Monthly archives: June 2004
The Transparent Law Of New-Baked Bread
There are no fixtures in nature. The universe is fluid and volatile. Permanence is but a word of degrees. Our globe seen by God is a transparent law, not a mass of facts. The law dissolves the fact and holds it fluid.
—Ralph "Garr" Waldo Emerson
It has its ups and its downs.
—Elevator operator describing his trade.
An age and a faith moving into transition,
— Alfred "Boomer" Wellington Purdy
"The bottom rail's on top now!"
—Union soldier and former slave to his ex-master whom he was now guarding during the Civil War.
For a few moments the Tampa Bay Devil Rays captivated the imagination of the average baseball fan, and it wasn't to figure out how their meaningless All-Star rep would impact more deserving but necessarily overlooked candidates. The D-Rays won 12 straight and were over .500 later in the season then ever before. And they didn't even have the best improvement in the AL, let alone in baseball.
The Tigers own that honor by going from a historically poor record in 2003 to just mediocre this season, a 215-point improvement in winning percentage. If the Tigers can keep it up, it would be only the second 215-point increase since 2902 (the other being the second-year D-Backs in 1999). As a matter of fact the Padres (up 144 points), Rangers (143), Brewers (114), and Reds (114) are all ahead of the D-Rays and their 111-point improvement and all of those teams are in the playoff hunt this year after being marginalized quickly in 2003.
Then there's the other side of the equation, the teams that have had severe declines in 2004, and there are more than a few. The Expos went from marginal wild card challenger last year to the worst team in the NL this year (179 point dropoff). Other teams aged quickly—the D-Backs (168 points lower), M's (161), Braves (150)—or just plain failed to live up to—Royals (120) and Jays (89).
The volatility in the standings got me to wondering how unusual a season this one was. I first compared all teams' record over the last season and half to determine each team's change in winning percentage, i.e., the increase or decrease each has seen (the absolute value of the winning percentage difference). I average those numbers for each league and for baseball in general along with the standard deviation of the data.
So how odd is an average change of 79 points anyway? I took a look at the average annual winning percentage change for all teams in a given league as well as within all of baseball through time.
Well, the first thing I found was that baseball has never witnessed six teams improving by 100 or more points as it has so far this year. Five teams did improve by that much only three times before, and the last was amid the Federal League wars in 1914. The others were during the during the American Association and Union Association challenges in 1883 and 1884.
Only one time since World War I have there been five teams decline by at least 100 winning percentage point (actually 6 met the criterion in 1992 as well as in 1884; also, there were 5 in 1902 and 1918).
Now, let's put the 79-point change in perspective. On average the change per league per year is 67 points. Here is the breakdown per decade:
Note the flattening effect especially from the 1920s until today. As the game and the teams matured, it became much more difficult for teams to make dramatic changes in their winning percentage from one year to the next.
The last time that the major-league average change exceeded this year's (79 points if you've forgotten), was 1919 (84 point average change). The last league to exceed either league's average change this year was the NL in 1993 (89 points, greatly aided by my Phils). The only other league since World War II to exceed this year's was the AL in 1968 (83 points)
So what does this all mean? It could mean that this is a special season in which teams like the Braves, D-Backs, and M's pass the torch to the Rangers, D-Rays, Padres, and Reds. (And the Tigers rebound from putrescence while the Expos finally run out of gas as well).
Or it could mean that the first-half success that those teams are now enjoying will not last. The D-Rays have been streaky and could return to their old ways. Another 5-24 run like they had earlier this year is not an impossibility. The lack of pitching on the Reds and Rangers may come back to haunt them. The reality will probably be somewhere in between.
By the way, here are the yearly percentage changes per league for those late nights when you just can't get to sleep:
Can't Tell the Uniforms Without a Scorecard
The Mets evidently need to hire a style consultant or at least a go-fer who can hail a cab. They forgot uniforms for Tom Wilson and Jose Parra for their crosstown double header with the Yanks yesterday.
The Mets wore their road grays for the first game:
In the second, they went to the alternate road blacks:
However, Wilson and Parra wore their alternate home blacks--Note the familiar/home-ish "Mets" in script:
They had many other options as well. The home whites with pinstripes:
Then there's the second alternate home whites without stripes:
Or the we-don't-know-where-the-hell-we-are orange jerseys:
Or the we're-just-in-it-for-the-money orange BP jerseys:
Or the hockey jersey:
Or the green St. Pat's jersey:
Or the old pullover blues:
Or the old pullover greys with white piping:
Or the old pullover greys without piping:
To quote John Franco by way of my friend Murray, "I bleed whatever our colors are."
Of course, the Yankees had but one choice:
That kinda tells you a lot about these two franchises, huh? And they say the Yankees are all about the money?
[Thanks to StrarStuck.com for the pictures.]
Very Biggio Of You
Craig Biggio started his second game in left field today for the Astros and went 2-for-5 in the 8-7 loss to the Rangers. Biggio was, of course, moved to left after the Astros acquired baseball 2004's version of the bachelor, center fielder Carlos Beltran.
As you probably know this isn't the first time that Biggio has changed positions in his career. He came up as a catcher in 1988 and went to the All-Star game as a catcher in 1991. In order to preserve his knees and thereby, his speed and also to give then-hot prospect Eddie Taubensee time behind the plate, Biggio was moved to second base. Biggio had been a catcher even since college though he did play short in high school, like just about every other eventual major-leaguer. Biggio played 11 seasons at second and went to the All-Star game six times as a second baseman.
And that would have been that. Biggio was a sabermetrician's dream and was named the 37th best player of all time in Bill James' New Historical Baseball Abstract. He seemed destined to finish his career and then launch a thousand arguments when he became a borderline candidate who would live in BBWAA voting purgatory for the foreseeable future.
Then when the 'Stros acquired Jeff Kent last year, all of a sudden he was recast as a center fielder. Now after 72 games this season, Biggio is a left fielder, a position that he had played a total of 33 times prior to this season.
When Kent was signed, original reports had Biggio moving to left, but 2002 center fielder Lance Berkman had been given dibs there. Biggio played adequately in center in 2003 though his range factor was slightly below average (2.30 vs. 2.50).
Fortunately, his offensive fall-off could be hidden relatively easily in center. But this season his offense is on the upswing. He projects to 20 homers, which would be the first time in three seasons, and his ratios are a .295 batting average (his highest since 1998), a .358 OBP (his highest since 2001), a .463 slugging average (his highest since 1998), and a .821 OPS (his highest since 1999). In fact his OPS is good enough for fifth among the 22 qualifying center fielders. However, among the qualifying left fielders, he would rank 13th out of 17. Incumbent left fielder Lance Berkman was ranked third behind Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez. Berkman catapults to the top of the right field ranks. By the way, Beltran, if he qualified, would lead all center fielders in OPS. If Biggio returns to his 2003 form, he'll fall to 15th among the 16 qualifiers.
It does, however, make Biggio's career a little more interesting as if he needed it. When he moved to center, he became one of only three players to started as a catcher, started at one of the four other infield positions, and also started at one of the three outfield position (i.e., played at least 80 games at each position in a season). The other two are Buck Ewing (C-1B-LF who also played third and pitched) and B.J. Surhoff-Surhoff (C-3B-LF). No, if Biggio lasts the season in left, he'll be the first to start at two outfield positions along with catcher and infield. There were rumors that he would replace Jeff Kent at second while he was out with an injury but he has already returned. But that would have been interesting. Of course, with the way that Brad Ausmus is hitting (.611 OPS), maybe Kent should move back to catcher.
[Our old friend Gregi Gross, with whom I discussed baseball in Germany in a three-part series entitled "Eine Kleine Chin Music" (parts I, II, and III) some time ago, has conducted a study on what it takes to be a winner in baseball. I am proud to present it here. Enjoy.]
Heading into the 2002 season, so says Michael Lewis in Moneyball, then Oakland A´s assistant GM Paul DePodesta faced a serious task. With Jason Giambi, Jason Isringhausen and Johnny Damon the team was going to lose three core players to free agency, and Athletics GM Billy Beane wanted DePodesta to determine exactly what influence those three players had on the 102 wins the team had compiled in 2001. The idea was to offset these losses by signing other players with different skill sets that together would bring to the table what free agency had robbed the team.
Paul DePodesta decided to start by judging how many wins a team would need to make it to the play-offs.
"There aren´t a lot of teams that win ninety-five games and don´t make it to the play-offs," he said. "If we win ninety-five games and dont make the play-offs, we´re fine with that."According to Michael Lewis, he then calculated how many more runs the A´s would need to score than they allowed in order to win those 95 games. By using Bill James Pythagorean Theorem, he came up with a run differential of 135. Using the A´s players past performance, DePodesta then made reasoned arguments about how many runs the team would score and allow, but let´s leave him here since we already know what happened.
I wanted to find out if Paul DePodesta assumptions were right. Is 95 the magic number of games a teams needs to win to safely enter the postseason? And which run differential had historical teams brought into the play-offs?
Since for the last ten years we have enjoyed the wildcard, I first looked at the seasons from 1995 until today. Looking at each division individually, I prorated all seasons to 162 games where needed (in 1995 the season was shortened, for instance). Since some teams in some years clearly had franchise seasons (like the 1995 Indians, the 1998 Yankees or the 2001 Mariners) or in some years an entire division struggled, I decided to also include averages without those peaks:
And for the National League we get this picture:
For Paul DePodesta's team, the Oakland Athletics, the average number of wins needed to win their division was 95. It was 93 if you discount the 2001 Seattle Mariners and their 116 win campaign. If the A´s would face serious competition in their division, they could also qualify via the wildcard. There they would need 94 wins on average, and only 93 if you discount their own 2001 campaign, when they trailed the Mariners but took the wildcard with 102 wins (still the most wins for a wildcard team in its short history).
What else can we see? Judging by the number of wins needed to win a division, the weakest division in baseball is the NL Central, followed by the AL Central and the AL West. The best division then would be the NL East, followed by the AL East. Then again, both eastern divisions probably feature very good and very bad teams, so the division winners run up high win totals against weak competition. And in the NL Central there is tough competition among almost equal teams, so their win totals stay low.
So overall the average of the average (of the average...) for all of MLB looks like this:
So yes, Paul DePodesta hits the nail right on the spot. With 95 wins you stand a good chance to enter the postseason. On average, your team needed close to +130 run differential to win that many games. But what about before? When there was no wildcard? Or even before that, when there were no divisions? Let´s have a look at divisional play dating back to 1969:
On average you get these figures:
Even before the Wildcard, your team needed 95 wins to enter the play-offs. However, from 1969 to 1993, the run differential of all the play-off teams was a bit smaller. On average, the teams accumulated +121 runs more than they allowed. So, judging purely from wins and run differential, the wild card made things difficult for teams, but not by much.
And before that? Here are the prorated stats:
Now that is interesting: Before divisional play started in 1969, you needed 104 wins to contend. And the earlier you look, the higher the number gets (as you can see in the Prorated Wins graph). In fact, the first play-off team with no more than a 100 prorated wins were the New York Giants in 1891 - and prorated they won 99 games. The first team to win their league or division with less than 95 prorated wins were the 1904 Brooklyn Dodgers. And it's around that time, that as many teams started to pour into the play-offs with fewer than a 100 prorated wins as ones that had more than that figure.
Lets look at some graphs showing the prorated wins and prorated run differentials of all playoff teams in the history of major league baseball:
As Jim Albert and Jay Bennett show in Curveball, there was a wider spread in winning percentages in the early years of baseball. This has as much to do with the many changes in the basic structure of the major leagues given the small number of teams as well as the short schedules. It's easier to win eighty percent of 60 games than it is to win eighty percent of 162 games. And the number of wins needed for contending teams tells us the same. According to the numbers above, there is a difference of nine wins between the average needed for a playoff team before and after 1969. Today, with all the fuss about competitive balance, you need just 95 wins to be a play-off team. 50 years ago that figure was nine wins higher. You had less competitive balance back then, I´d say. As Mike points out, that also has a lot to do with the fact that before 1969 you had two playoff spots for 16 teams (12.5 percent) and today you have eight playoff spots for 30 teams (26.6 percent). And you could take this line of thought even further – because of expansion and free agency you have a different type of talent distribution today that also influences competitive balance.
Yet for the last 35 years or so, Paul DePodesta's assumption was right: By winning 95 games, you almost assure your fans of following your games into October. And history shows that you need a run differential of +120 to do so. So what happened to the 2002 Oakland Athletics? They would score 800 runs and allow 654 of them. Their run differential of +146 would secure them 103 wins, enough for the division crown and four more than the wild card team from Anaheim had. Billy Bean and Paul DePodesta, based on the right assumption, took the necessary steps.
But what about the run differential of +135 needed for 95 wins? If you look at the formula used by Bill James, you´ll see that the number of runs scored and allowed – the number of overall runs in the teams games – greatly influences the run differential needed for a certain amount of wins:
To make it more clear, lets have a look at a graph depicting the situation for 95 wins:
During the last ten seasons, the average playoff team scored 845 runs. Looking at the graph, you see the average playoff team then should allow no more than 710 runs for a run differential of exactly +135. But if you, say, allow just 588 runs, you need to score just 700 runs for a run differential of +112 to have an expected W-L record of 95-67. And if your team happens to play in Denver, you better prepare for a better run differential.
Finally just for fun, let´s have a look at teams that followed that rule but somehow managed to miss their goal. Throughout baseball history we find teams that missed the play-offs despite accumulating these 95 wins or even more.
• The last team were the 1999 Cincinnati Reds, which won 96 games and had a run differential of +154. Unfortunately for them, the Mets had a slightly smaller run differential (+142), but beat their pythagorean W-L record by two games to finish at 97-66, thus taking the wild card spot.
How far could you take your run differential without danger of entering the play-offs? If we prorate their stats, the 1898 Baltimore Orioles put up a run differential of +326. They would finish safely in second, trailing the Boston Beaneaters by six games. The 1886 Detroit Wolverines scored a +374 (prorated), finishing 3 games behind the Chicago White Stockings. Yet those two teams were not to be compared to the 1872 Philadelphia Athletics. If we prorate their 44 games to a 162-game schedule, they outscored their opponents by a whopping 655 runs. Unfortunately for them, the Boston Red Stockings did better and it wasn´t even close. Their prorated run differential came in at +961 and it enabled them to distance the Philadelphia Athletics by 7.5 games.
On the opposite site of the spectrum, we find the 1984 Kansas City Royals. The team was outscored by 13 runs, yet managed to win AL West by 3 games. They were trailed by the Minnesota Twins, who finished with a .500 record. Yet the fact that they had a better Pythagorean W-L record than the Royals seems to have made the Twins tick. Because three years later, in 1987, they won 85 games to win the AL West two games ahead of the Royals. To add insult to injury, the Twins let themselves be outscored by 20 runs. By the way, they still beat their Pythagorean W-L record regularly by a few games. As of today, they have won 21 more games since the start of the 2001 season than they should. And of course, this season they own a 32-26 record but have been outscored by 11 runs.
ESPN reports that the Astros are "very close" to winning the Carlos Beltran derby. It would be part fo a three-way trade with the Astros sending closer Octavio Dotel to Oakland and the A's would send third-base prospect Mark Teahan and two others to the Royals.
Actually, MLB.com just confirmed that it's a done deal. The Astros also send catcher John "Don't Call Me Jack" Buck to the Royals, so they do get a thrid baseman and a catcher in the deal. The A's also got Mike Wood and some how cash from the Royals. Buck was batting .296 with 12 HRs and 33 RBI with 21 K, 38 BB, and 223 ABs.
Teahan was batting .275 with no homers and 10 RBI at Triple-A Sacramento with 22 strikeouts (and just 11 walks) in just 69 at-bats. He had been ripping up the league at Double-A Modesto: .336, 6, 36 bit still 44 Ks (and 29 BBs) in 197 ABs. Wood is 11-3 with a 2.80 ERA at Triple-A with 66 K/25 BB in 90 IP (and 14 unearned runs).
So it looks like the Royals got three decent prospects, one at third and one catcher, just as they wanted. The A's got their closer. The Astros replaced Richard Hidalgo (CF Biggio will move to LF).
It seems that we are having a musical Rashomon day at All-Baseball.com. Will Carroll's site has three articles on the topic of music. Then Jon Weisman followed up with the listings from an old compilation tape of his.
That reminded me of an old tape that I copied from my friend Doug in college that he had gotten from a friend who is long forgotten. It was dubbed "Never on the Radio" and was supposed to collect fringe songs that you would never hear on the radio in those days. Of course, it predated the college radio revolution of the '80s led by REM and Husker Du. And there were those fringe stations like WLIR in Long Island and WFNX in Boston that would actually put these types of artists on mainstream radio.
However, this was perhaps the last point in time in which music still seemed revolutionary, aside from the short spasm during the anti-establishment grunge era. Punk was giving way to New Wave, and this was when that term was supposed to harken back to the last British invasion and the musical revolution it brought about. This was about when the Clash released their era-defining London Calling album. The Clash went from a punk group to one that embraced the full spectrum of musical styles of the day (ska, reggae, rockabilly, etc.). The Clash knew they were doing nothing less than redefining what rock music was when the put bassist Paul Simenon on the cover just about to smash his instrument while the album title scrolls across the left and bottom of the cover a la Elvis Presley's debut album. Compare:
It was a tribute and a statement of devious in one fell swoop. And it worked. The Clash presaged/captured the musical potpourri that would define the era. Little did we know that the what would follow would be years of synthesizers, big hair, and the calcification of corporate rock.
Anyway, here are the tracks from the 21-year-old tape:
U2-I Will Follow
Devil of a Streak
As I'm sure you've already heard, the Devil Rays have improbably won twelve straight games. Should they make it thirteen straight, they reach .500 for the first time since April 17, when they were 5-5. It's especially odd given the fact that it took the D-Rays 40 tries to win their first 12 games this year, and that occurred just a little over a month ago on May 21.
A year ago today, Tampa Bay was 24-49, .328 winning percentage. They were 20 games behind the first-place Yankees, and 9.5 behind the fourth place O's. Two years ago? They were again last: 24-48, .333, 21.5 out of first with the worst record in baseball. In 2001, they were last in the AL East, 21-51, .291, 22.5 back, with the worst record in baseball. In 2000, they were last in the AL East, 28-42, .400, 10 games back, with the worst record in the AL. In 1999, they were, you guessed it, last in the AL East: 29-41, .414, 12 back. In 1998: Lats in AL East, 31-43, .418, 22.5 games back. And that's it. Their best previous record on June 23 came in their inaugural season (1998).
Also, this has been a rollercoaster year for Tampa Bay. They started off 5-4 on April 16. Then went 5 and Twenty-four over their next 29 games to fall to 10-28 on May 19 at which time they had just lost their 5th straight and the 12th out of their last 13 tries. Tampa Bay then won 5 straight and 11 of 17 to run their record to 21-34 on June 8. With twelve straight wins their record is now 33-34. Take out their 5-24 run and they have a 28-10, .737 record.
I thought it would be fun to see what the odds were for the D-Rays to win 12 straight given the "past is prologue" theory at various points throughout the young season. I also included their odds of reaching the all-time record of 26 straight (by 1916 Giants). By the way, the odds of a .500 team winning 12 straight is one in 4,096 and winning 26 straight, one in 67,108,864:
The Devil Rays should they match the Giants all-time record, will be a good record companion for the 1916 team. Here's a rundown of that team that I put together when the A's were threatening their record two seasons ago:
Of these teams [i.e., the all-time win-streak teams], the 1916 New York Giants are by far the oddest. They have the longest streak and qualify for the list for two separate streaks, but they are one of two teams to be included that finished fourth. As a matter of fact half of their win total is derived from their two streaks. They would be 43-66 without those two streaks. So I investigated further.
