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Wither Soriano?

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.

EVIL~! alkeiper

EVIL~! alkeiper

 

The World Series

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.

EVIL~! alkeiper

EVIL~! alkeiper

 

Phillies' Offseason Thread

We've got a couple of Phillies' fans on this board. Instead of clogging the MLB thread in Sports, I figured I would post my thoughts here, and maybe we'll run with this throughout the offseason. What do the Phillies need to do to improve this offseason? I'll address the trouble spots.   1. Third Base   Abraham Nunez hit .211/.303/.273 this season in 322 at bats. That performance is a big reason why the Phils failed to reach the postseason. You can take that kind of performance from a slick fielding utility infielder, but it is unacceptable for a regular starter at any position. The problem the Phillies face is that the market is barren as far as infielders go this offseason. It looks like Aramis Ramirez will be available, but he will be expensive, he's streaky and his plate discipline is an issue. This is a place where the Phils might be well served to trade for a team's extra third baseman, such as Josh Fields (White Sox) or Mark Teahen (Royals).   2. Bullpen   Right now the Phillies' pen shapes up like this...   Closer: Tom Gordon Setup Man: Geoff Geary RHRP: Ryan Madson LHRP: Matt Smith   The Phils have some options including Eude Brito, Clay Condrey and Brian Sanches. Brito's future in the majors is in the bullpen, and it is time to find out if he can play or not. Condrey's good as the last man in the bullpen who you can easily option back to AAA if you need the spot. Sanches had a great year in AAA, but I'm not certain that he is an MLB caliber reliever. Fabio Castro will probably end up in AA Reading for more seasoning. One option could be Yoel Hernandez, who has an excellent slider but missed most of the season due to injury.   There are several good options on the free agent market. David Riske has pitched seven seasons with a 123 ERA+ to show for it. Justin Speier has developed into one of the game's best middle relievers since he left Colorado three years ago. Chad Bradford's groundball tendencies would be a good fit in a hitters' haven like Citizens Bank Park. Boston reliever Keith Foulke also might be worth a flier. He had a poor year, but few free agents have his ceiling. Among the lefties, the top choices are Jamie Walker, Ray King and Steve Kline. Steve Kline is a very attractive choice. He's not only a gritty, dirtbag type of player, he's also a local product who hails from Sunbury, PA.   The Phils will be in good shape if they can sign one of those guys, and great shape if they get two.   3. Starting Pitching   So far the Phillies can count on Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and Jon Lieber to return next season. Jamie Moyer has a mutual option of that the Phillies should exercise their end. Gavin Floyd is a potential option, given that he is still only 23 years old and improving. In this market, you can't count on stardom. The only pitcher I would comfortably throw big money at is Jason Schmidt (or Mike Mussina, if the Yankees' decline his option). The best thing here is probably to find an innings eater who can keep the Phils in the game. Potential targets include Miguel Batista (useful due to his ability to convert to relief), Tomokazu Ohka, or Jeff Suppan.   4. Catching   There are no free agent catchers better than Carlos Ruiz, so Ruiz should be given every opportunity to win the starting job. Ruiz is a line drive hitter with an excellent arm behind the plate. Chris Coste is a capable backup who can also play the corners. Given Coste's versatility, it would be wise for the Phils to grab an extra backup. Gregg Zaun or Robert Fick would be good options here.   5. Right Field   Neither Aaron Rowand nor Shane Victorino hits quite well enough to play in a corner. It might be time for the Phils to finally indulge in Trot Nixon, settling him in a platoon with Jeff Conine (assuming he remains in Philly). As always, there are several outfield options for a team who can think creatively. Roward would be good trade bait to fill any of these five spots.   In any case, this should be an interesting offseason.

EVIL~! alkeiper

EVIL~! alkeiper

 

Similarity Scores

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.

EVIL~! alkeiper

EVIL~! alkeiper

 

MVP Ballot

The award balloting is occuring in the Sports forum. I figured I would list my own ballot here.   NL MVP 1: Albert Pujols, StL 2: Ryan Howard, Phi 3: Carlos Beltran, NYM 4: Miguel Cabrera, Fla 5: Lance Berkman, Hou 6: Alfonso Soriano, Was 7: Jose Reyes, NYM 8: David Wright, NYM 9: Rafael Furcal, LAD 10: Chase Utley, Phi   AL MVP 1. Derek Jeter, NYY 2. Joe Mauer, Min 3. Grady Sizemore, Cle 4. Justin Morneau, Min 5. David Ortiz, Bos 6. Manny Ramirez, Bos 7. Johan Santana, Min 8. Jermaine Dye, CWS 9. Jim Thome, CWS 10. Carlos Guillen, Det   NL Cy Young 1. Roy Oswalt, Hou 2. Brandon Webb, Ari 3. Chris Carpenter, StL   AL Cy Young 1. Johan Santana, Min 2. Roy Halladay, Tor 3. Mike Mussina, NYY   NL Manager of the Year 1. Joe Girardi, Fla 2. Bruce Bochy, SD 3. Felipe Alou, SF   AL Manager of the Year 1. Jim Leyland, Det 2. Ken Macha, Oak 3. Ron Gardenhire, Min   NL Rookie of the Year 1. Hanley Ramirez, Fla 2. Ryan Zimmerman, Was 3. Dan Uggla, Fla   AL Rookie of the Year 1. Justin Verlander, Det 2. Kenji Johjima, Sea 3. Jon Papelbon, Bos

EVIL~! alkeiper

EVIL~! alkeiper

 

Phillies Pharm Report IV

I'm surprised the last one is six weeks old already. Damn.   The Phillies' minor league season is over, and I'm mulling over a list of the Phils' Top 20 prospects. Considering prospects from Triple A to Low A is a fairly simple matter. The stats can give you about 70-90% of what you need to know. In Short Season A and Rookie ball though, it's a crapshoot. You've got 18 year old kids in a league too far down to project, along with a sample size too small to trust. You really need good scouts to evaluate prospects at that level. I don't have that luxury. Baseball America though is printing their top 20 prospect lists from each league over the next few weeks. It's a useful guide for getting a start on the lower tier prospects. Five Phillies made the list from the Gulf Coast League.   7. Adrian Cardenas, SS 12. Kyle Drabek, RHP 14. Jesus Sanchez, C 17. D'Arby Myers, OF 19. Carlos Monasterios, RHP   Cardenas has hit but his defense is troubling and his future may lie at another position. Drabek's highly touted but his makeup is questionable. Sanchez and Monasterios I know little about besides the fact that neither has gone 20/20 in the majors or posted a .400 OBP. D'Arby Myers was one of the top hitters in the GCL, but his BB:K ratio is poor. I know little personally about their long term prospects, so I defer to Baseball America. I wouldn't switch these guys around unless I had overwhelming evidence to do so.   EDIT: The NY-Penn rankings are out, and no Phillies made the list. RHP Edgar Garcia is the only person on that club who really inspires immediate notice. The South Atlantic League rankings place Carlos Carrasco fifth (the top pitcher), Matt Maloney 19th and Josh Outman 20th.

EVIL~! alkeiper

EVIL~! alkeiper

 

Team Retro: 1901 Philadelphia Phillies

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.   Catching   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.   Infield   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.   Outfield   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.   Bench   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.   Rotation   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.   Bullpen   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.   Pitchers' Batting   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.   Manager   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.

