Friday, November 6, 2015

Warming Up the Hot Stove

For fans of teams that didn't partake in serious contention of a title, and that's most teams, this is their favorite time of year. They say Opening Day brings optimism, but it's really the hot stove league that can give all fans the chance to dream.

We got the hot stove out of storage last night, by loosely breaking out free agents into tiers. Tonight, we are going to get it warmed up with a few notes, quick thoughts, and observations.

As noted by the indispensable, twenty players were offered 1 year/$15.8 million qualifying offers. This is the fourth offseason qualifying offers have existed, and no player has ever accepted one. The choice is accept the offer, or enter free agency. Most players have waited so long for free agency and can't resist their intense desire to enter the market in hopes of a larger payday. What complicates matters is a player who rejects a Q.O. will cost his new team their first round pick, unless the team has one of the first ten picks in the draft. That means that most good teams, who tend to have the ability for higher payrolls, also tend to have an aversion towards players who will cost them a first round pick. One interesting wrinkle to the game theory of acquiring players attached to a qualifying offer is that once you sign one of them, you may as well sign two or three, because the subsequent costs of losing a second and third round pick is much less. We've seen some players reject their qualifying offers and not get signed until after the next year's June draft, Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew from a couple of years ago jump out in recent memory. Below are the twenty players with qualifying offers this year:

Photo credit: Unknown
Brett Anderson
Wei-Yin Chen
Chris Davis
Ian Desmond
Marco Estrada
Dexter Fowler
Yovani Gallardo
Alex Gordon
Zack Greinke
Jason Heyward
Hisashi Iwakuma
Howie Kendrick
Ian Kennedy
John Lackey
Ian Kennedy: Environmental Beneficiary
Photo credit: Sean M. Haffey
Daniel Murphy
Colby Rasmus
Jeff Samardzija
Justin Upton
Matt Wieters
Jordan Zimmermann

The question most often brought up is, "Who's going to be the first player to accept their qualifying offer?" This year, it looks once again like no-one will. The next thought would be, "Will any of these players need to wait until June to be signed for next season?" I think all of these players will reject their offer, and they will all be signed before Spring Training. For the record, I think the worst player on this list is Ian Kennedy. He's been durable, making over 30 starts for six consecutive seasons, and there's enough value in that to get him a deal worth more than 1 year/ $19 million. Positioned one way, his agents can show a decent ERA of 3.92 the past two seasons, but his ability to actually prevent runs has been well below average the past three seasons. Baseball-Reference shows his Runs Allowed per 9 innings has been 4.79, when an average pitcher facing the same competition would have allowed an RA9 of 3.89 since the start of 2012. Any team who signs Ian Kennedy will likely be disappointed when he gives up 30+ home runs and has an ERA over 4.50 next year if he stays healthy.


One of the top free agents this year is Johnny Cueto. He has a strong track record, is still only 30 years old, and has shown durability. He's also the only professional athlete worth following on Instagram.


One international free agent we failed to mention is 24-year old Cuban hurler, Yaisel Sierra. He's a 6-1 right-hander who throws hard, has a lively arm, but doesn't have the statistics to show that he can miss bats as often as he misses the strike zone. Still, a guy who is this young and has been clocked up near 97 mph will get every opportunity to, at least, stick in a Major League bullpen. Below is a recent scouting video that shows some of his stuff and, optimistically, a repeatable and clean delivery.

2015-16 MLB Free Agent Tiered Rankings

Credit: Bruce Hemmelgarn/Getty Images 
At the moment, I believe the top free agents to be Jason Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes, David Price, Zack Greinke, Justin Upton, and Alex Gordon. That would be my top tier, consisting of six outstanding players who are still young enough to provide All Star production for three or more seasons.

A second tier would look more like a tier 1A, with Jordan Zimmermann and Johnny Cueto. They are 30-years old, the same age as Price, younger than Greinke, but a step below in track records.

Our third tier is all position players: Ian Desmond, Chris Davis, Howie Kendrick, Matt Wieters, and Ben Zobrist. This is where I'd start to place International free agents, like starting pitcher Kenta Maeda, first baseman Byung-ho Park, and outfielder Ah-seop Son.

