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Fully Found Thoughts

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Updated: 2014-10-05T01:34:00.230-04:00


Casey in Print


Allow me to share another passage from Robert Creamer's book on Casey Stengel. This one centers on the quotable Stengel.
When Casey went to the mound to take a pitcher out, the pitcher said, "I'm not tired," and Stengel replied, "Well, I'm tired of you." Bob Cerv, the big outfielder, was sitting at one end of the empty dugout before a game when Stengel came down the runway from the clubhouse and sat down near him. He looked over at Cerv and said, "Nobody knows this, but one of us has just been traded to Kansas City." Of the clean-living pitcher Bob Turley, when Turley was in a slump: "Look at him. He don't smoke, he don't drink, he don't chase women, and he don't win.".....Watching the smooth-swinging Jerry Lumpe cracking out line drives in batting practice, Stengel said, "He looks like the greatest hitter in the world until you play him.".....
A reporter asked him a question, and Casey talked for forty minutes. The reporter said, "Casey, you haven't answered my question," Casey said, "Don't rush me."....One writer left the press room in Yankee Stadium to go down to the dugout to talk with Casey late in the afternoon before a night game. An hour later he returned. "Did Casey tell you who he's going to pitch tomorrow?" another report asked. "He started to," the first man said, "but he got talking about McGraw and the time he managed in Toledo and the Pacific Coast League and God knows what else. I think tomorrow's starting pitcher is Christy Mathewson."

Schuerholz in Print


This time it's John S. writing a book about his forty year career in baseball front offices. While this book will inevitably be billed as the anti-Moneyeball book of the new Millenium, Schuerholz says that it's not the focus of the book. Instead, he says that the book is more about the inner-workings of the general manager job in baseball.

Schuerholz is easily the best currently active candidate for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame as a general manager. The most recently serving general manager who is in the Hall of Fame is Lee McPhail Jr. who served as the Yankee GM through the 1973 season. Since 1974 no other general manager who's worked in baseball has found their way into the Hall.

Schuerholz's stellar record first in Kansas City and then Atlanta (not to mention his Oriole beginnings in the late 60's) are certainly Hall of Fame worthy.

Creamer as New-Age Baseball Thinker


This past summer I read Robert W. Creamer's excellent biography on Babe Ruth. This winter my attention turned to reading his second definitive baseball biography, Stengel: His Life & Times . Written in the mid-1980's and a little over ten years after the writing of his Ruth book the steady, detailed writing style of Creamer is still very apparent. The book is nearly as enjoyable an overall read as the Ruth book.Near the end of chapter seven there resides an enlightening passage where Creamer explains his take on Stengel teammate Jake Daubert's 1913 season. It stands out as an early sabermetric nugget, a precursor to one of the many strains of the present day new-school statistically based baseball scholarship.Daubert at first base was one of the stars of the league - he hit .350 in 1913 to win the batting championship - although he wasn't nearly as good as his reputation made him out to be. He was given the "Chalmers Award" (a new Chalmers automobile) for being the outstanding player in the National League, although in retrospect it's obvious that Gavvy Cravath, the hard-hitting outfielder of the Phillies, was a far more valuable player. Cravath hit .341 to Daubert's .350, batted in 128 runs to Jake's 52 and scored 78 runs to the Brooklyn star's 76. And the Phillies finished second, compared to Brooklyn's sixth. Daubert's reputation reflected baseball thinking: His high batting average year after year dazzled people. He looked good at bat, and he looked good in the field. He had quick hands, could bunt amazingly well, and very seldom made an error. But he had little power at bat and little range in the field. No one noticed. He was Brooklyn's captain, and it's star. Creamer singles out Daubert's batting average as being the statistic that overrated his individual offensive accomplishments. Behind the gaudy batting average was a player with "little power", Creamer's implication being that unlike the powerful Cravath, Daubert's hits did not create as many runs or positive game-altering events for his team. Up until the mid-1990's rarely had the use of batting average as a central signifier of a player's hitting contribution been questioned. New-school statistical thinking pooh-poohs the use off batting average as an important statistic and looks more to high on-base percentage and slugging percentage players such as Cravath as the offensive standard-bearers of baseball.On the fielding side Creamer mentions the low error rate of Daubert but immediately notes that he lacked the necessary range at first base to be considered a very good fielder. But it was the low error rate that old-school thinkers were drawn to when they supported the notion that Daubert was a fine fielder. Creamer seems to be implying (like new-schoolers) that perhaps Daubert's low error rate is due to the fact that he's not getting to many balls in the first place, therefore lowering his fielding chances and lessening his error total. I find Creamer's intuitive reasoning about Daubert to be quite impressive and an example of someone possessing high baseball intelligence. In all of my reading of baseball from the pre-Bill James period I can't remember another writer ever exhibiting strains of new-school statistical thinking like Creamer does here. Creamer's intuitiveness on the subject is made all the impressive by the fact that he was principally a writer, not a baseball statistician.[...]

