Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's Over

I've never said this before. I've always been a supporter, but this is too much. It is time to fire Jim Hendry. It's over.

For Christmas, Jim Hendry gave Cub fans the disaster that is Carlos Silva. Why? To save money in order to spend it on a center fielder.

What does Mr. Hendry do with his new freedom? He flushes $15 million over the next 3 years down the toilet that is Marlon Byrd's game. Happy New Year, Cub Fans! Marlon Byrd stinks. Last season, while playing for the Texas Rangers, Byrd his a career high 20 HR's. Did the Cubs ignore the fact that he hit 14 HR's at home, and only 6 HR's on the road?

According to UZR/150, his defense in Centerfield was below average last season. So, this is not the case of getting someone like Carlos Gomez, who can at least provide good defense while making outs 66% of the time.

Last season, as a 32-year old, Byrd had the best season of his career. Fangraphs valued his production at $3.1 million. So, the Cubs think he'll be worth $5 million each year in his age 33, 34, and 35 seasons. This is lunacy. The Cubs had Felix Pie, and gave him to Andy MacPhail for nothing. As Clark Griswold said towards the end of Christmas Vacation, where's the Tylenol?

Hall of Fame Voting

Now is a great time to read baseball articles from around the country, as Hall of Fame voters often write columns announcing and defending their ballots for next spring's induction.

Voters get to vote for a maximum of 10 players from the list of nominees that we glanced over in this post last month.

After careful (not very careful) deliberation, my Hall of Fame ballot would contain check marks next to the following names: Bert Blyleven, Tim Raines, Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell, Andre Dawson, and Fred McGriff. They won't all get in, but it would be fine for my Hall of Fame.

Posnanski recently spent 5,000 words discussing, among other things, the infinite possibilities of who's in & who's out of everyone's perfect Hall of Fame. He compared the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, with Baseball Think Factory's Hall of Merit.

So, why did I pick those eight guys? Why were these my 'eight men in'? (sorry, that's really bad.) Whom did I barely leave off my ballot? Who's asking these questions?

Bert Blyleven
Rich Lederer is my unofficial leader of the pro-Bert for HOF movement. This post from December 12, 2005 opened some minds. In fact, on December 17, 2005, Bob Klapisch, calling himself 'a late convert', joined the flock.

A simple Google search of "bert blyleven for hall of fame" shows 51,400 results. Joe Posnanski has written virtually countless words on the subject, most recently
here, here, here, and even here. One of my favorite stats recently pulled out by Joe, with help from one of his Brilliant Readers shows number of wins that pitchers got from 1-0 final score games...

Most 1-0 shutout victories

Walter Johnson: 38
Pete Alexander: 17
Bert Blyleven: 15
Christy Mathewson: 14
Cy Young: 13
Eddie Plank: 13
Doc White: 13
Ed Walsh: 13
Dean Chance: 13
San Coveleski: 12
Gaylord Perry: 12
Steve Carlton: 12
Fergie Jenkins: 11
Greg Maddux: 11.
Nolan Ryan: 11.
Sandy Koufax: 10.

So the next time someone tells you that Bert Blyeven never won a Cy Young, you can say: “Yeah, but he won more 1-0 shutouts than Cy Young.” And he did it when the ball was LIVE.

Tim Raines
Here is another guy that should be an obvious choice, and again writers on this blog's suggested reading list like Keith Law, King Kaufman, Jonah Keri, and Tom Tango. Of course, we want to steal even more from our favorite writer, Mr. Posnanski...

The Hall of Fame seems to come down to a player’s peak and his longevity. Was he truly great at his best? And was he good for a long enough time?

Well, Tim Raines had a huge peak. From 1983-87 — the five year peak — he hit .318/.406/.467 for a 142 OPS+, the same OPS+ that Jim Rice had during his five-year peak. During those five years, he averaged 114 runs scored, 34 doubles, 10 triples, 11 home runs and 71 stolen bases a year. He led the league in runs scored twice, batting and on-base percentage once, doubles once, stolen bases twice, and could have won three MVP awards. He had 163 win shares in those five years — an average of 32.6. Bill says a 30-win share season is an MVP-type year.

Tim Raines also had a huge career. He reached base almost 4,000 times … or to compare him to a similar player, about 150 times more than Lou Brock. He’s fifth all-time in stolen bases. His .385 on-base percentage is the second-best among eligible Hall of Famers with 9,000 plate appearances (behind only the Walking Man Eddie Yost), and his slugging percentage is better than Rickey Henderson’s or Brock’s and just two points behind Joe Morgan.

