Monday, January 14, 2013

The Good, The Bad and the Reactions

By now, it's no news that the BBWAA didn't induct anyone into the Hall of Fame.  The closer we got to the reveal on MLB Network, the more I realized that it was a reality.  I was honestly burnt out from hearing the same arguments from the same people.  I don't hold anything against people like Tom Verducci who say steroids automatically discount you from being a HoF player.  It's his opinion and I'm not going to tell him he's wrong.  I might disagree with it, but that's a different story.  I'm more angry at some other guy that MLBN had on their roundtable discussion.  Chris "Mad Dog" Russo was the most obnoxious, loud mouth idiot that MLBN has ever had on their network, and they employ Kevin Millar on a daily basis.  If he wasn't parroting Verducci, he was saying something terribly stupid.  The one that stuck most in my mind was his reasoning for not voting for Fred McGriff.  He said, and I quote, "How many MVPs did he win?"

Let that sink in for a minute.

This moron, who won't vote for Clemens or Bonds (who have won 8 MVPs and 7 CYAs between them by the way) or anyone connected with steroids, won't vote for McGriff because he didn't win an MVP.  Let's just discount the facts that:

a) While the MVP is rarely given to a bad player (Maury Wills), it is not always given to the correct player (Mo Vaughn winning in 95, Sosa in 98, etc).

b) The writers vote for the MVP despite the fact that they seldom see other teams beyond their own for more than 6 games a year.

c) The MVP has vaguer criteria than the HoF.


d) I don't think McGriff specifically got jobbed of an MVP, but definitely had MVP-type seasons.

And focus on the fact that McGriff, who had a very underrated career mostly due to being in the steroid era, and put up a line of 284/377/509 with a 383 wOBA and a 134 wRC+, has his whole career discounted by this jerk because he didn't win some vaguely defined award voted on by a group of writers who barely saw him play (His best years were in San Diego and pre-WS Toronto).  493 HR, most for anyone in this era that I know of that isn't connected to steroids, all thrown out the window because he never won an MVP.

That's a great case right there.

Here, let's play some "Disprove the idiot while being the idiot":

1) Nolan Ryan never won a Cy Young Award.  NOT A HALL OF FAMER!!!11!!

2) Bob Turley won a CYA, therefore he's a better case for the Hall than McGriff.

3) Spud Chandler has an MVP,  therefore he's a better case for the Hall than McGriff.

4) Phil Cavarretta has an MVP, therefore he's a better case for the Hall than McGriff.

5) Hank Sauer has an MVP, therefore he's a better case for the Hall than McGriff.

Seeing the picture here?

I'm not saying McGriff is a lock for the Hall of Fame, and I'm not saying he doesn't belong.  Like I mentioned before, he is probably the most borderline case on the ballot this year.  I do think that, if push comes to shove, I would wind up voting for him, but I think this year's ballot was too big for that.

I am saying that there are better reasons for arguing against McGriff than just "He never won teh MVP".

I also think that the worst crime that has come out of this year's ballot isn't the lack of entries, but the voices speaking up for some guys who really don't belong.  Here's my take on some of them:

1) Tommy John.  No.  No.  Look, John was a good pitcher, and probably the definition of a lefty junkball pitcher (especially after the surgery).  But he played for some really good teams and didn't pitch extremely well for them.  His ERA was similar to Ryan's but he struck out nowhere near as many batters (in one less year mind you).  Yes Ryan walked a lot of batters.  But he also didn't give up many hits either, and maintained a better K/BB ratio.  The fact is that Ryan was one of the most dominant pitchers ever and comparing him to John, while not totally crazy, is still doing him a disservice.

2) Jim Kaat.  What is it with the Lefty Pitchers that last forever that makes people think they are great?  Both Kaat and John struck out less than 5 every 9 innings, and walked more than 2 per 9 innings.  His FIP was an incredibly average 3.41 (Ryan btw was a 2.97) which wouldn't be so bad if he didn't give up tons of contact.  Not a dominant pitcher, not worth induction.

3) Ken Boyer.  I get this.  Believe me, I do.  He just doesn't match up with what I think a HoF 3B should be.  Probably the best out of the 3 choices I've mentioned, but just not quite there.  It's a shame, because he really was one more year of typical production away from being a HoFer, but just kinda fell off after 64.