EVIL~! alkeiper

EVIL~! alkeiper

 

Quick Guide to the Minors

Occasionally I take friends along to minor league games, and along with conversations via AIM I run into occasional misconceptions regarding minor league baseball. I thought it would be a nice time killer to quickly run over what every level of the minors entails.   AAA: Triple A baseball actually showcases relatively few prospects. The main reason is that AAA is the one level where there is an inordinate amount of pressure to promote a player. No one clamors to call up a player to patch a hole in Reading, but if Philadelphia needs help, the player comes up. The average AAA player is around 27 years old. Usually they are relatively experienced players who are finished developing, and while they are not budding superstars they play a very good brand of baseball. Players make relatively few errors compared to other minor league levels.   AA: I think AA showcases the most prospects. You might see more guys at lower levels, but at that point you don't know how they will pan out as prospects. The average player in AA is around 26 years old. Players are a lot like AAA in status but not quite as good. You'll see more errors and questionable play. Double A is usually considered the proving ground. It's been said that players who reach AA get to stick around in organized baseball. So you see many more experienced players at AA and AAA than you do at lower levels. For that reason players are more accustumed to breaking pitches, teamwork and the like. Some pitchers who get by at throwing junk find that hitters are not fooled here. Likewise, runners who stole lots of bases solely by their speed get thrown out a lot more often.   High A: The Florida State, California and Carolina Leagues. Players here are much younger and inexperienced. While the average Reading Phillie is 26 years old, only three players on the entire Clearwater roster are 26 or older. The average player is around 23 years old. Here you have a crop of players around 23-25 on their last gasp of trying to make something of themselves in baseball. You can usually tell a prospect simply by his age. If he's 22 or younger, he's worth keeping an eye on.   Low A: Much like high A except that the players are a level younger and less experienced. The average player is around 22 years old. In High A you might see an occasional veteran. There are NO veterans in Low A, unless a player is on a rehabilitation stint. Low A is the first level where the true prospects really begin to emerge.   Short Season A: This level is where most college draftees begin their professional careers, and where truly good younger players come up. The average player is around 21 years old. You often see players learning new positions often here. For that reason, play is sloppier. Both games I have witnessed at this level included multiple fielding miscues. Players have few professional stats at this level so it is difficult to separate the true prospects from the field unless you have a keen eye for talent.   Rookie: Just as the term would suggest, this is where most high school and International talent debuts. The average player is 20 years old. Rosters are much deeper here and in Short season, as teams can carry more than 25 players and choose which 25 to activate for that game (as I understand it). The quality of play here is almost certainly lower than that of Division I Collegiate Baseball.   There are other Rookie leagues such as the Venezuelan Summer League and Dominican Winter League. Most teams have strong scouting interests in those countries, and the leagues serve as a way for teams to sort out their international signees.   I hope this is informative, and I'll be happy to answer any questions.

EVIL~! alkeiper

EVIL~! alkeiper

 

Sure I'll Do a Survey....ok um, what?!

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)?   Ha.   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?   Hustler.   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.

EVIL~! alkeiper

EVIL~! alkeiper

 

Phillies Notes: My Take

http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/sports/15267563.htm   From Todd Zolecki's column this morning.     I could've used more details of how the Phils' bench hampered them, but this is absolutely correct. On Friday, the Reds intentionally walked Ryan Howard three times because there was no one on the bench. Right now the Phillies are employing a four man bench and those four players had a combined 91 career at bats coming into this season. Chris Roberson just can't hit (although he's useful as a defensive replacement and pinch runner).   Eight relievers is overkill. Fabio Castro is a useful mop-up man who will take the ball every day. Brian Sanches isn't going to win games with his pitching and it's useless to keep him around for the heck of it.     A friend asked me the other day if Ryan Howard would make the Hall of Fame, and I said he does not have a prayer. My friend was stunned, and I explained why. In the history of baseball there has been just ONE player who became a regular at the age of 25 and went on to have a Hall of Fame career (Sam Rice). Look at the list of players above. Ed Mathews was 21 when he hit 40+ home runs. Dimaggio was 22, and Klein, Kiner and Banks were 24. Jim Gentile was 27, and he's the odd man out.   It's not that Gentile was a bad player. Gentile got a late start because he came up in the Dodgers system when they were overstocked with outfielders. Gentile was finally traded to the Baltimore Orioles before the 1960 season. (On a fun side note, one of the players the Dodgers acquired in this deal was a career minor leaguer named Bill Lajoie. Lajoie is now a senior executive in the Red Sox' front office.) Gentile hit 21 home runs his first year, and 46 the next (an expansion year). The raw stats make the next years look worse than they really are. After 1961, the majors took steps to reduce offense. Gentile was still a good hitter for several seasons. A trade to the Astros and their spacious dome harmed his raw numbers moreso, and Gentile retired in 1966. I doubt Ryan Howard will have the same issue with playing environments.

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Phillies Pharm Report III

Last night I drove down to Reading for the Phillies/BaySox game, and I had an opportunity to watch Gio Gonzalez pitch. Sometimes the statistics don't tell you everything about the player. Other times they're dead on. Gonzalez is one of those pitchers who appear exactly as the stats would have you believe. Gonzalez has absolutely fantastic stuff. His control wavers however, as he's walked about 4.5 batters per nine innings. Even though he walked just one batter in his start, he started the game by working all three batters in the first inning to full counts. The control problems are probably the root cause of his home run rate as well. He'll work a batter to a 2-0 or 3-0 count, has to groove a fastball, and with Reading being a good hitters' park, the results are devistating.   Gonzalez is just 20 though, and there are few pitchers his age that are better. He's got plenty of time to progress, and if his control comes around he's going to be a good one.   Jeremy Slayden vs. Josh Kroeger   The Phillies' farm system is so devoid of hitting that any hitter with a pulse garners attention. Jeremy Slayden is such a case. Slayden was drafted out of college last season and is currently enjoying a fine season at Low A Lakewood, hitting .301/.370/.511. (This is the standard Batting Average, On Base Percentage, Slugging Pct. line.) Meanwhile, Josh Kroeger is having an awful season at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, hitting just .223/.262/.348. Kroeger is entirely off the radar at this point. Both are corner outfielders. Slayden has better raw stats, but it is MUCH easier to hit Low A pitching than to hit AAA pitching.   The catch is that both players are almost the same age. Slayden was born in July of 1982, and Kroeger in August of the same year. Slayden is actually older despite playing in a league three levels lower. We have a little tool handy called MLEs (Major League Equivalencies). MLEs take a player's current statistics and adjust them to a Major League context. Most minor leaguers look awful but that's ok. If they were good enough to be in the majors they would be in the majors (for the most part). This allows us to directly compare Kroeger and Slayden. They're the same age and they play the same position. Who's better?   MLES Slayden: .206/.249/.350 Kroeger: .199/.232/.310   Slayden comes out ahead, even with the difference in levels. The point is however that we need to keep things in perspective. Slayden's having a nice year but he's 23 and a LONG way from the majors.

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An Honest Appraisal of the Abreu Trade

I've been putting this off for several days. As some of you might imagine, I am somewhat steamed by the trade that sent Bobby Abreu to the Yankees for four prospects. Abreu was one of my favorite players, and the Yankees are my most hated enemy. But sometimes good baseball sense requires that you set personal feelings aside and make decisions that win games. So I would like to be as fair about this as possible.   First off, the trade is terrible, value-for-value. The Phillies sent a player away with a .301 career batting average, .412 OBP, 261 career stolen bases, and two All-Star appearances. I could recite statistics all day. The players the Phillies got in return include a 20 year old shortstop in Low A known more for his athleticism than his production, a 27 year old middle reliever currently in AAA, and two prospects with potential but too far away to even project. All the circumstances in the trade point to a pure salary dump. That the Phils got little in return and did it at the trading deadline gives the impression that they wanted (or perhaps needed) to clear Abreu's salary as quickly as possible. Let's face it. Attendance at the new Citizens Bank Park has settled back to 2.6 Million after spiking to 3.2 Million its first season. Pessimistic messages by G.M. Pat Gillick will not help season ticket sales. The previous payroll of $95 Million is probably not sustainable in the eyes of the club. (It probably is, but I'm not going to turn this into another essay about club economics).   The trade aside, does this move make the Phillies better? Payroll flexibility gets thrown around alot, but that implies that the Phillies will both spend the savings, and that there are players worth buying. Maybe by spending the money on two players you come out ahead by plugging holes. That's entirely possible, but we will not see that until the offseason. In the meantime, improvements in the Phillies play will no doubt be attributed to some sort of clubhouse chemestry, the idea being that Abreu was some sort of curmudgeon whose mere presence forced Ryan Franklin to throw multiple gopher balls.   That of course is nonsense. But defense is not, and Abreu's play in right field has declined over the last two seasons. You can punt defense in one corner, but putting up with Abreu in right field AND Pat Burrell's declining range in left field has worsened the defense, and might be responsible for some of the Phils' inability to prevent runs. I feel fairly comfortable even as an Abreu fan working under the assumption that switching right fielders will improve the defense.   Does that make up for the lack of offense? Most fans assume that adding/deleting a star makes a greater difference than it really does. David Dellucci has actually posted a better OPS the last two years than Bobby Abreu. Abreu has a higher OBP, by perhaps 70 points. Over the last two months of the season, that works out to reaching base about 14 times more.   Now, Dellucci's offense is largely based against right handed pitching. By a happy coincidence, Shane Victorino is crushing LEFT handed pitching this season. If you get a right-handed hitting platoon partner for Dellucci, you've replaced 80% of Abreu's production at about a third of the cost. The Phils play only a fourth of their games against lefties, so Dellucci's lack of production against lefties isn't a serious problem.   You know, I actually like this deal a bit. I don't think the Phillies are much worse without Abreu, and they should be able to pick up some help over the offseason. The Phils have some young pitching coming up the system, and I think they'll contend next season.   Other Phillies Notes:   The last Phillies notes on MLB.com reported the outstanding batting line of Branden Florence in Class A Clearwater. What the article didn't mention is that Florence is a designated hitter and sometime left fielder, and that he's 28 years old. In his prime, he's posted an MLE (Major League Equivelency) of .252/.283/.323. In context, Peter Bergeron's a better prospect.....SS Adrian Cardenas is ripping up the Gulf Coast League. He has an excellent chance of showing up on my postseason top 30 prospect list....The Red Barons are six games up on the playoffs with 32 games left.

