Monthly archives: November 2005
The Calm Before the Storm
The Chase.--Third Day...
The new BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot was released the other day. It caused a little stir in the media a week before it was released since Bob Dupuy, MLB's COO and SOB, announced that Pete Rose would remain banned on his last year of eligibility. Like that was a surprise or something.
I guess with no clear-cut choice for enshrinement this season, that was the best they could do for a story.
It's a shame really since I think this will be a pivotal year for Hall voting. Of course, there is the very well researched Negro Leagues and pre-Negro Leagues ballot, which may close the book on this topicor at least leave it ajarand may be the first step in dissolving the ill-conceived Veterans Committee by committee that was set up two years ago.
For the writers' ballot, no clear-cut first-time candidates means that they can start to clear the docket of the older candidates who have been languishing in Hall-voting purgatory. Good news for the Sutters, Rices, and Blylevens of the world.
It also comes at a very opportune time, right before the first wave of steroid-era players. Next year's candidates include Mark McGwire, Ken Caminiti, and Wally Joyner, all admitted steroid users of sorts.
The steroid scandal in general and its looming intrusion into the supposed purity of the Hall voting could cause baseball writers to change their voting methodology from "Eenie Meenie Miney Moe" to "One Potato, Two Potato". Will they go after more of the small-ball types (Hello, Ozzie Guillen) or maybe the pre-'roid power hitters (OK, Jim Rice, we never liked you but at least you were clean) or perchance a closer or two (even Goose Gossage's mustache was clean). Maybe Pete Rose may get a few write-ins given this is his last year on the ballot and heck, that's at least a scandal or two ago.
Whichever way they go, those wacky writers will probably screw something. Sheez, somehow Gary DiSarcina made his way onto the ballot. What was Tim Foli unavailable? Craig Reynolds? Ivan DeJesus?
In total there are 14 newcomers on the ballot this year, ranging from Will Clark at the "decent candidate" end of the spectrum to the estimable Senor DiSarcina at the stinky end. DiSarcina may be the worst candidate on the ballot in a few decades. Not only was he a forgettable no-hit, all-field shortstop, he barely qualifies for eligibility. Yes, he played the obligatory ten season, 12 actually. But appeared in fewer than 20 games in four of those and in 100 or more in just six.
The man earned just 65 Win Shares in his illustrious career. Of course, that's nowhere near the worst totals that earned idiosyncratic votes in the early days of the Hall, but it's among the worst in the last 25 years. Here's the all-time worst to ever appear on a ballot or receive a vote:
Ens played just 67 games in four seasons and managed two and one-half more unremarkable seasons, all in Pittsburgh. Schacht was, of course, the "Crown Prince of Baseball", a role now filled by Bud Selig.
DiSarcina is arguably the worst candidate in 16 years. Jose Morales appeared on the 1980 ballot because, reportedly, someone lost a bet. Morales was a classic pinch-hitter type with the Expos and Twins who never played more than 104 games in a season nor collected more than 242 at-bats. Here are the worst in the last 25 years:
This year's ballot also contains sixcount 'em, sixrelievers. That's among the most ever:
The nine in 1980 were Roy Face, Pete Richert, Jack Aker, Hoyt Wilhelm, Frank Linzy, Don McMahon, Don Larsen, Dick Selma, and Bob Miller, and Wilhelm is the only one who was ever inducted.
OK, so enough with the preliminaries. Let's take a look at the ballot itself. I added in all first-year candidates with 100 or more Win Shares whether they made the ballot or not. I'll break the data into sections. First, demographic data:
Now, let's run the candidates through the Bill James criteria for Hall readiness:
Next are the Hall credentials of the most similar batters/pitchers and their career Win Shares. Also, for each criterion the candidate is compared against the Hall average, and an overall percentage of tests passed is listed:
Finally, here are the last four years' voting results per player and my verdict on each:
Apparently, the Cubbies think that the best way to become the straight curse-breaking World Champs by channeling the spirit of the current champs, the Sox, via their past bullpens.
Today, they signed Bobby Howry to a three-year, $12 M contract. This comes just on the heals of their signing Scott Eyre to a three-year, $11 M contract. That's quite a hefty bill for not a whole lot. This is a team that finished 21 games out of the money this past season and four games under .500, but I'm sure they know what they are doing.
It made me wonder what was the greatest sum ever handed over to two middle relievers. By middle reliever, I mean someone who a) started less than half his games and b) who was not the closer (i.e., did not lead the team in saves). Yeah, it's sort of nebulous, so sue me.
The Cubs actually have cut payroll from last year and come in just 18th all time:
I know, Schilling's not really a middle reliever. Again, sue me. Anyway, the Cubs can find solace in the average team's .541 winning percentage. Then again, the sub-.500 Cubbies and the godawful 2003 Tigers (eight above the '06 Cubs) make an appearance. It's a proud team that can make such questionable signings and still make an improvement.
The Toronto Blue Jays finished third in the AL East this past season, fifteen games behind both the Yankees and Red Sox. And their big plan to close the gap is to sign B.J. Ryan for five years and $47 M.
Cousin Larry, I am serious.
What has happened to all these sabermetric GMs? They are either committing seppuku on themselves or their teams. J.P. Ricciardi may have made the worst move in saber-GM history this time though.
Ryan had a nice, if not great, season this past year as the O's closer, his first year as a closer in seven major-league seasons. He recorded 36 saves in 70.1 innings and had a good but not great 2.43 ERA. His 25.2 VORP ranked 15th among all relievers (behind Todd Jones), and his 11.8 Win Shares were 16th among all relievers. As for his overall career, he owns a 3.54 ERA in 381.1 innings, again nice but far from stellar for a reliever.
You get the idea. He had a good year, has never closed before, the O's finally gave up on Jorge Julio, and the rest is history.
But maybe I am selling Ryan's 2005 season short. Maybe it's somehow so historic that the Jays (or J.'s) are assured of a premier closer for years to come. I mean, how many closers recorded at least 30 saves and 60 innings as well as at least s strikeout an inning, especially a lefty reliever?
Well, I looked it. There have been 47 pitchers who have done it in baseball history, some multiple times, and six of them, including Ryan and Brian Fuentes this year, have done been lefties. My question is then whether somehow who has achieved that combination of accomplishments is likely to repeat it multiple times with five years. Given that the Jays signed Ryan for such an astronomical sum for five, one would assume that they expect him to perform at this level for a number of the seasons in the contract.
Here are 47 pitchers that have done it along with the number of times they repeated the task in the next five years:
That comes out to 48 repeat seasons in 191 tried or 25%. Only six men have accomplished the feat at least half the time over the next five years, and only two (Nen and Hoffman) were 100%. Frankly, the Jays will be lucky if Ryan repeats the feat more than once in the next five years.
By the way, Brian Fuentes is also a lefty whose 29 and accomplished the feat this past season. And he made $320 K last season. Of course, he won't be a free agent for some time, but it illustrates how Ryan's set of accomplishments are not so rare today.
