Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hall of Fame Ballot Part 1

Growing up a baseball fan, I used to think I’d know who I’d vote for if I ever got a Hall of Fame vote.  The BBA votes on the Hall of Fame Ballot every year.  This is my first ballot.  And to quote John Patrick Shanley, “I have doubts.  I have such doubts!” 

I’ve had issues already with voting in the past.  Click here to re-live that dilemma.  But I feel like the Hall of Fame vote is even bigger.  It’s forever.  One of my last posts had HoF undertones as I examined the worthiness of Andruw Jones when it came to joining the Hall.  I argued both sides and had no issues filling the entire post, and that’s just for one player, much less the 37 on the ballot this year.  Luckily I was able to eliminate most of them pretty much immediately.  I’ve listed those guys below as the ones I didn’t even consider voting for:

Steve Finley, Julio Franco, Reggie Sanders, Shawn Green, Jeff Cirillo, Woody Williams, Rondell White, Ryan Klesko, Aaron Sele, Roberto Hernandez, Royce Clayton, Jeff Conine, Mike Stanton, Sandy Alomar, Jose Mesa, Todd Walker, Fred McGriff, Bernie Williams, David Wells, Alan Trammel, Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez and Kenny Lofton. 

Out of the remaining players we have a few different groups.  We have steroid users.  We have great players that won a lot of awards, but didn’t reach any of the “magic numbers” that gain you entry into the Hall.  And last we have some players that were solid, but didn’t seem to capture the Hall of Fame spirit for one reason or another.  We’ll start with that last group.

The players in this group are Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Lee Smith. 

Smith was a great closer.  He had more Saves than anyone in baseball, and held that title for a while.  However that was his only real threat to making it.  Since then, two players have obliterated his record with over 600 Saves (Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera) while others who are right behind him on the list aren’t anywhere near Hall material (Troy Percival, Jose Mesa, Roberto Hernandez).  In addition, he only led the league in Saves (his signature stat) 3 times while having pedestrian ERA and WHIP numbers.  It was a different time back then, but his overall numbers just weren’t impressive enough, and other than All Star appearances, he wasn’t very awarded in his day.  He was the easiest to dismiss.

That brings us to Tim Raines, whose numbers compare favorably with Ricky Henderson’s.  Henderson has over 3000 hits and the stolen base record.  Raines does not.  But he has a higher career batting average (294 to 279).  He also won a batting title and led the league in steals his first four years in the league.  Raines is 5th on the all time stolen bases list, and one of only 5 guys with 800+ SBs.  However he never got higher than 5th in MVP voting, won only one 1 Silver Slugger and no Gold Gloves.  Raines is one of the best base stealers of all time, but outside of that his numbers aren’t good enough for the Hall, no matter how similar his numbers are to Henderson’s (compare them some time….you’ll be surprised).

That leaves me with Jack Morris and Jeff Bagwell.  If you asked me before this season, I’d have said no to both right away.  But after reading this article by Tim Brown I re-thought it.  Brown was interviewing Morris, they talked about the HoF vote and Morris told Brown to consider every CG that he had as a Save.  That makes Morris compare very comparatively to Dennis Eckersley.  That helped Morris a lot in my view.  But his 3.90 ERA and 1.29 WHIP aren’t that great.  He also only got 2,478 Ks in 18 years.  The CGs are impressive, but, again, it was a different era back then.  It helps his cause, but I’m still not sure about him.

Jeff Bagwell played in the steroid era.  Most people believe that he didn’t use performance-enhancing drugs.  But, when compared to everyone else who played in his era, his numbers don’t look as strong.  Is that fair?  The article I linked earlier tackles the question that Bagwell makes us consider.  If you didn’t use steroids, and played in the steroid era, are your numbers allowed to be a little less impressive?  It’s admirable that you resisted temptation to take the steroids.  If we let steroid users and their inflated numbers in the Hall (another question entirely) then we should certainly allow you and your slightly lesser numbers in, right?  Bagwell had a great career.  He won an MVP and a Rookie of the Year.  He also won 3 Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove.  He was a career 297 hitter with 449 HR, 1,529 RBI, 1,517 R and 202 SB.  Those numbers show me a well-rounded player, who had speed, power and could drive in some guys. Did he have any “magic numbers”?  No.  Did he play in an era of cheaters, resist the temptation to cheat though it could have prolonged his career and made him more money and still have numbers that were almost as good as the guys who did cheat?  Yes.  Should that count for something?  Absolutely.  Is it enough for him to make the Hall?  Well that’s the question isn’t it?

Obviously steroids are an issue.  Not just for the guys who took them, but also for the guys who played with them.  Bagwell’s numbers don’t stack up well to the leaders of his era, but they are still great.  Is there an element of wanting to reward him for not taking steroids?  Yes.  Is that a good enough reason to put him in the Hall?  No.  Is that extra oomph enough to push his good numbers to Hall of Fame territory?  Yes.  That’s what we have to consider now.  It’s more than numbers.  You have to consider what a player did in comparison to others who played with him and others who played his position.  That helps Bagwell.  It hurts Raines and Morris.

Some players were giants of their eras.  They won a lot of awards or championships.  However they may not meet the “magic number” requirements. 

Okay you’ve said “magic numbers” like 6 times.  What are those?

Thanks for the question Mr. Italics.  Some milestones in baseball are more impressive.  Reaching those milestones used to mean you would be a shoo-in for Cooperstown.  Those numbers were 300 Wins, 3,000 hits and 500 HR.  However, great pitchers aren’t getting to 300 Wins anymore due to the way the game has changed.  The 500 HR club has been sullied with steroid users.  And 3,000 hits have come close to losing meaning due to compliers.  Knowing that, does that mean you have to be friendlier in considering the career numbers of other guys?  Who am I thinking about?  Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy.