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Anatomy of a Sweep

As some of you might know, I have a part time gig scoring minor league games for an independant statistics company called Baseball Info Solutions. It's not well paying but it allows me to see more games than I would otherwise. This week I saw an entire four game series between AAA teams Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Richmond. The Richmond Braves are an affiliate of the Atlanta Braves and the Barons are of course an affiliate of the Phillies.   Tuesday: Red Barons 6, Braves 1   The are times the stat sheet gives you an indication that it might be a fun week. The Red Barons came in at 56-46 (.549), while the Braves came in at 38-63 (.376). Richmond is the worst offensive team in the International League, carrying a team slugging percentage of .343.   -The Braves had one chance of coming back at this. Down 5-1 in the 7th, the Braves placed runners on the corners with one out. Tony Pena popped out foul however, and Brayan Pena tried to catch Joe Thurston napping. B. Pena was thrown out at home. That's a good move down a run or tied, but down four it is a foolish gamble.   -Scott Mathieson dominated, giving up just three hits and one run over eight innings and striking out seven. I don't think there's a Phillies prospect who has taken a bigger step forward over the last year. Mathieson has obvious MLB talent, and it's a matter of time before he gets there for good. The question is whether he starts or closes. He's easily a guy who can turn into the next Jon Papelbon.   Wednesday: Red Barons 4, Braves 1   Sometimes something little can make a big difference in a game. The Braves got two quick outs in the third before Michael Bourn doubled. Joe Thurston singled, moving Bourn to third. Chris Roberson followed with a single of his own that plated Bourn. The ball was fielded deep in the hole by Braves' 2B Cesar Crespo however, and Thurston was dead between second and third. The Braves botched the rundown, and Thurston and Roberson ended up on third and second. Carlos Ruiz followed with a home run, and it's 4-0 Barons. In three pitches the Braves went from "should have been out of the inning" to down four runs.   That came back to haunt the Braves in the ninth, when they scored a meaningless run that would've tied the game had they executed the rundown.   Thursday: Red Barons 7, Braves 6 (12 Innings)   The Red Barons have given us a great season, with four really good starters right now. This time we got starter number five, Jeremy Cummings. The Braves were nice enough to oblige with a mediocre starter of their own, so this got brutal in the early goings. The lead changed about five times in the early going. 1-0 Braves. 1-1 after the first inning. Braves scored one in the third, Red Barons followed with two. Braves score two again in the fourth to retake the lead, and the Barons followed up with three in their half. The Braves scored one in the fifth to cut the lead to 6-5. Thankfully the starters came out at that point and things settled down.   Until the 9th. Mikey, who sits two rows behind us and has grown up at the park, says "I think he's gonna get shelled," referring to closer Brian Sanches. Some kids are too smart for their own good. That is going to be how my own grandchild acts someday. Leadoff hitter Gregor Blanco kicked off the inning with a 12 pitch walk. Tough break, but he earned it. Blanco stole second on a close play, drawing some vehiment disagreements. I thought Blanco was safe, but I was 120 feet away and I have bad eyesight. Cesar Crespo followed with a sac bunt, and pitcher Sanches tried to get the tough out at third. He didn't have a chance. The next hitter, Michael Ryan, groundout out, scoring the tying run. The Barons escaped with no further damage.   That is where everything got real fun. The umpire booted Carlos Ruiz from the game for arguing balls and strikes. Manager John Russell got tossed and presumably Brian Sanches was thrown out as well. The next half inning saw coach Sal Rende move to the third base coache's box and player Ryan Fleming take over coaching duties at first. (In AAA, the manager occupies the third base box. This was common in the majors before teams started employing ten coaches at a time.) The second batter, Michael Bourn, is informed that he too has been tossed. The only plausible explanation is that he was the same height as Carlos Ruiz. I do not usually take heat with the umpires but at this point it had become ridiculous. Our first base coach had to pinch hit.   Dusty Wathan came in to catch, and Josh Kroeger was used earlier as a pinch hitter. That left Juan Sosa as our last bench player. So of course Danny Sandoval was hit by a pitch in the 11th and had to come out. Pitcher Brian Mazone pinch ran for Sandoval, and reliever Ryan Cameron batted for himself. Juan Sosa came in as a defensive sub in the next inning. Ryan Cameron appeared to be in the game as long as possible, pitching three perfect innings.   Wathan hit the first pitch of the 12th over the right-center wall for a game winner. Wathan has won two games with extra inning home runs this year. Wathan has four home runs this year total.   -That was long winded, so let me throw this one out quick. The Braves made five errors, three alone by third baseman Jonathan Schuerholz. You might recognize the name, he's the son of the current Braves' GM. Some at the beginning of the year questioned his promotion to AAA, and suggested it was simply nepotism. Schuerholz has answered his critics by hitting .161/.248/.192 in 79 games. He can't hit for average, can't hit for power, isn't a baserunning threat (four steals in six tries), and apparently can't field. Intangibles? That does a world of good on a 38-67 team. This guy is EASILY the worst player in the International League. His father does him a disservice leaving him out to dry.   Little side note. Some woman asked me if I was a scout. She thinks she can get into professional baseball, and wants to meet Derek Jeter. She also swore she was on her first beer. She probably would have had better luck asking Yankees' first base coach Tony Pena, who happened to be sitting in the next section watching his son play ball. Tony Jr.'s not much of a hitter but good defensively at shortstop.   Friday: Red Barons 7, Braves 3   Brian Mazone isn't a prospect. He has however posted a 9-1 record since being promoted from AA Reading. He doesn't have great peripherals. He just somehow seems to be effective. He also has that one bad inning where he struggles, and the Braves got a run across in the second.   All four games in this series were decided by a home run. Brennan King's two run shot on Tuesday gave the Barons a 3-0 lead. Carlo Ruiz's three run homer was the difference on Wednesday. Dusty Wathan hit a walk-off on Thursday. This time, Joe Thurston hit a two out grand slam in the fourth. The game was 6-1 after that, and the game was never really competitive. The fortunate part was that none of the four games were blowouts. A blowout game is the worst because neither team particularly cares about getting effective pitching in the game.   Sandoval played after nearly being carried from the field the night before. He got the MLB call® right after the game, as did Tony Pena Jr. of the Braves.

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The Nature of Relief Pitching

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.

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Phillies Pharm Report, Part Two

