughout the game. Then again, a good case of collusion would explain it all away, but I'm not going there.


"Welcome to the Hall's of
2003-02-17 21:23
by Mike Carminati

"Welcome to the Hall's of Relief", VII

An update is here. I hope to finish it soon.

For some reason, the update doesn't show up in the archive link. We now return to our regularly scheduled program already in progress:

Previous entries:
The 1870s, '80s, and '90s
The 1900s and '10s
The 1920s, '30s, and '40s
The 1950s
The 1960s
The 1970s

The 1980s

These growing feathers plucked from Caesar's wing
Will make him fly an ordinary pitch,
Who else would soar above the view of men,
And keep us all in servile fearfulness.

- Flavius in Julius Caesar, act 1, sc. 1, l. 72-5 by William "Moose" Shakespeare

Since the turn of the century relief pitching had been a tool in the manager's bag of tricks, but rarely was a valuable member of the staff used exclusively for relief. An odd Firpo Marberry might appear here and there, but mainly a swingman, someone used as a starter and a reliever, either the star or the 10th man on the staff, would act as the reliever. Sometimes whole staffs were used as the support structure for a failing starter. And that's a key point: only when the starter began to fail did the manager turn to a reliever.

These trends changed extremely slowly. More pitchers were used per game and fewer pitchers completed games as time wore on, but the process took literally decades and it was far from a linear progression with retreats and lurches along the way. In the Fifties things began to accelerate as star relievers like Joe Page and Jim Konstanty took center stage. The better starters rarely if ever relieved and swingmen started to be eclipsed by the pure reliever.

In the 1960s the baseball cognoscenti started to experiment more with relief pitching. After the 1950s finally established the bullpen as a key element on the pitching staff, they started to push the envelope. Barriers like 30 saves and 90 relief appearances in a year were crossed. Career relievers like Hoyt Wilhelm, Roy Face, and Lindy McDaniel relieved in more games than anyone who came before them.

The role of the reliever was still being defined, especially that of the closer. The Seventies proved a mercurial time for relievers. Five-man rotations, the designated hitter rule, and expansion caused staff leaders to be worked harder than in the previous few decades. They started more games and completed more games as well. The reliever's role was also becoming one of endurance: 80 appearances and 130 innings pitched were common. Finally, in 1979, Bruce Sutter, who had broken down in the second half because of overuse in the three previous seasons, was used in limited situations. No longer was he asked to pitch almost daily. No longer was he asked to pitch 3 or more innings. He came in in save situations and pitched fewer innings. This came in a year in which two men were used as closers and still appeared in 90 games (Kent Tekulve and Mike Marshall).

Managers, who were looking for the correct way to use their closers and were afraid that the envelop-pushing approach was abusing them, were given a guide. Though it seemed they had been railing for a decade against using a closer in save situations exclusively, the results with Sutter was the tipping point. And the modern reliever that we boo the manager for not bringing in in the seventh inning with the game on the line was born.

Now that this rather lengthy preamble is complete, what exactly did happen in the Eighties, that era when Michael Jackson was still cool and not a pedophile (allegedly, of course, if any of Mr. Jackson's lawyers are reading-he was allegedly cool as well)? The view from 50,000 feet tells us that:

a) the first 40-save season was recorded (45 in 1983 by Dan Quisenberry)

b) Rollie Fingers became the first pitcher to surpass 300 saves in his career, the number that has since become the standard much like 300 wins for a starter, and c)

c) For the first time since the advent of unlimited substitution, relievers outnumbered swingmen by the end of the decade. That trend has continued and now there are almost twice as many pure relievers as swingmen.

d) Higher save totals: Since the beginning of the Eighties there has never been a full season in which someone has not save at least 30 games. Since 1983, when Quisenberry was the first to eclipse 40 saves, there has not been a full season in which someone has not saved 40 games.

e) The number of men who amassed 300 or more relief appearances increased from 31 in the Seventies to 54 in the Eighties. However, the number of men who made 500 or more relief appearances (7) stayed the same: the abuse was subsiding.

f) The number of men with 100 saves for the decade went from 12 in the Seventies to 23 in the Eighties.

g) The top relievers were now saving a larger percentage of their relief appearances. Compare the 100-save relievers of the Seventies and Eighties:
The Seventies:

First	Last	RA	Sv	%Sv
Rollie	Fingers	611	209	34.21%
Sparky	Lyle	600	190	31.67%
Mike	Marshall	618	177	28.64%
Dave	Giusti	467	140	29.98%
Tug	McGraw	533	132	24.77%
Dave	LaRoche	538	122	22.68%
John	Hiller	409	115	28.12%
Gene	Garber	436	110	25.23%
Clay	Carroll	436	106	24.31%
Bruce	Sutter	240	105	43.75%
Rich	Gossage	322	101	31.37%
Terry	Forster	321	100	31.15%
Total	 	5531	1607	29.05%


The Eighties:

First	Last	RA	Sv	%Sv
Jeff	Reardon	629	264	41.97%
Dan	Quisenberry	637	239	37.52%
Lee	Smith	580	234	40.34%
Rich	Gossage	494	206	41.70%
Bruce	Sutter	421	195	46.32%
Dave	Righetti	393	188	47.84%
Dave	Smith	518	176	33.98%
Steve	Bedrosian	438	161	36.76%
John	Franco	393	148	37.66%
Greg	Minton	625	146	23.36%
Willie	Hernandez	564	140	24.82%
Todd	Worrell	281	126	44.84%
Tom	Henke	320	122	38.13%
Ron	Davis	433	121	27.94%
Rollie	Fingers	243	120	49.38%
Jesse	Orosco	476	119	25.00%
Bob	Stanley	465	118	25.38%
Jay	Howell	323	117	36.22%
Gene	Garber	485	108	22.27%
Bill	Caudill	404	106	26.24%
Roger	McDowell	322	103	31.99%
Kent	Tekulve	687	101	14.70%
Dan	Plesac	210	100	47.62%
Total	 	10341	3458	33.44%


Note that only Sutter records a save in more than 40% of his appearances in the Seventies while nine relievers do so in the Eighties.

h) Further note the appearance among the relief appearance leaders more men who were setup men as opposed to closers. Kent Tekulve shows up in the list above even though he was a true closer for only a short period (around 1978-'80). So even though save totals are skyrocketing, men like Craig Lefferts, Larry Andersen, Frank DiPino, and Ed Vande Berg are among the leaders in relief appearances (all 396 or above). And as you go below 400 relief appearances, more and more setup men appear. Frank Williams and Dan Schatzeder both have over 300 relief appearances but have single-digit save totals. No one in the Seventies could claim to have done that. The closers are more dispersed in the relief appearance list as they are used in fewer games but save a higher percentage.

i) Of the ten men who made 80 or more relief appearances in a year in the Seventies, only one was not the team closer (it is somewhat problematic to designate some pitchers as closers in the Seventies since teams used their pens in a diverse way and save totals for the main reliever varied greatly). Of the 14 men who appeared in 80 games or more in a season in the Eighties only two were closers (Quisenberry in '85 and Guillermo Hernandez in '84).

j) Check out the all-time career saves leaders (with 100 or more) after the 1969, 1979, and 1989 seasons:

After 1969         | After 1979         | After 1989 
Name            Sv | Name            Sv | Name              Sv
Hoyt Wilhelm   210 | Hoyt Wilhelm   227 | Rollie Fingers   341
Roy Face       193 | Sparky Lyle    223 | Rich Gossage     307
Stu Miller     154 | Rollie Fingers 221 | Bruce Sutter     300
Ron Perranoski 138 | Roy Face       193 | Jeff Reardon     266
Lindy McDaniel 127 | Mike Marshall  187 | Dan Quisenberry  244
Dick Radatz    122 | Ron Perranoski 179 | Sparky Lyle      238
Don McMahon    119 | Lindy McDaniel 172 | Lee Smith        234
Al Worthington 110 | Stu Miller     154 | Hoyt Wilhelm     227
Ron Kline      107 | Don McMahon    153 | Gene Garber      218
Johnny Murphy  107 | Ted Abernathy  148 | Roy Face         193
Ted Abernathy  106 | Dave Giusti    145 | Dave Righetti    188
John Wyatt     103 | Tug McGraw     145 | Mike Marshall    188
Ellis Kinder   102 | Clay Carroll   143 | Kent Tekulve     184
Firpo Marberry 101 | Darold Knowles 143 | Tug McGraw       180
                   | Jim Brewer     132 | Ron Perranoski   179
                   | John Hiller    125 | Dave Smith       176
                   | Jack Aker      123 | Lindy McDaniel   172
                   | Dick Radatz    122 | Steve Bedrosian  161
                   | Dave LaRoche   122 | Stu Miller       154
                   | Frank Linzy    111 | Don McMahon      153
                   | Al Worthington 110 | Greg Minton      150
                   | Gene Garber    110 | John Franco      148
                   | Fred Gladding  109 | Ted Abernathy    148
                   | Ron Kline      108 | Willie Hernandez 147
                   | Wayne Granger  108 | Dave Giusti      145
                   | Johnny Murphy  107 | Darold Knowles   143
                   | Bruce Sutter   105 | Clay Carroll     143
                   | John Wyatt     103 | Gary Lavelle     136
                   | Ellis Kinder   102 | Bob Stanley      132
                   | Firpo Marberry 101 | Jim Brewer       132
                   | Rich Gossage   101 | Ron Davis        130
                   | Terry Forster  100 | Terry Forster    127
                                        | Bill Campbell    126
                                        | Todd Worrell     126
                                        | Dave LaRoche     126
                                        | John Hiller      125
                                        | Jack Aker        123
                                        | Tom Henke        122
                                        | Dick Radatz      122
                                        | Jesse Orosco     119
                                        | Jay Howell       117
                                        | Tippy Martinez   115
                                        | Frank Linzy      111
                                        | Al Worthington   110
                                        | Fred Gladding    109
                                        | Wayne Granger    108
                                        | Ron Kline        108
                                        | Johnny Murphy    107
                                        | Bill Caudill     106
                                        | John Wyatt       103
                                        | Ron Reed         103
                                        | Roger McDowell   103
                                        | Tom Burgmeier    102
                                        | Ellis Kinder     102
                                        | Firpo Marberry   101
                                        | Dan Plesac       100

Or to break it down by plateaus reached (with percent increase):

Saves	1969	1979	% Inc.	1989	% Inc.
300	0	0	0%	3	Inf
250	0	0	0%	4	Inf
200	1	3	300%	9	900%
150	3	8	800%	21	2100%
100	14	32	3200%	56	5600%

These numbers accelerated into the Eighties.

k) Closers were being used in fewer situations in which their teams trailed or were tied with these opponents. They also pitched fewer innings per appearance. How do I know this?

Below is a table of cumulative stats for all closers in the Eighties and Seventies (min. 20 saves per season in the Eighties and 15 in the Seventies-I tried to compensate for the job's changing). The total games, relief appearances, wins, losses, saves, and innings pitched are listed along with the percentage of games in which the pitcher was used in relief and the percentage of games won, lost, and saved and innings-per-game.

Decade     G   RA    W   L   SV    IP     %RA       %W     %L    %Sv    IP/G
1980s   8892 8890  869 854 3980 12753.2  99.98%   9.77%  9.60% 44.76%   1.43
1970s   8422 8364 1025 885 2873 14101    99.31%  12.17% 10.51% 34.11%   1.67
%change                                   0.67% -19.70% -8.60% 31.21% -14.34% 


So what changed? Closers wee used in relief slightly more often-no biggy. They had a drop of nearly twenty percent in wins-per-game, nine percent in losses-per-game, and fourteen percent in innings-per-game and an increase of about thirty-one percent in saves-per-game. The saves come as no surprise. But why the decrease in wins, losses, and innings-per-appearance?

The innings-per-game dropoff represents managers attempting not to overwork their closers to save them for key situations.

The decrease in wins represents the resistance on the manager to use the closer when the game is tied or the team is losing. These situations produce a win, but as the role changed the closer usually came in after the lead was established in his team's favor. Also, fewer innings pitched meant that the pitcher had less time in which his team could recapture a lead once he had given it up.

The decrease in losses represents managers not using the closer in tie ballgames. Also, fewer innings had an effect. The loss decrease is less because wins also were affected by the team-trailing scenario being removed from the closer's possible situations.

The closer was being used more often in save situations for shorter periods.

l) The number of pure starters reached 20% of all pitchers by the end of the decade. This was the first time since 1902 that they comprised such a large segment of the pitching corps.

m) Pure reliever relievers now averaged an ERA that was .15 points better than a pure starter. In the Seventies the relievers' average ERA was .11 point worse than starters. And swingmen lagged far behind.

Well, that's the view from on high. I also have three little studies that I think might shed some light on this seemingly homogeneous decade:

Rollie Fingers in 1981

Brewers Rolled Behind Rollie

[From The Sporting News 1982 Baseball Guide]

It was fitting that Rollie Fingers was the winning pitcher when the Brewers clinched the East Division's second-half title on the next-to-last day of the season.

Without Fingers, the fourth relief pitcher ever to win the Cy Young Award, where would the Brewers have been? "Probably three games behind Toronto," said Manager Buck Rodgers.

The Brewer manager may have been stretching it a bit, but there isn't much doubt that they wouldn't have won their first title ever without the THE SPORTING NEWS' American League Fireman of the Year.

The Brewers had been a relief pitcher short of being a legitimate pennant contender for three seasons, and the addition of the tall man with the famous mustache proved to be even better than anybody had expected. Fingers led the major leagues with 28 saves and had a 6-3 record. He had an earned-run average of 1.04 in 78 innings.

He was phenomenal in the second half with a 5-1 record, 16 saves and a 0.72 ERA. The Brewers won 31 games to clinch the second-half title, and Fingers figured in 21 of the victories. In 1981 Rollie Fingers won the AL Most Valuable Player award.

Now compare that to what Bill James said of Fingers in his New Historical Baseball Abstract:

One player that I will be criticized for omitting [from his 100 best pitchers] is the Hall of Fame's second reliever, Rollie Fingers. But again, meaning no disrespect to Fingers, or anyone else who has a moustache you could weave into a carpet, I don't really see what is uniquely wonderful about Rollie Fingers' career. Yes, Fingers won an MVP Award in 1981, but...why? He faced 297 batters that year. Yes, he posted a 1.04 ERA, but Goose Gossage posted an ERA of 0.77 that same season, Rob Murphy posted an ERA of 0.77 in 1986, Dale Murray had a 1.03 ERA in 1974, Tim Burke had a 1.19 ERA in 1987, Frank Williams a 1.20 ERA in 1986. Jim Brewer and Ted Abernathy had ERAs of 1.27. Bob Veale in 1963 pitched the same number of innings (78) and allowed the same number of earned runs (9) as Fingers in 1981. It's just not a remarkable accomplishment.

Veale, for pitching 78 innings and allowing 9 earned runs, was credited with 10 Win Shares. Fingers, for doing the same, was credited with 17 Win Shares. That is a reasonable recognition of the importance of Fingers' role on the team. The BBWAA, however, gave Fingers an MVP Award. This is excessive. In my opinion, the BBWAA did something dumb when they gave Fingers an MVP award, and compounded the dumbitude by using that as a reason to put him in the Hall of Fame.

Rollie Fingers' proponents used the argument that Fingers was remarkably consistent for a relief ace. But for a relief ace, an ERA a full run better than the league is a basic standard of competence. Fingers met that standard only six times in his career, and pitched all of his career in pitcher's parks. Gossage met that standard 11 seasons, seven straight seasons, and pitched as many innings per year in tougher parks while doing it. Quisenberry met that standard his first nine seasons in the league, ten overall, also pitching more innings in tougher parks.

Fingers' ERA, adjusted for the parks he played in, was 16% better than league (2.90 vs. 3.45) [Baseball-Reeference.com says 19%]. Quisenberry's ERA was 31% [46%] better than league, Gossage's was 20% [26%] better than league, Sutter's 26% [36%] better, Wilhelm's 31% [46%] better. Kent Tekulve and Lee Smith were 24% [both 32%]better than league, Sparky Lyle 21% [27%] better than league. Fingers is more in a class with Jeff Reardon (17% [21%] better than league), Ron Perranoski (18% [21%] better), Gene Garber 11% [17%] better), and Don McMahon (16% [19%] better).

What lifted Fingers out of that class, I believe, was simply that he had exceptionally good taste in teammates-and the same is true of Jesse Haines and Rube Marquard. Haines in his career was ten games better than his teams; Marquard was two better than his.

Those are two quite different takes on Fingers' 1981 season. I believe that there's a little truth in both excerpts and that this season is illustrative of relievers of this era as a whole.

First, neither makes direct mention of the fact that Fingers lost a large segment of the season (53 games) to the strike and yet appeared in 47 games, pitched 78 innings, and tallied more saves (28) than he had in three years. That said what would Fingers' prorated season totals look like?

Year Ag Tm  Lg W L  G GS CG SHO SV  IP  H ER HR BB SO  ERA ERA+ WS
1981 34 MIL AL 6 3 47  0  0  0  28  78 55  9  3 13 61 1.04 331  17
1981 34 MIL AL 9 4 70  0  0  0  42 116 82 13  4 19 91 1.04 331  25

Well, that's a bit more impressive. 42 saves would have been the first time that a reliever reached 40 in a season, and therefore, a record. His 25 Win Shares are a little more respectable than the 17 James sites (and besides I am not completely sold that Win Shares measures relievers worth accurately, especially as the role has changed over time, but that's an argument for another day).

How many closer's have saved 42 games, won 9 others, and had an ERA in the 1.07 range? Just one comes close, John Wetteland in 1993. Wetteland had 9 wins, 43 saves, and a 1.37 ERA in 85.1 innings. So maybe Fingers deserved that MVP award after all?

Maybe. But I'm not willing to give it to him based on that argument. I cannot accept a player's projected totals as fact, especially a pitcher's. Why? Because a veteran pitcher like Fingers in 1981 (34 years old) benefits greatly from a 50-odd game break in the middle of the season. The most grueling part of the season is removed to provide a breather. Note that, as James points out, Gossage produced an even lower ERA in that season.

Second, pitcher's ERAs tend not to represent the pitcher's actual value-they appear more impressive or much less impressive-over short spans. This is especially true of relief pitchers, whose effectiveness may not show up as readily in ERA. This is due to ERA being zero-bound at the lower end (i.e., a pitcher cannot give up negative runs) and unbounded at the upper end (i.e., a pitcher in theory could give up infinite runs and infinite ERAs are possible if a pitcher allows a run without recording an out). Therefore, one bad outing does more damage to a pitcher's ERA than a few good outings do to help his ERA, especially if the pitcher throws very few innings at a time like a reliever. Look at John Smoltz last year for example. He gave up 8 earned runs in two-thirds an inning in his second outing in 2002, raising his ERA to 43.20. He gave up one run in his next 11 games (13 innings) and had a 5.52 ERA to show for it. At that point he had thrown 13 scoreless innings in 11 outings and had given up 9 runs in 1.2 innings in two outings. The two subpar outings had much more affect on his ERA than the many good ones. However, as the season wore on the good outings were able to overpower that one atrocious outing on April 6. It still had some effect though since his 3.25 ERA on the season would have only been 2.37 without that outing. Therefore, had Fingers pitched an entire season, they likelihood of a damaging outing would go up. One outing like Smoltz' would have almost double Fingers' ERA (to 1.94).

Third, Fingers' MVP candidacy benefited from the Brewers' pennant race in the second half of the split season. The Brewers may not have been in a pennant race had it not been for the strike. They "finished" the first half three games behind the Yankees, won the second half by 1.5 games over Detroit, and had the best record in the division. However, the Yankees were one game under .500 in their meaningless second half and finished two games back. A little incentive could have helped them bury the Brewers by the All-Star break.

Finally, I cannot reward Fingers for games he never pitched because he never pitched them. Lyman Bostock and Mark Fidrych may have been Hall-of-Famers had they been able to lead normal, uninterrupted careers. So might have Stan Bahnsen for that matter and probably a hundred-odd other players, but they didn't. So we'll never know. We cannot reward players for time not served. It's just too dangerous. Fingers was limited to 109 games in 1981 and that's perhaps too bad, but it's all we've got.

However, I think his prorated value had something to do with his winning the award, but I'll return to that later.

Now back to his effectiveness in the season: Apart from the impressive ERA, the most compelling argument promulgated by TSN was, "The Brewers won 31 games to clinch the second-half title, and Fingers figured in 21 of the victories." I wondered if the percentage of total wins and saves compared to team wins was that impressive. I found that Fingers' 54.84% was very good but was only 67th on the all-time list for relievers (with 30 relief appearances). There are 25 over 60% and here they are:

Name              Year  W SV GP Tm  W+Sv   W+Sv
                                 W  /GP   /Tm W
Bryan Harvey      1993  1 45 59 64 77.97% 71.88%
Ugueth Urbina     1999  6 41 71 68 66.20% 69.12%
Mike Williams     2002  2 46 59 72 81.36% 66.67%
Randy Myers       1993  2 53 73 84 75.34% 65.48%
Roberto Hernandez 1999  2 43 72 69 62.50% 65.22%
Bobby Thigpen     1990  4 57 77 94 79.22% 64.89%
Antonio Alfonseca 2000  5 45 68 79 73.53% 63.29%
Dan Quisenberry   1983  5 45 69 79 72.46% 63.29%
Lee Smith         1991  6 47 67 84 79.10% 63.10%
Dick Radatz       1964 16 29 79 72 56.96% 62.50%
Doug Jones        1990  5 43 66 77 72.73% 62.34%
Rollie Fingers    1977  8 35 78 69 55.13% 62.32%
Jeff Montgomery   1993  7 45 69 84 75.36% 61.90%
Trevor Hoffman    2000  4 43 70 76 67.14% 61.84%
Ugueth Urbina     1998  6 34 64 65 62.50% 61.54%
Jose Mesa         2002  4 45 74 80 66.22% 61.25%
Neil Allen        1981  7 18 43 41 58.14% 60.98%
Eric Gagne        2002  4 52 77 92 72.73% 60.87%
Trevor Hoffman    2002  2 38 61 66 65.57% 60.61%
Jeff Shaw         1997  4 42 78 76 58.97% 60.53%
Dennis Eckersley  1992  7 51 69 96 84.06% 60.42%
Dave Righetti     1986  8 46 74 90 72.97% 60.00%
Rick Aguilera     1998  4 38 68 70 61.76% 60.00%
Rod Beck          1998  3 51 81 90 66.67% 60.00%
...
Rollie Fingers    1981  6 28 47 62 72.34% 54.84%

Note that, even though the list is predominately season from the last 20 years, Fingers' 1977 season shows up in the list along with Radatz in 1964 and Neil Allen in 1981. Also, of the 142 season at or above 50%, 22 were from 1981 or before, and of the 66 seasons that rank higher than Fingers in 1981, seven were from 1981 or before (the three above and Ken Sanders in 1971 (55.07%), Sparky Lyle in 1972 (55.70%), Mike Marshall in 1973 (56.96%), and John Hiller 1973 (56.47%)). So it's not as if his performance were unprecedented at the time.

We'll maybe it's just easier to do on bad teams, given the fewer games that they win, and we all know how MVP voters dislike players on losing teams. What if we limit it to teams with winning records?

Name              Year  W SV GP  Tm  W+Sv   W+Sv
                                  W  /GP   /Tm W
Randy Myers       1993  2 53 73  84 75.34% 65.48%
Bobby Thigpen     1990  4 57 77  94 79.22% 64.89%
Lee Smith         1991  6 47 67  84 79.10% 63.10%
Jeff Montgomery   1993  7 45 69  84 75.36% 61.90%
Eric Gagne        2002  4 52 77  92 72.73% 60.87%
Dennis Eckersley  1992  7 51 69  96 84.06% 60.42%
Dave Righetti     1986  8 46 74  90 72.97% 60.00%
Rod Beck          1998  3 51 81  90 66.67% 60.00%
Armando Benitez   2001  6 43 73  82 67.12% 59.76%
Bruce Sutter      1984  5 45 71  84 70.42% 59.52%
Dan Quisenberry   1984  6 44 72  84 69.44% 59.52%
Bryan Harvey      1991  2 46 67  81 71.64% 59.26%
Trevor Hoffman    1998  4 53 66  98 86.36% 58.16%
Doug Jones        1992 11 36 80  81 58.75% 58.02%
Tom Gordon        1998  7 46 73  92 72.60% 57.61%
John Smoltz       2002  3 55 75 101 77.33% 57.43%
Dennis Eckersley  1991  5 43 67  84 71.64% 57.14%
Mariano Rivera    2001  4 50 71  95 76.06% 56.84%
Lee Smith         1992  4 43 70  83 67.14% 56.63%
John Hiller       1973 10 38 65  85 73.85% 56.47%
Trevor Hoffman    1996  9 42 70  91 72.86% 56.04%
Sparky Lyle       1972  9 35 59  79 74.58% 55.70%
Jeff Brantley     1996  1 44 66  81 68.18% 55.56%
Keith Foulke      2001  4 42 72  83 63.89% 55.42%
John Wetteland    1993  9 43 70  94 74.29% 55.32%
Rollie Fingers    1981  6 28 47  62 72.34% 54.84%

Fingers rises to number 27 but is still behind Hiller and Lyle, who preceded him.

Let's give this argument one last try. Let's look exclusively at playoff teams:

Name              Year  W SV GP  Tm  W+Sv   W+Sv
                                  W  /GP   /Tm W
Dennis Eckersley  1992  7 51 69  96 84.06% 60.42%
Rod Beck          1998  3 51 81  90 66.67% 60.00%
Dan Quisenberry   1984  6 44 72  84 69.44% 59.52%
Trevor Hoffman    1998  4 53 66  98 86.36% 58.16%
Tom Gordon        1998  7 46 73  92 72.60% 57.61%
John Smoltz       2002  3 55 75 101 77.33% 57.43%
Mariano Rivera    2001  4 50 71  95 76.06% 56.84%
Trevor Hoffman    1996  9 42 70  91 72.86% 56.04%
Rollie Fingers    1981  6 28 47  62 72.34% 54.84%
Billy Koch        2002 11 44 84 103 65.48% 53.40%
Todd Worrell      1996  4 44 72  90 66.67% 53.33%
Robb Nen          2002  6 43 68  95 72.06% 51.58%
John Wetteland    1998  3 42 63  88 71.43% 51.14%
Mariano Rivera    1997  6 43 66  96 74.24% 51.04%
Dennis Eckersley  1990  4 48 63 103 82.54% 50.49%
Mariano Rivera    1999  4 45 66  98 74.24% 50.00%

Fingers rises to ninth and he was the first to exceed 50% for a playoff team. But I'm still not sure that constitutes much of an argument for his MVP award.

Now for James' argument against Fingers winning the award: "Yes, he posted a 1.04 ERA... It's just not a remarkable accomplishment." Is that true given Fingers' save total? For example, of the comparable pitchers James cites, Murphy was rookie pitcher who threw 50.1 innings and saved one game. Gossage saved 20 but pitched only 46.2 innings. Murray had 10 saves and 69.2 innings in his rookie season. Burke had 18 saves and 91 innings pitched. Williams had one save in 52.1 innings. Brewer, 17 saves and 78.1 innings, and Veale had 3 saves in 77.2 innings. Abernathy did save 28 games and pitch 106.1 innings in 1967, but that does make Fingers' accomplishment a bit more remarkable.

Here's the complete list of relief pitchers with ERAs of 1.50 or less in chronological order (note that a pitcher must have 30 relief appearances or 20 saves to qualify):

Name             Year SV  G RA    IP  SO BB  W L  ERA
Junior Thompson  1946  4 39 38  62.7  31 40  4 6 1.29
Terry Fox        1961 12 39 39  57.3  32 16  5 2 1.41
Bill Henry       1964  6 37 37  52.0  28 12  2 2 0.87
Frank Linzy      1965 21 57 57  81.7  35 23  9 3 1.43
Steve Hamilton   1965  5 46 45  58.3  51 16  3 1 1.39
Frank Linzy      1967 17 57 57  95.7  38 34  7 7 1.51
Hoyt Wilhelm     1967 12 49 49  89.0  76 34  8 3 1.31
Ted Abernathy    1967 28 70 70 106.3  88 41  6 3 1.27
Joe Hoerner      1968 17 47 47  48.7  42 12  8 2 1.48
Ken Tatum        1969 22 45 45  86.3  65 39  7 2 1.36
Steve Mingori    1971  4 54 54  56.7  45 24  1 2 1.43
Darold Knowles   1972 11 54 54  65.7  36 37  5 1 1.37
Jim Brewer       1972 17 51 51  78.3  69 25  8 7 1.26
John Hiller      1973 38 65 65 125.3 124 39 10 5 1.44
Dale Murray      1974 10 32 32  69.7  31 23  1 1 1.03
Bob Apodaca      1975 13 46 46  84.7  45 28  3 4 1.49
Bruce Sutter     1977 31 62 62 107.3 129 23  7 3 1.34
Tug McGraw       1980 20 57 57  92.3  75 23  5 4 1.46
Rich Gossage     1981 20 32 32  46.7  48 14  3 2 0.77
Rollie Fingers   1981 28 47 47  78.0  61 13  6 3 1.04
Jesse Orosco     1983 17 62 62 110.0  84 38 13 7 1.47
Steve Howe       1983 18 46 46  68.7  52 12  4 7 1.44
Frank Williams   1986  1 36 36  52.3  33 21  3 1 1.20
Rob Murphy       1986  1 34 34  50.3  36 21  6 0 0.72
Jeff Calhoun     1987  1 42 42  42.7  31 26  3 1 1.48
Tim Burke        1987 18 55 55  91.0  58 17  7 0 1.19
Jeff Montgomery  1989 18 63 63  92.0  94 25  7 3 1.37
Les Lancaster    1989  8 42 42  72.7  56 15  4 2 1.36
Dennis Eckersley 1990 48 63 63  73.3  73  4  4 2 0.61
Doug Henry       1991 15 32 32  36.0  28 14  2 1 1.00
Jim Corsi        1992  0 32 32  44.0  19 18  4 2 1.43
Mel Rojas        1992 10 68 68 100.7  70 34  7 1 1.43
John Wetteland   1993 43 70 70  85.3 113 28  9 3 1.37
Mike Jackson     1994  4 36 36  42.3  51 11  3 2 1.49
Jose Mesa        1995 46 62 62  64.0  58 17  3 0 1.13
Tony Fossas      1995  0 58 58  36.7  40 10  3 0 1.47
Randy Myers      1997 45 61 61  59.7  56 22  2 3 1.51
Trevor Hoffman   1998 53 66 66  73.0  86 21  4 2 1.48
Ugueth Urbina    1998 34 64 64  69.3  94 33  6 3 1.30
Ray King         2000  0 36 36  28.7  19 10  3 2 1.26
Robb Nen         2000 41 68 68  66.0  92 19  4 3 1.50
B. Villafuerte   2002  1 31 31  32.0  25 12  1 2 1.41
Chris Hammond    2002  0 63 63  76.0  63 31  7 2 0.95
Joey Eischen     2002  2 59 59  53.7  51 18  6 1 1.34

There are a good number of middle relievers and setup men in the mix but there are also closers, especially ones that predate Fingers and Goose Gossage, who did it the same year.