Now Speaking From Scottsdale...


I gotta link to a baseball interview that features Albert Belle actually....talking.

1915 to 1955 to 1996


Three years from baseball history roughly separated by forty years. A deadball era season that serves to represent the hardscrabble, knock 'em down play of baseball long ago. Another season set smack-dab in the middle of baseball's glory years. And a third season sitting just after baseball had reached it's lowest point of public approval since the you know what of 1919 had done it's dirty work.

What to compare today? I'd like to look at those three seasons top players in terms of games played. The goal will be to examine whether there were more players who played through their injuries or didn't sit because they had a mild headache in 1915 than in 1955. And whether the glorious players of the 1950's, who played for the love of the game, threw caution to the wind more often then the greedy bums of the present day game do.

In short, I want to see if there is any discernible difference between each season's regulars in terms of their games played. Specifically, I have tabulated the number of players who played in at least 90% of their team's games in each of the three years. For the 154 game 1915 and 1955 season this means those players with 138 games played or more were given a nice black checkmark and asked to advance to go. While the 162 game 1996 season required +144 games played to move onto the big chart. My findings were as follows:


Looks like 1915 and 1955 were pretty close using this metric while the 1996 players were about 10% less durable. A larger difference then I would've like to have seen but not the armageddon view that baseball old-timers ascribe to the durability of today's players.

One more thing I looked at was what percentage of their team's games did all of these players play aggregate in each of the years.


While 1996 had about 10% fewer players reach 90% of their team's games those players that did played at nearly the same rate as their 1915 and 1955 counterparts.

One-Fifty Plus


(Trying out some graphs today on the blog)

For as long as there's been baseball there've been baseball fans and players questioning the effort and dedication to the game of the present day player as compared to the generations past. Let's see if the general assumption of whether or not past generations were tougher holds true. Did players play more consistently in the 1960's than in the 1980's or 2000's? Were they more durable and less prone to injury and less likely to beg out of the lineup?

I decided to calculate how many players played in 150 or more games in each individual season from 1962 to 2004. I felt this would be a good measurement to help determine the consistency, durablility and dedication of a player. To play in a 150 games during any major league campaign is an accomplishment that positively speaks of a player's dedication and ability to avoid injury.

By 1962 both leagues had the new 162 game schedule in place. In that year each league had ten teams. In '62 fifty-nine players payed in 150+ games. Therefore, an average of 2.95 players per team played in 150+ games. Flash ahead to 2004 and the number had dropped to 2.20 players per team. Therefore, almost one full player per team less played 150+ games a season than in 1962. But how about the intervening years?

The following graph exhibits all the years from 1962 through 2004 and the average 150+ game players per team.

(image) There certainly are some peaks and valleys over the past forty years when using this measurement. But no overall downward trend. In fact, the 2.20 figure in 2004 is only the 12th lowest out of the thirty-nine seasons tracked in this analysis (1972, 1981, 1994 & 1995 were not counted due to the shortened seasons created by strikes and lockouts). The 1960's had two seasons lower than 2004. The 1970's had the most with four such seasons. The 1980's and 1990's each had three lower seasons while the aughts have had none so far. Based on past history it would appear that the average should begin to move back upwards over the next five or six years.

Sometimes a rolling average can help place better perspective on long-term trends. It takes the analyst away from the year-to-year herky jerky movement exhibited in the first graph and smooths things out for them visually. The graph below uses a five year rolling average that starts in 1966.


Interestingly, it's the early to mid-1970's era that really sticks out when using the rolling five year average as being the least durable time period for players when using the 150+ game measurement. Since then the players of the 80's, 90's and aughts have proven to be more durable and have not fallen down to those mid-70's levels of durability.

The measurement used in this analysis is merely one of hundreds that could be used to determine player durability. It's fun to see, though, that the first measurement I used exhibited no discernible difference between players of forty years ago and today's players. At least in this analysis it wasn't necessarily better back in the old days!

