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Monthly archives: September 2005

 

God Must Be a Baseball Fan
2005-09-30 22:28
by Mike Carminati

Amazing, simply amazing!

There were four games tonight with important playoff implications. Three were won by one run. The fourth, by two.

I'm lucky enough to have watching significant heaps of each game with the help of picture-in-a-picture, an itching clicker finger, access to MLB.TV, and an ability to multitask with a full bladder.

And it wasn't just the result of each game that mattered the most. It was the cumulative effect that built to a crescendo as each game reached its climax.

It's late, but I thought it might be interesting to look at the events as they enfolded. I kept a log of sorts while emailing some friends.

The Phils were leading 4-2. The Red Sox led the Yankees, 5-3. Indians just tied it in the bottom of the 9th and the Cubs just took a 2-1 lead in the 8th…

The 'Stros are bobbling the ball all over the place. Wickman just got a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 10th. Boy, does he look more and more like Rube Foster every day. And I'm talking about Foster as a league executive, not as a player…

How depressing--Marlon Byrd just scored against the Phils. Still up 4-3. But runner on third two in ninth.

Runners are the corners for the Cubs, still 3-2

Indians-Sox still tied in the 11th.

The Yankees just lost, 5-3, and are tied with the Red Sox for the division lead...

Tied 3-3 in Houston. Phillies win!..

Cubs just had their second runner in two innings thrown out at the plate. Still 3-3, runners at the corners, 1 out.

Todd Walker singles in the go-ahead run!..

Sox just walked the bases full, 1 out, bottom of 11th. Broussard up…

Astros leave a man on third. Cubbies win, 4-3, same score as Phils.

[Note: I am going to the Phils-Nats game in DC on Sunday and am frothy with the possibilities.]

The Indians left the bases loaded with Aaron Boone grounding out to end the inning. Broussard was called out on an outside pitch. The home plate ump seems to have had an amorphous strike zone all night. Still 1-1 middle of the 12th.

And Cliff Politte is coming in for the Sox. This'll be good…

It's a shame that this Indians-Chisox doesn't affect the division title. It's been amazing.

The Indians just got robbed to end the 12th. Sizemore slid into second on a ball grounded to Crede who lollygagged the ball into second. The replays showed that Sizemore slid in ahead of the throw, but the ump called him out. Wedge went ballistic.

Then in the 13th Willie Harris triples. Scott Podsednik, the [alleged] catalyst for their offense, bunted on his own, and hit it too hard right to first. Harris was out in a rundown. Podsendik went to second on the play. They walked Konerko to face Gload who was 0-for-5 with 3 Ks on the night, and he doubles in two runs. 3-1 Sox…

Bellirard just homered with two outs in the ninth both Ks. 3-2. Jenks looked like he would get them 1-2-3.

[Sox win, 3-2.]

Here's a quick rundown of the playoff scenarios:

Phils win two, Astros lose two: result is the Phils are the wild card.

Phils win two, Astros split: playoff for NL wild card.

Phils split, Astros lose both: playoff for NL wild card.

Astros win two, Phils do whatever: the Astros are the wild card.

Sox/Yanks win two, Indians win two: Sox/Yanks winner wins division, Indians are the wild card.

Sox/Yanks win two, Indians split: Sox/Yanks winner wins division, playoff for the wild card.

Sox/Yanks win two, Indians lose two: Sox/Yanks winner wins division, loser is wild card.

Sox/Yanks split, Indians win two: One-game playoff for the AL East Title followed one-game playoff for wild card between Yanks/Sox loser and Indians.

Sox/Yanks split, Indians split or lose two: The Yanks win the division based on better head-to-head record (10-8), Red Sox are wild card.

Let's not even talk about the seedings until after tomorrow's games.

Working Overtime
2005-09-30 22:15
by Mike Carminati

As I was reminded baseball changed its rules a few years back so that a three-way tie between the Red Sox, Yankees, and Indians would result in two playoff games. The first would decide the AL East champ, and the second would pair the East loser with the Indians (even though technically, they would no longer be tied.

With the Sox winning and Indians losing, the only way this scenario could play out is if 1) the Yanks and Bosox split, and 2) the Indians win both games from the White Sox.

When Hideki Matsui and Alex Rodriguez appeared in the game tonight, the played in their 160th game of the season. Let's say the three-way tie scenario becomes a reality and the Yankees lose the AL East playoff. Both of those players could end up playing 164 games since these playoffs count as regular season games.

By the same token, Bobby Abreu has played every Phillies game this year. If the Phils win one more of their remaining games than the Astros, they would have a wild card playoff. Abreu could potentially play 163 games.

That made me wonder how often a player exceeded the 162-game threshold. I remember Pete Rose playing 163 once when I was a kid. That was because of a tie ballgame that got replayed (both games' stats count though the result of the first does not).

There is actually a third scenario that could allow a player to exceed 162 games. That is, if he is traded midseason and because of the respective teams' schedules during his stint with them, he has the ability to play in an extra game or two.

So I looked up all the players with 163 or more games played in a season, with one or more teams. There were 32. . The most regular-season games in a season is 165 by Maury Wills in 1962 when the Dodgers and Giants had a three-game playoff that counted in the regular season (the Giants won). The only way that could be matched today, I believe, if four teams end up tied for a playoff spot or two.

The last to play 164, a feat Matsui and A-Rod can match, was Frank Taveras in 1979. Taveras was traded by the Pirates to the Mets midseason.

The last player to exceed 162 was Matsui himself in 2003, when the Yankees replayed a tie ballgame.

Here's the complete list by most games played and then year:

NameYrGTeam
Maury Wills1962165Los Angeles Dodgers
Frank Taveras1979164 Pirates/Mets
Cesar Tovar1967164Minnesota Twins
Ron Santo1965164Chicago Cubs
Billy Williams1965164Chicago Cubs
Jose Pagan1962164San Francisco Giants
Hideki Matsui2003163New York Yankees
Albert Belle1998163Chicago White Sox
Cal Ripken Jr.1996163Baltimore Orioles
Todd Zeile1996163 Phillies/Orioles
Bobby Bonilla1989163Pittsburgh Pirates
Jose Oquendo1989163St. Louis Cardinals
Tony Fernandez1986163Toronto Blue Jays
Greg Walker1985163Chicago White Sox
Steve Garvey1980163Los Angeles Dodgers
Al Oliver1980163Texas Rangers
Pete Rose1979163Philadelphia Phillies
Jim Rice1978163Boston Red Sox
Willie Montanez1976163 Giants/Braves
Pete Rose1974163Cincinnati Reds
Billy Williams1969163Chicago Cubs
Billy Williams1968163Chicago Cubs
Bill Mazeroski1967163Pittsburgh Pirates
Harmon Killebrew1967163Minnesota Twins
Don Buford1966163Chicago White Sox
Ernie Banks1965163Chicago Cubs
Leo Cardenas1964163Cincinnati Reds
Brooks Robinson1964163Baltimore Orioles
Leon Wagner1964163Cleveland Indians
Tommy Davis1962163Los Angeles Dodgers
Brooks Robinson1961163Baltimore Orioles
Rocky Colavito1961163Detroit Tigers

Now, given the 2003 Matsui season, I thought it might be interesting to investigate how many players have exceeded the total number of games for which their teams had a decision. This also removes our 162-game-centric view. There were 1048 of them. Here are the ones in the last 25 years:

PlayerYrGTeamDecisionsWLDiff
Hideki Matsui2003163New York Yankees162101611
Albert Belle1998163Chicago White Sox16280821
Cal Ripken Jr.1996163Baltimore Orioles16288741
Frank Thomas1995145Chicago White Sox14468761
Bobby Bonilla1989163Pittsburgh Pirates16274881
Jose Oquendo1989163St. Louis Cardinals16286761
Tony Fernandez1986163Toronto Blue Jays16286761
Greg Walker1985163Chicago White Sox16285771
Bill Buckner1981106Chicago Cubs10338653
Ivan DeJesus1981106Chicago Cubs10338653
Doug Flynn1981105New York Mets10341622
Chris Chambliss1981107Atlanta Braves10650561
Keith Hernandez1981103St. Louis Cardinals10259431
Tom Herr1981103St. Louis Cardinals10259431
Omar Moreno1981103Pittsburgh Pirates10246561
Jim Morrison1980162Chicago White Sox16070902
Al Oliver1980163Texas Rangers16176852

Bill Buckner and Ivan DeJesus both played in three tie ballgames evidently in addition to the 160 that "counted" for the Cubs in 1981.

That made we wonder what was the largest number of mulligan games anyone ever played in addition to playing a full season for his team. Here goes:

PlayerYrGTeamDecisionsWLDiff
Jimmy Barrett1904162Detroit Tigers152629010
Ed Konetchy1911158St. Louis Cardinals14975749
Joe Sommer1886139Baltimore Orioles13148838
Nap Lajoie1910159Cleveland Naps15271817
Harry Lyons1890133Rochester Broncos12663637
Ed Konetchy1916158Boston Braves15289636
Tommy Griffith1915160Cincinnati Reds15471836
Heinie Groh1915160Cincinnati Reds15471836
Chief Wilson1913155Pittsburgh Pirates14978716
Rube Ellis1911155St. Louis Cardinals14975746
Jiggs Donahue1907157Chicago White Sox15187646
George Van Haltren1898156New York Giants15077736
Mike Lehane1890140Columbus Solons13479556
Dick Johnston1887127Boston Beaneaters12161606
John Morrill1887127Boston Beaneaters12161606
John Ward1887129New York Giants12368556
Ned Williamson1887127Chicago White Stockings12171506
Jack Manning1886137Baltimore Orioles13148836
Milt Scott1886137Baltimore Orioles13148836

Ten tie ballgames?!? That was before lights after all.

Unfit to Be Tied?
2005-09-29 22:36
by Mike Carminati

How could the baseball gods have done this to us? The Indians and White Sox lock up for a three game series with three games separating them starting tomorrow.

That's a classic setup, right? It's a long shot, but we all imagine the Indians sweeping the series and setting up one-game playoff to decide the division champ Bucky Dent style.

Well, we'd be wrong.

The tiebreaker rules that have been imposed since the advent of the not-so wild card establish that the Sox are the champs.

If the Indians were to sweep and thereby tie the White Sox in the standings, both teams would make the playoffs since the second place team in the East could not have a record as good as the Central co-champs.

Both the Indians and Chisox would be 96-76. The best the second-place team in the East could do would be 95-77 (both the Red Sox and Yankees would be tied with this record if Boston wins two of three in their series).

Given that both teams would make the playoffs, baseball simply uses their head-to-head record which the Sox lead 11-5 and would still win, 11-8, after the sweep. The Sox would then win the division. Who cares if we cut short an historic pennant race?

So what about the other playoff scenarios? If the Yankees win the final series with the Red Sox (either 2-1 or 3-0), then it's simple. They win the division. The Sox have a shot at the wild card if they have a better record than the Indians. If Boston and Cleveland tie, then it's a one-game playoff.

OK, let's say the Red Sox sweep the series, that too is easy. The Red Sox win the division, and the Yankees fight it out for the wild card with the Indians.

The one scenario that gets a bit wacky is if Boston takes two of three from the Yankees. In this case, the two teams would be tied for the division lead. This would lead to a one-game playoff. The loser of the playoff would make the playoffs if they had a better record (including the playoff) than the Indians.

It gets a bit sticky if the Indians take two from Chicago, resulting in a three-way tie. The Yanks-Sox playoff would still happen with the winner taking the division title and the loser out of the playoffs. The Indians would get in automatically even though they would be tied with the two other teams prior to the playoff.