My fourth tier has a baker's dozen of players, who should be good at least in 2015, but seem to have lower floors than most of the players listed above. This tier is mostly pitchers, or batters with unmistakable flaws, featuring Colby Rasmus, Yovani Gallardo, Jeff Samardzija, Marco Estrada, Scott Kazmir, Wei-Yin Chen, Bartolo Colon, John Lackey, Brett Anderson, Hisashi Iwakuma, Mike Leake, Dexter Fowler, and Daniel Murphy.

Credit: Jim Rogash/Getty Images 
So far, we've listed 26 Major League and 3 International free agents. Now, we start talking about role players (Gerardo Parra, Chris B. Young) and lottery tickets (Rich Hill). Steady big leaguers can be acquired in Dioner Navarro, Alexei Ramirez, Denard Span, Nori Aoki, Asdrubal Cabrera, Steve Pearce, Alex Avila, and David Freese. Back end of the rotation arms, like Doug FisterMark Buehrle, Ian Kennedy, and J.A. Happ can be found along with relievers like Ryan Madson, Darren O'Day, and Matt Thornton.

Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
The bargain bin is littered with more role players and guys looking for one more year in the sun. Drew Stubbs can still be a good pinch-hitter, hits lefties pretty well, and can run. Marlon Byrd has found the fountain of youth a few times. Will Venable might have something more to give. You could do worse than Brayan Pena as your backup catcher. Justin Morneau is a former league MVP looking to stay in the game. Gordon Beckham and Austin Jackson are still only 29 years old and can be a good utility infielder and fourth outfielder, respectively.

That's 53 Major League and 3 International free agents. This isn't the most top-heavy free agent class we've seen, but there should be a decent amount of good players to go around and Major League GM's play musical chairs with their 40 man roster spots. Afterall, the tiers above still don't include Shane Victorino, the pitcher Chris Young, Cliff Pennington, Mike Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Geovany Soto, Chad Qualls, Justin De Fratus, John Jaso, Tyler Clippard, Chris Iannetta, Juan Uribe, Jimmy Rollins, Kyle Lohse, Rajai Davis, Alejandro De Aza, Dillon Gee, Aaron Harang, former top prospects Travis Snider and Domonic Brown, reclamation projects Brandon Morrow and Bobby Parnell, fan favorite Munenori Kawasaki, nor games finished folk heroes Matt Albers and Ryan Webb.

Who doesn't love the Hot Stove?
Photo: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
That's a total of 83 players who are looking for work, and range from players demanding 9-figure contracts to those hoping for a Spring Training invitation. Experts will start posting their lists of top Free Agents in the next few days. It will be interesting to see how our tiers vary from theirs, and ultimately, which players proved to be worth their investments.

Did overrate or underrate someone egregiously? Did we miss anyone completely? As always, please provide feedback in the comments section below or on one of our social media channels.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

2015 MLB Award Ballot

Voters shouldn't allow postseason performance to skew their voting for regular season awards. With the same caution we now present our 2015 MLB Award Faux ballots... No-one was hurt in the making of these choices. Please feel free to add your own perspective in our comments section or by hitting us up on social media.

AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award
1. Carlos Correa, Astros
2. Francisco Lindor, Indians
3. Miguel Angel Sano, Twins

No time for lots of chatting today. The playoffs are starting this evening. I just want to get these picks on the record.

In addition, I would point out that the influx of talent at the shortstop position has been tremendous this year. Correa and Lindor may be the best shortstops in all of baseball at the moment, not just the best rookies. Other promising shortstops to debut this year include Addison Russell, Corey Seager, Trea Turner, and Jung-ho Kang. Correa, Lindor, Russell, and Seager are poised to be this generation's version of Arod, Jeter, Nomar, plus +1.

NL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award
1. Kris Bryant, Cubs
2. Noah Syndergaard, Mets
3. Jung-ho Kang, Pirates

You know who really fell off the radar? Joc Pederson looked like the front runner in June. By having one of the worst 2nd halves of any player, he's not even in the discussion. Matt Duffy of the Giants would have been 4th, if the ballot went that deep.

