Tuesday, September 28, 2010

MLB Team Snapshots

The Beautiful Mind level insanity around the AL Previews formula I've been tinkering with and referred to in these two posts should (hopefully) be done today.

In an effort to not let the homework slow down our production, we though it would be fun to take another stroll around the Major Leagues and see what each team has going on.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Usually a team that is 64-92 and has already annihilated the team strikeout record (for hitters - not good) does not have much good news.  Their batters have already struck out 1,458 times; they're the first team to ever strike out 1,400 times.  As Joe Posnanski mentions in this amazing post, "If they can just keep up this pace, they will also become the first team to get to 1,500 strikeouts. Parade plans have not been made public yet."  So where's the good news?  They recently hired Kevin Towers as their new General Manager, and we think he is just terrific.  The San Diego Padres success this season should largely be attributed to his ability to build a roster, particularly by hiring the manager, stockpiling lots and lots of power arms, and constructing the best bullpen in the business.  Arizona will be markedly better by next year and should be ready to seriously compete again in 2012.

Atlanta Braves
The Bravos lost a chance at the division title, as the Phillies clinched last night behind Roy Halladay's 21st victory of the year.  He threw a 2-hitter against a lousy Nationals lineup last night.  Everyone around the league is watching the dogfight for the wildcard between the Braves, and NL West runner up which will be the Padres, Giants, and at this point probably not the Rockies.  These feelings change every day, but we currently feel the NL West will be won by the Giants and the wildcard will be the Braves.  That's terrible for San Diego fans, but they should get over it as soon as they step outside.  Afterall, THEY LIVE IN SAN DIEGO.

Baltimore Orioles
Brian Matusz has looked like the Ace many people predicted at the start of this season, pitching to a 1.58 ERA in his last seven outings.  Buck Showalter has certainly made a difference in his brief time at the helm, but how much can that translate into hope, or actual success, for 2011?  O's fans should be glad that the Rays are getting broken up this year, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be terrible.  They will still have excellent pitching after losing Carl Crawford, Carlos Peña, Rafael Soriano, and anyone else who leaves for mo' money.

Boston Red Sox
Um, on second thought, the Orioles are still in trouble.  Chris Tillman has not impressed as some (me) expected, and Jake Arrieta's best contribution this season has been his mustache.  Worse than any of that, however, the Red Sox will be reloading this offseason.  Some big money, like Big Papi's, will be coming off the books, and they will get better.  Look for another Yanks/RedSox Division/WildCard combo in 2011.

Chicago Cubs
No, Carlos, you throw the ball.
Please, no.  Don't make me do this.  Please.  The Cubs stink.  They stink royally.  They are the worst team I've seen all year.  I would trade the entire Cubs roster for that of the Pirates in a milliheartbeat.  On the good side of things, it looks like Carlos Zambrano has started taking his profession seriously again with the help of Greg Maddux and his mother.  Zambrano's mother, not Maddux's.  That's the silver lining?  zOMG!, this is the worst.

Chicago White Sox
The Southsiders are also looking ahead to 2011.  We just found out that Ozzie Guillen, and his sonswill be back managing the team next year.  That's great.  On a relatively serious note, I actually think Guillen is a very good manager.  He may not be the textbook savant of LaRussa or Boche, but what he does to become a distraction around the game actually helps his club.  Kenny Williams may disagree, but I feel that when Guillen does something outlandish that gets everyone talking about him, it takes pressure away from the players on his team who are struggling.  Columnists are more likely to write about Guillen's big mouth than his third baseman hitting .111 the past three weeks, and that makes it easier for players to eliminate distractions and do what they must to improve.

Cincinnati Reds
Dusty's crew is about to win the Central division.  In our preseason predictions post, we picked the Cardinals to win it but had the Reds 2nd.  I am so pleased that the Reds overtook the cruddy Cardinals.  It's going to be awfully exciting around my TV when Aroldis Chapman does his thing on the national stage.  This is the team we're rooting for to win the National League pennant.

Cleveland Indians
The other Ohio team has not been successful on the field this year.  They probably never had the horses to compete with Minnesota in the central, but losing Asdrubal Cabrera for most of the season and getting next to nothing out of Grady Sizemore doomed them right away.  The Cleveland sports scene really has nothing going for it right now.  At least they don't have a hockey team to be ashamed of.

Colorado Rockies
They made (are making?) a valiant run at the postseason, but as Buster Olney points out in today's column, "the Rockies are all but dead in the playoff races."  Next season, the Rockies should be better.  CarGo and Tulo may be the best 1-2 punch of teammates this side of...  that could be an interesting post: which two teammates are the best combination?  CarGo/Tulo?  Cano/Teixeira?  Pujols/Holliday?  Remember when the Mets had Wright and Reyes?  The right side of the Red Sox's infield and the Twins' M and M boys could be in the discussion if not for injuries this season.

Detroit Tigers
Jim Leyland's club was in contention most of the summer, but they are another team that should reload this offseason.  They have big money coming off the books, mostly due to Magglio and Bonderman.  I think they will make a serious run at Adrian Beltre, at least.

Florida Marlins
I like what the Marlins have cooking.  What's not to like about Logan Morrison?  The rookie has come to the big leagues and shown Mark Grace levels of patience at the plate.  He's also a big, strong kid who should develop additional power as he fills out a little more.  In the offseason, they will need to address the 3rd base position.  They have a prospect named Matt Dominguez, who I think may still be more than a year away from contributing.  It's a shame that Gaby Sanchez can't play third.  They could trade him to another team, to open first base for Morrison, but I don't think they can get a good 3rd baseman for him.  If I were a Marlins fan, I would just hope that the Opening Day third baseman is better than what they've shown this year with Emilio Bonifacio and Chad Tracy.

Houston Astros
The Astros are rebuilding, no doubt, but they've shown a spark, an energy, and a likability that Houston fans have eaten up.  Since they went with the youth movement after trading Berkman and Oswalt, Houston chatter reports that there is more excitement over this Astros team now than anytime since they went to the World Series in 2005.  Carlos Lee is probably moving to first base next year, which should at least help keep him healthy and improve their outfield defense.  One concluding tip: Logan Morrison should teach Chris Johnson the values of patience at the plate.

