So Joe ditched us last week. That's OK. He has more than made up for it with his new non sequitur style this week. It's an interesting choice, but the style seems to suit him. I wish him luck with it. It may cost him style points with the judges though.
What am I talking about? Joe Morgan Belated Chat Day is upon us again. We here at Mike's Baseball Rants love the Joe Morgan Chat Days (that "we" as in the royal we, not to be confused with the Royals we, which just depresses us). Joe Morgan is to baseball analysis what Plato's Cave was to perception. He proclaims on high:
"Behold ! , human beings living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den [the TV]. Here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. ...[A]nd you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets."[He's talking about Jim Kaat, Rick Sutcliffe, Rob Dibble, and their ilk.]
He proclaims that we shall have this pap fed to us as if it were real baseball analysis and we will believe that Miguel Tejada is a better MVP candidate than Alex Rodriguez, and that bunting is good, and that batting average, home runs, and RBI are the only stats you need ever deal with. So Joe is basically admitting that he is a Mephistophelian, Machiavellian machinator. Oh my! But we can derail his plot of world domination through misleading, obfuscating, and inveigling baseball analysis. Last off we will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of us in the water, but we will see us in our own proper place, and not in another, and we will contemplate us as we are. OK, good plan? To the bat cave.
Jackie Mountain View, CA: Hello Mr. Morgan-- I am an A's fan here in the Bay Area and I have to say that the completed series with the Angels has me concerned. Of course, the A's had great pitching the first game but lost the next three in games they should have won. Specifically their bullpen has blown the lead in the last two games. Frankly, they don't seem like a team that will go anywhere if in fact they do make the playoffs with such a shaky bullpen. What are your thoughts? Thanks.
Joe Morgan: Everyone goes through spells. I don't hear about this when they won 20 in a row. Their bullpen is a concern, and even the closer. They are not as good as the Yankees of two years ago, but neither are the Yankees. None of the teams are perfect.
[Mike: The A's bullpen isn't great, but it's not a weakness either. Baseball Prospectus ranks them 15th over all with n Adjusted Runs Prevented score of +13.4. Anaheim, on the other hand, ranks 2nd with 60.2. Playoff contenders Boston and LA trail Oakland.]
David (New Orleans): Hey Joe, with all the talk lately about team chemistry and how important it is to a teams success, i am curious how close the old big red machine was during the 70's. did you guys socialize with one another off the field? thanks
Joe Morgan: Yes, we were very close. I don't say that team chemistry makes or breaks a team, but I do think everyone has to be on the same wave length trying to win, having the same goal in mind. That's the key more than anything else.
[Mike: Was that really Joe? More machinations I bet.]
billl atl: Smoltz is the man! I told you he could close! The Braves are going to be strong in the Post Season. What do you think?
Joe Morgan: Smoltz was the best starter the Braves ever had in postseason play. And they have to have a lead now to get to Smoltz. I would rather have him starting than closing. He's a great pitcher, whether he starts or closes. But in the playoffs, a starter is more important than a closer.
[Mike: No, I think he may have had a change of heart.]
Maureen Wells - Canton, Ohio: Goodmorning Joe: As a commentator I feel compelled to ask you this question. Why is it, that everytime I listen to ball games, reports, etc., All I hear is about AROD, Jeter, Nomar and Tejada? I realize that offense is the important thing in this day in age and I by no means want to take away from these players accomplishments. But why is "the best defensive player in the game and a good clutch hitter" never mentioned. Him being Omar Vizquel. He has 9 gold gloves and helps his team with his defensive abilities. He can hit as well, proving that with his homerun total he has now, which is a career high. I feel it is a slap in the face to Omar not to be mentioned in this group of fine players.
Joe Morgan: I agree 100 percent that defense is important, and Omar has been the best defensive shortstop in the AL for a long time. But if you were to start a team, you'd take one of the other shortstops and not Vizquel. The game is more about offense now than defense, although defense doesn't get the value placed on it as it should. As an Indians fan, you would trade Vizquel for A-Rod tomorrow.
