Monthly archives: November 2003
The New Phonebooks, Er, Hall of Fame Ballots Are Here!
Major League Baseball announced the new Hall of Fame ballot with 15 new players and 17 returnees. Here they all are (an xindicates a newly eligible player):
Last year I ran an analysis of the 2003 ballot as it was released, and I want to do something similar this year.
First, let's look at the categories that Bill James developed in his multi-titled Hall-of-Fame book. They are:
The Grey Ink test: Represents the number of times a player appears among his league's top ten in a major category. The average for Hall of Famer fell from 185 to 144 in the last year.
Hall of Fame Standards: Awards points for various career achievements. The average HoFer is a 50 on the scale and the max is 100.
Hall of Fame Monitor: Awards points for various career and seasonal achievements and is weighted per position to reflect actual HoF makeup.
[For the specifics of each test, check out (Baseball-Reference.com, the source I used for these data.]
For each test, I will compare the given player against the Hall average to determine if he is a deserving candidate.
Next, I will take a look at each player's most similar batters/pitchers and how many are in the Hall right now. If it's over 50%, one would expect that the player's plaque wouldn't look out of place in the Hall. (I realize that this does not take into account similar players who are active or who are not yet eligible for the Hall, but nothing's perfect. As a very wise bathroom stall once said my freshman year, "Always a critic. Never a cricket.")
In addition, I will list the all-time Win Shares ranking for each player. Given that there are now 209 players in the Hall who were elected as players, either by the writers or veterans, if the given player is ranked among the top 209 all-time, one would think that he would fit in at the Hall, Pete Rose notwithstanding.
Finally, I will assess each player according to how well he performs in all of these tests.
And away we go…
Sorry, had to break up the table:
By this Herculean task list, it appears that the strongest candidates are Molitor, Blyleven, Dawson, Murphy, John, Morris, Parker, Rice, Sandberg, Eckersley, and Trammell.
Unfortunately, that does not reflect the writers' voting over the last few years. Here are the 2002 and 2003 voting results for each of the candidates with their all-time high and my assessment of their chances for enshrinement:
Note that of the 17 new names peppering the 2003 ballot, all but four—Sandberg, Smith, Valenzuela, and Eddie Murray, who was elected—were dropped for failing to meet the 5% criterion, i.e., that a player receive 5% of the vote to remain on the ballot for subsequent elections.
Next, I would like to run some players who are no longer eligible for the baseball writers' ballot, including Jim Kaat who ran out of options last year. I believe that there are a number of strong candidates that have fallen through the cracks, so I selected a handful among the higher Win Shares ranks:
There are a good number of strong candidates in the list although very few received much attention from the writers:
These are generally speaking players who did many things well but their achievements did not necessarily translate into the countable stats that voters love. I don't think any would be out of place in the Hall—that's not to say that I support all of them being enshrined. Though it appears unlikely that any other than Kaat, Santo, and Allen will be rescued by the veterans—the first two being broadcasters with pretty compelling cases (Rizzuto anyone?) and Allen having superior stats that will eventually overcome his bad rep. I personally have a soft spot for the Evanses, Grich, and Sweet Lou among the rest. Reggie Smith may be the most underrated player of all time.
If I had a vote in the writers' election, I would vote for Molitor, Blyleven, Sandberg, Eckesley, and Gossage, probably in that order.
Bruce Sutter is probably the single most important reliever in baseball history. That is, if one were telling the story of relieving (which I have) and one had to reduce that story to one pivotal person, then Sutter would be the guy. He was the first modern reliever. If that's not deserving of a plaque, I'm not sure what is. Morgan Bulkeley and Candy Cummings did far less to earn theirs, that's for sure. Both Sutter and Gossage suffer from the constantly changing standards for relievers.
Then I would pad out the rest with borderline guys like Dawson, Rice, John, Murphy, Parker, or Trammell.
Huh, why do that? Doesn't it cheapen the Hall?
I've got news for you folks: the Hall was cheapened within a decade of opening its doors, back in the Forties, thanks to the old Veterans' Committee, then called the Permanent Committee. While greats like Lefty Grove and Jimmie Foxx couldn't get the writers' time of day, the Permanent Committee was Tinkering-to-Evering-to-Chancing with the results to get flotillas full of olde-tyme players in and very often not the best players.
I see the austerity of today's voters as a direct reprisal to the elections of such non-greats as Travis Jackson and Ross Youngs. Ideals are all fine and good, but until they start kicking out the riffraff, I'm making sure that the heroes of my youth that fit the de facto Hall standard get in.
One last thing—there are a number of candidates floating on the periphery that will have a couple of elections to sell their cases. In 2005, Wade Boggs is a no-brainer but unless you're a big Chili Davis fan there's not much else. In 2006, Will Clark appears to be the best of the lot, though the busted careers of Daryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden will be open to review (I love the Eighties, strikes back). 2007's class features Tony Gwynn, Mark McGwire, and Cal Ripken, all of whom should be first-ballot types. Then were back to one candidate for the next two years (Tim Raines in 2008, who may have an unduly hard time, and possibly just Roger Clemens in 2009, though Rickey Henderson could join that class).
Errors of Commission-er—Selig at it again
This bud of love by summer’s ripening breath
May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.
—William "Author" Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Hey bud, let's party.
The Red Sox and Curt Schilling came to an agreement on Friday that enabled the ace to waive his no-trade contract and accept a trade to Boston. In turn the Red Sox relinquish two pitching "prospects" they had already given up on (Casey Fossum and Brandon Lyon) and two minor-leaguers (one of whom, LHP Jorge De La Rosa, was an erstwhile Diamondback and has had a great deal of struggles in the minors even at the age of 23).
It's a good pickup by the Sox. Really the only downside for them is the value of the contract to Schilling, reportedly $12 to $13 M per year for two years with an option for a third. Schilling is 37, missed one third of the 2003 season, and has missed significant playing time in three of the last five years, so the investment could be ill-advised. However, Schilling is one of the best arms in baseball when healthy, Boston gave up very little to get him, and they desperately need pitching help.
It's nothing more than a salary dump for the D-backs combined with a game of ye ol' bobbing for prospects. It's unlikely Arizona got one decent major-league arm among the three pitchers.
However, the trade aside, it was disconcerting to see Bud Selig extending the deadline for the trade to Saturday. I know that the trade was completed on Friday, and now Theo Epstein is being heralded as the genius du jour. But it seems that Bud is incapable of going out of his way to help his cronies in Boston.
Whether it's laundering a player in baseball-owned Montreal before turning him over to the Sox (Cliff Floyd) or rescuing a player from a contract he's already signed with a professional Japanese team so that the Sox can sign him (Kevin Millar), the commish just has to get involved in John Henry's business. Epstein, who may not be old enough yet to rent from Avis in some states, apparently is a genius who still needs to have the training wheels on his bike.
On a totally unrelated front, baseball is now going on the offensive regarding gamecasts. If Bud and his boys get their way, the only place that fans will be able to get up-to-the-minute game reports will be from MLB.com.
Baseball went after fan sites a couple of years ago and now this. They won't sit still until every thin dime can be squeezed from the sport and be deposited in their secure coffers. What they don't realize is that the distaste it engenders in the fan as well as the attendant lack of exposure the sport will enjoy will cost them far more than the advertising rights on an ESPN gamecast page. The again this is the organization that gave us the All-Star game as a determiner for homefield advantage in the World Series.
Baseball's grab for money will likely fail given the precedent set in basketball. However, if it is successful, where will MLB turn next? What if I post a game score and situation as it is happening? What if you call your friend from your cell phone while at the game and tell him game sich? Will the Bud police ("they live inside of my head") come after us?
Well, you would probably answer, "No," given that there would be no money in it. Or to be more fair, that no money exchange hands so there was no violation of the copyright laws. Perhaps that's true. It just seems odd that a sport that was forward-looking enough at the turn of the last century to promote good relations with the Fourth Estate realizing the symbiotic advantages, is now ready to chuck it all for a few Viagra ads.
I'm So Glad We Had This Time Together...
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT interviews the incisive Will Carroll. (Get it? "Under the Knife"..."incision"..."incisive". To quote Dr. Evil, "It's a homonym...").
As I'm sure you know Hall-of-Famer Warren Spahn, the winningest lefty of all time and the last man to win 350 games, died on Monday. In the process, he passed the mantle of winningest living pitcher appropriately to another lefty, Steve Carlton (329).
Spahn was a truly remarkable pitcher with a remarkable delivery and a remarkable career. For me, someone who was born after Spahn's career was over, he was of those monolithic immortals that one learns from rote in one's baseball nascency. However, his career is much more interesting than the sepia-tinged—or better yet unnaturally kodachromic—pictures from his career, photographs and the raw numbers that have served to ossify our image of the man. However, that's where I'll start.
Spahn was sixth all-time in wins. Here is the list of 300-game winners:
He is also the winningest pitcher since World War II, to which Spahn sacrificed about three and one half years of his career. He are the pitchers with the most wins since 1945:
Spahn was also remarkable for his longevity. Stan Musial once said of him, "I don't think Spahn will ever get into the Hall of Fame. He'll never stop pitching." He had already won 20 games four times when he logged arguably his finest season in the Braves' inaugural season in Milwaukee, 1953, at the age of 32. He was 23-7 with a 2.10 ERA (88% better than the adjusted league average) and finished fifth in MVP voting (the Cy Young award did not come about until 1956 and he won the award in its second year with a demonstrably inferior record to 1953). That was when he became "Warren Spahn". From age 32 on, he won 20 games nine times. Actually he won twenty games in nine of the next eleven seasons. He also lead the league in complete games for seven straight seasons, from 1957 at age 36 to 1963 at age 42.
Here are the all-time winningest pitchers from age 32 on (i.e., the season in which he was 32 for the majority of the year):
Spahn also leads pitchers all-time for All-Star game appearances with 14:
Spahn also is the NL all-time leader in home runs for a pitcher. Here are is the all-time list for home runs by a pitcher (pitcher being defined as player who pitches in at least three games in the given year). Guess who's first:
All this from a pitcher whose first complete game, of the 382 he would collect in his career, came on September 26, 1942 when a riot at the Polo Grounds started by young cranks who had been admitted in exchange for scrap metal in a war drive caused the Giants to forfeit in the eighth. Spahn was losing 5-2 at the time.
Spahn was actually signed by the Boston "Bees" the name that the Braves adopted for five years from 1936-1940, and missed playing for the Braves in all three locations, Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, by just two years.
Warren Spahn was also well known for his incisive and often humorous comments on the game. Spahn's first and last managers in the majors were the same man, Casey Stengel, prompting Spahn to famously quip, "I'm probably the only guy who worked for Stengel before and after he was a genius." He also coined the oft-quoted, "Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing." Some others:
"A pitcher needs two pitches, one they're looking for and one to cross them up."
"What is life, after all, but a challenge? And what better challenge can there be than the one between the pitcher and the hitter."
(On Willie May's first home run) "For the first 60 feet it was a hell of a pitch."
(And) "He was something like zero for twenty-one the first time I saw him. His first major league hit was a home run off me and I'll never forgive myself. We might have gotten rid of Willie forever if I'd only struck him out."
"Roger (Clemens) likes to win and he's been a very prolific pitcher. I talked to him earlier this year and last year, and he told me how much he wanted to win 300 games. What pitcher doesn't want to win 300?"
"Once Musial timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
"When I throw a ground ball, I expect it to be an out, maybe two."
"You don't just throw the ball - you propel it."
"Every time I went out and pitched, I was hoping to maintain my spot in the rotation. You've got to keep winning to maintain your spot."
"Did I want to win 400 games? Sure, but age got in the way."
As I said earlier, Spahn is the all-time winningest lefty. He certainly is one of a handful of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball history though Sandy Koufax's and Lefty Grove's names always seem to top the list whenever the topic is discussed. I thought it would be fun to run a quick comparison of left-handed pitchers.