Well, maybe Fingers did something extraordinary that didn't show up in the numbers to enable the Brewers to get to the playoffs. Here are Fingers' game logs for the season.

Keep in mind that the Brewers were in third place at the time of the strike (31-25), three games behind division-leading New York (34-22). In the second half, they won the division with a 31-22 record, 1.5 games ahead of Detroit and Boston (29-23) and 2 games ahead of Baltimore (28-23). Fifth-place Cleveland (26-27) was just 5 games back and sixth-place New York, for whom the second half was meaningless since they had "won" the first, was also five back (25-26). Even last-place Toronto was just 7.5 games back (21-27). In the West the only team in striking distance of the second-half champs, the A's, was Texas, in second by five games. Therefore, any games with Detroit, Boston, Baltimore, Cleveland, Oakland, and Texas could be said to have playoff implications. I, frankly, don't know how to classify the Yankee games-obviously, their spirit was not in the second half and their record reflects this. However, they did have a playoff-caliber team, one that eventually represented the AL in the World Series that year.

Therefore, the question remains as to Fingers' contribution in the second half especially in those pennant race games and whether his MVP and Cy Young candidacy should be thereby enhanced. Fingers had 12 saves, one win, and 2 losses at the time of the strike with a 1.34 ERA in 23 relief appearances constituting 40.1 innings pitched in the first half. His second half numbers are even more impressive: 23 games, 37.2 innings, 5-1 record, 16 saves, and 0.72 ERA.

Here is a log of his second-half appearances ("*" indicates that he faced the tying or go-ahead run when he entered the game and a "-" indicates a blown save. Thanks to Retrosheet.com for the data.):

- Aug. 10 vs Clev: 1 IP, Blew save. Entered game with Brewers leading 2-1 n ninth and allowed a run to tie it. Milwaukee eventually won in 13, 5-2.
Aug. 13 vs. Clev: 1 IP, save in 8-5 win, pitched one inning and entered with game already 8-5.
Aug. 16 vs. Tor: 1.2 IP and save in 6-2 win-came in with one out men at first and second in the eighth (already 6-2).
*Aug. 16 (game 2) vs. Tor: 1.2 IP and save in 2-0 win-came in with one out and man on first in eighth (2-0).
*Aug. 18 vs. Tex: 1.2 IP and save in 3-1 win-came in with bases loaded, one out, and one run already across in the inning in the eighth inning (3-1).
*Aug 22 vs. Minn: 2 IP and win in 4-3, 10-inning victory-came in with score tied to start ninth (3-3).
Aug. 23 vs. Minn: 1.1 IP and save in 8-5 win-came in with man on third, two out, and two runs already across in the inning in the 8th (7-5).
Aug. 28 vs. Tex: 1.2 IP and save in 6-3 win-in 8th, came in with man on first, one out, 1 run already across in the inning (6-3).
Aug. 30 vs. Tex: 0.2 IP and save in 6-2 win-came in with men at first and second and one out in ninth (6-2).
*Aug. 31 vs. KC: 2.1 IP and save in 5-1 win-came in with men at second and third, 2 out, and score 3-1 in the 7th.
- Sept 2 vs. KC: 0.2 IP and loss in 5-4 defeat-came in to start the ninth of a 4-4 tie.
*Sept. 3 vs. Minn: 1.1 IP and save in 4-3 win-came in with man on first and two out in 8th (4-3).
Sept 5 vs. Minn: 1 IP and save in 5-3 win-came in with none out and none on in the ninth after Jim Slaton had lost his no-hitter by giving up three runs in ninth.
*Sept. 6 vs. Minn: 2 IP and win in 8-7 victory-came in to start ninth with score tied 7-7.
*Sept. 9 vs. NYY: 2.2 IP and save in 5-3 win-came in in 7th with one out, men on first and second, and score 5-2 (one inherited run scored).
Sept. 12 vs. Balt: 1 IP and save in 6-3 win-came in with man on first and none out in ninth (6-3).
*Sept 15 vs. NYY: 2 IP and save in 2-1 win-came in to start 8th (2-1).
*Sept. 16 vs. NYY: 2 IP and save in 3-2 win-came in to start 8th (3-2).
Sept. 19 vs. Balt: 2.2 IP and save in 11-8 win-came in with men on first and second, one out, and 7-5 Milwaukee lead in 7th (two inherited runs scored plus one uninherited).
- Sept. 22 vs. Bos: 2.2 IP and win in 10-8 victory-came in with one out, man on second, and score 8-7 Brewers in the 7th. Gave up inherited run to tie score and later win it.
Sept. 25 vs. Det: 1 IP and save in 8-6 win-came in to start ninth (8-6).
*Sept. 26 vs. Det: 1 IP and save in 4-3 win-came in with none on, none out, and 2 runs across in the inning in the 9th (4-3).
Sept. 30 vs. Bos: 1.1 IP in 10-5 win-came in with men at first and second and one out in the 8th (10-5).
*Oct. 3 vs. Det: 1.1 IP and win in 2-1 victory-came in with two out, man on first, and the Brewers trailing 1-0 in the 8th. This victory clinches the division for the Brewers.

Actually, it looks more impressive on paper than I anticipated, especially the September numbers. He has 11 of my qualified saves (i.e., facing winning or go-ahead run when he entered) and 3 blown saves. His numbers versus the pennant race teams that we mentioned earlier is 3 "saves" and 2 blown saves (plus 3 "saves" vs. the Yankees). They look more impressive because they helped clinch the pennant and were against the Yankees, but his stats are less impressive against the teams in the race.

Also, consider that Gossage finished 5th in Cy Young voting and 9th in MVP voting probably because his Yankees were never in a real playoff race, but as we documented above, Fingers was not as impressive as one would believe in the pennant race against the tougher teams. Further John Wetteland, whose 1993 season was similar to Fingers' 1981 as I indicated earlier, finished 24th in the MVP vote that year and got no mention in the Cy Young vote even though fellow closers Bryan Harvey and Randy Myers did.

It should also be pointed out that there were a number of players have very good season in 1981 (three of them on the Brewers):

Player	Win Share	Adj OPS
Rickey Henderson	27	150
Dwight Evans	26	163
Cecil Cooper	22	151
Bobby Grich	 21	164
Eddie Murray	21	156
Gorman Thomas	20	146
Robin Yount	20	114
Dwayne Murphy	20	129

One could argue that not only was Fingers not the AL MVP, not only was he not the Brewer MVP, he was the fourth most valuable on his own team.

How valuable was his season after all if his injury-plagued 1982 matches it in most stats but ERA but failed to garner a single Cy Young vote and finished 16th in MVP that year:

Year Ag Tm  Lg  W   L   G   GS  CG SHO SV   IP     H   ER   HR  BB   SO   ERA *lgERA *ERA+
1981 34 MIL AL   6   3  47   0   0   0 28   78.0   55    9   3   13   61  1.04  3.44  331
1982 35 MIL AL   5   6  50   0   0   0 29   79.7   63   23   5   20   71  2.60  3.80  146

I have to side with James in this argument. Fingers had a very fine season but was far from being MVP-worthy. So why did Fingers win? I think it was a combination of things. I think the shortened season threw off everyone's season numbers making it more difficult for voters. I also think Fingers to a certain degree gets the benefit for the time he lost. Why else would a closer with only 28 saves get the MVP when the record had been 38 for nine seasons and Bruce Sutter had had 37 just two years before? Why else would his 1981 season overwhelm voters while his 1982 season did anything but.

Besides Ted Abernathy had had similar statistics in 1967 (adjusting the saves per era): he lead the majors in saves with 28, won six games, and had an ERA a little over 1.00. And Abernathy did it 106.1 innings, a more impressive accomplishment. So why was Abernathy twentieth in the 1967 MVP vote? Well, the Reds did finish in fourth 14.5 games back, but third-place Roberto Clemente was not held back by his .500 team.

Obviously, the way that a closer was viewed in 1981 was fundamentally different from the way it was viewed in 1967. I submit that analysts of the day had an inflated view of the closer's worth. Sutter had just made the reliever's role a glamorous one (again) two years earlier. Writers were just waiting for the next big thing when Fingers and a strike-shortened season gave it to them.

I also submit that this view carried through until when Fingers was eligible for the Hall. Fingers had been the first man to break 300 saves, had the MVP season, and a very good career. He also retired one year removed from his peak at the age of 38. Compare him to near contemporary Goose Gossage: Gossage was, for many arguments that have been listed since he became Hall-eligible, as viable a candidate as Fingers-they are listed as the player most comparable to each other by Bill James Similar Pitcher system. Gossage was still a valuable pitcher when he retired at age 42 but was at least 5 good years removed from closing. However, he started his career four years after Fingers and ended it nine years after Fingers.

Fingers was voted into the Hall on his second ballot (1992). Gossage has yet to get in in three tries. He hasn't even been close. So what's the difference? Well, in 1992 Dennis Eckersley, Gossage's teammate at the time, was re-writing the record books or at least the margins thereof with only the second 50+ save season. It was the culmination of five dominant years by Eck. Fingers' excellent career was still fresh in the writers' minds. It proved to be Eckersley's last dominant season. By 2000, when Gossage first became available, the save was already becoming devalued as a means to measure closers. Saves were a dime-a-dozen, even Gossage's 310 of them. I would say that was the difference in Fingers' rather easy entrance into the Hall and Gossage's yet unsuccessful one.

Eckersley plays a big part in the momentary resurgence of closers in the late Eighties, the subject of our next study.

1987: The Year That the Modern Closer Almost Died (Bye Bye, Miss American Pie)

In 1987 everyone in baseball was talking about the number of balls flying out of the park. The talk didn't slow even though the home runs did after the All-Star break. The ball was juiced, that's what everyone said. They called it the "lively-ball" or "livelier-ball theory". Street and Smith's 1988 Baseball Annual quoted Bobby Bonds, then a 41-year-old coach for the Indians and a proponent of the livelier-ball theory, as saying that when he took an occasional turn in the batting cage:

"I hit the ball as far as I did when I was 25-years-old. I'm not that strong. I hit balls really terrible and they went over the fence. When I was playing, I'd hit balls and say, oh my Gos, and they didn't go out. During my batting practice now, I hit balls and said, oh my God, and they cleared the fence by 30 feet."

Bonds' "Oh my God!"'s may be more easily explained by his son's ability to hit the ball farther as he approaches forty than when he was twenty-five: Maybe it runs in the family. Or maybe Bonds was upset that so many players joined him in the exclusive 30-30 club in 1987, increasing the membership to 10 men, 4 from 1987 (i.e., Eric Davis, Joe Carter, Darryl Strawberry, and Howard Johnson).

However, no one could argue with the record number of home runs being hit. On May 9th alone, Eddie Murray homered from both sides of the plate for the second consecutive game, and weak-hitting Chris Speier hit his second grand-slam home run in a week, after going his first 15 seasons without one. May 27 Greg Gross hits his first home run since 1978. On May 28 Joe Carter hits three home runs and Mike Young becomes only the fifth player ever to hit two home runs in extra innings.

And that's just the anecdotal evidence. Here is a table of the number of home runs per game with the percent increase from the previous year and from five years previous to mitigate one-year spikes. I included every year because, heck, I do like numbers and I thought some of you might too:

Year	HR/G	% Change	5-year % Change
1871	0.185	-	-
1872	0.096	-48.32%	-
1873	0.128	34.00%	-
1874	0.091	-29.36%	-
1875	0.061	-32.75%	-67.10%
1876	0.077	26.37%	-19.56%
1877	0.067	-13.33%	-47.97%
1878	0.063	-6.25%	-30.95%
1879	0.090	44.55%	48.42%
1880	0.091	0.92%	18.53%
1881	0.113	24.04%	69.64%
1882	0.156	37.58%	148.95%
1883	0.152	-2.57%	67.80%
1884	0.223	47.40%	145.07%
1885	0.181	-18.79%	60.45%
1886	0.196	8.17%	26.16%
1887	0.286	45.90%	88.92%
1888	0.239	-16.70%	6.76%
1889	0.306	28.26%	68.61%
1890	0.236	-22.76%	20.39%
1891	0.264	11.79%	-7.76%
1892	0.226	-14.31%	-5.10%
1893	0.293	29.42%	-4.24%
1894	0.395	34.93%	67.29%
1895	0.304	-23.10%	15.08%
1896	0.255	-16.11%	12.66%
1897	0.227	-11.07%	-22.58%
1898	0.162	-28.44%	-58.94%
1899	0.190	17.06%	-37.50%
1900	0.223	17.47%	-12.49%
1901	0.205	-8.17%	-9.64%
1902	0.160	-22.11%	-1.65%
1903	0.150	-5.81%	-20.87%
1904	0.133	-11.87%	-40.63%
1905	0.137	3.11%	-33.34%
1906	0.107	-21.62%	-32.92%
1907	0.099	-7.22%	-33.92%
1908	0.107	8.02%	-19.01%
1909	0.105	-2.39%	-23.32%
1910	0.145	37.96%	34.95%
1911	0.208	43.76%	109.12%
1912	0.180	-13.46%	67.53%
1913	0.190	5.70%	81.41%
1914	0.189	-0.49%	30.85%
1915	0.170	-9.92%	-18.02%
1916	0.154	-9.84%	-14.58%
1917	0.134	-12.53%	-29.32%
1918	0.116	-13.90%	-38.84%
1919	0.200	72.86%	17.36%
1920	0.255	27.69%	66.22%
1921	0.381	49.34%	183.80%
1922	0.426	11.77%	268.43%
1923	0.397	-6.73%	98.79%
1924	0.364	-8.42%	42.57%
1925	0.476	30.79%	24.86%
1926	0.350	-26.54%	-17.93%
1927	0.373	6.66%	-6.15%
1928	0.444	19.03%	21.99%
1929	0.549	23.62%	15.30%
1930	0.634	15.54%	81.34%
1931	0.432	-31.80%	15.94%
1932	0.551	27.34%	24.04%
1933	0.435	-20.98%	-20.71%
1934	0.549	26.27%	-13.35%
1935	0.539	-1.82%	24.76%
1936	0.551	2.11%	0.04%
1937	0.577	4.75%	32.61%
1938	0.603	4.50%	9.75%
1939	0.587	-2.67%	8.79%
1940	0.636	8.28%	15.36%
1941	0.535	-15.82%	-7.30%
1942	0.438	-18.22%	-27.45%
1943	0.366	-16.46%	-37.72%
1944	0.416	13.89%	-34.50%
1945	0.409	-1.66%	-23.48%
1946	0.489	19.49%	11.80%
1947	0.630	28.70%	72.23%
1948	0.629	-0.16%	50.99%
1949	0.687	9.32%	67.85%
1950	0.837	21.85%	71.17%
1951	0.752	-10.20%	19.43%
1952	0.686	-8.70%	9.21%
1953	0.837	21.95%	21.83%
1954	0.783	-6.47%	-6.49%
1955	0.901	15.10%	19.86%
1956	0.926	2.73%	34.86%
1957	0.891	-3.70%	6.50%
1958	0.907	1.73%	15.83%
1959	0.909	0.20%	0.84%
1960	0.861	-5.27%	-7.01%
1961	0.955	10.89%	7.07%
1962	0.926	-3.03%	2.07%
1963	0.835	-9.79%	-8.10%
1964	0.849	1.71%	-1.34%
1965	0.828	-2.50%	-13.25%
1966	0.849	2.55%	-8.26%
1967	0.710	-16.45%	-15.03%
1968	0.614	-13.49%	-27.73%
1969	0.801	30.55%	-3.23%
1970	0.882	10.05%	3.85%
1971	0.739	-16.25%	4.10%
1972	0.682	-7.73%	11.03%
1973	0.798	17.12%	-0.39%
1974	0.681	-14.69%	-22.79%
1975	0.698	2.43%	-5.57%
1976	0.576	-17.37%	-15.44%
1977	0.866	50.33%	8.54%
1978	0.703	-18.84%	3.25%
1979	0.818	16.30%	17.24%
1980	0.733	-10.33%	27.23%
1981	0.637	-13.12%	-26.47%
1982	0.802	25.88%	14.04%
1983	0.783	-2.40%	-4.30%
1984	0.774	-1.12%	5.54%
1985	0.856	10.66%	34.44%
1986	0.907	5.86%	13.06%
1987	1.059	16.80%	35.31%
1988	0.757	-28.50%	-2.16%
1989	0.732	-3.33%	-14.53%
1990	0.788	7.64%	-13.09%
1991	0.804	2.04%	-24.08%
1992	0.721	-10.28%	-4.74%
1993	0.888	23.12%	21.33%
1994	1.033	16.34%	31.13%
1995	1.012	-2.08%	25.84%
1996	1.094	8.18%	51.73%
1997	1.024	-6.45%	15.29%
1998	1.041	1.69%	0.77%
1999	1.138	9.34%	12.53%
2000	1.172	2.94%	7.08%
2001	1.124	-4.13%	9.74%
2002	1.043	-7.20%	0.15%

Note how this trend was a long time coming with increases in 1977, 1979, and 1982. The largest increases were in the 1985-'87 period though, with 1987 reaching the then-historic (and now de rigueur) sum of one home run per game.

From The Sporting News 1988 Baseball Guide regarding the home run increase in the 1987 season:

Subpar pitching and the umpire's shrinking strike zone were theories advanced as explanations for the record home run output. Over the first half of the 1987 campaign, the homer total was well ahead of the previous year's record clip, though the pace slowed slightly after the All-Star break.

Both leagues attained new home run highs. With American League hitters unloading 2,634 and the National League accounting for 1,824, the total of 4,458 amounted to nearly a 17 percent increase over the record of 3,813 set a year earlier. Six A.L. teams-Detroit, Toronto, Oakland, Texas, Kansas City and Cleveland- established new marks, as did three N.L. clubs-Chicago, San Francisco and New York. One of the more unusual homers was hit September 5 by California third baseman Jack Howell at Yankee Stadium. Facing reliever Tim Stoddard, Howell drove a pitch into the left-field stands, even though his bat broke in half about 12 inches from the knob.

Oakland first baseman Mark McGwire was the A.L.'s leading home run hitter with 49, smashing the rookie record of 38. Outfielder Andre Dawson also had 49 for the Chicago Cubs to pace the senior circuit. New York Yankee first baseman Don Mattingly accomplished two remarkable feats, equaling one record with home runs in eight consecutive games and establishing another by hitting six grand slams...

The home run barrage stirred speculation that the baseballs had been "juiced up." Denials by representatives of the manufacturer, Rawlings Sporting Goods Co., were met with skepticism, but scientific tests arranged separately by USA Today and the league offices confirmed that the 1987 baseballs were no livelier than those of recent years. The newspaper had Hailer Testing Laboratories of Plain-field, N.J., perform tests early in July on 116 baseballs collected from all 26 teams. A few weeks later, at the request of the two leagues, the Science and Aeronautics Department of the University of Missouri at Rolla compared several dozen 1985 and 1987 balls manufactured by Rawlings.

The homer outburst also spawned several brawls and charges of cheating on the part of hitters as well as pitchers. Fourteen bench-clearing brawls erupted during the first half of the campaign. The biggest took place at Wrigley Field on July 7 after the Cubs' Dawson was struck on the face by a pitch from San Diego's Eric Show, causing wounds that required 24 stitches. Two days later, N.L. President A. Bartlett Giamatti issued an edict threatening "severe penalties, possibly including suspension," for any act clearly intended to maim or injure another player. The warning had a quick, positive effect.

Because certain pitchers long had been suspected of scuffing baseballs, Giamatti and his counterpart, A.L. President Bobby Brown, ordered umpires from both leagues to keep a close watch for illegal activity. And when the long-ball exploits of Mets infielder Howard Johnson, who hit 36 homers after totaling only 40 in five previous seasons, and other slightly-built players aroused suspicions of corked bats. Commissioner Ueberroth sent out an August 6 directive that permitted umpires to impound one bat per team per game upon request of the opposing manager. The confiscated bats were shipped to league headquarters to be X-rayed.

Three players, two of them pitchers, drew suspensions. Joe Niekro, veteran knuckleballer with Minnesota, was banned 10 days for doctoring baseballs; pitcher Kevin Gross of Philadelphia received the same sentence when umpires detected an illegal substance on his glove, and Billy Hatcher of Houston was suspended for 10 days for using a corked bat. No violations were found in the bats of other players that were examined...

While hitters generally fared well, pitchers struggled through a rough season. Boston's Roger Clemens and Oakland's Dave Stewart were the only hurlers to reach the coveted 20-victory level with 20-9 and 20-13 records, respectively. Clemens recorded his 20 wins despite a spring training holdout and 4-6 start. Rick Sutcliff e of the Chicago Cubs was the National League's top winner with 18 victories. Only four pitchers working the 162 innings required to qualify for earned-run honors finished under 3.00. The lone National League hurler to do so was veteran Nolan Ryan, who had a 2.76 ERA but a disappointing 8-16 record as a consequence of weak offensive support by his Houston mates. Jimmy Key of Toronto (2.76) edged Viola (2.90) and Clemens (2.97) for the American League's ERA title.

For the record, here are the men with a double-digit increase in their home run output between 1986 and 1987 (and played at least 100 games in 1986-the largest increase was 43 by rookie Mark McGwire). Only four men (Rickey Henderson (-11 but played only 95 games), Jesse Barfield (-12), Doug Decinces (-10 in his final year), and Don Baylor (-15, played 128 games)) experienced double-digit dropoffs:

Name		1986 HR	1987 HR	Diff
Andre	Dawson	20	49	29
Will	Clark	11	35	24
George	Bell	31	47	16
John	Kruk	4	20	16
Wade	Boggs	8	24	16
Brook	Jacoby	17	32	15
Dale	Murphy	29	44	15
Keith	Moreland	12	27	15
Ruben	Sierra	16	30	14
Eddie	Murray	17	30	13
Larry	Sheets	18	31	13
Darryl	Strawberry	27	39	12
Juan	Samuel	16	28	12
Ozzie	Virgil	15	27	12
Robin	Yount	9	21	12
Wally	Joyner	22	34	12
Alvin	Davis	18	29	11
Chili	Davis	13	24	11
Gary	Ward	5	16	11
Terry	Pendleton	1	12	11
Bill	Doran	6	16	10
Eric	Davis	27	37	10
John	Shelby	11	21	10
Nick	Esasky	12	22	10

The general consensus now seems to be that the ball was juiced and that it was then-commissioner Peter Ueberroth's attempt (and if so, then a successful one) to rejuvenate interest in the game. Although I do not know if any evidence was ever found to support that conclusion.

Okay, so a lot of home runs were hit. Big deal! What does that have to do with relief pitching?

Well, as home runs flew out of parks, staffs became jittery and managers changed styles. The percentage of games completed by starting pitchers dwindled from just over 20% in 1980 to under 14% in 1986 and '87. The percentage of all pitchers who were used solely as starting pitchers, which had been climbing steadily throughout the Seventies, plateaued and then increased by six percentage points after the home run explosion stopped in '88. The same goes for the falling percentage of swingman, which dropped almost nine points in 1988. Meanwhile all pitching roles were taking their lumps: all three (starter, reliever, and swingman) had average ERAs over 4.00 in 1987; that was the first time since 1950.

The way that relief pitchers were used changed dramatically as well. From 1955 to 1979 the number of pitchers used per game increased by just one-tenth of a man. Between 1979 and 1989 that number went up by more than a third a man. 1987 witnessed the lowest save leader over a full season (Steve Bedrosian with 40) for the period 1983 to the present.

Closers got fewer saves in 1987 as managers tried different ways to hold a lead. Here are the average number of saves for team's "closer" (i.e., pitcher with most saves prorated to 162 games):

Year	Sv/162G
1970	19.63
1971	15.13
1972	16.51
1973	16.63
1974	12.70
1975	13.90
1976	14.41
1977	17.60
1978	18.23
1979	17.60
1980	19.20
1981	19.23
1982	19.57
1983	19.86
1984	22.32
1985	22.15
1986	22.53
1987	19.93
1988	25.84
1989	27.38

The number of closers in baseball who met the typical closer-type numbers dwindled. Here are the number of "high-save" closers (15 saves 1970-'79, 13 saves 1981, and 20 saves 1980, '82-'89 (total is prorates to 13 for the strike year of 1981)):

Year	High-Save Closers
1970	18
1971	13
1972	12
1973	14
1974	8
1975	10
1976	11
1977	17
1978	15
1979	15
1980	14
1981	11
1982	12
1983	14
1984	14
1985	13
1986	17
1987	10
1988	18
1989	25


Also, the percentage of games saved dropped in 1987:

Year	Pitchers/G	SV%	Sv/RA
1970	2.664	22.58%	13.57%
1971	2.493	17.78%	11.91%
1972	2.455	19.71%	13.55%
1973	2.370	21.08%	15.39%
1974	2.398	13.29%	9.50%
1975	2.397	17.30%	12.38%
1976	2.415	17.61%	12.45%
1977	2.525	20.09%	13.17%
1978	2.401	19.12%	13.65%
1979	2.520	20.02%	13.17%
1980	2.564	21.43%	13.70%
1981	2.668	21.70%	13.01%
1982	2.620	22.12%	13.66%
1983	2.603	23.16%	14.45%
1984	2.655	23.59%	14.25%
1985	2.735	23.23%	13.39%
1986	2.796	23.87%	13.29%
1987	2.888	23.06%	12.22%
1988	2.745	24.98%	14.31%
1989	2.875	25.38%	13.53%

Throughout the era of the "modern" closer, the percentage of games that resulted in saves had been increasing. Suddenly, it dropped almost a full percentage point in 1987. More pitchers were used per game than had ever been used before, the increase outpacing the modest, evolutionary snowballing of the last ten years. Note also that the percentage of relieve appearances that resulted in a save for the reliever took a hit during the 1985-'87 offensive increase, with 1987's 1+ point drop being the worst of the three. All of these numbers returned to the normal projections in 1988.

One would be lead to believe that the closer role was becoming less important as more pitchers with more appearances, fewer of which ended in saves, were becoming the norm. However, if a count of the total number of pitchers who saved games in a given were tallied, that would not seem to be the case:

Year	Savers/Tm
1960	6.875
1961	6.556
1962	7.600
1963	6.400
1964	7.000
1965	6.700
1966	6.700
1967	6.450
1968	6.450
1969	6.042
1970	6.250
1971	5.625
1972	5.833
1973	6.167
1974	4.875
1975	5.333
1976	5.292
1977	5.269
1978	5.154
1979	4.962
1980	5.615
1981	4.769
1982	5.615
1983	5.231
1984	5.577
1985	5.808
1986	5.769
1987	5.692
1988	5.577
1989	4.923
1990	5.654
1991	5.692
1992	4.885
1993	5.071
1994	5.071
1995	4.821
1996	4.893
1997	5.000
1998	4.933
1999	4.733
2000	4.500
2001	4.333
2002	4.367

Note that the number of pitchers who saved at least a game per team actually increased during the 1985-'87 period and has never been that high since.

One logical conclusion of fewer saves and more pitching changes would be that relief pitchers in general and closers in particular were throwing fewer innings. The number of 3-inning saves and endurance-based saves would therefore be the culprit. However, the number of 100-inning pitchers actually increased. Here is a table of the number of 100-inning relievers per year (with fewer than 10 starts (7 in '81), at least 20 relief appearances, and at least 100 IP (66 in '81)):

Year	100-IP relievers
1970	16
1971	11
1972	15
1973	17
1974	24
1975	17
1976	22
1977	40
1978	25
1979	18
1980	25
1981	28
1982	36
1983	23
1984	25
1985	19
1986	19
1987	22
1988	12
1989	18


Evidently relievers in general did still pitch 100 innings. So maybe the manner in which closers were employed was the culprit of fewer saves. To test this I selected the "closer" for each team per year. This was the man with the most saves on the team. I then took the average for all such closers in the majors for each year. If two or more men were tied for the team save lead, I averaged their stats before adding them to the majors totals and deriving the major-league average. Here are the results (MTL = Miminum Team Leader, the team leader with the most saves; all the other stats are based on the closer average):

Year   Sv/  MTL/  W    L     G    GS     IP   ERA   K/  HR/ K/BB WHIP
      162G  162G                                   9IP  9IP
1970 19.63  8.00 6.13 5.92 60.25 0.33  91.44 3.01 6.39 0.65 1.90 1.256
1971 15.13  4.01 6.15 5.67 54.56 1.58  90.15 2.93 6.41 0.64 1.71 1.274
1972 16.51  4.18 5.48 5.48 50.50 0.75  80.47 2.78 6.56 0.51 1.82 1.246
1973 16.63  6.00 6.32 5.65 54.99 1.25  97.06 2.88 6.05 0.61 1.73 1.266
1974 12.70  3.00 6.96 6.25 59.46 0.92 106.42 2.90 5.58 0.54 1.82 1.257
1975 13.90  5.03 6.02 5.60 52.88 0.50  87.98 3.13 5.97 0.55 1.62 1.311
1976 14.41  6.02 7.08 6.08 57.67 0.42  98.58 2.76 6.25 0.40 1.73 1.245
1977 17.60  8.01 7.65 6.50 60.69 0.92 106.23 2.97 6.66 0.67 2.11 1.235
1978 18.23  9.02 7.31 7.23 58.04 0.19  93.94 2.82 6.59 0.57 1.83 1.229
1979 17.60  6.02 7.35 6.73 57.19 0.96  94.50 2.89 6.32 0.58 1.78 1.268
1980 19.20  6.00 6.65 5.96 62.54 0.31  98.35 2.75 5.64 0.46 1.80 1.233
1981 19.23  4.53 4.35 4.08 41.40 0.23  65.41 2.75 5.63 0.48 1.61 1.254
1982 19.57  7.00 6.77 7.08 61.40 0.46 100.62 2.93 6.02 0.60 2.01 1.221
1983 19.86  6.99 6.35 6.69 59.81 0.27  93.41 2.97 6.29 0.60 1.99 1.231
1984 22.32  8.00 5.83 6.79 60.63 0.04  90.62 2.96 6.43 0.66 2.08 1.234
1985 22.15  9.01 6.46 6.17 60.85 0.42  90.78 2.95 6.50 0.71 2.22 1.210
1986 22.53 10.01 6.58 6.88 60.38 0.92  87.91 3.26 7.21 0.76 2.09 1.292
1987 19.93  8.00 5.23 5.65 56.27 0.37  84.40 3.36 7.71 0.88 2.41 1.261
1988 25.84 13.04 4.46 5.27 57.46 0.04  73.87 2.88 7.66 0.57 2.49 1.205
1989 27.38 15.00 4.17 4.27 59.35 0.04  73.82 2.61 7.77 0.57 2.39 1.181

A number of interesting conclusions may be drawn. First, note that the average number of saves per closer is lower in 1987 than in the surrounding years, just as we saw earlier with saves in general. Note also that the lowest team closer has a save total lower than expected. The lowest in 1988 would be more than 50% higher than 1987's.