Speaking of which, fellow lefty closer Billy Wagner, a pitcher who has consistently performed well over his career, signed for just $43 M with the Mets, albeit over just four years. MLB.com hails the signing, "the Mets on Monday appear to be the strongest team in the National League East and a significantly stronger entry in the New York baseball market". Somehow, I was reminded of the Mo Vaughn years. Anyway, the Braves' youth and talent might have be underestimated by that reporter.
Frankly, as a Phils fan, I am fine with my team saving the $10+ M a year as long as they spend it elsewhere (like the rotation, at third, and behind the plate). Besides how many pitchers save thirty games (as a baseline) consistently in their mid-thirties?
Here are the only pitchers to save at least 30 multiple times from age 34 to 37, Wagner's ages for the four-year contract:
Yes, Wagner's talented enough to join the list, but is he worth the $40 M price tag?
My response is the same that it was with Thome (a substantially worse bet). The Phils never made the playoffs with these players at the height of their powers. If they must go, if the Phils must tear down what they built when the moved to a new stadium in order to rebuild the team, that's fine as long as it's part of a plan.
I was happy with the Thome deal until the Phils threw $22M into the deal, almost half of Thome's remaining contract. Basically, Thome has to be through for the deal to work to their advantage now (unless their pockets are so deep that a seven-digit buyout does not phase them). Now Wagner does not re-sign even though retaining him was Gillick's stated highest priority. It makes me wonder what exactly the plan is. Hopefully Gillick is smart enough to let it evolve within some basic framework.
At least, he didn't sign a career middle reliever coming off a career year to the most lucrative deal for closer in baseball history. I wonder what Ed Wade would have done.
The first player that Paul Owens acquired as a GM for the Phils was John Bateman. He became their starting catcher, and after 82 miserable games (.222/.246/.294) was released the next January, never to play another major-league game (though he did score a major comeback with his role in the offbeat comedy series "Arrested Development").
Bateman cost the team one Tim McCarver who would play another 7+ seasons, mostly as a backup catcher, and would return to the team to be a valuable role player and caddy to Steve Carlton on the division-winning clubs of the late Seventies.
Owens would improve.
And so the Pat Gillick era begins in Philadelphia. At least his first move seems a bit more favorable.
Tonight the Phils have reportedly traded their one-time team leader, Jim Thome, to the White Sox for center fielder Aaron Rowand. For good or ill Gillick has now put his mark on the team.
Thome came to Philly as the cornerstone to their now-failed rebuilding project started a year before the team moved into their new stadium in 2004. The Phils signed the 32-year-old first baseman for $85 M over six years. He had two great seasons, each with 40+ homers (including a league-leading 47 in 2003) and .950+ OPSs. But then the inevitable happened.
No one thought when the Phils signed Thome that he could be effective for all six seasons of his contract, but no one expected his fall to be so precipitous. Amid various injuries, Thome played an abysmal 59 games in 2005 and was replaced by future NL Rookie of the Year Ryan Howard.
All of which created a problem and as Einstein saidor was it Dick Van Pattonthe mind that creates a problem (Ed Wade) cannot undo it or words to that effect. Thome could again become a dangerous player, but given his age, injury history, and contract situation ($48.5 M remaining over three years) the minuses far outweigh the pluses. Add in Howard's youth, inexpensive price tag, and inability to play another position, and Thome's leaving is the logical choice.
But, possibly due to the low expectations after years of Bill Giles, Ed Wade, and Lee Thomas in the general manager role, it seemed highly unlikely that they could divest themselves of Thome. But in walked the White Sox, who must be quite desperate with Paul Konerko a free agent.
The Sox have always seemed sour on Rowand, who is a fine all-around center fielder and is just 28. Frankly, Rowand recreating his monster 2004 season seems much more likely than Thome's return to prominence.
If Pat Gillick can pull off the deal, it resolves two major issues for the Phils (first base and center field) and points the team in the right direction as the hot stove warms up (and it would shut up Bill Conlin, which is always a good thing). They still have to figure out what is to be done with Mike Lieberthal's 2006 option, see if another patsy will bite on David Bell, oh and rebuild the majority of their pitching staff.
But that's two down andwhat?eight issues to go. Gillick is at least solving problems where Ed Wade would have been chasing after B.J. Ryan.
Ah, it's almost Thanksgiving, and I can already smell the intoxicating aroma of hot, oven-roasted Marlin. Yes, Christmas is comingthe Marlins are getting lean (please put a penny in Jeffrey Loria's hat, and a Brad Penny will definitely not do).
If it weren't bad enough that the Marlins have had the gall to win two World Series without ever winning their division, after the post-championship buzz has worn off they regularly jettison every player on the team making more than the league minimum. At least this time (2003) they took their time in dismantling. I guess they were just waiting for Jack McKeon to expire. I, frankly, thought this team would content in 2005 and even at the end of the season, thought they had a decent shot to win the division next year. But now we will never know.
One day after dealing the erstwhile All-Star third baseman (Mike Lowell) and fifteen-game winner (Josh Beckett), Florida is set to send Carlos Delgado to the Mets, the team they stole him away from in the free agent market last year.
Rumors swirl that they are shopping Luis Castillo, Juan Pierre, Paul Lo Duca, and a partridge in a pear treebasically everything and anything that isn't nailed down MUST GO!!! Just wait until talented youngsters like Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis get huge bumps up in salary due to arbitrationthey both made under $380 K last year.
Yes, they are getting decent prospects in both dealsMike Jacobs, 11 HRs and 1.085 in 100 ABs in 2005, and the high-touted shortstop Hanley Ramirez. But the original Boston deal had the Marlins sending cash to offset Lowell's $18/two-year price tag, and they are reportedly sending money in the Mets deal ($7 M to defray Delgado's $48 M price tag over the next three years).
They are reportedly trying to cut salary from an estimated $65 M last season to $40 M in 2006. As far as I can tell, they are well on their way.
I ran the numbers for their 2005 roster as well as how it currently stands and what could remain by the time the regular season rolls around:
Notes: Mordecai is based on 2004
Quantrill's 2005 contract was with the Yankees
Villone's 2005 salary was paid by the Mariners
I see everyone on the roster who made more than one million dollars in 2005 as a potential ex-Marlin. So far, the Marlins' hard work this offseason has netted them $44,385,000 in salary lost (either through trades or free agent losses, and not included the potential money sent to the Mets in the Delgado deal). If they divest themselves of the other millionaire players, I estimate that they can save an additional $16,133,334.
How does that affect their bottom line. Their estimated 2006 payroll for the players they currently have on their roster is in the mid-thirty million range ($36,028,834). If they are able to completely clean housemaybe they can even sell Joe Rudi to the Red Sox, they will have a salary in the $20 M range ($19,895,500) depending on the league-minimum salaries they will need to expend to replace the jettisoned, higher-priced players. That would be almost ten million less than the lowest payroll in 2005, that of the lowly Devil Rays ($29,679,067 according to Baseball-Reference.com).
Of course, none of this is happening in a vacuum. The Marlins have announced that due to their usurial stadium deal and the metro area's disinclination to supply them with a new parkAh, poor Jeffrey Loria!they will be looking to relocate the franchise.
But as Jayson Stark points out, where???
