August 2008

Garret Anderson vs. Tim Salmon


     Recently, ESPN has been doing their “SportsNation” polling of the five best players for each franchise, which is going to be slanted if one listens to the ESPN batch of readers.  Baseball Tonight lets us know each night, as well, as to whom they choose for each team.  However, I for one do not watch Baseball Tonight each night, but only sometimes.  Which is why I wish I had a DVR/Tivo so each night I could record BBTN, and watch it the next morning, rather than watching Sportscenter, which as far as I am concerned just isn’t what it once was.  But anyway, for the Anaheim Angels, “SportsNation” came up with Nolan Ryan first, followed by Garret Anderson, and then Tim Salmon.  But was Garret Anderson really a better player than Tim Salmon?


     Counting stats go to Garret Anderson on this one, so I understand why fans voted him over Salmon.  After all, Anderson has 2,329 hits, while Salmon only had 1,674.  Anderson wins the RBI battle by 250 Ribbies…and counting, although not counting too much longer as Anderson is 36, and pretty replaceable at this point.  Home Runs is actually won by Salmon by 29, but Anderson may surpass that. 


     But counting numbers aside, Tim Salmon, in my opinion was the better player, at least when he was on the field.  Salmon had roughly 7,000 plate appearences, to Anderson’s 8,300.  But Salmon’s rate stats blow away Anderson’s.  His career line:  .282/.385/.498.  Anderson’s was: .296/.327/.469.  So basically, their averages were close enough that it doesn’t make much of a difference.  But Salmon reached base well more than Anderson, by about 60 percentage points.  And he hit for more power, by 29 percentage points.  But the key there is the fact that Salmon made far fewer outs than Garret Anderson, and Salmon was actually very good at getting on base, while Anderson has been “on base” near the league average. 


     Salmon: OPS+ 128.  Anderson: OPS+ 105.  Again, Garret Anderson trails by a lot, 23% to be exact.  And then there is “Runs Created,” in which Salmon actually wins by roughly 50 runs (created).  That is a counting stat, and a much better one than RBI’s, or Runs scored, or at least Bill James thinks so.  To explain how much better Salmon has been when he actually played:  Salmon’s RC/G (Runs Created per game) 7.2; Anderson’s 5.3.  Anderson has just been on the field more, and yes I understand that is part of the game.  And for good measure; Salmon had 7 seasons in which he played more than 135 games, with an OPS+ that was 125 or greater.   Anderson had two of those seasons. 


     Now I am not going to act like I watched Tim Salmon play a bunch, because although I know I have seen him, definitely in the 2002 World Series, I cannot place any of his actual AB’s.  But while they were on the field Salmon was clearly a better hitter, and most likely a better player.  I actually wish I had their cumulative “Win Shares” so I could compare what they have done in Salmon’s case, and what they are doing, in Anderson’s case.  But even if Anderson came out ahead of Salmon because he contributed more often, not at a higher rate, but more often based on playing more often, Salmon is the underrated of the pair, while Anderson is overrated.  Yes, I said it, Garret Anderson is overrated, and always has been.  But I don’t dislike him, he just makes more outs than a “star” player should make.

What to do, in a Tie Game?


     Mariano Rivera is arguably, and most likely, the best closer in baseball history.  So it is natural to wonder why he would struggle in games that have the score knotted up.  Which means the game is still very much unsettled.  Actually the odds state, it is much more unsettled then coming in with a lead.  So the intensity is there, the pressure that every close game consists of IS there.  So why has Rivera had “struggles” in these situations, but not in every other situation throughout his career as a “lights-out” reliever. 


     According to BaseballReference’s “Clutch Stats” category, Rivera has been great, relatively speaking, in every aspect of a game, except in a tie game.  Now this has been explored by other bloggers/writers, so the topic is nothing new.  But adding another failure in one of these situations makes it that much more intriguing to us as baseball enthusiasts, or whatever one wants to call us.  Why can’t Mariano Rivera, whom I believe is the greatest closer of all time, succeed in a tie game?  There must be something to it.  And I think it is safe to believe that it could very well be psychological.  We always hear about how closers have much more adrenaline running through their veins when they come in to protect a lead, rather than to “protect” a tie.  And I don’t doubt that it is different.  But it seems to me that a tie game should have much intensity to go along with it as well.  Because if I am Mariano Rivera coming into a 2-2 game in the top of the ninth, with the home crowd going nuts in the Bronx, then I am feeling the intensity.  I guess that I would have to experience the situation to know if what I just said had any definite accuracy, but I would think it would be pretty crazy in a tie game, knowing that every pitch is even closer to a loss than in a save situation. 