Note too the ERA upswing in 1987. Clearly this was affected by that year's offensive/home run explosion. One logical consequence of a higher ERA for a closer would be fewer saves, but one would also expect more losses and possibly more wins, as the pitcher's team regains the lead with him on the mound. However, neither was the case as closers experienced historically low win and loss totals.

Closer's innings pitched did decrease in 1987 by three innings, but I cannot imagine that a few innings cost that many saves. It did portend the sub-80-inning closer that came thereafter. Note that the number of appearances per closer did decrease slightly but clearly closers pitched fewer innings per appearances. Compare the similar appearance totals for 1976-1983 and for 1987. Note that there are a number of years in the '76-'83 range in which the average closer had about the same number as he did in 1987. However, the closer in the earlier range was expected to pitch 90-100 innings as opposed to the 84 in 1987.

Note that 1987 was also a transition for the number of games started by the closer. Whereas closers would start an average of almost one game prior to the "modern" period (1977 and '79), the average closer started only 0.37 games in 1987, or rather only one in three closers started a game on average. As late as 1986, a start per closer was the norm, possibly to combat the offensive onslaught of the mid-Eighties by enlisting a starter as a closer or a closer as a starter. Note that the games started average plummets after 1987. Again this year is a transition point.

Also, note the increase in strikeout pitchers being used as closers. Both the strikeouts-per-nine-innings and the strikeouts-to-walks-ratio were historically high for closers. When scoring is high, even large leads can be lost quickly. Managers began selecting pitchers who would keep batters off the basepaths via the strikeout. These were fireballers who still had good control, which is evident by the slight increase in 1987 over the norm in Walks-Plus-Hits-Per-Innings-Pitched (WHIP). 1987's average closer WHIP is actually lower than 1986's. The strikeout stats remained high even after scoring returned to normal after 1987, and control improved as the closer's WHIP went down with the scoring.

I see 1987 as a year in which the "modern closer" established by Bruce Sutter in the late Seventies started to break down and a new closer who was a power pitcher with good control, pitched fewer innings per appearance, almost never started a game, and was rarely involved in win-loss decisions. The "post-modern" closer had more saves and was more widely used than the Sutter-type.

Of course, a man, who personified all of these elements, began his closer career in 1987 and would go on to be widely-held as the best reliever of all time. That man is, of course, Dennis Eckersley. Eck would walk few, strikeout many (anout one per inning), would never pitch more than 80 innings in a year as a reliever, and would set the standard for the next generation of closers.
Eckersley would never have been able to succeed without his excellent supporting bullpen staff in Oakland. The growth of the setup men is the subject of the last study.

Setting 'Em Up And Knocking 'Em Down

So 1987 became a transition year for the closer. The "modern" closer established by Bruce Sutter was replaced by the "post-modern"

Pap of Luxury ESPN reports
2003-02-16 21:21
by Mike Carminati

Pap of Luxury

ESPN reports that only the Yankees and the Mets are projected to exceed the luxury tax barrier this year. The Yankees will break $150M befoe the start of the season. That translates into a $6M average given a 25-man roster (though injured Jon Lieber is also included in the total payroll). Their tax payroll will be $182M (i.e., including everyone on the 40-man roster), which translates into a $11.4 tax hit according to ESPN.

The next four teams are as follows:

The only other team projected over the $117 million threshold is the Mets ($122 million), who would pay $875,000 based on a tax rate of 17.5 percent. Texas is third at $113 million, followed by Los Angeles ($109 million) and Boston ($105 million).

Note that none of those four teams made the playoffs last year.

Of course, there were the typical Yankee-bashing comments interspersed:

"It would be like you driving a Yugo, and me racing in a Ferrari,'' said Adam Piatt when asked to compare the small market teams chances against the Yankee juggernaut.

"Things like that are out of our control,'' Boston manager Grady Little said. "What we try to control out on the field is to make ourselves the best we can be.'' [Note that the Red Sox are fifth in payroll and that they still have failed to make the playoffs since 1999.]

"What a club with a mid to smaller payroll has to do is to get very good performances out of its less-experienced players,'' Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said. "Clubs like the Yankees can and will outspend their mistakes.''

You mean mistakes like signing the sub-par Darin Erstad to $32 M, 4-year contract? By the way, Yankee Alfonzo Soriano in his second year had an OPS 31% better than league average while making just $630K last year. How's that for getting a good performance out of a less-experienced (read, "cheaper") player?

The article ends with one of the least-intended ironic statements that you'll ever read:

Dusty Baker, who left the Giants to manage the Cubs, said the only way for some teams to get higher payrolls is to succeed.

"I'm here to win and winning fills the stands,'' he said "In the long run if you end up winning, winning means more licensing, memorabilia, apparel, attitude of the town, hotels and restaurants. The better we start and the longer we play well, I think the Tribune Co. will spend some more money if we need to get a couple of players.''


Red Sox Welfare Continues, II
2003-02-15 17:47
by Mike Carminati

Red Sox Welfare Continues, II

The deal's done. Millar is a Red Sock.

The Marlins received "between $1.35 and $1.5 million for Millar" from Boston. They refunded the $1.2 that Chunichi had paid for his rights. And an additional sum of reportedly between $1.2 million and $1.5 million was paid to Chunichi to let Millar go. The one thing that the two ESPN articles does not report is where that additional sum came from. I initially assumed the commissioner's office and see no other explanation as a) it was not attributed to Florida and b) Boston had no right to offer anuy cash as they had no claim to his services at that point.

Millar should be a useful member of the Red Sox team this season. But any baseball fan should be rooting as hard as they can for the Yankees to bury the Sox by the break. The whole affair stinks worse than last week's meatloaf. Of course, the Pavlovian fans have been taught that the Yankees are the evil ones because the spend their seemingly inexhaustable funds wisely as opposed to the Red Sox, who appear to get a mulligan once or twice a year and whose owners were fast-tracked into purchasing the team even though better offers were on the table. If that's not evil, I don't know what is.


"Welcome to the Hall's of
2003-02-15 03:19
by Mike Carminati
Red Sox Welfare Continues The
2003-02-15 02:11
by Mike Carminati

Red Sox Welfare Continues

The poor Boston Red Sox had been searching high and low for a player to give them added depth at DH/first base/corner outfield. They thought they had the problem partially when they searched as far as Australia and plucked former Brewer Dave Nilsson off the barbie. Nilsson hadn't played in the majors since 1999, when he was an All-Star, but the Red Sox were undeterred. That was until Nilsson turned them down and went home a couple of days ago.

Meanwhile, their unrequited relationship with Marlin-cum-Chunichi Dragon Kevin millar started to heat up. Millar said that he would not report to the Dragons because his wife was afraid of their being abroad if the U.S. started a war with Iraq. The principles met at the commissioner's office and basically Millar was left to negotiate his release from the $6.2 M Chunichi contract.

Tonight he was successful. Millar is now property of the Marlins again. He is arbitrary-eligible, but that will probably be the Sox problem since his acquisition appears imminent. Boston had claimed Millar off waivers at the time of the Japan deal, a formality of the system, but Millar rejected the claim.

Florida repays Chunichi the $1.2 M fee for Millar's rights. So why did the Dragons make the deal? What's in it for them? Check this out, my man:

Under Friday's agreement, the Dragons will get an undisclosed payment, the commissioner's office said. One of the negotiators, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the amount would be between $1.2 million and $1.5 million.

That's right, commissioner Bud is bailing out his friend John Henry again. Why? What's in it for the commissioner and MLB if Millar plays two years in Japan? Well, Millar is a bette than average player. So? That didn't seem to be a problem when the Marlins sold him to Japan, just when the Red Sox expressed interest. Besides valuable players like Bob Horner have gone to Japan in the past and the commissioner's office hasn't so much as batted an eye. What makes Millar so special?

The only thing that I can come up with is that the Red Sox want and need him and that the commissioner wants the Red Sox wants and needs to be fulfilled. And this team has the gall to call another organization the "Evil Empire." At least they're not the K-Mart of baseball. Or perhaps the Keating Seven would be more apropos.


"Now Batting for Pedro Borbon,
2003-02-14 20:33
by Mike Carminati

"Now Batting for Pedro Borbon, Manny Mota..Mota...Mota" And Other Announcements, III

I have added Bryan's Baseball Banter to the links section on the left. Bryan an I don't always see eye-to-eye on some issues, but he's an interesting read.


Cone-back?, II The Mets have
2003-02-13 15:56
by Mike Carminati

Cone-back?, II

The Mets have signed 40-year-old David Cone to a aminor-league contract ostensibly to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation.

See my earlier post on why this is an ill-advised move.


O's-ified: What the Helling? Again
2003-02-12 23:34
by Mike Carminati

O's-ified: What the Helling?

Again the Baltimore Orioles signed an elder statesman who has seen better days to a minor-league contract. And again ESPN's headline is that the until-recently overpaid player took a big pay cut. The Orioles signed B.J. Surhoff earlier today and now they have signed Rick Helling. ESPN/the AP reports that Helling will make $1 M if he makes the team, compared to $6.5 M in 2002.

Here's what the luckiest average pitcher in baseball had to say:

"I went into the offseason expecting to take a pay cut with the economy in general being the way it is and the new collective bargaining agreement in place,'" Helling said. "But I didn't expect it to be this drastic. It turned out to be a very tough market for a lot of veteran guys who are solid big-league players, but not superstars."

Not a superstar? Helling is exactly an average pitcher for his career. His ERA is exactly equal to the adjusted league average for his career (props to Baseball-reference.com). Helling is only 32 but is three years removed from his prime. And his prime wasn't too darn good.

Here's what Mike Flanagan, a very average pitcher himself (his ERA was the league average, too), had to say about his team signing Helling:

"He's made 30 or more starts the past five years. He's an innings eater, a guy who's won 20 games in the big leagues, and he's a guy who wanted to come here."

A) He won 20 games with a 4.41 ERA. B) Aren't 30 bad starts a bad thing whether they come from one player or from various players?

His career ERA is 4.72. That's not good. His lowest ERA in any season was 4.31. He gives up 1.5 home runs per game.

He has improved in one area though, walks. His strikeout-per-9-innings has remained pretty much in the low 6's. But his strikeout-to-walk ratio and his WHIP have improved over the last couple of years.

But Helling clearly, though unintentionally, indicts his own signing with the following comment:

""With the Yankees and Red Sox in the same division, noboby is going to say we're going to win the division. But hopefully we can surprise some people. From what I've read, the Orioles are still trying to pick up more offense for their lineup. Pitching is considered the strength of the team and that is always a good area to be strong."

The O's aren't going anywhere, so why sign these aging non-stars like Helling, Surhoff, and Deivi Cruz? They won't help the team win. They won't help them rebulid. And they won't get fannies in seats. I guess the O's just can't pass up these "bargains". Consider that signing Helling seems to destine Hentgen and Erickson for the bullpen, thereby denying two young pitchers a tryout that could help the O's build for the future.

Besides pitching is their strength? The Orioles had a 4.46 ERA last year, exactly the AL average. Perhaps being average on this team constitutes a strength, especially when your team was second to last in scoring in the league. Deivi Cruz is nearly the same player offensively as Bordick (both had OPS's in the .660s). Melvin Mora, not much better than an average player, was one of their offensive leaders (.742 OPS, 19 HRs) in 2002. He apparently has no job right now, but catcher Geronimo Gil and his .632 OPS do. By the way, the O's re-signed ever-subpar double bagger Jerry Hairston Jr. for one year at $1.55 M today.

The Orioles can thank their lucky stars for the existence of the Devil Rays or else they would be sitting at the bottom of the division all by themselves.


Sullivan Dead Former Red Sox
2003-02-12 22:24
by Mike Carminati

Sullivan Dead

Former Red Sox G.M. and part owner Haywood Sullivan died at the age of 72.

He was last a GM over twenty years ago. He lost the job after a post-Tom Yawkey internal coup. His biggest move wasn't one at all: he failed to mail future Hall-of-Famer Carlton Fisk a contract thereby making him a free agent. He signed with the White Sox after an arbitrator found that the Bosox mailed his contract two days after the deadline.


B.Juxtaposition: A Tale of Two
2003-02-12 15:23
by Mike Carminati

B.Juxtaposition: A Tale of Two Left Fielders

B.J. Surhoff was signed to a minor-league contract by the Baltimore Orioles today. G.M. Jim Beattie heralded Surhoff's veteran presence:

"B.J. gives us a proven major league veteran, both on and off the field," Orioles general manager Jim Beattie said. "He is a quality major league hitter and will add to our outfield depth."

Meanwhile, at the other end of the country, Rickey Henderson is campaigning to get a role in the Oakland A's outfield.

The Rickey had this to say:

"I just want the opportunity to play baseball. I can give (the A's) anything they're looking for. They've got their starting lineup, but I can come off the bench. I can play the outfield if someone goes down. I can pinch hit. I can steal a base. I can score a run. There's a lot I could give. I'm educated in the game, and I could help them win."

But the usually redoubtable Oakland GM, Billy Beane, does not concur:

"I don't see where he'd fit with us...At this point, I don't think it's something we'd be interested in."

These two situations juxtaposed don't sit well with me, and I'll tell you why-didn't you know I would? First let's look at their 2002 stats:

            BA  OBP SLUG  OPS OPS+ SB%
Surhoff   .293 .369 .360 .729 94   25%  
Henderson .223 .369 .352 .721 96   80% 

Neither lit up the baseball world, especially when you consider that Surhoff had just 75 at-bats and Henderson, 179. Surhoff's limited action was due to injury whereas Rickey just rode the bench in Boston. Henderson was slightly better overall. When you consider that this was a year in which Rickey's Adjusted OPS was about 75% his career average (128) whereas Surhoff was just 4 point off his career average (98), the disparity becomes greater. Also, Surhoff's on-base percentage was the highest it had been since 1995. Henderson's is off his career average but is similar to his numbers since 1998 (except for 1999).

Basically these are small samples and there are indications that Surhoff should be worse than the sample while Rickey's sample probably represents his current playing level. And Henderson is still better.

Simply put, for the O's to devote playing time to the moribund Surhoff and to take away any at-bats from Chris Richard, Melvin Mora, Jay Gobbons, Marty Cordova, Jeff Conine, or David Segui (let alone the young players who need to develop), even with their somewhat limited abilities, would be a crime when they are rebuilding.

Henderson, on the other hand, would be a step up OBP-wise from starting A's left fielder Terrence Long and his sub-.300 OBP in 2002 (.323 lifetime). Backup left fielders Adam Piatt (.303 OBP last year , .339 lifetime) and Eric Byrnes (.291 and .306) aren't much help.

Rickey is a pain in the neck, a raging egomaniac. But he still has some value if for no other reason than the fact that his teammates seem to walk more when he's in the clubhouse. The Red Sox went from 520 walks in 2001 to 541 in 2002, a modest increase. However, the Padres went from sixth in the NL in walks (602) in 2000 to first (678) in 2001. The same was true of the 2000 M's: they were sixth in walks in 1999 (610) and first in 2000 (775). The 1999 Mets were second in walks (717) after finishing seventh (572) in 1998. Maybe Beane remembers that that Henderson did little to improve the 1998 A's walk totals. They were second in th AL in '97 (642) and stayed there in 1998 (633).

Rickey is also 44, definitely cause for concern, but I think Beane may be overthinking this one. Henderson is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, has been for about twelve years. He's one of the greatest left fielders of all time and the greatest base-stealer of all-time. His assessment of Rickey is right: he can still pinch-hit to get on base, steal a base, and score runs. I would put him on the team just to let his on-field attitude rub off on Terrence Long. Maybe it's the prospects of his off-field attitude infecting young players that worries Beane. Whatever the reason, he's making a mistake by not signing Hederson, maybe not as big a mistake as the O's signing Surhoff. But a mistake nonetheless.


Justice Served, V One last
2003-02-11 23:57
by Mike Carminati

Justice Served, V

One last note, I promise. Here's an email from Brian Rodriguez:

any idea why the following quote suggests that the attendance record has since been broken?

On Oct 6, 1959, Koufax lost 1-0 against one-year wonder Bob Shaw of the White Sox even though the Dodgers out-hit the Sox 9-5. The only run scores on a Sherm Lollar doubleplay ground ball after Nellie Fox and Jim Landis singled (and Fox advanced to third). He pitched 7 innings, gave up 5 hits, one run (earned), and one walk, and struck out 6. The crowd was 92,706 at the Coliseum, a World Series record at the time.

i can't imagine that total has been surpassed. we have a proud tradition of baseball in LA--it's high time we get the team we deserve!!

My response:

No, that was just me being lazy, not a knock on LA's baseball tradition. According to Total Baseball, the record stood as of the end of the 2000 World Series. A quick perusal of the 2002 TSN Guide and ESPN.com tells me that it hasn't been broken since.

Though it would be nearly impossible for the record to fall. LA's Memorial Coliseum seated 93,600. So the World Series record wasn't even a sellout, technically. It wasn't even the largest crowd of the year: an exhibition game against the Yankees on May 7, i.e., Roy Campanella Night, drew 93,106, the exhibition game record for MLB. [Thanks to "Ballparks of America" for the info.]


Bell De Jour The New
2003-02-11 22:20
by Mike Carminati

Bell De Jour

The New York Mets are set to sign Jay Bell to a minor-league contract to compete for the vacant third-base job with Ty Wigginton. The 37-year-old Bell, a shortstop-cum-second baseman, has only played 53 games at third in his career, though 46 of them came in the last two seasons. He only played 32 games in 2002 (and batted .163) after missing the first half of the season. He hasn't had an OPS that was better than average since his career year of 1999.

It seems an act of despration on the Mets part to sign a former shortstop, whose main asset was bunting for the first half of his career, to play third base. The headline at ESPN reads, "Bell takes a pay cut to join the Mets" (i.e., from $8M to $550K), but the truth is he was incredibly overpaid in Arizona and is fortunate to have any job in the majors right now.

ESPN (or rather the AP) further opines that Wigginton still has the inside track to the starting third base job. Steve Phillips has already given the youngster his vote of confidence even as he was attempting to acquire various and sundry third sackers throughout the offseason. Wigginston's numbers were good in 2002, but that was over a short span. Even so, the Mets would do better to go with an untried rookie than a broken-down has-been like Bell. But if Bell is the Mets starting third baseman coming out of spring training, expect a long season for the Mr. Met and the boys. By the way, did they dust off David Cone and install him as the fifth starter on their aging staff yet?


"Now Batting for Pedro Borbon,
2003-02-11 21:36
by Mike Carminati

"Now Batting for Pedro Borbon, Manny Mota..Mota...Mota" And Other Announcements, II

Alex Belth over at Bronx Banter has an interview Ken Burns, with the man behind the Baseball documentary as well as The Civil War, Jazz, Lewis and Clark, Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson, and The Statue of Liberty, most of which I have recorded over the years. Alex has part one loaded here.

Baseball was attacked by many in the baseball cognoscenti for minor inaccuracies, for belaboring the segregation issue, for ignoring modern (post-'60s) players aside from Curt Flood, and for being too New York-centric (or for too much Mario Cuomo). However, there really is nothing that can touch it as far as presenting the sweeping scope of the entire history of baseball on film. The Harold Seymour Baseball and David Voight American Baseball books blow it away, but what Burns conveys with photos paired with historic quotes is unique. Heck, those old Sports Legends videos couldn't shake a stick at Burns.

Unfortunately, Alex did not ask the one question that has always perplexed me: Was Burns the kid with the magical flute on H.R. Puffenstuff? The world may never know.


"Now Batting for Pedro Borbon,
2003-02-10 23:59
by Mike Carminati

"Now Batting for Pedro Borbon, Manny Mota..Mota...Mota" And Other Announcements

I'd like to welcome a new site to my links, The Sports Frog. No, I don't think they're French. That should be incentive enough for you to check 'em out.


Justice Served, IV A couple
2003-02-10 21:25
by Mike Carminati

Justice Served, IV

A couple of interesting letters regarding the lists:

First Steve

I saw your list of the post-season records of pitchers, and one thing stands out to me: How is it possible for Sandy Koufax to have three losses with a
.95 ERA? Well, I know exactly how it's possible, but crikey, the 60s were brutal for hitters.

(It's actually amazing how many of the pitchers with low ERAs had a lot of losses. I wonder if their opposing pitchers were also on those lists.)

To wit I replied:

Actually the Dodger defense was the main culprit:

On Oct 6, 1959, Koufax lost 1-0 against one-year wonder Bob Shaw of the White Sox even though the Dodgers out-hit the Sox 9-5. The only run scores on a Sherm Lollar doubleplay ground ball after Nellie Fox and Jim Landis singled (and Fox advanced to third). He pitched 7 innings, gave up 5 hits, one run (earned), and one walk, and struck out 6. The crowd was 92,706 at the Coliseum, a World Series record at the time.

On Oct 7, 1965, he lost 5-1 to Jim "Kitty" Kaat, who drove in 2 runs for Minnesota. The Dodgers committed 3 errors on the night--one of the runs he gave up was on a Giliam error on Versalles to lead off the sixth. Oliva doubled him in and then scored on a Killebrew single. Koufax's line was 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K.

On Oct 6, 1966, he lost 6-0 to the Orioles Jim Palmer. The game hinged on three Willie Davis errors in the fifth. With Boog Powell on first and one out (after a botched Deron Johnson bunt attempt), Davis dropped a Paul Blair fly ball after losing it in the sun, men at second and third. Then Andy Etchebarren flied to shallow center and Davis dropped the ball again, scoring Powell. Davis' throw to third to nab Blair was wild scored Blair and moved Etchebarren to third. Etchebarren then scored on a two-out Luis Aparicio double down the left field line. All three runs were unearned. Koufax did give up a sixth-inning triple to Frank Robinson and a run-scoring single to Powell. A Deron Johnson single, a Ron Fairly throwing error, and an IBB to Blair loaded the bases with one out. Koufax then induced Etchebarren to ground into a doubleplay to avoid further damage. The Dodgers had six errors on the night (5 while Koufax was pitching). His line was 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K.

Thanks to Neft and Cohen's World Series book.

Jeff Moore asks:

I was surprised that Scott Brosius didn't make any of those lists. I'm not arguing for him because I don't have the stats, but he always seemed to be hitting .300 in the world series and getting the big hit, even though he was only playing well every other regular season.

Do you have his stats for world series or post-season only?

Why, yes, I do.

Brosius made the service list with 58 postseason apperances. His OPS in the playoffs overall wasn't great, just .693. His .862 OPS in the World Series just missed the list. He did have some great series (1998 Div Series, ALCS, and WS; 99 WS; and 20000 WS), but he was pretty bad in the other series. I guess when you have 196 ABs, numbers start to come down to earth.


"Welcome to the Hall's of
2003-02-10 00:36
by Mike Carminati

"Welcome to the Hall's of Relief", VII

Previous entries:
The 1870s, '80s, and '90s
The 1900s and '10s
The 1920s, '30s, and '40s
The 1950s
The 1960s
The 1970s

The 1980s

These growing feathers plucked from Caesar's wing
Will make him fly an ordinary pitch,
Who else would soar above the view of men,
And keep us all in servile fearfulness.

- Flavius in Julius Caesar, act 1, sc. 1, l. 72-5 by William "Moose" Shakespeare

Since the turn of the century relief pitching had been a tool in the manager's bag of tricks, but rarely was a valuable member of the staff used exclusively for relief. An odd Firpo Marberry might appear here and there, but mainly a swingman, someone used as a starter and a reliever, either the star or the 10th man on the staff, would act as the reliever. Sometimes whole staffs were used as the support structure for a failing starter. And that's a key point: only when the starter began to fail did the manager turn to a reliever.

These trends changed extremely slowly. More pitchers were used per game and fewer pitchers completed games as time wore on, but the process took literally decades and it was far from a linear progression with retreats and lurches along the way. In the Fifties things began to accelerate as star relievers like Joe Page and Jim Konstanty took center stage. The better starters rarely if ever relieved and swingmen started to be eclipsed by the pure reliever.

In the 1960s the baseball cognoscenti started to experiment more with relief pitching. After the 1950s finally established the bullpen as a key element on the pitching staff, they started to push the envelope. Barriers like 30 saves and 90 relief appearances in a year were crossed. Career relievers like Hoyt Wilhelm, Roy Face, and Lindy McDaniel relieved in more games than anyone who came before them.

The role of the reliever was still being defined, especially that of the closer. The Seventies proved a mercurial time for relievers. Five-man rotations, the designated hitter rule, and expansion caused staff leaders to be worked harder than in the previous few decades. They started more games and completed more games as well. The reliever's role was also becoming one of endurance: 80 appearances and 130 innings pitched were common. Finally, in 1979, Bruce Sutter, who had broken down in the second half because of overuse in the three previous seasons, was used in limited situations. No longer was he asked to pitch almost daily. No longer was he asked to pitch 3 or more innings. He came in in save situations and pitched fewer innings. This came in a year in which two men were used as closers and still appeared in 90 games (Kent Tekulve and Mike Marshall).

Managers, who were looking for the correct way to use their closers and were afraid that the envelop-pushing approach was abusing them, were given a guide. Though it seemed they had been railing for a decade against using a closer in save situations exclusively, the results with Sutter was the tipping point. And the modern reliever that we boo the manager for not bringing in in the seventh inning with the game on the line was born.

