Monthly archives: November 2006
Double Your PleasureóDouble Your Doubleplay Combo
The St. Louis Cardinals signed second baseman Adam Kennedy to a three-year, $10M contract yesterday and will, thereby, re-team Kennedy with his former doubleplay partner from the 2002 champion Angels, David Eckstein.
Barring injury Eckstein-Kennedy will become just the 17th keystone combination to start for two separate franchises. The last doubleplay combo to double up with a second team were Neifi Perez and Todd Walker who started for the Rockies in 2001 and then the Cubs in 2005. There have been just seven replanted doubleplay combos in the majors since World War I.
Here's the full list in chronological order:
There are a few things worth noting here.
The only World Champion keystone combo to repeat with another team prior to Eckstein-Kennedy were Fred Dunlap and Jack Rowe with the 1887 Detroit Wolverines.
Dunlap, Rowe, and Jack Glassock were the only men to appear on the list more than once. Dang, those nineteenth-century doubleplay combinations were incestuous.
Bob Ferguson and Bill McClellan are the only men on the list to appear in two doubleplay combos but to also switch positions. McClellan went from second with the White Stockings (now Cubs) in 1878 to shortstop for the Philly Quakers (cum Phillies) in their inaugural year, 1883 while Ferguson went from short to second.
Finally, my favorite: the Phils recreated the Cubs' late-Seventies doubleplay tandem for one season, that was bookended by two extremely memorial trades involving the two players. First, the Phils traded Larry Bowa for Ivan DeJesus to reunite him with Trillo. That would have been an OK deal. That is until the Chicago GM, Dallas Green, until recently the Phillie personnel director, asked them to toss in a prospect. Of course, his name was Ryne Sandberg, thereby making it among not only the worst Phils trades ever but among the worst trades of all time. At the end of 1982, the Phils traded Trillo along with four other players for Von "Five-for-One" Hayes, who the Phils tabbed as their next franchise player. Hayes was actually pretty good for the Phils but the balance sheet for this one is slanted against the Phils and continues to get worse as the octogenarian Julio Franco continues to play 24 years later.
The three-year gap between Eckstein-Kennedy 6-4-3 double plays is nothing compared to the seven-year wait between Tommy Corcoran-to-Tom Daly flips:
If the Cardinals repeat with a World Series crown next yearOK, stop laughingKennedy-Eckstein will be the first doubleplay combo to start and win a ring for two separate franchises. They also may hold the record for the most times being referred to as "pesky" for a two-team doubleplay combination.
The Phils appear to be spinning their wheels this offseason.
Plan A was to get Alfonzo Soriano to supplant fan pariah Pat Burrell to "protect MVP Ryan Howard". Soriano signed an eight-year, $136M contract with the Cubs.
Enter stage right, Plan B: Sign Carlos Lee to (again) replace Burrell. Lee gets six years and $100M from the Astros.
Next, insert foot in mouth.
The best remaining free agent left fielder is Barry Bonds, who is, of course, the greatest player of his era, but is also 42, is oft-inured, and comes with a ton of baggage.
Frank Catalanotto? Already signed with Texas.
There's always David Dellucci but he played for the team last year and couldn't displace Burrell in either left field or in the lineup. If he re-signs, it will probably be to play right with Shane Victorino is center (and Aaron Rowand reportedly traded back to the White Sox).
Meanwhile, the catcher the Phils reportedly were interested in, and who expressed interest in playing in Philly, Johnny Estrada got traded to the Brewers. The only desirable catcher on the free agent market is aging future Hall-of-Famer Mike Piazza. But why worry about a catcher when we are trying to get a marginal improvement in left field?
At third, the Phils have plugged in career backup Wes Helms coming off a career year. He'll platoon with Abraham O'Nunez. Lovely, and you thought they couldn't do worse than David Bell. Never mind that Aramis Ramirez was a free agent for a short time until he re-signed with the Cubs.
So what's next?
The Red Sox are reportedly shopping Manny Ramirez in anticipation of signing Phillie favorite J.D. Drew and potential woe fellow Scott Boras client Daisuke Matsuzaka. There are a number of teams interested in Ramirez but apparently the Phils are not among them.
I just don't get it. If the highest priority is to replace Burrell with a bigger bat, Ramirez is the ideal choice. And the Red Sox are motivated to move him.