Mattingly had 2,153 hits, 222 HR and a 307-career batting average.  Good numbers.  Not great.  But he won an MVP, 9 Gold Gloves and 3 Silver Sluggers.  That’s a lot of hardware.  Plus 6 All Star appearances.  He was a great player in his generation who won a lot of games with the Yankees.  He also only played 14 years.  His numbers are good, but frankly not really close to any magic numbers.  It’s the awards that are impressive.  And he won a ton of games with the Yankees.

Dale Murphy was even more awarded for some bad Atlanta Braves teams.  His numbers were a little better than Mattingly’s, with 2,111 hits, 398 HR, and 161 SB.  He had 2 MVPs, 5 Gold Gloves and 4 Silver Sluggers with his 7 All Star appearances.  He was more awarded, but his team wasn’t as good.  Should team success matter?  Maybe in some sports, but I don’t think it matters in much in baseball.  Although good players on bad teams sometimes have it tougher as they get pitched around. 

Murphy and Mattingly were good.  Great in their time.  The awards show that.  I think that helps their overall chances, though their numbers may fall a little short.  What’s next?

Well then there’s the question of does it mean more to be a first ballot hall of famer than to get in on your 4th, 7th or 14th try?  I think so.  There are three players that I think belong in the Hall at some point (Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling).  I considered their numbers and think they are good enough, but none of them are icons.  At least in my opinion.  Will I vote for them in the future?  Yes.  Will I vote for them this year?  Maybe.  Part of me wants to wait for a year or two then give them my vote.  But then they may already be in.  And that may also mean that I don’t vote for anyone this year.  Should that matter to me?  I don’t know.  But it does.

Okay so that’s the little stuff that, frankly, isn’t that little.  A lot to think about.  I’ve got a lot in this post, so I’m going to break it up into two parts.  I’ve tackled the first chunk of issues, but I’ll save the big issue for the next post.  Check back to see my thoughts on steroids users in the Hall and take a look at the guys I actually voted into Cooperstown.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks

I've put up my second post for the Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks website.  If you are looking to get ready for draft day, or if you just want to get some good info about baseball players click here and check it out!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Andruw Jones...Hall of Famer?

With today’s report that Andruw Jones is headed to Japan to play some ball for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, I have to assume that his professional career in the MLB is now over.  That brings us to the question…is Andruw Jones a Hall of Famer?  At first glance I’d say no.  But let’s take a deeper look at the stats.

Here are Andruw Jones’ career numbers:

254 AVG, 434 HR, 1,289 RBI, 1,204 R, 152 SB, 383 2Bs, 36 3Bs, 891 BBs, 1,747 Ks, .337 OBP, .486 SLG, .823 OPS.

At first glance, they don’t seem like the worthiest of stats.  The only number that jumps out as truly impressive are the 434 HR.  That also led to a healthy number of R and RBI.  However those are just the offensive stats.  The number that does him the most good in this debate is 10. The 10 that is helping his case represents the number of consecutive Gold Gloves he won.  And he didn’t win them as a pitcher, catcher or first baseman, he won them in center field, a premium position stocked with some of the finest athletes in the game.  So the question is, is that enough?  I’ll tackle both sides of this question.


While the AVG isn’t great and the K/BB ratio is atrocious, this question begins and ends in the field.  He won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves in what is arguably the toughest position to play on a baseball field.  He had good speed, but not great speed.  That meant it was all reaction time, and knowing where to play certain hitters.  In addition, he had a cannon for an arm with over twice as many outfield assists (124) as Errors (50).  He was a 5 time All Star with 2 top 10 MVP finishes, including finishing second to Albert Pujols in 2005 in a season where Jones set the Atlanta Braves franchise record with 51 HR and a league leading 128 RBI.  He won 2/3 of a Triple Crown, in a season where a lot of people think Pujols won based on his overall body of work, as opposed to having the strongest season. 

So can strong defensive numbers outweigh subpar offensive numbers?  The answer is apparently yes.  Ray Schalk, was a catcher for the White Sox and the Giants who made the Hall of Fame off the strength of his defense.  His 253 career batting average is the lowest of all Hall of Famers (other than pitchers).  Jones is a point higher.  Schalk also had fewer home runs that Jones.  By fewer I mean Shalk had….11 career HR.  11.  He had 11 HR to go with his 253 AVG.  So he got in on the strength of being a great defensive catcher.  Andruw Jones’ career AVG is one point better, he has 423 more HR and has to be considered one of the greatest defensive center fielders in baseball.  And while catcher is a tough position to play, playing center field is definitely harder, and it’s certainly very hard to be recognized as the best in that position when the other players who play that position with you are some of the best athletes in baseball.  It’s not just Schalk, but George Kelly and Bill Mazeroski made the team based on the strength of defense.  And while Mazeroski’s defensive second base is arguably the best of all time, Jones’ center field defense is among the best, and his offensive numbers blow Mazeroski’s out of the water.

So, to review, Jones had immeasurably more power than Schalk (okay maybe not immeasurable….he had 420+ more HR), a slightly better AVG and was a star at one of the hardest defensive positions on the field, as opposed to a good defensive catcher.  If Schalk is in the Hall of Fame, there is no reason Andruw Jones shouldn’t be. 