First, here are the 14 left-handed pitchers in the Hall of Fame:
Next, here are the left-handers who have won 200 or more games:
Here's a comparison of various stats with the next 50 winningest lefties of all time (stats through 2002):
Now just to put it in context, here they are again with the same stats as a percentage of the individual's stats as a percentage of their teams' stats:
You can see from this why Spahn usually is listed after Koufax, Grove, and Randy Johnson. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that Spahn didn't strike out as many men per nine innings as his teammates. Spahn did strike out as many as 191 in a season (in 1950 in 293 innings). Spahn is sixth all-time in strikeouts for a left-hander (with 2583), but given that he is first in innings (5243.2), that's not too impressive. Steve Carlton trailed him by 26.1 innings but had over 1500 more strikeouts. Randy Johnson has about 1300 more strikeouts in over 2000 fewer innings. Of course, those pitchers represent different eras, but Spahn was not a strikeout specialist even in his era.
It's not that it tarnishes his stellar career, but I think that's the biggest reason that analysts list him below the top two or three. Additionally, it is interesting to note that Koufax, Grove, and Johnson blossomed late and had shorter periods of excellence. However, even though their peaks may have been shorter, they were arguably higher than Spahn's. People tend not to argue for sustained excellence over shorter but greater bursts. I guess it's human nature.
Pray for Rain
There are only two songs in me and I just wrote the third.
—Number Three by They Might Be Giants
Perhaps the most famous statement that was said of Spahn, at least indirectly, was "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain", an assessment of the Braves starting rotation in their 1948 pennant drive. From 1946 to 1951, Spahn and Johnny Sain formed a formidable pair of starters and became the archetype for a two-headed staff. In those years each won twenty games four times. They even made their major-league debut in 1942 within one week of each other, Spahn on April 19 and Sain on April 24. The duo was split up on August 28, 1951 when Sain was traded to the Yankees for rookie Lew Burdette and $50 K. Sain eventually became the dean of pitching coaches: if coaches start getting voted into the Hall of Fame, I'm sure his name will be among the first. Burdette went on to fulfill the "And Sain" role longer than Sain himself, winning 20 games twice and 19 games twice as well and pitching 13 years for the Braves.
Here is a rundown of the other white meat, the Braves' number three starters during Spahn's tenure (Based on games and innings. Note that one could argue that Spahn himself was the number three pitcher in his first and last seasons with the Braves. For the sake of this study, I gave him his props and assumed he was the staff leader throughout):
The prototypical number three pitcher in this period was Bob Buhl, who had some very good years. Overall, the Braves' number three pitcher in this era appears to have gotten a bum rap. They were on average better than the league average ERA for the given year and over their careers. Even in the year that the saying became immortal, 1948, Bill Voiselle was 6% better than the league average. Spahn himself was only 3% better that year.
When one considers that the rest of the rotation was Vern Bickford (ERA 17% better than the league average), Red Barrett (5% better), and Nels Potter (65% better in just seven games) and that Spahn had the highest ERA on the staff for anyone who started more than two games, it's remarkable that the sublime saying ever even came into being.
Finally, here is a table of Spahn's Braves teammates who won 10 or more games, listed by wins:
Looking for Brew's Clues
A beggarly account of empty boxes [i.e., box seats].
—William "Author" Shakespeare, "Eddie" Romeo and "Jorge" Juliet
The Brewers seem to be imploding by degrees, a littlemore each day. First, we hear that they will be cutting payroll by 25% down to $30 M from a reported $40.6 M in 2003. According to ESPN, this would be the lowest payroll in baseball. Then president Ulice "We Hardly Knew Yas" Payne Jr. splits with the club over the issue, necessitating an estimated $2.7 M buyout of his five-year contract. Now it appears that the club has been hemorrhaging money and that the owners including alleged non-owner, commissioner Bud "Probity" Selig, have been contributing to keep the Brew Crew afloat.
As the supernova that is the Brewers expands, they may even be required to open their books to an unhappy public that wants to know what happened to investing in the team after the community had invested in a new stadium. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel got its hands on some of the Brewers book, but apparently cook books—or rather cooked books—were all that could be found. The Brewers have a lot of 'splainin' to do. Take a look at the numbers for yourself (the bold columns were added by me):
So payroll, which increased only 33.64% compared to 79.24% for other baseball expenses and 76.53% for unlisted expenses, is being named the culprit. However, team payroll as a percentage of the total operating expenses fell from 56.84% in 1998 to 36.31% in 2002. Additionally, the 2004 payroll will be below the 1998 figure; not to mention that 2003 and 1998 had about the same payroll—with the additional $1 M in revenue sharing, they are almost identical. So of all of the expenses, team payroll seems the least worthy of blame and of cutting.
Add to this the fact that team revenue has been increasing even with an inferior product on the field. Home gate revenue doubled between 1998 and 2002 with the opening of Miller Park, and over all revenue outstripped payroll increases (42.29%). The only revenue that went done went unreported anyway (and was most likely due to the one-time 1998 expansion fees that Milwaukee and the rest of the pre-existing teams gouged the Diamondbacks and Devil rays for.) Consider that team payroll as a percentage of total operating revenue shrank from 53.77% in 1998 to 42.77% in 2002. And in 2004 without any increased revenue, the reduced team salary would translate into just 28.74% of revenue.
The lowly Brewers were a business that increased revenues by almost 50% in five years while increasing salaries by a third. In most industries that would be heralded as a minor miracle. Add to this the fact that the company was handed a state-of-the-art facility, leaks notwithstanding, and you would have many businessmen salivating in these recessionary times.
However, the bottom line is much different because of the Milwaukee ownership's inability to shore up debt and limit expenses. If you or I ran such a business, we would lose our jobs. But in baseball the owner gets promoted to commissioner. The admissions that Selig contributed to the team indicate that he is still the owner and therefore, at conflict with the proffered position of the commissioner. Unless we are to believe that Selig contributed out of the goodness of his heart, which would make him all the more incompetent in my book.
So Selig, the man who as a minority stock owner tried to block the Braves move from Milwaukee and who decries their leaving at every public opportunity, this man is the putative leader behind the dismantling of an already abjectly poor Brewer club in the last few years, culminating in the planned payroll cut for next year. This is the man who cannot decide the Expos fate and whose victory over the players in last season's labor wars is quickly fading in the rearview mirror. This is the man who was prepared to lop off two teams two seasons ago that have been in a pennant race ever since. It would be interesting to see the Brewers fade into the sunset on his watch.
Pinto Beans, er, Beats
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT interviews my blog sire David Pinto of Baseball Musings fame.
Next week Rich will confab with Will Carroll. The week after will be yours truly. I hope Rich has space for a lot of tables.
May the Best Man Win…But For the Right Reasons
I know I should be happy. The best player from each league won the MVP awards. The writers actually got it "right". When was the last time you could say that?
But I have a sneaking suspicion that they only won by default, because of some failing on the part of another player.
Albert Pujols had all but won the NL award in the writers' eyes until his Cardinals dropped out of the pennant race. This illustrates how judging a player by the performance of his team cheapens the award. Pujols consistently registered an OPS over 1.000. Pujols' home runs and RBI did fall off in the second half, but the rest of his numbers were consistently high. Is it his fault that the Cardinals were 13-13 in September and just 36-32 in the second half?
Don't get me wrong—I thought Bonds should have won in a landslide, but I just think that if your brain tells you to vote for Pujols in August and nothing changes, then it should tell you to vote for him now.
Bonds did trail Pujols in Win Shares (41 to 39 and 39 to 36 in hitting Win Shares), but that is due entirely to the time that Bonds missed (32 games). Bonds is still head and shoulders above the rest of the league even after a 100+ point dropoff in OPS. Bonds' 1.278 OPS was the seventh highest all-time, though only his third best since 2001. He was 172 point ahead of second-place Pujols in OPS. There were seven players with 172 points of Pujols in OPS. Bonds was also 42 percentage points ahead of Pujols in league-adjusted OPS (231, 9th best all-time, to 189).
I think Bonds must expose some problem with Win Shares' ability to evaluate players. Someone as extreme as Bonds may not be getting evaluated properly. I can't imagine how (other than time lost) he trailed Pujols by three Win Shares in hitting.
By the way, Sammy Sosa endorsed Albert Pujols as the NL MVP:
"Bonds had good numbers and has a name in the game, but Pujols deserved the award more than anybody."
Now take that sentence and swap Sosa for Bonds and McGwire for Pujols. Then change the year to 1998. And I agree completely with Sammy.
Finally, many are using Bonds' six MVP awards to argue that he is the greatest player ever. That may be, but for an award that was given to Babe Ruth as often as it was given to Zoilo Versalles, the MVP may not be the ideal tool to determine that. (Ruth only finished in the top ten in MVP voting three times: 1st in 1923, 5th in 1931, and 6th in 1932. Part of that is timing: his 59-homer year in 1921 was before the MVP award was reinstated. He did not receive one vote in his 60-homer 1927 season. The award went to Gehrig that year.)
In 1844, the Democrats were split
The three nominees for the presidential candidate
Were Martin Van Buren, a former president and an abolitionist
James Buchanan, a moderate
Louis Cass, a general and expansionist
From Nashville came a dark horse riding up
He was James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump
Austere, severe, he held few people dear
His oratory filled his foes with fear
The factions soon agreed
He's just the man we need
To bring about victory
Fulfill our manifest destiny
And annex the land the Mexicans command
And when the votes were cast the winner was
Mister James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump
—James K. Polk by They Might Be Giants
Alex Rodriguez was the James K. Polk candidate of the AL vote. He did not have any avid supporters but enough general support—mostly because even the writers are not dumb enough to not know that A-Rod is a strong candidate. The cultist candidates (Ortiz, Stewart, and to a lesser degree Tejeda and Wells) split the nut case vote, and let the logic of A-Rod's candidacy come to the fore (just as my friend Murray predicted).
By the way, much is being said about A-Rod being on a last-place team and his being just the second MVP from a last-place team. Now, the Rangers were by no means a great team or even a good team, but 71-91 is not a typical record for a last-place team. Their cellar dwelling is more a function of their four-team division—probably the toughest in baseball—than of the general suckiness of the Rangers.
When you consider that the Rangers were a fourth-place team, one of their players winning an MVP is not such a rare feat:
Now if they really wanted an argument against Rodriguez's legitimacy as an MVP, they shouldn't couch it in terms of position in the standings but rather in terms of games behind the division/league leader. That's what it's all about anyway, isn't it? Who cares if a team finished in fifth place if it was only 10 games back? Weren't they more involved in a pennant race than a team that finished second but 30 games back?
Here's a table of the count of MVPs organized by the number of games back the player's tea, was:
That's A-Rod in the second to last bucket. His Rangers finished 25 games back this past year. He MVP whose team finished more than 30 games behind the league leader was Jake Daubert on the 1913 Brooklyn Dodgers, who finished 34.5 games back.
Now, one last criterion actually helps support A-Rod's MVP-ness. That is winning percentage. There have been two other MVPs whose teams had a worse winning percentage than the Rangers (.438). Daubert's Dodgers (.428, 65-84, in 6th place in an 8-team league) is one. The other is the revered Cal Ripken Jr. who edged out Cecil Fielder (a truly awful candidate) in the 1991 AL MVP vote. Ripken's O's were 67-95 for a .414 winning percentage that year, 24 games back, and in sixth place in a seven-team division. But do you ever hear anyone bemoaning the injustice of Ripken winning the award that year?
No, that's because 1991 pre-dates this pennant-contender lunacy that has since been invested in the MVP award. So when Jayson Stark asks, "How have all the other voters defined it over the last 70 years?" He fails to mention the parallels to Ripken, another power-hitting shortstop or Ernie Banks' Cubs, who finished below .500 both years he won the MVP.
