A couple weeks ago six of us ran an All-Time Yankees draft. With six teams chosen, the time has come to create a competition. I entered all six teams into a baseball simulator. The games are yet to come. Before the festivities begin, I thought it would be helpful to lay out the specifics and ground rules of the tournament.
1. Each team will play ten games, two against each opponent (one home and one away).
2. The top three teams will advance to the playoffs. The team with the best record receives a bye.
3. In the case of a tie for a playoff berth (first or third place), a tiebreaker game (or games as necessary) will be held. Teams can not be eliminated in a tiebreak scenario, except via an on-field game. Seeding for those games will be decided by:
Head to Head record among tied teams
Overall Run Differential
4. Playoff rounds are five games apiece. Home field format is 2-2-1.
5. Each team will use a five man rotation, ensuring two starts per pitcher.
6. Each team will use their reserve catcher in the 5th and 9th games, their reserve infielder in their 6th game and their reserve outfielder in their 7th game.
7. The extra reserves and relievers (those not drafted) will only be used in an extra inning game, or if a team has exhausted their bullpen.
See the comments for game details.
Final Standings of pool play.
With four teams tied, a tiebreaker is actually easy to set up. Teams seeded one and four will compete, along with teams seeded two and three. The winners will play for the top spot, the loser of that getting the second spot. The losers of the first game will play for third place and the final playoff entry. The Giants pick up the first seed thanks to their 4-2 record against the other three teams. The Dodgers will get home field against the Highlanders due to better run differential. Hera are the tiebreak matchups.
Yankees (Hunter) @ Giants (Gomez)
Highlanders (Ruffing) @ Dodgers (Pettitte)
Giants 3, Yankees 2
Dodgers 6, Highlanders 3
Dodgers 6, Giants 1
Yankees 5, Highlanders 2
First round is Giants vs. Yankees, winner battles the Dodgers. Both series will be contested best of five.
Earle Combs hit .481/.526/.750, taking MVP honors. Jimmy Key will take best pitcher honors with two wins, 23 innings pitched and a 2.74 ERA.
Yankees 3, Giants 4
Yankees 1, Giants 4
Giants 3, Yankees 4
Giants 8, Yankees 2
Giants win series 3 games to 1.
Giants 2, Dodgers 15
Giants 1, Dodgers 10
Dodgers 9, Giants 10 (13 Innings)
Dodgers 4, Giants 6
Giants 8, Dodgers 9 (10 Innings)
Dodgers win series 3 games to 2.
Since I recently subscribed to WWE 24/7, I thought this would be good to write up. For those of you who have accessibility, I highly recommend it. A full compliment of wrestling programming, some changing over from week to week. Old house shows, Pay-per-views, television programs, etc. I honestly do not have enough time to watch it all.
A short forward. I do not pay much attention to psychology, workrate, etc. I tend to take a historian's viewpoint of wrestling. I will note bad wrestling, but I do not intend this to be match reviews. Just some thoughts that cross my mind at specific instances.
Sherri Martel vs. Fabulous Moolah
This match is where Sherri won the WWF women's title. This was pretty bad. Ric Flair is 57 and still wrestling part-time, but few view him as a legitimate contender to anything. Moolah here is 63 and the reigning champion! I guess the company lacked a name after they dumped Wendi Richter, but damn. Looking back on this, I think some people miss the boat on womens' wrestling. At some point, you would like to see a long term, valid womens' division. But what is the point? You are not going to draw MORE money when you have the women wrestling. When you have a hot act, like Sable or Trish Stratus, you cobble together a division and come up with some worthy challengers. If not, you set it on the back burner.
Bruiser Brody vs. Abdullah the Butcher
Brody and Abdullah were two wrestlers who would never job. After watching this match, the genius of it all is that neither one has to. You can avoid having a big blow off match because you know they would murder each other, and the promoter could not afford the damage costs. So you let them go out, wreck the place for 10-12 minutes and send them off to the next town. The other brilliant side of this is when you have two psycho monster heels. When you pair them off of each other, you turn one of them de facto face, and get a great reaction for it. Just look at Blassie/Tolos.
Hercules vs. Junkyard Dog
This is from the Spectrum in November of '87. A poster whose name I can not recall posted some Wrestling Observer notes from '87. In those, Meltzer referred to JYD as the worst worker in wrestling. Now, obviously there are green guys wrestling in front of 20 people who are always worse. But JYD was certainly the worst worker in a major promotion. His offense just looks absolutely putrid. It is almost embarrassing for a wrestler to sell his headbutts.
It is hard to believe these are over a decade old already. The original music is long gone, so the original feel is somewhat gone. You know what made ECW great? It wasn't the quality wrestling or anything that stood far beyond the big two. It was that the big matches aired on free tv, on their television program. I think ECW lost much of its fun once Pay Per View started. And for all the complaining about the current product, it wasn't that good on TNN either. The big problem now, as with the TNN product, is that the show seems stuck in a holding pattern. They desperately need storyline progression.
Over in the General Wrestling forum, there is a draft going on to select all-time rosters of wrestlers. I missed out on this, but it provides an opportunity to do a little list creation in my spare time. I created a list of my ideal top 64 picks. When selecting a wrestler, I feel you need to look for uncommon attributes, something to stand out from the crowd. Mid-carders are crucial to a good promotion, but you can find many, many guys at that level. Also, I think a wrestler needs some ability to succeed in today's environment. Gorgeous George was extremely popular as a heel for a time, but he was a limited attraction and today the novelty would be gone. I don't think he would be a top draw today. Let's see how my 64 stands up against the actual draft. I will divide this into four sections.
1. Wrestlers both in my top 64 and the draft top 64.
2. Wrestlers in my top 64 who just missed (first 100 picks).
3. Whiffs, Guys in my top 64 who went beyond the 100th pick.
4. Undrafted wrestlers.
I did not rank my list, so it is simply a list of 64 wrestlers/teams.
1. Wrestlers both in my top 64 and the draft top 64.
Since there is a consensus, there should be no need to comment on these names individually.
1. Bret Hart
2. Hulk Hogan
3. The Rock
4. Ric Flair
5. Steve Austin
6. Randy Savage
7. Andre the Giant
8. Shawn Michaels
10. John Cena
11. Triple H
13. The Undertaker
14. Brock Lesnar
15. Mick Foley
16. Kurt Angle
17. Roddy Piper
18. Bill Goldberg
20. Terry Funk
21. Eddie Guerrero
22. Chris Jericho
23. Ricky Steamboat
27. Steiner Brothers
30. Harley Race
31. Ultimate Warrior
33. Kerry Von Erich
34. Dusty Rhodes
35. Curt Hennig
38. The Road Warriors
40. Superstar Billy Graham
44. Bruno Sammartino
45. Jake Roberts
50. Stan Hansen
51. The Great Muta
52. Jack Brisco
54. Bruiser Brody
56. Terry Gordy/Miracle Violence Connection (I had him as part of the Freebirds)
61. Barry Windham
64. Magnum T.A.
2. Wrestlers in my top 64 who just missed (first 100 picks).
65. Jimmy Snuka
67. Rey Mysterio
68. Sid Vicious (as a member of the Skyscrapers)
69. The Big Show
70. Jerry Lawler
72. Sgt. Slaughter
89. Lex Luger
Great picks here, a few main eventers, a couple of solid workers (Sgt. Slaughter is underrated). Chalk this up to slight differences of opinion, perhaps some crowding with posters preferring Japanese workers.
3. Whiffs, Guys in my top 64 who went beyond the 100th pick.
Now we get to the portion where drafters are simply missing the boat on great talent, underrating guys who could carry a promotion, or make a significant contribution. Kudos to those who took the bait and made a wise choice on a late round pick.
101. Junkyard Dog - For a time, one of the most popular wrestlers in the country.
102. Nikita Koloff
104. Nick Bockwinkel - A wrestler with Bockwinkel's cockiness and interview style would no doubt make a top heel today. I could easily see him paired up against John Cena.
110. Trish Stratus - Possibly the greatest female wrestler in U.S. history, incredibly beautiful. Capable of filling a variety of roles.
117. Sabu - Unique style, still unmatched in wrestling. A genuine sensation in the 1990s, unwillingness to work at times hurt his potential.
128. Dory Funk Jr. - Interesting to think what he would do nowadays. Playing the grizzled veteran along with his backstage teaching skills, he'd be an asset to any organization.
131. Lou Thesz - Could he make it today? I think his wrestling skill could carry him, particularly as a stooging heel.
137. The Sheik - The most feared, savage heel of all time.
161. David Von Erich - Future NWA champion until his untimely death. David is a "what if" story, so I can't blame people for overlooking him.
176. Buddy Rogers - Top heel of his era, huge television star. Think Randy Orton cockiness combined with Ric Flair's charisma. Drew the biggest wrestling crowd in the United States in 1961. 38,000+ at Comiskey Park to see him win the NWA title, a mark unsurpassed until 1984.
