Monthly archives: June 2007
Killer Bigs—Big Hurt & Biggio
As I am sure you are aware, yesterday Frank Thomas became the 21st member of the 500-home run club and Craig Biggio became the 27th member of the 3000-hit club.
Over at ESPN Rob Neyer opines that Biggio is a lock for the Hall while Thomas is a borderline candidate at best. Actually, I don't really know what Neyer saidI can just read the first paragraph since I refuse to pay for Joe Morgan's clichéd aphorisms.
In the first paragraph, at least, Neyer somehow goes on ad nauseum about 500 home runs are not what they used to be. It seems that there once was a time when home runs were rationed. I think it was during the war, Double-Ya Double-Ya Two, to quote Archie Bunker. We needed to save our home runs to fight Gerry.
Really, does Neyer have to remind us that we are in the midst of the greatest offensive explosion since right after Doctor Phil's last feeding. I think the guy is morphing into a post-sabermetric Tim McCarver.
Anyway, in my humble opinion, Thomas and Biggio are easily first-ballot Hall-of-Famers, if for no other reason, at least in Thomas' case, since he has the minty scent of a power hitter who is steroid free. He is perhaps the only 500-guy who is free of the 'roid taint (which sounds like a obscene medical condition stemming from too many performance enhancers), which should appease the knee-jerk baseball writers. Biggio, seemingly, gets a free pass since the 3000-hit club has not yet been tainted though its membership is still larger than the 500-tater club.
I have a quick test to see if a player has that certain Wessonality to get into the Hall, Win Shares. The average Hall of Famer has 337 Win Shares, and every player with 400 Win Shares is in Cooperstown. So let's see how our current players rate.
Here are the players NOT in the Hall of fame that would be a better-than average HoFer based on Win Shares. For each, they are designated either Elig(ible), Not Yet Eligible (NYE) or Inelig(ible) for the Hall. (Rose is the only ineligible player on the list due to his ban.):
Note there are four active players over 400 Win Shares, which should be a lock. Thomas is just ten Win Shares from 400.
Since I love tables, here are all the HoF players by Win Shares:
Over Forty and Feeling Foxy, Part II
Today would be a great day for those old Viagra ads Rafael Palmeiro did before he became famous for (allegedly) doing another enhancing drug.
Today, seven pitchers over the age of forty will be starting games, the most ever. They are Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Jamie Moyer, Kenny Rogers, John Smoltz, and Woody Williams. Among them are also four pretty strong Hall of Fame candidates (Clemens, Glavine, Maddux, and Smoltz), which may also be a record though I have not gotten to that yet. (And I will be a part of this little bit of history since I will be in attendance at the Phils game, if it doesn't get rained out.)
Considering that there are eleven starting pitchers over forty in the majors this year (the ones above plus Randy Johnson, El Duque Hernandez, Tim Wakefield, and David Wells), this record might not last long. The record has been broken or tied four times already this season.
Prior to 2007, the most 40-year-olds to start on one day was four times previously, once in each of the last three seasons and once in 1983. Then on April 24, Hernandez, Johnson, Moyer, Wells, and Williams all started, setting a new record, 5. That was broken less two weeks later (5/9) when Hernandez, Johnson, Maddux, Moyer, Smoltz, and Williams all pitched for a total of six. This was matched last week (6/22) when everyone going today but Clemens started.
Consider that the first forty-year-old to start a game was John Greening on May 9, 1888, his only game ever in the majors, a complete game with thirteen runs (11 earned) for the Washington Nationals. The record was set at two on June 22, 1927 when Pete Alexander and Jack Quinn pitched. Less than two years later (May 30, 1929), as Red Faber joined Alexander and Quinn to set a new record of three forty-year-old starters. That record stood until September 9, 1983 when four over-forty starters pitched: Fergie Jenkins, Tommy John, Phil Niekro, and Gaylord Perry. Three of those are in the Hall and John may end up there some day. That record stood until this April (5). It was broken again two weeks later (6) and will be broken again today (7).
The record at the season has been matched nine times and will have been exceeded five times after tonight's games. And we aren't even through half the season yet. Here are all the dates on which four or more pitchers have started games:
Now, the eleven over-40 pitchers have started 147 games so far this season (154 as of tonight). The record for most games started by forty-year-old pitchers was set at 227 last year and will probably be obliterated by the trade deadline. Here are all the seasons with a hundred games started by forty-year-olds, with the projected 2007 total. Five of the twelve have come in the last five seasons:
And the Phils haven't even re-signed Paul Abbott out of retirement yet (actually he won't be forty until September anyway).
So the 2007 edition of interleague play is over and after early returns showing the AL way ahead, the NL had a mini surgeincluding the Mets sweeping the A's in an obvious and long overdue replay of the 1973 World Seriesand ended up with just the third most lopsided interleague results in the short-lived history of the gimmick turned reality.
