Baseball Toaster Mike's Baseball Rants
Monthly archives: July 2005


Is Nevin in PETA or Something?
2005-07-29 21:47
by Mike Carminati

Actual ESPN headline describing the execrable, yet-to-be-confirmed Phil Nevin-for-Chan Ho Park and a Brinks truck full of cash: "Rangers agree to take Nevin off Padres' hands".

The Padres maneuvered this trade, meandering through a (Lance) nixed trade with Baltimore for Sidney Ponson. One year into his contract they also tried to trade Nevin for Ken Griffey. Nevin vetoed that one as well. Griffey ended up losing more than half the next season due to injury.

Let's review: The Padres tried to trade him for an overpriced superstar, whose team had soured on. That failed. They tried to sign him for an overpriced pitcher, whose team had soured on. That failed. They finally traded him for the Jungian archetype for atrocious free agent contacts.

Chan Ho Park?!? He's a cautionary tale for GMs. He's a punchline for Stuart Scott and the SportsCenter clique. He's not a guy you try to acquire on a bet. You don't want him on your team, even if the Rangers swallow the remainder of his contract.

But the Padres were willing to acquire this staff albatross for Nevin.

Why did the Padres hate this guy that much?

It must be his on-field performance. He must have had done some Mo Vaughn-esque type of underachieving in San Diego, right?

Well, in Nevin's worst season with the Pod People, he had a 106 adjusted OPS. That's 6% better than the park-adjusted league average, not exceptional for a first baseman, but then again that season (2002) Nevin played third and had his season shortened by injury (playing just 107 games).

Nevin's next worst season (2003) in San Diego was an OPS just 21% better than the adjusted league average, and again, he missed significant time to injury (playing just 59 games). Actually, the worst thing that could be said about his time with the Padres was the often injuries (though just in these two seasons and at the start of 1999, his first with the Padres).

Nevin's best Padre season was 2001 in which his adjusted OPS was 58% better than average. Of course, that was right before he signed the big contract. But his average adjusted OPS as a Padre is 129, 29% better than average.

Then again, there is the instance when Nevin demurred to play right field in 2003. He should get some grief for turning down an assignment—right?—like Bobby Abreu gets in Philly for turning down the leadoff spot and the center field job.

Well, this is a guy who came to San Diego as a catcher and was moved to third, a position he hadn't played with any regularity in two years so that 22-year-old, can't-miss prospect Ben Davis could catch. Davis was a bust.

He moved to first in 2002 after becoming an All-Star third baseman in order to accommodate 21-year-old, can't miss prospect Sean Burroughs. He moved to first and displaced All-Star first baseman Ryan Klesko. Burroughs was demoted mid-season, and Nevin and Klesko moved back to their previous positions.

In 2003, the Padres decided it was time to a) re-promote Burroughs and re-anoint him the future franchise player and b) swap Klesko and Nevin in the field. In spring training, Nevin injured his arm playing right field. He is supposed to miss the entire season, but returns midseason. The experiment is terminated after 29 games, and Nevin returns to first base.

Sheez, and I thought Marlon Byrd had been gaslighted by the Phils. The couldn't have screwed with this guy more unless they had used the fetus-frightening machine from "The Meaning of Life" on him. It reminds me of the career-sapping yearly position changes the Mets put Bobby Bonilla through a few years back.

So now Nevin's gone. And in his place is Chan Ho Park.

And Kevin Towers is pleased by this. To paraphrase Jon Lovitz-as-Mike Dukakis, how are the Dodgers losing to these guys?

Meeting the Deadline—The Biggest Trade Deadline Deals, Pt II
2005-07-28 21:25
by Mike Carminati

Part I

Now that we've looked at the biggest deals at the trade deadline based on the names involved, I would like to turn next to the most lopsided deadline trades. Which trades did the most to help a team's performance? And was that reflected in the standings?

The trade deadline has become its own little media event with "hot stove"-type speculation as to which teams are selling, which ones are buying, what big name soon-to-be free agents are switching teams for a stretch run, and what young players will they have to give up. My question is, is it a lot of ado about not a whole lot? Do deadline deals do anything more than offload big contracts in time to try out youngsters—usually sub-par ones anyway, but I digress—for next season? Who invented liquid soap and why? Yes, all these and yet other questions will be answered in today's episode.

For each trade I have looked at how much each team gave up and what it received in a sort of credit/debit ledger (quantified by Win Shares). For this study, I am just looking at how the players concerned performed in the given season since the intent of the trade deadline deal is to help the team (or teams) bulk up for a stretch run.

I have ranked the trades for each team ledger entry by this Win Shares differential and have divided them up into two groups, one per deadline date (i.e., pre-1986 the majors used June 15 as the deadline, and since then, July 31).

Also, the situation of each team at the time of the trade and at the end of the season will be listed in order to determine if the trade made an impact in the standings.

Here are the most lopsided June 15 trade deadline pickups. You'll notice a trend developing:

#1) June 4, 1953: The Pirates trade Ralph Kiner, Joe Garagiola, Catfish Metkovich, and Howie Pollet to the Cubs for Toby Atwell, Bob Schultz, Preston Ward, George Freese, Bob Addis, Gene Hermanski, and $150 K

Career Win Shares prior to trade: 344
Above Baseline: 196
Career Win Shares following trade: 25
Above Baseline: 20
Win Shares prior to trade for that season: 8
Above Baseline: 3
Win Shares following trade for that season: 23
Above Baseline: 11
Total Win Shares ahead for the season: 31

The infamous "we finished last with you, we can finish last without you", and the Pirates did. But did the Cubs make out that great with Kiner?

The Cubs were in last place at the time of the trade with a 12-27 record and .308 winning percentage, 14 games out of first. The Pirates were in sixth with a 16-28 record (.364), 12/5 games out.

At season's end, the Cubs managed to leapfrog over the Pirates finishing seventh with a 65-89 record (.422), 40 games out. They were 53-62 (.461) after the trade. The Pirates ended up with a pathetic 50-104 (.364), 55 games out. Pittsburgh was 34-76 (.309) after the trade.

The Cubs improved by about 150 percentage points after the trade. The Pirates declined by over fifty. The Cubs came out 23 Win Shares ahead in the deal and 31 for the season. And yet the Cubs were in no position to challenge for a pennant.

#2) June 15, 1957: The Yankees trade Billy Martin, Woodie Held, Bob Martyn, and Ralph Terry to the Kansas City Athletics for Ryne Duren, Jim Pisoni, and Harry Simpson.

Career Win Shares prior to trade: -11
Above Baseline: -2
Career Win Shares following trade: 236
Above Baseline: 97
Win Shares prior to trade for that season: -3
Above Baseline: 0
Win Shares following trade for that season: 20
Above Baseline: 4
Total Win Shares ahead for the season: 17

The Yankees dumped Billy Martin on their Quad-A affiliate, the KC A's, following the infamous Copacabana affair. They also let go a 21-year-old Ralph Terry, who they would later re-promote to the Bronx, and two Yankee scrubs who were starters in Kansas City.

Duren and Pisoni didn't play for the Yankees that year. Harry "Suitcase" Simpson was coming off of a career year with the A's (21 HR, 105 RBI, .293/.347.490, 120 OPS+). He started off just as hot in 1957 (129 OPS+ with KC) bit cooled considerably with the Yankees (.250/.307/.402, 95 OPS+).

So did the trade hurt the Yanks? Ah, no. At the time of the trade they were in second place, three games behind the White Sox (32-22, .593). At the end of the year, of course, the Yankees owned the AL pennant, 8 games ahead of second-place Chicago (98-56, .636) and lost the World Series to Milwaukee in seven games.

The A's were in seventh, 12.5 games out at the time of the trade (23-32, .418). The finished the year still in seventh, 38.5 games out (59-94, .386).

The Yankees were 66-34, .660 after trade, improving by over 60 percentage points. The A's were 36-62, .367 after the trade. Their winning percentage dropped by over 50 points.

The Yankees were just that good. The A's got more out of their players, but it didn't matter.

#3) June 13, 1953: The Browns traded Virgil Trucks and Bob Elliott to the White Sox for Darrell Johnson, Lou Kretlow, and $75K.