He theorizes Las Vegas since it is THE up-and-coming area. But baseball hates up-and-coming areas. They afford moving into new, untried markets until lawsuits or congressional threats to revoke their antitrust "exemption" force them to begrudgingly go (e.g., Seattle, Colorado, Miami, Tampa Bay and then you have the whole slew of Sixties expansion teams that were added merely to deflate a rival third league, the Continental League).
Then there's contraction. At the end of the 2006, as was negotiated in the last CBA wranglings, the owners will not need to get the players say-so in order to contract. The two Florida teams look like ideal candidates. Oddly, the Brewers moved to the NL to accommodate having the D-Rays in the AL so that the NL wouldn't have a monopoly on the valuable state.
My bet that is that the Marlins are not moving nor are they being contracted out of existence. Given that baseball has expanded into almost all of the viable markets, the can no longer exact from their municipalities the concessions that were available prior to the last two rounds of expansion (how many teams almost moved to Tampa-St. Pete before the D-Rays existed anyway?). Taking the DC off the market really hurt, too, but the owners will get their due in resale value.
So what is a monopoly to do? Make up idle threats that they seem to be able to back up. Contraction? Sound good. Leaving for Las Vegas? Didn't work for Nic Cage, but what the hey?
I think this just the first step in the next merry-go-round of ownership changes. The last round landed John Henry in Boston and Loria in Florida, sniggering at the losses of his minority owners in Montreal. Could the next round find the estimable Mr. Loria in DC or some other preferable market?
It's all speculation, but hey, that's what the offseason is for. Meanwhile this just in: Paul Lo Duca traded for a bucket of ice! More to come.
Kenji Johjima or Can't He?
Today the Mariners signed 29-year-old Kenji Johjima from the former Japanese leagues to be their starting catcher in 2006. And he has nothing to do with that crappy Robin Williams movie from a few years back.
I won't venture a guess as to how well he'll do in the majors. He could be Hideki Matsui or Hideki Irabu, Big Matsui or Little Matsui. As far as I can tell, the Japanese players that have segued into the majors have been as big a crapshoot as Schrodinger's cat. And I do hope the M's hire a translator for discussions at the mound. That is, unless Ichiro doesn't mind jogging in from center every so often.
I do have to say that the reports that he will be the first Japanese-born catcher in the majors are completely inaccurate. Keith McDonald played six games behind the plate for the Cardinals in 2000 and 2001. Though McDonald sounds about as Japanese as Carminati, the man was born in Yokosuka, Japan. I don't know McDonald's historywhether his father was in the service or was starting up a Ray Kroc franchise in Japan at the timeand without the luxury of a complete genealogical inquiry of every player in the game, he qualifies.
By the way, I was wondering about the language issue and looked up the premier catcher for each foreign country. So here goes:
I wonder if pitcher had difficulty understanding Fergy Malone's Irish brogue back in the day.
Anyway, with Ichiro Suzuki and Johjima, the M's will potentially become the first major league team with two starting position players born in Japan. That made me wonder when each foreign country first had two starting players on the same team:
MLB announced today that a special Hall of Fame election will take place for Negro League players and for African-Americans in the pre-Negro League period, one for each of the two categories. It is the culmination of a five-month study on pre-integration African-American baseball.
Apart from finally putting Negro League ambassador Buck O'Neil in the Hall, I have to agree with Negro League guru Larry Lester, who said, "It's unprecedented." The Hall has had Negro League Committees in the past, but no one has specifically set up a procedure for the largely forgotten players who were unlucky to play before the advent of the Negro Leagues (usually dating from 1920 when Rube Foster's Negro National League began play, though there were some scattered leagues prior to that).
So the voters can look at Moses Fleetwood Walker, Bud Fowler, George Stovey, and Frank Grant as pioneers without having to throw them in with more recent players like Mule ("Kick Mule!") Suttles and O'Neil. Really, the only true "pioneer" who has made it into the Hall was the great Rube Foster, whose playing career predated the formation of his Negro National League, and amazingly he was overlooked until 1981.
Oddly, the Negro Leaguers were thrown in with the rest of the players that were no longer eligible for the writers' ballot in 2003. This overhaul of the Veterans Committee procedures was supposed to be boon to the cronyistic, ineffectual committee.
Now it's two years later, the Vets have not only failed to elect anyone. They haven't even gotten close.
I think this is the first chink in the armor of the new Veterans Committee. Maybe it's the first step in reconstituting the poorly conceived committee or maybe it's just the first step in paring down the committee's scope. If the Hall can close the book on Negro Leaguers and possibly 19th century players, then they can focus on the players who have fallen off the writers' ballot.
Whatever it is, the approach is solidsit down with the scholars, research the topic, and submit the results. I wish that they just had the research committee sit down and come up with a final list instead of going to another ballot, but then again, that could produce the kind of single-mindedness and cronyism that has plagued the Vets since day one.
Now let's see if they can produce any results.
GMs Gone Wild
These are heady times for general managers. With over 200 free agents available and the winter meetings approaching, they now have time to sit back and methodically assemble the necessary components while spending their available funds prudently.
Or they can just dump tons of money on superfluous middle relievers and oft-injured starting pitchers.
There are reports that A.J. Burnett, a.k.a. A.J. Burnout, is demanding five years and $50M just to have a sit-down wid a friend of ours, ja know whad I mean? Not only that: the Jays are ready to pony up the cashola. Must be Canadian dollars.
This is a guy who has amassed 200 innings in a year just twice in his 6+ seasons. He's never exceeded 12 wins in any season (I know, wins aren't an accurate reflection of the individual's performance yudda yudda, but still).
He's a good pitcher, but if the team that signs him gets three full seasons out of five they'll be lucky.
Besides recent history hasn't been too favorable for NL pitchers headed to the AL though there is a spate of AL-to-NL guys who have been revelations (Clemens, Carpenter, etc.). Maybe it's the DH, maybe it's the disparity in talent between the two leagues.
I'm thinking of the Darren Dreifort re-signing in LA plus having to face the DH.
But wait, it gets even nuttier. The Cubs, who finished 21 games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central, made a few bold moves. After resigning Neifi Perez for $5 over two yearsthis is a 32-year-old player coming off a career year with just a .298 on-base percentage and a 77 adjusted OPSthe Northsiders went out and locked up a lefty middle reliever.
I guess it's not like the crosstown rivals won the Series this year while the Cubbies haven't won since 1908 or anything. Oh, and they let Nomar Garciaparra walk while they were at it.
Eyre has made a collective $4.37M in his nine-year career. He'll make an average of $5.5M per year over the next two. That's a ton of money for a guy who's most similar pitcher is Paul Mirabella.
Eyre could serve up 50-70 quality innings as he's done in San Fran or he could return to his 5.00+ ERAs while plying his trade for the other Chicago franchise. I guess the Cubs noticed that some nitwit cast a ninth-place MVP vote on Eyre.
But I'm sure Jim Hendry's not done. Kelly Wunsch and Braden Looper are awaiting multi-year, multi-million-dollar contracts. Who could possibly be competing Eyre up to that kind of Amigo money?middle-reliever lover Ed Wade no longer is in a position to drive up prices. I guess that's what you get when the average age of a GM is quickly approaching the average age of a McDonald's employee. I hope the Cubbies got fries with Eyre.
