Monthly archives: July 2006
In First (And Last) to Last
I have been compiling a plethora of information based on Retrosheet data, and tonight I ran into some interesting results. Given that I never met a table I didn't like, I hereby present the all-time leaders in percent of regular season days spent in first place:
And here are the all-time worst:
No surprises in the leaders (the Yankees and Tampa Bay, who have spent a grand total of 24 days in first place) on those lists. However, the all-time best among defunct clubs, the American Association's Boston Reds, who spent over 83% of their time in first, would not be the first club one thinks of. (By the way, 25 defunct clubs have spent not one day in first, tying for the all-time worst.)
Now for the least amount of time in last place in whatever division or league configuration that prevailed at the time:
Now, the teams that spent the most time in last place:
To get a truer picture, let's look at the ratio of days in first to days in last:
Now the worst ratios:
Of course, the Phillies are the worst of the original 16 teams.
As for the average position for each teams, here are the best (not that expansion teams get a boost from being in smaller groupings):
Now the worst average position teams:
Ah, it makes one proud to be a Phillies fan. Will someone please contract my team and free me from this curse?
Abreu Gone, But We're Still Living with Rolen
It's the end of an era we are told.
The era of over-optimistic, overspending Phils teams is through, and the era of austerity and rebuilding has begun. This weekend the Phils tradedor more properly dumped the salaries ofBobby Abreu, David Bell, and Corey Lidle.
It all makes me feel wistful. A lot has happened to the Phils franchise in the last few years.
They have a new stadium and have gone through a ton of players and even more money.
They have bettered .500 each of the previous three seasons, but the closest they came to the playoffs was narrowly missing the wild card last year, technically after their regular season had ended. Reaching .500, let alone making the playoffs is a remote possibility this year.
They hired player-friendly manager Charlie Manuel as a caddy to then-franchise player Jim Thome (as well as a reaction to strident, A-personality manager Larry Bowa). The manager that tried to pry the job away from the Manuel, the man Ed Wade anointed Bowa's successor a year earlier, has since become the manager of the best team in baseball (i.e., Jim Leyland). Meanwhile, Jim Thome lasted just one injury-plagued, unproductive season under Manuel's reign. Manuel appears to be a lamp duck for the rest of the season, should he last that long.
Only five players survive from the 2002 season, the last before the Phils became the big spenders they had been until the weekend's salary dump. They are Pat Burrell (whose contract makes him close to untradeable), Jimmy Rollins (who has been in a season-long slump), Rheal Cormier (the requisite reliever), Randy Wolf (who is now on the DL more often than in the rotation), and Brett Myers (who, though an established major-league starter, caused the biggest black eye for this organization since Ben Chapman baited Jackie Robinson).
In truth this team has been careening toward the abyss since the trade deadline four years ago. That's when they traded then franchise player Scot Rolen to the Cardinals after failing to woo the third baseman into a long-term contract. As the press labeled Rolen clubhouse "cancer", the Phils were cornered into trading him at below trade value. The trade looked lousy at the time, even though they received Placido Polanco, who became a very fine player for the Phils before, of course, being traded away last season while leading the majors in batting for basically nothing.
The money that they offered Rolen was used or at least mentioned in seemingly every major contract they have signed since. David Montgomery has gone on the record saying that the ill-advised Burrell contract was basically a sop to the media and fans after the Rolen fiasco. When the Phils signed Jim Thome after the 2002 season, the money that the Phils had earmarked for Rolen was said to be used (along with the revenue sharing money that came indirectly from the Indians, Thome's former team) to corral the slugger. After that, signing Bell as a free agent and resigning guys like Abreu and Rollins to big-time contracts became the norm.
The names have changed, but the Phils are basically in the same situation they were in at the trade deadline in 2002. They have a few young stars, some pitching prospects, and not much else.
The one thing that has not changed in four years is the team's management, and if Bill Giles recent comments, made in the wake of the Myers scandal, are any indication, it won't be changing any time soon.
The problem with this team is at the top. I thought that replacing the woefully inept Ed Wade with an actual general manger in Pat Gillick would be enough, but given the recent salary dumps, clearly Gillick is working within a framework that is and never has been about winning. Wade, ever the showman, is clearly more concerned with milking the cash cow of having a team in the largest single-team market in the country. Montgomery appears too inept to provide any clear direction for the franchise. That leaves Dallas Green who at least is a knowledgeable baseball man but whose greatest legacy for the team is not managing their only world champion. It was stealing Hall-of-Famer Ryne Sandberg from the Phils, in one of the worst trades in baseball history, when he became the Cubs GM a few years later.
But I digress
Bobby, We Hardly Knew Ye
Bobby Abreu came to the Phils following the 1998 expansion draft in what was one of the most lopsided trades in recent history. The Phils relinquished no-hit shortstop Kevin Stocker, who had just three seasons, none of which consisted of more than 112 games, left under his belt, to the newly minted Devil Rays, who had just drafted Abreu from the Astros.
Yesterday, after almost nine seasons in a Phils uniform, Abreu was shipped to the Yankees in a deal that looks just about as lopsided. The Yankees get Abreu and end-of-the-rotation starter Corey Lidle, and the Phils get four nondescript prospects.
Just as Abreu's tenure as a Phils has been totally misunderstood"Why does he have to walk so much?"the two trades that bookended his career in Philly have been just as misunderstood. When the Phils acquired Abreu, Stocker was a local herowe do love our sub-par shortstops in the Larry Bowa mold, a leftover from the 1993 NL champs. To trade him for a young unheralded outfielderthink Von Hayeswas not well received.
Though Abreu received a big hand from the Philly phaithless toward the end of the first game of yesterday's doubleheader, the fans and media have been rabidly calling for him to be traded all year. His $15 M contract for next year (plus either $2M buyout or $16M option for 2008) have been seen as an albatross around the Phils' necks. Curiously, the fans suffered through players with high price tags (though not quite as Abreu's) who were complete drains on the lineup for the past couple of years, specifically, David Bell and Mike Lieberthal. (Mercifully, Bell was also traded this weekend, for a bucket ice, er, the requisite minor-league relief pitcher.)