At the end of the day, Andruw Jones had a 254 career batting average.  That’s just not good enough.  His defense in the prime of his career was fantastic.  But he played for 17 years, and for the last few years his weight has ballooned while his ranged has diminished at a quick enough rate to turn one of the best defensive center fielders of all time into an above average corner outfielder.  Jones eclipsed 300 only once in his career.  He had a 1.96 K:BB rate.  That’s bad.  Almost as bad as his 4.43 K:AB ratio.  He’s got 0 World Series titles under his belt (he joined the Braves in 1996, the year after they won), and turned into a one dimensional player very early in his career.  After taking over full time in 1998 (the first year he eclipsed 500 ABs), he looked like a 5-tool player.  In 1998 he hit 271 with 31 HR, 90 RBI, 89 R and 27 SB.  But that was his career high on the base paths.  The next season he went  275/26/84/97/24.  In 2000 he went 303/26/104/122/21.  That was possibly his best year.  It was also the last time he went 20/20.  That’s not a HoF requirement, but when you come into the league and for 5 of your 17 seasons are considered an all around great player, there is an expectation.  For the next 12 years of your 17 year career, to steal double digit bases only one more time (11 was his career high from that point on, achieved the next season) shows that you changed your approach drastically.  His AVG tanked after that, never coming close to 300 again (career high from that point on was 277).  And though he had some success with the long ball, he only led the league in homers once (51 in 2005) and saw his average drop every season from then to end up hitting 197 in 230+ ABs for the Yankees last year.  His highest AVG after leaving Atlanta was 247, the most games he played in a season from then on was 107 (with the White Sox in 2010), and though his HR rate remained high, he contributed little else.  Perhaps he’d have a better shot at making it to the Hall if he retired after leaving the Braves, but a 12 year player has a REALLY tough time making it into the Hall of Fame.  And after leaving Atlanta he was nothing but a bust, signing a 2-year deal with the Dodgers worth $36 million, but being released a little over a year later due to injury and ineffectiveness.  He then bounced around as a role player on the Rangers, White Sox and Yankees before moving to Japan this offseason.  He probably could have signed here in the US with another team, but wanted to make more money and get more playing time in Japan.

So, in review, he hit a lot of HR.  But he showed much more promise in his early years.  He was supposed to be an all around great, but barely broke 150 SBs while becoming truly one dimensional less than halfway into his career.  His defense was stellar, but that shouldn’t be enough.  There are plenty of players who are in the HoF that don’t belong there already, why would we add another?  Though Andruw Jones is more deserving than some, he’s still undeserving and that’s why he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.

After making an argument for both sides, I think I know where I stand.  Andruw Jones had a very good career.  He’s got some wonderful career statistics, specifically in the HR and fielding departments.  And while his numbers do measure up to a few other Hall of Fame candidates, they are generally considered to be the “least worthy” candidates.  And that’s not just from me.  I found this article and this article to be exceedingly helpful in writing this post.  Do I think Andruw Jones belongs in the Hall of Fame?  No.  It doesn’t matter to me that others who are arguably less qualified are in the Hall of Fame.  That doesn’t make Andruw Jones worthy.  His numbers are strong.  But not strong enough.  And that’s where it ends for me.  

Friday, November 30, 2012

Division Re-Alignment

The Los Angeles Dodgers of Anaheim (oh….wait….they're just the LA Dodgers) got some good news from Fox.  Their new TV deal is going to net them between $6 and $7 billion dollars.  For the next 25 years, the Dodgers will make a minimum of $250,000 dollars a year, just for their regular season games.  The money they bring in from this deal alone is more money that 26 other franchises will make in all venues.  It’s the record for a local TV deal, doubling the old record.

The deal is good for the Dodgers.  It’s good for the business of baseball.  But it’s not great for the sport.  All it does is continue to widen the gap between the rich teams and the poor teams.  It gives power to local TV stations in negotiating future contracts and continues to make the sport richer and yet somehow competitively poorer.  How can teams with Oakland’s payroll hope to play against teams with the funds of the Yankees or Dodgers?  Baseball claims it has no vested interest in keeping its high profile teams in positions of power.  But how can they not?  The ratings for all World Series not involving Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies are abysmal.  So while you understand why baseball wants to have the big markets see greater success, they absolutely CANNOT do anything to help them achieve it in a way that hurts other teams.  They say they aren’t.  So as we can’t prove otherwise we have to take them at their word.  And I do believe they aren’t actively trying to help out the major market franchises.  The TV deals they approve just happen to be great for the teams in the major markets while also helping the sport overall.  But this deal is insane.  You can read more about it here.

What should baseball do, then?  If the Athletics faced the Braves in the World Series, the ratings would cause MLB to collapse.  Or at least take a hit that they don't want in their championship game.  So to make money, they need these mega TV deals and for cities with baseball teams to almost completely subsidize any new stadiums to keep the sport near the top of the food chain.  But by accepting these huge local TV deals, the larger market teams (the NY, LA and Chicago teams plus Philly and the Rangers) have a tremendous competitive advantage in the financial department.  Is there a way to keep baseballs’ purse solvent while keeping the competitiveness of the game intact?