The NL is a bit simpler with the Phils needing a sweep of the Nats to guarantee a wild card spot. If the Astros win two or more games in their final series, they take the wild card. Two Phillies wins coupled with one Astro win or one Phils win and all losses for the Astros result in a one-game playoff.

San Diego Chargeless
2005-09-29 21:47
by Mike Carminati

The Padres and Giants are locked in an epic scoreless tie in the bottom of the ninth. It is now a meaningless game as San Diego locked up the division yesterday. However, if the Giants prevail, the Padres will have locked up something perhaps more distinctive.

The Padres would own the dubious honor of worst record ever by a division or league winner in a non-strike year. The 1973 Mets are the current titleholders with an 83-79 record. (The 1981 Royal and 1994 Rangers had worse records but in strike years.)

The Padres would have to win all four of their remaining games to avoid wresting the title away.

Still Rocket in the Free (Agency) World
2005-09-29 21:34
by Mike Carminati
Roger Clemens may be one of a handful of pitchers who qualified for the ERA title with an ERA no more than 2.00, a WHIP of no more than 1.00, at least 7 K/IP, and 3 Ks per BB. In descending order:
NameYrWL ERA WHIP IP K-BB K-9IP
Guillermo Mota200363 1.97 0.99 105.0 3.81 8.49
Pedro Martinez2000186 1.74 0.74 217.0 8.88 11.78
Pedro Martinez1997178 1.90 0.93 241.3 4.55 11.37
Greg Maddux1995192 1.63 0.81 209.7 7.87 7.77
Mark Eichhorn1986146 1.72 0.96 157.0 3.69 9.52
Dwight Gooden1985244 1.53 0.97 276.7 3.88 8.72
Willie Hernandez198493 1.92 0.94 140.3 3.11 7.18
Ron Guidry1978253 1.74 0.95 273.7 3.44 8.16
Bruce Sutter197773 1.34 0.86 107.3 5.61 10.82
Rich Gossage1977119 1.62 0.95 133.0 3.08 10.22
Steve Carlton19722710 1.97 0.99 346.3 3.56 8.06
Tom Seaver19712010 1.76 0.95 286.3 4.74 9.08
Vida Blue1971248 1.82 0.95 312.0 3.42 8.68
Bob Gibson1968229 1.12 0.85 304.7 4.32 7.92
Denny McLain1968316 1.96 0.90 336.0 4.44 7.50
Luis Tiant1968219 1.60 0.87 258.3 3.62 9.20
Sandy Koufax1966279 1.73 0.98 323.0 4.12 8.83
Stu Miller1965147 1.89 1.00 119.3 3.25 7.84
Sandy Koufax1964195 1.74 0.93 223.0 4.21 9.00
Sandy Koufax1963255 1.88 0.87 311.0 5.28 8.86
Walter Johnson19123312 1.39 0.91 369.0 3.99 7.39
Walter Johnson19102517 1.36 0.91 370.0 4.12 7.61
Rube Waddell19052710 1.48 0.98 328.7 3.19 7.86

And if you think that potentially 12 wins for a ERA champion is low, consider that 30 other ERA kings have 12 wins or fewer led by Cherokee Fisher's three wins in 1873.
YrLgLeader ERA IPWL
1873NACherokee Fisher 1.81 84.3 34
1988NLJoe Magrane 2.18 165.3 59
1880NLTim Keefe 0.86 105.0 66
1958NLStu Miller 2.47 182.0 69
1994ALSteve Ontiveros 2.65 115.3 64
1881NLStump Wiedman 1.80 115.0 85
1896NLBilly Rhines 2.45 143.0 86
1900NLRube Waddell 2.37 208.7 813
1902ALEd Siever 1.91 188.3 811
1917NLFred Anderson 1.44 162.0 88
1987NLNolan Ryan 2.76 211.7 816
1886NLHenry Boyle 1.76 210.0 915
1978NLCraig Swan 2.43 207.3 96
1895NLAl Maul 2.45 135.7 105
1961ALDick Donovan 2.40 168.7 1010
1983NLAtlee Hammaker 2.25 172.3 109
1992NLBill Swift 2.08 164.7 104
1922NLPhil Douglas 2.63 157.7 114
1949NLDave Koslo 2.50 212.0 1114
1951NLChet Nichols 2.88 156.0 118
1957ALBobby Shantz 2.45 173.0 115
1967NLPhil Niekro 1.87 207.0 119
1976NLJohn Denny 2.52 207.0 119
1990NLDanny Darwin 2.21 162.7 114
1996ALJuan Guzman 2.93 187.7 118
1889AAJack Stivetts 2.25 191.7 127
1951ALSaul Rogovin 2.78 216.7 128
1957NLJohnny Podres 2.66 196.0 129
1966ALGary Peters 1.98 204.7 1210
1984NLAlejandro Pena 2.48 199.3 126

Triple 100-RBI Men
2005-09-28 22:05
by Mike Carminati

Tonight the Phils finally topped the Mets, 16-6, but remained two games behind the Astros, who also won, in the wild card hunt with three games left to go. The Phils finally did something besides lose a one-run game, and Charlie "I Need A Friggin'" Manuel found a way to win a game of any lead without using Bill Wagner.

Also, Chase Utley was the big bat driving in five runs. In the process he crossed the 100 mark for RBI, not bad for a player who had no job coming out of camp.

Bobby Abreu also collected an RBI to reach the century mark, making Abreu (100), Utley (101), and Pat Burrell (116) the first set of three Phillies teammates to collect at least 100 RBI each since 1932.

It is also only the fifth time in franchise history that three Phils have amassed 100 RBI each. Actually, in 1929 four Phils accomplished the feat:

YrPlayer1RBIPlayer2RBIPlayer3RBITot RBI
1932Don Hurst143Chuck Klein137Pinky Whitney124404
1929Chuck Klein145Lefty O'Doul122Pinky Whitney115382
1929Chuck Klein145Don Hurst125Pinky Whitney115385
1929Chuck Klein145Don Hurst125Lefty O'Doul122392
1929Don Hurst125Lefty O'Doul122Pinky Whitney115362
1895Sam Thompson165Ed Delahanty106Lave Cross101372
1894Sam Thompson141Ed Delahanty131Lave Cross125397

The 2005 Phils have a long way to go to break the franchise high (404 RBI) for three teammates. Forget the all-time high:

YrTeamPlayer1RBIPlayer2RBIPlayer3RBITot RBI
1931New York YankeesLou Gehrig184Babe Ruth163Ben Chapman122469
1937New York YankeesJoe DiMaggio167Lou Gehrig159Bill Dickey133459
1931New York YankeesLou Gehrig184Babe Ruth163Lyn Lary107454
1930New York YankeesLou Gehrig174Babe Ruth153Tony Lazzeri121448
1930Chicago CubsHack Wilson191Kiki Cuyler134Gabby Hartnett122447
1927New York YankeesLou Gehrig175Babe Ruth164Bob Meusel103442
1927New York YankeesLou Gehrig175Babe Ruth164Tony Lazzeri102441
1932Philadelphia AthleticsJimmie Foxx169Al Simmons151Mickey Cochrane112432
1949Boston Red SoxTed Williams159Vern Stephens159Bobby Doerr109427
1949Boston Red SoxVern Stephens159Ted Williams159Bobby Doerr109427

By the way, the four 100-RBI men for the 1929 Phils are not the most ever. There are three teams with five, two of which played in the wacky 1894 season:

YrTeamPlayer1RBIPlayer2RBIPlayer3RBIPlayer4RBIPlayer5RBITot RBI
1894Baltimore OriolesDan Brouthers128Steve Brodie113Joe Kelley111Hughie Jennings109Heinie Reitz105566
1894Boston BeaneatersHugh Duffy145Tommy McCarthy126Bobby Lowe115Jimmy Bannon114Tommy Tucker100600
1936New York YankeesLou Gehrig152Joe DiMaggio125Tony Lazzeri109Bill Dickey107George Selkirk107600
Weighty Issue
2005-09-28 20:59
by Mike Carminati
Personal example carries more weight than preaching.

—Ancient Chinese Proverb, huh?

Walter Young is a September callup who has played fairly well for the Orioles with a .308 batting average, 379 on-base percentage, and .423 slugging average in 26 at-bats. You can't get too excited about any player wearing number 75, but with Rafael Palmeiro running himself out of town, the O's first base job is open (and Chris Gomez is not a viable solution).

But my interest in Young has very little to do with his on-field performance. I'm more interested in only one of his stats, his weight.

Young Walter is listed at three hundred and twenty pounds. In stocking feet yet.

I checked and found no player listed at 300 pounds or above (through 2004). He weighs 25 pounds more than anyone ever to play the game.

With nods to Terry "Big Tub of Goo" Forster (who David Letterman outed for continuing to list his weight at 210 pounds even though he gained heaps of weight over his career), the largest man to ever play in the majors was the aptly named Jumbo Brown who tipped the scales at 295.

As a matter of fact, there have only been 25 men who are within 75 pounds of Young. Most of them are pitchers:

WeightName
295Jumbo Brown
275Calvin Pickering
265Jeff Juden
260Steve Rain
260Garland Buckeye
260Joey Meyer
257Frank Thomas
255Tyler Walker
255Frank Howard
254Jose Valverde
252Bobby Munoz
250Johnny Hutchings
250Bill Hall
250Rich Garces
250Jeff D'Amico
250Sam Horn
250Chuck Malone
250Chad Paronto
250Chris Young
250C.C. Sabathia
250Willie Smith
250Tim Stoddard
250Ryan Bukvich
250J.J. Davis
250Dave Orr

As for the theory that Young is just a player whose weight happens to be distributed over a 6' 5" frame, consider that there have been 574 players through 2004 who were at least as tall.

But maybe he's still growing.

I feel that a player with such proportions merits—nay screams out for—an appropriate nickname. My friend Mike suggested "Meatnormous", which is apparently how Burger Kind describes a new heart-stopping offering, and I couldn't imagine anything more appropriate.

So, I'll leave it to you to spread the world. "Meatnormous" Young. To quote Brad Hamilton, Learn it. Know it. Live it.

The Return of the Five-Ball Walk? (And Other Tales of Phillies Woe)
2005-09-27 23:15
by Mike Carminati

In 1889 baseball changed the definition of a base on balls, making four balls the basis for a free pass to first. Walks shot up 55% that year, the highest increase since the founding of the National League.

The five-ball walk has been dead for 116 years, but for a time in Philadelphia tonight, it seemed that baseball had brought it back. With the Phils trailing the Metsgoes by a run (3-2), the bases empty and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Chase Utley stepped into the batter's box and appeared to a called ball on a 3-2 count but remained at bat. The local Phillies broadcasters had the count at 3-2. The scoreboard had a 3-2 count. And the fans, at least the ones that can count, were irate.

How could a ball on 3-2 pitch not result in a walk?

As it turned out Utley walked two pitches later. But it didn't matter when the next batter, Bobby Abreu, K'ed to end the game. All that was left was the academic question of a five-pitch walk, and the Phils were eliminated from the division title hunt in the NL East.

It wasn't until I went through the pitch sequence on MLB.TV with a different broadcast team that I realized that the home-plate ump made the right call:

- Called strike on outside slider, 0-1(I believe this was the one called a ball by the Philly broadcasters and the scoreboard operator).

- Swinging strike on a curve, 0-2

- Fouled off, remains 0-2

- High and Outside, 1-2

- Foul tip in the dirt, remains 1-2

- Ball in the dirt, 2-2

- Fouled down the first base line, remains 2-2, followed by a conference on the mound

- Low change, 3-2 (This was the one that raised the fans' eyebrows.)