Sutter Power


In the last six Hall of Fame elections the most dynamic pair of relievers of the late-70's through the mid-80's have slowly climbed their way up towards the magical 75% threshhold for enshrinement. Bruce Sutter, popularizer of the split-fingered fastball, was on the ballot for the first time in 1993. From that year up through the 1998 election Sutter grabbed between 23.90% and 31.08% of the votes.Then in 1999 Goose Gossage joined Sutter on the ballot with a 33.27% showing in the voting. Gossage's presence seemed to push Sutter up above the 30% mark to 38.48%. Since then Sutter has made very steady progress every single year on his climb to enshrinement. He moved from 38.48% to 47.57% to 50.42% to 53.63% to 59.49% and to 66.70% in 2005. Gossage has also moved up but not as well as Sutter has. From 33.27% Gossage then moved to 44.27% and then regressed for three straight years back down to 40.74% until rebounding nicely in 2005 with a 55.20 % showing. Classic Goose Both Gossage and Sutter are making consistent headway in the voting and I expect both to be elected by the end of the decade. Sutter has a very real chance for enshrinement in 2006. While Gossage will probably also be enshrined I think that he deserves to get in before Sutter. I don't quite understand why Sutter has always gotten more interest from the voters in the elections. My impression has always been that Gossage was the better reliever during his overall career and peak seasons.In terms of overall career Gossage had much greater longevity than Sutter. Over a twenty-two year career Gossage threw 1,809 innings. His lifetime ERA+ was 126.Sutter With His Third and Final TeamSutter's career was cut short by arm problems and the last good season he had was at the age of thirty-one. Over the span of a twelve year career Sutter threw 1,042 innings to the tune of a 136 ERA+. While Sutter didn't have the Goose's longevity he did pitch quality innings at a rate 8% better than Goose as measured by ERA+. How about some other statistical measures?Throughout their careers Sutter and Gossage both allowed hits per inning at nearly the same rate -- .84 hits per inning pitched for Sutter and .83 for Gossage. Sutter walked fewer batters (.30) per inning than did Gossage (.40). Both men struck out the same number of batters per inning with a .83 rate. In the home runs allowed department Sutter allowed slightly more with .07 as compared with Gossage's .06 per inning. So the per inning rate stats and ERA+ career stats give Sutter a slight edge over Gossage. But what if we look at their top ten seasons in a row during their careers? Their peak seasons of performance. For Sutter his peak was practically his entire career since he was done by age thrity-one. His peak years were from 1976 through 1984. For Gossage his peak years began during his sixth season in the major leagues. The year was 1977 and Gossage had been a starter the previous season and a below average one at that. Gossage's peak ran from 1977 with the New York Yankees through his 1985 season in a Padre uniform.This is where Gossage separates himself from Sutter in my opinion. First, Gossage's ERA+ during this period was an impressive 197. Sutter's was also impressive -- a 172. But a full 13% less impressive than Gossage's mark. That's a bigger ERA+ difference than their career difference of 8% in which Sutter leads.Sutter beats Gossage in walks per inning over their peak seasons with a .29 rate as compared to Gossage's .34 rate. They also are close in home runs per inning with .06 rates. It's in hits per inning and strikeouts per inning where Gossage separates himself a little from Sutter. Gossage allowed .71 hits per inning to Sutter's .81 and struck out .95 batters per inning as compared to Sutter's .85. So by these measurements Gossage had a more impressive peak period of his career than Sutter. In fact Gossage's peak career greatness exceeds Sutter mo[...]

Poor Choices


The Royals finally jumped into the free agent fray this week and on the whole their four signings were underwhelming.

I thought this team had money to burn on good players. In a nutshell this is what Kansas City GM Allard Baird got for $14.55 million.

1. A thirty-three year old catcher with a lifetime OPS+ (on-base + slugging average) of 68!
2. A below league average starting pitcher with a very spotty health record.
3. A first baseman that has hit fifty-five home runs in over 2,500 at bats in his career.
4. A thirty-six year old league average second baseman -- the best of the bunch

For all of that money they could've taken a chance on Nomar Garciaparra or ponied up the cash to bring back Paul Byrd for another go around. The catcher, Paul Bako, is nothing more than roster filler. At least he only cost 700k. The weak hitting first baseman (with a great glove by the way) is Doug Mientkiewicz who's posted back-to-back OPS+ rates of seventy-five and ninety-one -- and those OPS+ figures are against the league average, not the average first baseman!