Now that this rather lengthy preamble is complete, what exactly did happen in the Eighties, that era when Michael Jackson was still cool and not a pedophile (allegedly, of course, if any of Mr. Jackson's lawyers are reading-he was allegedly cool as well)? The view from 50,000 feet tells us that:

a) the first 40-save season was recorded (45 in 1983 by Dan Quisenberry)

b) Rollie Fingers became the first pitcher to surpass 300 saves in his career, the number that has since become the standard much like 300 wins for a starter, and c)

c) For the first time since the advent of unlimited substitution, relievers outnumbered swingmen by the end of the decade. That trend has continued and now there are almost twice as many pure relievers as swingmen.

d) Higher save totals: Since the beginning of the Eighties there has never been a full season in which someone has not save at least 30 games. Since 1983, when Quisenberry was the first to eclipse 40 saves, there has not been a full season in which someone has not saved 40 games.

e) The number of men who amassed 300 or more relief appearances increased from 31 in the Seventies to 54 in the Eighties. However, the number of men who made 500 or more relief appearances (7) stayed the same: the abuse was subsiding.

f) The number of men with 100 saves for the decade went from 12 in the Seventies to 23 in the Eighties.

g) The top relievers were now saving a larger percentage of their relief appearances. Compare the 100-save relievers of the Seventies and Eighties:
The Seventies:

First	Last	RA	Sv	%Sv
Rollie	Fingers	611	209	34.21%
Sparky	Lyle	600	190	31.67%
Mike	Marshall	618	177	28.64%
Dave	Giusti	467	140	29.98%
Tug	McGraw	533	132	24.77%
Dave	LaRoche	538	122	22.68%
John	Hiller	409	115	28.12%
Gene	Garber	436	110	25.23%
Clay	Carroll	436	106	24.31%
Bruce	Sutter	240	105	43.75%
Rich	Gossage	322	101	31.37%
Terry	Forster	321	100	31.15%
Total	 	5531	1607	29.05%


The Eighties:

First	Last	RA	Sv	%Sv
Jeff	Reardon	629	264	41.97%
Dan	Quisenberry	637	239	37.52%
Lee	Smith	580	234	40.34%
Rich	Gossage	494	206	41.70%
Bruce	Sutter	421	195	46.32%
Dave	Righetti	393	188	47.84%
Dave	Smith	518	176	33.98%
Steve	Bedrosian	438	161	36.76%
John	Franco	393	148	37.66%
Greg	Minton	625	146	23.36%
Willie	Hernandez	564	140	24.82%
Todd	Worrell	281	126	44.84%
Tom	Henke	320	122	38.13%
Ron	Davis	433	121	27.94%
Rollie	Fingers	243	120	49.38%
Jesse	Orosco	476	119	25.00%
Bob	Stanley	465	118	25.38%
Jay	Howell	323	117	36.22%
Gene	Garber	485	108	22.27%
Bill	Caudill	404	106	26.24%
Roger	McDowell	322	103	31.99%
Kent	Tekulve	687	101	14.70%
Dan	Plesac	210	100	47.62%
Total	 	10341	3458	33.44%


Note that only Sutter records a save in more than 40% of his appearances in the Seventies while nine relievers do so in the Eighties.

h) Further note the appearance among the relief appearance leaders more men who were setup men as opposed to closers. Kent Tekulve shows up in the list above even though he was a true closer for only a short period (around 1978-'80). So even though save totals are skyrocketing, men like Craig Lefferts, Larry Andersen, Frank DiPino, and Ed Vande Berg are among the leaders in relief appearances (all 396 or above). And as you go below 400 relief appearances, more and more setup men appear. Frank Williams and Dan Schatzeder both have over 300 relief appearances but have single-digit save totals. No one in the Seventies could claim to have done that. The closers are more dispersed in the relief appearance list as they are used in fewer games but save a higher percentage.

i) Of the ten men who made 80 or more relief appearances in a year in the Seventies, only one was not the team closer (it is somewhat problematic to designate some pitchers as closers in the Seventies since teams used their pens in a diverse way and save totals for the main reliever varied greatly). Of the 14 men who appeared in 80 games or more in a season in the Eighties only two were closers (Quisenberry in '85 and Guillermo Hernandez in '84).

j) Check out the all-time career saves leaders (with 100 or more) after the 1969, 1979, and 1989 seasons:

After 1969         | After 1979         | After 1989 
Name            Sv | Name            Sv | Name              Sv
Hoyt Wilhelm   210 | Hoyt Wilhelm   227 | Rollie Fingers   341
Roy Face       193 | Sparky Lyle    223 | Rich Gossage     307
Stu Miller     154 | Rollie Fingers 221 | Bruce Sutter     300
Ron Perranoski 138 | Roy Face       193 | Jeff Reardon     266
Lindy McDaniel 127 | Mike Marshall  187 | Dan Quisenberry  244
Dick Radatz    122 | Ron Perranoski 179 | Sparky Lyle      238
Don McMahon    119 | Lindy McDaniel 172 | Lee Smith        234
Al Worthington 110 | Stu Miller     154 | Hoyt Wilhelm     227
Ron Kline      107 | Don McMahon    153 | Gene Garber      218
Johnny Murphy  107 | Ted Abernathy  148 | Roy Face         193
Ted Abernathy  106 | Dave Giusti    145 | Dave Righetti    188
John Wyatt     103 | Tug McGraw     145 | Mike Marshall    188
Ellis Kinder   102 | Clay Carroll   143 | Kent Tekulve     184
Firpo Marberry 101 | Darold Knowles 143 | Tug McGraw       180
                   | Jim Brewer     132 | Ron Perranoski   179
                   | John Hiller    125 | Dave Smith       176
                   | Jack Aker      123 | Lindy McDaniel   172
                   | Dick Radatz    122 | Steve Bedrosian  161
                   | Dave LaRoche   122 | Stu Miller       154
                   | Frank Linzy    111 | Don McMahon      153
                   | Al Worthington 110 | Greg Minton      150
                   | Gene Garber    110 | John Franco      148
                   | Fred Gladding  109 | Ted Abernathy    148
                   | Ron Kline      108 | Willie Hernandez 147
                   | Wayne Granger  108 | Dave Giusti      145
                   | Johnny Murphy  107 | Darold Knowles   143
                   | Bruce Sutter   105 | Clay Carroll     143
                   | John Wyatt     103 | Gary Lavelle     136
                   | Ellis Kinder   102 | Bob Stanley      132
                   | Firpo Marberry 101 | Jim Brewer       132
                   | Rich Gossage   101 | Ron Davis        130
                   | Terry Forster  100 | Terry Forster    127
                                        | Bill Campbell    126
                                        | Todd Worrell     126
                                        | Dave LaRoche     126
                                        | John Hiller      125
                                        | Jack Aker        123
                                        | Tom Henke        122
                                        | Dick Radatz      122
                                        | Jesse Orosco     119
                                        | Jay Howell       117
                                        | Tippy Martinez   115
                                        | Frank Linzy      111
                                        | Al Worthington   110
                                        | Fred Gladding    109
                                        | Wayne Granger    108
                                        | Ron Kline        108
                                        | Johnny Murphy    107
                                        | Bill Caudill     106
                                        | John Wyatt       103
                                        | Ron Reed         103
                                        | Roger McDowell   103
                                        | Tom Burgmeier    102
                                        | Ellis Kinder     102
                                        | Firpo Marberry   101
                                        | Dan Plesac       100

Or to break it down by plateaus reached (with percent increase):

Saves	1969	1979	% Inc.	1989	% Inc.
300	0	0	0%	3	Inf
250	0	0	0%	4	Inf
200	1	3	300%	9	900%
150	3	8	800%	21	2100%
100	14	32	3200%	56	5600%

These numbers accelerated into the Eighties.

k) Closers were being used in fewer situations in which their teams trailed or were tied with these opponents. They also pitched fewer innings per appearance. How do I know this?

Below is a table of cumulative stats for all closers in the Eighties and Seventies (min. 20 saves per season in the Eighties and 15 in the Seventies-I tried to compensate for the job's changing). The total games, relief appearances, wins, losses, saves, and innings pitched are listed along with the percentage of games in which the pitcher was used in relief and the percentage of games won, lost, and saved and innings-per-game.

Decade     G   RA    W   L   SV    IP     %RA       %W     %L    %Sv    IP/G
1980s   8892 8890  869 854 3980 12753.2  99.98%   9.77%  9.60% 44.76%   1.43
1970s   8422 8364 1025 885 2873 14101    99.31%  12.17% 10.51% 34.11%   1.67
%change                                   0.67% -19.70% -8.60% 31.21% -14.34% 


So what changed? Closers wee used in relief slightly more often-no biggy. They had a drop of nearly twenty percent in wins-per-game, nine percent in losses-per-game, and fourteen percent in innings-per-game and an increase of about thirty-one percent in saves-per-game. The saves come as no surprise. But why the decrease in wins, losses, and innings-per-appearance?

The innings-per-game dropoff represents managers attempting not to overwork their closers to save them for key situations.

The decrease in wins represents the resistance on the manager to use the closer when the game is tied or the team is losing. These situations produce a win, but as the role changed the closer usually came in after the lead was established in his team's favor. Also, fewer innings pitched meant that the pitcher had less time in which his team could recapture a lead once he had given it up.

The decrease in losses represents managers not using the closer in tie ballgames. Also, fewer innings had an effect. The loss decrease is less because wins also were affected by the team-trailing scenario being removed from the closer's possible situations.

The closer was being used more often in save situations for shorter periods.

l) The number of pure starters reached 20% of all pitchers by the end of the decade. This was the first time since 1902 that they comprised such a large segment of the pitching corps.

m) Pure reliever relievers now averaged an ERA that was .15 points better than a pure starter. In the Seventies the relievers' average ERA was .11 point worse than starters. And swingmen lagged far behind.

Well, that's the view from on high. I also have three little studies that I think might shed some light on this seemingly homogeneous decade:

Rollie Fingers in 1981

Brewers Rolled Behind Rollie

[From The Sporting News 1982 Baseball Guide]

It was fitting that Rollie Fingers was the winning pitcher when the Brewers clinched the East Division's second-half title on the next-to-last day of the season.

Without Fingers, the fourth relief pitcher ever to win the Cy Young Award, where would the Brewers have been? "Probably three games behind Toronto," said Manager Buck Rodgers.

The Brewer manager may have been stretching it a bit, but there isn't much doubt that they wouldn't have won their first title ever without the THE SPORTING NEWS' American League Fireman of the Year.

The Brewers had been a relief pitcher short of being a legitimate pennant contender for three seasons, and the addition of the tall man with the famous mustache proved to be even better than anybody had expected. Fingers led the major leagues with 28 saves and had a 6-3 record. He had an earned-run average of 1.04 in 78 innings.

He was phenomenal in the second half with a 5-1 record, 16 saves and a 0.72 ERA. The Brewers won 31 games to clinch the second-half title, and Fingers figured in 21 of the victories. In 1981 Rollie Fingers won the AL Most Valuable Player award.

Now compare that to what Bill James said of Fingers in his New Historical Baseball Abstract:

One player that I will be criticized for omitting [from his 100 best pitchers] is the Hall of Fame's second reliever, Rollie Fingers. But again, meaning no disrespect to Fingers, or anyone else who has a moustache you could weave into a carpet, I don't really see what is uniquely wonderful about Rollie Fingers' career. Yes, Fingers won an MVP Award in 1981, but...why? He faced 297 batters that year. Yes, he posted a 1.04 ERA, but Goose Gossage posted an ERA of 0.77 that same season, Rob Murphy posted an ERA of 0.77 in 1986, Dale Murray had a 1.03 ERA in 1974, Tim Burke had a 1.19 ERA in 1987, Frank Williams a 1.20 ERA in 1986. Jim Brewer and Ted Abernathy had ERAs of 1.27. Bob Veale in 1963 pitched the same number of innings (78) and allowed the same number of earned runs (9) as Fingers in 1981. It's just not a remarkable accomplishment.

Veale, for pitching 78 innings and allowing 9 earned runs, was credited with 10 Win Shares. Fingers, for doing the same, was credited with 17 Win Shares. That is a reasonable recognition of the importance of Fingers' role on the team. The BBWAA, however, gave Fingers an MVP Award. This is excessive. In my opinion, the BBWAA did something dumb when they gave Fingers an MVP award, and compounded the dumbitude by using that as a reason to put him in the Hall of Fame.

Rollie Fingers' proponents used the argument that Fingers was remarkably consistent for a relief ace. But for a relief ace, an ERA a full run better than the league is a basic standard of competence. Fingers met that standard only six times in his career, and pitched all of his career in pitcher's parks. Gossage met that standard 11 seasons, seven straight seasons, and pitched as many innings per year in tougher parks while doing it. Quisenberry met that standard his first nine seasons in the league, ten overall, also pitching more innings in tougher parks.

Fingers' ERA, adjusted for the parks he played in, was 16% better than league (2.90 vs. 3.45) [Baseball-Reeference.com says 19%]. Quisenberry's ERA was 31% [46%] better than league, Gossage's was 20% [26%] better than league, Sutter's 26% [36%] better, Wilhelm's 31% [46%] better. Kent Tekulve and Lee Smith were 24% [both 32%]better than league, Sparky Lyle 21% [27%] better than league. Fingers is more in a class with Jeff Reardon (17% [21%] better than league), Ron Perranoski (18% [21%] better), Gene Garber 11% [17%] better), and Don McMahon (16% [19%] better).

What lifted Fingers out of that class, I believe, was simply that he had exceptionally good taste in teammates-and the same is true of Jesse Haines and Rube Marquard. Haines in his career was ten games better than his teams; Marquard was two better than his.

Those are two quite different takes on Fingers' 1981 season. I believe that there's a little truth in both excerpts and that this season is illustrative of relievers of this era as a whole.

First, neither makes direct mention of the fact that Fingers lost a large segment of the season (53 games) to the strike and yet appeared in 47 games, pitched 78 innings, and tallied more saves (28) than he had in three years. That said what would Fingers' prorated season totals look like?

Year Ag Tm  Lg W L  G GS CG SHO SV  IP  H ER HR BB SO  ERA ERA+ WS
1981 34 MIL AL 6 3 47  0  0  0  28  78 55  9  3 13 61 1.04 331  17
1981 34 MIL AL 9 4 70  0  0  0  42 116 82 13  4 19 91 1.04 331  25

Well, that's a bit more impressive. 42 saves would have been the first time that a reliever reached 40 in a season, and therefore, a record. His 25 Win Shares are a little more respectable than the 17 James sites (and besides I am not completely sold that Win Shares measures relievers worth accurately, especially as the role has changed over time, but that's an argument for another day).

How many closer's have saved 42 games, won 9 others, and had an ERA in the 1.07 range? Just one comes close, John Wetteland in 1993. Wetteland had 9 wins, 43 saves, and a 1.37 ERA in 85.1 innings. So maybe Fingers deserved that MVP award after all?

Maybe. But I'm not willing to give it to him based on that argument. I cannot accept a player's projected totals as fact, especially a pitcher's. Why? Because a veteran pitcher like Fingers in 1981 (34 years old) benefits greatly from a 50-odd game break in the middle of the season. The most grueling part of the season is removed to provide a breather. Note that, as James points out, Gossage produced an even lower ERA in that season.

Second, pitcher's ERAs tend not to represent the pitcher's actual value-they appear more impressive or much less impressive-over short spans. This is especially true of relief pitchers, whose effectiveness may not show up as readily in ERA. This is due to ERA being zero-bound at the lower end (i.e., a pitcher cannot give up negative runs) and unbounded at the upper end (i.e., a pitcher in theory could give up infinite runs and infinite ERAs are possible if a pitcher allows a run without recording an out). Therefore, one bad outing does more damage to a pitcher's ERA than a few good outings do to help his ERA, especially if the pitcher throws very few innings at a time like a reliever. Look at John Smoltz last year for example. He gave up 8 earned runs in two-thirds an inning in his second outing in 2002, raising his ERA to 43.20. He gave up one run in his next 11 games (13 innings) and had a 5.52 ERA to show for it. At that point he had thrown 13 scoreless innings in 11 outings and had given up 9 runs in 1.2 innings in two outings. The two subpar outings had much more affect on his ERA than the many good ones. However, as the season wore on the good outings were able to overpower that one atrocious outing on April 6. It still had some effect though since his 3.25 ERA on the season would have only been 2.37 without that outing. Therefore, had Fingers pitched an entire season, they likelihood of a damaging outing would go up. One outing like Smoltz' would have almost double Fingers' ERA (to 1.94).

Third, Fingers' MVP candidacy benefited from the Brewers' pennant race in the second half of the split season. The Brewers may not have been in a pennant race had it not been for the strike. They "finished" the first half three games behind the Yankees, won the second half by 1.5 games over Detroit, and had the best record in the division. However, the Yankees were one game under .500 in their meaningless second half and finished two games back. A little incentive could have helped them bury the Brewers by the All-Star break.

Finally, I cannot reward Fingers for games he never pitched because he never pitched them. Lyman Bostock and Mark Fidrych may have been Hall-of-Famers had they been able to lead normal, uninterrupted careers. So might have Stan Bahnsen for that matter and probably a hundred-odd other players, but they didn't. So we'll never know. We cannot reward players for time not served. It's just too dangerous. Fingers was limited to 109 games in 1981 and that's perhaps too bad, but it's all we've got.

However, I think his prorated value had something to do with his winning the award, but I'll return to that later.

Now back to his effectiveness in the season: Apart from the impressive ERA, the most compelling argument promulgated by TSN was, "The Brewers won 31 games to clinch the second-half title, and Fingers figured in 21 of the victories." I wondered if the percentage of total wins and saves compared to team wins was that impressive. I found that Fingers' 54.84% was very good but was only 67th on the all-time list for relievers (with 30 relief appearances). There are 25 over 60% and here they are:

Name              Year  W SV GP Tm  W+Sv   W+Sv
                                 W  /GP   /Tm W
Bryan Harvey      1993  1 45 59 64 77.97% 71.88%
Ugueth Urbina     1999  6 41 71 68 66.20% 69.12%
Mike Williams     2002  2 46 59 72 81.36% 66.67%
Randy Myers       1993  2 53 73 84 75.34% 65.48%
Roberto Hernandez 1999  2 43 72 69 62.50% 65.22%
Bobby Thigpen     1990  4 57 77 94 79.22% 64.89%
Antonio Alfonseca 2000  5 45 68 79 73.53% 63.29%
Dan Quisenberry   1983  5 45 69 79 72.46% 63.29%
Lee Smith         1991  6 47 67 84 79.10% 63.10%
Dick Radatz       1964 16 29 79 72 56.96% 62.50%
Doug Jones        1990  5 43 66 77 72.73% 62.34%
Rollie Fingers    1977  8 35 78 69 55.13% 62.32%
Jeff Montgomery   1993  7 45 69 84 75.36% 61.90%
Trevor Hoffman    2000  4 43 70 76 67.14% 61.84%
Ugueth Urbina     1998  6 34 64 65 62.50% 61.54%
Jose Mesa         2002  4 45 74 80 66.22% 61.25%
Neil Allen        1981  7 18 43 41 58.14% 60.98%
Eric Gagne        2002  4 52 77 92 72.73% 60.87%
Trevor Hoffman    2002  2 38 61 66 65.57% 60.61%
Jeff Shaw         1997  4 42 78 76 58.97% 60.53%
Dennis Eckersley  1992  7 51 69 96 84.06% 60.42%
Dave Righetti     1986  8 46 74 90 72.97% 60.00%
Rick Aguilera     1998  4 38 68 70 61.76% 60.00%
Rod Beck          1998  3 51 81 90 66.67% 60.00%
...
Rollie Fingers    1981  6 28 47 62 72.34% 54.84%

Note that, even though the list is predominately season from the last 20 years, Fingers' 1977 season shows up in the list along with Radatz in 1964 and Neil Allen in 1981. Also, of the 142 season at or above 50%, 22 were from 1981 or before, and of the 66 seasons that rank higher than Fingers in 1981, seven were from 1981 or before (the three above and Ken Sanders in 1971 (55.07%), Sparky Lyle in 1972 (55.70%), Mike Marshall in 1973 (56.96%), and John Hiller 1973 (56.47%)). So it's not as if his performance were unprecedented at the time.

We'll maybe it's just easier to do on bad teams, given the fewer games that they win, and we all know how MVP voters dislike players on losing teams. What if we limit it to teams with winning records?

Name              Year  W SV GP  Tm  W+Sv   W+Sv
                                  W  /GP   /Tm W
Randy Myers       1993  2 53 73  84 75.34% 65.48%
Bobby Thigpen     1990  4 57 77  94 79.22% 64.89%
Lee Smith         1991  6 47 67  84 79.10% 63.10%
Jeff Montgomery   1993  7 45 69  84 75.36% 61.90%
Eric Gagne        2002  4 52 77  92 72.73% 60.87%
Dennis Eckersley  1992  7 51 69  96 84.06% 60.42%
Dave Righetti     1986  8 46 74  90 72.97% 60.00%
Rod Beck          1998  3 51 81  90 66.67% 60.00%
Armando Benitez   2001  6 43 73  82 67.12% 59.76%
Bruce Sutter      1984  5 45 71  84 70.42% 59.52%
Dan Quisenberry   1984  6 44 72  84 69.44% 59.52%
Bryan Harvey      1991  2 46 67  81 71.64% 59.26%
Trevor Hoffman    1998  4 53 66  98 86.36% 58.16%
Doug Jones        1992 11 36 80  81 58.75% 58.02%
Tom Gordon        1998  7 46 73  92 72.60% 57.61%
John Smoltz       2002  3 55 75 101 77.33% 57.43%
Dennis Eckersley  1991  5 43 67  84 71.64% 57.14%
Mariano Rivera    2001  4 50 71  95 76.06% 56.84%
Lee Smith         1992  4 43 70  83 67.14% 56.63%
John Hiller       1973 10 38 65  85 73.85% 56.47%
Trevor Hoffman    1996  9 42 70  91 72.86% 56.04%
Sparky Lyle       1972  9 35 59  79 74.58% 55.70%
Jeff Brantley     1996  1 44 66  81 68.18% 55.56%
Keith Foulke      2001  4 42 72  83 63.89% 55.42%
John Wetteland    1993  9 43 70  94 74.29% 55.32%
Rollie Fingers    1981  6 28 47  62 72.34% 54.84%

Fingers rises to number 27 but is still behind Hiller and Lyle, who preceded him.

Let's give this argument one last try. Let's look exclusively at playoff teams:

Name              Year  W SV GP  Tm  W+Sv   W+Sv
                                  W  /GP   /Tm W
Dennis Eckersley  1992  7 51 69  96 84.06% 60.42%
Rod Beck          1998  3 51 81  90 66.67% 60.00%
Dan Quisenberry   1984  6 44 72  84 69.44% 59.52%
Trevor Hoffman    1998  4 53 66  98 86.36% 58.16%
Tom Gordon        1998  7 46 73  92 72.60% 57.61%
John Smoltz       2002  3 55 75 101 77.33% 57.43%
Mariano Rivera    2001  4 50 71  95 76.06% 56.84%
Trevor Hoffman    1996  9 42 70  91 72.86% 56.04%
Rollie Fingers    1981  6 28 47  62 72.34% 54.84%
Billy Koch        2002 11 44 84 103 65.48% 53.40%
Todd Worrell      1996  4 44 72  90 66.67% 53.33%
Robb Nen          2002  6 43 68  95 72.06% 51.58%
John Wetteland    1998  3 42 63  88 71.43% 51.14%
Mariano Rivera    1997  6 43 66  96 74.24% 51.04%
Dennis Eckersley  1990  4 48 63 103 82.54% 50.49%
Mariano Rivera    1999  4 45 66  98 74.24% 50.00%

Fingers rises to ninth and he was the first to exceed 50% for a playoff team. But I'm still not sure that constitutes much of an argument for his MVP award.

Now for James' argument against Fingers winning the award: "Yes, he posted a 1.04 ERA... It's just not a remarkable accomplishment." Is that true given Fingers' save total? For example, of the comparable pitchers James cites, Murphy was rookie pitcher who threw 50.1 innings and saved one game. Gossage saved 20 but pitched only 46.2 innings. Murray had 10 saves and 69.2 innings in his rookie season. Burke had 18 saves and 91 innings pitched. Williams had one save in 52.1 innings. Brewer, 17 saves and 78.1 innings, and Veale had 3 saves in 77.2 innings. Abernathy did save 28 games and pitch 106.1 innings in 1967, but that does make Fingers' accomplishment a bit more remarkable.

Here's the complete list of relief pitchers with ERAs of 1.50 or less in chronological order (note that a pitcher must have 30 relief appearances or 20 saves to qualify):

Name             Year SV  G RA    IP  SO BB  W L  ERA
Junior Thompson  1946  4 39 38  62.7  31 40  4 6 1.29
Terry Fox        1961 12 39 39  57.3  32 16  5 2 1.41
Bill Henry       1964  6 37 37  52.0  28 12  2 2 0.87
Frank Linzy      1965 21 57 57  81.7  35 23  9 3 1.43
Steve Hamilton   1965  5 46 45  58.3  51 16  3 1 1.39
Frank Linzy      1967 17 57 57  95.7  38 34  7 7 1.51
Hoyt Wilhelm     1967 12 49 49  89.0  76 34  8 3 1.31
Ted Abernathy    1967 28 70 70 106.3  88 41  6 3 1.27
Joe Hoerner      1968 17 47 47  48.7  42 12  8 2 1.48
Ken Tatum        1969 22 45 45  86.3  65 39  7 2 1.36
Steve Mingori    1971  4 54 54  56.7  45 24  1 2 1.43
Darold Knowles   1972 11 54 54  65.7  36 37  5 1 1.37
Jim Brewer       1972 17 51 51  78.3  69 25  8 7 1.26
John Hiller      1973 38 65 65 125.3 124 39 10 5 1.44
Dale Murray      1974 10 32 32  69.7  31 23  1 1 1.03
Bob Apodaca      1975 13 46 46  84.7  45 28  3 4 1.49
Bruce Sutter     1977 31 62 62 107.3 129 23  7 3 1.34
Tug McGraw       1980 20 57 57  92.3  75 23  5 4 1.46
Rich Gossage     1981 20 32 32  46.7  48 14  3 2 0.77
Rollie Fingers   1981 28 47 47  78.0  61 13  6 3 1.04
Jesse Orosco     1983 17 62 62 110.0  84 38 13 7 1.47
Steve Howe       1983 18 46 46  68.7  52 12  4 7 1.44
Frank Williams   1986  1 36 36  52.3  33 21  3 1 1.20
Rob Murphy       1986  1 34 34  50.3  36 21  6 0 0.72
Jeff Calhoun     1987  1 42 42  42.7  31 26  3 1 1.48
Tim Burke        1987 18 55 55  91.0  58 17  7 0 1.19
Jeff Montgomery  1989 18 63 63  92.0  94 25  7 3 1.37
Les Lancaster    1989  8 42 42  72.7  56 15  4 2 1.36
Dennis Eckersley 1990 48 63 63  73.3  73  4  4 2 0.61
Doug Henry       1991 15 32 32  36.0  28 14  2 1 1.00
Jim Corsi        1992  0 32 32  44.0  19 18  4 2 1.43
Mel Rojas        1992 10 68 68 100.7  70 34  7 1 1.43
John Wetteland   1993 43 70 70  85.3 113 28  9 3 1.37
Mike Jackson     1994  4 36 36  42.3  51 11  3 2 1.49
Jose Mesa        1995 46 62 62  64.0  58 17  3 0 1.13
Tony Fossas      1995  0 58 58  36.7  40 10  3 0 1.47
Randy Myers      1997 45 61 61  59.7  56 22  2 3 1.51
Trevor Hoffman   1998 53 66 66  73.0  86 21  4 2 1.48
Ugueth Urbina    1998 34 64 64  69.3  94 33  6 3 1.30
Ray King         2000  0 36 36  28.7  19 10  3 2 1.26
Robb Nen         2000 41 68 68  66.0  92 19  4 3 1.50
B. Villafuerte   2002  1 31 31  32.0  25 12  1 2 1.41
Chris Hammond    2002  0 63 63  76.0  63 31  7 2 0.95
Joey Eischen     2002  2 59 59  53.7  51 18  6 1 1.34

There are a good number of middle relievers and setup men in the mix but there are also closers, especially ones that predate Fingers and Goose Gossage, who did it the same year.

Well, maybe Fingers did something extraordinary that didn't show up in the numbers to enable the Brewers to get to the playoffs. Here are Fingers' game logs for the season.

Keep in mind that the Brewers were in third place at the time of the strike (31-25), three games behind division-leading New York (34-22). In the second half, they won the division with a 31-22 record, 1.5 games ahead of Detroit and Boston (29-23) and 2 games ahead of Baltimore (28-23). Fifth-place Cleveland (26-27) was just 5 games back and sixth-place New York, for whom the second half was meaningless since they had "won" the first, was also five back (25-26). Even last-place Toronto was just 7.5 games back (21-27). In the West the only team in striking distance of the second-half champs, the A's, was Texas, in second by five games. Therefore, any games with Detroit, Boston, Baltimore, Cleveland, Oakland, and Texas could be said to have playoff implications. I, frankly, don't know how to classify the Yankee games-obviously, their spirit was not in the second half and their record reflects this. However, they did have a playoff-caliber team, one that eventually represented the AL in the World Series that year.

Therefore, the question remains as to Fingers' contribution in the second half especially in those pennant race games and whether his MVP and Cy Young candidacy should be thereby enhanced. Fingers had 12 saves, one win, and 2 losses at the time of the strike with a 1.34 ERA in 23 relief appearances constituting 40.1 innings pitched in the first half. His second half numbers are even more impressive: 23 games, 37.2 innings, 5-1 record, 16 saves, and 0.72 ERA.

Here is a log of his second-half appearances ("*" indicates that he faced the tying or go-ahead run when he entered the game and a "-" indicates a blown save. Thanks to Retrosheet.com for the data.):

- Aug. 10 vs Clev: 1 IP, Blew save. Entered game with Brewers leading 2-1 n ninth and allowed a run to tie it. Milwaukee eventually won in 13, 5-2.
Aug. 13 vs. Clev: 1 IP, save in 8-5 win, pitched one inning and entered with game already 8-5.
Aug. 16 vs. Tor: 1.2 IP and save in 6-2 win-came in with one out men at first and second in the eighth (already 6-2).
*Aug. 16 (game 2) vs. Tor: 1.2 IP and save in 2-0 win-came in with one out and man on first in eighth (2-0).
*Aug. 18 vs. Tex: 1.2 IP and save in 3-1 win-came in with bases loaded, one out, and one run already across in the inning in the eighth inning (3-1).
*Aug 22 vs. Minn: 2 IP and win in 4-3, 10-inning victory-came in with score tied to start ninth (3-3).
Aug. 23 vs. Minn: 1.1 IP and save in 8-5 win-came in with man on third, two out, and two runs already across in the inning in the 8th (7-5).
Aug. 28 vs. Tex: 1.2 IP and save in 6-3 win-in 8th, came in with man on first, one out, 1 run already across in the inning (6-3).
Aug. 30 vs. Tex: 0.2 IP and save in 6-2 win-came in with men at first and second and one out in ninth (6-2).
*Aug. 31 vs. KC: 2.1 IP and save in 5-1 win-came in with men at second and third, 2 out, and score 3-1 in the 7th.
- Sept 2 vs. KC: 0.2 IP and loss in 5-4 defeat-came in to start the ninth of a 4-4 tie.
*Sept. 3 vs. Minn: 1.1 IP and save in 4-3 win-came in with man on first and two out in 8th (4-3).
Sept 5 vs. Minn: 1 IP and save in 5-3 win-came in with none out and none on in the ninth after Jim Slaton had lost his no-hitter by giving up three runs in ninth.
*Sept. 6 vs. Minn: 2 IP and win in 8-7 victory-came in to start ninth with score tied 7-7.
*Sept. 9 vs. NYY: 2.2 IP and save in 5-3 win-came in in 7th with one out, men on first and second, and score 5-2 (one inherited run scored).
Sept. 12 vs. Balt: 1 IP and save in 6-3 win-came in with man on first and none out in ninth (6-3).
*Sept 15 vs. NYY: 2 IP and save in 2-1 win-came in to start 8th (2-1).
*Sept. 16 vs. NYY: 2 IP and save in 3-2 win-came in to start 8th (3-2).
Sept. 19 vs. Balt: 2.2 IP and save in 11-8 win-came in with men on first and second, one out, and 7-5 Milwaukee lead in 7th (two inherited runs scored plus one uninherited).
- Sept. 22 vs. Bos: 2.2 IP and win in 10-8 victory-came in with one out, man on second, and score 8-7 Brewers in the 7th. Gave up inherited run to tie score and later win it.
Sept. 25 vs. Det: 1 IP and save in 8-6 win-came in to start ninth (8-6).
*Sept. 26 vs. Det: 1 IP and save in 4-3 win-came in with none on, none out, and 2 runs across in the inning in the 9th (4-3).
Sept. 30 vs. Bos: 1.1 IP in 10-5 win-came in with men at first and second and one out in the 8th (10-5).
*Oct. 3 vs. Det: 1.1 IP and win in 2-1 victory-came in with two out, man on first, and the Brewers trailing 1-0 in the 8th. This victory clinches the division for the Brewers.