That'll do it for now.  Hopefully with the season starting again, I can bitch about something other than the HoF.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

....And the rest

Work is picking up steam post-New Years, so I figured I'd just cover the rest of the big names on the ballot right now and give a brief explanation for my choice:

1) Edgar Martinez- Yes.  I never understood the DH argument.  It's an everyday position, not like a LOOGY or a pinch hitter.  Martinez wasn't really a bad defender in his time, either, just moved to DH due to injury.  He was an incredibly talented hitter as well, posting a 418 OBP in his career and hitting over 500 doubles and 300 HR.  Deserves induction any day.

2) Fred McGriff- Not quite.  Crime Dog, to me, is the most borderline player on this ballot.  But my feeling is that if McGwire isn't good enough, McGriff isn't good enough.

3) Larry Walker-Yes.  Dude OBP'd 400 in his career, with a 965 OPS.  Absolutely belongs in.  You can talk about the Coors effect as much as you want, doesn't change the fact that Walker was a great hitter with Montreal before he moved to Coors.

4) Don Mattingly- No.  He is close to me, but just sapped of how great he would have been due to his back.  Had that not happened, he would have been inducted already.

5) Rafael Palmeiro- Yes.  Even without traditional benchmarks, he was a great hitter for a long time.  Steroids will keep him out, but I would still vote for him

6) Bernie Williams- No.  Crappy fielder, decent hitter.  Played a lot in the spotlight of Yankee country, making him slightly overrated.  Was a very good, but not great player.

7) Dale Murphy- No.  I know he was a premier player of the 80s, but that doesn't make him an all time great.  Just like Bernie.

Those are the big names.  My ballot for 2013 would look like this:
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Mark McGwire
Sammy Sosa
Larry Walker
Edgar Martinez
Raffy Palmeiro
Mike Piazza
Curt Schilling
Craig Biggio

I want to put Smith on there too, but there isn't enough space.  Maybe swap out Walker for him.

That's it from me.  Let's here from you.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The AL East conundrum.

           Overall, the AL East has been an incredibly difficult division to compete in over the last decade or two, and with the Jays having made huge splashes in acquiring roughly one third of the talent in the NL East, the Red Sox signing two more catchers, and the Yankees resigning some of the most important pieces from their post season run last year, while letting two other pieces walk away without so much as a finger raised by Cashman, one would be forced to assume that the division has changed some this year.

           The division has changed significantly; there is no baseball mind who would argue that the landscape in the AL East is changing for 2013. Not necessarily the standings though. Many analysts are still painting the Yanks as a 1st place team, despite losing Russell Martin, Nick Swisher, and letting Rafael Soriano walk away. I don’t know exactly how accurate that is, Martin is an excellent backstop, both for his framing abilities and the fact that he brings some power and on base percentage to the equation that many replacements wouldn’t offer. Francisco Cervelli will be a fine replacement, offering less power but similar defense as well as the ability to play third base if need be. Chris Stewart has a pretty light bat and while he’s cited as a defensive specialist, that is a tag given to him more due to his light hitting than his actual (and slightly dubious) defensive abilities. Austin Romine is the biggest wildcard of the three, having very little major league experience. He projects to have a weaker than average bat at the position, but provide solid defense. Swisher is perhaps the hardest of the three to replace in earnest. Ichiro Suzuki will replace him in right field, but Swisher provided a balanced approach between average defense, above average power, and high on base percentage, Ichiro’s game hinges on his potentially gold glove worthy fielding, his speed on the base paths, and his unbelievably high contact rate at the plate. Soriano, who stepped in to replace an injured Mariano Rivera was largely expendable however. That is not to say that someone of Soriano’s particular skill set is not valuable to the Yankees, but because of their otherwise very strong bullpen and the number of cheap middle innings relievers, moving everyone up one spot in the depth chart would not hinder the Yankees in a practical sense. With plenty of time to acquire a more powerful outfield bat to help rest the light hitting Brett Gardner and Suzuki and/or a game changing catcher the Yanks certainly remain a very dangerous team despite the turnover.