4. Undrafted wrestlers.
Seven mostly old-school wrestlers who could benefit any promotion.
Mil Mascaras - One of the most popular latino wrestlers in history, used dazzling aerial manuevers in his prime.
Fred Blassie - Before managing, was a blond, vicious heel with incredible talking ability.
Billy Robinson - A great performer from Britain. Had less backstage warts than the Dynamite Kid. His mat work is good even by today's standards.
Jim Londos - Who? The greatest gate attraction of the pre-1950s era. At 190 lbs., handsome and tanned, would make a great babyface champion for a light heavyweight division.
Bobo Brazil - Popular black wrestler who re-defined racial boundaries. 6'6".
Gene Kiniski - Largely unknown NWA champion. Good worker and talent, around 6'4". His size would make him credible and his heel work would carry him from there.
Ernie Ladd - A former NFL star, legitimately huge with great heel mannerisms.
Johnny Valentine - Greg's father worked the same style, but better.
Joe Podnanski on his blog wrote a piece about RBI opportunities. Baseball Prospectus in their book Baseball Between the Numbers wrote about worst players who drove in 100+ RBIs. I figured to take a look at guys who drove in 130 or more runners in a season, to see if anyone actually had a bad season in the process. One clearly did, Moose Salters.
Salters in 1936 drove in 134 runners with the St. Louis Browns. His numbers look superficially good, but the entire American League that season hit .302. Of the six left fielders in the league who played more than 100 games, Solters ranked fifth ahead of only Joe Vosmik. Solters undoubtably saw many RBI opportunities thanks to three hitters on the team who produced a .400+ on base percentage (Harlond Cliff, Lyn Lary and Beau Bell). Oddly, Salters' year was a down year between two good ones.
While we are having fun with the Play Index, let's see who the worst pitcher was to win 20 games. Before I run this search, I am almost certain it will be a player from the 19th century, probably very early in the existance of the organized leagues. Indeed, we find Jack Lynch, who went 23-21 with a 3.61 ERA for the New York Metropolitans. A 3.61 ERA is bad? When the league average is 2.79, yes. One thing to note about 19th Century baseball. While Lynch allowed 152 earned runs, he allowed 243 total runs, 91 unearned runs. Teams committed so many errors that team defense contributed perhaps more to run prevention than team pitching.
Moving forward to the 20th century, we come up with Henry Schmidt. Schmidt went 22-13 with the Brooklyn Superbas, his 3.83 ERA leading to an 83 ERA+. He had the best win/loss percentage on his team, though they finished fifth overall in runs scored. Schmidt never pitched an inning in the majors outside of 1903.
Modern time, it is Lew Burdette. Burdette pitched 289.7 innings, walked 38 batters and gave up 38 home runs. Admittedly the ERA+ totals are not impressively low, showing that most 20 game winners have legit talent, particularly if they do it more than once. (I did not say Hall of Fame talent, so don't jump the gun on Jack Morris.)
Coming up in the near future, best swansong seasons of all time. You can probably guess #1.
Had this idea at work. Simple concept, create an All-Star team using only one player from each country. 25 man roster, plus a manager.
C: Dave Nilsson, Australia
1B: Sadaharu Oh, Japan
2B: Glenn Hubbard, Germany
SS: Luis Aparicio, Venezuela
3B: Reno Bertoia, Italy
LF: Larry Walker, Canada
CF: Devon White, Jamaica
RF: Roberto Clemente, Puerto Rico
DH: Babe Ruth, USA
SP Pedro Martinez, Dominican Republic
SP: Bert Blyleven, Netherlands
SP: Chien-Ming Wang, Taiwan
SP: Dennis Martinez, Nicaragua
SP: Tony Mullane: Ireland
CL: Mariano Rivera, Panama
RP: Lance Painter, United Kingdom
RP: Moe Drabowsky, Poland
RP: Danny Graves, Vietnam
RP: Bobby Chouinard, Phillipines
RP: Byung-Hyun Kim, Korea
C: Eddie Ainsmith, Russia
IF: Orlando Cabrera, Columbia
IF: Hector Espino, Mexico (the minor league home run king)
OF: Elmer Valo, Czechoslovakia
Manager: Bruce Bochy, France
The news out of Philadelphia is that the Phillies want to persue free agent outfielder Alfonso Soriano. Presumably they would trade Pat Burrell to open up left field. Soriano has long been looked at in the sabermetric community as an overrated player, even a bad one. At some points, that flies in the face of logic. What do we make of Soriano? Is he a promising player into his 30s, or a potential liability?
Soriano's comparables at his age include Howard Johnson, Tony Batista, Matt Williams, Bob Horner and Jeff Kent. Howard Johnson is an interesting case. Like Soriano, Johnson had a huge year at age 30, hitting 38 home runs and stealing 30 bases. Johnson hit .233 the next season with 7 home runs. Ouch. Still, you wonder how accurate the comparisons are given that Soriano didn't get started until he was 25, now plays left field, and has plate discipline unlike most of his comparables.
Using Lee Sinins' sabermetric encyclopedia, I sought to create a new group of comparables. I asked the program to give me a list of all players who hit 150 home runs, stole 150 bases, and produced an OBP between .315 and .340 (Soriano's is .325). The list produced fifteen players, one of which is Soriano. That leaves us with 14 comps. Let's take a look at them, purely after age 30.
EXCELLENT: Andre Dawson
VERY GOOD: Dave Parker, Steve Finley, Dante Bichette
GOOD: Bill Buckner, Ron Gant, Devon White
FAIR: Vada Pinson, Juan Samuel, Raul Mondesi, Claudell Washington
POOR: Marquis Grissom, Lloyd Moseby, Howard Johnson
Dawson made five all-star teams, Bichette and Parker made three, and Finley two. Except for Dawson, none were truly great players in their 30s. Most players remained productive well into their careers though. We would expect players with high stolen base totals to remain good later on, as truly athletic players at 50% are still good athletes. What's interesting is that Soriano has a higher isolated power figure than any other player on the list.
Going forward, it's difficult to tell what to expect. Players of Soriano's caliber don't remain stars, but Soriano's such a unique player that he may buck the trend. You hope that the Phillies (or any team) have him scouted well, and have taken the stats into consideration.
Last time out I looked at players who led MLB in Runs Created Above Position over a ten year span. Most of the players are obvious. Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, etc. Some of the names however seemed surprising. In this entry I hope to shed some light on the lesser lights of the list.
Fred Dunlap (1876)
As I mentioned in the previous entry, Dunlap's position rests entirely on the strength of a single season in the Union Association, undoubtedly the weakest league ever considered a Major. Dunlap in 1884 collected 185 hits and walked 29 times. From this he managed to score 160 runs. To give you an idea of 19th century baseball, the U.A. saw 2,500 earned runs scored, and 2,325 unearned runs. No clue how many times Dunlap reached via error, but it was probably a significant number. Fielding percentages in the league ranged from .841 to .892. If we rated players from this era solely upon their performance in the National League, Dunlap would rate 11th.
King Kelly (1877-1879)
Kelly in his day was likely the most popular player of the 19th Century. There are volumes of information you can read on him, both as a person and a player. Kelly was simply one of the first matinée idols of baseball. Kelly won two batting titles and led his league in runs three times. Some batters of the day were better, such as Cap Anson and Roger Connor. Kelly comes to the front of the pack due to his playing catcher and right field for the majority of his career.
Dan Brouthers (1880-1886)
Simply the preeminant hitter of his era, Brouthers led his league in batting average five times, slugging percentage seven times, and OPS eight times.
Billy Hamilton (1887-1891)
The first great leadoff man. Hamilton's 912 career steals stood until Brock broke the record in 1977.* Hamilton also still holds the record for runs scored in a season, with 196.
*Yes, Brock broke Cobb's record. Baseball-Reference credits Hamilton with 912 stolen bases, I assume a revised total.
Arky Vaughan (1933)
Vaughan led the league in OBP three straight years, as a shortstop. At his peak he was one of the greatest shortstops of all time. Vaughan made more plate appearances than Joe Dimaggio, and struck out less.
Frank Robinson (1960-61)
A bit of a surprise, Robinson led the league in OPS and slugging percentage four times, and won two MVP awards.
Who would you take to start a franchise? This is a popular question for baseball arguments. The idea is to choose not only the best player, but the player who will continue to produce in the future. Barry Bonds was a dominant hitter in 2004, but would you take him to start a team knowing he was 40 and a few years (we presume) from retirement? With that premise in mind, I sought to devise a list of the players who would answer that question throughout history. For example, if you were starting a team in 1965, who would be the first player you would want?