[Mike: Now, I get it. Joe has been reading Bill James-James estimated that 52% of winning is based on offense and 48% is based on defense in Win Shares. He read it and had an epiphany.
By the way, I don't know if you could call Vizquel the best defensive shortstop in the AL, maybe most overrated. He ranks behind the following recent shortstops in Defensive Win Shares per 1000 innings (just under a year). He has 5.10 WS per 1000 inning:
Neifi Perez, 6.69
Ozzie Smith, 6.42
Rey Ordonez, 6.32
Greg Gagne, 6.26
Tony Fernandez, 6.22
Alex Gonzalez, 6.03
Barry Larkin, 6.01
John Valentin, 5.95
Cal Ripken, 5.69
Avaro Esoinoza, 5.60
Ozzie Guillen, 5.56
Rafael Santana, 5.54
Jose Valentin, 5.42
Jose Uribe, 5.34
Kevin Stocker, 5.31
Rich Aurilia, 5.20
Alfredo Griffin, 5.19
Jose Vizcaino, 5.18
Nomar Garciaparra, 5.16
By the way, the Big 3 plus 1 aren't that far behind Vizquel:
Nomar Garciaparra, 5.16
Miguel Tejada, 5.05
Alex Rodriguez, 4.77
Derek Jeter, 4.11
Finally, Vizquek per-1000-innings value is below average (5.72) for shortstop with 1000 innings in the field.
By the way, Miss Foley from English class would ask Maureen if she were a commentator given that she said, "As a commentator I feel compelled to ask you this question."]
Curt, Atlanta: Joe, With the Dodgers pitching staff depleted, can they still make a run at the wild card?
Joe Morgan: The real problem is they don't have set rotation. But the Giants have one, and it's not doing that well either. Obviously, they are not where they would like to be. They don't have the same starting pitching that got them there. But I wouldn't count them out just yet.
[Mike: Well, Joe, the only real change is Kevin Brown returns to replace the injured Ishii. It's not really unsettling their rotation.]
Pran (Charleston): Giants or Dodgers?
Joe Morgan: Giants because the Dodgers rotation is in disarray, and that was the strength of their team earlier. That's just my pick right now, but it doesn't mean anything. When you have this many games left, anyone can win.
[Mike: Again, the Dodgers staff is in better shape than Joe would have you think. Ishii had a bad August and is now out for the rest of the season, but LA's for August was fourth in the majors in ERA and is currently 8th for September. The Giants staff is improving as the season wears on (it had to) and moved from 8th in August to 5th. Both are pitching respectably. The Dodgers' post-All-Star ERA is higher than the Giants, but that was due mostly to a poor (17th in majors) July without Kevin Brown. Their team OPS since the All-Star break is 14th in the NL and that is a much more disconcerting dropoff (they were 10th in the first half).]
Mike (Albany): Joe- Who would you want to face in the first round of the playoffs in you're the Yankees: Anaheim or Oakland?
Joe Morgan: The Angels because they don't have the experience of playing in the playoffs. The A's have experienced playoff pressure at Yankee Stadium; the Angels don't, and they would have to make an adjustment.
[Mike: Well, lack of experience didn't seem to hurt the Diamondbacks last year, the Padres in 1998, nor the Marlins in 1997. If it's just a Yankees thing, the A's almost toppled them in 2000 in their first playoff appearance in 8 years.]
Brian (Amarillo): Do the Astros still have a shot? Their schedule is much tougher than the Cards the rest of the way, but the Card rotation is having problems.
Joe Morgan: They are playing the Cardinals right now. They have to sweep for me to say they have a chance. All the things you say about their rotation is true, but St. Louis has been hot. The rotation can't be that bad. If the Astros don't sweep, the Cardinals will only have to win half of their games the rest of the way.
[Mike: But Joe, if they had swept they'd be a half-game up in first place (they have since lost two so it's moot). Therefore, that statement can't really be true.]
