Monthly archives: September 2005
God Must Be a Baseball Fan
Amazing, simply amazing!
There were four games tonight with important playoff implications. Three were won by one run. The fourth, by two.
I'm lucky enough to have watching significant heaps of each game with the help of picture-in-a-picture, an itching clicker finger, access to MLB.TV, and an ability to multitask with a full bladder.
And it wasn't just the result of each game that mattered the most. It was the cumulative effect that built to a crescendo as each game reached its climax.
It's late, but I thought it might be interesting to look at the events as they enfolded. I kept a log of sorts while emailing some friends.
The Phils were leading 4-2. The Red Sox led the Yankees, 5-3. Indians just tied it in the bottom of the 9th and the Cubs just took a 2-1 lead in the 8th
The 'Stros are bobbling the ball all over the place. Wickman just got a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 10th. Boy, does he look more and more like Rube Foster every day. And I'm talking about Foster as a league executive, not as a player
How depressing--Marlon Byrd just scored against the Phils. Still up 4-3. But runner on third two in ninth.
Runners are the corners for the Cubs, still 3-2
Indians-Sox still tied in the 11th.
The Yankees just lost, 5-3, and are tied with the Red Sox for the division lead...
Tied 3-3 in Houston. Phillies win!..
Cubs just had their second runner in two innings thrown out at the plate. Still 3-3, runners at the corners, 1 out.
Todd Walker singles in the go-ahead run!..
Sox just walked the bases full, 1 out, bottom of 11th. Broussard up
Astros leave a man on third. Cubbies win, 4-3, same score as Phils.
[Note: I am going to the Phils-Nats game in DC on Sunday and am frothy with the possibilities.]
The Indians left the bases loaded with Aaron Boone grounding out to end the inning. Broussard was called out on an outside pitch. The home plate ump seems to have had an amorphous strike zone all night. Still 1-1 middle of the 12th.
And Cliff Politte is coming in for the Sox. This'll be good
It's a shame that this Indians-Chisox doesn't affect the division title. It's been amazing.
The Indians just got robbed to end the 12th. Sizemore slid into second on a ball grounded to Crede who lollygagged the ball into second. The replays showed that Sizemore slid in ahead of the throw, but the ump called him out. Wedge went ballistic.
Then in the 13th Willie Harris triples. Scott Podsednik, the [alleged] catalyst for their offense, bunted on his own, and hit it too hard right to first. Harris was out in a rundown. Podsendik went to second on the play. They walked Konerko to face Gload who was 0-for-5 with 3 Ks on the night, and he doubles in two runs. 3-1 Sox
Bellirard just homered with two outs in the ninth both Ks. 3-2. Jenks looked like he would get them 1-2-3.
[Sox win, 3-2.]
Here's a quick rundown of the playoff scenarios:
Phils win two, Astros lose two: result is the Phils are the wild card.
Phils win two, Astros split: playoff for NL wild card.
Phils split, Astros lose both: playoff for NL wild card.
Astros win two, Phils do whatever: the Astros are the wild card.
Sox/Yanks win two, Indians win two: Sox/Yanks winner wins division, Indians are the wild card.
Sox/Yanks win two, Indians split: Sox/Yanks winner wins division, playoff for the wild card.
Sox/Yanks win two, Indians lose two: Sox/Yanks winner wins division, loser is wild card.
Sox/Yanks split, Indians win two: One-game playoff for the AL East Title followed one-game playoff for wild card between Yanks/Sox loser and Indians.
Sox/Yanks split, Indians split or lose two: The Yanks win the division based on better head-to-head record (10-8), Red Sox are wild card.
Let's not even talk about the seedings until after tomorrow's games.
As I was reminded baseball changed its rules a few years back so that a three-way tie between the Red Sox, Yankees, and Indians would result in two playoff games. The first would decide the AL East champ, and the second would pair the East loser with the Indians (even though technically, they would no longer be tied.
With the Sox winning and Indians losing, the only way this scenario could play out is if 1) the Yanks and Bosox split, and 2) the Indians win both games from the White Sox.
When Hideki Matsui and Alex Rodriguez appeared in the game tonight, the played in their 160th game of the season. Let's say the three-way tie scenario becomes a reality and the Yankees lose the AL East playoff. Both of those players could end up playing 164 games since these playoffs count as regular season games.
By the same token, Bobby Abreu has played every Phillies game this year. If the Phils win one more of their remaining games than the Astros, they would have a wild card playoff. Abreu could potentially play 163 games.
That made me wonder how often a player exceeded the 162-game threshold. I remember Pete Rose playing 163 once when I was a kid. That was because of a tie ballgame that got replayed (both games' stats count though the result of the first does not).
There is actually a third scenario that could allow a player to exceed 162 games. That is, if he is traded midseason and because of the respective teams' schedules during his stint with them, he has the ability to play in an extra game or two.
So I looked up all the players with 163 or more games played in a season, with one or more teams. There were 32. . The most regular-season games in a season is 165 by Maury Wills in 1962 when the Dodgers and Giants had a three-game playoff that counted in the regular season (the Giants won). The only way that could be matched today, I believe, if four teams end up tied for a playoff spot or two.
The last to play 164, a feat Matsui and A-Rod can match, was Frank Taveras in 1979. Taveras was traded by the Pirates to the Mets midseason.
The last player to exceed 162 was Matsui himself in 2003, when the Yankees replayed a tie ballgame.
Here's the complete list by most games played and then year:
Now, given the 2003 Matsui season, I thought it might be interesting to investigate how many players have exceeded the total number of games for which their teams had a decision. This also removes our 162-game-centric view. There were 1048 of them. Here are the ones in the last 25 years:
Bill Buckner and Ivan DeJesus both played in three tie ballgames evidently in addition to the 160 that "counted" for the Cubs in 1981.
That made we wonder what was the largest number of mulligan games anyone ever played in addition to playing a full season for his team. Here goes:
Ten tie ballgames?!? That was before lights after all.
Unfit to Be Tied?
How could the baseball gods have done this to us? The Indians and White Sox lock up for a three game series with three games separating them starting tomorrow.
That's a classic setup, right? It's a long shot, but we all imagine the Indians sweeping the series and setting up one-game playoff to decide the division champ Bucky Dent style.
Well, we'd be wrong.
The tiebreaker rules that have been imposed since the advent of the not-so wild card establish that the Sox are the champs.
If the Indians were to sweep and thereby tie the White Sox in the standings, both teams would make the playoffs since the second place team in the East could not have a record as good as the Central co-champs.
Both the Indians and Chisox would be 96-76. The best the second-place team in the East could do would be 95-77 (both the Red Sox and Yankees would be tied with this record if Boston wins two of three in their series).
Given that both teams would make the playoffs, baseball simply uses their head-to-head record which the Sox lead 11-5 and would still win, 11-8, after the sweep. The Sox would then win the division. Who cares if we cut short an historic pennant race?