After eleven years of interleague play, the Americans lead with a .510 winning percentage, 1250 wins to 1202 losses. Their .544 winning percentage in 2007, which translates into a 88-74 record over a 162-game schedule, is the third highest for a league behind the AL's hegemonic 2006 record (.611 or 99-63 over 162 games) and the NL's .547 winning percentage in the experiment's first year (or 89-73). Here are the most lopsided interleague records per league:
The AL's dominance over the last four years is even more impressive. They own a 554-454 record for a .550 winning percentage or 89-73 over a 162-game schedule.
The big winners this year were the Tigers and Angels:
And the losers are the Braves and White Sox:
Meanwhile, the Phils continue to remain in striking distance of a playoff spot. They are three games behind the Mets in the NL East and 3.5 behind the Padres for the wild card. The will host the Mets this weekend for a four-game series with an opportunity to nab first place before the All-Star break.
Unfortunatley with Jon Lieber out possibly for the season, the Phils do not have a scheduled starter for one of the two Friday games. The odds are that Ryan Madson will come out of the pen to take at least that turn in the rotation. Somehow a team that had a surplus of starting pitchers to start the year are down to three veterans, a Double-A pitcher on a tryout, and a big question mark with not many options for the rest of the year. Lieber and Garcia may not return. Myers will probably return to the pen when and if he returns from the DL.
One has to think that the annual beating that the NL takes during interleague play has razed almost the entire league pretty equally. When the better teams in the NL return to better up on the doormats, the severe problems the Phils have in the rotation, the pen, and at third will prevent them from surging ahead.
Then again, nothing on this team seems to make sense from the front office to the minors. They have a core with a great deal of talent and then replacement level or below players in key positions. Pat Gillick started applying spackle to the roster picking up the likes of Helms, Barajas, and Eaton in the offseason and is now earning his nickname, "Stand Pat". The minors are a wasteland, and many of the options they might have had have been thrown into trades over the years (for example, Justin Germano (5-1, 2.63 ERA in San Diego), Gavin Floyd, and Gio Gonzalez would all have be viable starting pitching options).
Somehow, you have to know that this team will float near the top of the division until being flushed away as usual by August.
The Phils tonight escape from the dark recesses of interleague only temeritously to face a pitcher who is having an historic season. Sounds bad, right?
Well, the history Anthony is potentially making is the most losses for a pitcher without a win. He is currently 0-8 in ten starts and owns a 6.34 ERA. There are only eleven pitchers in baseball history who have recorded more than eight losses without winning a game in an entire season.
Here they are:
Reyes projects to 18 losses should he last the entire season. That would be five losses better (or worse) than the worst, Felton.
As for the worst winning percentage for an ERA title qualifier (using today's rules), only two registered a big goose egg:
That said, watch Reyes shut the Phils out tonight.
It's a sad state of affairs for baseball when a player hits a major milestone, one that has been reached by just five players in baseball history, and the first thing that the analysts discuss is whether he is a Hall-of-Famer or not given his alleged steroid use.
The player is of course Sammy Sosa who hit his 600th yesterday.
The begrudged attention paid to this major milestone is a stark contrast to the warm, sloppy kiss and embrace the media and fans gave him when he was setting the records in the late Nineties. This is a player whose trot from the outfield to congratulate and manly hug Mark McGwire on his single-season home run record was replayed as often as Cal Ripken's consecutive game streak victory trot, one or both of which saved baseball, don't you know. The world so adored Sosa they celebrated his second-place finish in homers that year all the way to an undeserved NL MVP and the clear-cut better candidate, Mark McGwire, didn't even seem to care.
Sosa seemed to survive his corked bat incident but somehow a general malaise that surrounded his exit from the Cubs, his sub-par single season in Baltimore, and his one-year forced retirement set in and the world now assumes that he is a poster boy for steroids. It is ironic that his record came the same day that his owner stated his belief that long-time Ranger Juan Gonzalezanother player who won his share of undeserved MVP plaquesused steroids.
The game of baseball is now such a sideshow to rumor mill that ESPN had a web page already in the can and set to go when he hit #600 asking a bunch of their analysts whether Sosa's a Hall of Famer. The results were seven for and one against (Jerry Crasnick). Even so, six of the analysts mentioned steroids even though there is no proof that Sosa ever used them.
Consider that the corked bat that everyone in America witnessed breaking in super slo-mo on national TV is only mentioned by two of the analysts.
Apparently, every home run hitter active in the last ten to fifteen years will simply be labeled a juiced cheater. America, led by Bud Selig and Hank Aaron, is doing it's best to ignore Barry Bonds' chase of the greatest record in sports, the career home run record. McGwire was snubbed at the last Hall Of Fame vote. Plameiro, Gonzalez, Gary Sheffield, they all are tainted. The only recent player with 500 home runs who seems to have evaded the steroid scandal is Ken Griffey, who has been injured for most of the last decade anyway. With a spate of hitters ready to enter the 500-homer clubFrank Thomas (497), A-Rod (491), Manny Being Manny Ramirez (481), Jim Thome (481), Sheffield (472)possibly as early as this year, doubling the number of steroid-era members, one has to wonder how much further the reputation of today's power hitter will debased.