Kansas City Royals
Our favorite 2012 sleeper has followed a dizzying process to get to where they are now: comfortably in last place of the AL Central.  What brings excitement to this franchise is that they look to be on track to have all, err most, of their big prospects hitting the big leagues at the same time.  Zack Greinke may think that winning days for the Royals will not be any sooner than 2013 or 2014.  If that's the case, he may demand a trade.  As a Royals fan, it's scary to consider that they could pull of a stinker of a deal, like the Marlins did when they traded Miguel Cabrera for Andew Miller and Cameron Maybin.  On the other hand, I'd be pretty psyched that they should get very good talent in return if they trade Zack.  It's better to trade someone a year too early than a year too late.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The tea leaves of the rumor mill have lately shown Carl Crawford landing in Orange County this offseason.  He would be a noticeable upgrade over Juan Rivera, that is fo' sho'.  I'm excited for where the AL West is headed.  Texas is obviously good, as they are a young team that won the division this year.  They're getting better.  Oakland is in 2nd place and may have the best starting pitching rotation in the game.  They more than likely have the best young pitching in baseball.  I also really like this Chris Carter kid.  He just looks like a big, strong hitter who I would like to have on my side.  His minor league stats, especially in power and on base proficiency look very good, as well.  In the past four seasons, Carter has hit 25, 39, 28, and 31 homeruns, with a career minor league OBP of .380.  Seattle can't score, but they can pitch and catch.  Plus, Jack Z is a capable front office leader, so we expect improvement from all four clubs.

Los Angeles Dodgers
This is a poor time to be a Dodgers fan.  The only time they make any worthwhile news is when their manager leaves or there is a development in the owners' divorce case.  It looks like they won't be making any financial strides in the foreseeable future.  So, I hope Dodger fans don't mind going to the beach and the movies a little more than usual in the next year or two.  What will they do with Matt Kemp?  Trade or Hold?  That's the biggest non Divorce Court question.

Milwaukee Brewers
Why is it that I hate the Packers so much but am indifferent to the Brewers and Bucks?  I guess the relative harmlessness of the MLB and NBA teams over the past 20-something years has something to do with it.  The Brewers are an interesting case because their window of opportunity is closing.  Rumors say that Ken Macha will not be retained as manager, and while they like Willie Randolph to step in, he's not entirely interested.  How much longer will they have Prince Fielder, and what will they get for him when he leaves?  It'll either be through a trade or the two compensation draft picks they'll get if he free agents his way out of town.  Will Prince lose weight outside of Wisconsin?  Stay tuned.

Minnesota Twins
We'll have more on the Twinkies in our AL Playoffs post.  For now, the fans are basking in the glow of the another AL Central title and hoping that Mauer and Morneau are able to contribute in October.

New York Mets
Jerry Manuel will be shown the door.  Omar will be reassigned to some scouting position within the organization.  I'm not sure if Wally Backman is the solution for them as manager.  In fact, I think he's not.  Kevin Towers would have been a great signing for GM, but they lost him to the D'Backs.  Now it looks as if Jerry DiPoto may be the front runner for Mets' GM.  Good times!

New York Yankees
This just in: Yankee fans hate AJ Burnett.  How quickly they forget that Burnett saved their Championship season 11 months ago by pitching 7 innings of 1-run ball to win Game 2 and even up the World Series.  Yankee fans can often get, what's the phrase, a little carried away.

Oakland A's
I guess we got a little distracted in Orange County, as we turned the Angels snapshot into one of the entire AL West.  As we said before, we really lie the A's to be in contention at this time next year mostly because of Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Braden, and Trevor Cahill.  We've been beyond excited for Michael Inoa for the past three years, but he just had Tommy John surgery a few days ago.  Oh well.

Philadelphia Phillies
Congratulations to Ruben Amaro's club for their 4th consecutive NL East championship, celebrated last night.  There isn't much to report here.  They've been to the World Series the last two seasons and are likely the favorites to return again.  Their starting pitching is better than ever with a 1, 2, 3 punch of Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels that no-one besides San Francisco can argue with.

Pittsburgh Pirates
I don't think the Pirates will be planning a celebratory parade in the steel city any time soon, but it doesn't mean we don't see progress.  After Sid Bream slid into homeplate safely before Barry Bonds's weak throw from left field to win Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS, Pirates fans have not even had a shred of hope.  They haven't even had a winning season since then.  Can they go 20 years between winning seasons?  Probably.  Can they go 25 years?  The way Cincinnati is built, and the Cardinals and Cubs can be expected to improve, it looks like there's a chance.  But, we love Pedro Alzarez.

San Diego Padres
We've mentioned some of their strengths in the Braves section.  They have had the best bullpen in baseball this year, but it may not be enough to make the postseason.  Last night, they blew a chance to make up some ground by losing to the miserable Cubs.  Losing games like that has to end right now if they want to play in the postseason.

San Francisco Giants
Here is our pick for the NL West crown.  Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Zito, and Bumgarner have a very good chance to win every time out.  The major difference between this club and the Giants teams that failed to support Lincecum, Cain, and Company the past few years are the contributions they've finally seen from hitters such as Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, Pat Burrell, and even Juan Uribe and Jose Guillen, who stink.  Much like with love, clutch hitting is all about timing.

Seattle Mariners
They have the best pitcher in baseball, a strong defensive club, and a general manager who is smart, open minded, and has built a front office full of sharp thinkers.  What they need are people who can get on base and score runs.  Again, we see improvement from all four teams in the AL West.  Which teams improve the slightest and the most will determine next year's standings, but I see hope for all four fan bases.

St. Louis Cardinals
It would be very nice if Tony LaRussa took his abused cats and went home.  He should join Robert Shapiro and do commercials for LegalZoom.com.  Have I mentioned that I don't really appreciate Tony LaRussa?  He's a pompous jerk, who thinks he's the best thing since getting wasted at a vegetarian dinner.  Go away, Tony LaRussa.  We don't want you drinking and driving anymore.  We don't want you to make it seem like it's okay for your players to drink and drive.  We're sick of you changing pitchers five or six times per game.  You are a buffoon, and nobody outside of blowhards like Buzz Bissinger like you.  Walt Jockety left you for the Reds.  Do you think your ego and wig-like hair had something to do with that?  So do we.  While we're speaking Tony, why don't you go ahead and ask your GM to trade Colby Rasmus.  We dare you.

Tampa Bay Rays
Their magic number to clinch in 1, so that should happen in today or at least by the end of the week.  The Yanks and Rays are still competing for the division win.  The winner of the division (I think) plays the Rangers, and the way things are going it could be better to face Cliff Lee than Francisco Liriano in a short series.  The health and abilities of the Rangers and Twins lineups is volatile as big time players like Josh Hamilton, Joe Mauer, and Justin Morneau are questionable.  (Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of the AL Playoffs preview/formula post!)

