Monthly archives: November 2004
Fame will go by and, so long, I’ve had you, fame. If it goes by, I’ve always known it was fickle. So at least it’s something I experienced, but that’s not where I live.
Yesterday, Major League Baseball released the 2005 Hall of Fame baseball writers' ballot. The obvious choice on this year's ballot is first timer Wade Boggs, a certain first-ballot inductee. With just 27 players on the ballot, 12 first-timers, this is one of the smallest pools ever presented to the writers. Perhaps it will simplify the vote to such a degree that one or two more inductees will be culled from the bubble candidates—can I get a Ryne Sandberg, brothers and sisters?
I would like to take a look at the writers' ballot as I did last year and with a little help from a study on the Hall elections that I did last offseason. First, here is the ballot with some pertinent data for each player:
They did a decent job of selecting the best candidates from this year's newly eligible players. Of the first-timers with at least 122 career Win Shares Jeff Blauser (154) and
Now, let's run the candidates through their paces. Here is a comparison using Bill James's Hall of Fame criteria. Also, I threw in Blauser, McRae, and the other overlooked newly eligibles with at least 100 Win Shares:
Next, let's compare the players to their similar players from Baseball-Reference.com. How many of the similar players who were eligible for the Hall are actually in? We'll also throw in career Win Shares. Using the data from my Hall study last season, we know that 337 Win Shares is the Hall average. Finally, from the six criteria in both tables, we'll rate the candidates based on the percentage of those tests that each candidate passed:
Boggs and Blyleven got the highest marks passing five of six tests. Dawson, Morris, Murphy, and Rice all passed at least half of them. Besides Boggs, Strawberry is the only new candidate who passes at least one test.
All of this leads me to my final assessment. As a point of reference, I have included the voting percentage for each candidate over the last three years and the all-time high for each:
That's an average of 6.81% inducted in these classes as compared to 2.85% as an overall average, or about three times the average. Of the ten years in which the writers failed to select a single player, none had fewer than 35 men on the ballot and just one had fewer than 47. Also, of the 14 seasons in which the writers selected at least 6% of the available candidates, eight were from ballots of 33 or fewer.
So maybe this is the year that the writers start to whittle down the list of those in baseball's purgatory, the players who never amass enough votes to gain election but earn enough to remain on the ballot year after year. I'm hoping that writers feel Sandberg has completed his penance for not playing the bulk of his career during the offensive surge of the last eleven or so seasons. Maybe they will take Sandberg and spot him a buddy, perhaps Bruce Sutter. Dare I dream that Blyleven even has a shot? No, I daren't.
Anyway, of the new candidates, I doubt that more than one or two will remain on the ballot next year. I don't think that a small class will help the likes of Steinbach and Montgomery.
Just a few more Hall-related items: Let's take a look at last year's candidate pool and review my predictions for each. First the pertinent criteria as in the lists above:
Now, the predictions and the actual results:
I did get Eckersley and Molitor right and still may be right about Sandberg. The one thing that surprises me is that I predicted a few more of the new candidates in 2004 would at least stick around on the ballot, but none did. Maybe that's why I'm being so hard on this year's new guys.
Finally, here are the career Win Shares leaders for those players not already in the Hall of Fame, including active and not-yet-Hall-eligible players. I have included all players with at least 250 career Win Shares plus those active players with at least 200. It's a long list, but you can suffer through it:
Out Voted, The ROY (and I Don't Mean Hobbs) Edition, Cont.
I have one last note on the ridiculousness of the Rookie of the Year eligibility rules. Since they were instituted in 1971, there have been five players who exceed the eligibility thresholds have received votes. One was this year.
Here's the list:
Out Voted, The ROY (and I Don't Mean Hobbs) Edition
Next in our review of the most overlooked players in award-voting history is Rookie of the Year. The ROY award was by far the most complicated study and comes with the most caveats.
What is a rookie after all?
The current eligibility rules are that the player enters the given year with fewer than 130 career at-bats, 50 career innings pitched, and forty-five days of major-league experience. These were set forth in 1971. This year, Lew Ford met the first two but not the third. The problem is that you have to work in the commissioner's office to be able to calculate major-league experience; the other two are readily available. I was unable to find the rules prior to 1971 but will continue scanning my old TSN Baseball Guides.
The ROY, like the Cy Young, was at first just given out to one player in the entire majors. In 1947 and '48 only one Rookie of the Year per year was awarded. From 1949 on, each league has its own ROY winner.
For this study, I will base eligibility on the first two criteria above (<130 ABs and <50 IP). I will lump all players together for 1947-48 and separate them by league for every year since. This will mean that players who were not considered eligible at the time (like Ford) will be included in the list, and I'm fine with that. I think that it demonstrates how esoteric and meaningless the third rule (i.e., fewer than 45 days on a major-league roster) is.
So without further ado here's the list:
I'm sorry it's so long but I wanted to include all of the overlooked rookies who actually finished first in their leagues in Win Shares (i.e., Rank).
By the way, here are the men who actually won in those years:
As a Phils fan, I have to love that Richie "The Hack" Hebner was ignored the year that Teddy Sizemore won the award. One can understand why the voters select, say, Willie McCovey, but someone has to explain to me how John Castino got a share of the award in 1979.
If one were to list these overlooked players by year, the result would be, as with the Cy Young, that large numbers of overlooked players occurred when the award was shared between the two leagues (four per year in 1947-48). However, early voting was lackluster at best overall (four overlooked in the AL in 1950 and three in the NL in 1956).
It seems that the new rules were instituted in 1971 because so many questionable candidates were getting the award and so many qualified ones were either overlooked or ineligible. In 1968 Reggie Jackson was completed ignored in favor of Stan Bahnsen, "The Bahnsen Burner", who quickly burned out his arm. (The Senators' Del Unser, later a teammate of Bahnsen in Montreal, was the only other candidate to receive a vote.) From 1968 to 1973 there was one "eligible" rookie that was overlooked but had more Win Shares than the actual award winner (i.e., eligible by my rules).
Since 1973 only three players have been overlooked/ineligible with more Win Shares than the award winner. One was Ford. The other two were Dwayne Murphy (1979) and Craig Biggio (1989) and both played at least 45 games the previous season even though they met the at-bat cutoff. Since 1990 only three players have made the list: Ford, Mike Lansing (1993), and John Rocker (1999). Rocker pitched in 47 games (38 innings) in 1998. In the 1993 NL voting, eleven players received votes (including Pedro Martinez, Carlos Guillen, Jeff Conine, Kirk Rueter, and Ricky Gutierrez) and Mike Piazza swept the first-place votes, but Lansing, then a third baseman with no pop who had not played a major-league game before the season started, was completely ignored.
I decided not to eliminate those players who had appeared in at least 45 games prior to their "rookie" season. They clearly did not pass the experience criterion, but I think it’s the silliest of the three rules. I mean, 130 at-bats and 50 innings pitched are pretty arbitrary numbers (especially for relievers as opposed to starters), but at least they are reasonable. I see no reason why Dwayne Murphy should have been ineligible in 1979 because the A's decided to use him in 60 games in 1978 as defensive replacement in the outfield and pinch-runner. He only had 52 at-bats for the season. I think these rules were outdated before the print dried in 1971.
I understand the need to set up some objective rule to determine rookie eligibility. I just think that Lew Ford, who had all of 73 major-league at-bats entering the 2004 season, shouldn't have to pay for it. I would prefer something closer to though not as stringent as the batting/ERA title eligibility rules. Let's say that a player becomes ineligible once he has accumulated at least 251 plate appearances. That is based on the batting title's 3.1 plate appearances per game and 81 games or half of a season. For pitchers, 81 innings or one per game based on half a season (that is for starting pitchers—relievers would be limited to something like 30 innings). I would eliminate the experience threshold altogether. Who cares how many days a player sat on a major-league bench?
Another alternative would be to keep the current criteria but extend the player's eligibility for another year should he receive no votes in the ROY voting. That would enable players like Ford, who met the criteria but clearly did get enough exposure to merit consideration, to have another chance. Throw 'em back—they're not big enough yet. Maybe the criteria that I outlined would be the ceiling for the players thrown back so that those players who just plain stunk their rookie year don't get another chance the next year.
Anyway, the last entry in this series will be study of how well the voters have done over the years based on Win Shares. I want to look not only at the high-profile cases where Mo Vaughn and Juan Gonzalez stole the MVP from Alex Rodriguez. I want to see how closely all the seedings match reality. For instance, someone has to explain to me how Bobby Abreu finished with three points in this year's NL MVP vote but J.D. Drew had 114 and finished in sixth place. If you say it's because the Braves, and not the Phils, won the NL East (an argument I find silly anyway), then explain to me how fellow Phils Jim Thome finished ahead of Abreu after Abreu had a markedly better season than Thome. It must be those 12 extra home runs (42 for Thome and 30 for Abreu). Then explain to me how Todd Helton and Juan Pierre both ended up with nine votes. Then there are the five points that were all that Melvin Mora received in the AL vote. At least he finished ahead of Chone Figgins. But I digress.
I'd like to look at how closely the voting totals per award reflect reality and how that relationship, or lack thereof, has changed over time.
Well, I think the most interesting thing in the Miller signing is how it affects the A's. The Miller signing itself was somewhat ho-hum. I think my quickie analysis showed that Miller was one of the better catchers in baseball basically because of his defense as opposed to his just-average offense.
The one thing I did question was the wisdom of locking up a 35-year-old catcher for three years (though only two guaranteed). So how risky is that, in general?
Since Miller just turned 35 in October, I looked for all of the 34-year-old starting catchers in baseball history (minimum of 80 games behind the plate). Then I tried to determine how effective those catchers would be over the next three years. I averaged the games played and OPS for those players for any years that they were active. I prorated the total Win Shares over three years, even if the player was not active for those years. The reason for this was to determine the player's worth to his team over three years (ergo Win Shares), but the other stats totals only made sense as an average. (Note that Brent Mayne, who was 34 in 2002, and Brad Ausmus and Dan Wilson, who were 34 in 2003, are not penalized for the years that they have yet to play: their Win Shares are averaged over the years yet far that they have been active). Then I took the difference between their Win Share total in their 34th year and compared it to their 35-37 average. I ranked them by the difference:
Of the 64 catchers on the list, just 11 witnessed either an improvement or at least no decline in their Win Share total. A number were fairly recent players, so maybe the trend is becoming less pronounced, but most catchers declined by an average of 5 Win Shares (from 11 to 9 in year one—2 WS—, to 7 in year two—4 WS—, and then to 6 in year three).
More significantly, those catchers played an average of just 82 games, or 25 fewer than in their 34th year, and that ignores those player-years when the players were inactive/retired. If you add in those years, the players averaged just 73 games.
So is three mil a year a bit steep to pay for what amounts to a bad gamble? I would think so, at least for the Brewers where that would constitute about ten percent of their 2004 payroll. Even so, Miller will probably be a major upgrade over the Chad Moeller and Gary Bennett rotation that the Brewers employed last season. The more's the pity.
Pass Me a Miller, Bud
"Miller playing at Miller Park was too tough to pass up," Miller's agent Bob Garber said.