The Orioles made it official: Both of their 500-home-run players, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro, will be gone in 2006. Not that it comes as anything near a surprise. I saw Palmeiro on the street corner the other day holding a sign that read, "Will pinch-hit for food". Poor guy. The hardest blowexcuse the punwas that Viagra pulled out and he no longer gets those comp'ed freebie prescriptions. How deflating!
So ends the first and only occurrence of 500-homer teammates in baseball history. The O's go from career home run leaders with 588 (Sosa) and 569 (Palmeiro) dingers to Javy Lopez with a measly 252. Sosa and Plameiro are second and third among active players in taters. That is, if they are still active (and I won't even mention Vaigra this time).
That's a 336-homer shortfall for the Baltimore team home run leader. That made me wonder what the largest drop in team home run leader. Eh, it's the offseasonwhat ya gonna do?
Here are the greatest one-year declines in team home run leader:
By the way, the Oriole home run leader before Rafael Palmeiro hit town was Tony Batista with 182. That was the seventh largest increase in homers by a given team's leader. Here are the largest:
And in one last attempt to beat this dead horse, the orchid for most homers by two teammates must be wrested from the Sosa and Palmeiro and be awarded to .guess who?
Well, it's kind of unfair. It's basically Barry Bonds' teammate du jour. Actually, three of the top four slots fall to Barry and some other dude (* indicates a potential free agent):
Let's Turn Two?
You were very good playing a bitch-heroine, but you shouldn't win an award for playing yourself.
Will wonders ever cease? The writers got both MVPcount 'em, TWOawards right this year, awarding the NL honor to the NL's best player this year, Albert Pujols (or Albert Pools as Thom Brennaman is wont to call him).
Even with the 19-yard-field-goal that has been giving the award in the NL to Barry Bonds has been this decade, the writers haven't gotten both "right" since 2000 when Jeff Kent and Jason Giambi were awarded the hardware.
The other years in which they got all the MVP awards "right"?
1994Jeff Bagwell & Frank Thomas
So what do I mean by "right"? I know this won't make everyone happy, but I mean they picked the player who led his league in Win Shares to be the MVP. This year both A-Rod and Albert Pools led their league in Win Shares.
So how well have the writers done over the years? Here is a breakdown by decade:
It could be that Barry Bonds has made this mind-numbingly simple in the 2000s, but the writers have been correct two-thirds of the time, their best decade yet. If I live to be one hundred, maybe they'll have this MVP thing down pat. Now, if they could just get rid of the Lamarr Hoyt, er, Cy Young award.
Man Bites Dog—They Finally Get a Major Award Right
The baseball writers screwed up yesterday and somehow gave the AL MVP award to Alex Rodriguez, the league's most valuable player. Odd.
A-Rod now at least owns two of the four awards that he should have won in his career. Eh? It's progress.
I just wanted to run the numbers for the whole list because there were some players who received votes (Podsednik, Wickman) who wouldn't make the top five for the team's MVP vote and some (Peralta, Crawford) who were overlooked even though they are the types of players that usually garner a good bit of voter attention (i.e., a power-hitting shortstop and a good leadoff hitter). Also, prominent DH's (Hafner and Ortiz) complicated the voting to some extent. How do you weigh their batting against their non-fielding?
Since I was criticized for ranking, not weighting the statistics included, I will include both ranked and weighted stats (even though the comparison between averaged rankings and averaged averages is fundamentally unsoundaveraged averages are an issue because they might include different denominators).
The stats I will use are Baseball Prospectus's VORP, Bill James' Batting and Total Win Shares, and Baseball Reference's adjusted OPS+. I know that using the batting stats puts the pitchers involved at a severe disadvantage, but frankly, pitchers have no business being considered in MVP voting, at least pitchers this side of Roger Clemens. I also threw in a few of the better players left off the writers' ballots.
So here goes The data are broken down in order to fit the display. First, the actual vote totals (rankings are by the final ranking) and VORP:
Now, here are the Win Shares and OPS+ data:
Here are the final standings by average rank then weighted average:
As for which stats correlate best to the final vote, VORP was best (0.712 coefficient for value and weighted value, and 0.556 for rank). Total Win Share edged out Batting Win Shares, and OPS+ came in last).
Podsednik benefited from the good press early in the season, even though no real case could be made for him based on his stats. He was the only player on the list with a below average adjusted OPS (a woeful 86). Meanwhile, Perralta, for whom one could make a decent case for being the best player on a playoff contender, suffered from the "who's that?" syndrome. Why should writers actually get to know the players before they vote?
However, the worst player by far on the list was Bob Wickman, who received one ninth-place vote (2 points), because he was basically the Indians closer and had a decent year (2.47 ERA, 45 saves). He earned 8 Win Shares in total for his efforts, which made me wonder what was the lowest total for a vote-getter in the MVP voting.
So I looked it up, and Wickman doesn't even approach the worst vote-getter. That honor would fall to Earl Torgeson, a good but not great first baseman who played just 25 games for the fourth-place Braves in 1949 and earned a measly three Win Shares. Perhaps the worst to garner a good chunk of votes was Bobby Reeves, a Senators shortstop with a 60 OPS+ in 1927, who finished twelfth in the AL voting, right behind fellow middle infielders Tony Lazzeri (who had one first-place vote but finished 11th) and Joe Sewell.
That's Hedley!—More on the Lamarr Hoyt Award
Well, surprise, surprise, surprise, to quote Gomer Pyle. The NL Cy Young award was handed out yesterday, and, like in the junior circuit, the award was given to the wrong man.
Everyone knows that Roger Clemen's 1.87 ERA was the class of the league. Who cares if he had just 13 wins?
I guess you can't get worked up too much for a guy who already has seven statues at home. Who does he have left to give an award to, his cat "Kat"?
I won't bother doing a rundown of the pertinent stats. If a guy leads in VORP, Pitching Win Shares, and adjusted ERA (ERA+), all by a healthy margin, what's the point? Then again, we could decide if Carpenter was the third or fourth best candidate (after Pettitte and Willis). Or we could see if Carpenter is closer to the likes of Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Roy Oswalt than to Clemens. But like, Ricardo Montalban in Star Trek, I grow fatigued.
Somewhere down the line, people will wonder how Clemens didn't win ten or so of the dang things though. I guess that's why they are changing the name to the Lamarr Hoyt award starting next year.
I just have to remark that Clemens is just the 18th pitcher to record a sub-2.00 ERA (150 IP min.) since Bob Gibson recorded a 1.12 ERA in 1968, the Year of the Pitcher (El Ano Del Pichardo), when eight men accomplished the feat. Here are the 17 (including one reliever, Mark Eichhorn, who recorded arguably the greatest season by a reliever in 1986):
One thing about Carpenter though is that he may be the worst pitcher to ever win the award. I mean, that looking at his career stats at the beginning of the year, one wouldn't have expected him to become a Cy Young winner.