So it appears that the Phils master plan to get a negligible improvement in left is going to fall through. They have already consigned the starting rotation to mediocrity by signing another tail-end starter in Adam Eaton (reportedly at three years and $24M). Unless Cole Hammels because a staff savior in 2007, their rotation may continue to be an immense problem.
Then there's the starting catcher. The Phils have only career minor-leaguer and 34-year-old rookie sensation Chris Coste or 27-year-old untried rookie Carlos Ruiz to depend on.
There's another hole in right. A lineup with both Rowand and Victorino in it will be problematic.
Then there's the depleted bullpen.
That's what happens when you put your eggs in one, or in this case two, baskets. The Phils would have been better served foregoing the fan sop of replacing Burrell and instead could have fixed the actual problems on the team.
But now it appears to late even though it really isn't. That's what a bad plan does to a team.
I thought Pat Gillick was an improvement over Ed Wade because he had a) a plan and b) some competency. But maybe a bad plan is worse than no plan at all. The Phils seem like a lock for another win total in the mid-80s next year. The older pitchers and lack of talent at key positions might cause an implosion, but then again how badly can a team collapse with two stars of Howard and Utley's caliber in the lineup?
I can't wait for Plan Y.
Well, the votes are in and the results are that the voters are friggin' nuts.
Justin Morneau won the AL MVP and I defy you to come up with a valid argument for him being the MVP, or even MVP stand-in, on his own team, let alone for the entire league. Derek Jeter was the obvious choice, and that's why the voters ignored him enough to let Morneau win. One voter from Chicago even had Jeter sixth!?!
So the question isn't whether Morneau deserved the awardhe didn't. It's whether he is the worst candidate ever to win the award. Unfortunately, he isn't but he's up there.
Here are the only MVP winners who, by Win Shares, were worse choices than Morneau:
Morneau's candidacy doesn't bear close scrutiny. He came in fifth in Win Shares for the league, eighth in OPS, and 13th in Baseball Prospectus's VORP. Here are the top twelve finishers in the AL MVP voting (plus Manny Ramirez who got completely hosed) with their ranks per Win Shares, OPS, and VORP along with their overall rank:
Morneau ranked ninth overall by this method. That seems about right. I do, however, have a problem with David Ortiz coming in at number one, but overall these rankings seem closer to reality than the real thing.
Ramirez is a great example. He came in 19th in the voting, but had tremendously better stats than the fourth place finisher, Frank Thomas, and he plays a defensive position.
The results of the voting actually have very little correlation to either Win Share (the best at .538 coefficient), OPS (.405), VORP (.498) or overall rank (-.531).
But look on the bright side. Howard and Morneau become the lest experienced MVP duo of all time (based on avg Win Shares). Their collective 31 Win Shares at the start of the season knocked the 1974 duo (Jeff Burroughs and Steve Garvey) from the top spot:
So if history is any indication, Howard and Morneau just have to decide which one will be the subject of a paternity suit and which one will have a son who will tank in the majors.
Happy Turkey Day one and all! Let's root the Cowboys on to defeat.
The State of Philly Sports
The talk around town is about Ryan Howard's MVP award. Howard had a tremendous season, but as most of the statheads on the Web will tell you, there is probably a better argument against him than for him.
But, much like Bud Abbott, I don't give a darn. It helps offset the monumental loss of Donovan McNabb in an already diminished Eagle season. The Flyers already cleaned house. If the Sixers top .500, it will be a tremendous seasonnever mind that the team may or may not be on the block along with its mercurial star, Allen Iverson. And the Daily News has already run its annual "Why hasn't a Philadelphia team won a championship since 1983?" article.
Actually, the USFL Stars are the last with a crown in 1984, so they, not the '83 Fo', Fo', and Fo' Sixers, are the last Philly champs. That in itself is a major indictment of the town as a sports mecca. I remember when a Chicago soccer team pre-Ditka Bears won the first national professional sports championship for that city in something like thirty or forty years. I remember thinking how sad that was, but they have had champions in three of the four major sports since then.
So I'll take the Howard MVP. But the bigger baseball story, in my opinion, is the Phils losing in the Alfonso Soriano derby. Soriano signed for eight years and $136 M with the Cubs in what may be the worst free agent signing since Darren Dreifort. OK, that's an exaggeration, but you get the point.