Career Win Shares prior to trade: 393
Above Baseline: 200
Career Win Shares following trade: 60
Above Baseline: 39
Win Shares prior to trade for that season: 14
Above Baseline: 8
Win Shares following trade for that season: 19
Above Baseline: 12
Total Win Shares ahead for the season: 33

To be continued…

Maddux's 3K Ks Redux
2005-07-27 21:05
by Mike Carminati
"Sounds great, Greg"
—Bobby Brady's rote response to his brother in the sublime "Brady Brunch"

Greg Maddux yesterday became the thirteenth man to record 3000 strikeouts and the third active member of the club (Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson being the other two). It's just another item in a Hall of Fame resume and perhaps it's the oddest one.

Maddux has only 85 strikeouts so far this year which projects to 134 over the entire season. He hasn't broken 170 K since 2001. His career high is 204 in 1998, they only year that he amassed at least 200.

I thought that 200 was a nice round figure since 300 is almost out of reach for all but the top strikeout guys. There have been only 63 300-K seasons in baseball history, and only one over the course of four whole decades (1920s to 1950s). There have been nearly 500 pitchers who collected at least 200 strikeouts in a season and 41 already in this decade. Here's a completely unnecessary table to illustrate all this:

Decade300K seasons200K seasons

Anyway, now armed with my arbitrary 200-K threshold, I sally forth. Maddux has the most career Ks by far of any pitcher who registered 200+ Ks in just one season:

Name200K yrsYrs%Career KFirstLast
Greg Maddux1195%300119862005
Jerry Koosman1205%255619671985
Dennis Eckersley1254%240119751998
Charlie Hough1264%236219701994
Lefty Grove1176%226619251941
Vida Blue1176%217519691986
Bobo Newsom1293%208219291953
Kevin Appier1186%199419892004
Whitey Ford1166%195619501967
Bobby Witt1195%195519862001
Frank Viola1166%184419821996
Sid Fernandez1166%174319831997
Dave Stewart1195%174119781995
Floyd Bannister1157%172319771992
Rick Sutcliffe1195%167919761994
Vic Willis1138%165118981910
Al Downing1186%163919611977
Mike Cuellar1157%163219591977
Steve Rogers1138%162119731985
Jack Powell1176%162118971912

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Meeting the Deadline—The Biggest Trade Deadline Deals
2005-07-24 21:49
by Mike Carminati

With the trade deadline swiftly approaching and not much more than the near futures of Phil Nevin and A.J. Burnett to discuss, I thought it might be interesting to look at the history of the trade deadline via the deals that it engendered.

The one very tricky thing about the history of the trade deadline is that it's changed over the years. I don't mean to say that it evolved over the years to where it is today, though there was a bit of that in the first fifty years of major-league ball. What I mean is that for a good sixty years the trade deadline was set at June 15, a month and a half earlier than it is today. The first major-league-wide trade deadline was established in 1921. It was August 1. The next year, the deadline was pushed back to June 15 where it stood until 1986, when it was set to today's July 31.

Other variations to the rule served to buttress the established trade deadline date. In 1934 interleague trades required passing intraleague waivers. In 1953, that was extended to require major-league waivers on all post-deadline trades. There were many other variations on the rules that are detailed here, but don't directly impact the investigation I propose (put for us Enron-inducing—according to Lil Joe—statheads, it's plenty good readin').

The tricky part becomes that what a team would do June 15 and what they would do on July 31 when they know that the next day their options will get mighty limited are completely different things. On June 15, teams that may not be in any sense contenders by season's end may look like they have a legitimate shot, even if they have a losing record. By using July 31 as a trade deadline the teams involved usually have a pretty good idea what their prospects are for the given season. The later date lets the teams involved make a more informed decision. The question remains as to whether they do a better job though.

Anyway, I looked at all trades within the two weeks leading up to and including the trade deadline starting with the first major-league deadline in 1921. What grabs the headlines in these sorts of trades is having a big-name player or two involved. A team may get big press and by lauded by the media and fans alike by picking up a big name even though it might mean they are giving up a prospect or two that will eventually have better careers than the big name they just received. Given that big names rule these trades at least from a myopic point of view, I first want to look at trades based on the value of the players involved. For this I'll use Win Shares, but any common household appliance will do (Walter "Gib" Gibson would use a pen). Actually, I'll use Win Shares Above Baseline, which filters out lifetime scrubs.

#1) June 3, 1952: Boston Red Sox trade Johnny Pesky, Walt Dropo, Fred Hatfield, Don Lenhardt, and Bill Wight to Detroit for Dizzy Trout, George Kell, Johnny Lipon, and Hoot Evers

Career Win Shares prior to trade: 821
Above Baseline: 428
Career Win Shares following trade: 286
Above Baseline: 40
Win Shares prior to trade for that season: 20
Above Baseline: 4
Win Shares following trade for that season: 61
Above Baseline: 10

Oh, the bygone era in which one could be referred to as "Hoot". This one illustrates the problem with the June 15th date very well. Neither team was anywhere near the top when the season was over. Boston was in sixth place with a 76-78, 19 games out of first. Detroit was last (50-104, 45 games out if first and 14 out of seventh!).

However, On June 2, the day before the trade was made, Retrosheet tells me, the Red Sox were percentage points ahead of Cleveland for the American League lead (24-17 to 25-18). Eventual winner, New York, was in fourth with a 19-17 record, 2-1/2 games out, percentage points out of the second division (remember that term?). Even seventh place St. Louis was just 6-1/2 games out, and the floundering Tigers were just 10.5 out. That's the problem with the old trade deadline date: No one was out of it. Everybody could dream that a Billy Beane-esque roster remake could put them in the lead to stay.

Boston must have thought that. Pesky was batting .149 with a .192 slugging percentage in his 25 games with Boston. He had an OPS that was 65% worse than the park-adjusted average with the Sox. He was also playing third after flip-flopping between third base and short over his Red Sox career. He played short in Detroit in 1952 and then switched to second.

After a big rookie year in Boston (AL RoY in 1950), Dropo, the "Moose, from Moosup", had a disappointing follow-up in 1951 (including being brief demotion to San Diego of the PCL) and in 27 Boston games was performing well (.265/.331/.470 and an adjusted OPS 14% better than average) but nowhere near his 1950 performance. He hit 23 homers for Detroit in the 115 games after the trade and had an adjusted OPS 20% better than the league average, but would be a journeyman from that point forward.

Hatfield was essentially Pesky's backup at third at the time of the trade. He followed up a miserable rookie year (.172/.274/.258 in 163 at-bats) with a monstrous aberration through 19 games in 1952 (.320/.433/.560 and an adjusted OPS 66% better than average). The Red Sox were unimpressed, shipping him to Detroit where he was their starting third baseman. He never hit well enough to justify more than a part-time job at any position (he switched between third and second for the rest of his career).

"Footise" Lenhardt was essentially the Sox starting left fielder (while Ted Williams served in the military) and was having a great year (.295/.383/.533 and an adjusted OPS 45% better than average) at the time of the trade. After a brief and unsuccessful stop in Detroit he was shipped to the Browns in another nine-player deal on August 14. He was out of the game within two years due to injury.

Wight was a pitcher from the tail-end of the Red Sox staff, though he was about average (ERA-wise) for his career. He was two years removed from some pretty good years with some second-division White Sox clubs.

Trout was a shell of his former self for the Sox though a better than average pitcher (9-8 with an adjusted ERA 8% better than league average). He would retire after the season (though he did pitch a third of an inning for Baltimore as a gimmick five years later).

Kell was a future Hall-of-Famer who was 29 at the time of the trade and who was mercurial offensively after turning 30. He took over at third for Pesky/Hatfield at third and had an adjusted OPS that was 26% better than average the rest of the way.

Evers replaced Lenhardt in left, and was nowhere near as effective as he had been in Detroit from 1947-50. A broken finger wrecked his swing and his offensive career.

"Skids" Lippon was a no-hit, slick-field shortstop who lived up that tag in Boston (.205/.301/.248, an adjusted OPS 51% worse than average). He was shipped to the Browns in 1953.

So, OK, that's a nine-player deal involving eight players who were starters or would become starters following the trade. Thow in a future Hall-of-Famer and it's a keeper.