TUTO (NJ): What are the Chances of Garet Anderson WInning the AL MVP? His numbers are not like Tejada or Soriano or ARod. But he has the Angels in the Top of the League. That's Huge for Him.
Joe Morgan: Watch Sunday Night Baseball, because last week I talked about that. He's by far the most valuable Angel. You have to consider him.
[Mike: Well, the chances should be zero, but with writers so enamored of Anderson, anything is possible. Anderson's OPS is 13th in AL, behind teammate Tim Salmon, and over 200 points behind leader Jim Thome. Anderson hasn't hit that many homers 26, has only one more walk than HR (27), and plays a very undemanding defensive position (left field). He is batting over .300 and is having a career year (his OPS is 60 points higher than his previous full-season high).
That said, I wouldn't even call him the Angels MVP. He has the highest Equivalency Average (Baseball Prospectus) on the club, but Salmon and David Eckstein are right on his tail an play more demanding defensive positions.
My question is why players who rank among the leader in OPS (Jim Thome, Rafael Plameiro, Miek Sweeney, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Delgado, Raul Ibanez, and Paul Konerko to name a few) who happen not to be on playoff contenders get no mention. Even players on playoff teams are getting overlooked-Manny Ramirez, Bernie Williams, Tim Salmon, Eric Chavez, and John Olerud-while someone like Anderson garners a good del of press. I understand singling out Miguel Tejada and Alfonso Doriano because they are middle infielders, but a so-so left fielder?]
Tanya (Boston): How fun are the Angels to watch? Steals, squeezes, hit and runs, they just play fundemental baseball on a daily basis. I really enjoy watching this team play.
Joe Morgan: They remind me of the way the Yankees played the last three or four years -- they do everything. That's what you do in tight ballgames. A lot of teams are not able to manufacture runs like that. They are fun to watch, and I enjoy that type of baseball more than just the big-bang theory.
[Mike: Yeah, they are fun and it's a great story for baseball. The Angels have produced 14 runs above what one would expect so far this season according to Baseball Prospectus' equivalency runs placing them 5th in the majors in scoring. However, without those extra runs they still would be sixth, and those extra 14 runs translate into 1 run per every ten games-big deal!]
Kyle (Manchester, CT): Is Jeff Bagwell a Hall-of-fame caliber player?
Joe Morgan: He has played this season with his shoulder bothering him. If he has a few more good years, yes. Because numbers are easier to attain now, you have to do it for a longer period of time now. He just has to come back healthy and have a few more good years.
[Mike: I love old ballplayers running down the young ones for differences in the game that the player has no control over. Joe is an expert at this: "[N]umbers are easier to attain now." Bagwell is one hell of a player and should be a Hall-of-Famer (he is only 33 of course) irrespective of the era in which he plays. Bagwell has 318 Win Shares through 2001, which ties him for 133 all-time. Of his similar batters (Baseball-Reference.com) 2 of the 3 eligible for the Hall are in (Johnny Mize and Hank Greenberg). The third, Dick Allen, is a player that is often discussed as a candidate for enshrinement. Bagwell already has the credentials to be a HoFer according to Bill James tools. He ranks about an average HoFer for the Black Ink Test (2, avg HoFer is 27), Gray Ink Test (143 to 144), HOF standards (47 to 50), and HOF Monitor (134 whereas 100 indicates enshrinement is likely). Lest you think that his numbers are blotted by the HR-crazy era in which he plays, Bagwell's park- and league-adjusted OPS is almost 60% above the average player (157%). He has created 1356 runs in 7236 plate appearances with only 4465 outs, meaning that a team of Jeff Bagwell would produce about 8.2 runs per game. (All numbers through 2001.)