First the 1916 Giants presaged the 1979 Pirates and any of a half-dozen or so teams today who have more than just the home and away jerseys. The Giants had four jerseys and three-well, I'll let Marc Okkonen from Baseball Unifoems of the 20th Century describe it-"provided the ultimate-an almost plaid effect with a crossing of multiple fine lines of purple" and purple hose. Wow, and you thought the Diamondback unis were ugly. This sartorial trailblazing was abandoned after one season.
Their season is almost nearly as strange:
- On April 23 with a record of 1-5, the Giants are trailing 8-1 in the first inning of an exhibition game with the Long Branch Cubans at West Side Park, Jersey City, when rain ends the game sparing them embarrassment.
- They do not collect their second win until the 11th game of the season; their third win comes in their 16th game.
- They then proceed to win 16 more in a row for 17 in total. The streak starts May 9 and goes to May 29, inclusive. The 17 wins are all on the road. The Giants move from eighth (last), 8.5 games out, to second, 1.5 game out, during the streak.
- On June 22, they lose to the Braves at home, 3-1 in eleven innings for their third straight loss. They are 25-24 in third place, 5 games back. In the eleventh the Braves execute a triple steal with Johnny Evers the lead runner (the NL's only triple steal in extra innings)
- The Giants lose three of four games to the Dodgers in consecutive doubleheaders (June 24 and 26). The only win is for Christy Mathewson who relieves Bill Perritt, and it proves to be his last in the majors. Also, three fans are arrested in the game for not throwing back foul balls (see the Angels fans the other day just wanted to comply with the law). In the process the Giants fall into fourth place, 6.5 games out.
- The lose both ends of a doubleheader to the Phillies on June 29 and to the Dodgers on July 4, both at the Polo Grounds.
- On July 20 the Giants trade three future Hall of Famers in Christy Mathewson, Edd Roush, Bill McKechnie (Hall of Fame manager) for former Giants Buck Herzog and Red Killefer.
- On July 26, they lose to Cincinnati 4-2 at home for their third loss in a row. Their record is 39-43. They are in fifth, 9.5 games back.
- On July 31, New York beats Pittsburgh at the Polo Grounds in both ends of a doubleheader for the second time in a row to complete a six game winning streak. They are now 45-43 in fourth place, 8.5 games back.
- On August 14, the Phillies behind future Hall of Famers Peter Alexander and Eppa Rixey sweep both ends of a doubleheader from the Giants in the Baker Bowl. They are now 52-49, in fourth, 11 games out.
- On August 20, the Giants fall below .500 again (53-53, fourth place, 14 games behind) losing to the Cards in St. Louis, 5-0. They will remain below .500 until their next streak. They also trade Fred Merkle of "Merkle's Boner" fame to Brooklyn.
- On September 6, the Giants split a doubleheader with the Robins (soon to be Dodgers) at the Polo Grounds, with Rube Benton pitching both games. The Giants end the day 59-62, in fourth place, 13.5 games out and playing out a string. The Phillies, in the midst of an eight-game win streak, are in first, followed closely by the Robins half-game back and Braves, one game back. The next day, the Giants defeat the Robins 4-1 to start their 26-game win streak.
- September 9 Pol Perritt takes both ends of a doubleheader from the Philles, 3-1 and 3-0.
- September 13, they defeat the Reds in both games of a doubleheader at the Polo Grounds. They are nine games out. The Phillies and Robins are tied for first (Philadelphia leads by percentage points) and the Braves are one game back.
- September 15, The Giants-Reds game is called in the fourth with the Reds winning 2-0.
- September 16, 18, and 19, they win five of six games from the Pirates in three sets of doubleheaders at the Polo Grounds. The second game on September 18 is called after eight innings tied 1-1.
- September 23 the Giants defeat the Cardinals 1-0 and 6-2 to extend their win streak to 21 games breaking the record set by Providence in 1884. They are now 80-62 in fourth, seven games out.
- September 28 the Giants take their fourth straight doubleheader defeating the Braves 2-0 and 6-0 at the Polo Grounds. They are 84-62, in fourth place, 4.5 games out with eight games left. Also, the Phillies defeat the Robins 8-4 behind Pete Alexander. The Phillies are now a half-game out of first behind the Robins. The Braves are 4 back and the Giants 5. The Giants can still win the pennant if all things go in their favor.
- September 30 is another doubleheader for the Giants again against the Braves. In game one Rube Benton takes another no-hitter into the eighth but then gives up the only Braves hit of the game to Ed Konetchy. The Giants score their third straight shut out of the Braves, 4-0. The Braves and Giants are in a virtual tie for third with Boston ahead by percentage points.
- They lose the second game 8-3 to end the streak. Oddly, this streak came all at home while the first was entirely on the road. They are now 85-63, in fourth place, 4.5 games out with six games left. The Robins and Phillies play a doubleheader at Ebbet's Field. Brooklyn takes the first game to go up by 1.5 games but lose the second to go up by just one half again. The Braves and Giants remain 4 and 5 games back respectively. The best that the Gainst can now hope for is a tie with the Robins, but the Giants will now finish the season in Brooklyn. The Phillies and Braves will duke it out in the Baker Bowl to end their years.
- In their next game October 2 against the Robins, they lose 2-0 to fall to 85-66, in fourth place, 5.5 games out. They are officially eliminated from the pennant race. The Braves and Phillies split. Brooklyn leads, the Phillies are one game back, the Braves 4.5, and the Giants 6. The Braves mathematically can still force a tie for the pennant.
- On October third, manager John McGraw leaves the bench after five innings in disgust. His Giants lose 9-6 and he is convinced that they did not put in their best effort in order to help the Robins, a team with many ex-Giants on their roster. When Boston sweeps Philadelphia, the Robins are said to clinch the pennant. (Mathematically, the Phillies could still have tied the Robins, but since they had lost some games to ties during the season, they were eliminated. If that happened today, the teams would be forced to re-play the tie games. I am not sure if that rule was in place in 1916. If so, the Robins did not in actuality clinch until the last day of the season.)
- October 5: The Giants are beaten by Brooklyn 7-5 to finish the season 86-66 in fourth, 5.5 behind the pennant-winning Robins. In the World Series the Robins lose to Babe Ruth and the Red Sox in five games. The Red Sox play their home games in Braves Field, preferring it to Fenway Park because of the additional seating.
Given the Byrd
Last September Marlon Byrd batted .330, scored 25 runs, and got on base 41% of the time. After early-season failures including a .204 batting average, .216 on-base percentage, a .501 OPS, and only three runs scored in May (49 ABs). He registered .364/.449/.470/.918 June with 12 runs scored in 66 at-bats. He was supposed to build on the successes in the last two-thirds of last season to lead off competently and play a decent center field.
However, the Phils first went out and acquired Doug Glanville, their old center fielder—who had already played his way out of the job two years earlier mind you—as some sort of insurance policy-slash-security blanket. I was shocked at the end of spring training when Glanville, helped by a fabulous spring including 3 homers, made the team as a sixth outfielder. Now, the Phils used to carry six outfielders when I was a kid and they had a 10-man pitching staff. Now that most teams carry 12 pitchers for the majority of the season, the sixth outfielder had gone the way of the third catcher and the dodo.
But Glanville made his first start April 10 against the Marlins' lefty, Darren Oliver. The perhaps the worst positive thing that could have happened to the team occurred on April 18 when Glanville replaced Byrd in a double-switch and ended up hitting a walk-off home run to win the game. That same day Byrd had been dropped from first to eighth in the order because of his supposed poor performance (.229 BA and .325 OBP) in all of 35 at-bats.
The next day, guess who Larry Bowa had in center? From that point on Byrd's every move was scrutinized. A bad day and Byrd was dropped to eighth supposedly to help him out of his rut. Off course, how many good pitches does a number eight hitter get to see in the National League with the pitcher due up next? Byrd showed some signs of shaking off the slump that had been made a reality for him. But after a slight improvement in May, the wheels came off in June (.244/.279/.293/.572).
So now Byrd is in the minors working on his stroke with Charlie Manuel, the man that many point to as Larry Bowa's replacement should Bowa get the axe. Manuel is a special assistant to GM Ed Wade. Wade seems to love surrounding himself with former managers since ex-Phil manager Dallas Green is also one of his special assistants.
I saw Green interviewed in the pregame show last Friday and his reaction to the Bowa situation was to poke fun at the situation. When asked if Bowa had difficulty dealing with anyone, Green laughingly asked if there was someone with whom he didn’t have a problem.
Now the Phils are left with three options in center: Glanville, Ricky Ledee, and Jason Michaels. Michaels is a nice extra outfielder, but clearly not a viable starter for a team with playoff aspirations. Glanville shouldn't be on the team. Ledee has been great as a supporting player for the last two-plus years in Philly and has been fabulous so far this year, but if the Phils think that at 30 his numbers (.312/.384/.584/.968) can hold up during for a whole season when it far exceeds his career numbers (.247/.330/.423/.753), they're crazier than their manager.
The Phils sent down Byrd with the appropriate approbations about his still being their center fielder, but one has to wonder. Meanwhile, the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes are fully underway, and one has to think that the Phils will be players (they could also use a starting pitcher). I've been suggesting a trade with the Yankees for the still useful Kenny Lofton.
One thing is for sure, the Phils can't expect to back into the playoffs just because a .529 winning percentage has been good enough to stay in the race so far. There are enough teams within striking distance (four within 5.5 games) for one Tampa Bay-like hot streak to put on top. This team started the season with one major hole, the manager, but now the list of their issues is growing. For the want of a manager, the war may be lost.
A Sound Salvation?
For all their seeming permanence they might as well have been buffaloes…They went quickly, yet so silently that we whom they served have not yet really noticed that they are vanished.
So with other vanishings. There were the little bunty street-cars on the long, single track that went its troubled way among the cobblestones…A lone mule drew the car, and sometimes drew it off the track, when the passengers would get out and push it on again. They really owed it courtesies like this, for the car was genially accommodating: a lady could whistle to it from an upstairs window, and the car would halt at once and wait for her while she shut the window, put on her hat and cloak, went downstairs, found an umbrella, told the "girl" what to have for dinner, and came forth from the house…
In good weather the mule pulled the car a mile in a little less than twenty minutes, unless the stops were too long; but when the trolley-cars came, doing its miles in five minutes and better, it would wait for nobody. Nor could its passengers have endured such a thing, because the faster they were carried the less time they had to spare! In the days before deathly contrivances hustled them through their lives, and when they had no telephones—another ancient vacancy profoundly responsible for leisure—they had time for everything: time to think, to talk, time to read, time to wait for a lady!
—Booth "Don't Call Me Fran" Tarkington, the aptly named The Magnificent Ambersons
Do you remember lyin' in bed, with the covers pulled up over you head, radio playin' so no one could see?
—The Ramone "Aviles", "Rock'N'Roll Radio"
|Johnny Allen||144||Mark Belanger||161|
|Bobby Avila||176||Bert Campaneris||280|
|Glenn Beckert||125||Larry Doyle||289|
|Guy Bush||167||Jim Kaat||271|
|Leo Cardenas||199||Sparky Lyle||161|
|Larry French||218||Lee May||225|
|Julian Javier||134||Bobby Murcer||274|
|Mel Parnell||141||Andy Pafko||221|
|J.R. Richard||102||Reggie Smith||325|
|Manny Sanguillen||157||Luis Tiant||255|
|Hal Schumacher||176||Smokey Joe Wood||193|
|11 Old||158.1||11 New||241.4|
That's about an 85-Win Share improvement.
In my previous Hall of Fame investigations, I came up with a way to grade Hall of Fame candidates based on career Win Shares. Grade A players have at least 400 career WS. All eligible Grade A players have been elected to the Hall. No Player under 150 WS has ever been elected to the Hall (Tommy McCarthy, 171 WS, is the lowest). Therefore the lowest threshold for a Hall-worthy candidate (Grade D) is 150 WS. Here's a rundown of the grading system:
|Grade||% of HoFers||Win Share Min||Hall||Eligible||%|
You'll notice that the percentages fall off quickly from 400 WS down to 150 WS. The overall average for the Hall of Fame is 337.23 WS. My assumption is that any player who meets this criterion is at least as good as an average Hall of Famer and therefore should be in the Hall.
There are five players on the Vets Committee list who have at least 337 WS. They are Tony Mullane 399, Bill Dahlen 394, George Van Haltren 344, Dick Allen 342, and Bob Caruthers 337. Overall there are zero Grade A, 15 Grade B, 69 Grade C, 96 Grade D, and 20 Grade F candidates. Ron Santo has 324 WS.
Of course, my expectation is that no one will be elected by the Veterans again. I think that having 200 candidates on the ballot will ensure that the Veterans never elect anyone again. Given that 10% of the candidates are Grade F candidates, meaning that they are far worse than anyone already in the Hall, the ballot has too many candidates.
I would suggest that instead of a 200-man ballot, they reduce the list to 20-30 candidates. This could be done either before the Vets vote or by creating a two phase Vets Committee vote, a nominating phase to reduce the candidates' numbers and a final vote to elect the candidates. That way, the committee can focus on a few qualified candidates and actually elect someone. The current system is analogous to having a cable box with 800 channels but being unable to find anything worthy to watch. You can't see the trees for the forest.
Besides, there are plenty of deserving candidates even with the 200-man ballot that get overlooked. The ones over 300 career Win Shares are: Sherry Magee 354, Jimmy Sheckard 339, Frank McCormick 334, Tommy Leach 328, and Ken Singleton 302. Of those five, two are better than the Hall of Fame average, and they are not even being considered!
I full expect that the system will be revamped after one more failed election.
In a related note, here are the candidates that will become available on the writers' ballot in the coming years (min. 250 WS, stats through 2003):
|Name||Win Shares||Last Year|
|Cal Ripken Jr.||427||2001|
|Ken Griffey Jr.||313||2003|
There are at least 12 that are locks and there are 10 that are at least as good as the Hall average. Hall voting, both by the writers and by the veterans, will be very interesting over the next decade. If the Hall doesn't clean up its act and start selecting a higher percentage of credible candidates, it's going to lose what credibility it still has.
Mourn for me rather as living than as dead.
Most of the ladies and gentlemen who mourn the passing of the nation’s leaders wouldn’t know a leader if they saw one. If they had the bad luck to come across a leader, they would find out that he might demand something from them, and this impertinence would put an abrupt and indignant end to their wish for his return.
—Lewis H. "Winthorp" Lapham
It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.
—General George "Scott (Not C. Scott)" S. Patton, Jr.
I don't want to achieve immortality through my work ... I want to achieve it through not dying
—Woody "Fryman" Allen
This past week America lost one of its most influential and important citizens. We all mourn the loss of someone who shaped the country and whose legacy will surely outlive us all.
Of course, I'm speaking of Ray Charles. What, you thought I meant someone else? Ray Charles is thought of as some sort of whimsical, avuncular piano player who shilled for Diet Pepsi and countless other products while being surrounded by beautiful backup singers but whose beauty he could never enjoy. He was thought of as an innocuously light entertainer—almost a caricature—in the Dooley Wilson mold when in reality he was a groundbreaking artist, who gave birth to and shaped soul music. Ella Fitzgerald went through the same cultural reinterpretation in doing Memorex ads.
Charles (born Ray Charles Robinson, September 23, 1930 in Albany, GA) went blind at age six due to an unknown illness that was probably glaucoma, but not until after seeing his younger brother drown in a washtub. He thrilled the neighborhood kids by appearing regularly in a juke joint owned by his neighbor Wylie Pittman. Charles's influences were found there on the jukebox, a wider range of blues, swing, even the Grand Ole Opry, everything but gospel, which he encountered at church. He then studied at St. Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind, a state-run Florida institute, playing a variety of instruments and learning song composition and was said to be able to arrange and score all the parts for a big band or orchestra by twelve years old. He lost his parents in his teens and started earning a living as a musician in Florida and then Seattle, moving there at the age of 17.
At Atlantic Records, Charles's home throughout his classic period, they called him "The Genius." However, he started out imitating another misremembered performer Nat "King" Cole. Cole's own classic period as a musician is being reassessed and he is now regarded as one of the most influential piano players in jazz history even though to the wider audience he is remembered almost exclusively for his mellifluous voice, just as Charles is remembered for his gospel-informed soul style. After beginning to earn a living playing in the smoother Cole style (as well as the polished style of Charles Brown), Charles, taking the advice of his mother from his youth to be himself ("Do it right or don’t do it at all. That comes from my mom"—Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, 1998), decided to risk his career and finally perform in his own style. "I was getting over with imitations, but I didn’t know if people would accept me, as I am. It took me awhile to get the nerve to really go whole hog and just do only Ray Charles…I was still afraid to really turn it loose." Then he signed with Atlantic.
That style was what he called, "a crossover between gospel music and the rhythm patterns of the blues, which I think came down through the years from slavery times, you know, because this was a way of communicating." (From the liner notes to Birth of Soul box set) This approach was initially seen as "sacrilegious", according to Charles, by both sides, the church and the musical community, as most revolutionary things are. To his credit, Ray Charles both underplayed his brilliance and compared it to baseball: "It's like a manager who makes a decision. If it works, he's a genius, and if it doesn't, he's an ass. What we did worked. So I became a genius for it."
The first hint of that style appeared on the Guitar Slim (aka Eddie Jones) classic and number-one hit "The Things That I Used to Do", with Charles as arranger and pianist, in 1953. It is here where he first evinced his soon-to-be idiomatic style with chromatic passing chords and turnaround in the horn parts. Charles continued to work with Slim at Specialty Records and headed a band for Miss Ruth Brown. Then he came up with "Mess Around" with its Cow Cow Davenport-inspired jump boogie woogie piano style. Soon the gospel influence began to come to the fore and his unmistakable moaning, soulful vocal style began to gel. It all came to a head in the opening, hesitating "Well" at the beginning of "I Got A Woman" and interspersed throughout the song.
Then came a string of classics in the yet-unnamed soul genre: the bouncy This Little Girl of Mine", the slowly percussive throbbing pain of "Lonely Avenue", the plaintive "Drown in my own Tears", the call-and-response style of "The Right Time", etc. Then in 1959 came his masterwork, "What'd I Say", a song reportedly improvised at the end of a long performance. At 6-1/2 minutes it had to broken into two to fit on a 45, one half of the song per side. He used his whole toolbox for this one. From the classic electric piano opening and fills throughout the song, to his soulful call and the sultry response from the backup singers, which turns quickly into a sexually implicit purr, to the complex polyrhythm of drums. The inspired response actually grew from a standard clustered syncopated response from the horns. The song was covered by just about everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis to Johnny Cash, from Roy Orbison to the Tony Sheridan Beatles, from Solomon Burke to zydeco master Clifton Chenier, from Bobby Darrin to Bill Haley, from Jimi Hendrix to Lightnin' Hopkins, from the Bluesbreakers to Hound Dog Taylor. It was even used in an Elvis movie, the great "Viva Las Vegas", sung by Elvis and Ann-Margaret.
Then when Brother Ray was at the summit, he crested and fell back. He still had the talent that he could decant with ease but the driving force was no longer there. It's as if he had created everything that he could. The originality bled from his work. What was left was the charm, wit, and talent, enough to sustain him as a highly recognizable American institution for the rest of life.
Charles again using baseball terminology summed up his career, "What makes my approach special is that I do different things. I do jazz, blues, country music and so forth. I do them all, like a good utility man." (Los Angeles Times, 1986) At least, it does seem that the ebullient personality that came through in his performance was genuine. The man was happy and perhaps a bit too self-satisfied, but who can blame him: "You ask me what I’d like to do that I haven’t done and I say 'Nothin'!' I haven't any mountains to climb or oceans to swim. I’ve been an extremely blessed individual. ... I’m not clamorin' for more trinkets. If I were to die tomorrow, I could say I’ve had a good life." (Los Angeles Times, 1986)
Who could say what he might have done if he had had the desire to continually change like Miles Davis and James Brown, men who were musical chameleons over very long stretches of their careers (and neophytes today think Madonna reinvents herself!).