American League Cy Young Award
1. Dallas Keuchel, Astros
2. David Price, Tigers
3. Sonny Gray, A's
4. Wade Davis, Royals
5. Dellin Betances, Yankees

So far, the Astros are 2-for-2 in AL awards on this blog.

National League Cy Young Award
1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
2. Jake Arrieta, Cubs
3. Zack Greinke, Dodgers
4. Max Scherzer, Nationals
5. Jacob deGrom, Mets

This will likely be the most debated of all the awards. Each of the top 3 has had a worthy season. It really depends how you want to look at it. In my opinion, Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. He had very bad luck in the first couple of months of the season, and yet his overall numbers are right there. If his luck had been average at the start of the year, there would be no question who deserves it.

American League Manager of the Year Award
1. Joe Girardi, Yankees
2. Jeff Banister, Rangers
3. Paul Molitor, Twins

National League Manager of the Year Award
1. Terry Collins, Mets
2. Joe Maddon, Cubs
3. Clint Hurdle, Pirates

This week's firing of 2014 NL Manager of the Year, Matt Williams, once again exemplifies how meaningless this award should be.

American League MVP Award
1. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
2. Mike Trout, Angels
3. Manny Machado, Orioles
4. Adrian Beltre, Rangers
5. Chris Davis, Orioles
6. Lorenzo Cain, Royals
7. Carlos Correa, Astros
8. Francisco Lindor, Indians
9. Dellin Betances, Yankees
10. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

National League MVP Award
1. Bryce Harper, Nationals
2. Joey Votto, Reds
3. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
4. Jake Arietta, Cubs
5. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
6. Zack Greinke, Dodgers
7. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
8. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
9. Buster Posey, Giants
10. Kris Bryant, Cubs

What do you think? Whom did we overlook (Kipnis or Pollock?) or overrate?

What would have been some of your choices?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

MLB Starting Pitching Trade Market

This started off as a simple tweet about Andrew Cashner's career FIP as a starter. As you can see, it became much more than 140 characters, when we wanted to add the context of other starting pitchers who have been traded, or rumored to be on the market this July. First, a simple list of those pitchers, ranked by Career FIP as a starter...

Career FIP (as a Starter)
David Price 3.24
Alex Wood 3.26
Tyson Ross 3.28
Andrew Cashner 3.36
Mat Latos 3.40
Cole Hamels 3.46
Mike Fiers 3.55
Jesse Chavez 3.57
Hisashi Iwakuma 3.60
Jeff Samardzija 3.63
Carlos Carrasco 3.64
Yovani Gallardo 3.72
Dan Haren 3.76
C.J. Wilson 3.77
James Shields 3.79
Johnny Cueto 3.80
Julio Teheran 3.84
Scott Kazmir 3.89
Matt Garza 4.00
Ian Kennedy 4.02
Aaron Harang 4.13
Mike Leake 4.15
Bud Norris 4.22
Jeremy Hellickson 4.28
J.A. Happ 4.30
Kyle Lohse 4.30
Jorge de la Rosa 4.35

How about that Tyson Ross?! No wonder he's sounding like such a priority to the Cubs' brain trust, especially when considering his low salary. Pedro Moura made a similar observation when others speculated that Wood could be flipped for Hamels.

Now, there's speculation that Wood could be flipped for David Price. I don't see that making much sense, either. If you wouldn't flip him for Hamels, why would you flip him for 2-3 months of Price?

Since we are here, let's rank them again by xFIP, K:BB ratio, and Opponents' OPS, then provide an overall ranking if we give equal value to each statistic and scoring of 1 point for finishing in last place, 2 points for second-to-last, etc. As always, this is supposed to be fun, and like in old episodes of "Fat Albert", we may learn something...