This is not a borderline Hall of Fame candidate here. This is a dominant player. He never really got his due as a player while he was playing … in part because he shared his era with the great Rickey Henderson, in part because he spent his best years in Canada, in part because he was hammered by collusion, in part because on-base percentage did not (and does not) get the respect it deserved, in part because leadoff hitters tend to be naturally underrated, in part because he spent his last six or seven years as a part time player and that image of the older Raines was burned in the memory of people (especially his two championship years with the Yankees).

Roberto Alomar
He had it all, or was just a touch less powerful than someone who had it all. He was the best defensive second baseman in the world for a while. He was awesome for about 11 years, from 1991 to 2001. Most importantly, he won and played well at the highest level with Toronto's first and last World Championship teams. Maybe I give him bonus points for flopping with the Mets in 2002. That was classic. Alomar was coming off arguably the best season of his career for the Indians in 2001, career high OPS of .956, to go along with 113 RBI, 100 R's, 20 HR's, and 30 SB's.

Barry Larkin
I find Barry Larkin's case to be similar to Alomar's and Trammell's. Larkin was an offensively gifted middle-infielder who lead his team to World Championship(s). His career shows how hard it can be to accumulate some counting stats. He played from the time he was 22 until he was 40, with a lifetime .295 Batting Average, yet he had only 2,340 hits. He's in my Hall due to his well-rounded abilities to use all five tools, my intangible feelings about winning and leadership, and other indefensible reasons like consistency. Here are some nice career stats: 379 stolen bases, caught only 77 times, BA/OBP/SLG career slash lines of .295/.371/.444, he walked more than he struck out, and of course he won a World Series ring in 1992.

Edgar Martinez
The best Designated Hitter I've ever seen deserves his own post, or series of posts. He is a player who got a late start, after being mishandled by the Mariners as he toiled away in the Minors until he was 27 years old. Look at his stats, from 1992 and 1995 through 2003, when his OBP never dropped below .403, he hit with power, and ended his career with slash lines of .312/.418/.515. He gets penalized by some voters for playing most of his career as a DH, but I don't buy that for many reasons, of which I'll share three. First, should he be rewarded if his manager sent him out to play terrible defense like we sometimes see with guys like Jack Cust, Adam Dunn, and Jason Giambi? Do they help their teams more than guys who spare their teams crappy defense and DH? Second, the argument holds some water, if we're talking about a borderline hitter, but Martinez is an elite warrior with the bat. He could work the count, take a walk, hit an occasional "ground ball with eyes", and drive mistake pitches into gaps and over walls outfielders' heads with regularity. Third, the precedent has been set when Paul Molitor got in on the first ballot. Sure, he had the automatic ticket of 3,319 hits. Still, he was a DH for many of those hits, and his career OPS+ of 122 is dwarfed just enough by Martinez's 147, that I have to stand firm on this one.

Alan Trammell
I feel that Trammell will never get into the Hall, mostly for being in the shadow of Cal Ripken his entire career. He was a leading winner in Motown for Sparky Anderson (not easy), and he had a very impressive peak in the mid 1980's. He's a borderline candidate, and I will stand with his supporters until proven otherwise.

Andre Dawsom
The Hawk is my favorite player of all time. He was the first super-human player I ever rooted for, and there is NO WAY he's staying off my ballot. I've heard the arguments against his induction, most loudly the fact that his career OBP was an abysmal .323. I choose to believe the arguments that only three players have 400 HR's and 300 SB's: Mays, Bonds, and Dawson. He won a bunch of Gold Gloves. Played Centerfield beautifully in his hey day in Montreal. Then, he commanded Right Field, with a cannon arm and great instincts in Wrigley Field and stops with Boston and Florida after that.

I also think that playing his peak years one Montreal's concrete & turf field ruined his knees more than most players in baseball history. If he'd played on a surface that kept him limber, he could have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Of course, the Hall of Fame would have thousands of players if we could all cancel out a few "if's".

Fred McGriff
I expect McGriff to get in eventually, but I'm not sure about this year. He never (or very rarely) felt like a Hall of Famer during his playing days. How many Hall of Famers are traded four times? His ability to play, like Larkin, from the age 22 season to age 40, enabled him to hit 493 Homeruns, drive in 1,550 runs, and 2,490 hits, with a career 134 OPS+.

All right, folks, let's hear from you. You can only vote for 10 guys. Who's on your ballot?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Good Friends, Keepers, & Sleepers

As most of our loyal readers know, I've been living in New York for about 20 months... To let you know where I'm coming from, literally, I'm a Chicago guy, who "colleged" in New Orleans, and since them has lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland (Oregon), and now Manhattan.