The new Royals starter is Scott Elarton who at best may have a chance to give the Royals 150 to 180 league average innings. But that's a big if because he hasn't done that since the 2000 season when he pulled in a lucky 17-7 record in Houston. The thirty-six year old second baseman is Mark Grudzielanek. He's been pretty much the same player the past three seasons and didn't show much in the way of slippage with his batting eye last year so he's probably worth a shot at $4 million for one year. Grudzielanek will also help to make the right side of the Royals infield the most impossible infield to spell in the history of the game.

Front Office Frenzy


Baseball America has placed information on their website that I’ve dreamed of having access to for years. This information that I am currently salivating over is housed in a section of their website named the ‘Baseball Executive Database’. In this database resides the name of nearly every General Manager and Scouting Director for every major league ball club going back to 1950. I have never seen such a comprehensive listing of front office personnel anywhere.

I went first to the hometown Orioles and found that the first general manager ever to be officially fired in Oriole history was Hank Peters on October 5th, 1987. Peters had GM’ed the Orioles starting in 1976 and had overseen two pennants and one World Series winner. The last five years of Peters’ reign saw Oriole wins plummet downward from ninety-eight in 1983 to 85 – 83 – 73 and finally to 67 in his final year. The seventy-three win 1986 season had been the Orioles’ first losing season since the 1967 campaign.

Flipping to the San Francisco Giant page I was struck by the long tenures of a number of Giant GM’s. Chub Feeney, Horace Stoneham and Spec Richardson were the only GM’s from 1950 through the halfway point of 1981. Most recently Brian Sabean’s been at the helm for eight full seasons. Then I saw that Sabean’s name was highlighted – a hyperlink, which must mean more information! So I clicked on Sabean’s name and a listing of all of the jobs he’s had in his career appeared before me. How many people out there knew that Sabean was the Yankee Director of Scouting in the late 80’s and early 90’s?

Then there’s the page of the oft-maligned first and just recently former GM of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Chuck LaMar. Unknown to me LaMar served under John Schuerholz from 1992 through 1995 as the Director of Player Development. No wonder LaMar got a shot at a GM job.

So be a nerd like me and enjoy this treasure trove of information. I think I’ll start compiling general manager win-loss records…

Treder on Clemente


I found Steve Treder's comments on Hall of Fame right fielder Roberto Clemente to be quite thought-provoking in the fifth installment of his Crossroads series of articles.

Clemente was a legitimately great player, but not as great as typically portrayed. He was a tremendous hitter for average, and his throwing arm was among the most amazing ever displayed. But his speed was insufficient to allow him to steal bases or even to play center field on anything more than a very occassional fill-in basis. His power was so-so, inferior to that of the average right fielder. And Clemente's strike zone judgement was, frankly, awful, inferior to that of the average utility infielder.

Treder goes on to wonder whether Clemente's overall skillset relative to the league average could've been better levereged as a third baseman. Offensively there isn't much doubt that his bat would've been much more valuable at third base. But as a rightfielder Clemente posted OPS-plusses consistently in the 130 to 160 range from the age of 25 until the year of his death. Still very impressive for a rightfielder and when you throw in his fantastic defense in rightfield the tools that he was deficient in don't really dim his star that much. Consider that even though he struck out twice for every time he walked he was still able to post a .359 obp to the league average .327 for 1.10 obp+ realtive to league average. Sure, his high batting average helped him there but still the end result was that he got on base at a solid rate during his career.

Defense at Third


In Baseball America's most recent issue they presented their top ten prospects for each organization in the National League East. For the Washington Nationals their top prospect is Ryan Zimmerman. He's a twenty-one year old third basemen out of the University of Virginia. This June he was chosen in the first round and between Low-A (just 17 plate appearances) and Double-A he racked up the nice offensive line of .336avg/.377obp/.564slg/.941ops. Zimmerman is a patient, intelligent hitter who projects to be a very solid bat in major league competition.

What caught my eye, though, was the comment Baseball America made about Zimmerman's defense.
Zimmerman is a once in a generation defender at the hot corner, where his soft hands, good range to both sides and above-average arm make for a legitimate Brooks Robinson-like package.
In my reading of BA over the years this is not a magazine given to hyperbole when evaluating players. They are a very measured group of writers and to see a statement like the one above opens one's eyes -- wide.

Zimmerman should be the full-time third baseman in Washington for much of next year. His September trial in the bigs was very successful and with Vinny Castilla departed third base is his to win in the Capitol. If he gets in a full year of play in '06 a defensive win shares comparison between Brooks Robinson's first full year of play in 1958 and Zimmerman's will be in order.