Rather than bury this in an old discussion, I figured I would start anew.     Let me reexamine the top 10 as ranked by Baseball America before the season and then I'll hit on the other prospects Pinjockey discusses.   1. Cole Hamels, SP   Cole Hamels had an extraordinary ascent through the minors before struggling at the Major League level. He's struck out a batter an inning though, and control was usually not a problem in the minors. The big thing is that Hamels has reached a career high in innings pitched. Hamels is still on track.   2. Gio Gonzalez,SP   112 strikeouts in under 100 innings for a 20 year old in AA is highly impressive. The home runs as Pinjockey said are high, but Reading's a fairly good home run park. He'd cut that in half in Scranton. Gonzalez needs to cut down on the walks, but he's another top flight prospect still on target.   3. Greg Golson, OF   The best athlete in the system. That would be even more impressive if he could play baseball. This is Golson's second year at Lakewood and he still can't hit. .220 batting average with 92 Ks against 18 walks. Until Golson actually produces, he's not a prospect in my view.   4. Michael Bourn, OF   Bourn's made a hell of an impression in Scranton, hitting three triples, stealing bases and playing great defense, all in his first week. I think he'll cool off as word of his weaknesses gets around. Bourn has great speed and plate discipline. The problem is that he lacks power, and pitchers will challenge him and defenses will play shallow. There's a fine line between great leadoff hitter and Jason Tyner. I think Bourn at minimum is a good 5th outfielder.   5. Scott Mathieson, SP   I don't think the Phils could have asked for a better season so far. Mathieson dominated AA, went to the majors and held his own, and just made a good start at Scranton. He's still just 22, and his fastball sits in the mid-90s. This is a big IF, but imagine a rotation of Brett Myers (25), Ryan Madson (25), Gavin Floyd (23), Cole Hamels (22), Scott Mathieson (22) and Gio Gonzalez (20). That's a ton of young pitching, and I don't think most fans realize how much the Phils have.   6. Dan Haigwood, SP   Traded to Texas for P Fabio Castro.   7. Welinson Baez, 3B   Baez finally hit on his third trip through Rookie ball and kept it up through Short Season A last year. It was a fluke. Baez is hitting .216 in Lakewood with 111 strikeouts in 287 at bats. Not a prospect at this point.   8. Mike Costanzo, 3B   Mike at least has the excuse of skipping a level. He walks, but that's about it. I doubt Costanzo's got much potential.   9. Brad Harman, SS   Harman drew good reviews as part of Australia's entry into the WBC. His power dropped off a cliff though, and he does not look like much. Harman's young though, and given that the FSL is a pitchers' league I would give Harman another season before writing him off.   10. Jason Jaramillo, C   Jaramillo's struggled this year, but given that he skipped high A and that he's a better defensive catcher, it's not as bad as it looks. Jaramillo's probably at least got a future as a backup.   Early reports on Edgar Garcia are encouraging to a point, particularly the 19/1 K:BB ratio. The low K rate worries me slightly, but he is extremely young yet. Jeremy Slayden is a few months younger than Josh Kroeger. Kroeger's in AAA, Slayden's in Low A. Slayden would have to be a hell of a hitter to make up the difference in levels. He's not a prospect. Carlos Carrasco is having an extremely impressive season, and has easily moved into the Phillies' top ten.

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Hall of Fame Relief Pitching Candidates

Before I begin, a quick note about ERA+, since I will use it often in this blog. ERA+ takes a pitcher's ERA and adjusts it for park and era. An ERA+ of 100 is league average. Higher is above average, lower is below average.   Hall of Fame Relievers   In my last entry I discussed the Hall of Fame chances for starting pitchers. This time out I will cover the relievers. Relief pitchers are a difficult field to judge because the Hall of Fame voters are still establishing the bar of excellence. To this date, only four relievers have been elected to the Hall (Bruce Sutter is not techically a member until his induction next month, but we're treating him as an inductee for this purpose). Here's a brief overview of their statistics.   Hoyt Wilhelm (1952-72): 143-122, 2.52 ERA, 146 ERA+, 227 saves, 2,254.3 Innings Pitched Rollie Fingers (1968-85): 114-118, 2.90 ERA, 119 ERA+, 341 saves, 1,701.3 IP Bruce Sutter (1976-88): 68-71, 2.83 ERA, 136 ERA+, 300 saves, 1,042.3 IP Dennis Eckersley (1975-98): 197-171, 3.50 ERA, 116 ERA+, 390 saves, 3,285.7 IP   When comparing starters, you can make a group of Hall of Famers and compare candidates. You can not really do that here because all four inductees are different. Hoyt Wilhelm was a knuckleball pitcher who did not even reach the majors until the age of 29 (incidently, he hit his only career home run in his first at bat). Rollie Fingers looks like an undeserving candidate in some aspects, but he did retire as the career leader in saves. Dennis Eckersley combined dual careers as a starter and reliever. And Bruce Sutter may or may not have invented the split-finger fastball.   The difficulty is that some relievers with equal credentials have been excluded. Dan Quisenberry for example finished with a career ERA+ better than any of the four Hall of Fame relievers above. Voters are less impressed with final results and more impressed with image. A reliever needs either a blazing fastball or high strikeout totals. Quisenberry rarely struck out batters, but he walked as few batters as any pitcher in modern baseball history.   What is the best measure of reliever quality? Saves? The top five in saves are Lee Smith, Trevor Hoffman, John Franco, Dennis Eckersley and Mariano Rivera. Jeff Reardon follows at number six. The problem is that saves are a product of the current era. Jose Mesa has 319 saves and a career ERA+ of 101 (just about average). That's certainly not Hall of Fame quality.   You need to set aside statistics across eras. The trend in relief pitching has been to utilize shorter outings. Modern relievers pitch less innings than twenty or thirty years ago. However, they pitch at MUCH higher effectiveness. Billy Wagner's ERA+ would rate as the best of all time, but he has not even pitched 700 innings at this rate. If pitchers of this era pitched in a different era, they could pitch longer but less effectively. The same goes for the relievers of the Gossage/Sutter era.   So the only real way to identify Hall of Fame relievers is to compare them against the current era. The mark of a Hall of Famer is separation from the pack. If many players have reached the same level of achievement, then it's not that outstanding a performance. From baseball-reference, I identified the 15 active leaders in games finished. Those 15 relievers compiled ERA+'s ranging from 197 to 101.   I think we can safely dismiss the nine relievers with ERA+'s under 140. I do not see a single Hall of Fame candidate among that group. That gives us six names. Mariano Rivera, Billy Wagner, Troy Percival, Armando Benitez, Trevor Hoffman and Keith Foulke. Billy Wagner and Troy Percival each have less than 700 innings pitched for their career, and Armando Benitez and Keith Foulke are barely above that. All four would easily have the fewest innings pitched of any Hall of Fame pitcher (including Babe Ruth). That leaves Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman as legitimate candidates with an acceptable number of innings pitched.   Mariano Rivera has really surpassed any element of debate. Rivera's ERA+ is better than any pitcher in baseball history. On top of that, he has pitched 111.7 innings in the postseason with just an 0.81 ERA, an 8-1 record and 34 saves. Not only is Rivera's postseason ERA the lowest of any pitcher with significant postseason innings, but they are nearly all high leverage innings.   Trevor Hoffman's a slightly more difficult case. His ERA+ is very good, but Rivera, Billy Wagner, Troy Percival and Armando Benitez are better (and Wagner's is significantly better). How much strength do you put in 150-200 more innings pitched? It is not insignificant, considering that is 3-4 seasons worth of work for a relief pitcher. Hoffman doesn't have a real postseason resume (although he's pitched well when given the opportunity. Hoffman has however put himself in reach of the all time saves mark. When Hoffman reaches the All-Time saves record, he should punch his ticket to the Hall of Fame. His ERA+ is on the level of the elites, and you have to do something right to set the saves record.   The big question mark is Billy Wagner. No one really discusses him as a Hall of Famer, and I never really saw him as such. But his 180 ERA+ is one of the greatest marks in baseball history, and only Rivera is really on his level. Wagner is the most dominant left handed relief pitcher of all time. However, his 650 or so innings is incredibly low for a Hall of Famer. In 3-4 years however, he might be a serious candidate.

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Hall of Fame pitching candidates