How about division re-alignment?  I’m not talking about re-doing the divisions based on geography.  But what about aligning teams in divisions based on finances?  With the speed of travel nowadays, it’s possible for the Mariners to be in a division with the Marlins.  It’s not a great idea, but it’s doable.  And baseball is pretty good about making the schedule for these teams bearable.  Every AL team has to go to Seattle and Tampa Bay.  Teams are jetting all over the nation as it is.  So I don’t think that’s a problem, though it may be a little tougher for the commissioner’s office to schedule.  How would new divisions look?  Here’s a preview of what I’m thinking:

NL 1

Philadelphia Phillies
Chicago Cubs
Los Angeles Dodgers
New York Mets
San Francisco Giants

NL 2

Atlanta Braves
Washington Nationals
St. Louis Cardinals
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres

NL 3

Miami Marlins
Pittsburgh Pirates
Arizona Diamondbacks
Milwaukee Brewers
Cincinnati Reds

AL 1

New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Texas Rangers
Chicago White Sox

AL 2

Houston Astros
Detroit Tigers
Seattle Mariners
Baltimore Orioles
Minnesota Twins

AL 3

Oakland Athletics
Tampa Bay Rays
Cleveland Indians
Kansas City Royals
Toronto Blue Jays

This list is taken directly from Forbes list of most valuable franchises that you can visit here.  Now this list isn’t built around which teams spend the most.  It’s also not about which teams make the most money.  This list separates the MOST VALUABLE franchises based on a number of things, including the media market.  Obviously the Mets are in a bad financial situation right now and would struggle in their division.  In addition the Blue Jays would be the rich kids of their class, but things change.  Someone has to be in first and last in each division.  While these teams are near the poles now, things could quickly reverse.

This list is designed with the richest teams in the same division.  The poorest teams are in different divisions.  This enables teams with similar finances to play the majority of their games against each other.  The good thing about this list is that it gives baseball carte blanche to continue pursuing these massive local TV deals that benefit the major media markets (full disclosure….they are likely going to continue to do that anyway even without my blessing…I’m shocked by this news as well) while keeping the competitiveness closer to a fair level.  Teams would still play everyone in their league, but they would have the majority of their games and their important division games against other clubs that don’t have huge financial advantages over them.  And then in the playoffs, the divisions face off against each other as usual.

As we hear all the time, baseball is a business.  We hear it mostly when something is done that the fans dislike or disagree with.  Sometimes the decisions that are made are made for business reasons.  It’s bad when they clash with what could be best for the game competitively.  But the game going bankrupt trying to keep things fair is also not the best idea.  So this is an idea to compromise.  Baseball keeps raking in the bucks with these mega TV deals however the re-alignment helps keep the competitiveness at a high level.  What do you think?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


And you can now follow me on Twitter.  Just look for #PayoffPitch86.  Keep updated on all posts from this and other blogs there!

Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks

Check out a post of mine on another blog I've started writing for...Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks.  You can check out the post here.  They've got some great articles and are the best site to check out while getting ready for your fantasy baseball league.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New Marlins Manager Mike Redmond's Transition From A-Ball to the Major Leagues Just Got Easier...

In a move that surprises absolutely no one, the Marlins have decided to make personnel moves that will save them money at the expense of winning games.  In a reported trade that has not been finalized yet the Marlins would send Jose Reyes, John Buck, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and Josh Johnson to the Blue Jays.  The Marlins receive a handful of players back, among them Yunel Escobar and some prospects.  However the real treat for Jeffrey Loria, the kicker that makes his socks roll up and down is the tens of millions of dollars he cut from payroll.  A year after making a big push to move into their new stadium, the Marlins have done a complete 180.  Or, as it’s known around the major leagues, they pulled a Loria.  Lie to about 100 people’s faces in one year, then turn around and do the exact opposite of what you promised.  It’s not a huge surprise, but it’s gotta be a record for the earliest that a team has punted on a season.  It’s November of 2012, they’ve given up on 2013, conceivably 2014, and pretty much the rest of the foreseeable future with this trade. 

Remember last year, when the Marlins swore they turned over a new leaf?  They said, “Look at us!  We have this expensive eyesore of a new stadium, vomit inducing new uniforms and some bright shiny players who will not at all help us improve as a ballclub but will hopefully sell tickets.  And don’t worry Hispanic citizens of Miami Dade County, we got a Hispanic manager to come in and take your mind off the fact that we just screwed you and the rest of the taxpayers into paying for an expensive new stadium to support a team that will continue to yank you around, claiming to be too poor to win, while really just pocketing the revenue sharing money and putting a subpar product on the field!”  Maybe they didn’t say all of that, but it’s clearly what they meant.  After signing Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle as free agents, they said they were ready to contend.  They made ovations towards Albert Pujols.  They pointed to all the money they just spent and said they had changed.  But only the most gullible amongst us believed them.  The contracts to which they signed their new players were back loaded with cash as a trapdoor for them to cut and run with relatively little owed to anyone.  And that’s what they’ve done.  Here’s a list of the players that the Marlins have parted ways with since the beginning of last season:

Heath Bell (traded to the Diamondbacks this offseason)
Mark Buehrle (traded to the Blue Jays today)
Josh Johnson (traded to Blue Jays today)
Anibal Sanchez (traded to Tigers last year)
John Buck (traded to Blue Jays today)
Omar Infante (traded to Tigers last year)
Hanley Ramirez (traded to Dodgers last year)
Jose Reyes (traded to Blue Jays today)
Gaby Sanchez (traded to Pirates last year)
Emilio Bonifacio (traded to Blue Jays today)
Randy Choate (traded to Dodgers last year)
Chad Gaudin (became a free agent)
Edward Mujica (traded to Cardinals last year)
Sandy Rosario (claimed off of waivers by the Red Sox last year)
Carlos Zambrano (became free agent this offseason)
Brett Hayes (claimed off waivers by the Royals last year)
Donnie Murphy (became free agent)
Gil Velazquez (became free agent)
Scott Cousins (claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays and then the Mariners)
Austin Kearns (became free agent)
Carlos Lee (became free agent)
Adam Greenburg (retired)

So that’s the entire list.  Obviously not all of those guys were part of a fire sale.  The ones claimed off waivers didn’t make the cut in Miami because the Marlins didn’t think they were good enough.  The guys who became free agents, for the most part, probably weren’t worth re-signing.  And Adam Greenburg is a special case.  But between last year and today the Marlins traded 12 different players to other teams in an effort to cut salary.  And at this point the only surprising part is that the racket going on in Miami can still surprise us.