Actually, it looks more impressive on paper than I anticipated, especially the September numbers. He has 11 of my qualified saves (i.e., facing winning or go-ahead run when he entered) and 3 blown saves. His numbers versus the pennant race teams that we mentioned earlier is 3 "saves" and 2 blown saves (plus 3 "saves" vs. the Yankees). They look more impressive because they helped clinch the pennant and were against the Yankees, but his stats are less impressive against the teams in the race.

Also, consider that Gossage finished 5th in Cy Young voting and 9th in MVP voting probably because his Yankees were never in a real playoff race, but as we documented above, Fingers was not as impressive as one would believe in the pennant race against the tougher teams. Further John Wetteland, whose 1993 season was similar to Fingers' 1981 as I indicated earlier, finished 24th in the MVP vote that year and got no mention in the Cy Young vote even though fellow closers Bryan Harvey and Randy Myers did.

It should also be pointed out that there were a number of players have very good season in 1981 (three of them on the Brewers):

Player	Win Share	Adj OPS
Rickey Henderson	27	150
Dwight Evans	26	163
Cecil Cooper	22	151
Bobby Grich	 21	164
Eddie Murray	21	156
Gorman Thomas	20	146
Robin Yount	20	114
Dwayne Murphy	20	129

One could argue that not only was Fingers not the AL MVP, not only was he not the Brewer MVP, he was the fourth most valuable on his own team.

How valuable was his season after all if his injury-plagued 1982 matches it in most stats but ERA but failed to garner a single Cy Young vote and finished 16th in MVP that year:

Year Ag Tm  Lg  W   L   G   GS  CG SHO SV   IP     H   ER   HR  BB   SO   ERA *lgERA *ERA+
1981 34 MIL AL   6   3  47   0   0   0 28   78.0   55    9   3   13   61  1.04  3.44  331
1982 35 MIL AL   5   6  50   0   0   0 29   79.7   63   23   5   20   71  2.60  3.80  146

I have to side with James in this argument. Fingers had a very fine season but was far from being MVP-worthy. So why did Fingers win? I think it was a combination of things. I think the shortened season threw off everyone's season numbers making it more difficult for voters. I also think Fingers to a certain degree gets the benefit for the time he lost. Why else would a closer with only 28 saves get the MVP when the record had been 38 for nine seasons and Bruce Sutter had had 37 just two years before? Why else would his 1981 season overwhelm voters while his 1982 season did anything but.

Besides Ted Abernathy had had similar statistics in 1967 (adjusting the saves per era): he lead the majors in saves with 28, won six games, and had an ERA a little over 1.00. And Abernathy did it 106.1 innings, a more impressive accomplishment. So why was Abernathy twentieth in the 1967 MVP vote? Well, the Reds did finish in fourth 14.5 games back, but third-place Roberto Clemente was not held back by his .500 team.

Obviously, the way that a closer was viewed in 1981 was fundamentally different from the way it was viewed in 1967. I submit that analysts of the day had an inflated view of the closer's worth. Sutter had just made the reliever's role a glamorous one (again) two years earlier. Writers were just waiting for the next big thing when Fingers and a strike-shortened season gave it to them.

I also submit that this view carried through until when Fingers was eligible for the Hall. Fingers had been the first man to break 300 saves, had the MVP season, and a very good career. He also retired one year removed from his peak at the age of 38. Compare him to near contemporary Goose Gossage: Gossage was, for many arguments that have been listed since he became Hall-eligible, as viable a candidate as Fingers-they are listed as the player most comparable to each other by Bill James Similar Pitcher system. Gossage was still a valuable pitcher when he retired at age 42 but was at least 5 good years removed from closing. However, he started his career four years after Fingers and ended it nine years after Fingers.

Fingers was voted into the Hall on his second ballot (1992). Gossage has yet to get in in three tries. He hasn't even been close. So what's the difference? Well, in 1992 Dennis Eckersley, Gossage's teammate at the time, was re-writing the record books or at least the margins thereof with only the second 50+ save season. It was the culmination of five dominant years by Eck. Fingers' excellent career was still fresh in the writers' minds. It proved to be Eckersley's last dominant season. By 2000, when Gossage first became available, the save was already becoming devalued as a means to measure closers. Saves were a dime-a-dozen, even Gossage's 310 of them. I would say that was the difference in Fingers' rather easy entrance into the Hall and Gossage's yet unsuccessful one.

Eckersley plays a big part in the momentary resurgence of closers in the late Eighties, the subject of our next study.

1987: The Year That the Modern Closer Almost Died (Bye Bye, Miss American Pie)

In 1987 everyone in baseball was talking about the number of balls flying out of the park. The talk didn't slow even though the home runs did after the All-Star break. The ball was juiced, that's what everyone said. They called it the "lively-ball" or "livelier-ball theory". Street and Smith's 1988 Baseball Annual quoted Bobby Bonds, then a 41-year-old coach for the Indians and a proponent of the livelier-ball theory, as saying that when he took an occasional turn in the batting cage:

"I hit the ball as far as I did when I was 25-years-old. I'm not that strong. I hit balls really terrible and they went over the fence. When I was playing, I'd hit balls and say, oh my Gos, and they didn't go out. During my batting practice now, I hit balls and said, oh my God, and they cleared the fence by 30 feet."

Bonds' "Oh my God!"'s may be more easily explained by his son's ability to hit the ball farther as he approaches forty than when he was twenty-five: Maybe it runs in the family. Or maybe Bonds was upset that so many players joined him in the exclusive 30-30 club in 1987, increasing the membership to 10 men, 4 from 1987 (i.e., Eric Davis, Joe Carter, Darryl Strawberry, and Howard Johnson).

However, no one could argue with the record number of home runs being hit. On May 9th alone, Eddie Murray homered from both sides of the plate for the second consecutive game, and weak-hitting Chris Speier hit his second grand-slam home run in a week, after going his first 15 seasons without one. May 27 Greg Gross hits his first home run since 1978. On May 28 Joe Carter hits three home runs and Mike Young becomes only the fifth player ever to hit two home runs in extra innings.

And that's just the anecdotal evidence. Here is a table of the number of home runs per game with the percent increase from the previous year and from five years previous to mitigate one-year spikes. I included every year because, heck, I do like numbers and I thought some of you might too:

Year	HR/G	% Change	5-year % Change
1871	0.185	-	-
1872	0.096	-48.32%	-
1873	0.128	34.00%	-
1874	0.091	-29.36%	-
1875	0.061	-32.75%	-67.10%
1876	0.077	26.37%	-19.56%
1877	0.067	-13.33%	-47.97%
1878	0.063	-6.25%	-30.95%
1879	0.090	44.55%	48.42%
1880	0.091	0.92%	18.53%
1881	0.113	24.04%	69.64%
1882	0.156	37.58%	148.95%
1883	0.152	-2.57%	67.80%
1884	0.223	47.40%	145.07%
1885	0.181	-18.79%	60.45%
1886	0.196	8.17%	26.16%
1887	0.286	45.90%	88.92%
1888	0.239	-16.70%	6.76%
1889	0.306	28.26%	68.61%
1890	0.236	-22.76%	20.39%
1891	0.264	11.79%	-7.76%
1892	0.226	-14.31%	-5.10%
1893	0.293	29.42%	-4.24%
1894	0.395	34.93%	67.29%
1895	0.304	-23.10%	15.08%
1896	0.255	-16.11%	12.66%
1897	0.227	-11.07%	-22.58%
1898	0.162	-28.44%	-58.94%
1899	0.190	17.06%	-37.50%
1900	0.223	17.47%	-12.49%
1901	0.205	-8.17%	-9.64%
1902	0.160	-22.11%	-1.65%
1903	0.150	-5.81%	-20.87%
1904	0.133	-11.87%	-40.63%
1905	0.137	3.11%	-33.34%
1906	0.107	-21.62%	-32.92%
1907	0.099	-7.22%	-33.92%
1908	0.107	8.02%	-19.01%
1909	0.105	-2.39%	-23.32%
1910	0.145	37.96%	34.95%
1911	0.208	43.76%	109.12%
1912	0.180	-13.46%	67.53%
1913	0.190	5.70%	81.41%
1914	0.189	-0.49%	30.85%
1915	0.170	-9.92%	-18.02%
1916	0.154	-9.84%	-14.58%
1917	0.134	-12.53%	-29.32%
1918	0.116	-13.90%	-38.84%
1919	0.200	72.86%	17.36%
1920	0.255	27.69%	66.22%
1921	0.381	49.34%	183.80%
1922	0.426	11.77%	268.43%
1923	0.397	-6.73%	98.79%
1924	0.364	-8.42%	42.57%
1925	0.476	30.79%	24.86%
1926	0.350	-26.54%	-17.93%
1927	0.373	6.66%	-6.15%
1928	0.444	19.03%	21.99%
1929	0.549	23.62%	15.30%
1930	0.634	15.54%	81.34%
1931	0.432	-31.80%	15.94%
1932	0.551	27.34%	24.04%
1933	0.435	-20.98%	-20.71%
1934	0.549	26.27%	-13.35%
1935	0.539	-1.82%	24.76%
1936	0.551	2.11%	0.04%
1937	0.577	4.75%	32.61%
1938	0.603	4.50%	9.75%
1939	0.587	-2.67%	8.79%
1940	0.636	8.28%	15.36%
1941	0.535	-15.82%	-7.30%
1942	0.438	-18.22%	-27.45%
1943	0.366	-16.46%	-37.72%
1944	0.416	13.89%	-34.50%
1945	0.409	-1.66%	-23.48%
1946	0.489	19.49%	11.80%
1947	0.630	28.70%	72.23%
1948	0.629	-0.16%	50.99%
1949	0.687	9.32%	67.85%
1950	0.837	21.85%	71.17%
1951	0.752	-10.20%	19.43%
1952	0.686	-8.70%	9.21%
1953	0.837	21.95%	21.83%
1954	0.783	-6.47%	-6.49%
1955	0.901	15.10%	19.86%
1956	0.926	2.73%	34.86%
1957	0.891	-3.70%	6.50%
1958	0.907	1.73%	15.83%
1959	0.909	0.20%	0.84%
1960	0.861	-5.27%	-7.01%
1961	0.955	10.89%	7.07%
1962	0.926	-3.03%	2.07%
1963	0.835	-9.79%	-8.10%
1964	0.849	1.71%	-1.34%
1965	0.828	-2.50%	-13.25%
1966	0.849	2.55%	-8.26%
1967	0.710	-16.45%	-15.03%
1968	0.614	-13.49%	-27.73%
1969	0.801	30.55%	-3.23%
1970	0.882	10.05%	3.85%
1971	0.739	-16.25%	4.10%
1972	0.682	-7.73%	11.03%
1973	0.798	17.12%	-0.39%
1974	0.681	-14.69%	-22.79%
1975	0.698	2.43%	-5.57%
1976	0.576	-17.37%	-15.44%
1977	0.866	50.33%	8.54%
1978	0.703	-18.84%	3.25%
1979	0.818	16.30%	17.24%
1980	0.733	-10.33%	27.23%
1981	0.637	-13.12%	-26.47%
1982	0.802	25.88%	14.04%
1983	0.783	-2.40%	-4.30%
1984	0.774	-1.12%	5.54%
1985	0.856	10.66%	34.44%
1986	0.907	5.86%	13.06%
1987	1.059	16.80%	35.31%
1988	0.757	-28.50%	-2.16%
1989	0.732	-3.33%	-14.53%
1990	0.788	7.64%	-13.09%
1991	0.804	2.04%	-24.08%
1992	0.721	-10.28%	-4.74%
1993	0.888	23.12%	21.33%
1994	1.033	16.34%	31.13%
1995	1.012	-2.08%	25.84%
1996	1.094	8.18%	51.73%
1997	1.024	-6.45%	15.29%
1998	1.041	1.69%	0.77%
1999	1.138	9.34%	12.53%
2000	1.172	2.94%	7.08%
2001	1.124	-4.13%	9.74%
2002	1.043	-7.20%	0.15%

Note how this trend was a long time coming with increases in 1977, 1979, and 1982. The largest increases were in the 1985-'87 period though, with 1987 reaching the then-historic (and now de rigueur) sum of one home run per game.

From The Sporting News 1988 Baseball Guide regarding the home run increase in the 1987 season:

Subpar pitching and the umpire's shrinking strike zone were theories advanced as explanations for the record home run output. Over the first half of the 1987 campaign, the homer total was well ahead of the previous year's record clip, though the pace slowed slightly after the All-Star break.

Both leagues attained new home run highs. With American League hitters unloading 2,634 and the National League accounting for 1,824, the total of 4,458 amounted to nearly a 17 percent increase over the record of 3,813 set a year earlier. Six A.L. teams-Detroit, Toronto, Oakland, Texas, Kansas City and Cleveland- established new marks, as did three N.L. clubs-Chicago, San Francisco and New York. One of the more unusual homers was hit September 5 by California third baseman Jack Howell at Yankee Stadium. Facing reliever Tim Stoddard, Howell drove a pitch into the left-field stands, even though his bat broke in half about 12 inches from the knob.

Oakland first baseman Mark McGwire was the A.L.'s leading home run hitter with 49, smashing the rookie record of 38. Outfielder Andre Dawson also had 49 for the Chicago Cubs to pace the senior circuit. New York Yankee first baseman Don Mattingly accomplished two remarkable feats, equaling one record with home runs in eight consecutive games and establishing another by hitting six grand slams...

The home run barrage stirred speculation that the baseballs had been "juiced up." Denials by representatives of the manufacturer, Rawlings Sporting Goods Co., were met with skepticism, but scientific tests arranged separately by USA Today and the league offices confirmed that the 1987 baseballs were no livelier than those of recent years. The newspaper had Hailer Testing Laboratories of Plain-field, N.J., perform tests early in July on 116 baseballs collected from all 26 teams. A few weeks later, at the request of the two leagues, the Science and Aeronautics Department of the University of Missouri at Rolla compared several dozen 1985 and 1987 balls manufactured by Rawlings.

The homer outburst also spawned several brawls and charges of cheating on the part of hitters as well as pitchers. Fourteen bench-clearing brawls erupted during the first half of the campaign. The biggest took place at Wrigley Field on July 7 after the Cubs' Dawson was struck on the face by a pitch from San Diego's Eric Show, causing wounds that required 24 stitches. Two days later, N.L. President A. Bartlett Giamatti issued an edict threatening "severe penalties, possibly including suspension," for any act clearly intended to maim or injure another player. The warning had a quick, positive effect.

Because certain pitchers long had been suspected of scuffing baseballs, Giamatti and his counterpart, A.L. President Bobby Brown, ordered umpires from both leagues to keep a close watch for illegal activity. And when the long-ball exploits of Mets infielder Howard Johnson, who hit 36 homers after totaling only 40 in five previous seasons, and other slightly-built players aroused suspicions of corked bats. Commissioner Ueberroth sent out an August 6 directive that permitted umpires to impound one bat per team per game upon request of the opposing manager. The confiscated bats were shipped to league headquarters to be X-rayed.

Three players, two of them pitchers, drew suspensions. Joe Niekro, veteran knuckleballer with Minnesota, was banned 10 days for doctoring baseballs; pitcher Kevin Gross of Philadelphia received the same sentence when umpires detected an illegal substance on his glove, and Billy Hatcher of Houston was suspended for 10 days for using a corked bat. No violations were found in the bats of other players that were examined...

While hitters generally fared well, pitchers struggled through a rough season. Boston's Roger Clemens and Oakland's Dave Stewart were the only hurlers to reach the coveted 20-victory level with 20-9 and 20-13 records, respectively. Clemens recorded his 20 wins despite a spring training holdout and 4-6 start. Rick Sutcliff e of the Chicago Cubs was the National League's top winner with 18 victories. Only four pitchers working the 162 innings required to qualify for earned-run honors finished under 3.00. The lone National League hurler to do so was veteran Nolan Ryan, who had a 2.76 ERA but a disappointing 8-16 record as a consequence of weak offensive support by his Houston mates. Jimmy Key of Toronto (2.76) edged Viola (2.90) and Clemens (2.97) for the American League's ERA title.

For the record, here are the men with a double-digit increase in their home run output between 1986 and 1987 (and played at least 100 games in 1986-the largest increase was 43 by rookie Mark McGwire). Only four men (Rickey Henderson (-11 but played only 95 games), Jesse Barfield (-12), Doug Decinces (-10 in his final year), and Don Baylor (-15, played 128 games)) experienced double-digit dropoffs:

Name		1986 HR	1987 HR	Diff
Andre	Dawson	20	49	29
Will	Clark	11	35	24
George	Bell	31	47	16
John	Kruk	4	20	16
Wade	Boggs	8	24	16
Brook	Jacoby	17	32	15
Dale	Murphy	29	44	15
Keith	Moreland	12	27	15
Ruben	Sierra	16	30	14
Eddie	Murray	17	30	13
Larry	Sheets	18	31	13
Darryl	Strawberry	27	39	12
Juan	Samuel	16	28	12
Ozzie	Virgil	15	27	12
Robin	Yount	9	21	12
Wally	Joyner	22	34	12
Alvin	Davis	18	29	11
Chili	Davis	13	24	11
Gary	Ward	5	16	11
Terry	Pendleton	1	12	11
Bill	Doran	6	16	10
Eric	Davis	27	37	10
John	Shelby	11	21	10
Nick	Esasky	12	22	10

The general consensus now seems to be that the ball was juiced and that it was then-commissioner Peter Ueberroth's attempt (and if so, then a successful one) to rejuvenate interest in the game. Although I do not know if any evidence was ever found to support that conclusion.

Okay, so a lot of home runs were hit. Big deal! What does that have to do with relief pitching?

Well, as home runs flew out of parks, staffs became jittery and managers changed styles. The percentage of games completed by starting pitchers dwindled from just over 20% in 1980 to under 14% in 1986 and '87. The percentage of all pitchers who were used solely as starting pitchers, which had been climbing steadily throughout the Seventies, plateaued and then increased by six percentage points after the home run explosion stopped in '88. The same goes for the falling percentage of swingman, which dropped almost nine points in 1988. Meanwhile all pitching roles were taking their lumps: all three (starter, reliever, and swingman) had average ERAs over 4.00 in 1987; that was the first time since 1950.

The way that relief pitchers were used changed dramatically as well. From 1955 to 1979 the number of pitchers used per game increased by just one-tenth of a man. Between 1979 and 1989 that number went up by more than a third a man. 1987 witnessed the lowest save leader over a full season (Steve Bedrosian with 40) for the period 1983 to the present.

Closers got fewer saves in 1987 as managers tried different ways to hold a lead. Here are the average number of saves for team's "closer" (i.e., pitcher with most saves prorated to 162 games):

Year	Sv/162G
1970	19.63
1971	15.13
1972	16.51
1973	16.63
1974	12.70
1975	13.90
1976	14.41
1977	17.60
1978	18.23
1979	17.60
1980	19.20
1981	19.23
1982	19.57
1983	19.86
1984	22.32
1985	22.15
1986	22.53
1987	19.93
1988	25.84
1989	27.38

The number of closers in baseball who met the typical closer-type numbers dwindled. Here are the number of "high-save" closers (15 saves 1970-'79, 13 saves 1981, and 20 saves 1980, '82-'89 (total is prorates to 13 for the strike year of 1981)):

Year	High-Save Closers
1970	18
1971	13
1972	12
1973	14
1974	8
1975	10
1976	11
1977	17
1978	15
1979	15
1980	14
1981	11
1982	12
1983	14
1984	14
1985	13
1986	17
1987	10
1988	18
1989	25


Also, the percentage of games saved dropped in 1987:

Year	Pitchers/G	SV%	Sv/RA
1970	2.664	22.58%	13.57%
1971	2.493	17.78%	11.91%
1972	2.455	19.71%	13.55%
1973	2.370	21.08%	15.39%
1974	2.398	13.29%	9.50%
1975	2.397	17.30%	12.38%
1976	2.415	17.61%	12.45%
1977	2.525	20.09%	13.17%
1978	2.401	19.12%	13.65%
1979	2.520	20.02%	13.17%
1980	2.564	21.43%	13.70%
1981	2.668	21.70%	13.01%
1982	2.620	22.12%	13.66%
1983	2.603	23.16%	14.45%
1984	2.655	23.59%	14.25%
1985	2.735	23.23%	13.39%
1986	2.796	23.87%	13.29%
1987	2.888	23.06%	12.22%
1988	2.745	24.98%	14.31%
1989	2.875	25.38%	13.53%

Throughout the era of the "modern" closer, the percentage of games that resulted in saves had been increasing. Suddenly, it dropped almost a full percentage point in 1987. More pitchers were used per game than had ever been used before, the increase outpacing the modest, evolutionary snowballing of the last ten years. Note also that the percentage of relieve appearances that resulted in a save for the reliever took a hit during the 1985-'87 offensive increase, with 1987's 1+ point drop being the worst of the three. All of these numbers returned to the normal projections in 1988.

One would be lead to believe that the closer role was becoming less important as more pitchers with more appearances, fewer of which ended in saves, were becoming the norm. However, if a count of the total number of pitchers who saved games in a given were tallied, that would not seem to be the case:

Year	Savers/Tm
1960	6.875
1961	6.556
1962	7.600
1963	6.400
1964	7.000
1965	6.700
1966	6.700
1967	6.450
1968	6.450
1969	6.042
1970	6.250
1971	5.625
1972	5.833
1973	6.167
1974	4.875
1975	5.333
1976	5.292
1977	5.269
1978	5.154
1979	4.962
1980	5.615
1981	4.769
1982	5.615
1983	5.231
1984	5.577
1985	5.808
1986	5.769
1987	5.692
1988	5.577
1989	4.923
1990	5.654
1991	5.692
1992	4.885
1993	5.071
1994	5.071
1995	4.821
1996	4.893
1997	5.000
1998	4.933
1999	4.733
2000	4.500
2001	4.333
2002	4.367

Note that the number of pitchers who saved at least a game per team actually increased during the 1985-'87 period and has never been that high since.

One logical conclusion of fewer saves and more pitching changes would be that relief pitchers in general and closers in particular were throwing fewer innings. The number of 3-inning saves and endurance-based saves would therefore be the culprit. However, the number of 100-inning pitchers actually increased. Here is a table of the number of 100-inning relievers per year (with fewer than 10 starts (7 in '81), at least 20 relief appearances, and at least 100 IP (66 in '81)):

Year	100-IP relievers
1970	16
1971	11
1972	15
1973	17
1974	24
1975	17
1976	22
1977	40
1978	25
1979	18
1980	25
1981	28
1982	36
1983	23
1984	25
1985	19
1986	19
1987	22
1988	12
1989	18


Evidently relievers in general did still pitch 100 innings. So maybe the manner in which closers were employed was the culprit of fewer saves. To test this I selected the "closer" for each team per year. This was the man with the most saves on the team. I then took the average for all such closers in the majors for each year. If two or more men were tied for the team save lead, I averaged their stats before adding them to the majors totals and deriving the major-league average. Here are the results (MTL = Miminum Team Leader, the team leader with the most saves; all the other stats are based on the closer average):

Year   Sv/  MTL/  W    L     G    GS     IP   ERA   K/  HR/ K/BB WHIP
      162G  162G                                   9IP  9IP
1970 19.63  8.00 6.13 5.92 60.25 0.33  91.44 3.01 6.39 0.65 1.90 1.256
1971 15.13  4.01 6.15 5.67 54.56 1.58  90.15 2.93 6.41 0.64 1.71 1.274
1972 16.51  4.18 5.48 5.48 50.50 0.75  80.47 2.78 6.56 0.51 1.82 1.246
1973 16.63  6.00 6.32 5.65 54.99 1.25  97.06 2.88 6.05 0.61 1.73 1.266
1974 12.70  3.00 6.96 6.25 59.46 0.92 106.42 2.90 5.58 0.54 1.82 1.257
1975 13.90  5.03 6.02 5.60 52.88 0.50  87.98 3.13 5.97 0.55 1.62 1.311
1976 14.41  6.02 7.08 6.08 57.67 0.42  98.58 2.76 6.25 0.40 1.73 1.245
1977 17.60  8.01 7.65 6.50 60.69 0.92 106.23 2.97 6.66 0.67 2.11 1.235
1978 18.23  9.02 7.31 7.23 58.04 0.19  93.94 2.82 6.59 0.57 1.83 1.229
1979 17.60  6.02 7.35 6.73 57.19 0.96  94.50 2.89 6.32 0.58 1.78 1.268
1980 19.20  6.00 6.65 5.96 62.54 0.31  98.35 2.75 5.64 0.46 1.80 1.233
1981 19.23  4.53 4.35 4.08 41.40 0.23  65.41 2.75 5.63 0.48 1.61 1.254
1982 19.57  7.00 6.77 7.08 61.40 0.46 100.62 2.93 6.02 0.60 2.01 1.221
1983 19.86  6.99 6.35 6.69 59.81 0.27  93.41 2.97 6.29 0.60 1.99 1.231
1984 22.32  8.00 5.83 6.79 60.63 0.04  90.62 2.96 6.43 0.66 2.08 1.234
1985 22.15  9.01 6.46 6.17 60.85 0.42  90.78 2.95 6.50 0.71 2.22 1.210
1986 22.53 10.01 6.58 6.88 60.38 0.92  87.91 3.26 7.21 0.76 2.09 1.292
1987 19.93  8.00 5.23 5.65 56.27 0.37  84.40 3.36 7.71 0.88 2.41 1.261
1988 25.84 13.04 4.46 5.27 57.46 0.04  73.87 2.88 7.66 0.57 2.49 1.205
1989 27.38 15.00 4.17 4.27 59.35 0.04  73.82 2.61 7.77 0.57 2.39 1.181

A number of interesting conclusions may be drawn. First, note that the average number of saves per closer is lower in 1987 than in the surrounding years, just as we saw earlier with saves in general. Note also that the lowest team closer has a save total lower than expected. The lowest in 1988 would be more than 50% higher than 1987's.

Note too the ERA upswing in 1987. Clearly this was affected by that year's offensive/home run explosion. One logical consequence of a higher ERA for a closer would be fewer saves, but one would also expect more losses and possibly more wins, as the pitcher's team regains the lead with him on the mound. However, neither was the case as closers experienced historically low win and loss totals.

Closer's innings pitched did decrease in 1987 by three innings, but I cannot imagine that a few innings cost that many saves. It did portend the sub-80-inning closer that came thereafter. Note that the number of appearances per closer did decrease slightly but clearly closers pitched fewer innings per appearances. Compare the similar appearance totals for 1976-1983 and for 1987. Note that there are a number of years in the '76-'83 range in which the average closer had about the same number as he did in 1987. However, the closer in the earlier range was expected to pitch 90-100 innings as opposed to the 84 in 1987.

Note that 1987 was also a transition for the number of games started by the closer. Whereas closers would start an average of almost one game prior to the "modern" period (1977 and '79), the average closer started only 0.37 games in 1987, or rather only one in three closers started a game on average. As late as 1986, a start per closer was the norm, possibly to combat the offensive onslaught of the mid-Eighties by enlisting a starter as a closer or a closer as a starter. Note that the games started average plummets after 1987. Again this year is a transition point.

Also, note the increase in strikeout pitchers being used as closers. Both the strikeouts-per-nine-innings and the strikeouts-to-walks-ratio were historically high for closers. When scoring is high, even large leads can be lost quickly. Managers began selecting pitchers who would keep batters off the basepaths via the strikeout. These were fireballers who still had good control, which is evident by the slight increase in 1987 over the norm in Walks-Plus-Hits-Per-Innings-Pitched (WHIP). 1987's average closer WHIP is actually lower than 1986's. The strikeout stats remained high even after scoring returned to normal after 1987, and control improved as the closer's WHIP went down with the scoring.

I see 1987 as a year in which the "modern closer" established by Bruce Sutter in the late Seventies started to break down and a new closer who was a power pitcher with good control, pitched fewer innings per appearance, almost never started a game, and was rarely involved in win-loss decisions. The "neo-modern" closer had more saves and was more widely used than the Sutter-type.

Of course, a man, who personified all of these elements, began his closer career in 1987 and would go on to be widely-held as the best reliever of all time. That man is, of course, Dennis Eckersley. Eck would walk few, strikeout many (anout one per inning), would never pitch more than 80 innings in a year as a reliever, and would set the standard for the next generation of closers.
Eckersley would never have been able to succeed without his excellent supporting bullpen staff in Oakland. The growth of the setup men is the subject of the last study.

Setting 'Em Up And Knocking 'Em Down

To Be Continued...


Time Has Come Today The
2003-02-09 23:52
by Mike Carminati

Time Has Come Today

The M's pitchers and catchers reported to camp today in Peoria, Az. Seattle opens the season early in Japan and needs to open camp early to get ready (though why the A's are starting at the same time is beyond me).

Baseball is back.

I feel psychedelicized.


Cone-back? The New York Times
2003-02-09 21:18
by Mike Carminati

Cone-back?

The New York Times reports that the Mets' owner Fred Wilpon approached David Cone at John Franco's charity bowling tournament about coming out of retirement to pitch for the team. Cone is 40 years old and missed all of last year after he bypassed other deals in hopes of re-signing with the Yankees.

Said Wilpon:

"You bring him in to minor league camp and you let the guys who get paid to do that see if he has anything left. If he does, he could help some teams. Obviously, he doesn't fit on the Yankees because they have so many pitchers. But he might fit on other teams."

Hmm, which team is talking about I wonder? Al Leiter also approached Cone at the event:
"If the guy has anything left and is even remotely close to the pitcher he was before, you take a chance on him," Leiter said in a telephone interview. "What's the downside for the Mets? Let him come to spring training and pitch for a spot. What's the worst thing that could happen?"

Apparently, Cone has signed to work on the YES network and is concerned about ticking of The Boss:
"If he wasn't worried about the Yankee stuff blowing up in his face, I think he'd do it in a second," Leiter said. "He's got an allegiance to George. He's worried about that."

Leiter also called Cone "one of the best pitchers in baseball for the last 10 years." Cone was 4-14 with a 6.91 ERA in 2000. His 2001 performance was good (9-7, 4.31 ERA, 5% better than the adjusted average), but it seemed to be held together with tape and glue (148 hits and 17 home runs in 135.2 innings). Given his performance since the end of 1999, it's hard to consider him the same pitcher.