Mike & Mike this morning discussed pitching candidates for the Hall of Fame. I figured I'd throw in my two cents.   Shoe Ins Roger Clemens Greg Maddux Randy Johnson Tom Glavine Pedro Martinez   Tom Glavine is often labeled as a guy who is close, but in. He's a dead lock, and it is not even close. Glavine as of this writing has 286 wins. Of the 30 pitchers who have won 275 or more games, 22 are in the Hall, three are still active, and two were 19th century pitchers. That leaves Bert Blyleven, Tommy John and Jim Kaat. Let's stack up the numbers.   Glavine: 286-186 (.606), 3.44 ERA, 120 ERA+ Blyleven: 287-250 (.534), 3.31 ERA, 118 ERA+ Kaat: 283-237 (.544), 3.45 ERA, 107 ERA+ John: 288-231 (.555), 3.34 ERA, 111 ERA+   Two things should come out right away. The first is that Glavine's win percentage is over .600. There is simply no precident for leaving out a pitcher with this many wins AND this high a winning percentage. Also note that Blyleven, who pitched effectively as long, posted nearly as good an earned run average in context.   Pedro Martinez has 204 wins right now. Compare his record to pitchers let in with few wins. The Black Ink Test is a tool that measures how often a player led his league in something. It's a good tool both for measuring players with high peaks, and players from different eras. The average Hall of Fame pitcher has a Black Ink score of 40.   Pedro Martinez: 204-88 (.697), 2.75 ERA, 166 ERA+, Black Ink: 55 Jack Chesbro: 198-132 (.600), 2.68 ERA, 110 ERA+, Black Ink: 27 Dizzy Dean: 150-83 (.644), 3.02 ERA, 130 ERA+, Black Ink: 52 Lefty Gomez: 189-102 (.649), 3.34 ERA, 125 ERA+, Black Ink: 46 Addie Joss: 160-97 (.623), 1.89 ERA, 142 ERA+, Black Ink: 19 Sandy Koufax: 165-87 (.655), 2.76 ERA, 131 ERA+, Black Ink: 78 Dazzy Vance: 197-140 (.585), 3.24 ERA, 125 ERA+, Black Ink: 66 Rube Waddell: 193-143 (.574), 2.16 ERA, 134 ERA+, Black Ink: 46 Ed Walsh: 195-126 (.607), 1.82 ERA, 145 ERA+, Black Ink: 67   All of the above players scored high on the Black Ink test except for Jack Chesbro and Addie Joss. Chesbro won 41 games in 1904, and is essentially in the Hall on that statistic alone. Addie Joss's raw numbers are eye popping, but he was never the best pitcher in the league. Pedro Martinez stacks up favorably with all these players, and his winning percentage and ERA+ are better than any pitcher on the list. In fact, Pedro's ERA+ ranks number one all time, and his winning percentage is second behind Al Spalding among HOF pitchers (And Spalding pitched most of his career in the National Association, which MLB does not recognize in official statistics).   On the Bubble Mike Mussina Curt Schilling John Smoltz   These pitchers are harder to judge, and even I am not certain of their Hall of Fame qualifications. Mussina's going to have a tricky time because he never won 20 games, and we know voters love those big round numbers. Mussina's won 19 games twice, 19 three times, and 17 twice. One problem is that Mussina's best years were 1994-95, when he missed several starts due to the strike. It is not difficult to think Mussina would have won four games between August 12 and the end of the 1994 season, and just one more game in four starts in 1995. He led the league in wins in 1995.   If you look at Mussina's record, again you see a superior win/loss percentage (.643 in this case). Let's make a comparison for Mussina here. Eleven pitchers have won 225 or more games, not made the Hall, and pitched after 1900 (not counting active players). I will not add another table because frankly, most readers have not heard some of these names. As a group, they had winning percentages between .491 and .577. Their adjusted ERAs ranged from 101 to 118. They scored between 7 and 20 on the Black Ink test.   Mussina blasts them out of the water in win percentage and adjusted ERA. His record there is superior to any pitcher not in the Hall of Fame. The Black Ink test is trickier, because Mussina only scores a 14. But if you move on to the Gray Ink test (which measures top ten appearances instead of just leading a category), Mussina stands out. Only Bert Blyleven beats Mussina in that category, and Blyleven really should be in the Hall as well. Mussina does not have that one outstanding season. But he's clearly superior to any fringe candidate.   Curt Schilling is the opposite. Not great counting numbers, but some tremendous seasons. Just for fun, here's Schilling next to another current pitcher   Curt Schilling: 202-134 Kenny Rogers: 201-134   Of course Schilling's ERA is nearly a run lower and he has about a thousand more strikeouts. What makes Schilling odd is that he also never won a Cy Young award, which you would think is a prerequisite for making the Hall on a short career. I think Schilling's a deserving candidate though, as he scores favorably on all the Hall of Fame standards tests. If he finishes his career with 220-225 wins with his current win percentage, he should be a lock.   There's no really good statistical judge for John Smoltz. Dennis Eckersley reshaped the closers' role. Smoltz was just a closer for a few years. Obviously he was a great closer and deserves some credit for that, but how much? A closer is not as valuable as a 20 win pitcher, and probably not as valuable as a 15 win pitcher. What about 12 wins? Add 36 wins to his total, give him credit for the 15 wins in the postseason, and he's up to around 233 wins. I would not vote for Smoltz just let, but if he reaches 200 wins, then you have a guy who also has 154 saves and an amazing 15-4 record in the postseason. It's hard to go against that.   Others   It is difficult to predict the future of pitchers. Among the top 100 active pitchers in wins, only Andy Pettitte has a legitimate shot at the Hall. There are many pitchers in the sub 100 win club who could make a run, noteably Johan Santana. The problem is there is little difference in the peak values of great pitchers and good pitchers. The difference is how long they last. Many pitchers like Fernando Valenzuela had great peaks, but only had a few great years. Some guys look like HOFers at age 30 and are gone by age 33. But even if you can not identify a single Hall of Famer or even a 300 game winner in the current generation, chances are someone will outlast the pack.   I'll take a look at HOF closers in the future.

EVIL~! alkeiper

EVIL~! alkeiper

 

Top Five Reasons You Can't Blame the Fans

Top Five Reasons You Can't Blame the Fans for Messing Up the All-Star Voting.   1. They're hitting a moving target.   MLB started their All-Star balloting sometime in late April. At the end of April, Victor Martinez held a gaudy .398 batting average, while A.J. Pierzynski had a .342 average. Joe Mauer had a good .319 average, but not spectacular. How were voters to know that Mauer would hit .388 over his next two months? Most fans evaulate All-Star selections based on their first halves. Well, the player with the best season statistics often change two or three times over the course of the voting. The All-Star voting is not a scientific survey conducted at that instance of the season. It is a two month process.   2. The media/players/coaches are no better.   Last year, a survey of managers and coaches selected Bobby Abreu as one of the three winners of the National League Gold Glove. In 2003, a select group of National media, refusing to yield to Alex Rodriguez, seriously floated the idea of Shannon Stewart, Most Valuable Player. You want to give the vote to these guys? What about the players, who given a choice to select reserve All-Stars, selected Shea Hillenbrand? The fact is that no matter what group you select as your voting population, you are going to have problems. At least when the fans make a bad pick, it is someone they want to see play ball.   3. The process leads to mistakes.   This is an absolutely key point, and it escapes critics all the time. Let's take a look at the American League voting. Fans are complaining that most of the players are either Yankees or Red Sox. The problem is not that the fans are all Red Sox or Yankee fanboys. The problem is the voting process coupled with either a plethora or lack of qualified All-Star candidates. As of the last voting, six of the eight leading starters were Yankees or Red Sox. Derek Jeter (SS), Alex Rodriguez (3B), Manny Ramirez (OF) and David Ortiz (1B) are perfectly reasonable choices. That leaves Robinson Cano (2B) and Jason Varitek ©. Let's look at those one at a time, because they illustrate the opposite points.   Jason Varitek, C   There are several good catchers in the American League. Varitek's production has declined, but he was an All-Star for the last few years. Jorge Posada's produced an .889 OPS this season. Ramon Hernandez leads A.L. catchers in home runs and RBIs. Victor Martinez was the best hitting catcher over the last two seasons, and he has not exactly fallen off the face of the earth this season. Now, you have a couple groups of smart fans. One will vote for "reliable stars," the other will vote for players with the best current statistics. Then you have the fans who goof around with the process.   Now hypothetically, let's say 70% of your fans are smart, 25% are clueless, and 5% are those who vote for players because Tigers sound cute and cuddly. The problem is that the 70% of smart fans have to vote for one player. They can not hedge their votes and list Mauer first, Martinez second, etc., like an MVP voter can. So if you have several good candidates at a position, a player who has broad appeal to a limited group, in this case a big name like Varitek, he will invariably float to the top of the All-Star ballot.   Robinson Cano, 2B   Same scenario, different specifics. In this case, you have smart voters choosing from several mediocre players to try and find the most deserving player. In this case it appears to be Seattle's Jose Lopez, but it takes a couple months for a player like that to emerge in the statistics, let alone the fans' consciousness.   4. Do the Math.   Catcher 1. Jason Varitek, Red Sox 831,154 2. Ivan Rodriguez, Tigers 803,964 3. Jorge Posada, Yankees 608,670 4. A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox 493,385 5. Joe Mauer, Twins 464,161   That's 3.2 Million votes among ONLY the top five. There is somewhere in the vicinity of five million votes total. That means Jason Varitek was selected by approximately 16% of voters, about 1/6th. How can you chastise the voters for selecting the wrong player when 5/6ths of voters did not even select him?   5. Most Voters do not have access to current statistics.   Go to the ballpark. Pick up a conveniently located All-Star ballot. You are a knowledgeable voter, you are not like those nitwits that pick all Yankees. But what do you have to go on? There's no listing of current statistics. You have names and a vauge recollection of what you saw in Sunday's paper, or Sportscenter highlights. Even smart fans are bound to make a funny choice or two under those conditions.   Many people cite ballots such as one listing say, Bernie Williams. Those ballots do not make a difference, and fans are for the most part wasting their vote. Fans do stuff ballots for their favorite teams, but fans from every city do this, and the votes often cancel each other out. On the occasions they don't, they are at least selecting players from popular teams. There are some problems with that I admit, but we have to face the fact that part of being an All-Star is name recognition.   You could give the voters a ballot that lists one through five and give them a complete printout of current statistics. We could give the voting to a select group of SABR's elite and let them debate in a dark chamber. But what would it improve? The current process selects the right players about 70% of the time, and the other selections are at least players the fans want to see. Some purists may scoff at that, but we need to remember that the All-Star game is an EXHIBITION, and it is for the fans.   Comments, questions, criticisms are welcome.

