Last Build Date: Mon, 06 Feb 2012 08:23:34 -0800Copyright: Copyright 2012
Mon, 06 Feb 2012 08:23:34 -0800Fantasy baseball has been a popular pastime for 30 years. Unfortunately, there tends to be too much "fantasy" and not enough dealing with the nitty-gritty reality of what it takes to fill a well-rounded roster at the major league level. Depending on how drafts are arranged (such as just 12 or 14 owners picking from both leagues), the fantasy baseball process can lend itself to assembling a collection of higher-level players rather than a 25-man roster of diverse talents and skill levels, and defense is seldom (if ever) factored into the equation. Baseball addicts have it much easier between seasons in the 21st century than what our fathers and grandfathers endured. ESPN, MLB.com, MILB.com, SI.com and team web sites provide almost limitless information as compared to the agate type in the transactions section of the daily newspaper and the weekly hot stove league fix from The Sporting News that provided meager winter rations of baseball information for nearly a century. Need something to do besides staring at a computer screen until spring training begins? Here's a way to recognize your favorite players of all time and put together a roster that is much closer to the big league norm than a typical fantasy league squad. The rules are simple. One Hall of Famer (already inducted or a future sure thing such as Greg Maddux) is allowed per team. You can't have five aces in the starting rotation, an outfield of Willie Mays, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams or perennial All-Stars at every infield position. Back of the rotation starters, middle relievers, utility players and extra outfielders in real life will assume those roles on every team. You may choose anyone who appeared in a major league game from the 1800s to the present. A few extra reserves can be added to the list as a AAA roster of sorts, but going beyond 25 players isn't required. It's going to be natural to try and put together the best possible team, but that isn't the main point of the reality baseball game. This is a pleasant mental exercise and a way to remember favorite players - especially those who aren't big names. The pitching staff is by far the most flexible part of the process. Go with as few as nine arms if you like complete games and dead-ball era workhorses, or do your best Tony LaRussa impersonation and have a 13-man staff complete with two LOOGYs. Since I'm in favor of complete games and four-man rotations, my ace is one of the most durable starters of the live ball era. Mickey Lolich may have looked out of shape and often joked about his hefty build, but few pitchers exhibited the endurance the Tigers left-hander displayed. Number 29 had four consecutive seasons with at least 308 innings pitched from 1971 to 1974 along with 96 complete games in that span. Lolich's 376 IP in 1971 is the highest total in the majors since 1917 by a conventional (knuckleballer Wilbur Wood soft-tossed 376.2 innings in 1972) pitcher. Cut 376 innings in half (188), and you have a typical season for many 21st century starters. Lolich's other 1971 numbers - 45 starts, 29 complete games, 8.36 innings per start and a 25-14 record - look downright freakish by current standards. Best known for his three complete game victories against the Cardinals in the 1968 World Series, the self-described "fat man's hero" also performed well in his only other postseason experience. Lolich started a pair of games in the 1972 American League Championship Series against the A's. Despite giving up just three earned runs in 19 IP (1.42 ERA), his record was 0-1. Lolich finished with a 217-191 career record and 3.44 ERA. His 2679 strikeouts in the American League are the most by an AL lefty. Brief stints with the Mets and Padres bumped the career strikeouts to 2832, a number that was in the all-time top 10 when Lolich retired in 1978. Combine the Ks with just 2.7 walks per 9 innings, exceptional stamina and an impressive track record in the clutch, and I'm more than happy to pick Lolich as my workhorse and ace. Rick Reuschel is another innings eater with a large frame, b[...]
Tue, 10 Jan 2012 06:41:03 -0800For the past two years I have written a post taking a graphical look at Hall of Fame vote histories for players with similar first-year vote totals to players on the current year's ballot. Here is 2010's, which includes a description of the graphs, and here is 2011's. As I said these graphs are not meant as sophisticated projection into the future, but rather just a rough look at historical precedent. Folks like Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times have a better handle on the dynamics of HoF voting and future ballot composition in order to make better prediction. This year's ballot had only one first-year player, Bernie Williams, who broke 5% and will be included on future ballots. Williams got 9.6% of the vote. Here I highlighted the vote trajectories of everyone else who got within 2.5% (7.1% to 12.1%) in their first year on the ballot. There are a number of historical players who are not going to be a good guide for Williams' trajectory; Hall of Fame voting was much different in the past. Carl Hubbell, for example, was on 9.7% of the ballots in 1945, his first year; shot up to 50% in his second year; and by 1947 was inducted with 87%. Williams will not see a similar rise. More recent players in Williams's pool have fallen below the 5% cut off rather quickly. I left off the names because they would all bunch together but they include: Orel Hershiser, Graig Nettles, Bob Boone, Dave Stewart, Albert Belle, and Pete Rose. It will be interesting to see whether Williams can stick around for years like Don Larsen or fall off quickly like Hershiser and others. With no other first-year guys above 5%, I am going to look at some guys who have been on the ballot for a couple of years. In each case I chose a salient feature of their vote history to create a comparison pool. Up first is Jack Morris, who, on his 13th year