On the surface it actually doesn't look like a bad deal. Miller was third in Win Shares among starting catchers last year (min. 81 games at catcher). That is, even though his OPS was 14th among the 25 catchers who qualified and slightly below average for the group. Even so, Miller's per-season salary will be less than average for the group:
Miller is, however, one of the older starting catchers in baseball. He'll be 37 when the contract expires. That's ancient for a catcher, and he doesn't hit enough to play first. And as a catcher ages, he can go from an average hitter to a poor one extremely quickly (witness Charles Johnson, Mike Lieberthal, and Dan Wilson above). I just think it's a poor gamble but those are the kind that the Brewers make.
As for the novelty of Miller playing at Miller Park, it's not the first time a player's last name has appeared in his home park's name (though some are cheating, e.g.,Jim Field?), and I don't mean Arthur 3Com, who never made it out of training camp with the Giants a few years back:
Now, that is the height of triviality.
Out Voted, Continued
Next in our pursuit of the most egregiously overlooked players in baseball award history is the Cy Yoing award.
The Cy Young is not as straight-forward as the MVP vote even though it's only been in existence for just under fifty years. The difficulty arises with a couple of voting rules for the award.
First, when the award was first created (1956) it was for the best pitcher in the major leagues, not in each league as it is today. It wasn't until 1967 that a Cy Young was given out in each league. This allowed a number of candidates to slip through the cracks.
The other eccentricity was that the voters selected just one candidate for the first 15 years of the awards existence. Essentially, it would be like lopping off the second- and third-place votes from today's ballots. Initially, multiple candidates would still split the vote. However, as the mid-Sixties witnessed the domination of Sandy Koufax, fewer candidates were even considered. Koufax was the only man in the majors to receive a vote in 1963, 1965, and 1966. Perhaps that was the reason they split the award up per league: so that an American Leaguer would have a chance. However, in 1968 in both leagues only one candidate received votes (Bob Gibson in the NL and Denny McLain in the AL).
Here's a table of the number of player performance that received Cy Young consideration for each decade in each league. Followed by the average number receiving votes per year per league for the decade (through 2004):
Note the number of candidates quadrupling in the Seventies? The numbers have actually been shrinking in each decade since. But the award will never return to the two-man average that the NL vote in the Seventies achieved. That is, unless they remove third place from the ballot.
This allowed boatloads of deserving candidates to be completely overlooked through the Sixties. In the study below you'll see that there were 12 candidates who would meet our criterion (24 Win Shares) in the National League in 1969 and yet just two (winner Tom Terrific Seaver and Phil Niekro) received any votes. Also, of the 44 overlooked pitchers in the study, only six have been since the ballot was expanded to include second- and third-place votes (and two of them were relievers).
OK, after that rambling preamble, let's off to the actual study. Below are the pitchers who had the best seasons during the Cy Young award era and yet received no notice, or at least no votes (based on a min. of 24 Win Shares. Note Rank is based on WS ranks in the majors for 1956-66 and within league since):
The last entry on the list was the ever-underrated Dave Stieb in 1983. The highest Win Share for an overlooked pitcher since was Tim Hudson's 23 Win Shares in 2002 (15-9, 2.98). I guess the paucity of 20-game winners has allowed voters to focus more on the best performances not just the most wins (John Kruk notwithstanding).
By the way, for the players ranked number one above here are the players who beat them for the award:
Next, we'll look at Rookie of the Year, and that gets very complicated.
After taking a look at the worst award vote-getters of all time and thoroughly beating the dead horse into the ground while mixing my metaphors, my next pursuit in award voting eccentricities is to determine those players who were the most unjustly overlooked.
Which players were most overlooked for the MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year vote in the years that those awards were handed out? I'm not talking about A-Rod losing to Mo Vaughn or Juan Gonzalez. I mean, who are the guys who received absolutely no support while having great years?
Using Total Win Shares as the criterion, here are the best player years that were totally ignored by the voters. Let’s start first with the MVP award (30 WS min.):
It's not easy being the greatest player to play the game (apologies to Barry Bonds). Ruth's sole MVP award came in 1923, and he did not even receive a vote in four years in which he "led" the league in Win Shares. Rich Lederer reminds me that there was once a rule that barred past MVPs from the award. I'm not sure when that rule was enacted nor when it was reversed, but I would have to expect that Ruth was its main victim.
Below is a list of the players who won the award for the years in which the Win Share leader received no votes:
As for modern players, it seems that Craig Biggio is the new Ruth. At least his lack of votes in 1992 and 1996 was downright Ruthian.
A naked, once-hot Nicolette Sheridan jumps into bad boy Terrell Owens awaiting arms. This comes on the heels of a college player, Pittsburgh quarterback Tyler Palko, saying the Bono/Cheney word in a postgame interview.
Ron Artest and half the Indiana Pacers roster attempt to reenact a game of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" with Bowie's "Panic in Detroit" as the soundtrack in Auburn Hills.
The National Hockey League is still dead. And now they won't even be drafting young players until and unless they have a CBA in place.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, baseball seems reconciled to missing sports sweeps week for scandals. Even with the ongoing Balco investigation belching up a morsel or two every so often, not much interest is being generated. I guess Barry Bonds continuing to amaze after the scandal sort of took the wind out of their sails.
What's happen to the national pastime's ability to offend? Where are the halcyon days of Robbie Alomar spitting in umpire John Hirschbeck's face? These overpaid millionaire players today aren't even trying. A 60-year-old war, as interpreted by Steven Spielberg, can now incite people's enmity more effectively than baseball.
Baseball missed out on all the hand-wringing and blame assessing that make the other sports so popular. Everyone who ever played an NFL game has now apologized for the towel incident. Never mind that the spot was as racy as the intro to "Petticoat Junction" and that a forty-something Sheridan in a towel is no longer Must See TV. Of course, another kind of "raciness" was really what piqued the public's ire especially for a game that was broadcast in good-ole-boy Texas.
As for me, I was offended by ABC's blatant cross-selling of the entertainment division by their sports division. I mean, Fox shuttles the cast of "That Seventies Show" to every sporting event they cover, but they don't make them part of the game (they reserve that for Budweiser's "Leon" and Jimmy Fallon).
I don't want to hear the argument that the cheerleaders are more revealing or that the in-game violence is more offensive. Don't worry: Michael Powell and the FCC is after them, too. We just need the go-ahead from a couple of nuts like the ones that held "Saving Private Ryan" hostage on Veterans Day to stir Powell and his crack squad into action. My mention of "Petticoat Junction" above already has the FCC investigating TV Land.
As for David Stern's outrage over the Artest incident, has he forgotten the Vernon Maxwell incident, which happened on his watch? Yes, Artest's actions were abhorrent, and yes, he should be fined. But shouldn't someone be looking into what was going on with Detroit's security enforcement that night. Did the guards leave the game early to beat traffic? Artest was hit with a Big Gulp of beer after all. He shouldn't have rushed into the crowd, but I didn't see any rent-a-cops tracking down the offending fan. Of course, given what hockey players have done to fans in the past should be remembered when trying to get perspective on the incident. Then again, those guys were white so their actions were not seen as an indictment of the all the players and the sport in general like in Artest's case. Some may argue that it is the SportsCenter affect: Maxwell got just a 10-game suspension while Artest will have to sit out the year (73 games) and in total 143 games will be lost for the players involved.
And I won't even go into why I don't care if a player uses off-color language in the excitement of winning a big game. Isn't it more interesting than another bobblehead thanking his maker?
In baseball, Jose Guillen gets shuttled to the new Nationals because of an on-field incident in Anaheim that would have seemed like a love-in for the crosstown Lakers last season. Barry Bonds endured a season in which threats that his batting records should be removed or asterisked because of steroid allegations and went on to have one of the greatest offensive seasons of all time. And players actually congratulated each other after the Dodgers lost to the Cardinals in the playoffs last year. Tanner Boyle must be rolling over in his wee little grave.
Where's Chad Kreuter when you need him anyway?
Collusion Made Easy
Don't know much about a player's history? Don't know much about his biology, er, injury history? Well, if you're a major-league GM, MLB now is providing you with the Cliffs Notes to ensure that you don't overpay.
So if you're Theo Epstein and you need help from the commissioner's office whenever you make a trade or you're Omar Minaya and you got "promoted" to the Mets for despoiling the Expos minor-league system, then this new aid is for you. Who cares if you are a fifty-year-old man who needs training wheels? You want to keep that cushy job at any cost.
Baseball calls it the Free Agent Advice Form. The "Handy Dandy Free Agent Advice Form" was just too long:
So if Scott Boras is bullying you into a 10-year, $200 M contract, all you have to do is write to Dear Abby, er, Buddy. All you need is to send in the player's name (including middle initials for any Bobby Joneses or Javier Lopi) and the contract length desired. You don't even need a self-addressed stamped envelope if you use your fax.
You get "date him"/"drop him" advice with an estimate of the player's value—"[Player's name] value would appear to be between $___ and $ ____". They have to do the math to determine if the figure they have in mind is between those two on their own, however. Then you get a list of "relevant comparables", however they might be determined, with their contract info. And if all that's not enough for our junior GM to arrive at a decision, you also receive at no extra cost a list of "Other Factors" such as age, injury history, etc. Ron Popeil would be proud. And if you act today, you get the Veg-O-Matic, a $50 value, absolutely free.
Why can't Eddie Wade read? Because daddy Bud does his homework for him.
But why come up with the form now after two offseasons in which accusations have been swirling? That's precisely the reason to come up with this form according to Jayson Stark. The paper trail will now act as a form of CYA (Cover Your Assets) for MLB. The thinking is that since everything will be out in the open—the players union has access to the forms—and fully documented, then MLB's obvious innocence from collusion will be apparent to all.
MLB Corporate wea..,er, labor-relations chief Rob Manfred basically says as much to Stark, "Our position is that nothing untoward has gone on. The union has been concerned about this, so we were prepared to do something to address their concerns." Whether anything toward has transpired was not addressed.
And if that's not enough, the Handy Dandy Form comes with keano whizbang disclaimers:
"Obviously the value of a free agent Player is ultimately determined by market forces, the most fundamental of which are supply of such Players and the demand for those Players. Moreover, the potential value of a free agent Player to one Club may be different from the same Player's value to another Club. Given this, the amount that your Club is willing to pay a free agent may appropriately differ from the value range supplied above…
"Wink wink. Nudge nudge, say no more, say no more." If it's all so obvious, why include it on a one-page form? Because everyone needs a little legalese to indemnify oneself. Beware of forms bearing regular nouns in capital letters. Do You know what i mean? Where else is the word "Moreover" used except in documents drawn up by lawyers.
Of course, there's no collusion since the teams are "not permitted to share this advice" or that they even received advice via the Handy Dandy Form "with another Club"—note the caps: it's legalese. And of course the commissioner's office "will not disclose to any other Club [caps again] the fact that [they] provided this advice." That is, they won't any longer now that Bud's Brewers are being sold.
To quote Hildy and Buffy, "See, it's all perfectly normal."
Stark also refers to a Manfred-penned negotiating memo that MLB circulated to all the teams that prohibits clubs from "discuss[ing] negotiations, contract offers or even 'contemplated' offers with each other" this may include "using the media to circulate information about their contract offers to free agents". It also reiterates that the contract advice is only "upon a specific request from a club" and only on the top-secret advice form, and points out that teams are "not required to seek such advice" nor bound to follow it.