Career xFIP (as a Starter)
Hisashi Iwakuma 3.21
David Price 3.36
Cole Hamels 3.36
Carlos Carrasco 3.39
Tyson Ross 3.40
Jeff Samardzija 3.49
Alex Wood 3.52
Andrew Cashner 3.54
Mike Fiers 3.56
James Shields 3.58
Yovani Gallardo 3.61
Mat Latos 3.63
Dan Haren 3.65
Jesse Chavez 3.66
Mike Leake 3.76
Johnny Cueto 3.82
Julio Teheran 3.87
Ian Kennedy 3.95
C.J. Wilson 3.95
Matt Garza 4.01
Bud Norris 4.04
Scott Kazmir 4.05
Jorge de la Rosa 4.13
Aaron Harang 4.17
Jeremy Hellickson 4.28
J.A. Happ 4.31
Kyle Lohse 4.38

Career K:BB Ratio (as a Starter)
Hisashi Iwakuma 4.59
Dan Haren 4.09
Cole Hamels 3.75
David Price 3.62
James Shields 3.56
Mike Fiers 3.48
Jeff Samardzija 3.29
Carlos Carrasco 3.12
Andrew Cashner 3.11
Julio Teheran 3.11
Mat Latos 3.05
Alex Wood 3.04
Jesse Chavez 2.93
Johnny Cueto 2.84
Ian Kennedy 2.74
Mike Leake 2.71
Aaron Harang 2.64
Yovani Gallardo 2.51
Matt Garza 2.51
Tyson Ross 2.40
Scott Kazmir 2.35
Bud Norris 2.35
Kyle Lohse 2.35
Jeremy Hellickson 2.31
C.J. Wilson 2.09
J.A. Happ 2.06
Jorge de la Rosa 1.92

Career Opponent's OPS (as a Starter)
David Price .651
Mat Latos .658
Hisashi Iwakuma .662
Andrew Cashner .665
Tyson Ross .670
Johnny Cueto .674
Cole Hamels .675
Alex Wood .681
C.J. Wilson .684
Jesse Chavez .693
Yovani Gallardo .696
Julio Teheran .696
Jeff Samardzija .703
Dan Haren .709
Matt Garza .710
Mike Fiers .712
Scott Kazmir .718
Jeremy Hellickson .718
James Shields .721
Mike Leake .735
Ian Kennedy .736
Carlos Carrasco .753
Kyle Lohse .755
J.A. Happ .756
Bud Norris .760
Jorge de la Rosa .760
Aaron Harang .763

David Price 103.5 pts
Hisashi Iwakuma 98 pts
Cole Hamels 93.5 pts - traded to Rangers
Andrew Cashner 86.5 pts
Alex Wood 83 pts - traded to Dodgers
Mat Latos 82 pts - traded to Dodgers
Tyson Ross 79 pts
Jeff Samardzija 76 pts
Mike Fiers 74 pts
Dan Haren 70 pts
Carlos Carrasco 67 pts
Jesse Chavez 67 pts
James Shields 63 pts
Johnny Cueto 60 pts - traded to Royals
Yovani Gallardo 59 pts
Julio Teheran 57 pts
C.J. Wilson 45.5 pts
Matt Garza 39.5 pts
Mike Leake 39 pts
Ian Kennedy 37.5 pts
Scott Kazmir 33 pts - traded to Astros
Aaron Harang 23 pts
Jeremy Hellickson 21 pts
Bud Norris 20.5 pts
Kyle Lohse 14.5 pts
J.A. Happ 10.5 pts
Jorge de la Rosa 9.5 pts

If we take salary commitments and years of team control into consideration, the rankings shift again. That's where we will leave it up to personal choice. Where would you, the reader, rank any of these players? Maybe just consider the top 5 or 10, based on total cost, what it would presumably take to get them, and how long they could help your favorite team?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Kung Fu Panda and Red Sox Angst

Photo by Brandon Wade / AP
Unclogging our writer's block...

On twitter this Sunday afternoon, the legendary Michael Schur bemoaned how much the Red Sox owe Pablo Sandoval: “Don't worry, Sox fans -- we only have to pay Sandoval $18m a year until 2019 and then we're free! (Except for a $5m buyout in 2020.)”

Ken Tremendous is one of my favorite writers and contributors of the past ten years; none of this is designed to criticize his statement. On the contrary, it got me thinking… how bad has Kung Fu Panda been? I’ve seen him in highlights. Looking into today's action, it's clear the outburst was partially triggered by Panda's defense.