Texas Rangers
Nolan Ryan's club has made winning the west look easy.  They clinched the division a while ago and still hold a double digit lead on the rest of the teams.  This is the last tease for our AL Playoff post.  (I semi-promise, okay?).  We will, of course, have more analysis of the Rangers at that time.  As a preview, we currently feel that the Rangers are ranking fourth out of the four postseason teams.  I've been working on a way to compensate for the Twins loss of Justin Morneau, but regardless it looks like the ALCS will be Yankees/Rays.

Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have a powerful lineup, very good young pitching, and a lucid front office.  To quote Buster Olney's column a second time today, the Blue Jays...

"moved into the top 10 among teams in single-season homers with two blasts on Monday.
Here are the teams with the most homers in one season, all time:
1997 Mariners: 264
2005 Rangers: 260
1996 Orioles: 257
2000 Astros: 249
2001 Rangers: 246
1996 Mariners: 245
2009 Yankees: 244
2000 Blue Jays: 244
1999 Mariners: 244
2010 Blue Jays: 243 (with six games left in the season)
1996 Athletics: 243"

As you can see, they have an excellent chance of finishing in the Top 5 all time.  The Blue Jays suffer, like the Orioles and Rays, from being in the same division of cold war rivals New York and Boston.  When those two organizations stockpile young talent and surround them with the best free agents money can buy, it's tough for a homegrown team from Canada to compete.  Toronto will likely finish in 3rd place next season, but the fans can hold out hope that their team will take the place of the Rays in what has recently been a 3-team race to the playoffs.

Have a great Thursday, everyone, and early happy birthday to our boy J-Rich at WGN.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sizing Up the AL Playoffs, Part II

We're taking this one step at a time.  In Part I of this series, we broke down the first steps towards constructing a recipe to see which teams will perform better in the relative crapshoot that is baseball's postseason.  The recipe consists of ranking teams by position, team stats, team stats by position, weighing each statistic by my own bias of what is most important.  I'll try to detail the nitty gritty concisely once the task is complete.  Sorry that I wasn't able to finish the homework by tonight.  Where I had team ranks by position, on my own opinion, I decided to look at team wOBA by position, avWAR by starter, oWAR for Catchers*, and do whatever the math is called where you index them out against their average score, blah, blah, blah.

*Since catcher defensive numbers are the trickiest, we want to stay away from overall WAR that takes defense into account.

While I keep crunching the numbers, let's take a quick peek at the American League Cy Young Race.

"What's a relief pitcher?
What's integration?"
This has probably been the most compelling story in the American League the last week, or so.  Old School baseball guys count pitcher wins and won't vote for someone who has fewer than 18 or 19 weeks.  The Saber community has become a bit more learned, wins don't mean what they once did.  Our friend, Keith Law, wrote a piece* (ESPN Insider required) about how the pitcher Win statistic has been devalued over the years.

*I didn't want to give the article a superlative adjective because all of his posts are outstanding.

The blurb highlighted in the piece:
If you tell me a starting pitcher went 15-10, the only thing I can tell you is that he appeared in 25 games that year. I don't know if he pitched well, if he pitched really well but got lousy run support, or if he pitched poorly but played for an offensive powerhouse with good defenders. Pitcher wins apply a team outcome to an individual player in a sport where no one individual player can win a game.
Since I recommend ESPN Insiders, I don't think the worldwide leader will mind if I include another snippet free of charge:
Even a pitcher who throws a perfect game needs some help from his defenders and at least one run of support from his offense, to say nothing of the umpiring involved. The starting pitcher might be the most important player in determining whether his team wins or not, but we can't even give him half of the pie.
"Put me in your top 5..."
It would be a great 'Win' for the advancement of improved statistical analysis if Felix Hernandez wins the award he, so far, deserves.

This year, the number of people who can be voted on for the Cy Young has been increased from three to five.

Not that starts in September are more important than any other starts, after CC Sabathia's rough outing last night, Felix Hernandez's brilliant 1-0 loss, and Francisco Liriano leaving tonight's game with stomach problems, here is how we see the American League Cy Young race shaping up.

1.) Felix Hernandez, Seattle
"...in fact, make me #1."
2.) Cliff Lee, Rangers
3.) Francisco Liriano, Twins
4.) Jered Weaver, Angels
5.) Jon Lester, Red Sox
Honorable Mention:
Clay Buchholz
Zack Greinke
David Price
CC Sabathia
Justin Verlander

As Mr. Tony Kornheiser would say:

"That's it.  That's the list."

Who Hasn't Seen "Grandma's Boy"?

How fast was Cool Papa Bell?
Faster than that!
I'm still recovering from the quasi mini-heart attack I got when my wife called from work, starting the call off with a somber, "I have some terrible news."  Now, my mind is capable of thinking of tons of TERRIBLE things in no time, faster than Cool Papa Bell could bust it down the line.  I thought of about half a dozen of terrible things that might have taken place.  My insides sank a little bit as I asked what happened.

"Nick Swardson was canceled!"

I didn't see "Benchwarmers", but
I hear Nick Swardson was in it.
In other words, the Nick Swardson* stand-up comedy show we had tickets to was canceled.

This possibility had not occurred to me.

Apparently, this was the terrible news that had me worrying about life, death, and catastrophe!?

I asked her to please not start phone calls with me like that again.

Then, I asked her to chill out because:

1.) there are better words to describe this news than "terrible"
2.) we get a refund, which is found money
3.) we're still going to see Louis C.K. standup

*You may not be familiar with Nick Swardson by name.  You may remember him as the Insane Bowie Fan in "Almost Famous", or from "Grandma's Boy"**, "Blades of Glory", or "House Bunny".

Who can forget this pivotal scene in "Grandma's Boy"?

**What do you mean you haven't seen "Grandma's Boy"?  See it.

Thanks for letting me share.  This has helped my heart and central nervous system calm down.  As a reward for the faithful readers who made it this far, we'll share the fun clip below.  It is Hot Chocolate's "Brother Louie" as performed by 1970's American band Stories.  AND, as an added bonus, check out the thoughtful lyrics after the jump...  Have a great weekend.  Check back often for Part II of our look at the American League Playoffs.