#2) June 11, 1937: The Red Sox trade Wes Ferrell, Mel Almada, and Rick Ferrell to the Senators for Ben Chapman and Bobo Newsom

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Slouching Towards Florida
2005-07-22 22:07
by Mike Carminati

The NL East is getting mighty crowded. With all five teams within 5.5 games of each other, the fifth place team, Florida (at least for the time being), is closer to first than all but two of the other division's second-place teams.

Any of the five teams could and for a time have gotten hot and made a run. It seemed that the Nationals could mount a commanding lead, but the smart money's now on Atlanta, who have finally taken a half-game division lead. I thought the Marlins would give the Braves some trouble, but they now seem set to play the seller—witness the A.J. Burnett sweepstakes—at the trade deadline. The Phils and Mets don't seem good enough to win it but no one else is good enough to put them away, and theories abound as to what the role they will play as the trade deadline nears.

Tonight the Nats got whacked by Roger Clemens and the suddenly hot Astros, 14-1, falling a half-game behind the Braves. The Braves just tied D-Backs in the top of the ninth. The Phils beat the Padres, 8-6, in eleven innings. The Mets lost 6-5 to the Dodgers, and Florida is losing 8-5 to the Giants in San Fran. By tomorrow the could be between 4.5 and 6.5 games apart, but this is how they look right now:

Atlanta5442.563-Won 15-5
Washington5443.5570.5Lost 32-8
Philadelphia5047.5154.5Won 16-4
NY Mets4947.5105Lost 16-4
Florida4746.5055.5Won 23-7

All of this got me thinking about what the closest a last-place team had ever been to first when the season ended, but I already looked at that. So then I thought, with all of the NL East teams over .500, what are the best records for last-place teams. Here they are:

California Angels1991ALW8181.500714
Cleveland Indians1982ALE7884.481717
Chicago Cubs1987NLE7685.472619
Toronto Blue Jays1997ALE7686.469522
San Diego Padres1997NLW7686.469414
San Diego Padres2000NLW7686.469521
Kansas City Royals1996ALC7586.466524
New York Mets2002NLE7586.466527
San Francisco Giants1995NLW6777.465411
Oakland Athletics1995ALW6777.465412
California Angels1987ALW7587.463710
Chicago Cubs1975NLE7587.463618
Pittsburgh Pirates1984NLE7587.463622
Milwaukee Brewers1994ALC5362.461515
Detroit Tigers1994ALE5362.461518

Well, they are a lot of last-place teams on that list after the three-division gerrymandering of 1994. What about just looking at fifth-place teams to get a better comparison? Here are all the fifth-place teams that were .500 or better:

Boston Red Sox1981ALE5949.54652.5
Milwaukee Brewers1983ALE8775.537511
Detroit Tigers1978ALE8676.531514
Detroit Tigers1979ALE8576.528518
New York Yankees1988ALE8576.52853.5
Baltimore Orioles1984ALE8577.525519
Cleveland Indians1986ALE8478.519512
Detroit Tigers1980ALE8478.519519
Seattle Mariners1991ALW8379.512512
Houston Astros1988NLW8280.506513
Boston Red Sox1985ALE8181.500519
Houston Astros1969NLW8181.500512

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Un-A-Lloyd Failure—McClendon's Run With The Pirates one of the Worst of All Time
2005-07-21 12:24
by Mike Carminati

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Lloyd McClendon may soon be fired after his Pirates got swept in a four-game series with the Astros at home while being outscored 34-8 (or 8.5 to 2 per game). Pittsburgh is now 40-55 with a .421, 21-1/2 games out of first and just a half-game ahead of lowly Cincy. It is especially galling after the Pirates reached .500 a little over a month ago (June 11) to go 10-25 ever since.

Of course, McClendon will be the first one to tell you that the reports of his demise are highly exaggerated, at least so far:

"Hell, I've been getting fired for five years. And you know what? One day, I will be fired. In this job and, if I'm lucky enough, I'll be fired two or three times. That's the nature of this business. You can't worry about those things. If I start worrying about those things, then I'm not concentrating on doing my job."

Ah, it makes me pine for the halcyon days of Larry Bowa.

Anyway, even though McClendon's little exposition on the nature of managing is pretty accurate—he's been on the verge of being fired seemingly since day one—it leaves me with a few unanswered questions.

First, how lucky would McClendon have to land another managerial post after his team's poor showing in the last five years. The Pirates 321-420 or a .433 winning percentage under McClendon's stewardship. They have finished no higher than fourth and no closer to first than thirteen games and have been as far as 32-1/2 games out.

The second question Lloyd's speech left me with was how bad was his five-year managerial stint in Pittsburgh. How often does a man get five seasons to turn a team around and manager to do nothing in those five years? (Which reminds me: how long has Bush been in the White House anyway?)

My final Lloyd-inspired question is if thinking about getting fired would cause McClendon to lose his concentration and prevent him from doing his job, would anyone be able to tell the difference?

But I digress…How bad has McClendon's tenure with the Pirates been. Survey says…

I took a look at all managers who led a particular franchise for at least five years (or parts of five seasons to be more precise) and ranked them inversely by the results. McClendon is not the worst, but he's up there (Note that I list them by franchise, not team. Rogers Hornsby never managed the O's but he did manage the Browns who eventually became the O's):

MgrFranchise# YrsFirstLastWLPCT
Zack TaylorBaltimore Orioles519461951235410.364
Jimmie WilsonPhiladelphia Phillies519341938280477.370
Rogers HornsbyBaltimore Orioles619331952255381.401
Burt ShottonPhiladelphia Phillies619281933370549.403
Joe TorreNew York Mets519771981286420.405
Billy MeyerPittsburgh Pirates519481952317452.412
Cookie LavagettoMinnesota Twins619571961271384.414
Gil HodgesTexas Rangers519631967321444.420
Tony MuserKansas City Royals619972002317431.424
Billy GardnerMinnesota Twins519811985268353.432
Casey StengelAtlanta Braves619381943373491.432
Lloyd McClendonPittsburgh Pirates520012005321420.433

So after looking at this, I am left with an ironic reaction. Even though I may laugh, Lloyd may get another shot—it's not as if failure in an extended trial as manager prevented a number of these men from managing again (Tony Muser notwithstanding). Torre, Shotton, Stengel, and Hodges all had their share of managerial success in the future. Torre actually managed two teams to sub-.500 record over the course of at least five seasons (the Mets and Braves) before achieving legendary status with the Yankees. He's one of four managers to lead multiple teams to losing record for at least five seasons (the others being Bill Rigney, Bucky Harris, and Gene Mauch, who did it three times).

Even though the likelihood of McClendon resurfacing as a manager in another organization is low, it's not unprecedented. And he is a former backup catcher, which, I have said on multiple occasions is the most important criterion used in choosing new managers nowadays.

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MCLII And Other Personalized Plates That O's Fans Can Now Look Forward to Now That Their Team Is Sinking Like a Stone
2005-07-20 20:50
by Mike Carminati

MCLII is, of course, 1152 in Roman Numerals, those doohickeys that ancient Rome used to record dates in their film credits. 1152 was the year that Geoffrey, the future Archbishop of York and bastard son of Henry II of England, was born--I bet he got picked on when he was a kid.

And 1152 also represents the number of home runs that O's teammates and future Hall-of-Famers Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro have amassed in their careers collectively. Sosa with ten this season just passed Mark McGwire for sixth all time in homers at 584. Palmeiro has 17 this year and 568 for his career (9th) to go with 3010 hits (tied with Wade Boggs in 23rd place).

1152 is the most career home runs that any two teammates have ever recorded. The previous high was 1056, which was set in 1934 by Yankees Babe Ruth (708) and Lou Gehrig (348) and was tied in 2003 by the Giants' Barry Bonds (658) and Andres Galarraga (398). There are only two other teammates with at least 1000 career home runs were 1016 in 1971 by Giants Willie Mays (646) and Willie McCovey (370) and 1031 in 1972 by Braves Hank Aaron (673) and Orlando Cepeda (358). Prior to Ruth's ascension, the previous high which had stood for 25 years was 232 in 1896 by Phils Sam Thompson (126) and Dan Brouthers (106).