For the record, I am by no means a Sammy Sosa fan. I always thought he was greatly overrated. However, there can be no Hall of Fame without him.
A few years back Don Sutton seemed to be barred from the Hall even though he won 300 games because he had the temerity to be a pitcher representative of his era. Sutton pitched in a five-man rotation and would not always finish his games. Looking at Sutton's numbers today, it seems ludicrous that any of these things were ever mentioned. Sutton amassed 200 innings twenty times in his 23-year career, with a career-high of 293.1 in 1969. Of the three season he missed 200 innings, one was a strike year (1981), one he missed by just 8.1 innings (1987), and the third was his last season (1988) when he was 43 and lasted just 16 starts. I have to think that history is going to look back on all this tempest in a teapot talk about various players and their unfounded steroid use in a similar way.
It really gets to the attitude held by baseball purists that hitting 600 homers today is not what it was in Ruth's or May's or Aaron's day, which is the truth, but why should we devalue what a player accomplishes simply because he gets a little help. We can remove the era-bias and measure how all players outperformed expectations.
I took the annual league average for homer per plate appearance and determined for each player in history given his plate appearances how much he exceeded expectation. Below are the players who out-homered their eras the most over their entire careers (stats through yesterday):
Note that Sosa is eleventh even though he is fifth in career homers. I'm not crazy that he is slightly ahead of Ted Williams but I think overall it represents the players' home run prowess a bit better than career homers alone. And as far as Sosa, steroid era or no, he has to go in the Hall of Fame.
At the other end of the spectrum, here are the players who underachieved the most in their careers as home run hittersViva Vizquel!:
"Circumstantial evidence is a very tricky thing," answered Holmes thoughtfully. "It may seem to point very straight to one thing, but if you shift your own point of view a little, you may find it pointing in an equally uncompromising manner to something entirely different."
This morning my sleepy train ride to work was interrupted by, of all things, a putative sabermetric analysis of Ryan Howard's inability to deal with the shift in the free commuter rag, The Metro. It's a publication that is worth every penny: aside from their inability to master spell check in Word, their sports editor earlier this season proposed solving the Phils' early season woes by starting light-hitting Michael Bourne and batting him leadoff yet! This is a publication that has a great deal of difficulty covering the previous day's game highlights in the two columns they allot among the credit repair and escort ads.
Howard, a pull-heavy lefty bat, has been facing defensive shifts since his rookie year. The opposition did seem to step up its use in the middle of his MVP year last season, but to say that Howard's woes are due to the shift when he a myriad of issues have cursed him this year, seems laughable at best. That doesn't stop the Metro from quoting Howard, without editorializing, that he "believes that he would be near .400 if it weren't for the additional defensive help opponents place on the right side of the infield. "I've lost about 13 or 14 hits so far to the shift,' he said. 'That's lots of hits.'"
Howard has been injured and played injured at the beginning of the year. He was moved up to the third spot in the lineup by manager Charlie "I Need a Friggin'" Manuel to start the year. And he started the year in a good old-fashioned slump. It didn't matter how much of a shift the defenses used when Howard was striking out so often. Also, whenever Howard seemed to start rolling, opponents would just walk him which caused him to be less patient at the plate.
Even so, Howard is in the top five starting first baseman in the majors based on OPS at .937. He is two points ahead of Albert Pujols, whose average is fifty points higher but who has almost identical on-base, slugging numbers, home runs, and RBI numbers to Howard. The biggest difference between the two are the strikeouts, with Howard's K's (68) more than doubling Pujols' (32).
Here are Howard's breakdowns per month with his batting ratios and strikeout and walk rates:
OK, so Howard's strikeouts numbers are up this year (26% of his plate appearances in 2006), but they have gone up after April as Howard has started to be more effective at the plate. Note that as his walks have fallen, he has become more comfortable at the plate. Expect opponents to start walking him more regularly as teams start to realize that he is back.
Anyway, back to the nutty Metro article, in which they cite the percentage of singles among his hits last year (54%) as opposed to this year (only 46%). That sound very persuasive, right? His singles are, of course, ending up in the opponents' gloves due to the nefarious shift.
Did I mention that he has just 46 hits so far in his abbreviated 2007 season. The difference between last year's pace and this year's is four hits, four hits! Four hits are nothing really, but when you consider that his doubles have gone up from 14 to 20%, you can make a better case for four of his hits skidding through the infield and becoming seeing-eye doubles.