Anyway, again you are left saying, "OK, but what does this have to do with Joe Morgan?" What does a eulogy (or "eugoogoly" if you're Derek Zoolander) for Ray Charles have to do with Lil Joe? Morgan hit his peak on the field with a stellar career but then resting on his laurels allowed himself to become another mediocre, closed-minded, preachy baseball analyst. He's stuck in neutral but is using that to become an institution unto himself. Charles should serve as a cautionary tale for Morgan and indeed for all of us.
So without further ado I give you the musical stylings of one Joe Morgan:
Jimmy, Brooklyn, NY: I think that making the All-Star game result determine which league has home-field advantage is ridiculous for an exhibit game. What is your opinion?
I won't go as far as to say ridiculous but I think it's not fair and it goes against the traditions of the All-Star Game and it's just another reality TV show. That's what it is. ... And I never liked any of those.
[Mike: Right you are, Mr. Morgan. I always say that baseball is my reality TV. We don't need baseball to condescend to reality TV's level.
What's next have a singing competition to pick the Royals' closer? Hey, wait a minute, maybe that's not a bad idea. I heard the just-release Curt Leskanic has a beautiful falsetto.]
Jay (Greenbelt): Barry Bonds and the Giants are at Camden Yards this weekend, wouldn't it be special to see if Barry could hit the Warehouse past the right field wall? Can/will he do it?
Well, it would only be special to Giants fans, I don't see how it would be special to the Os fans trying to keep their playoff hopes alive. The only one to ever hit it is Ken Griffey Jr. I think Barry is definitely capable but everything would have to be perfect for that to happen.
[Mike: Well, it was close but no cigar—he hit a ball just in front of the warehouse and it was in batting practice.
What's all the talk of it being special? What is this, the Church Lady show? "Isn't that special?"]
Nick (chicago): Some reports say Griffey has begun to resurge because of how close he is to hitting 500...that he swings for the fences every time...is this true or do you think its because he's finally healthy?
Well, he's just finally healthy. It's very healthy to chase numbers when you are on the disabled list. If he stays healthy I think he'll hit closer to 50 HRs this year. As long as he stays healthy he'll put up big numbers. I think he wants to hit these two home runs and get it over with.
[Mike: Well, he projects to around 46 and this is a hitter's park, but he is having a good year. It's still not as good as his prime, but his .938 OPS is nearly identical to last year's (.936)_ which was 40% better than the park-adjusted league average. Not too shabby for a 34-year-old. What ever happened to all the Junior trade talk anyway?]
Brett (Houston, TX): Will there be a better pitching matchup this season than on Monday when Prior goes against Clemens? Who will get the better of the other??
First of all, people think that Mark PRior is back -- well, I think you have to wait before you see how Mark Prior is going to pitch before the rest of the year. Roger has been pitching well all year. He's 9-0. Prior is still trying to find his groove but, you're right, if they were both healthy, this is a great matchup.
[Mike: Well, that's not the way it went down, but I can't really fault Joe for that. It seemed a fair assessment at the time.]
Joe (Yardley, PA): As a Hall of Fame 2b, Joe, is the sophomore jinx simply a result of opposing pitchers adjusting to you and you not to them? See Angel Berroa.
Well, it's obviously a combo of a lot of things. MOre is expected the second year. There is more responsibilites and more pressure. Then, as you said, pitchers are familiar with a second year guy, they know where to pitch him.
[Mike: As a Hall of Fame 2b? "Joe, as a denture wearer…" "Joe, as someone who is not a doctor but who plays one on TV…"
You really have to make sure to get that ass-kissing in quick to ensure Joe answers your question.
As for Berroa, maybe he just wasn't all that great in 2003. His OPS wasn't over .777 except for June (.975) and July (.907), and he hit 11 of his 17 HRs in those two months. Here is a breakdown of his 2003 season by month and then totals for June/July and the rest of the year:
Berroa's numbers this year (.225/.255/.351/.606) are lower than those from the bulk of 2003 (i.e., ignoring June and July), but not tremendously. Besides, Berroa's OPS overall was 4% worse than the park-adjusted league average. We're not talking Joe Charboneau here. Remember that his facile ascendance was rather unexpected given his past issues.]
Jesse (Ithaca, NY): Could the "Crime Dog" Fred McGriff be the first player with 500 home runs to not be inducted into the Hall of Fame?
I don't get a vote, but in the past, 500 HRs have been almost automatic. Maybe not first ballot, but it will usually eventually get you in. Writers are taking a closer look at players rather than just their numbers these days, that's for sure.
[Mike: Yes, he could but he still has to get to 500 first. He is still 8 short and has just one in his mini-comeback this season. Given his numbers (.240/.296/.400/.696), he may not get the chance.
But let's say he reached the magical milestone. Is there any reason not to put him in the Hall? I know some will say that presuming Hall-worthiness goes counter to our society, like presuming guilt, but indulge me. McGriff's adjusted OPS is 134, which we showed last week was better than Joe's buddy Tony Perez and which is tied for 101st all time. What about Bill James' Hall of Fame tests? He's about average for a Hall of Famer (except the "black ink test" on which most modern players have trouble). How about similar batters? Of the six eligible for the Hall, five are in and the sixth (Dwight Evans) has a pretty good argument. Two of the not yet eligible similar players (Palmeiro and Bagwell) have very good cases themselves. McGriff is basically a hitter's version of Don Sutton. Sutton had the 300 wins but didn't get wide support. However, as Bill James later said, the Hall had to include Sutton or it would be selectively excluding him. McGriff more than has the stats. Who cares how writers misevaluated his career. Let the guy in.
As far as, Writers are taking a closer look at players rather than just their numbers these days, that's for sure: no, the writers have decided to mete out plaques at the usual slow-as-molasses pace. It's just that rule changes like the 5% rule, which drops players from future ballots once they fall below five percent of the overall vote, have made it easier to ignore qualified players. And the veterans committee has gone from selecting everyone under the sun (or at least those who were the panel's buddies) to selecting no one.]
Alex (Lincoln in England): Hi Joe, I really enjoy your work on Sunday Night Baseball, which we receive live in the UK. My question is this, who of the following three returnees is most likely to drive their team to the postseason? Mark Prior, Nomar Garciaparra or Garrett Anderson? Thanks for taking my question.
I would say Garrett Anderson or Nomar b/c players that play every day have more impact than a pitcher -- no matter how great he is -- that pitches every five days.
[Mike: Ah, isn’t that Monday Morning Baseball in England?
Well, that's a good rule of thumb, Joe, but how much were the players missed? Without Nixon, the Sox right fielders (mostly Millar and Kapler) have had a .775 OPS. That's about the league average (park-adjusted). Nixon was 49% better than that last year.
The Angels without GA in left, have had an .862 OPS, slightly worse than Anderson's .885 OPS last year (37% better than average).
Prior's spot in the Cub rotation had been taken by Segio Mitre. He was 2-4 with a 6.54 ERA. He also only pitched 47 innings in 9 starts, meaning that the bullpen was overused whenever he started impacting other games.
Also, one should evaluate their impact by the position their teams are in in their division. The Sox are now 5 games behind the Yankees, the Angels are 1.5 behind the A's, and the Cubs are currently 2 games behind the Cardinals in what appears to be a potential 5-team race. Boston also leads Anaheim by one game in the wild card.
So who should help most upon returning? I would say that it's probably Nixon , then Prior, with Anderson a very distant third.]
Kevin Aumiller (Park Ridge, IL): Is Jose Vidro simply going through a huge slump or are we finally seeing how important Vlad was to protect Vidro in the lineup? Will his numbers stay down or will they return to those of an all-star second baseman?
Well, he has been a very consistant hitter the last few years. I'm surprised that he's not doing so well. Taking Vlad away, yes, that had a huge impact, that would effect any team. Take away Barry Bonds and what happens to the Giants. It's the same thing. But, that said, I still think Vidro is a good solid hitter who will get his numbers back.
[Mike: Well, they problem in San Fran, as you, Joe, are wont to point out, is that the Giants don't have that second hitter on a par with Jeff Kent or even Jose Vidro. Take out Bonds, and you have a poor lineup. Take Vlad out of Montreal and you still have, or had, Vidro.
Vidro could just be having a bad Mike-Schmidt-in-1979 year, but there may also be other factors. The Expos have played eleven games at Hiron Bithorn Stadium in San Juan. Here are Vidro's numbers overall and at "home" in both Montreal and San Juan:
|2004 - Tot.||59||228||16||58||5||24||24||24||.254||.323||.373||.696|
Maybe, this experiment is starting to wear on Vidro. Or maybe he's partying it up with his family and friends back in Mayaguez whenever the 'Spos play there.
Also, take a look at his numbers batting second and third in the lineup this year:
His numbers batting second are respectable, but batting third they stink. Could it be that he doesn't like batting third? Let's look at last year's numbers:
There is also a 100-point difference last year between batting 2nd and batting 3rd.]
Devin (Milwaukee, WI): Joe, do you consider yourself the best 2nd basemen of all time? if not, who do you think is?
I have been asked this several times recently. I don't make those distinctions, but obviously Rogers HOrnsby, Jackie Robinson ... Roberto Alomar in the modern era. How I stack up against them would have to be calculated by someone else. But I'm very very pleased and happy with my carreer as they are with theirs I'm sure.
[Mike: First, I don't think Hornsby or Robinson are to pleased and happy about anything. They’re kinda dead.
Second, that's kind of a mixed bag you mention.You got Hornsby, good. I think that naming Robinson second is problematic at best. Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, and Charlie Gehringer were all arguably better than Robinson. As far as "modern" players, if that means current active but not currently a second baseman, Biggio isn't a bad choice either.
Manchester, NH: Does Jim Rice belong in the HOF in your opinion ? I think he's clear cut and the media is getting it wrong. His numbers are almost identical to your former teammate Tony Perez.
This is about the third week somebody tried to compare these guys. It's not just numbers, there are a lot of intangible that you have to consider. I happen to think Jim Rice deserves to be in the HoF -- becuase he was one of the most dominant players in the National League -- NOT because he had Tony Perez-like numbers.
[Mike: Manchester, New Hampshire, New Hampshire—across the Atlantic Sea…
Well, that was actually Fred McGriff that people were comparing to Perez the least two weeks. Actually, Rice AND McGriff are better candidates for the Hall than Perez. He is one of the worst selections among those active in the last 50 years or so. Rice is borderline—his career was too short—and McGriff is a solid choice.
Oh, and not to undercut your argument but Rice played his entire career in the American League, for the Red Sox. Maybe you're thinking of Sam Rice. Uh, no, he played for the Senators for all but one year and that year was with the Indians, who I think might be in the AL as well. I know, it's got to be Del Rice, the old Cardinal/Brave catcher. He's a poor Hall choice, but he did play for in the NL.]
Tim (Bloomington, IN): I saw a comparison of Griffey and Bonds in an article the other day and it made me sick. "The Kid" has been rejuvenated and I'm happy for him. But in case you didn't notice Barry Bonds in 80 less ABs Barry has 1 less homer. Bonds does deserve to be drug into these comparisons with anyone in this era. He is in the pantheon of players in greatest of all-time argument with Mays, Ruth and Aaron.
I didn't write the article and I didn't see it so I don't . Griffey was the player of the decade in the 90s. Bonds is definitely the player of the millenium. I agree with you. Bonds is definitely one of the best players of all time ... but so is Griffey. Griffey was the only EVERYDAY player voted onto the All-Century team. (Roger Clemens was on it too, but he's not everyday).
[Mike: There are some who call me... Tim.
Thanks, Joe, for admitting that Bonds is the best player over the last four years (millennium?) Given that he's won three straight MVPs, that's really going out on a limb.
We covered this last week. Morgan's position is completely indefensible except in Joe's own head. And defending his opinion—he is a well-known baseball analyst after all—with the popularity contest that was the All-Century team is ludicrous. Does that mean the Pete Rose is one of the best outfielders of the last hundred years or so? C'mon. That Clemens is on the team shows that a thousand, or rather a million, monkeys punching out holes in a card can write Shakespeare. Most of the time, we end up with George Bush in the White House.]
Nick (Philly, PA): Is Manny Ramirez a legitmate triple crown candidate. With the way he's playing playing, I think he is.
Yes, I think he is because he is the one of the best hitters in the game today when you consider power, clutch hitting and batting average. He's won a batting title, he's capable of winning a RBI title and a HR title, but I don't think it's likely. Guys are so specialized these days. It was always difficult but I think it's especially difficult now. More people hit home runs now than ever before.
[Mike: Nick's your buddy. Nick's your pal. Nick doesn't mind if you throw up in his car, excuse me, vomit.
I don't know if Ramirez can outrun Smarty Jones and he's a bit old for a miler, but he can probably beat Beetlebum.
He's 5th in batting average, tied for first in homers, and 7th in RBI. So could he win a triple crown? Sure, is it unlikely? Probably. There's still two-thirds of a season to play after all.
Now to Joe's palaverations. OK, let's see: "Guys are so specialized these days…. More people hit home runs now than ever before." So if more guys hit HRs than before, how are they specialized? Wasn't hitting more specialized when only the top 1-2 guys in the lineup would beat you with the long ball? Back in the '70s guys like Larry Bowa, who would hit maybe a homer per season, could actually be employed as an offensive player.
Isn't that the complaint that Joe always uses: back in his playing days things like speed, bunting ability, making contact, etc. were key offensive skills. Now, it's all the power game.
By the way, more players are not hitting homers home runs now than ever before. You could say that in the late '90s, but offenses are down a bit now.
By the way, with expansion and talent compression, it's harder for players to lead in three separate categories, especially one like RBI that are not entirely under their control.]
Andrew, Glendale, CA: Do you think players of the 70's and 80's are getting enough serious HOF consideration? i.e. Dale Murphy, Ryne Sandberg, Steve Garvey etc?
That's hard for me to say b/c as I said, I don't vote, and I am vice chairman of the board of HoF so I try not to criticize the writers for what they've done or the way they've voted. I do believe that there are guys out there -- we mentioned Jim Rice -- who have been slighed. To start to get into guys who have been overlooked for votes would take me all day.
[Mike: Is Joe an analyst or a the vice chairman of the Hall boars? A dessert topping or a floor wax? I would like to see a little more of this kind of chutzpah, said by the title caharacter in Citizen Kane:
As Charles Foster Kane who owns eighty-two thousand, six hundred and thirty-four shares of public transit - you see, I do have a general idea of my holdings - I sympathize with you. Charles Foster Kane is a scoundrel. His paper should be run out of town. A committee should be formed to boycott him. You may, if you can form such a committee, put me down for a contribution of one thousand dollars…On the other hand, I am the publisher of the Inquirer. As such, it is my duty, I'll let you in on a little secret, it is also my pleasure -- to see to it that decent, hard-working people of this community aren't robbed blind by a pack of money-mad pirates just because they haven't anybody to look after their interests! I'll let you in on another little secret, Mr. Thatcher. I think I'm the man to do it. You see I have money and property. If I don't look after the interests of the underprivileged, maybe somebody else will, maybe somebody without any money or property and that would be too bad.
If Joe Morgan can't criticize the writers and the process used by the Hall, then who can? If it would take him "all day" to discuss the overlooked players, then obviously there are more than a handful of them.
By the way, I studied this, and there is quite clearly a bias concerning expansion era players.]
Dennis Landi (La Palma, Ca.): Can you think of any of today's closers that are capable of pitching as many innings as the Mike Marshall's and Rollie Fingers's of your playing days. Do you feel Eric Gagne could do this? Thank you. Dennis Landi
You can't compare eras but Rollie and Mike were different kinds of closers. The managers have made closing a 3 out proposition today when it used to be a 9 out three innings deal. Just think, that would be 3 saves to every one.
Jermaine, D.C.: Joe, I read your article on the modern day 'save'. You don't mention Mariano Rivera once. Don't you think he would hold his own with the closers of yesteryear? Didn't you see his performance in Game 7 of the AL Championship last season? His total career (postseason included)?
Well, the whole point is, we weren't comparing closers, we were talking about Rollie Fingers' and MIke Marshall's comments about Eric Gangne's performance. I didn't mention Lee Smith or Bruce Sutter OR Mariano Rivera -- who I feel is the best post season closer in the history of the game. But that wasn't the gist of the column.
[Mike: This is just the tip of the idiocy iceberg. Let's take a look at the offending article, "Is Gagne's Save Streak Overrated?" to which Joe refers, shall we?
First, let me say that what Joe doesn't know about relief pitching could fill a book, and it basically did—check out my history of relief pitching. Basically, every paragraph, if not every sentence, in the article has a misrepresentation if not an out-and-out prevarication. I know because have notes crammed into every part of the left-hand margin, some underlined as if to scream out at me. Let's take'em one at a time:
There has been plenty of discussion about the 76 consecutive saves recorded by Los Angeles Dodgers closer Eric Gagne. Is it a great accomplishment or an overblown statistic? I can see both sides of the debate.
[Mike: Can't it be both? See dessert topping/floor wax debate.]
I agree that it's a fantastic record. The key, though, is that we need to compare players with their peers -- because we can't really compare Gagne to Rollie Fingers and other relievers of my era.
[Mike: Why is that the key? I don't know exactly how far back they started recording blown saves. I know that it is all subjective. Blown saves are not an official stat.
However, couldn't the Fingers have recorded 76 straight saves if blown saves were factored in? It would just take him a couple of extra seasons because there were fewer save opps in his day.
Besides, you can’t compare relievers from any one era to another. It is the one thing in baseball that has been evolving almost constantly, besides Bob Costas' anecdotes (I'm joking of course). The relievers in Joe's day were basically the evolutionary dead end of the one-man bullpen. In this way, I can say that Mike Marshall was a Neanderthal.]
Closers are used differently today, pitching far fewer innings than in my day, which means that the save rule is being applied differently today. From 1972-78, Fingers averaged 122 innings and 25 saves per season . By contrast, Gagne pitched only 82 innings last year in his NL Cy Young season as he tied the NL record of 55 saves (to complement a 1.20 ERA and a 2-3 record). Gagne also threw 82 innings in 2002 when he saved 52 games.
[Mike: Hold the phone! The save rule is still applied the same way. We do see fewer three-inning saves, especially from a closer, but the other two means of getting a save are the same(though it is true that the save rule was revamped in 1973, '74, and '75).]
In 1974, reliever Mike Marshall pitched 208 innings and won the NL Cy Young award with a 15-12 record, 21 saves and a 2.42 ERA -- without starting a single game! Meanwhile, Atlanta Braves closer John Smoltz, who shares the NL saves record with Gagne, threw 80 innings in 2002 when he notched 55 saves. Bobby Thigpen holds the AL and MLB single-season saves record (57 saves in 88 innings in 1990).
[Mike: Right, and Marshall was 9-14 in 1975 with just 13 saves and a 3.29 ERA, just 4% better than the park-adjusted league average. He then switch teams four times in three years. He never threw 200 innings again and broke one hundred only once. He had poor years in 1976-77 (ERAs 11% and 12% worse than the league average. He finally returned to form in Minnesota in 1978-79. 1978: 10-12, 2.45 ERA (57% better than league average), 21 saves, 99 IP. 1979: 10-15, 2.65 ERA (65% better than league average), 32 saves, and 142.2 IP (and only 1 start). But the burden and his age were too much. He was injured most of the next year and was out of the game a year later.
Marshall is a cautionary tale. He was able to pitch well over 100 innings a year in relief but just every 4-5 years or so. Well, he did it in 1973 and '74, but it caused him to be ineffective until 1978.
Consider also that strategy employed with Marshall, Hillman, and the rest was considered a failure and was largely abandoned. Relief pitching was in retrograde until Bruce Sutter and Herman Franks pointed the way to keeping your relief healthy and effective by using him more often in shorter, more important appearances. Pitchers cannot go 200 innings in relief: their bodies do have limitations. So why not utilize their skills more effectively in concentrated bursts? That's what they did.]