A few parameters. First, if I asked software what player produced the most post-1950, it would be Barry Bonds. This is unrealistic as Bonds would not debut until decades later. So I looked at statistics for ten years following the year in question. For 1950, I would look at statistics from 1950 to 1959. This provides a good result, limiting players who produced by hanging on. I drew up the leaders in Runs Created Above Position (RCAP). This is similar to Runs Created Above Average, except it looks at average production at the position instead of the league as a whole. This prevents the list from being dominated by simply the best hitters. Playing a premium defensive position helps. Keep in mind however that the system does not take defense into account. A player such as Ozzie Smith or Willie Mays might not get their just due. The Mantle vs. Mays arguments we could hear all day. You'll also note that this lacks pitchers. They might comprise a second list in the future. It is the best of what we have so far.
A note on war service. Several players, notably Ted Williams, missed time in the Majors due to military service. When evaluating them as players, it is proper to give them credit for time missed. In this project however, it counts against them. Baseball itself did not stop for war, and teams who lost players missed their services, creating a real impact on their overall success. Would you start a team with a player you knew would miss four years? Probably not.
Barry Bonds (1986-1997)
Wade Boggs (1980-83, 1985)
Rickey Henderson (1984)
George Brett (1979)
Mike Schmidt (1975-78)
Joe Morgan (1965-74)
Dick Allen (1964)
Hank Aaron (1962-63)
Frank Robinson (1960-61)
Willie Mays (1958-59)
Mickey Mantle (1950-57)
Stan Musial (1942-45, 1948-49)
Ted Williams (1937-41, 1946-47)
Mel Ott (1934-36)
Arky Vaughan (1933)
Jimmie Foxx (1932)
Lou Gehrig (1927-31)
Babe Ruth (1914-15, 1917-26)
Rogers Hornsby (1916)
Ty Cobb (1906-13)
Honus Wagner (1896-05)
Ed Delahanty (1892-95)
Billy Hamilton (1887-91)
Dan Brouthers (1880-86)
King Kelly (1877-79)
Fred Dunlap (1876)
Twenty-six players are on the list. Of those, 22 are enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Two are ineligible. That leaves out Dick Allen and Fred Dunlap. Allen missed half a career and was considered a clubhouse cancer. Fred Dunlap's presence surprised me. Looking at his career, his placement is explained by an excellent 1884 season. .412 batting average, 250 OPS+, 13 home runs, .621 slugging percentage. This is in a league where the total slugging percentage was .316! Therein lies the problem. The league in question is the Union Association. The UA lasted one season. Dunlap's OPS in the UA in 1884 was 1.069. He sandwiched that season between seasons in the National League, where he collected OPS's of .813 and .667 in the seasons before and after. When a player has a performance spike like that, you have to question its legitimacy.
1 Fred Dunlap 272
2 King Kelly 234
3 Charley Jones 233
4 Pete Browning 232
5 Cap Anson 222
6 Dan Brouthers 205
7 Jim O'Rourke 203
8 George Gore 187
9 Roger Connor 186
10 Paul Hines 183
Of Dunlap's figure, 135 came from the 1884 season alone. I can not accept that. Given King Kelly's appeal as a gate attraction, he is probably the rightful holder of the title in 1876 as well, thr birth of the National League.
One other fun variation to note immediately. Babe Ruth holds the title from 1914-26 except for one year, 1916. You might note that 1916 is the one that would run until 1925. That was the season where Ruth missed serious time due to a mysterious stomach ailment and a suspension. Rogers Hornsby in 1925 hit .403 with 39 home runs and a .736 slugging percentage. Perfect conditions for a one year takeover.
Any player who held the honor for five or more years is probably in the discussion as one of the greatest players of all time. I will likely follow up on some of the other names on the list. Feel free to leave questions and/or feedback.
Before I begin, another word on Joe Gordon. Despite a short career, Gordon is one of only four second baseman to hit 25+ home runs in five seasons. The others are Rogers Hornsby, Ryne Sandberg and Jeff Kent.
Mickey Lolich: Lolich's inclusion on the ballot is frankly puzzling. Lolich compiled a 217-191 record, not a great percentage for a candidate with that few wins. His sole qualification seems that for a two year stretch he compiled a 47-28 record with a 2.73 ERA. Using Lee Sinins' Runs Saved Above Average, his 52 RSAA over that stretch placed him eighth among pitchers. Only one of his ten comps are in the Hall, and that pitcher (Jim Bunning) had far superior ERAs.
Sparky Lyle: With four closers in the Hall and more coming, perhaps we missed one or two? Looking over relievers with 200+ games finished in the 1970s, Lyle ranks 5th in WHIP, 2nd in ERA, 2nd in saves, 2nd in RSAA, and 7th in strikeout/walk ratio. He won a Cy Young award in 1977. I can't endorse Lyle however. He was not the best reliever of the 1970s, instead competing for second among John Hiller, Mike Marshall, and others not considered candidates at all. None of his ten comparable pitchers are even candidates. The numbers just don't support this one.
Marty Marion: It is difficult to gauge Marion because his value rests on his defensive abilities. Contemporaries felt highly of Marion. He won an MVP award and finished in the top ten three times. He gained selection to eight consecutive All-Star games. Two caveats apply however. One, Marion only played thirteen seasons. Second, his best years occured during World War II when much of his competition was overseas. When there was no war, his OPS+ fell below 80. He simply was not a great player.
Roger Maris: Maris carries most of the loudest arguments towards his induction, and they may become louder yet with the steroid controversy looming over the new record holder(s). My position is that if that 61 did not appear on Maris's record, he would not be within a mile of the Hall of Fame. He won two MVP awards. He only appeared on four All-Star teams and only received any MVP support at all in one other season. None of his ten comparable players are in the Hall. Maris was a great player for two seasons. If two seasons of greatness are the standard of the Hall, then there are MANY other players who would deserve the honor.
Carl Mays: Carl Mays threw the pitch that killed Ray Chapman. He also compiled a 207-126 record, not many wins but an impressive winning percentage. Mays is another player in the "lost it early" group. Mays never dominated the league however, only finishing first in a handful of categories. He pitched for the Red Sox dynasty of the teens and the Yankees' dynasty of the early '20s. I suspect his win/loss record is due in part to pitching for great teams, and his other stats give him little extra support.
Minnie Minoso: Bill James' favorite candidate. The Minnie Minoso argument states that he didn't stick in the Majors until he was 26, and had a Hall of Fame career afterwards. If we take that statement for face value, how does Minoso rate with other left fielders, age 26 and older? I'm unimpressed. Minoso rates among the leaders, but those above him include illuminaries such as Bob Johnson and Luis Gonzalez, who are not serious candidates. Some like to support Minoso's candidacy by isolating his statistics in his 30s. Unless he collected 200 hits a year from ages 21-25, he would not have gotten 3,000 hits. Minoso finished in the top ten of MVP voting five times and made seven All-Star teams. Looking for a similar player, I spotted Ken Singleton. Minoso received more acclaim due to his speed, but they were roughly equal in value. Singleton is not a viable candidate. I can not support Minoso either.
Thurman Munson: Do you make an allowance for Munson passing away early? I don't believe you should, that Munson's case should be treated like any other injured player. But let's set that aside for the second. Using the same trick we used for Minoso, how does Munson compare with catchers up to the age of his death? Munson fails to impress in this regard. He rates 19th in OBP, 7th in hits, 11th in RBIs, 16th in RCAA, and 11th in Runs scored. Many non-Hall of Famers rank above him. Munson's slugging percentage fell off the table in 1978, so it's doubtful he had much left to contribute in his career. He wasn't good enough in his peak to merit induction.
Don Newcombe: Another pitcher with a brilliant peak, Newcombe compiled a 149-90 record. He debuted at the age of 23, so I doubt you can give him much of an adjustment for the color line. Newcombe had a few good years, even winning the MVP in 1956. He doesn't rate among the top five pitchers of his era however, and his record received a huge boost from the offense that played for him (four Hall of Famers, plus Gil Hodges). 149 wins is way too few for a serious candidate unless he dominates like Sandy Koufax or Dizzy Dean.
Lefty O'Doul: O'Doul hit .373 over a four year period from 1929 until 1932. That is superficially impressive, but the average hitter in the Baker Bowl in that era hit nearly .320. Phillies hitters in the 1930s received a greater boost from their environment than hitters enjoy at Coors Field today. O'Doul only reached 10 seasons thanks to four fruitless years as a pitcher early in his career. As a player, he is undeserving. HOWEVER, many argue that O'Doul deserves a boost because of his role as an ambassador to baseball in Japan. If you believe Buck O'Neil deserves the Hall, than O'Doul could merit induction under the same criteria.
The Rundown. None this round. Jim Kaat and Joe Gordon last round.