For the heck of it, I ran the numbers for the yearly leaders in career dingers by teammates and since I love tables, here it is. Oh, I also added the all-time high as of the given year and how long the "record" had stood as of that year. Enjoy:

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A Save Twelve Years in the Making
2005-07-19 22:05
by Mike Carminati

Tonight Curt Schilling picked up his first save as the new Red Sox closer as the Red Sox and Yankees flip-flopped positions tonight. Schilling's last save came May 3, 1992, as the Phils beat the Giants at Candlestick, 12-3. He earned the save by virtue of his game-ending four-inning stint in which he allowed just one run. His other save that year came in a ten-inning win at Wrigley (7-5 on April 21) even though he gave up a run in his tenth-inning appearance. The Phils took the young journeyman reliever and stuck him in the rotation 16 days after the May 3 save and the rest is history. Just think, if the Phils weren't desperate enough to give Schilling a shot, we never would have witnessed the Grinch-heart-like exponential growth of his ego.

Scilling went thirteen seasons between saves, which made me wonder how long the longest stretch between saves has ever been. Well, here's the answer:

Steve Carlton196711987120
Mike Flanagan197711991314
Dave Burba199112004213
Dennis Martinez198011993113
Tommy John196531978113
Curt Schilling199222005113
Art Herring193221944112
Socks Seibold191711929112

Schilling's tied for third, though it seems highly unlikely anyone will catch up to Carlton's "record". His two career saves came in his first and last full seasons, and neither of which came with the Phils, with whom he spent the bulk of his career.

Herring and Seibold's appearance on the list was greatly aided by the lack of talent during the World Wars. Both spent plenty of time out of the majors before returning to record their saves (which were awarded posthumously anyway).

Holy Cow, Yankees in First!
2005-07-18 21:27
by Mike Carminati

The Yankees slid into first tonight behind a wild Tanyon Sturtze-led 11-10 win over the Rangers as former Yankee-Lou Piniella and his lowly Devil Rays knocked the Red Sox out of the top berth, 3-1. (It seems apropos that the evil of the unrestrained arrogance that is the Red Sox should be eclipsed at a time that, hopefully, the same thing happens to the evil represented by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. OK, off the soapbox.)

As I was "watching" the end of the game—I say "watching" in quotes since the YES video feed was lost so I was witnessing the worst of all possible worlds, a pseudo-YES radio broadcast on TV, oy!—as I listened to the end of the game, I thought about the low winning percentage for all three of the leading clubs in the AL East. I looked it up and the Yankees lead with a .549 winning percentage followed the O's and Sox at .543. In the NL West, you have the Padres leading a sub-pat pack with just a .538 winning percentage. Throw in two dogfights in the NL East and AL West, and you could get a bunch of sub-.550 division winners.

That made me wonder how often that happens. I know the '73 Mets won barely more than they lost, but they were an aberration, right? Here are all the sub-.550 teams to finish number one in their division or league for any full season (i.e., let's ignore the strike-shortened 1994 season):

New York Mets19738279.509
Houston Astros19978478.519
Kansas City Royals19848478.519
Minnesota Twins19878577.525
Cleveland Indians19978675.534
New York Yankees20008774.540
Los Angeles Dodgers19957866.542
Atlanta Braves20018874.543
Boston Red Sox19908874.543
California Angels19798874.543
Chicago Cubs20038874.543
Pittsburgh Pirates19748874.543
St. Louis Cardinals19968874.543
Texas Rangers19988874.543
Seattle Mariners19957966.545
Atlanta Braves19828973.549
Boston Red Sox19888973.549
Cleveland Indians19988973.549
Pittsburgh Pirates19708973.549
Toronto Blue Jays19898973.549

In both leagues, the wild card leaders hover at around .550. There have been just three sub-.550 clubs that have won the wild card:

Colorado Rockies19957767.535
Baltimore Orioles19968874.543
New York Yankees19957965.549

With so many teams seemingly constructed to win in the 85- to 90-win range, I guess it comes as no surprise. Heck, the perennially 86-game-winning Phils are still in contention. The difference may be that 86 wins bring a wild card slot this year.

Leiter Than Air
2005-07-18 20:49
by Mike Carminati

Aside from being the just the tenth player to return to a former team after a 15-year gap, he is among the "leaders" in career wins for a pitchers who never won more than 17 in a season:

Dennis Martinez245193.55919761998
Milt Pappas209164.56019571973
Doyle Alexander194174.52719711989
Danny Darwin171182.48419781998
Scott Sanderson163143.53319781996
Bump Hadley161165.49419261941
Al Leiter159127.55619872005
Jim Slaton151158.48919711986
Rick Rhoden151125.54719741989
Tom Candiotti151164.47919831999
Bob Knepper146155.48519761990
Tim Belcher146140.51019872000
Hoyt Wilhelm143122.54019521972
Bobby Witt142157.47519862001
Kevin Gross142158.47319831997
Lindy McDaniel141119.54219551975
Mike Morgan141186.43119782002
Woodie Fryman141155.47619661983
Charlie Leibrandt140119.54119791993
Jim Clancy140167.45619771991
Sonny Siebert140114.55119641975

Yeah, that's a nutty set of criteria, but that's a great list of B-list pitching stars.

If that's not enough, here are the pitchers who won at least twenty games in a season and won the fewest games overall for their careers:

Henry Schmidt2213.62919031903
Jocko Flynn236.79318861886
Bill Wise2421.53318821886
Harry Salisbury2424.50018791882
Dick Burns2527.48118831885
Bill Stemmeyer2929.50018851888
Buck O'Brien2925.53719111913
Johnny Beazley3112.72119411949
Gus Krock3226.55218881890
Joe Corbett3218.64018951904
Bill James3721.63819131919
Mickey Hughes3928.58218881890
Roscoe Miller3945.46419011904
Pat Luby4041.49418901895
Scott Perry4068.37019151921
George McConnell4151.44619091916
Lou Fette4140.50619371945
Tom Vickery4242.50018901893
Nick Maddox4320.68319071910
Bob Emslie4444.50018831885

Schmidt played one season and quit the Brooklyn Dodgers and the majors in general to return to the west coast and the PCL. Maybe he was right: The Dodgers followed him some fifty years later.

Fette was one of two 30-year-old rookies who won 20 games for the 1937 Braves nee Bees, Jim Turner being the other. Beazley won 21 for the Cardinals in 1942 and then two more in the Series to beat the Yankees. He would injure himself doing exhibitions during World War II and win just 9 more.

Johan Santana was actually on the list (43-18) prior to the season. He isn't anymore.

2004 ALCS Leit-motif?
2005-07-18 09:52
by Mike Carminati

Last year the Red Sox withstood a shellacking at the hands of the Yankees in game thee of the American League Championship Series, 19-8, and then went on to take the next three games by a total of five runs. The Yanks crumbled in the anticlimactic seventh game 10-3, and the Sox were vaulted to one of the most lopsided World Series ever, sweeping the Cards.

This past weekend, the two old rivals replayed that scenario, slightly. This time it was the Yankees winning the war winning close games after the Red Sox won the one lopsided battle. The Sox tied their most lopsided victory over the Yankees in their 105 history with a 17-1 drubbing Friday. However, the Yankees won the three other games in the series by a total of seven runs, and in so doing they clawed to within one-half game of first place, a feat that seemed inconceivable for most of the first half of the season.

The biggest difference between the last game and game seven of the ALCS was perhaps that Al Leiter was a guest commentator for FOX during the playoffs last year. On Sunday he started for the Yankees and went 6.1 innings allowing three hits and one run while striking out eight for the win, his first AL win since 1995. It was his first win as a Yankee since April 14, 1989, an 8-5 win over Frank Viola and the Twins at Yankee Stadium.

Leiter was a second round pick for the Yankees in 1984 and pitched at the major-league level for three years in pinstripes, 1987-89. But given that he was just 7-8 in 22 starts as a Yank in his first stint and was injured so often (bluster problems?), that most just remember that his departure (to the Blue Jays) brought Jesse Barfield to the Bronx and the unfulfilled promise. Apropos to his previous AL stint, Leiter went to Toronto and quickly landed on the DL. Leiter put his career back together in his last year in Toronto and quickly left as a free agent for Florida, quickly establishing himself as one of the better pitchers in the game over the next decade.