For comparison sake, let's check out Tony Perez, ex-teammate of Morgan's and now Hall-of-Famer. Tony scores a goose egg on the Black ink Test, 129 on the Gray Ink Test, 40.7 on the HOF Standard, and 81 on the HOF Monitor. Of Perez' similar players only teo (Billy Williams and Al Kaline) are in the Hall even though 7 are eligible (besides those two are not markedly similar). Besides Perez has ten years on Bagwell as he played until 44. Perez has 349 Win Shares-90th all-time-but he had 108 after 33, Bagwell's age in 2001. He had 241 as opposed to Bagwell's 318 at the same stage in their careers. His 122 park- and league-adjusted OPS is good but nowhere near Bagwell's (true, Bagwell's will probably drop as he ages). Perez created 1548 runs in 10861 plate appearances and 7462 outs, meaning that a team of Perezes would score 5.6 runs per game. I know it's different eras but still... If Joe doesn't think Bagwell is a HoFer, that's fine, but then he shouldn't back his old cronies like Perez and Dave Concepcion at the same time. His standards should be equally high for everyone.]
Bill (Tallahassee): Everytime you talk about the A's, you neglect to mention Eric Chavez's contributions. The nicest thing you've said is that he's having "a solid year". All he's done this year is firmly establish himself as the best 3rd baseman in the AL. Tejada has been the team MVP since the break, but Chavez is not far behind (Chavez actually has more RBI since August began, his horrid July being the difference in season totals). My point is that it's a two man show in the middle of the A's lineup, not one. Chavez deserves some props.
Joe Morgan: Read my article. Chavez is a good player. He has been streaky, and that's the difference between the two. People wonder why Tejada should be MVP and not Chavez, and that's because Chavez has been streaky. Tejada has been consistent.
[Mike: Tejada is better not because Chavez is streaky. Their OPS's are about the same (Chavez is currently 8 points ahead). But Tejada leads in Equivalent Runs (104.7 to 97.1). He is about 35 runs above the average shortstop. Chavez is 26.7 above average for a third baseman. Tejada also plays a more demanding defensive position (though Chavez is an excellent third sacker, better a third than Tejada is a short).
One other thing, I believe Bill James or Rob Neyer conducted a study of streaky hitters and found that they were as productive or more productive than hitters with similar stats who were more consistent throughout the year, something about the peaks helping more than the valleys hurt. I can't find the study just now though.]
Joe (CA): Joe, What one quality on a team is most important during the postseason? Starting pitching, bench, bullpen, etc.
Joe Morgan: It depends on the philosophy of the manager. I believed it was starting pitching. But if the manager uses a bullpen differently, then it could be the bullpen. The bullpen is most important if you have Mariano Rivera and you use him how Joe Torre does. But I think it's starting pitching.
In the playoffs, bullpens won't be able to protect five-run leads because the games will be closer, depending on the starting pitching.
[Mike: Just an aside, Morgan's Big Red Machine teams never had much starting pitching.]
Pat O'Donnell Vernon New Jersey: Joe between Nomar, Derek and Tejada who is the most complete player?
Joe Morgan: Athletically, it's Tejada. Mentally, Jeter. Nomar is the best hitter.
Also, Tejada is the most durable. He has the longest consecutive game streak in the majors right now.
[Mike: Woah, that's some hefty moniker you got there, Pat. Joe's is his usual decisive self in answering a direct question. I just want to add a few players he forgot: Deivi Cruz is the best to his mother, Rey Ordonez is best dressed, and Edgar Renteria is the easiest to forget a grudge. I hope that answers your question, Pat.]
eric, nyc: Does Soriano have to go 40/40 to win the AL MVP?
Joe Morgan: I would say it depends on what the A's and Tejada do the rest of the way. I think 40/40, it would be hard not to vote for him, especially if the Yankees end up with the best record in the AL.
[Mike: I'm sick of this. Does anyone remember that A-Rod was 40-40 once and did not get the damn award?]
Damon MO: If you had to pick one current starting pitcher to win one game for you, who would it be?
Joe Morgan: If he was healthy, it would be Pedro Martinez. At this moment, it would be Schilling or Johnson.
[Mike: Oh, and I forgot Lowe, Washburn, Oswalt, Zito, Wilbur Wood, Joe Cowley, and Mark Grace.]
Joe Morgan: Also on a final note, as a kid growing up and watching the NFL, I saw some great QBs in San Francisco -- Y.A. Tittle, John Brodie, Joe Montana and Steve Young -- but none of them excited me any more than Johnny Unitas, who was the greatest ever.