She was black as the night
Louie was whiter than white
Danger, danger when you taste brown sugar
Louie fell in love over night

Nothing bad, it was good
Louie had the best girl he could
When he took her home to meet his mama and papa
Louie knew just where he stood

Louie Louie Louie Louie, Louie Louie Louie Louiaah
Louie Louie Louie Louis, Louie Louie you're gonna try

There he stood in the night
Knowing what's wrong from what's right
He took her home to meet his mama and papa
Louie fell in love over night

Louie nearly caused a scene
Wishin' it was a dream
There ain't no diff'rence 'tween black or white
Brothers, you know what I mean

Louie Louie Louie Louie, Louie Louie Louie Louiaah
Louie Louie Louie Louie, Louie Louie you're gonna try

Louie Louie Louie Louie, Louie Louie Louie Louiaah
Louie Louie Louie Louie, Louie Louie you're gonna try

Louie Louie Louie Louie, Louie Louie Louis Louis Louis Louiaah
Louie Louie Louie Louie, Louie Louie you're gonna tryeeayeeay

Sizing Up the AL Playoffs

We don't usually show our math work like we did when figuring Cubs' arbitration numbers in our last post.  When looking at predictions, we traditionally do no math at all.  Of course, I'll look up stats to see what's there, but the computers do the math.  This time, we're going to try something a little different.

Since before spring training, we've maintained expectations that the Yankees will win their 2nd consecutive championship.  The Red Sox, Tigers, and White Sox were not as competitive as we thought.  For the last few weeks, as Texas and Minnesota built comfortable division leads, I have been struggling with who's better and who's best among the Rays, Rangers, and Twins.  They each have great Aces, bullpens, etc.

As usual, this led me to baseball-reference and Fangraphs.  The InterWeb didn't really offer what I sought.  I needed more than raw stats.  I needed a formula but don't really remember team value formulas for the postseason in any Bill James, Tom Tango, MGL, readings.  Google didn't help, and I wasn't about to Bing it.

Before me stood an opportunity to try and value teams in a new way.  I decided to launch Excel to build a formula.  To build the formula, I considered not just what these teams have accomplished, but how statistics and my own opinions and built-in biases may predict postseason performance.

What matters in the playoffs and World Series?  Because of the off days littering the postseason schedule, strategy is different.  Teams don't use five starters in the postseason.  Some clubs don't use a fourth starter, and the ones that do barely even need them.  Fourth starters may get anywhere between zero and three postseason starts, no more.

Other differences with postseason play is the length of games.  Sure, they are still 9-innings, but they've certainly been "shortened" by bullpens in the past 20 years.  In 1990, Lou Piniella's Cincinnati Reds started virtually giving teams only 6 innings per game to score because the 7th, 8th, and 9th were taken care of by the Nasty Boys of Norm Charleton, Rob Dibble, and Randy Myers.  Bullpens didn't change across the league overnight, of course.  Nasty boys don't grow on trees.  Rather, we have seen a gradual shift where bullpen construction has become more and more critical to playoff teams.  Managers want to shorten the game and have a few guys they can count on to get the last nine outs.  The Yankee Way was resurrected in '96 behind, among others, Rivera and Wetteland.  The Yankees won five titles by and large because of Mariano.

Of course, some teams won mostly because of starting pitching.  Both Marlins teams won because of their aces, primarily.  The White Sox in '05 hardly even used their bullpen on their way to a title.  CC Sabathia was a horse last season for the Yankees.

Bullpens like the '90s Reds are extremely rare, but they are certainly a competitive advantage when they do manifest.  The most similar example are the 2002 Angels, who won the World Series in large part because Troy Percival, Brendan Donnelly, and Scott Schoeneweis were for basically unhittable, and a 20-year old Venezuelan kid named Francisco Rodriguez dominated enough to become K-Rod.  Even the mere addition of one extraordinary arm to a contenders bullpen has proven to yield fantastic results as we saw with Dontrelle Willis in '03, Bobby Jenks in '05, Adam Wainright in '06, and David Price in 2008.  We'll see what Aroldis Chapman may do for the Reds this October.  Very exciting!

While teams may try to shorten the game, they can lengthen their benches by having fewer relievers.  Number four and five starters can either be placed in the bullpen or left off the postseason roster.  If the starter(s) go(es) to the bullpen, then some other reliever(s) will be left off the roster.  The goal being that you want as many position players as possible for pinch hitters and defensive flexibility.  A team may only need nine or ten pitchers instead of the usual ten, eleven, or twelve they carry during the regular season.

Keep in mind, because of increased off days in the postseason, relievers are available for every game.  A manager cannot lean on relievers every day during the regular season, but in the postseason, things change.

Here's my attempt at an insightful snapshot into the construction of the formula... Comparatively rate the four teams by each position, starting pitchers, ace starter, bullpen, closer, lhb pinch hitter, rhb pinch hitter, and utility player.  I started rating them with 1, 2, 3, and 4 - straight up ranking.  Then, I decided to take the 10 points (1+2+3+4 = 10) among the four teams and spread them out with more precise rankings.  For example, in a given category, the number given to the four teams could be 1.6, 2.4, 2.9, and 3.1.  That adds to 10, also, but we took a little here and there to fill in the gray areas.

How much each position matters is also a factor in the formula.  Having a strong ace to your pitching staff is much, much, much more important than a good right handed pinch hitter off the bench, naturally.

In Part II of this post, we will show more of the framework for the formula, as well as the plethora of statistics we included to dilute our biased scouting eye.  The statistics and weights we apply are a real hoot and get to the point of this exercise.  We, as fans, have the freedom to choose any criteria we want for evaluating players and teams in the game.  Create your own formula.  Take what we share here, leave out what you don't like, and add anything else that's near and dear to your sensibilities.  Come back soon for Part II.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why Don't You Arbitrate Deeeze?

Most people around the Cubs know that they prefer to settle arbitration cases than have a hearing.  As fans, I think we mostly like that.  Arbitration cases have a likelihood of creating bad feelings between the player and club as the team tries to tear down a player’s accomplishments and points out their flaws in order to win the case.  For 17 years, the Cubs had famously not taken anyone to arbitration until last offseason with Ryan Theriot.  The Riot is in the Dodgers system now, so let’s take a look at this season’s arbitration guys for the Cubs.  We hope this provides a unique preview for the hot stove league, since the Hot Stove is the only league the Cubs have a chance to win in the next few years.

"I'm Number One"
The Cubs have Geovany Soto as the lone player eligible for the first time, six players* who are up for their 2nd time, and no players going into their 3rd year of arbitration.

*the six players are, as we’ll see in a moment: Carlos Marmol, Jeff Baker, Sean Marshall, Angel Guzman, Tom Gorzelanny, and Koyie Hill.

Micah Hoffpauir, Blake DeWitt, and Randy Wells fall just short of the service time to qualify for their first year of arbitration.  So, they are under team control at a cheap rate again in 2011, if the Cubs choose to keep each of them on the 25-man roster.

Let’s try to value the seven players the Cubs have arbitration decisions to make with, in order to try and predict how things will play out.