Sandoval's batting numbers are below average, with just a .312 OBP and .369 SLG. Does his hitting line deserve the vitriol from Schur? Probably not. Sandoval is hitting about the same, or better, than Mookie Betts, David Ortiz, and Xander Bogaerts… they’ve been the lousiest of the everyday Red Sox hitters through May.

Does Sandoval deserve so much blame for this anxiety? Probably not, but he is struggling with a low output of extra base hits. Sandoval has only 5 doubles and 5 home runs this season. How poor is that performance? As any good economist will say, it depends.

Numbers and data can often be found and used to make a case for either side of an argument.

Pablo Sandoval has the 7th lowest extra base hit rate, among everyone with at least ten extra-base hits this year (xBH/100 PA's):
Plate appearances are a better criteria than extra base hits. Simply drawing the line at Pablo Sandoval's 180 PA's, there are fifteen players averaging less than Panda's 5.46 xBH's per 100 plate appearances.

At 150 min PA's, Sandoval has the 24th lowest score. The lightest hitting player with at least 150 PA's is Melky Cabrera, who has only 5 xBH's in 215 PA's (2.33 per 100 PA's).

We'll get to some more provocative thoughts soon, but we just needed to get the ink flowing again. Be well and enjoy the games!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Yankee Prudence

"Hal Steinbrenner" by Paul J. Bereswill
Living in New York for most of the past decade, it's easy to pick up the rhythms of the metropolis's professional sports teams. It's well known the Yankees have changed since the heyday of George Steinbrenner's wild spending on free agents. His sons have run the team with what seems like a bit more financial restraint, although their spending spree last winter completely contradicted the mantra from the prior two offseasons ago, to get under the luxury tax number. Instead, they signed Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, and Hiroki Kuroda.

Word out of New York is that they are done spending big dollars this winter and will not pursue Max Scherzer. As Ken Davidoff writes: "Steinbrenner didn’t speak like an owner expecting to add another big piece to his club". I'd challenge anyone to find that sentence in a newspaper last century. I'd love to see it, in fact.

Let's take a quick look at front office game theory. Should the Yankees just say they're in on Scherzer so the price tag goes up? Or, is it worth it to them - in an effort to keep salaries lower across baseball - to say they are out of it and hope Scherzer doesn't set any records? If Scherzer gets close to $200 million from somebody, will it wind up costing the Yankees more for a different free agent in the future?

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 Hall of Fame "Suspense"

There's a lot of talk about the suspense surrounding tomorrow's announcement as to who will get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this Summer. Unfortunately, I'm not really on the edge of my seat on the matter. Due the the great work of Ryan Thibbs and Darren Viola, we have an excellent idea of how the votes will shake out. In fact, this year, I feel that there's more suspense with who will fall off the HOF ballot than who gets inducted.

Pedro is an Inner Circle HOF'er
Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz will get in. Craig Biggio is a "probably", and Mike Piazza is a "probably not". That's it. No-one else is getting in through the BBWAA ballot this year. With the overstuffed ballot and an archaically arbitrary limit of 10 votes per ballot, many players who deserve to stay on the ballot will receive less than 5% of the vote, and not make it into the consideration set next year.

The cases for Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra, and Carlos Delgado weigh particularly heavily on my mind. I'm not saying these players are or aren't Hall of Famers, but they were definitely good enough to deserve a few years on the ballot to have their cases considered. Heck, in my hypothetical ballot this year, I would vote for Larry Walker, and he is also in danger of getting eliminated. These great players stand too good a chance of being abandoned and forsaken. My hopes for who will or won't get in don't actually have much to do with the individual players. If Biggio or Piazza don't get in this year, they will in another year or two. However, if they get in this year, it lessens the bottleneck of great players and would allow more voters to fit deserving players like Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell on their ballots next Winter. Still, the greater suspense right now seems to sit with the marvelous players who are getting almost ignored. If a great player gets knocked off this ballot, he'll likely have to wait decades to be considered by a veterans committee. Those committees, often made of living Hall of Famers, have traditionally been too busy keeping their private club as exclusive as possible, granting little hope for the living.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Team Off the Street

We built a team of Hall of Fame Outsiders this morning. Now, we are looking at present day team construction. How good could a team fully comprised of late December free agents be this year? Let's see what's available right now, on the evening of Monday, December 22nd. Bringing us up to speed, the most recent transactions are:

- The Padres got Justin Upton and Aaron Northcraft from the Braves for Max Fried, Jace Peterson, Dustin Peterson, Mallex Smith, and international bonus compensation. Fried is a clear headliner in this package of potential regulars.