Moreover, it goes on to say that Happy Fun Ball should not be used as a flotation devise.
I see these moves as having three ultimate goals. First and foremost, to protect MLB against any sort of collusion settlement that was seen after the 1986-88 seasons. At least, they're more creative today than in Peter Ueberroth's days.
Second, they want to make sure that regular business, including reining in maverick teams who are doling out Amigo money on free agent contracts, is maintained.
Third, this was a wakeup call to the teams who rubberstamped the advice in the past and offered remarkably similar contracts to similar players. No good confidence game can be run when you have thirty partners who are such boobs.
I, frankly, dismissed the claims by players and agents that collusion was afoot in the past couple off seasons. I thought that the players unwisely signed an extremely lopsided Collective Bargaining Agreement that came with built-in "collusion", a soft salary cap, to which every team has adhered since (except the Yankees). So I disregarded the cries of collusion just like I dismissed the cries of fraud in the past presidential election. Of course, things happened, but you were a party to them. Besides, insurance companies no longer were covering the long-term contracts (over three years) that they had in the past further reducing contract length and thereby, releasing more players more quickly back in the free agent pool increasing supply and reducing demand.
However, methinks Bud dost protest too much this offseason. Going by the "where there's smoke, there's fire" theory, there is something as real at least as the last round of collusion afoot here. Manfred is blowing a whole lot of smoke up too many orifices for there not to be some fire down below. There has been too little salary growth since the last CBA was signed. Apparently, the owners got lazy (not coordinating offers more realistically) and greedy (ticking off too many and suppressing salaries too much). Rob "The Wolf" Manfred now must clean up their mess. Excuse him if he's curt.
The problem is that without an Andre Dawson-like lightning rod for the collusion zeitgeist, the charges may be hard to prove in the courts and in the ever-important court of public opinion, where all players are considered overpaid but no owner's salary is ever evaluated. And now the lawyers are swooping in for plausible deniability. The players may be better served by trying to gear up for the next CBA negotiations, an effort that may be better served with some changes at the top of the union.
Next in our pursuit of the worst award vote-getters of all time are the Charboneaus, the worst Rookie of the Year candidates, or at least the ones that someone was foolish enough to vote for. Of course, it is named for Joe Charboneau, the Cleveland Indians slugger who set the bar for sophomore slumps.
Shooty Babitt was a 22-year-old, sub-par fielding and hitting second baseman who bridged the Dave McKay and Davey Lopes eras in Oakland. He played in 52 of the A's 109 games that strike-shortened year, but yielded to McKay for the postseason, was not even apparently on the postseason roster, and never played in the majors again. He did have a great nickname though. Shooty is now a scout, I believe, in the D-Backs organization.
Now for the single-season leaders:
Buck is the only 2004 player on the list. George Bell took a couple of years, but you'll probably remember was a great player for a time. You have to love that the Benes brothers ended up right next to each other.
I'm actually more encouraged by this list than the career list. There are a number of players who must have shown flashes of if not greatness at least goodness even though their overall performance may not have been overwhelming. I;m talking about guys who became productive major-leagues like Bell, Javy Lopez, Jermaine Dye, Bob Ojeda, Bob Walk, Andy Benes, Floyd Bannister, Dick Groat, Juan Pierre, Sidney Ponson, and Nelson Liriano. There is also a good bit of the Brian Williams-Bud Smith variety of player, but someone got it right when he picked those guys.
The Buddy is named for Buddy Bell, who had one winning record in parts of six seasons as a manager, but always seemed to get decent support in the Manager of the Year award.
Win Shares don't really apply here. Let's try something new. First, let's look at the worst record for a manager who garnered at least a point in the MOY vote:
Someone felt bad for Trammell, Wedge, and Piniella last year. Somehow Mike Hargrove amassed more points in 1993 than 1992 after finishing with the exact same sub-.500 record as the year before.
Next are the worst career records for a MOY candidate:
And just for good measure, here are the managers who received some consideration even though their team's record was worse (or at the same) as the previous year:
Someone was a big Dusty Baker fan. The Giants lost one more game in 1994 than 1993, playing 47 fewer games, their winning percentage dropped 158 points, and yet someone thought Baker was the third best manager in the NL.
Mike Hargrove appears on the list three times. His team declined by at least 80 percentage points in two successive seasons (1996-97). Maybe I should have called it the award the Mikes, but modesty prevailed.
Bobby Cox and Felipe Alou made the list this year. But they represent the contingent, like Jim Leyland in 1992 and Torre post-1998, of managers continuing to win after major losses—free agency, retirement, etc.—to the team. So clearly this comparing the team's record to the previous season's is an imperfect tool at best.
The Zolios, Continued
Here are just a few notes on the Zolio award winners before we go on to the other categories:
Earl Torgeson a.k.a. "The Earl Of Snohomish" (succeeding Earl Averill with the title, both being natives of Snohomish, WA), who topped the single-season list, was a good-hitting first baseman for years. However, he hurt his left shoulder blocking Jackie Robinson on a doubleplay ball on May 14, 1949 and was out for the rest of the season. After playing just 25 games that year, he still got two points in the MVP vote. The voter(s) must have been thinking about his .389 average in the 1949 Series.
Bobby Malkmus was a weak-hitting (.231/.276/.327), 29-year-old second baseman with seemingly very good range for the Phils in 1961, his only year as a starter. He received one vote in the 1961 NL MVP vote and proceeded to play just one more major-league game.
Elston Howard was tied for second in the single-season list in 1967. He was traded from the Yankees to the Red Sox on August 3 that year, and batted under .200 for each team (.196 with New York and .147 with the Red Sox), but he was credited with helping settle the Red Sox staff and was rewarded with a whopping 7 points in the AL MVP vote.
36-year-old Joe Cronin was a player-manager for the Red Sox in 1943, playing in just 59 games and registering 77 at-bats (though his adjusted OPS was 76% better than average). However, his votes came mostly from one day of the season. On June 17 Cronin hit two three-run pinch-hit home runs, one per each game of a double-header that the Sox wplit with the Browns. He ended up with five pinch-hit home runs, an AL record, for the season. That was enough to garner him 3 points in the MVP vote.
Eddie Yuhas, second on the career list, was not "the rebel" in a Johnny Cash song, but rather a one-year wonder with the Cardinals in 1952. He went 12-2 with a 2.72 ERA (37% better than the park-adjusted league average) in 99.1 innings. He finished 31 games, six of which for posthumous saves. He received 5 points in the NL MVP vote in 1952 but due to injuries only pitched one more major-league inning.
Roy Schalk, not to be confused with Hall-of-Fame catcher Ray Schalk, was second baseman who was pressed into major-league duty because of World War II. In 1932, as a 23-year-old, he has a cup o' joe with the Yanks. Twelve years later he made it back to the majors as the White Sox starting second sacker. He lasted two seasons registering awful offensive seasons even for war-time ball (his OPS was 45% and 25% worse than the adjusted league average in those two years). He lead AL second basemen in RBI (65, eighth overall) and led the league in bunts (24) in '45 and was rewarded with an incredible 13 points in the 1945 AL MVP race. He never played another major-league game. When the real players came back, he was gone.
Jose Valdivielso, the best name on the career list, was a prototypical good-fielding/weak-hitting (OPS+ of 55) shortstop for the old Senators/Twins from 1955-1961. He never played more than 117 games or collected more than 294 at-bats in a season, and his claim to fame was that a Rocky Colavito grounder in the eluded him for the only hit a no-hit bid for Pedro Ramos on July 19, 1960. In his rookie year, he played just 94 games (294 ABs) and had an OPS 34% worse than the park-adjusted league average but showed great range (his range factor was 5.07 to the league's 4.04 average at short). His reward was one point in the 1955 AL MVP vote.
Blondy Ryan in 1933 was a rookie called up to replace injured Travis Jackson at short, who had the cajones to send a telegram to Giant manager Bill Terry reading, "We can't lose now. Am en route!" The Giants did win the pennant and Ryan was an on-field mascot. His exuberance made Jose Lima seem tame. He wasn't much with the bat, however, (59 OPS+ and finishing third in the AL in strikeouts), and he committed 42 errors at short. But he still picked up 19 points in the MVP vote that year.
Then there's the legendary Creepy Crespi (real name Frank Angelo Joseph Crespi, that is creepy). Crespi was good-looking young second baseman for the Cards right before World War II. However, his career ended with just a season and a half under his belt after he injured his leg playing army ball. He got 13 MVP points as a rookie in 1941.
Mookie Wilson received his sole MVP vote in 1989 as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, not the Mets, oddly enough. He played only 54 games for the Jays that year after an August 1 trade from the Metsgoes. But he hit .298 in those games (94 OPS+) and scored the teams' division-clinching run (just their second division crown at the time). The Blue Jays went 37-20 under Wilson's "leadership" and went from three games back on July 31 to two games up at the end of the season. Ergo, someone gave Wilson his one vote the next fall.
As for the OPS "leader", Sam "Slam" Agnew, he actually was not a presidential candidate in the Fifties. He was a prototypical no-hit, no-field catcher for the hapless Browns in the Teens. His career adjusted OPS was just 56 and he committed 39 errors (mostly due to his throwing) and 17 passed balls in 1915 for a miraculously low—for a catcher—fielding percentage of .934. Somehow he managed two points in the 1914 AL MVP vote.
Roxie Lawson, the ERA leader (or trailer), was a journeyman pitcher who had one Steve Stone-like season in 1937 winning 18, third in the league,—his next highest single-season win total was 8—despite a 5.26 ERA which was 11% worse than the park-adjusted league average. He was rewarded with four points in the AL MVP vote. He was also one of the ten players in the Bobo Newsom trade from the Browns to the Tigers in 1939.
[Named for Pete Vuckovich]
Now, let's look at the worst Cy Young award candidates. You'll notice that the quality goes up quiet a bit from the MVP vote getters. I guess being able to vote for just three candidates eliminates a great deal of the eccentric choices. It also doesn’t hurt that the award started in the Sixties as opposed to the 1910s.
OK, here are the worst based on career Win Shares:
There are a lot of young pitchers on there. I never realized that Buzz Capra, the old Brave mop-up man, was ever on the ballot.
Here now are the singe-season "leaders":
And Pete Vuckovich graciously makes an appearance.
Conlin and Howard
Bill "Jabba" Conlin likes Ryan Howard. He really likes Ryan Howard.
He likes Howard so much that he has been writing homages to the first baseman since he was in Double-A ball last year. In his latest scattershot effort Conlin warns the Phils, "Never walk away from big power."
I always thought it was, "Never go in against a Sicilian, when death is on the line!" But maybe I'm wrong.
As for Conlin himself, he never walks away from a cheesesteak. Sorry, never waddles away. And they pack plenty of gastrointestinal power for Jabba the Reporter.
Given that the Phils have some serious question marks such as:
- Will Jimmy Rollins' mini-renaissance in 2004 continue? If so, where will he bat?
- What will be the makeup of the rotation given that they have quantity but not quality enough for the first two rotation spots? Will they keep their best pitcher, rookie Ryan Madson, in the long relief role again or is he ready for the rotation? How should youngster Gavin Floyd be handled? What is to be done with Brett Myers?