However, the real issue is not the makeup of his hits but his general lack of hits in general. In each of his three previous seasons, Howard has averaged a hit in 26% of his plate appearances. This year he is at 20%. And yes, most of the loss has happened with singles. Here are Ryan's hits represented as the percentage of plate appearances:
But where have those singles gone? Are they in shifted infielders' gloves as the Metro opines or did they go somewhere else?
Maybe if we look at the other stats (represented as percentage of the total plate appearances), the picture will get clearer
The seven-point increase in walks and strikeouts (combined) more than accounts for the five-point drop in singles. One thing that is a concern, however, is the his times grounding into a double play have trebled since last year. Given that he went down with a left quadriceps strain, perhaps his speed was affected, but I am still surprised by the big increase in GIDPs.
Instead of plate appearances, let's look just at the Balls in Play (BiP), that is, the plate appearances that involved balls that could have been fielded by the defensive. In other words, home runs, walks, strikeouts, and times hit by a pitch are ignored. Here are Howard's stats represented as a percentage of BiP:
Again the singles are down and the GIDPs, sac flies, and doubles are up. It seems that earlier this year he had doubles and flyball strength but wasn't getting the ball over the fence due to ineffectiveness and injury. As for the singles disappearing, it seems that a good bit were converted to double play groundouts. That doesn't seem to support the shift overly affecting his game since they difficulty of turning a double play goes up when the defense is shifted out of position. Besides, shifts are used less frequently with runners on base to prevent against the stolen base.
In a typical shift the third baseman plays a to the left of second base, the shortstop plays the normal second base position, and the second baseman plays a sort of short fielder (sometimes the shortstop is shifted to this spot and the second baseman shifts slightly to the right). A ball hit to the short fielder is likely not to cause the runners to be doubled up. A ball to the normal second base position now becomes that much more difficult because a) the third baseman is now out of position as the pivot man on the throw to first and b) there is no one backing up the third baseman on the throw to second. This is another reason why the shift is rarely used with men on base: it takes you out of the double play.
So where are we? The shift, though annoyance, appears to have very little to do with what isor rather what had beenailing Ryan Howard. He has been frustrated by an increase in walks. The lack of decent balls to hit made him less patient or at least rustier at the plate and led to more strikeouts. (I say rustier since his pitches per plate appearance have gone up from 4.06 in 2006 to 4.20 this year. Them again a pitch-around walk requires at least four pitches so that increase may be a bit deceiving.) He has also been a disappointment to a certain degree given his increase in double play groundouts, but again, they have little to nothing to do with the shift.
I leave you with two stats. First, I combined Howard's singles, doubles, triples, sac flies, and GIDPs (represented as BiP percentage) and found that they have remained remarkably consistent over the last three years. So one could argue that the singles have gone to one or more of the other categories.
Also, I list the ground ball percent for balls put in play. Note that this is at an all-time low for Howard. So not only is he grounding into more double plays, but he is also getting under balls and flying out. The end result issurprise!he's having a worse year than last year, getting under balls and hitting double play grounders.
Then again, it is still early and we are still talking about a small sample of data. By the end of the season, it may all seem like a blip on the radar screen. Given the way he's been hitting since his return and his offensive ability I would not bet against him.
Oh, by the way, Howard is not even in the top five in NL All-Star voting so far. I can see the argument for Fielder and Pujols ahead of him, but his omission is indefensible. It's almost as bad as the talk going around that Barry Bonds will not make the All-Star roster even though he is arguably the best player since Ruth, he will probably break the career homer record later this year, and he is in the top three (behind Magglio Ordonez and A-Rod) in OPS in the majors. If Howard and Bonds are left off the roster in favor of Nomar Garciaparra and Carlos Lee, they may as well not hold the game.
The Biggest Perlozzo?
Sam Perlozzo, as expected, was let go the Baltimore Orioles, a franchise that was one of the major's perennial jewels. The O's have not made the postseason or even broken .500 for a season since 1997, and they show no signs of ending either streak this year.
That year they fired their manager Davey Johnson after a Manager of the Year award-winning season. In nine and (almost) one-half seasons since Johnson, the Orioles have gone through four managerssoon to be five.
In 1997, Baltimore won the AL East by two games over the Yankees and 20 over the 78-84 Red Sox. Since 1997, they are one of three franchisesthe Pirates and the Devil Rays being the otherwho have not had a winning season while the Yankees and Red Sox are the only two franchises to have a winning record every season since 1997. Both are over .500 this year as well.
Clearly, the problems for the O's run deeper than one lousy manager, but Perlozzo has done his best to rank among the worst managers of the last twenty-five years. He ranks eighth worst among all managers active within the last quarter of a century, and there are a good number of doozies in that mix (min. 243 games, which equates to one and one-half seasons):
There are some really dreaded recent managers that were active in the early part of this decade (McClendon, Muser, Trammell, Bell, etc.). Now just Bell remains active on this worst managers list.