on the ballot, was on 66.7% of the ballots. This is a pretty big jump from last year's total of 53.5%. With no great first year players on the ballot, it seems voters were a little more liberal with their votes on returning players, many of whom saw a double digit rise. For Morris's comparison I looked at anyone else who received between 65% and 70% on some ballot after their 10th. All these guys eventually made it. Three through the standard 75% BBWAA voting, and then Red Ruffing through a runoff ballot, and Enos Slaughter and Jim Bunning through the Veterans Committee. So things look promising for Morris. Jeff Bagwell also had a nice increase, from 41.7% to 56%. Here are the players within 10% of these two vote totals. This picks up other fast risers. Ryne Sandberg and Barry Larkin are bad comps because they are at the very high end of my comparison window for both years; Bagwell is not going to make it next year. He might slowly pick up steam like Andre Dawson or Tony Perez and make it around year ten. But with the amount of talent coming on and the PED stuff, I am not so sure. I will skip Lee Smith and turn to Tim Raines. Raines has had a nice increase in vote share over the past three years, and is now at 48.7%. I looked at players within 10% of his year-3 to -5 ballots (because they are much higher than his first two years). Except for Smith who is still on the ballot, all these guys are in the Hall. Johnny Evers and Bunning made it through the VC. As with the Bagwell example this might paint too sunny a picture for Raines. Finally I look at Edgar Martinez. He did not get quite the same bump the other guys did, and has been pretty stagnant over his first three years. Here are players within 12.5% of each of his three vote totals. Jack Moore at FanGraphs made the Pee Wee Reese comparison. I think that Jack is right that Martinez will probably end up with a Reese-, Maury Wills-, or Steve Garvey-like trajectory, and not one that takes him up rapidly like Eddie Mathews or Rich Gossage.[...]
Sat, 24 Dec 2011 00:35:30 -0800Anyone who was born on or within a few days of Christmas has sad tales to share of feeling cheated by "one gift for two days" childhood presents. What kind of treats have been given to fans on December 25? This roster of Christmas babies includes three Hall of Famers along with a smattering of All-Stars and everyday players. No need to save the best for last, as the All-Christmas team appropriately leads off with Rickey Henderson (born 1958) in left field. His career numbers - 1410 stolen bases (a whopping 472 ahead of second-place Lou Brock's 938 SB), an all-time best 2295 runs scored, 2190 walks (second only to Barry Bonds) and 3055 hits - are jaw droppers. What else did Rickey do? How about three years of 100 or more steals (including a record 130 in 1982)? A dozen seasons as the league's leading basestealer includes topping the American League with 66 swipes in 1998 at age 39. Then there's 13 seasons with 100 or more runs scored, seven seasons with more than 100 walks (along with leading the AL four times) plus a quartet of 95 to 99 bases on balls and four 20-plus home run seasons. The Hall of Fame had to do some serious editing when they created Henderson's bronze plaque. Rickey played in the majors until just three months before his 45th birthday, and he closed with a 3 for 3 mark in stolen bases during a late season stint with the Dodgers in 2003. He was also one of the handful of position players who batted right-handed and threw from the left side. How about a textbook old-school number two hitter following the best leadoff man in history? A basestealer couldn't ask for a better partner than Nellie Fox (1925). Taking a pitch to let Henderson steal a base wouldn't have been a problem for the White Sox star, as he has been baseball's toughest strikeout in the past 75 years. It was a thankless job that Fox excelled at when he batted behind the speedy Luis Aparicio. The left-handed hitting Fox never struck out more than 18 times in a season, and he had 10 years averaging less than a K every 50 plate appearances. With 2663 career hits, a .288 lifetime average and six seasons of .300 or better and a four-time American League season hit leader, Fox would be well equipped to get on base for the heart of the order when Henderson didn't. Although he wasn't known for drawing walks, "Little Nell" had a knack for getting to first base. He led in American League in singles eight times (1952 and 1954 to 1960) while making the AL's top 10 list in batting average in eight seasons. Fox's 2161 singles puts him at 27th place in baseball history. The 1959 American League Most Valuable led the White Sox to the franchise's first pennant since the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Fox earned MVP honors with what was a fairly typical season by his standards - a .306 average along with just 2 HR and a career-high 70 RBI. One of Nellie's most impressive feats took place in 1959, as he avoided striking out in 98 consecutive games. The fateful whiff came on a called third strike tossed by Whitey Ford. Close Fox friend and long-time roommate Billy Pierce says the pitch was well off the plate and that the umpire's call even surprised Ford. A three-time Gold Glover (1957, 1959 and 1960), Fox was known for his sure hands, quick release and skill in turning the double play. With a streak of 798 consecutive games at second base (most ever for that position), Fox's durability and toughness made him hugely popular on Chicago's blue-collar south side where the vast majority of White Sox fans reside. Known for his bottle bat, small stature and ever-present wad of chewing tobacco, the last characteristic of Fox's image played a role in his death from cancer at age 47 in 1975. After just missing with 74.7 percent of the vote in his final year of Hall of Fame eligibility in 1985, Fox was admitted to Cooperstown by the Veterans Committee in 1997. Unfortunately, there are no suitable candidates for a starting shortstop on the All-Christmas team, but three-time Gold Glove sec[...]