So what about the other playoff scenarios? If the Yankees win the final series with the Red Sox (either 2-1 or 3-0), then it's simple. They win the division. The Sox have a shot at the wild card if they have a better record than the Indians. If Boston and Cleveland tie, then it's a one-game playoff.
OK, let's say the Red Sox sweep the series, that too is easy. The Red Sox win the division, and the Yankees fight it out for the wild card with the Indians.
The one scenario that gets a bit wacky is if Boston takes two of three from the Yankees. In this case, the two teams would be tied for the division lead. This would lead to a one-game playoff. The loser of the playoff would make the playoffs if they had a better record (including the playoff) than the Indians.
It gets a bit sticky if the Indians take two from Chicago, resulting in a three-way tie. The Yanks-Sox playoff would still happen with the winner taking the division title and the loser out of the playoffs. The Indians would get in automatically even though they would be tied with the two other teams prior to the playoff.
The NL is a bit simpler with the Phils needing a sweep of the Nats to guarantee a wild card spot. If the Astros win two or more games in their final series, they take the wild card. Two Phillies wins coupled with one Astro win or one Phils win and all losses for the Astros result in a one-game playoff.
San Diego Chargeless
The Padres and Giants are locked in an epic scoreless tie in the bottom of the ninth. It is now a meaningless game as San Diego locked up the division yesterday. However, if the Giants prevail, the Padres will have locked up something perhaps more distinctive.
The Padres would own the dubious honor of worst record ever by a division or league winner in a non-strike year. The 1973 Mets are the current titleholders with an 83-79 record. (The 1981 Royal and 1994 Rangers had worse records but in strike years.)
The Padres would have to win all four of their remaining games to avoid wresting the title away.
Still Rocket in the Free (Agency) World
Roger Clemens may be one of a handful of pitchers who qualified for the ERA title with an ERA no more than 2.00, a WHIP of no more than 1.00, at least 7 K/IP, and 3 Ks per BB. In descending order:
And if you think that potentially 12 wins for a ERA champion is low, consider that 30 other ERA kings have 12 wins or fewer led by Cherokee Fisher's three wins in 1873.
Triple 100-RBI Men
Tonight the Phils finally topped the Mets, 16-6, but remained two games behind the Astros, who also won, in the wild card hunt with three games left to go. The Phils finally did something besides lose a one-run game, and Charlie "I Need A Friggin'" Manuel found a way to win a game of any lead without using Bill Wagner.
Also, Chase Utley was the big bat driving in five runs. In the process he crossed the 100 mark for RBI, not bad for a player who had no job coming out of camp.
Bobby Abreu also collected an RBI to reach the century mark, making Abreu (100), Utley (101), and Pat Burrell (116) the first set of three Phillies teammates to collect at least 100 RBI each since 1932.
It is also only the fifth time in franchise history that three Phils have amassed 100 RBI each. Actually, in 1929 four Phils accomplished the feat:
The 2005 Phils have a long way to go to break the franchise high (404 RBI) for three teammates. Forget the all-time high:
By the way, the four 100-RBI men for the 1929 Phils are not the most ever. There are three teams with five, two of which played in the wacky 1894 season:
Personal example carries more weight than preaching.
Walter Young is a September callup who has played fairly well for the Orioles with a .308 batting average, 379 on-base percentage, and .423 slugging average in 26 at-bats. You can't get too excited about any player wearing number 75, but with Rafael Palmeiro running himself out of town, the O's first base job is open (and Chris Gomez is not a viable solution).
But my interest in Young has very little to do with his on-field performance. I'm more interested in only one of his stats, his weight.
Young Walter is listed at three hundred and twenty pounds. In stocking feet yet.
I checked and found no player listed at 300 pounds or above (through 2004). He weighs 25 pounds more than anyone ever to play the game.
With nods to Terry "Big Tub of Goo" Forster (who David Letterman outed for continuing to list his weight at 210 pounds even though he gained heaps of weight over his career), the largest man to ever play in the majors was the aptly named Jumbo Brown who tipped the scales at 295.
As a matter of fact, there have only been 25 men who are within 75 pounds of Young. Most of them are pitchers:
As for the theory that Young is just a player whose weight happens to be distributed over a 6' 5" frame, consider that there have been 574 players through 2004 who were at least as tall.
But maybe he's still growing.
I feel that a player with such proportions meritsnay screams out foran appropriate nickname. My friend Mike suggested "Meatnormous", which is apparently how Burger Kind describes a new heart-stopping offering, and I couldn't imagine anything more appropriate.
So, I'll leave it to you to spread the world. "Meatnormous" Young. To quote Brad Hamilton, Learn it. Know it. Live it.
The Return of the Five-Ball Walk? (And Other Tales of Phillies Woe)
In 1889 baseball changed the definition of a base on balls, making four balls the basis for a free pass to first. Walks shot up 55% that year, the highest increase since the founding of the National League.
The five-ball walk has been dead for 116 years, but for a time in Philadelphia tonight, it seemed that baseball had brought it back. With the Phils trailing the Metsgoes by a run (3-2), the bases empty and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Chase Utley stepped into the batter's box and appeared to a called ball on a 3-2 count but remained at bat. The local Phillies broadcasters had the count at 3-2. The scoreboard had a 3-2 count. And the fans, at least the ones that can count, were irate.
How could a ball on 3-2 pitch not result in a walk?
As it turned out Utley walked two pitches later. But it didn't matter when the next batter, Bobby Abreu, K'ed to end the game. All that was left was the academic question of a five-pitch walk, and the Phils were eliminated from the division title hunt in the NL East.
It wasn't until I went through the pitch sequence on MLB.TV with a different broadcast team that I realized that the home-plate ump made the right call:
- Called strike on outside slider, 0-1(I believe this was the one called a ball by the Philly broadcasters and the scoreboard operator).
- Swinging strike on a curve, 0-2
- Fouled off, remains 0-2
- High and Outside, 1-2
- Foul tip in the dirt, remains 1-2
- Ball in the dirt, 2-2
- Fouled down the first base line, remains 2-2, followed by a conference on the mound
- Low change, 3-2 (This was the one that raised the fans' eyebrows.)
- Fouled off on outside fastball, remains 3-2.
- Change inside, walk.
So Phillies fans have no one to blame for the loss. Except for David Bell who stupidly tried to take third when he was on first and pinch-hitter Shane Victorino hit a two-out single with the Phils trailing by a run. It was a close play, but Bell had no business trying for third. With two outs, it's the proverbial boneheaded play. Or maybe they could blame Charlie Manuel for leaving Bell, he of the 16 career stolen bases, in as the tying run.
Anyway, I wondered if the five-ball walk had made an appearance since 1889. I looked in up in Rich Marazzi's The Rules and Lore of Baseball. I found an example with exactly the same two teams:
It was early in the 1978 season when the Mets and Phillies tangled at the Vet in Philadelphia in what must have been a real yawner.
Uh, yeah, I do. I'm surprised it hasn't happened more often as a matter of fact.
Starting To Hector Late in Life
Hector Carrasco helped the Nats play spoilers and shut the Marlins out tonight, 4-0. Carrasco went six innings and struck out six. This was Carrasco's fourth start and he hasn't given up a run in the last three outings and 17.2 innings.