Keep in mind that in the midst of Gagne's streak of consecutive games saved, he has lost games after entering a tie contest -- but those don't count as blown saves.
[Mike: Mrshall lost 12 games in 1974. Fingers lost an average of 8 games a year from 1972-77. What's your point? He also entered games that were tied and left before the outcome was settled. What's the difference? They're not save opportunities.]
If managers today would change their approach for an entire season and use today's closers like the best relievers of 30 years ago, then we could compare their save statistics in an apples-to-apples manner. Otherwise, we're comparing apples and oranges.
[Mike: If managers today used the strategy popularized by John McGraw over 70 years ago, then their best pitcher including starters would relieve as well. Again, reliever use has always changed. Either we compare using the stats available in an informed manner or we chuck evaluating relievers altogether. Besides you're the one, Joe, who insisted on this comparison in the first place.]
Thirty years ago, the relief role itself was approached differently -- a reliever was simply a reliever. The term closer wasn't even used because the concept of specialized relief roles (middle-inning reliever, setup man, closer) hadn't been introduced yet.
[Mike: This is flat-out wrong. Closers became popular in the early Fifties with Joe Page and Jim Konstanty becoming stars. John McGraw starting developing bullpen roles toward the end of his managerial career. The Senators did as well. The Dodgers and O's had setup men. Long relievers in the Sixties. Marshall had Charlie Hough and Jim Brewer to set him up. Remember that this was when the Dodgers were developing five-men rotations and the six-inning starter, for which Don Sutton was penalized at Hall-of-Fame time. By the way, Fireman was the preferred term in those days as in Johnny "Fireman" Murphy, and early reliever for the Yankees right before Page.]
Save Rule Revisited
The intent of the save rule, according to veteran Chicago baseball writer Jerome Holtzman (who wrote the rule), is to have the star reliever pitch the final two or three innings of the game to get the save. But managers have changed the way saves are recorded by saving their best reliever to get the last three outs of the game.
[Mike: No, the original save rule said that the pitcher who holds a lead until the end of the game was credited with a save, no matter how long he pitched nor how big a lead he was given. That wasn't changed until 1974.
The mangers may have changed the strategy concerning the way that closers were used. They didn’t change the rule however. Besides since the way that relievers are used has been changing constantly, shouldn't they have had the forethought to come up with a more effective rule?
Also, Holtzman developed the save stat in 1959 and used to publish them in the Chicago Sun-Times. His stat was used as the blueprint for the official stat, but to my knowledge, he didn't write the rule.]
The difference between the accomplishments of Gagne and Fingers is this: Fingers would enter the game in the seventh inning with runners in scoring position, get out of that jam and then close the door for two more innings -- in today's terms, he would act as his own setup man.
[Mike: I checked out Fingers 1973 season, by far the best from this period (1972-77). He did have 8 saves in which he pitched more than two innings (and 3 four-inning appearances). He also had nine saves in which he pitched one inning or less (including four one-out saves). So basically whenever they needed a win "saved", they turned to Fingers. ]
Today, most closers enter the game to start the ninth inning. With no one on base, they typically don't face a pressure-cooker situation as the closers of the past invariably did.
[Mike: Well, that's a bit facile, isn't it? Which is tougher, entering a ballgame in the ninth with a one-run lead or entering in the eighth with a four-run lead? Before 1974, the latter was considered a save opportunity (Joe, define "invariably"). I agree that pitching the ninth with a three-run lead is not terribly difficult. But to reduce everything to that extreme scenario is unfair to modern closers.]
The especially impressive part of Gagne's accomplishment is that he hasn't slipped once in nearly 80 straight save opportunities. Still, I've always said that I can't compare Gagne with Fingers, Bruce Sutter and the relievers I saw who typically pitched three innings to record one save. In today's game, those three innings would be three saves for most closers.
[Mike: They did not "typically pitch three innings". They did far more often than closers do today, but consider what happened to Bruce Sutter's early career. Sutter started each of the 1976-78 seasons very impressively and either got injured or lost effectiveness due to overuse. His manager Herman Franks decided to try him in shorter bursts in 1979, Sutter won the Cy Young, and the modern reliever was born. This was actually the result of the original evolutionary pattern for relievers up to around 1972—they made fewer and fewer appearances per year and pitched fewer and fewer innings. This culminated in John Hiller's record 38 saves in 1973 in 65 relief appearances (and 125.1 innings).
Then the Expos decided to pitch Mike Marshall basically every day in 1983, and the trend reversed itself overnight. But even as closers were expected to pitch more innings, setup men started surpassing closers in appearances. The managers seemed to know that the high-innings closer was a dead end and when the Sutter model became available, many managers embraced it. That's how it's always been with close strategy: one team shows the rest the way and the follow. This started in the early days of the NL with Harry Wright and the Boston Red Stockings/Red Caps, happened again with McGraw and the Giants, Firpo Marberry, Joe Page, Hoyt Wilhelm, Sutter/Franks, and Eckersley/LaRussa.
Oh, as far as comparing eras, I did in the study. It isn't easy but it can be done.]
There's no question that today's closers face a far easier task. How difficult is it to get a save when you have a three-run lead and only need to get three outs?
[Mike: From 1969-73, a save was credited to a reliever whenever he held a lead. Check your facts, Joe.]
If you turned Hall of Fame starter Bob Gibson into a closer and gave him a three-run lead in the ninth inning with no one on base, he'd never lose a game -- he'd get a save every time.
[Mike: In Blazing Saddles the sheriff gets the townspeople to fight by saying, "You'd do it foe Randolph Scott", to which the referentially reply, "Randolph Scott!" with a holy choir in the background. Bob Gibson is Joe's Randolph Scott. Gibson crapped roses as far as Joe's concerned.
Gibson recorded a 1.12 ERA in 1968, sure, but Gagne's 1.20 last year wasn't shabby either and it was in a hitter's era. It's not like starters weren't used as relievers. Walter Johnson, Iron Joe McGinnity, Lefty Grove, Cy Young, Ed Walsh, Three Finger Brown, etc. were used extensively in relief then John McGraw and Firpo Marberry led the way to using effective pitchers in relief exclusively. I'm sure Gibson would have been a great reliever but shouldn't he have been used as a starter to have such a great pitcher soak up all the innings?]
So, regarding the Gagne debate, I can see both sides of the argument (and each side has merit). Rollie Fingers and others have maintained that if Gagne routinely had to pitch three innings to get a save, he wouldn't be able to get 76 saves in a row. I agree with that.
[Mike: Yeah, where's the other side?
No pitcher could possibly pitch the way Fingers described, let alone kept a save streak alive for 76 games. Besides, Fingers is the luckiest reliever there has ever been. He undeservingly won an MVP and Cy Young in 1981 and on the strength of that he got into the Hall even though Goose Gossage and others would have been better choices. Fingers should be the happiest man alive and he should shut his yap.]
But as much as I admire the relievers I've seen in the past, I don't think any of them would be able to get 76 saves in a row today. Gagne has been able to accomplish that because he absolutely dominates hitters night in and night out.
[Mike: So that's it? Why? Marshall and Fingers were supermen. Why couldn't they get 76 measly, one-inning saves in a roll? Gibson, according to you, would never lose. Oh, because Gagne "dominates". That's it.]
I've always felt that the save numbers achieved by closers are overrated. I mean, closers always come in with the lead! This isn't a knock on Gagne or any other closer, because closers fill an important role on a team. But getting three outs with a three-run lead is not as difficult as pitching five innings to get that lead.
[Mike: Right, five is bigger than one. Good, Joe.]
Starting pitchers aren't given the lead, they earn it. A starting pitcher must pitch well enough to allow his team the take the lead. That's why I believe a reliever shouldn't win the Cy Young award -- especially a modern reliever. Pitching 70-80 innings isn't enough to justify winning the Cy Young. Major League Baseball has a Fireman of the Year award for relievers.
[Mike: Who are you, John Housman? "They Earrrrn it."
What about the home team scores in the first inning? Isn't their starting pitcher handed a lead? Or how about the pitcher who is pulled for a pinch-hitter, who drives in the leading run? Did the pitcher earn the lead there?
This is possibly the stupidest argument that I've heard for excluding relievers from Cy Young voting. At least he gets the real reason, innings pitched.
Oh wait, did I say that was the stupidest? Major League Baseball has a Fireman of the Year award for relievers. I stand corrected.]
In my new "Baseball for Dummies" book, I identify some changes that I believe should take place in MLB's awards system, and among them are these: Only starters should win the Cy Young and only everyday players should win the MVP.
[Mike: To quote Red Foxx, "You big dummy!" That has got to be the mostly aptly named book ever! You've got to be a dummy to subject yourself to 300 pages of Morganisms. I tried to get through the first edition of the Joe's tome, but aside from a few chuckles, it just didn't hold my interest.
Wow, I've never heard a proposal like Joe's. It's earth-shattering! Look pitchers are pitchers. Just pick the best one. Then pick the best player for MVP. It's simple. So simple in fact that one day even the baseball writers will get the system down.]
Getting three outs with a three-run lead is not as difficult as pitching five innings to get that lead. Some fans might not remember how the trend of having the closer pitch only the ninth inning started. As I recall, it began when reliever Bruce Sutter got injured in the early 1980s (I'm not sure of the exact year).
[Mike: Wow, repeat yourself much? ( Getting three outs with a three-run lead is not as difficult as pitching five innings to get that lead.)
Early 1980s? It was 1979. Just look it up, Joe. He won the GD Cy Young that year. And the Rolaids Relief award as well, I might add. I know you're not a "numbers guy" but c'mon! How can you sign your name to this tripe? How can an editor sign off on it without checking basic facts? And you don't get by with a disclaimer: (I'm not sure of the exact year)]
Sutter used to pitch the seventh, eighth and ninth to record saves. But after he injured his arm, it was too risky for him to pitch three innings, so he cut back to one inning per appearance. His arm held up well for several years afterwards.
[Mike: No, this is also flat-out wrong. That revolution would not occur until Eckersley. What Franks did with Sutter was to limit or rather stagger his appearances, which did limit his overall number of innings. However, he still did make multi-inning appearances. In 1979, he had a 5-inning appearance, three appearances between 3 and 4 innings (for 1 save), and just 13 of his 37 saves came in one inning or less. He did pitch 101.1 innings in 62 appearances, or 1.63 innings per appearance.
Also, Sutter did sustain an injury in 1977, but the other years he (1976 & 78) he just lost effectiveness from overuse. It even happened in September 1979, but Sutter's numbers were so good the rest of the year that it didn't matter.]
Then, the one-inning closer system was perfected and popularized by manager Tony La Russa, who began the strategy of bringing in one reliever for the seventh, another for the eighth and the closer for the ninth. That was the start of the the current system of middle-inning relievers and a setup man paving the way for a one-inning closer. La Russa's idea was to shorten the game when his team had the lead.
[Mike: OK, this is one thing that he did get right. LaRussa was the first to use a reliever (Eckersley) in one innings situations almost exclusively.
According to Jerome Holtzman, though, that changed the way saves were recorded and circumvented the intent of the save rule.
[Mike: Holtzman must be (is he still alive?) bitter when everyone asks him at cocktail parties why he didn't device a better stat. It must be the pitchers' fault!
Look, baseball rewrote the rule in 1974 and tweaked it in '73 and '75. I recommend that they change it now. That said, the one-inning closer did not do what Joe says here. The original intent of the save rule was to reward a reliever who maintained a lead in a game through to the end. There were one-inning saves prior to Eckersley. As I showed before even superman Mike Marshall had one-out saves. The strategy evolved. If the definition of a save wasn't well thought out enough to anticipate this, then change the rule.]
One final note: I've established that due to the way closers are used, saves are easier to attain today. But it's also true that smaller ballparks and livelier baseballs make home-run and RBI numbers easier to attain. So the way the game has changed over the years is affecting both pitching and hitting statistics.
[Mike: One final note, live evolved from extraterrestrials. Good night, everybody!
Joe just can't throw these little grenades out and then skedaddle, can he? I guess he can.
Saves are not "easier to attain". The LaRussa strategy just is more efficient if you have a good enough cast around the closer to keep the lead to the ninth. You also have more chefs to blow the save.
OK, livelier balls? Can Joe justify this statement? Does he know that the ball is livelier?
Yes, there is more offense but that ebbs and flows. So what? If you mean that there's more potential to blow a save that's a nice theory. Do you have any proof? Are offenses picking on all pitchers equally or are poorer pitchers sustaining more damage? If it's the latter, maybe a good closer is not affected that much or at least not enough to blow more than a handful of games. Given that save totals are on the rise that appears to be the case.]
Alex Belth has great rundown of a meeting of the eastcoast reps from All-Baseball.com at a Baseball Prospectus event.
It's the bottom of the ninth. The score is tied 3-3 with two out. There is a speedy runner at third and a pitcher with a funky motion on the mound. It's a full count and the runner breaks for home before the pitch. The pitch hits the runner as he slides across home on what would apparently have been a strike.
What's the call? Would it be different if there were, say, none out?
You asked for it. You got it. Toyota.
There is a man on first with one out of a tie ballgame. A ball is lined toward the left of the first baseman, screening the runner. The runner instinctively retreats to first to avoid being doubled off. The first baseman catches it on one short hop and turns to see the runner standing on first.
What should the first baseman do and why?
Jim Thome reached the nearly magical number of 400 home runs tonight at CB Park. But he had to wait through a 2:15 rain delay to know if it would be official. Thome also had two deep drives to left that were caught by Adam Dunn.
The Phils took a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the fifth as the game became official. They now lead 7-6 in the top of the seventh with Robert Hernandez preparing to cough up another lead.
Mediocrity would always win by force of numbers, but it would win only more mediocrity. —Ellen "Jack" Glasgow
The Yankees appear to be pulling away from the pack in the AL since they have won 16 of 19 and are on a pace to 106 games on the year, while they prepare to gorge themselves on the mid-season offerings from soon-to-be non-contenders. Oakland (with an 8-game win streak) and Boston who have had their share of success and are on a pace to win in the high 90s.
Meanwhile in the senior circuit, the leaders seem to be content to skirt mediocrity. No team has a winning percentage over .571, meaning that none will win over 93 games if they keep up their current winning percentages.
No second place team is more than 1-1/2 games behind the division leader. Indeed, there are ten teams clumped within four games of each other in the league:
Well, so what's the big deal? How unusual is that?
Here are the only league leaders in winning percentage who have had a sub-.575 percentage and what the did in the postseason:
|1974||AL||.562||Baltimore Orioles||Lost ALCS|
|1983||NL||.562||Los Angeles Dodgers||Lost NLCS|
|1959||NL||.564||Los Angeles Dodgers||Won WS|
|1967||AL||.568||Boston Red Sox||Lost WS|
|1982||NL||.568||St. Louis Cardinals||Won WS|
|1980||NL||.571||Houston Astros||Lost NLCS|
|1989||NL||.574||Chicago Cubs||Lost NLCS|
|2001||NL||.574||St. Louis Cardinals||Lost NLDS|
|1964||NL||.574||St. Louis Cardinals||Won WS|
Surprisingly, they have not done that badly in the playoffs. Given the odds resulting from the number of team in the playoffs in those years, one would expect the teams above to win slightly 2.875 World Series and they have won three. Only one of those World Series championships came in the expansion era, however. And after the playoffs expanded, it seems to negatively impact the teams. One would expect 2.75 of the six expansion era teams to win the league championship, but only one (the '82 Cardinals) actually did. Of course, we are dealing with an extremely small sample size so luck plays a large role. But it is odd that in the 1980s, there were 4 league leaders with sub-.575 winning percentages but only one since.
So what does it mean? If you're looking for a Cinderella team, this year's 2002 Angels, 2003 Marlins, or 1980 Carl Spackler, then if things stay relatively the same, the wild card team in the NL could be that team. Right now, that's the Cincinnati Reds, losers of six straight.
Of course, this is all just an exercise in sublimation for a Phillies fan who is concerned that given their head-to-head performance, the Phils will never overcome the Marlins and hopes the wild card route will spell victory. I can dream, can't I?
Ha-ha, you fool. You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is "Never get involved in a land war in Asia", but only slightly less well known is this: "Never go in against a Sicilian, when DEATH is on the line.". Hahahahahah.
--Last words of Wally Shawn "Abner" before dying in The Princess Bride.
If you missed it, the Yanks came back from an 2-0 deficit with 2 outs in the ninth and a 5-2 defict in the 12th to beat the Padres, 6-5.
The Pod People wasted a scorless, seven-inning performance by David Wells in his first game back at Yankee Stadium since his second tour of duty in New York. Back-to-back two-out homers by Hideki Matsui (on a 2-0 pitch) and pinch-hitter Kenny Lofton (2-1) off of closer Trevor Hoffman sent the game into extra innings.
San Diego scored three in the top of the twelfth aided in part by a two-base error by right fielder Gary Sheffield, who misplayed a bouncing single. The Yanks. Rod Beck came in to pitch the 12th and quickly gave up a 5-pitch walk to leadoff hitter Bernie Williams and a double to Derek Jeter on a 1-2 pitch. Beck then got A-Rod to ground out, which also narrowed the lead to two. The Yankees then got two quick hits off Beck: a single by Sheffield on a 1-1 pitch and a single by Giambi on a 1-0 pitch. And the score was 5-4.
Perhaps, Padre manager Bruce Bochy's first mistake was leaving Beck in for so long when it looked like he was pitching batting practice. However, a bigger mistake came when Bochy finally euthanized Beck's performance and turned instead to former Yank Jay Witasick. Sure, Witasick has had decent numbers this year and he had been 3-0 with a 3.20 ERA (with 27 K in 19.2 IP) in his last three years at the Stadium, but this is Jay Witasick! Why not revivify Eddie Whitson's moribund career and have him serve up some meatballs to his former teammates?
Witasick gave up an automatic double by Posada on a 1-1 pitch, and the game was tied. Mastui was then walked intentionally to load the bases and the tying run scored on pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra hit a sac fly deep enough to center also on a 1-1 pitch.
...with no allusions whatsoever to Bill Parcells.
Here's a brain teaser. If the visiting team's leadoff hitter comes up to the plate in every inning of a nine-inning ballgame, what is the fewest number of runs the visiting team could score?
The first correct answer wins a vintage Steve Jeltz All-Star card.
Grandeur of the perfect sphere
Thanks the atoms that cohere.
—Ralph "Branca" Waldo Emerson
Perfect behavior is born of complete indifference.
—Cesare "Carl" Pavese
So who’s perfect? … Washington had false teeth. Franklin was nearsighted. Mussolini had syphilis. Unpleasant things have been said about Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde. Tchaikovsky had his problems, too. And Lincoln was constipated.
—John "Kid" O'Hara
In the wake of Randy Johnson's perfect game a number of analysts have remarked on the fact that there have been eleven perfect games since 1961, the year of baseball's first foray into expansion. In the previous ninety years of major-league baseball, there were just five regular-season perfectos (plus Don Larsen's 1956 World Series gem).
Of course, they argue, expansion diluted the player pool making it easier for a dominant pitcher to shut down an inferior team 27 times in a row. Keith Emmer wrote a very good article on the topic that cuts through the bluster and uses common sense to look at the issue. He uses on-base percentage to evaluate this claim and finds that most of the post-expansion perfect games have been thrown against teams with better OBPs than those in previous perfect games.