The four prospects the Phils received consist of three at or below Single-A ball (shortstop C.J. Henry, catcher Jesus Sanchez, and righthander Carlos Monasterios) plus a Quad-A 27-year-old pitcher (left-handed reliever Matt Smith) who because he can strike out about a man an inning appears the best pickup in the group. C.J. Henry was a 2005 first-round pick and is just 20, but has yet to prove that he can hit at even the lowest professional levels. For any of them to become productive major-leaguers would be a long shot at best.
Don't buy it when assistant GM Mike Arbuckle says, "We got value in today's market conditions." They dumped salary plain and simple.
Anyway, I wanted to take a quick look at Abreu's legacy as a Phil. He will not be well remembered, but he arguably was the team's best outfielder since Hall-of-Famers Ed Delahanty and Whitey Ashburn and their best overall player since Mike Schmidt, the best Phillies player ever.
Here are the Phils with the most Win Shares with the team. Abreu ranks seventh:
If you look at his Win Shares per year, he looks even better. He's second behind Grover Cleveland Alexander, another Phils who was traded in a woefully lopsided deal:
So long, Bobby. Good luck with the Yankees. Good luck getting your jersey number back from Larry Bowa.
Unfortunately, the mourning period won't be long as the parade of salary dumping continues today. Whether the next to go is Jon Lieber, Pat Burrell, Ryan Franklin, or someone else, rest assured that the Phils will get the requisite middle reliever in the deal.
Strange But True Pitching Feats
Today while Carlos Zambrano was winning his eighth straight and hitting his fourth homer of the season, Ryan Madson tied a major-league record with four wild pitches in a season.
And incidentally, Harold Reynolds and his strip-ed suits got canned over at Baseball Tonight. While most would say, "What took so long?", with the other abrasive talking heads that have been hired since Reynolds established his insipid on-air persona, I will dread the show even more. Reynolds may have been fired because the bar for abrasiveness had been raised too high for the diminutive ex-second baseman to reach. His quaint yet groan-inducing one-liners were nothing compared to John Kruk's insane bloviations.
But I digress. Zambrano becomes just the third pitcher since Ken Brett in 1973 to hit at least four homers in a season. Zambrano projects to six home runs by season's end. The other two both hit seven homers (Brooks Kieschnick in 2003 and Mike Hampton in 2001). Zambrano is just the 90th pitcher to hit at least four homers in a season, and the all-time record for a pitcher (9 by Wes Ferrell in 1931) is in reach.
If Zambrano continues to pitch and hit as he currently projects, he will become the first pitcher in 35 years to hit at least six home runs and win at least 15 games, a feat that's been done just 17 times in baseball history:
As for Madson, he has the oddest pitching line this side of Coloradowell, at least before this season. He is 8-7 with a 6.18 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, and now 10 wild pitches in 94.2 innings. Opponents are batting .319 against him. He has allowed 125 hits and 72 runs in 94.2 innings pitched. In his four major-league seasons, his ERA has gone from 0.00 (in just two innings pitched) in 2003 to 2.34 in 2004 to 4.14 last season to his current 6.18.
He would become the first man to have an ERA under 3.00 one year, an ERA between 4.00 and 5.00 in the next year, and an ERA over 6.00 in the third.
Madson has not won since June 29 when he came up one out short of a five-hit shutout against the O's. Oddly, he still projects to 13 wins for the season. If his trends continue, he would become just the ninth pitcher with at least 12 wins and an ERA over 6.00 for an entire season:
His wild pitch-to-innings pitched ratio (.106) is the highest since the infamous Jesse Foppert in 2003 and just the 38th highest all-time (min. 100 IP). Here are the highest wild pitch-to-innings ratios of all time:
The Dodgers lost to the Cardinals 6-1 yesterday to complete a season sweep in their seven-game, inter-division season series. The Dodgers have been outscored 35-8 in the series.
It was just the second time in the Dodgers franchise history that the team was swept in a season series (not including interleague play). The only other time that the Dodgers were swept by a National League rival in a season series was in the strike-shortened 1994 when the Braves took six straight games from LA (with 7 games canceled by the strike).
Of course, season sweeps went the way of the dodo after the National League settled on eight teams for the 1900 season. In the nineteenth century, there were 119 sweeps, 88 of which came in the tumble down godfather to the National League, the National Association (1871-75). From 1900 to 1969, there were no season sweeps in either leagues.
After the Cleveland Spiders were swept by both Cincinnati and Brooklyn in their 14-game season series in 1899, the next season sweep did not come until the advent of divisional play, seventy years later. Given that the old eight-team leagues prescribed 22-game season series, a sweep was near to impossible. But when baseball went to four divisions in 1969, teams started playing 18 games with the teams in their division and just 12 against the teams of the other division, reviving the season sweep.
The first in the new round of season sweeps came in 1970 when the O's took all twelve games they played against the second-year Royals. The next sweep didn't come until 1978 (when the O's took 11 games from the A's). Of the 46 season sweeps since 1970say that three times fast10 came in the two severely strike-shortened years (1981 & 1994), and 32 have come since each went to three divisions (ignoring the 1994 strike year). Last year there were three season sweeps, all six-game series: the Astros 6-0 vs. the Phils (for the second straight year), the Twins vs. the D-Rays, and the Phils vs. the Padres. There were seven in 2004 and five in 2003, all of which consisted of six- or seven-game series.
The last season series of ten or more games that was swept by one team was in 1999, when the Rangers took all twelve of their games against the Twins. The last time a team swept a division rival in a season series was when the Braves took all 13 games from the Rockies in 1993, their inaugural year (That was also when the schedule-makers decided to have teams play more games with teams outside their division than within their division). That was the only season sweep by division rivals in a full season since the advent of divisional play.