           The Red Sox have spent half of last year and the bulk of this offseason retooling the entire team, from trading Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers for several pieces and salary relief, to their recent trade for Joel Hanrahan the Red Sox have shown no particular sentiment toward their own players. This may well play to their benefit; the Sox have retooled well so far, having acquired yet another catcher, and potentially will finalize their deal with Mike Napoli soon. The Sox have a potentially very powerful rotation, despite last year’s utter failings. Jon Lester and Clay Bucholtz are both extremely good pitchers, whether they showed it last year or not. Combining their talents with the overall value of their lineup the Red Sox should be notably more competitive than they were one year ago.

           The Orioles have made almost no moves this year, and the kind of statistical anomaly that allowed them to reach the postseason last year doesn’t seem as likely without making any real push at another piece or two. Letting Mark Reynolds walk away isn’t immediately addition by subtraction. His strikeout rate was atrocious, but he does put the ball in the seats and that’s not a bad talent to have. He’s a hack 3rd baseman for sure, but he can handle first just fine, and there’s certainly value in a player like Reynolds. That said, the Orioles can still make moves this offseason, and may surprise me, but I’d call for them to regress given the improbability of their record last year. Having scored only 7 more runs than they allowed for the year while winning 93 games. That’s some serious statistical outlier material there. If the O’s don’t make some serious headway on that run differential, I could see them sliding back to being a .500 team this year.

           The Rays haven’t made any great strides forward either, though trading James Shields and Wade Davis isn’t exactly as devastating as some have made it seem. While Tampa did give up an exceptional starter they are also a pitching machine, and seem to churn out starters on an annual basis. The team could use a bit more pop, and losing BJ Upton isn’t going to help them there, but with such a strong starting rotation I find it hard to believe that they’ll fall out of contention early. The Rays may be looking at 3rd in the division again this year, but it should be awfully difficult to count them out.

           The Blue Jays are, well, better. They’ve traded for roughly half of last year’s Marlins team, RA Dickey, and signed Melky Cabrera all in about a month. Between Dickey and Buehrle their rotation has instantly become very solid while they have also added two (potentially) very strong multi tooled players in Jose Reyes and Cabrera. The questions surrounding Cabrera’s PED use give me some pause in saying that he will be a very effective addition, but even as a league average bat he will provide solid defense in any of the three outfield spots, though his range is probably best suited to a corner. Reyes, while a very capable shortstop, is an injury risk. That certainly won’t be made better by playing 82 games on the fake turf of the Rogers Center. The Jays have a chance to really take a step forward within the division, I won’t argue for even a moment that their rotation isn’t better now, but their other additions are questionable to me. I don’t think that they have the right pieces in place to be a real postseason run, but they should make the AL East a more interesting division for the next few years, especially if this is how Alex Anthopoulos plans to really move the team forward over the next few years.

           As per Bob Dylan, “The times; they are a changing.” I see the division shaking out to still see the Yankees in the playoffs, whether the division or a wildcard I don’t know. The Red Sox I feel will miss the post season again, while the Blue Jays make a push for a playoff berth. The Orioles are poised to regress significantly, while the Rays are a serious question mark to me, They’re worse right now than they were last season, but they have a track record of being surprisingly competitive regardless of the moves they make/miss. It’s certainly a different world when the Yankees are concerned with their spending and the Blue Jays have transformed their team by taking on large contracts.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Good Idea/Bad Idea: The Great Closer Debate

Yep, two in a day.  I'm on fire!  And if I were, I'd have to call a Fireman.  And in baseball, the term "Fireman" refers to a closer, or a shut down reliever.  Are there any on the ballot for this year?  You betcha! Let's take a look at the controversial idea of Lee Arthur Smith being in the Hall of Fame.

Most of the decision about Lee Arthur has centered around what most people consider to be how to judge relief pitchers.  Currently in the Hall of Fame, there are  5.  Hoyt Wilhelm, Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley and Goose Gossage.  All of them probably deserve to be inducted.  The question people have is does Lee Arthur belong in that group?  A lot of it also comes down to how we plan to use the save stat.  As I've opined on here before, it is a terrible stat.  And Lee Smith led the world in saves until Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera came along and blew his number out of the water.  So how does the argument shake out for and against Lee Arthur?

Good Idea: The fact is that saves are a bad stat and it is very easy to accumulate them over the course of a long career.  But Lee Arthur was a great reliever.  He has a higher K/9 than any other reliever in Cooperstown and the best HR/9 as well.  It's tough to do a full comp on him with other relievers in the hall because there are only the five of them and the RP position has evolved greatly in recent times.  While saves may not be a great stat, he did gain almost 500 which was the most for a long time.  He was a great reliever that shut down offenses.