Here is a table of the overall ratios (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS) in the majors per decade. Also listed is the number of perfect Games (PG) per decade. (Note: Don Larsen's World Series game is included with the regular-season stats for the 1950s.) There is a grand total and a breakdown by pre-expansion and post-expansion era:
Yeah, there's a big difference in OBP since expansion. Well, two percentage points at least, is that it? It's also worth mentioning that decades with low OBPs tend to have more perfect games (1880s, 1900s, and 1960s) than those with high OBPs (1890s, 1930s and 1940s). However, the decade with the highest overall OBP, the 1920s, did have a perfect game and the high-OBP Nineties had four. So there is something more than just how often players get on base that affects the likelihood of a prefect game.
The next big factor and one that is so obvious that it's remarkable that it hardly gets mentioned. It's the number of games. As Emmer points out, the number of games per year has nearly doubled in the expansion era. There are 30 teams now as opposed to 16, and the schdule is 162 games as opposed to 154. If one views the likelihood of a perfect game being throw as a probability problem, each game pitched (except those pitched by Brian Anderson) has a shot at being a perfect game. The more games there are the better than chance that a perfect game is thrown.
I though that I would use the number of games and on-base percentage yearly to calculate the probability of a perfecto being thrown in that year. However, I wasn't happy using the standard OBP. For those of you unfamiliar with the stat, it is the sum of a player's hits, walks, and hit-by-a-pitch divided by his total plate appearances, i.e., the sum of his at-bats, walks, hit-by-a-pitch, and sacrifice flies. It was a decent predictor but had some obvious issues.
First, it counts sacrifice flies as a plate appearance (actually, initially the devisors of OBP went back and forth on this issue for a few years before settling on including sac flies). Now, obviously in a perfect game, there is no possibility of sac flies since whenever a given batter is at the plate there could not possibly be someone already on base, let alone at third, for him to drive in with a sac fly.
I thought about taking sac flies out of the plate appearance total, but decided against it for two reasons: 1) Sac flies were not officially recorded prior to the 1954 season. Prior to that they were just fly outs. If I removed them from the post-1954 plate appearances, it wouldn't be consistent with the pre-sac fly era statistical record.
2) I don't have a lot of faith in sac flies. Sure, if it's the bottom of the ninth of a tie ballgame and there's a runner at third with fewer than two outs, the batter is trying to drive the ball deep to the outfield to score the runner and win the game. That clearly is a sac fly (though often the outfield is drawn in and the ball drops for a hit).
However, let's say there are runners at first and third with one out in the ninth and the team at bat down by three. The batter drives a ball deep to left to score the runner, is credited with a sac fly, and receives high fives all around in the dugout. But that batter wasn't trying to sacrifice himself to score the run: he was trying to hit the ball hard possibly for a home run or a gap double to score the runners.
I just don't buy that the sac flies accurately capture a batter sacrificing himself for a run. The framers of on-base percentage didn't but it either. That's why they eventually included sac flies but not bunts in the total plate appearances.
Anyway, I kept sac flies in the total plate appearance totals.
That then leads us to sacrifice bunts. They are not in the plate appearance totals and I decided to keep it that way. Again, in a perfect game, there is no possibility of a bunt except for a base hit and then the at-bat would result in a hit, an error, or an out, but not a sacrifice bunt. Bunts have been recorded since 1895, and more importantly unlike sac flies they do capture an intentional sacrifice on the batter's part.
So bunts are not included in the total plate appearances calculations.
Next there is the issue of intentional walks. No one is going to give someone a free first-base pass when he is pitching a perfect game. Intentional walks have only been recorded since 1955, but I decided to subtract them from the walk totals, which affects both parts of the equation. Intentional walks will not be included in total plate appearances but will also be subtracted from the calculations for times on base.
Lastly and possibly the biggest issue with using on-base percentage, OBP ignores errors. Well, more precisely, if a player reaches on an error, it counts as an at-bat and therefore, a plate appearance but not as a time on base. However, an error would break up a perfect game. Therefore, I am including errors in the equation, which I will no longer call on-base percentage, since it is far afield of the official definition. I'll just call the new equation reached percentage—why not?
By the way, I will not be including passed balls, wild pitches, balks, or any other stat since they, for the most part, occur when there are already runners on base. (I know that a balk could be called with no runner, thereby charging the pitcher with a ball. Also, a dropped third strike could be called a passed ball if the batter reaches. The same goes for a wild pitch. But I think those instances are so rare that they can be ignored.)
The final "reached" equation combines batting and fielding stats: It's the sum of hits plus hit-by-a-pitch plus walks minus intentional walks, all divided by "modified" plate appearances (the sum of at-bats, hit-by-a-pitch, sac flies, and walks minus intentional walks). Given that it combines the offensive stats for the team at batter and the defensive stats for the team pitching, it can only be done at the league level. (Note, that interleague play complicates all of this, but instead of going to the major-league level as a result, I decided to keep it at the league.)
I then took the reached percentage and subtracted it from one to get the percentage of times that the player did not reach. I then multiplied raise it to the 27th power to represent the full complement of plate appearances in a nine-inning perfect game. That gave me the probability that a given game in a given year could result in a perfect game. I then multiplied that by the total number of games (one game per team) to arrive at the expected number of perfect games for a given league in a given year.
Now here are the results:
|Yr||Lg||G||Reached %||PG Prob||Exp # PG||Actual PG|
I even ran the numbers for the postseason, but won't try your patience by posting it all here. I'll just list 1956 and the overall numbers:
|Yr||G||Reached %||PG Prob||Exp # PG||Actual PG|
Anyway, if you look at the regular-season table totals, you'll notice that even though OBP has remained about the same in the expansion era as it was in the pre-expansion era, due to improved defensive play, fewer men, about 3.5%, reach base after expansion. The result is that a perfect game is 4-5 times more likely to be thrown. Add in the extra games, and the expected number of perfect games in the expansion era trebles the pre-expansion expectation.
Actual perfect games do seem to occur when the expectation numbers have a sudden increase (e.g., 1880, 1904, 1908, 1968, and 1988), but also seem to happen when the expectation level is relatively low (1922 and 1994). I take that to mean that probability plays a guiding role but that there's still a great deal of randomness to the whole thing.
You may also notice that the expected number of perfect games is about a quarter of the actual (about 3.25 to 15). Obviously, basing the calculations on the league average for defense and offense was not an entirely accurate model for reality. It appears that the advantage of a very good defensive team facing a very poor offensive team outweighs the disadvantage of a very poor defensive team facing a very good offense.
A study for another day might be to based the calculations not at the league level but at the team level and they formulate the expected number of perfect games based on the matchups in that year. The 1950 Phils offense against the 1950 Braves defense if they played 33 times as they did in the days of the 154-game schedule. Maybe that would give us a more accurate picture.
Then again there is the possibility that pitchers exceed expectations why there is a possibility of a perfect game. Look at that Kevin Costner movie after all (although how difficult could it be to pitch a perfect game if Kelly Preston is the prize that you'd win).
Whatever the cause, given that actual results generally follow expectations, I have to believe that there's a bit more than randomness in the mix.
Mitch Cumstein (Chicago, IL): Fred Mcgriffs career numbers destroy Tony Perez's numbers, yet Mcgriff is not considered to be a viable HOF candidate. Mcgriff played a majority of his career in a pitcher's era. Why is Tony Perez in the HOF and Mcgriff is not even considered?
Well, first of all I don't like to compare across eras. I'm trying to figure out where the pitchers era is for McGriff. Perez played in a pitchers ear. But it's not just about numbers, it's about consistency and championships. I'm a big McGriff fan and think he's a great player. But if I had to choose between the two, obviously for selfish reasons, I would pick Perez. It's a difficult question because it's just so hard to compare numbers across eras. A great example .. Mays is the best player I saw. I think his average was around 25-30 HRs and over 100 RBI .. a couple years ago there were 30 OFs with better numbers than Mays. None of them were a better player than Mays.
The question is, do you think Jose Canseco is better than Paul Molitor? That is a similar situation.
[Mike: Who? What? Where? Brain freeze! Ooh, that one hurt! Take a deep breath now.
OK, what do Canseco and Molitor have to do with anything? Molitor had a 20-year career, collected 3000 hits, and 500 stolen bases. He wasn't really a power hitter. Canseco palyed 17 injury-plagued seasons and was mostly a hired home run hitter over the last half of that career. Yeah, they were both mostly DHs over the latter part of their careers, but they were in no way similar hitters.
Why not say that Cal Ripken and Ozzie Smith were similar players because the both played short? McGriff and Perez both earned their pay as power-hitting first basemen.
Perez played in a pitchers ear? Boy, it must have been really confining in there.
Mays career average was not 25-30 HRs, but 36 per year. Good guess though. Maybe you were thinking of a truly comparable player to Mays like Paul Blair—he played center, too.
I'll let the following question argue the case for McGriff before I finish Joe off with a powerful paralyzing
perfect pachydermous percussion pitch.]
redrum: Hi Joe...the fact that McGriff led his league in hrs with the low totals of 35 and 36 indicates he was hitting in a pitchers era for at least part of his prime.
Tony Perez played when Gibson had a 1.10 ERA and they had to lower the mound because pitchers had such an edge. I'm not really arguing your point, it's just hard to compare anymore.
[Mike: No, it really isn't. McGriff's career park-adjusted OPS is 34% better than the league average. Perez's is 22% better.
In 1968 when Gibson has a 1.12 ERA, Perez hit 18 homers, drove in 92 runs, batted .282/.338/.430 , and had an OPS (.769) that was 25% better than average. He never lead the league in any major offensive category. And he was basically an average first baseman after age 31.
McGriff has lead his league in OPS and park-adjusted OPS once, home runs twice, and games once. He was in the top ten in MVP voting six times. And he scores about the same as an average Hall-of-Famer in Bill James Hall tests. McGriff had an OPS at least 40% better than the park-adjusted league average nine times; Perez accomplished that just four times. All but one of McGriff's "Similar Batters" who are eligible for the Hall are in (5). Just two of Perez's similar batters are in the Hall (and all ten are eligible).
Perez was a very good player, but the only reasons that he is in the Hall are that he played for the Big Red Machine and that he was Latin.]
Ron (Cincinnati, OH): Joe shouldn't people be looking at how many runs people drove in, especially in close situations. Tony Perez gets the win in that book anyday.
I think a great player has to score runs and drive runs in. I believe it is far tougher to drive in a run than to score a run. That's my opinion. An RBI man is very valuable. Again, you have to compare players against their own peers these days. Just look at how many more runs are scored these days.
[Mike: Sheez, I thought Ron from Cincinnati would be a bit more objective.
Tony Perez averaged 96 RBI per year (projected to 162 games), and McGriff averaged 103. Of course, we have no way of knowing how many were in "close situations", but that's so nebulous as to be meaningless. Joe will also say those numbers are padded by the era (or ear) even though McGriff played six seasons before the offensive onslaught of the Nineties (1993 to around 2001).]
Jason (Dallas, TX): Joe, really enjoy your chat sessions. I saw you at the Rangers Sunday night game when they swept the Sox at home. What a game, with the Ranger's fans chanting "sweep", what a change in a year. What do you think about this 180 change in the Rangers. Do you think they will be in the playoffs come September. Thanks. Jason
First of all, I've said in this chat and in my columns that there aren't any great teams any more. Every team has weaknesses. That brings us parity. You've seen teams like the Angels go from last to first so it is possible. I'm never surprised when a team jumps from the bottom to the top. The key will be how they handle the hot weather during these summer months. Buck has done a great job with that team and all the players have responded well so far. I'm happy for them but not surprised.
[Mike: There aren't any great teams anymore? Nope, I've never heard you say that. I'm joking of course.
What does that have to do with the Rangers turnaround? And the Rangers haven't jumped from the bottom to the top. They're in third place and are being helped by a dismal Mariners team.
Look, the Rangers do have a number of young players who are developing at the same time. But they were never that bad a team. They happened to be last because they were in a tough division with just four teams. The Rangers never were worse than 71-91. They never approached the 2003 Tigers for wretchedness.]
Bobby (LI, NY): Do you see the Mets being buyers or sellers once the trading deadline approaches. Thanks
I think they will always be buyers. They can't afford to just sell. They've done that the last couple years. They are going to have to start building a team and moving forward. Adding just a couple guys could make a big difference.
[Mike: They'll always be buyers but they've been sellers the last couple of years? Makes sense to me.
So building a team boils done to acquiring potential free agents just before the trade deadline?]
STEVE WARWICK RI: HEY JOE...I KNOW THE CHARM AND HISTORY OF FENWAY IS PRICELESS AND I NEVER WANT TO LOSE THAT...BUT BE HONEST DO YOU THINK THEY NEED A NEW PARK...THEY FILL THE SEATS EVERYNIGHT NOW AND I'M SURE THEY CAN FILL IT WITH MORE SEATS AND CREATE MORE REVENUE...WHAT'S YOUR THOUGHT?
I think Boston is a great, old ballpark. But with all the new innovations that have been built in to make them more fan friendly, yes, they do need a new park. Fans deserve to be more comfortable at the park.. more parking, restrooms, better seats, etc. Fans are paying a lot of money to go to these game. I do like the new parks because they are just so fan friendly. The only thing I don't like about the new parks is how small they are.
[Mike: Aah, stop shouting!
Joe, Boston is a city not a ballpark. The only reason that the Red Sox need a new stadium is to capture the revenue that they lose to the restaurants, bars, shops, vendors, etc. in the surrounding area and on Mass Ave. If they need a parking lot, they're in a warehousing district. Tear down a warehouse and put a parking lot.
As far as more seats, isn't Fenway the model for the new stadium with fewer seats and more character?
Oh, and thanks to Joe for the parting it-was-better-in-my-day-ism by complaining that they new parks are too small thereby creating higher home run totals. How far down the left-field line does he think it is in Fenway?]
steve (NYC): Joe, do you really think Jr Griffey was a better player than Bonds in the 90's? Yes, Bonds has stepped it up this century, but his numbers was astonishing then too. He's not on the All Century team because he's a lousy interview.
Yes, I do.
If you look at their performances, Griffey was a little more complete player. He played CF which is a more demanding player. If you look past the 90s, you give the edge to Bonds. But look at where Griffey was in the 90s and what he meant to the game, you have to give him the edge in that era.
Remember, he is the only active player, other than Clemens, on the all-Century team. So I"m not the only one that feels that way!
[Mike: Right, there are a lot of rubes in the world, Joe. That's who you want to emulate, the average fan, the lowest common denominator? Well, way to go. You've achieved it.
By the way, Bonds registered an OPS that on average was 79% better than the park-adjusted league average in the Nineties. Griffey's was "just" 50% better. Bonds averaged 35 Win Shares for the decade; Griffey, 26. Griffey did have a slight edge in Fidleing Win Shares (4.0 to 2.4 per year), but that just makes Batting Win Share difference even greater (Bonds 32.6 to 22.2).
OK, I know Joe doesn't buy this mumbo jumbo. How about the fact that Bonds won three MVP awards to Griffey's one for the decade?]
Dave from Lowell MA: The stats guys seem to dismiss the value of the stolen base, but after watching the Angels and the aggressive way they run the bases, I still think they are a weapon, and potentially it has a greater impact in the post-season. Your thoughts?
By the way, if I owned a team, I would love to have Frank Robinson as a manager ..
Stats people just don't know the game. They use numnbers to dictate situations. Stats don't take into consideration the threat of a stolen base .. when Rickey Henderson was on base, right away the starting pitching gets jumpy, his rhythem changes and he can be thrown off his game. I've seen the impact the SB can have and it's very real. More guys are striking out and hitting into DPs because the threat of the SB isn't there. The Marlins were base stealers when they won, the Angels did it and won and when the Yankees were winning, they were running and manufacturing runs.
[Mike: By the way, if I owned a team, I would have them wear lavender uniforms. Did I mention I'm not wearing any pants? Joe, you're creeping me out a bit.
Anyway, ah yes, stat guys. What stat guy, Bill the Stat Guy?
I love how Joe disparages things he doesn't understand. People who have a faculty for statistics cannot possibly know the game. That's how Joe can "know" that Griffey was better than Bonds in the '90s.
Actually, stats can "take into consideration the threat of a stolen base". They has been extensive study into this and the results are that the stolen base usually isn’t worth the threat of getting caught.
More guys are striking out and hitting into DPs because the threat of the SB isn't there.Actually, they ratio of grounded-into-a-double-play to at-bats has been consistently in the 2.1% to 2.3% range over the last 30 years. There are more GIDPs overall because there are more games and more at-bats. Oh, and maybe strikeouts have gone up as the power game became a bigger part of the sport.
By the way, how motivational is it to have a strike-him-out-tag-him-out double play? Or a man caught stealing second followed by a double to the gap or a homer? But what do I know—I'm a stat guy.
The stolen base can be used effectively. Henderson has stolen more bases than anyone (1406), but he also has an 80% success rate. The Marlins led the NL in stolen bases (177) and caught stealing (73) in 2002 and finished fourth. They did the same in 2003 (150 SB, 74 CS) and won the World Series. However, their success rate has not been great: 71% in 2002 and 67% in 2003.
Terry from Dubuque, IA: Joe, don't you think the bunt is way underutilized in Major League baseball?
I'm not sure if it is underutilized because I don't see all the games. But looking at stats, there are probably only a few teams that use it effectively. Everyone is waiting for the HR. Nobody wants to give up an out anymore. I do see statistically that many teams do underutilize it. It should be part of every team's aresenal. Teams that do not bunt in the regular season will try to do it in the postseason and have trouble.
[Mike: "Looking at the stats"? Joe, what are you, a stat guy all of a sudden?
So teams should bunt more because on the off chance that they get to the post season, they'll be able to bunt then?
Do you think bunts might be down in the AL due to the DH? It's down to 0.6% of all plate appearances in the AL. In the NL, bunts per plate appearance went down, from 1.13% in 1977 to 1.10% in 2003. Big deal!]
This nation asks for action, and action now.
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt "Brown"
"My job is to, like, think beyond the immediate."
—George W. "Homer" Bush, Washington, D.C., April 21, 2004 from Bushisms (as are all the Bush quotes below)
[P]ermanent defenses are a non-recurring charge against governmental budgets while large armies continually rearmed with improved offensive weapons constitute a recurring charge. This, more than any other factor ... is responsible for governmental deficits and threatened bankruptcy. The way to disarm is to disarm.... [Congress and the President strive] for the improvement of social conditions, for the preservation of individual human rights, and for the furtherance of social justice.... It is in order to assure these great human values that we seek peace by ridding the world of the weapons of aggression and attack.
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt
"There is no such thing necessarily in a dictatorial regime of iron-clad absolutely solid evidence. The evidence I had was the best possible evidence that he had a weapon." —George W. Bush, Meet the Press, Feb. 8, 2004
Governments can err, Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in different scales. Better the occasional faults of a Government that lives in a spirit of charity than the constant omission of a Government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. .
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt
"I was a prisoner too, but for bad reasons." —George W. Bush, to Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, on being told that all but one of the Argentine delegates to a summit meeting were imprisoned during the military dictatorship, Monterrey, Mexico, Jan. 13, 2004
Once I prophesied that this generation of Americans had a rendezvous with destiny. That prophecy now comes true. To us much is given; more is expected. This generation will nobly save or mainly lose the last best hope of earth. The way is plain, peaceful, generous just. A way, which if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless. .
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt
"There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." — George W. Bush, Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002
What worries me, especially, is that public opinion over here is patting itself on the back every morning and thanking God for the Atlantic Ocean (and the Pacific Ocean). We greatly underestimate the serious implications to our own future.... Things move with such terrific speed these days, that it is really essential to us to think in broader terms and, in effect, to warn the American people that they, too, should think of possible ultimate results in Europe and the Far East. .
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt
"They misunderestimated me." — George W. Bush, Bentonville, Ark., Nov. 6, 2000
No group and no government can properly prescribe precisely what should constitute the body of knowledge with which true education is concerned. .
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt
"Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?" — George W. Bush, Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000
Any Government, like any family, can for a year spend a little more than it earns. But you and I know that a continuation of that habit means the poorhouse. .