Thu, 08 Dec 2011 13:01:25 -0800The news that the Los Angeles Angels signed Albert Pujols to a ten-year contract for $250 million has motivated me to put up my first post in a month. While I would have preferred a shorter and less expensive contract, anything under ten years and $250 million was not going to seal the deal. As such, the way to think about this signing from an Angels' perspective is to break it into two five-year periods. That's right, 5x30 and 5x20 for an average of 10x25. Sure, 5x25 and 5x15 might be closer to what Pujols is likely to produce in terms of value but an aggregate of $200 million was going to come up short of luring the three-time NL MVP to Orange County. Pujols turns 32 in January so the Angels just signed him to a 10-year deal with a no trade clause for his age 32-41 year-old seasons. I think he will give the Angels five very good-to-great seasons for a 1B and five average-to-good seasons for a 1B/DH. If one thinks about it as I suggested above, the Angels can easily justify the first five seasons. I mean, wasn't the consensus calling for as much as an 8 x 25-30M deal as recently as last winter? Sure, Albert's numbers fell off a tad this year but he put together an outstanding second half and postseason. In other words, I believe he is basically the same player today as he was perceived a year ago. Pujols may not earn his keep during the second half of the contract unless baseball salaries inflate significantly between now and then. But that's the risk the Angels had to take to acquire the greatest right-handed hitter of the past 80 years, if not ever. Ironically, after signing Pujols and C.J. Wilson (5/$77.5M), the Angels actually have more flexibility than they did yesterday. Therefore, it says here that Arte Moreno and Jerry DiPoto will pull off at least one more headline signing or trade before spring training. At a minimum, they have freed up Mark Trumbo and possibly Ervin Santana. In addition, the Halos can easily move Peter Bourjos, if need be, plus Bobby Abreu (if they agree to eat at least half of his contract) and either Alberto Callaspo or Maicer Izturis. Where am I going with this? Well, I wouldn't rule out going after David Wright or Ryan Zimmerman. The Mets are reportedly interested in Bourjos. The Nats have been linked to him, too, and have indicated a desire to shore up center field and first base. Why not a Bourjos and Trumbo deal for Zimmerman? The Mets have Ike Davis and Sandy Alderson and Paul DePodesta aren't likely to be interested in Trumbo's low OBP. As such, the Angels might have to replace Trumbo with Hank Conger. Either way, I would only give up those packages for Wright or Zimmerman if I could sign them to a longer-term deal first as both are under team control for just two more years. Wright is owed $15M in 2012 with a team option at $16M for 2013 and Zimmerman is due $12M in 2012 and $14M in 2013. Let's dream for a minute, Angels fans. Assuming the Halos trade Bourjos and either Conger or Trumbo for Wright or Zimmerman, here is a potential lineup for 2012: Trout, CF Kendrick, 2B Wright or Zimmerman, 3B Pujols, 1B Morales, DH Hunter, RF Wells, LF Iannetta, C Aybar, SS While I realize that Mike Scioscia would never start the season with Trout as the lead-off hitter, he can flip Trout and Erick Aybar in April and May until he realizes how much better Trout is. After he makes that change, he can flip Chris Iannetta and Aybar if he's worried about having three RHB in the 6th through 8th slots. If Kendrys Morales doesn't recover from his leg injury, then the Angels can slide Abreu into the role of DH, hit him first or second in the batting order, slide Howie Kendrick down to sixth or seventh, and not miss much of a beat. Here is how the starting rotation stacks up: Weaver Haren Wilson Santana Williams That would be about as strong as any rotation this side of Philadelphia. Here is how the bullpen shapes up at this moment in time: Walden Downs Thompson Takahashi (and perhaps two [...]
Mon, 10 Oct 2011 05:24:08 -0800A friend of mine, Ross Moskowitz, is the director of Camp Westmont, a beautiful summer camp in the Pocono Mts. of Pennsylvania. It's the kind of place every kid should be able to attend at least once in their lives. He's also a baseball man. Played Division One NCAA baseball at the University of Maryland. So when he told me that John Denny was going to be his baseball instructor this past summer, I thought it would make for a very interesting story/interview. How does a good pitcher become the best pitcher in the world for one season and win the Cy Young award? From Bob Turley to Randy Jones to Mark Davis to Pat Hentgen, just to name a few, there have been a bunch of pitchers who've taken that step. I spent a morning with John Denny at the end of August. He's 58 years old now and has kept in great shape. Simply put, he's one of the nicest, soft-spoken people I've ever met. Aside from working for the Arizona Diamondbacks for a few years, he hasn't had that much to do with Major League