Tony Oliva: Impressive career OPS+ of 131 over a 15 year career. Oliva made eight All-Star teams, finished sixth or higher in MVP votes four times, and won three batting titles. Oliva played his prime in an extremely tough offensive era. His peak is fairly impressive. However, Oliva does not rank in the top 100 of any offensive category except intentional walks. Only one of Oliva's ten most comparable players is in the Hall. That player, George Kelly, is considered one of the worst players in the Hall. As a right fielder, Oliva's totals just don't stack up.
Al Oliver: Oliver is an interesting Hall of Fame candidate. Oliver hit .303 over his career, made seven All-Star teams and enjoyed three top ten MVP finishes. He wasn't a great player at any point however. Looking over center fielders in the 1970s, Oliver ranks behind Fred Lynn, Bobby Murcer, Cesar Cedeno, Amos Otis and maybe Rick Monday. Oliver is indistinguishable from several of his era, not the mark of a Hall of Famer.
Vada Pinson: Like Oliver, Pinson accumulated great counting totals from being a good player for a long time. Pinson collected 2,757 career hits. Again however, there is little to support that Pinson was a great player. Pinson made just two All-Star games, and won just one Gold Glove, meaning his defensive capabilities can't carry him in. Pinson only finished in the Top ten of MVP balloting twice. His numbers do not merit induction.
Ron Santo: Off all players on the ballot, Santo is the one player who absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt deserves induction. At the time of his retirement, Santo ranked 5th among third basemen in hits, second in home runs, 3rd in OPS, and 2nd in RBIs. He also won five Gold Gloves. He was a dominant offensive/defensive player for five years.
Luis Tiant: Best known for his role on the 1975 Red Sox, Tiant compiled a 229-172 record over his career. His career record is similar to Catfish Hunter's. The difference is that Catfish won 20 games five years in a row and had a better peak. The problem with Tiant is that he only appeared in three All-Star games and never came close to the Cy Young award. Over the span of Tiant's career (1964-82), he ranks 31st in ERA and 10th in wins. There were many better pitchers in that era.
Joe Torre: Torre's a tough player to categorize. He played the most games at catcher, but only 40% of them. He split time at first and third base as well. He won a gold glove behind the plate, but was considered a poor defensive catcher. Torre played for nine All-Star teams and his 129 OPS+ would be excellent if you classified him as a catcher. Torre's a similar player in value to Gene Tenace, except that Torre played over 500 more games and won an MVP award. I'd vote for Torre. He's borderline, but he managed four championship clubs.
Cecil Travis: I wrote a piece on Cecil Travis a couple weeks ago. I don't remember if I published it, but the essential point is that Travis was a budding superstar whose career was cut short after he suffered frostbite fighting in the 2nd World War. Travis might have enjoyed a Hall of Fame career. When he left for war, he had a .331 career batting average. I'm not certain though. I don't feel comfortable voting for him, given that dozens of players were great early in their careers but lost Hall of Fame careers due to attrition.
Mickey Vernon: I don't see it. Unimpressive career totals, even accounting for a tough hitters' environment in Washington. Vernon won two batting titles and led the league in doubles three times, but he was not a dominant offensive force. He was the Mark Grace of his era.
Maury Wills: Lou Brock got the record, but Maury Wills revolutionized stealing bases in the 1960s. Wills stole 104 bases in 117 tries in 1962. Wills was an average hitter (for a shortstop) and a decent glove man. I don't think it's enough to get him into the Hall however. Wills wasn't any better than Jim Fregosi, a great player in his 20s but a non candidate. Wills was also considered a negative in regards to character.
Rundown: Santo and Torre alongside Joe Gordon and Jim Kaat from earlier rundowns. Four candidates from a group of 27.
With the Baseball Writers making their decision, the Baseball Hall of Fame discussion turns to the Veterans' Committee ballot. The Veterans ballot occurs every other year, and is voted on by all living Hall of Famers, as well as writers and broadcasters. Currently, I believe the system is ill-constructed. There are too many vaguely qualified candidates on the ballot and no way to reach a consensus. The system would be much improved by taking the top ten vote getters and running a second, run-off ballot. As it stands, I doubt this system will result in any new inductees.
Dick Allen: One of the most controversial players in the history of baseball. Allen seemingly created trouble wherever he landed. Often, teams were eager to get rid of him despite his tremendous production. His talent is unquestioned. In 1966, Allen slugged .632 when the league as a whole slugged .399. Allen led the league in OPS four times, slugging three times, and On Base Percentage twice. His adjusted OPS ranks 21st all time. Unfortunately, he had a relatively short career. Bill James argues that Allen was more trouble than he was worth. I'm not sure what to make of it. Right no, I'd have to say no.
Bobby Bonds: Until Andre Dawson and Barry Bonds, Bobby was the greatest combination of power and speed in the history of baseball. Bobby, like Dick Allen, had a relatively short career. Unlike Dick Allen, he was not a dominant player. He did not win an MVP and he played in just three All-Star games. He wasn't great, and he wasn't very good for long enough.
Ken Boyer: Boyer is a tremendously underrated player, one who receives little acclaim because he played in an era of low offense and contributed across the board. For seven years, Boyer hit 23-32 home runs a season and collected 90+ RBIs. At the same time, he won five Gold Gloves at third base. Boyer finished in the top ten of MVP voting three times, winning the award in 1964. I can't endorse Boyer, but it is closer than people realize.
Rocky Colavito: A feared power hitter in his prime, Colavito hit 40+ home runs in three seasons. He finished in the top ten of MVP voting four times. Again, Colavito had a short career, retiring at the age of 34. Rocky led the league in home runs once, RBIs once, slugging percentage once. None of his ten comparable players are in the Hall of Fame. Colavito just wasn't good enough at his peak to merit induction.
Wes Ferrell: 193 wins and a 4.04 ERA is not generally remarkable. Ferrell did win 91 games over four seasons. He pitched in a genuinely difficult era for pitchers. The most remarkable statistic about Ferrell is his hitting. Ferrell hit .280/.351/.446 over the course of his career, league average numbers out of the pitching spot. His .601 winning percentage is impressive, but he just didn't last long enough. Ferrell pitched just 8 games after turning 30.
Curt Flood: Flood essentially retired rather than accept a trade to the Philadelphia Phillies. He challenged baseball's reserve clause and lost. Again we have a player who enjoyed a short career. During his career, Flood was a league average hitter with a sensational glove. Flood was possibly one of the top five defensive outfielders of all time. However, I can't see how half a season of that makes a Hall of Famer.
Joe Gordon: Yet another short career guy. Gordon gets a pass for two seasons however because he served during World War II. Gordon was absolutely a Hall of Fame talent at his peak. He won an MVP and finished in the top ten four other times. He made the All-Star team nine times, every season except his first and last years. Gordon played on five championship clubs. Given credit for the war years, I think Gordon deserves induction.
Gil Hodges: A popular player, but only the 5th or 6th best player on his club. Hodges only finished in the top ten of MVP balloting twice, and never really got close to winning. Hodges never led the league in a significant offensive category. Hodges accumulated a lot of RBIs because he played on great teams, but he was not a great player. The only way he merits induction is if you give him credit for managing the Miracle Mets. I can't see it.
Jim Kaat: Kaat is an interesting case. He wasn't a great pitcher, just a very good one who lasted a LONG time. That might not sound impressive, but I've always maintained that if it were easy to stick around and accumulate numbers, more pitchers would do it. Kaat's numbers are similar to Robin Roberts and Ferguson Jenkins. He's borderline, but I would vote for him. 283 wins is enough.
Rundown: Jim Kaat and Joe Gordon in this batch. Mickey Lolich through Lefty O'Doul in the next batch, and we'll finish with Tony Oliva through Maury Wills.
Often in historical discussions, a sportscaster might bring up a player such as Roberto Clemente or Sandy Koufax. They will cite the player's first few seasons, noting that while they were a superstar player, they struggled in their first few seasons in the majors. Koufax is a particularly good example. He reached the Majors at the age of 19, and in his first six seasons posted a rather pedestrian record of 36-40. This type of analysis misses a key point. Most comparable players were not in the majors at ALL at that age. A great deal of players were not yet even in professional ball.
Koufax played early in the major leagues because he was a "bonus baby." A player who earned a large bonus as an amateur was required to spend two seasons on the major league roster. This rule was intended to prevent teams from hoarding top amateur talent. Clemente was actually a Rule V pick, again a player required to play in the minors at an early age.
Often we tend to evaluate players by looking at career rate stats. Quirks in early or late career performance can skew these results however. I feel it is appropriate to focus on player's primes to get a fair evaluation of their true abilities. This is not the end-all of evaluation. Rather, it simply provides a second look at the great players, allowing us to avoid inaccurate ratings simply because of a fluke in the data set.
Over the offseason, I plan to rate the top five in baseball history at each position. I plan to use statistics, era adjustments, non-MLB players (i.e. negro leaguers), and perhaps even raw skills. These ratings may come out differently than expected, but I hope to find it a worthwhile and enjoyable project.