I first heard of the trade from the blog Big League Stew.  Their post can be read here, but my favorite part was the Twitter quote from Giancarlo Stanton that they posted which said, “Alright, I’m pissed off!!!  Plain & Simple”.  Better be careful, Giancarlo.  The Marlins don’t do well with players sounding off on Twitter.  Just ask Logan Morrison.  I would also recommend reading Tim Brown’s column about the unmitigated gall of Jeffrey Loria here.  And you can check out my previous rants about this club, here and here.

What the Marlins brass is doing is disgraceful.  Even after a season where the Marlins failed to meet expectations, (although a lot of people, me included, didn’t see them as too improved) the complete destruction of this team is still mind blowing.  They have some talented young players (Stanton, Morrison).  They had some exciting, All Star Talent (Hanley, Reyes, Johnson) and enough veterans (Bell, Buehrle) to build around.  But by back loading the contracts and refusing no trade clauses to any of the new players, you have to wonder if this was their out the entire time.  They say Ozzie Guillen was to blame.  He was fired and they brought in Mike Redmond, a manager at the A-ball level last year.  But everyone knows that this team is in the basement due to the ownership.  Players didn’t want to go to Miami.  A few took a chance when they were told things would be different.  Now they are all gone.  As is any hope the Marlins have of attracting new players now.  The city paid for a $515 million dollar new stadium.  It was empty by the halfway point of its inaugural season.  And that likely won’t change.  My only hope is that Bud Selig and major league baseball become as embarrassed by this spectacle as the city of Miami should be and steps in a la Frank McCourt.  It’s too late to save the taxpayers.  It’s too late to save this season.   But it can’t be undone.  Baseball can be great in Miami again.  There can be 5 major league teams in the NL East instead of 4 and the shell of the Marlins.  The only impediment is Jeffrey Loria and the sham of a franchise he’s running in south Florida.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Check out these posts

For those of you who know me personally, know that this find was like Christmas morning for me.  It's a fantasy baseball lineup composed of Star Wars characters from the blog Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks.  Check that out here.

And I also came across this post for the James Bond fans out there.  Nice work by The Hall of Very Good.

Free Agent Season in Full Swing

It’s everyone’s favorite time of year.  My birthday’s coming up.  Just kidding.  (No really it’s December 9th, feel free to send gifts.)  But it’s the winter meetings.  Time for baseball’s front offices to all get together in a hotel somewhere and play golf, eat in fancy restaurants and talk, in passing, about making trades.  While recent winter meetings have seen a flurry of offseason activity, things are beginning sluggishly again this season.  Last year most of the major moves were made later in the free agent season and this year is looking the same.  But plenty of teams are looking to improve via the free agent market or trades.  For a great breakdown of the free agent market and a ranking of free agents from number 1 to number 175, check out Jeff Passan’s article here.  I’ll just give a couple of thoughts about my top 10 free agents and where they could end up.