Baseball since he retired in 1986. Like most former ballplayers, he has a amazing memory of games, players, even specific at-bats from 25-35 years ago. He's also quite introspective about himself and his place in the game's past. His response to my question "So you won Game One of the 1983 World Series?" was unexpected. "Yeah, how about that," as if he still couldn't quite believe his good fortune. We went off topic at times, but his stories about his Hall of Fame teammates were worth hearing. I turned on the tape recorder. David: In looking at your career, the numbers tell a story of a pitcher with obvious talent, twice leading the NL in ERA, who would follow those seasons with quite a few off years. Were injuries a major factor? John: Injuries were a big problem for me. My rookie year, 1975, I started the season 2-2 for St. Louis, they sent me back to Triple-A for a month. When I came back, I won seven games in a row, I'm 9-2 and some people were talking about me as a Rookie of the Year candidate. One day, I'm jogging in the outfield in Cincinnati and I tore a lateral ligament. We were only a few games out of first, so I pitched through it and wound up 10-7. The next year, 1976, I was healthy and led the league in ERA (2.52). Then, in 1977, I started the season 7-0 and I strained my hamstring covering first base, then tore that hamstring at Dodger Stadium. And I wound up going 8-8. 1978, I was healthy again and had another good year (14-11, 2.96 ERA). David: Who was your manager with the Cards? John: Red Schoendeinst was my first manager, then Vern Rapp and finally Ken Boyer. This was right before the Whitey Herzog era. I would've loved to have played for Whitey, but I was traded to Cleveland. But I loved my time in St. Louis. I played with Joe Torre, Bob Gibson and Lou Brock. They were true professionals and some of that rubbed off on me. David: So you go from a great baseball city to playing in Municipal Stadium? John: It was tough. That park seated 80,000 people, so even if we had 40,000 people in the stands, which we rarely did, it was half empty. And I think that affected a lot of our players. We had a good rotation. Bert Blyleven, Rick Sutcliffe, myself, Rick Waits, who won 15-16 games one year. Later, Len Barker. After a few years, I became a free agent while with Cleveland. And George Steinbrenner offered the world to me, but I turned him down. David: I never knew that. John: My agent handled it all. I never met Steinbrenner, but his quote the next day in the newspapers was something like "John Denny will never wear a Yankee uniform as long as I'm alive." I would've loved to have played for the Yankees, but word was he was very interfering, came down to the locker room all the time. I didn't think I could play for an owner like that. David: I've never been shy about my feelings for him. I believe he demeaned the game more than anyone in my lifetime. Younger people, especial[...]
Fri, 07 Oct 2011 21:01:28 -0800No Boston Red Sox. No New York Yankees. No Philadelphia Phillies. The three highest payrolls in Major League Baseball failed to make the final four. In fact, seven of the top ten teams didn't even make the postseason. With the Yankees losing the ALDS to the Detroit Tigers yesterday and the Phillies falling short to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS this evening, none of the top nine payrolls are still alive and well. As shown below, the 10th, 11th, 13th, and 17th highest payroll teams remain in the hunt to win the World Series. Congratulations to all four organizations, as well as the No. 25 Arizona Diamondbacks and No. 29 Tampa Bay Rays. Num TEAM TOTAL PAYROLL AVERAGE SALARY 1 New York Yankees $202,689,028 $6,756,300 2 Philadelphia Phillies $172,976,379 $5,765,879 3 Boston Red Sox $161,762,475 $5,991,202 4 Los Angeles Angels $138,543,166 $4,469,134 5 Chicago White Sox $127,789,000 $4,732,925 6 Chicago Cubs $125,047,329 $5,001,893 7 New York Mets $118,847,309 $4,401,752 8 San Francisco Giants $118,198,333 $4,377,716 9 Minnesota Twins $112,737,000 $4,509,480 10 Detroit Tigers $105,700,231 $3,914,823 11 St. Louis Cardinals $105,433,572 $3,904,947 12 Los Angeles Dodgers $104,188,999 $3,472,966 13 Texas Rangers $92,299,264 $3,182,733 14 Colorado Rockies $88,148,071 $3,390,310 15 Atlanta Braves $87,002,692 $3,346,257 16 Seattle Mariners $86,524,600 $2,884,153 17 Milwaukee Brewers $85,497,333 $2,849,911 18 Baltimore Orioles $85,304,038 $3,280,924 19 Cincinnati Reds $75,947,134 $2,531,571 20 Houston Astros $70,694,000 $2,437,724 21 Oakland Athletics $66,536,500 $2,376,303 22 Washington Nationals $63,856,928 $2,201,963 23 Toronto Blue Jays $62,567,800 $2,018,316 24 Florida Marlins $56,944,000 $2,190,153 25 Arizona Diamondbacks $53,639,833 $1,986,660 26 Cleveland Indians $49,190,566 $1,639,685 27 San Diego Padres $45,869,140 $1,479,649 28 Pittsburgh Pirates $45,047,000 $1,553,344 29 Tampa Bay Rays $41,053,571 $1,578,983 30 Kansas City Royals $36,126,000 $1,338,000 * The salary information is courtesy of USA Today.[...]