EVIL~! alkeiper

EVIL~! alkeiper

 

The Phillies: What the !#%&?

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.

EVIL~! alkeiper

EVIL~! alkeiper

 

Playoff Odds

What games are the most crucial games in a series. At times a media outlet will trot out a statistic claiming that the team that wins game one wins the series at such and such a percentage. Is that true, and if so, does that make game one an absolute necessity. A bout of extreme boredom at work set me on the path of exploring some mathematical exploration. Using a statistical model of each team having a 50/50 shot of winning each game, I caculated how much the odds of winning a seven game series changed with each situation, such as a team up three games to one or two games to zero. Here are the various situations in order from most important to least. Importance here is defined by what extent the game changes the odds of winning the series.   1. Game Seven   2. Game Six   3. Game Four when one team holds a 2-1 series lead   4. Game Three when one team holds a 2-0 series lead   5. Game Five when one team holds a 3-1 series lead   6. Game Five when the series is tied   7. Game Two   8. Game Three when the series is tied   9. Game Four when one team holds a 3-0 series lead   10. Game One   In order to test this, I took a look at real life results, specifically MLB's last 45 postseason series. In the real world, teams taking 1-0, 2-0 and 2-1 series leads have won more often than we would expect. Teams taking a 3-0 lead have won less often, but that's entirely due to one outlier in 2004. Teams taking 3-1 and 3-2 leads have won almost <I>exactly</I> as often as we expect. I think the reason for the discrepancy in the first results is because when a team takes a lead, it is often because they truly are a better team, and thus are operating at odds better than 50/50.   Teams that have won game one since 1990 have won the series 71% of the time. That's significant, but then again teams that have taken game two as well have won 90% of the time, and that is another huge gain. I think if you looked at the results of any game, you would see the same result (except for game seven, which would give you 100%). You can shift the odds around to develop different percentages, but the order above would remain roughly the same.   I don't know if you can do anything with this, but I had it down on paper and figured I would print it.

EVIL~! alkeiper

EVIL~! alkeiper

 

Prospect Retro: Tyler Green

Recently I stumbled upon Baseball America's archive of its Top 100 prospect lists from their inception in 1990 until today. John Sickels has a regular feature on his blog chronicaling the paths of some of the top players in baseball. I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at some of the players once considered top prospects in the Phillies systems. There are some hits (Pat Burrell, Ryan Howard, Scott Rolen), and some duds (Ryan Brannan). More interestingly, there are guys who went on to big careers who were not top prospects, like Mike Lieberthal. I figured I would start this with a player viewed as a top prospect who crashed. Tyler Green made Baseball America's Top Prospect List three times, yet failed miserably as an MLB player.   The Phils drafted Green tenth overall out of the 1991 Amateur Draft. Perhaps they were mesmerized by visions of Dallas Green. In any case, Green must have had good raw stuff. His initial numbers back his ability. Green debuted with three starts in Short-Season A Batavia, and followed with two in High A Clearwater. His numbers in those starts included a 3-0 record, 28 IP, 10 Hits, 0 HRs, 14 BBs and 39 Ks. The walks were high, but the strikeout numbers were outstanding. Based on his scouting report and that showing, Baseball America rated Green the 26th best prospect in baseball.   1992 saw Green fast-tracked to AA Reading. In 12 starts he dominated again, pitching 62.3 innings, 46 hits, 2 HRs, 20 BBs and 67 Ks, 1.88 ERA. Green was promoted to AAA Scranton but only made two starts, pitching 10.3 innings and walking twelve, posting a 6.10 ERA. After the season Baseball America rated Green the number 31 prospect in baseball.   Missed time combined with an abysmal record (particularly with a high walk rate) usually indicates an injury. Unfortunately I can not find direct information confirming it. One thing for certain though is that Green never pitched as well again. In 1993 Tyler spent most of the season at AAA Scranton. His K rate fell to 6.62 per nine. His 3.95 ERA netted him a trip to Philly however where he was shelled in three appearances.   After that season Baseball America demoted Green all the way to 36. Without the knowledge of DIPS, Green's performance looked decent enough on the surface. He fell to earth in 1994. Spending the entire year in AAA Scranton, Green struck out just 95 batters in 162 innings, walked 77, gave up 25 home runs, and posted a 5.56 ERA. (The minors stayed in business during the MLB strike.) Green fell off the Baseball America Prospect list. Undaunted, the Phillies called Green to their rotation to start the 1995 season. Green compiled an 8-9 record with a 5.31 ERA, again with poor peripherals. Injuries would again strike, costing Tyler the 1996 campaign.   Green returned to Scranton in 1997, delivering a 6.10 ERA in 12 starts. Looking over those numbers, the Phillies realized they had no choice but to promote him. Green finished the year in Philadelphia, posting a 4.93 ERA in 14 starts. Green then pitched all of 1998 with the Phillies, delivering a 5.03 ERA. Green never again pitched in the majors. He had one more awful year in Scranton (4-6, 7.69 ERA), and drew his release. AAA Buffalo picked him up the next year and received an 8.38 ERA in 29 innings for their troubles.   Looking over Green, we have a pitcher who ha obvious talent, but was derailed by injuries. Even the surest of pitching prospects walks this minefield, which is why some sabermetrically inclined prospect mavens are increasingly hesitant to name a pitcher as the top prospect in baseball. See Ryan Anderson for an example. Thanks to the Stats Inc. 2001 Minor League Handbook for the numbers. The Baseball Cube page is in error regarding some of Green's 1992/93 stats with Scranton.

EVIL~! alkeiper

EVIL~! alkeiper

 