A tradition that many of my NY friends, which I rather like is a yearly boys' night out, where we go "shopping" for our significant others one evening in mid/late December. The tradition has evolved from a group of guys at a department store, before going to a bar - to a group of guys who just meet at a bar and skip the shopping entirely.

We had a good time this year, although we missed some friends who couldn't make it. One of our friends of the blog, let's call him "Horn", couldn't have been more pleasant to catch up with. Here we were on December 17th, and all Horn wanted to do was talk baseball. We huddled up around the imaginary hot stove at a midtown Irish bar, while I gently nursed a Sierra Nevada and Horn admitted to a hangover & asked for a Pepsi.

Horn is a Yankee fan. That can mean a lot of things. To be more precise, Horn is the kind of Yankee fans who supports the team, expects them to compete for championships, while always feeling nervous about the outcome. He's one of the few people I know who felt drama during the Bronx Bombers dominant, Championship run. I think he's a nervous fan. There's nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, nervous fans are outstanding. What's more fun that watching a game with a fan who's mere sanity is hanging on the outcome of every play? To the point that Horn is a great fan, he loves following major New York sports teams. I even remember seeing him passionately watch the end of an early round New Jersey Devils playoff game, while pacing around a New Orleans hotel room during Jazz Fest circa 2003.

Back to the bar, my Sierra turned into a Blue Moon, both on draft of course. Horn, asked for a water.

Horn has always been a terrifically supportive fan of the ol' blog. When we go too long in between posts, Horn is usually one of the first to notice and ask us what's going on. From what I gather, he loves to hear about sleepers and prospects. It's a nice reminder of what this blog was supposed to be about, at inception. We were looking for a place to read & write about baseball, while maintaining focus on both worlds of reality & rotisserie. Horn asked us for more updates on sleepers, so to this holiday party we will bring up a discussion of sleepers & I'm going to use potential keepers from my rotisserie league as a starting point.

Scoring in this league is pretty standard, except we play with OBP instead of Batting Average. Stats are: OBP/HR/R/RBI/SB and W, SV, K, ERA, WHIP

Going into the offseason, we select ten players from our roster (who were not drafted in the top four rounds) and they are in our "Keeper Consideration Pool". Cool name, I know. A few days before the draft in March, each team picks five players from their KCP as their keepers. Since keepers must be drafted after the 4th or 5th round, I think most of them are either big surprises or sleepers. You can keep a guy for 4 more years, so teams can really stockpile value if they play their cards right.

My team's Keeper Consideration Pool:

Alexei Ramirez
Cameron Maybin
Chris Coghlan
Colby Rasmus
David Price
Desmond Jennings
Dexter Fowler
Elvis Andrus
Joe Mauer
Tommy Hanson

Joe Mauer and Tommy Hanson are not sleepers. Mauer is coming off an all-time great MVP season, and Hanson is a bona fide weapon. He'll probably give up more home runs next season, due to an unsustainable Homerun/Flyball rate, but just take a look at the WHIP numbers he's put up since he started 2008, as a 22-year old in High-A.

2008 High-A, WHIP: 0.65
2008 Double-A, WHIP: 1.13
2008 Az Fall League, WHIP: 0.85
2009 Triple-A, WHIP: 0.85
2009 MLB, WHIP: 1.18

Bill James projects Hanson to win 14 games next season, with a 3.30 ERA, and 206 strike outs in 191 innings.

Alexei Ramirez is not a sleeper. I think he was a disappointment last season, especially with his unsightly OBP every year. We'll probably still keep him because of position scarcity and his impressive Power/Speed number (17.94).

We are pretty undecided about who the other two keepers will be. Rasmus, Coghlan, and Andrus feel like safe bets, at least on the real-life field. David Price was supposed to be a super star by now, but we don't need to keep him. His stock is so low that we think we'll be able draft him, or better pitchers, in later rounds.

We spent time last summer on Dexter Fowler. I'm sold on his tools... he really looks fast and strong. I'm not sure if he has an everyday job in the Rockies' outfield.

Cameron Maybin is a sleeper because he has pretty much always struggled at the Major League level. I think he's ready to take off, but he might be one of those guys who's fast & can hit but doesn't hit HR's or steal enough bases to be a fantasy thoroughbred. Think of a speedier, streakier, David DeJesus.