     But whatever the reason is, this I cannot get on the manager for…Whether it was Torre, or now Girardi.  I cannot argue with going to Rivera in a tie ballgame.  Even with the success of the Yankee bullpen this season, Rivera is still the best option in any situation if the teams needs outs (The bullpen is now 9th in ERA in the AL by the way, but it was having success for a while there).  Anyway, there is no Joba Chamberlain out there now.  Rivera is the best option, period.  If Joba were out there, then they would be using him before Rivera, just as they did in Save situations.  And I am not advocating that Joba should be there, making him a starter was the best move for the long run.  But IF he was there, then they would go to him first. 


     In Rivera’s career, opponents have a line that looks like this during a tie game:  .248/.318/.349.  So from that we see that Rivera gives up more hits, and walks more batters.  However, opponents still hit with almost no power.  So it isn’t like Rivera has given up a bunch of homers when he arrives during a game that is “even” on the scoreboard.  His control seems to disappear a little, but he still has 155 K’s in 152 innings, which is impressive.  In 2008, Rivera has been terrible in the “tie game.”  Thirteen appearences, an opponents OPS of .973, which is great, if one was the opponent.  And he has been struggling the past few years in the same situation, not so much last season, but he struggled mightily in 2006.  But Rivera has made 36 appearences in these situations from 2006-2008, which is roughly 36 innings I would imagine.  The reason relievers can be so sporadic with their performances, is because of the small sample sizes.  A 60-inning closer has less time to redeem himself if he struggles early, and so called “luck” comes into play more often in a small sample as well.  However, that works both ways as a closer can start off great, and have that so called “luck” favor him more.  But should Girardi cease to use Rivera in Save situations because of a 36 inning sample?  Even though it isn’t as if he has some incredible set up man waiting out in the pen.  Or should he say to himself, “Rivera has been capable enough in tie games during his career, and he is the best option I have in any situation the game presents.” 


     I am not denying that Rivera isn’t quite the pitcher when he comes in during a tie game, but I will backup using him in these situations with the current crop of relievers that the Yankees have.  There are some having good seasons, but none of them are Mariano Rivera.  So whatever the reason is that Rivera has been struggling, he is still the best option in a tie game, at least I believe.  And the next time the Yankees are in this situation, I would go to him if needed, simply because he is the best option out there.     

The Los Angeles Annihilators of Anaheim.


     It is pretty clear that the Angels are the best team in baseball right now.  In fact, it is close to definite.  But they aren’t so good that they will win 11 of 13 in a 4 week span against the Red Sox and Yankees, with any consistency.  They happen to be playing out of their mind right now.  Adding Teixera gave the Angels favoritism amongst most of us, but I still thought that they would have a few offensive struggles, and I still believe they will.  They aren’t going to be beating up on good teams, this badly, for the rest of the year.  But the point of the Teixera trade was that the Angels became an above average offense.  And an above average offense to go along with a very good pitching staff, is well, a formula for a World Series appearence, and win.  This actually reminds me of the 2004 Red Sox.  I know they won the Wild Card, and weren’t running away with the division like the Angels are, but that was because of the variables.  The Red Sox won 98 games that year, and the first place Yankees won 101.  But the Red Sox that season, post trade deadline, went out West and killed opponents, solid opponents.  After winning 12 of 13 against various teams, they started playing the teams that resided out West, at home in Fenway.  3 against the Angels, 3 against the Rangers, then West for three against Oakland, four against Seattle.  They finished 10-3 over that stretch.  And went 20-2 from August 16th-September 18th.  Obviously the styles of play are different.  The Angels of course are notorious for “small ball” while the Red Sox “wait” around for the “long ball.”  But that 2004 team had a dominant run, and now these 2008 Angels are experiencing a dominant! run as well. 


     Point being…when a team gets this hot, this late, it is kind of scary.     




“Albert The Underrated?”


     Very possible, and very likely.  I just started reading Joe Posnanski’s blog, and I must say that it is, well, good. 



Mahay-de A Mistake Did the Royals.



Benjamin: Lawernce, Kansas: Do you think there is any reason why Moore didn’t trade Grudz or Mahay at the deadline? I heard there were big offers for Ron!!

SportsNation Rob Neyer: Not trading Mahay is simply indefensible.



     And Rob Neyer makes what I would call a “truly excellent point” in regards to the journeyman reliever.  I myself was exercising this very theory near the deadline.  My mind did not expand to words such as “indefensible,” but nevertheless it would seem like a serious organizational mistake to hold onto a player like Mahay.  The Royals are waving from the shore as their transportation is heading out into the ocean, because they simply “missed the boat” on this one.


     Ron Mahay, a career WHIP of 1.386, posting arguably the best numbers of his career up on the wall during 2008, was held onto by a front office that should be focusing almost solely on the future, and a team that happens to be in fourth place as we speak.  And I should mention that fifth place is not all that far behind them.  They decide to hold onto Mahay, even though he is 37, which is the most important aspect in this situation.  And the fact that he throws between 50-70 innings a year, meaning he can only help the ballclub so much, another important aspect.  Wouldn’t it have made much, much more sense to rid of him, and obtain anything, anything at all, that will help the team achieve future success.  I am not sure how much the Royals could have received had they moved him, but I entertain the notion, and logically, that they would have acquired something that can help them in moving forward. 