That's not bad for a guy who never started more than a game in any of his previous nine seasons. As of two weeks ago, he had pitched 557 major-league games and started just two. He has gone four starts consisting in 22.2 innings and he owns a 0.79 ERA as a starter.
Carrasco is 35 and has had more address changes at the major-league level (8) than starts (6). He hasn't had a season with an ERA under 4.00 since 1996. But what if he turns into a legitimate starter?
How unprecedented would such a conversion be?
I looked it up.
I looked for all pitchers who were predominately relievers (no more than 9 starts in any season and no seasons with more starts than relief appearances), who became primarily starters after turning 35. (That is, at least 10 starts in any season or more starts than relief appearances in any given season.)
I found nine (in reverse chronological order):
Paige barely qualifies since his season as a starter consisted in one game as a promotional stunt for the Kansas City A's in 1965.
Wilhelm started 10 games in 1958 (out of 39 in total), 27 in 1959 (out of 32), and 11 in 1960 (out of 41). He had never started a game in his first six seasonshe was a late bloomer all aroundand 361 games. After 1961, he started just four games and went into the Hall as a starter.
Lindell was actually an outfielder who pitched 55 games in his career. He pitched one season as a pitcher prior to turning 35. It was 1942, when he pitched 23 games, all but two in relief, for the wartime Yanks at age 25. He didn't pitch again until 1953, his last season in which he converted to pitcher predominately and in which he started 23 of 32 games for the Pirates and Phils and registered a 4.66 ERA.
Prim was a World War II replacement pitcher for the Cubs 1943-46. He had pitched for the Senators and Phils eight years earlier. His only year as a starter was 1945 (19 of 34 games were starts) and he amassed a 13-8 record with a 2.40 ERA. But then the regulars returned .
Logan was another wartime replacement. He had pitched four seasons previously with 23 career games, none of which were starts. In 1945, he went 7-11 in 25 starts and 9 relief appearances and had a 3.18 ERA. Then the regulars returned, and he never pitched at the major-league level again.
Barrett was, surprise, a wartime replacement. He had a nine-year break from the majors, he started 24 games (of 38 in total) in 1943, and then the regulars returned
Niggeling was a late bloomer who went on to win 64 games mostly as a starter.
Heving had one stint primarily as a starter with the Red Sox in 1938 (11 starts in 16 games). He went 8-1 with a 3.73 ERA. He never started more than 7 again.
Betts had a seven-year break and became a starter with the Braves in 1932. He had a six-year run with the Phils previously and never started more than 9 in any season. In 1932, he was 13-11 with a 2.80 ERA. He pitched three more seasons with Boston, mostly as a starter.
So what Carrasco's doing is not unprecedented, but it's pretty darn rare. His success as a starter might be a fluke. It may end with another assignment to the pen. But he might just stuck around for a while as a starting pitcher.
Watching the Yanks beat up on Rodrigo Lopez tonight (6-0 last I checked), I was left to ponder how often a pitcherin this case Lopezhad thrown to a catcherin this case Javy Lopezwith the same last name.
Well, it may be impossible to know until Retrosheet dredges up every box score since the dawn of time. However, we can look up all the pitcher-catcher combinations on the same team with the same surname.
There are 79 through 2004 and ten of them occurred in this decade.
What the Phrig?!?
The Phils won a wild one tonight, 11-10, over the Reds by scoring five runscount 'emin the top of the ninth. They are now one game behind the Astros in the wild card hunt. They remain four behind the Braves for the NL East title.
The odd thing is the Phils were cruising, up 6-1 in the middle of the fifth. Then the floodgates opened. They gave up nine runs in the next three innings and fell behind 10-6.
I was switching to the homer Braves broadcast as the Phils got passed, 8-6. The Braves were behind the Marlins, 3-0, but they surged ahead, seemingly with the help of this good news, for an eventual win. The Astros had already lost to the Cubs. The Phillies were missing a golden opportunity to pick up a game on each of them.
Then something happened. Jimmy Rollins, as he has been doing so often lately, started it off with a leadoff single in the ninth off putative Reds closer David Weathers on an 0-1 pitch. Kenny Lofton singled to the right side on 1-0. Then Chase Utley collected his second homer of the night after working the count full.
With a one-run lead, Weathers got a lucky break on an apparently low strikeout call on Bobby Abreu. Abreu was thrown out of the game but somehow stayed on the bench. Pat Burrell also struck out and it seemed like too little too late for the Phils.
Next up was Ryan Howard who for some reason was given the Barry Bonds treatment. He got an unintentional intentional pass to first on four pitches.
It made sense, right? Why allow a guy who could tie the game with one swing have a chance to do so? Why not let the weak-swinging David Bell come to the plate. Right?
Uh no, on a full count, David Bell hit a gopher shot over the left field wall to put the Phils up to stay, 11-10. The only problem was that the Phils turnaround was so rapidLieberthal ended the inning with a flyout two pitches after the Bell dingerthat they had to rush to get Billy Wagner ready to close out the ninth, but he set them down 1-2-3 with two strikeouts.
I'm glad as a Phils fan and a baseball fan. Anyone who walks the tying run apparently on purpose deserves to take the loss.
This team is confounding. I'm like Michael Corleone: I keep getting pulled back in by them. I feel like that Randy Quaid Indians fan character in one of the films in the "Major League" franchise when he grouses the entire season that the Indians are going to blow. But then he turns it around right before the contrived climax. He wore an Indians hat inside out the entire movie.
I planned a trip to the Phils last game of the season in DC. It was just happenstance. A few friends and I wanted to see a Nationals game in RFK and this was the only date that worked. I had planned on wearing my expansion-wear Nationals shirt and hat, but I just might have to turn that Phils hat right side out and put it back on my head.
┐Quien Es Maas Macho?
On July 1, the Phils got shellacked 9-1 by John Smoltz and the Braves. Vicente Padilla, the loser in the game, saw his ERA swell to 6.96 and his record fall to 3-8.
Phils saw their own record fall to 40-40:they were at .500 for the first time in a month. They were in last place in the NL East, 8-1/2 games behind then-leader Washington and four behind the current leader, the Braves.
They also had just lost their putative offensive leader Jim Thome, to what turned out to be a season-ending injury, tendonitis in his elbow. The Phils also had 3.5 years remaining on his immense contract. In 2005 he registered just 7 homers in 193 at-bats with abysmal ratios (.207/.360/.352/.712).
The Phils turned to highly touted (by some--read, Bill Conlin) though largely untried rookie Ryan Howard. Eh, why not? The Philly press had already given up on baseball and was following Terrell Owens' daily vicissitudes. Besides the Phils aren't built to win, just to draw enough fans to justify the investment. Oh, and the Phils had used utility man Tomas Perez to fill in for their slugger, not advisable.
Howard had tanked in a trial in May during Thome's previous appearance on the DL. He started the season 2-for-21 but went on a tear May 15 and 17, going 4-for-7 with a home run, double, two runs scored, and one driven in. So what did the Phils do next? Send him down to Scranton of course.