The press is playing this as if it is a loss for the team, but in reality, Soriano was at best a marginal improvement in left. He is coming off a career year while Pat Burrell is coming off a disappointing one. However, Soriano's speed, his biggest asset over Burrell, would be marginalized batting behind Howard. His on-base percentage (.325 career and career-high .351 in 2006) is not high enough to bat him any higher, and his strikeout numbers (160 in 2006) are worse than Burrell's and the called third strike is a major bugbear for Burrell's critics. When you add in the fact that Soriano has one year under his belt in left field and has no chance to play second in Philly because of the presence of Chase Utley and that he will turn 31 in the new year, Soriano is a bad gamble when the money approaches Amigo Money levels.
The Phils can now save the money they had earmarked for Soriano to sign major-league players to start behind the plate and in right field or maybe they can pick up a decent pitcher or two. I would have included third base, but the Phils have locked themselves into mediocrity, at best, there by signing Wes Helms to platoon with offensive liability Abraham O. Nunez. They still can make major improvements to the team with money that would have brought them very little in return next year.
Then again, given that Howard made $335K last year, they might have to channel the Soriano to the Ryan Howard account to hold onto him. And there's Utley and his measly $500K salary this past season.
If nothing else, having Jimy Williams call the shots instead of the troglodytic Charlie Manuel, who retains the title of manager until the team needs a scapegoat, will be a major improvement. Though that may not matter if two-thirds of the Phils starting outfield consists of Shane Victorino and Aaron Rowand, and the starting catcher is Chris Coste.
It's all par for the course in the Russian novel that is Philadelphia sports.
The Youngest Bi-Cy Young Winners
Johan Santana, at the ripe age of 27, won his second Cy Young award today in the biggest fait accompli of an awards race this postseason. He becomes one of the youngest repeat Cy Young winners of all time.
The youngest is, of course, Roger Clemens, probably the best pitcher since the inception of the award. Clemens won his second award at 24 and is holding at seven.
However, the two tied for second youngest might be a surprise. Here are all the repeat winners:
Over in the National League, Brandon Webb won the Cy Young yesterday. He was probably the most deserving pitcher, but his 16 wins and 3.10 ERA will not inspire many fans in the future. I wonder if baseball would ever consider taking a Mulligan and just not give out the award if there is no overwhelming choice. Maybe they can go back to one award for both leagues combined. Or maybe the voters can just vote for Pat Paulson (now that's a blast from the past) instead.
What the A's?
Fremont. The name recalls, at least to me, Dennis the Menace's persnickety neighbor Mr. Wilson's dog. Or was that Tremont? Maybe it was the last name of the lady who was the butt of all the old Marx Brothers' gags. No, that was Margaret Dumont. Or was that the old television network that predated acronyms? I know Lisa Fremont was the name of Grace Kelly's character in the Hitchcock classic "Rear Window".
Anyway, that's me. I'm sure that for everyone else it calls to mind that California town that was the first in the state to embrace the film industry in 1912. The site of the legendary Chaplain film, "The Tramp". It's the city named after "The Great Pathfinder", John Charles Frémont. It's the US city with the largest Afghan population. It's the sister city of both Elizabeth, South Australia and Fukaya, Saitama in Japan. The fourth largest city in the bay area. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)
That's right! You guessed it, Fremont, California.
Fremont, California, that city by the something or other. I frankly know nothing about Fremont other than it's, evidently, near both Oakland and San Jose, which means that the A's can move there without technically leaving their territory. And, of course, now it's the future home of the Oakland Athletics.
That's all fine and well but now the A's are anticipating changing their designation to Fremont. That would match one of the oldest nicknames in the sport, the Athletics, to one of the newest fairly large cities in the countryFremont is celebrating its fiftieth birthday (again thanks, Wikipedia).
The Fremont A's! Hurrah!
The majors have shunned towns like Buffalo, Charlotte, and Las Vegas. It took DC decades to get back in the majors. But now we are moving into Fremont without so much as a "By your leave"?
Well, I guess if they can stomach the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, they can put up with anything.
In reality, the team will be attempting to expand its base by wooing the very desirable fanbase in San Jose, as well as retaining as many fans in Oakland that can at least drive to the game. Fremont, a city of some two-hundred thousand souls and apparently tons of under utilized real estate, is no more than a marriage of convenience.
Yes, baseball has, or has had in recent memory, teams in towns like Arlington, Texas, and Bloomington, Minnesota. And they too were a marriage of convenience given that these rather modest-sized cities are located near two other larger cities. However, you'll note that baseball never ceded the team naming rights to these palukavilles in the past.