But Leiter is persistent:

"What's the downside? You invite him to spring training, you give him an orange B.P. top and you pay him some meal money," Leiter said. "In four or five weeks, you might have another pitcher. I'd love to see him in spring training. I think it's a no-brainer."

Well, the downside is that a young pitcher like Mike Bacsik, Pat Strange, or Jason Middlebrook doesn't get a chance to develop. They didn't set the league ablaze last year, but they deserve a shot to move to the next level, especially given the advanced age of the pitchers in the first four spots in the rotation. That apparently is not a concern given that promising young lefty Jamie Cerda is getting bypassed in favor of retread Graeme Lloyd.

Besides how well could Cone possibly pitch given his age and the time off. Here is the list of pitchers who missed a season at age 39 and pitched thereafter with the age-40+ stats:

Name            W  L   G GS CG SHO SV    IP   H  ER HR  BB  SO   ERA  WHIP
Satchel Paige  28 31 179 26  7  4  32 476.0 429 174 29 183 290  3.29  1.29
Earl Caldwell  22 21 139 12  5  1  23 298.3 285 121 19 129 124  3.65  1.39
Kaiser Wilhelm 12 17  52 27 11  1   5 252.7 274 112 10  84 114  3.99  1.42
Red Ruffing    15  9  28 28 13  3   0 201.3 185  76 11  59  54  3.40  1.21
Ed Green        7 15  25 22 20  1   1 191.0 267 123  4  94  56  5.80  1.89
Diomedes Olivo  5  6  85  1  0  0   7 107.3 112  37  7  39  85  3.10  1.41
Fred Johnson    3  8  22  8  4  0   3  83.0 114  53  7  36  26  5.75  1.81
Hod Lisenbee    1  3  31  3  0  0   1  80.3  97  49 12  16  14  5.49  1.41
Vean Gregg      2  2  26  5  1  0   2  74.3  87  34  3  38  18  4.12  1.68
Dave Stieb      1  2  19  3  0  0   2  50.3  58  27  6  17  27  4.83  1.49
Lou Polli       0  2  19  0  0  0   3  35.7  42  18  3  20   6  4.54  1.74
Nick Altrock    1  2   7  3  1  0   0  26.0  32   8  1   6   5  2.77  1.46
Pete Appleton   1  0   8  2  1  0   1  23.7  19  12  1  18  13  4.56  1.56
Clay Touchstone 0  0   6  0  0  0   0  10.0  14   6  1   6   4  5.40  2.00
John Greening   0  1   1  1  1  0   0   9.0  17  11  2   4   2 11.00  2.33
Deacon White    0  0   1  0  0  0   0   8.0  18   8  0   2   0  9.00  2.50
Chief Hogsett   0  0   3  0  0  0   0   6.3   7   0  1   4   5  0.00  1.74
Guy Bush        0  0   4  0  0  0   1   4.3   5   4  0   3   1  8.31  1.85
Paul Schreiber  0  0   2  0  0  0   0   4.3   4   2  0   2   1  4.15  1.38
Rick Dempsey    0  0   2  0  0  0   0   2.0   3   1  0   1   0  4.50  2.00
Dave Concepcion 0  0   1  0  0  0   0   1.3   2   0  0   0   1  0.00  1.50
Chief Bender    0  0   1  0  0  0   0   1.0   1   2  1   1   0 18.00  2.00
Lena Blackburne 0  0   1  0  0  0   0   0.3   1   0  0   0   0  0.00  3.00
Dizzy Trout     0  0   2  0  0  0   0   0.3   4   3  0   0   0 81.00 12.00

Of those only a handful started more than 10 games: Paige, Caldwell, Wilhelm, Ruffing, and Green. Paige's career got a late start because of the color line. Caldwell was a replacement during World War II, who pitched better after 40 than before and became a reliever after one season. Wilhelm returned to the majors in the Federal League and had one fairly productive season before falling apart completely. Ruffing returned to the majors at age 41 after serving three years in the army. He spent three injury-plagued seasons in the majors and then retired. Ed Green was a 40-year-old rookie for the 1890 American Association Philly A's. It was his only season in the majors and it was a poor one at that. This was the year that the Players League pilfered major-league rosters.

So, of the men who came back after spending their 39th year out of the majors, there are only 5 that started a significant number of games. Of those five, all had extenuating circumstances (a war, a new league, or segregation) that caused their situation. Cone has no such extenuating circumstances. His comeback would be, therefore, unprecedented.

I'm not saying it's impossible, but the odds are really not in his favor. Wouldn't the Mets be better off trying to develop some young talent that could help them for more than one season anyway? As a Phils fan, it warms my heart to hear these silly rumors-the Mets are started to self-destruct before the season even starts. And when are they getting a real third baseman anyway?


HenDUI Dave Henderson was arrested
2003-02-09 00:13
by Mike Carminati

HenDUI

Dave Henderson was arrested for drunk driving on Friday. The police said that he was stopped for going 68 in a 55-MPH zone and for failing to signal a lane change. They didn't indicate what led them to believe that he was drunk nor would they confirm that he took a breath test.

Unless people drive vastly different in Washington, those things would not be enough to pull someone over. If it happened in the South, I would wonder about racial profiling.

Anyway, I just wanted to post the headline.


Carping Issue The Yankees were
2003-02-09 00:03
by Mike Carminati

Carping Issue

The Yankees were awarded the rights to Ramon Ramirez from the Hiroshima Carp Japanese team. Their bid was $350K. Ramirez had no record with a 3.00 ERA in just two games. He is a 21-year-old Dominican.

My question is how does a guy named Ramirez end up getting sold by a Japanese team for that much money without having done anything? I can't imagine that Hiroshima was going to lose the rookie to free agency any time soon. Of course, he may have been trying to get out of his contract to play in the states and they were forced to do what they did.

It sounds like another Alfonso Soriano deal to me. And then what better place than the Yankees for him to end up. Now we'll just have to see if he can pitch.


Justice Served, III Before I
2003-02-07 22:26
by Mike Carminati

Justice Served, III

Before I move on to postseason pitching, I just wanted to point out that a) I cleaned up the tables from yesterday-sorry about that-and b) even though this is a David Justice-inspired piece, Justice does not appear in any of the postseason lists except for service. That is because his postseason numbers are pretty bad. Even though he played in 21 postseason series with 4 different teams (and 6 World Series with three different teams), his postseason average is only .221 in 398 at-bats. Also, he had 15 homers, 63 RBI, and 55 runs with a .329 on-base percentage and a .387 slugging average. That's pretty poor for almost a season's worth of at-bats. His World Series numbers are even worse: .194 BA, .333 OBP, .339 Slugging, 5 HR, 21 RBI, and 17 R in 124 at-bats. Any argument that posits that Justice is a Hall-of-Famer can be answered with those numbers. It's nice that he got there that often, but he sure didn't do much with the opportunity.

OK, pitching-here are the all-time postseason leaders in wins:

Name              G    IP   W  L ERA
John Smoltz       35 191.7 12  4 2.72
Tom Glavine       32 194.0 12 15 3.57
Greg Maddux       30 184.0 11 13 3.23
Andy Pettitte     25 152.3 10  7 4.49
Dave Stewart      22 133.0 10  6 2.84
Whitey Ford       22 146.0 10  8 2.71
Orlando Hernandez 16  97.0  9  3 2.51
Catfish Hunter    22 132.3  9  6 3.26
David Wells       20  90.0  8  2 3.40
Orel Hershiser    22 132.0  8  3 2.66
Jim Palmer        17 124.3  8  3 2.61
David Cone        21 111.3  8  3 3.80
Jack Morris       13  92.3  7  4 3.80
Allie Reynolds    15  77.3  7  2 2.79
Dave McNally      14  90.3  7  4 2.49
Red Ruffing       10  85.7  7  2 2.63
Randy Johnson     16 108.0  7  8 3.08
Bob Caruthers     18 147.0  7  8 2.51
Bob Gibson         9  81.0  7  2 1.89

The three Braves at the top. The rest are mostly post-expansion guys with a few old Yankees, a 19th century pitcher (Caruthers), and Gibson, who wasn't too bad. Now by winning percentage (minimum 5 decisions)

 Name                 G    IP  W L W/L % ERA
Lefty Gomez          7  50.3  6 0 1.000 2.86
Jack Coombs          6  53.3  5 0 1.000 2.70
Herb Pennock        10  55.3  5 0 1.000 1.95
Rawly Eastwick      10  15.7  4 0 1.000 4.02
Sterling Hitchcock   9  30.7  4 0 1.000 1.76
Monte Pearson        4  35.7  4 0 1.000 1.01
Jerry Koosman        7  40.3  4 0 1.000 3.79
Mariano Rivera      53  80.0  6 1  .857 0.90
Francisco Rodriguez 11  18.7  5 1  .833 1.93
Curt Schilling      11  86.7  5 1  .833 1.66
Fernando Valenzuela  9  63.7  5 1  .833 1.98
Juan Guzman          8  51.7  5 1  .833 2.44
Bert Blyleven        8  47.3  5 1  .833 2.47
Bruce Kison         10  36.3  5 1  .833 1.98
David Wells         20  90.0  8 2  .800 3.40
Tommy Bridges        7  46.0  4 1  .800 3.52
Johnny Podres        6  38.3  4 1  .800 2.11
Harry Brecheen       7  32.7  4 1  .800 0.83
Ed Lopat             7  52.0  4 1  .800 2.60
Duane Ward          19  24.7  4 1  .800 4.74
Lady Baldwin         5  42.0  4 1  .800 1.50
Allie Reynolds      15  77.3  7 2  .778 2.79
Bob Gibson           9  81.0  7 2  .778 1.89
Red Ruffing         10  85.7  7 2  .778 2.63
John Smoltz         35 191.7 12 4  .750 2.72
Orlando Hernandez   16  97.0  9 3  .750 2.51
Livan Hernandez     10  56.3  6 2  .750 3.99

That's an odd mix, especially with the relievers poking their heads in. But there does seem to be something unifying in the starting pitchers. There are only three Hall-of-Famers, Ruffing, Pennock, and Gibson, and a lot of near-HoF types like Reynolds, Coombs, and Gomez. Heck, even Monte Pearson was a pretty good pitcher for a while. Francisco Rodriguez makes the list with only 5.2 regular-season innings under his belt. Oh, and it's nice to see the Hernandez brothers finishing up the list.

Now for ERA leaders (based on 100 outs, i.e., 33.1 innings pitched):

Name                G    IP W L  ERA
Mariano Rivera     53  80.0 6 1 0.90
Sandy Koufax        8  57.0 4 3 0.95
Monte Pearson       4  35.7 4 0 1.01
Christy Mathewson  11 101.7 5 5 1.06
Blue Moon Odom     10  42.0 3 1 1.07
Eddie Plank         7  54.7 2 5 1.32
Bill Hallahan       7  39.7 3 1 1.36
Lady Baldwin        5  42.0 4 1 1.50
Mickey Lolich       5  46.0 3 1 1.57
George Earnshaw     8  62.7 4 3 1.58
Spud Chandler       6  33.3 2 2 1.62
Scott McGregor      6  49.7 3 3 1.63
Curt Schilling     11  86.7 5 1 1.66
Stan Coveleski      5  41.3 3 2 1.74
Lefty Grove         8  51.3 4 2 1.75
Orval Overall       8  51.3 3 1 1.75
Carl Hubbell        6  50.3 4 2 1.79
Ernie Shore         4  34.7 3 1 1.82
Waite Hoyt         12  83.7 6 4 1.83
George Mullin       7  58.0 3 3 1.86
Bob Gibson          9  81.0 7 2 1.89
Jack Billingham    10  42.0 2 1 1.93
Herb Pennock       10  55.3 5 0 1.95
Fernando Valenzuela 9  63.7 5 1 1.98
Bruce Kison        10  36.3 5 1 1.98
Doug Drabek         7  48.3 2 5 2.05
Bill Dinneen        4  35.0 3 1 2.06
Mike Stanton       53  55.7 5 2 2.10
Johnny Podres       6  38.3 4 1 2.11
Walter Johnson      6  50.0 3 3 2.16
Art Nehf           12  79.0 4 4 2.16
Silver King         9  66.0 2 6 2.18
Carl Mays           8  57.3 3 4 2.20
Tug McGraw         26  52.3 3 3 2.24
Vic Raschi         11  60.3 5 3 2.24
Bruce Hurst         7  51.0 3 2 2.29
Ken Holtzman       13  70.3 6 4 2.30
Mark Wohlers       39  38.3 1 2 2.35
Rollie Fingers     30  57.3 4 4 2.35
Cy Young            7  61.0 2 3 2.36
Eddie Cicotte       6  44.7 2 3 2.42
Chief Bender       10  85.0 6 4 2.44
Juan Guzman         8  51.7 5 1 2.44
Bert Blyleven       8  47.3 5 1 2.47
Charlie Getzien     6  58.0 4 2 2.48
Dave McNally       14  90.3 7 4 2.49
Orlando Hernandez  16  97.0 9 3 2.51
Bob Caruthers      18 147.0 7 8 2.51

That seems like a better list overall than the winning percentage crew. That makes sense because, no matter what Joe Morgan tells you, wins depend more on team performance whereas ERA will inform you of the individual's performance. Just a word or two about the handful of players that are not exactly household names. As I said Monte Pearson was a pretty good pitcher for the Yankees for a few years. He won 19 games once and was lights out in four postseason appearances, going the distance in all but one, and in that one he went 8.2. Bill Hallahan was a pretty good (also won 19 once) pitcher for the Cardinals in the 1920s and '30s. Lady Baldwin and Charlie Getzien each won four of the 10 games won by the Detroit Wolverines against the St. Louis Browns in 15-game 1887 Temple Cup series. George Earnshaw was a 3-time 20-game winner for the Philly A's in the '30s. Wabash George Mullin pitched for the Tigers before World War I; he won 20 games five times (with 29 wins for a high) and lost 20 games three times-those were the days. Bill Dineen won the first World Series victory for the Boston Pilgrims nee Red Sox. And Art Nehf was a pretty good pitcher for the Giants in the early Twenties.

Now here are the ERA leaders broken down by series. First, the World Series:

Name               G    IP W L  ERA
Sandy Koufax       8  57.0 4 3 0.95
Monte Pearson      4  35.7 4 0 1.01
Christy Mathewson 11 101.7 5 5 1.06
Eddie Plank        7  54.7 2 5 1.32
Rollie Fingers    16  33.3 2 2 1.35
Bill Hallahan      7  39.7 3 1 1.36
Lady Baldwin       5  42.0 4 1 1.50
Roger Clemens      6  40.3 3 0 1.56
George Earnshaw    8  62.7 4 3 1.58
Spud Chandler      6  33.3 2 2 1.62
John Clarkson      6  47.0 2 3 1.72
Stan Coveleski     5  41.3 3 2 1.74
Lefty Grove        8  51.3 4 2 1.75
Orval Overall      8  51.3 3 1 1.75
Carl Hubbell       6  50.3 4 2 1.79
Ernie Shore        4  34.7 3 1 1.82
Waite Hoyt        12  83.7 6 4 1.83
Cy Young           4  34.0 2 1 1.85
George Mullin      7  58.0 3 3 1.86
Bob Gibson         9  81.0 7 2 1.89
Herb Pennock      10  55.3 5 0 1.95

Gods and monsters-Hall of Famers and nobodies. Next, the LCS's (based on 25 IP):

Name                G   IP W L  ERA
Bruce Kison         7 29.7 4 0 1.21
Gary Nolan          4 26.7 1 0 1.35
Curt Schilling      3 25.0 1 0 1.44
Orel Hershiser     11 65.3 4 0 1.65
Randy Johnson       4 31.3 2 1 1.72
Danny Cox           7 29.3 2 1 1.84
Fernando Valenzuela 5 37.0 3 1 1.95
Jim Palmer          8 59.7 4 1 1.96
Don Sutton          7 49.0 4 1 2.02
Dave Stewart       10 75.3 8 0 2.03
Doug Drabek         7 48.3 2 5 2.05
Ken Holtzman        5 35.0 2 3 2.06
Tommy John          7 47.7 4 1 2.08
John Candelaria     4 25.3 1 1 2.13
Dennis Martinez     7 25.0 2 1 2.16
Juan Guzman         5 31.7 5 0 2.27
Dwight Gooden       7 42.3 0 2 2.34
Steve Avery        11 45.3 4 1 2.38
Dock Ellis          5 29.7 2 2 2.43

Not quite as impressive a list, huh? Here's the division series leaders (based on 50 outs or 16.2 IP):

Name              G   IP W L  ERA
Mariano Rivera   19 29.3 1 0 0.31
Curt Schilling    3 25.0 2 0 0.72
Jeff Nelson      19 22.7 1 1 0.79
Kevin Brown       3 21.7 1 0 0.83
Matt Morris       5 24.0 1 1 1.13
Pedro Martinez    3 17.0 2 0 1.59
Todd Stottlemyre  3 21.3 2 1 1.69
Orlando Hernandez 6 27.3 3 1 1.98
Russ Ortiz        3 17.7 2 0 2.04
Livan Hernandez   3 20.0 2 0 2.25
Mark Mulder       4 24.0 2 2 2.25
Barry Zito        3 19.7 2 1 2.29
Mike Stanton     16 18.3 2 2 2.45
John Burkett      3 16.7 2 0 2.70
Jamie Moyer       3 16.7 2 1 2.70
Darryl Kile       3 20.0 1 1 2.70
John Smoltz      10 45.7 4 0 2.76
Mike Mussina      5 31.0 3 0 2.90
Orel Hershiser    5 24.7 1 0 2.92


Justice Served, II My friend
2003-02-07 01:29
by Mike Carminati

Justice Served, II

My friend Murray and I were discussing David Justice's retirement today via email. Murray said, "No player had the kind of postseason run that he had. Not even Yogi." And I thought that an all-time playoff team would be a fitting tribute to Justice. So here goes.

First, it's interesting to note that Justice has played in more playoff games than anyone else in baseball history. Here are the men with 50 or more appearances:

Name             G
David Justice   112
Tino Martinez    95
Bernie Williams  87
Paul O'Neill     85 
Derek Jeter      82
Chipper Jones    78
Reggie Jackson   77
Yogi Berra       75
Pete Rose        67
Chuck Knoblauch  66
Terry Pendleton  66
Kenny Lofton     65
Mickey Mantle    65
Lonnie Smith     63
Mark Lemke       62
Andruw Jones     61
Rickey Henderson 60
Roberto Alomar   58
Scott Brosius    58
Jeff Blauser     57
Omar Vizquel     57
Ryan Klesko      56
Jorge Posada     56
Javy Lopez       55
Jim Thome        55
John Olerud      55
Steve Garvey     55
Elston Howard    54
Willie McGee     54
Gil McDougald    53
Hank Bauer       53
Paul Blair       53
Graig Nettles    53
Mike Stanton     53
Mariano Rivera   53
Ron Gant         52
Phil Rizzuto     52
Manny Ramirez    52
Matt Williams    51
Joe DiMaggio     51
Fred McGriff     50
Joe Morgan       50
Frankie Frisch   50
Davey Lopes      50

That's an interesting list. The average fan should know every name in there, mostly old Yankees and post-expansion players. By the way, Justice also holds the record for most at-bats with 398.

Berra is the all-time leader in games and at-bats in the World Series (75 and 259, respectively). David Justice has the most games and at-bats in league championship series (46 and 166, just ahead of Reggie Jackson, 45 and 163). Bernie Williams is the all-time leader in division series (34 games and 128 at-bats).

Here are the leading hitters in playoff history by OPS (minimum of 10 games and 50 ABs):

Name              G  AB  OBP SLUG   OPS
Babe Ruth        41 129 .463 .744 1.207
Lou Gehrig       34 119 .476 .731 1.207
Troy Glaus       16  61 .412 .770 1.182
Hank Aaron       17  69 .405 .710 1.116
Billy Hatcher    14  52 .456 .654 1.110
Pepper Martin    15  55 .467 .636 1.103
Gary Matthews    19  65 .413 .677 1.090
Lenny Dykstra    32 112 .424 .661 1.085
Lou Brock        21  87 .424 .655 1.079
Jim Edmonds      21  84 .398 .679 1.076
Juan Gonzalez    15  62 .333 .742 1.075
Fred Lynn        15  54 .458 .593 1.050
John Valentin    17  72 .407 .639 1.046
Carl Yastrzemski 17  65 .446 .600 1.046
Paul Molitor     29 117 .426 .615 1.042
Al Simmons       19  73 .380 .658 1.037
Jimmie Foxx      18  64 .425 .609 1.034
Hank Greenberg   23  85 .408 .624 1.032
George Brett     43 166 .399 .627 1.025
Scott Spiezio    16  55 .424 .600 1.024
Ken Griffey Jr.  15  59 .379 .644 1.023
Jay Buhner       26  85 .398 .624 1.021
Bob Robertson    21  53 .356 .660 1.016
Alan Trammell    13  51 .404 .588  .992
Charlie Keller   19  72 .367 .611  .978
Bob Watson       17  62 .409 .565  .974
Gene Woodling    26  85 .442 .529  .972
Albert Belle     18  61 .397 .557  .955
Kirk Gibson      21  78 .378 .577  .955
Brady Anderson   19  80 .378 .575  .953

Is that an odd list or what? Ruth, Gehrig, Aaron, and...Glaus. Well, ok maybe. But Billy Hatcher? My apologies to any A's fans out there.

Here's the same thing for just World Series players (including the 19th century Temple Cup series):

Name              G  AB  OBP SLUG OPS 
Babe Ruth        41 129 .463 .744 1.207
Lou Gehrig       34 119 .476 .731 1.207
Reggie Jackson   27  98 .442 .755 1.198
Pepper Martin    15  55 .467 .636 1.103
Paul Molitor     13  55 .467 .636 1.103
Lou Brock        21  87 .424 .655 1.079
Rickey Henderson 14  56 .439 .607 1.047
Al Simmons       19  73 .380 .658 1.037
Jimmie Foxx      18  64 .425 .609 1.034
Hank Greenberg   23  85 .408 .624 1.032
Hank Aaron       14  55 .417 .600 1.017
Dave Henderson   20  71 .400 .606 1.006
Carl Yastrzemski 14  54 .435 .556  .991
Charlie Keller   19  72 .367 .611  .978
Gene Woodling    26  85 .442 .529  .972
George Brett     13  51 .439 .529  .968
Willie Stargell  14  54 .393 .574  .968
Duke Snider      36 133 .349 .594  .943
Frank Baker      25  91 .396 .538  .934
Billy Martin     28  99 .365 .566  .931
Roberto Clemente 14  58 .383 .534  .918
Roger Connor     16  58 .400 .517  .917
Bobby Brown      26  57 .387 .526  .913
Steve Yeager     21  57 .333 .579  .912
Thurman Munson   16  67 .417 .493  .909
Kirby Puckett    14  52 .390 .519  .909
Mickey Mantle    65 230 .374 .535  .908
Mel Ott          16  61 .377 .525  .901
Marquis Grissom  19  77 .434 .468  .901
Hub Collins      16  64 .432 .469  .901

It's hard to tell that the Yankees have been to a lot of Series from that list, huh? I'm joking of course.

Now the LCS's:

Name               G  AB  OBP SLUG   OPS 
Will Clark        17  62 .522 .806 1.328
George Brett      27 103 .404 .728 1.132
Bernie Williams   27 100 .471 .630 1.101
Steve Garvey      22  90 .383 .678 1.061
Lenny Dykstra     19  62 .425 .629 1.054
Dusty Baker       17  62 .443 .597 1.040
Manny Ramirez     18  63 .405 .619 1.024
Darryl Strawberry 20  70 .372 .643 1.015
Pete Rose         28 118 .430 .534  .964
Greg Luzinski     20  73 .329 .589  .918
Cal Ripken Jr.    15  55 .419 .491  .910
Jim Thome         17  52 .333 .577  .910
Paul O'Neill      31 106 .379 .509  .889
Brooks Robinson   18  69 .366 .522  .888
Eddie Murray      19  66 .397 .485  .882
Javy Lopez        27  90 .337 .544  .881
Mickey Rivers     14  57 .417 .456  .873
Chipper Jones     34 127 .431 .441  .872
Sal Bando         20  74 .341 .527  .868
Ron Cey           22  82 .368 .500  .868
Johnny Bench      22  83 .333 .530  .863
Devon White       27  95 .410 .453  .862
Fred McGriff      28 109 .380 .477  .857
Darrell Porter    20  63 .456 .397  .853

That's kind of an odd mix, some Hall-of-Famers and some decent ballplayers. I guess that's what you get when you are limited to the last 30-odd years.

Finally, the division series (I limited it to 7 games and 25 ABs minimum):

Name              G AB  OBP SLUG    OPS 
Nomar Garciaparra 8 27 .469 1.037 1.506
Jim Edmonds      11 42 .438  .833 1.271
Edgar Martinez   17 64 .481  .781 1.262
Vinny Castilla   12 44 .413  .750 1.163
Ken Caminiti     13 43 .375  .721 1.096
Ray Durham        8 31 .378  .710 1.088
John Valentin    12 49 .411  .673 1.084
Juan Gonzalez    15 62 .333  .742 1.075
Jay Buhner       13 45 .444  .622 1.067
Cal Ripken Jr.    8 34 .472  .588 1.060
Edgardo Alfonzo   8 34 .342  .706 1.048
Ken Griffey Jr.   9 38 .341  .684 1.026
Chipper Jones    28 96 .463  .542 1.005
Mike Stanley     16 55 .459  .545 1.004
Fred McGriff     10 36 .419  .583 1.002
Brady Anderson    8 34 .378  .618  .996
Jason Giambi     14 45 .492  .467  .958
J.T. Snow        12 35 .415  .543  .957
Fernando Vina    11 47 .420  .532  .952

Well, that's odd: mike Stanley and Jason Giambi are the only Yankees.

Tomorrow, I'll look at postseason pitchers.


Wabbit Seaon! Duck Season! Let
2003-02-06 21:40
by Mike Carminati

Wabbit Seaon! Duck Season!

Let the sniping begin!

Arbitration season opened today with Bruce Chen losing to the Reds and having to accept a $700 K (as opposed to his desired $830 K) salary.


Travis D-Ray The Tampa Ray
2003-02-06 21:36
by Mike Carminati

Travis D-Ray

The Tampa Ray Devil Rays have signed free-gent first baseman Travis Lee to a one-year contract. The D-Rays are attempting to aquire the worst players from every team in baseball. I envisioned doing that once in a fantasy league, but that would be just as an experiment. The Rays are doing for real.

They acquired the weak-hitting Rey Ordonez from the Mets and had already acquired Phillie weak link Marlon Anderson. They signed castoffs Lee Stevens (Montreal and Cleveland) and Chris Truby (Montreal and Detroit) , both of whom had train-wreck seasons last year, to minor-league deals.

Meanwhile they have lost their best position player (Randy Winn) in exchange for the rights to manager Lou Piniella and their number-one starter in Tanyon Sturtze as a free agent. Their career win leader on their pitching staff is Joe Kennedy at 15, followed by Victor Zambrano at 14. And next is Travis Harper at 6. None of their pitchers had more than 8 wins last year. Vets Steve Parris (5 wins in 2002 and 44 for his career), Bob Wells (2 and 40), Jim Parque (1 and 30), and Blake Stein (0 and 21) are non-roster invitees. Their only viable candidate for the All-Star game is Aubrey Huff, unless Josh Hamilton has a break-out rookie year.

If you think that the M's lacking a starting left fielder irked Lou Piniella in Seattle, don't you think that lacking 90% of a major-league roster is going to cause Sweet Lou to explode?

Meanwhile, Lee will likely start at first pushing Huff to either the DH spot or third base. Greg Vaughn, the worst player in the majors for half of last year before his season was shut down, and Stevens will compete for time at DH as well.

It's hard to imagine but this team could be worse than the 55-106 team from last year.


Pirates' Ill-Gotten Booty or Ill-Booten
2003-02-06 16:19
by Mike Carminati

Pirates' Ill-Gotten Booty or Ill-Booten Gottey?

According to the AP, the Pirates "will recover a significant portion of the $7.5 million owed to infielder Pat Meares, who sat out all of last year with a hand injury."

Meares is in the final year of one of the worst-conceived contracts of all times. Meares had been your average weak-hitting shortstop for the Twins for about 6 seasons. He was basically at the Mendoza line for shortstops. His salary was on the rise in Minnesota, they cut him loose in 1999, and he held out until he had to take a pay cut with the Pirates. Then-GM Cam "Here Ya Go" Bonifray then signed Meares to a ridiculous contract while still in spring training and the Pirates have been paying for it ever since. He's played a grand total of 240 games in 4 season with the Bucs. Even had Meares been healthy over that period, there's no way that he would have been worth the contract

So if you're Meares, you're sitting at home collecting those nice big checks and not complaining, right? No, Meares actually had the temerity to call himself fit for service and demand either to be activated or released. He even filed a grievance against the team amid sausage races. After a standoff during which the Pirates requested that Meares have surgery to repair what he described as a "paralyzed" hand, Meares and the club came to undisclosed terms in October.

Now, Meares will remain on the DL for the entire 2003 season. The Pirates will recoup as much as they can via insurance. And Meares will get a little kickback to play, or rather not play, nice this season.

Meanwhile, Meares has not rules out a comeback in 2004 and the Pirates, should the Hell-freezing event that they reach the playoffs actually occur, will have an open Francisco Rodriguez-sized spot on their roster.

[By the way, the headline is a M*A*S*H line.]


Justice Served David Justice announced
2003-02-06 15:05
by Mike Carminati

Justice Served

David Justice announced his retirement today.

Justice had announced during the season that he would retire if the A's won the World Series. After the A's lost in the playoffs, he still spoke as if he were retiring, but then backed off.

Justice had been a free agent this offseason and had wanted to return to the A's. He had received a $1 M offer from the Angels and some overtures from the Red Sox, but evidently found them wanting. His agent had said back in November that Justice was only returning for the right situation. I guess he didn't find that.