- Fouled off on outside fastball, remains 3-2.

- Change inside, walk.

So Phillies fans have no one to blame for the loss. Except for David Bell who stupidly tried to take third when he was on first and pinch-hitter Shane Victorino hit a two-out single with the Phils trailing by a run. It was a close play, but Bell had no business trying for third. With two outs, it's the proverbial boneheaded play. Or maybe they could blame Charlie Manuel for leaving Bell, he of the 16 career stolen bases, in as the tying run.

Anyway, I wondered if the five-ball walk had made an appearance since 1889. I looked in up in Rich Marazzi's The Rules and Lore of Baseball. I found an example with exactly the same two teams:

It was early in the 1978 season when the Mets and Phillies tangled at the Vet in Philadelphia in what must have been a real yawner.

The Mets' Lenny Randle was batting with a count of three balls and two strikes facing Tug McGraw. The next pitch was called a ball, which entitled Randle to take first base. Apparently everyone in the park must have been napping including the umpires because Randle remained in the batter's box instead of talking his "walk" to first.

With the count of four balls and two strikes, Lenny hit McGraw's next pitch for a triple. Do you believe this happened in a major-league game.

Uh, yeah, I do. I'm surprised it hasn't happened more often as a matter of fact.

Starting To Hector Late in Life
2005-09-26 22:05
by Mike Carminati

Hector Carrasco helped the Nats play spoilers and shut the Marlins out tonight, 4-0. Carrasco went six innings and struck out six. This was Carrasco's fourth start and he hasn't given up a run in the last three outings and 17.2 innings.

That's not bad for a guy who never started more than a game in any of his previous nine seasons. As of two weeks ago, he had pitched 557 major-league games and started just two. He has gone four starts consisting in 22.2 innings and he owns a 0.79 ERA as a starter.

Carrasco is 35 and has had more address changes at the major-league level (8) than starts (6). He hasn't had a season with an ERA under 4.00 since 1996. But what if he turns into a legitimate starter?

How unprecedented would such a conversion be?

I looked it up.

I looked for all pitchers who were predominately relievers (no more than 9 starts in any season and no seasons with more starts than relief appearances), who became primarily starters after turning 35. (That is, at least 10 starts in any season or more starts than relief appearances in any given season.)

I found nine (in reverse chronological order):

NameYrAge
Satchel Paige196558
Hoyt Wilhelm195835
Johnny Lindell195336
Ray Prim194538
Bob Logan194535
Dick Barrett194336
Johnny Niggeling193935
Joe Heving193837
Huck Betts193235

Paige barely qualifies since his season as a starter consisted in one game as a promotional stunt for the Kansas City A's in 1965.

Wilhelm started 10 games in 1958 (out of 39 in total), 27 in 1959 (out of 32), and 11 in 1960 (out of 41). He had never started a game in his first six seasons—he was a late bloomer all around—and 361 games. After 1961, he started just four games and went into the Hall as a starter.

Lindell was actually an outfielder who pitched 55 games in his career. He pitched one season as a pitcher prior to turning 35. It was 1942, when he pitched 23 games, all but two in relief, for the wartime Yanks at age 25. He didn't pitch again until 1953, his last season in which he converted to pitcher predominately and in which he started 23 of 32 games for the Pirates and Phils and registered a 4.66 ERA.

Prim was a World War II replacement pitcher for the Cubs 1943-46. He had pitched for the Senators and Phils eight years earlier. His only year as a starter was 1945 (19 of 34 games were starts) and he amassed a 13-8 record with a 2.40 ERA. But then the regulars returned….

Logan was another wartime replacement. He had pitched four seasons previously with 23 career games, none of which were starts. In 1945, he went 7-11 in 25 starts and 9 relief appearances and had a 3.18 ERA. Then the regulars returned, and he never pitched at the major-league level again.

Barrett was, surprise, a wartime replacement. He had a nine-year break from the majors, he started 24 games (of 38 in total) in 1943, and then the regulars returned…

Niggeling was a late bloomer who went on to win 64 games mostly as a starter.

Heving had one stint primarily as a starter with the Red Sox in 1938 (11 starts in 16 games). He went 8-1 with a 3.73 ERA. He never started more than 7 again.

Betts had a seven-year break and became a starter with the Braves in 1932. He had a six-year run with the Phils previously and never started more than 9 in any season. In 1932, he was 13-11 with a 2.80 ERA. He pitched three more seasons with Boston, mostly as a starter.

So what Carrasco's doing is not unprecedented, but it's pretty darn rare. His success as a starter might be a fluke. It may end with another assignment to the pen. But he might just stuck around for a while as a starting pitcher.

Lopez Dispenser
2005-09-26 20:06
by Mike Carminati

Watching the Yanks beat up on Rodrigo Lopez tonight (6-0 last I checked), I was left to ponder how often a pitcher—in this case Lopez—had thrown to a catcher—in this case Javy Lopez—with the same last name.

Well, it may be impossible to know until Retrosheet dredges up every box score since the dawn of time. However, we can look up all the pitcher-catcher combinations on the same team with the same surname.

There are 79 through 2004 and ten of them occurred in this decade.


Continue reading...
What the Phrig?!?
2005-09-23 22:45
by Mike Carminati

The Phils won a wild one tonight, 11-10, over the Reds by scoring five runs—count 'em—in the top of the ninth. They are now one game behind the Astros in the wild card hunt. They remain four behind the Braves for the NL East title.

The odd thing is the Phils were cruising, up 6-1 in the middle of the fifth. Then the floodgates opened. They gave up nine runs in the next three innings and fell behind 10-6.

I was switching to the homer Braves broadcast as the Phils got passed, 8-6. The Braves were behind the Marlins, 3-0, but they surged ahead, seemingly with the help of this good news, for an eventual win. The Astros had already lost to the Cubs. The Phillies were missing a golden opportunity to pick up a game on each of them.

Then something happened. Jimmy Rollins, as he has been doing so often lately, started it off with a leadoff single in the ninth off putative Reds closer David Weathers on an 0-1 pitch. Kenny Lofton singled to the right side on 1-0. Then Chase Utley collected his second homer of the night after working the count full.

With a one-run lead, Weathers got a lucky break on an apparently low strikeout call on Bobby Abreu. Abreu was thrown out of the game but somehow stayed on the bench. Pat Burrell also struck out and it seemed like too little too late for the Phils.

Next up was Ryan Howard who for some reason was given the Barry Bonds treatment. He got an unintentional intentional pass to first on four pitches.

It made sense, right? Why allow a guy who could tie the game with one swing have a chance to do so? Why not let the weak-swinging David Bell come to the plate. Right?

Uh no, on a full count, David Bell hit a gopher shot over the left field wall to put the Phils up to stay, 11-10. The only problem was that the Phils turnaround was so rapid—Lieberthal ended the inning with a flyout two pitches after the Bell dinger—that they had to rush to get Billy Wagner ready to close out the ninth, but he set them down 1-2-3 with two strikeouts.

I'm glad as a Phils fan and a baseball fan. Anyone who walks the tying run apparently on purpose deserves to take the loss.

This team is confounding. I'm like Michael Corleone: I keep getting pulled back in by them. I feel like that Randy Quaid Indians fan character in one of the films in the "Major League" franchise when he grouses the entire season that the Indians are going to blow. But then he turns it around right before the contrived climax. He wore an Indians hat inside out the entire movie.

I planned a trip to the Phils last game of the season in DC. It was just happenstance. A few friends and I wanted to see a Nationals game in RFK and this was the only date that worked. I had planned on wearing my expansion-wear Nationals shirt and hat, but I just might have to turn that Phils hat right side out and put it back on my head.

┐Quien Es Maas Macho?
2005-09-22 22:03
by Mike Carminati

On July 1, the Phils got shellacked 9-1 by John Smoltz and the Braves. Vicente Padilla, the loser in the game, saw his ERA swell to 6.96 and his record fall to 3-8.

Phils saw their own record fall to 40-40:they were at .500 for the first time in a month. They were in last place in the NL East, 8-1/2 games behind then-leader Washington and four behind the current leader, the Braves.

They also had just lost their putative offensive leader Jim Thome, to what turned out to be a season-ending injury, tendonitis in his elbow. The Phils also had 3.5 years remaining on his immense contract. In 2005 he registered just 7 homers in 193 at-bats with abysmal ratios (.207/.360/.352/.712).

The Phils turned to highly touted (by some--read, Bill Conlin) though largely untried rookie Ryan Howard. Eh, why not? The Philly press had already given up on baseball and was following Terrell Owens' daily vicissitudes. Besides the Phils aren't built to win, just to draw enough fans to justify the investment. Oh, and the Phils had used utility man Tomas Perez to fill in for their slugger, not advisable.

Howard had tanked in a trial in May during Thome's previous appearance on the DL. He started the season 2-for-21 but went on a tear May 15 and 17, going 4-for-7 with a home run, double, two runs scored, and one driven in. So what did the Phils do next? Send him down to Scranton of course.

On July 2, Howard took over at first and has since batted .300 with a .571 slugging percentage, .937 OPS, and 18 home runs in 247 at-bats and 67 games. That projects to 44 over 162 games, not bad for a rookie.

Here are Howard's stats divided between his two major-league stints this year:

ABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOSBCSBAOBPSLGOPS
Total27546801501954289101.291.356.553.909
May283620112600.214.267.393.660
July-Sept24743741301853268501.300.366.571.937

Meanwhile, the Phils have gone 42-31 since Howard replaced Thome. Though hardly anyone in Philly seems to notice, The Phils are in the midst of a wild card run, and Ryan Howard is a big part of that. His grand slam to defeat the Braves in the tenth yesterday nicely bookends that July 1 loss.

And this was a player I advocated that they trade, for his own good as well as the team's, coming out of spring training this year. Given Thome's presence at first and Howard's inability to play elsewhere, retaining Howard seemed a luxury the Phils couldn't afford especially when they had a thin starting rotation and bullpen, not to mention visible holes at many positions (center field?). This is a team, however, that carried two putative starting second basemen to start the season as well.

Howard's success now complicates the first base situation in Philly immensely. Howard's got the job for the rest of the year, but what happens next spring? The Phils probably cannot offload or simply eat Thome's contract. And now they wouldn't dare to trade Howard in case Thome's career is done.

It'll be one of their many issues next spring. Thank goodness the Phils have the Michael Brown of GMs, Ed Wade, to guide them through these choices. And if the Phils don't make the playoffs, it all gets that much more depressing.

OK, now, I have to change the topic since I'm all too demoralized. Howard is now one homer short of twenty and he is assured of not reaching 100 games. Those sorts of stats instantly call to mind one Kevin Maas.

Maas, another first baseman, hit 21 home runs in 79 games in 1990 filling in for an injured Don Mattingly. He hit his first ten home runs in just 77 at-bats. The expectations were that he would easily double that if he played a full season, So he was given the DH job in 1991, replacing a rapidly aging Steve Balboni, but he never came close to his first-year success again. He started for the Yankees in 1991 recording 23 dingers in 148 games and hit just 21 more in parts of his three remaining seasons. And he still can't hit a curveball.

I wondered how many batters there were who had Maas-like seasons. I looked up all batters with 20 dingers in 100 games or fewer while never having started for a team before (i.e., never played 100 or more games previously).