Eight years ago, Bill James produced his book on win shares. In that book, he listed each franchise's top 25 players by that statistic. In the ensuing period, the Phillies have had a run of success, finishing above .500 nearly every season and winning back to back division titles for only the second time in franchise history. With the club now producing several franchise players, I thought it might be worth updating the list.
1. Mike Schmidt (467)
2. Ed Delahanty (365)
3. Richie Ashburn (289)
4. Robin Roberts (277)
5. Steve Carlton (276)
6. Sherry Magee (274)
7. Bobby Abreu (247)
8. Pete Alexander (238)
9. Roy Thomas (233)
10. Del Ennis (215)
11. Dick Allen (211)
12. Johnny Callison (209)
t-13. Gavvy Cravath (188)
t-13. Chuck Klein (188)
t-15. Jimmy Rollins (184)
t-15. Greg Luzinski (184)
17. Willie Jones (179)
18. John Titus (177)
19. Cy Williams (176)
20. Sam Thompson (166)
21. Billy Hamilton (165)
22. Pat Burrell (163)
t-23. Von Hayes (158)
t-23. Fred Luderus (158)
25. Darren Daulton (154)
Chase Utley currently has 126 win shares. He is signed through 2013, and if he maintains his current pace he could begin to challenge that top six. Ryan Howard has 94 win shares. No one else on the team is currently within striking distance. Rollins is under contract through 2011. Again, he could end up with about 260 win shares at the end of his deal.
Since my dad sent something out on my outbox, I occasionally get emails from the HRCC of Pennsylvania. That's some Republican lobbying group. Got this one in today.
If you want to lobby for your cause, that is perfectly fine. Politics is all about that. In this case, I agree with them on the merits of the issue. I am against putting tolls on I-80. Principally, it is a national highway and if New Jersey hasn't put tolls on it, no state should. What bothers me is when they try arguments such as the one bolded above. Trucking companies are charging less than they have to currently because there are no tolls on I-80? Putting that aside, gasoline prices have risen 300% in the last eight years. Let me make a quick count of the business lost. Certainly doesn't seem to stop developers from putting up a shopping outlet featuring a Best Buy, or a waterpark themed resort, or a brand new Casino and resort.
Honestly, how stupid do you think I am? If you want a good argument, state that drivers will clog already crowded side roads to avoid toll plazas. That's a good argument, and it will carry further appeal to the citizens. It's direct.
And on a side note, I'm tired of their "OMG big cities will eat your money" cry that they seem to bring out on every issue.
Recently an ESPN Sportsnation poll stated that approximately 83% of respondents do not believe Tim Raines was a Hall of Fame caliber player. This is extremely unfortunately. Tim Raines was not only a Hall of Famer, but if left out he would clearly stand as the most deserving player left out. On statistics alone, he rates higher than Mark McGwire. In making this argument I am going to attempt to avoid bogging down the argument with too many sabermetrics. Runs Created Above Average and WARP3 might view Raines as deserving, but they are not going to convince the casual fan. My goal is to convince the casual baseball fan that Raines deserves the Hall.
Tim Raines' stat line is not convincing at first glance. A .385 On Base Percentage is good but not among the greats. .425 is quite pedestrian for a slugging percentage. Delving into Raines' value requires more work. Start with his stolen bases (808, 5th all time). The four players with more steals are all in the Hall, and Vince Coleman is the only non-Hall of Famer among the top ten. Of those ten, Raines was caught stealing the least, only 146 times. In fact, Raines' stolen base percentage of 84% is the greatest stolen base percentage of all time. Raines reached base almost 4,000 times in his career, good for 38th all time. When he did reach base, which was often, he was absolute terror on the basepaths. He's 46th all time in runs scored. 32nd in walks.
Tim Raines vs. Jim Rice
Jim Rice seems like an inexplicable Hall candidate. Let's compare the two. Raines played in over 400 more games, collecting more runs, hits, doubles, triples, steals, walks, and less strikeouts and double plays. Those are counting statistics so maybe that is unfair. Raines' OBP is 33 points higher. Rice played in eight All-Star games, Raines played in seven. Rice played left field and DH'ed in Fenway Park, while Raines played left field in Stade Olympique.
But Rice's argument is all about peak. In 1978 Rice won the MVP award, hitting .315 with 46 home runs and 139 RBIs. That is impressive. Compare that with Raines in 1987. Raines hit .330, had a .429 OBP (59 points higher than Rice), walked 90 times, hit 18 home runs, scored 123 runs, and stole 50 bases in 55 tries. Rice was a feared hitter? Raines was intentionally walked 26 times, 14 out of the leadoff slot. In fact, Raines was intentionally walked more than 10 times in a season four times. Rice was intentionally walked ten times in his best season. What all this indicates to me is that managers saw Rice as a power threat, but one they could beat. Raines? No way. (In fact, Raines' prolific on base tendencies earned Tim Wallach 123 RBIs and a 4th place MVP finish.)
Tim Raines vs. Lou Brock
Brock is seen as a good Hall of Famer. 3,000 hits, held the record for stolen bases until Rickey Henderson. Draw up the list, and Raines is clearly a superior player. Raines stole 130 less bases, but was caught 161 less times. Raines had a higher batting average, higher slugging percentage, and a MUCH higher on base percentage. Raines had 400 less hits but over 500 more walks. More impressively, Raines actually appeared in more All-Star games.
Skip this part if you don't believe in the stat at all, but you may find this enlightening. Tim Raines has 390 career win shares. Every player with 400+ win shares is in the Hall of Fame. Two players with more win shares than Raines are out. One is Tony Mullane, who racked up wins pitching in the inferior American Association in the 1880s. The other is Bill Dahlen, an unheralded infielder of the turn of the century. There are 70 players with more than 363 win shares, and all but two who are eligible are in. That's rare company, and Raines is smack in the middle of it.
I hope if you were unconvinced, you are now. If not, I'd like to hear from you.
There Were Others
On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson showed class and courage in dealing with the conditions of his time. He was not the only player, however. Four other african-americans played Major League Baseball in '47. They faced the same obstacles, but not all experienced similar success.
Larry Doby: The Cleveland Indians became the second MLB team to desegregate, and the first American League team. Doby debuted on July 5th and spent most of the season as a pinch hitter. Doby hit just .156 (5 for 32) with one walk and one double. Despite his poor performance, Doby stayed with the club for eight more seasons. Owner Bill Veeck claimed he desired to buy the Phillies in 1943 and staff them with negro league players, but this claim has never been substantiated. Veeck did integrate the Indians however, and reaped the rewards the next season. Larry Doby blossomed, the team added Satchel Paige to its bullpen and the club won the World Series.
Hank Thompson and Willard Brown: The St. Louis Browns next tried their hand at integration. Observers might remember Jackie's problems with St. Louis. It proved a less than ideal environment. Thompson played second base and hit .256 with plate discipline but no power. Willard Brown hit just .179. Brown hit the first home run by a black player in the American League. As Bill James' Historical Abstract reports, Brown had trouble hitting with lighter bats. Trying to find a heavier bat to suit his tastes, he found a bat with the knob broken off. He hit the home run with the bat. Afterwards the prior owner, Jeff Heath, reclaimed the bat and shattered it against the clubhouse wall. Clearly player relations were not fully resolved before the experiment. Hank Thompson returned to the Majors in 1949 and integrated the New York Giants, spending eight years with the club. Willard Brown never again played in the Majors, but gained election to the Hall of Fame in the special election of 2006.
Dan Bankhead: One of five baseball playing brothers, Bankhead joined Jackie Robinson on the Dodgers in late August. Bankhead made four pitching appearances in relief, pitching ten innings and allowing eight runs (good for a 7.20 ERA). Bankhead returned to the Dodgers in 1950 as a long reliever/spot starter, this time posting a 5.50 ERA with a 9-4 record.
Except for Doby, none are truly memorable figures in baseball. But all experienced the same trials and tribulations as Jackie, and deserve recognition in their own right.
The World Series is over, the Cardinals defeating the Tigers in five games. And in a way, I am glad the Series is over. Yes, it means no more Major League Baseball until March. But this Series was one of the more excruciating baseball experiences of my life. There were times I did not want to even watch the games, but felt obligated.
Neither the Cardinals or Tigers really set the world afire. This is one of the problems with parity. Yes, you have a greater number of teams competing for the postseason. The problem is that the more parity you add, the closer the league as a whole finishes to .500. It isn't necessarily a lack of overall quality, it could be balance. And when you get to the postseason, you no longer have those strong teams that everyone wants to watch. When you combine that with a eight team postseason, you get a system where the World Series combatants are two seemingly random teams instead of the two best teams in the league.
Of course, that shouldn't be an issue to a hardcore fanatic like myself. The problem, and it pains me to say this, was that the games were boring. With a capital B. Game One saw the Cards score the game-winning run in the third inning. The Tigers got the game-winning run in the first inning of game two. The Cards scored the game winning run in the fourth innings of game three and five. Only the fourth game was of any quality whatsoever. Compare that with last year's sweep, in which three of four were decided in the eighth inning or later.