Of course, Carpenter turned his career around after switching leagues two years ago. As an NL fan, nothing makes me feel more inferior than to look at all the pitching leaders in the NL who switched leagues in the last couple of seasonsClemens, Pettitte, Martinez, and Carpenter. I can remember the days when the AL was envious of the NL's pitchers. Oh well.
Anyway, Carpenter came into the year with a 64-55 record and a 4.59 ERA. He had had one year with an ERA under 4.00 in seven tries, and had three seasons with ERAs over 5.00. That made me wonder which pitcher "looked" the worst before becoming a Cy Young winner.
I ran the career numbers prior to a pitcher's Cy Young year and ranked them by ERA. Here 'tis:
Both of this year's winners appear, but Carpenter is in a class all to himself. No one with a thousand previous innings is within a half run of him (well, Viola is, just barely). Most of the guys are youngsters who were still establishing themselves when they had their big year. Carpenter was a well-established, sub-par pitcher for many years in Toronto. Now, he's won the Cy Young, or at least the Hedley Lamarr Hoyt award.
At least, Carpenter had a decent season previous to his Cy Young year (3.46 ERA). Colon had an ERA over 5.00 in 2004. That made me wonder what the worst year prior to a Cy Young-winning one. Here's that:
Colon's second behind Hentgen, but it's surprising how few poor years are on the listjust seven with an ERA over 4.00?!?
So given the ineptitude of the voters and the apparent volatility inherent in pitchers in general, almost anybody could win the award next year. The smart money's on Jeff Weaver. Nuff sed?
Does the Cy Young Matter Anymore?
Bartolo Colon is a very good pitcher who had a very good year this past season. I'll accept that.
He is not the best pitcher in the AL nor did he have the best pitching year in the AL this year. But he won the Cy Young award yesterday.
It seems that the sole reason to give out the award is to stir up controversy. Hardly anyone who is a serious student of the game would pick Colon number one, but in the baseball writers' world in which, apparently, wins are king, Colon rules.
I think they should rename it the Lamarr Hoyt award (but they should a few more "r"'s to his first name first). For those of you how are two young to remember, Hoyt won 24 games for the White Sox back in 1983, when they had a cartoon batter logo on the front of their uniforms and Harold Baines was the mayor of Chicago. Hoyt won the Cy Young despite a 3.66 ERA, 1.24 runs higher than league leader Rick "Don't Call me BJ" Honeycutt (who was traded midseason to the NL), and 115 adjusted ERA (52 points worse than Honeycutt). Hoyt had just one more season with the Sox and was out of baseball altogether in three seasons.
Colon isn't as bad a choice as Hoyt was in 1983, but he ranks fourth in pitching Win Shares, fifth in BP's VORP (Value over Replacement Player), and 13th adjusted ERA (i.e., ERA based on the park-adjusted league average or ERA+). He does, however, rank numero uno in wins, 21, with three more than the next AL pitcher. My assumption is that those voters who looked past win totals split their vote among better candidates like Johan Santana, Mariano Rivera, and Mark Buehrle.
So Colon won. There was the usual gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands, but it all seems to have gotten a bit too de rigueur.
Given that I assume that the voters will be attracted to the wrong candidates, I'm left with minor questions. For example, it's obvious that Colon was not the best candidate, but how bad was he? Was he one of the top five pitchers in the AL? And are the voters solely attracted to the win totals baubles? If so, why did Kevin Millwood receive a vote when he won just nine games to go with his 2.86 ERA?
If you want to defend the award being given to Colon, to quote Jack Nicholson in the woefully inappropriately named "As Good As It Gets", "If your selling crazy go sell it somewhere else. We're full up here."
Ok, first I took the top ten pitchers in VORP, P WS, and ERA+. Then I added wins, ERA, strikeout-to-walk ratio, Walks plus Hits over Innings Pitched (WHIP), and strikeouts per nine innings. I took the rankings for each of these and averaged them. Here are the results. First the Cy Young voting along with the sabermetrically leaning stats:
Next, the more conventional stats (though a number will stick tick off Joe Morgan):
And the final rankings, based on the average of all rankings and then on all rankings but wins:
Colon comes in fourth overall and fifth if we ignore wins. So it goes to show you that if you major competition are two guys who won 16 games, another that won 12 in an abbreviated season, and a closer who didn't break any records (besides many voters will tell you closers don't belong in the Cy Young voting, just the MVP vote), that shiny 21-win brass ring is going to attract the idiotic writerssorry, "idiotic writers" is a bit redundant.
But wait a second, maybe I am being to mean to the idiots, I mean, writers. Just because the guy with the most wins won the award, I should not just assume that wins are the be-all and end-all. Now that we have all of these data, we can put it to the test.
How well does the actual vote correlate to win totals or to any of the stats that we have for that matter. Let's see
I ran the numbers, and though none have any significant correlation to the Cy Young result some do much better than others. Here are the results. Remember that we want a negative coefficient (because the voting descends while the ranks ascend) tending toward 1.000.
The first thing you might notice is that VORP and Cy Young actually have the worst correlation. The CY vote actual runs slightly counter to VORP.
But the next thing that popped out was how poorly wins didsecond to last! And the average ranking with wins did better than the overall average ranking. Apparently, wins alone are not the entire basis of the writers' vote.
Of all the derived SABR stats, pitching Win Shares does bestcongrats to Bill James, I guess.
Oddly, the stat that correlated best was WHIP while the other strikeouts/walks stats did better than most. So, am I left to believe that writers base their vote on strikeouts and walks? I guess. At least it's better than wins. Maybe by the 2050 the troglodytic voters will have evolved to the neanderthalic ERA. In the age of Elroy Jetson, I am sure they will be trafficking in Pitching Win Shares and VORP. Then again, I expected everyone to be zooming to work with those jet packs on their packs that we were promised were just around the corner when we were kids.
Philly Welcomes Eagles Back to Mediocrity
"Apparently because he's a dick."
It was a good news/bad news kind of day in Philly. The morning commute was brightened by the news that a transit strike had ended and that beleaguered commuters would actually be able to get home before Fox's daily airing of Prison Break rerun. But the afternoon commute delivered, if not totally unexpected, at least unwanted news.
The Eagles have suspended Terrell Owens for four games for his behavior leading up to the Washington game Sunday. That's the maximum the league allows and will cost Owens an estimated $800K. He began serving the suspension before the Redskin game, in case no one told him before.
But waitthere's more
When Owens finishes up his suspension, he'll be deactivated/released by the Eagles to serve out his contract under house arrest talking to reporters while exercising.
But if you act today, you'll get this
Next, Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid have formed a posse to go after the bounty on Owens' head No wait, that one has not yet been corroborated.
So ends the T.O. saga. He ended the season last year a local hero for the way he came back from injuries to play and play very well in the Super Bowl. But when his contract demands and his rhetoric got out of line with the team's point of view, it seemed this daywhen he and the team would part wayswas inevitable.
Some analysts are saying that if this was how it would end, why did it take this long and why did the Eagles allow it to affect their season. Good questions.
However, you can't blame the Eagles woes all on Owens. The Eagles are now a .500 team in the NFC East basement, and no matter how much their rabid fans refuse to accept that (and hope to blame Owens), that's the reality.