Tue, 20 Sep 2011 06:28:28 -0800Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941, making him the last player to reach or exceed the .400 level over a full season. Hall of Famers Rod Carew (.388 in 1977), George Brett (.390 in 1980) and Tony Gwynn (.394 during the strike-shortened 1994 season) were the only serious contenders since then, which raises a logical question: Has hitting .400 become baseball's impossible dream? Obviously, a player would need to catch every possible break to reach this ultimate achievement today. Four factors have turned a once rare feat into something that may be unattainable. First, let's blame diligent and hard-working groundskeepers. When was the last time you saw a bad-hop hit at the major league level? What was once a periodic part of the action is virtually extinct. The modern field of dreams is much more than sod from a local farm that gets cut and watered as needed. Baseball groundskeeping has become a science of its own, with sophisticated drainage and heating systems employed to keep customized turf in prime condition. The lack of a fluke hop or two can turn a historic .400 campaign into a near miss .390-something season. Scouting is also light years beyond what could have been imagined in the past. Spray charts display every ball hit by batters, and advance scouts pick up helpful information before each series. Using Gwynn as an example, what if the master of hitting to all fields was known to pull the ball against a certain pitcher? That tidbit wouldn't sneak by a sharp-eyed scout, and it would be known to the opposition. Gloves that were once compact enough to be stuffed into back pockets have grown to the point where making one-handed catches of small dogs wouldn't be a problem. The modern hand basket takes away numerous hits each season, and that won't change in the future. There are no late-inning breathers for 21st century hitters, and it goes beyond flame-throwing closers. Left-handed hitters can count on seeing lots of brief appearances from LOOGYs over the course of a season, and righty swingers get to deal with some nasty middle relievers who can make life tough. If it was very difficult to reach the .400 mark prior to 1941, what are the chances of achieving such a feat now? Microscopic might be overstating the odds, but here is what it would take to get the job done in the post-steroids era. Left-handed hitters only need apply to be the next Mr. .400. We're talking about a feat that has almost zero margin for error, and lefties are going to get a few extra hits by being closer to first base, not to mention the advantage of seeing fewer curves and breaking balls than righty swingers. It won't take Michael Bourn's wheels to be a .400 hitter, but any serious candidate needs to have better-than-average speed to beat out a few infield hits or bunts over the course of the season. Carew, Brett and Gwynn were fast enough to pass this test. Speaking of speed, the slashing Astroturf choppers of the 1970s and 1980s would have been lousy candidates for the .400 club. The most important ability needed to reach that lofty level is to consistently hit the ball hard - and I'm not talking about home runs. Anyone who aspires to hit .400 needs gap power or better. That keeps the outfielders deep enough to allow for some bloop singles and humpback liners to plop for hits. If the outfielders cheat in to cut off singles, they're going to get burned with plenty of doubles and a few triples. While they were both known as line drive maestros, Carew and Gwynn posted better than normal power numbers in their signature seasons. Carew had career highs in hits (239), HRs (14), RBI (100), doubles (38) and triples (14) in 1977. Gwynn came through with 12 homers, 64 RBI and 35 doubles in 419 at-bats. With 165 hits in just 110 games, Gwynn was on an incredible 243-hit pace over 162 games in 1994. Brett absolutely smoked the ball in 1980, as he had 66 extra base [...]
Thu, 25 Aug 2011 09:47:41 -0800I went to the Angels-White Sox game last night and sat in the first row behind the home team's dugout. If you had your choice of any seats in the stadium, the ones that my friend Glen, brother Tom, and son Joe occupied on Wednesday evening would rank right there with the best of them. I wore a red Angels shirt to root on Jered Weaver, who was making his first start since signing a five-year, $85 million extension last weekend, and the Halos. As it turned out, Weaver shut down the Pale Hose, tossing seven scoreless innings as the Angels trounced the visitors, 8-0, for the club's sixth consecutive victory. The Angels are now 71-59 and just 2.5 games behind the first-place Texas Rangers in the American League West. Manager Mike Scioscia pulled Weaver after the seventh inning even though Jered had only thrown 96 pitches. With the Angels heading to Texas for a three-game series beginning on Friday, the speculation is that Scioscia plans to start his ace on three days' rest this Sunday. If so, the Rangers will face the Angels Big Three in Dan Haren on Friday, Ervin Santana on Saturday, and Jered Weaver on Sunday. Depending on the outcome of tonight's Boston-Texas contest, a sweep would either put the Angels a half-game behind or a half-game ahead of the Rangers with one month to go in the regular season. Mat Gleason, aka Rev Halofan in the baseball blogosphere, tipped me off to the adjoining photo by Chris Carlson of the Associated Press. He cropped the photo and embedded it in his recap of last night's game. ESPN also ran the photo as part of Mark Saxon's game report. I can be found with hands cupped around my mouth saying "complete-game shutout" to Weaver as he took his first step into the dugout after the seventh inning. Little did I know that Jered had thrown his final pitch of the evening. The Angels scored four runs in the bottom half of the inning, highlighted by three doubles off the bats of Erick Aybar, Alberto Callaspo, and Bobby Abreu. Bobby Cassevah and Fernando Rodney worked the eighth and ninth innings, combining with Weaver for a team shutout. Weaver, who started the All-Star Game for the American League, leads the circuit in ERA (2.03); ranks second in CG (4), QS (23), QS% (0.89), and WHIP (0.97); third in W (15) and W-L% (.714); fourth in IP (195.1); and sixth in K (166) and K/BB (3.77). He also places third in BAA (.206) and second in OBP (.252), SLG (.310), and OPS (.562). Among advanced metrics, Weaver ranks first in ERA+ (185), Adjusted Pitching Runs (41), Adjusted Pitching Wins (4.6), Base-Out Runs Saved (46.6), Base-Out Wins Wins Saved (5.5), and Win Probability Added (5.1); and second in FIP (2.80), Component ERA (1.95), fWAR (5.5), brWAR (6.5), Situation Wins Saved (4.4), and Adjusted Game Score (64.6). The 28-year-old righthander has been consistently excellent all season long. According to Saxon, "(Weaver) has pitched at least seven innings and given up one run or fewer 15 times this season, most in the majors." He set an Angels team record with 15 consecutive quality starts earlier this year, which is quite an accomplishment when you consider that Dean Chance led the AL in W, ERA, CG, SHO, and IP in his MLB Cy Young Award-winning season in 1964; Bartolo Colon was named the AL CYA winner in 2005; and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan tossed four no-hitters and led the league in strikeouts in seven of his eight campaigns with the Angels. Weaver also bested, among others, Frank Tanana (14 consecutive complete games in 1977 when he led the league in ERA and shutouts), Chuck Finley, and Mark Langston. While skeptics may point to Weaver's BABIP (.250), LOB% (83.7%), and HR/FB (4.6%) stats as indications that he has been "lucky" or benefited from strong defense and bullpen support, one could counter such an argument by pointing to the fact that he has been victimized by the second-worst run support [...]