Perlozzo was never so dreaded by analysts as these other execrable pilotsthen again, I'm not an O's fan. However, was a model of sub-mediocrity consistency, registering a winning percentage between .418 and .432 in each of his three seasons.
One has to wonder if the spate of sabermetric-minded general managers in the post-Moneyball era has led to more sabermetric-friendly managers. With Bell's inability to get out of the AL Central in parts of three seasons in KC, one has to wonder how much more time he will be allowed to ply his trade with that floundering franchise (if anyone in Kansas City still cares). Should the Phils miss the playoffs again this season, Charlie "I Need A Figgin'" Manuel is likely to be made the scapegoat.
Could the day once come when double-guessing becomes a thing of the past? Heaven forfend!
Watching the Detectives, Pt II
Part two of my umpire study, this part on field umpires (i.e., first, second, and third base umps), at Baseball Prospectus is here.
The Winner of the Wes Helms/Jason Kendall Home Run Derby Is…
But first a story about a woman who was arrested for stealing toilet paper. Her name had to be "Butts", right?
Yesterday, Wes Helms homered and Aaron Rowand hit a grand slam en route to an 8-4 Phillies win over and series sweep of the White Sox. The Phils have now swept two of their last three series. They throw a kid from Double-A (Kyle Kendrick) who is basically the best warm body in the organization, and they winthe kid even got a "hit" on a ball that clunked off a diving Jermaine Dye's glove. They are a juggernaut. Fourm, count 'em, four games above .500! Break 'em up!
Helms won the First Annual Wes Helms/Jason Kendall Home Run Derby, hitting his first home run of the season just hours before Jason Kendall ripped his first homer not only of the season, his first since May 31, 2006 (157 games). That leaves just four regulars (i.e., batters who qualify for the batting title) without a home run. Kendall also is 5-fot-9 in his last two games, raising his average from .194 to .210. Keep in mind that Helms hit 10 dingers last season and once hit 23. Kendall has hit double digits in homers three times with a career high of 14 in 2000 with Pirates. However, In two and one-half years with the A's he has a grand total of two home runs.
Here are all the qualifying batters with one or fewer dinger this season:
Kendall is still in the midst of a potentially historically poor season at the plate. He has .249 on-base percentage, .238 slugging, and .487 (!) OPS. That is still 64 point worse than the next lowest OPS for any batting-title qualifier:
It's so bad that Kendall's OPS is closer to the overall statistic for AL pitchers, who bat just during interleague play, .425 (62 points lower) than he is to the next worst regular, Corey Patterson at .551 (64 points away). If Kendall keeps it up, he could be the first batter in 39 years to register an OPS under .500 and just the second in 75 years. There are just 16 sub-.500 OPS seasons since 1901 that have been registered for a batting-title qualifier:
Oddly, Helms and his career-low .635 OPS has all but lost his job in Philly, but Kendall is solidly entrenched behind the plate for the A's. He is even batting eighth regularly, down from his usual leadoff spot, instead of ninth for the most part.
Coincidentally, GM Billy Beane yesterday was given a seven-year extension by the A's. He did get a regular catcher in 2005 from the Pirates for a journeyman pitcher who would deservingly lose 15 games that year (Mark Redman) and a reliever who is no longer in the game (Arthur Rhodes), but he didn't have to hang onto Kendall for so long after so many of his offensive tools had evaporated. One has to wonder how many of those seven years will witness Kendall behind the plate.
Cool and Cole-lected
Cole Hamels is leading the NL in an odd collection of statistics. The fact that he is leading in wins (9) and strikeouts (104) is indicative a young pitcher who has not only clearly ascending to the lofty position of team ace; he is one or the premier pitchers in the league at the tender age of 23.
However, oddly, he leads the NL in home runs (16). The last pitcher to lead his league in home runs allowed and wins was Curt Schilling with the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks (actually tied for the lead in both categories). It is something that has been done just once in the last 28 seasons and just 26 times in baseball history, with 15 of those coming after Babe Ruth revolutionized the game with the long ball.
Here are the pitchers to do it since 1950:
As for leader one's league in wins, home runs, and strikeouts, that's even rarer. It's happened just five times in baseball history and just once since the Deadball era:
All this made me wonder if Hamels, given the historically high rate of home runs and strikeouts in the game today along with the fewer innings being pitched by starting pitchers, is on a pace to record more strikeouts and home runs per innings pitched any other pitcher in baseball history.
To determine this I created a new stat that I'll refer to as a Herkup, as an homage to former Royal GM Herk Robinson and my favorite bodily functioneh, why not? It actually stands for home runs plus strikeouts per innings pitched, but it sounds better that way, like WHIP.