Overall the Braves lead all major-league franchises in season series sweeps with six (three since 1993 and three before 1893). The Royals lead in most times being swept in a season series (also 6). Here are the all-time standings in season sweeps for all active franchises:
The most games win in a season-series sweep were 16 when the Cubs (then Chicago White Stockings) over the now-defunct Buffalo Bisons in 1885. Here are the most in a season-series sweep:
However, the most wins in a season series is 21, last done by the Cubs against the Reds in 1945. Note that the highest win totals all came in the glory days of eight-team leagues:
The most wins head-to-head all-time were 1219 (through 2005) by the Giants against the Phillies:
As for the 27-run run differential in the Cards-Dodgers season series, it's nothing compared to the all-time high, 117 runs:
The average margin of victory in the Cards-Dodgers series was almost four runs (3.86 runs). The most lopsided margin of victory in a season series was 25 runs:
Of course, these are all nineteenth-century teams. Since 1900, the most lopsided margin of victory in a season series was 5.6 runs when the 114-win Yankees took ten games from the lowly Royals:
Dual Pitchers' Duels
The Red Sox won their second consecutive game by a score of 1-0 yesterday at Fenway. The difference was Manny Ramirez's 460th career home run.
Winner Josh Beckett ran his record to 12-5 while lowering his ERA to 4.78. Oddly, Beckett has allowed just 112 hits in 122.1 innings and has 40 walks to 102 strikeouts, but has somehow allowed 65 earned runs this year. I guess that's what happens when one loses to the Indians 15-3 (April 27), 13-5 to the Yankees (June 5), and 15-3 to the A's (July 14, his previous start) in little over one half season.
Beckett put that behind him in blanking the lowly Royals. I guess it didn't hurt that the club was ready to announce a $30 M, 3-year contract for Beckett, which became official after the game.
You've probably heard that it is the first time since 1916, when Fenway was a substantial different stadium, that the Red Sox have won back-to-back 1-0 games at home. The 1916 pair were won by Ernie Shore and Babe Ruth. It is, however, the third time that the home team has won two straight 1-0 games at Fenway: the Braves did it earlier in 1916.
But don't get the impression that even though Fenway had been known as a hitter's park for years, it's any easier to record two straight 1-0 home games in another stadium. It's only been done 45 times in major-league history. The only active stadiums that have witnessed the feat besides Fenway are Dodgers Stadium, Angel Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, and Wrigley Field.
The first time it was done was by the then New York Highlanders (now Yankees) at Hilltop Park on June 16 and 17, 1903, both against the White Sox. The last time before the Red Sox accomplished the feat yesterday was 2000 when the Dodgers took two straight 1-0 games from the D-Backs on September 19 and 20.
The last consecutive 1-0 games at Fenway were actually in 1961. On May 17, 1961, the Sox lost 1-0 to the Indians and then beat Tigers the next day, 1-0. Consecutive 1-0 games in a team's home park in which they lost one game and won the other have been accomplished just 57 times in major-league history. The last time was at the BOB in 2003 when the D-Backs beat the Dodgers, 1-0, on July 26 but lost to them the next day, 1-0.
The first year it was done was 1888 by the Pittsburg Alleghenys (now Pirates, oh, and the city has had the "H" to the end of its name) twice. At Recreation Park, they beat the Phils (then known as the Quakers) 1-0 in the first game of a double-header on September 10 only to lose to them 1-0 in the second game. Five days later, they beat the Giants and then lost to New York two days later in their next ballgame. By the way, that doubleheader on September 10 was one of only eleven split 1-0 doubleheaders in major-league history (and was the first one), the last one coming on July 11, 1971 at old Comiskey when the Sox and Brewers split 1-0 games. At this point I am legally required to intone, "Well, how about that!"
If the Red Sox win 1-0 tonight (Note: before I finished this the Sox won 6-4 tonight, oh well), they will be just the second team in major-league history to win three consecutive 1-0 games at home. The White Sox did it at South Side Park (III) from April 25 to 27, 1909.
By the way, the Red Sox and Boston Braves used to share Fenway, so I checked to make sure that there were never two consecutive games at that park won 1-0 by each team. The closest 17 days: The Red Sox won 1-0 at Fenway on July 7, 1915, and then the Braves did it on July 24. They recorded two home 1-0 wins within 12 days when they briefly shared Braves Field. On August 2, 1931, the Sox won a game 1-0 and then the Braves won 1-0 on August 14. The only other parks to have two different home teams win 1-0 in the same season were Dodger Stadium (the Dodgers and Angels), the Polo Grounds V (Yankees and Giants), Connie Mack Stadium (Phils and A's) and Busch Stadium I (the renamed Sportsman's Park III, Cardinals and Browns). The closest that two teams ever came was two days apart by the Cards and Browns in 1953.
For the record, here are the 45 teams that have won two straight 1-0 games at home:
Here are the closest 1-0 wins at the same park by two different teams. (By the way, the last time this occurred was in 1965 when the Angels won 1-0 on August 31 and Dodgers won 1-0 on September 9):
Few But the Braves
There was a time that a baseball team could not win a game unless it scored 21 runs, or more properly, "aces". And I believe if you passed 21, you went bust, the house won, and everyone on the team had to ante up for a new hand. What could you do? Those were the rules, and we liked them.
Of course that time was about 160 years ago when Alexander Joy Cartwright and the Kinckerbocker club codified the game, but the Braves appear set to bring that era back. Well, they haven't scored 21 a game, but have scored at least ten for the past five games, and look to me like the team to beat for the wild card in the second half (another of my bold predictions that is sure to put the kibosh on this team).
It is the first time in over 76 years that a team has scored ten runs in five straight games, and just the ninth time since the turn of the twentieth century (though the feat has been accomplished 87 times in baseball history). Since the All-Star break the Braves have scored 15 and 11 runs against the Padres and 10, 15, and 14 against the Cards, all on the road, winning all five games.