Reggie O


It's not often that you come across Reggie Jackson in an Oriole uniform. I came across a couple of them during a recent internet surfing session and just had to put 'em up on the blog.


But some of you out there may say, "But I thought Reggie was only an Athletic, Yankee and Angel throughout his illustrious career?" Well, for a brief twilight zone period in baseball history Jackson was indeed an Oriole. According to Jim Palmer he and Reggie had a brief talk when they became teammates. It went something like this according to the Oriole Ace:

Reggie: "Hey Ace, you get your twenty wins this season and I'll get my thirty homers and this team will be just fine."

Palmer: "Ok, sounds good"

Palmer did grab his twenty wins that year and if not for missing twenty-eight games Jackson probably would have pushed his total for the year from twenty-seven dingers to up over thirty. Oh, one observation -- How antiquated does it sound for the game's top slugger to say he's aiming to hit thirty home runs in the upcoming season and that he'll consider it a good year? I don't think anyone under the age of twenty could relate to that statement after living through the ridiculous 1990's power surge that continues in part today!

Here's some background on Reggie the Oriole. Jackson was traded to the Orioles just before commencement of the 1976 regular season. It was a three for three trade that featured some fairly big names at the time. Kenny Holtzman was coming off consecutive 19-21-19-18 win seasons for the A's when he, Jackson and minor leaguer Bill VanBommell were traded to the Orioles on April 2nd. In return the the O's moved Don Baylor (consecutive 119-124-111-115 OPS+ seasons), Paul Mitchel and 1975 twenty game winner Mike Torrez to the A's.

Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley moved Jackson because he was to be a free agent after the 1976 season and did not want to pay the big salary that Jackson would be demanding that fall.


The '76 season was Jackson's age thirty season. He only played in 134 games (his lowest total since his rookie year) but had an excellent offensive season. His .502 slugging average topped the American League and an .853 OPS+ placed him third. And he did this in Memorial Stadium -- a ballpark with Park Factor of 94. That's getting into Dodger Stadium offensive territory. He also stole a career high 28 bases in 35 attempts.

In 1977 Jackson went to the New York Yankees for his $3.5 million payday and the rest is history.


Ahhh, that's better. Back in a uniform we all recoginize Reggie in.

Manager Longevity


I ran some figures on the 2005, 1995 and 1985 seasons in regards to major league baseball managers. I was looking to determine if the state of major league managing in 2005 was in more or less flux as compared to the other seasons. Are teams placing more of a premium on managerial experience or looking to hire fresh hands? Was there a higher or lower turnover in 2005 as compared to 1995 and 1985? What are the tenure trends of managers for the teams they are currently managing?

Fully knowing that a three year sample is minute I went ahead anyway and ran a quick and dirty analysis just for fun and came up with three determinents to try and answer my questions. First, determine the average age of managers during a particular season. Secondly, calculate the number of years they'd been managing their current team and thirdly find the number of years they'd managed during their careers.

The study includes all men who managed teams as determined by baseball-reference.

Average Age of Managers
The 2005 average manager age was two and a half years older than 1995 or 1985's average ages. Not too much disparity between the years.
2005 ---- 52.7
1995 -----49.6
1985 -----50.0

Eight of the thirty-five managers in 2005 five were over age sixty. There were only four such managers in '95 and a paltry two in 1985. But managers in their thirties were even rarer. Bobby Valentine was 35 when he earned his first major league managing position in 1985 for the Texas Rangers. Terry Bevington and Buck Showalter were in their late thirties during 1995 and Eric Wedge was 37 this past season.

Average Numbers of Years Managing Current Team
The results to this question can help to determine how prevalent manager tenure was in a particular year.

2005 -----2.7 years
1995 -----3.8
1985 -----1.9

There's some nice disparity in this figure. The uptick in 1995 to a nearly four year average tenure (which seems very, very high) was greatly due to the nineteen years Tommy Lasorda had spent in Los Angeles and the sixteen years Sparky Anderson had spent in Detroit. Without those two in the calculation the average drops down to 2.7 years -- just like in 2005. Tommy Lasorda and Pittsburg's Chuck Tanner were tops in tenure entering the 1985 season with eight years a piece with their respective teams.

Average Number of Years Managing in Career
The results to this question speaks to the prevalence (or lack of prevalence) of teams looking for experience in their field managers.