I ran the numbers for the highest recorded Herkup. Here are they arenote that Biitner was a first baseman who had one abysmal outing in a 19-3 route of the Cubbies at the hands of the late lamented Expos on July 4, 1977. In his only pitching appearance, Biitner allowed six runs in 1.1 innings for a 40.50 career ERA:
However, this throws Hamels in with a bunch of players whose numbers are skewed by pitching so few innings. As far as pitchers who qualified for the ERA title in their league, Hamels' 2007 Herkup ranks 46th all time. Here are the highest:
Adjusting for era, we get:
To avoid Deadball eccentricities, here are the best since 1930. Hamels comes in just 207th:
Hamels and Eaton and Hope Not to Get Beaten
Cole Hamels won his ninth game of the season tonight, 7-2 over the White Sox, to lead the NL. He also leads in strikeouts (104) and home runs allowed (16).
Hamels could become the first Phillies pitcher 23 years or younger to win twenty games since Robin Roberts did it at the age of 23 in 1950. There is only one other Phils pitcher since the beginning of the twentieth century to do so (George McQuillan in 1908).
Here are the only Phillies pitchers 23 or younger to win twenty games:
When Hamels wins his next game, he will join a short list of Phillie pitcher under 24 to win ten or more games. There have been just twenty. In the last fifty years, there have been just five pitchers who have won 13 or more games in a Phillies uniform before turning 24:
The win also puts the Phils three games over .500 for the first time this season. They are just a game out of second place and three and one-half out of the division lead.
Unfortunately, they will throw rookie Kyle Kendrick, whose moniker resembles a "Name Game" variation of George Hendrick's, in tomorrow's start. A win would seal a three-game sweep of the reeling White Sox. With A.J. Happ injured and Zack Segovia ineffective in Triple-A, recalling Kendrick from Double-A was the best available option. Despite a 4-7 record, he had a 3.21 ERA and decent strikeout numbers (50 in 81.1 innings). He did, however, take three years (2003-06) to get out of Single-A, so a move to the majors might be a bit rushed.
Meanwhile, Adam Eaton is a different pitcher every time out. He shut out the White Sox in game one of this series. If you sum his best six, or half of his game started, you get a pitcher who averages just under seven innings a start, with under five hits, and a 1.80 ERA. However, in his worst six startsthe other halfhe averaged under five innings per appearance, seven hits, and a 10.60 ERA. He's schizophrenic and so is he. Oddly, his strikeouts and walks remains pretty much unchanged throughout, about three walks and four strikeouts per game.
By the way, with the shutout in Eaton's last start the Phils did something that has only been done one other time in baseball history. They sandwiched a game with 17 runs allowed between two shutouts. The 1915 Reds were the only other team to give up that much in between shutouts. Here are the most runs allowed sandwiched between tow shutouts:
Meanwhile, John Lieber is the only other pitcher who has been effective in the remainder of the Phils rotation. Jamie Moyer started the season strong, but as he has gone around the NL and teams have faced him a couple of times, he has started to show his age. He was 3-1 with a 2.65 ERA at the end of April. He is 2-4 with a 5.88 ERA since. His strikeouts per nine innings have also dropped substantially from 6.35 in April to 3.67 since and an awful 2.53 in his two starts in June so far.
With Garcia out, Brett Myers, who is eying a return from injury next week, might be needed in both the closer and starter roles. Unfortunately, this team has a dearth of pitching depth in its organization. But maybe keeping Alfonseca in the closer role and recasting Myers as a starter would be best use of talent, which is why I expect them to use Myers as the closer.
Sopranos Whacks Phillies
Picture this scene: Pat Gillick, Dave Montgomery, and Charlie Manuel are sitting in a typical neighborhood dinner and in walks Jose Mesa. Fade to black
Yeah it sucks as bad as the series end to the Sopranoswhy do we care that Meadow can't park? And did we need ten seconds of blank screen? It's a highly artistic way to play out an intellectual dead end or, worse yet, a copout to leave the door open for a movie sequel (Yeah, screw you, too, David Chase!)
Anyway, a day after John Lieber shut out the lowly Royals, the Phils were slammed 17-5 by the worst offense in baseball. This team is so bad that Mark Grudzielanek is their best batter, going three for five with a home run, double, and five RBI from the three hole in the lineup.
What was even worse was that the Phils crawled back into the game after the newly floundering Jamie Moyer was driven out of the game after 3.2 innings and six runs. In the middle of the sixth, after home runs by Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard, the score stood at 6-5. Of course, Joe Table was on the mound fade to black
The seventeen run barrage was just the 62nd time in baseball history that a team followed up a shutout by allowing 17 or more runs. The worst was a 26-8 drubbing of the 1944 Dodgers at the hands of the Giants on April 20 a day after a 5-0 shutout. Here are the only times that a team allowed twenty runs after a shutout:
Meanwhile, Mesa came into town with a 12.34 ERA and proceeded to see the ERA and raise it to 12.46 (13.50 in 1.1 innings for the Phils). He has not had an ERA under 10.00 this entire seasonhis low was 10.13 on May 22 and May 28.