For the record, here are the teams that have scored at least ten runs in five straight games since 1897, the last year that the Braves franchise (then the Boston Beaneaters) accomplished the feat:
As for the Braves franchise, they are the ones to score ten runs in five straight games the most in baseball history. This is their 24th time:
The all-time franchise "record" for consecutive games with at least ten runs is eight by the 1875 club. Of the 87 teams that have completed five-game streaks, just 36 extended that streak to six games. The last to do so was the 1929 Giants. Here are the teams that ran their streaks to six games since the founding of the National League (in 1876):
With the Braves facing Chris Carpenter tonight, one would assume that their scoring streak would end at five games, but keep in mind that Carpenter allowed seven runs in seven innings en route to a 10-6 loss on June 23 against Detroit. With the Phils starting pitching in their next series, the Braves could beat their franchise record of eight straight ten-run games.
By the way, the "record" for consecutive games with at least ten runs scored is eleven. It was recorded in 1873 by the Philadelphia Whites (or White Caps). They scored a total of 170 runs over their streak for an average of 15.45 per game. They exceeded ten runs in all but the eleventh game.
The Braves are also the first team since the 1950 Red Sox to score at least 65 runs over a five-game span and just the 17th since 1900 (ant the 400th overall). The 1950 Sox actually accomplished the feat four times during the season, thanks to two consecutive games with at least twenty runs scored:
The most runs scored in five games is 116 runs or an average of 23.20 per game by the old Philadelphia Athletics in 1871, who had game scores of 49 (!), 22, and 20 twice during that span. That was their ninth to thirteenth games, but they had scored 34, 31, and 25 runs in their first eight games. The most since 1900 was 82 by the 1950 Red Sox. The Braves franchsie "record" is 102 by the 1873 club, the most besides the 1871 Philly A's:
He's a Hometown Hero, He's Got Stars in his Eyes
Major League Baseball has started a Hometown Heroes contest for apparently no other reason than my amusement.
Fans get to select the best player per franchise. Hmm, we Phillie fans get to pick from, it must be, Larry Bowa, Steve Jeltz, Lance Parrish, Travis Lee, and Rico Brogna. Decisions decisions
Actually the nominees are a bit more appetizing, but it really is no contest. Hands down the best player the Phils have ever had is Mike Schmidt.
The ones that will be really difficult are the newer franchises like the D-Rays and Marlins. Let's see, is it Wade Boggs well past his prime or Fred McGriff well past his prime? Or is it Aubrey Huff, who just got traded to the Astros?
I thought I would look at the franchise leaders in Win Shares to see who comes out as the "best". So here goes (through 2005), sorted best to worst including some of the best among defunct teams just for the heck of it:
Well, overall 23 of the best payers per franchise actually made the ballot. Sorry, Walter Johnson, we need a spot for Kent Hrbek. Tim Raines? No, but how about Brian Schneider? Oopha!
Anyway, of those 23, I doubt that half will garner enough votes to come out on top. How many fans even know who Honus Wagner was? How many will vote for Albert Pujols over Stan the Man?
I can't wait for the carnage. Oh, and where's the write-in spot for Steve Jeltz?
Save It For Later II
My curiosity was piqued by the first day without saves in 28 years without saves the other day. I wondered how often it had happened in baseball history.
So I took a look at the Retrosheet game log to figure it out. Unfortunately, the saves data only goes back to 1957. However, I sallied forth with data for the past 50 years of baseball history.
I found that there were 221 days in which no saves were recorded, but a number of them were when only a one or two games were played. For example, the last time there were no saves was last April 3 when there was just one game played. What was so rare about the other day was that there was a full slate of games (15) around the majors.
Here are the days on which a full slate of games were played and yet no saves were recorded. Some of the days the total number of games even exceeded a full slate if there were doubleheaders played:
Save It For Later
Tonight Mariano Rivera become just the fourth man to record 400 saves, though he's best bet of the four to make it to the Hall. Rivera comes out second in my Relief Wins research (behind just one man, Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm). Smith is on the writers ballot but will have to wait at least until after much more deserving Goose Gossage gets his plaque. The other two men, John Franco and Trevor Hoffman, though not yet eligible, are marginal candidates at best. Rivera is clearly the best reliever of his generation.
Oddly, Rivera made history of sorts one night after the majors recorded its first full slate of games without a save in 28 years. That made me wonder what the odds of that happening are for this season and if those had dramatically changed to the point that such a rare occurrence could, ah, occur.
I thought it was either that or dumb luck. So let's see. Here are the odds of a full slate of games being completed without a save for each of the last 28 seasons:
Note that even though the percentage of games saved did not go up that radically, with more games today (15 as opposed to 13), the odds go through the roof.
It's no wonder that the last time that all closers were shut out on the same night was in 1979, but it is odd that it happened this year. Sure, the save percent went down slightly in 2006, but it still is among the best seasons all time:
So it was dumb luck after all. I should have known, what with Jim Bowden making a great trade this weekend and Brett Myers winning in his first start in two weeks in a game in which David Bell actually homered(!)dumb luck abounded.
Catch That Tiger?
The Tigers came back tonight from a 4-0 deficit to top the Royals 6-4 for their 60th win of the season. The Tigers are just the 47th team in baseball history to win 60 of their first 89 games of the season.
Below are the first 46. Note that on average they end up with 103 wins, and all but four made the playoffs. The only team to finish with a sub-.600 winning percentage were the Tigers in 1911, not to look for bad omens or anything.
Jim Bowden may no longer be a boy genius, but that's hard to tell from the eight-player fleecing he put on his old mates, the Reds, today.
His Nats traded relief pitchers Gary Majewski and Bill Bray, shortstop Royce Clayton, utility man Brendan Harris, and prospect Daryl Thompson for right fielder Austin Kearns, shortstop Felipe Lopez, and reliever Ryan Wagner.