Derek Norris is going to San Diego

- More clearly, the Padres rebuilt their outfield by trading for Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and Matt Kemp. They also added All Star catcher Derek Norris by trading a couple of young arms to Oakland.

- The Yankees acquired Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Jones, and Domingo German from the Marlins for Martin Prado, David Phelps, and cash.

- The Cubs signed Jon Lester's personal catcher, David Ross. They also signed Jason Motte for the bullpen and acquired Ryan Lavarnway to add organizational depth at Catcher.

Does Josh Johnson have anything
left, or is he the next Ben Sheets?
- The Mets sold Gonzalez Germen to the Yankees for cash considerations

- Pittsburgh signed Corey Hart, presumably for first base

- San Diego is getting Josh Johnson back on a heavily incentive laden 1-year contract.

- The Twins signed left-handed relief pitcher Wil Ledezma

- The Pirates won the bidding for Jung-ho Kang

Two days ago, Kang would've been our #3 hitter and starting shortstop.

Ichiro, dressed for his job interview
1: Ichiro Suzuki, LF
2: Everth Cabrera, SS
3: Norichika Aoki, RF
4: Gaby Sanchez, 1b
5: Colby Rasmus, CF
6: Geovany Soto, C
7: Stephen Drew, 2b
8: Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3b

Fans of this team would really need Ichiro to dig deep for “one more year in the sun”. Aoki is a decent free agent. Everth Cabrera was a surprising non-tender, but he isn’t a great hitter. The rest of the players range from underperforming former prospects, underperforming former non-prospects, and disastrous former prospects.

Amy Hundley thinks Nick is employable
C: Nick Hundley
PH Rt: Jonny Gomes
PH Lt: Nate Schierholtz
OF: Tony Gwynn, Jr.
IF: Mark Ellis
Util: Emilio Bonifacio

Everth Cabrera in place of Mark Ellis, with Jung-ho Kang at shortstop would improve the team quite a bit. Kang has real power, to drive in 18+ home runs, something that few middle-infielders can claim. Schierholtz and Gomes could play decent platoon in the style of current Cubs, A’s, and Rays regimes. It’ll be interesting to see if future clubs like the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Cubs will look to platoon positions at who will be paid like everyday starters on other teams. Heck, if the Padres could afford it, they would roll into 2015 with an outfield of Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Seth Smith, Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, and Rymer Liriano. Instead, Smith and Quentin will probably get traded or shifted to first base.

Pitching Staff:
SP: Max Scherzer
"Hi, I'm Scott Boras. Max is your man."
SP: James Shields
SP: Hiroki Kuroda
SP: Aaron Harang
SP: Ryan Vogelsong
Swing: Carlos Villanueva
Middle: Sergio Santos
Middle: Jason Grilli
LOOGY: Joe Thatcher
Setup: Rafael Soriano
Closer: Francisco Rodriguez

This imaginary team would not score a lot of imaginary runs. The pitching would have to be tight, and this staff actually looks halfway decent. The bullpen is paper thin in the dependable category. Most of these guys have exhaustive medicals.

If our Team Off the Street could sign decent depth guys to minor league deals, like the ones listed below, I’d take this team for Over 81 wins.

Next up (alphabetical): Mike Adams, RHP; Andy Dirks, OF; Casey Janssen, RHP; Alexi Ogando, RHP; Rickie Weeks, 2b; Jamey Wright, RHP; Wesley Wright, LHP; Eric Young, Util

Hall of Fame's Best Outsiders

We did this once in 2010 and again at this time last year. The point is to construct the best team of players who have been eligible for at least one Hall of Fame vote. In other words, guys who retired after 2009, like Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson, are not eligible for this team. After we get through this year's vote, next year's club should be even better, adding at least Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra, and maybe even Brian Giles to the mix.