"Just take the picture"
Geovany Soto has been a strikes and gutters kind of player.  He won rookie of the year in 2008, was terrible in his sophomore slump season last year*, and rebounded for a fine season this year.  We’re not too worried about the shoulder injury that has knocked him out for the rest of the year.  It sounded like his surgery was merely a tune-up to repair his AC joint, which had been bothering him for a few months.  In other words, the Cubs’ season had ended long before his “season-ending” surgery.

*How can we ever forget the way he and Matt Forte were linked, when the latter's sophomore slump season immediately followed the former and Bear fans started calling their starting running back Geovany Forte?  Speaking of name combinations.  How great would Geovany Gorzelanny be?

At $4.25 million per Win above Replacement*, Soto’s value the past three seasons has been as follows:

2008) 4.1 avWAR** x $4.25mm = $17,425,000 value
2009) 0.65 avWAR x $4.25mm = $2,762,500 value
2010) 3.35 avWAR x $4.25mm = $14,237,500 value

*Some places use $4mm, others $4.5mm.  It’s a free country.
**Two weeks ago, this post mentioned how we will use avWAR, the mean between Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference figures.

The general rule of thumb for figuring arbitration pay is that first year arbitration eligible players earn roughly 40% of their “value”, second year arb guys earn 60%, and third year guys earn 80% of their supposed value.

I’m not sure if people only look at the last season’s performance.  They may, but I think that would be short-sighted and irresponsible.  40% of Soto’s 2010 performance equates to a 2011 salary of $5,695,000.  If we average the three year’s performance value and calculate 40% of that, it comes to a 2011 salary of $4,590,000.

Ultimately, the Cubs could decide to sign Soto to a three or four year deal, but the risk is that he will become an out of shape albatross who closer resembles the 2009 Soto than the even-year Soto.

I feel like they will either settle on a 2011 salary around $6 million or look at a three year deal around $13 million or a four year deal around $20 million.

Second-year cases for the Cubs look a bit simpler.  First off, they will likely non-tender Jeff Baker, Koyie Hill, and Angel Guzman.

Of those three, I think Koyie Hill still has a slim chance to return as Soto’s backup catcher.  The Cubs have a 23-year old catcher, Welington Castillo, who’s been in the farm system for five years and slugged .498 in Triple A this season.

"Castillo's my name, beisbol's my game"
Koyie Hill, on the other hand, hasn' been able to consistently hit a lick.  Although defensive statistics are controversial, and catcher is the most difficult position to rate, the scouting eye says Hill is a very good defensive catcher.  A rarely discussed statistic also supports Hill's value to the club, as the team’s win-loss record with Hill behind the plate is what originally endeared him to Lou Piniella, Jim Hendry, and many fans.  Welington Castillo is probably not as skilled as Hill behind the plate, but his throwing arm is supposed to be a strength.

I think I’d be happier with a low-cost, 23-year old, backup, slugging catcher with a good arm and some pop than a no-hit, good-glove backstop making double the salary.

While I don’t think anyone else is running to sign Hill and his career OPS+ of 50, he should be an MLB backup backstop somewhere next season.  If Castillo has a less than impressive final fortnight with the Cubs, I could see Hill still get non-tendered, with the Cubs then offering him something like a one-year deal at $800,000 or a two-year $1.4 million deal to stick around through 2012.  That being said, it’s probably foolish to put too much stock into these next two weeks, where Castillo may only play a handful of games.

Ryne Sandberg, the Pacific Coast League Manager of the year and a leading candidate for Cubs post next season, managed Castillo the past three years.  If Ryno gets the job, we’ll know right away how he feels about Castillo.

Two lefty pitchers, Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Marshall, will likely get tendered and receive nice bumps in salary.  Using math similar to our method of guesstimating Soto’s contact, we found one-year deals for 2011 for these guys should be around $4,250,000 for Tom Gorzelanny and $4,250,000 close to $4mm for Sean Marshall.

We feel it would be wise for the Cubs to lock up either of these guys to modest 3-year contracts before their values increase from an optimistic, yet foreseeable good seasons in 2011.  A 3-year, $12 million contract for either or both of these guys could be warranted.

The largest contract of the remaining players will go to Cubs’ bat-missing closer Carlos Marmol.  He’s been effectively wild most of the time, walking 6 batters and striking out over 15.6 per 9 innings.

Quickly, here is an illustration of the strikeout capabilities a couple of guys in the Cubs bullpen have shown from both sides of the rubber this season.

MLB Leaders: Strikeout per 9
(minimum 70 innings pitched)
1. Carlos Marmol 15.64
2. Sean Marshall 11.00
3. Brandon Morrow 10.95
4. Tyler Clippard 10.54
5. Jonny Venters 9.74
6. Nick Masset 9.74
7. Jon Lester 9.69
8. Tim Lincecum 9.62
9. Yovani Gallardo 9.62
10. Jonathan Sanchez 9.58

The list looks quite different when you change the minimum innings pitched requirement.

MLB Leaders: Strikeout per 9
(minimum 40 innings pitched)
1. Carlos Marmol 15.64
2. Rafael Betancourt 13.27
3. Billy Wagner 12.86
4. Joel Hanrahan (!) 12.80
5. Matt Thornton 12.23
6. Stephen Strasburg 12.18
7. Heath Bell 11.63
8. Carlos Villanueva 11.62
9. Takashi Saito 11.57
10. John Axford 11.43
… 14. Sean Marshall 11.00

Marmol’s season has been remarkable.  Even if you drop the innings pitched requirement to 20, Marmol still leads all Major Leaguers in K/9.  He has given up only 1 homerun all season, and that was back on May 15th.  The Cubs were down one run in the top of the ninth, when he gave up a solo shot to the Pirates’ Jeff Clement.  Over four months later, Marmol has not given up any more homers.

Carlos Marmol has been almost unhittable, with a remarkable .162 Batting Average Against.  That figure leads all pitchers (min 70 ip) by a lot; Jonny Venters and Evan Meek place second with a .194 BAA.  Interestingly, if you lower the ip requirement to 60, Billy Wagner sneaks into the top spot at .161, and Daniel Bard is third at .177.

We could go on and on about how great Marmol is, particularly that slider (16.4 runs above average), but there are more important things to be doing – particularly by you, the reader.

How crazy is good crazy?
Crunching some numbers for Carlos Marmol make me feel like he’s about to out earn his true value to the team.  We find that a one-year deal for 2011 will probably be around $6 million for Marmol, and it will continue to rise as he continues to get 30+ saves each year.  It’s sad because he’s probably been my favorite Cub since 2007.  I just believe strongly that BIG closer dollars should be spread around an organization and closers can be found and groomed from young, inexpensive power arms.