Mesa can become just the 22nd player ever to register a 10.00+ ERA with two separated teams in one season. If he keeps his Phils ERA over 12.34yes, a Herculean task but if anyone can, he can do ithe will be just the 13th to take a 10.00+ ERA from one team and see his stratospheric ERA rise with his second team and the first since Dennys Reyes upped his 10.45 Pirate ERA with an 11.57 in Arizona in 2003:
Meanwhile, the Phils again lose a series after sweeping a division opponent on the road. Last time it was the Braves, now it's the Mets. Keep in mind that the Mets were missing two-thirds of the outfield. But still losing two of three to the Royals.The Phils may be a .500 or better team in the NL but it seems the are not much better than the lower echelon of AL teams, and the interleague record so far bears that out.
The AL is pounding the NL again this year to the tune of a .607 winning percentage (51 games to 33). Last year, the disparity was just as big, The AL won 154 against 98 losses, or a .611 winning percentage. Overall the AL leads in interleague play 1301 to 1235, .513. The NL hasn't won the season series since 2003. Here are the yearly breakdowns:
Unfortunately, the Sopranos season is done but the Phils' isn't. With Freddy Garcia, who had struggled all year, finally succumbing to injuries and no viable replacement in the farm system; a decimated, Mesa-infused bullpen; no third baseman; Ryan still strugglingfour Ks to go with the home run yesterday; Pat Burrell recreating his execrable 2003 season after being non-traded this past offseason, this team seems more likely to slide below .500 rather than keep their collective heads ever so slightly above it. Unlike Steve Perry, I am ready to stop believing.
Where Have You Gone, Joe Charboneau?
As I ponder the fate of the Phils, an incredibly streaky team with constantly reversing fates, with the win yesterday on Jimmy Rollins' three-run home run, it occurs to me that J-Roll is this teamhe epitomizes it.
He's streaky with flashes of brilliance offensively and defensively but has lapses when he can't master even routine playsremind you of any team that you know? He strikes out way too much. He has never really settled into his leadoff role, always talking about an on-base percentage but reveling in his delusions of being a slugger. His hot April9 homers to lead the league at one point, .297 average, and .978 OPSof course led to his abysmal May.250, no homers, .279 on-base percentage, and .679 OPS.
The end result is Rollins is a better than average shortstop, and what are the Phils this decade but a consistently slightly above average team with flashes of brilliance mixes with stretches in which they cannot make simple plays, they strike out too much, they don't know what their team makeup is, whether they are fish or fowl. Their opening day starter two weeks later is their closer. They change their third baseman daily. They bat their MVP third to get him more at-bats while setting him up for hisyet farKafkaesque season. They take a Mulligan on the bullpen even though they are committed to pulling their starters after one hundred pitches. And their GM might be leading a group that is trying to buy the Mariners even though he denies it.
But, hey, they are over .500 at least for one day.
Anyway, in other shortstop news, former Rookie of the Year, Angel Berroa, was let go by the Royals yesterday four years after winning the award. My first thought was if Berroa's career were truly overand when you are released by probably the worst organization in baseball, it probably iswould he be the worst former Rookie of the Year ever.
Then I remember Joe Charboneau. And Butch Metzger.
So who is the worst player to win a Rookie of the Year? Who was worst if you ignore his award-winning year? To quote Mr. Owl, let's find out.
I ran the numbers for all former RoY winners, here are the worst on career Win Shares prorated by the number of years the player played. Berroa comes in at just #14:
Maybe Berroa is helped out too much by his award-winning yearCharboneau sure was. Let's run the numbers again without the Rookie of the Year season:
Berroa comes in just tenth here. I was pleased to see Charboneau and Metzger at the top, however. But Berroa can't shake a stick at the abysmal Jerome Walton and former Royal Bob Hamelin.
For fun, here are the best former RoY winners. First, by their career Win Shares per year:
Then they are ranked by the career stats ignoring their RoY season:
Pujols is still outclassing Mays but that might change as he ages. Still that tells you how historically good he's been.
Over Forty And Feeling Foxy!
So reads an old apron owned by my mother-in-law, but it should become baseball's motto with so many aging stars prolonging their careers and fewer and fewer young stars being marketed to the masses. Meanwhile, whenever I turn on ESPN I get football updates even though the Super Bowl was four months ago and the regular season will not start for another three. Baseball highlights are fewer and farther in between all the time, and my kids never get to see the sport since it doesn't come on until after they go to sleep.
But enough of my yakking. Let's boogie!
With yesterday's pitchers' duel between forty-year-old lefties Jamie Moyer and Tom Glavine, neither of whom sadly figured in the eleventh-inning, 4-2 Phils' win, I noticed a growing trend of forty-year-old starters facing off at a record pace. The "record" for oldest left-handed starters has been broken three times this season, once when David Wells and Randy Johnson faced off and twice when Johnson faced Jamie Moyer, and there is still time for another combination of these three to break the record again in 2007.