So at age 39, Leiter now returns to the AL after having a failed return to Florida this season and being cut by the Marlins. After a 15-year gap, he is a Yankee again. That made me wonder what the longest gap was between stints for a given player/team combination. Here they are:

PlayerTeamFirst StintSecond StintGap
Heinie PeitzSt. Louis Browns/Cardinals1892-1895191317
Muddy RuelSt. Louis Browns1915193317
Bucky WaltersBoston Braves1931-32195017
Patsy DonovanBrooklyn Bridegrooms/Superbas18901906-0716
Joe KelleyBoston Beaneaters1891190816
Willie KeelerNew York Giants1892-93191016
Jesse TannehillCincinnati Reds1894191116
Bobby WallaceSt. Louis Cardinals1899-19011917-1816
Grover HartleySt. Louis Browns1916-17193416
Al LeiterNew York Yankees1987-89200515

Walters is the last guy to go at least 15 years between stints with a given team, the Braves in his case. Though a right-hander, he's a great analogue to Leiter. Their career numbers in wins, losses, and adjusted ERA are very similar. Walters, too, took quite a while to establish himself as a star pitcher: At age 30, he won 27 games for the Reds after five undistinguished seasons. Walters did do Leiter one better—he was third baseman when he left the Braves in 1932 and returned a pitcher with 198 wins. He had also managed for two seasons before throwing his last and only game as a Brave on July 23, 1950. That trumps sitting in a booth with likes of McCarver and Buck for a few playoff games, though I'm sure that experience seemed to last longer than a couple of seasons.

Red Socked
2005-07-15 22:24
by Mike Carminati

In 104 years the Red Sox never scored more than 16 runs against the Yanks. In 2005, the scored 17 runs against the Yanks….twice.

Tonight the Sox beat the Yankees 17-1 with former Yankee David Wells beating soon-to-be former Yankee Tim Redding. Redding in his New York debut does something never done before this season, start a game in which the Yanks relinquished 17 runs to the Red Sox. It featured an inside-the-park home run by Trot Nixon, his first, when center fielder Melky Cabrera, celebrating his first week as a Yankee, fell down allowing the ball to go to the wall.

The odd thing is that the Sox beat the Yanks by the same score on May 28 in the Bronx, no less. In that game the Sox had 27 hits as opposed to the 15 they had tonight.

Here are the most runs ever scored by the Sox in their head-to-head competitions:

Continue reading...
A's Get Byrned—Witasick Bunch of Trades!
2005-07-14 22:24
by Mike Carminati

Remember those woebegone days when Billy Beane had that Midas touch. Every deal he made turned to gold or at least gold and lime green, especially the midseason ones. And every year seemingly the A's would turn in a stellar second half and storm into the playoffs in which they would lose in the first round. Just look at how he revamped the team with a series of deals on May 22, 2002.

And now in 2005, he brings the Oakland faithful….Joe Kennedy AND Jay Witasick, wow! What, was John Wasdin unavailable?

In a series of trades, the A's swapped, essentially, multi-position outfielder Eric Byrnes for multi-position outfielder Jay Payton, rehabbing sinkerballing Chad Bradford for long-time stiff reliever Jay Witasick, and starting pitcher Joe Kennedy for former hot prospect Omar Quintanilla.

In arguably Witasick's best season (2002 with the Giants), he showed his true colors by continually crumpling in the playoffs and World Series. Kennedy is young (26) and left-handed but aside from what is looking more and more like a fluke season, last year, has never had an ERA under 4.44.

On paper Payton for Byrnes looks like a pretty good swap. Byrnes was out the door after 2005 anyway and has enjoyed only one full season as a starter (2004). Payton, though three years older, has averaged about the same numbers as Byrnes over a longer haul. Sounds like an OK swap, right? Well, consider that Payton has spent a good percentage of his career in hitter's parks and owns an OPS that is exactly the same as the park-adjusted league average. Byrnes, who has always played in a pitcher's park, has adjusted OPS that's 9% better than the league average. Besides, Payton was no more happy on the bench, where he'll seemingly spend a good deal of time in Oakland, when he was on the Red Sox than Byrnes was on the A's.

Kennedy could turn into the pitcher he was last year or he could continue to stunk up the joint. Again, he is young and left-handed. If Bruce Chen can do it, so could Kennedy. But after owning one of the better rotations in the game for a number of years and then dismantling it for youth, gambling Kennedy seems an act of desperation. Besides, Quintanilla is also young and may come back to bite them.

The shame of it was that Payton-for-Bradford seemed a decent move given Bradford's woes on the mound last year, his injury status, and the Red Sox desperation to a) shore up their pen and b) divest themselves of Payton (he was designated for reassignment, so Crazy Theo had to let him go somehow). It was the springboard for moving Byrnes, but then Beane became the desperate one.

That appears to be the difference in Beane this season: he may have acted out of desperation before but you could never see it. The Mulder and Hudson deals changed that and this midseason deal, that is dwarfed by previous years' similar moves, seals it.

Remember Me? I Used to Be the All-Star Game
2005-07-13 20:07
by Mike Carminati

Well, I guess I wasn't the only one who thought the All-Star game was a bore. The ratings were down for the second straight year. I guess they missed the memo and the continual reminders, including slogan-chanting foul lines, that "This time it ciounts."

But what do you expect when you kick off a broadcast with a Fantastic Four/baseball infomercial montage followed by a scouting report by "Scooter". And if that's not bad enough, you actually have to sit through a Tim McCarver/Joe Buck broadcast. Add in a 7-0 lead that slowly erodes to 7-5 as fan interest fades, and you end up with the audience switching to "Rock Star:INXS" faster than you can say "Autoerotic asphyxiation"

Could the hole the NL at first found themselves in have anything to do with the crappy choices that the fans stuck the NL with in the starting lineup (the sub-par Eckstein, Beltran, and Piazza, a collective 1-for-7).

Anyway, with the 2005 classic in the can, I ran the all-time numbers and came up with some interesting little factoids. The NL, which hasn't won since a 6-0 win in 1996 at the Vet, leads the series 40-34-2. However, the AL and NL have scored the exact same number of runs, 324, in 76 contests. Well, how about that?

The 1996 game is also tied for fourth-most lopsided. For a while it looked like this year's game was going to be near the top of the list:

1946Fenway Park, BostonAmerican120
1983Comiskey Park, ChicagoAmerican133
1992Jack Murphy Stadium, San DiegoAmerican136
1996Veterans Stadium, PhiladelphiaNational60
1993Oriole Park at Camden Yards, BaltimoreAmerican93
1976Veterans Stadium, PhiladelphiaNational71
1973Royals Stadium, Kansas CityNational71
1969RFK Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C.National93
1960Yankee Stadium, New YorkNational60
1944Forbes Field, PittsburghNational71

Yesterday's was one of the more higher scoring games all time but just the fourth highest this decade and the eighth highest since 1992:

1998Coors Field, DenverAmerican13821
1954Municipal Stadium, ClevelandAmerican11920
1992Jack Murphy Stadium, San DiegoAmerican13619
1949Ebbets Field, BrooklynAmerican11718
1983Comiskey Park, ChicagoAmerican13316
1934Polo Grounds, New YorkAmerican9716
1994Three Rivers Stadium, PittsburghNational8715
2002Miller Park, Milwaukee Tie7714
2004Minute Maid Park, Houston American9413
1962Wrigley Field, ChicagoAmerican9413
2003U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago American7613
1979Kingdome, SeattleNational7613
1977Yankee Stadium, New YorkNational7613
1946Fenway Park, BostonAmerican12012
1993Oriole Park at Camden Yards, BaltimoreAmerican9312
1969RFK Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C.National9312
2005Comerica Park, Detroit American7512
1941Briggs Stadium, DetroitAmerican7512

Another oddity: the average All-Star game score is 5.68-2.84. That's exactly double.

The city that's hosted the most ASGs? Chitown, 7 times. Three times at Wrigley, three times at the old Comiskey and once at the new. However, Cleveland's Municipal Stadium hosted the most games, 4. The only current teams not to host an ASG are Florida, Tampa Bay, and Arizona. There are two cities that hosted an ASG that no longer have a team, Brooklyn and Montreal.

OK, enough of that, now let's play some games that actually count.

Dusty Tautology?—The Fourth Cut Is The Deepest
2005-07-12 17:51
by Mike Carminati

My Toaster-mate Derek Smart sent me the following email the other day:

I ran across this quote from Dusty Baker in the Daily Herald:

"I'm a firm believer that your fourth year is about your toughest year as a hitter," Baker said. "Your first year or two, you're going on natural ability. They don't know you. One team thinks you're a high-ball hitter. One team thinks you're a low-ball hitter. By the fourth year, everybody knows what you can and cannot hit. Everybody's pitching him now about the same way."