1.              Josh Hamilton- He’s the biggest offensive prize on the market, but also one of the hardest to deal with.  The years of abuse drugs and alcohol took on his body make his body seem older than the 31 years it is.  Still he’s a former MVP who plays a premier position and has all 5 tools.  But his past means he’s likely going to be limited to a 4-5 year contract, as well as a move to right or left field.  Also, don’t expect to see him run as much, as that’s how a lot of big guys get hurt.  The traditional players in the free agent market don’t seem to be looking at him.  The Yankees want to get payroll under the luxury tax mark for next year, the Red Sox might be re-building and the Phillies have too much money promised to pitching to be able to afford him.  Even last year’s big spenders the Los Angeles Dodgers have a full outfield of expensive players (Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier).  Suitors for Hamilton include the Mariners (who need some sort of offensive shot in the arm, but one player may not do it), the Orioles (looking to build off last year’s success and having a player of Hamilton’s caliber in left might keep them near the top of the AL East), and the Milwaukee Brewers (who don’t seem to need him as much with their stud offense clicking on all cylinders).  Big League Stew breaks down those three options here.  But the Mariners have trouble drawing free agents, the Brewers don’t make much sense and Peter Angelos doesn’t like spending Baltimore money on free agents.  So really this is wide open.  The Yankees need a new right fielder, but I don’t know that they want to spend the money.  The Angels could use him with Torii Hunter departing, but they spent a ton last offseason.  The Braves make a lot of sense with him in left and Martin Prado moving to third for the retired Chipper Jones, but they likely can’t afford him.  I think San Francisco could use him, but they likely don’t have the money either.  Maybe the White Sox decide to spend again and put him in left or the Tigers decide to replace Delmon Young with Hamilton.  He could go anywhere, that’s what makes him so intriguing.  He’ll get a huge 7 figure deal most likely.  The question is, which team wants him bad enough to pay him the most and offer him 5+ years when most teams want to keep it around 4.
2.              Zach Greinke- The best pitcher on the market, Greinke is an interesting case.  It was said he couldn’t play in big cities, but I’d say LA is pretty large.  He was a Cy Young Winner in Kansas City, fantastic in Milwaukee and strong with the Angels.  They want to re-sign him badly.  The Yankees need pitching, but outbidding others for his services will likely put them over the $189 million luxury tax threshold that they’ve been over the past 5 years.  A huge cut for the Yankees, a laughably high amount for most other teams.  The Phillies have too much money tied up in pitching.  The Red Sox seem to be cutting back, but they could really use him, so maybe they make a run at him with all that salary off the books.  The Dodgers would love to add him and for them money is apparently no object.  The Rangers could afford him and continue to make the Angels life in the AL West miserable.  Or maybe the Tigers decide to go into massive debt and take another “all in” run at a title.  While other teams could definitely use him to take a big step closer to the World Series (Cincinnati, St. Louis, Washington, Milwaukee) they either don’t have the money or have too good of pitching to justify the money he’d get.  I think he will go to a major market team with lots of cash.  Think either LA club, the Rangers, or possibly an Eastern dark horse like the Yanks or Red Sox.
3.              BJ Upton- The second best hitter available comes with question marks.  His effort is routinely questioned, his AVG can be abysmal but he can also slug HR and swipe a ton of bags.  Keeping him in center field seemed to help the Rays settle him down, but he used to play second and could also play left.  Maybe the Yankees put him in left and Ichiro in right.  But they could be outbid in their quest to stay below the luxury tax.  Perhaps the Red Sox decide he’s worth spending some of their newfound financial freedom towards, but they’ve been burned by Rays outfielders before, and surer bets at that.  There are mid-level financial clubs with holes in the outfield (Atlanta, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Oakland) but they will likely be outbid/not want to spend that kind of money on someone with Upton’s background.  The Angels or Rangers make sense.  Someone will pay a little more than they think he’s worth, and that’s who will get him.  The question is which player shows up?  The slugger/speedster or the unhappy 200 hitter with gross lapses in effort.
4.              Anibal Sanchez- A decent secondary option for teams that miss out on Greinke.  He’s struggled in the past, but caught on for the Tigers at the perfect time.  He’ll get overpaid based on his post season performance, but he could have turned a corner and maybe is a better pitcher now.  He’s got good command and his secondary pitches looked great at the end of last year.  Sanchez has the potential to be a steal or a bust.  He’ll go to the team that thinks his postseason was for real, they’ll offer him the most money and that likely means a big market team.  Any of the Greinke suitors, as long as they didn’t get Greinke.  Texas, both LA teams, maybe the Red Sox or Yankees.
5.              Hiroki Kuroda- Very similar to Sanchez in the question factors, but different in every other way.  Sanchez could be great or a bust.  So you pay him expecting something in the middle.  Kuroda is probably the most predictable pitcher on the market, and you are sure to get someone slightly above average.  Likely the same teams in the Sanchez market will be in on the Kuroda market.  A mid-level team will strike at someone, and Kuroda makes the most sense, as he’s a veteran with a strong background of success.  But the most likely candidates are in Texas, LA, NY and Boston.
6.              Nick Swisher- This one is a puzzler.  He was fantastic in four regular seasons in New York and abysmal in four postseasons in New York.  The Yankees almost certainly won’t bring him back.  But where will he go?  Plenty of teams could use him, but he’s not a spring chicken and doesn’t excel at anything.  He could hit 300 and slug 20 HR, but he could also hit 250 and hit 10.  His defense in right is okay.  He could be the guy to fall to a team that can’t afford Hamilton or Upton.  Think Atlanta, San Fran, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Arizona.  Maybe a club that did well last year that wants to add a veteran for depth:  Washington, Detroit, a return to Oakland.  He could end up anywhere.
7.              Michael Bourn- Washington is the front-runner here.  They’ve lobbied for him, made public statements about him and think he’s the perfect leadoff guy for their lineup.  They will likely stay out of the Hamilton and Upton races to save money for Bourn.  The Braves will want to re-sign him, but they can’t outbid the Nationals who have a lot of money.  Maybe another team makes a run at him (San Fran, Cincinnati, Baltimore), but he’s likely staying in the NL East.
8.              Dan Haren- The Angels have let him go.  Most think it’s to save money for signing Greinke.  He’s a great pitcher.  But injuries and a loss of fastball velocity have made him more hittable.  He has the potential to be an ace like he was in Oakland and Arizona, but those days could also be behind him.  I could see the Rangers sweeping in to take him on, maybe the Yankees sell him on a longer deal for less money or the Reds, Diamondbacks, or Tigers bring him in to put them over the top.  He’s a great pitcher that could fall to a team with less money.  Or a top flight team that missed on other options could settle on him.
9.              Rafael Soriano- He was fantastic in relief of Mariano last year.  He closed in New York, replacing a legend.  That should make up for concerns that the only places he’s closed (Atlanta, Tampa Bay) were less intense.  He’ll get good money as the best closer on the free agent market.  (Technically Mariano Rivera is a free agent but he’s going back to the Bronx).  The market for a closer has us looking at new teams that haven’t been on the list yet.  Toronto is a possibility.  So are the White Sox, Red Sox or Tigers.  Or maybe a team with a closer offers him a lot to be a set up man or to fight for a closing job (Angels, Rangers).  He’ll go to whoever offers him the most money.
10.          Mike Napoli- He’s a bad defensive catcher.  He’s a bad defensive first baseman.  He’s a great DH.  But he’s good enough to catch and play first, with his bat making up for any deficiencies.  He won’t hit for a high AVG and will strikeout a ton.  He’ll also have a fantastic slugging percentage, on base percentage and will give you HR and walks.  The Yankees need a catcher if they let Russell Martin go, but they won’t be crazy about Napoli’s defense or price tag.  Maybe the White Sox replace Pierzynski with Napoli.  He’s the best catching option available, but again, he’s more of a part time catcher who should see plenty of time DHing and occasional time at first.  The White Sox are more looking for a true catcher.  And Adam Dunn has locked up the DH position.  The Rangers could re-sign him.  The Mets would love a player like him, but can’t afford him.  The Nationals would be an interesting spot for him if they decide not to re-sign Adam LaRoche, but they would lose a lot defensively.  Maybe he plays first and is a backup catcher in Milwaukee.  That puts Corey Hart back in right.  And who knows what the Dodgers will do.  Napoli is hard to place, but he’ll go to someone and get a lot of money to do something.