On July 2, Howard took over at first and has since batted .300 with a .571 slugging percentage, .937 OPS, and 18 home runs in 247 at-bats and 67 games. That projects to 44 over 162 games, not bad for a rookie.
Here are Howard's stats divided between his two major-league stints this year:
Meanwhile, the Phils have gone 42-31 since Howard replaced Thome. Though hardly anyone in Philly seems to notice, The Phils are in the midst of a wild card run, and Ryan Howard is a big part of that. His grand slam to defeat the Braves in the tenth yesterday nicely bookends that July 1 loss.
And this was a player I advocated that they trade, for his own good as well as the team's, coming out of spring training this year. Given Thome's presence at first and Howard's inability to play elsewhere, retaining Howard seemed a luxury the Phils couldn't afford especially when they had a thin starting rotation and bullpen, not to mention visible holes at many positions (center field?). This is a team, however, that carried two putative starting second basemen to start the season as well.
Howard's success now complicates the first base situation in Philly immensely. Howard's got the job for the rest of the year, but what happens next spring? The Phils probably cannot offload or simply eat Thome's contract. And now they wouldn't dare to trade Howard in case Thome's career is done.
It'll be one of their many issues next spring. Thank goodness the Phils have the Michael Brown of GMs, Ed Wade, to guide them through these choices. And if the Phils don't make the playoffs, it all gets that much more depressing.
OK, now, I have to change the topic since I'm all too demoralized. Howard is now one homer short of twenty and he is assured of not reaching 100 games. Those sorts of stats instantly call to mind one Kevin Maas.
Maas, another first baseman, hit 21 home runs in 79 games in 1990 filling in for an injured Don Mattingly. He hit his first ten home runs in just 77 at-bats. The expectations were that he would easily double that if he played a full season, So he was given the DH job in 1991, replacing a rapidly aging Steve Balboni, but he never came close to his first-year success again. He started for the Yankees in 1991 recording 23 dingers in 148 games and hit just 21 more in parts of his three remaining seasons. And he still can't hit a curveball.
I wondered how many batters there were who had Maas-like seasons. I looked up all batters with 20 dingers in 100 games or fewer while never having started for a team before (i.e., never played 100 or more games previously).
Here's the elite group that Ryan Howard will join with his next homer:
Surprise, surprise! There's the guy whose job Howard took. Of course, Thome was a third baseman back then.
Bob Horner went from Arizona State to third base for the Braves and had a great rookie year, winning the 1978 NL Rookie of the Year award.
Which brings me to another subject: Could Ryan Howard win the NL Rookie of the Year Award this year while playing under 100 games?
Well, there are two instances of such players winning the award, Horner being one (and barring pitchers):
Hmm, it took the voters just 52 games to see the mettle of future Hall-of-Famer Willie McCovey.
The odd thing for Howard is that his main competition for the award is another player, Atlanta's Jeff Francoeur, who will not have played a hundred games by year's end either. The two rank one and two in rookie VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) in the NL.
Yanked into First
Randy Johnson and the Yanks squeaked past the O's, 2-1, while the Red Sox fell to the D-Rays, 7-4, after allowing a five-run outburst in the eighth. This puts the Yankees in first place for the first time since July 18 (their only other time in first being opening day).
Both teams play just the Blue Jays and O's until the meet up in Fenway for the final weekend of the season, a series which seems destined to decide the division winner.
Unlike the Indians, who seemed to come out of nowhere, the Yankees seemingly have been within striking distance of the Sox ever since the O'sremember them?relinquished the division lead.
I thought it might be fun to look at their monthly totals. So here goes:
Other than a tough June for the Yankees, they have been very close all year. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, they picked the worst time to go flat, while the Yanks and Indians got hot. How weird would it be if the Yankees and Indians won their divisions and the White Sox held on for the wild card?
Barry Bonds now has four homers in the last four games, one per game. The Giants coincidentally have won five straight, and their playoff hopes are still hanging by the thinnest of threads. They trail the Padres by five games with eleven left to play. If they win all eleven, they would finish above .500 at 82-80, which would be the worst record ever by a division winner in a non-strike year if they overtake San Diego.
Bonds also trails Babe Ruth for number two on the all-time home run list by seven, which at his current pace he would match by next Wednesday in San Diego, of course. Seven home runs in eleven games would seem impossible if this weren't Barry Bonds.
All of which made me wonder how Bonds would have done had he played a full season this year. I projected out his performance so far in 2005 to the 147 games that he played last year. Given that, he would have finished this season with 74 HRs for 777 on his career. But he would also have "just" 99 walks meaning that teams so far are challenging him more than usual expecting him to not be 100%. That wouldn't last long in full season. But the man doesn't seem to have missed a beat after missing 140-odd games.
Here are his numbers since 200 with his projected 2005 totals and the subsequent career numbers:
So Bonds would have broken the single-season and career home run record. Not a bad year. Too bad we missed it.
Tonight, the Indians and White Sox were locked in a chess match that ended with a 7-6 Chicago win in the tenth on a walk-off, leadoff Joe Crede home run, his second on the night. The Sox are now 3-1/2 games up on the Indians but more importantly, four up in the proverbially all important loss column. The rubber match is tomorrow, and the Indians could again close within 2.5.
But make no mistake: this was a big loss. As for the Indians, their fate is now not their own. Consider that the two teams have four games remaining against each other, meaning that if the Indians sweep all four games and all other things are equal, the best they can achieve is a tie. They would have to hope to outplay the Sox in the games against other opponents.
That might not be that difficult given that the Indians have to play the abysmal Royals and Devil Rays while Chicago draws the at least passable Twins and Tigers.
The game itself was neck and neck the whole way. The Indians led 2-0 until the bottom of the second, 3-2 in the top of the fourth, and 5-3 in the top of the seventh. The Sox led 6-5 in the bottom of the seventh and then again in the last at-bat of the game, 7-6. The two were tied 2-2 at the end of the second, 3-3 at the end of the third, and 6-6 from the middle of the ninth until the last at-bat. Cleveland had more leads but Chicago had the one that counted.
Should the Indians catch the Sox, they'll go down as the biggest goats since the 1964 Phils or 1914 Giants. But it will be undeserved. At least so far the Sox have not crumbled in September. Their record is 11-8 so far this month while the Indians are 14-4. Here are their monthly breakdowns by month followed by the standings at the end of each month:
I don't think one bad month should consign them to baseball purgatory with Mauch's Phils, especially when the Indians have been so hot.
I Love LA
Best of Races. The Worst of Races
Tonight the Yankees closed to within one-half game of the Red Sox with a walkoff homer by Bubba Crosby. The Indians, winners of six straight, amazingly closed to within 2-1/2 games by beating the White Sox, 7-5. If they sweep the Sox, they will end up just a half game out of first, something that seemed impossible for most of the season. Meanwhile Oakland leads the Twins, 5-1 in the seventh and can close to within one and a half games of the Angels.