I cannot see how this trade helps the Reds now or in the future. I can't possibly see what they think they got out of the trade. Ostensibly it's middle relief help, but I'm not that impressed with what Majewski or Bray can do for them this year.
Clayton-for-Lopez is a severe downgrade. Majewski is an undistinguished middle reliever, with an OK ERA but with a WHIP, strikeouts to walk ratio, and a strikeouts per nine innings that are poor at best. Harris is a replacement level player.
The rest of the trade looks like they are trading for the future: Bray could be a future closer but has had such a short and uneven minor-league career (4.40 ERA and 1.36 WHIP but a 10.53K/9IP). But the Reds want him more as a middle reliever now than a closer latercuriouser and curiouser. Thompson is young but spent two undistinguished years in Single-A Savannah, and has a 6.75 ERA at the start of his third Single-A season, this time one step down in Short-Season Vermont. He looks like a guy who may never make it out of the lower minors.
Meanwhile, the Nats get a new right fielder who may be just slightly better than middle of the pack in OPS (.844, 10th out of the 17 RFs who qualify), but is a tremendous upgrade over their putative starter, Jose Guillen.
They get a shortstop who is ten years younger than Clayton, and is markedly better.
And they get a project in Ryan Wagner, who has a 6.34 ERA in Triple-A, but has at least had some major-league experience and is just 23. Wagner started strong in his first major-league tryout (1.66 and 25 K in 21.2 IP in 2003) but got worse each year in Cincinnati. A change of scene might help, and given his age and his former strikeout ability (until his second trial in Cincy).
Actually, the trade looks worse the more I look at it. At best the Reds cut salary. Lopez is making $1.7 M more than Clayton, and Kearns is making $1.85 M. But even so, that's not a lot of money, and the Reds are supposedly trying to make the postseason, not cut salary.
But perhaps Bowden put it best, "Philosophically, we believe that when you have a chance to trade a middle reliever for an everyday player, that's helpful," even though he cites injuries, not overall value, as the reason for this. I, frankly, don't have a lot of respect for the once highly vaunted Bowden, but even a broken clock is right twice a day, and it doesn't hurt to have an organization like the Reds to make trades with instead of for.
Two Miles Low
Howard hit almost two miles of home runs tonight
With a typical Chris Berman understated assessment, the home run derby ended and a new Phils player was cursed with winning the darn thing.
Berman then offered the next pat answer, that the AL has been dominant the last few years but those young, pesky NL'ers, as demonstrated by derby finalists Howard and Wright, are ready to turn the tide or some such old saw.
ESPN also has an article on how many first-time All-Stars are invited to this year's game, 23.
"That is a big number," Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. "I didn't realize it was that big."
Twenty-three newbies, that must be a record, right? Well, the record is 36 in 1933, the first year of the All-Star game, of course. But 23 must be near the top, right?
Actually, there hasn't been a year since 1998 in which there were not at least 22 first-time All-Stars. The high for that period was 32 in 2003. Here are the all-time highs for first-timers:
Well, maybe the players are younger than today even though the number of first-timers is not that impressive. The average 2006 All-Star is 29.2 years old. How does that rank?
It's not one of the lowest:
Then again, it's far from the oldest:
I guess it's lower than it's been the last few years, so that's an improvement, but that's far from encouraging.
We have a 41-year-old starting pitcher for the AL who was tabbed by Ozzie Guillen in typical eccentric fashion. Pudge Rodriguez makes an appearance and thereby passes Mike Piazza in third for the most appearances by a catcher.
Yes, there are some older stars who are enjoying a three-day vacay, but that's part of the game. If we need a quirky storyline for the game, how about some retrospective on how the Pirates went from a real team to a shell of a team, however, the All-Star game host, whose most distinguishing characteristicss are the yellow pj tops that they forced the NL to wear? Or how about Mark Redman's surprise at being picked for the team?
How I spent My SABR Vacation III
After the two hours for my poster presentation flew by, I then had to worry my 40-minute oral presentation down to 25 minutes, leaving five for questions, and find some lunch in downtown Seattle, a place in which coffee is easier to come by then food.
I headed back to my hotel and noticed a burrito joint named Chez Dave that looked passable. It was one of these places that are yuppified yet still authentic and affordable, a type of place that could not exists in the Northeast, at least not as a burrito joint. Anyway, I grabbed something quick, wolfed it down, and then proceeded the locals by reading through my relief pitching presentation in a low, yet still easily audible voice.
Luckily my edits on the flight had gotten it down to twenty-five minutes. Emboldened, I headed back to the convention, ready to hear someone else present something.
The first I caught was on the years between the Pilots and the Mariners in Seattle and the shenanigans that led to baseball returning to the region. There were cherce tales of Johnny Allen and Charlie O. Finley doing a pas de deux to bring an existing team to Seattle. That all fell through and the AL was compelled to expand to the city due to congressional pressure. After failing to impel the National League to expand as well (to two 13-team circuits) with interleague play and all, the AL was forced to turn to Toronto while the NL turned its back on the entire situation. (I always wondered why the NL had so little involvement in the 1977 expansion draft and the attendant expansion fees accrued.
I also checked out the room in which I would be presenting, the Federal room, which was exactly half the size of the combined Superior-Municipal rooms, the other presentation room. The presenter at the time was discussing the Caribbean tour of the All-American Girls Baseball League, and I uttered the double four-letter word that Jim Bouton's manager in "Ball Four" made famous. Welcome to the marginal room. Oh well.