I don't know what you do about that quite honestly. Sometimes you get classics and sometimes you get stinkers. I guess the big issue is when you combine it with all of Fox's crap. God Bless America during the stretch, endless crowd shots, quick camera work, and those awful, awful commercials. All I know is that for the next four months, all I have are my dvds. Commercial free, classic baseball. Beats the hell out of watching Fox.
Over the last few seasons the Phillies have developed into a perennial contender. From two consecutive 90+ loss seasons in 1996-97, the Phillies improved to an average win total of 85 wins the last five seasons. Despite the growth however, fans grew restless over the lack of a playoff berth. So the Phillies' upper brass did the only reasonable thing. Fire the general manager. Surely a proven baseball man like Pat Gillick would lead the Phillies to a division title, right? Well, sixty-eight games into the season, the Phillies' record stands at 33-35. The Phils have developed mediocracy before, but the Mets' hot streak has landed the Phils 9.5 games out, and seemingly on the brink. So what's gone wrong so far?
HITTING: The Phillies currently rank sixth in the National League in runs scored. This is not normally a poor result, but Citizens Bank Park inflates run scoring. The exact degree of inflation I am unsure of, but it is reasonable to call the offense about average. Looking at run production from each position in the lineup, here's where the Phillies rank by OPS (the sum of On Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage).
C: .625 (14th)
1B: .912 (5th)
2B: .871 (1st)
SS: .718 (10th)
3B: .666 (15th)
LF: .909 (6th)
CF: .850 (2nd)
RF: .931 (2nd)
DH: Have not played a DH game
PH: .521 (16th)
Production at second base (Chase Utley), center field (Aaron Rowand and Shane Victorino) and right field (Bobby Abreu) has been excellent. Production from left field (Pat Burrell) and first base (Ryan Howard is good to very good). Production from shortstop (Jimmy Rollins) is fair.
Catcher and third base are the big problems. At catcher we have seen 39 games from Sal Fasano, 25 games from Mike Lieberthal, 14 from Carlos Ruiz, and 4 from Chris Coste. Fasano's production has been surprisingly passable, with a .321 On Base Percentage and .433 slugging percentage. I was honestly expecting to rip Fasano's offense, but it's good. Lieberthal hit poorly, but I expect his averages would improve given time. Carlos Ruiz's 5 for 35 performance and Coste's 2 for 13 drag down the percentages here.
David Bell has gotten the bulk of the playing time at third, and has produced a decent OBP (.335) but only a .383 slugging percentage. That's a bad sign from a righty at Citizens Bank Park. The average at third is dragged by Abraham Nunez hitting .139 in 36 at bats.
That brings us to the pinch hitting. The Phillies rank dead last in the National League in OPS, and given that pinch hitters are often used in key spots in the game, that's an awful mark. David Dellucci is 10 for 37 off the bench, with 4 doubles, 2 triples and a homer. That's quite a few extra base hits, good for a .568 slugging percentage. The rest of the bench has been awful. Abraham Nunez is 3 for 29 off the bench, with one walk. That's 26 outs in 30 plate appearances. Alex S. Gonzalez was 2 for 13 before his retirement. Shane Victorino went 5 for 20, all singles. Nine more batters have combined for a 1 for 20 performance as pinch hitters, the lone mark being a solo home run from Ryan Howard.
The big problem for the Phillies' offense is situational hitting. The Phillies are 15th in the league in batting average with runners in scoring position, 15th in the league. There's little that can be done for that except wait. The Phils do need to add punch to their bench. David Dellucci is a platoon hitter and opposing teams are frequently able to outmanuever Charlie Manuel and bring in their situational lefties.
PITCHING: In short, the rotation has been awful and the bullpen is sensational. The Phillies' starters have compiled a 5.53 ERA, by far the worst in the league. The bullpen on the other hand has produced a 3.18 mark, best in the league. If only they ever got a lead to work with. Eude Brito and Gavin Floyd were awful in their stints, and have landed in AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Both walked far too many batters. Ryan Madson, thought to be a rotation prospect, crashed in his rotation try yet remains there due to a lack of other starters. Jon Lieber's awful numbers are the product of a bad April. He's since recovered, but his trip to the DL has forced the Phils to use subpar starters in his absence. Cole Hamels was supposed to provide some help, but he's walked 14 batters in 25 innings and failed to make it past the third inning in his last start. Brett Myers is the staff ace but even he got shelled his last two starts.
The bullpen meanwhile has been outstanding thanks to strong performances by Tom Gordon, Rheal Cormier and Geoff Geary. The other relievers have contributed, and only Brian Sanches and Julio Santana have ERAs below the league average. Both of those pitchers have pitched few innings. Call me crazy, but it is time Ryan Franklin got a rotation spot. The idea of having Franklin was to have some rotation depth. Well guess what. The rotation sucks. Franklin might be a bad pitcher, but there's no way he can make this abomination any worse. Get him in there and try to hold out until Randy Wolf comes back. I know managers hate to mess with the bullpen, but they aren't handing out booby prizes for holding onto four run deficits.
FIELDING: The Fielding Bible rated the Phillies as having the majors' best defense. Given the strong uniform performance of the Phils' bullpen despite average peripherals, I would buy that. The Phils surprisingly are middle of the pack in stolen base percentage. They have only allowed 11 steals all season.
The problem with the Phillies is their awful rotation. Scott Mathieson performed well in a spot start, but I doubt he is a long term solution this season. If the Phillies want to make a realistic run, they need to add a starting pitcher. Whether the cost is worth making a run this season or holding off for a future season with their farm club is up for debate. There is almost no hitting in the system, meaning a trade would likely be pitcher for pitcher. It is easy to trade away the very solution to your problem in that manner. Patience is difficult, but it is probably best for the Phillies to try Ryan Franklin, Randy Wolf, Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez to shore up the rotation. If it fails, look for serious pitching help in the offseason.
I should have included this in my discussion regarding Hall of Fame relievers. How many relievers should go in the Hall? It is my firm belief that relief pitchers are simply not as good as starting pitchers. Why should a mediocre pitcher go ahead of a very good pitcher simply because he was placed in an easier role?
Easier role? Yes, there is a lot of talk placed upon the closer pitching in such a high pressure role, and how crucial he is to a team. The closer is important, no doubt. But the fact is that nearly all closers are pitchers who failed miserably as starting pitchers, if they even held that role. Hall of Fame reliever Rollie Fingers went 7-17 as a starter. Goose Gossage went 9-22. Lee Smith went 0-5 in six starts. Eric Gagne has a 4.68 career ERA as a starter. Mariano Rivera's ERA as a starter was 5.94.
There's an obvious bias at work. Relievers tend to be starters before their prime, and if they were great starters they wouldn't have been moved. Just out of curiosity, I wanted to take a look at starters, as relievers. This is more difficult because great starters in this era almost never make relief appearances. Ace starters in the dead ball era, such as Christy Mathewson and Mordecai Brown, used to double as their teams' relief ace.
David Wells made 171 relief appearances as a reliever. Wells had a 3.23 ERA as a reliever, compared to 4.13 as a starter. Pedro Martinez's ERA in 67 relief appearances is a paltry 2.18. There are a few counter examples. Curt Schilling had a lower ERA in the rotation. Again, there's a lot of statistical noise though.
What amazes me looking at pitchers like Gagne is that more teams do not make relievers out of their failed starting pitching prospects. The Cincinnati Reds just gave up two starting position players largely for bullpen help. Instead of paying top dollar for relievers, why not try to produce some of your own? A guy like John Stephens, ineffective in the rotation, could become the next Stu Miller.
There's room for relievers in the Hall. However, voters must be VERY selective. The current trend of allowing one every few years is wise. It's better to be frugal now than to elect many and make some irreversible mistakes.
1. Raw drafts Brian Kendrick and Paul London
This draft harkens back to the memorable NFL draft of 1976 when the Minnesota Vikings drafted the entire offensive line of the University of Oklahoma with their first pick. It was a brilliant move then and a brilliant move now.
2. Smackdown drafts Kenny Dykstra
Good move drafted a pick here with a lot of upside. Kenny's name has a 2:0 K/BB ratio, a great sign for an up and coming young prospect. However, Dykstra leaves trails of tobacco juice in the outfield and some of his ideas come well out of left field. Injuries are a concern.
3. ECW drafts Viscera
Poor pick here from the ECW brand. Just like Big Val E. Puccio and Sal E. Graziano, Viscera will show ECW why big fat f*cks in wrestling don't age well, if at all.