By tomorrow morning the total gap between all first- and second-place teams in the American League could be four and one-half games. Meanwhile in the NL, all three first-place teams have comfortable leads of at least five games. In total, the NL second-place teams lag by 24.5 games.
That all made me wonder what were the closest and farthest apart a leagues has been based on the total games back for all second-place teams since divisional play started.
I ran the numbers and found that no three-division league has ever been as close as this year's AL and that the 2005 AL would rank tenth all time in total games back:
In 1980, the Phils and Astros won their divisions by one game each and then played one of the closest NL Championship Series of all time. With three divisions per league, no league will ever be as close as 1980 again. Given that any lead of less than a full game would require either a one-game playoff (in case of a tie) or that both teams play out their full schedules (in case of a half-game lead) or both, no league's second-place teams now could be closer than three total games back.
So the AL is just 1.5 games over that right now, which begs the question of what was the closest three-division league:
The 2000 AL divisions were won by the Yankees (2.5 over the Red Sox), the White Sox (5 over the Indians), and the A's (0.5 over the M's). The A's were never required to play their last game even with the half-game lead since even if they lost, they would win the tie breaker and the Seattle would still be the wild card.
This requires me to amend my previous statement: a three-division league could be as close as the 1980 NL if a) two divisions are won by one game and b) the first two teams in the third division are tied but that the tie breaker declares on the victor and the other the wild card. It seems an unlikely scenario, but it is possible. (The Astros took the 2001 NL Central crown in this fashion from the Cards despite identical records.)
Anyway, the farthest behind that all three divisions within a league have been are:
In 1998, the Braves won the NL East by 18 games, the Astros won the Central by 12.5, and the Padres won the West by 9.5. By the dual thrill of the McGwire-Sosa home run race, which Sosa lost if you forgot, and the Cubs wild card race and subsequent playoff sweep, were sufficient grounds for Sosa to win an NL MVP. You've got to love those baseball writersthey get it right every time.
Right now, the Astros, who trail the Cards by 13.5 while leading the wild card pack, would edge the 1998 Cubs for most game back while still qualifying for the wild card. So what's the worst, which wild card trailed its division winner by the most games?:
Yeah, the circumstances in the AL East in 1998 (114 wins for the Yankees and 92 for the Sox) will be hard to duplicate.
There was only so much of the Phils' Sunday Night Baseball drubbing last night that I could take because of a) having to suffer through the drubbing itselfin stark contrast the other Philly team playing that day, the Eagles, devastated the 49ers 42-3and b) suffering the even harder to take Joe Morgan analysis.
In the bit that I could stomach, Lil Joe offered his analysis of one of the many Phils' pitchers on the night (six in total), Alquilino Lopez, offhandedly and dismissively said that Lopez had at least allowed fewer hits than innings pitched, which is rare today.
First, this is a pitcher who was appearing n just his eleventh game this year (tenth with the Phils), but he did throw 72 with the Jays two seasons ago. So Joe should have some awareness of Lopez. Do your homework, Joe.
Second, Lopez' problem has never been in giving up too many hits. It's been giving up too many walks, 34 in 72 innings in 2003 and 13 in 21 innings last year. So far this year he's allowed just five against 19 Ks in 15.1 innings He has registered no stint in his short major-league career in which he has allowed more than one hit per inning pitched.
So clearly, Joe didn't know anything about the pitcher and was just trying to get in a jab or two against the pesky players of today (and their dog, too!). You know, pitchers today re lazy and give up way too many hits, not like in Joe's days.
Now. I agree that pitchers today are less likely to give up more than a hit per inning than the pitchers of Joe's days, given that he played through the greatest pitcher's era in baseball history. However, is the trend a building toward the overall ineptitude of all pitchers today or more a slight upward spike in a cyclic trend?
I thought a quickie study might shed some light on the subject though I already have my own opinion. I ran the numbers for all pitching stints of at least 25 innings and counted the years in which pitchers allowed fewer than a hit per inning and ones in which they allowed a hit per inning or more. I summed it by decade. Here's what I found:
Yes, the likelihood of a given pitcher allowing a hit or more per inning pitched has been increasing steadily since the Sixties. But aside from the myriad changes that have occurred in the last forty years (the designated hitter, the ascent of relief pitcher, many rounds of expansion, the internationalization of the game, a number of new hitter's ballparks, etc.), have pitchers become fundamentally different?
Look at how dramatically things changed as the deadball era changed into the era of Ruth. What we are seeing over the last forty years is nowhere near as dramatic, as rapid or as large, as in that era. Yes, the 2000s are higher than the overall average but just slightly.
Also, clearly given the sweeping changes in percentages over time, Joe's implication that today's pitchers are less worthwhile because of this slight trend is laughable. It's pitcher's era myopia plain and simple. Or textbook good ol' "Things were better in my day"-ism at its best. Thanks Joe for making an example, among other things, of yourself.
The thing that scares me is that prior to the game Mighty Joe picked the Phils and Astrosoddly, his two former teams over the Marlins to win the wildcard (Thanks to Murray for the link). That's a sure kiss of death.
"Florida can't score runs," Joe said before witnessing the Marlinsfourteen-run onslaught. Yes, the Phils' offense is sixth in runs scored in the majors while the Marlins are 15th and the 'Stros 24th. But aside from mentioning that Joe has always lauded the Marlins for their allegedly smallball approach, the Astros and Marlins have better pitching staffs. Houston is second in the majors in team ERA. The Marlins are jut one spot (14) ahead of the Phils (15), but .11 separates their ERAs. And Houston and Florida are in the top seven in the majors in starters ERA while the Phils are 14th.
But like Tony Montana, Joe has an answer to that, too:
"The game has changed so much,. Everybody used to talk about pitching, pitching, pitching, but now I'd rather have decent pitching and good hitting than good pitching and no hitting, which is kind of like Houston."
I'll Neyer this and simple say that balance is preferable always and forever. Given that, That favors the Marlins, whose bullpen has been killing them. The Phils rotation could dry up and whither away at any point and their offense is too closely tied to the many vicissitudes of putative leadoff man, Jimmy Rollns.And then there's the easy Astros schedule (11 of 13 vs. the Pirates and Cubs). Well, Joe doesn't believe in schedules, I guess:
"Every game there's pressure for Houston to win, just like there's pressure for the Phillies," he said. "Now the Astros may not be playing the same teams that the Phillies are playing, but if you're a wild card team you're supposed to beat those teams anyway."
Ah, Bach! And then to top himself, Joe offers this contradictory bit of wisdom, "[The Nationals leading 5-0] can't close San Diego out? You don't deserve it. San Diego's not as good as all the teams in the NL East." Well, maybe, but are the Cubs and Pirates as good as the Braves and Nats?
Fight on, little soldier.
In yesterday's Red Sox-Blue Jays game, with the Jays leading 2-1 in the top of the fifth and the Sox batting, Gabe Kapler was on first when Tony Graffanino hit a line-drive home run over the left field fence ostensibly giving Boston a 3-2 lead. But Graffanino stopped running between first and second and then the camera panned to Kapler who was lying face down past the second base bag.