That looks like a statement (fourth year being the toughest for hitters) that begs for some sort of fact-related rebuttal, and naturally, I thought of you. I don't know if the question interests you, but I thought I should toss it your way just in case (I just don't have the brain cells right now).

Well, I didn't have the brain cells either, but, like the Scarecrow, I have an honorary degree of ThD, Doctor in Thinkology. I did some thin'in' like El Kabong and a bunch of fancy ciphering like Jethro Bodine, and I ended up with a pain in the Gulliver, my droogies.

Dusty was just finding a way to either beat up on or find an excuse for the mercurial enigma that is Corey Patterson, the Cubs' sometime starting center fielder. After I started looking into Dusty's oratory, Patterson was actually sent down in the latest twist in Chicago's on-again off-again love affair with the rapidly aging 25-year-old player. It reminds me of the Phils' gaslighting of Marlon Byrd over the past three seasons.

Continue reading...
Twins Punto Second Base, Grab Boone
2005-07-11 19:25
by Mike Carminati

The Twins picked up 36-year-old Bret Boone, a player who has been in a steep decline over the last year and a half and who was being jettisoned from a last-place team, for a player to be named and a few sheckles. At least he comes cheap, at a prorated portion of the league minimum ($317 K).

So why pick up the aging star?

"We're having trouble scoring runs," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "Under the circumstances, we need to do something to help our offense. He certainly has a resume and has put up numbers."

Hmmm, so Boone must be an upgrade, right? Twin second baseman have a collective .726 OPS. The M's have a .679 OPS. Well, maybe that's not all Boone, right? Boone's ratios are .231/.299/.385/.684. That's an upgrade?

Indeed Luis Rivas has been awful (.257/.303/.297/.600), but Punto has been pretty good (.288/.341/.448/.789).

I wouldn't be all that comfortable with him as my starter, but Rivas has never been a world beater, and they won with him. He was a super sub for the Phils before they packaged him in the Milton deal (a deal that continues to hurt them). Punto has also scored 25 runs in 47 games.

I know, as Lil Joe said to Tommy Craggs, that's how we get Enron, those damned numbers. I hope Boone's "resume" will be batting for him. The only team that's helped by this deal is the Yankees, who will be struggling to overtake the Twins in the wild card hunt in the second half.

Maybe He Should Lead off
2005-07-11 18:35
by Mike Carminati

Bobby Abreu set a Home Run Derby "record" with 24 dingers in the first round tonight as the derby leadoff hitter. Aside from the atrocious uni that they made him wear:


Of course, the Philly fan collective groaned that he never hit one with men on base and that he didn't run any of them out selfish player that he is. Oh, and he never played any of the other contestants balls off the right field wall. They should trade the slacker.

Rockie Mountain Low
2005-07-09 22:20
by Mike Carminati

Tonight the Rockies won the first 1-0 game in Coors Field history behind seven innings of seven-hit ball by Jason Jennings.

The last home Rockies game that was as low-scoring was a six-inning 1-0 win over the Braves on August 10, 1994 on what turned out to be the second to last game of a strike-shortened season. Of course, that game predates Coors: the team played in the substantially lower scoring Mile High Stadium in those days.

The previous Coors low was two runs done three times: a 2-0 win over the Cubs on August 9, 2002, a 2-0 loss to the Braves on June 16, 1995, and a 2-0 win over Detroit June 10 of this year.

The Rockies have been involved in a few 1-0 road games, the last coming in 2003. Here is their record in 1-0 games, home and road:

1993 0-1
1994 2-0
1998 2-0
1999 1-0
2001 0-1
2002 2-1
2003 0-2
2005 1-0
Overall 8-5

They haven't fared as well in 2-0 games:

1995 0-5
1996 1-1
1997 0-1
1998 0-2
1999 0-2
2000 0-3
2002 1-1
2004 1-0
2005 1-1
Overall 4-16

Your 2005 Major League No-Stars!
2005-07-08 16:00
by Mike Carminati

For the heck of it, I constructed the worst lineups by league and present them fondly here. It may be unscientific, but I used OPS (straight up, no park-adjusted chaser) based on at least 200 plate appearances and ERA based on ten games started for starting pitchers. The DH is assigned to the worst position player who has at least 200 plate appearances who has a worse player in front him. Here are the results:

CChris SnyderAri.611John BuckKC.617
1BDoug MientkiewiczNYM.697Travis LeeTB.644
2BJamey CarrollWas.588Omar InfanteDet.656
SSCristian GuzmanWas.530Orlando CabreraLAA.648
3BSean BurroughsSD.624Aaron BooneCle.607
LFBrian JordanAtl.627Tony WomackNYY.542
CFCorey PattersonChC.649Nook LoganDet.657
RFGeoff JenkinsMil.754Richard HidalgoTex.686
DHJ.J. HardyMil.578Mark TeahenKC.650
SPEric MiltonCin 7.20 Jose LimaKC 7.58
SPJoe KennedyCol 7.04 Wilfredo Ledezma Det7.07
SPRamon Ortiz Cin6.59Hideo NomoTB 6.80
SPAl Leiter Fla 6.31Zack GreinkeKC 6.09
SPVicente PadillaPhi6.27Mark HendricksonTB 5.91
CL Danny Graves Cin6.83Keith Foulke Bos6.23

The one player who gets sideswiped is Geoff Jenkins, who is the worst NL right fielder who fits the criteria. However, there were a few worse ones (Austin Kearns, Raul Mondesi) who lost their jobs before they could "qualify". Sorry, Geoff.

Also, Sean Burroughs beat out Mike Lowell by just one OPS point. Sorry, Mike. Some of the supposed All-Stars (Izturis, Rollins) weren't far behind their corresponding No-Star. It makes me proud. As they keep monkeying with the system, I expect the two squads to become more closely aligned.

TLR Stands for "Total Lunacy, Rollins?!?"
2005-07-07 21:34
by Mike Carminati

Jimmy Rollins has been named to the All-Star game as an injury replacement. Never mind that Morgan Ensberg, the best NL player not on the squad, is being avoided like Robert Novak at a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (God bless Judith Miller by the way).

Rollins isn't even the most worthy player on his own team. He's not the best candidate from his own doubleplay combination. Second baseman Chase Utley has a clearcut edge over Rollins. Then there's Pat Burrell and Brett Myers, who are also far more worthy.

This is just the kind of egotrip that the ever-overreaching Rollins just doesn't need, not to mention that he may not be completely healthy for the game. But Tony LaRussa's ego has to slaked with the idiosyncratic pick. At least Rollins is better than the starting shortstop, David Eckstein, and who does he play for again?

The 2005 Home Run Derby—An Alter Bridge Too Far?
2005-07-07 21:27
by Mike Carminati

The Home Run Derby has now gotten so out of hand that a crappy post-grunge band, Alter Bridge, a derivative remnant of the highly derivative band Creed, will now perform at the Derby. I wonder if they'll be able to play each player's theme music as he steps to the plate.

And suddenly the Derby is an international event as if baseball had to fill the void left by the dormant NHL's non-existent All-Star game. There's Mark Teixeira representing the United States, Andruw Jones representing the Netherlands (though he's from Curacao), David Ortiz representing the Dominican Republic, Bobby Abreu representing Venezuela, Jason Bay representing Canada, Ivan Rodriguez representing Puerto Rico, and Carlos Lee for Panama. They are still trying to get the soft-hitting Ichiro to represent Japan. Buck Showalter claims oddly that Ichiro would win the whole shebang, perhaps as an attempt to evince the type of idiosyncratic idiocy that all true genius mangers have.

I have picked through the entire roster (and I'm Neyering out of doing so), but here are the most international All-Star games to date (I'm using "international" as a superlative as was once done on the website for a company in whose employ I once acted as a usufruct):

Yr# Countries

So this year's game has to be in the top handful. Given the roster shuffling that happens up until game time, I'll wait until Jeannie Zalasko's postgame to count my chickens, er, countries.

NL Packed with Cards
2005-07-07 20:48
by Mike Carminati

Six, count 'em, six Cardinals adorn the NL All-Star roster. Scott Rolen, David Eckstein, and Jim Edmonds were picked as starters. Albert Pujols will probably be the starting DH. Chris Carpenter and Jason Isringhausen are on the pitching staff.