And let’s not forget that there are always surprise signings, trades that take teams out of the race for certain guys and anything can happen.  Who thought that Albert Pujols would be an Angel or that Prince Fielder would be a Tiger at this time last year?  So we’ll wait and see. 

Keep checking back here in the offseason for big baseball stories.  And check out the winner’s of the BBA awards at their page here.  A lot of my picks matched up with what the final tally was.  Some of them didn’t.  Always fun to hear the discussion.  And if you get a chance, like my Facebook page here.  I’d really appreciate it.  Okay, more to come soon!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Breakdown of the Goose Gossage Awards

So now that I’ve posted my End of the Year Award winners, I thought I’d take my readers through my thought process, see the others I considered for each award and explain why I chose who I chose.  And I’ll finish with my Goose Gossage Award winners.

This one was a little goofy.  I made my picks, copied it off of Microsoft Word (like I always do) and pasted it into my blog.  Then, when I went back to the Word document to work on the breakdown, I thought that I forgot to post my Goose Gossage Award winners.  In reality, they were just one page up and I didn’t see them.  I scrolled down looking for them, and found my initial stat breakdown.  I copied that, inadvertently copying the wrong AL pitcher to go with my correct NL guy and quickly tried to post it on the blog before the deadline to post awards passed.  In doing so I falied to notice two things: 

1.              I actually had posted my Goose Gossage Award winners with the rest of my award winners
2.              And that I copied the top name in both sections of my stat breakdowns, not realizing that both top guys weren’t the winners I chose.  They just happened to be the guys whose stats I looked at first.  The NL guy was correct.  But the AL guy was wrong.

I apologize for any confusion.  But I hope I cleared it up.  And now I’ll clear up my thinking so you can see why I chose the guys I chose.

The race in the AL was a little easier than the NL one.  I considered three guys, but one rose above the rest pretty easily.  The pitchers I considered were Jim Johnson of the Orioles, Rafael Soriano of the Yankees and Fernando Rodney of the Rays.  And in typing that sentence I now notice that all of them are from AL East teams.  What do you know?

Johnson had to be the best story and biggest surprise.  He actually led the league in Saves with 51.  And while his 2.49 ERA and 1.02 WHIP were pretty good, they weren’t nearly as dominant as the other guys he was up against.  Closers have tougher numbers standards.  And in one inning, you’d have liked to see a lower ERA and a miniscule BAA.  Johnson’s was 220.  That’s not bad for a starter, but pretty middle of the road for a closer.  I think he had a fantastic year, but the number of Saves isn’t the only thing that matters in this race.  And other than that one stat, he didn’t dominate.

The second man on this list is in the running for the situation he stepped into in addition to his strong numbers.  Rafael Soriano of the Yankees was asked to do the impossible:  replace Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all time.  Luckily he got to do it in New York where the fans are known for their patience and level headedness….wait.  Even though he didn’t spend the whole season as a closer, he was still third in the league with 42 Saves.  In addition, he was pretty dominant with 69 Ks in 67 IP and a 217 BAA.  His ERA was solid (2.26) but his WHIP was too high at 1.17.  In the end though, his numbers were very good as the closer.  Better than when he was a middle reliever.  And he came into an impossible situation and played very well.  He played well enough to almost take the award in my opinion, but there was one other guy who rose above the rest.

And that man was Fernando Rodney of the Rays.  I liked the other guys a lot, but this one wasn’t too close.  Rodeny was second in the league with 48 Saves.  But that isn’t what got the job for him.  He was also asked to step into the closer role after Kyle Farnsworth got hurt in Tampa.  He then held the job and completely shut the door on opponents.  His ERA was 0.60.  That’s not a typo.  It was 0.60.  His WHIP was actually higher than his ERA, coming in at a very strong 0.78.  he held hitters to a 167 AVG against him (BAA) and was overpowering with 76 Ks in 74 IP.  His name was next to ‘dominance’ in the dictionary this season.  Rodney ran away with this one.  And he was my AL Goose Gossage Award winner.

The NL was much tougher, though I only considered two guys.  Both guys will get a lot of votes and either is worthy of the award.  It’s kind of like another MVP situation, where both guys were so good that you can’t imagine either losing.  The two guys I considered were Aroldis Chapman of the Reds and Craig Kimbrel of the Braves. 

Chapman was tied for second in the NL with 38 Saves.  What makes that even more impressive is that he was not the closer when the season started.  He was just the highest paid, most impressive middle reliever in baseball.  Then the Reds thought, “Hey, why don’t we let the guy who throws 105 MPH take a crack at the 9th inning?”  They couldn’t be happier that they had that brainstorm.  Chapman was completely dominant. In 71 IP, he struck out 122.  122!  That’s the best strikeout rate in baseball.  Add to that a fantastic 1.51 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 141 BAA and you have one of the most dominant closers in the game.  He was so good that it was almost impossible for him to lose this award.  But through no fault of his own (because he almost couldn’t have played any better) there was another pitcher with the same dominant streak who won the award in my eyes.