Really what Stark and the rest are employing is bad logic. Let me elucidate:
"A-Rod plays for a last-place team"
But can Stark or the rest point to a deserving player on a last-place team that has not won the award? Couldn't it just be that the player having the most productive year usually is on a pennant contender? Really, Stark's theory as stated above makes about as much sense as:
"Bonds bats left-handed"
Modus ponens it aint.
By the way, Win Shares supports Ripken as the league co-leader with Frank Thomas in 1991 (34 WS). It also supports A–Rod this year (though only by a fraction of a point above Delgado).
It is odd that Alex Rodriguez finally won the award in possibly his fifth best season (1996 and 2000-02 being better). His adjusted OPS (148) was his fifth highest in his eight full-time seasons. His batting average (.298) was the second lowest of his career and the lowest since 1999. His on-base percentage (.396) was his fourth highest. His slugging percentage (.600) was his fifth highest and his lowest since 1999. He had his first sub 1.000 OPS since 1999 (i.e., .995) and his fifth highest overall. His home run total (47) was only his third highest and the lowest in three years. His RBI total (118) was the sixth highest of his career and his lowest since 1999. His run total (124) is again just the fifth highest and his lowest since 1999. Defensively, his range factor as a factor of the league range factor was his all-time low. It was also the first time in the last three seasons that he missed a game. He did, however, set a career high in triples (6) and set an all-time personal high in fielding percentage (.989) in a full season.
So A-Rod had, for him, an off season, and yet he was still the best player in the league according to Win Shares. For those of us who have been proponents of A-Rod winning the MVP since he was robbed by that poster boy for RBIs, Juan Gonzalez, in 1996, this is a sweet though long-awaited redemption. The baseball writers should be apologizing for taking so long to recognize A-Rod. Instead they are obsessing of his team's last place finish, while praising Rodriguez as the best player in the AL.
To them I say get over it. There have not been that many MVP from teams as poor as the 2003 Rangers, but there haven't been too many shortstops who can consistently lead the league in home runs either. A-Rod is such a unique player that the MVP odds don't matter. Now go back and rectify the '96 award.
Just for fun here is a comparison per league of the MVP voting and the Win Shares for each player. For each league I also included the top ranked players in Win Shares who were ignored in the MVP vote. First the AL:
Hudson was the highest ranking pitcher and was on a pennant winner and received zip in the MVP vote. Halladay won the Cy Young but the voters didn't think he deserved an MVP vote.
Now the NL:
Scott Rolen was the eleventh player in the NL and did not get one mention.
Now here are the most overhyped of those receiving votes, i.e., the players with the greatest disparity between their MVP rank and their Win Shares rank (both leagues listed):
Basically, rookies, relievers, great players having off years, and those two ridiculous picks in the AL, Ortiz and Stewart. Miguel Cabrera looks like a fine player, but he played just 87 games. And it wasn't like he was Kevin Maas or anything: his OPS was just 9% better than the park-adjusted league average. He wasn't even the most valuable player named Cabrera!
Now here are the most overlooked, i.e., those who finished lower than expected considering their Win Share ranking (only those receiving votes are listed):
Basically, players that do a lot of things well and a lot were on playoff teams too (huh?).
Now let's take a look at the outliers. Here are players whose highest place in the vote is most out of line (high) with his Win Shares:
By the way, Abreu was the only player whose highest place vote (8) was lower than his Win Share ranking (7).
Finally, here are the players who received votes the most places below their Win Share ranking:
At first blush I thought that the AL voters did a much worse job than their NL counterparts, but now I'm not sure. Ortiz and Stewart were eccentric picks at best, but at least they didn't vote for rookie players who only played 87 games. With Willis, Cabrera, Smoltz, Russ Ortiz, Guerrero, Pierre, etc. dotting the NL ballots, the NL voters averaged twice the Win Share-MVP rank difference of the AL vote (10.56 to 5.96).
Ortiz is still the most ridiculous choice in my opinion because of how high finished (5th). According to Win Shares, he was the ninth best player on his own team! (Behind Ramirez, Garciaparra, Mueller, Martinez, Nixon, Damon, Varitek, and Millar) Lest you think I have a bias against DHs, Ortiz was just the sixth best DH (behind Thomas, Edgar Martinez, Palmeiro, Dmitri Young, and Durazo).
Overall, I see a trend towards players who performed well late in the season, no matter what they did early on, on a contending team (Ortiz, Stewart, and Cabrera). Even though A-Rod and Delgado finished in the top two in the AL, this odd interpretation of the award's meaning seems to be taking more and more of a hold on the lemming-like voters. Part of me was hoping that Ortiz would win the AL MVP and we could finally put to rest this anachronistic hanging chad of a voting system.
Cy of Relief
We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best, hope of earth.
—Abraham "Nunez" Lincoln
Think not so much of what thou hast not as of what thou hast: but of the things which thou hast select the best... At the same time, however, take care that thou dost not through being so pleased with them accustom thyself to overvalue them, so as to be disturbed if ever thou shouldst not have them.
—Marcus "Giles" Aurelius Antoninus from his Meditations
He pitched magnificently. In 77 games and 80+ innings he had recorded well over 50 saves and had an ERA well under 2.00. Who cared if his winning percentage was just .400? The Cy Young voters look at his stats and gave the Cy Young to…Bob Welch.
Oh, sorry. I wasn't speaking of Eric Gagne, who won the NL Cy Young the other day. It was Bobby Thigpen's great 1990 season that landed him in fourth place in both Win Shares (behind Clemens, Finley and Stewart and fractions ahead of Dennis Eckersley) and the Cy Young vote (behind Welch, Clemens, and Stewart but again ahead of Eckersley).
Thigpen and his one great season were the precursor to Gagne. Thigpen never had Gagne's stuff but he was used in a similar fashion and produced similar results. Leading up to Bobby Thigpen's record save year in 1990, baseball was pushing the closer limits as much as possible. In 1988, the major-league average closer recorded 25 saves for the same time. Every non-strike year since then, the average major-league closer has exceeded the 25-save threshold. As the Eighties ended teams used their closers in more and more a similar fashion. The standard deviation for team closers' save totals (6.96) dropped to its lowest since 1976 (not counting the strike year of 1982) and the standard deviation as a percentage of the average saves (27.38) was at an all-time low (just 25.41%).
This complacency was broken wide open in 1990 when, even though save totals fell (the average closer had 26.81), the ways that closers were used changed dramatically. The standard deviation of saves per closer nearly doubled and was an all-time high (11.11, which has been exceeded three times since, twice in the last two years). I have already offered my theory on this in my relievers study in the Nineties section. To summarize, the brief offensive onslaught of 1985-87 had subsided and the strategy of using one of your best pitchers as a closer who you hold off on using until late in the game to prevent a late-inning comeback by your opponent fell out of favor.
Tony LaRussa started using Dennis Eckersley in what I have termed the post-modern closer mold, i.e., fewer innings, shorter outings, and more saves. Oakland also had a great supporting cast in the bullpen so limiting Eckersley's innings didn't hurt them. This culminated with his 1992 MVP- and Cy Young-winning season, the second 50-save year for a closer.
Meanwhile, Thigpen's career feel apart: after his record 57-save season he only recorded 53 total saves for his career. Even though by 1992 Eckersley was used less in the post-modern role than he had been in the previous few (80 innings in 69 appearances), the post-modern closer took root. This was accelerated as most of the next decade were spent in an expansion-induced offensive explosion. Closers were held back until the ninth for fear that a lead would be lost in a final walk-off at-bat.
However, as the offensive onslaught slackened, the battle for the preferred usage of the closer role heated up like a debate between Heat Miser and Cold Miser. Since 2000, the varied use of relievers has gone through the roof. The standard deviation of saves hit 11% of the average for the second time since 1990. It's been over 11.25% each of the last two years. Meanwhile, the average number of saves climbed to an all-time high of 32.93 in 2002 only to fall by over four saves (to 28.00) this year. Eric Gagne led all closers with 55 saves, but this year also witnessed a team save leader—dare I say closer—who recorded only 5 saves (Franklyn German and/or Chris Mears of Detroit) and four other AL teams that didn't have a reliever record more than 16 saves (Boston, Seattle, Toronto, and the White Sox). Five saves for a team leader is the least that has been recorded since 1975 in a non-strike year.
By the way, here's a quicky comparison of Gagne's 2003 season with Thigpen and Eckersley's 1990 seasons:
Name W-L G SV IP H BB K ERA Adj WHIP K:BB K/9IP Win Shares Thigpen 4-6 77 57 88.2 60 32 70 1.83 210 1.04 2.19 7.11 20 Gagne 2-3 77 55 82.1 37 20 137 1.20 335 0.69 6.85 14.98 25 Eck 4-2 63 48 73.1 41 4 73 0.61 606 0.61 18.25 8.96 20
They all had great years, but only Gagne won the Cy Young.
OK, so where does that leave us? Oh, yeah, I don't think Gagne deserved the award this year (I would have tabbed Mark Prior or Jason Schmidt myself) and I'll explain why.
First, let me explain from an historical point of view. Just as Bill James said in 1991 of Bobby Thigpen's save record, "Obviously, Thigpen's record was brought about in part because of a change in the way that relief pitchers are used-a generalized change, operating th[r]oughout baseball," so too is Gagne's stats brought about by a recent return to that strategy.
Baseball took a slight evolutionary detour after the great success of Dennis Eckersley. This Neanderthaloid evolutionary dead end took a decade during perhaps the game's greatest offensive era, the Mets-ozoic Era, which also encompassed two rounds of expansion.
Perhaps with all the expansion bullpens got too watered down. It became very difficult to build a bullpen as effective as the Eck-era A's pen. There have been very good pens of late, but they seem to be more capturing lightning in a jar than crafting a pen by design.
Perhaps the trend played itself out. I mean, how long can you employ one of your best pitchers for just 50 innings a year? Byung-Hyun Kim moved back to the rotation and then back. Former closer Danny Graves went 4-15 in 2003, his first year as a full-time starter. And of course Derek Lowe successfully moved back to starting last year.
Also, teams started to realize that reliance on a player just because he has recorded 30 or o saves in the past is ludicrous. Big name closers like Mike Williams, Jose Mesa, Scott Williamson, Armando Benitez, and Billy Koch lost closer jobs on their teams or were traded to other teams and no longer closed. Journeymen like Rocky Biddle, Joe Borowski, Tom Gordon, Tim Worrell, Lance Carter, and Rod Beck inherited closer jobs and for the most part performed well.
Needless to say, the job of closer has gone through a reevaluation period the last couple of seasons. In Gagne, the Dodgers appointed a hard-throwing yet highly unsuccessful young starter as their closer in 2002. It revitalized his career to say the least. However, I see Gagne as a throwback to the Thigpen line. It's not that he hasn't pitched well, very well. I just think that his performance looks all the better for the shamples that closer role has become on many clubs, as well as his calling Dodgers Stadium home (though his 2003 home-road splits show no bias to Dodgers Stadium). He happens to be in the right role at the right time.
To illustrate, there have been 87 closers all time with at least 20 saves and an ERA under 2.00, starting with Ellis Kinder in 1953. 53 of them have done it while pitching at least 80 innings.
Well, one can argue that 20 saves is not 55. However, I think that the number of saves a closer records to a very large degree depends on his era and his usage. The Reds' Ted Abernathy recorded a 1.27 ERA in 1967 with 28 saves and a 6-3 record in 106.1 innings pitched. I know it was a pitcher's era, but his league-adjusted ERA is about the same as Gagne's (295 to 335) and he did it in so many more innings. In 1967, 28 saves were enough to lead the majors. So of course Abernathy got a ton of CyYoung votes, right? Uh, no. He didn't receive a one. Mike Mccormick, Jim Bunning, and Fergie Jenkins were the only men to receive any votes that year. Abernathy's season was worthy of 24 Win Shares, one fewer than Gagne this year and fractions behind league leader Bunning.