So should Major League Baseball step in and impose a more all-embracing name like the California A's, the Bay Area A's, the Golden State A's, or the California Golden A's? I think the Angels sort of staked their claim to any monikers too generically Californian.
Truthfully, I'd prefer San Jose A's since tapping into the larger, more affluent population in their Californian neighbor appears to be the goal. Maybe that would tick off the San Francisco Giants a bit too much. (It certainly won't please the San Jose Giants.)
Anyway, Fremont is first city since the 1870s that has no baseball history and such a small population relative to the average major-league city. The last team that comes to mind is the Middletown (CT) Mansfields.
To put it in perspective, here are all the US cities with at least a share of a major-league team as compared to Fremont and San Jose:
So let's all say, "Hail Hail Fremont, land of the brave and free", and soon to be home of the A's.
The Return of Son of the Pitcher-Manager
After years as a pitching coach, Bud Black today got a well-deserved chance to manage, winning the Padres job that Bruce Bochy just vacated. He becomes the fiftieth pitcher cum manager in baseball history and the first in six seasons. Black also becomes just the 28th pitcher with at least 100 wins to manage.
Oddly, the ex-pitcher/manager died a quick death in 2001 when three managers, Larry Dierker, Larry Rothschild, and Joe Kerrigan all lost their jobs. There have only been 15 pitcher-managers since 1964:
Tommy Lasorda leads all pitcher-managers in managerial wins. Only 18 such managers won at least 161 games in their managerial careers:
only 17 managers won at least 200 games in their pitching careers:
Black hopes to become the 11th man in baseball history to 100 games as a pitcher and as a manager:
Black probably has a low chance of joining the exclusive list of managers that won at least 500 wins as a pitcher and a manager combined:
The Phils are convinced that they must rid themselves of Pat Burrell. And why not? He has two years and twenty-seven million dollars left on his elephantine, misguided contract. As Jerry Crasnick points out, Burrell batted .222 with runners in scoring position. That's fine if you're Karen Valentine (get it? Room 222?), bit not if you're a corner outfielder in the middle of the lineup. Too many Burrell at-bats ended with his expressionless form watching a called third strike go by.
They are equally convinced that they need to sign free agent left fielder Alfonso Soriano to replace Burrell not only in left but in the five spot in the lineup to protect Ryan Howard, another thing the team feels Burrell failed to do this past season. The Phils haven't been this convinced that they had to sign a left fielder since they signed a young Pat Burrell to the contract they now feel the need to divest themselves of.
"Situations change," Phils GM Pat Gillick said. "Your club might be constituted differently from one year to the next, and anything that restricts your flexibility is a problem. If you have a player under contract and you're paying the sums we're paying now, I think clubs ought to have the freedom to trade that player."
Hmmm cagey. It's good not to play one's cards so close to the vest.
Soriano, like Burrell right before he signed his big contract, is coming off of a career year. He set career highs in home runs (46), OBP (.351), slugging (.560), and OPS (.911) and was a 40-40 player. He is seeking big money, amigo money and plenty of years. He'll be 31 next season and will most probably start to decline early on in any long-term contract. As far as the dreaded Burrell backwards K, Soriano outpaced him in strikeouts by almost thirty last year.
Also, keep in mind that Soriano has just one year in left field under his belt, last year, and he balked at playing left when the Nats started the experiment. There is no chance that the Phils will shift him back to his natural position, second base, because of Chase Utley.
As far as Burrell's .222 batting average with runners in scoring position (RISP), of the 27 left fielders with at least 100 plate appearances with RISP, that puts Burrell way down at number 24. But guess who's right ahead of him at #23, you guessed it, Soriano (.231). Also consider that Burrell batted .313 with RISP in 2005 and had a 1.026 OPS, top five among qualifying left fielders. So what, did he forget how to bat with runners on this year? Soriano's .235 batting average with RISP in 2005 would have been the third worst among left fielders.
Not to run Soriano down, but one would have to think that the move to left, and not pending free agency, was the reason for his career year this past season. I had long been theorized that moving him away from his defensive shortcomings and distractions at second base would help him at the plate. Maybe it did.
But to sign Soriano for big bucks to a long-term contract, one would have to believe that a) he will want to play left for the length of that contract (or third maybe though he hasn't played there since 2000), b) the move to left caused his mini renaissance in 2006, and c) he won't be negatively impacted as he gets farther away from thirty. Those are too many question marks for my liking. Not to mention the difficulty they will have in trading Burrell and his no-trade contract to replace him with Soriano.