Here's the elite group that Ryan Howard will join with his next homer:

NameYrAgeGABHRRBIBAOBPSLUGOPS
Bob Horner197820893232363.266.313.539.852
Jim Thome199423983212052.268.359.523.882
Art Shamsky196624962342147.231.321.521.842
Glenn Davis1985241003502064.271.332.474.807
Tony Clark1996241003762772.250.299.503.802
Kevin Maas199025792542141.252.367.535.902
Wes Covington195725963282165.284.339.537.875
Woodie Held195725933272050.239.320.483.803
Johnny Blanchard196128932432154.305.382.613.995

Surprise, surprise! There's the guy whose job Howard took. Of course, Thome was a third baseman back then.

Bob Horner went from Arizona State to third base for the Braves and had a great rookie year, winning the 1978 NL Rookie of the Year award.

Which brings me to another subject: Could Ryan Howard win the NL Rookie of the Year Award this year while playing under 100 games?

Well, there are two instances of such players winning the award, Horner being one (and barring pitchers):

NameYrLgG
Bob Horner1978NL89
Willie McCovey1959NL52

Hmm, it took the voters just 52 games to see the mettle of future Hall-of-Famer Willie McCovey.

The odd thing for Howard is that his main competition for the award is another player, Atlanta's Jeff Francoeur, who will not have played a hundred games by year's end either. The two rank one and two in rookie VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) in the NL.

Yanked into First
2005-09-21 22:17
by Mike Carminati

Randy Johnson and the Yanks squeaked past the O's, 2-1, while the Red Sox fell to the D-Rays, 7-4, after allowing a five-run outburst in the eighth. This puts the Yankees in first place for the first time since July 18 (their only other time in first being opening day).

Both teams play just the Blue Jays and O's until the meet up in Fenway for the final weekend of the season, a series which seems destined to decide the division winner.

Unlike the Indians, who seemed to come out of nowhere, the Yankees seemingly have been within striking distance of the Sox ever since the O's—remember them?—relinquished the division lead.

I thought it might be fun to look at their monthly totals. So here goes:

Monthy RecordAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptember
Yanks10-1417-1012-1417-919-1013-6
Sox12-1116-1217-914-1318-911-10
StandingsAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptember
Yanks10-1427-2439-3856-4775-5788-63
Sox12-1128-2345-3259-4577-5488-84
Games Back2.5162.52.5+0.5

Other than a tough June for the Yankees, they have been very close all year. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, they picked the worst time to go flat, while the Yanks and Indians got hot. How weird would it be if the Yankees and Indians won their divisions and the White Sox held on for the wild card?

Chasing Ruth
2005-09-21 21:39
by Mike Carminati

Barry Bonds now has four homers in the last four games, one per game. The Giants coincidentally have won five straight, and their playoff hopes are still hanging by the thinnest of threads. They trail the Padres by five games with eleven left to play. If they win all eleven, they would finish above .500 at 82-80, which would be the worst record ever by a division winner in a non-strike year if they overtake San Diego.

Bonds also trails Babe Ruth for number two on the all-time home run list by seven, which at his current pace he would match by next Wednesday in San Diego, of course. Seven home runs in eleven games would seem impossible if this weren't Barry Bonds.

All of which made me wonder how Bonds would have done had he played a full season this year. I projected out his performance so far in 2005 to the 147 games that he played last year. Given that, he would have finished this season with 74 HRs for 777 on his career. But he would also have "just" 99 walks meaning that teams so far are challenging him more than usual expecting him to not be 100%. That wouldn't last long in full season. But the man doesn't seem to have missed a beat after missing 140-odd games.

Here are his numbers since 200 with his projected 2005 totals and the subsequent career numbers:

SEASONGABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOSBCSAVGOBPSLGOPS
20001434801291472844910611777113.306.440.6881.128
20011534761291563227313717793133.328.515.8631.378
2002143403117149312461101984792.370.582.7991.381
200313039011113322145901485870.341.529.7491.278
2004147373129135273451012324161.362.609.8121.421
20058225710465500.318.429.9091.338
Total272491202075273756477707184923071433506141.300.443.6111.054
2005 (proj)1474049212918074110929200
Total (proj)286395022162285958177777195323941520506141

So Bonds would have broken the single-season and career home run record. Not a bad year. Too bad we missed it.

Miracle Deferred?
2005-09-20 21:58
by Mike Carminati

Tonight, the Indians and White Sox were locked in a chess match that ended with a 7-6 Chicago win in the tenth on a walk-off, leadoff Joe Crede home run, his second on the night. The Sox are now 3-1/2 games up on the Indians but more importantly, four up in the proverbially all important loss column. The rubber match is tomorrow, and the Indians could again close within 2.5.

But make no mistake: this was a big loss. As for the Indians, their fate is now not their own. Consider that the two teams have four games remaining against each other, meaning that if the Indians sweep all four games and all other things are equal, the best they can achieve is a tie. They would have to hope to outplay the Sox in the games against other opponents.

That might not be that difficult given that the Indians have to play the abysmal Royals and Devil Rays while Chicago draws the at least passable Twins and Tigers.

The game itself was neck and neck the whole way. The Indians led 2-0 until the bottom of the second, 3-2 in the top of the fourth, and 5-3 in the top of the seventh. The Sox led 6-5 in the bottom of the seventh and then again in the last at-bat of the game, 7-6. The two were tied 2-2 at the end of the second, 3-3 at the end of the third, and 6-6 from the middle of the ninth until the last at-bat. Cleveland had more leads but Chicago had the one that counted.

Should the Indians catch the Sox, they'll go down as the biggest goats since the 1964 Phils or 1914 Giants. But it will be undeserved. At least so far the Sox have not crumbled in September. Their record is 11-8 so far this month while the Indians are 14-4. Here are their monthly breakdowns by month followed by the standings at the end of each month:

Monthy RecordAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptember
White Sox17-718-1018-715-1112-1611-8
Indians9-1416-1117-1013-1619-814-4
StandingsAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptember
White Sox17-735-1753-2468-3580-5191-59
Indians9-1425-2542-3555-5174-5988-63
Games Up7.591113.573.5

I don't think one bad month should consign them to baseball purgatory with Mauch's Phils, especially when the Indians have been so hot.

I Love LA
2005-09-20 20:39
by Mike Carminati

The LA Times' Steve Henson gave my research on the floundering Dodgers a mention today. Steve, the check's in the mail.

Best of Races. The Worst of Races
2005-09-19 22:09
by Mike Carminati

Tonight the Yankees closed to within one-half game of the Red Sox with a walkoff homer by Bubba Crosby. The Indians, winners of six straight, amazingly closed to within 2-1/2 games by beating the White Sox, 7-5. If they sweep the Sox, they will end up just a half game out of first, something that seemed impossible for most of the season. Meanwhile Oakland leads the Twins, 5-1 in the seventh and can close to within one and a half games of the Angels.

By tomorrow morning the total gap between all first- and second-place teams in the American League could be four and one-half games. Meanwhile in the NL, all three first-place teams have comfortable leads of at least five games. In total, the NL second-place teams lag by 24.5 games.

That all made me wonder what were the closest and farthest apart a leagues has been based on the total games back for all second-place teams since divisional play started.

I ran the numbers and found that no three-division league has ever been as close as this year's AL and that the 2005 AL would rank tenth all time in total games back:

YrLgTot GB# Divs
1980NL22
1985AL32
1979NL3.52
1982AL42
1993NL42
1982NL42
2001NL42
1987AL42
1978NL42
1973NL52
1974NL5.52

In 1980, the Phils and Astros won their divisions by one game each and then played one of the closest NL Championship Series of all time. With three divisions per league, no league will ever be as close as 1980 again. Given that any lead of less than a full game would require either a one-game playoff (in case of a tie) or that both teams play out their full schedules (in case of a half-game lead) or both, no league's second-place teams now could be closer than three total games back.

So the AL is just 1.5 games over that right now, which begs the question of what was the closest three-division league:

YrLgTot GB# Divs
2000AL83
1994AL8.53
1994NL103
2004AL133
2003AL133
1997AL143
1996NL153
1997NL163
1999NL223
2000NL223

The 2000 AL divisions were won by the Yankees (2.5 over the Red Sox), the White Sox (5 over the Indians), and the A's (0.5 over the M's). The A's were never required to play their last game even with the half-game lead since even if they lost, they would win the tie breaker and the Seattle would still be the wild card.

This requires me to amend my previous statement: a three-division league could be as close as the 1980 NL if a) two divisions are won by one game and b) the first two teams in the third division are tied but that the tie breaker declares on the victor and the other the wild card. It seems an unlikely scenario, but it is possible. (The Astros took the 2001 NL Central crown in this fashion from the Cards despite identical records.)

Anyway, the farthest behind that all three divisions within a league have been are:

YrLgTot GB# Divs
1998NL403
1995AL383
2002NL34.53
1998AL343
1999AL33.53
2001AL33.53
1986NL31.52
1995NL313
2002AL283
1969AL282
1971AL282
2003NL26.53
1975NL26.52
1983AL262
2004NL253
1970AL242

In 1998, the Braves won the NL East by 18 games, the Astros won the Central by 12.5, and the Padres won the West by 9.5. By the dual thrill of the McGwire-Sosa home run race, which Sosa lost if you forgot, and the Cubs wild card race and subsequent playoff sweep, were sufficient grounds for Sosa to win an NL MVP. You've got to love those baseball writers—they get it right every time.

Right now, the Astros, who trail the Cards by 13.5 while leading the wild card pack, would edge the 1998 Cubs for most game back while still qualifying for the wild card. So what's the worst, which wild card trailed its division winner by the most games?:

YrLgTot GBTeam
1998AL22Boston Red Sox
2001AL14Oakland Athletics
2004NL13Houston Astros
1998NL12.5Chicago Cubs
2003NL10Florida Marlins
1997NL9Florida Marlins

Yeah, the circumstances in the AL East in 1998 (114 wins for the Yankees and 92 for the Sox) will be hard to duplicate.

Cotton-Eyed Joe
2005-09-19 09:14
by Mike Carminati

There was only so much of the Phils' Sunday Night Baseball drubbing last night that I could take because of a) having to suffer through the drubbing itself—in stark contrast the other Philly team playing that day, the Eagles, devastated the 49ers 42-3—and b) suffering the even harder to take Joe Morgan analysis.

In the bit that I could stomach, Lil Joe offered his analysis of one of the many Phils' pitchers on the night (six in total), Alquilino Lopez, offhandedly and dismissively said that Lopez had at least allowed fewer hits than innings pitched, which is rare today.

First, this is a pitcher who was appearing n just his eleventh game this year (tenth with the Phils), but he did throw 72 with the Jays two seasons ago. So Joe should have some awareness of Lopez. Do your homework, Joe.

Second, Lopez' problem has never been in giving up too many hits. It's been giving up too many walks, 34 in 72 innings in 2003 and 13 in 21 innings last year. So far this year he's allowed just five against 19 Ks in 15.1 innings He has registered no stint in his short major-league career in which he has allowed more than one hit per inning pitched.

So clearly, Joe didn't know anything about the pitcher and was just trying to get in a jab or two against the pesky players of today (and their dog, too!). You know, pitchers today re lazy and give up way too many hits, not like in Joe's days.

Now. I agree that pitchers today are less likely to give up more than a hit per inning than the pitchers of Joe's days, given that he played through the greatest pitcher's era in baseball history. However, is the trend a building toward the overall ineptitude of all pitchers today or more a slight upward spike in a cyclic trend?