So how many teams have fielded that many All-Stars? And how does that bode for the Cards chances come fall time?

Well, 110 teams have had at least six All-Stars. The highest was ten for the 1939 Yankees. Actually, eleven of the eighteen teams with at least eight All-Stars were Yankee squads:

YrTeam#WLPCTPosDiv?Lg ?WS?
1939New York Yankees1010645.7021 YY
1959New York Yankees97975.5133 NN
1954Chicago White Sox99460.6103 NN
1942New York Yankees910351.6691 YN
1961New York Yankees910953.6731 YY
1947New York Yankees99757.6301 YY
2004New York Yankees910161.6231YNN
1958New York Yankees99262.5971 YY
1950New York Yankees89856.6361 YY
1936New York Yankees810251.6671 YY
1960Pittsburgh Pirates89559.6171 YY
1951Brooklyn Dodgers89760.6182 NN
1957New York Yankees89856.6361 YN
1946Boston Red Sox810450.6751 YN
2001Seattle Mariners811646.7161YNN
1956Cincinnati Redlegs89163.5913 NN
1943St. Louis Cardinals810549.6821 YN
1952New York Yankees89559.6171 YY

Of the teams with at least six All-Stars, on average they were 94-62 for .605 winning percentage, somewhere between first and second place (average of 1.8). 73% of them won their division, 45% won the league pennant, and 24% won the whole enchilada.

Now, if they could just sneak an extra reserve onto the roster (Matt Morris or Reggie Sanders), their odds go up to 67%, 52%, and 30%. So maybe they need someone to make a visit to the Astros clubhouse and make Clemens and Lidge an offer they can't refuse. It would be even better if the Cards All-Stars actually deserved their spots.

2005-07-07 18:31
by Mike Carminati

The Yankees have promoted 20-year-old Melky Cabrera to start tonight in center field after one week of Triple-A experience. (Are you expecting Wendell Wilkie?) I saw Melky at a Double-A Trenton Thunder game earlier this year. He was part of a ninth-inning, come-from-behind rally to win the game, and I couldn't stop saying "Melky" all day.

You won't be surprised to find that he is the first major-league Melky (the closest was Mellie Wolfgang, a right-hander with the WWI White Sox), he will be the tenth Cabrera to grace a major-league roster, six of whom are active, making Cabrera one of the most popular names among foreign-born major-leaguers. Here are the "leaders":

Deconstructing Joe
2005-07-06 21:29
by Mike Carminati

Tommy Craggs has a look at Joe Morgan's psyche, or lack thereof, in the San Francisco Weekly.

The article features some cherce quotes from yours truly including a reference to "Reefer Madnesss" that I managed to slip in. I miss Joe. I wonder if he misses me, too. Buck up little soldier.

Lou Piniella Now a Human "I'm Trying to Get Fired" Sign
2005-07-06 21:16
by Mike Carminati

"Take this job and restaff it"

—Dancin' Homer Simpson

Lou Piniella's campaign to divorce himself from the D-Rays without breaking his contract has now entered the self-parody phase.

His newest idea is not, as the nonpareil Sports Pickle reports, "Lou Piniella thinking that going pants-less might get him fired". (Though their beautiful headline of "Study: 96-Percent of Boston Sports Fans Have No Idea How Annoying They Are" is actually true.)

Piniella's brain drizzle is to allow his middle relievers to start the game in order to avoid an eighth-inning meltdown, or rather to allow them to develop in the early innings.

"I've made up my mind, and that's what we're going to do," Piniella said. "People are going to think I'm crazy, but we're just going to try it.

"Starting (tonight). I'll bring in whatever reliever I feel like starting the game with, and I'll bring my starter in in the third inning and we'll play nine innings of baseball that way. I'm serious."

"I'm serious…I'll do it…I'll jump…"

Paul Richards might be proud, but this is pure insanity. If middle relief is an issue, why feature it at the start of the game when a very good start (admittedly a rarity in Tampa) could obviate the need for these inferior setup men. Isn't the best strategy to get as many innings as possible from your best pitchers, who should be your starters?

And what of the reliever-cum-starter is pitching well? Does he stay in the game for additional innings?

Studies regarding the probability of winning ballgames after trailing in the first couple of innings as opposed to allowing those runs in the eighth aside, there are some obvious problems with this.

OK, the D-Rays team ERA from the seventh inning on is third worst in the majors (5.55). But so is their ERA for innings 1-6 and it's even higher (5.95). Their staff ERA for relievers (5.84) is almost identical to the starters (5.83).

"So what," you say? The starters are just as bad as the relievers so who cares who starts? Well, one would hope that Piniella had some rationale for assigning certain members of his staff to the rotation. One would hope that the best pitchers go into the rotation and pitch more innings.

If not, then the best reason for his dismissal is the fact that he is admitted he bungled the staff from the word "go".

Perhaps, I'm being too hasty since Piniella decided to forego the experiment and start—oddly—his scheduled starter Casey Fossum tonight. Maybe he was trying to use his genius to get into the opposing managers' minds.

By the way, here's an example of Richards' shenanigans from It's my understanding that a gentleman's agreement was imposed to avoid these sorts of scenarios at least until today:

September 11, 1958: Orioles manager Paul Richards lists three pitchers in his starting line-up, hoping for a scoring chance in the first inning, at which point he can remove the extra pitchers for a batter of his choice. Billy O'Dell, batting 9th at P; Jack Harshman in CF, batting 5th; Milt Pappas at 2B, batting 7th. Only O'Dell bats as he goes to 14–11, losing to KC's Ned Garver, 7–1. The A's plate five in the 8th, paced by Bob Cerv's 33rd home run.

All-Star by Committee
2005-07-06 10:17
by Mike Carminati

I don't know what I was smoking yesterday when I suggested that Bobby Abreu being selected by the fans represented an improvement in their voting standards. After reviewing the full rosters in each league, I am left thinking of the old adage about the blind men and the elephant.

You've heard it a million times, but here goes. A group of blind men (usually three which is some sort of Jungian archetype for storytelling) approach an elephant. One feels his trunk and thinks he's a snake. The next feels his…um… I don't really know what they feel, but you get the point. Without the ability to see the whole, people will come up with the wrong solution by, uh, groping an elephant's trunk, or words to that effect.

The relatively new committee approach to selecting the team is like those blind elephant gropers. First, the fans pick the starting position players (and DH in the AL). After they permanently screw the dang thing up by swooning for David Eckstein and Carlos Beltran, the players favs are added with bête noires like Shea Hillenbrand as backup DH. Finally, the manager is guided by his personal animus for rivals, fatherly devotion to his own dysfunctional family of a team, and the requirement that every stinking team be represented. Finally, the fans' "Final Vote", which sounds like some sort of draconian game show from Nazi Germany, picks someone from a random group of overrated has-beens and sops to small ball punditry. And there you are America; there's your system for picking the homefield for the World Series—huh?

Throughout the system dominoes fall that make it impossible to assemble the best group of players. The Cardinal fans, all agog with their early season success while forgetting the drubbing of last season's Fall Classic, dolt on Eckstein and Rolen. The Met fans plumb the depths of their baseball knowledge en masse and pick Mike Piazza and Carlos Beltran to represent the NL. The system groans and lies moribund in the NL at that point.

The AL fans did a bit better, but that's just because the hegemony of the Red Sox Nation at least has some decent players to vote for. The AL got tripped up in the player round with Hillenbrand, Mike Sweeney, and Paul Konerko being ludicrously picked over Cleveland's Travis Hafner. The ghosts of Garret Anderson and Pudge Rodriguez then crowd out other more deserving candidates. The same goes for Joe Nathan who is probably the least deserving AL squad member ( I would have gone for his pen-mate Crain if necessary).

With no Hafner, the manager must then pick an Indian and undeserving closer Bob Wickman draws the short straw. The Tampa Bay dart game is played out resulting in Danys Baez and his orchestra. With no Big Three, a deserving yet unheralded middle reliever has to represent the ever-mediocre A's (Huston Street was just as deserving). Oh, and then Francona had to fill his Mariner and Ichiro quota by picking—who else?— Ichiro.