Prior to 2007 there were just 33 games in record baseball history in which two 40-year-olds faced off. There have been nine so far in 2007, we have two-thirds of the season to go, and quadragenarians Kenny Rogers and Roger Clemens have yet to pitch so far this year. During 2007 the number of 40-year-old faceoffs could easily be doubled.
The number of previous 40-year-old lefty faceoffs has already been exceeded in 2007. Coming into this season, there were just three games in baseball history in which two left-handed forty-year-old pitchers started. So far in 2007, there have been five:
There are already more 40-year-old starting pitchers, ten, in 2007 than any other year in baseball history:
And keep in mind that Roger Clemens' season is just starting and Kenny Rogers has been injured all year and just threw a simulated game yesterday, so there could be 12 starters by the end of the year:
This decade is on a pace to blow away the "record" for most seasons by forty-year-old starting pitchers in a decade even if Roger Clemens chooses to live in semiretirement:
Just Like Watching the Detectives (Aint He Cute?)
I started a series today over at Baseball Prospectus. It's a comparative study of umpiring with this entry on the plate ump and it goes a little something like this.
The Best Reliever of All Time—Hoffman for the Hall?
As Trevor Hoffman approaches 500 career saves, calls for his enshrinement in Cooperstown are growing. Hoffman passed Lee Smith as the all-time saves leader, and even though he is 39 given his performance this season2.57 ERA and 16 saves, which projects to 46 for the year, he has a decent shot at 600.
Yes, Hoffman is no longer the strikeout king he once was (his strikeouts per nine innings, 6.86, is the lowest of his career and he hasn't broken ten since 2003), but he has found ways to be effective. His longevity and consistency, the argument goes, demand that he go into the Hall.
That said, given the Hall's stringent standards for relievers and the breadth of talent among his contemporaries, Hoffman does not merit a Hall plaque.
That is not to say that I personally would not put him in the Hall. Given that relievers are woefully underrepresented, there are good half-dozen to a dozen that should get in, but Hoffman should get in line behind at least two contemporaries.
Some time back, I took a look at the history of relief pitching, in which I developed a method to measure the performance of all relievers throughout time. First, I assigned them usage roles based on relief archetypes, then derived the pitching runs saved, and then converted that to pitching wins (or RWin here for Relief Wins). The results, I found, were much more revealing anddare I say?accurate than any of the official stats, including saves, at describing a reliever's performance. I also added in starting pitchers based on the same methodology and found that there was a strong case for a good dozen or so relievers to go into the Hall given the comparable starters who have been plaques. (The link has more on the method if you're interested.)
When I ran the study originally, three relievers came out as head and shoulders above the rest of the field. They were Hall-of-Famer Hoyt Wilhelm, Mariano Rivera, and Rich Gossage, in that order.
I reran the stats to see if anything has change substantially given the relief performances in the intervening years. The results are that the Big Three are still the Big Three but the order has changed (Hall of Famers in boldface, RA=Relief Appearances, stats through 2006):
Goose was very close to getting into the Hall this year, falling just 21 votes short (or 71.2% of the writers' vote) and may get in soon as the writers turn more and more away from steroid-era candidates. However, Gossage is arguably the most conspicuously overlooked player currently not in the Hall.
Can you think of another player who is the second-best eligible at his position and yet is not in the Hall? Even the extremely underrepresented third base position is nowhere as badly off. Ron Santo, the best third base candidate currently eligible, has a very strong argument for the Hall and is getting rooked by the current, dysfunctional veterans committee system, and yet he is probably barely in the top ten third basemen all time (He ranked eighth in Win Shares the last time I checked. Darrell Evans ranked higher but he is currently ineligible given the current system).
Rivera will probably go in as the addle-minded writers cite his postseason accomplishments all the while overlooking his peerless regular-season performance.
That leaves a group of about a half-dozen relievers that are very close performance-wise (27 to 32 RWins) with maybe only one or two who have any sort of a shot at the Hall. Hoffman and Wagner still are pitching so they might have time to separate from this pack. However, the two test balloons, the two pitchers who have become eligible for Hall voting, Quisenberry and Henke, fell off the BBWAA ballot after one year. Even Lee Smith, who held the saves record for 13 seasons, four of which he was on the writers Hal ballot, has yet to garner 50% of the vote, let alone the 75% needed for induction.
I guess I shouldn't complain: at least one worthy reliever is being getting a Hall of Fame rep. It's going to be fun to watch how Rivera, Wagner, and Hoffman are evaluated once they retire. They have been contemporaries and may retire around the same time. I would love to see how the writers punch their chads with these three guys on the ballot.
By the way, I reran the numbers for best reliever years and Papelbon's 2006 season comes in at #13, the best reliever season in ten years, better than Gagne in 2003, Rivera in 2005, and Ryan's 2006:
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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