2005 -----6.8
1995 -----6.1
1985 -----5.9

Ultimately not a drastic difference between the three years. Tony LaRussa's 26 (2005), Sparky Anderson's 25 (1995) and Gene Mauch's 23 (1985) years of managing led their respective seasons.

"The Best Manager in the History of Baseball"


Management by Baseball's November 15th post is a dandy. Great quotes by Ozzie Guillen are peppered throughout the article and Jeff Angus uses them to let loose on martinets in the workplace. Special thanks to Buck Showalter for playing along.

A Strike on Eddie Murray


Eddie Murray was always one of my favorite players. He was the epitome of a steady professional who applied his craft with great modesty. One of my favorite Murray characteristics was how he would respond to the home-plate umpire when he didn’t like a pitch that was called a strike against him. Murray would slowly step out of the batter’s box after the pitch and walk about ten feet and then stop. For the next minute or so (which is a long time in-between pitches) Murray would look to the sky, then practice his swing, then look to the sky, then knock some dirt out of his spikes that wasn’t there. Everyone in the ballpark that was paying attention knew exactly what Murray was doing – he was letting the umpire know he didn’t like the call. Most other batters in that situation would stomp out of the batter’s box after the umpire’s call, glare at the umpire and maybe provide the umpire with a bit of verbal invective. Murray was one of those rare players who would keep their cool and still manage to let the world know that the umpire had blown the call.

I Like It!


Relief pitcher Billy Wagner's agent is named Bean Stringfellow.

Now that's a fantastic name.

Third Base: The Crossroads - Part Two


I don't know that I'll post all of the upcoming articles that Steve Treder has planned in his study of the third base position but article number two has some good information in it and I thought I'd pass along the link. It looks like his subsequent articles in this series will be along the same lines as today's article.

Earl Weaver


Please enjoy this quick essay on Earl Weaver's rise to the major leagues. Discussion within the comments section (which comes after the article) brings up one of the peculiar ways that Weaver used ultra-weak hitting shortstop Mark Belanger in his lineups. I'll let you read that for yourself but I'll mention another Belanger offensive tactic that Weaver would use. Sometimes when the Orioles were on the road and therefore were batting first, Weaver would start the game with a strong hitter in the leadoff position and pencil him in at the shortstop position. It didn't matter whether this hitter (we'll call him Terry Crowley for instance) never played a day at shortstop in his life. Weaver just wanted to get Crowley's good bat going at the top of the order for that all important first at-bat of the game. Once the Oriole turn at bat in the top of the first inning was over Weaver would substitute Belanger for Crowley, thus saving the Oriole offense from one extra Belanger at-bat and getting his fantastic glove in the game before the Orioles even took the field.

Can you remember any manager doing that since? I can't and I can think of two reasons why. The first is cowardice. That's pretty self-explanatory. The second is that managers have only twelve to fourteen batters on their rosters. This is mostly due to the increase of pitching staff size from eight to ten pitchers up to eleven or twelve over the past thirty years. When three or four relievers may be used in the middle to late innings the need to save as many of your scarce bats from the bench for pinch-hitting duty becomes all the more important.

But I think cowardice is the bigger reason.

Sunny Jays


With the Arizona Fall League season now over Gerry posts his Blue Jay centric wrap-up at Batter's Box. While Gerry goes in-depth in his report by conducting interviews regarding the Blue Jay organization's six players these two themes about the AFL in general caught my eye.

This years AFL set a record for offense, in part due to very weak pitching. Major league clubs are reluctant to send their top pitching prospects to Arizona for fear of overwork. Most of the pitchers in the AFL are either starting pitchers recovering from an injury that limited their innings in 2005, or relief pitchers.


The hitters in the AFL are the cream of the crop...some of the best hitting prospects in the game. Most of these players will appear in the major leagues sometime next year, both of this years rookies of the year were in the AFL last year.

I find the contrast in talent between the pitching and offensive quite interesting. Will this hurt the AFL over the long-term? In other words will the league begin to suffer in the eyes of the fans because the game's balance will be so skewed as to have the appearance of beer-league softball? Or perhaps fans will be reminded of the 1999 major league season and enjoy the show.