Justice was still a valuable player last year at age 36. How will Justice be remembered? With a .279 career average, 305 dingers, 1017 RBI, a .378 OBP, and a .500 slugging percentage, he was a nice ballplayer. He also has an OPS that was 28% better than the adjusted league average, was the rookie of the year, and played in 21 postseason series for 4 different clubs. Ultimately though, he falls comfortably short of being a Hall-of-Famer. He had just two All-Star apperances, broke the top-10 in MVP voting just twice, never lead his league in any major statistical category, and falls short on Bill James Hall measures.

Here are his top-10 most similar batters (thanks to Baseball-Reference.com):

Rudy York (915)
Larry Doby (914) *
Greg Luzinski (912)
Kent Hrbek (911)
Darryl Strawberry (908)
Tim Salmon (908)
Tino Martinez (907)
Roy Sievers (906)
Vic Wertz (900)
Mo Vaughn (900)
* indicates a Hall-of-Famer

That group is full of very good but non-Hall-worthy corner outfielders and first baseman. Dolby is the only misfit: he is a center fielder and the only one ih the Hall. Some would say that his choice was a mistake and others would say that he was aided by being among the first to break through the color line as a player and a manager. Whatever your opinion of Dolby's enshrinement, he doesn't help Justice's case much anyway.


The Stark Twilight, III First,
2003-02-06 13:34
by Mike Carminati

The Stark Twilight, III

First, the Elephants in Oakland boys have some high-larious comments on Jayson Stark at their site.

Second, my blog papa, David Pinto, posted a link to my Stark review of Jayson Stark's "rule changes" and received two emails regarding the issue. I sent him the email below regarding those emails:

I'm sorry to use you as a middleman, but I noticed the email from your readers re. my Stark comments and just wanted to pass on some thoughts. First to Daniel Shamah:

- First, David's comment re. the STATS research on pickoffs is very interesting. I was not aware of the study, but the results were not surprising. Even if you have a tremendous move to first like Pettitte or Carlton, you usually won't pick someone off without the element of surprise, which is lost after the first attempt. The first attempt usually moves the runner back to first as much as he is going to go. After that a good stare down at first seems as effective as a throw. And additional throws have negative byproducts: errant throws, wear on the pitcher's arm, the runner getting additional attempts to decipher the move, and the pitcher's focus shifting from the batter to the runner to the detriment of the next AB from the defense's point of view.

Most successful pitchers already know this. Some had to learn it the hard way, which they may not have been able to do if the choice was made for them to begin with by a rule. They would never learn to shift their attention to the hitter and wouldn't, perhaps, be as successful as they could be. Maybe I'm overstating it, but I think eliminating choices basically is detrimental to a player's development since he doesn't learn why the choice is a bad one.

- What would the penalty be? An automatic ball? A balk? Is a balk more exciting than a pickoff attempt? Does it get refreshed after each batter or is dependent on the runner? Do the used pickoffs follow the runner as he moves around the diamond or are the refreshed when the runner occupies a new base? Won't that get confusing especially if there is more than one man on base? What happens if you replace the pitcher? Does he inherit the pickoff totals from the previous pitcher? Could this increase the number of pitching changes, thereby slowing down games more?

- Is the play dead when the fourth pickoff is attempted? What if the pitcher throws the ball away or another runner steals a base, like home? Is the offense given the option to pick? What if the runner interferes with the play, is he excused?

- Will it be effective? The pitcher will not throw the fourth time, but he will still be preoccupied with the runner. He will stare over there, maybe stomp around the mound more, maybe he'll throw to second--or will that count against him as well? I would think that pitchouts after the third pickoff attempt would become de rigueur. Is that what we want?

One unexpected result could be a decrease in scoring. The first baseman will no longer hold the runner after the third pickoff attempt-what's the point. And he will move back to his normal defensive position. This may make the hit and run a little more difficult, especially if there is a left-hander at bat.

- Could it increase the number of pickoff attempts overall? This is maybe a bit nutty, but it is my experience that when you establish a threshold, it is only human nature to come as close as you can without exceeding it. At my first job, each person was entitled to as many sick days as was reasonable without a hard cap. It wasn't an issue for most people. One person was absent often, so the company, instead of dealing with that individual, capped everyone at 10 days a year. After that the number of sick days throughout the company went up as everyone became preoccupied with using up this new bounty before the end of the year.

Maybe they are not analogous, but I think that while limiting the number of pickoff attempts per runner, this rule may increase the number of pickoff attempts per pitcher. A pitcher who tries a lot of pickoffs is basically one who has difficulty balancing his attention between the runner and the batter. If you add the three-pickoff limit to the mix, his concentration would have to be affected. Maybe he'll try to get rid of those pickoff attempts more quickly so that he can then concentrate on the batter and forget about the runner. Just an idea.

- I think the basketball analogy is a poor one because of the inherit defensives between the sports. The 24-second clock was added to speed up the offenses and to ensure that the ball changes hands on a regular basis. The pickoff rule doesn't affect the offenses, just defenses. It may speed up the defense though. The three-point line was added to a) enable more excitement via more scoring and quicker comebacks and b) spread defenses. The pickoff rule wouldn't do either of those things.

These artifices needed to be added to basketball because it is basically an inferior sport to baseball. Baseball doesn't need gimmicks. Actually, the impetus for most rules is to eliminate gimmickry in the sport. An infielder lets an infield fly drop to get an easy double play? Let's eliminate that loophole. A batter bunts foul pitches he does not like until he gets one he does? Let's limit it to three attempts. Runners at third score on high flyouts? Let's make sure that they cannot leave the base until the ball is caught. These gimmicks all provided unfair advantages to teams. Throwing 10 pickoff attempts to first does not usually provide a team with any advantage. Managers and pitching coaches just have to provide more guidance to those individuals.

Next, to Tim Schultz:

I. Let's worry about it when it does actually become a problem. Right now the 2002 numbers are below the historical average. That closes the case on a change as far as I'm concerned.

II. The proposed rule is interesting, but it is basically a gimmick and see my point above about gimmickry in baseball. Then again maybe one can argue that the IBB is a gimmick.

There are still holes in it though. For instance, do the walks carry over to the next pitcher? If not, then you are going to see even more pitching changes. Even if they do get carried, you are going to see quicker hooks when a pitcher starts to falter in order to avoid the two-base walk. You'll see more faltering pitchers grooving pitches for fear of the two-base walk.

Can you still pitchout or is any pitch on which the catcher steps outside illegal? If not what prevents you from giving someone a free pass on 3-1?

How does the veto work? Does the count go back to 0-0 or does the last ball just not count (so 3-0)?

How jittery is a young pitcher going to be when he goes 3-0, 2-0, or even 1-0? He's going to try to ensure he gets one over the plate as early in the count as he can to get that monkey off his back. What does that mean? More meatball pitches early in the count and more early exists for pitchers.

How does this throw a wrench in the works: Instead of an intentional walk, what if you just plunked the batter on the rear? This may happen if the count is 3-0 and even though the pitcher hadn't meant to walk the batter would rather put him on than either give him two bases with another three balls or nice opportunity to hit with a big meaty strike.



Hirshbeck to Where You Once
2003-02-06 13:13
by Mike Carminati

Hirshbeck to Where You Once Belonged

It's hard to believe it today, but umpires once were men who had to cower for their lives if they made a call that displeased the local patron. It's hard to believe because umpires today are all full of swaggering bravado and vinegar.

First, they resign en masse as some sort of strike. That fails and their union has to regroup. Next they try to take on the employers for being evaluated via a computerized (and inherently flawed) system. Now, they are getting personal. Bruce Froemming says an epithet that would call for any normal person's dismissal but gets a slap on the wrist in the form of a ten-day suspension. Oh, and he can't go to Japan. But he's sorry and can provide the crocodile tears upon request, be it upon his dismissal from Dodger camp or at your kid's party.

Now, John Hirschbeck has been likewise suspended for "inappropriate language" in a phone conversation with baseball exec Rob Manfred. Maybe it was Swahili?

Hirschbeck, you will recall, was the receiving end of the Roberto Alomar spitting episode back on September 27, 1997. Maybe Alomar's claims that Hirschbeck said some untoward comments are now a little more credible, not that they were deserving of Alomar's peculiar anointing ritual though. You'll also recall that Alomar said, "I used to respect him a lot. He had problems with his family when his son died-I know that's something real tough in life-but after that he just changed, personality-wise. He just got real bitter." This caused Hirschbeck to storm into the O's locker room until he was restrained. Hirschbeck drew no censure on that occasion.

It is gratifying that major-league baseball sees yelling at someone in the office as analogous to making racist and sexist remarks that are recorded and leaked to the press. Why else would they have handed down the same reprimand for each man? It's nice to see that the men who rule the game have not evolved very far from Al Campanis even though it's more than 15 years since his historic remarks regarding African-Americans lacking the "necessities" to manage. It makes them all the easier to dislike in my anti-establishment world. Hey, at least they didn't spit at Hirschbeck.


Dunn For? MLB.com reports that
2003-02-05 15:58
by Mike Carminati

Dunn For?

MLB.com reports that baseball's answer to the Algonquin Round Table, Bob Boone, is toying with moving Adam Dunn to the lead off spot. I am actually surprised that Boone could be that creative. Gene Mauch and Brian Downing would be proud.

But can having your young, power-hitting corner outfielder-that hit .249 last year by the way-lead off be a good thing? Well, Dunn did have a .400 OBP and 128 walks last year. He also seems to have good speed for a big (6'6" 240 lbs.) man. He stole 19 bases in 2002 and has shown good range for a corner outfielder. His stolen base success rate though not bad, was nothing special, however (67%). Besides, as reams of statistical evidence has shown, who leads off is not as important a decision as one would think.

The point though is that the Reds have no other viable candidate to lead off. Here's the estimable Booney:

"I don't know if I'm really serious about it," Boone said Tuesday. "It (batting Dunn leadoff) is certainly not my first choice. Dunn's a middle-of-the-lineup hitter. But (leadoff) is the one place where we're pretty thin. Hopefully Lark [Barry Larkin]will be there. But if Lark's (injured), or if (projected backup shortstop Felipe) Lopez were playing, we don't really have a get-on-base guy."

Dunn is not fazed:

"I don't think it's that big of a deal, really," said Dunn, who said he spent time at leadoff in each of his final three seasons at New Caney (Texas) High School.

Tom Glavine was a leadoff hitter in high school. What does that mean?

Actually, the Reds on-base percentage last year was second to last in the majors at .293 (KC's was .276-ouch!). They also batted .241, 28th in the majors (in front of Texas, .237, and KC, .211, really). The Reds leadoff men had only 51 walks and scored only 92 runs in 2002. So they can only get better even with a mule leading off.

For the record, Barry Larkin had a .305 on-base percentage in 2002, down from .373 in 2001. He used to be a fine leadoff option but at 39 will his 2003 season reflect his historical performance or his 2002 performance? I think the odds are good that he will continue his slump. At least I wouldn't bank on a comeback if I were the Reds.

Also, Felipe Lopez in 459 at-bats spread over two seasons has a .293 on-base percentage.

The best option would have been to use 2002 second baseman Todd Walker and his consistent .350 OBP to lead off. Unfortunately, the Reds traded Walker to the Red Sox for prospects in order to move Bob Boone's son Aaron from third base to second and to put 26-year-old rookie Brandon Larson in the lineup at the hot corner. Larson had a .362 OBP in a short stint last year, so maybe he'll be used to lead off after Boone becomes disenchanted with Dunn. Perhaps trading Boone fils would have made more sense given that there is no way that he will re-create his 32 steals and 26 home runs. He has also only played two games at second in his major-league career. But you don't trade the manger's son. It's just not done, darling.

Without Walker, the Reds infield looks pretty homogeneously poor. They have a number-eight hitter at first and short, an untried rookie at third, and a player at second who even with a career year had only a .753 OPS. Throw in a catcher whose hitting is nothing special, and you have some problems.

At least having Dunn lead off will create some freak show-type interest in their offense. Maybe Reggie Taylor or Ruben Mateo will be the answer to the leadoff question when one of them inevitably replaces the fragile Ken Griffey in the lineup sometime before Memorial Day. That'll be an exiting team to watch.


The Stark Twilight, II By
2003-02-05 14:36
by Mike Carminati

The Stark Twilight, II

By the way, here are the current results for the ESPN poll reflecting Stark's rule changes. Note that the top two, the only ones supported by over 50% of voters, are not rule changes. And this is a poll in which 40% of those polled bothered to vote for banning thunderstix. Even 6.7% voted for the blue-skying designated fielder.

What about Charlie O. Finley's orange balls (excuse me?) and designated runner?

Which of the following MLB rule changes would you support?

67.5% Making batters stay in the batter's box
61.3% Disallowing the 'phantom tag'
50.0% Instituting instant replay for some calls
42.8% Shrinking the September roster to 30 (instead of 40)
40.2% Banning 'Thunder Stix'
38.4% Limiting managers and coaches to five mound visits per game
29.0% Getting rid of the 'runner's box' on the first-base line
28.6% Allowing only three pickoff attempts per runner
12.5% Eliminating the out-of-the-baseline rule
6.7% Adding a 'designated fielder' (who doesn't bat)


The Stark Twilight I rejoice
2003-02-05 01:20
by Mike Carminati

The Stark Twilight

I rejoice that there are owls.... They represent the stark twilight and unsatisfied thoughts which all have.

- Thoreau (Really)

Sometimes you write something, publish it in some form or another, and wish you could take it back, just take a mulligan. Heck, I do it all the time. The usually enjoyable Jason Stark is probably feeling like that just about now.

His latest stab or stabs over at ESPN are about how to change the intentional walk rule followed by his top-25 "rule changes". I have rule changes in quotes because a number of his changes aren't changes at all, but I digress.

First, to his main argument regarding the intentional walk. He has three solutions:

1. One intentional walk per player per game
2. On an intentional walk, every runner gets to move up a base
3. The hitter can decline the intentional walk

I have to start by saying that I disagree that intentional walks are causing a problem. I wondered who was right about that. Here's a table of the percentage of intentional walks per plate appearance and per total walks since they started recording intentional walks in 1955:

yearID	IBB/TPA	IBB/BB
1955	0.84%	7.98%
1956	0.91%	8.70%
1957	0.85%	9.06%
1958	0.79%	8.35%
1959	0.82%	8.64%
1960	0.84%	8.70%
1961	0.73%	7.40%
1962	0.72%	7.48%
1963	0.83%	9.73%
1964	0.90%	10.55%
1965	1.00%	11.26%
1966	0.97%	11.66%
1967	1.15%	13.40%
1968	1.10%	13.36%
1969	1.07%	10.69%
1970	1.08%	10.67%
1971	1.04%	11.14%
1972	1.07%	11.75%
1973	1.00%	10.36%
1974	1.00%	10.44%
1975	0.99%	9.98%
1976	0.86%	9.33%
1977	0.88%	9.43%
1978	0.92%	9.86%
1979	0.93%	10.04%
1980	0.97%	10.88%
1981	0.92%	10.09%
1982	0.89%	9.92%
1983	0.94%	10.20%
1984	0.86%	9.53%
1985	0.91%	9.66%
1986	0.88%	9.06%
1987	0.87%	8.94%
1988	0.93%	10.53%
1989	0.99%	10.69%
1990	0.95%	9.99%
1991	0.84%	8.78%
1992	0.90%	9.61%
1993	0.93%	9.77%
1994	0.89%	9.06%
1995	0.78%	7.76%
1996	0.83%	8.33%
1997	0.73%	7.46%
1998	0.62%	6.49%
1999	0.64%	6.18%
2000	0.70%	6.63%
2001	0.81%	8.75%
2002	0.85%	8.94%
Average	0.89%	9.53%

The 2002 figures were lower than the historical average. They are higher than they had been since the early Nineties, but much lower than the late Sixties and early Seventies. I think we can state that the game itself doesn't have a problem.

So who's the problem? Barry Bonds, of course. Or perhaps it's the men pitching to Bonds. What am I, a knucklehead? It was evident in the World Series. Well, I have to agree with Sandy Alderson, I liked the Series:

"First of all," Alderson said, "I don't totally agree that those intentional walks (in the World Series) created some kind of black hole of excitement. As I was watching those games, to me, there was a lot going on.

"You were always thinking about what happened with (Kenny) Lofton, what happened with (Rich) Aurilia and (Jeff) Kent, about what was going on ahead of Bonds. Obviously, it deprived people of the opportunity to see Bonds swing the bat. On the other hand, it created a lot of interesting strategic considerations, which I think most baseball fans would appreciate."

I am still not convinced that walking Bonds the way that teams did this year didn't help the Giants more than it hurt them. I know Bonds' scoring percentage after a free pass was abysmal, but I just have to believe that the additional burden wore down the opposing pitching over time. But since I don't really have a way to test that theory just yet, on to bigger and better things.

If the Go-To-First-Free cards that Bonds is continually collecting really constitute a problem, so what? Bonds is, and this is empirically provable, quite a unique individual. One could argue that his like only comes around every 50 years or so. Are we going to alter the rules so drastically over one guy? I think not.

However, if we do alter the rules, this aint the way to do it. All three points are obviated by the point that Tony LaRussa makes quite clear:

"The biggest hole in that one," La Russa said, "is, you can walk a guy intentionally in an unintentional way. Just have the catcher sit out there and throw four sinkers in the dirt."

Of course, instead of real intentional walks, we'll have unintentional intentional walks. We have 'em now as it is. What will be the result? There'll be some more passed balls, some more wild pitches, and a few more hits due to balls that tail near the strike zone. How does that improve the game?

As for his third option, to not accept an intentional walk, players can do it now. They just get put out. From the rule book:

PUTOUTS
10.10
(a) Automatic putouts shall be credited to the catcher as follows:
(6) When the batter is called out for refusing to touch first base after receiving a base on balls;

At least the good readers at ESPN have been able to see through this bluster. 64% of them voted in the ESPN poll to keep the rule as it is.

As for the rest of Stark's rule changes, they reflect the population he polled-baseball people with axes to grind:

1. Use instant replay

OK, fine, but it would have to be on certain plays. You would have to get the players' and the umpires' union to agree-good luck. Also, baseball complains about game length now, what would this do to things? How about just having extra umpires on the right and left field lines like in the playoffs?

2. Stay in the box

This is annoying, but do we need to have umps watching where the batter's feet are? The box is obliterated after the first inning anyway.

Just tell the umps to be less lenient in giving time-outs. By the way, it's already in the record book:

6.02
(a) The batter shall take his position in the batter's box promptly when it is his time at bat. (b) The batter shall not leave his position in the batter's box after the pitcher comes to Set Position, or starts his windup. PENALTY: If the pitcher pitches, the umpire shall call "Ball" or "Strike," as the case may be. The batter leaves the batter's box at the risk of having a strike delivered and called, unless he requests the umpire to call "Time." The batter is not at liberty to step in and out of the batter's box at will. Once a batter has taken his position in the batter's box, he shall not be permitted to step out of the batter's box in order to use the resin or the pine tar rag, unless there is a delay in the game action or, in the judgment of the umpires, weather conditions warrant an exception. Umpires will not call "Time" at the request of the batter or any member of his team once the pitcher has started his windup or has come to a set position even though the batter claims "dust in his eyes," "steamed glasses," "didn't get the sign" or for any other cause. Umpires may grant a hitter's request for "Time" once he is in the batter's box, but the umpire should eliminate hitters walking out of the batter's box without reason. If umpires are not lenient, batters will understand that they are in the batter's box and they must remain there until the ball is pitched. If pitcher delays once the batter is in his box and the umpire feels that the delay is not justified he may allow the batter to step out of the box momentarily. If after the pitcher starts his windup or comes to a "set position" with a runner on, he does not go through with his pitch because the batter has stepped out of the box, it shall not be called a balk. Both the pitcher and batter have violated a rule and the umpire shall call time and both the batter and pitcher start over from "scratch." (c) If the batter refuses to take his position in the batter's box during his time at bat, the umpire shall order the pitcher to pitch, and shall call "Strike" on each such pitch. The batter may take his proper position after any such pitch, and the regular ball and strike count shall continue, but if he does not take his proper position before three strikes are called, he shall be declared out.

3. Establish visiting hours

There are already rules regarding the number of trips to the mound per batter per pitcher per inning. When the rule was written, of course, the number of relief pitchers per game was a bit lower, but is it that big a deal? If baseball wants to shorten games, why not specify the amount of time that the manager/coach has to convey his thoughts to the pitcher and start the clock from the time that he steps out of the dugout to get rid of the slow walk to get the reliever a few extra tosses in the pen. A better way to shorten games would be to take shorter commercial breaks between innings, but no one in baseball would suggest that.

4. Toughen up the save rule

The save rule is a bit outdated. What closers pitch three innings now? Why is holding a three-run lead deserving of a save? As many have pointed out, games sometimes need saving in the seventh inning, so why is only the man who finishes the game eligible for a save?

There are some issues with the save rule, but one must keep in mind that there are a number of records that would have to refigured; otherwise, the new "save" would have no context, and if that were the case why have the stat at all? Also, relief pitching is constantly changing. Are we prepared to rewrite the record books as well as the encyclopedias every 20 years or so? Why not base it on research by Bill James-reward only relievers who come in with the score tied or a one-run lead? Why not add the concept of a hold (as an official stat), which has more relevance all the time? Also, he mentions messing with what constitutes a win for a reliever: "And relievers shouldn't get a win if they blow a save." Actually there is a provision in the rules for this already:

WINNING AND LOSING PITCHER
10.19 (c) When the starting pitcher cannot be credited with the victory because of the provisions of 10.19 (a) or (b) and more than one relief pitcher is used, the victory shall be awarded on the following basis: (4) The winning relief pitcher shall be the one who is the pitcher of record when his team assumes the lead and maintains it to the finish of the game. EXCEPTION: Do not credit a victory to a relief pitcher who is ineffective in a brief appearance, when a succeeding relief pitcher pitches effectively in helping his team maintain the lead. In such cases, credit the succeeding relief pitcher with the victory

One last note, this was obviously raised by a GM or GMs, who are sick of overpaying for 30-save guys who subsequently underperform. My answer to this is, "Do your homework!" Don't sign Antonio Alfonseca and Kelvim Escobar to huge contracts because the have big save totals to go along with their big ERAs.

5. Ban the fake-to-third, throw-to-first move

This is a rather specific situation. It only relates to runners at first and third. There were 5782 such plate appearances last year out of the 186,553 recorded in 2002. That's about 3%. That scenario only came up in about two-third of all games played.

And was it an issue in those games? The stolen base success rate was 79.23% in those scenarios in 2002. It was 68.20% in all situations. That's about a 10% improvement. Also, the average OPS in those situations was .819 as opposed to the major-league average in all situations, .745. Also, grounded-into-double play rates went up in those situations from 2.06% to 5.98%.

This is a non-issue.

6. Three pickoffs and you're done
7. Five for fighting
8. It takes two

Do we really need to legislate away bad decision-making?

(6) I believe it was Bob Gibson who said that the best pickoff move is the one that's never (or rarely) seen. Excessive pickoff attempts are a sign of a faltering pitcher and usually just add to the wear on his arm. There is no way to say with any degree of authority since pickoff attempts are not recorded and successful pickoffs appear as caught stealing, but I would think that throwing to first more than a couple of times is a bad idea. The runner gets to see more of your move and, I believe, is usually more successful because of it. Let the pitcher learn from his mistakes.

(7 & 8) Managers will inexplicably go to their second left-handed setup man to face one lefty bat even though left-handers bat .342 against him and better pitchers (usually the closer for one) are available. How many times did we see this last year even in the playoffs with good bullpens? Let the good managers figure this one out. Or let organizations develop enough talent to accommodate the strategy. Either way it will take time, years, to change. Why take a snapshot at developing strategy and try to shore up its shortcomings before it has reached a maturity level.

My questions are: What are the penalties if you break these "rules"? Umpires can't call balls and strikes yet and you want them to count pickoff attempts?

9. Let's not see you in September

I've discussed this one before. Oh, GM sounding board thy name is Gammons. It's just impractical. What are you going to do, limit all clubs to 30 players? Why can't struggling teams try out new talent in September to assess their offseason needs? If you have difficulty identifying the Tigers, at least you get to see different sucky players. I know it's irksome when it affects a pennant race, but you can't give non-playoff teams an unfair advantage. How do you even identify the non-playoff contenders? I know GMs get made because of a Francisco Rodriguez-type who may affect a race (my archetype is Marty Bystrom in 1980), but he really is just sour-graping the teams with more depth in the minors that they are competing against.

10. Unify the numbers

Who cares? Basically, this hadn't been much of a problem until Mark McGwire in 1997. Last year, Colon, under unusual circumstances, won 20 games but wasn't credited with the feat. Anyone actually concerned with the stats can see through league-boundaries. Also, this isn't really a rule, more an accounting thing.

11. Waive the waiver system

Again not a rule, more a procedure. OK, it makes sense given the drift against league schisms in the majors. But basically, who cares?

12. Erase the runner's box

Here's the offending rule:

6.05
A batter is out when ; (k) In running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, he runs outside (to the right of) the three foot line, or inside (to the left of) the foul line, and in the umpire's judgment in so doing interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base; except that he may run outside (to the right of) the three foot line or inside (to the left of) the foul line to avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball;

Basically, it is designed to prevent the batter/runner from evading a tag from the first baseman after he fields a ball. It's just a line, a guide. It's still the umpire's call, just as Stark wants it to be. Obviously right-handed batters have a slight disadvantage since the start out on the opposite of the diamond. What does Glanville want to be able to do, run in the dirt in fair territory on bunt attempts? C'mon, he knows better than that-he went to Penn.

13. Define the true meaning of sacrifice
"So why wouldn't they have the discretion to give "sacs" to guys who obviously are hitting a ball to the right side to advance a runner?" Because it will mess up the historical record, that's why. Is Andy Fox prepared to go back through history and record the new sacs? Add a new official stat called Moved Runner as a catch-all for these sorts of things. It could be interesting. Get rid of the meaningless sac fly if they want. But don't make a ground ball to the right side a non-AB.

14. Dump the designated pinch-runner

Again some GM with a short bench and manager who cannot manage is grinding an axe. How many times does this come up in a game? It has to be in the late innings with a close score. If a manager can save players for this strategy and win, more power to him. It seems that Stark wants to bleed all strategy out of the game and replace it with gimmicks and pickoff counts.

15. But add the designated fielder

Only in bizarro world can 15 follow 14. Stark says in 14, "One-dimensional hitters: bad. That's our motto." But why are one-dimensional fielders good? This is some allegedly tradition-laden approach to the game that overvalues Phil Rizzuto and Ozzie Smith. Yes, they were great but not have as good as, say, Cal Ripken because he could hit. Besides how can you have one man cover all eight defensive positions? Are they cloning Bert Campaneris? Isn't this just another guy on your bench, be it Alex Ochoa or Jerry Martin? It sounds like the same GM in 14 complaining that he has to waste a roster spot on a defensive player when he has no offensive bench.

16. Ban all body armor

Again, this isn't really a rule change, and again is another thing umpires have to monitor. How about each player carries a doctor's note to bat? Leave it up to the trainer/team physician. Just make the batter stand in the batter's box and it's irrelevant.

17. Invent the "team" error

No, it's someone's play. He just didn't make it. The rule doesn't even have to be changed to accommodate this:

ERRORS
10.13
NOTE (2) It is not necessary that the fielder touch the ball to be charged with an error. If a ground ball goes through a fielder's legs or a pop fly falls untouched and in the scorer's judgment the fielder could have handled the ball with ordinary effort, an error shall be charged.

Just have the official scorers call such misplays an error on the player concerned. Of course, you can't blame the defense if a Texas-Leaguer finds a seam. There also are gap hits that would be easy flyouts if hit to someone.

18. Enforce the batter's box

At least he admits that this is not a rule change. Just tell the umps to call it. They could add a rule that states that any batter trying to rub out the lines will get a strike called. That would help keep the lines in shape for the entire game not just for the leadoff hitter.

19. The phantom must go

Here we go again:

7.08
Any runner is out when_ (a) (1) He runs more than three feet away from a direct line between bases to avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball;

b) He intentionally interferes with a thrown ball; or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball; A runner who is adjudged to have hindered a fielder who is attempting to make a play on a batted ball is out whether it was intentional or not. If, however, the runner has contact with a legally occupied base when he hinders the fielder, he shall not be called out unless, in the umpire's judgment, such hindrance, whether it occurs on fair or foul territory, is intentional. If the umpire declares the hindrance intentional, the following penalty shall apply: With less than two out, the umpire shall declare both the runner and batter out.

Call the batter out when a runner at second goes two feet to the right of second to interfere with the relay throw and you'll get rid of the so-called "phantom" tag.

20. No more Saturday night games

Again this is not a rule change. Besides what about we adult fans who want to see a game on a Saturday night? How about bringing back the old double-header to accommodate us both?

FIVE MORE FOR FUN

21. No more out-of-the-baseline rule

How about making the dizzy bat contest count in the standings? It's just crazy enough to work.

22. Farm out the Brewers

A) Fix that loophole in the next CBA. B) What is Stark smoking? Aside from the impracticability (are they affiliated with the new major league team? What about the prospects on that new major league team-does the old major-league affiliate forego compensation for them? Do we want Durham in the majors? What about rebuilding teams-do they have now to worry about holding on to enough aging stiffs in order to not finish last in the majors, thereby delaying their prospects' growth? Is the team with the worst record always the worst? What about ones from tough divisions? What about ties? Etc.), how about the history. Besides didn't they do this in Major League III? Maybe the majors should hire Ted McGinley and really "jump the shark".

23. No win, no welfare

I'm tired. Just fix the CBA.

24. Get the fans in the game -- literally
Aside from the potential Gamboa-like security issues, which are big, what do you do with fair balls in the corners that fans grab. Make'em all ground-rule doubles? Homers? How long do we need to lionize Jeffrey Maier?

25. Ban Thunder Stix

How does this follow legalizing fan interference? I dislike thinderstix, the chop, the wave, and basically anything fun at the game, too. But most fans seem to like it and who's going to enforce that one anyway?