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt
"I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family." — George W. Bush, Greater Nashua, N.H., Jan. 27, 2000
"I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it. (Laughter.) John, I'm sure historians will look back and say, gosh, he could have done it better this way, or that way. You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet…I hope I -- I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one. "
—George W. Bush, Press Conference on Iraq, April 13, 2004 (and no, it wasn't a Friday).
—General Anthony "Dick" McAuliffe, 101st Airborne Division commander at Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge in answer to the Germans' request that he surrender.
At dawn on June 6, 1944, the Allied Forces led by Dwight D. Eisenhower began an assault on the entrenched German forces in Normandy. In total some 200,000 men and 6,000 vessels took part in the initial invasion of the five heavily fortified and well mined and booby-trapped beaches. Miraculously, within a week 260,000 men, 50,000 vehicles, and 100,000 tons of supplies had been landed. By the end of the summer, the Allied troops were in Paris. After eleven months and one day, the Germans had surrendered.
At dawn on June 6, 2004, current president George Bush was quietly napping in his swanky European hotel—he so does like to sleep in—in anticipation of the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day. Sixty years later Bush, a man who is accused of avoiding service in Vietnam by using his connections to be transferred to the Texas national guard and then apparently did not even serve out his time in the guard, is representing the United States in ceremonies commemorating the anniversary of D-Day. During his European vacation, not only will President Bush be missing valuable time at his number one occupation, frolicking at his ranch in Texas, his putative opponent in November, John Kerry, will get a reprieve from the barrage of bizarro-world attacks on his unassailable war record by the non-combatant president. Fortunately for Bush, his record re-election coffers are bursting to such a degree that his commercials are better mouthpieces for him than Ari Fletcher without his Motrin.
I try not to get political here given that it is a baseball site, but this juxtaposing is just too damn inviting. Bush's actions demand comparisons to the leaders of the day from sixty years ago:
Then-president Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in the process of being elected by the people for a record forth consecutive time. Bush was elected once by Katherine Harris and the Supreme Court though investigations into the last election show that not only did Bush lose the popular vote but also the electoral vote.
FDR overcame poliomyelitis to become president. Bush overcame a propensity to drink and drive as late as the age of 30 and, according to Al Franken, cocaine use to become president.
Both FDR and Bush were born into well-to-do families and attended Ivy-League universities. FDR and his "New Deal" championed the cause of the common man and set up many programs to provide employment and improve the nation's infrastructure while estranging the business community. Bush, while portraying himself as an everyman from good ole Texas, has championed the cause of big business, has lost a record number of jobs, something an advisor has said is a positive for the economy.
Both FDR and Bush were president when the country was unexpectedly and immorally attacked. FDR used his office to exact revenge on the nations that were responsible. Bush diverted troops, supplies, and funds that could have been used to bring those responsible to justice to start an unjustified war against an unrelated foe and his top aids exposed an undercover CIA agent to silence a critic, her husband.
Both were accused of warmongering, FDR for his overwhelmingly justified fears concerning the growth of totalitarian fascism in Europe prior to the US's entry into World War II. Bush's fear of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq have yet to be justified except by perhaps old receipts that vice-president Dick Cheney's old company Halliburton had.
FDR's first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, was integral to FDR's policy-making regarding minorities and was a published writer, assistant director of the Office of Civilian Defense, delegate to the United Nations, and chair of the Commission on Human Rights. Bush's wife Laura has finely lacquered hair.
FDR met with the powers of the day, Churchill and Stalin at Yalta, to slice up the post-war world. Bush meets with the powers of the day to slice up the post-war world, no not Condi Rice and Donald Rumsfeld. Bush meets personally with Jesus Christ himself in the White House, perhaps by video-conference—the details are unimportant.
OK, so what does this have to do with Joe Morgan? Well, Joe is always telling us that things were better in the past, and sometimes it's actually true as demonstrated by our presidential comparison. Baseball analysts, I have to believe, were better in the past when they stuck to the drama as it unfolded, not the colorful anecdotes. Witness last Sunday's broadcast of the White Sox-M's game by none other than Joe Morgan and his partner Jon Miller. First, they jokingly replay the audio when shortstop Jose Valentin asked manager Ozzie Guillen why he made a pitching change in a conference on the mound, and he said it was "just because" so that his kids can see him in Florida. They said it reflective the team's fun-loving, individualistic spirit. It wasn't so funny when Takatsu wasn't available when Koch struggled. Next, they don't question the wisdom leaving Koch in to give up three runs in one-third of an inning nor walking the bases full before giving up the inevitable walk-off walk. It harkens back to a saying from our yesteryears: "Where's the beef?"
So without further ado, here are the recent (last two week's) Morganisms, and to quote Chico Marx by way of Gen. McAuliffe, "Peanuuuuuts!…to you":
Peter (Philly): How is it possible that Nomar is the leading vote getter at SS for the AL. I hate to say it but maybe voting should be taken away from the fans, If he wins do you think he plays?
I don't think we should take it away from the fans but yes, fans have to put more thought into it. He just doesn't deserve to start, it's as simple as that. Guys like Tejada have done a great job and deserve the honor. It's just one of the weaknesses of the fan voting.
[Mike: Actually, Carlos Guillen is having the best year among AL shortstops (8 HR, 35 RBI, 41 R, .325/.402/.560/.961). Michael Young (8 HR, 35 RBI, 37 R, .328/.363/.504/.867) is also ahead of Tejada (8/43/29/.310/.371/.471/.842). But if you want a big-name shortstop who has a good shot of sustaining their numbers, Tejada's probably the best bet.]
Aaron Schaffer: Hey Joe! I've been a Reds fan all my life. Just can't get enough of them. But are they for real? Should I expect to see them go far this October? And what do you think of Dave Miley? Thanks for the chat!
As long as the pitching holds up as it has, they have a chance. History will tell you if a pitcher has a 5.00 ERA it will catch up with him eventually. I'm not optimistic about the staff continuing as they have. But I would love to see them prove me wrong.
[Mike: Quite circumspect. The Reds' pitching success merits skepticism.]
tyler, albany: joe, everyone talksassumes its a fore gone conclusion that the yankees will make a move during the year to improve their pitching, but to get a quality pitcher, you need quality talent to exchange with. the yankees farms are bone dry. who would they have of any value other than high priced stars?
They have value, whether it comes from the majors or minors. I agree that it is a foregone conclusion. If Steinbrenner needs something, he will go get it. That's an admirable thing. Remember, when these trades are made, it's usually teams getting rid of guys to get rid of the salary and many times they take less in return.
[Mike: Yep, trades are rarely made for talent alone when it involves veteran contracts.]
Joe (Yardley, PA): Joe, would you compare the revitalization of Ken Griffey to that of Frank Thomas last season?
No, not really. Griffey's problems were all injury related and Frank had problems with management and some off the field problems.
But he has bounced back to become one of the top players in the league again.
[Mike: Actually, Thomas' one poor year (2001—5% worse than the park-adjusted league average) was due to injury as was Griffey's (2002—OPS at park-adjusted league average). Thomas was consistently great (OPS+ between 70% and 112% better than average) and though he's been well above average (an OPS no worse than 17% better than average aside from 2001) and had flashes of greatness (2000: OPS 60% better than average and 2003 49% better). Griffey started aging at 27 (OPS declined every year from age 27 to 31) and he's been injured since. His current OPS will not be in the range of his past successes.]
Kyle (Cincinnati, OH): How about them Braves? Even with all of their injuries they are 2 1/2 games back of Flordia. What do you think about Chipper moving to first to help with his hamstring? He has never played it before at any level but was a shortstop and third baseman...I think he can be successful. Your thoughts thanks (Go Reds)
First of all, Chipper has already moved around quite a bit. Left field is an easier place to play than first base and will be easier for him to hit. I don't think playing first would be a great idea.
[Mike: Left Field is easier to play than first base? Ancient Chinese secret, huh?!? How many fly balls do they need to track down at first, and I don't mean soft foul flies near the dugout—I mean screaming liners against the wall. Sure, first baseman are involved in more plays, but most of the time they just have to stand there and make sure they have a foot on the bag and that they catch the ball. Mo Vaughn played first for heaven's sake.
By Morgan's logic, pitching involves more fielding than shortstop since they are involved on every play.
By the way, the Braves are a .500 team, and are overachieving at that. They're just lucky that the Marlins and Phils are playing a game of losing chicken. They are both losing as many games as possible. The first team that blinks and actually wins loses a bet.]
Kyle (Dayton, OH): First off, I loved your article of Ken Griffey Jr. It is good to see him playing and his presence in the lineup is definitely making this team better. Secondly, I would like you opinion on what the Cincinnati Reds will need to acquire to remain in the race the entire year. The first thing on my list would be a helathy Austin Kearns to give the Reds a power, right-handed hitter.
I think they need pitching consistency. With Griffey healthy, Dunns, Kearns and Casey all doing well, the pitching is still key. They have been great so far, especially Graves. But they have to be consistent all year.
[Mike: Kyle's in Dayton now? Boy, he moves around a lot.
First, they already have Austin Kearns: there's no need to acquire him.
Joe, Consistency? They need good pitchers. You got it right last time. A staff of bad pitchers is unlikely to overachieve to this degree all year.]
Greg (Virginia Beach, VA): Are the Mets doing the right thing by having Piazza play 10-15 games at first then one at catcher?
Well, I think anytime you are a catcher and you get a chance to play another position, it's almost like a day off. Catching is a very physically taxing position. It takes a lot out of you. I think it's a good idea in his case, as long as Piazza embraces it. I don't believe in players changing positions unless they really feel like they can do it. If they do, that's great for them. But sometimes guys do it because they don't want to be classified as not being a team player.
[Mike: Joe, ATFQ! The question is if it makes sense to have him catch basically once every two weeks. First, I have to point out that Piazza has 100 ABs at first and another 100 as a catcher. I can't imagine that he is only catching once every 10-15 games and amassing that many at-bats there.
Does Joe have a form letter that he uses for these types of questions? He just fills in the player's name and goes. We already know that Piazza doesn't really want to play first. But who cares? He's a 35-year-old catcher who missed almost 100 games last year. He's never been a good defensive catcher. Even great defensive catchers like Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra had to move later in their careers.
What the Mets should determine what's best for the team, whether that means Piazza should catch, play first, or pitch. Then they should sit down with Piazza and explain the plan and why it's good for the team and for his own career in the long run. Piazza is a great player, arguably the best offensive catcher of all time, but he is still part of a team. The problem is the Mets seemed to have made the decision but won't stick to it. They seem to be juggling Piazza and Phillips between first and behind the plate. Just assign the players to a position and go. Enough of this pussyfooting around.
By the way, Piazza's numbers as a catcher (.340/.412/.610/1.022) destroy his numbers at first (.280/.379/.520/.899). Some would say this proves that he should continue catching. I say that it only proves that picking Piazza's position on any given day by way of a dartboard has not been effective.]
Tony (NYC): Joe, you mentioned that the HOF is the ultimate achievement. Does it bother you that some HOFs got by through the Veterans Selection who would normally not be elected because they weren't extraordinary?
That's an age-old argument. The Veteran's Committee was set up for those guys who slip through the cracks, maybe the writers didn't like them, etc. It wasn't established to just add another tier of HOFers. At one point, they got away from the true spirit of it but they changed the rules. It's more difficult to get in now than 5 years ago. I think Maury Wills was a guy who slipped through the cracks. That's just my personal opinion. I voted for him. But I don't think there are as many people that slip through the cracks as the fans may think.
[Mike: This is patently and ridiculously wrong. Joe is one of the leading members of the Veterans Committee and a member of the board of directors of the Hall, and he has no idea about the history of the organization. It explains why the Hall is so willing to marginalize itself.
The Veterans Committee started in 1939, the year the Hall's doors were finally opened (and just three years after Hall voting began), as the Old Timers Committee (which was an outgrowth of the Permanent Committee that oversaw the Hall in those days). It was created after the head of the Baseball Writers Association approached commissioner Landis to cede the BBWAA's sovereignty over 19th century players. In exchange the writers were promised permanent authority over all twentieth-century players, a promise that lasted only seven years.
Soon the writer' selections turned from a trickle (one in 1938 and 4 in 1939) to nil—the writers decided to vote only once every three years in 1939. Meanwhile the Old Timers picked three players in 1939 and then receded into the background. The BBWAA selected one player in 1942 (no-brainer Rogers Hornsby) and none in 1945. The Hall directors, incensed that the writers had picked one player in six years, demanded that they vote annually (1945), limited their focus to just players from the last 25 seasons (1946), and recommissioned the Old Timers Committee (1945), which ushered in boatloads of old-timers (20 in two years) while the BBWAA could not pick one player in two years. It wasn't for lack of trying: The writers ever had a nominating phase to narrow down the field. It was just that the field was way too large—Jimmie Foxx didn't even make the final ballot in 1946.
In 1953 the Old Timers became the Veterans Committee, and they have been a permanent fixture ever since. But they were there not to get qualified candidates who slipped through the writers' fingers. That could have been done by taking the BBWAA final ballot and having the committee select the top few candidates on the list, thereby removing the BBWAA's logjam and fixing the mess. Instead the Vets selected boatloads of players that overall weren't highly regarded by the writers and rightfully so when the likes of Foxx are available and the Vets are selecting Tommy McCarthy, arguably the worst player in the Hall.
The Vets were created to get plaques, any plaques, in the Hall to get hinders in the Hall and money in the Hall's coffers. That's it. The directors unwisely ceded control to the "baseball people" and not surprisingly cronyism and favoritism ensued. Joe is continuing in this tradition by telling everyone that Dave Concepcion, Ed Ambrister, Bob Bailey, and every other player even tangentially related to the already over-represented Big Red Machine should be in the Hall. Now, he is championing Maury Wills' case for Hall inclusion, which is borderline at best (Wills' case rests almost entirely on his ability to steal a base, which was impressive, but his success rate—73% for his career and 88% for an all-time high—frankly wasn't). Of course, there is an overwhelmingly qualified candidate who hasn't gotten much support. That is Marvin Miller, who is one of a handful of off-field personalities who helped shape the game. He didn't play for the Reds though, so the odds of his being enshrined are slim.]
Ben, Coconut Grove, FL: Hi Joe, I've never really understood the Montreal Expos' situation. Although a great baseball mind, Frank Robinson strikes me as an indifferent substitute teacher with an obligation to those who appointed him. If he wants players does he have a GM he can plead with? Will he be the manager if and when the Expose move? That whole situation just seems like a depressing corner of MLB.
First, I don't think anyone really knows what is going on. It has been a travesty. I have played for Frank and he is a great manager. He would never let us get comfortable losing. He is not a sub, he is the professor. He probably knows more about the game than any manager. The GM, Omar Minaya, has done a great job with such limited resources. Everyone talks about what Beane has done but he had so many great players from the beginning. Minaya and Robinson have done a fantastic job building a team in a bad situation.
[Mike: What’s going on is that MLB engineered a volleyball-like rotation in team management. They shifted John Henry from Florida to Boston despite better offers on the table. They let Jeffrey Loria screw his partners in Montreal and take over the Marlins. That left the Expos without an owner meaning that all 29 owners own a chunk of the team, and MLB seems to content with that ridiculous situation. They can experiment with the team by playing games in San Juan, affect pennant races by moving players to and from the Montreal roster, and they can alienate fans inside and outside of Montreal in the process. And then they can cry poverty in order to pry concessions from the locals including sweet deals on new stadiums and tax breaks. It serves their purposes to have a team whose fate they completely control. Watch how much the city that wins the Expos lottery will commit to get the team. In the owners' minds, that far outweighs the damage to the game that they have done.
By the way, Joe played for Frank Robinson when he was the Giants manager (1982-82). That team went 56-55 (5th in the first half, 3rd in the 2nd) in 1981 and 87-75 (3rd) in 1982. Robinson's record all-time is 864-946 or a winning percentage of .477. That's 60th all-time in managerial wins, but only 203rd for winning percentage (out of a field of 331, for managers with at least 200 games). Robinson has not had a team finish higher than second in 13 seasons and will be lucky if the Expos escape the basement this year. He has had two teams finish last and the Expos will probably be the third. Suffice it to say that Robinson was a truly great player but, I feel, cannot be said to have achieved greatness as a manager.
Minaya is arguably the worst GM in baseball. He let Vlad Guerrero go without getting anything in return. He scoops up guys like Wil Cordero. He laundered Cliff Floyd in Montreal so that Bud Selig could have him sent to his cronies in Boston. He has gone through more talent than American Idol and depleted the once-proud Montreal farm system in the process. Yes, it has been a difficult situation in Montreal, but that does not mean that Minaya should get a free pass. That the Expos were able to be competent the last couple of years is a testament to their farm system and to the team in spite of Minaya, not because of him.]
Ben, Coconut Grove, FL: Joe, what do you think about Clemens throwing to Piazza in the all star game?
It looks like a probability right now! Clemens has probably earned the start and I'm sure Piazza will be voted in. Guess what? They are both pros and I expect them both to be thrilled about starting.
[Mike: I'm not sure it will happen! (From the Joe Morgan-Elaine Bennis school of punctuation) You never know who'll start given when someone's spot is up in their respective teams' rotation. If Clemens is due to pitch two days before the game, the 'Stros may need him to go given the tigh four-team race in the NL Central. Given that he's a pro, his team should come first.
If it does happen I wouldn't expect much. But if I were Clemens, I would make sure not to turn around on the mound until I receive the throw from the catcher.]
Charlie(Franklin,MA): Will interleague play decide who wins the American League East between the Sox and Yanks?
I think the interleague schedule will have a lot to do with who wins every division. Some teams will play much better teams than their in-league counterparts. Yes, it will have a big bearing on who wins the division. That's part of why I'm not very thrilled with interleague play. There are too many games that have too big an impact.
[Mike: Normally I'm all for a good harangue on the evils of interleague play. However, this one doesn't hold water. The Yankees play Colorado (3 games), Sab Diego (3), the Mets (3) at home and travel to LA(3), Arizona (3), and the Mets (3). Boston hosts San Diego (3), LA (3), and the Phils (3), and travel to Colorado (3), San Fran (3), and Atlanta (invariable to play in ye olde tyme uniforms—3 games). Aside from the venue diffenec in the Colorado and LA series, the only differences are NY-Az vs. Bos-SF and NYY-NYM (6 games) vs. Bos-Phil and Bos-Atl. Right now, there isn't a tremendous difference between the teams in the NL East though the Phils should have been better than the other two. San Fran has a seven games ahead of Arizona and has been playing well lately gut are still just one game over .500.
That doesn't seem to be a big difference. The Yanks seem to have a slight edge. Maybe it's 1-2 games. However, even if they played matching schedules over the entire year, invariably one team would play a common opponent when that opponent is hot and the other team would play them when they are cold. You can't make all things equal.
But, if it helps get rid of interleague play, I'll jump on Joe's bandwagon.]
Jeff (Cincinnati): What do you think is the key to Casey's success so far this season? He's on pace to hit 30 HR's and leads MLB in BA. He's always been consistently good, but do you think Dave Miley deserves some credit for his success?
When Casey was traded to the Reds everyone said he would be a great hitter and win batting titles. Sometimes it just takes time to develop into a great hitter. He has been around for awhile and we are just seeing his maturity and exprience coming through. Miley obviously hasn't gotten in the way .. a manager's job many times is to just stay out of the way of great players and let them do their thing. You have to give most of the credit to Casey because he has worked really hard to get to this point.
I'll ask Casey for you next Wednesday .. I'm doing the game .. it's an interesting question ..
[Mike: Time out. Has Joe even seen Casey play for the last four years? The guy was declining after age 24 (1999) and finally hit bottom in 2002 (his OPS hit a low of 22% below the park-adjusted league average in 2002). He bounced back to be about an average hitter in 2003 (his OPS was 2% worse than average), which isn't good for a 28-year-old first baseman.