You say you want someone more recent. How about John Wetteland's 1993 season with the Expos? He was 9-3 with 43 saves in 85.1 innings over 70 appearances. He struck out 113 and walked just 28. His ERA was 1.37 and his adjusted ERA was 304. That's a pretty close match to Gagne. He was awarded 21 Win Shares, but was fourth behind league-leading Greg Maddux and Jose Rijo.
I should also point out that the Dodger bullpen featured two other pitchers with ERAs under 2.00, Paul Quantrill (1.75 ERA in 77.1 innings) and Guillermo Mota (1.97 in 105 innings). I have said that the Dodgers are the anti-Rockies. Pitchers go to the Dodgers and resurrect their careers (e.g. Hideo Nomo's second stint, Wilson Alvarez, Kevin Gross, and Odalis Perez , at least in 2002). Then when they leave they fall flat on their faces (e.g., Hideo Nomo after his first stint, Kevin Gross, Chan Ho Park, Ismael Valdes, Ramon Martinez, and Tim Belcher ). Not that pitching for the Dodgers bars a player from winning a Cy Young, but it should make us a bit leery just like we were of Vinny Castilla's and Dante Bichette's stats in Colorado.
Well, what about Gagne's historic 14.98 strikeouts per nine innings figure? Bill Wagner was the man he beat out (14.95 K/9 IP in 1999), and Wagner finished fourth in the Cy Young vote that year.
The last stat that people will throw out is Win Shares. Gagne led NL pitchers with 25 Win Shares, three more than Mark Prior, Jason Schmidt, and Livan Hernandez. Did anyone notice that Rheal Cormier finished 19th in the NL in pitching Win Shares, ahead of every other Phillie? Cormier had a very good season (1.70 ERA, 8-0 record, 54 hits and 25 walks in 84.2 innings/65 appearances). However, given that the Phils had four men win 14 games and three pitch over 200 innings, few would pick Cormier as their best pitching asset.
The reason is that Win Shares for relief pitchers is inherently problematic. I don't want to take anything away from James: Win Shares is probably the crowning moment of the career of baseball's greatest analyst since Henry Chadwick. However, trying to assign Win Shares to relievers is like trying to hit a moving target. The landscape of relief pitching has changed dramatically since James published Win Shares just two years ago. How can a standard formula be applied to all relievers throughout baseball history, especially when it takes a half dozen just to figure fielding Win Shares for third basemen throughout baseball history?
Given that relief pitching Win Shares were derived basically via a compromise in James' formulae, who's to say they are accurate for the 2003 season? Individual pitching Win Shares are derived from assigning claim points to a team's staff via a set of criteria and then meting out Win Shares appropriately. The criteria are runs allowed (the largest factor); wins, losses, and saves; save-equivalent innings; and batting. The claim point formula for wins/losses is ((W*3)-L+Sv) / 3 (p. 35). That seems pretty straightforward. Of course, one could argue that this formula really doesn’t measure anything, but at least it's straightforward enough. My problem is with Save Equivalent or Crucial innings. That formula is to multiply saves by three, cap the result at 90% of actual innings pitched, and finally add one for each hold (Hello, Rheal Cormier). The save-equivalent innings are then multiplied by the pitcher's component ERA added to a constant (.56) minus the team cutoff to get the claim points. OK, why not? But why 90%? Why not 80%? Or perhaps why not an era-specific percentage? Why multiple by three? Why not 2 or 4? Why not 2 in 2003 and 4 in 1967? To say that a save is a save no matter the era is problematic at best.
Win Shares is a valuable tool, but it's just that, a tool. Sometimes it proves useful; sometimes not. And given that the formulae for starting pitchers' and relief pitchers' Win Shares differ a great deal, it becomes dangerous to use Win Shares as the be all and end all for ranking all pitchers.
I think Win Shares is the shakiest ground from which to build one's argument for Gagne's Cy Young legitimacy. Gagne had a fine season, but I cannot accept an argument that his 82.1 innings were superior to Prior's 211.1 or Schmidt's 207.2 even if they came in save opportunities. And what of save opportunities? James showed in his New Historical Baseball Abstract that a closer is best used in games in which his team leads by one, the score is tied, or possibly if his team trails by one. Only one of those three would even be considered a save opportunity. Using a closer to hold a three-run lead in the ninth is mere overkill.
So, next we will take a look at Gagne's game log to determine if his appearances were indeed that crucial to his team's success to merit winning the award. Here is a table of Gagne's appearances and the situation when he entered the game. A Dodger lead is represented by the number of runs they led by at the time. If the Dodgers trailed, then the number of runs they trailed by is represented by a negative number:
Situation -3+ -2 -1 Tied 1 2 3+ # Games: 2 0 1 13 24 11 26
Gagne seemed to be used in almost all of the Dodgers extra inning games (16). All of his five decisions came after he entered a tie ballgame. He gave up four runs in a tied game on May 12, one on June 23, and one on July 2, all for losses. He gave a run in a tie game on August 20, but the Dodgers came back to win the game. His second win he garnered when the Dodgers broke a tie ballgame in extra innings that when he was pitching. His other three appearances in which he relinquished a run were a) he gave up two runs when the Dodgers already trailed by more than 3, b) he gave up a run when he was provided a two-run lead, and c) he gave a run with a 3-run lead.
Basically, Gagne made 37 or 38 significant appearances out of 77. His 37 appearances when staked to two or more runs (26 with 3 or more) are the 19-yard field goal for closers. A competent one should be able to hold that lead. Yes, he did not blow any and yes, he only gave up two runs in those 37 games. However, if he were an average reliever, how many of those could he have blown? The Dodgers' team ERA was 3.16. An average Dodger pitcher would not have blown more than a handful of those games.
So it comes down to 13 tie ballgames, 24 with a one-run Dodger lead, and the one the Dodgers trailed by one run, i.e., the close games in which Gagne pitched. He "blew" four of those 13 tie ballgames, but none of the one-run leads. So basically Gagne was given the award for 33 or 34 ballgames in which he pitched mostly one inning. Prior started 30 games and Schmidt 29 and each went significantly longer than one or two innings in those ballgames. Finally, the Dodgers were 26-23 in one-run ballgames, so how significant was Gagne's performance anyway?
Gagne had a stellar year, but the role of the closer is still too marginalized to merit winning a Cy Young award.
Idle old man,
—William "Author" Shakespeare, King Lear
Managing is getting paid for home runs someone else runs.
— Casey Stengel, inventor of Stengelese
I gave the baseball writers a hard time for the Rookie of the Year results, but I have to agree with their choices for Manger of the Year wholeheartedly (or MoY to save me typing). Tony Pena took a moribund franchise that had divested itself of all its veteran starting pitchers and made it a competitive, if ultimately unsuccessful, team. Jack Mckeon took a team that was 16-22 in fourth place in a five-team division (if you count the Mets as a major-league team) and won the whole shebang.
The only argument some had against McKeon was that Dusty Baker took a team, the Cubs, that had been almost 30 games under .500 the previous year and won his division in a tough three-team race. Joe Morgan in a recent chat session opined that Baker was the best candidate and mentioned Felipe Alou and Bobby Cox but failed to mention McKeon. Baker ended up a distant second in the NL vote.
That got me to thinking, which is a rare event. Evaluating managers is a quite subjective and highly mercurial task. Look at Grady Little. He ended up fourth in the AL vote, directly ahead of the Yankees' Joe Torre, but is out of a job. (By the way, how did Lou Piniella end up with four second-place votes with a team that logged a 63-99 record? It's true that the D Rays improved by 8 games in 2003 and had their best year since 2000, but if the team were piloted by Larry Rothschild or Hal McRae, they would not have garnered a single MoY vote.)
Is there an empirical means to select MoY? Perhaps the man whose team has the best winning percentage turnaround should get the award or at least there should be a strong correlation between winning the award and improving one's team winning percentage.
So I took a look at the past winners (I opted for the BBWAA winners even though that has only recently supplanted the TSN's MoY award because 1) it is the award of choice today and 2) it is conveniently located in the database from whence I was doing the research). Here's a list of the winners, the league's best team improvement in winning percentage over the previous season minus the manager's winning percentage improvement (Best - Mgr PCT), what that translates into as far as wins in a season (Dif in W), the manger's winning percentage improvement over the previous year (Mgr Diff), and what that translates into as far as wins in a season (Mgr Diff in W) [based on a 162-game season].
On average, the MoY improved his team by 15 games over the previous season. However, the average MoY was five games behind the best turnaround. The only MoY who failed to improve his team record over the previous season's was Jim Leyland, whose Pirates won the division in 1992 even though they won two fewer games than in '91. Leyland's Bucs had lost Bobby Bonilla and 20-game winner John Smiley to free agency though he retained Barry Bonds' services for one final MVP season in Pittsburgh. The team did fall apart the next season after Bonds left.
Let's say that the award had always been given to the manager who improved his team by the largest margin. Here's who the winners would have been (disregarding those who managed for a short period):
Both lists are interesting, but I think the second one does avoid some of the sentimental choices. Felipe Alou gets the nod over Jim Leyland in 1992 by the second list, by the way.
Man Bites Dog
Turnabout is fair play: Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT has a interesting interview with Alex Belth, who has conducted an interview or two himself.
I'm schizophrenic and so am I: Christian Ruzich, the Cub Reporter, takes on a new role as the Transaction Guy (starring Lee Majors). Let's hope the Cubs' transactions aren't too painful this offseason or he'll have to endure the pain twice, once per blog.
Charlie Mikolajczak writes:
Just curious as to what your opinion was of the 2 writers who chose to leave Matsui off their ballot as a way of "protesting" Matsui being considered a rookie. I thought it was pretty funny that these guys are SPORTWRITERS and chose to leave him off their ballot as a way of protest as opposed to voicing their opinions in their own columns. Personally, I think it was a way for them to boost their own profile (however negatively), especially after seeing their responses as to why they did it...
What he is referring to are Bill Ballou of The Worcester Telegram and Gazette and Jim Souhan of The Minneapolis Star Tribune, neither of whom listed Hideki Matsui on the ballots and admitted to omitting him on the grounds that he had played n the Japanese leagues.
"It had everything to do with that," said Ballou "Matsui's numbers are comparable to any of the other strong candidates. But I really think that while he is technically a rookie by the rules of Major League Baseball, he is not a rookie in the spirit of the award."
"I just don't think someone who's played at such a high level in an environment I consider to be a major league is a real candidate for rookie of the year," Souhan said. "I don't think it's a fair fight when someone who is an All-Star player in a major league goes up against someone who is learning how to play at the major league level."
Now, my first question is why a reporter from Worcester is even eligible to vote? Wustah is an hour outside of Boston and is far from a major city. Why not let the beat reporters for the Woburn Daily Times Chronicle and the Lowell Sun chime in. And lest you think I speak from inexperience, I lived in Wustah for a time and what a bleak and dismal hamlet it is, though I did enjoy plundering the Isaiah Thomas used bookstore often (no, not that Isaiah Thomas).
My second question is when did the voters get to make up the rules anyway? As Jack O'Connell, the secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA states, "The baseball writers don't decide what a rookie is. That's decided by Major League Baseball: unless you have more than 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched [in the major leagues], you're a rookie. The rules simply state that if you are in your first season in the major leagues, you're a rookie."
Given that the vote was so close—four points separated Berroa, the winner, and Matsui—were these two voters to have listed Matsui, it is likely the award would have been his. Consider that Ballou's ballot was: 1) Rocco Baldelli, 2) Jody Gerut and 3) Berroa. Listing Baldelli first might be grounds for disenfranchising Ballou in the first place. Souhan had: 1) Berroa, 2) Gerut, and 3) Baldelli.