3rd Occasional Non Hall of Famers Team
Batting Order
Bobby Grich was a better defender
and had a higher OPS+ than Jeff Kent
1. Kenny Lofton, CF
2. Jeff Bagwell, 1b
3. Barry Bonds, LF
4. Mike Piazza, C
5. Larry Walker, RF
6. Bobby Grich, 2b
7. Dick Allen, 3b
8. Alan Trammell, SS

Bench: Bill Freehan, C
Bench: Edgar Martinez, DH
Bench: Tim Raines, LF
The Crime Dog is worthy
Bench: Jeff Kent, 2b
Bench: Lou Whitaker, 2b
Bench: Dale Murphy, CF/RF
Bench: Fred McGriff, 1b
Bench: Craig Biggio, 2b/CF/C
Bench: Reggie Smith, CF/RF

SP: Roger Clemens
SP: Curt Schilling
SP: Mike Mussina
SP: Kevin Brown

P: Luis Tiant
Mussina is a new edition this year
P: Rick Reuschel
P: Dave Stieb
P: Dan Quisenberry

Manager: Buck O'Neil

Honorable mention goes to Norm Cash, Don Mattingly, Minnie Minoso, David Cone, Bill Dahlen, Dwight Evans, Graig Nettles, Bo Jackson, Dolf Luque, and Frank Howard. Who else deserves consideration?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bienvenidos, Javier

We're not sure how long MLB lords allow this video online, ominously dreading that moment, whereas we may auspiciously enjoy this here and now, or, um, after a :03-second Pepsi ad:

Welcome to the big leagues, Javier Baez!

It says "embed" but it doesn't "embed". The Selig Era.

Look at that 80 power!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Today's Lesson in Volatilty of Pitching

It's been a long night, and just for fun, we checked in on the leaders in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) metrics at the moment, morning of June 9, 2014. The Top 10 of FIP leaders, with at least 10 innings pitched this season, make up a striking leader board. Among a sprinkling of routinely dominant stars (Kimbrell, Chapman, and Holland), we see rebounding former stars (Soria), failed starting prospects/turned relievers (Betances, Davis, McGee, Kontos), good stories (Doolittle) and surprises (Ramirez):

1. Joakim Soria, Rangers 0.76 FIP
2. Dellin Betances, Yankees 0.88 FIP
3. Aroldis Chapman, Reds 1.08 FIP
4. Wade Davis, Royals 1.10 FIP
5. Craig Kimbrel, Braves 1.13 FIP
6. Sean Doolittle, Athletics 1.18 FIP
7. Greg Holland, Royals 1.25 FIP
8. Jake McGee, Rays 1.49 FIP
9. George Kontos, Giants 1.53 FIP
10. Neil Ramirez, Cubs 1.58 FIP

It's great to see Joakim Soria back on top (AP Photo)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Poof, It's Gone

Elite pitching with World Class velocity will be short lived. The human arm is not built to accelerate and decelerate at the speeds and angles required to throw a baseball over 90 mph. The risks to ill effects increases the harder each pitcher throws. For pitchers to stay healthy, they need to emulate Greg Maddux more than Pedro Martinez. On the other hand, no-one would kick a prospect out of bed for pitching like Pedro Martinez. For years, "mechanics" has been the beginning and end of stories related to pitchers' health. Yet, we still have professional pitchers throwing with an inverted W in their arm load motion that has continuously portended arm injuries. Teams need to teach against that tendency. It would also reward teams to stress the importance of pacing one's self. Starting pitchers will say that they obviously already pace themselves. Only relief pitchers can go max effort on every pitch. My guess is that most starting pitchers are still not pacing themselves enough. Matt Harvey was lights out, sitting at 96 mph on his 4-seamer. Wouldn't he have been able to succeed at 93, only reaching back for 97 a few times each game? How many more runs would he have allowed pitching that way? Would he be healthy today pitching that way? Is pitching that way even possible? Or, is there something fundamentally unnatural about constantly throwing to far beneath your max effort? I tend to think it's possible. Boxers will talk about throwing punches at Max effort, vs an effort that's sustainable for an entire round and a series of rounds. Boxing is about as primal a sport as we have. If boxers can naturally pace themselves, so should professional baseball players.