1980 National League Championship Series

My friends regard me as a baseball nut, and for the most part that is true. Name any year, and I can tell you who played in that World Series off the top of my head. Further along however, I fall flat. Ask me who won the National League West in 1979, and I might not remember. Major League Baseball expanded its playoff format in 1969, adding a League Championship series. Most of us remember the great World Series, as they are prevailent, produced on dvd. The LCS however sometimes fades into oblivion. Unless your local team was involved in a memorable series, you may not ever hear about it. Certainly, ESPN Classic's insistance on never showing complete baseball games means some absolute classics are forgotten. Hopefully, this will begin a series of articles about those series. I intend to relive those series, as well as the losing teams involved.   1980 National League Championship Series Best of Five   1980 Houston Astros   The Houston Astros (then known as the Colt 45s) began as an expansion team in the 1962 season. The 'Stros amased a fine collection of talent over the years such as Joe Morgan, Jimmy Wynn, Larry Dierker and Don Wilson, but could not quite make it to the top of the National League West. Sharing a division with the Big Red Machine will do that. The Astros of course played their home games in the Houston Astrodome. Fans know about the dome and artificial turf, but relatively few fans realize how tough a hitters' park the Dome was. Astros' hitters were perenially underrated, and some pitchers were overrated. The Astros finally broke through in 1980, as we will see.   The Lineup C: Alan Ashby (.256/.319/.347, 93 OPS+) 1B: Art Howe (.283/.350/.445, 129 OPS+) 2B: Joe Morgan (.243/.367/.373, 115 OPS+) SS: Craig Reynolds (.226/.262/.304, 64 OPS+) 3B: Enos Cabell (.276/.305/.351, 90 OPS+) LF: Jose Cruz Sr. (.302/.360/.426, 128 OPS+) CF: Cesar Cedeno (.309/.389/.465, 147 OPS+) RF: Terry Puhl (.282/.357/.419, 124 OPS+)   A few interesting players here. Any of the three outfielders could play center, and Terry Puhl in fact did play 30 games in center that season. Jose Cruz is perhaps one of the most underrated players in baseball history. Cruz hit 106 home runs on the road, but only 59 at home. Playing in the Astrodome most of his career cost him perhaps 50 home runs over the years. Cruz certainly deserved more than two All-Star nods. He is not quite a Hall of Fame caliber player, but he's better than Jim Rice, for example.   Cesar Cedeno could be a Hall of Famer. He was a better player than many center fielders currently in the Hall, and might well have been had he not decended rapidly after age 30. Cedeno still played over 2,000 games thanks to an early start, and finished his career with 550 stolen bases.   Joe Morgan left the Cincinnati Reds after the 1979 season, returning to the team that originally drafted him. Morgan remained one of the most disciplined hitters in the game, drawing 93 walks and stealing 24 bases in 1980. Despite a .243 batting average he was one of the more productive second basemen in the league, even at the age of 36.   Enos Cabell on the other hand rated as the player most often criticized by young baseball author Bill James. Cabell hit .276 on the season, at a glimpse an acceptable average. But then you dig in the stat sheet and see a meager 26 walks, almost no power, and he was caught stealing 13 times against 21 successes.   Craig Reynolds' hitting stats are appaling, but it was common for teams in that era to play unproductive hitters at short, preferring defense. Frank Taveras (Mets, 80 OPS+), Larry Bowa (Phillies, 70 OPS+), Tim Foli (Pirates, 73 OPS+), Luis Gomez (Braves, 26 OPS+), Johnnie LeMaster (Giants, 59 OPS+), and Ozzie Smith (Padres, 71 OPS+) comprised some of the league's starting shortstops. When you remember the Padres' trade of Ozzie to the Cardinals for Garry Templeton, consider that Templeton was the only starting shortstop in the league to hit above the league average in 1980.   Ashby of course starred as an announcer for the Astros for several years, and Art Howe went on to become a successful manager in the majors.   The Rotation Joe Niekro (20-12, 3.55 ERA, 92 ERA+) Nolan Ryan (11-10, 3.35 ERA, 98 ERA+) Ken Forsch (12-13, 3.20 ERA, 103 ERA+) Vern Ruhle (12-4, 2.37 ERA, 138 ERA+) J.R. Richard (10-4, 1.90 ERA, 173 ERA+) Joaquin Andujar (3-8, 3.91 ERA, 84 ERA+)   Joe Niekro was in the midst of a late career surge, posting his second consecutive 20 win season. Given his stellar record and the fact that he was a knuckleballer, I think Niekro's mediocre ERA is the result of staying in games longer than most pitchers when his team had a big lead. That's just a guess. Niekro's son Lance currently plays for the San Francisco Giants.   Nolan Ryan remains the game's most overrated pitcher. For all the flack Bert Blyleven receives about not being a winning pitcher, the same tag could be applied to Nolan Ryan, who had a worse win percentage and lower ERA+. Ryan in 1980 had 14 no decisions, of which his team won 11. He did pitch a large number of innings, as did Niekro.   Vern Ruhle's season was entirely a fluke. He never again won more than nine games in a season, and finished his career with a below average ERA. He did however become a successful pitching coach, first with the Phillies and then with the Astros.   J.R. Richard is one of baseball's most tragic cases. Beginning in 1976, Richard ranked among baseball's best pitchers. Despite surrendering over 100 walks a season, he won 72 games from 1976-79. He found his control in 1979 and posted yet another career year. Richard's first half performance in 1980 netted him his first All-Star appearance, a starting assignment to boot. Unfortunately, Richard suffered a series of bizzare ailments that year. Many fans and reporters thought Richard was a lazy player, and that he was loafing. On July 30, Richard suffered a major stroke, requiring emergency surgery. Richard never pitched in the majors again.   Some other intriguing players on the Astros that season included current Padres' manager Bruce Bochy and long time closer Dave Smith, making his debut season.   The Astros ended the regular season in a tie with the Los Angeles Dodgers, necessitating the first regular season playoff in the National League since 1962. (Oddly, of the seven regular season playoffs in N.L. history, the Dodgers have been in five of them). The Astros had held a three game lead over the Dodgers with three to go. However, those three games happened to be against the Dodgers, in Dodger Stadium. The Astros lost all three games to force the playoff. However, the Astros won the playoff easily, 7-1 behind the pitching of staff ace Joe Niekro.   The NLCS   The first two games took place at Veterans Stadium. The Phillies won game one 3-1, thanks to Greg Luzinski's two run home run in the sixth. Game Two saw the Astros and Phillies go into extra innings tied 3-3. The Astros scored four in the tenth, including Dave Bergman's two run triple. The Phillies had a chance to score a run in the ninth, but Lee Elia held Bake McBride at third base.   Games three through five would be played at the Houston Astrodome. Game Three saw the Astros and Phillies trade zeros through ten innings. Joe Niekro pitched ten scoreless innings, striking out two and walking one. Denny Walling's sacrifice fly scored Rafael Landestoy, winning the game for the 'Stros. Game Four saw the Astros take a 2-0 lead into the eighth inning, but the Phils scored three runs. The Astros tied the game in the ninth, leading the game into extra innings for the third straight time. In the top of the tenth, Pete Rose scored on Greg Luzinski's RBI double, and the Phillies went on to win. Rose famously scored on a close play at the plate, knocking down catcher Bruce Bochy. Rose was widely praised for his aggressiveness. What's forgotten is that Manny Trillo followed up with a double that would've scored Rose anyway. But there were two outs, and no tomorrow.   Game five saw the Astros again take a 5-2 lead into the eighth inning. Phillies down three against Nolan Ryan. In the eighth, Rafael Landestoy replaced Joe Morgan at second base, a defensive manuever the Astros made all series. Larry Bowa led off the inning with a base hit to center field. Bob Boone followed with a hard grounder off Ryan's glove, runners at first and second. Greg Gross reached on a bunt down the third base line, loading the bases. Pete Rose followed with a walk, forcing in a run. At this point, Astros' manager Bill Verdon replaced Ryan with Joe Sambito.   If the Astros made a mistake in the series, this is it. Bowa's hit was the hardest hit ball of the inning. Boone and Gross's hits were both infield shots. Rose walked on a full count. The pitch before ball four, which Bowa fouled out, was clocked at 99 mph. I honestly think Ryan came out too soon. Sambito came in to pitch to left handed Bake McBride, who was pulled for Keith Moreland, a righty. There goes the platoon split. Moreland grounded to second, forcing out Rose but scoring a run. 5-4 Astros, first and third for the Phillies, one out.   Ken Forsch came in to replace Sambito. Mike Schmidt struck out in a key spot, leaving two outs. Del Unser bailed out Schmidt and the team, hitting a single to right that scored the tying run. With runners on first and second, Manny Trillo tripled to left, scoring two runs and giving the Phillies a 7-5 lead.   Bottom of the eighth, the Phils attempted to lock down the game by bringing in Tug McGraw. McGraw however, running on fumes, could not get the job done. Two consecutive RBI singles by Rafael Landestoy and Jose Cruz tied the game yet again.   Top of the tenth, Del Unser doubled and Garry Maddox hit a two out double to plate Unser, giving the Phils the lead. Maddox's double was a simple base hit, but Puhl had to dive for it knowing that if it fell in, the Phils would take the lead. The Astros went in order in the bottom of the tenth to give the Phillies the pennant. Noteable about that last half of the inning was Enos Cabell swinging at ball four and flying out to center field for his trouble.   In that five game series, four game went into extra innings. If you watch the Phillies' broadcast, you note Tim McCarver laughing hysterically as the Phillies win the pennant on Maddox's catch. It was an extremely hard fought series, and the Phillies really felt like they simply survived that game, not just won it. In my mind, it rates as the greatest game in Phillies' history, due to its combination of excitement and importance. The Phils would go on to defeat the Kansas City Royals in six games for their first and only World Series championship.   The Astros again reached the postseason the following season. After taking the first two games from the Dodgers, they lost the next three and the series. They lost to the New York Mets in the 1986 NLCS, puncuated by a 16 inning classic game six. Division series appearances in 1997, '98, '99 and 2001 all resulted in losses, giving the Astros seven consecutive playoff series losses. They finally broke that streak in 2004, and won their first National League pennant in 2005.