In 2004 Strat-O-Matic released its game discs of the 1911 season and the 2003 season. This was Strat-O-Matic's first "deadball" era deluxe season in its history. A deluxe season is defined as Strat-O-Matic's most precise statistical interpretation of a past season. Those seasons that are non-deluxe have not been statistically researched with nearly as much intensity as the deluxe seasons.On the Strat-O-Matic Fanforum posting site an excellent post gave a nice description of how the 1911 season plays. It was left by a poster named Ribman during the winter of 2004. Ribman's post conveys a very real sense of what it's like to be inside the mind of a Strat-O-Matic gamer. He called his post "A Whole New World". Here is that post in its entirety.Posted 2/21/2004 at 11:26pmPlayed my first 1911 games tonight- tourny of course and must admit I have to reprogram my mind- this was as challenging a first 2-3 games I've ever had trying to figure out how to play the 1911 game. I started managing both teams but I finally needed some guidance and let Hal take visitors. Everyone runs and everyone gets the lead like all the time- it's a wild mix of strong hitters with most last 3rd of lineups makes Ray Oyler look like Bonds ( there are starters who hit .132)- so the strategy can change pretty fast. The pitchers are ironmen as expected but Hal "Deadball" era settings areother worldly- does deadball mean a starter goes until the game is over or dead? I had an 11 ing game and The Braves lost the upset of the Cubbies as Hal let the starter - the legendary Buster Brown (1st shoe contract) pitched way tired last 3 innings- I expected a full 9 but after 9 and tired surely it was cool to pinch hit- relieve- guess not. Keys to winning- a catcher with an arm is a must (thus even a .132 average is worth stopping the non stop running game), the better teams are the ones who had (comparatively) best d up the middle- a lot of E-50's etc but the bad teams have 4-88's at SS and such - killer. There is more power than I thought-Wildfire Schulte- 21 dingers- I had no idea I thought the 1st 20 tater guy was later and named Ruth. The nicknames are just the best and deserve a separate thread. The history is awesome and anyone who has not read the 1911 review in the Replay section- it's a must- priceless info on how the SI of the times forecast the season.Right now the guy who most has caught my attention is Highlander SP Russ Ford. He just bested Big Train 2-0 for me and in the review he's listed as a young rookie phenom is 1910 (something like 27-3) and they are speculating if he can keep it up in 1911- he did (22-11 2.27) not a bad 1rst 2 seasons and I have never heard his name once. I know a fair amount of history and read Glory of Their times - more obscure books and never heard of this guy nor what happened to him obviously not the HOF) He was basically Mark Prior of his time and I'll be researching his career soon.note: just looked him up on Baseball and he pitched 2 additonal years- was mediocre (but better than league avg era) in 1912 and very good again in 1913 on a bad NY team that didn't win. He then went Federal League for it's 2 years and I'm guessing was banned from baseball for life. Wow a guy that maybe was a HOF'r and he signed the wrong contract. Similar pitcher for him was listed Gary Peters.[...]

Win Shares in the Infield


In the winter of 2002 Bill James released a book named "Win Shares". In this book James put forth the idea that all baseball players could be assigned one number that would quantify their overall value. For instance, in 1982 Cesar Cedeno hit .289ba/.346obp/.413slg/.759ops/+110 OPS+ in 138 games and around 550 plate appearances. James's intricate Win Shares formula (it took 119 pages to explain) assigned a value of 13 to Cedeno that year. So a very ordinary year by a regular would garner value of around 13. As James ran Win Shares on all major league players ever to play the game it was realized that the 30 win share per year threshhold could be considered MVP caliber. On the flip side part-timers and bit players were scattered throughout the neighborhood of single digit Win Share values.But it was James's theory that his Win Shares system leveled the playing field between all players that gained it currency with the public. The system cut through differences between players in positions, eras, ballparks and a whole host of other intricacies within the game. In other words, Houston Astro great Jimmy Wynn's career .250 batting average and 291 homeruns were recognized by Win Shares as having been deflated by a) the era Wynn played in and b) the home ballpark he played in. Likewise Albert Belle's punishing offensive statistics of the mid to late 1990-'s were to be deflated in the Win Shares system. Belle's devestating 1994 season when he hit .357ba/.438obp/.714slg earned him 30 win shares. But Wynn's 1968 season when he hit .269/.376/.474 generated 32 win shares. Win Shares at its very heart is a contextual system and Jimmy Wynn in the context of 1968 was one of the great hitters during that season. Wynn's numbers in the context of the 1994 season, though, would've been much less impressive.So there's a brief synopsis of Win Shares. I went to the Hardball Times website today and pulled up their Win Shares statistics for 2005. They say on their site "that THT's (The Hardball Times) Win Shares calculations are slightly modified from Bill James's original formula". We can assume that these Win Shares figures from THT's are very close to what James's original system would've wrought.I wanted to evaluate the four infield positions in baseball and see where the positional balance of power resided this past season. In this study I pulled from both leagues and pulled the top twenty Win Share earners for each of the four infield positions. I wanted to get a true feeling for the talent depth at each position without reaching too far down into the world of part-time players.First, I simply added up each position's top twenty and arrived at the following results:First Basemen ---------- 476 win sharesShortstops -------------- 398 win shares ---- 84% of first basemen totalSecond Baseman ------- 381 win shares ---- 80%Third Baseman --------- 368 win shares --- 77%First baseman come out on top by a large margin. What if we were to look only at the offensive outputs at each position? Since Win Shares compiles seperate "shares" for batting, fielding and pitching this is possible.First Basemen ---------- 446 offensive win sharesThird Basemen --------- 296 offensive win shares -- 66% of first baseman totalSecond Basemen ------- 287 offensive win shares -- 64%Shortstops -------------- 282 offensive win shares -- 63%As one would expect first basemen generate much of their value in their offensive output and leave the other positions in the dust. Now we can turn to defensive figures. Those of you who can do th[...]