And that was Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves.  Kimbrel was tied for first in the league with 42 Saves.  And while he didn’t quite have the strikeout rate of Chapman, he was probably the second best in the bigs, with 116 Ks in 62 IP.  That’s still a phenomenal rate.  So if Chapman’s K rate was slightly better, why did Kimbrel get my vote?  Because Kimbrel was better in every other statistical category.  Both were dominant in every way.  The only area where Chapman was better was with the Ks, but Kimbrel was almost as good.  And, again, strikeouts are probably the least important statistic to a pitcher.  Kimbrel had a fantastic 1.01 ERA to go with a 0.65 WHIP and a miniscule 126 BAA.  Both pitcher’s were incredibly good and either is more than deserving of the award.  But I had to go with Kimbrel as my NL Winner of the Goose Gossage Award.

Okay so that’s the last of the awards breakdowns.  I’d love to hear what you think.  Share some of your picks with me.  And I’ll post the BBA’s final awards tally as soon as it’s all up.  Until then you can keep up with me by liking my Facebook page here.  It’s October!  Love the playoffs!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Breakdown of the Willie Mays Award

So now that I’ve posted my End of the Year Award winners, I thought I’d take my readers through my thought process, see the others I considered for each award and explain why I chose who I chose.  I’ll continue with the Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year).

In the National League, it came down to three people for me.  The first was the obvious choice, Bryce Harper.  The second was Todd Frazier.  And the third was the guy I ultimately chose, Wade Miley.

Todd Frazier was Cincinnati’s everyman.  He played all over the field and did a nice job.  His numbers were good, hitting 272 with 19 HR, 67 RBI, 55 R and 3 SB.  But as good as the numbers were, what really put him in the running was the way he stepped up for the Reds when Joey Votto went down.  Votto was out for the majority of the second half, and Frazier didn’t miss a step, taking over first base and keeping the Reds not only in the running, but also helping them race to the top of the standings to win the Central.  There’s no replacing Joey Votto, but Frazier did a fantastic job and they were unaffected by the loss of their best hitter.  As solid as his numbers were, what impressed me the most was the way he kept his team in it and didn’t miss a beat stepping in for the best hitter in the National League as a rookie.

Harper was the popular choice to win, and he had a great year for the Nationals.  He hit 270 with 22 HR, 59 RBI, 98 R and 18 SB.  Those numbers are pretty fantastic.  He came up to a club that was leading the NL East, and took over, hitting second in the order and doing everything they asked of him.  I was very impressed with his year, like I expected to be.  And no offense to Todd Frazier, but Harper just out hit him and was easily my runner up.  He scored almost 100 R, hit over 20 HR and stole 18 bases.  We could see a new member of the 20/20 club next year.  Harper was great, but was only second in the running in my book.

The player who got my rookie of the year vote was Wade Miley of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  I always think it’s harder for pitchers to get it going early in their careers than hitters.  And Miley was not in an easy situation in Phoenix.  After losing Daniel Hudson, their number 2 starter for the year, the Diamondbacks asked Miley to step up, and he did in a big way.  He won 16 games for a 500 team in Chase Field, which isn’t the friendliest pitchers park out there.  But he plugged up the hole in the rotation, eating innings and turning in a very impressive ERA in his first year in the majors.  I was impressed with the young hitters in the NL, but the poise of this young pitcher is what sealed it for me, making Wade Miley my Willie Mays Award winner for the National League. 

The AL was not close.  It was barely a race.  No offense to the other guys I considered, but I was ready to crown one of these guys MVP over a Triple Crown Winner.  But I did consider others for a brief second.  And those guys were Yu Darvish and Matt Moore.  And of course, my winner, Mike Trout.

Moore played pretty well.  He was another strong pitcher for a team of strong pitchers in Tampa Bay.  His 11-11 record was solid, as was his 3.81 ERA.  What really did it for me was his ridiculous strikeout rate.  He got 175 Ks in 177 IP.  But as good as he was he wasn’t even the best rookie pitcher in the AL this year. 

That honor belonged to Yu Darvish of the Rangers.  His numbers were a little better, but are all the more impressive when you consider that he did half his pitching in the Ballpark in Arlington, one of the best hitters parks in the majors.  He went 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA and 221 Ks in 191 IP.  Other than the ERA, those numbers are almost good enough to warrant Cy Young discussion.  Unfortunately for him there were a number of extremely good candidates for that race.  But he came in second in this one.  He threw almost 200 innings in his first season in the majors, playing in the strong AL West.  He was arguably the ace of that Rangers staff and played a major role in them getting to the playoffs.  16 Wins is impressive for anyone, much less a rookie.  And with over 200 Ks, he was dominant out there.  He was great.  Moore was good.  Yoenis Cespedes played well in Oakland too, better than anyone thought.  But this race was won by a large margin.  And the winner was Mike Trout.

Honestly it wasn’t even close.  His team had the best record in the AL ever since he was called up.  He was my MVP, second in the AL in AVG, first in SBs with 149 R and 30 HR and 83 RBI to boot.  He played Gold Glove caliber center field, while spending time in both corner outfield positions to help out the team early on.  He was the best player in the AL, and happened to be a rookie too.  That seals this award for him.  Trout was my Willie Mays Award winner for the AL in the easiest vote I had to cast this year.