We can assume from their statements that Matsui would have made their ballots based on his performance but that his experience in Japan disqualified him in their minds. Otherwise, why even touch on the subject—two Even if we list Matsui third on each of their ballots (thereby dropping Berroa from Ballou's altogether), the totals change to: Berroa 87 points (12 first place, 7 second, 6 third) and Matsui 86 (10-9-9). If Matsui had placed above third on either ballot, the award would be his. Also, Matsui would have appeared on all the ballots (28) and Berroa would not (25).
So these were just writers sticking up for their convictions, right? Well, as Charlie points out they had all season to use their bully pulpit to change opinions and help force a rule change. Well, since my subscription to their fine publications have lapsed, I cannot say whether or not Ballou and Souhan had written extensively on the matter. Maybe they had writer themselves blue in the fingertips and yet no change was made. Therefore, this was their last stand and the made it. Of course, Ballou's deeply held convictions had nothing to do with Matsui playing for the archrival Yankees.
Aside from the fact that we are discussing an organization in which Tuffy Rhodes could hold the home run record, it's not as if Matsui is the first ex-Japanese player to win the award. Three other former Japanese league players have won, all since 1995. Hideo Nomo (1995) was a five-year veteran with Kintetsu, Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000) was a ten-year veteran with Yokohama, and Ichiro Suzuki (2001) was a nine-year veteran with Orix.
Never mind that former Negro league players Jackie Robinson (1947), Don Newcombe (1949), Sam Jethroe (1950), Willie Mays (1951), Joe Black (1952), and Jim Gilliam (1953). Why by their standards, the NL did not have a true Rookie of the Year for six of seven years. And the Negro leagues, it is generally accepted, had a higher quality of play than the Japanese leagues do today.
Here's one last thing to consider, the 130 at-bat rule is somewhat arbitrary. Let's say it was 125 at-bats. Then Scott Rolen, the NL Rookie of the Year in 1997, would not have been eligible. He had exactly 130 prior to his award-winning year. His wrist is broken when a Steve Trachsel pitch hits him on September 7, 1996, thereby ending his year and ensuring that he will be eligible for the award in the 1997 season. Steve Sax had 119 at-bats before he won the award. Todd Hollandsworth,103.
Also, rookie pitchers are capped at 50 innings of experience. Why? Why not 40 or 30 or 60? John "The Count" Montefusco made 7 starts in 1974 and threw 39.1 innings that year—and hit a home run in his major-league debut September 3—, and then went on to win the award in 1975. Jason Jennings did likewise in 2001—7 games and 39.1 innings pitched—before winning the award in 2002. Jon Matlack pitched 37 innings in 7 games in 1971 and then was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1972.
Well, you could say in all these instances that the players in question just happened to inherent a job towards the end of the year. But surely there has never been a RoY who was juggled between the majors and minors for more than a season before winning the award. Actually, there have been 14, including Angel Berroa this year. Tommie Agee played in parts of four major-league seasons with two franchises before he won the award in 1966. Gary Peters had played in parts of four season with the White Sox before he stuck for good and won the award. Alfredo Griffin played parts of three season with the Indians before he was shipped to the two-year-old Toronto Blue Jays franchise, where he won the award in 1979. Angel Berroa spent two years apprenticing at the estimable Neifi Perez's feet before taking on the Royals shortstop gig full-time this season.
Consider that in 2001 the AL Rookie of the Year went to former Japanese player by the name of Ichiro Suzuki. Suazuki took 27 of 28 first place votes, the 28th going to C.C. Sabathia. Ichiro fever also infected the MVP award as Suzuki beat out Jason Giambi, Bret Boone, Jim Thome, Alex Rodriguez, and Roberto Alomar, to name a few, in one of the more controversial MVP votes of the last few years.
That same year Marke Buerhle was 16-8 with a 3.29 ERA, 40% better than the park-adjusted league average. His adjusted ERA was good for third in the AL only three percentage points behind Joe Mays, the league leader, and two behind Mike Mussina. But Buehrle was not eligible for the Rookie of the Year because he had pitched 51.1 innings in 2000.
Buerhle may not have won the award in 2001, but he had a much better year than Sabathia, who finished second. Ichiro's OPS was 27% better than the adjusted league average, but was 75 percentage points behind league-leader Jason Giambi. Many complained that he was too weak-hitting to be the MVP. He probably would have won the Rookie award, but it would have been much more interesting had Buerhle been eligible.
In 1993, Tim Salmon won the award unanimously with his typically solid numbers. However, the voting would have been more interesting if 19-game winner Pat Hentgen were eligible. You see, Hentgen threw 50.1 innings in 1992 and 7.1 in 1991, disqualifying himself. Kevin Millwood won 17 games in 1998 but was ineligible due to his 51.1 innings of work the previous year. However, I doubt he would have unseated Kerry Wood as the award winner that year.
In 1970 Bob Robertson hit 27 home runs and had an OPS 48% better than the league average, but he had 96 at-bats in 1969 and another 35 in 1967 for a total of 131 thereby barring him from the 1970 Rookie vote. Carl Morton won the award with only 46% of the vote, edging out Bernie Carbo, Larry Bowa, Cesar Cedeno, and Wayne Simpson. Robertson was inelgible because of one at-bat. What if he had walked instead of grounded out one time the previous year? Wes Covington, Joe Pepitone, Kevin McReynolds, Dale Murphy, Dave Winfield, Gary Roenicke, and Juan Gonzalez all had good "rookie" years but were ineligible for the Rookie of the Year vote because they had previously exceeded 130 career at-bats. Had the arbitrary cutoff been 150 instead of 130, they would all have been eligible.
What if someone had tried to vote for Hentgen or Millwood or Buerhle or Robertson even though technically they were not eligible? Well, I guess their vote would be thrown away because they hadn't voted according to the rules. The rules may not be fair in all cases, but hey, that's why you have rules after all, to draw those lines. You don't want to be deciding if the dividing line is 130 or 150 at-bats after the season is done.
So the rules decide who is eligible and who is not, and there are consequences if a voter casts his vote for an illegible player. His vote is not counted. This would be the baseball equivalent of voting for Pat Paulson. To my knowledge no one has ever done this, but what if someone did to protest the arbitrary rules?
This "civil disobedience" is in the vein of what the two writers say they were intending to do. They knew that Matsui was eligible, but voted for other players as a form of protest. This very probably impacted who won the award.
So why not do the following in this case: 1) Throw out their vote and 2) disqualify them from the voting process for at least one year (or better yet revoke their membership in the BBWAA). This is not about dangling chads: They openly acknowledged that they did not vote for the best players eligible. Voting is a privilege not a right. What people seem to forget now is that there has always been a price to pay for civil disobedience. Without their votes the final tally would be:
1st 2nd 3rd Pts Mastui 10 9 7 84 Berroa 11 7 6 82
Or better yet throw out their votes and let another two writers, one from Boston and one from Minnesota, cast their ballots. I realize that if Mastui won in this way, the award would be tainted, but isn't it tainted already? What the writers did in effect was place an asterisk next to Berroa. They inadvertently gave a deserving candidate a qualified award.
By the way, did anyone notice that one third place vote in the AL Manager of the Year award went to Alan Trammell? Now, Trammell may prove a fine manager someday, but there is no reason to believe that he is a passable one right now. His Tigers logged a 43-119 record for a .265 winning percentage and were arguable the worst team since the inception of the American League.
There have only been two managers all time with winning percentages under .300, who managed at least 162 games: Hall-of-Fame player Bobby Wallace, 62-154 .286 and Dave Rowe, who managed in the 1880s, 44-127 .250. Neither lasted more than two seasons. The Tigers would have to improve by at least 12 games for Trammell to get his career managerial record above .300. There are only 10 other managers all time to pilot a club for at least 162 games and have a record under .350. The Tigers would have to go 71-91 in 2004, a Herculean task indeed, for Trammell to reach .350 for his career.
In other words Trammell may be the worst manager record-wise since Roy Hartsfield. And still some writer looked at the 14 AL managers and selected Trammell for his Manager of the Year ballot.
Of course, this all calls into question the voting rules for the two awards in the first place. Why limit the Rookie and Manager of the Year to two writers per city and then open the other awards to the entire BBWAA? Two awards are the Senate and the rest are the House of Representatives? If the voting had been opened up for this year's RoY award, then the grandiose opinions of a couple of writers wouldn't have mattered because it's unlikely that the vote would have been so close.
Baseball's second season kicked off today with the announcement of the Rookie of the Year winners. Maybe it's the third with the playoffs being the second. The free agency season is the fourth season followed by the fifth season, which consists solely of the Brewers being eliminated from the next season's contention. And then the music goes round and round, woah oh oh uh-oh, and it comes out in Florida and Arizona next spring.
Today's award announcements really got me excited. I know that Rookie of the Year is not as big a deal as MVP or Cy Young. But the reason that I'm excited is that the writers have already screwed up two awards with a built-in limit (how many rookies are there?) so it's sure to get worse. The writers may hit the Didn't-try-fecta by getting every award wrong. I can't wait for the brokered AL MVP vote.
Anyway, the winners were media darling Dontrelle Willis in the NL (or was it his mom?) and non-former Japanese professional player Angel Berroa in a squeaker in the AL.
Willis was, at best, the third best candidate in the NL. Brandon Webb edged Willis in just about every stat that matters: ERA 2.84 to 3.30, WHIP 1.15 to 1.28, adjusted ERA 165 to 122, Win Shares 17 to 14, opponents' batting average .212 to .245, innings pitched 180.2 to 160.2, strikeouts per nine innings 8.57 to 7.95, opponents' OPS .601 to 6.98. Well, just about every stat but wins (14 to 10). And Webb didn't pitch (poorly) for the eventual World Champs in the playoffs. Nor did he have a commercial nor a media-aware mother.
Clearly Webb had a better year than Willis. However, one could make an argument for Scott Podsednik and his 22 Win Shares being more valuable than either pitcher. But if you are going to go with a pitcher, Webb is you're man. By the way, Marlon Byrd also finished ahead of Willis with 16 Win Shares.
In the AL, at first glance it seems that the writers picked the right man. Angel Berroa and Hideki Matsui had the same batting average, Berroa had the lead in homers by one, Berroa outslugged Matsui .451 to .435, Berroa's OPS is one point better than Matsui's, and he stole 21 bases in 26 attempts while Matui grounded into 25 doubleplays. Surely a shortstop who bettered a corner outfielder in slugging and home runs must get the award, right?
Well, I favored Matsui. What!?! Am I insane? Have I foregone my sabermetric roots? Ah, no.
Given that Royals Stadium was a very good hitter's park (13% better than average in scoring) and Yankee Stadium was more of a pitcher's park (4% worse than average), actually Matsui was a better hitter. Matsui's OPS was 11% better than the adjusted league average whereas Berroa's was 4% worse. Yes, Berroa outslugged Matsui, but Berroa's slugging average was actually one point worse than the adjusted league average and Matsui's was 14 points better. The same goes for BA (Matsui 24 points better than average; Berroa 5 points better) and OBP (Matsui 24 points better; Berroa 12 points worse) as well. Mastui also created an extra 13 runs (95 to 82 though in 60 extra TPAs).
They got it wrong folks and this is just the start.
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT has a great interview of Lee Sinins.
From am email from the LP:
I got a question fer ya - Why no mention of the Wagner trade? You must love the trade, correct? I don't think Ducky's gonna make it as a starter. The kids they gave up, esp Bucholtz, may someday be a good pitcher, but it's worth the chance. Think about it - the Phils now have a legitimate closer. And he's relatively young!
However - it won't do them much good if they don't go out and get a good quality starter. I want to see a trade for Vasquez or Schill. They go middle of the road, and I don't care WHO the closer is.