The replay showed that Kapler's left foot got caught up in the dirt past second (oddly, not the bag itself). Kapler turned over and seemed to be ready to recuperate from an ankle turn or some other momentary injury.
But Kapler didn't get up. Finally, a trainer and then a cart were called out. It turns out that Kapler had a much worse injury than he initially appeared to have. He ruptured his left Achilles' tendon.
The entire time Graffanino along with the Red Sox two runs was stuck in limbo between first and second. Graffanino was careful not to pass the lead runner, no matter how little resemblance that title had to Kapler's physical state at the time.
At one point it appeared that two escorts would help Kapler limp around to home plate. But the Red Sox eventually brought in Alejandro Machado to pinch-run and the two runners proceeded to home while a cart was driven onto the field to take Kapler away.
The Sox led but one question remained. Was replacing Kapler kosher, so to speak?
Well, there are a great many things not in the rulebook. But, like Prego, it's in there:
Okay, no problem with the main thrust of the call. However, I do have some provisos.
First, I saw the play replayed five or six times from different angles and watched the entire five-minute gap in play while Kapler tested his leg, and I never saw anyone call time as the rule requires.
Also, it seems odd that the runners can score while various personnel are on the field tending to Kapler. How can a pinch-runner round the bases while the player he replaces is still on the field.
That said, I doubt that anyone would contemplate protesting a game on such grounds.
Anyway, the announcers at the game said it was the first time they had seen a play in which a lead runner was incapacitated rounding the bases on a homer. They could think of a play where either a runner or the batter couldn't at least limp around the bases to complete the play. I couldn't think of one either so I consulted my umpiring oracle, Rich Marazzi's The Rules and Lore of Baseball.
He didn't have a play for the lead runner scenario, and the only play involving the batter that mentions is in the minors:
Nick Bremigan tells a story about an incident that took place in a minor league game in the mid-1960s
Shades of "White Shoes" Johnson, eh?
That last bit seems to contradict the verbiage at the end of the actual rule. Then again, it may have been wordsmithed since the Marazzi book was published.
At least the umps didn't have to confer over the play.
The Best in (The) Show, II
Regarding my post on the best player in the game, my Toaster-mate Cliff "Don't Call Me Tim" Corcoran said:
I think you place too much emphasis on career achievement here, thus you get Ott, not Williams or DiMaggio in '41. Cobb and not Ruth in '21. And, just eyeballing it, no triple crown winners in the years they actually won the thing.
So on Cliff's advice, I ran the numbers for three- and five-year periods. For the given year, I looked at the player with the most Win Shares for that season and the previous two (or four for the five-year approach). I also imposed a minimum of ten Win Shares in each of the years for the player to qualify. I just thought that a baseline was necessary.
The three-year leaders are first:
The IBB and Flow of the Intentional Walk
I can't help but wonder if with Barry Bonds' return will the intentional walk make a comeback. If you hadn't noticed, the majors decided to give a free pass to Bonds whenever and wherever possible even with the bases loaded once or twice.
In the process, Bonds more than doubled the IBB record albeit for a stat that was not kept before 1955.Here are the all-time single-season leaders in intentional walks. You might note a trend:
Bonds appears seven times among the top fifteen seasons. To make the point even clearer, here are the major-league leaders in intentional walks over the last 15 seasons:
Bonds earned the IBB crown eight times between 1992 and 2004. This year, Pujols leads with the lowest total for a major-league leader in a non-strike year since 1990 and potentially a third as much as Bonds collected last year.
So Bonds' absence has affected the intentional walks total at the top of the food chain, but what about the majors in general? Have the IBB totals dropped off suddenly without Bonds? Let's see
Here is a table of total intentional walks and plate appearances across the majors with the ratio of IBBs per PA per year for the last fifteen seasons (2005 totals are through last nights games):
You may notice that the IBB rate dropped severely this year, but it is identical to 2000's value, and that was the last year before the majors went walk-crazy all over Bonds. Also, the rates even during the height of walk Bonds fever were lower than the rates up to the early Nineties.
To make the breakdown clearer, here are the totals per decade:
Free pass totals have been dropping steadily since the Seventies, even with the wacky Bonds totals of late. So what does that mean? Baseball seems to be wising up slowly and steadily to the ills of the intentional walk even as they have been bending the standards for the greatest player in the game.
Consider it another Barry Shift.
Some Old Home Run Records Never Die
Bert Blyleven may have had the best curveball since Candy Cummings picked up a clam shell, but there's a funny thing about curveballs. They sometimes hang. And hanging curveballs oftentimes get deposited in the gloves of your local Jeffrey Maiers.
Oddly, Blyleven didn't have much trouble with the long ball until relatively late in his career, but he made up for it with a vengeance. Ay age 35, after 16 major-league seasons, Blyleven had never given up more than 24 homers in a season, but in 1986, in the midst of the mid-Eighties power surge that presaged the current, twelve-year one, Blyleven let up a record 50 home runs. That's a lot of hanging curves.
Blyleven broke the 30-year-old record of 46 set by Robin Roberts. Then in the next season, he tied the old record. His 1986-87 arc reminds me of Mark McGwire's record-breaking 70-homer season in 1998 followed by his 65-homer 1999 season.
However, Blyleven has yet to find a pitcher play the Barry Bonds to his McGwire. With all the homers hit in the last twelve years, the closest any pitcher has come to Rik Aalbert Blyleven's all-time record is 48 in 2000 by the Astros Jose Lima. Lima was 7-16 with a 6.65 ERA (26% worse than the park-adjusted league average) that year. But Blyleven was 17-14 with a 4.01 ERA (8% better than the park-adjusted league average).
This year, Eric Milton is doing his best to catch my old buddy Bert by relinquishing 39 dingers en route to a Lima-like 7-14, 6.63 record. Milton projects to 44 home runs allowed should he continue in the Reds rotation and the Reds continue to field a team this year, neither of which is a given. It is highly doubtful that he'll catch Blyleven, but 44 would tie him for fifth all-time
Here are all the pitchers who have served up 40 or more tatters in a season:
Milton has established a team record for homers served. The old Reds record was 36 set by Tom Browning in 1988.
Oddly, as I mentioned in the previous article, 15 of 26 teams have established new single-season home-run records for batters since the current homer boom started in 1993 (plus four new records for four new teams), but only 11 of 26 teams have set new home runs allowed records for pitchers since 1993.
Here are all the team records for homers allowed today and as of 1993:
Brave New Home Run Record
Andruw Jones hit homers number 48 and 49 yesterday to establish a new Braves franchise record for home runs in a season topping the old record of 47 shared by Hall-of-Famers Hank Aaron (1971) and Eddie Matthews (1953).
On Jones's next homer, the Braves will become the 16th team with at least fifty-homer player. In the primordial days of baseballthat is, before 1993fifty-homer seasons were harder to come by than competent FEMA employees.
Since the homer boom over the last dozen years, fifteen teams have had their single-season home run records broken. And you have to consider that there were just 26 teams prior to the home run boom.