I thought a quickie study might shed some light on the subject though I already have my own opinion. I ran the numbers for all pitching stints of at least 25 innings and counted the years in which pitchers allowed fewer than a hit per inning and ones in which they allowed a hit per inning or more. I summed it by decade. Here's what I found:

Decade<1 h/ip>=1h/ip%
1870s2512183%
1880s28040659%
1890s19268478%
1900s68044540%
1910s99354235%
1920s279116081%
1930s327120979%
1940s80487952%
1950s89884649%
1960s146478235%
1970s1570118643%
1980s1697148747%
1990s1780203953%
2000s998120755%
Overall119871299348%

Yes, the likelihood of a given pitcher allowing a hit or more per inning pitched has been increasing steadily since the Sixties. But aside from the myriad changes that have occurred in the last forty years (the designated hitter, the ascent of relief pitcher, many rounds of expansion, the internationalization of the game, a number of new hitter's ballparks, etc.), have pitchers become fundamentally different?

Look at how dramatically things changed as the deadball era changed into the era of Ruth. What we are seeing over the last forty years is nowhere near as dramatic, as rapid or as large, as in that era. Yes, the 2000s are higher than the overall average but just slightly.

Also, clearly given the sweeping changes in percentages over time, Joe's implication that today's pitchers are less worthwhile because of this slight trend is laughable. It's pitcher's era myopia plain and simple. Or textbook good ol' "Things were better in my day"-ism at its best. Thanks Joe for making an example, among other things, of yourself.

The thing that scares me is that prior to the game Mighty Joe picked the Phils and Astros—oddly, his two former teams— over the Marlins to win the wildcard (Thanks to Murray for the link). That's a sure kiss of death.

"Florida can't score runs," Joe said before witnessing the Marlinsfourteen-run onslaught. Yes, the Phils' offense is sixth in runs scored in the majors while the Marlins are 15th and the 'Stros 24th. But aside from mentioning that Joe has always lauded the Marlins for their allegedly smallball approach, the Astros and Marlins have better pitching staffs. Houston is second in the majors in team ERA. The Marlins are jut one spot (14) ahead of the Phils (15), but .11 separates their ERAs. And Houston and Florida are in the top seven in the majors in starters ERA while the Phils are 14th.

But like Tony Montana, Joe has an answer to that, too:

"The game has changed so much,. Everybody used to talk about pitching, pitching, pitching, but now I'd rather have decent pitching and good hitting than good pitching and no hitting, which is kind of like Houston."

"The teams that are kind of surging right now are the teams that can score runs. The Phillies are surging, the Red Sox and Yankees are surging. Pitching without offense is like offense without pitching. I think the Phillies have a very good chance."

I'll Neyer this and simple say that balance is preferable always and forever. Given that, That favors the Marlins, whose bullpen has been killing them. The Phils rotation could dry up and whither away at any point and their offense is too closely tied to the many vicissitudes of putative leadoff man, Jimmy Rollns.

And then there's the easy Astros schedule (11 of 13 vs. the Pirates and Cubs). Well, Joe doesn't believe in schedules, I guess:

"Every game there's pressure for Houston to win, just like there's pressure for the Phillies," he said. "Now the Astros may not be playing the same teams that the Phillies are playing, but if you're a wild card team you're supposed to beat those teams anyway."

Ah, Bach! And then to top himself, Joe offers this contradictory bit of wisdom, "[The Nationals leading 5-0] can't close San Diego out? You don't deserve it. San Diego's not as good as all the teams in the NL East." Well, maybe, but are the Cubs and Pirates as good as the Braves and Nats?

Fight on, little soldier.

Pinching Kapler
2005-09-15 22:35
by Mike Carminati

In yesterday's Red Sox-Blue Jays game, with the Jays leading 2-1 in the top of the fifth and the Sox batting, Gabe Kapler was on first when Tony Graffanino hit a line-drive home run over the left field fence ostensibly giving Boston a 3-2 lead. But Graffanino stopped running between first and second and then the camera panned to Kapler who was lying face down past the second base bag.

The replay showed that Kapler's left foot got caught up in the dirt past second (oddly, not the bag itself). Kapler turned over and seemed to be ready to recuperate from an ankle turn or some other momentary injury.

But Kapler didn't get up. Finally, a trainer and then a cart were called out. It turns out that Kapler had a much worse injury than he initially appeared to have. He ruptured his left Achilles' tendon.

The entire time Graffanino along with the Red Sox two runs was stuck in limbo between first and second. Graffanino was careful not to pass the lead runner, no matter how little resemblance that title had to Kapler's physical state at the time.

At one point it appeared that two escorts would help Kapler limp around to home plate. But the Red Sox eventually brought in Alejandro Machado to pinch-run and the two runners proceeded to home while a cart was driven onto the field to take Kapler away.

The Sox led but one question remained. Was replacing Kapler kosher, so to speak?

Well, there are a great many things not in the rulebook. But, like Prego, it's in there:

5.10

The ball becomes dead when an umpire calls "Time." The umpire in chief shall call "Time"… (c) When an accident incapacitates a player or an umpire; (1) If an accident to a runner is such as to prevent him from proceeding to a base to which he is entitled, as on a home run hit out of the playing field, or an award of one or more bases, a substitute runner shall be permitted to complete the play…(h) Except in the cases stated in paragraphs (b) and (c) (1) of this rule, no umpire shall call "Time" while a play is in progress.

Okay, no problem with the main thrust of the call. However, I do have some provisos.

First, I saw the play replayed five or six times from different angles and watched the entire five-minute gap in play while Kapler tested his leg, and I never saw anyone call time as the rule requires.

Also, it seems odd that the runners can score while various personnel are on the field tending to Kapler. How can a pinch-runner round the bases while the player he replaces is still on the field.

That said, I doubt that anyone would contemplate protesting a game on such grounds.

Anyway, the announcers at the game said it was the first time they had seen a play in which a lead runner was incapacitated rounding the bases on a homer. They could think of a play where either a runner or the batter couldn't at least limp around the bases to complete the play. I couldn't think of one either so I consulted my umpiring oracle, Rich Marazzi's The Rules and Lore of Baseball.

He didn't have a play for the lead runner scenario, and the only play involving the batter that mentions is in the minors:

Nick Bremigan tells a story about an incident that took place in a minor league game in the mid-1960s

The batter hit a long shot down the left field line that would easily clear the fence, but there was some doubt whether it would be fair or foul. As the batter was trotting to first, intensely watching the ball to be certain that it remained in fair territory, he tripped over first while jumping for joy, and turned his ankle. The fair ball was signaled a home run by the umpire, but it was physically impossible for the batter to circle the bases because of his injured ankle.

The manager then asked the umpire if he could insert a pinch-runner to complete the circuit around the bases. Following a brief conference among the umpires it was decided that, while this was highly unusual, it was legal.

According to the rule book, a substitute may enter the game any time the ball is dead. (3.03) A home run is technically a dead ball situation in which the batter is awarded four bases.

Shades of "White Shoes" Johnson, eh?

That last bit seems to contradict the verbiage at the end of the actual rule. Then again, it may have been wordsmithed since the Marazzi book was published.

At least the umps didn't have to confer over the play.

The Best in (The) Show, II
2005-09-14 21:54
by Mike Carminati

Regarding my post on the best player in the game, my Toaster-mate Cliff "Don't Call Me Tim" Corcoran said:

I think you place too much emphasis on career achievement here, thus you get Ott, not Williams or DiMaggio in '41. Cobb and not Ruth in '21. And, just eyeballing it, no triple crown winners in the years they actually won the thing.
The way I see it, the best player in the game should be a player that's at the peak of his abilities, not one on the down slope, as so often occurs in your chart.
Prior to the 2004 season I tried to determine the best player in the game (obviously it was Bonds) in an article about Alex Rodriguez (linked on the Bronx Banter sidebar), and my method was to use the previous three seasons, but no more. I wonder how this chart would change if you used a similar short-term system.

So on Cliff's advice, I ran the numbers for three- and five-year periods. For the given year, I looked at the player with the most Win Shares for that season and the previous two (or four for the five-year approach). I also imposed a minimum of ten Win Shares in each of the years for the player to qualify. I just thought that a baseline was necessary.

The three-year leaders are first:


Continue reading...
The IBB and Flow of the Intentional Walk
2005-09-13 21:45
by Mike Carminati

I can't help but wonder if with Barry Bonds' return will the intentional walk make a comeback. If you hadn't noticed, the majors decided to give a free pass to Bonds whenever and wherever possible even with the bases loaded once or twice.

In the process, Bonds more than doubled the IBB record albeit for a stat that was not kept before 1955.Here are the all-time single-season leaders in intentional walks. You might note a trend:

NameYrIBB
Barry Bonds2004120
Barry Bonds200268
Barry Bonds200361
Willie McCovey196945
Barry Bonds199343
Willie McCovey197040
Sammy Sosa200137
Barry Bonds200135
Barry Bonds199734
Ted Williams195733
John Olerud199333
Vladimir Guerrero200232
Kevin Mitchell198932
Barry Bonds199232
George Brett198531

Bonds appears seven times among the top fifteen seasons. To make the point even clearer, here are the major-league leaders in intentional walks over the last 15 seasons:

YrNameIBB
2005Albert Pujols24
2004Barry Bonds120
2003Barry Bonds61
2002Barry Bonds68
2001Sammy Sosa37
2000Vladimir Guerrero23
1999Mark McGwire21
1998Barry Bonds29
1997Barry Bonds34
1996Barry Bonds30
1995Frank Thomas29
1994Mo Vaughn20
1993Barry Bonds43
1992Barry Bonds32
1991Fred McGriff26
1990Andre Dawson21
1990Eddie Murray21

Bonds earned the IBB crown eight times between 1992 and 2004. This year, Pujols leads with the lowest total for a major-league leader in a non-strike year since 1990 and potentially a third as much as Bonds collected last year.

So Bonds' absence has affected the intentional walks total at the top of the food chain, but what about the majors in general? Have the IBB totals dropped off suddenly without Bonds? Let's see…

Here is a table of total intentional walks and plate appearances across the majors with the ratio of IBBs per PA per year for the last fifteen seasons (2005 totals are through last nights games):

YrIBBPARatio
200510561637630.64%
200413811885190.73%
200313161874370.70%
200214521866060.78%
200113831869610.74%
200012101902420.64%
199911051896750.58%
199810671882570.57%
199711681755130.67%
199613411772420.76%
199511051566910.71%
199410081244720.81%
199314771745460.85%
199213151605160.82%
199112281607300.76%
199013841603010.86%

You may notice that the IBB rate dropped severely this year, but it is identical to 2000's value, and that was the last year before the majors went walk-crazy all over Bonds. Also, the rates even during the height of walk Bonds fever were lower than the rates up to the early Nineties.

To make the breakdown clearer, here are the totals per decade:

DecadeIBBPARatio
1950s 3,631.00 474,502.00 0.77%
1960s 10,399.00 1,209,457.00 0.86%
1970s 13,443.00 1,510,768.00 0.89%
1980s 13,024.00 1,551,695.00 0.84%
1990s 12,198.00 1,667,943.00 0.73%
2000s 7,798.00 1,103,528.00 0.71%
Total 60,493.00 7,517,893.00 0.80%

Free pass totals have been dropping steadily since the Seventies, even with the wacky Bonds totals of late. So what does that mean? Baseball seems to be wising up slowly and steadily to the ills of the intentional walk even as they have been bending the standards for the greatest player in the game.

Consider it another Barry Shift.

Some Old Home Run Records Never Die
2005-09-13 18:40
by Mike Carminati

Bert Blyleven may have had the best curveball since Candy Cummings picked up a clam shell, but there's a funny thing about curveballs. They sometimes hang. And hanging curveballs oftentimes get deposited in the gloves of your local Jeffrey Maiers.