- Who'll back up an aging Mike Lieberthal behind the plate and can he be transitioned into the starting role down the line?
- Who is the real Pat Burrell? Can he ever again play at a high-quality level for a full season as he did in 2002? If not, when do they cut bait and if so, are they going to be resourceful enough to dump his gargantuan contract?
- Can Billy Wagner stay healthy and return to his 2003 dominance for a full season?
There are probably another dozen (Thome's health, bullpen depth, new manager and coaches, payroll reduction, etc.) that I won't even touch upon. However for Conlin:
"One of the biggest questions facing Ed Wade and the New Gang of Six this crucial offseason is this:
What?!? He cannot be serious. The only people who consider Ryan Howard's future one of the main issues of the Phils' offseason besides Jabba are old Mr. and Mrs. Howard back in St. Louis, Howard's hometown.
I won't even go into why comparing minor-league numbers for a 24-year-old today to those of 22-year-old Mike Schmidt in 1972 or a 21-year-old Richie Allen in 1963 is a fool's errand at best.
Let me just relay an anecdote. When I lived in Boston in 1989, I went to batting practice at Fenway before a game with the White Sox. I knew I had seats right behind home and would have a great view. I saw a Chicago rookie who looked like the next Frank Thomas, that is even though he predated Thomas by one year, but you get the idea. There was a kid that looked like another species, like something out of "The Lord of the Rings". He just dwarfed the other guys around the batting cage. Then when he took his turn in the cage, he just crushed the ball. If I remember correctly he hit balls out to each outfield position. I was convinced that this guy was going to be a superstar even though he ended up not doing much in the game.
That guy was a forgotten footnote named Carlos Martinez. He ended up with five home runs on the year, and that ended up being his only year as a starter though he lasted until 1995.
Now, if I remember correctly Martinez had good minor league numbers. He could play first and third (not well). There's a world of difference between perceived potential and performance (say that three times fast).
So when Conlin say Howard "treats the opposite field like an old friend". I say that's nice, but is it meaningful especially if he strikes out a third of the time?
And those strikeouts: Conlin admits that "they are significant - 218 of them in those 656 ABs. The mind boggles at the offers Wade would be getting if Ryan's Ks were halved." Jabba justifies it though with "Howard struck out once each 3.01 at-bats, Thome once each 3.53 and Burrell once each 3.45."
To put it in perspective Howard struck out 517 with 206 walks in 1637 at-bats in four minor-league at-bats. That's an average of 129 whiffs, 52 BBs and 409 ABs per season, not too impressive when you realize that three of them were in Single-A ball. He struck out 13 times in 39 major-league at-bats this September. He has struck out 39 times with 12 walks in 133 AFL at-bats (through November 16).
Here is an overall comparison between Howard, Burrell, and Thome for their careers and for last season (career for Howard only includes minors):
Using plate appearances instead of at-bats displays the significance of the strikeout problem for Howard. Since he walks less than the other two, Conlin is being disingenuous comparing them by strikeouts per at-bats. The question is what percentage of the time will this player fail to even make contact (i.e., strikeout) when I send him to the plate. It's also disingenuous to compare these stats with established sluggers who tend to strike out but do enough other things to (hopefully) compensate for it. So don’t buy it when Jabba says, "Don't let his strikeouts put you off - unless you also are put off by the strikeouts of Thome and Pat Burrell." And remember that the bulk of Howard's stats in 2004 come from Double-A and in his career come from Single-A. Conlin hopes to half his K's but how do you go about doing that?
Conlin goes on to praise Howard's work in the Arizona Fall League. Though he admits that Howard has slowed since the start of the AFL season, it is still part of undiminishable "body of work Ryan has accumulated" this year. "[H]e still leads the AFL in many categories - base hits, doubles, extra-base hits and at-bats." (He's actually one hit behind the leader.) However, you have to read that twice to get the significance. Howard is tremendously ahead in at-bats. There are only three players within 20 at-bats of him in the league. And of the league leaders in batting, none are within 20 ABs of him and some have as few as under 60% of his. That's the problem with AFL stats. Different teams are doing different things with different players. Some like to distribute the turns at bat more evenly to help each player develop. Clearly, someone (the Phils maybe?) are ensuring that Howard gets plenty of AFL ABs to help boost his stats, at least the counting stats, perhaps to help shop the player around this fall. Also, remember that few of the players in the AFL are Howard's age or have had his experience. Besides aren't AFL stats just a means of propaganda like when the Yanks defended the Drew Henson signing with his AFL stats a few years back?
Anyway, aside from Conlin's bloviations, Howard may be a decent major-league player or at least power hitter. David Ortiz was once considered no more than a pure power hitter. The problem is what the Phils can do with him.
His defense is reportedly awful even for a first baseman, a position he can't fill unless the Phils decide to reverse their strategy over the last two seasons and trade Jim Thome, highly unlikely at best. So that leaves him with perhaps left field as a possibility. Conlin's plan is to move Burrell to right and Abreu to center for perhaps the worst outfield this side of Greg Luzinski, Manny Ramirez, and Jim Rice's softball league. Oh, and Howard had not played the outfield prior to the AFL, and he's still listed as a first baseman there.
Conlin has an answer to that too: "[Y]ou don't need Clemente, Mays and Bonds to cover the Money Pit's postage-stamp outfield footprint." The only obstacles to moving Howard to the outfield are "contract inflexibility, their own lack of imagination and the selfishness of Bobby Abreu, who won't lead off or play center. Burrell, if he has done nothing else, has made himself into a decent outfielder with a plus arm. There are some options."
So let me get this straight. Conlin is advising rearranging the entire outfield, moving the Phils best player last season (Abreu) to a position—a key defensive one—with which he is not comfortable and has little experience playing, and moving the ever fragile Burrell to right, where his adjustment can justify a relapse to 2003 type offensive woes. All this to accommodate a highly questionable rookie who will be playing way out of position? That's indefensible.
Oh, and evidently Conlin thinks thatAbreu leading off will grease the wheels a bit. I have no idea how. Why he has to take a swipe at their best player's character by calling him selfish I have no idea. I guess he's frustrated that no one else can see the brilliance of his plan.
Conlin ends by deriding basically the rest of the puny baseball players in the universe who are dwarfed by Howard's total domination:
"Just be frightened, very frightened, when Ed Wade mentions a package of players equivalent to Ryan Howard's value.
Look, for all the Phils management's faults, and there are many, they have been right on the money with the assessment of this guy. I wish they would have traded him before the trade deadline when Conlin was praising him to high heaven and his downside was perhaps less apparent. But the best they can do now is to pump up his value in the AFL and get some first-base strapped team (Yanks anyone?) take him off their hands.
It's a no-brainer. With Thome and his contract at first for four more seasons and with Howard's low ceiling, what's the downside. Let's say he turns into the next David Ortiz. He wouldn't be doing it in Philly anyway. That's the argument I have with those bemoaning the loss of Johnny Estrada. Yes, Estrada looks like a decent receiver, but he never was going to supplant Lieberthal, so who cares? You tip your hat and move on. It looked like a brilliant move at the time. Sometimes the better gambles still don't work out.
Maybe this is all part of a brilliant plan to have Conlin promote Howard to the world so that the Phils can pick up a decent starter or centerfielder as compensation. Ed Wade and Jabba are chucking over this master stroke as we speak.
Either that or Conlin is pregnant with Howard's love child and cannot deal with him being traded away.
Or Conlin is just a big boob. Take your pick.
Conlin can’t really mean the things he says. Can he? “Yeah, sure..."
MVP'ing Away Votes
The AL MVP vote was announced yesterday, and to my surprise, the voters again did a decent job. It was an extremely close "race". There were a good many good choices but no clear-cut, obvious choice. If you use Win Shares to evaluate the candidates, Gary Sheffield has a slight edge over Vladimir Guerrero (31 to 29). If you use VORP, Guerrero had a tremendous lead over Sheffield (93.2 to 63.8). If you split the difference, as I did in my IBWA ballot, you give the nod to Guerrero, which is basically what the voters did.
My hackles at least had some bête noires to at least occupy themselves. To wit, Chone Figgins got two votes. Two baseball analysts thought that the Angels super reserve player was one of the top ten players in the American League. These are the people who cheer for Super Joe McEwing, Jose Oquendo, Luis Aguayo, and Little Louie Giammona and pooh-pooh Barry Bonds total domination.
Then there's the sect that believes that relievers should be represented in the MVP vote but not the Cy Young vote because they are "everyday players". But I think it's a silly argument since if the reliever were truly that valuable, he'd be a starter and then wouldn't be "eligible" for the MVP vote.
Anyway, Joe Nathan, Francisco Cordero, Mariano Rivera received some support. Of the three only Rivera is a truly great closer. Nathan may be a one-year wonder. Cordero was good but probably wasn't more than the 5thor 6th most valuable Ranger.
It all got me to thinking about who were the worst players in baseball history to receive an MVP vote or a vote for any other award for that matter. I'll call the MVP version the Zolio award for Zoilo Versalles, and his one glaringly odd MVP award in the min-Sixties.
First, how do we assess the worst players? What stats should we use? Do we evaluate them based on the season in which he received the odd vote or over his entire career?
Well, let's start with OPS for batters and ERA for pitchers. Here are the players who received an MVP vote with the worst career OPS. The first and last years in which they received a vote and their cumulative MVP points, 1st-place votes, and maximum available points are also listed:
Now here are the worst pitchers:
However, This may not be the fairest way to compare players across different eras. What if we try again using Win Shares as the criterion? Here are the worst by career WS:
Now for the lowest single-season Win Share total to be rewarded with an MVP vote:
By the way, Figgons (28 career WS) just missed the career list.
Tomorrow, we'll take a look at the Charboneaus (worst Rookie of the Year vote getters), the Vuckoviches (Cy Young), and the Buddies (Manager of the Year).
Lidle, ever the second-half pitcher, fooled the Phils with 5-2 record and 3.90 ERA in the ten starts after he was acquired last season. Of course, he was 7-10 with a 5.32 ERA with the Reds before the trade. Here are his monthly splits over the last three seasons:
Lidle has been through four organization in the last three years and has registered a 5.00+ ERA with two of those organizations. Then again he has won at least 12 games in three of the last four years. So maybe I'm being a bit too hard on the feller.
Let's assume that he's a decent number-three starter. OK, so isn't that how you'd describe Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla? Then there are the failed prospect Brett Myers, who's probably now a long reliever, and promising youngsters, Ryan Madson and Gavin Floyd, both of whom deserve a shot in the rotation.
So where does that leave us? Mediocrity, just like last year, unless the youngsters vault ahead and the others finally fulfill the potential that's eluded them for at least a season.
But the bottom line is that the Phils are free to turn their backs on free agents Kevin Millwood and Eric Milton. Their collective twenty million dollar salary in 2004 will be replaced with three mil for Lidle and league minimum for a rookie. If that means that the Phils are free to use that money to corral Carlos Beltran as Will Carroll suggested, that's fine. But more than likely it's going back into Dave Montgomery's vault while the Phils brass mew about being a small-market team.