The next presentation was on how much to pay for the "last piece of the puzzle". It was interesting, yet hardly revelatory. The presenter found that the victories below 69 and above 98 wins are basically meaningless to one's financial bottom line. Getting a player who will help you improve from 60 to 65 wins adds nothing to your financial statement. Neither does getting a player who will help you improve from 100 to 105 wins. This seemed to hold true for all franchises. However, the return on investment for each win between 69 and 98 varied per team. The Yankees produced a great deal for each win over 69, whereas the Braves did not. It seemed like one of my studies which I feel forced to post even though the results aren't that tremendous because of the extensive research involved.
Anyway, Toastermate Bob Timmerman, whom I kept running into in these presentations, reminded me that I should get myself set up in the other room (the lesser room) given that mine was coming up. I went to the Federal room, and listened to a presentation on the death knell of salary arbitration, when I noticed that the presenter was using the type of plastic slides that were popular with lecturers some twenty years ago and that I had not seen since my first job.
I scanned the room and saw no computer, and, given that my presentation was all in PowerPoint, I panicked. I imagined myself describing each of the twenty to thirty-odd graphs"Here's a pretty one with plenty of colorful lines. Gee, it would great if you could actually see it."
I went back to the reception desk with my concerns and was told to track down the same guy who I had been looking for since 10:00 AM in my quest for Velcro tape. I still haven't found him. I went back to the presentation room and located a dude with a "Staff" shirt. I thought either he was a supporter of pitching in general or this was the guy to help me. I explained my problem and he pointed to an unused laptop next to the podium. I told him I had one last revision on my memory stick, and he said that once the current presenter was done, he would update the document and we would be good to go.
At this point the presenter was taking questions and he decided to go five minutes over while the moderator that was promised via email by my now arch-nemesis, the aforementioned Velcro tape fiend, was nowhere to be seen.
I rushed the podium, had the staff dude update my document, and then tried to wrest the crowd, half of which was wondering while a new group was wondering in, into submission. I whizzed through the presentation, trying not to look anyone in the face for fear of realizing where I was and what I was doing. I kept thinking of Marcia Brady taking her driving test and having to picture the tester in his underwear so that she wouldn't freeze (Ironically, as an adolescent, I pictured Marcia in her underwear).
My opening "joke" actually got laughs, so that helped my get over a hurdle. The staff dude told me after he loaded the file that he would signal me when I was at the halfway point, but I had long since forgotten him. Besides I could never find him in this sea of people. Anyway, I finished up and locked at my watch to find that I was not only on time but had a few minutes for questions.
Aside from an interesting question from Jay Jaffe (regarding incorporating Retrosheet play-by-play data into study to investigate various scenarios in which relievers enter a game mid-inning), I have no idea what else was asked or what I answered. Someone asked about saves and my reliance on the stat even though the definition changed in 1973 (actually, three times between 1973 and 1976). I just remember thinking that I don't use saves for evaluating relieversI just hope I wasn't too dismissive in my response. Someone else offered that pitchers will eventually be changed every inning, and I said something like unless the rosters double or they clone Brooks Kieschnick, it aint gonna happen.
Finally, my time was up and I could leave the podium. As I walked back to gather my stuff (and to try not to forget my memory stick which was still in the laptop), a small group approached the platform. If I were in a different state of mind, my reaction would have been something like "Cool, groupies!", but I just wanted to get of there before my sweat production approached Albert Brooks in "Broadcast News" proportions.
The first person informed me that the first MacMillan encyclopedia, the 1969 edition, had pitching lines split out by starting and relieving stats but that they had not been updated since and there were of course errors in the data that had since been fixed. This was in response to one of my recommendations, i.e., that baseball should officially register its pitching stats by starter and reliever splits. I thanked him and then tried to vacate the stage for fear that I was stepping on the next presenter's time. I answered a few more questions and left.
Later, someone (Bob?) told me that it was Pete Palmer who first approached me. Pete Palmer?!? The guy had no name tag that I saw, not that I noticed at least in my post-presentation stupor. Dang! I am a moron.
While I was in a frenzy prior to the presentation, I saw John Thorn, the author of "The Relief Pitcher" (which I mention in my presentation), hanging out in the lobbyI must have still been able to read nametags at this stage. I fantasized that he was waiting to see my presentation. I want to approach him and introduce myself, but the then-lack of PC not to mention a small crowd already gathered around him, prevented me from doing so. I didn't see him after the presentation and still am fantasizing that he actually saw it.
After the speech, I spent some time in the lobby speaking with a guy who is trying to build a case for Goose Gossage, who came out among my top three relievers. He asked me to contribute. If I could have anything to do with Goose going into the Hall, that would be the ultimate.
I also talked to Gabe Schechter who gave a poster presentation opining that middle relievers were overvalued and overused. Surprisingly, we were in agreement on a number of issues. My take is that middle relief is now where baseball is attempting to improvethe closer role is pretty much set. He agrees but does not feel that the role is necessary. I guess I see that as besides the point to a certain degree. We could go back to almost every pitcher throwing a complete game almost every time, but look how well the Billy Ball A's did with that. I just feel that it's like tilting against windmills. The relief role has been evolving pretty much since Alexander Cartwright marked off the first field , so I can't really get that upset with the current state given that I know that it's a moving target anyway.
After talking to a few other people, I was spent. I decided to forego the remaining presentations and headed for my hotel to change before an event at the world famous Ebbets Field Flannels. On the way out I met THT's Aaron Gleeman and Ben Jacobs, who were in the process of switching hotels.
Bob and I walked over towards the stadium, where the EFF shop resides. Along the way, we found a lovely little ghetto that sprang up and disappeared within a couple of city blocks. We found on the way home that it was just a block or two away from the gentrified yuppy/touristy area. These small cities are so odd. New York or Philly, I know where to go and where not to go. It makes sense. Again I am an ugly Northeasterner.
When we arrived at EFF, I was surprised at how small the shop was. One or two dozen SABR devotees were milling about in the overcrowded shop. Bob and I commented that the shop had Seattle AC, which means none, but they braved the heat with bowls of free popcorn and pretzels. I spotted a discount rack in the back with jerseys for $25. I picked out two, a Josh Gibson Homestead Greys and a Larry Doby Brooklyn Eagles. They were not subject to the 10% SABR discount that EFF was offering that night, but I didn't care.