Besides I wouldn't rate a change in left fielder any higher than fifth among the Phils' offseason problems. In order they would be third base and catcher, where they have no viable starters on the roster (Sorry, Abraham O. Nunez), starting pitching, and relief pitching. I would also throw in lead-off hitter before replacing Burrell.
But the Phils have decided that Burrell must go so go he must. Whether the reason is that Gillick actually thinks it will improve the team or it's a sop to the disgruntled fans, I cannot say. I can't understand half of Gillick's moves, but that's still head and shoulders above Ed Wade. The fans will salivate all over Soriano and cheer Burrell's departure, but these are the same fans who believe that the Phils improvement down the stretch was due to Bobby Abreu's departure.
I do understand why Soriano is a high priority for Phils brass, however. He fulfills two of the Phils main goals. He'll put fannies in seats, and he helps assure that they will again come close to nabbing a playoff spot but would help them actually do ita goal because of all of the messy contract bumps caused by a largely unprofitable postseason run.
Washington to Rest In Arlington
Long-time A's coach Ron Washington has finally gotten the call to manage. He takes over the Rangers for 2007. I can't help but think that Willie Randolph's success with the Mets had something to do with it. Both Washington and Randolph were veteran African-American coaches and both were middle infielders as players. And Ozzie Guillen probably didn't hurt.
It's also a reverse of decade-long hold that backup catchers had on the cherce managerial spots. Here's a quick tally by position of managerial record (data through 2005):
So shortstops like Washington are a bit below the average for all positions, but they're miles ahead of pitchers. I guess Bob Lemon could do only so much, especially when he was getting fired on a semi-annual basis in New York.
Given that Washington had to wait so long for a managing job, he will be a 55-year-old rookie manager next year. He is one of a handful of managers to debut that late (or later) in life:
The bad news is that the winning percentage for this group is .465 on average in their debut year.
Finally, Washington becomes just the 15th manager with a presidential last name. That is, they have a last name that matches that of a U.S. president. Here they are with their career totals:
Yeah, it was a slow news day.
The justification for the kings of mediocrity, the Cardinals, winning the World Series is that they had so many players that missed substantial stretches of the season. They got healthy to start the players and the end result was that they slid into the postseason by the skin of their teeth but given the actual talent they had on the team, they easily won in it all. And what kind of jerk am I anyway for not seeing it all along?
Well, that sure sound great, but did the Cardinals really miss more games than the average playoff team? Does getting players back for the postseason guarantee success?
The Cardinals starters missed a total of 206 during the regular season:
* Belliard played just 54 G w/ St. Louis;Wilson 33206 sounds like a lot, but how does it compare with past postseason team? The answer is not all that well. It's about average.
Of course, this kind of study is rife with assumptions. I am assuming that the starting position players used in the postseason are the team's ideal lineup, which is of course not always the case. A team could have a starting player who played all 162 games but gets hurt in the final game and misses the playoffs entirely. He gets replaced by a backup who may have played just a handful of games. By my assumption, it looks like the backup missed was the preferred player but he missed most of the regular season. But it's impossible to state in all situations who was the player the teams preferred.
Anyway, here are the playoff teams that lost the most regular season games to their starters:
You might notice by the way that only three of those teams won a World Series. Overall, there is the very slightest correlation against the missed game theory (-0.024).
The real reasons that the Cardinals' offense went wild in the postseason was that they upgraded two of their sore spots (second base and left field) and their other liability, "It's Yadier!" Molina had the postseason of his life.
By the way, here are the teams that lost the least time during the regular season:
Mark Grudzielanek earned his first Gold Glove today after twelve seasons in the majors. I think they just took pity on him for playing for the Royals.
At 36, Grudzielanek becomes the oldest second basemanby four years yetto claim his first Gold Glove. He's also among the oldest first timers ever:
At the other end of the spectrum, Pudge Rodriguez won his twelfth Gold Glove, adding to record-setting total for catchers. Twelve Gold Gloves puts him in pretty elite company. The only position players with more are Ozzie Smith and Brooks Robinson (though Schmidt was better). Here are the most all time:
Finally, here are the top five per position in Auric Mitts. Eric Chavez just made that club even with his horrific fielding in the postseason. Maybe they confused him for Endy (And I know the postseason doesn't count in the awards voting):
The Best of Five, The Worst of Series
I have a piece running at the Baseball Proscpectus site on the playoff series, specifically the best-of-five division series. Guess what, I'm agin' it.
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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