Yo me lo respondi:
I do love the trade. Wagner is one of the truly useful closers in the game and he is coming off one of his best seasons (and the 86 innings were a career high). The Phils gave up a player they had already given up on (Duckworth), a 25-year-old prospect who was still in Single-A [actually 24 in Ezequiel Astacio], and decent pitching prospect [Taylor Buchholz, 9-11 with a 3.55 ERA at Double-A Reading at age 22 in 2003]. It's Millwood Pt II. The Phils are picking up bargains now that they are swimming against the payroll-downsizing current.
But you are equally right in saying that it won't mean squat if the Phils can't cobble together a decent rotation. I think they took a step back in this department last year. Millwood started off on a high (the no-no), went downhill quickly, and probably won't be back. Wolf and Myers ended up with mediocre at best seasons and terrible second halves. Padilla ended up basically the same pitcher as 2002 (which is a good thing). Duckworth was abysmal. Telemaco was surprisingly mediocre (and I mean that in a good way) in replacing Duckworth. For a team whose rotation fell apart in the second half, the Phils tried very few changes (quickly dropping Roa and swapping Telemaco for Duckworth) either out of incompetence or as a vote of confidence in the young rotation.
Whatever the reason, their rotation is now Wolf, Myers, Padilla, possibly Telemaco, and at least one starter to be named. That rotation doesn't really scare anyone. They may have a young core on a par with the Braves at the beginning of the Nineties or they may have a bunch of, at best, number three starters. Given the Phils history dating back to Jim Wright, LC, and Randy Lerch, and the second-half flailings, the latter may be more likely.
They will need an established starter at the top of the rotation to appease the fans enough to get them to come out in droves to the new ballpark, their sole desire. Schilling seemed a strong possibility but now reports have him going to a number of other places and the Phils are rarely mentioned. Vazquez may be problematic given that a high-visibility trade within the division by the MLB-owned Expos will draw some criticism. Besides the Expos reportedly won't have a budget or know where they will play until December, so they may not be able to address player issues until well into spring training or after the season starts.
Something should shake out since the Phils have the cash and a deep organization that they will not be afraid to plunder. Given that this offseason promises to be ever more wacky than last year's in which Johnny Estrada for Kevin Millwood could possibly make sense, anything can happen. The Phils will have to exploit the opportunity. If Wade and Arbuckle are worth their salt, they should. I still view the Phils' brass like the country viewed the Nixon presidency (during his tenure, not after the post-death revisionism): I am leery of anything they do because their goals (making money) are clearly not in sync with mine (To field the best team in Philly). The last twenty years of running this team as a small-market club demonstrate that. Hopefully our goals will come into alignment long enough for the Phils to field a playoff-caliber team. Let's hope.
Let's say I'm not sanguine, but the Phils did pull off one heckofa trade. Some scouts say that Duckworth could still turn into the prospect everyone thought he could be. He will be 28 next season and does own a 4.87 ERA in two and one-half major-league seasons.
I thought it would be interesting to compare his stats as a 27-year-old to the historical record to determine his chances of turning his career around. Through 2002, there had been 3044 27-year-old pitchers with career ERAs over 4.50. Of those only 34 won 100 or more games. Here they are, with totals through 28 and then career ones:
There are some fairly successful pitchers in the list. Among them is former Phil Bob Walk, the prototypical number three starter. Walk never had nearly the stuff of Duckworth, but equally Walk's career would be a best-case scenario for Duckworth.
There are a good deal of soft tossers who took time to develop, but Leiter, Vance, Witt, Scott, Hurst, and Sam Jones struck out their fair share. So maybe they are better models for Duckworth and all of them enjoyed some success. However, any group that whose best members have a collective ERA of 3.91 and a .514 winning percentage, as this group does, is not one that a pitcher wants to be a member of. It would not be unprecedented for Duckworth to turn his career around, but then again, the odds are really not in his favor either.
Joe Morgan Chat D(a)y'er Mak'er?
You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically, that's not far from the truth.
In the days of my youth I was told what it means to be a man. That is, listening to heaping gobs of Led Zeppelin. Does anybody remember Led Zep?
Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the Yardbirds at a time when the Beatles were preparing to implode, Led Zeppelin created the musical blueprint for the next three decades. They are credited with creating AOR, Album-Oriented Rock, by refusing to pilfer their carefully crafted albums for singles. They are credited (sometimes along with Black Sabbath) with creating the sound and mystique of Heavy Metal. By refusing to give interviews to a press that seemingly detested them and communicating with their audience through their albums and their legendary concerts, they inadvertently created Arena Rock and the multibillion-dollar industry that now brings you Britney and Justin.
My senior year one could go into my room or any of my roommates' rooms and hear Led Zeppelin blasting. I remember coming home once and hearing a different Page-Plant minuet playing in just about every room. A friend of mine even recorded both sides of a ninety-minute tape with "Over the F'ing Hills and Far Away" on continuous loop so that he could pop in a cassette and hear the song on demand—Of course, this predates MP3s. I also had a friend in high school who paid the unheard-of sum of $15 for an old Led Zeppelin single with "Hey Hey What Can I Do", which appears on no Led Zeppelin album proper, as a B-side.
Led Zeppelin was so cool even their albums were cool. The original pressings of In Through The Out Door came in a plain paper wrapper and had an inner black-and-white sleeve that changed color with just a few drops of water. Houses of the Holy featured freaky flipper kids and was more whacked-out than anything Pink Floyd ever came up with. Did you like the zipper on the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers cover? Well, Led Zep did them one better with the psychedelic spinning wheel on the cover of III. But of course, the topper of them all was the bi-fold in the unnamed runes album that shows a priest on a craggy hill. When held up to a mirror, who could it be? Perhaps….Satan. Try freaking out a 12-year-old with the CD booklet that now accompanies "IV" by holding it up to a mirror. It makes you appreciate vinyl, eh?
Well, what I didn’t know then and have discovered since is that Led Zep were the main culprits in almost killing off America's greatest musical accomplishment, the Blues. Zeppelin chewed up the Blues and spit it out. They so greatly integrated the Blues into Rock'n'Roll, just after the Sixties Blues explosion, that they allowed their bastard progeny to turn it into "Here I Go Again" and the like. After Led Zep's demise or more precisely after Led Zep abandoned Blues-Rock in the mid-Seventies, the Blues was on its deathbed , rising and falling with each Eric Clapton drinking binge, until Stevie Ray Vaughan revived the genre in the mid-Eighties.
Led Zeppelin's embodiment of the Blues was so complete that they carried on the tradition of plundering other Blues artists' catalogs and calling the songs their own. It's a tradition that was probably well established even when Robert Johnson revamped Scrapper Blackwell's "Kokomo Blues" and came up with the Blues' clarion call, "Sweet Home Chicago", back in the Thirties.
Led Zep borrowed from Memphis Minnie ("When the Levee Breaks"), from Blues poet laureate Willie Dixon by way of Muddy Waters and former Yardbird Jeff Beck ("You Shook Me"), Willie Dixon again by way of Otis Rush ("I Can't Quit You Baby", almost a note-per-note copy), Dixon yet again via Muddy Waters ("You need Love"/"Whole Lotta Love"), and guess who?—Dixon via Sonny Boy Williamson (II) ("Bring It on Home"). Willie Dixon was almost a member of the band except that they failed to mention his contributions until Dixon sued for pilferage.
So you ask in wild bewilderment, what the heck does this have to do with the estimable Joe Leonard Morgan? A bit "Dazed and Confused" for so long it's no use? Well, since witnessing firsthand the debacle that was the Fox postseason telecast, I've broadened my indictments to baseball analysis in general. Joe seems just a tiny, even benign, speck in that sea of network shilling, corporate sponsorship, celebrity genuflecting, overreliance on often meaningless data, and heaping bucketfuls of blather.
I started to realize something while Fox was busy jamming down our throats playoffs cum advertising windfalls for themselves and—not to mention names but—a cellular phone company who sponsored an annoying, game-interrupting poll, a fast-food Mexican chain who sponsored a section in the Florida stands somewhere in Orlando that if reached by a ball would deliver a free taco to everyone in America—or at least those who want it—, various beer and soft drink purveyors, and Robin Williams' electric ego. I realized that the sabermetric revolution that was started by Bill James in the late Seventies and nurtured by the Society of Baseball Research, of which I am a member, I realized that that revolution was dead and buried in the vaults of Elias Sports Bureau.
Why the gloomy gus, you ask? Amid the Yanni references, Fox actually mentioned batter-vs.-pitcher stats, the pitcher's percentage of runners caught stealing, and team batting average with runners in scoring position. Those are stats that wouldn't have been on the commentators' radar screen before Bill James, right? That's true, but wouldn't it be preferable for them to use the rights stats in the right situations? How often do we hear that a certain batter is 4-for-8 with a home run in his career against the current pitcher as if that statement were fraught with portent? Is that any more significant than throwing a die and having it come up three in four out of eight throws? Probably not. What if they told you that the 4-for-8 was based on one four-hit game in 1998 and an 0-for-4 earlier this year? What if the four hits soft grounders for singles? What if the 0-for-4 were on hard liners right at fielders?
James is an investigator and a storyteller. The journey was always of utmost importance. The results were nice but sometimes they were superfluous. The problems were like the proofs in my senior-year Calculus class where the answer was not graded but rather the method used to get there was (even if one came up with the wrong answer).
Unfortunately, baseball analysts have lost their appetite for the journey and like rabid dogs dig right into those meaty though oftentimes empty results.
So in the end result, all that sabermetrics has done is to provide more easily available stats to people who have no facility for them and no interest in developing an understanding of them. In the end, there's more confusion or to be more precise adumbration, i.e., obscuring and overshadowing more useful information.
The greatness of the sabermetric revolution has nurtured this stunted existence for baseball analysis just as the greatness of Led Zeppelin brought about Styx, White Snake, TicketMaster, and Madonna on stage kissing everyone and anyone in sight to get a bit of publicity.
So I leave you with the bleak wreckage of the baseball analysis landscape hidden under the unruffled veneer of Elias' canonical and never-changing view of baseball statistics, the perfect visual image as the third Matrix films hits the box office. In such a world, Joe Morgan isn't even as bad as an Agent Smith. So are you a Neo or a Mr. Anderson? Do you choose the blue pill or the red?
So without further, ado let us go down the rabbit's hole to Joe Morgan's befuddled Matrix. The SaberMetrix? I'm just trying to find the bridge. Where's that confounded bridge? (By the way, "The Crunge", from whence this quote emanates, is my favorite Led Zeppelin song, an odd choice, I know.)
mike,mtpleasant,mi: hey joe, is there any hope for the hapless tigers, will any free agents want to come to motown?
(11:14 AM ET ) No.
[Mike: Hee hee hee. To paraphrase Eddie Murphy, "I kid the Tigers fans, because they Tigers fans."]
Mike(chicago): Of all the free agents out there, if you were building a team, who would you try to get first?
(11:17 AM ET ) Vlad Guerrero. Because he's the best player out there, best free agent on the market.
[Mike: I was going to say Jeff Fassero, but why not?]
Al (Little Rock, AR): Good morning Joe! Who do you think that the Giants will pursue in the off-season to fill the hole that Cruz has left in the outfield? What the Giants' chances of landing Vladimir Guerrero? Will Snow return for less money?
(11:17 AM ET ) My belief is they'll go after Sheffield. Not Guerrero. Not sure on Snow. Sheffield would be a choice and someone they can afford.
[Mike: By next July, Bonds will be 40, Marquis Grissom 37, and Sheffield 35. It'll be like watching Space Cowboys in the Pac Bell outfield next year. But Sheffield would be the Kent to Bonds' Bonds, the Salieri to Bonds' Mozart, the Stimpy to Bonds' Ren, the Mary-Kate to Bonds' Ashley. Why not?]
Marcus(Sterling, VA): Joe please answer my question!!!!!!!!! If your team makes the playoffs, who do you want as your closer, Mariano Rivera or Eric Gagne.