When I arrived outside, I found Bob speaking with someone that turned out to by Rob Neyer, not that I would have recognized him. He looked shorter and thinner than I expected. Neyer was heading to a book signing and seemed not to keen on the EFF crowd, not that I really blame him much. It must be hard to be the focus of the geekfest especially when someone is somewhat introverted, as Neyer appeared to be.
At this point it was around 7 PM, but my stomach was still on Eastern time (10 PM). We saw a pub with an awning with faux baseball stitching, and Bob and I headed in that direction. It was F.X. McRory's, which both of us thought was a famous baseball joint but it might just have been the name. We sat in an area with a plethora of large screen TVs most with Mets-Red Sox game and, of course, Seattle AC. We found out later that the rest of the people in our section were also SABR denizens seeking a brief respite.
As was the case throughout the weekend, we sat and exchanged storied with the other SABR-ites. I have to say that it's such a love fest, it's like Woodstock for baseball. The two Red Sox fans weren't too pleased when the bar promptly switched to the M's-D-Backs game, even though the Mets-Sox were tight in the late innings. Finally, Gleeman, Jacobs, and the THT gang arrived as we were about to leave.
Anyway, the burger hit the spot and when headed back on a slightly circuitous but more gentrified route. It was great until we neared the hotels and had to climb the hills that each street then offered. Whether it was the hills or the jetlag (or the impending flu that quickly overwhelmed after the trip), I was beat and decided to call it a night. All in all is was a pretty good birthday.
[To be continued ]
Shut Your Mouth!
An odd thing happened on the way to the blog. I checked the major-league scoreboard and found that every game featured (at least) one shutout.
I wondered if all the games in progress ended in a shutout would it be the first time in baseball history that an entire day's slate of games were completed without even one losing team scoring a run. So I looked it up
The answer is that it's happened before, 127 times in baseball history actually. However, 107 of those were days in which there was just one game played.
Here are the dates with more than one date:
Dang! The Mets and Phils both just scored. Oh well.
Is There Scoring After Death? (Or, the X-Rated Version of "Weekend at Bernie's")
The other day, there was a throwaway incident in the first game of the Yankees-Indians series that I didn't want to pass without comment because, if for no other reason, it leads to some great stories.
The Indians took a 3-2 lead and Victor Martinez was rounding third early in the game when he apparently came in contact with third base coach Jeff Datz. Lee Mazzilli, along with the YES announcers, wanted the runner called out by rule 7.09(h). Datz was back-pedaling, but Martinez appeared to extend his arms in what looked like an attempt to push off Datz to return to third.
The third base ump, however, was not in position to see the play. After the runner passed him going into third, the ump looked to the outfield for the incoming throw. Even after a confab on the field and as Mazzilli communicated through gestures in the dugout, none of the four umps saw the play, and therefore, Martinez remained at third.
However, the play came to naught as the Indians then ended the inning without any further damage. Besides even the best of replays showed that the contact was minimal at most. But given my love for trivia, I had to investigate further.
First, I must say that I have never seen that play before. Datz was out of position and should be given a good talking-to by management. I mean, his one job is to ensure that things go smoothly between second and home, and here he is getting in the middle of what could have been a key playthe Indians just had taken the lead by just one runthat could have very easily ended the inning prematurely.
Second, the rule is open to interpretation. It deals with the coach interfering with the runner, not the runner using the coach as a bumper as was the case here, but I think the rule still applies:
Finally, as always I consulted Rich Marazzi's "The Rules and Lore of Baseball" to see how the rule was enforced in the past. Here it is:
A good example of this baseball statute was enforced during the 1967 season in a Pacific Coast League game between Spokane and Hawaii. Spokane outfielder Jim Fairey was knocked unconscious by the throw from the Hawaii catcher after he stole third base. The ball rolled into left field after hitting Fairey on the skull. Fairey rolled passed the bag after he was struck by the ball. Third base coach Gordy Coleman lifted him back onto the bag, and Fairey was called out for getting assistance from the third base coach.
That's great. I just wonder how you score that one, suicide squeeze? Of course, Billy Joe Robidoux went on to set all-time highs in the majors for a zombie player.
Indians Scalp Yanks on Independence Day
Cleveland beat the Yankees by the most lopsided of scores, 19-1, on of all days the Boss's birthday. Oddly, it is not the most lopsided game in their history. The Indians beat the Yankees by 22 runs once (22-0) on August 31, 2004 and by 18 one other time (24-6 on July 28, 1929). The Yankees' largest margin of victory against the Indians was 20 runs (21-1 on July 24, 1999) and they hit 18 twice (21-3 on July 14, 1904 and 18-0 on July 10, 1936).
It was just the fifth time that the Indians had won a game by 18 runs or more at home in their history and the first in over 56 years. Here they are by margin of victory:
The loss matches Yankees worst on the road, the July 29, 1928 game against Cleveland above.
As for the most lopsided victories of all time, this one only ranks at 286th. The most lopsided game in baseball history was June 18, 1874 when the New York Mutuals topped the Chicago White Stockings (now the Cubs), 38-1. Here are the most lopsided ever by margin of victory:
You'll note that a lot of these come from the early days of major-league baseball. Barring nineteenth century games, here are the most lopsided:
How I spent My SABR Vacation II
But enough of Seattle itself. I went to SABR36 to present a couple of studies that I had conducted. The first was on the Hall of Fame and the second was on relief pitching.
The Hall study was a "poster" presentation, something about which I knew about as much as you do. I had a four-foot by four-foot palette on which to paint. So I took my Hall studylong story short, baseball average 20-30 players per ten years but taking into account expansion less than one-half of one percent of today's players will get inand converted my usual wanton tables into graphs replete with callout boxes with the more salient points. Oh, and I also inserted many copious cartoon character slides to balance out the numbers.