It's a hard fall for a team that has made the NFC championship game every season since the Johnson administration. If they lose one more game, something that may come as early as next weekend when they face their arch-rivals, the Cowboys, they will have equaled their high in losses for a season (5) for the entire decademake that the millennium.
And as for another NFC championship game or even reaching the playoffs, they had better start worrying about finishing .500 and getting out of last place.
I can understand the fans making Owens the focal point for a poor season. He's an easy target. It's all the more vitriolic given that expectations had been ratcheted up so high during the unalloyed success of the Andy Reid era (at least during the regular season). With the Flyers on hiatus, the Sixers suffering through the post-Larry Brown era, and the Phils logging their annual 86-win quota, the Eagles had become the pride of the city.
But it seems that the mediocrity that is Philadelphia has caught up with Reid and the Eagles, too.
And as if you didn't already need a reminder, MLB gave you one yesterday selecting the Phils' Ryan Howard the NL Rookie of the Year. Howard deserved the award (though Thom Brennamen is pouting somewhere now that his fave rookie, Willy Taveras, finished second). He put up numbers that would have been respectable over a full season and took just 88 games to do it (24 HR, 68 RBI, .942 OPS).
But the award, as all thing in Philly sports are, was bittersweet. Howard's future with the team is uncertain. Incumbent first baseman Jim Thomeand his contractshould bounce back from injury for 2006. Moving Howard to another position (LF?) would be problematic, both for him and the rest of the team. And moving Thome with his age, contract, and injury history seems extremely unlikely.
Indeed the first base situation is new GM Pat Gillick's Gordian Knot. It will have deep repercussions for this season and for the future of the team. At least the Phils replaced Ed Wade with a sentient life form before making that decision. It's the linchpin, but I can't see this team being able to make a decision about it until Thome's health is accessed after a few weeks of spring training. Every Philly team needs to start a season with insurmountable, unresolved issues. From T.O. to Howard-or-Thome.
By the way, if you don't believe that every bit of good Philly sports news is bittersweet, that being a Philly sports fan is something akin to being a Russian literature devotee, take a look at the previous RoY winners.
They are Scott Rolen in 1997, Richie "Don't Call Me Dick" Allen in 1964, and Jack Sanford in 1957. Rolen and Allen both were young players that the Phils expected to carry the franchise, but both were jettisoned for their individualistic approach and personalities that did not lead themselves to the typical leadership roles. They both moved on to other teams and had their fair share of success elsewhere. Allen's award had to come in the most bittersweet of all Phils seasons, 1964.
Sanford doesn't fit the Allen-Rolen Jungian archetype, but does represent another trail of tears for this team, trades. Though Sanford's trade to the Giants a season after winning the RoY award, albeit at 28, doesn't rank up with trading two young Hall of Famers (Sandberg and Jenkins), it was pretty awful. The Phils got two scrubs who played sparingly and poorly for them while the Giants got a pitcher who threw 200 innings a year in his first five seasons and had a monster year in 1962 (24 wins, 16 consecutively). The Giants blew his arm out with 284.1 innings in 1963, but he still pitched four more years.
So now Howard in one day seems consigned to this bit of Phils legacy, not to mention some T.O.-esque controversy to start next season. To quote John Cleese in Time Bandits, "Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you very, very, very much What god-awful people."
The Padres and Nats exchanged two players the other day that are each owed about $3.5M in 2006 before potentially becoming free agents. San Diego gets 38-year-old third baseman Vinny Castilla, and Washington gets Brian Lawrence, who was the odd man odd for Bruce Bochy's playoff rotation this year.
On the surface, it seems like a straight-up trade, my problem for yours. However, I would say that the Nats came out way ahead. Lawrence is somewhat overpriced, but prior to this year was at least a league-average starter who consistently threw 200 innings a year.
Whereas Castilla could be done given a) his age and b) his mercurial past. He followed up a big 2004 (35 HR, .535 Slug) in Colorado with a sub-par though injury-plagued campaign this past year (12 HR, .722 OPS). It took him a few years to return to form after leaving the confines of Coors after his first tour with the Rockies. I don't think he has that much time left.
On top of all that, the Nats have no use for Castilla. 20-year-old Ryan Zimmerman (165 OPS+ in 20 games) now owns the third base job in DC, and they hope he'll keep it for the next couple of decades.
Meanwhile, San Diego isn't exactly deep in starting pitching. They had two starters with an ERA under 4.27 last year. Additionally, Woody Williams is 38 and Pedro Astacio is 35. And this team turned to the likes of Darrell May, Chan Ho Park, and Tim Redding for large chunks of last season. Not to mention that Castilla now is standing directly in the way of once-hot prospect Sean Burroughs, who although having some severely rough spots will be just 25 next year.
So here we have a trade that is win-win for the Nats and loss-loss for the Padres even though on paper it looks a straight-up trade of each team's payroll headache. I guess those beads looked like a pretty good trade for that old isle of Manhattan a few centuries ago too.
The Phils made a bold move yesterday to move the team finally into the 1990s. Welcome back to the age of jive. Why not go after Trader Jack?
Pat Gillick was named to succeed Ed Wade as the Phils' GM, and though that is an upgrade to at least competence. Gillick did have a great deal of success in Toronto, Baltimore, and Seattle. However, he is best remembered as "Stand Pat" from his later years in Seattle when he was unable to pull of a deal at the trade deadline to keep his team in the playoff hunt even though they had more pitching prospects than the New York media led the world to believe the Mets had in the Nineties (how's David West doing anyway?). After all, standing pat at trade deadlines is a Philly GM tradition.
At least he'll enough not to spend an entire offseason collecting bullpen pieces like Ed Wade. Wait a tick:
Before being officially introduced as the Phillies' new general manger, Pat Gillick slipped away for a phone call.
Sorry, I fainted there for a second.
Look, Wagner is a very good closer, and it would be great to have him back, but anyone who thinks that closer is anywhere near the number-one priority in Philly is more out of touch than the Phlis brass.
The Phils have a Ghordian knot at first base with bachelor number one, Jim Thome, who is aging, is extremely fragile, was abysmal in this injured-shortened season, and has a ton of money left on his contract, apparently the incumbent. Behind door number two is Ryan Howard, who should be the NL Rookie of the Year, was great in a half season, but can't play any other position besides first. To top it off, they both bat lefty so forgot about any attempt to platoon them.
It seems that the Phils best bet is either for Thome to bow to injury early or for a patsy to take him off their hands. Then again, there's Bill Jabba Conlin's suggestion to move Howard to left, where he failed last year in the Arizona Fall League, and thereby displace their two other outfield spots. Owie, mommy!
Then there's the general lack of a starting center fielder. They have two aging vets at third and behind the plate who are still owed at least another year on a big contract. The rotation behind Brett Myers is a bunch of question marks. Then there's the issue of Chris "Wheels" Wheeler's toupee
But I digress. Maybe Gillick was just buttering up Wagner. You know, one of those "Who loves you, babe" moments. But I'm not sanguine.
Hey, at least the guy comes with a full Rolodex and a convenient name with which to criticize him. To quote Napoleon Dynamite, "Sweet" or was that "Dang"?