The real sleeper on my list is Desmond Jennings of the Tampa Rays. He has yet to make his major league debut, but there is no doubt that he's really, really fast. They're calling him the next Carl Crawford, and that will suit us just fine for the next five years. Jennings has shown, unlike Maybin that he really knows how to steal a base. Last season in 100 double-A games, he stole 37 bases in 42 tries, with a .395 OBP. In 32 triple-A games last year, Jennings stole 15 bases in 17 tries, while OBP'ing .419. During his last five stops in the Rays' system, his BABIP's have been .324, .348, .299, .350, and .354. The question is if Jennings can win everyday at bats, while competing with guys like Matt Joyce, Fernando Perez, Gabe Kapler, and Justin Ruggiano. I think he has a chance to shine and win 2010's AL Rookie of the Year.

What defines a sleeper? I'm not sure. This discussion could go in many different directions, but let's try to stay on track. Back at the bar, Horn just left, David showed up late and my Blue Moon turned into a glass of scotch.

Other potential "sleepers" that came to mind during our discussion:

Fernando Rodney
Alcides Escobar
Jason Heyward
Carlos Santana
Aroldis Chapman
Ben Sheets
Bud Norris
Jake Fox
Matt LaPorta
Travis Snider
Rickie Weeks
Tim Hudson
Chris Tillman
Wade Davis
Elijah Dukes
Brian Bruney
Felix Pie
Jonny Gomes

Let's get the sleeper discussion started in the comments. Anyone else that should be top-of-mind for savvy drafters? Should we do a prospect spotlight for any of the names listed above?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Beauty of Hee Seop

The life around the Cubs hot stove is desperate and lonely. We, fans, are starving for feelings of pride and splendid anticipation for the upcoming season. Rumorville brings us no hope, as the foreseeable future brings us the gloom of signing Marlon Byrd, Scott Podsednik, Melky Cabrera, or that douche'r Rick Ankiel. I swear, less than 12 months after we gift wrap Felix Pie to old friend Andy MacPhail in Baltimore, we are combing through the dregs of garbage outfield options.

I've always liked Jim Hendry. His work ethic is legendary, but sometimes you need to see positive results or at least a sound "process". For too long, we've been scratching our heads over his moves before the benefit of hindsight. He's turning into the Anglo Omar Minaya, and that isn't a complement. Where can the Cubs find another Jack Zduriencik? That's what we need.

Ok, well I promised a positive post, and believe it or not, this is it...

Where do we turn when we are at our low point? We turn to family and old friends, no matter how far away they may be...

Enter the inspiration of Hee Seop Choi... Here is a guy who climbed the mountain to the Show of Major League Baseball. He reached cult-hero status on the Northside of Chicago but never achieved the glory of traditional stardom or, of course, championships.

After being traded for Derek Lee, he toiled away in the Marlins system and returned to his homeland to play for the Kia Tigers.

I'm hoping we can get through these trying times, as fans, by learning from the acquired wisdom of our old brother in arms, Hee Seop Choi. There is inspiration in the story we bring to you today. I won't muddle it with my own interpretation, but we can learn much about the healing powers of hard work, determination, and patience... When you get a chance, please take a look at one of our favorite stops on the InterWeb, the Joong Ang Daily: "Athlete climbs to health on Mt. Seorak"

Go bless the Cubs, the fans, and God bless you, Hee Seop Choi.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Oh Noooooooo!!!

Hope does not spring eternal. There is no hope for the Cubs next season.

From the AP, via ABC News...
A baseball official with knowledge of the trade says the Mariners have acquired mercurial outfielder Milton Bradley from the Chicago Cubs for expensive and underperforming pitcher Carlos Silva.
The Cubs traded away a problem for an even bigger, and more expensive problem. I don't know how we, as fans, can recover from this. I can't get the image of Frank Castillo out of my head.

Expect a happier post later today or tomorrow.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Get Well Soon, Jose Arredondo

Jorge Arangure (on Twitter) recently broke the news that Jose Arredondo will miss the 2010 season, due to Tommy John surgery.

That's terrible news for one of our two favorite setup relievers from the 2008 season. (Carlos Marmol was actually our favorite that season. But hey, we did start the Jose Arredondo fan club on Facebook.)

Let's let's Mark Polishuk recap Arredondo's last two seasons.
Arredondo posted a 1.62 ERA in 52 games (plus 3.2 scoreless playoff innings) during his 2008 rookie year, but struggled to a 6.00 ERA in 43 games with Los Angeles in 2009. He was sent down to the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees at midseason and spent some time on the disabled list with a strained elbow ligament.

On the bright side, this brought me to thinking about who was my favorite flame-throwing non-closing reliever of 2009. It took me only about 6 seconds to remember the incredible performance of Neftali Feliz.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Best Team Money Can Buy: Full Throttle

We referenced in our recent post on The Best Team Money can Buy that we weren't going to purchase an entire 25-man roster. Sorry, I couldn't resist. Here is our money-is-no-object best team money can buy... Keep in mind, some guys have signed... So, while I would love to have Chone Figgins at 3rd base, he's not available anymore...