What's the key to his success this year? Hmm, maybe small sample size. Maybe luck. Maybe the fact that he's 29 and having a career year? Or maybe he was storing up all that maturity for five years to spend all at once this year. I expect him to mature his way out of the game in a few years. When's his contract up anyway?]
Pete from DC: Do you think that if Junior stays HOT, he will end up with Boston or the Yankees for a run this fall?
I certainly hope he remains a Red. That is what he wanted when he left Seattle. If he stays healthy and the Reds perform well, it would be a travesty to trade him.
I'm not sure the Reds have done as well as they should in terms of supprting Griffey since he arrived.
[Mike: Ya think? The Reds were all but ready to ride Griffey out of town on a rail this spring. The plan had to go on hold when they started to win and started to not injure himself.]
Drew (New Jersey): Joe: It seems as if all 6 divisions are still relatively tight; especially in the N.L. East. Which division(s) do you think will go right down to the wire, come October? Thank you.
I think they all will be very close .. I truly believe they could all go down to the wire.
[Mike: Way to commit, Joe! As the Red Sox pitching folds, I expect them to playing, as usual, for the wild card come All-Star break time. The Cubs should pull away from the field once their pitching gets healthy and the real Reds and Cardinals show up. It seems that Sox should have an edge on the Twins.
That leaves one division with two pretty good teams (Oakland and Anaheim) and two with weaker contenders (NL East and West). I may be wrong, but at least I offered an opinion.]
Alex (England): How close is Griffey to being the player he was say five years ago?
I think if he stays healthy, you will see a great second half. Remember, he has missed a lot of time the last few years. He is just now gaining his confidence back. I guess he is walking on eggshells right now because he doesn't know if he will stay healthy. But I think we will see the Griffey of old in the second half.
[Mike: In my Philosophy 101 class the professor asked that given humans replace all of their cells every seven years or so, how can we say that we are the same person we were 210 years ago? That would be a great murder defense when someone's caught a decade or so later. "Your honor, I didn't do it. It was this pile of excrement and dead skin cells."
Anyway, Griffey is not nearly the player he was in his prime, which is not to see he is NOT a very good player. He is. But Griffey 2004 cannot hold a candle to Griffey 1993-94 and 1995-96. And it's not the injuries. He was declining in his last two years in Seattle. Keep in mind that he is an unqualified Hall-of-Famer already.]
Chris Detroit: Hey Joe- Love SNB, watch it every week at work. What do you think about the Indians this year-obviously their bullpen is horrible, but do you see promise in their young hitters? Are they doing kind of a Minnesota Twins-type thing?
I said earlier, some teams that have positives like young hitters, they can really do well because that positive can outweight something like bullpen problems. The Dodgers started OK because they had some positives but then they go on the road and the weaknesses showed up and outweighed the positives. You are going to see this up and down with many teams.
[Mike: ATFQ, Joe! I am not overwhelmed by any one of the Indians hitters but overall, they look like a good unit. Travis Hafner looks like the best of the lot but is 27 and has just established himself as an everyday player. Victor Martinez looks good. Casey Blake looks good but is 30. Jody Gerut seems to be having a slight sophomore slump. Alex Escobar has not yet impressed. Overall, they seem a solid but aside from Martinez, I'm not sure that any are yet an unqualified success.]
Muzzy (Leicester): Joe-like a certain ESPN writer, Carlos Beltran is an exceptional percentage basestealer. Is this the result of great natural ability or more a matter of intelligence?
I have not seen him play very much, I just haven't done enough Royals games. From what I know, he is a very smart player and obviously has the ability. I just can't really say with any certainty because I haven't seen him that much. Most of the time, with great base stealers, it's a pretty even combo of the two.
[Mike: I'm sorry that you couldn't be bothered to watch the Royals even though they were in a pennant race for most of last year and your job is baseball analysis. Look, it's a stupid question, but you should know something about Beltran.
For the record Beltran is not only exceptional. He is the best percentage base stealer since caught stealing was recorded consistently for both leagues (1951) with at least 150 steals. Here is the list of everyone over 80% successful (through last year):
|Andy Van Slyke||245||59||80.59%|
His SB% this year is under 80% though (79%) for the first time since his rookie season.]
Tom...S.Dakota: Joe,Baltimore has added some great players this year,will that get them to post season or will their pitching keep them in the basement?
I was very impressed with what the Orioles added. They added some quality to the team. I'm disappointed in their pitching. I thought Ponson would be a better pitcher. But they can still turn things around. Ponson has what it takes to be the leader of the staff. But without the pitching, they will struggle.
[Mike: ATFQ: Postseason or basement, Joe? My answer is neither. The O's will fight the J's for third. The Yankees and Red Sox are in their own subdivision (in the high school halls, in the backs of cars) and so are the D-Rays.
Montgomery, AL: Joe do you think the Red's will make a move to get a pitcher? And do you think they would try to make a move to get a young gun like Dontrell Willis?
Well, whether they will or not I don't know. But they should. You don't get an opportunity very often to steal a division and they can do it this year. They have a lot going for them. They have the mix of young players and vets, defense, and some good pitching.
[Mike: The whole city of Montgomery, Alabama got together and that's the best they could do for a question? Sure, the Reds are going to try to get pitching. It’s likely that they'll need it and their recent history shows that they are willing to do what it takes to acquire it midseason. However, there's no chance that they'll get Willis. He's a young (read cheap) ballplayer on a contender. Why would Florida trade the guy?
The Reds don't really have much going for them. Griffey and Dunn have played well. Casey is out of his mind and if the Reds were a fantasy team, their owner would be calling everyone in the league to dump the guy before his bubble bursts. And, to paraphrase George Bailey, that goes for the staff, too. Well, they do have luck, but how long can you depend on that?]
Chase (Dallas, TX): After seeing Milton Bradley go berserk the other day, did it reming you of an incident you witnessed in your playing days? What was the most outrageous outburst you saw in your day?
That's a tough one .. I just remember laughing at players when they go beserk or has similar tantrums.. I've seen them from just about everyone .. maybe Frank Robinson was the funniest because he would always combine his personality and Earl Weaver's when he was out there .. what Bradley did wasn't very good for the game. I'm not a big fan of suspending players unless they do something that not only hurts the game but endangers other players (hitting guys in the head, etc.) .. otherwise, I'm not a big advocate of suspensions. I do believe in fines.
[Mike: First, Chase, I hope your hand's OK after getting it chopped off in the last episode of "24" this year. That's got to leave a mark.
Joe, it was funny in your day when a player or manager went berserk, but today it's bad for the game. Give me a break. This is just good old fashioned it-was-better-inmy-day-ism.]
Dan (State College, PA): Hi, Joe. Do you think it will be lights out for the Red Sox when Nomar and Trot get back or will they not be a huge advantage over their replacements?
First of all, I don't think the Red Sox offense is nearly as consistent as it was last year. No, I don't think they will be lights out when they get back. But it will put them closer to where they were last year. They won't run away from the Yankees. The Yanks offense is just going to get better. The only thing the Yankees have to worry about is their pitching. I wouldn't get too overjoyed when Nomar and Trot come back.
[Mike: State College, PA? Natasha: "Boris, you went to Penn State?" Boris: "No, state pen."
Joe, did you ever stop to think that the Sox offense is not as consistent because it was missing two of its stars? While Nomah and Nixon have been out the subs have not been doing the job. The Sox batting numbers at short (.240/.272/.332/.603) and right (.292/.343/.431/.774) rank 13th and 8th in the AL by OPS.
However, with the pitching woes the Red Sox have faced, it will hardly be lights out (and no references to that awful Peter Wolf 80s song of the same name).]
Dave, Columbus, OH: Joe, why are teams interested in Mondesi? He seems to be an overpaid, over-hyped whiner who has burned bridges with every teams he's played for. His numbers aren't worth his baggage. The way he handled his Pirates contract is an outrage.
Well, I can only attest to the test he has not accomplished the numbers I thought he should. I can't get into what happened with the Pirates because I was there. We can't always believe what is reported. But he never drove in 100 runs and just hasn't' been the star many have predicted. +
[Mike: 100 RBI? He played the bulk of his career in LA, and he did hit 99 RBI in 1999.
Mondesi is a 5-tool player, a two-time 30-30 man. That's why teams keep signing him. Of course on average he has stolen 26 bases a year and has been caught 10 times—that's barely above the break-even point. One big problem was that he couldn't take a walk when he could hit and now that he does talk a base on balls once in a while, he can't hit for average. His .333 OBP is two points below the park-adjusted average.
He's actually a six-tool guy since he himself is a tool.]
Wayne,New Brunswick,Canada: Joe, enjoyed your story about your Dad,Joe what do you think will be the next big change in the game if any ?
That's a good question. Honestly, I don't know. I would have liked to seen the mound raised halfway between where it is now and where it used to be. We wouldn't see as many intentional walks and it would make the game more fair with the smaller parks we have today.
[Mike: Raise the mund? You mean outside of Dodger Stadium? Is that a change to the game itself as the person asked or a rule imposed on it (or more accurately an ax that Joe is grinding)?
How about the return of four-man rotations? Or using a closer in a non-save situation? Just a thought.]
Rich, Louisville, Ky: Joe, could the Big Red Machine have kept the World Series streak going in '77 and '78 if it kept players like Tony Perez, Gullet, and Zackary? You guys nearly beat the hated Dodgers in those years.
I believe so, if Pereze had stayed. He was the most important of those who left. I thougth we would continue to win if we had stayed together.
[Mike: Pereze??? Matt Perisho?
These young whippersnappers, we could still whip them. We'd show them a thing or four.
Zachary did pitch for the Reds in 1977. He was 3-7 with a 5.04 ERA in 12 starts, and then was packaged for Tom Seaver. Tom frigging Seaver! He's the best pitcher that the franchise ever had. But Joe wants to keep Pat Zachary instead?
Perez was already in decline. His 1977 numbers: 19 HRs, 91 RBI, .283/.352 /.463, and a OPS of .816, 20% better than the park-adjusted average. Dan Driessen, his replacement, had basically the same numbers if not slightly better: 17 HRs, 91 RBI, .300/.375/.468, and a .843 OPS, 24% better than average.
Gullet had a pretty good season in 1977 (14-4 with a 3.58 ERA, which was just 10% better than the park-adjusted average) but was out of the game within a year. He was basically a free-agent bust. Besides, did I mention that the Reds picked up Tom Seaver?
OK, they did lose a bit more talent here than they gained (2 mediocre pitchers for one great one). However, if the Reds were a team without holes, unlike today's teams, as Joe is constantly telling us, then couldn't they sustain the loss of one decent pitcher?]
Alex, Bethesda, MD: Mr. Morgan, do you think hitters have broken through Dontrelle Willis' windup or do you think he will at some point regain his form?
I remember when Nomo came over from Japan. He was great the first year and each year after his ERA rose. What I'm seeing is that people do adjust to motions. I think Dontrelle will rebound. I think he needs a softer pitch. All his pitches are very hard and he throws a lot of fastballs in fastball counts. He will have to adjust because people are adjusting to him.
[Mike: Or maybe he's just not that good a pitcher. His first year was not "great". He was 9-1 with a 2.08 ERA in the first half and 5-5, 4.60 in the second. His problem is the long ball (3 in the first half and 10 in the second) and walks (14 BB/79 K in the 1st half; 34/63 in the 2nd). His walk-to-strikeout (as opposed to strikeout-to-walk) ratio went up in May and so did his ERA (5.04).]
Doug (Tampa): How would you rank the following Braves chances at the Hall of Fame: Chipper Jones, John Smoltz, and Andruw Jones.
At this point, I'd probably go Andruw, John, Chipper. Andruw will accumulate a lot of numbers. Smoltz is one of the best postseason starters I have ever seen but now he's a reliever. How many relievers are in the HOF? If Eck can get in, Smoltz has a chance.
[Mike: I wouldn't put Smoltz in at this point. The Braves staff will be represented by Maddux and Glavine so it’ll be hard to sell Smoltz. Also, he does not compare to Eckersley. Maybe if he pitches another ten years in the pen.
Andruw Jones has a) only played 9 seasons including this one and b) has never been a truly outstanding batter (best OPS was 29% better than the park-adjusted league average). If he ends up being the best defensive center fielder of all time, as he arguably has been to this point (though he seems to be aging poorly on D). Andruw is only 27 and has 233 HRs, so he has a decent shot at 500.
Chipper Jones has been a better player offensively than Andruw though injuries may cut his career short (he's having an off year this year). His career average OPS is 43% better than the park-adjusted league average (with a high of 75% better in 1999). He has 286 HRs, so if he can stay healthy and productive, he has a shot at 500.
I would rank them Chipper, Smoltz, then Andruw at this stage, surprisingly the complete opposite of Joe. Talk to me again in 5 years and that may change.]
redrum (new york, ny): Hi Joe..do you think Joe Carter will be elected to the Hall of Fame. It seems to me that he is one of the most overrated players ever. Thanks
I don't think he is overrated. Whether he makes the HOF is another question. I think I would have to see how the voting goes the next couple years. It seems there has been a shift of late where guys I thought were better players that are getting fewer votes. I won't name names but some guys I think should already be in and guys I thought would have trouble that are getting a lot of support. So it's hard to say right now.
[Mike: Tony, redrum!
Hold the phone. Joe Carter is no longer eligible for the Hall via the baseball writers' ballot. He did not get 5% of the vote in the 2004 ballot. He was listed on only 19 of 380 ballots (or 3.75%). Five percent of the vote is required to stay on the ballot. It's a stupid rule that would have barred 99 current Hall of Famers, and I've argued against it in the past.
However, Joe is a member of the board at the Hall (ha ha ha, he said member). Shouldn't he know what's going on there at least a bit? That's the second Hall question and he got them both wrong.
By the way, I wouldn't put Joe Carter in the Hall on a bet, but there were plenty who seemed to support his candidacy back in the day. I was surprised that a few more (he was 7 votes short of 5%) didn't come to his aid.]
Jeremy (Sioux Falls, SD): Hey Mr. Morgan!! There is something that has been bothering me for a few weeks now. What is with the shortage of left handed starting pitching in the bigs?? How can this be??
I don't know why we have a shortage. As I have said before, if you are left handed and can throw strikes, you can win in the bigs. It's a problem that needs to be cured. Every team should try to improve in this area.
[Mike: Jeremy spoke in Joe Morgan's chat session today. First, are there fewer lefty pitchers in the bigs today than in the past? Here's a table by decade of the number of pitcher-years by handedness (say that three times fast):
The number of lefties has been dropping since the Seventies and the dropoff is gaining momentum, but it is still about the all-time average. Perhaps, the change is due to the need to set up Lefty-lefty matchups falling into disfavor. Or maybe Occam's Razor can provide a better answer. The number of lefties is growing, just not as quickly as the number of righties:
Let's take a look at the starting pitchers alone (i.e., at least 10 starts or started at least half his games):
So the starters numbers are dropping (or rather growing less quickly) than all pitchers overall. Apparently, lefties are getting progressively harder to find and the ones that are found are siphoned off to the bullpen.
OK, that's the real world look at the situation. Now, back to Joe's bizzaro world. If a "left handed [pitcher who] can throw strikes…can win in the bigs", then how can this be the case. And then why is there "a problem that needs to be cured"? If Joe's statement re. lefties is correct, then shouldn't they be dropping out of trees? Maybe it's just that lefties were better in Joe's day.]
Chris (Bethlem, PA): Do you believ that the Phillies are still the favorite to win the NL East even though they have had problems scoring some runs?
I never thought they were the favorites but I know many felt that way. The Marlins are a very good team with young players. I would not say the Phillies are the favorites. The Marlins are the World Champions.
[Mike: What a differenec a week makes…Joe said this the week earlier, "I would agree that the Phillies are the team to beat in that division." I guess the "team to beat" doesn't make them the favorites. Semantics. Maybe if the Phils have a hot week, Joe will jump back on the badwagon.]
David (Ohio): Maybe I'm just too young, but I don't understand why everyone hates the DH so much. When you see Andy Pettitte (or any other pitcher) go on the DL after getting injured swinging a bat, you have to wonder: what's the point? It's especially maddening for AL teams whose pitchers get hurt batting in spring training or interleague games. Pitchers already have too many ways to get hurt. Why add one more?
Well, why don't we just put a screen in front of them when they are pitching? If you are a baseball player, you are a baseball player. They hit when they were in Little League. We have created a society where we have let people become one-dimensional. I don't like the DH for that reason. But the point remains, if one pitcher is a better bunter or hitter than another, shouldn't he be able to use that advantage?
[Mike: Ask Tevye, and he'll tell you it's TRADITION, tradition!
Put a screen in front of batters? These young whippersnappers! We used to walk to and from he stadium ten miles in the snow, uphill both ways, and we liked it!
The arguments are basically a) the DH negatively impacts the game's basic strategy (double-switches, bunts, walking/pitching around the number-eight batter, etc.) and that it's unaesthetic because it promoted one-dimensional players (pitcher who can't hit and batters that can't field).
Bill James refuted the first point. If by strategy you mean actually having to think at strategic times, James showed that the DH provided more strategy. If you mean by strategy, the word in broader sense, meaning the old staid ways of doing things by rote, then the DH is not for you.
As far as aesthetics it's a matter of taste. As a purist, I don't care for the DH in theory, but how aesthetically pleasing is a pitcher striking out? Or how about them trying to bunt when everyone in the stadium knows that's what they are going to do?
Pitchers "hit when they were in Little League". That's true, but is that what the bigs are trying to emulate? Pitchers don't hit in college or the minors. Why make them hit at the major-league level?
But the point remains, if one pitcher is a better bunter or hitter than another, shouldn't he be able to use that advantage? This is the argument. We want the pitcher to bat so that we can see him bunt in an obvious bunt situation? Sounds great, Greg! How about a team having more depth on offense than their opponent and using that to their advantage? Wade Boggs had a good knuckler. Why not force teams to have a position player throw to every ninth batter to let Boggs' teams use his knuckler to their advantage?]
Aaron (cleveland): Last night, an intentional walk to Bonds totally backfired. Do you think all this talk about these intentional walks is overblown and that more often than not it's a losing thing to do?
In most cases, it seems to have an effect but in Bonds' case I don't think it's overblown. I don't like to see it but its very difficult to pitch to a guy like Bonds when the guys behind him are not hitting HRs. I read an article where somebody said they are helping the Giants by walking Bonds but I don't buy it. We used to say, if you are afraid, bring a Doberman with you.
They have been walking Bonds all year and the Giants are still below .500 so it must have worked.
[Mike: So walking Bonds is the reason that Giants were below .500? When Bonds was injured and hitting just .250 for the month of May but was still drawing tons of walks (he was walked 29 times and hat just 12 hits), the Giants went 16-10. They also had a team ERA for May of 3.45, over 3 runs lower than April (5.55), when the team was 10-14. They also had a .728 OPS in May, which was lower than their .739 OPS in April. Obviously, the pitching was the difference.
If it's so difficult to pitch to Bonds, when not just walk him every time he's up no matter the situation? Because Bonds will not reach base every time that he's up and by putting him on first even if he has Mario Mendoza hitting behind him, he will score some percentage of the time. Studies having shown that in most situations automatically putting Bonds on hurts you more than it helps. For every case where the strategy has worked against Bonds there's one where it hasn't.
It all goes back to manager's saying "I won't let this guy beat me". However, is it better to let A.J. Pierzynski beat you?]
Rico (Minneapolis, MN): Hi, Joe, Do you think the Brewers can keep up their current success and finish the season above .500?
The one thing I have said the last few years is that there aren't any great teams. There are no teams without weakness. So if you get off on the right foot you can build up your confidence and play well. It doesn't surprise me if they continue to play well. When you watch Sheets pitch, he is as good as any other ace in that division.
[Mike: Rico? Suave!