As a last indignity, Hafner isn't part of the "Final Solution" or the "Weakest Link" or whatever it is they call the confounded least favorite all-star contest. Two overrated leadoff men, two deserving yet marginalized Yankes, and Torri Torri Torri fill out that list. Eh, why not?

Continue reading...
Abreu in Every Spot
2005-07-05 21:23
by Mike Carminati

The idea that every team must be represented at the All-Star Game died a quick death with the selection of Bobby Abreu as the starting NL right fielder over the weekend.

What does one have to do with the other? Well, first as a Phils fan, I can assure you that Abreu is about as popular with the local yokels as OJ Simpson at a Brown family reunion. Abreu is arguably the best player the team has had since Hall-of-Famer Mike Schmidt, and yet until last season Abreu couldn't buy a cheesesteak in this town. Using the highly technical jersey survey—that is how available and how prevalent a jersey for a given player is—Abreu's ranked somewhere behind Ryan Howard's Clearwater Thrashers uni. Last year, when Abreu was clearly the best player on the team, his jersey was less prevalent than at least a half dozen other teammates, many of which were far inferior (Rollins, Thome, Wagner, Millwood, Lieberthal, Bell, Burrell, etc.).

The animus of Phils' faithless is a fickle thing. One could point out that Abreu is a minority and Philly is a notorious bigoted town—ask Curt Flood. But one would then be hard pressed to explain the fans' devotion to African-Americans Donovan McNabb and Dr. J and their frostiness toward Ohio-American Mike Schmidt. Former player and current African-American Mo Cheeks was handed the Sixers coaching job as basically a sop to the fans. And of course, there's the undying hatred toward inferior (to Abreu) right fielder J.D. Drew, who is whiter than Edgar Winter. Phils fans hate showiness, ostentation. They love players who they perceive as trying and caring. Schmidt and Abreu though superior offensive and defensive players are perceived as lackadaisical—they lollygag around the bases, they lollygag on defense, they lollygag getting to first on bases on balls. The fans love Pete Rose, Jim Thome, Larry Bowa (as a player), Lenny Dykstra—supposed hard working, blue-collar types. Of course, it doesn't hurt that certain stereotypes for certain minorities align well with these negative perceptions that the fans have.

Anyway, who did vote for Abreu then? I'm convinced that if you broke down his vote geographically, he would have the smallest hometown bias. I think that the fans in general picked Abreu.

But if Cubs fans, Dodger fans, and M's fans voted for Abreu, why would they pick a player from another locality rather than the local outfield denizens? I think that fantasy baseball has evened the playing field. Of course, the fan vote is still far from perfect—witness the Beltran and Rolen selections this year. But it's leveled the playing field to a certain degree.

But the selection of Abreu points out that fans have more knowledge, at least superficially, on the better players in each league today than they have had historically. Which begs the question, how can Mike Sweeney, though a fine player, be appearing in his fifth All-Star, as many as Frank Thomas and one more than Jeff Bagwell, two arguably Hall-of-Fame caliber first basemen? Of course, Mike Sweeney has the dubious honor of being the best Kansas City Royal, or at least the easiest to hide on an All-Star roster, for five years running.

Do Royals fans really need the annual Mo Rivera pinch-hit appearance by Sweeney at the All-Star Game? Aren't Royal fans if they are likely to watch baseball this late into the season given the dismal state it is in in Kansas City, likely to look for guys on their fantasy team from outside of the Royals organization rather than the odd Ken Harvey sighting.

So why require team reps anymore? At least the Royals have a decent player to represent their moribund franchise on an annual basis. Other clubs have been required to pony up sub-par relievers (think Mike Williams in 2003) or a stray outfielder in order to fill out a roster. Oftentimes these reps are not the best player from the inferior team, just the most convenient.

The end result is that the quality is not just watered down to expand the teams represented, but they are more watered down than necessary. I won't even go into the lunacy of trying to represent 16 teams in the NL to only 14 in the AL when the game now "counts".

It's time for baseball to do away with the anachronistic mandatory representative rule. MLB should put the best product on the field. That will appeal to baseball fans in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay more than a seventh-inning appearance by Lance Carter.

Learning to Walk IV
2005-07-05 09:23
by Mike Carminati

After filtering down my query, I think I have the final list. There are 205 players who went from sub-par at eliciting a base on balls to better than average after a substantial trial at the major-league level (min. 1000 plate appearances) and who continued to draw walks regularly. They "learned" how to induce a walk.

The first player that I looked for on the list was Sammy Sosa, who went from an average right fielder to a Hall-of-Famer in part because he became a bit more picky at the plate. At age 29 Sosa drew 73 walks, a then-career high, 28 more than the previous season (and only 5 more intentional walks) as he saw his home run total go from 36 to 66 in just one more at-bat. Sosa's first season produced a line of 33 walks to 150 strikeouts. His career high in walks came in 2001, arguably his best season, with 116 walks (37 intentional) against 153 K's.

Sosa's 26th on the list. Ahead of him are a number of Hall-of-Fame- or near-Hall-of-Fame-caliber careers. Most of the better players changed their walking ways early in their careers. Most enjoyed more success after doing so.

John Jaha, for example, went from an offensive sink hole at 1B/DH to, briefly, one of the better power hitters in the game. Ken Caminiti went from a good defensive third baseman to a great offensive one at the age of 32 with a little help from his friends, the base on balls and anabolic steroids. Don Mattingly briefly resurrected his career at age 32 when he went from 39 walks in 686 plate appearances in 1992 to 61 in 596 plate appearances in 1993 while upping his home runs and all of his ratios (and his park-adjusted OPS went from 108 to 118).

Others turned to the base on ball in as refuge in a poor season. Some were repaid with greatness in future seasons (witness Richie Ashburn's sub-par, walk-laden 1952 followed by much success while continuing to draw walks). Some (e.g., Jose Hernandez) turned to the base on balls but still witnessed other aspects of their game shutting down.

Continue reading...
Learning to Walk III
2005-07-04 22:00
by Mike Carminati

So finally I would like to look into whether batters can actually learn how to become more patient and draw more walks after they have reached the majors. I looked at all batters who were below expectations for their careers prior to a given year and were still below expectations for that year but who were above expectations the next year and for their career beyond.

There were 1081 instances in baseball history. Here are the largest turnarounds:

NameAgeYrPreTPA PrePostTPA PostDiff
Eddie Collins221909-0.1424061.008116311.150
Jack Clark231979-0.02112591.06369661.084
Johnny Evers261908-0.10627310.97244791.077
Carl Yastrzemski231963-0.02013620.936126290.956
Dick Wakefield231944-0.0997040.81818010.917
Harry Davis321906-0.04141000.79332790.834
Harry Davis251899-0.03013540.78360250.813
Toby Harrah261975-0.07520060.73467600.809
Early Wynn371957-0.57713970.2035060.781
Gary Sheffield221991-0.01310410.73576780.748
Gary Sheffield241993-0.00918620.73068570.739
Boog Powell211963-0.1004540.63873560.739
Ed Reulbach281911-0.2565500.4754310.731
Frank Robinson221958-0.00413450.717103980.721
Hank Greenberg241935-0.08111660.60749300.688
Tris Speaker221910-0.0447510.641112370.686
Luke Appling271934-0.10315580.57986850.681
Rance Mulliniks241980-0.0555110.62535780.680
Steve O'Neill251917-0.11916480.55939120.678
Tim McCarver311973-0.27348120.40213940.675
Rance Mulliniks261982-0.0526190.62234700.674
Cy Williams281916-0.0309140.62468060.654
Cy Williams341922-0.01340620.60736580.620
Richie Ashburn251952-0.01326400.60570960.619
Billy Nash221887-0.0227220.56659970.588

Eddie Collins went from a better than average second baseman to one of the best all time at age 22 when he started to draw walks.

There are still a couple of issues with this list: 1) 22-year-olds may just be developing. We should limit the actual late walk bloomers by age or previous career plate appearance or both. 2) Some players appear multiple times. For example, Harry Davis age 25 and age 32 both are listed. Did Davis forget suddenly how to draw a walk at age 28 and then remember? Clearly, for someone to qualify, they would need to make the list just once, when they turned a corner in their career and never looked back.

We'll use those criteria to get down to just those batters who qualify next. Then we'll know if it's possible to learn to be more patient as a major-leaguer and what it means for one's career.

This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
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