To sum up, Jayson needs to read the rules before trying to change them. And Doug Melvin, who is clamoring to be the next Tony LaRussa, needs a hobby. The one actual rule change that I would push for, and this is a GM rule, not an in-game rule, would be to close the loophole that allows Triple-A players (e.g., Francisco Rodriguez) on a team's playoff roster to replace a player hurt since spring training. Enforce the real rules first, then we can talk about changing them.


McClatchy Tune, But You Can't
2003-02-04 16:10
by Mike Carminati

McClatchy Tune, But You Can't Dance To It, II

The MLB site has an article that is purportedly "not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs." But it does closely mirror the spirit of Kevin McClatchy's sentiments. Maybe he's just a big fan of the site.

The article does contain the one valid argument that I've heard/thought of against the existence of collusion:

"If collusion is afoot, somebody forgot to tell, for instance, the Yankees, the Mets, the Phillies. They haven't been colluding very well, what with those hefty free agent signings. Your basic collusion generally requires 100% participation to work. Partial collusion would not be a particularly viable, even scary, course of action. "

There are caveats even here. The Philles are moving into a new stadium in a year and have grossly neglected their team for years. Perhaps they were given a one-year pass. The Mets have cut some high-salaried players and are trying to cut still more, but are also competing with the Yankees. Given the dislike that the Selig loyalists have for George Steinbrenner, the Yankees could have been kept out of the loop in order for the others to exploit them come welfare time.

I'm not making excuses to promulgate the existence of collusion as if I have conclusive proof. I'm just saying that scenarios can be constructed to explain these apparent outliers. It makes the whole collusion thing more complicated, but given the surreptitious nature of these alleged machinations, it is not entirely impossible.


McClatchy Tune, But You Can't
2003-02-04 15:00
by Mike Carminati

McClatchy Tune, But You Can't Dance To It

ESPN reports that Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy has another solution for the low offers to free agents. It's not collusion but rather the slow economy that is affecting the proposals from almost all major-league clubs.

"It's the economy,'' McClatchy told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Money is tight. Teams are no different than any other business. Look at the challenges the NHL is facing right now (with the bankrupt Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres). We need to watch our bottom line in order to be able to continue to operate and be successful. In the long run, that's in everyone's best interest -- including the players.''"

He does, however, acknowledge that collusion occurred, the first such admission by an owner ever:

"No, unequivocally no. That happened several years ago, before I came on board. I'm sure everyone learned their lesson,'' McClatchy said.

Though he recanted later:

"I never said there was collusion,'' McClatchy said. "I wasn't involved in the game then and I can't talk about it. I'm not a lawyer. I have no idea what was going on then.''

Whatever, we don't need an admission on the owners' parts. Collusion not only occurred in the mid-1980s; owners colluded for about 60 years to bar African-Americans from the game even though the teams could have improved their prospects by signing black players.

But that's the past. The question is whether collusion is happening now. As far as the national economy's effect on the sport's economy, I don't buy it. The sport has tripled revenues in the last decade according to MLB's own Blue Ribbon Panel. Yes, that was a few years ago, but baseball profits don't dry up over night. Attendance was slightly down, but the T.V. and cable money were still there. Look at the Dodgers more than doubling their worth in less than 5 years.

This is about power. The owners won major concessions in the last collective bargaining agreement, and they smell blood. The owners have stadiums thrown at them. They have a devoted group of consumers. Payroll is the only cost they cannot control-at least it was until now. The owners are non-tendoring arbitration-eligible players to drive down their value. They low-ball free agents. They offer young players almost exclusively one-year contracts. And often these are players that they are interested in.

The non-tendors are especially difficult to reconcile. They are players that the original teams cannot re-sign until May 1. Basically, they cause a glut on the free agent market, further driving down prices. The original clubs do gain some benefit from the residual downturn in salaries, but they are basically cutting loose a good number of young, somewhat valuable players en masse. Who benefits from this? The rest of the owners. He non-tendors make a good circumstantial argument for the existence of collusion. It seems a convenient way to avoid the dreaded arbitration process.

With McClatchy's awkward collusion non-admission, MLB may have to extend its nefarious labor gag rule to statements related to collusion. If collusion exists, one of them is going to inadvertently kill off their newfound golden goose, otherwise. If collusion is not being used, one couldn't tell from their poorly worded, facile but demonstrably illogical excuses.


"As though a rose should
2003-02-04 14:05
by Mike Carminati

"As though a rose should shut, and be a bud again"

[From The Eve of St. Agnes, John Keats]

The New York Times reports that the prospects for Pete Rose's reinstatement bid has changed dramatically in the past couple of weeks.

"It has slowed down to nothing," the official said. "Rose keeps shooting himself in the foot, no, the heart. There's so much stuff coming out. Everything is being thoroughly reviewed."

The shot to the heart that the unnamed official is referring to are his 1998 tax issues and recent appearances at casinos. As I said earlier, neither of these issues have anything to do with baseball nor are they in any way illegal or nefarious though Rose likely will lose his residence in California to pay the taxes.

The source indicated that not only has the process slowed down, but the expected probationary period will likely grow to probably 2 years:

"He [Selig] would want to see what comes out. That's why if a deal is made-and right now it's a big, big if - Rose would be on probation for a lot longer than a year."

According to the Times, another unnamed baseball official "said baseball was trying to verify comments or behavior that would belie Rose's reported change in lifestyle" since reconfiguring his life style was part of Bart Giamatti's laundry list of items needed to reinstate Rose.

Of course, two old familiars have to weigh in on the case: Fay Vincent, whose raison d'etre since being summarily dismissed as commissioner has been to be burr in MLB's saddle, and John Dowd, the man whose reputation to a certain degree hinges on the validity of the case against Rose,

"He [baseball investigator Martin Weinstein] came here and spent a lot of time," Vincent said of Weinstein in a telephone interview. "He spent a fair amount of time with John [Dowd]. He told John, if anything, he came away convinced there was more evidence since he did the investigation and that it was clear that Rose bet on baseball."

Dowd said Weinstein "checked out the Dowd report and came to see us when he was done," adding in a telephone interview, "He had some minor questions but fully agreed with everything we came up with."

Well, what they had originally come up with wasn't sufficiently convincing. Why else would Giamatti have signed an agreement with Rose that stated that no finding could be found that he bet on baseball?

In addition to the Rose's taxes and legal gambling, Weinstein's investigation includes:

Less than two weeks after the Milwaukee meeting became known, The Dayton Daily News received a copy of a tape recording that was said to have been made in 1986 by a man described as a Dayton gambling kingpin with close ties to the Mafia. The conversation on the tape dealt with Rose's gambling debts.

Weinstein was also said to have recently interviewed Tommy Gioiosa, once a Rose roommate, who has previously told about Rose's betting and other illegal activity.

So more mis- and disinformation from various lowlifes. Why didn't they just hire Rockford or Starsky and Hutch?

I think that baseball has two fears:

1) "A major concern of Selig and his aides is that damaging information on Rose could emerge after his reinstatement."

2) "Baseball could see an inability to pay taxes as a potential problem for Rose, a reason for him to gamble to try to make more money."

I think the first point is dealing with two issues: Rose's conduct while a manager and player and Rose's conduct since being banned. They have had 13 years to review his conduct as a player and manager and have not been able to build on a circumstantial case. Rose's behavior since the ban is irrelevant. He cannot break any rules because he does not work in baseball. He can bet on baseball. He can bet on the Reds. He can owe back taxes. I'm sure certain peccadilloes will crop up after Rose's reinstatement, but nothing worse than the off-field behavior of many other players as well as many Hall-of-Famers. This point is just an expression of he nervousness that baseball has the luxury of expressing since they hold all the cards. Look at it this way, Mike Schmidt could kill a man in cold blood tomorrow and they will not kick him out of the Hall because it is unrelated to his on-field performance.

The second point has some validity. MLB should be worried that something or someone has his hooks in Rose, be it a bookie, the mafia, or just the gambling bug. If Rose did bet on the Reds, he could now feel completely absolved and therefore, above the law. If I ran a team, I wouldn't hire him as a manger, but not just because of the possibility of gambling affecting his decisions. I wouldn't hire him because he was a poor manager. This is a manger who, in 1986, inserted a 45-year-old first baseman with a .219 batting average and .270 slugging average into the lineup 237 times. He relied too heavily on aging veterans like Ron Oester. They were worried about gambling blurring his judgment? What about his judgment blurring his judgment? It's no surprise that the Reds won the World Series the year after Rose was removed from his managerial position when they finally let the kids play.

It seems that baseball will eventually reinstate Rose after he sufficiently cleans up his act, pays off his back taxes, and starts placing his legal bets through runners again. There are many who suggest that Rose be barred from holding any baseball-related position. This is patently ridiculous: you can't be a little bit reinstated just like you can't be a little bit pregnant. It's one or the other, unless they change the rules (again) just for Rose. If they bend the rules to put Rose in the Hall, that would be worse than barring him unfairly. As Bill James said, the Hall isn't the first place you look to place a rehabilitating player; it's the last. If he's fit for the Hall, then he's fit for anything.

Besides, not only do I think barring Rose is unfair, I think it's unnecessary. Any team stupid enough to employ Rose as manager deserves what they get. Hire him as a public relations guy (the fans seem to love him). Hire him as batting instructor. Hire him as a warning, a cautionary tale to the players. But do not ever put the day-to-day administration of your club in this man's hands again.


Margie Bargie She's back, and
2003-02-04 09:47
by Mike Carminati

Margie Bargie

She's back, and I, for one, missed her.

Former Cincinnati Red owner and well-known intellectual Marge Schott is suing the current Red ownership over her seats at their new stadium, the ambitiously named Great American Ball Park (at least it's better than the new Comiskey name). Evidently, the four-year-old deal ensured that the Cincinnati and the Reds would have to endure her presence at games indefinitely, no matter where they are played.

Schott's lawsuit says she had use of a private box at the Reds' old stadium, Cinergy Field, and 21 blue-level seats that were grouped together and near the playing field. But in the new ballpark, the seats allocated to Schott are scattered about the stadium and are at the back of the premium section.

The Reds say she is entitled to use of the owners' suite but is asking for benefits not included in the sale agreement. The team says the benefits would be greater than those afforded to any other Reds owner.


If It's Not Breaking News,
2003-02-03 20:49
by Mike Carminati

If It's Not Breaking News, Don't Fix It, II

The Phils announced that Burrell agreed to a 6-year, $50 M contract.

This is basically a mid-'90s Cleveland Indian-type signing, that teams seemed reluctant to do this offseason.

Meanwhile, ESPN vilified the Yankees for having a $164 M projected payroll for 2003. The Mets are a distant second at $119 M.

According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, any team with a 2003 payroll number exceeding the "threshold" of $117 million would pay 17.5 percent on the excess. As they stand now, the Mets would have to pay about $350,000 and the Yankees $8 million to $9 million.

So why spend the cash? Let's listen in:

"Winning and appealing to fans is where the money is," Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost told the Daily News. "We also are growing the next generation of fan with our approach."

"What we see with the Yankees is that there has been no change in priorities," a baseball official told the Daily News. "Certainly they talked about cutting payroll and ... there's no disputing they made an effort to. It was probably always their plan."

"But they still believe the best way to make money is to put fans in the seats with a winner on the field," the baseball official said. "There are things in place that would deter most teams from spending, but these guys won't let it compromise their first priority."

Hmmm. Fannies in seats? It sounds like a good idea to me. So why don't other teams try it?

"Really, how can you compete when somebody is spending 80 or 90 million more?" Hall of Famer George Brett told the Kansas City Star. "The only thing you can do is catch lightning in a bottle like Oakland or Minnesota. (The Royals) haven't caught lightning in a bottle."

Oh, the poor Royals. This is the team that signed Yankee castoff Chuck Knoblauch for 2 mil to patrol left field for them last season, really. They paid about $8 M for two deplorable years from Neifi Perez. They paid Robert Hernandez $12 M over two years to close out games when they only won 127 games in that span. This offseason, they lost the top two pitchers in their rotation and replaced them with Albie Lopez. The spend money, just not wisely.

But we're supposed to feel bad for the Royals. They can't compete. They're in the weakest division in baseball and still can't compete. Maybe in th past they didn;t have the baseball accumen to compete, and maybe now the point is not to compete but rather to cut salary so dramatically that your team gets to the front of the Yankee welfare line.

The Yankees and the Phillies have both been spending (and maybe over-spending) for talent this offseason. It's odd that those two teams would ever have the same team philosophy, but they do. I live between the two of them and am going to throw what few dollars I invest in the game their way this year. They deserve it.


Excuse Me, I Just Blurbed
2003-02-03 15:51
by Mike Carminati

Excuse Me, I Just Blurbed

Random and sundry from the world of the little white leathery orb:

MVP! MVP! MVP!

Miguel Tejada wants a new long-term contract with the A's. That's great-it's commendable when players want to stay with their team for an extended stay. But Tejada wants, well, I'll let him speak for himself:

``I want a contract for a lot of years; for eight or 10 years because I want to secure my future with the team for which I am going to play.''

Obviously, Migui has not been keeping up with his Baseball Weekly subscription (Yes, I know it's Sports Weekly, but I'm not calling Commiskey that silly name either). In my opinion Tejada is not such a singular talent that he can demand 10-year contracts. I would think that Billy Beane feels the same way. Perhaps this is a thinly veiled threat on Tejada's part to get himself traded. We'll just have to see how this one plays out.

Lower Eischen-lon

Joey Eischen signed an $800 K contract for 2003 with the Expos. Eischen was great in 2002, so it sounds like a great deal, right? Well, if Scott Stewart is the Expos' closer, then I think the Expos are wasting money on any other relief pitcher to whom the give more than the league minimum given the financial strictures that they are under. Also, Eischen will be 33 this season and probably just had his career year. Who really thinks that his 2002 season was for real? Why not trade him for a bunch of prospects that the Expos have traded away in the last year? Just a suggestion.

Angels in the Outfield

The Cardinals' fascination with ex-Angels continued as they signed outfielders Alex Ochoa and Orlando Palmeiro as free agents. The Cards also signed former-Angel and new Bruce Froemming buddy Al Levine this offseason.

The Angels meanwhile have lost one of their advantages this offseason, their deep bench. They are down to four outfielders (they did signed Eric Owens or it would be just the starters remaining). Meanwhile their bullpen has lost veterans Levine, Lou Pote, and Dennis Cook. With the presence of Francisco Rodriguez and Scott Schoeneweis in the pen for the entire year and the signing of Rich Rodriguez, it should bot be such a large issue.

But one has to wonder if the Angels' approach of standing pat in the best division in baseball is a wise one.

Big Bad Bucs?

Appropriately, the Pirates will have a Charlie Brown bobblehead doll giveaway.

The Pirates are also contemplating moving Brian Giles to center to solve their outfield problems:

``If we're going to go out and get somebody who can help us out and make us a better team, I'll move to center,'' Giles said. ``Like I said, center field is my most comfortable position and left field is probably my least comfortable.''

Especially in PNC Park, where a huge gap in left-center field gives Giles more ground to cover in left than center.

``Left field is bigger here than center field,'' Giles said. ``It might be better for me to move to center.''

Giles is not the greatest outfielder in the planet though he has played center in the past (he basically started there in 1999 and 2000, but his range seemed down last year and he played only 3 games in center). My first reaction is why mess around with your best player. But then I though that the payoff would be immense. Giles would easily be the best offensive center fielder in the majors (especially since Lance Berkman moved to left this offseason).

However, it seems like they are saying they need a center fielder in left and a left fielder in center. So I'm not sure how this resolves their problems-they still need a center fielder by that logic. Besides-and I am by no means an expert on PNC Park-how could this unique situation exist. PNC Park does not look that oddly shaped.



Yes, there is more space in left, but couldn't that be handled more easily by proper positioning rather than shifting players into less than optimal positions. Why not platoon free-agent Kenny Lofton and Adam Hyzdu and be done with it?


If It's Not Breaking News,
2003-02-03 15:07
by Mike Carminati

If It's Not Breaking News, Don't Fix It

The Phillies will announce tonight that Pat Burrell has signed a contract extension.


Closer, My God, To Thee
2003-02-03 12:56
by Mike Carminati

Closer, My God, To Thee

The offseason austerity plaguing MLB this offseason apparently has not affected the market price for closers. Kelvim Escobar of the Toronto Blue Jays re-signed over the weekend for $3.9 M, up from $2.525 M in 2002 (he had asked for $4.6 M in arbitration compared to the $3.5 M Blue Jay offer).

The only problem is that Kelvim Escobar wasn't much better than the average pitcher, let alone the average closer, in 2002. He had a 4.27 ERA (5% better than average), had a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) over 1.5 (!), had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of under 2 even though he struck out more than one man an inning (about 9.8 per 9 innings), and blew 8 of 46 save opportunities. Baseball Prospectus puts his season at only 0.6 adjusted runs prevented better than average. 2002 was also his first full year as a closer.

This comes in an offseason in which a number of fellow closers signed lucrative contracts as well: Ugueth Urbina ($4.5 M from the Rangers), Antonio Alfonseca ($4M from Cubs), and Billy Koch ($10.625 M over two years from the White Sox). The only loser in their ranks appears to be Roberto Hernandez who, after a sub-par year statistically comparable (if not superior) to Escobar's, had to settle for a setup role with Atlanta (at $600 K).

It should be noted that three of these five had ERAs over four and none had ERAs under three (Urbina's was 3.00). We're not talking about Hoyt Wilhelm here, and yet all signed to hefty paychecks while players at other position were left to pick up scraps. Apparently whatever machinations are or are not behind the salary decisions being made this offseason, the closer role has remained sacrosanct. Tightly clenched purse strings are made to open wide so that G.M.'s can inject next-to-meaningless save totals onto the roster. G.M.'s still come a-running for the fresh scent of saves.

I'm glad to see that teams are still capable of making outrageous offers even when their payrolls are cut to the bone. It warms my cold heart.


Collusion Redux in a Row
2003-02-03 12:03
by Mike Carminati

Collusion Redux in a Row

Over the weekend, Murray Chass wrote a very interesting piece on the history of collusion and how it affects baseball today.

Two quotes, especially, convey the parallels in MLB's approach in 1985 and today:

That [i.e., 1985-'86] winter [owners' chief labor lawyer Barry] Rona said, "To the best of my knowledge and information, there is no conspiracy, there are no rules, there are no bulletins, there are no regulations that exist that control the behavior of the clubs."

And

Responding to the new suggestions of collusion, Rob Manfred, the clubs' chief labor executive, noted last week that when the clubs had just negotiated a labor agreement "that clearly moves the economics in your direction, why would you collude that year?"

He added, "It makes no sense."

As Chass points out, circumstances were very similar in 1985: "The owners initiated Collusion I two months after negotiating a new agreement in which they gained a major concession from the players that raised eligibility for salary arbitration from two years to three."

Chass does a great job of leading the reader to water and then letting him decide if he wants to drink from the collusion rumors. Chass never states that he believes is an ongoing issue, but one cannot it read the piece without getting more than a hint of his opinion on the matter.

One last funny quote from Chass on the lemming-like nature of the owners:

According to a person present at a meeting of Baltimore officials in September 1986, Edward Bennett Williams, the Orioles' owner, said, "Do you think the commissioner would let us sign Lance Parrish?"


The Millar's Tale Kevin Millar
2003-02-03 11:41
by Mike Carminati

The Millar's Tale

Kevin Millar has suddenly become the popular kid at school, and instead of pursuing an exile to baseball's Elba, i.e. Japan, he is now hankering for a hunk of American dough according to ESPN. Apparently, what I thought was just a standard stalking on Theo Epstein's part is actually a mutual, deeply-felt hunger. If any person here knows of any lawful reason why this GM and player should not be joined together in marriage, let him now speak, or forever hold his peace. I now pronounce you...

Hold on a second. Those Montagues and Capulets, the Japanese Leagues and MLB, respectively, may have to weigh in before these star-crossed lovers can start registering at Filene's Basement. There is a little issue of a contract that Millar signed with Chunichi:

"He is a member of the Chunichi Dragons," Chunichi president Junnosuke Nishikawa told Kyodo News. "This has been confirmed by the baseball commissioners in both Japan and the United States. Coming to Japan is the only option for him."

Apparently, Millar has channeled the inner patriot and now cannot play overseas during a time of war:

"I don't want to leave this country in a time of war," he told the paper. "I want to be in the big leagues. It would be a dream come true to be in a Boston uniform on opening day."

Oh, how heroic! Kevin may just have found out the particulars of World War II-you see, Japan was on the other side in that fracas. Kevin, first the country is not at war and, given the opinion of a large segment of the population, may not be for some time. Second, how does your performance on the Red Sox aid the war effort? If it boils down to his wanting to be home to witness the xenophobic furor, then they do get CNN in Japan, too, Kevin. Millar also misguidedly threatened not to report to Japan in order to join his now-beloved Red Sox. Millar's rights, however, would still be Chunichi's to do with as they want. Sorry, Kevin.

Of course, none of this has nothing to do with the cash that the Red Sox may be willing to impart to Millar now that acquiring him is their most fervent offseason desire. I'm sure that Millar would be willing to play for free to support the war effort. God bless, Mr. Millar.


Let Sleeping Cubs Lie My
2003-02-03 10:55
by Mike Carminati

Let Sleeping Cubs Lie

My blog buddy Christian Ruzich, the Cub Reporter, has a great piece on -perhaps inadvertently-blatant subjectivity under the guise of journalistic integrity on the part of the ever-mediocre professional sportswriting world, specifically, Phil Rogers' ESPN Hot Stove Heater on his beloved Cubbies. Some may quibble that he is preaching to the choir when it comes to the blog-reading world, but all I can say is, "Testify, brother!"

Christian excoriates Rogers, and rightly so, for relying on that old chestnut, "chemistry", for dissing Sammy and the boys:

Volumes have been written about how people get along in the clubhouse over the years, and I've never seen proof that a good or bad clubhouse has any effect on how a team does on the field. I remember hearing about The Bronx Zoo when I was a kid -- they all hated each other there, Reggie and Billy and Thurman and Nettles and Steinbrenner, and they won three straight pennants. Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent got into a fight in the dugout this summer, and went on to almost win the world series. Meanwhile, every year there are stories about how well this team or that team gets along, and how they all go out to dinner together when they're on the road, and invariably those teams finish fourth. Rogers needs to look no further than his own city to see how this worked. For years, people talked about how Michael Jordan did whatever he wanted. He and Scottie Pippen supposedly hated each other. Rogers' colleague Sam Smith wrote a best-selling book called 'The Jordan Rules,' and the Bulls won six titles in eight years...

[T]he bottom line is that I don't have a problem with the way he acts in the clubhouse. I don't care if he blares salsa music and doesn't hang with his teammates. What I do care about is what he does on the field, and what he's done on the field has been pretty impressive.

Christian goes on to illustrate the fallacy of Roger's argument that "Sosa took a step backward after a terrific 2001 season, showing signs of age for the first time." As Christian correctly points out a slight dropoff from historic offensive production to just very, very good is not a sign of age but rather of just being human.

To buttress that argument, I would say that Sosa's 2002 performance was in no way out of line with the level he has been playing at since 1998. Over that period, his seasonal OPS has been 60%, 41%, 69%, 101%, and (in 2002) 60% better than the league- and park-adjusted average. He did drop off from a lofty high just below God Barry Bonds in 2001 to being just one of the best players in the NL in 2002. Oh, horrors! Offensive production was down all over baseball last year. Is that Sammy Sosa's fault? He was, after all, just 2 points behind media fav Vlad Guerrero, the man most of the media inexplicably believe is a better player than Bonds whenever they blue-sky such topics. And he led the league in home runs and runs and was among the league leaders in a slew of other categories.

I have never been a big Sosa fan. It took me at least a year or two to admit that he had become-had altered himself into-a great player. But I have to give Sammy his props. He is truly a great player now and has been one for going on five years. What has baseball reportage come to if we are going to vilify a player for a season like Sosa's 2002?

Rogers further points to Sosa's limitations as a general manager in pushing the Cubs to sign Moises Alou before last season. This is, at best, a specious argument and at worst an excuse to dog-pile on the Sosa. If Chicago is allowing players, even their best ones, to determine their offseason approach they have bigger problems than player performance on the field.

Christian further points out that Fred McGriff was far from the disappointment that Rogers paints him to have been: "McGriff, in his dotage, managed to put up the sixth 30 HR/100 RBI season of his career, and slugged over .500 for the 10th time." Of course, his superior season is underscored by the down season that 2002 was for first baseman. I, for one, have been anticipating the demise of McGriff for more than a few years and have been amazed at his Methuselahic longevity. Again, this is an instance where Rogers refracts the facts to fit his personal opinion.

The piece ends with a nice little nod to yours truly among others:

I didn't actually plan this column to be a couple thousand words ripping Phil Rogers. But, I'm not sorry that it is. One of the best things about the current wave of baseball bloggers is that it gives people interested in baseball more opportunities to read and write about baseball the way they want to. We no longer have to listen only to the Gammos and Muskats of the world when people like Jamey Newberg, Will Carroll, Mikearminati, and most of the crazy kids at Baseball Primer continue to use the Web as their bully pulpit.

Bully Pulpit could be taken two ways, but I will bear it with pride when contrasted with the execrable Peter Gammons. Thanks, Christian. I'm fill-it-to-the-rim-with-brimming with pride. I only hope my scribblings and bibblings live up to the honor while remaining chock-full of Spinal Tap and Scarface references.

Oh, and nice reference, Christian, to an all-time funny movie, The Jerk, with the title He Hates These Cans!. Navin would be prouder than when the new phonebooks came out.


The Old Roman Ruins Opening
2003-02-03 01:27
by Mike Carminati

The Old Roman Ruins

Opening Day, July 1, 1910, [White Sox Owner Charlie] Comiskey had the stands decorated with thousands of yards of colorful bunting. Five bands played. Comiskey's personal box was filled with flowers. Troops from the U.S. War Department conducted a flag raising ceremony. "Hail to the Chief" was played. The mayor presented a banner to Comiskey. The owner was aware of his working-class following and had put plenty of 25 cent seats in his stands. When the park was new those stands held 32,000.

The White Sox lost their home opener in their new park 2-0 to the St. Louis Browns. The losing pitcher was White Sox ace Ed Walsh, who had been on the committee to design "White Sox Park." That's why the new park almost made it through its first month without a home run being hit. The first was by the Sox's Lee Tannehill, on July 31, 1910, a grand slam against Detroit. The first Comiskey Park home run by an opponent was struck the same day by Ty Cobb to give the Tigers a 6-5 victory...

Like Forbes Field, Comiskey Park had a double-decked grandstand between first and third, with unattached single-deck pavilions beyond. Original plans were to give Comiskey Park a Roman facade much like the one on Shibe Park. For reasons of budget, the fancy outer shell was never put on. Instead, a simple brick wall covered the stadium's steel skeleton, with the letter C repeatedly designed into the brick patterns.

Similarly, there was a time when cantilevered construction was considered, but it would have added $350,000 to the construction costs, so the notion was scrapped-and fans to this day have to deal with the resulting support beam obstructions.

Comiskey managed to hold the total cost of the project to $700,000, which included $550,000 for construction and $150,000 for the property.

Unlike other owners, whose financial interests were largely elsewhere, Comiskey made his living owning the White Sox. Because of this he was willing to fight harder than the next guy to put a team of pennant-winning capabilities on the playing field.

He also went out of his way to make the fans happy. In the rain, those in the bleachers were allowed to move into the grandstand under the roof.

He was despised by his players, who found him maddeningly stingy, but loved by the people of Chicago. Any worthy Chicago organization that wanted to use his park for an event had it for free - assuming they were White Sox fans of course, and they always were. According to baseball historian David Voight, Comiskey said, "The fans built the park, didn't they?"

- Ballparks of North America by Michael Benson

Since before there was Fenway Park, Ebbets Field, or Yankees Stadium there has been a Commiskey Park. The name has been a fixture in Chicago longer than Wrigley Field. The original replaced South Side Park in the middle of 1910 and lasted until the end of the 1990 season. It was replaced by a new Commiskey Park across the street the next season. Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the White Sox, using threats to move the team to St. Petersburg in 1988, received funding from the city of Chicago to construct the new park. He had the good sense to retain the traditional stadium name.

The city responded with a team-record 2.9 M patrons in its first year. Within two years the team won the division. They led the division again in the strike-shortened season of 1994. The White Sox have since have not broken two million in attendance and have won the division just once, and that year (2000) has since become another bittersweet season of unfulfilled expectations as the young team has failed to bloom as expected. It seems that a tone was set by the July 31, 1997 purge that sent two starting pitchers and the team's closer to the Giants for prospects (some of whom have since played well) when the team trailed the division-leading Indians by only three and one-half games.

This weekend the successor to the park "the fans built" was renamed the god-awful and un-rememberable U.S. Cellular Field. Not Commiskey Park at U.S. Cellular Field. Not CommiskeyPark/U.S. Cellular Field. Just U.S. Cellular Field. And it won't be just for a short time. It will be for the next 23 years, or until U.S. Cellular goes Chapter 11. And this was to kick off the "SoxFest" promotional campaign.

ESPN quotes the inimitable Jerry Reinsdorf as follows:

"U.S. Cellular and the White Sox have forged a unique partnership that will provide the resources for major design changes to the ballpark that will benefit every White Sox fan," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said.

What improvements do you ask? According to Ballparks.com in the last two years three rows of seats between the dugouts and foulpoles were added and the bullpens were moved to accommodate additional bleachers among other things. Who benefits from these improvements? Jerry Reinsdorf, that's who, not the fans certainly.

Reinsdorf got a $167 M stadium for free thanks to public funding. Then he renovates the ten-year-old stadium to squeeze in a few more high-price seats and he has it paid for by corporate sponsorship. Meanwhile, the team perennially dumps talent to save on payroll. In 1997, it was Roberto Hernandez and Wilson Alvarez; in 2002, it was Ray Durham, Kenny Lofton, and Bobby Howry.

So far this offseason the White Sox appear to have a clear edge in their division. But with a management team that apparently is more concerned with balance sheets than winning percentage, this could be another disappointing season on the south side. At least, U.S. Cellular will be less offensive to the fans than Jerry Reinsdorf Park.


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