"Sabean odours from the spicy shore
Welcome back to the age of jive.
The Giants signed 37-year-old Omar Vizquel to a three-year, $12.25 million contract. And I just have to think that Brian Sabean has completely lost his mind or he's parting with money like it's 1999. There is no way that this can turn into a good deal: Vizquel wasn't worth that much even at his all-too-distant peak.
Vizquel was once a great defensively shortstop. He also, for a short time, turned himself into a decent hitting shortstop. He also was for a time a player who could be depdended on to still 30 bases at a 75-80% success rate. However, he is none of those things now.
He is an aging, overrated player, whose main claim to fame now seems to be his sleazy autobiography, in which he claimed former teammate Albert Belle corked his bat and Jose Mesa choked in the World Series. (Mesa must have loved the news given that he has promised to keel his ex-teammate, and that's hard to do in separate leagues.)
Vizquel hasn't won a Gold Glove in three years and ranked eighth among the eleven qualifying shortstops in a study I did for this year's award.
He not only was not a great offensive player, he wasn't better than an average offensive shortstop. Here are the 2004 stats for all of the major-league shortstops who qualified for the batting title, ranked by OPS. I added their 2004 salary for some perspective. Vizquel has ten players above him and ten below him. He's the median:
If you rank them by park-adjusted OPS (OPS+), then Omar moves up…by one spot. Whoopee.
Well, maybe that's unfair. There are ten "starting" shortstops not even listed plus there are a bunch of three-quarter timers, like the two Vizquel is replacing in San Fran. There are guys like Nomar Garciaparra, Barry Larkin, Orlando Carbrera, and Jose Valentin in that mix. First, I'll list them (min. 150+ ABs at shortstop in 2004):
Notes: * = 2004 salary unavailable; 2003 used instead.
That gives us a pool of 37 players, all of whom played a significant amount of time at short in 2004. Now, here are the averages for the above players by adjusted OPS band:
Vizquel fell into the second band (90-100). The average salary for this group is over a million dollars less than Vizquel just received from the Giants ($4.083 M average for Vizquel's new contract vs. $2.905 M for all 90-100 OPS+ SS). And those other guys won't be 40 when their next contract runs out.
For those of you who are still suckling at the teat of "experience", who say that something can be said for a steady, veteran shortstop leading a team to victory, let's take a look at similarly experienced shortstops and how their teams fared.
Below are all the teams in major-league history who have had a "starting" shortstop, who was at least 38 for the bulk of the given season (Vizquel turns 38 next April). By starting, I mean simply that they played at least half the team's games at short. There are just 25 such teams:
That's not very encouraging. There are many Hall or near-Hall caliber players on that list and still their teams were sub-par and Vizquel is not, in my estimation, anywhere near their level. Only one, Larry Bowa, led their team to a championship. But Vizquel can be encouraged because Bowa is one of the few comparable players to him on the list, at least in the "modern" era.
Also, given that Vizquel's contract is for three years, I have averages for each of the years in his contract (38-40). Note that the team's record on average declines as the shortstop ages.
By the way, 37-year-old shortstops have had a little bit more success:
There are three players on that list who won pennants (Rizzuto, Reese, and Campaneris). And all of the 37-year-old shortstops since the Fifties except for Bowa in 1983 and Vizquel last year were on teams with winning records (and Bowa won a pennant the next season).
But does Vizquel fill a need for the Giants? They sure did have a mess at short, but does he help them offensively? The Giants were second in the NL in runs (850) and third in OPS (.795). What about positions in the batting order? The Giant leadoff hitters were first in OPS (.839) and third in OBP (.359). Their number two hitters were 13th in the NL (.706). Their number three hitters were ninth (.833). Of course, with Bonds batting cleanup, the Giants were way out in first (1.323, 358 points ahead of the second-place Cubs). They were fifteenth for number five hitters (.705). Their number 6 hitters were eighth (.767), number 7 hitters fifth (.758), and number 8 hitters sixth (.731).
So the windup is that the Giants desperately need improvement in the order in the number two and five spot and have some trouble at number three. Michael Tucker batted second the most on the team (.614 OPS in 234 plate appearances). The main number five hitter was Edgardo Alfonzo (.760 OPS in 251 PA). The main number three guy was Marquis Grissom (.792 OPS in 322 PA). However, Pedro Feliz had a fair amount of success in the three hole in his first year as a starter (.941 OPS in 167 PA). So he's probably the solution there. Grissom can be shifted down to number five. That should give them a reasonable attack (though Grissom is aging and his OPS would still rank them 13th among NL number five hitting).
I assume that Sabean saw his biggest holes at shortstop defensively and at the number two spot offensively. Vizquel fits both roles. All but six of his at-bats in 2004 were as a number-two hitter. I'm sure that Sabean got a bit giddy killing his two biggest position-player issues with one stone and that's why he ponied up the cash that he did to Vizquel. Vizquel's OPS would rank 6th among NL number-two hitting, and his OBP would rank fourth. Those numbers were in a park that slightly favored pitchers (Ballpark Factor of 98). The Giants played in a stadium that had always very much favored pitchers but suddenly favored batters in 2004 (103).
So Sabean is gambling that a) Vizquel remains at his current level and b) that level of play is what the Giants need at both short and as a number-two hitter. And maybe he's right. But I have no idea why he needed to invest twelve million dollars and three years to find out. Was someone else banging down Vizquel's door with the glut of free agent shortstops on the market?
Besides, the Giants biggest problems were on the pitching staff (11th in NL with a 4.29 staff ERA), so why even chase down a shortstop now? I think that Sabean saw a way to take care of the bulk of his position player issues in one swell foop. He locked up Vizquel as quickly as possible and now can concentrate on filling out the rotation and getting a decent closer if Robb Nen can't come back (and he's technically a free agent anyway). I think this prospect clouded his judgment and he overwhelmed Vizquel in order to get it done.
There is a bright side, however. Nomar Garciaparra, Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, Jose Valentin, and the other free agent shortstops must be loving it. And it may help kick off a winter with a little bit more spending after two austere ones. If nothing else, it proves that teams still have money, and that they still don't know how to spend it.
…And Then There's Bonds
Barry Bonds won his record seventh MVP award today garnering 24 of the 32 first place votes. That's not the amazing part. The amazing part is that not only did eight dolts not put Bonds first but one even had him third on the ballot. Then again, these are baseball writers after all. Hey, after a correct, unanimous selection of Johan Santana in the AL Cy Young, I won't be surprised if David Ortiz gets the AL MVP as a means of compensation.
But back to Bonds: Not only does he have four more MVPs than the next guy, those "next guys" are Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Mike Schmidt, Roy Campanella, Stan Musial, and Yogi Berra. Bonds simply has dominated MVP voting like no other player ever has.
Here are the top vote getters in the Bonds era (1986 to 2004):
So, here are the players that made the MVP ballot the highest percentage of times in their career (Given that there was an MVP vote in the league in the given year). (Also keep in mind that there had been rules in the past that voters could not pick more than one player per team and that previous winners were ineligible.)
Now, here are the only players who received at least 25% of the maximum vote possible during their entire careers:
So it's Pujols and Bonds and nada mas. They're the only two over 50%. Bonds has done it remarkably over a 19-year career. It's too early to compare Pujols with him, but he has been more successful in his first four years than Bonds was, so that's an encouraging sign for him.
I cannot run an all-time comparison for first-place votes because the data are not available for many early elections. I will endeavor to resolve that deductively from the data available though.
The final result is an even more stunning picture of Bonds as a player. I think that he has been the most dominant MVP candidate in the award's history. I guess that's no real stretch when the man's won seven trophies, but I'm daring enough to proclaim it.
"I'm My Own Grandpaw"
The Angels are looking to change the team's name, or rather affiliation, back to the Los Angeles Angels. Maybe they are just trying to model themselves on the LA Clippers. At least they're doing better now than as the Buffalo Braves, Bob McAdoo notwithstanding.
What is it with California teams? The Raiders are from Oakland, no LA, no Oakland—"Debbie! The car! Debbie! The car!" The old hockey team was known as the California Seals, then the Oakland Seals, then the California Golden Seals—sounds like what Ahnold uses to sign off on legislation. Then they chucked it all and committed, er, rather moved to Cleveland. What's next? Are the Golden State Warriors changing back to San Fran? What do we expect when the second-largest population area in country hasn't even had an NFL franchise for ten years, after losing two in the same year?
Some of you might remember that the Angels came into this world bearing the name of decade's old Pacific Coast Team, the LA Angels, in their old PCL stadium, Wrigley Field. They moved into Dodger Stadium but (unlike the NY Jets) refused to play in a stadium named for another team. When the Angels were home, all of a sudden Dodger Stadium became Chavez Ravine. To quote Seinfeld, "Yeah, and I'm Jerry Cougar Mellencamp."
In 1966, the Angels got their own stadium in Anaheim and like most youngsters who move out on their own, got something pierced. Well, it wasn't that dramatic, but they changed their name to the California Angels. When Disney bought the Angels, the changed their affiliation to Anaheim and then stuck them in a crappy movie. I'm not talking about the Enrico Palazzo scene in "The Naked Gun", in which a hypnotized Angel (Reggie Jackson of all people) attempts to murder the queen with a gun hidden under second base. No, that was classic. I mean that Tony Danza-Danny Glover master opus. Hey, any role in which Danza uses some other first name but his own (and doesn't emote "Angela!") is enough of a struggle, but he was actually cast as a two-foot tall star pitcher, making Corbin Bernsen's flailings as third baseman in "Major League" look like Brooks Robinson.
So now the Angels want to return as a dog returneth to his vomit. Do they think they'll lure more fans from Chavez in search if rally monkeying? More than they'll lose in alienating their current fan base with the name change? I doubt it. The Anaheim City Council already voted that they would sue if the Angels change saying it "would constitute a direct violation of the Angels' lease agreement with the city."
"I told them that we are exploring concepts of economic growth opportunities, which do not force our fans to bear the burden of our payroll," Angels president Dennis Kuhl said. "Large-market franchises have a corporate appeal that can create advertising revenues, which allow an organization to field a high payroll."
The Angels are third in attendance but according to Kuhl had the 23rd-lowest average ticket price this season and "finished in the bottom half of broadcast revenues". So this all may be a ploy to get some other issues addressed.
However, if it does happen, it won't be the first time a major-league changes its name to something new and then ends up changing it back and most of the time it is done by new ownership groups:
On January 30, 1936, the Braves new owners asked for a new name from newspaper writers after a 38-115 season and were given Bees. The name fell into disuse after the team fell from 79-73 in 1937 to 65-87 in 1940.
The Reds changed their nickname pusillanimously to "Redlegs" during the McCarthy era and bravely changed when no one was watching.
The Dodgers were known as the Robins for manager Wilbert Robinson, but after Uncle Robbie retired, they returned to the (Trolley) Dodgers appellation.
When Robert Carpenter bought the Phils, he had a contest to rename them which produced the short-lived "Blue Jays" name, now little more than a cruel omen presaging Joe Carter. I also remember a story that they tried to change their name to Live Wires in the 1890s, but it never stuck.