We say “Don’t pay for saves” in fantasy baseball, and echo the sentiments for teams actually competing in reality.  Marmol, after all, was a converted third baseman who couldn't hit and had a very strong arm.  Too bad Hendry can’t pick up his cell phone and deal for a miracle, since that’s what the Cubs will need to compete in October anytime in the next two or three seasons.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

We're All Counting on You, Lucas Duda

Not that anyone cares, but we're battling in our rotisserie league to finish in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place.

Today's MLB schedule is light due to many off days, so this was a day to grab hitters off the waiver wire and get some more counting stats.  I looked, wanted to grab RBI, and decided to roll the dice with some guy on the Mets named Lucas Duda.

Nice catch, now get a hit.
We never heard of Lucas Duda until a few days ago.  The highest I could find him ranked on a prospect lists was as the 28th best prospect in the Mets organization on this site.  He could be ranked higher someplace else.

We picked him up because he should get some RBI opportunities if he starts for the Mets.  What a great illustration as to why RBI is a horrible statistic, rewarding players for circumstances beyond their control.

In triple-A, Lucas Duda hit a very impressive .314/.389/.610.  Last night, he was awarded with the Mets Organizational Player of the Year.  That's a good enough pedigree for us.

Did we mention his incredible Major League stats?  If you know about Logan Morrison's current streak, picture the opposite of that, and you'll have an idea of what Lucas Duda is going through.  He's batting .030, with 1 hit in 33 at bats.  We've never had a roto player with such bad stats.  Brandon Wood was just a bit better.  We can chalk this up as picking him up is because he is due, oh and RBI is a stupid stat.  Sorry if we mentioned that RBI is a terribly lazy statistic already.

Ownership %
Zero point Zero
It feels good to root for a player who is probably only on fantasy teams of crazy Mets fans, people in 30-team leagues, and his own friends and family.

Good luck, Lucas Duda!  Don't worry about your defense, just smash the ball.  Remember, it's never a blowout in rotisserie baseball.

Three Link Thursday

There were a few items on the InterWeb the last couple of days that we wanted to share, and since it's thursday and we're suckers for alliteration, then voilà, it's Three Link Thursday.

First, former Miami Dolphin QB/Wildcat, Pat White, signed with the Royals.  According to this KC Star article from Terez A. Paylor, this "will mark the first time he's stepped on a baseball diamond in uniform since 2004."  That is a long time ago.  Starlin Castro was 14 in 2004.

What are the chances this spawns a contemporary two-sport star we haven't seen since Bo Jackson and Neon Deion?  Save us a window seat on that bandwagon because we'll root for Pat White.

Second, blog favorite Logan Morrison is still rolling.  Last night, he reached base safely in his 35th consecutive game.  A couple cool bits from this Joe Capozzi article:
If he reaches base Friday night against the Chicago Cubs, he will tie the Marlins rookie record set by Hanley Ramirez in 2006.
The Marlins' overall record is 46 games by Luis Castillo in 2002.
-- snip --
He has played in 45 games overall with 36 strikeouts and 33 walks in 176 at-bats. He attributes his patience to a batting approach he adopted last year when he came back from a right thumb sprain at Class AA Jacksonville.
"I'm just trying to get a pitch I can hit and trying to eliminate swinging at the borderline pitches until two strikes,' he said. "Being patient has helped me a lot with this. And the days I don't feel like I'm not seeing the ball, I've got to be even more patient.'
Finally, for you CJ Spiller (or Michael Jackson) fans, we think you'll enjoy the song on this mp3 link: http://www.suddenurge2000.com/The%20Spiller!.mp3
(h/t Sports Illustrated)

"I'm Number One."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ugh, Pitcher Wins? Is this 1972?

How bad can things get in Cleveland?  LeBron is gone, so the Cavs are terrible.  The Indians are playing out the string.  The Browns are ranked 32nd on most power polls, including ESPN's.  They don't even have a hockey team.  And now, one of the most prominent baseball writers for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Paul Hoynes, has written the worst thing I've read about baseball in a long time.  From this post:
"Last year, Zack Greinke of the fourth-place Kansas City Royals won the American League Cy Young award with 16 victories. In the National League, Tim Lincecum of the third-place San Francisco Giants won it with 15 victories. They were the lowest-win totals by a starting pitcher for the awards since 1994 and 1981, respectively. The 1994 and 1981 seasons were cut short by strikes.
The value of the win has been devalued by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who favor statistics meant to remove all influences on the pitcher except himself. This year, the case study will be Felix Hernandez, Seattle's fine right-hander. He leads the AL in innings pitched and strikeouts. He has everything going for him except for one thing -- he has won only 11 games headed into Saturday's start against the Angels.
Hernandez might get four more starts after Saturday. If he wins out, he could finish with 16 victories. Does that mean he should get the award over CC Sabathia, who goes for his 20th victory Monday for the first-place Yankees?
The time to give Hernandez the Cy Young award was last year when he went 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA, but he finished second to Greinke. He had the stats, including the most important one, to make a far more compelling case than this year."
For more reasonable writing exploring ways to view the great game of baseball, may we again recommend the best in the business, Joe Posnanski.  Here is a recent piece on King Felix, CC, and the Cy Young award.

Don't worry, Cleveland.  Your newspaper can always hire a new writer.  We hear Jay Mariotti is available.

Valvoline: 11? Probably

As most regular readers of this space know, my "day job" involves marketing, media, advertising, etc.  Just as we have an occasional NFL post, please excuse the occasional media commentary.  We'll keep the subjects light, of course.

So, is this :15-sec spot for Valvoline better than the Martin Agency's "Peggy" Discover Card ad that we mentioned in our August 31 MLB Predictions post?  After finding a clip online, we shared the Peggy ad here.

Valvoline has a few other spots in the "Probably" series, including one about a parachute, a plumber, and a police lineup window.

We think Valvoline "Probably" spot below is the best. The kid with the tie makes a great face.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chris Sale the Closer

I just read on CBS Sports the breaking news about our favorite White Sox pitcher, Chris Sale......