[Mike: Ah, Joe, Montana and Young are younger than you. You didn't watch them when you were a kid no more than you played baseball for free two years before you were born. Take your medication, and everything will be OK.]
Mike Mora: What is Jon Miller's best impersonation????
Joe Morgan: Probably Vin Scully as a Japanese announcer.
[Mike: Oh no. It's Evil Joe. Did you enjoy Marge Schott's minstrel shows as well. Schottzie II in black face, oh, that's great fun.]
The Ugly or the ludes kick in
Kyle, New Rochelle: First of all, I have to give you complete respect. I flip through the channels and see tremendous bias among announcers. But, you are the exact opposite (the way a broadcaster should be). Over the past 3 days, the A's got a reality check on how good the Angels are. Do you think the A's will hold their ground and get in the playoffs? or could the Mariners or even the Red sox steal the other playoff spot (Im pretty much convinced the Angels will get in now). Thanks
Joe Morgan: I agree it will be the Angels and the A's. I view my job as broadcasting for the fans, not just the teams that are playing. Not everybody is a fan of one team. I have to broadcast for everyone, including the fans of the two teams I'm seeing. I don't see it as the Yankees vs. the Twins, for example. I view it as a baseball game.
[Mike: Hey, it's Phil Rizzuto. Scooter, put the bottle down-you've just droned on for an inning and a half.]
scott, Flint: is A-rod going to be the best ever?
Joe Morgan: A few years ago we were talking about Griffey. Then it was Bonds. And now it's A-Rod. That means there are a lot of great players. A-Rod has a chance, but so does A-Rod. There are other guys who will have that chance too. A-Rod has a long way to go to reach that peak.
[Mike: "A-Rod has a chance, but so does A-Rod." Oh, and you forgot about A-Rod. Well, but he's not as good as A-Rod. Forget about A-Rod though the one in Accounting-I hate that dude.]
Jesse (Minneapolis): Do the Twins have the best chance to advance in the playoffs by playing the Yankees? I mean, Oakland's 1-2 punch with Zito and Mulder is so huge. And god knows the Twins have trouble against lefthanded pitching. It just seems like the Twins line-up and pitching might match up with the Yanks. Also, who do you think Gardenhire with go with in the Twins rotation?
Joe Morgan: I don't think anyone's best chance is against the Yankees. The A's would rather face the Twins than the Yankees. The Yankees have experience, and the Twins don't. The Angels don't have the experience and would probably be better off against another inexperienced teams. I don't know who Gardenhire will start. We'll see in the next few weeks. And it also depends on who they are playing, the Angels or the A's.
[Mike: No, not the A's, the Twins. Not the Angels-the question is about the Twins. Gardenhire will start Reed, Mays, Radke, and maybe Milton or Lohse-the same guys he's starting now. A couple of those guys were hurt for a while, but it's not like they came from nowhere.]
Tom(Secaucus): Joe, You don't think Soriano's fielding deficiencies will hurt him as an MVP candidate? If not, why not? I thought 2nd bse was a key defensive postion.
Joe Morgan: It is, but it hasn't kept the Yankees from winning the division. He isn't as bad as Soriano was. Giambi wasn't a great first baseman either when he won the MVP for the A's. But yes, defensive play should be included.
[Mike: Soriano isn't as bad as Soriano, but A-Rod is much worse than A-Rod. And the Twins would rather have the bear eat the lion. And look at the rainbow my hands make as I move them through the air. Look at the colors. Woo. (By the way, defense did not hurt Giambi because he's a first baseman. Defense good or bad should not affect one's evaluation of a first baseman much. Rico Brogna and J.T. Snow were good defensive first sackers, but when their offense no longer justified their name in the lineup, defense did not enter into the conversation. On the other hand, the reason that a second baseman gets more oohs and aahs with good offensive stats is because he plays a more demanding defensive position. If he does not play it well, it should affect your estimation of him.)]