Actually, early on nicknames were based more on a color or an identifying trait about the area(e.g. Milwaukee Brewers). And once the name stuck, it often got reused. This was especially true in the minors, but it did have some effect in majors especially in the early days. Here's a list of recurring names:
And it looks like the Angels and the Expos, whose proposed name is Washington Nationals, may join the list soon.
Cy Young, Venezuelan Style, Truer Than the Red, Yellow, and Blue
(Those are the colors of the Venezuelan flag.)
Well, the voters finally screwed up and got a major award completely right. Johan Santana was awarded the AL Cy Young by unanimous vote. I guess John Kruk didn’t get a vote.
Santana becomes the 18th man to win a Cy Young Award unanimously and the first Cy Young winner from Venezuela. Here are the records for all 18 unanimous winners:
Santana, at 25, is also the fourth youngest of the unanimous winners. The second youngest was Roger Clemens (23) but then again, the youngest was Dwight Gooden and the second youngest was Denny McClain (24). So it in no way augurs a successful career.
And as for being the first Venezuelan Cy Young-award winner, there have been 35 previous, major awards given to Venezuelans:
Santana was 5.1 Pitching Win Shares ahead of Curt Schilling this year. How well have the other unanimous selections faired against the number two man in WS in their league? Let's see:
Steve Carlton in '72 just edges Bob Gibson's 1.12 for most dominant season. Santana is not that far behind.
The most amazing thing about Santana is that the Twins wasted the better part of two seasons shuttling the guy between the rotation and the bullpen. This was Santana's first season with at least 20 starts and his first with more than 12 wins.
Here are the other Cy Young winners who had not started 20 in a season before winning the award (a number were relievers):
Now, here are the Cy winners who had never won 15 games prior to their big year:
Finally, for our last fun fact, here are the previous award winners who were age 25 or less during the Cy Young season:
“Gold cannot be pure, and people cannot be perfect”, Pt IV
In our final analysis of the putrescence of the 2004 AL Gold Glove awards, I have factored in Baseball Prospectus' fielding stats to the mix. The qualifying players will be ranked by Zone Rating, Range Factor, and Fielding Win Shares as they were in the previous study, but now BP's Fielding Rate and Fielding Runs Above Replacement (FRAR) has been factored in. The players will be seeded by position based on the average rating from the stats above. (Catchers also catcher's ERA and the percentage of runners caught stealing as factors. Also, pitchers are not awarded Fielding Win Shares.)
In Part III, we looked at shortstop, and again found that Derek Jeter, while being certainly not the best choice for a Gold Glove, was a much improved defender over his past reputation. As we'll see he also was not the worst choice made by the voters, even though his award has gotten the bulk of the press.
Here are the players per position with the award winners bolded:
Delgado and Teixeira swapped positions from the previous ranking, but the award-winner, Erstad, remained in third place.
There's not much change here. Hudson is still the obvious choice; Boone is still a horrifically bad choice, 17th best in a 14-team league. The could have gone with either subpar Yankee second-sacker and made a better choice.
Chavez is still the best choice of the bunch. He gets even better with the BP stats.
I don’t know why they just don't pick three center fielders given the silly rules that lump all outfielders together. However, if they are going to take two, they should have done better than they did here. Wells had been number one in the pre-BP rankings and Hunter fourth. They both plummet here. Kotsay has gone from second to first.
Matthews and Jones are still numbers one and two, but Ichiro has moved up to third. I still can't support Matthews as a Gold Glove winner given that he split time between center and right and wasn't really a starter at either.
I'm going to split the catchers table in two:
Miller is still the best. Pudge moves from 16th to 12th. Yes, he's a terrible choice by any assessment that one can make other than reputation. At least he's not as bad as Bret Boone.
You have to hand it to the voters for getting the least important choice right, especially when it's arguably one of only two that they did get right.
So there you are. I see no way to defend many of the choices that they made. Some were just unremarkable defenders (Jeter, Erstad). Others were among the worst defensive players at their positions in the league (Boone and Pudge). They ran the gamut, which tells me that the voters made no further assessment than to pick black or red before they threw the darts with which they made their selections. At least they didn’t vote for a DH who played just 28 games in the field this time. I guess hoping that they divide the outfield Gloves up by defensive position is out of the question.
Anyway, here's my revised 2004 AL Gold Glove team:
Again, thanks to Clay Davenport for the BP fielding data.
“Gold cannot be pure, and people cannot be perfect”, Pt III
With the help of BP's Clay Davenport, I was able to incorporate into the study his fielding stats for all of the players in AL.
I'll run the numbers for the rest of the positions tomorrow.
Losing Your Red Sox?
The champion Red Sox may be a much different team in 2005. They have sixteen players who are free agents this offseason. The Red Sox retained a potential seventeenth, Bill Mueller, by picking up his option. Throw in Nomar Garciaparra and Jimmy Anderson, who departed midseason, and the Sox could lose 18 players from their 2004 roster before 2005. Fenway could become the Land of Lost Sox.
Here are the free agents:
That's basically two members of the rotation, two starting position players (plus Reese who was a starter for significant portion of the season), some key bench players, most of their middle relievers, and both of their catchers. But is such high turnover unusual for a champion? And does it mean anything?
I ran a query on all of the World Series champs and took a look at three factors: 1) The percentage of players from their World Series-winning season retained in the following season, 2) the percentage of at-bats in the World Series-winning season for the players retained (including pitchers), and 3) the percentage of innings pitched in the World Series-winning season by the pitchers retained.
For the sake of brevity (yeah, right), I will list the top 15 based on an average of the three factors above:
And the bottom 15:
You have to hand it to the Giants. Going from the highest retention to the lowest in one year is pretty hard. It helps to have a former player, John Montgomery Ward, take most of your players to a new rival league (the Players National League) that had a team also named the New York Giants in the year (1890) the players bolted en masse on the advice of their union.
The next team, the 1925 Pirates, lost just four players, none of whom were pitchers: Al Niehaus (64 at-bats), Fresco Thompson (37), Jewel Ens (5), Mule Haas (3).
Of course, the Marlins are the poster children for high turnover after winning a World Series.
The 2004 Red Sox, should they lose all 16 free agents, would retain just 33 of 51 players (64.71%) with 69.04% of their 2004 at-bats and 62.56% of their 2004 innings pitched. That averages to 65.44%, or the ninth largest turnover for a World Series team. (By the way, 51 players is the greatest number employed by a World Series winner in baseball history.)
But you'll note that a lot of the teams with high turnover are very recent. How would the Red Sox turnover compare to recent trends? Here are the averages by decade and overall for the above factors as well as the winning percentage in the year following the World Series for all Series champions:
So the Red Sox would have more turnover than even recent teams. But what does it mean? Does high turnover imply that a team will be less successful in the subsequent season?
Well, I ran the numbers and the two correlate very slightly (coefficient of .2433). It seems that the teams with highest and the lowest turnover have the highest likelihood of stumbling the year after winning a World Series. The teams with modest turnover seem to do the best. Perhaps moderation is the best approach. The disparate approaches of the 2002 Angels (low turnover) and the 2003 Marlins (high) are enough to tell us that.
The Seventh Cy
Here's a comparison of the pitchers who received Cy Young votes and a few of the more salient non-vote getters based on Bill James' Win Shares, Baseball Prospectus' Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), and Baseball Reference's Adjusted ERA (ERA+). I have split the table in two to fit on the page but note the inconsistency between the players' performance and their votes:
Now the final rankings:
It's particularly odd that Ben Sheets, who was second in my comparison, received just one third-place vote. Well, then again a losing record (12-14) will do that.
Anyway, Clemens becomes just the fourth pitcher to win a Cy Young in both leagues. Those four are as follows:
There are any number of eccentricities—I am loath to call them records—surrounding Clemens winning his seventh Cy Young. First, the stretch between his first and last Cy Young is the longest by 8 years of any pitcher:
He also becomes the first pitcher to win the award in a year predominately after he turned 40. Here are the oldest (Note the age represent the pitcher's age as of July 1 of the given year):
Actually, Clemens and Johnson are just the second and third pitchers to receive votes after turning 40. The other was Gaylord Perry in 1978, who just turned 40 on September 15 of that year (technically he is considered as being 39 for the season).
Clemens also becomes the 25th pitcher to win a Cy Young for a league in which he had fewer than 20 wins:
Of the above pitchers, the top nine of ten were relievers. Valenzuela, Cone, and Maddux pitched in a strike year. And Sutcliffe started 1984 in the American League. So, technically 17 is the lowest for a Cy Young-winning starter in a full season. Maybe Randy Johnson only getting 16 scuttled his prospects this year though it's hard to belief that two wins made all the difference, especially considering that Clemens pitched on a playoff-caliber team and Johnson pitched for the worst team in baseball. At least they didd't bite on Roy Oswalt's 20 wins.
Best of Series, Part II
OK, not that anyone cares, but I've monkeying with my formulae for measuring the most lopsided and most even postseason series of all time. I think I've gotten rid of some eccentricities. I have split up the rankings by offensive stats and defensive stats and then taken the average rank for runs per game, OPS, and ERA difference and averaged them with the overall offensive and defensive rankings.
Here are the most lopsided by the new ratings with the old ones listed:
Here are the most lopsided series favoring the losers. I like this ranking better with the 1960 series rising to the top:
Here are the closest series of all time. Red Sox and "Good Will Hunting" fans will be encouraged:
Rookies in the Ether
The Rookie of the Year winners were announced today. They are A's shortstop Bobby Crosby, who just missed unanimity by one vote, and Pirate left fielder Jason Bay. I preferred Khalil Greene in the NL, but both we deserving. It was a pretty good class overall with Justin Morneau, Akinori Otsuka, Ryan Madson, Shingo Takatsu, Zack Greinke, and Joe Mauer (amid the injuries), among others, all making major contributions to their respective teams. Well, first we'll have to see how the develop before we pass judgment, but it does look promising.
The only fly in the ROY ointment is that perhaps the most deserving AL rookie was not even eligible. I'm referring to Twins outfielder Lew Ford, who batted .299 with 15 and 72 RBI (ratios: .299/.381/.446/.827). That represents an adjusted OPS 15% better than the park-adjusted league average. Cosby's numbers were actually 9% worse than average.
So why was Ford ineligible when he came into 2004 with just 73 at-bats, about half the established threshold for rookies (130)? Ford was on the Twins roster for too long in 2003. He was seen as a role player in 2003 even though he put up good numbers in the limited ABs (.329/.402/.575/.978 or 53% better than the league average). When Jacque Jones moved from left to right field and starting left fielder Shannon Stewart went down with an injury, Ford was able to fill in for half (81) games in left. He also made many appearances in center, right, and as the DH. I still get the feeling that the Twins don't have tremendous confidence in him but can't sit him now because he produces. Maybe that's an argument against giving him the award. However, given the inane "major-league experience" codicil for rookie eligibility, Ford is being barred unfairly from ever being eligible for the award. The voters should at least have the option to vote for him.
I propose a change to the rookie eligibility rules. It's simple, if you reach the at-bats or innings threshold, you are eligible for the award that year. If you don't, you're still eligible. I don't care if you sat on the bench for three years before being given the opportunity. Basically, Lew Ford was never eligible for the award (well, technically he was last year, but with 73 at-bats, who would vote for him?). How can this possibly make sense? This isn't 1910 with John McGraw hoarding talent or the Yankee dynasties who did the same. This is a guy who was just given a shot this year. He produced and should be eligible for the award. The rule's got to go.