Wood Record


Brandon Wood hit his 14th homerun of the Arizona Fall League season this afternoon. Last Saturday the twenty year-old broke Tagg Bozied's record of 12 homers in an AFL season when he jacked number thirteen.

Wood is one of three highly thought of shortstops in the Angel minor league system and is continuing to show impressive pop in his bat this fall. In high class A this season with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes Wood crushed 51 doubles and 43 homeruns.

Coaching the Astros


After the franchise's most successful season in its history the Houston Astros have brought back all six members of their coaching staff for the 2006 campaign.

There are some interesting names on the staff. Gary Gaetti is the team's hitting (image) coach and returns for what will be his third season with the club. Besides earning the nickname "The Rat" during his playing career, Gaetti is also known for being the last player in major league history to wear a no-flap helmet.

Jose Cruz provides continuity on the staff as the all-time Astro great will suit up for his tenth season on the staff as the first base coach.

The most compelling name is Cecil Cooper's. The soon to be 57 year-old will be serving as Houston's bench coach for a second season in 'o6 and it's a good bet that Cooper will probably be managing a major league club in the very near future. He's held numerous positions in baseball and has also worked as a players agent during his post-playing career. He has two years of managing experience with Houston's Triple A club and is regarded within baseball circles as an intelligent, even-tempered leader who possesses a sound strategic mind.

It was as recently as 2002 when Tony Pena (formerly manager of Houston's Triple A club) left the Astros in his capacity of bench coach to manage the Kansas City Royals mid-season. History may soon repeat itself in Houston.

Thirdbase and the Defensive Spectrum


I greatly enjoyed part one of Steve Treder's series on the third base position and its place in history. The piece on Jimmy Collins' place in third base history was of particular interest.

Ryan leads to Rivera


Bruce Markusen envisions the Yankees coming up with around $30 million for a new setup man to bridge to closer Mariano Rivera in his most reccent installment of the Rumor Mill. That man is the nastiest left-handed reliever in the American League -- B.J. Ryan. The addition of Ryan would help take some of the workload off Rivera as well as place the Yankees right in the middle of the 2006 playoff hunt.

In the same article Markusen imagines a Met bullpen with free-agent Billy Wagner closing games and Aaron Heilman serving in the setup role. Markusen says it would offer one of the best lefty-righty bullpen tandems in the game. While Wagner certainly is a known quantity (and a possible future hall of famer) the soon to be twenty-seven year old Heilman has had exactly one good year in his three year major league career. I believe the jury's still out on this guy.

In St. Louis they're tearing down Busch Stadium. Wikipedia has their say on the history of Busch. More coverage here, here and here. In the last 'here' link there's a nice "Busch Demolition Gallery" of pictures. Busch Stadium generally played between a 97 and 104 park factor over the course of it's four decade history. Over that history there was a park factor pattern of being under 100 for three or four years and then being above 100 for three or four years and then back again.

On the free agent front the consensus appears to be that the class of players selling their wares this off-season are not too strong. Paul Konerko, B.J. Ryan, Billy Wagner and Brian Giles are the standouts. Mix this fact in with the stated position of some front offices that they have a lot of money to spend in the market this winter and you can imagine that the players are going to grab some very hefty contracts. Seattle, Toronto, Kansas City, Atlanta and Baltimore have all publicly stated that they are willing to spend for free agents. These are ballclubs that have been fairly tight with the purse-strings over the past two or three seasons.