Bad Idea: He struck out a lot of batters, true, but he also had the fewest innings when compared to the HoF relievers except for Sutter, fewer strikeouts too.  He also walked a lot of guys and had a mediocre WHIP, almost 1.3.  In fact, he never had a season where his WHIP was below 1.1, which means that teams had a lot of opportunities to score against him.  It's a testament that he was able to even get all those saves with the baserunners he was allowing, but the fact remains that he was allowing them at a fairly high clip.  Good reliever, worthy to be part of a good team's pen, but not Hall of Fame worthy.

Verdict: It's hard to do a calculation for relievers because there aren't that many in the Hall of Fame.  But, for what it's worth, his score came to 126, which was 2nd best for a reliever to Eckersley.  I don't know what has kept him out, if it's just that stuff I was talking about at the top about closers and relievers and how effective they are, etc.  I would put him in, especially since it tells the story of how relievers have evolved over the years.  Think about it, the best reliever of the pre-closer era was Wilhelm, and then we had guys like Fingers and Sutter and Gossage give way to guys like Eck and Smith, which led to guys like Billy Wagner, Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera to be great closers.  And it isn't like he is an indefensible choice, like some people currently in the Hall are.  He's a good choice and should be inducted.

Good Idea/Bad Idea: Riding a Trammell

Next up on our tour of the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot is Detroit's own Alan Trammell.  Trammell is one of those that always seems to fall in between the cracks for the most part.  A lot of people forget he's on the ballot.  The ones that don't, mostly don't think that he belongs.  Most of them probably think that since Lou Whitaker, Trammell's double play partner, isn't in the Hall, then Trammell shouldn't be either, and you really can't think of one without the other.  He only had about 36% last year, so I doubt he'll ever make it (this is his 13th ballot), so there must be no case for him, right?

Well, lets look a little closer:

Good Idea: Trammell was a great defensive SS, with a +76 rating for his career from FG.  He played his whole career with the Detroit Tigers which means he spent it in a big park (Tigers Stadium was huge).  For a SS, he had a 352 career OBP, which is fairly good.  He had a wRC+ of 111, which is good for a SS.  He seems to fit the profile of a HoF SS, and was seen as the team leader of a good decade for the Tigers.

Bad Idea: Remember when I said Rock's stats looked just OK?  Well, the same thing applies here for Trammell.  While his stats are very good, there isn't anything that really jumps out of the page at me.  He was a league average hitter or slightly above for most of his career, which I suppose is good for a SS, but not for a HoF bat.  If he were to make the HoF with his offensive numbers, he'd have to be an Ozzie Smith level defender, and he isn't quite there.  I love Alan Trammell, he was one of my grandfather's favorites, but a HoF player he is not.

Verdict: Not really.  Trammell doesn't look that great against other SS that actually belong in the HoF, and that is a small and exclusive class.  I can see why people would vote for him, a lot of his rate stats look like Yount's, and Dave Cameron makes a compelling case for him at FG using Yount as a comp, but Yount's career is much better on the whole because he had more power.  Yount played 600 more games and switched positions to help his team, but he still was at least a decent MLB player.  His worst years (based on WAR) were .9 (18 years old), .3 (19), 1.1 (35) WAR each. Not great numbers, but decent given his age at each season.  Trammell's were -0.6 (19), -1.1 (38) and 0 (36) respectively.  Yount at his worst (early on in his career mind you) was a replacement level player but never really cost his team with his play.  Trammell at his worst cost his team 2 or 3 wins in his career.  So, their peaks are similar, but Yount was able to maintain better than Trammell, which makes Yount a HoF player, and Trammell not a HoF player.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Good Idea/Bad Idea:It Was a Big Rock

Welcome to a Christmas Edition of my Hall of Fame Good Idea/Bad Idea series.  The player I want to look at today is none other than a man named for a certain type of white powder.  No, his nickname wasn't snow, it was Rock.  That's right, we're looking at Rock Raines.

Before we get started, let me say that Raines was probably undervalued during his time because he wasn't very flashy.  I have a feeling like if he played today he would be looked at differently.  And I'm not just talking about the cocaine thing.