Jered Weaver is getting it done. He's living with a fastball in the upper 80's. He used to touch the mid to upper 90's, but has morphed into an effect pitcher who can hit his spots and induce weaker contact. His ballpark certainly helps him a lot. He knows that he can give up fly balls at home because they are likely to be caught by one of the Angels in the outfield. (Sorry.)

God help keep Yordano Ventura healthy, Sonny Gray too. Now that Jose Fernandez is following in the footsteps of Matt Moore, Matt Harvey, Stephen Strasburg and other phenoms by having the Ulnar Collateral Ligament in his pitching arm replaced, Ventura and Gray are among the brightest young pitchers that come to mind. Come to think of it, I'd also like to see Andrew Cashner avoid recurrences of injuries of years' past. Alex Wood has a terribly ugly delivery, lots of body parts going in all different directions. Nobody expects Alex Wood to stay healthy much longer than Tommy Hanson did before destroying his shoulder. It's hard to change Wood's delivery if his results are positive and that's how he's most comfortable. Sadly, most have a feeling that these arms are to be used, much like running backs in the NFL, until they don't work anymore. If the player gets hurt, or worn out to the point of ineffectiveness, in a few years, then worry about who replacing the injured player in a couple of years. Hopefully, Clayton Kershaw's strained muscle in he back of his shoulder is a minor blip. The muscle he hurt is larger than the muscles of the rotator cuff. They are more resilient and have a higher likelihood of getting back to 100% fully healthy. If you hurt your rotator cuff, on the other hand, you're likely never going to get back to anything more than 95% of what you used to be able to do.*

*Okay, that 95% number is totally coming from a place that has no basis in fact. I'm guessing, making tj up, and don't even know precisely what it means. My point is that shoulder injuries to the smaller, more delicate muscles of the rotator cuff are more fatal than those to a larger shoulder, chest, or back muscle.

Back to hoping good things for some of the best young arms in the game... Madison Bumgarner has a chance to put together an extremely special career, if he can get back to where he was a year or two ago. Nathan Eovaldi is blossoming into one of the hardest throwing starters in baseball. That, alone, should be a red flag to the Marlins. Gio Gonzalez does not have great mechanics, neither do Zack Wheeler nor Michael Wacha. Have you seen Shelby Miller's numbers this year? He might already be broken.

The Nats have a good one in Giolito
(Photo by Patrick Cavey,
In the minor leagues, we can worry about Lucas Giolito, Noah Syndergaard, Kohl Stewart, Hunter Harvey, plus a bunch of guys on the Cardinals, Astros and Blue Jays. More and more, amateur pitchers in high school and college are falling victim to the exploding elbow. We are talking about the best power arms of the future. Baseball needs to protect them better, but can they? We don't know of any one certain way that anyone can be protected.

Teams need to start calling up young pitchers as soon as they show they are one of the 11 best pitchers in the organization. We were all shocked when the Marlins decided to call-up Jose Fernandez at the start of last season. He was so young, and the Marlins were so non-competitive. Why would they start his service time on a lousy team? Why risk calling him up too early, letting him get hit hard if that the case? Why? We couldn't understand it, other than to think that maybe they were looking for a gate attraction at every fifth home game.

Looking back, how glad are we that the Marlins introduced us to Fernandez last season? A traditional team would have had him in a couple of minor league levels that last 18 months, and he would have broken his elbow before his Major League debut. The Nationals wasted a lot of Stephen Strasburg's bullets before finally calling him up. Teams, especially the rich teams, will probably begin to value potential Major League contributions of any elite prospect right away - while they're actually healthy. Many will say that the biggest problem with arm injuries is how unpredictable they are. No-one has agreed on proven best practices for maintaining health. It seems the actual problem is contrarian. My biggest issue with arm injuries is that they are becoming too predictable. Everyone's getting one.