Sheez, I guess it was a slow news day or something yesterday. I'm glad they didn't close down the Senate or anything.
I mention in passing (parenthetically even) that Paul DePodesta deserved getting canned in LA amid an homage to Star Wars, Fung Fu, Alfred Hitchcock, and a novel with a murder by blood pudding, all in the form of a screed promulgating the apparently waning world of sabermetrics.
And then people actually expect me to stand behind my statements!?! Appalling!
OK, now how do I defend my slapdash comments? Hmm
I guess first I should say that I took it as a given that DePodesta has been doing an atrocious job in the LA GM seat. To continue with my Star Wars imagery, DePo has been the Annakin Skywalker of the sabermetric world. Raised at the teat of sabermetric poster boy and Obi-Wan analogue Billy Beane, DePo was given his shot to manage, generally speaking, the Dodgers by parking lot mogul Frank McCourt, right before pitchers and catchers reported to spring training 2004.
He replaced Dan Evans, who had a year left on a three-year contract when he was let go. That's one criticism that I've heard over my DePodesta comments, that he was only given two years to turn the team around. Well, I don't remember too many people bemoaning the plight of Evans when he was shown the door after just two seasons even though he was burdened by the bloated excesses of the Kevin Malone era for most of his tenure. (They also cited Jim Duquette on the three-year minimum for a GM, the same man who was given just 15 months at the Mets helmsour grapes much, Jim?)
Sabemetricians rejoiced when DePo got his chanceEvans be damned.
Maybe two seasons is too quick especially when one's team has new ownership and one is trying to overhaul the roster, but hey, it happens. Especially when one's team was as bad as the Dodgers were in a division that was both atrocious and wide open.
During the entire 2005 season the only roster turnover I could find was that Scotty Erickson was released (surprise!) midseason and that Jose Cruz Jr. was picked up from Boston, where he had a four-game layover, with two months left in the season.
Yes, the Dodgers had major injuries throughout the season. Almost everyone in their lineup and their rotation, not to mention they star closer, spent time on the DL. And yes, that hamstrung DePodesta to some degree, but injuries were just a symptom, not the sole cause of the Dogders' demise.
Looking back at DePo's tenure, he sought to overhaul the time in each of his two seasons; however, via divergent means.
In 2004, he made three big trades, one to pick up Milton Bradley at the start of the season, the Lo Duca/Mota/Encarnacion for Choi/Penny deal at the trade deadline, and the Steve Finley-for-prospects deal also at the deadline.
In 2005, his methodology changed to pursue free agents. Maybe this was his preferred method, but he couldn't enlist it 2004 probably because he took over the club so later in the offseason. Anyway, he signed Jeff Kent, Derek Lowe, J.D. Drew, Jose Valentin, and Odalis Perez, and Japanese vet Norihiro Nakamura as free agents. Well, I liedhe also had two big trades, first dumping Shawn Green for prospects and then getting Jason Phillips for Kaz Ishii.
I have culled the DePo-era, large-impact Dodgers transactions from Baseball Reference and the Dodgers site and list them below.
It seemed that DePodesta was on the clock starting from the time he traded the popular though extremely overrated Lo Duca. He got panned by many for the move. I liked the gamble though it was an incomplete overhaul. Here's what I said at the time and I stand by it now:
The Dodgers moves can be viewed as daring to unwise depending on your point of view. Stark picked them as the biggest losers of the trading season, which is as good as omen as you can probably get. The did make changes at basically five positions, including the entire outfield. Finley takes over in center, an upgrade. Bradley replaces the useless Encarnacion in right, a major upgrade. Young Werth had already replaced Dave Roberts, whom they traded at the deadline, potentially a very big upgrade. Choi is a curious pickup given that struggling incumbent Shawn Green is also left-handed and has one year left on his huge contract. Green may move back to right field and Bradley to left with Werth spot starting. And LoDuca was at worst serviceable and his replacement, Dave Ross, is largely untried although newly acquired Brent Mayne mitigates the risk. They also failed to pull off a deal to bring Charles Johnson to LA. Losing Mota and Martin may be risky as well, but the Dodgers probably felt (rightly) that they had the depth and that adding Penny outweighs the minuses (though Dreifort's efforts in the first post-Mota game won't help instill confidence).
The Dodgers did make the playoffs so that would seem like a win (though their winning percentage dropped 50 points after the trade). Some will say that these moves helped precipitate their quick exit in the division series, losing 3-1 to soon-to-be NL champ St. Louis.
Some will also point to the acquisition of clubhouse cancer Bradley as a big mistake. He has disappointed to a certain degree after his great 2003 season in Cleveland, but a) he still is 27 and b) hasn't been bad.
I think that DePo tried to make some smart, creative changes via the trade in 2004. It wasn't until the offseason that he turned to the dark side.
Depodesta went from the small-marketedly-minded A's to the huge-marketed Dodgers. I think he said that he had two or three times the resourcesnot just money, but general wherewithalonce he took the new post. I think he then went a bit nutty, like a kid in a candy store. He saw all the nice baubles and couldn't contain himself.
Jeff Kent for 2 year @ $17 M at 36 years old? Sure!
Derek Lowe for four years and $36 M after posting a 5.42 ERA in 2004? Why not?
J.D. Drew had a tremendous year in 2004who cares if it was his only healthy, effective season in six tries? I say five years and $55 M.
Who needs Adrian Beltre signed to a big contract? I'll take Jose Valentin for one year at $3.5 M. I don't care that he is 35 and he played short in 2004 .and that his park-adjusted OPS has been declining steadily since 2001 and it was below average last year (2004). [Though I do have to agree that Beltre's 2004 seemed like a good bet for a career year/free agent bust candidate. Why not go after a steady Joe Randa type though?]
We'll sign unproven Japanese third baseman Norihiro Nakamura (who'll own a -6 adjusted OPS in a brief and disastrous stint) for good measure. I couldn't find what they paid Nakamuram but I know the Mets almost landed him for two years at $7 M. The Dodgers at least made it a one-year, minor-league contract.
Odalis Perez has had some good seasons in LA. OK, we'll reward you with $24 M over three years. Anybody else?
DePodesta loaded up on high-price, aging vets. Guess what? They tend to get injured and have diminishing returns. He also went after guys who walked infrequently and had bloated triple-crown stats.
I know he's a popular dude in the sabermetric world, but I defy anyone to demonstrate how the moves he made especially in 2005 were sabermetrically minded or even sound.
I know that I criticized Billy Beane's moves in 2005 as sabermetrically unsound if the A's want to compete in the short term. I was wrong there and have admitted it. However, I can't see how the Dodgers moves make or sense in the short or long term.
OK, I hope that explains it.
Paul DePodesta's major moves as Dodger GM:
March 29, 2004
Traded Jason Frasor to the Toronto Blue Jays. Received Jayson Werth.
April 3, 2004
Traded a player to be named later and Franklin Gutierrez to the Cleveland Indians. Received Milton Bradley. The Los Angeles Dodgers sent Andrew Brown (minors) (May 19, 2004) to the Cleveland Indians to complete the trade.