Here are the franchise records currently and before 1993:
After 142 games, the best player in the game returns to lead his team against the division leaders for a three game series. Barry Bonds will bat cleanup and play left, reportedly, for the Giants as they host the Padres, whom they trail by seven games.
Will it be too little, too late? Can Bonds really be Bonds again at age 41 after missing almost an entire season? Will Bonds even be able to contribute at all? Will it even matter given how far the Giants are back?
We'll have to wait to see, but I thought it might be interesting to look at the best performances ever by a player in twenty games or less. Given that Bonds has recorded arguably the best full season, or seasons, on record, can he fashion the best twenty-game season ever?
Here are the best based on no more than twenty games played and at least 50 plate appearances:
(Actually, the Jim Greengrass "Of Home" season is there because he was the leader in RBI among the group.)
Monte Cross had a 13-year career mostly as a starting shortstop after his monster 13-game 1894 season in Pittsburgh (224 OPS+) but never came anywhere near recreating those numbers over a full season. Craig Wilson was not the Pirate but the White Sox shortstop, who lasted just two more seasons. Lynn went on to an MVP/ROY season in 1975.
Most of these players were youngsters who parlayed a hot September callup into a starting job the nest spring, hardly Bonds' situation. To see comparable players to Bonds, I looked at just the forty-year-old or older set:
Not quite as impressive a group even though it contains Hornsby, probably the best player on either list. Let's assume that Bonds continues his torrid pace and hits as well as the best player on the list for each category. That would give him a .468 batting average, a .543 on-base average, an .837 slugging average, a 1.380 OPS, 5 home runs, and 24 RBI. If that seems unrealistic, consider that a 1.380 OPS would be just his third highest in the last four years.
If gets especially hot, remember than he trails Ruth for second place all-time in homers by just 11. Of course, if he gets hot, he may go on to lead the league in intentional walks (Albert Pujols lead with 24 currently) or hit-by-a-pitch (Geoff Jenkins, 17).
Ken Griffey may be out for the rest of the season because of a strained foot tendon that is potentially worse than first anticipated. Even so, his 128 games so far this year would be the most he has recorded since 200, his first season in Cincinnati. Appropriately, Griffey is having his best season since 2000, which makes you wonder what his career numbers would like if he hadn't missed so much time this millennium.
Oddly, through his first 12 seasons (1989-2000), Griffey had played 89.55% of his teams' games. Other than missing 73 of 145 games in 1995 and getting a late start in his rookie year (35 games missed), Griffey never missed more than 20 games in a season. He missed fewer than ten seven season, including none missed in 1998 (161 games).
From 2001 through this season, Griffey missed almost half the Reds' games (54.94% played). He will have missed 365 games in five years, almost double what he missed in his first dozen seasons (196 games). The nadir was 109 missed or 53 played in 2003.
Projecting his 2001-2005 stats to a 89.55% game availability rate, he would have 595 home runs and 2540 hits. And those numbers include some dismal, injury-debased seasonshe projects to 17 home runs in 2002. If Griffey had those types of numbers at age 35, he could have become baseball's third 600-homer/3000-hit man after Mays and Aaron.
Anyway, the missed opportunities in the second half of Griffey's career made me wonder if Griffey's career ranks among the worst at missed time of those in the Hall of Fame (of course, if president Bush had actually won admittance via the Veterans Committeehe was on the last ballothe would have set the all-time record). I ran the numbers for all Hall of Famers in their prime for those who went in as a player and who were position players for the majority of their careers. That is, I looked at the years from the first season each became a starter (played in half his team's games) until his last.
Keep in mind that Griffey has played 2125 of his teams; 2686 games or 79.11% and 561 games missed. That's an average of 128 games per year in a 162-game schedule.
Here are the lowest numbers for the current Hall-of-Famers:
You'll note that a number of the names at the top lost time to military service. Now, here are the worst by games missed:
So Griffey would not even be among the worst in either group. Then again he has probably another five season or so of games to miss.
By the way, the average Hall-of-Famer played 2082 of his team's 2466 games or 84.41% with 385 games missed. Here are the ones with the highest "attendance" rates and least games missed:
Best in (The) Show
When I was a kid, Fleetwood Mac's "Rumors" came out, and it and they seemed to be the biggest thing on the planet. Next came Supertramp's "Breakfast in America". Then came Pink Floyd's "The Wall", which seemed to raise the bar beyond reach. Well, except for blips on the radar screen like the Police's "Synchronicity", when REM released "Losing My Religion, and U2 more than once with "Joshua Tree" and "All That You Can't Leave Behind". I always thought Weezer would break it wide open after the "Green" album, but they never seemed made it over the top.
Anyway, during the Nineties when most were maintaining that Alex Rodriguez was the "Best Player in the Game", it's now apparent that Barry Bonds was the real king. With Bonds expected to return to the game this weekend after missing most of the season due to injury, I was reminded of the issue of the best player on the plant.
Does Bonds still merit the title given the time lost and his age?
I thought it might be interesting to look into a empirical method for determining the best player. He would have to be having a great year at the timelet's say at least 25 Win Shares, which leaves Bonds out in the cold. And he would have to the career stats to earn the title (i.e., career Win Shares).
My method was for each season to look at all the players with at least 25 Win Shares and then take the one with the greatest career Win Shares. Yeah, it's not perfect, but it turns out to be pretty instructive.
Here's the final list. You'll note that no one qualified in strike years because of the 25-WS minimum, and I'm fine with that. I could prorate the Win Shares in those seasons, but I think that those years were such downers anyway that don't need them besmirching the honor of our made-up title. You may also note that pitchers dominate the list until the end of the first decade in the 1900s.
Finally, the man who wrests the title of best player away from Bonds after a decade isdrum roll pleaseNOT A-Rod. It's not even Vladimir Guerrero. It's A-Rod's teammate, Gary Sheffield. Whether you agree with that or not, he has a pretty good argument for the title this year. One other thing about the list: Every man on it dating back to 1897 who is eligible is in the Hall of Fame (and Rose would go if eligible). Sheffield doesn't get a lot of mention when today's Hall-worthy players are discussed, but he really should. He may have to either put up a monster season or accumulate a bunch of very good years to reach a few big milestones in order to get serious consideration, which is a shame:
Those Who Can't Play, ManageŚRight?
All managers are losers, they are the most expendable pieces of furniture on the face of the Earth."
Ted Williams is not remembered as a great manager. Teddy Ballgame is the epitome of star player turned impatient, saturnine manager. The old aphorism goes that star players don't have the patience or understanding to pilot a team of mere mortals. They don't have the facility to train inferior players.
Williams' managerial career is actually more of a mixed bag than people tend to remember. He won the AL Manager of the Year award in his first season with the Senators. Overall, however, his record is far from sterling273 wins against 364 losses for a .429 winning percentage. His teams got worse, considerably worse, each season after he won the manager award.