Good Idea: Rock stole a lot of bases, but did so at an extremely high rate.  He stole over 800 bases at an almost 85% rate, which is nearly unheard of.  He also got on base at a 385 clip and has the best rate for any player that has more than 15 years in the bigs.  He had a 126 wRC+ and a 361 wOBA, which are pretty good numbers, especially for a guy that didn't hit for a ton of power.  Certainly a better choice than Andre Dawson IMO.  His biggest comp, obviously, is going to be to Rickey Henderson.  Lets look at them really quick:

Raines- 85% success rate at steals, 126 wRC+, 361 wOBA, 385 OBP
Rickey- 81% success rate at steals, 132 wRC+, 372 wOBA, 401 OBP

Rickey had a little higher in most stats, but it was pretty close.  Rickey was more powerful, no doubt, but otherwise were fairly equal hitters.  If Rickey's in, Rock should be in.

Bad Idea: All of Rock Raines' stats seem to be...ok.  If he were to be elected, he would be in a class with left fielders.  He would be included in a class with Ted Williams, Ralph Kiner and Carl Yastrzemski.  He doesn't quite belong with those guys.  He might be better than Brock and a couple of others, but that doesn't mean he belongs.  He had a lot of PA, but still didn't get 3000 hits, or 1000 RBI.  I know he was a leadoff hitter, but you'd think he'd have more RBI just due to the fact he played over 20 years.  Want a better stat?  Fine.  After 20+ years, he was only worth about 70 WAR.  Which is around 3.5 a year.  It's good, but not that great.  Sorry, no dice.

Verdict: No.  He gets a -39 on my scale, absolutely the lowest for a LF.  Sorry Rock, you were an exciting player, but not an all time great.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Does Schilling's Bloody Sock make him a HoFer?

My father and I discuss baseball frequently.  There are quite a few times that I agree with him.  This is one issue that we strongly disagree over.

Curt Schilling is probably the last big name starting pitcher that I wanted to look at for this upcoming ballot.  What Jack Morris and Andre Dawson represent to the traditionalists, Bert Blyleven and Curt Schilling represent for the SABR crowd.  Here are the viewpoints as I see them:

Good Idea: Curt Schilling was a very underrated pitcher in his career.  He struck out a ton of batters and didn't walk many which gives him the best K/BB in history.  He had a better WHIP than Clemens, and struck batters out at a faster rate than the Rocket.  Rocket may have been more valuable (due to the innings difference, and granted there's a big gap) but Schill was just as good, if not better, in the innings he threw.  His win total isn't high, but that can be attributed to a lot of things, teams with poor run support (esp after the WS run with the Phillies in 93), bad bullpen (Wild Thing Williams was a terrible closer), or just random bad luck.  He's a great choice, and shouldn't have much trouble making it in.

Bad Idea: He didn't throw a ton of innings, only won 216 games and was never really the best pitcher in the league.  His ERA is a tad too high, and was really prone to the long ball.  The innings thing is huge I think.  He was a closer for a bit early on, and again after that injury in the 04 playoffs, but it does hurt his overall value.  One of the big things a starter needs to be able to do is throw a good amount of innings.  A bunch of 5 inning starters hurts a rotation and a team because that increases wear and tear on the bullpen pitchers.  He was a very good pitcher, especially in the post season, but he isn't quite good enough.  Not an all time great.  Sorry.

Verdict: Schilling gets in my Hall of Fame easily, with a score believe it or not nearly equal to Nolan Ryan's.  Now, before everyone jumps on me and thinks I'm saying that Schill was as great as Ryan, take a step back and lets look at them:

Ryan struck out a large amount of batters, but also walked about half as many.  Which gives a slight advantage to Schilling I would think.  Ryan has a better raw ERA, but when you correct it for the home park (remember all the years that Ryan pitched in the big ol Astrodome?) Schilling comes out ahead, but not by much.  Ryan has more wins, but pitched 27 years and averaged 14 a year.  Schilling averaged 13 a year.  Ryan also has more losses a year than Schilling, 13 to 9.  Ryan beats him handily in innings, but the quality is roughly equal to Schillings when you factor everything in.  Schilling doesn't have the no-hitters that Ryan has, but other than that Schilling is Ryan's equal in almost everything but innings (which helps a lot of the non rate stats like K's).  He belongs in without a question.