(11:18 AM ET ) Mariano Rivera has proved he can do it in the postseason. I'm sure Gagne can. But Mariano is best in postseason, so I have to go on past performances. Mainly because he can pitch two innings in a lot of games in a series.
[Mike: Please! How about Bobby Thigpen or Mariano Rivera?]
yves-montreal: If expos get the 22 games in puerto rico for increased revenue, is guerrero a lock to stay in Montreal.
(11:31 AM ET ) First I don't think they'll get the 22 games. The players have said they aren't up for that travel. Playing those games hurt their chances of winning the Wild Card this year. Players don't want to go through that again. One has nothing to do with the other.
[Mike: Right you are, Joe! Now, maybe if they permanently moved the club to San Juan… Anyway, it’s good to see that you are still a good union man after all these years, supporting the players and all. I'm sure that all the players would love to play in their hometown, but if that means excessive traveling is required during the season, I think they'll pass.]
Deebo (Fairview, NJ): Hey Joe! My question concerns the recent awarding of the Silver Slugger awards, which I understand are not very newsworthy to even the most die-hard fans, but given you were an NL second baseman, you might appreciate this: I was somewhat dumbstruck to see Jose Vidro being given the award over Marcus Giles, who, when compared, literally had greater numbers in EVERY offensive category than Vidro, from OPS to HRs to Hits, etc. I won't go into it here, but check the stats. What's the point of having this award if it isn't given to the guy who deserves it??
(11:16 AM ET ) I agree with you 100 percent. I would have voted for Marcus as well. I didn't see the Silver Slugger Awards. It should be taken seriously. I won the award once or twice. I took it seriously. The voters should too. It's definitely an oversight of Giles.
[Mike: C'mon isn't this just nitpicking? Just because Vidro was third in OPS among NL second basemen (Giles .916, Kent .862, Vidro .861, Polanco .844), fourth in RBI (Kent 93, Loretta 68, Giles 67, Vidro 65), third in home runs (Kent 22, Giles 21, Vidro 15), and fourth in slugging (Giles .526, Kent .511, Polanco .471, Vidro .468)? He led them all in on-base! Maybe they broaden the silver slugger to include OBP.
Besides picking all those players is a tough job. As opposed to the year Rafael Palmeiro won a Gold Glove even though he played only 28 games in the field (1999), they at least picked out an actual NL second baseman. That's tough to do! There are only, what, 16 or so of those in the entire world. It’s like a needle in a haystack really.
So they selected the third or fourth best candidate. At least they didn't give it to Rafael Palmeiro. I bet you never thought about that when you were sniping at their wonderful selections, eh, Deebo?
Charlie Mikolajczak points out: "Loved the fact that Joe Morgan thinks the award should be taken seriously, yet he can't even remember how many times he won it..."]
matt (chicago): so we've heard what everyone else is planning for the offseason but so far no word from the cubs. what are they gonna try to improve? and why did they decline the option on Guthrie??? 2.2 mil for a reliable reliever? sounds like a deal to me.
(11:25 AM ET ) They must not have thought he was reliable. They didn't use him in tough situations with the Marlins. The Cubs need to shore up bullpen, that should be top priority right now.
[Mike: And when they did go to him he didn't perform: 9.00 ERA albeit in only one inning and two appearances in the NLCS and a 16.20 ERA in 1.2 IP and 3 relief appearances in the playoffs overall. He did have a 2.74 regular-season ERA, but it was in only 42.2 innings over 65 appearances. He also had 22 walks to 4 strikeouts, 6 home runs allowed, and a 1.45 WHIP (Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched). Besides a situational lefty is just not worth $2.2 M in today's market.]
Neil (Chicago, IL): Hi Joe. Do you think the Cardinals can improve their pitching staff enough to reach the postseason through free agency alone, or do they need to move some of their offensive players such as Drew or Edmonds?
(11:33 AM ET ) The Cards problem the last couple years has been health with the pitching staff. I think you can trade Drew or Edmonds to shore up the staff. I think one of those guys will be traded. Other than that, they need to stay healthy.
[Mike: The Cardinals have not been able to have a healthy rotation since the days of John Denny. Look at Matt Morris. He has been able to start 30 games only three of his six major-league seasons. Woody Williams missed half of 2002. Garrett Stephenson has only made 30 starts in two of his four years as a Cardinal. In 2002 they had nine men start 10 or more games, and only one made over 25 starts. Throw in whatever happened to Rick Ankiel's career and I think you have a better case for a curse than in Boston or Chicago's North Side.]
Trevor (Novato, CA): Do you see the A's making an effort to get Hudson and Chavez inked long-term before their impending free agency? Big up to Castlemont High.
(11:39 AM ET ) Looking at history, I'd say no. But they may change that. That's not the way they've done it in the past though.
[Mike: Terrence Long ruined it for everyone Big up to Terrence.]
Duke (Dallas, TX): As a Yankee fan, I am proud of this team winning 6 of the last eight American league pennants and 4 of the last eight world series. This level of success can only be matched by Yankee teams of other eras. With all this sucess, why is the "Yankee Nation" so down? (PS- you and Miller on ESPN Radio are great)
(11:06 AM ET ) The real problem starts at the top. The owner says it's not successful unless you win the championship. Derek Jeter voiced the same opinion. They aren't going to win every year. It puts a lot of pressure on them to play. People feel they are supposed to win every year. Unless they make some great changes, they might not get back to the league championship next year.
[Mike: No, Steinbrenner has been there 30 years, and the expectations have not always been this high. That's what happens when you have a dynasty or, I guess, in the wake of a dynasty especially one that has spent as much as they do.
"Unless they make some great changes…"—why? The Red Sox fired their manager, may be trading arguably their best player, have serious problems on the staff and in contract negotiations at the end of next season. The A's are probably losing arguably their best player in Miguel Tejada. The Twins are the Twins. The M's are getting older. Given that the Yankees have the resources, they have the best shot to make the playoffs next year. Then who knows.]
Mike Piazza NY: Joe, what do we (Mets) need to do (via trades or free agent signings)in order to get back to the postseason this winter?
(11:20 AM ET ) The Mets had two good starters, Leiter and Trachsel, who pitched well. They need to add a more consistent offense and shore up the defense. Overall they need what everyone needs, better talent.
[Mike: That' a bit facile, isn't it, Joe? "Everybody needs better talent"? The Mets need help basically everywhere as opposed to teams who need to shore up, say, their middle relief corps. The Mets' pitching is average at best, their offense was only better than anemic LA in 2003, and they have a goodly number of albatross-shaped contracts hanging about.
By the way, thanks Mr. Piazza for identifying your point of origin. I though you were the Mike Piazza of New Orleans. It sure aint the Piazza of Flatbush.]
Danny NYC: I read a report from one scout that the Mets should make Mike Cameron their #1 target this offseason. Do you agree?
(11:26 AM ET ) I agree they need defense and centerfield and he'd be the guy to do that. He'd make them much better. They do need to shore up the defense.
[Mike: The Mets biggest problem? How 'bout hitting? Beyond Floyd, Piazza, and Phillips, no position player with significant playing time had an OPS over .715. In center, the had an Ordonez-like team OPS of .602. Who cares what kind of defense you get if your center fielder is killing you at the plate.]
Matthew (Washington D.C.): Why is nobody mentioning Larry Dierker for the Boston managerial job? (Or for any job for that matter) It seems as if he'd be a perfect fit...
(11:21 AM ET ) I can't answer that. Not sure why he'd be perfect in Boston. A lot of names would be pretty good. Dierker is one but I don't know about a perfect fit.
[Mike: Well, maybe because of the Red Sox pitching which you constantly deride.
By the way, "nobody is mentioning" him? It seems whenever I hear about the job opening in Boston, I hear Dierker's name mentioned.]
Steve (Seattle): Mr. Morgan, do you think that LaTroy Hawkins is just as big a free-agent as the other big-names because of the amount of teams that struggled with their bullpens this year?
(11:22 AM ET ) I think he should be a highly sought after free agent. I would say yes, he should be, considering the team's that struggled in the bullpen.
[Mike: Hawkins will be as big a name as Chris Hammond was last year. But seriously, Hawkins has been revelatory the last two seasons: In 2002, he had a 2.13 ERA and 15 walks to 63 strikeouts in 80.1 innings. In 2003 1.86 ERA, 15 walks, 75 strikeouts, and 77.1 innings.]
Brian - Sioux Falls, SD: With the offseson on us, I was wondering what happens if a player whose contract is up does not file for free agency. An player for example would be Eric Karros. Thanks
(11:23 AM ET ) If he doesn't file, the Cubs still own his rights. What happens from there I don't know. You're opting out of the contract with the team if you file for free agency.
[Mike: Actually it' a bit more involved, Here's the Uniform Player's Contract by way of Doug Pappas' peerless site.
10.(b) The Club’s right to renew this contract, as provided in subparagraph (a) of this paragraph 10, and the promise of the Player not to play otherwise than with the Club have been taken into consideration in determining the amount payable under paragraph 2 hereof.
Brian Boston: who should Boston be looking to get Colon or Millwood or someone else?
(11:27 AM ET ) I like Colon. But I don't know if I like him in that ballpark. Millwood wears down in second half, doesn't sustain first half efforts each year. Good in first half, average in second. Bartolo eats up a lot of innings and pitches deep into games.
[Mike: OK, have you covered all the bases yet, Joe? Your usual decisiveness.
First, both pitchers log over 200 innings a year on a regular basis, Millwood in four of his six full big-league seasons and Colon in five of six, though Colon has pitched 233.1 and 242 in the last two. Colon gets the edge in my book since a) he's an AL pitcher, b) he has an adjusted ERA advantage over Millwood (21% better than league average vs. 14%), and c) Millwood is coming off an uninspired season in Philly (aside from the no-hitter), one that got worse as the season progressed (ERA only 3% better than league average), while Colon has yet to have a mediocre season (an ERA 11% better than the league average is worst yet far). Besides, Colon has had great success in the few games he has pitched in Fenway: 3-0, 1.52 ERA in three starts since 2000, including a complete game shutout in 2003.]
Peter Angelos (Baltimore): Should I go with Eddie to manage my team? Do I have a shot at Tejada or Colon? Thanks, you're the best.
(11:28 AM ET ) I think Eddie would make a great manager if he had a right bench coach. He would be a great manager of players. Good choice for Baltimore. And you definitely have a shot at both of those guys. Especially if you get Eddie.
[Mike: Angelos? Wow, there are more celebrities here than during a Fox World Series broadcast.
As far as Murray, Joe's right. He'll be as good a manager as Alan Trammell.
But seriously, Murray may be a good manager, but given his reputation for being truculent, selfish ballplayer, there's really no reason to believe he would be.]
Joe (St Paul, MN): Hey Joe! I was wondering where you see the Twins next season with the free agent struggles that are ahead of them? If you were Pohlad, would you shell out the extra money (which you have) to keep Stewart or Hawkins, or do you let them go, rely on some of your farm talent (too bad Mauer is a year off) and then try to put some of that money towards a big bat on the market?
(11:30 AM ET ) I think they need to keep Shannon Stewart. He's the reason they got to the playoffs. I would keep him. The rest is a matter of how much you can spend. But Shannon kept that team together.
[Mike: Well, obviously Pohlad should try to keep the valuable core of the team in Minnesota, and Stewart and Hawkins are part of that. But Stewart was far from the team savior Joe makes him out to be.
Stewart played well for Minnesota last year (.854 OPS, his highest since 2000), but what turned the Twins around was their pitching. Minnesota's team ERA was 4.74 in the first half and 3.96 in he second. Radke lowered his ERA by 2 runs in the second half. Johan Santana stayed in the rotation the entire second half, while he execrable Joe Mays dropped out. The bullpen was also stellar in the second half: Hawkins, 2.56 ERA in the first half and 0.85 in the second; Guardado 3.75 and 1.84.]