I thought of Williams when the Pirates passed the managerial baton from Lloyd McClendon to Pete Mackanin. That is, from one scrub to an even worse one. McClendon, a backup catcher in his playing days, at least had glimpses of offensive prowess. Mackanin was atrocious at the plate though he was able to start a few seasons in Montreal and Minnesota back in a pitcher's era in which second baseman apparently did not need to hit.
I wondered if that was a good omen for the Bucs. The current thinking seems to be that the worse a manager was as a player, the better he will be as a manager. Though the Pirates were breaking with the other trend of using backup catchers-cum-managers. No one's perfect.
Of course, the larger issue is if that mentality has any basis in reality. Remember that a number of Hall of Famers have had more than their share of success in the manager's role. From Cap Anson to Frank Robinson, some great players have made pretty good managers.
So what's the rule and what's the exception? Is it Williams or is it Anson and Robinson?
I ran the numbers for all managers. I looked at there wins, losses, and winning percentages as managers as compared to their Win Share totals as players. Here are how the best players fared as managers (all data through 2004):
Now, here are the career wins leaders among managers with their career Win Shares as players:
You might notice that both lists run the gamut. The best players can be very good managers or lousy managers. The best managersat least based on winscould have been very good players, scrubs, or even bush-leaguers who never made it to the bigs.
Maybe a closer look by groups of managers might help. I organized them by career Win Shares and then totaled each group's wins and losses, took the overall winning percentage, and the average winning percentage. I used 100-Win Share bands but also isolated those players without enough major-league experience to merit one Win Share. Finally, I added a group for the managers who were Hall of Fame players:
Again, I don't know if I can see any direct relationship between a good players and good managers. It seems to alternate within the groups.
Let's see if there's a correlation between the different data. I ran the numbers between total managerial wins and total Win Shares as a player. They correlated ever so slightly (.094 coefficient). Next, I used managerial winning percentage and Win Shares. They had even less of a correlation (.041 coefficient).
So where are we? Basically, nowhere. There is no real relationship between success as a player and success as a manager. All we have is anecdotal evidence from which we can pick and choose. It just seems more interesting to go with the Teddy Ballgame worldview.
Lloyd in Space
The Pirates mercifully jettisoned long-time losing manager Lloyd McClendon and replaced him with one-time Phils' cup o' latté scrub Pete Mackanin.
McClendon lead, if that's the word for it, the inept Bucs to the worst record in the National League this season and has lead them to a woeful .429 winning percentage over the last five seasons. That translates into a 69.5 win season in a 162-game schedule.
So what does this mean for the Pirates in the long run? What has happened to a team historically after having a manager with a similarly bad run for as many as five years?
I took a look at all of the worst five consecutive seasons for a given manager on a given team. There were 30 worse than McClendon's tenure in Pittsburgh. Then I looked at what happened to those teams in the five subsequent seasons. Here's what I found:
On average guess what the average winning percentage was for those teams? .429, the same winning percentage McClendon had in Pittsburgh. Only three teams had a winning record in the subsequent five seasons.
So what does the future hold for the Pirates? It seems like history as well as the team's talent pool seem to be against them. But att least they've gotten rid of McClendon.
Will Carroll and I have a piece over at Baseball Prospectus (login required) today on whether swinging and missing, free swingers being free swingers, actually matters. Guess what? It doesn't. Enjoy.
Had I been less resolved to work, I would perhaps had made an effort to begin immediately...[I]t was better not to choose a night at which I was not well-disposed for a debut to which the following days proved, alas, no more propitious.
When Hoyt Wilhem hit a home run in his first major-league at-bat just about three months shy of his thirtieth birthday, it must have been one of those Roy Hobbs-types moments. Wilhelm went on to hit zero home runs over the rest of his career (431 at-bats), but went on to set the major-league appearance record (1070 games), which has since been broken, and to record 21 major-league seasons, finishing his Hall-of-Fame career with the Dodgers 16 days before his fiftieth birthday.
Of all the Hall of Famers, who earned their paques as a simple major-league player, Wilhelm had the latest debut. There were Hall-of-Fame players, like Satchell Paige, who debuted two days after his 42nd birthday, whose major-league careers were delayed due to baseball's color line.
But of the 514 players through 2004 who debuted at age 30 or older, none have earned a spot in Cooperstown based solely on what he did on the field as a major-league player. Wilhelm is the only one of 341 major-leaguers who debuted at age 29 to make it into the Hall.
Cliff's questions to my previous post made me wonder how much debut age affected one's chances of getting into the Hall. Are players who debut in their teens that much better players so that larger numbers of them have entered the hallowed halls? How about those who debut in their twenties? Is there a difference between debuting at age 22 as opposed 25 or 27 as far as one's likelihood of getting into the Hall?
Well, I ran the numbers and here's what I found:
To make it even clearer, I grouped the data by ranges:
The numbers show that by far the best group to belong to is the one with players who debuted in their teens. The next highest range is the 20-to-22-year-old debut group, in which Hall likelihood is about a two-fifths of the teen group. Other than those two groups, it's virtually impossible to get into the Hall (0.46% likelihood overall).
That made me wonder what this predicts about today's players. Given the breakdown of debut age for the 2004 group of players, here is the expectation, based on the odds in the past, of the players one day reaching the Hall:
Thirteen major-leaguers, less than half a player per team, that's the number expected to become Hall of Famers, none of whom debuted past age 25.
Where have all the Hoyt Wilhelm's gone?
When "King" Felix Hernandez and Randy "Big Unit" Johnson faced off for a 2-0 pitchers' duel in which both went at least seven innings, each struck out seven, and neither gave up more than four hits. Unfortunately, for Hernandez, two of the four hits he allowed were homers.
But aside from what happened on the field, this game represented a passing of the guard, from a 41-year-old, 5-time Cy Young winning, future Hall of Famer to a 19-year-old, flame-throwing kid who has just a handful of major-league starts to his name but is full of potential. It's like that scene at the end of "The Natural" in which Roy Hobbs faces seemingly his former self, a young Pirate pitcher fresh from the farm. And like the aging Robert Redford character, Johnson got the best of the youngster. However, if Hernandez turns into the pitcher that many expect him to become, he'll probably have the last laugh.
Aside from the symbolic meaning of the event, which may not be apparent for another ten or fifteen years, I wondered about something more tangible. I was left contemplating the significance of the age differences of the two starting pitchers. I couldn't remember the last time a pitcher who was 40 or over faced a teenager. So I looked it up
There were 153 potential matchups prior to this season. This was based on all combinations of a pitcher over 40 and another under 20 who were in the same league in the same season but on different teams and who started at least one game (from 1997-2004, I dropped the league constraint given intraleague baseball).
Using Retrosheet I was able to confirm that there have not been any other such pitching matchups in the last 40 seasons. Before 1966, Retrosheet's data is inconsistent, so the potential pairing prior to that season cannot be fully investigated.
It's a rare thing in baseball to find something that hasn't been done before, but that's what we might have seen the other day. If nothing else we saw pairing that probably hasn't happened in, well, Randy Johnson's lifetime. Isn't that enough?
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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