Oddly, Blyleven didn't have much trouble with the long ball until relatively late in his career, but he made up for it with a vengeance. Ay age 35, after 16 major-league seasons, Blyleven had never given up more than 24 homers in a season, but in 1986, in the midst of the mid-Eighties power surge that presaged the current, twelve-year one, Blyleven let up a record 50 home runs. That's a lot of hanging curves.

Blyleven broke the 30-year-old record of 46 set by Robin Roberts. Then in the next season, he tied the old record. His 1986-87 arc reminds me of Mark McGwire's record-breaking 70-homer season in 1998 followed by his 65-homer 1999 season.

However, Blyleven has yet to find a pitcher play the Barry Bonds to his McGwire. With all the homers hit in the last twelve years, the closest any pitcher has come to Rik Aalbert Blyleven's all-time record is 48 in 2000 by the Astros Jose Lima. Lima was 7-16 with a 6.65 ERA (26% worse than the park-adjusted league average) that year. But Blyleven was 17-14 with a 4.01 ERA (8% better than the park-adjusted league average).

This year, Eric Milton is doing his best to catch my old buddy Bert by relinquishing 39 dingers en route to a Lima-like 7-14, 6.63 record. Milton projects to 44 home runs allowed should he continue in the Reds rotation and the Reds continue to field a team this year, neither of which is a given. It is highly doubtful that he'll catch Blyleven, but 44 would tie him for fifth all-time

Here are all the pitchers who have served up 40 or more tatters in a season:

NameYrHR
Bert Blyleven198650
Jose Lima200048
Robin Roberts195646
Bert Blyleven198746
Jamie Moyer200444
Eric Milton200443
Pedro Ramos195743
Denny McLain196642
Rick Helling199941
Phil Niekro197941
Robin Roberts195541
Jack Morris198640
Bill Gullickson198740
Orlando Pena196440
Ramon Ortiz200240
Robin Roberts195740
Fergie Jenkins197940
Brad Radke199640
Phil Niekro197040
Ralph Terry196240
Shawn Boskie199640

Milton has established a team record for homers served. The old Reds record was 36 set by Tom Browning in 1988.

Oddly, as I mentioned in the previous article, 15 of 26 teams have established new single-season home-run records for batters since the current homer boom started in 1993 (plus four new records for four new teams), but only 11 of 26 teams have set new home runs allowed records for pitchers since 1993.

Here are all the team records for homers allowed today and as of 1993:

FranchiseActive?FirstLastHR LdrHrYrPre-1993 HR LdrHrYr
Anaheim AngelsY19612004Shawn Boskie401996Don Sutton381987
Anaheim AngelsY19612004Ramon Ortiz402002
Arizona DiamondbacksY19982004Brian Anderson391998
Atlanta BravesY18762004Phil Niekro411979Phil Niekro411979
Baltimore OriolesY19012004Scott McGregor351986Scott McGregor351986
Baltimore OriolesY19012004Robin Roberts351963Robin Roberts351963
Baltimore OriolesY19012004Sidney Ponson351999
Boston Red SoxY19012004Tim Wakefield381996Earl Wilson371964
Chicago CubsY18762004Warren Hacker381955Warren Hacker381955
Chicago White SoxY19012004Floyd Bannister381987Floyd Bannister381987
Cincinnati RedsY18822004Eric Milton392005Tom Browning361988
Cleveland IndiansY19012004Luis Tiant371969Luis Tiant371969
Colorado RockiesY19932004Pedro Astacio391998
Detroit TigersY19012004Denny McLain421966Denny McLain421966
Florida MarlinsY19932004Livan Hernandez371998
Houston AstrosY19622004Jose Lima482000Larry Dierker311970
Kansas City RoyalsY19692004Darrell May382004Dennis Leonard331979
Los Angeles DodgersY18842004Don Sutton381970Don Sutton381970
Milwaukee BrewersY19692004Wayne Franklin362003Mike Caldwell351983
Minnesota TwinsY19012004Bert Blyleven501986Bert Blyleven501986
New York MetsY19622004Roger Craig351962Roger Craig351962
New York YankeesY19012004Ralph Terry401962Ralph Terry401962
Oakland AthleticsY19012004Orlando Pena401964Orlando Pena401964
Philadelphia PhilliesY18832004Robin Roberts461956Robin Roberts461956
Pittsburgh PiratesY18822004Murry Dickson321951Murry Dickson321951
San Diego PadresY19692004Kevin Jarvis372001Ed Whitson361987
San Diego PadresY19692004Bobby Jones372001
San Francisco GiantsY18832004Larry Jansen361949Larry Jansen361949
Seattle MarinersY19772004Jamie Moyer442004Scott Bankhead351987
St. Louis CardinalsY18822004Murry Dickson391948Murry Dickson391948
Tampa Bay Devil RaysY19982004Tanyon Sturtze332002
Texas RangersY19612004Rick Helling411999Fergie Jenkins401979
Toronto Blue JaysY19772004Woody Williams361998Jerry Garvin331977
Washington NationalsY19692004Javier Vazquez311998Bill Gullickson271984
Carl Morton271970
Steve Renko271970
Brave New Home Run Record
2005-09-12 21:49
by Mike Carminati

Andruw Jones hit homers number 48 and 49 yesterday to establish a new Braves franchise record for home runs in a season topping the old record of 47 shared by Hall-of-Famers Hank Aaron (1971) and Eddie Matthews (1953).

On Jones's next homer, the Braves will become the 16th team with at least fifty-homer player. In the primordial days of baseball—that is, before 1993—fifty-homer seasons were harder to come by than competent FEMA employees.

Since the homer boom over the last dozen years, fifteen teams have had their single-season home run records broken. And you have to consider that there were just 26 teams prior to the home run boom.

Here are the franchise records currently and before 1993:

FranchiseFirstLastHR LdrHRYrpre-1993 HR LdrHRYr
Anaheim Angels19612004Troy Glaus472000Reggie Jackson391982
Arizona Diamondbacks19982004Luis Gonzalez572001
Atlanta Braves18762004Andruw Jones492005Eddie Mathews471953
Hank Aaron471971
Baltimore Orioles19012004Brady Anderson501996Frank Robinson491966
Boston Red Sox19012004Jimmie Foxx501938Jimmie Foxx501938
Chicago Cubs18762004Sammy Sosa661998Hack Wilson561930
Chicago White Sox19012004Albert Belle491998Carlton Fisk371985
Dick Allen371972
Cincinnati Reds18822004George Foster521977George Foster521977
Cleveland Indians19012004Jim Thome522002Al Rosen431953
Colorado Rockies19932004Larry Walker491997
Colorado Rockies19932004Todd Helton492001
Detroit Tigers19012004Hank Greenberg581938Hank Greenberg581938
Florida Marlins19932004Gary Sheffield421996
Houston Astros19622004Jeff Bagwell472000Jimmy Wynn371967
Kansas City Royals19692004Steve Balboni361985Steve Balboni361985
Los Angeles Dodgers18842004Shawn Green492001Duke Snider431956
Milwaukee Brewers19692004Gorman Thomas451979Gorman Thomas451979
Milwaukee Brewers19692004Richie Sexson452001
Milwaukee Brewers19692004Richie Sexson452003
Minnesota Twins19012004Harmon Killebrew491964Harmon Killebrew491964
Minnesota Twins19012004Harmon Killebrew491969Harmon Killebrew491969
New York Mets19622004Todd Hundley411996Darryl Strawberry391987
Darryl Strawberry391988
New York Yankees19012004Roger Maris611961Roger Maris611961
Oakland Athletics19012004Jimmie Foxx581932Jimmie Foxx581932
Philadelphia Phillies18832004Mike Schmidt481980Mike Schmidt481980
Pittsburgh Pirates18822004Ralph Kiner541949Ralph Kiner541949
San Diego Padres19692004Greg Vaughn501998Nate Colbert381970
Nate Colbert381972
San Francisco Giants18832004Barry Bonds732001Willie Mays521965
Seattle Mariners19772004Ken Griffey Jr.561997Gorman Thomas321985
Seattle Mariners19772004Ken Griffey Jr.561998
St. Louis Cardinals18822004Mark McGwire701998Johnny Mize431940
Tampa Bay Devil Rays19982004Aubrey Huff342003
Tampa Bay Devil Rays19982004Jose Canseco341999
Texas Rangers19612004Alex Rodriguez572002Frank Howard481969
Toronto Blue Jays19772004George Bell471987George Bell471987
Washington Nationals19692004Vladimir Guerrero442000Andre Dawson321983
Hello, Barry!
2005-09-11 22:04
by Mike Carminati

After 142 games, the best player in the game returns to lead his team against the division leaders for a three game series. Barry Bonds will bat cleanup and play left, reportedly, for the Giants as they host the Padres, whom they trail by seven games.

Will it be too little, too late? Can Bonds really be Bonds again at age 41 after missing almost an entire season? Will Bonds even be able to contribute at all? Will it even matter given how far the Giants are back?

We'll have to wait to see, but I thought it might be interesting to look at the best performances ever by a player in twenty games or less. Given that Bonds has recorded arguably the best full season, or seasons, on record, can he fashion the best twenty-game season ever?

Here are the best based on no more than twenty games played and at least 50 plate appearances:

NameYrBAOBPSLUGOPSHRRBIABAge
Monte Cross1894.442.520.8371.3572134324
Craig Wilson1998.468.490.7661.2563104727
Otto Krueger1900.400.543.6861.229133523
Walt Bond1962.380.426.8001.2266175024
Fred Lynn1974.419.490.6981.1882104322
Babe Ganzel1927.438.509.6671.1761134826
Mark Quinn1999.333.385.7331.1186186025
Fred Sington1938.358.493.6231.115255328
Hank Greenberg1936.348.455.6301.0851164625
Charlie Hickman1899.397.433.6511.0840156323
George Wright1871.413.453.6251.0780118024
Karim Garcia2001.311.360.7111.071594525
Elmer Valo1941.420.463.5801.043265020
Jimmy Zinn1929.381.447.5951.042184234
Jose Oliva1994.288.364.6781.0426115923
Alex Kampouris1941.314.444.5881.033295128
Joe Jackson1910.387.446.5871.0321117520
Bill Serena1951.333.490.5381.029143926
Homer Summa1922.348.400.6091.009164623
Luke Appling1945.368.478.5261.0051105738
Larry Hisle1980.283.421.5831.0046166033
Duke Farrell1903.404.466.5381.004085236
Jim Greengrass1952.309.373.5880.965246824
Best.468.543.8371.35762480

(Actually, the Jim Greengrass "Of Home" season is there because he was the leader in RBI among the group.)

Monte Cross had a 13-year career mostly as a starting shortstop after his monster 13-game 1894 season in Pittsburgh (224 OPS+) but never came anywhere near recreating those numbers over a full season. Craig Wilson was not the Pirate but the White Sox shortstop, who lasted just two more seasons. Lynn went on to an MVP/ROY season in 1975.

Most of these players were youngsters who parlayed a hot September callup into a starting job the nest spring, hardly Bonds' situation. To see comparable players to Bonds, I looked at just the forty-year-old or older set:

NameYrBAOBPSLUGOPSHRRBIABAge
Rogers Hornsby1937.321.397.429.8251115641
Clyde Sukeforth1945.294.345.314.659015143
Ted Lyons1942.239.282.299.5800106741

Not quite as impressive a group even though it contains Hornsby, probably the best player on either list. Let's assume that Bonds continues his torrid pace and hits as well as the best player on the list for each category. That would give him a .468 batting average, a .543 on-base average, an .837 slugging average, a 1.380 OPS, 5 home runs, and 24 RBI. If that seems unrealistic, consider that a 1.380 OPS would be just his third highest in the last four years.