Danielle(NY,NY): Mr. Morgan, I hope you finally get to answer my question! Would you trade Nick Johnson, Soriano, and Weaver to the expos for Vasquez and Vidro
(11:34 AM ET ) Probably not. That's too much for the Yanks to give up. But they're in a weakened position so it may work. I think that's a little too much.
[Mike: But the Yanks would still have to eat Weaver's contract, so where's the advantage? Why not just cut him loose?
Joe should point out that deals are very rarely just about talent being traded straight up nowadays. As far as talent Joe's right. ]
jimbob (asheville, nc): the braves - which moves will be the most necessary for them - and which players are you thinking they'll lose?
(11:35 AM ET ) They can't afford to lose Sheffield but that's up to them. They'll probably lose Maddox because he wants a long term deal. I think they'll get Smoltz back. Braves situation is hard to figure, not sure what budget constraints will be. Owners have to decide that. They win the division every year but get no farther.
[Mike: The Braves have a number of players who had aberration highs in 2003. Some readjustments are due but will the management know what to do or be able to work under those circumstances?]
Patrick, Iowa City, IA: Hi Joe, I am a long time White Sox fan. I was excited at the end of the dissapointing 2003 season because it seemed Kenny Williams was going to try and keep most of the key players for 2004. My question is what is the deal with Colon? He says he likes Chicago and his teammates on the sox but, then why did he reportedly turn down the 3 year 36 million dollar deal which seems to be very fair. What do you think the chances of Bartolo resigning with the sox at this point are and do you think the White Sox will be able to sign Robbie Alomar?
(11:38 AM ET ) First, we can't say what's fair concerning what the market will be. I think Colon wants to find out what the market is and maybe wants more than three years. I was disappointed the Sox didn't play well down the stretch, losing five straight to Minnesota, that killed them. They can't lose Bartolo and do as well as they did last year. They'll suffer if they don't sign him. Roberto will be in position to see what his value is as well, then he'll decide what to do.
[Mike: Good noncommittal answer. At least you defended Colon's right to shop around. He would be crazy not to hear what the Yankees will offer.
By the way, I would let Robbie Alomar walk if I were the Sox. His .680 OPS last among qualifying second basemen in the AL. I would imagine his stellar career would be over in a year or two, something that seemed highly unlikely after his great 2001 season.]
Brian (NY): Joe, what do you see the Yankees doing this offseason? Thanks.
(11:07 AM ET ) I don't know. They need a lot of help, relief in bullpen, better defense and more consistent offense that doesn't just depend on the home run. And they'll need starting pitching if Clemens, Pettitte and Wells leave.
[Mike: No, they need to work on their starting rotation this offseason—that's true. But every needs relievers. The new paradigm is to clean out the bullpen on a yearly basis. It seemed to start in Atlanta a year or two ago. You pick up an old veteran or two for cheap as non-roster invitees and rebuild in spring training. Also, the Yankees defense was poor in 2003 and it didn't seem to hurt them.
Isn't this just Joe transferring the mantle of HR-dependent team from the A's to the Yanks. Joe loves to say that the A's lose in the postseason waiting for their next 3-run home run fix, no matter how untrue it is. I guess this is now the Yankees problem too even though the stole 98 bases, tied for fifth in the AL.]
Aaron (Cleveland): I can understand the Red Sox putting Manny on waivers, because they'd get his salary back to use on other players, but I've heard they'll trade him for virtually nothing and pay half of his salary. Are they nuts??? Regardless of his issues, he's still one of the top two or three hitters in the AL.
(11:08 AM ET ) I can't answer what they will or won't do. I don't think they'll trade him and pay half. I don't know exactly what they are doing. Last year they used a bullpen by committee, I don't know what they're doing.
[Mike: "Bullpen by committee"! They are completely out of control, just plain nutty.
Uh, well, no, they actually didn't use the "bullpen by committee" concept after the first disappointing week of the season. Little gave up on the concept and to quote Tony Montana, "You stupid f', look at you now ."
Also, James never espoused the BP by Committee theory. He just proposed using your best reliever in the most critical situations as opposed to saving him for a meaningless ninth inning stint, that may never come if the middle relievers give away a lead. The just didn't have the right personnel. What if they had gone with the straight bullpen concept with Fox, Lyon, Kim, and then Williamson as the closer in turn?
As far as Ramirez, obviously they won't trade him without getting something they feel is equal in return. I guess there could be a scenario in which eating half his salary would make sense, but that is very unlikely even for sabermetrically mad team.]
Blair Bartlett (Saratoga Springs, NY): Hi Joe- I was just wondering what in the world is going on with A-Rod? He signed a long-term contract with Texas and word has it that he really wants out. Clearly, the Rangers are struggling (mainly because they refuse to get a front-line pitcher!). However, I actually believed when he signed this enormous contract that he would make it through at least three or four years. Also, is there any chance in your opinion that Texas will go after Pettitte or someone worthwhile to lead its rotation? Thanks.
(11:11 AM ET ) First, Texas wouldn't sign Chan Ho Park. They spent a lot on pitching. They have tried. Maybe they haven't made the best decision but have tried. I personally have a problem with fact that someone says they haven't tried. They signed other pitchers and it hasn't worked out partly because it's a hitter-friendly ballpark. It's not as easy as the Yankees make it seem. They make good decisions. A lot of teams spend money and don't make wise decisions. I can't speak for A-Rod. He made choice to go to Texas, he'll have to make choice if he stays or not.
[Mike: Joe, what the …? Texas did sign Park. I'm not sure what you are trying to say there, maybe shouldn't have signed him. Well, hindsight is 20-20, but he looked a pretty good bet at the time having four good years out of five with Dodgers. Maybe he wasn't worth the money, but those were different times in Texas.
I don't think you can blame the ballpark. They've been there since 1994 and from 1995-'97 their staff ERA was about average for the AL at the time. However, since 1998 they haven't a staff ERA better than fourth from the bottom in the entire league, and have had the league-worst ERA in three of those six years. And yet, they won two divisions (1998-99) in that span and have never been a truly bad club (71-91 was the worst record). And you can't blame A-Rod who came in 2001 in the middle of the mediocrity.
So what changed in 2000? The Rangers feel from second in runs per game in the league to tenth. The offense has rebounded since, finishing third, fifth, fifth. However, given their park, they need to score more runs. Maybe they need to sign a pitcher who has had success outside of run-arid Dodgers Stadium, but they also need position players that can produce. They need to fill some major holes in the outfield and at catcher. Also, Michael Young is a fantasy league superstar, but his OPS is just average for their ballpark (actually 2% worse). The same could be said of Max Texeira (only 3% better), who needs to get on base a bit more or he will be a liability even if he does hit 26 home runs. The return of Kevin Mench and Rusty Greer, who were just average themselves, does not bode well for the outfield.
If I ran this team, I would scrap together a pitching staff on the cheap and spend my money on offensive power. Either that or figure out a way to decrease scoring. Until that happens, the Ballpark is basically a Coors light and the Rangers should learn from the Rockies and their own past successes there.
As far as what is going on with A-Rod, he is a great player who wants to win and is frustrated. His offer can be seen as a heroic move to stir the Ranger management to win or a bid to get out of town. Either way, the Rangers should try to improve the club to the point where he does not consider leaving even magnanimously. And, Joe, the decision as to whether he should leave is bigger than A-Rod's alone. The Rangers have some say. So too would the team to which he would go. Someone would need to swallow his big contract, whether it's the Rangers, the other team, or a combination of both. A-Rod ceded a lot of control for a quarter of a billion dollars, but I don't think he should be so broken up about it.]
Mik (Miami, Fl): After the Marlins great season in your opinion will they get a new stadium and which players will they get rid of, thanks.
(11:13 AM ET ) I saw at some point where the Marlins and the city have put up $220 million but need $360, not sure where that's going to come from. As far as who they can keep, they'd have to add $40 million to keep everyone. Urbina, Castillo, maybe Lowell might be going. They have to cut some payroll. I see those guys going as free agents. I think they'll try to keep Pudge because he's the key.
[Mike: Where does this $40 M that Joe keeps repeating come from? The paid Pudge $10 M, Lee $4.25 M, Castillo $4.85 M, Lowell $3.7 M, and Hollandsworth $1.5 M last year. Urbina made $4.5 but that was paid by the Rangers. Pudge will probably get a couple of million more, but given Hollandsworth's reduced or non-existent role, they should be able to save most to all of his $1.5 M. Castillo cannot possibly expect to make much more. Lowell and Lee should get significant increases, but should both be in the $10 M range. If Urbina re-signs, it shouldn't be for more than what he made last year.
So Castillo, Pudge, and Hollandsworth should be a wash—let's say there's an extra $5 M from all the World Champion good cheer. Add in Urbina's $4.5 and increases of about $6 M for Lee and Lowell, and you get about half what Joe keeps citing. Maybe he expects Castillo and the rest to all get "Big money, Amigo money," but they would have to A-Rod-esque re-adjustments for each player. I would let Castillo, Urbina, and Hollandsworth walk myself.
As far as the $140 M disparity between what the city is paying and what the new stadium will cost, how about Loria ponying it up? The man is worse than a welfare mother.]
DAVID (BRANDON,FL): What do u think the chances of the drays landing sheffield seeing we actually have money to pay market value? and do u think is worth it if than can sign him?
(11:14 AM ET ) I think it's worth it. Not sure if he wants to go there. He is from Tampa but Gary Sheffield's agent doesn't allow him to be part of rebuilding. I don't think the D-Rays will win this coming season.
[Mike: Hold the phone, Joe. The man will be 35 next season and will undoubtedly want a long-term deal. Why would a rebuilding team be interested in him, especially given Tampa's free agent history? That's all they need, another Vinny Castilla.]
Oz (Eatontown, NJ): Being a 2nd basemen yourself do you think Alfonso Soriano would be better off playing centerfield for the Yankees and allowing the aging Bernie Williams to switch to leftfield ?
(11:24 AM ET ) He should be a second baseman but it takes a lot of hard work when you aren't a natural. If he's willing to put in the work, he can become a good second baseman.
[Mike: This is Joe's mantra re. Soriano, if he puts in the work all will be well. Well, he has put in three major-league seasons and has yet to improve.
The funny thing is I agree with Joe: he should stay at second. His value is much higher there. His defense is poor, but his offense makes up for it. It least it has so far (2003 playoffs notwithstanding).]
Tyler : (South Dakota): I think managing is something you need to do you'd be a great manager!
(11:40 AM ET ) Thank you for the compliment but managing is not in my immediate future. I love what I do and enjoy sportscasting on ESPN. That's it.
(11:42 AM ET ) Since this is my final chat, I want to thank all the people who have e-mailed in and as I said during the year, we've had some great questions and comments from you fans. I don't care who you like as long as you are a baseball fan. I'm a fan first and sportscaster second. After watching all the teams in the playoffs who are supposed to be the best teams, I feel we have expanded too much and there is a shortage of talent in the majors because every team in the playoffs had glaring weakness. That's attruibutable to a shortage of talent for 30 teams. Have a great winter and figure out how many days to spring training. Let's look forward to it.
[Mike: This was the subject of Joe's article this week, although he didn't say anything beyond what he says here. He thinks the final four teams had weaknesses. Well, the Braves, Giants, and A's were knocked out early. And what team does not have some weakness no matter how small. The 1976 Big Red Machine's best pitcher was Gary Nolan for heaven's sake. They still swept the playoffs. Besides, a few years ago everyone was bemoaning the competitive imbalance in the majors. There were a number of teams that were good enough to win it all. Isn't that a good thing? This is simple it-was-better-in-my-day-ism, pure and simple.]
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
10 09 07
06 05 04 03
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
Links to MBBR