Tue, 09 Aug 2011 07:41:21 -0800One of the biggest success stories of the 2011 season has been Brandon McCarthy. From 2005-2009 he never posted an FIP better than 4.7, and twice had a FIP above 5. Then he spent 2010 injured and in the minors. But over 108 innings thus far this year, more than he has ever thrown in a season, he has a FIP of 2.69: a pretty incredible improvement. The immediate reasons are a big drop in walks — just 1.33 per nine fourth best for a pitcher this year with at least 100 innings — and an increase in ground balls. These improvements turned McCarthy from an average-control, fly-ball pitcher to an amazing-control, ground-ball pitcher, while not losing any of his strikeouts. That is going to lead to changes for the better — as it has for McCarthy. Rob Neyer has a nice interview with McCarthy (which along with McCathry's great last start inspired this post), in which McCarthy discusses some of the adjustments he has made coming into this year. The main one was developing a fastball with more movement, and then the confidence that gave him. They also discuss McCarthy's injury history, which led him to average just 75 innings a year from 2005 to 2009. Kyle Boddy looked at pitchf/x data and film to examine mechanical changes McCarthy had made between 2009 and 2011. Boddy's mechanical analysis is always very interesting, this article is worth a read, and the upshot is that Boddy likes that changes that McCarthy has made, and that they may help him prevent injuries in the future. So we know that McCarthy reworked his both his approach and mechanics heading into this season. Based on the pitchf/x data it also looks like he radically changed his pitching arsenal. McCarthy has all but abandoned his slider and change up; switched from mostly a four-seam to a mostly two-seam fastball; and added a cutter. Before this year McCarthy's fastballs, which he threw around 65% of the time, were almost all four-seamers and were fly-ball pitches, getting just 31% grounders. Those have largely been replace by cutters and two-seam fastballs, which have ground-ball rates of 38% and 55% respectively. This explains his increase in grounders. He is also throwing the ball harder. His fastballs used to average 89 mph, but this year they average 91 mph. This is very surprising when going from predominately four-seam fastballs to two-seam fastballs, since two-seam fastballs tend to be slower. The change in mechanics look to have paid off. Turning to his newfound command, here are the locations of his fastballs to right-handed batters in 2009 compared to his fastballs and cutters to right-handed batters in 2011: As expected by his drop in walks McCarthy's pitch-level command is dramatically better. The pitches are in the zone more often, but more than that they cluster very tightly on the outside half of the strike zone. Meaning McCarthy is simultaneously better at pitching in the zone, but not in the down-and-in wheelhouse of right-handed batters. Here are his fastballs in 2009 compared to his fastballs and cutters in 2011 to left-handed batters: Again his pitches cluster much tighter in and around the strike zone in 2011. Interestingly he has gone inside more to lefties than he is to righties, the opposite of most right-hand pitchers. But it hasn't hurt him so far, as he has succeed against batters on both sides of the plate this year. You really have to tip your hat to McCarthy, he seems to have completely retooled his arsenal for the better. With his two-seam fastball and cutter he has shown incredible command, while at the same time getting tons more ground balls (thanks mostly to the two-seam fastball) while not losing whiffs (thanks mostly to the cutter). He also has a very funny twitter account. [...]