If gets especially hot, remember than he trails Ruth for second place all-time in homers by just 11. Of course, if he gets hot, he may go on to lead the league in intentional walks (Albert Pujols lead with 24 currently) or hit-by-a-pitch (Geoff Jenkins, 17).

Junior Miss
2005-09-09 21:56
by Mike Carminati

Ken Griffey may be out for the rest of the season because of a strained foot tendon that is potentially worse than first anticipated. Even so, his 128 games so far this year would be the most he has recorded since 200, his first season in Cincinnati. Appropriately, Griffey is having his best season since 2000, which makes you wonder what his career numbers would like if he hadn't missed so much time this millennium.

Oddly, through his first 12 seasons (1989-2000), Griffey had played 89.55% of his teams' games. Other than missing 73 of 145 games in 1995 and getting a late start in his rookie year (35 games missed), Griffey never missed more than 20 games in a season. He missed fewer than ten seven season, including none missed in 1998 (161 games).

From 2001 through this season, Griffey missed almost half the Reds' games (54.94% played). He will have missed 365 games in five years, almost double what he missed in his first dozen seasons (196 games). The nadir was 109 missed or 53 played in 2003.

Projecting his 2001-2005 stats to a 89.55% game availability rate, he would have 595 home runs and 2540 hits. And those numbers include some dismal, injury-debased seasons—he projects to 17 home runs in 2002. If Griffey had those types of numbers at age 35, he could have become baseball's third 600-homer/3000-hit man after Mays and Aaron.

Anyway, the missed opportunities in the second half of Griffey's career made me wonder if Griffey's career ranks among the worst at missed time of those in the Hall of Fame (of course, if president Bush had actually won admittance via the Veterans Committee—he was on the last ballot—he would have set the all-time record). I ran the numbers for all Hall of Famers in their prime for those who went in as a player and who were position players for the majority of their careers. That is, I looked at the years from the first season each became a starter (played in half his team's games) until his last.

Keep in mind that Griffey has played 2125 of his teams; 2686 games or 79.11% and 561 games missed. That's an average of 128 games per year in a 162-game schedule.

Here are the lowest numbers for the current Hall-of-Famers:

NameGTm GPCTG Missed
Hank Greenberg1393231860.09% 925
Chick Hafey1259200162.92% 742
Roger Bresnahan1438228063.07% 842
Buck Ewing1314204164.38% 727
Ted Williams2292339367.55% 1,101
Johnny Mize1884278267.73% 898
Enos Slaughter2380341269.76% 1,032
Joe DiMaggio1736247370.20% 737
Phil Rizzuto1630231170.53% 681
Gabby Hartnett1858262470.81% 766
Frank Chance1068150870.82% 440
Rick Ferrell1783246172.46% 678
Edd Roush1884258672.85% 702
Pee Wee Reese2166294573.55% 779
Willie Stargell2350317673.99% 826
Bill Dickey1725231574.51% 590
Tommy McCarthy1275171074.56% 435
Ernie Lombardi1732230875.04% 576
Carlton Fisk2396317075.58% 774
Johnny Evers1756232075.71% 564

You'll note that a number of the names at the top lost time to military service. Now, here are the worst by games missed:
NameGTm GPCTG Missed
Ted Williams2292339367.55% 1,101
Enos Slaughter2380341269.76% 1,032
Hank Greenberg1393231860.09% 925
Johnny Mize1884278267.73% 898
Roger Bresnahan1438228063.07% 842
Willie Stargell2350317673.99% 826
Pee Wee Reese2166294573.55% 779
Carlton Fisk2396317075.58% 774
Gabby Hartnett1858262470.81% 766
Chick Hafey1259200162.92% 742
Joe DiMaggio1736247370.20% 737
Willie McCovey2488322477.18% 736
Tony Perez2765350079.00% 735
Buck Ewing1314204164.38% 727
Edd Roush1884258672.85% 702
Phil Rizzuto1630231170.53% 681
Rick Ferrell1783246172.46% 678
Paul Molitor2683328181.77% 598
Bill Dickey1725231574.51% 590
Red Schoendienst2210279978.97% 589

So Griffey would not even be among the worst in either group. Then again he has probably another five season or so of games to miss.

By the way, the average Hall-of-Famer played 2082 of his team's 2466 games or 84.41% with 385 games missed. Here are the ones with the highest "attendance" rates and least games missed:

NameGTm GPCTG Missed
Lou Gehrig2133216398.61% 30
Roger Connor1975206195.83% 86
Eddie Murray2971310895.59% 137
Billy Williams2458258295.20% 124
Ralph Kiner1472154895.12% 76
Kirby Puckett1783187794.99% 94
Brooks Robinson2730287794.89% 147
Ernie Banks2407254294.69% 135
Earl Averill1596169694.13% 100
Joe Sewell1881200194.00% 120
Sam Crawford2425258093.99% 155
Richie Ashburn2189233093.95% 141
NameGTm GPCTG Missed
Lou Gehrig2133216398.61% 30
Ralph Kiner1472154895.12% 76
Roger Connor1975206195.83% 86
Kirby Puckett1783187794.99% 94
Earl Averill1596169694.13% 100
Elmer Flick1384148693.14% 102
Joe Sewell1881200194.00% 120
Billy Williams2458258295.20% 124
John Ward1825195293.49% 127
Ross Youngs1204133889.99% 134
Ernie Banks2407254294.69% 135
Eddie Murray2971310895.59% 137
Best in (The) Show
2005-09-08 22:25
by Mike Carminati

When I was a kid, Fleetwood Mac's "Rumors" came out, and it and they seemed to be the biggest thing on the planet. Next came Supertramp's "Breakfast in America". Then came Pink Floyd's "The Wall", which seemed to raise the bar beyond reach. Well, except for blips on the radar screen like the Police's "Synchronicity", when REM released "Losing My Religion, and U2 more than once with "Joshua Tree" and "All That You Can't Leave Behind". I always thought Weezer would break it wide open after the "Green" album, but they never seemed made it over the top.

Anyway, during the Nineties when most were maintaining that Alex Rodriguez was the "Best Player in the Game", it's now apparent that Barry Bonds was the real king. With Bonds expected to return to the game this weekend after missing most of the season due to injury, I was reminded of the issue of the best player on the plant.

Does Bonds still merit the title given the time lost and his age?

I thought it might be interesting to look into a empirical method for determining the best player. He would have to be having a great year at the time—let's say at least 25 Win Shares, which leaves Bonds out in the cold. And he would have to the career stats to earn the title (i.e., career Win Shares).

My method was for each season to look at all the players with at least 25 Win Shares and then take the one with the greatest career Win Shares. Yeah, it's not perfect, but it turns out to be pretty instructive.

Here's the final list. You'll note that no one qualified in strike years because of the 25-WS minimum, and I'm fine with that. I could prorate the Win Shares in those seasons, but I think that those years were such downers anyway that don't need them besmirching the honor of our made-up title. You may also note that pitchers dominate the list until the end of the first decade in the 1900s.

Finally, the man who wrests the title of best player away from Bonds after a decade is—drum roll please—NOT A-Rod. It's not even Vladimir Guerrero. It's A-Rod's teammate, Gary Sheffield. Whether you agree with that or not, he has a pretty good argument for the title this year. One other thing about the list: Every man on it dating back to 1897 who is eligible is in the Hall of Fame (and Rose would go if eligible). Sheffield doesn't get a lot of mention when today's Hall-worthy players are discussed, but he really should. He may have to either put up a monster season or accumulate a bunch of very good years to reach a few big milestones in order to get serious consideration, which is a shame:

YrCareer WSWSBestAge
200539729Gary Sheffield36
200466453Barry Bonds39
200361139Barry Bonds38
200257249Barry Bonds37
200152354Barry Bonds36
200046932Barry Bonds35
199931430Mark McGwire35
199841834Barry Bonds33
199738436Barry Bonds32
199634839Barry Bonds31
199530936Barry Bonds30
199341325Rickey Henderson34
199240027Dave Winfield40
199136325Rickey Henderson32
199040726George Brett37
198935934Robin Yount33
198836426George Brett35
198745026Mike Schmidt37
198642431Mike Schmidt36
198539326Mike Schmidt35
198436726Mike Schmidt34
198334135Mike Schmidt33
198248129Joe Morgan38
198036131Reggie Jackson34
197946427Pete Rose38
197843727Pete Rose37
197738230Joe Morgan33
197638730Pete Rose35
197535731Pete Rose34
197435225Willie McCovey36
197349426Frank Robinson37
197231432Billy Williams34
197162527Willie Mays40
197054225Hank Aaron36
196951738Hank Aaron35
196855730Willie Mays37
196754125Mickey Mantle35
196650637Willie Mays35
196546943Willie Mays34
196448234Mickey Mantle32
196338838Willie Mays32
196243433Mickey Mantle30
196140148Mickey Mantle29
196035336Mickey Mantle28
195931730Mickey Mantle27
195852525Ted Williams39
195751930Stan Musial36
195648926Stan Musial35
195546329Stan Musial34
195443430Stan Musial33
195340433Stan Musial32
195237137Stan Musial31
195137534Ted Williams32
195037029Joe DiMaggio35
194932240Ted Williams30
194832034Joe DiMaggio33
194631926Luke Appling39
194450625Mel Ott35
194334628Arky Vaughan31
194246535Mel Ott33
194143026Mel Ott32
193938028Mel Ott30
193848925Lou Gehrig35
193746436Lou Gehrig34
193642838Lou Gehrig33
193539034Lou Gehrig32
193435641Lou Gehrig31
193373429Babe Ruth38
193270536Babe Ruth37
193166938Babe Ruth36
193063138Babe Ruth35
192959332Babe Ruth34
192856145Babe Ruth33
192751645Babe Ruth32
192660329Tris Speaker38
192567825Ty Cobb38
192465327Ty Cobb37
192352835Tris Speaker35
192260229Ty Cobb35
192157326Ty Cobb34
192043639Tris Speaker32
191952732Ty Cobb32
191849531Ty Cobb31
191746446Ty Cobb30
191641840Ty Cobb29
191543328Sam Crawford35
191440531Sam Crawford34
191339830Christy Mathewson32
191257335Honus Wagner38
191153830Honus Wagner37
191050830Honus Wagner36
190947842Honus Wagner35
190936727Nap Lajoie34
190860027Cy Young41
190757327Cy Young40
190636729George Davis35
190553328Cy Young38
190450535Cy Young37
190347038Cy Young36
190243238Cy Young35
190144032Kid Nichols31
189939031Kid Nichols29
189835944Kid Nichols28
189731541Kid Nichols27
189339127Tony Mullane34
189236733John Clarkson31
189133442John Clarkson30
189038234Charley Radbourn35
188935627Tim Keefe32
188835130Pud Galvin31
188732133Pud Galvin30
188631633Jim McCormick29
Those Who Can't Play, ManageŚRight?
2005-09-07 20:02
by Mike Carminati
All managers are losers, they are the most expendable pieces of furniture on the face of the Earth."
— Ted Williams, right before he was named the Senators manager in 1969.

Ted Williams is not remembered as a great manager. Teddy Ballgame is the epitome of star player turned impatient, saturnine manager. The old aphorism goes that star players don't have the patience or understanding to pilot a team of mere mortals. They don't have the facility to train inferior players.

Williams' managerial career is actually more of a mixed bag than people tend to remember. He won the AL Manager of the Year award in his first season with the Senators. Overall, however, his record is far from sterling—273 wins against 364 losses for a .429 winning percentage. His teams got worse, considerably worse, each season after he won the manager award.