EVIL~! alkeiper

EVIL~! alkeiper

 

Greatest Teams Tournament Finals

Three Game series, pitting the 1939 New York Yankees against the 1995 Cleveland Indians.   '95 Indians (Charles Nagy) @ '39 Yankees (Monte Pearson) '39 Yankees (Atley Donald) @ '95 Indians (Ken Hill) '95 Indians (Dennis Martinez) @ '39 Yankees (Red Ruffing) (if necessary)   Game 1 '95 Indians 12, '39 Yankees 4   The Indians steamrolled Yankee pitching in the first game of the series. Albert Belle hit two home runs and Omar Vizquel and Sandy Alomar added home runs of their own. Belle has now hit seven home runs in the tournament. Charles Nagy pitched seven innings to improve his record to 3-0, while Monte Pearson drops to 0-1.   '95 Indians 10, '39 Yankees 4   The Indians again crushed the Yankees to wrap up a tournament victory. Ken Hill (2-0) pitched two innings for the victory while Atley Donald (2-1) lasted just two innings in the loss. Albert Belle hit his eighth home run.   Tournament MVP: Joe Dimaggio, 1939 Yankees   Dimaggio hit .386 in 44 at bats with a tournament leading 16 RBIs.   Tournament Cy Young: Charles Nagy, '95 Indians   3-0. 1.29 ERA.

EVIL~! alkeiper

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Greatest Teams Tournament, Elite Eight

Just eight teams left in the mock tournament. In this round, the field is split into two double elimination tournaments. One team advances from each field to play in the finals. I will provide actual details on the games from here on.   FIELD ONE   1929 Athletics @ 1906 Cubs 1962 Giants @ 1939 Yankees   '29 Athletics 5, '06 Cubs 4, 12 Innings   Mule Haas's RBI single in the twelve inning drove in Jimmy Dykes for the go ahead run, and Carroll Yerkes pitched a 1-2-3 inning for the save. Howard Ehmke collected the win for the A's and Orval Overall picked up the loss. Joe Tinker, who hit just 31 home runs his entire career, hit a two run shot in the second.   '62 Giants 9, '39 Yankees 8   The Giants survived a thriller at Yankee Stadium. The Giants rallied in the eighth inning, scoring three runs on Charlie Keller's dropped fly ball in right field. The Yankees tied the game in the bottom of the eighth, scoring three runs with Joe Gordon's two run shot tying the game. Willie Mays hit a go ahead home run in the ninth, and the Giants added another run. The Yankees scored a run in the bottom of the inning, and nearly scored the tying run before Red Rolfe was thrown out at home plate. Don Larsen picked up the win for the Giants, Oral Hildebrand got the loss and Bobby Bolin earned the save.   1906 Cubs @ 1939 Yankees 1962 Giants @ 1929 Athletics   '39 Yankees 7, '06 Cubs 1   Joe Gordon's three run double put the Yankees up 4-1, and they coasted to an easy victory. Three Finger Brown started a day early and surrendered five runs in six innings. Bump Hadley picked up the win. Brown got the loss, finishing the tournament with a 2-1 record. Joe Gordon finished the game with four RBIs. The Cubs are eliminated from the tournament.   '62 Giants 8, '29 Athletics 7, 10 Innings   Orlando Cepeda, Willie Mays and Felipe Alou connected for three straight solo home runs in the top of the ninth with two outs to tie the game. The A's had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth but Al Simmons grounded into a bases loaded double play. The Giants' Jose Pagan knocked in the go ahead run in the top of the tenth against a depleated A's bullpen. Stu Miller (2-0) collected the win while Carroll Yerkes (1-1) got the loss. The A's go on to face the '39 Yankees, with the winner advancing to a rematch with the Giants.   '39 Yankees 13, '29 Athletics 3   George Earnshaw surrendered eight runs in two and a third innings of work, and the Yankees cruised to victory. Charlie Keller went 3 for 4 with a home run, 4 RBIs and 2 walks. Pitcher Atley Donald went 3 for 5 at the plate. Donald picked up the win and improved to 2-0. Earnshaw collected the loss, falling to 2-1.   '39 Yankees 4, '62 Giants 3, 11 Innings   Joe Dimaggio tied the game with a two run home run in the top of the ninth off Don Larsen, and scored the go-ahead run in the 11th on Joe Gordon's sacrifice fly. Steve Sundra (1-0) earned the win, while Gaylord Perry (0-1) took the loss.   '39 Yankees 13, '62 Giants 3   Frankie Crosetti hit a home run and two triples, and Lefty Gomez pitched a complete game as the Yankees crushed the Giants. Gomez improves to 2-0, while the Giants' losing pitcher Billy O'Dell falls to 1-1. The 1939 Yankees advance to the tournament finals.   FIELD TWO   1980 Royals @ 1977 Yankees 1995 Indians @ 1988 Athletics   '77 Yankees 11, '80 Royals 5   Bucky F'n Dent hit a two run home run to cap a sixth inning, five run rally, and the Yankees cruised to victory. Reggie Jackson added his fourth home run of the tournament. Mike Torrez picked up the win to improve to 2-0. Rich Gale (1-1) got the loss. Ken Clay pitched three innings of scoreless relief for the save.   '95 Indians 8, '88 Athletics 3, 12 Innings   Eddie Murray hit a two run home run in the top of the twelveth to break a 3-3 tie, and the Indians tacked on three runs, thanks in part to Glenn Hubbard's two out error. Mark McGwire hit two home runs and a double. The Indians' bullpen held the A's to one run the final six innings. Jose Mesa (1-0) picked up the save, while Gene Nelson (1-1) got the loss. The Indians now play the Yankees in the winners' bracket while the A's play the Royals in the losers' bracket.   '95 Indians 8, '77 Yankees 5   Albert Belle hit two home runs and collected five RBIs to lead the Tribe to an 8-5 victory. A Chris Chambliss error with two in the eighth opened the door for the second home run, which broke a 5-5 tie. Paul Assenmacher (2-0) got the win while Sparky Lyle (0-1) got the loss.   '80 Royals 6, '88 Athletics 5   George Brett hit a two run double in the ninth, and Dan Quisenberry pitched a scoreless ninth for the save. The A's are eliminated, and the Royals proceed to a rematch with the Yankees. Winner of that reaches the regional final against Cleveland.   '77 Yankees 3, '80 Royals 2   Roy White's two out, RBI double in the eighth drove in the go ahead run and Sparky Lyle pitched a scoreless ninth for his third save. Ron Guidry gave up just two runs over eight innings to improve his record to 2-1. Dan Quisenberry took the loss, falling to 1-1. The Yankees advance to the final against the Indians. The Indians need to win one while the Yanks have to win twice.   '95 Indians 7, '77 Yankees 1   Eddie Murray's three run home run capped a five run third as the Indians crushed the Yankees. Orel Hershiser (1-1) picked up the win while Ed Figueroa (1-1) got the loss. Chad Ogea earned his second save by pitching three scoreless innings. The 1995 Indians advance to the final, where they will face the 1939 Yankees in a three game series.

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Greatest Teams Tournament, Super Regionals

Next round, 16 teams remaining. Each team plays a three game series against one opponent, with the winners advancing. The former team listed in each set gets home field, while the latter team gets home field advantage for the next two games.   1921 New York Giants vs. 1906 Chicago Cubs   '21 Giants 6, '06 Cubs 2 '06 Cubs 5, '21 Giants 3 '06 Cubs 5, '21 Giants 0 1906 Chicago Cubs win series 2-1   1924 Washington Senators vs. 1929 Philadelphia Athletics   '29 Athletics 5, '24 Senators 4 '29 Athletics 7, '24 Senators 6 (10 Innings) 1929 Philadelphia Athletics win series 2-0   1962 San Francisco Giants vs. 1953 New York Yankees   '53 Yankees 2, '62 Giants 1 '62 Giants 6, '53 Yankees 2 '62 Giants 12, '53 Yankees 5 1962 San Francisco Giants win series 2-1   1961 New York Yankees vs. 1939 New York Yankees   '39 Yankees 5, '61 Yankees 0 '39 Yankees 5, '61 Yankees 3 1939 New York Yankees win series 2-0   1980 Kansas City Royals vs. 1980 Philadelphia Phillies   '80 Royals 4, '80 Phillies 3, 10 Innings '80 Royals 8, '80 Phillies 1 1980 Kansas City Royals win series 2-0   1977 New York Yankees vs. 1975 Cincinnati Reds   '77 Yankees 2, '75 Reds 1 '75 Reds 5, '77 Yankees 4 '77 Yankees 7, '75 Reds 3 1977 New York Yankees win series 2-1   1988 Oakland Athletics vs. 1998 New York Yankees   '88 Athletics 2, '98 Yankees 1, 11 Innings '98 Yankees 3, '88 Athletics 2 '88 Athletics 10, '98 Yankees 1 1988 Oakland Athletics win series 2-1   2001 Arizona Diamondbacks vs. 1995 Cleveland Indians   '95 Indians 5, '01 Diamondbacks 4 '95 Indians 2, '01 Diamondbacks 1 1995 Cleveland Indians win series 2-0

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