Sat, 30 Jul 2011 00:01:56 -0800There have been a number of articles and interviews published over the past two weeks about my efforts to help Bert Blyleven get elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. As much for my personal reference as anything else, I am linking to these stories below in chronological order. From Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Blyleven a Hall of Fame character, player, dated July 18, 2011: "I think the internet helped me a lot. I feel like a guy like Rich Lederer with baseballanalysts.com brought out my numbers. Probably with Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez winning Cy-Youngs when they didn't have the most wins. Wins are hard to come by. It's hard to win a ballgame. It's easy to lose but it's hard to win." Chris Jaffe, The Hardball Times, 10 things I didn’t know about Bert Blyleven, dated July 18, 2011: 10. Blyleven and Rich Lederer combined to defy recent trends About 10 years ago, there was a debate at the late, great Rob Neyer Message Board about Blyleven’s Hall of Fame chances. At that time only 15 to 20 percent of the electorate supported him. To answer the question, I went to my usual modus operandi: I looked at recent historical trends. It showed that of the last 20 guys elected to Cooperstown by the BBWAA (as of then), none had ever received 20 percent or lower of the vote in any election they were up for. None had ever fallen below 30 percent. Or 40 percent. The worst election by any of 20 guys who had gone on to election was one time Tony Perez finished exactly one vote shy of 50 percent. If you went back further, you could find guys who’d risen up: Billy Williams, Luis Aparicio, Bob Lemon. But that’s the problem, you had to go way back. Many new voters had entered the mix, and old ones passed on. I assumed Blyleven had no chance with the current BBWAA. But he did. Thanks in no small amount to a campaign led by Rich Lederer to get Bert Blyleven into the Hall of Fame, Blyleven saw his vote total gradually rise up, election after election, until he got in. With the power of the internet, Lederer’s persistence—and, oh yeah, Blyleven’s own solid case—he’ll have a nice weekend in upstate New York this year. Note that since the Neyer Board discussion ten years ago, things have already shifted. Gary Carter, Rich Gossage, Jim Rice, and Bruce Sutter have all gotten in, after initially finishing under 50 percent. But Gossage and Sutter are relievers, and the Hall is still trying to figure them out. Carter only had one really low year, and it was never as low as Blyleven. Rice benefited from an orchestrated movement by the Boston press corps. None spent as many years as low on BBWAA ballots as Blyleven. If you’re a fan of sabermetrics, and of internet-based populism, this weekend’s induction ceremony is thus a double victory—one for Blyleven and one for Lederer. Jim Caple, ESPN, Hall of Fame needs to rethink its ballot, dated July 20, 2011: Consider Blyleven. I didn't vote for him for several years before finally seeing the light, thanks in large part to blogger Rich Lederer's insightful writings pleading his case. And eventually, 80 percent of writers agreed with Rich and decided Blyleven belonged in Cooperstown. But we nearly ran out of time before coming to that conclusion. We elected Blyleven in his next-to-last year of eligibility, and Jim Rice in his final year. David Schoenfield, ESPN, Bert Blyleven a deserving Hall of Famer, dated July 21, 2011: The thing about Bert Blyleven's Hall of Fame case was that there was no precedent for leaving out a pitcher of his caliber. It just took baseball writers a long time to figure this out, thanks in no small part to the efforts of blogger Rich Lederer, who tirelessly campaigned for Blyleven's case (click here for Rich's writings on Blyleven). Tom Hoffarth, Daily Breeze and Press-Tele[...]
Fri, 29 Jul 2011 08:28:00 -0800I wrote my first of more than 30 articles about Bert Blyleven nearly 91 months ago to the day. I titled it “Only the Lonely: The Hall of Fame Trials and Tribulations of Bert Blyleven.” Only the Lonely was named after the 1960 song by Roy Orbison and was chosen because Blyleven was conspicuously missing from the Hall of Fame while all the pitchers ranked around him in several of the most important stats had already been inducted or were locks to be enshrined in their first year of eligibility. Well, eight election cycles later and nobody can call Blyleven “Only the Lonely” any longer. His vote totals steadily rose from 145 (29%) in 2003 to 463 (80%) in 2011, ultimately piercing the 75 percent threshold needed for election last January. While Blyleven was on the ballot far too long, his date with destiny finally arrived last Sunday when he was officially inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. My wife Barbara and I sat in the Blyleven family section during the ceremony as guests of Bert and his wife Gayle. I can now say for the first time that the past seven-plus years have been worth every minute. I can also proclaim that the preceding seven-plus months have been joyous and memorable, highlighted by the telephone call I received from Bert informing me that he had been voted into the Hall of Fame 30 minutes before the official announcement was made to the public. He told me that I was his second call, directly after the one to his mother Jenny. The excitement didn’t stop there though. In fact, it was a fun-tastic two weeks, culminating in a surprise trip to Fort Myers, Florida to meet Bert face-to-face for the first time at a tribute dinner in his honor. After giving each other a big, warm bear hug on stage, I recalled a story about a Saturday afternoon 38 years ago that found me umpiring behind home plate in a winter league scout’s game that the then 22-year-old veteran of four MLB seasons started. I played catch with Bert and pitched in a fantasy camp game the next morning, followed by a round of golf with him at his club that afternoon. Our foursome tied for first place with a 65 in a scramble tournament. We played well and had a great time on the baseball field and the golf course. While I may have been the ringleader, getting Blyleven elected to the Hall of Fame was truly a team effort and one that would have never gotten off the ground, if not for the Internet. Darren Viola (known to most of us as Repoz) of the Baseball Think Factory deserves credit for linking to and excerpting my articles, which did wonders for getting the message out in the early going. Alex Belth and Jon Weisman were also prominent linkers. Rob Neyer linked my articles and advocated on behalf of Blyleven. Even Bill James got behind Blyleven's candidacy in The Hardball Times Annual. Jay Jaffe continually endorsed him in his Hall of Fame evaluations at Baseball Prospectus. There were several other backers who chipped in over the years, too. Importantly, dozens of high-profile writers, including Peter Gammons, Tracy Ringolsby, Ken Rosenthal, and Jim Caple, changed their minds along the way and began to not only vote for Blyleven but helped spread the word and influenced their fellow BBWAA members. Make no mistake about it, Bert did all the work on the field. Fifth all-time in strikeouts, ninth all-time in shutouts, and top 20 since 1900 in wins. Two World Series championships coupled with a 5-1 record and 2.47 ERA in the postseason only added to his credentials. My job, if you will, was simply to make the voters aware of his accomplishments and qualifications. Lo and behold, Blyleven got his just reward in his 14th (and second-to-last) year on the ballot. As one of 295 individuals with plaques in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and[...]