I thought of Williams when the Pirates passed the managerial baton from Lloyd McClendon to Pete Mackanin. That is, from one scrub to an even worse one. McClendon, a backup catcher in his playing days, at least had glimpses of offensive prowess. Mackanin was atrocious at the plate though he was able to start a few seasons in Montreal and Minnesota back in a pitcher's era in which second baseman apparently did not need to hit.

I wondered if that was a good omen for the Bucs. The current thinking seems to be that the worse a manager was as a player, the better he will be as a manager. Though the Pirates were breaking with the other trend of using backup catchers-cum-managers. No one's perfect.

Of course, the larger issue is if that mentality has any basis in reality. Remember that a number of Hall of Famers have had more than their share of success in the manager's role. From Cap Anson to Frank Robinson, some great players have made pretty good managers.

So what's the rule and what's the exception? Is it Williams or is it Anson and Robinson?

I ran the numbers for all managers. I looked at there wins, losses, and winning percentages as managers as compared to their Win Share totals as players. Here are how the best players fared as managers (all data through 2004):

ManagerWLPCTWin Shares
Ty Cobb479444.519722
Honus Wagner14.200655
Cy Young33.500634
Tris Speaker617520.543630
Eddie Collins174160.521574
Walter Johnson529432.550560
Ted Williams273364.429555
Pete Rose412373.525547
Mel Ott464530.467528
Frank Robinson9131004.476519
Rogers Hornsby701812.463502
Nap Lajoie377309.550496
Kid Nichols8088.476478
Eddie Mathews149161.481450
Christy Mathewson164176.482426
John Ward412320.563409
Pud Galvin717.292403
Fred Clarke16021181.576400
George Davis107139.435398
Bill Dahlen251355.414394

Now, here are the career wins leaders among managers with their career Win Shares as players:

ManagerWLPCTWin Shares
Connie Mack37313948.48661
John McGraw27631948.586207
Sparky Anderson21941834.5457
Bucky Harris21572218.493133
Joe McCarthy21251333.6150
Tony LaRussa21141846.5343
Walter Alston20401613.5580
Leo Durocher20081709.540121
Bobby Cox20021531.56716
Casey Stengel19051842.508159
Gene Mauch19022037.48314
Bill McKechnie18961723.52472
Joe Torre17811570.531315
Ralph Houk16191531.5145
Fred Clarke16021181.576400
Tom Lasorda15991439.5260
Dick Williams15711451.52065
Clark Griffith14911367.522273
Earl Weaver14801060.5830
Lou Piniella14521325.523164

You might notice that both lists run the gamut. The best players can be very good managers or lousy managers. The best managers—at least based on wins—could have been very good players, scrubs, or even bush-leaguers who never made it to the bigs.

Maybe a closer look by groups of managers might help. I organized them by career Win Shares and then totaled each group's wins and losses, took the overall winning percentage, and the average winning percentage. I used 100-Win Share bands but also isolated those players without enough major-league experience to merit one Win Share. Finally, I added a group for the managers who were Hall of Fame players:

ManagerWLPCTAVG PCT
500+ WS45664646.496.472
400-499 WS27912252.553.488
300-399 WS84748337.504.424
200-299 WS3045030487.500.447
100-199 WS3545034637.506.520
1-99 WS6809969917.493.457
0 WS3313632682.503.417
Total182966182958.500.447
HoFers2250521277.514.469

Again, I don't know if I can see any direct relationship between a good players and good managers. It seems to alternate within the groups.

Let's see if there's a correlation between the different data. I ran the numbers between total managerial wins and total Win Shares as a player. They correlated ever so slightly (.094 coefficient). Next, I used managerial winning percentage and Win Shares. They had even less of a correlation (.041 coefficient).

So where are we? Basically, nowhere. There is no real relationship between success as a player and success as a manager. All we have is anecdotal evidence from which we can pick and choose. It just seems more interesting to go with the Teddy Ballgame worldview.

Lloyd in Space
2005-09-06 22:33
by Mike Carminati

The Pirates mercifully jettisoned long-time losing manager Lloyd McClendon and replaced him with one-time Phils' cup o' latté scrub Pete Mackanin.

McClendon lead, if that's the word for it, the inept Bucs to the worst record in the National League this season and has lead them to a woeful .429 winning percentage over the last five seasons. That translates into a 69.5 win season in a 162-game schedule.

So what does this mean for the Pirates in the long run? What has happened to a team historically after having a manager with a similarly bad run for as many as five years?

I took a look at all of the worst five consecutive seasons for a given manager on a given team. There were 30 worse than McClendon's tenure in Pittsburgh. Then I looked at what happened to those teams in the five subsequent seasons. Here's what I found:

TmManagerFirstLastWinsLossesPCTPost WPost LPost PCT
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19161919222504.306235378.383
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19171920227501.312258353.422
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19181921244484.335293317.480
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19191922254475.348311295.513
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19371940224416.350240376.390
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19361939228407.359222394.360
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19201923271482.360333275.548
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19431946277489.362295321.479
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19401943247431.364251361.410
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19381941235406.367228384.373
Philadelphia PhilliesJimmie Wilson19351938280477.370180429.296
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19391942251425.371222390.363
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19351938271452.375228386.371
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19421945292474.381292324.474
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19411944294476.382263349.430
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19151918285453.386202399.336
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19441947300466.392287329.466
St. Louis BrownsRogers Hornsby19341937233352.398235379.383
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19211924306459.400360249.591
Philadelphia PhilliesBurt Shotton19291932310457.404234374.385
New York MetsJoe Torre19781981286420.405321327.495
Philadelphia AthleticsConnie Mack19341937297425.411226386.369
Pittsburgh PiratesBilly Meyer19491952317452.412229387.372
Boston BeesCasey Stengel19401943296416.416299314.488
Washington SenatorsGil Hodges19641967321444.420284360.441
Minnesota TwinsTom Kelly19961999335455.424338309.522
Kansas City RoyalsTony Muser19982001309416.426203283.418
Philadelphia PhilliesBurt Shotton19301933327440.426235374.386
Montreal ExposFelipe Alou19982001299402.427233253.479
Kansas City RoyalsTony Muser19992002286383.428141183.435

On average guess what the average winning percentage was for those teams? .429, the same winning percentage McClendon had in Pittsburgh. Only three teams had a winning record in the subsequent five seasons.

So what does the future hold for the Pirates? It seems like history as well as the team's talent pool seem to be against them. But att least they've gotten rid of McClendon.

Pitching BP
2005-09-06 09:35
by Mike Carminati

Will Carroll and I have a piece over at Baseball Prospectus (login required) today on whether swinging and missing, free swingers being free swingers, actually matters. Guess what? It doesn't. Enjoy.

Debut Ante
2005-09-05 22:39
by Mike Carminati
Had I been less resolved to work, I would perhaps had made an effort to begin immediately...[I]t was better not to choose a night at which I was not well-disposed for a debut to which the following days proved, alas, no more propitious.
—Marcel Proust

When Hoyt Wilhem hit a home run in his first major-league at-bat just about three months shy of his thirtieth birthday, it must have been one of those Roy Hobbs-types moments. Wilhelm went on to hit zero home runs over the rest of his career (431 at-bats), but went on to set the major-league appearance record (1070 games), which has since been broken, and to record 21 major-league seasons, finishing his Hall-of-Fame career with the Dodgers 16 days before his fiftieth birthday.

Of all the Hall of Famers, who earned their paques as a simple major-league player, Wilhelm had the latest debut. There were Hall-of-Fame players, like Satchell Paige, who debuted two days after his 42nd birthday, whose major-league careers were delayed due to baseball's color line.

But of the 514 players through 2004 who debuted at age 30 or older, none have earned a spot in Cooperstown based solely on what he did on the field as a major-league player. Wilhelm is the only one of 341 major-leaguers who debuted at age 29 to make it into the Hall.

Cliff's questions to my previous post made me wonder how much debut age affected one's chances of getting into the Hall. Are players who debut in their teens that much better players so that larger numbers of them have entered the hallowed halls? How about those who debut in their twenties? Is there a difference between debuting at age 22 as opposed 25 or 27 as far as one's likelihood of getting into the Hall?

Well, I ran the numbers and here's what I found:

Debut Age#Players#HoFers%HoFers
N/A2860.00%
1420.00%
1520.00%
16190.00%
176534.62%
18232146.03%
19507285.52%
201011414.06%
211688392.31%
222188281.28%
232377190.80%
24236160.25%
251844110.60%
26133820.15%
2784010.12%
2859320.34%
2934110.29%
302070.00%
311160.00%
32800.00%
33510.00%
34200.00%
35100.00%
36110.00%
3760.00%
3830.00%
3940.00%
4040.00%
4120.00%
Total162081951.20%

To make it even clearer, I grouped the data by ranges:

Debut Age#Players#HoFers%HoFers
N/A2860.00%
14-19827455.44%
20-2248871082.21%
23-267920380.48%
27-30198140.20%
31-3527700.00%
36-413000.00%

The numbers show that by far the best group to belong to is the one with players who debuted in their teens. The next highest range is the 20-to-22-year-old debut group, in which Hall likelihood is about a two-fifths of the teen group. Other than those two groups, it's virtually impossible to get into the Hall (0.46% likelihood overall).

That made me wonder what this predicts about today's players. Given the breakdown of debut age for the 2004 group of players, here is the expectation, based on the odds in the past, of the players one day reaching the Hall:

Debut Age#PlayersExp HoFers% HoFers
18100.00%
191317.69%
205123.92%
2115131.99%
2220631.46%
2323920.84%
2422710.44%
2517010.59%
268700.00%
274200.00%
283100.00%
291300.00%
30900.00%
31200.00%
32300.00%
34100.00%
35100.00%
Total1247131.04%
Per Team 41.57 0.43 1.04%

Thirteen major-leaguers, less than half a player per team, that's the number expected to become Hall of Famers, none of whom debuted past age 25.

Where have all the Hoyt Wilhelm's gone?

Generation Gap
2005-09-01 22:14
by Mike Carminati

When "King" Felix Hernandez and Randy "Big Unit" Johnson faced off for a 2-0 pitchers' duel in which both went at least seven innings, each struck out seven, and neither gave up more than four hits. Unfortunately, for Hernandez, two of the four hits he allowed were homers.

But aside from what happened on the field, this game represented a passing of the guard, from a 41-year-old, 5-time Cy Young winning, future Hall of Famer to a 19-year-old, flame-throwing kid who has just a handful of major-league starts to his name but is full of potential. It's like that scene at the end of "The Natural" in which Roy Hobbs faces seemingly his former self, a young Pirate pitcher fresh from the farm. And like the aging Robert Redford character, Johnson got the best of the youngster. However, if Hernandez turns into the pitcher that many expect him to become, he'll probably have the last laugh.

Aside from the symbolic meaning of the event, which may not be apparent for another ten or fifteen years, I wondered about something more tangible. I was left contemplating the significance of the age differences of the two starting pitchers. I couldn't remember the last time a pitcher who was 40 or over faced a teenager. So I looked it up…

There were 153 potential matchups prior to this season. This was based on all combinations of a pitcher over 40 and another under 20 who were in the same league in the same season but on different teams and who started at least one game (from 1997-2004, I dropped the league constraint given intraleague baseball).

Using Retrosheet I was able to confirm that there have not been any other such pitching matchups in the last 40 seasons. Before 1966, Retrosheet's data is inconsistent, so the potential pairing prior to that season cannot be fully investigated.

It's a rare thing in baseball to find something that hasn't been done before, but that's what we might have seen the other day. If nothing else we saw pairing that probably hasn't happened in, well, Randy Johnson's lifetime. Isn't that enough?


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