Traded Jolbert Cabrera to the Seattle Mariners. Received Aaron Looper and Ryan Ketchner (minors).
July 30, 2004
Traded Paul Lo Duca, Guillermo Mota, and Juan Encarnacion to the Florida Marlins. Received Hee Seop Choi, Brad Penny, and Bill Murphy (minors).
July 31, 2004
Traded Koyie Hill, Bill Murphy (minors), and Reggie Abercrombie (minors) to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Received Steve Finley and Brent Mayne.
Traded Tom Martin to the Atlanta Braves. Received Matt Merricks (minors).
Traded Dave Roberts to the Boston Red Sox. Received Henri Stanley (minors).
November 5, 2004
Signed Mike Edwards as a free agent.
December 15, 2004
Signed INF Jeff Kent to a two-year contract.
December 21, 2004
Signed INF Jose Valentin to a one-year contract and re-signed LHP Wilson Alvarez to a two-year contract.
Alex Cora granted Free Agency.
December 23, 2004
Signed OF J.D. Drew to a five-year contract.
January 3, 2005
Signed Paul Bako as a free agent.
January 7, 2005
Signed LHP Odalis Perez to a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth year.
January 11, 2005
Traded Shawn Green to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Received Dioner Navarro, Beltran Perez (minors), Danny Muegge (minors), and William Juarez (minors).
Signed RHP Derek Lowe to a four-year contract..
February 3, 2005 Agreed to terms with Japanese 3B Norihiro Nakamura on a one-year minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.
March 20, 2005 Acquired C Jason Phillips from the New York Mets in exchange for LHP Kazuhisa Ishii.
April 3, 2005 Purchased the contracts of RHP Scott Erickson and LHP Kelly Wunsch from Triple-A Las Vegas
July 29, 2005 Designated RHP Scott Erickson for assignment.
August 9, 2005 Acquired OF Jose Cruz Jr. from the Red Sox for a player to be named later.
In the span of a couple of days, the sabermetrically minded world has lost two general managers. Paul DePodesta (deservedly) lost his post with the Dodgers. That was expected, but then the bombshell hit. Theo Epstein, the boy wonder who brought the Red Sox their first championship since Moses parted the Red Seaat least that's the way Red Sox Nation viewed, just up and quit.
As a result, two of the more storied franchises, not to mention two of the largest payrolls, in baseball are left reeling. Theories abound that the first opening (Dodgers) may be filled by the man who created the second (i.e., Epstein).
Of course, Pat Gillick might get the LA job, which would create an opening in Seattle. That would make three unsavory GM posts unoccupied with the Phils and D Rays also GM-less. Each has its own problems. The Phils just missed the playoffs but are locked into a number of long-term, albatross-like contracts. Seattle is a vast wasteland of talent. And the Devil Rays are, well, the Devil Rays, no matter how much money the new owner promises to pump into the team (remember contraction can be effected without the players' approval at the end of the current CBA at the end of the next season).
So Theo might be on hiatus in 2006, which seems insane given he was offered $4.5 M for the next three years of his life. One has to think he has something set up to walk away from that much money, but the young are so idealisticmaybe he quit on principle.
Or maybe he just got sick of the obnoxious Dan Shaughnessy and the rest of Red Sox Nation. On the eve of Epstein's departure, Shaughnessy publicly aired all of the Red Sox front office's dirty laundry.
Shaughnessy portrayed Theo as a young Luke Skywalker who bristles at the continued mentoring by a little puppet with Miss Piggy's voice.
The Theo-Larry story is as old as the Bible. Mentor meets protege. Mentor teaches young person all he knows. Eventually, the prodigy is ready to make it on his own and no longer feels he needs the old man. That's what we've seen unfold on Yawkey Way, and that's why the Theo deal is not done yet.
The Bible?!? The Red Sox infighting has to have epic roots, right? Leave it to the Curse of the Bambino script to be understated. Shaughnessy goes on to laud the talents of the man, who did his best Wrestlemania trash-talking in dubbing the Yankees the "Evil Empire". (Again with the Star Wars references?)
So like "Grasshopper" Caine, Theo has completed his training and must go through the branding-and-being-left-in-the-snow rituals of manhood. Or at least look for a new job.
The sabermetric world loses one of its young patriarchs. I have to tell you that it sounds like the monks locking themselves up in their ivory towers at the start of the Middle Ages, holed up with all the knowledge then known to the world, making wine, and letting the rest of the world fall into darkness or at least the second division, only being interrupted by crappy Sean Connery film-alizations of classic Umberto Eco novels.
This seems all the more true with all of the absurd "small ball" talk in the postseason. So the pendulum seems to swinging back. Other than small pockets of sanity, the baseball world seems ready to follow Ozzie Guillen and his antics into the "small ball" pall. We or the sabermetric ilk are left hoping that Billy Beane can complete is one-year rebuilding phase in Oakland and that Toronto will someday coalesce into a better than average team.
As if the lights were all out everywhere, except in Sabermetrica. Keep those lights burning, cover them with stats, ring them with VORP, build a canopy of Win Shares and park-adjusted ERA around them. Hello, Sabermetrica, hang on to your lights: they're the only lights left in the world! (with nods to Johnny Jones.)
After all the hype about Houston's Big ThreeIs Roger Clemens still pitching Game Five?the pitcher who had the best start in World Series and the League Championship Series ironically was Brandon Backe, seven shutout innings in the 1-0 finale loss.
Last year, Backe threw perhaps the two best pitched games of the Astros surprise playoff run. He pitched six innings and allowed two runs in the 8-5 win over the Braves in the first round that gave Houston a 2-1 edge in the series that they ended up winning three games to two. He then pitched eight innings of a shutout win over St. Louis, the best pitched game of the series, pushing the Astros to the brink of their first World Series with a three games to two advantage (though they lost the next two).
Sure, he also pitched two poor games in the postseason, one in each of the last two years. In game one of the 2004 NLCS, he allowed four runs in 4.2 innings en route to a 10-7 loss. And he gave up five runs in 4.1 innings in the series clincher over the Braves this year, which Houston won 7-6.
But overall he has had a 2.89 ERA in the playoffs in 2004 and a 3.00 ERA this year. That's not bad for a guy who owns a 4.86 career ERA and has only had one season in which his ERA was no worse than the park-adjusted league average. His career postseason ERA (2.95) is almost two runs lower than his career regular-season ERA (4.86).
That made me wonder what was the greatest difference between a pitcher's regular-season and postseason ERAs. Is Backe's the highest ever or among the highest? Who knows? So I looked it up.
Here are the pitcher's with a postseason ERA that is at least one and one-half runs better than his career regular-season ERA (stats through 2005, min 90 IP):
That's an interesting list. There are some great pitchers who "took it to the next level" in the postseason and some marginal pitchers, like Backe, who did the same, though their "next level" was competence. Any list headed by Sterling Hitchcock has got to be wacky. Also of note are the two Yankee relievers finishing up the list.
Backe deserves some credit in helping getting Houston to their first World Series, especially in a year that their offense suffered through the loss of Jeff Kent and Carlos Beltran. I guess Chuck D was right.
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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