Wed, 27 Jul 2011 09:20:31 -0800
All of us returned home on Tuesday afternoon. My wife, son-in-law, and I had so much fun that we decided to extend our trip by an extra day. Well, not exactly. We had a lot of fun, and we stayed an extra day. But not by choice.
Instead, our flight out of Albany International Airport on Monday was delayed to the point where we were going to miss the last connection out of Newark, where inclement weather was preventing departures and arrivals for most of the day. If we stayed overnight in Newark, the first available flight to LAX was at something like 5:45 p.m. ET, meaning we wouldn't have returned home until about 9:00 p.m. PT on Tuesday. By staying in Albany, we were able to book a flight at 7:00 a.m. We boarded the plane on schedule but sat on the tarmac for about 45 minutes before returning to the gate for another 45 minutes to refuel and get clearance for takeoff. While we arrived in Philadelphia nearly two hours behind schedule, we walked directly onto our connecting plane and arrived at LAX at roughly 12:45 p.m. PT.
All's well that ends well, especially when one can hold his beautiful granddaughter (the gift of my daughter and son-in-law) once again.
I plan to share more photos and stories of my trip to Cooperstown, including the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the private reception on Saturday night, and the induction ceremony on Sunday. Check back on Thursday and Friday for additional posts.
Sat, 23 Jul 2011 19:56:19 -0800
We attended the Hall of Fame Awards Presentation at Doubleday Field from 4:30-5:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. The new event featured Terry Cashman singing Talkin' Baseball (Willie, Mickey, and the Duke), followed by Bill Conlin (J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing), Dave Van Horne (Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence), and Roland Hemond (Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award).
Barbara, Joel, and I sat in the stands on the third base side between the pitcher's mound and home plate among guests of the inductees. Jerry Reinsdorf and Dennis Gilbert sat in the row below and just to the right of us. Dave Dombrowski was sitting one row in front of them. There were other front office executives and their family members in the immediate area.
The award winners and Hall of Famers sat on a stage behind second base. Going around the diamond in alphabetical and numerical order by scorekeeper positions, the following players, managers, and executives were on stage: Bert Blyleven (see how I worked that out?), Jim Bunning, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Whitey Ford, Goose Gossage, Ferguson Jenkins, Juan Marichal, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, Orlando Cepeda, Eddie Murray, Tony Perez, Roberto Alomar, Rod Carew, Bobby Doerr, Bill Mazeroski, Joe Morgan, Ryne Sandberg, Red Schoendienst, Wade Boggs, George Brett, Brooks Robinson, Ozzie Smith, Robin Yount, Lou Brock, Rickey Henderson, Ralph Kiner, Jim Rice, Billy Williams, Andre Dawson, Tony Gwynn, Reggie Jackson, Al Kaline, Frank Robinson, Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor, Whitey Herzog, Tom Lasorda, Earl Weaver, and Pat Gillick.
At the conclusion of the presentations, we were shuttled back to the front steps of the Museum to a VIP viewing area for the Parade of Legends. The Hall of Famers were driven from Doubleday Field down Main Street to the Hall of Fame individually in the back of Ford pickup trucks. We were invited to the Hall of Fame Private Reception inside the Museum afterwards. Hors d'oeuvres and cocktails were served in the Plaque Gallery.
I met Bert and Gayle Blyleven as they walked into the Hall of Fame. Bert and I shook hands and hugged. I introduced both of them to Barbara and Joel. We talked for a few minutes and concluded the conversation with a big, firm high five. I wish I had a photo of that moment but the memory will stay with me forever.
Later that evening, Bert and I met up for a few photos. The first one is of the two of us pointing to the spot on the wall where his plaque will be installed Sunday evening.
The second is in front of Blyleven's exhibit.
Needless to say, my family and I had a great day, topped by the Hall of Fame Private Reception. Meeting up with Bert in that setting was a once in a lifetime experience.
Sat, 23 Jul 2011 12:30:28 -0800
I'm posting four photos for now. I will add more later.
My wife Barbara and me standing in front of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Saturday morning.
Here I am in the middle with my son-in-law Joel on the left and brother Tom on the right.
Jeannie, Tom, Barbara, me, and Joel in the Plaque Gallery.
I'm pointing to the spot where Blyleven will be enshrined in the Plaque Gallery forever.
After spending the morning and early afternoon at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, we're now heading to the Awards Presentation at Doubleday Field.
Check back for more photos and stories late this evening or early tomorrow morning.
Fri, 22 Jul 2011 04:36:42 -0800
My wife and I are leaving for Cooperstown this morning for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday. We will be joined by our son-in-law Joel and my brother Tom and his wife Jeannie this weekend. If not a baseball trip of a lifetime, it should prove to be an unforgettable memory for not only the honoree himself but all of us as well.
I plan on posting as many stories, links, and photos as time allows. So be sure to check back throughout the weekend to stay abreast of our trip.
That's all for now.