With new stadiums in Philadelphia and San Diego now one year old, can we expect a fall-off in attendance in 2005? And will that mean tighter payrolls for the Phils and Padres?
Well, here are all of the ballpark changes in the last 25 years (except for the Expos splitting time in San Juan, which doesn’t fit the model):
Note that the average attendance increased 33% after a new stadium was opened. However, you'll also notice that the attendance in the subsequent year fell by 9%.
Here are the numbers for the Phils and Pod People with projections for next year using the figure above (9% decrease):
What will such a decrease mean to these teams bottom line? Here's a conservative estimate using the lowest price of admission from each of their team sites:
Again, this is based on the low price as published on the team sites. The lost revenue may not come from just the cheapy seats. And the teams will probably raise ticket prices for 2005. However, there's a good indication that they will have a significant loss in revenue. I know I would miss four million dollars of I lost it. And keep in mind that this doesn't include the money from parking, concessions, etc. that those lost fans will no longer generate.
If you don’t think these two clubs aren't anticipating a decrease in attendance, than you're fooling yourself. Maybe the Padres can afford it with a young team that promising to keep improving, but the Phils will be taking on more salary just to retain their base as the large contracts they've signed in the last couple of years start to mature. Maybe those crazy Jim Thome-to-the-Bronx rumors I heard aren't too remote after all. The Phils brass would love to replace Thome's salary with Ryan Howard's, and they will have Bill Conlin to sell the idea.
Well, Gee Wally, You're Fired
For a team that lost 111 games during the regular season, who would have thought that the offseason could be worse?
Well, the D-Backs today fired Wally Backman and replaced him with Bob Melvin, just four days after hiring Backman as manager. It turns out that Backman not only was arrested twice and is apparently in dire financial straits but was once a Met! You see, the D-Backs didn’t bother to do a background check before hiring him as manager. Oopsie! Turns out that they work on the honor system out in Phoenix.
Backman will forever be remembered (or forgotten) as the Baltimore Claws of baseball managers. Backman will never pilot Arizona during a regular-season game, but it turns out that he does not have the shortest career for a non-interim manager.
That honor belongs to Eddie Yost, who managed for one day, one stinking day!
On May 21, the Washington Senators stood dead last in the American League with a 14-26 record. With about a quarter of the season under their belts, the Senators were already 10 games behind the Orioles and White Sox (23-15). Given their slow start and the fact that they had lost 100 games in Mickey Vernon's first two years as manager just prior to the season, they decided to jettison Vernon in favor of Yost. Yost had played 14 seasons with the old Senators (1944-58) and had just retired after the 1962 season. It seemed a perfect fit.
On May 22, Washington lost 9-3 to the White Sox at home as Joe Horlen ran his record to 3-0. That day the Senators acquired Gil Hodges from the Mets in exchange for Jimmy Piersall. Hodges had never managed before, but he was given the reins to the club on the spot and Yost was out. Yep, they told "The Walking Man" to take a walk.
Yost never managed in the bigs again. And he is not the father of current Milwaukee manager Ned Yost, though it seems remarkable that they are not father and son.
Hodges ended up guiding the club to 105-loss season and even though he managed four more seasons in Washington, never finished higher than sixth (out of 10). He did have a bit of success upon returning to the Mets as manager a year before their "Amazin'" World Series victory.
There were a number of other interim managers who managed four days or fewer and here they are:
By the way, the all-time record for one-game managers is 23-12. So why do they get fired anyway?
“Gold cannot be pure, and people cannot be perfect”, Pt II
Yesterday, I defended the awarding of a Gold Glove at short to Derek Jeter (with his range can he reach it?) as an uninspired but not terrible choice. After reviewing the rest of the AL winners, I find that Jeter is one of the best chosen
Let's start with the good ones.
Eric Chavez was the clear-cut leader at third and thoroughly deserved another award:
Kenny Rogers was very good choice for the pitcher award—now, if we are already talking about the Gold Glove at pitcher, you know that their choices are in trouble. Note that no pitchers were awarded any Fielding Win Shares this year:
Rogers looks like a decent choice, why not?
OK, let's look at the outfield where the three awards are given en masse as opposed to one per outfield position. It was a mixed bag. Here are the candidates by position. We'll talk afterwards:
I would have given the awards out per position to Vernon Wells, Carl Crawford, and Jacque Jones (Gary Matthews Jr. played a lot of center skewing his results). They gave the awards to Wells (great), Torii Hunter (not bad), and Ichiro Suzuki (very bad).
Now, if they are going to give the awards to outfielders as a whole, then why not just pick the best three center fielders? If so, Hunter is still borderline.
However, there's the right fielder, Ichiro, who got his award because of his cannon of an arm. Well, he does have a great arm, but it's not so unique so as to win the award solely based on it while ignoring his otherwise mediocre stats for right fielder.
Here are the various outfielders from above with at least 10 assists:
The only stat in which Ichiro excels is fielding percentage. Great! Give him a Gold Glove!
After outfield it gets pretty ugly. Who's on first? Darrin Erstad an erstwhile center fielder who is being saved from himself at first.
Like Jeter, Erstad is an uninspired choice. He's not terrible but there are distinctly better candidates and a ton that are just about as good. So why Erstad? Well, he ran into walls as a Gold Glove outfielder; surely he's better than the junk they stick at first, right? Well, no. Like the Ichiro choice, this was just rewarding Erstad's reputation not his actual performance.
Clearly Mark Teixeira was the class of the position. It's too bad that they go on reputation alone. Consider that Erstad's assists and doubleplay numbers were abysmal, and his candidacy plummets further:
He does have a good fielding percent, which is probably the least meaningful stat for a first baseman, even more so than for most other fielders.
Next, the choice of Bret Boone at second was quite possibly the worst of the day. Boone ranks behind part-time players. He is tied for 16th in 14-team league by my rankings:
Pudge was 15th in a 14-team league. Again there is a clear-cut leader in Damian Miller. Unlike the other snubs, He's an eight-year veteran. However, he's new to the AL and he doesn't get much press from his offense.
Even Pudge's reputation for having the best catching arm in baseball is no longer deserved. He was ninth in the AL in catching base stealers, and he was much closer to the bottom of the league than the top. Again, the voters went solely on reputation.
Here is my Gold Glove team based on the players' performance and not rep:
C—Damian Miller, Oak
I took two from the actual winner's list, one's a pitcher, and he's basically a toss-up winner. I think that a defense based on the actual players picked would be about an average AL defense, no better and possibly worse (given the weakness at second and catcher, key defensive positions).
Maybe it's time to cease and desist when it comes to the Gold Glove awards at least in the AL. Either that or the voters should at least look at actual performance of the players involved and not go on reputation. I mean, Al Kaline and Willie Mays were great fielders once too, but they're not getting the hardware anymore and they probably deserved it more in 2004 than Bret Boone.
Greg Maddux won his 14th Gold Glove today to become just the third man and second pitcher, the other being Jim "Kitty" Kaat, to win that many. Yesterday Ivan Rodriguez won his 11th Glove to become the first catcher to win that many breaking a tie with the great Johnny Bench.
Here are all the players with at least ten all-time:
Mets Grab Their Willie While Phils Need Manuel
The New York Mets tonight tabbed Willie Randolph as their new manager. I'll I can say is thank goodness. Randolph's name has been thrown out for managerial jobs more often than Ben Affleck changes girlfriends. Randolph has been interviewed more often than Ashley Simpson post-SNL—"He said last month he had interviewed unsuccessfully in the past for 11 or 12 managerial openings."
Randolph had basically been used as a means to fulfill MLB's very low minority hiring requirements, that is that at least one minority candidate is interviewed. I always thought that they wouldn't lead to a minority manager being hired. I even thought the Mets were just fulfilling their obligations by interviewing Randolph. But if the minority requirements had anything to do with Randolph being hired, then I have to admit it served a purpose. Also, I have often criticized Omar Minaya as a GM, but if he made the right decision her.
Contrast the Mets move after looking to interview former Met manager Bobby Valentine, with the Phils' apparent decision today to hire Charlie Manuel after inexplicably interviewing former Phillie manager Jim Fregosi. Manuel was the heir apparent for about a year, after he was hired as a special consultant and Larry Bowa understudy.
Manuel was Jim Thome's longtime batting instructor so I guess that's why he got the nod even after surprise candidate Jim Leyland threw his hat in the ring, that and the fact that he is reportedly a good company man. GM Ed Wade was sick and tired of dealing with Larry Bowa's disciplinary issues. So who cares if the Phils get stuck with the second coming of Danny Ozark? Manuel is the man who coined such gems as:
"That’s what’s good about this game, especially when the season starts, it seems like there’s a lot of other days left."
And the ever popular:
"There's no pressure in baseball. Pressure is when the doctor is getting ready to cut you, take your heart out, and put it on a table."
And they say he's a great communicator. Oh yeah, that's the final reason the Phils hired him to be a counterpoint for the great Bowa whose players would refuse to high-five on their way to the dugout. It's the classic good cop/bad cop approach.
Sure, why look for a good candidate when you can just make a laundry list of your last manager's faults and pick up some previously owner manager who lacks those faults? Who cares if they have no other qualifications? We're the Phils anyway: nobody expects us to win anyway.
"Gold cannot be pure, and people cannot be perfect"
—Ancient Chinese proverb, huh?
Gold? Yellow, glittering, precious gold?
The sabermetric community will be up in arms today, well maybe after the dust settles from the "election." The unthinkable has happened. They gave a Gold Glove to…no, not Rafael Palmeiro again for playing two dozen games at his position…no, not to David Ortiz and his magic glove through which balls pass untouched…No. They awarded the Gold Glove at shortstop to Derek Jeter!?!?
Do I mean the Derek Jeter who is rated by some as the worst defensive shortstop of all time? Bill James gave him a D for his defensive play in Win Shares (or maybe it was a D+). What, so who just inherits the award since last year's winner Alex Rodriguez ceded the shortstop position to him in the Bronx?
Well, before every gets up in arms, let me just say two things. First, yes, Jeter is not the most inspired choice. I would have gone with Tejada or Crosby. However, he isn't a terrible choice. Jeter was about an average shortstop this year, maybe a little bit better. He would win the most improved category if they had it.
Here's a comparison of the "eligible" candidates first by conventional stats sorted by fielding stats (yeah, I know):
Now, here's the same group with Range Factor (source: ESPN), Zone Rating (ESPN), and Fielding Win Shares (The Hardball Times) added in. Each player is ranked by each of these categories and then ranked overall by the average of those ranks:
So Jeter is basically in the middle of the pack behind the two front runners (Crosby and Tejada). He's not bad, but really no standout either.
However, I must point out that he's a stellar choice compared to a couple of the outfield choices and don't get me started with Bret Boone at second, but I'll get into them later. I think it's safe to say that the voters very often pick the wrong candidate, 'nuff sed?
The Best of Series?