4. Raw drafts The Sandman
The Sandman's 4-9 record looks unimpressive but his caliber of competition has been strong and he did win at Wrestlemania. If the Sandman can kick his smoking and drinking habits, he might finally realize the potential we all saw back in Joel Goodhart's Tri-State promotion years ago.
5. Smackdown selects Ryan Leaf
Awful. Awful pick. What the hell are they thinking?
6. ECW drafts the Miz.
He's still better than Justin Credible.
7. Raw drafts Daivari.
Raw must now decide whether to develop Daivari as a wrestler or as a manager. His wrestling skills are solid enough presently but scouts worry that his clothesline is too long and big-league wrestlers can make him swing and miss with it too often. As a manager, Daivari could not handle the Great Khali and one of my correspondents says, "how can he manager when he can't even manage him?" Yeah, I've since fired that guy.
8. Smackdown drafts the Major Brothers
Oh c'mon now. You really expect me to care? I'm getting something to eat.
9. Raw selects Willie Regal
Solid pick. His father Steven was a big star in World Championship Wrestling last century, and if William can tap into those bloodlines he can go far.
10. Smackdown selects Victoria
I'm going to dip into serious mode here a second. Melina is the top ladies' heel on Raw. Allowing Victoria to move to Smackdown where she can fill the same role is beneficial for all involved.
11. Raw selects Jillian Hall
This is why ECW skipped, because you can find better talent on the indies. Remember when we heard WCW was hiring 10-20 women and we all laughed at the utter stupidity?
Oh yeah, something smart alecky to say. Screw it. I've honestly NEVER seen this woman on tv.
12. Smackdown drafts Eugene.
Eugene? That's retarded. Good athlete but not much upstairs. Kind of like Kyle Drabek.
13. ECW drafts Johnny Nitro
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I picked up Out Of the Park Baseball a few weeks ago, a sim game that allows you to pick up any year in baseball history. One thing I've wanted to do is replay the Phillies' history from 1901 to the present. I don't know if I'm that nuts, but the idea pitiqued my curiosity enough to check out the Phils at the turn of the century. Reviewing that team revealed a few interesting things not just about the team, but about baseball in general at that time.
A few terms I am using in the stat line. WARP stands for wins above replacement player, a Baseball Prospectus stat. PRAA is pitching runs above average, created I believe by statistician Pete Palmer. When reviewing the stats, keep in mind the context. Batters actually hit for a higher average in 1901, .267 compared to .262 last year. The league slugging average however was a meager .348. Teams scored MORE runs in 1901, chiefly because teams made three times as many errors as they do today. That is why Earned Run Averages are much lower.
C Ed McFarlane (.285/.326/.356, 4.9 WARP, 10 win shares)
The Phils carried three catchers, Ed McFarlane, Klondike Douglass, and Fred Jacklitsch. All three were decent catchers at some point in their careers, although McFarlane was the best of the lot. These days, the rare team that carries three catchers does so in the event that they find themselves stuck without a catcher in a game. The Phils only changed catchers mid-game five times all season. Douglass was primarily a bat off the bench, and possibly a platoon partner for McFarlane. Catching was an extremely demanding position at that time, and catchers needed almost as much rest as pitchers.
1B Hughie Jennings (.262/.342/.354, 2.4 WARP, 8 win shares)
2B Bill Hallman (.184/.236/.236, 2.8 WARP, 5 win shares)
SS Monte Cross (.197/.281/.236, 3.3 WARP, 7 win shares)
3B Harry Wolverton (.309/.356/.369, 6.0 WARP, 15 win shares)
Hughie Jennings is the big name, a Hall of Fame player coming to the end of his career. Jennings was a great shortstop for five years with the Baltimore Orioles in the 1890s, and that combined with his career as a manager of the Detroit Tigers put him in the Hall. Jennings was an average hitter at this point, but he adequately replaced Jimmy Slagle, who performed poorly over the first two months. Wolverton was the best hitting infielder of the bunch, back when third base was more of a defensive position. Cross and Hallman were absolutely pathetic at the stick. Cross had some plate discipline but no pop. Hallman could bunt for outs.
LF Ed Delahanty (.354/.427/.528, 11.1 WARP, 33 win shares)
CF Roy Thomas (.309/.437/.334, 8.0 WARP, 24 win shares)
RF Elmer Flick (.333/.399/.500, 11.0 WARP, 30 win shares)
Two Hall of Famers, and Delahanty's one of the all time greats. Philadelphia from 1891 all the way through the mid-teens sported an absolutely spectacular outfield. They started with Delahanty/Billy Hamilton/Sam Thompson. When Hamilton left they brought in Roy Thomas, when Thompson left they got Flick and then John Titus (and later Gavy Cravath), and when Delahanty left they found Sherry Magee. Delahanty was a great slugger. Flick was a fantastic contact hitter with speed. And Roy Thomas was one of the most unique players in baseball history.
Roy Thomas has the biggest runs to RBI ratio in the history of the game. He did not hit for a great average (.290 career), had absolutely NO power (7 career home runs), and he wasn't a great basestealer (244 career steals was NOT a notable total at that time). What Thomas did was walk, and he walked a TON. Thomas led the National League in walks for seven out of eight seasons. Six times Thomas reached base the most times in the league, and twice he led the league in OBP. Purely on the strength of his OBP, he was one of the greatest leadoff hitters of all time.
IF Shad Barry (.246/.294/.298, 1.7 WARP, 4 win shares)
OF Jimmy Slagle (.202/.277/.273, 1.5 WARP, 3 win shares)
C Klondike Douglass (.324/.371/.370, 2.8 WARP, 7 win shares)
C Fred Jacklitsch (.250/.328/.333, 1.8 WARP, 4 win shares)
2B Joe Dolan (.081/.128/.081, -0.3 WARP, 0 win shares)
2B Bert Conn (.192/.250/.231, 0.1 WARP, 0 win shares)
OF George Browne (.222/.263/.278, 0 WARP, 0 win shares)
It is important to note that teams did not construct rosters the way they do today. There were no organized minor leagues at the time, so teams simply carried promising prospects on their big league rosters. Bench players were those not good enough to play every day. Of this bunch, Dolan was cut shortly into the season, and Jimmy Slagle was released in late June. Slagle went on to become part of the Cubs' dynasty, although the Phils had a great left fielder of their own of that time in Sherry Magee. Shad Barry came in and played all over the field to spell the regulars. As I will note later, even pitchers were rarely pinch hit for. A pitcher would bat for himself even with his team down a run in the 8th inning. This all meant very few in-game substitutions.
Red Donahue (20-13, 2.59 ERA, 27 PRAA, 24 win shares)
Al Orth (20-12, 2.27 ERA, 31 PRAA, 29 win shares)
Bill Duggleby (20-12, 2.88 ERA, 15 PRAA, 22 win shares)
Doc White (14-13, 3.19 ERA, -7 PRAA, 16 win shares)
Happy Townsend (9-6, 3.45 ERA, -3 PRAA, 8 win shares)
Jack Dunn (0-1, 21.21 ERA, -10 PRAA, 0 win shares)
Those top three I doubt you have heard of. Pitchers who straddled the line between the 19th and 20th centuries tend to be overlooked by most baseball fans. Donahue, famous for his curve, compiled a 164-175 career line, his below .500 career due mostly to an awful 17-60 campaign with the St. Louis Browns from 1895-97. Al Orth was an entirely average pitcher who had two great seasons in 1899 and 1901. Orth was the premier change-up pitcher of his time. Bill Duggleby as well experienced his one great year in 1901. Doc White was merely a 22 year old rookie in 1901, but went on to win 189 games and a World Series with the Chicago White Sox in 1906. Happy Townsend was also a rookie that season. After the season, Townsend jumped to the Washington Senators of the upstart American League. As far as dumb moves go, that might take the cake. Townsend went 23-69 over four seasons with the Senators.
The trouble with evaluating pitchers of this era is that I suspect a great deal of pitching greatness was determined by a team's defense. In 1901, Tom Hughes of the Chicago Orphans (now Cubs) led the league with 6.57 strikeouts per nine innings. With the league as a whole striking out less than four batters a game, that was a lot of balls in play. Remember pitchers pitched a ton of innings and pitched quickly, and they did not have to bear down on pitchers like today.
Jack Dunn pitched only two starts before moving on to the Baltimore Orioles of the American League. Finished as a quality pitcher, Dunn became a utility player and prolonged his career for a few seasons. After the Orioles moved to New York and became the Highlanders, the Orioles were revived as a minor league franchise in the International League. Dunn became the owner/operator of the club, and was the man who scouted Babe Ruth into organized baseball.
None. The Phils made 17 pitching changes the entire season, and when they needed a new pitcher they simply called on one of their other starters. The Phillies' starters completed 125 of their 140 starts, and only once did they use three pitchers in a game. Bill Duggleby appeared in six games in relief, Doc White four.