Guillen calls Sale his Closer
"From The Sports Xchange notes: RHP Bobby Jenks (elbow) was still unavailable during the series with Kansas City. As far as what awaits Jenks when he is ready to go, he will have to again prove himself. "Bobby's not my closer right now, he's not, I'm very happy with (Chris) Sale," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I'm not saying (Jenks had) lost his job, I have to wait to see to put him in the game to see how he's doing, how he feels, he's got to throw on the side. It's another process; it might take a little while, maybe one day, two days, three days... a week." Matt Thornton likely sets up for Sale at this point, by the way.
(Updated 09/14/2010)."
Sale is eligible at Starting Pitcher in most leagues, so now is everyone's chance to try and get this extra closer in your Roto bullpen for saves.  Hopefully, you're all still competing for something.  Good luck!

Old School

There’s not a lot of baseball in this post, sorry. This is more of a big mess of psychological nonsense about feeling old. I actually recommend not reading it.

Please move on. There is nothing to see here.

When I turned 25, I had a quick thought that lingered because it made me feel old to be halfway to 50. I had to remind myself that no-one is immune; everyone gets a day older every day.

Today, September 14th, is my half birthday. Half birthdays are not really celebrated enough. Why can’t we start a tradition for half birthdays? Anyway, this time, I had a feeling of getting old because I am halfway to 67-years old.

As we get older, we get wiser, right? People usually calm down and gain perspective, right? Okay, so I’ll just keep telling myself: 33, 34, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and even 60’s aren’t old. Heck, 67 isn’t as old as it used to be.

I’ve also learned that when someone complains about their age, they should probably make sure no-one older is around. Nowadays, if a 25-year old complained to me about being old, I’d tell him to take it easy and show him that I have the vertical jump of an obese child. Similarly, there are youthful people halfway to 84, or 96, or 100-something who would feel I’m being a little ridiculous today. My grandmother is 91, and even 75 seems like a long, long time ago.

Did you see the episode of Louie on FX, when his comic pals introduce him to a group of girls and tell them, frankly, that “He’s over 40”? The girls make icky faces, and one of them says, “Really?!”, and Louie says, “I’m actually 42.” Louie is a youthful guy. He’s a comedian, a good one. He sees things in life that I think are funny. I find myself identifying with someone who’s 42. Does that make me feel any “older”? Yes, it does. Should it? I don’t think so. When I was 15, I identified with Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza, and they were in their 30’s. I also identified with Sofia and Dorothy of The Golden Girls. There were times I knew what Mr. Holland was feeling while writing his opus, and that movie came out when I was in college. Okay, okay, something is starting to make sense.

I don’t think people need mantras, but little reminders are helpful: Time flies. Each day is precious. Yada, yada, yada, you’re only as old as you feel. Don’t worry about what you cannot control. Make the most of every opportunity.

Since no-one gives a hoot about half birthdays, I thought we could celebrate the birthdays of a few memorable ballplayers from the past.

Out of current Major Leaguers, Delmon Young turns 25 today. Unfortunately, he’ll have to do something remarkable during a postseason moment I’m rooting for, learn to walk more than 35 times a season, stop trying to steal bases*, or join the Cubs and be awesome before we celebrate his birthday.

*Last season, Delmon stole 2 bases and was thrown out 5 times. This year, he has stolen 4 bases in 8 attempts. Over his career, across 587 games, has 32 steals in 51 attempts. As a base stealer, Delmon Young is only helping the opposition with numbers like that.

Happy 141st Birthday to Hall of Famer Kid Nichols!

Charles Augustus Nichols was born in Madison, Wisconsin and went to Queen Elizabeth Secondary School in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. What was high school like in the 1880’s? Were the girls stuck up? Were there even girls there? What was the curriculum? What was history class like? You get to 1870, and everything else is “current events”, right? This is the kind of garbage I wonder about.

Kid made a name for himself and became a Hall of Famer as a pitcher in the 1890’s and early part of last century for the Boston Beaneaters, St. Louis Cardinals, and Philadelphia Phillies. The bulk of his career spanned from 1890 through 1901 with the Beaneaters. He was known in the 1890’s as Cy Young’s main rival for best pitcher in the National League.

It’s fascinating looking back at teams back then. They also used 25-man rosters, but they often carried 20 position players and 5 pitchers.

Starting pitchers back then used to throw complete games regularly, and if they could not, managers would often use another day’s starter to finish the job.

In Kid Nichols's 15-year career, he started 562 games and threw 532 Complete Games. He was used as a relief pitcher 56 times, and he finished all 56 of those contests. Nichols averaged 291 innings per season and was consistently excellent throughout his career. The game was different back then, but standard stats (Wins and ERA) and advanced stats (ERA+ and WAR) show that he performed at a Hall of Fame level for 13-and-a-half of his 15-year career.

Happy 86th birthday to the Yankee living legend Jerry Coleman!

Coleman debuted on 4/20/49 and earned 3rd place in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting as their second baseman. The next season, 1950, Jerry Coleman was an All Star. In his first two seasons, Coleman had shown a terrific eye at the plate. His On base percentage and K/BB ratio were outstanding the first two years.

1949: .367 OBP, 68 walks, 44 strikeouts
1950: .372 OBP, 67 walks, 38 strikeouts

In 1951, Coleman struggled and found himself in a more crowded infield.  Gil McDougal joined the Yankees as an infielder and won Rookie of the Year.  Jerry Coleman did not show enough power or base stealing ability the first three seasons. In those three years, he only managed to hit 11 homeruns and steal 17 bases. The Yankees won the World Series in 1949, 1950, and 1951 with Coleman playing over 120 games, but for the rest of his career, he would be a reserve player for the Yankees. Phil Rizzuto and Billy Martin played middle infield the majority of the time for the 1952 Yankees.  In Jerry Coleman's nine seasons, his Yankees won 6 pennants and 4 World Series titles. Glory days pass everyone by, except the Yankees, apparently.

Happy 74th Birthday Stan Williams!

Stan Wilson (Big Daddy) Williams debuted in the National League the first year after Jerry Coleman retired, 1958. His Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series in 1959, and he went on to have a few good seasons pitching in the same rotation, and therefore in the shadows, of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. According to Incredible People, “In 1970, he went 10-1 on the season in relief, with a 1.99 ERA, one of the best seasons a relief pitcher has ever had.

Lastly, from the “we didn’t really want to find something interesting to say about you, but it’s still your birthday” department: Happy 53rd birthday to Tim Wallach and 38th to David Bell.

Monday, September 13, 2010

'Roids, Aging, & The Pride of the Goldpanners

It has been twenty years since this photo was taken, yet I saw it for the first time yesterday.  Why is this photo not more celebrated?

Anybody know where I can get a fake ID?

Perhaps, I'm exaggerating the comedic value of a photograph, as I've been known to do.  For example, look at the next photo of Orel Hershiser.  Am I the only one who thinks it's a hysterical picture, especially for a baseball card?  Who poses like that for a baseball card?  Who poses like that, at all?