C: Yorvit Torrealba
1b: Nick Johnson
2b: Felipe Lopez
SS: Orlando Cabrera
3b: Adrian Beltre
LF: Matt Holliday
CF: Mike Cameron
RF: Vladimir Guerrero

Bench: Xavier Nady. RF, LF, 1b
Bench: Coco Crisp, OF
Bench: Rob Quinlan, IF/OF
Bench: Bobby Crosby, IF
Bench: Garret Anderson, LF
Bench: Bengie Molina, C

SP: John Lackey
SP: Aroldis Chapman
SP: Ben Sheets
SP: Joel Pineiro
SP: Jon Garland

RP: Kelvim Escobar
RP: Rich Hill
RP: Chan Ho Park
RP: Kiko Calero
RP: Mike Gonzalez
RP: Jose Valverde

I'm sure some of my selections are pretty terrible, and I'm hoping the comments section reflects that. I mean looking at Sheets, Escobar, Nick Johnson, Nady, and Crosby makes me think that I will need to have Dr. Timothy Kremchek on staff. Plus, we'll need a reliable shuttle to/from Triple-A for replacement starters, who could end up being guys like Daniel Cabrera, Shawn Hill, Brett Tomko... heck maybe even Kris Benson & Mark Prior.

Millwood Trade Reaction

Congrats to the Rangers who just traded Kevin Millwood and $3 million to the Orioles for Chris Ray. Most importantly, they saved $9 million in the deal... Meaning, they can go get a pitcher who will likely be better than Kevin Millwood.

Do Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels feel like a couple of gamblers? I'd say so because Ranger fans will probably see most of those $9 million go to Rich Harden or Ben Sheets, who each have at decent chance of getting hurt again. I like the move, though. The Rangers have more than five viable starting pitching options right now. So, adding a high-risk/high-reward ace makes sense.

The Orioles will likely prosper from this trade, as well. I think Kevin Millwood will be a good influence on the young starters in Baltimore: Tillman, Matusz, Guthrie, etc. He will likely pass on some of the lessons he learned as a teammate of Greg Maddux, in Atlanta, and as a disciple of brilliant pitching coach, Mike Maddux, last season. The Rangers don't need that mentor because they have, um, Nolan Ryan.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Best Team Money can Buy

We hear the expression all the time. Usually teams with stars that win titles and have high payrolls, like the Yankees, Red Sox, and in other sports the Lakers or Real Madrid. But, building powerhouse teams is of course more than just buying players off the free agent market. It takes years, and you still have to deal with drafts and trade proposals.

Let's say the crazy baseball gods created an expansion team for a super wealthy owner, but there was no expansion draft. He just had to go into the free agency period and buy the best team possible. For the sake of our sanity, we won't look at 25-man rosters and finding bargains for the back of the rotation and bench players. Let's say a super wealthy ownership group was given the green light by MLB to start his franchise. What would be a good starting 9, with no worries about salary?

First, a little back ground. It is currently the night of December 8th, 2009. Some free agents have recently signed, like Chone Figgins (Mariners 4yr/$36m), Marco Scutaro (Red Sox $15.5m/3yr), and Ivan Rodriguez (Nationals 2yr/$6m). Randy Wolf was rumored to have been offered a 3yr/$31m deal from the Brewers. He should probably sign that right away.

Let's look at what a starting lineup might look like...

2b: Felipe Lopez
CF: Mike Cameron
1b: Nick Johnson
LF: Matt Holliday
RF: Vladimir Guerrero
3b: Adrian Beltre
C: Yorvit Torrealba
SS: Orlando Cabrera
SP: Aroldis Chapman

I just have a feeling that Chapman will be better than Lackey. I'm probably just being seduced by the mysticism of the unknown ability by this exotic prospect. This is irrelevant to the circumstances created above, but when it comes to worrying about cash, I'd rather give Chapman $20-something million than give Lackey $80-something million. I would also rather roll the dice with guys like Ben Sheets and Rich Harden.

We might need to balance out the right-handedness of our lineup a little bit, but other than that we'd look okay. I thought about Miguel Tejada at Shortstop or Third base, but I don't think he can play short anymore, and Beltre is still a world class third baseman, even if he doesn't hit like he used to.

Well, brilliant readers, where did I go wrong? How can we make this team better? Remember, we can't talk about guys like Curtis Granderson or Doc Halladay because we have no-one to trade.