Al Orth (.281/.303/.352)
Bill Duggleby (.165/.193/.200)
Red Donahue (.097/.128/.115)
Doc White (.276/.297/.357)
Happy Townsend (.109/.123/.156)
Jack Dunn (1 for 1, 1 BB)
With hitting numbers like these, no wonder why these guys batted on their own. Al Orth and Doc White were just as capable as the pinch hitters.
Bill Shettsline. Shettsline had an innocuous career as manager, guiding the Phils from 1898-1902, finishing as high as second. He never managed elsewhere or played MLB himself.
Outcome and Aftermath
The Phils finished 83-57, good for second place in the league, 7.5 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Phils would use a great deal of their players in the ongoing war between the American and National Leagues. Monte Cross, Ed Delahanty, Red Donahue, Al Orth, Elmer Flick, Harry Wolverton and others jumped to the American League. The Phils fell to 7th place. Curiously, the American League did not raid the Pirates' roster. The Bucs won 103 games and finished 27.5 games ahead. The lack of a pennant race further boosted the American League, and the National League sued for peace, creating the Major Leagues as we know them.
Normally I stick to writing about baseball, but sometimes topics come around that are too good to pass up. Logging onto ESPN.com, I was greated with a request to take a short survey. Ok, these are short and relatively painless. I'm paraphrasing the first two questions.
Year of birth, how many hours do you spend on the internet?
21-30 hours, 1981. My town doesn't have nightlife and I prefer the internet over television.
Are you familiar with a term called Erectile Disfunction?
And I thought I was forward. Yes, it's kind of hard to miss.
On a 1-5 scale, how would you describe your level of awareness of the symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED)?
Depends on what you mean by awareness. And really, how unaware can you be of the symptoms? There's just one. It's when you look down and notice your erectile is disfunctioning.
Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with each of the following statements.
There are effective treatments for erectile dysfunction
Drugs? No. Women? Yes. Somehow I doubt ESPN.com intends to try and sell me the former.
Erectile dysfunction is a common problem among men your age
If by that you mean the damned urge won't go away, then yes.
You would like to learn more about erectile dysfunction
It just occurs to me that the survey didn't ask about my gender. Why yes, I find erectile dysfunction fascinating. When I sit down with my buddies to watch baseball, we regularly mute the game so we can sit in a circle and learn more about how our dicks are working (and not working). I take notes and pay visits to girlfriends later. I'm smart like that.
Millions of men are being safely and successfully treated for erectile dysfunction
Is this a survey or a quiz?
Half of all men over 30 have some form of ED
Strongly disagree. It should be noted that functional umm, operations can lead to successful sex and then childbirth, which I oppose.
If you thought you or your male partner might suffer from the symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED), how comfortable would you feel talking to your doctor about it?
I don't even like talking to my doctor about my diabetes.
How interested are you in learning more information about erectile dysfunction (ED)?
How likely are you to talk to your doctor about erectile dysfunction (ED)?
I'm shocked I'm even talking to YOU.
How likely are you to look for information online about erectile dysfunction (ED)?
This blog is as far as it gets.
Do you recall seeing an online advertisement about erectile dysfunction (ED)?
No, and that's legit. I've trained myself not to notice online advertising.
Do you recall seeing an online advertisement featuring Dr. Drew in a stadium?
I've seen Kimberly Franklin in a stadium (Gang bang Girl 32).
When thinking of products for improving men’s erections, what ONE brand comes to mind first?
And so on. Luckily I have an ESPN Insider pass from a friend, so ESPN.com now knows how interested a certain TSM Moderator is about erectile dysfunction. Personally, I never knew focus marketing could be so blatant and yet so vauge. They should just come out and say, "should we advertise viagra on our website?" That would save everyone a lot of trouble. Because frankly, when ESPN.com starts asking me about my medical history, survey over.
I'd just like to know what type of person answers "why yes, I'd love to know more about erectile dysfunction." No jokes about current TSM posters please.
SS- Jim Fregosi
CF- Alex Ochoa
2B- Alfonso Soriano
1B- Norm Cash
RF- Leon Roberts
LF- Gil Hodges
C- Jason Varitek
3B- Billy Ripken
P- Brad Radke
What kind of lineup is that? If similiarity scores have merit, it is a similar lineup to one posted by the Philadelphia Phillies down the stretch. Similarity scores seek to compare two players' statistics and measure their comparability. A score of 1000 would indicate two players who are exactly alike. Scores under 900 indicate players who are not very similar. Bill James developed the concept as a way of judging Hall of Fame arguments. Thanks to spreadsheets and computers, statisticians can instantly compare thousands of players to determine which players are MOST comparable. Baseball-Reference.com has taken the concept further, using similarity scores to measure players at specific ages. Miguel Cabrera is currently most comparable to Hideki Matsui. But if you compare him to other players when they were 23, Henry Aaron appears at the top of the list (as he has the last three years). This is a good omen for Cabrera's career.
Looking at a list of players comparables can give us an idea of what to expect from a player's career. A player with a lot of All-Stars and Hall of Famers is a good bet to continue to have a Hall of Fame career. Some players might have a mix of HOFers, and guys who flamed out early in their careers. If no players similar to a certain player produced much after that point in their careers, we would expect caution. With that in mind, let's take a look at the 2006 Phillies still under contract, and see what we might find.
Understand that when I look at comparables, I am looking at what they did AFTER the age of the player to that I am comparing. Also, Similarity Scores are NOT era adjusted.
C: Carlos Ruiz. Ruiz has only played 69 games in his career, so there is no comp list available. A list of players who played 69 games at the age of 27 would likely contain plenty of scrubs, but that's not entirely fair. You just can not draw a good list with too little data. The same holds true for fellow catcher Chris Coste. Free agent catcher Mike Lieberthal's best comps are Jason Varitek and Terry Steinbach. On average, Lieberthal's top ten comps played two more reasonably productive seasons.
1B: Ryan Howard. Howard's best comp is Norm Cash, an intriguing choice. Ryan Howard at the age of 26 hit 58 home runs. Norm Cash hit .361 with 41 homers, a huge fluke season later attributed to corked bats. Cash produced well into his late 30s hitting 20-30 home runs a season in an era where that reached the top ten.
2B: Chase Utley. Utley's best comps are Alfonso Soriano, Jeff Kent, Marcus Giles, Vinny Castilla and Pedro Guerrero. All of Utley's comps had huge careers with the exception of Giles, who still has time to rebound from a dismal 2006.
SS: Jimmy Rollins. Rollins' best comps are Jim Fregosi and Alan Trammell. Trammell had a great career. Fregosi flamed out early, but not before the Angels dealt him for Nolan Ryan. Rollins more than any other player has a big boom/bust quotent in his comp list. Along with Ryne Sandberg and Lou Boudreau, it includes weak hitters like Zoilo Versalles, Frankie Crosetti and Granny Hamner.
3B: Abraham Nunez. Nunez's best comp is Billy "F.F." Ripken. Ripken was an awful hitter. The only player on Nunez's list to hit above league average was Dave Anderson, who had 84 at bats left. The Phils desperately need an upgrade here.
LF: Pat Burrell. Burrell's best comp is Gil Hodges, a perennial Hall of Fame candidate. With respect to Hodges, this says more about why he isn't a HOFer. Most of Burrell's comps had 5-7 more years left, hitting about 10% above league average. I doubt that's worth $13.5 Million a season, but the Phils can live with that.
CF: Shane Victorino. Alex Ochoa, a player probably seen as an also-ran but was also a terrific fourth outfielder for a few years. Ochoa played five more years hitting league average. With Victorino's defense, that's a big plus.
RF: Aaron Rowand. Carl Everett. Fortunately this measures production and not attitude. It's difficult to get a read on Rowand's comp list because there are many current players on the list. Most of the others were league average hitters who played 5-6 more years.
SP: Brett Myers. Myers best comp is Brad Radke, who went 94-85 over the next eight seasons. Frank Viola is the best player on Myers' list, Sammy Ellis is the worst. No Hall of Famers, but a few All Stars.
SP: Jon Lieber. Lieber's best comp is Kevin Tapani, a player who finished 9-14 for the 2001 Chicago Cubs and then retired. Second is Shane Reynolds who didn't pitch past 37, third is John Burkett (25-17 over two years), and Charles Nagy (retired). Jamie Moyer is seventh on the list, and no other pitcher lasted more than two more seasons. The Phils only need one more good one.
SP: Cole Hamels. Hamels' best comp is Floyd Bannister, the father of Mets' pitcher Brian. Floyd pitched league average ball for 14 seasons. There are some good pitchers on the list, no real stars, but that's what you get with 23 starts. This list would look better if Hamels improves next year.
CL: Tom Gordon. Gordon's best comp is Charlie Hough, which seems a little. Gordon throws gas and a wicked curve from the bullpen. Hough threw a knuckleball. Gordon started and converted to the bullpen. Hough started as a reliever and converted to starting.