"Hey ladies, ever cuddle with a bulldog?"

Still, I look at Giambi's big smile and slim frame from his 1990 Alaska Goldpanners photo and can't help but smile right back.  What a joke.  When I saw him, from about 75 feet away at Wrigley Field as a Yankee in 2003, he looked like a WWE wrestler.  I've had experience seeing WWF wrestlers up close from a backstage pass in the summer of 1995.

Anyway, we've all seen Giambi's long hair, tatts, and 'roided out biceps.  Why haven't ween scene more images like this on PTI, or something?

The shaved sideburn mullets were
all the rage in 1990 Alaska

What makes me wonder is how have we, as a generation, been affected by witnessing basically an entire generation of ballplayers age unnaturally, or supernaturally.  Unless you are old enough to remember people retiring in the early '90s, it's hard to know if anyone has aged "normally".  Of course, we hold on to hope for guys like Griffey Jr, Jeter, and Maddux did things the right way, but we saw a majority of players slow the affects of aging and skew the perceptions of aging ballplayers in general.

Bonds has had his skinny-Bonds and giant-Bonds differences pointed out many times.



Steroids didn't have to do with the pigment change, but Sammy Sosa went from being a skinny kid with a soul glo perm, to a 'roided up masher, and now he turned Michael Jackson White!

"Man, what language you talkin'? I'm Sammy Sosa."

Roger Clemens was 44 going on 34 in 2007.

Photo dated: November 2007
Mark McGuire is just a weirdo, who's neck looked stretched way too far at the end of his career, then shriveled up in his retirement.

"I'm delusional!"

"Please stop staring at my neck."

I'm not about to investigate more and open up a psychology or sociology textbook from my "college" box in my office.  Maybe there is no point to this feeling; I'm probably thinking very strangely and have no point.  It just feels like if more than 50% of ballplayers, or at least STAR players, were on steroids/HGH, then younger fans, as a generation, are missing something.  This younger generation of fans isn't being inculcated with the lessons of time and age that baseball fans of the previous 90 years were accustomed to seeing.  I'm probably making too much of it.  US sports fans conversely see the running back position in the NFL evolving to where their career spans are shortening to just a handful of productive years.  I'm definitely making too much of this. Who even worries about younger baseball fans?  They have their whole lives ahead of them, for crying out loud.

Enjoy the games tonight, folks.  That Oakland @ Kansas City matchup starting up in about an hour is bursting with Quadruple A flavor.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

NL West Fever: Catch It!

How great is the NL West?  This is turning out to be an all-time great race.  It's keeping my attention, as I check the standings daily and don't even really care who wins.

Rookie & Comeback
Players of the Year:
Posey and Huff
We mentioned on Thursday that we were looking forward to the four-game series in San Diego this weekend.  San Francisco just tied the Padres for the division lead with a 6-1 victory.  Tim Lincecum has seemingly rebounded from a rough stretch by pitching well today and the last couple of weeks.

The way both of these teams have been built and performed make them very likable stories, but the best story in the National League could again be the comeback Rockies.  In recent years, the Rockies have put together furious winning streaks in a chase to win the pennant.

Giambi hasn't changed a bit
Today, the Rockies won their 10th straight game as Jason Giambi hit a 2-run pinch hit home run to untie the game in the bottom of the 9th.  With the Giants defeating the Padres, Colorado 1.5 games behind both teams.

It's a strange feeling.  I don't really care who wins, but I feel pretty confident it'll stay a good race to the end.  NL West fever.  Catch it while you can!

Player of the Fortnight vol. 4

Sunday morning is a good a time as any to paraphrase.  A wise baseball man once said, "Just give me their stats for the last two weeks, and that'll tell me who's going good," or something to that effect.  Thinking of that again on this Sunday morning, I checked the calendar and see it's been more than two weeks since we handed out any Fortnight Awards.  Will any of our most recent award winners, Miguel Cabrera, CJ Wilson, Omar Infante, or Mat Latos, defend their crown?  As usual, all stats mentioned have been provided by our friends at Fangraphs.

AL Hitter of the Fortnight
Hideki Matsui, Angels
This was a tough call, and there were a few candidates who are probably more popular choices: Carl Crawford (13.4 wRC), Ryan Raburn (11.4 wRC), and Mark Teixeira (11.7 wRC).  Matsui gets our vote because of his fantastic and league-leading .553 On-base percentage and .525 wOBA.

AL Pitcher of the Fortnight
Jon Lester, Red Sox
Our first 2-time winner
A quick glance at the advanced numbers made this look like an easy choice.  Lester, who won this award the first time we gave them out on July 9th, leads the league in FIP (1.27) and xFIP (1.95) by wide margins.  Second place in those stats are by his teammate, Josh Beckett (1.67 and 2.60).  Standard stats have Gio Gonzalez, Rick Porcello, Jeremy Guthrie, and Ervin Santana leading the league with three wins.  Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie also lead the league with a 0.81 ERA.  So, that should be enough for old school folks to grant him the title.  I kind of wish I had done this yesterday to give it to King Felix.  Lester went 2-0 but with a 5.25 ERA.  It's not like we're settling the classic battle of ERA vs FIP, but choices have to be made.  We're going with Lester, and if you think it's just to side with new stats, dude also threw 30 strikeouts.

NL Hitter of the Fortnight
Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
Amazingly, the Rockies also have the runner-up to this award: Troy Tulowitzki.  The Rockies have been rolling, winning nine in a row, and getting back in the postseason discussion 2.5 games behind the Padres.  There has been MVP, even triple crown, talk about the soon to be 25-year old outfielder.  In the last fourteen days, Carlos Gonzalez led the league with a .442 batting average and 17.5 wRC.  CarGo doesn't walk much, as evident by his 6.1 BB% career - 5.7 BB% this season.  If pitchers now start to pitch around him, he'll have to show more patience.  This screams small sample size, but as the CarGo hype machine has been taking off in the past two weeks, his BB% has improved slightly to 8.6%.

NL Pitcher of the Fortnight
Cole Hamels, Phillies
More and more, I think arguments can be made for a handful of pitchers for who's been the best the past two weeks.  Mat Latos, Carlos Zambrano, Madison Bumgarner, Jonathan Sanchez, J.A. Happ, and five other qualified starters in the National League had ERA's below 1.84.  Hamels is ranked 9th in the league in xFIP and FIP, but he went 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA, and we've learned to respect the 0.00 ERA, especially through three starts.

We're going to try to enjoy the NFL and NL West games today!  See you next week.