So we've already taken a look at the most lopsided playoff series in postseason history. Now, what about the closest series? Anecdotally, people talk about 1967, 1975, or 1986 when the Red Sox just fell short. Or they mention Maz's homer and the 1960 Series. Or you'll hear about Jack Morris and the 1-0 ten-inning, seventh-game shutout in 1991. Or the D-Backs comeback against Mariano Rivera in 2001. Students of the game will mention Snodgrass's muff in 1912 or Pete Alexander and 1926 or the bad hop over Fred Lindstrom in 1924. There's the Dodgers finally edging the Yankees in 1955. And there are others 1972 A's vs. Reds, 2002 Angels vs. Giants, 1997 Marlins vs. Indians, 1940 Reds vs. Tigers, 1979 Pirates vs. Orioles, 1964 Cards vs. Yanks, etc.
However, a lot of these anecdotes center on game seven. There's even a website for them. However, if you look at the rest of the series, you'll get a much different series. Consider the Maz Series of 1960. The Yankees won games by scores of 16-to-3, 10-to-nothing, and 12-0. The Pirates never won a game by more than three runs. So you have an extremely close, four-game sweep by the Pirates intermingled with a three-game ransacking of the Pirate at the hands of the Yanks.
I decided to run the data from the previous study to determine which was the closest playoff series based on how closely the teams competed in certain offensive and defensive criteria. (For batting I used runs per game, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS. For pitching: ERA, WHIP, strikeout-to-walk ratio, strikeouts per nine innings, and home runs per nine innings. I also threw in unearned run average, the difference between runs and earned runs per nine innings, for some measure of defensive play.)
Here are the closest World Series based on those criteria:
I'm not entirely please with those results. A number of the more famous close series do show up near the top (1975, 1972, 1925, 1997, 1924, 2002, 1991—1926 just missed the list). However, the 1982 Series, which came in number one, featured a 10-0 game one and a 13-1 game six shellacking by the Cards. But the teams were remarkably close in batting ratios: Cards .273/.328/.412, Brewers .269/.323/.399.
The problem with the approach is that it measures the stats across the entire series. So let's say team A shuts out team B 10-0 in game 1 and then loses game 2 by the same score. Chances are that the teams will have very similar stats. Runs per game will certainly be identical. However, clearly neither of the games was close.
What's needed is a way to weigh the overall series stats with the per-game performance. However, all the data that I have is based on series-specific stats, and even I don't have enough free time to divide it by game. So, for now, this will have to suffice.
Anyway, here are the results in the other playoff rounds. There are some good ones there as well:
I remember many of those series fondly, especially the two Phils ones.
Share the Belth
Over at Bronx Banter, Alex Belth has a two-part series with some of baseball's cognoscenti and me of all people commenting on the Yankees, the ALCS, the future, the girl, the gold watch, and everything (I was in love with Pam Dawber at age 15).
One More Day! One More Day! One More Day!
I have avoided getting political on this baseball-only site but on the eve of the election, I could not resist.
On my train ride home from work today, I happened to sit next to a woman with a Bush-Cheney button on the lapel of her middle class burka, for lack of a better word, reading some sort of romance novel inspired by the life of Bill O'Reilly. I turned to her in my smarmiest urbanity and said, "You're for Bush. Good for you. I was accosted by some Lyndon LaRouche nut on the street today."—This was true. "She said to me that the American voter is going to send Bush back to Texas. Can you believe it? Ha ha ha."
We had a good laugh until she asked me what I said to the LaRouche woman. "I said that the b*stard never left Texas—he's been vacationing there for four years anyway." And her jaw just dropped.
Now, that's a true story…except for the fact that I never spoke to either lady. My mother always taught me not to talk to strangers. But I thought up the zingers all by myself in my wittle pea brain. Besides, the pleasure derived from the thought of it far exceeds the pleasure of the actual doing of it. So why destroy the unalloyed pleasure with some messy reality.
Now, John Kerry will win the election tomorrow. Well, probably not tomorrow, but two or three months down the line after all the lawsuits and counter-lawsuits have been adjudicated. How do I know this? First, the Packers beat the Redskins 28-14 on Sunday. Apparently, the Redskins, besides having the most racist team name in sports, are a sort of Nostradamus-esque augurer of the presidential election. Every election year since 1936, after the Redskins moved to D.C., if they win the final home game before the election, the incumbent wins. If the lose, the challenger will be elected. Therefore, their loss to the Pack (and I don’t mean the wolf pack) ensures that Kerry will win.
Besides, the Redskins moved from Boston, doubly good news for Kerry. And the Red Sox just won their first ring in 86 years. All good signs.
Finally, I know that Kerry will win because if there is a god like Bush so adamantly proclaims he/she/they have a special level of purgatory all ready set aside for Dubya and cannot allow the blight of this administration to continue. I read today that a report estimates that upwards of a hundred thousand Iraqi nationals might have lost their lives already because of this unnecessary war. Add in the eleven thousand American troops, and there's a large toll being paid for the administration's purported desire to bring freedom to this country--that was the latest version, right?--, all the while relieving them of their unnecessary oil.
I don't think that my random ramblings will change anyone's vote. However, please remember to go out and vote. It's everyone's right and obligation. That is, unless you’re a Bush supporter; then, I must tell you that your man has it in the bag and you might as well just stay home and watch it on TV. I believe that this is the worst administration that I've seen in my lifetime—and I remember Nixon. The only way to get rid of it is by voting it out, and we still have the right to do that tomorrow. There's no guarantee that right will still be around in four more years, however.
The vast majority seems to want this administration gone but is unsure on Kerry. The one dig on him that you seem to hear is that he's not decisive enough. However, if anyone caught Kerry's recorded statements on Iraq prior to the war that were broadcast on PBS's "Frontline" tonight, you saw a man who knew where this war was headed and someone who decided not to support it for all the reasons that we now know are turning it into this millennium's Vietnam. If you see that this administration has a horrific track record on any issue that you care to explore, which is certainly the case, why not give someone else a chance? Like chicken soup, it can't hurt.
Well Gee, Wally, I Don't Know
Backman wasted no time in presenting his scrappiness credentials:
"My style is hard, aggressive baseball," Backman said. "If my brother is second baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers and if it mans taking him out at second base, that's what I expect my players to do. That's the way we play the game."
This is the sort of fire that scrappy shortstop-cum-manager Larry Bowa lit under the Phils…initially. But it wore out awfully quick. Bowa won Manager of the Year in his rookie year at the helm of the Phillies in 2001 after a 21-game improvement. However, they never improved on 2001 in Bowa's three subsequent seasons.
Of course, the ultimate scrappy manager was probably Billy Martin, a former second baseman, of course. Martin won the division with four of the five organizations that he managed. However, he never lasted more than five seasons with any one organization, and that was the late-Seventies Yankees, with whom he won two championships and appeared in three World Series. So basically scrappiness may get the troops a-jumping but wears out its welcome more quickly than a mixed metaphor.
What can we expect from Backman, who makes the difficult jump from Single-A to the majors? Hey, Albert Pujols did it. However, he takes over a club with a starting lineup that even GM Joe Garagiola Jr. doesn't recognize. This team fell from a .500 team in 2003 to abysmally poor this season. Can Randy Johnson or the windfall he may produce when traded lead this team back to the postseason or at least respectability?
Well, the previous 88 teams in baseball history that won no more than one-third of their games (Arizona had a .315 winning percentage), improved by an average of 100 percentage points the next season. The average record for those teams was .293 in the first year and .396 in the second. Hey, 100 points? That sounds great, right? Well, consider that translates into a 64-98 record for those teams on average—not too impressive. For the D-Backs that portends a 67-95 record in 2005, which would still tie them for fewest wins this season. Again, that's not too impressive.
But maybe I'm being a little rough on the D-Backs. They were a .500 club a year ago. Couldn't they return more quickly to respectability? Look at the Tigers and their near 200-percentage-point improvement this season.
Well, there are just seven teams in major-league history that fell from a winning record one year (at least .500 winning percentage) to winning no more than one-third of their games the next. The last was the Boston Braves in 1934. Those teams on average improved less in their next season than did the larger group that I mentioned above, only 93 percentage points (.300 to .393). Yeah, that's not a lot of data to go on, but it does show that a) a precipitous fall like the one the D-Backs experienced this past season is extremely rare to begin with and b) no team in major-history has rebounded after such a fall to be a .500 team the next year.
And yet Backman predicts:
"This is not a rebuilding program. I'm here to win. That's what I've always been about and that's what the Diamondbacks are about," Backman said. "And we will get back to the Diamondback ways of the past as soon as we possibly can. We will make some changes and this team will compete. That's one thing that every team that I've ever managed does."
Let's say that Wally is in for a good bit of comeuppance.
The Worst of Series, Part II
I decided to look a little deeper into lopsided playoff series to determine just how bad a series the Sox's four-game sweep of the Cardinals was from an aesthetic point of view. Red Sox fans, do not be offended. Consider it a compliment that your team won in such an overwhelming fashion.
I ranked every playoff series for every season (I only had World Series data for 2004) in the difference between the winner's and loser's stats in as many categories as I thought could be relevant. For batting I used runs per game, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS. For pitching: ERA, WHIP, strikeout-to-walk ratio, strikeouts per nine innings, and home runs per nine innings. I also threw in unearned run average, the difference between runs and earned runs per nine innings, for some measure of defensive play.
The following are the top-25 most lopsided series based on these criteria all-time:
The 2004 World Series ranks ninth. It was fourth most lopsided World Series of all time. The top one on the list is the 1989 shellacking that I picked as my lopsided in the last installment. The 1990 Fall "Classic" also did well. The 1932 Series dropped to 27th after finishing in the bottom three in Unearned Runs Average. The Yankees had 7 unearned runs that year to the Cubs' 2, even though they were closer in errors (Yankees 8, Cubs 6).
The most lopsided seven-game series was the 1996 NLCS. It went seven games even though the Braves outscored the Cards 3.71 runs per game (6.29 to 2.57). The Braves won two games by football scores (14-0 and 15-0, the seventh game) though the rest was relatively close (one 5-run win, the rest within 2 runs).
The most lopsided seven-game World Series was the 2001 D-Back-Yankee affair coming at 47th.
On the flip side of the coin, the least dominating playoff series victors were:
The 1973 Series is an appropriate choice for the top spot. The series started with a one-run (2-1) win by the A's, a game won in the 12th by the Mets (10-7), and a game won in the 11th by the A's (3-2). The A's had a 2-1 edge but the series was extremely close to that point. Next, the Mets won big 6-1 to even the series and 2-0 on a combined three-hitter from Jerry Koosman and Tug McGraw, to take a 3-2 lead. The A's won the last two 3-1 and 5-2.
There are a number of series that could have gone either way to fill out the list.
The least dominating sweep—and I take pride in this—was the 1976 NLCS, in which the Big Red Machine razed my Phils (the 91st least dominating with scores of 6-3, 6-2, and 7-6). The least dominating World Series sweep was the NY Giants over the Cleveland Indians, winners of 111 during the regular season, in 1954 (106th least dominating, about middle of the pack—5-2, 3-1, 6-2, and 7-4), followed by 1907 (Cubs-Tigers) and 1950 (Yanks-Phils—again!).
If the well isn't dry yet, I might take a stab at finding the closest series of all-time by looking at the absolute values of the differences. I know America is holding its collective breath.
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.
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