Unfortunately, my flight from Newark was delayed a couple of hours, I didn't arrive at my hotel until after 1:00 AM Pacific time, and I didn't wake up until after 8:30. So when I arrived at the hotel where the convention was being held, I only had about 5-10 minutes to get my presentation on the board. The room for the poster presentations was already full and two-thirds of the presentations were up. After searching in vane for the person who was supposed to be organizing the presentations (and whom I never did find), I struggle to find a small strip of Velcro tape to hang my presentation.
So I am on my knees attempted to post these things in something that vaguely resembles a straight lines all the while, I look around at the presentation facing mine in which just about every baseball movie ever made is glaring down on me in glorious four-color glossy regalia. Goddammit! I feel like the kid who made his science project while the rest of the class had their parents help.
I finally complete the hanging of my various slides with the miniscule strip of Velcro tape that I found, and people are actually starting to read it. After about fifteen minutes someone from MLB.com stops by to ask if I want to contribute on a project they are doing on the Hall of Fame, and I'm feeling a bit better. A bunch of people stop by to read and discuss the study and before I know it, it's two hours later, poster presentation phase is complete, and the room is emptying out for lunch.
Now, I have to worry about my second presentation, an oral one. The one time I presented it previously (two days earlier to my somnolent wife) it went two minutes too long and I just found out from the program that I was supposed to leave five minutes for questions. Oops.
To be continued
How I spent My SABR Vacation
I remember most players from my youth, at least the non-Phils, through the grainy pictures on the fronts of their Topps baseball cards. Mike Marshall will remain there, in my mind, forever throwing off the mound for the Braves, even though he spent little more than one offseason with that team.
Even so, I knew he was the guy who had thrown one hundred games all in relief a few years earlier. I barely missed his glory years though I witnessed his short-lived comeback with the Twins (which oddly was absent any representation on a cardboard doppelganger from Toppsperhaps the irascible reliever refused to sign with the then-baseball card monopoly).
That's what I always remembered about Marshall, the 100 games. Somehow that factoid had filtered down to a ten-year-old a few seasons after the fact even though a few seasons seemed an eternity at the time. The 208.1 innings pitched never did register but seem even more impressive now. 208.1 innings?!? That's basically a bullpen. Marshall was a one-man pen. No wonder he won the 1974 NL Cy Young award.
Jim Bouton, I never did see pitch though I remember the ill-fated footnote of a comeback and of course, there's the book. Maybe that's why Marshall had more resonance for me when I attended that refuse for baseball geekdom, a Society for Baseball Research (or SABR for short) convention. Or maybe it was the fact that I presented on relief pitching, so it felt something like kismet. Or maybe it was the fact that I cornered Marhsall and asked him a few questions about relief pitching, but more on that later.
I do have to say that when a group of people who truly love something get together in the same place, it is a wonderful thing. It's sometimes enough to warm the heart of a jaded curmudgeon like me. But enough about how the Jersey fan's cheered and chanted "Bruce" for Springsteeen's exuberant but quite often very mediocre jug band project when I saw them at whatever they now call the Garden State Arts Center last week.
Just kidding. It's just my curmudgeonly way to refer to weekend at the SABR convention. It was my first national convention though I've been a member for a dozen years. And I have to say that I left chanting "Bruce" as well though no one, including me is sure why.
I don't know if I can do the whole experience justice. I choose to represent the whirlwind, as I experienced it, through the sights, the sounds, and the smells of a hard-working SABR convention (to paraphrase, badly, Marty DiBergi).
First, Seattle I had never visited the Coffee City before, and found the experience to be very odd. The downtown area seems hillier than San Francisco. The sun never seemed to set, well, maybe by around 10:30 or so. The game that the SABR group attended a short interleague contest. in which Colorado's Josh Fogg pitched a complete game shutout on something like 86 pitches, was a night game played entirely in daylight. The blinding sun blazed down on us fans seated down the rightfield line for the first half of the game. But perhaps the oddest thing was how pedestrians refused to enter an intersection, no matter how bereft of traffic it was, until instructed to do so. Being a Northeasterner, I felt free to cross when appropriate until my Toastermate, Bob Timmerman, a West Coaster he, advised me that the police enforce jaywalking with a vengeance out West.
To Be Continued
The Phils were reduced to turning to a career lefty specialist as their starting pitcher today, and yet so far somehow it's worked. The Phils lead the Blue Jays, 7-5, after six innings and they chased A.J. Burnett with seven runsfive earnedand ten hits after four and one-third innings pitched. Fultz didn't do much better, giving up four hits and three runs after one and two-thirds innings. Somehow the Phils have out-bad pitched the Jays.
As the Phils endeavor on a daily basis to cobble together a rotation while Myers does his penance and Randy Wolf rehaps, the president of the club is attempting to douse the public ire resulting from the decision to pitch Brett Myers the day after being arrested for hitting his wife in public by terming it a "mistake". The locals are waiting for the other shoe to drop squarely on Charlie "I Need a Friggin'" Manuel. Or at least they were but these other issues have taken the focus off of ol' Chollie.
Fultz being used as a starter is one of the more curious moves that I can remember. That Fultz is anything more than a situational lefty is due in part to a fine season for him last year with the Phils and in part to Manuel's robust imagination in using Fultz (for the first time in his major-league career) in an expanded relief role and now, incredibly, as a starter.
Anyway, I wondered how many pitchers had pitched as many games as Fultz prior to his first major-league start. So I looked it up (in descending chronological order):
You'll notice that the previous guys on the list had pitched considerably more innings before being considered for a starting job even though the majority are left-handed relievers.
The Phils are now leading 10-5 and are polishing this turd to a fine luster. I can't wait until next week brings us "Geoff Geary, major-league starting pitcher". Ah, the fine aroma of Phillies continual pathos.
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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