Joe has to inject his distaste for today's players into random questions. There are no great teams today. Didn't we just have two teams win over 114 games a few years back? But there's no Big Red Machine today, no teams on which Gary Nolan is the best pitcher.]
Burl: Menard, Texas: Mr. Morgan, as of right now, how is your preseason predictions going? I know it's early but how do you
The Phils remain two games back of the Marlins in their cat and hairball fight for the NL Eats division lead. The Phils, however, lost 6-4 to the Braves and fell to 10-15 overall against the division. Only cellar dwelling Montreal has a worse divisional record.
Consider that if the Phils has played at the season-long winning percentage (.527) in divisional games, their record would be three games better and they would be in first.
The same was true in 2003. The Phils were 39-37 in divisional games last year (.513 winning percentage). The Marlins were 48-28 (.632), and of course won the wild card by 5 games and eventually the World Series crown. Had they both played in divisional games at their overall winning percentage, the Phils would have edged the Marlins by one game (not to mention that their expected win totals had the Phils at 4 games better).
So what's the cause of the Phils' mental block in the division? Well, a lot of it boils down to their inability to beat the Marlins: The Phils are 0-6 so far in 2004, were 6-13 in 2003, and have lost nine straight dating back to September 23 against them. Without Florida, the Phils divisional record would be 10-9 this year and 36-24 last year.
The Phils have a bit of trouble with tehe NL Central, against whom they are just 5-6 so far. The Phils' success has all been in the west (14-5).
The Phils also seem a bit jumpy against the divisional foes. Bowa seems to be juggling his lineup right until game time. Marlon Byrd's confidence in his abilities now mirrors the manager's. And Bowa also relies on the tail-end of the roster was too much. How many starts do the likes of Doug Glanville and Todd Pratt deserve? Glanville has not been at the level of a major-league starting player offensively for five years. He also has been going way too often to Roberto Hernandez, whose only qualification as a major-league pitcher apparently is that he was once a closer. Next, instead of shifting young Ryan Madson, who has been stellar in the pen, to replace injured Vincente Padilla, Bowa instead turns to Quad-A pitcher Josh Hancocok, whom the Phils picked up two years ago from the Red Sox and who has been atrocious in his two starts. Finally, Bowa fails to understand that Rheal Cormier's 2003 was a fluke and parades him into tight situations continually. Cormier can be productive at times, but it would be wiser to use him as a spot lefty until he regains his confidence rather than a setup man.
The Phils play their 13 of next 14 games against the supposedly weak AL Central and then seven of their next 10 against the Expos, so maybe they can get themselves back on track. If the falter, I wouldn't be surprised to see Bowa go. If they keep meandering along 2-3 games back, then they will probably limp into the second half with Bowa at the stern. With apparently four strong teams in the central and at least two in the west (and the Gianst suddenly hot), the wild card seems a remote possibility. Unless and until the Phils prove that they can beat the teams in their division on a consistent basis, especially the Marlins, they cannot be considered serious contenders in the NL East race.
Now, by decade:
|Decade||Name||Yr||POS||G||A||A AE||A AE per G|
|1890s||George Van Haltren||1891||LF||79||20.49||9.135||0.116|
|2000s||Jose Cruz Jr.||2003||RF||157||18.00||9.514||0.061|
To be continued…
Is not the king’s name twenty thousand names?
Arm, arm, my name! A puny subject strikes
At thy great glory.
—William "Author" Shakespeare, "J.R." Richard III
[A]nd holy is his name... He has shown strength with his arm
—The Bible, New Testament, "Matt" Luke 1:46-55.
But I just hadda show 'im. Just hadda show those creeps and those punks what the game is like when it's great, when it's REALLY great. You know, like anything can be great, anything can be great. I don't care, BRICKLAYING can be great, if a guy knows. If he knows what he's doing and why and if he can make it come off. When I'm goin', I mean, when I'm REALLY goin' I feel like a... like a jockey must feel. He's sittin' on his horse, he's got all that speed and that power underneath him... he's comin' into the stretch, the pressure's on 'im, and he KNOWS... just feels... when to let it go and how much. Cause he's got everything workin' for 'im, timing touch... it's a great feeling, boy, it's a real great feeling when you're right and you KNOW you're right. It's like all of a sudden I got oil in my arm…I can play that game the way... NOBODY'S ever played it before.
—Fast Eddie, The Hustler
So say Hey Willie tell the Cobb
And Joe DiMaggio
Don't say it ain't so
You know the time is now
Put me in Coach
I'm ready to play today
Put me in Coach
I'm ready to play today
Look at me
I can be
—John "Jim" Fogarty
First, let's start with putouts. Below are the best years overall for an outfielder (by position) for putouts above expected. You'll notice that there are a large number of players from the early days of baseball because of the great disparity in fielding talent at the time. Therefore, I am splitting out the best years by decade as well.
You'll also notice that there are still a good number of left fielders in the mix, probably due to the fact that it's easier to find a poor fielder in left so therefore, it's easier to stand out there as well—the talent has not been entirely compressed as yet.
They are sorted by the putouts per game above expected (Note: AE is "Above Expected"; Min. 50 games):
|Name||Yr||POS||G||PO||PO AE||PO AE per G|
|Decade||Name||Yr||POS||G||PO||PO AE||PO AE per G|
|1920s||Baby Doll Jacobson||1924||CF||152||488||90.626||0.596|
|2000s||Jose Cruz Jr.||2002||LF||56||124||36.516||0.652|
Oh, one last thing, here are the best years by total putouts above expected:
|Name||Yr||POS||G||PO||PO AE||PO AE per G|
Next are assists. Here are the best years by total assists above expected:
|Name||Yr||POS||G||A||A AE||A AE per G|
Now, here are the best years ranked by assists per game above expected:
|Name||Yr||POS||G||A||A AE||A AE per G|
|George Van Haltren||1891||LF||79||20.491||9.135||0.116|
To be continued…
Let arms yield to the toga, let the [victor’s] laurel yield to the [orator’s] tongue.—Marcus Tullius "Dody" Cicero
This past weekend I attended and spoke at the SABR meeting in Philly, and one of the speakers, in the course of comparing the careers of Roberto Clemente and Al Kaline, referenced a derived stat, assists minus errors, that I find interesting. Each Kaline and Clemente had exceeded their errors by at least ten assists in multiple seasons. It got me to thinking about a means to measure an outfielder's arm objectively though my friends and I felt that assists minus errors really didn't measure much of anything.
For the heck of it, I ran the all-time assists minus errors per season for all outfielders. There have been 791 instances of an outfielder's assists exceeding his errors by at least ten. Kaline did it three times; Clemente, five. Here are the ones over 20 all-time:
|Name||Yr||A||E||A Minus E|
You may notice that, aside from Joe Orsulak, no one on the list is from the last 40 seasons. There are some fairly well-known players on the list, but for the most part this is not a terribly impressive list. By the way, the worst ever in this criterion was Abner Dalrymple in 1879 with a negative 36 (4 assists and 40 errors). No one has registered a negative 20 since 1903 (Cy Seymour).
I thought that I could devise something better, and I think I have.
Now, Fielding Win Shares isn't the best solution since James, when he wrote Win Shares just a couple of years ago, did not have fielding breakdowns by position in the outfield. One of the shortcomings of Win Shares is that it lumps all outfielders together so that all centerfielders appear to have tremendous range and all right fielders appear to possess a great arm.
Fortunately, the number of games for every outfielder has now been broken down by position. Ideally, the putouts, assists, errors, and double plays would be, too, but that is not yet the case. Therefore, I prorated those stats by the games played per position.
Of course, this assumes that a player will play each outfield position the same way and generate the same statistical result. However, I felt that this was preferable to lumping all outfielders together under one category. By the way, if you don't care two whits about my methodology, feel free to skip to the results.
My first slice returned some interesting results, but I was still troubled by the prospect that assists and putouts were being distributed evenly per outfield position for those players who played more than one outfield position (weighted by games played per position of course). But was this a significant problem?
I tallied up the number of seasons for all outfielders prior to 1996 when we have the stats split out by position (i.e., by year, player, and team/stint). There were 9693 such player-seasons in which the outfielder played one position exclusively and 11902 in which he played more than one outfield position, or 55%. Given that over half the players were affected, I felt that it was a significant enough issue to merit more attention.
First, I took a look at my simple formula to prorate the fielding stats per game played per position (e.g., prorated putouts per position equal the total OF putouts times the games played at that position divided by the total number of games played for all outfield positions, as opposed to the total games played in the outfield since the player could have occupied multiple outfield positions in a given game—sounds simple enough, eh?). Here's an example of what the results would be for a player that I made up: The player had 200 total putouts on the year and played 50 games each in left, right, and center. The prorated putouts would be 66.67 for each position—200 divided by 3—since he played the same number of games per position.
If we change his games per outfield position to 20 in right, 100 in center, and 30 in left (but still 150 in total) and keep the putouts at 200, the prorated putouts results are 26.67 in right, 133.33 in center, and 40.00 in left (i.e., 200 times the games played per position divided by the total OF games).
However, in both scenarios above the putouts per game for each position is the same, 1.33. Let's assume that in the given year, the average right fielder had 1.2 putouts per game, the average center fielder had 2.2 putouts per game, and the average left fielder had 1.8—I just made 'em up. The putouts that the player registered in center would then be woefully lower than expected, they would be lower also in left, and they would be higher in right.
You'll also notice that that his 200 putouts are lower than expected for 150 games. One would expect 260 putouts for an average out fielder that year (using an average of the typical left, center, and right fielder's putouts per game, which would be 1.73 here, multiplied by 150 games). Therefore, this could either be a part-time player, that is, a late-inning defensive replacement, or he could have been moved around in the outfield on a regular basis, say, in an Earl Weaver-like outfield rotation. Since we don't have the total innings played by position, there's no way to say. Innings would be a more reliable basis for calculations that games, but until someone (Retrosheet?) calculates the innings pre-1996, we're stuck simply with games to perform our calculations.
OK, back to our example with 50 games per position and 200 putouts, if we weight the putouts per position based on the numbers above, then we would get 46.15 putouts in right, 84.62 in center, and 69.23 in left. Add them up, and you get 200. Now, using 20 games in right, 100 in center, and 30 in left, you get 16.11 putouts in right, 147.65 in center, and 36.24 in right. The PO/G ratios would be 0.81 in right, 1.48 in center, and 1.21 in left, all lower than the average but proportionately lower. The ratios for the first example are 0.92 in right, 1.69 in left, and 1.38 in right, again lower but proportionate by the number of games by position.
If you want the formula that I used to weight the results, it gets a bit complicated. First, calculate the expected number of putouts per game per position by totaling the numbers for those players who played only one outfield position for the year. Now take that number per position and divide it by the average for all three OF positions to get the normalized value. Finally take the normalized value and multiply it by the total number of putouts multiplied by the number of games for the given position divided by the total of the outfield games per position multiplied by the position's normalized putouts per game. I told you it was complicated.
So now we have the prorated fielding stats for all outfielders since the dawn of time. Ok, what does that do for us? Well, now we can use those stats to determine how well a player compares to his era. We can see how many putouts above expected a player is, which is a good indicator of a player's range. Do the same with assists, and you can see who has a superior arm.
The one thing you will see in the results is that it was easier for players to be far superior to their peers in the early days of the game. As baseball followed the tenets of Stephen Jay Gould and its talents converged, the differences in the fielding stats lessened. Therefore, the results will be broken down by era.
To be continued…
Bobby Abreu is a known commodity in fantasy baseball circles. A one-time thirty-thirty man, Abreu is a lock for 20 homers and 20 stolen bases. He's done it for the last five years. Actually, he has only one full major-league season in which he did not do it, his first year as a starter and as a Phillie, 1998.
In 1998, his first as a starter, he was ranked third in the NL in Win Shares among all right fielders behind Sammy Sosa and Vladimir Guerrero. In 1999 he trailed only Guerrero. He was third again in 2000 (behind Sosa and Guerrero) and 2001 (Sosa and Shawn Green). In 2002 he trailed only Green; In 2003, only Gary Sheffield. Indeed, over the period, Abreu is second overall as an NL right fielder, about 20 Win Shares behind Sammy Sosa and a couple ahead of Vlad Guerrero. Larry Walker and Shawn Green fill out the top 5.
And Abreu has zero All-Star appearances to show for it. Sosa has 5 All-Star appearances since 1998. Guerrero has 4, Walker 3, Sheffield and Tony Gwynn 2, and right fielders Moises Alou, Jeromy Burnitz, Shawn Green, Jeffrey Hammonds (really), and Brian Jordan each have one.
Maybe he isn't that well known. He certainly gets no respect in Philly, where the most popular Phils, judging from what one can find in the sporting goods stores and and at the ballpark, are Jim Thome, Kevin Millwood, Jimmy Rollins, and Billy Wagner. You're more likely to see a Scott Rolen uniform, sometimes with his name crossed out, at CB Park than a number 53 one.
And fans will tell you in a heartbeat that Abreu just isn't that good a player. It may be because local sports "personality" Howard Eskin is bemoaning his shortcomings on a regular basis. I don't listen to the bearded wonder on a regular (or even occasional) basis, but a few people have emailed me in the last week describing his tirades.
For those of you unfamiliar with Eskin, he is a sort of Mad Dog without the Mike, or at least I wish he was without a mike. He has all the subtlety of a conservative talk show hosts like Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. He calls terms callers with whom he disagrees "genius" and tells female callers to get back to cooking dinner. When I was a kid, Eskin was just a bubbly, colorful sports guy on the local news, just a smiling, talking head. I documented my one run-in with him, that ended in my being attacked by the Phillie Phanatic on the Vet's jumbo screen, in my "About Me" section.
He evidently feels that Abreu is "padding" his numbers with cheap stats, that he strikes out too much, that he is not a "clutch" performer, and that he dogs it in the field, in right field and on the base paths. I tried to catch a bit of his tirades when I was within range of his station, WIP. However, all I got was Eskin barking out who's "cool" and who isn't in sports. Clearly, he's not a big Stuart Scott fan. Eskin then took calls and shouted down those callers who did not agree with his assessments. It made "Pardon the Interruption" seem a regular Algonquin Round Table. I was also treated to a tirade about how fantasy football and/or football video games—he used the two interchangeably—were the "downfall of our society" after someone had the temerity to suggest that the Eagles go to a 3-4 defense.
Really, the only bloviation that even asymptotically approached Abreu was a facile explanation of the Phils' offensive woes being attributable to a) a dearth of productivity at the top of the order and b) a "dysfunctional lineup". If that means too many at-bats to the likes of Doug Glanville and Todd Pratt, then I agree. Of course, in none of his discourses did he reference even rudimental stats.
But back to Abreu. He's a career .305 batter with a .409 on-base percentage, .514 slugging average, and a .923 OPS. He's had between 20 and 31 home runs in each of the last five seasons (or one every 25.4 at-bats). He's also had between 35 and 50 doubles. He's stolen 20 bases five of his six full seasons and has a 74% success rate. He's walked a hundred times in for the last five seasons. And yes, he has struck out over one hundred times for the last six seasons, but his all-time walks-to-strikeouts ratio is .81 about 30 points better than the NL average since 1998 (.52).
OK, those are the counting numbers, now here are the ratios: He has batted over .300 five of six full seasons. He has had an on-base percentage over .400 five times, slugged over .500 four times, and had an OPS over .900 five times. As a matter of fact, coming into this season Abreu is 48th all-time in OPS for all players with at least 1000 at-bats (at .922). Here are the top 30 current players (as of 2003, Abreu is 21st):
|Ken Griffey Jr.||.940|
His park-adjusted OPS has been at least 30% better than the league average each of the last six seasons. His high was 55% better than average in 2002, and his average is 39% better than average. That's the 18th best among current players and 78th best all-time.
But that's the past: maybe he's sucking wind this season. In 2004, he projects a 30-30 season (36 homers and 32 steals), 123 runs, 110 RBI, 32 doubles, 120 walks, and 120 strikeouts. His OPS is .950 (.407 OBP and .543 slugging), which is 16th in the NL, right behind teammate Pat Burrell. He is 10-for-10 in steals this season. If he does steal 30 bases without being caught, he will be the first player ever to do so (In 1988 Kevin McReynolds stole 21 without being caught and in 1994 Paul Molitor stole 20 withot being caught).
Well, maybe he hasn't been clutch. Here are his ratios split out by situation for 2004:
|First and Second||15||0||2||.333||.333||.533||.866|
|First and Third||6||1||0||.333||.429||.833||1.262|
|Second and Third||5||2||0||.400||.500||1.000||1.500|
|None On, 1/2 out||63||12||18||.254||.373||.492||.865|
|Men On, 2 out||22||11||1||.409||.606||1.136||1.742|
|Man on 3rd, <2 out||11||2||1||.273||.313||.273||.586|
|Lead Off Inning||30||4||6||.233||.343||.500||.843|
|Scoring Posn, 2 out||16||5||0||.438||.571||1.188||1.759|
|Close and Late||39||11||11||.282||.440||.513||.953|
Actually, if anything, the reverse of what Eskin is saying is true. Abreu's stats improve with runners on and with runners in scoring position and they also improve as there are more outs. Also, his strikeouts go down and his walks go up.
Actually, the only claim that even a cursory perusal of the stats will support is that his defense is flagging. His career range factor in right is the league average (1.96). However, his range factor fell below average in 2001 and has been below average since. Some of that may be explained by the fact that there were three starters in the rotation in 2001. Consider that he is forth among right fielders in Fielding Win Shares since 1998. And as far as his defense aging poorly, his range factor this season (2.21) is as high as it's been since 2000.
So why isn't Abreu's greatness appreciated? He doesn't speak English well. He is easy going, almost unflappable. He seems to smile even when he strikes out. It's almost a poker face. Some would regard this as an asset and a calming influence on the team. However, the fans and the media seem to regard it as nonchalance or indifference towards the game. Does it hurt him that he is a dark-skinned Dominican? I can't say that it helps, but I would hope that the fans and press have progressed beyond Philly's sordid past. You may remember that Phillies manager Ben Chapman orchestrated many a razzing toward Jackie Robinson. Also, the Phils were the last NL team to integrate, granting John Kennedy two at-bats in 1957. Richie "Don't Call Me Dick" Allen was never very enamored of Philly in either of his stretches in a Phillies uniform. And even Jimmy Rollins, a one-time fan favorite was being booed regularly this spring.
I think it may be something more deeply rooted in the Philly sports fan's psyche. It's the reason that the fans booed Mike Schmidt on his way to hitting 548 home runs and to being the greatest third baseman who ever played the game. I remember in the mid-Seventies, when Schmidt was becoming the best overall player in the NL, Greg Luzinski was far more popular. Schmidt was said to be padding his numbers. He wasn't clutch. He struck out too much. He was too cold and dispassionate. Never mind that Schmidt was one stolen base away from being a 30-30 man, a concept that did not even exist yet, and that Schmidt's offensive and defensive growth was astronomical. Schmidt was not "one of us". Luzinski misplayed balls in left field. The Phils were always threatening to move him to first and had to pull him in the seventh in favor of first Jerry Martin and then Lonnie "Skates" Smith whenever they had a lead—sort of a closer in left field. Luzinski was a Philly guy.
The same seems to be true of how the fans see Abreu and Jim Thome. Thome is limited in what he can do on the basepaths and defensively at first, but he sure can clout 'em out, And he was quickly accepted by the Philly brethren. The things Abreu does in each facet of the game add up to his greatness. They are more difficult to see. Everyone can grasp a Thome monster home run.
And it does not help that dolts like Bill Conlin and Howard Eskin have decided to inculcate in the Philly fans' already limited intellect what greatness is all about. Conlin helped to drive a wedge between Scott Rolen and the fans calling him a cancer. I'm just gratified that Eskin's polemic, though it influences the fanbase, has been too scattershot to hit the mark.
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.