     These are considered missed opportunities for a team, a front office.  Ron Mahay was at his apex in terms of a “return,” and the Royals let another chance slip through their grasp.  Take a note from Billy Beane, Kansas City Royals, relievers are overrated individually.  Especially ones that are 37 years old on a non-contending team.  Plenty of teams were looking to add bullpen help, and plenty of teams probably would have given up something decent to help the Royals.  But they held onto a pitcher that can only impact the team so much, and that SO MUCH is a very, very minimal amount. 

Exactly, Jim Caple.


Jim Caple



     I know, very lame title to the post.  But what can I say?  I for one did not want to incur a “missed opportunity.”  See:  Last post. 


     According to Keith Law, The Craig Hansen he has seen this season is not a “Big League” pitcher, and I cannot disagree.  However, Craig Hansen still has a nasty slider, and with the velocity on his fastball, I still think that he can salvage a “Big League” career.  Thrown into a pennant race, with his personal problems probably still lingering within his own mind, was probably not the best setting for Hansen to learn how to get “Big League” hitters out.  But now, he has an opportunity to work on his craft…for a few years, at least.


     The thing that is most promising about Craig Hansen, outside of his “stuff,” is the fact that he is only a 24 year old pitcher.  And now this 24 year old pitcher moves to a place where winning just isn’t as much as a “priority” as it was in Boston.  It is not that the Pirates organization does not want to win, it is just that realistically, they are not good enough to win, and I think this season they finally found a complete realization in this.  They moved their best player in Jason Bay, and they moved a player in Xavier Nady whose stock will never be higher than it is right now.  The return was nothing special, a bunch of solid prospects, some whose value is lower than it had been in the past because of the struggles they came across.  But they need solid players to surround stars, and if the organization builds a team, then it isn’t unlikely that they could sign a few Good free agents once the base is built. 


     And that right there would be the definiton of the saying, “But I digress.”  Back to Hansen…No pressure now.  Craig Hansen can pitch for a big league club and try to become the pitcher that all the scouts thought he could become.  He can work in situations where there is some pressure, but not the kind of pressure that costs the team a playoff spot.  And it doesn’t hurt that the league itself is thought to contain a little less talent than that of the American League.  So, maybe, just maybe, Hansen can record a few more outs, build up a little confidence, and try and become a “Big League” pitcher.   

* The Greatest Player Who Ever Lived *


     Assuming Barry Bonds has been hitting the cage this season, or more accurately, this “offseason” for him, I am kind of thinking that someone not signing him was an opportunity missed.  Of course, I cannot mock a front office for not wanting to take in a player with the negative invisible surroundings that do in fact clearly surround Barry Bonds.  Bonds would bring more media to a team than most ever have, more criticism would be shrewn upon whomever were to be the “ink” on the other end of a Bonds contract.  But I also know that some teams desperately needed a corner outfielder, or a DH.  And Bonds was simply, and is simply, the cost of a very small amount of money.  Small amount for a baseball organization anyway. 


     This I truly believe.  After all Barry Bonds has been through, mostly due to his own actions.  He would be willing to put aside his ego, at least in the publics eye, in order to play for a few months on a contending team.  Some of his desire may be simply trying to prove that steroids weren’t the reason he was so great.  If he came in for two months with the new testing program in place, and played well, then some may change their stance on him.  I for one think that Bonds would just welcome the opportunity to do what he has always done, play the game of baseball, even if it were only for another 150 plate appearences or so.


     Some see a clubhouse disaster when Barry Bonds’ name lingers around in the media in whichever given city, I see an opportunity, a business opportunity, for a team in need.  I don’t blame the ones who are skeptical of Bonds being acquired, but I think that he would just play the game if he were signed for the remaining games in a season that is closing out a little faster than I want it to. 


     I kept saying to coworkers that if Manny were to be traded, then Bonds would be the best option to take his place.  I know, I know, no need to replace one cancer with another.  But again I state, I don’t think Bonds would be much of a cancer for the final two months.  Little did I know that Theo could bring back a good player like Jason Bay, because at the time when discussions were with the Florida Marlins, I was under the impression that Theo would just obtain some more prospects to deepen the aready deep Farm system, and all but give away the current season. 


     But the thing about Bonds is that if he does wrong, if he becomes a distraction, then the team could simply tell him to walk.  There are no long term repercussions, there are no financial obligations that would matter to a ballclub, whatever ballclub, with so much money.  And for a team like the New York Mets, rather than entertaining the likes of acquiring a player like Raul Ibanez, could have had Barry Bonds for free. 


     I mean maybe I am in the minority here, maybe some will call me crazy thinking that Bonds could stay under control of his gigantic, selfish ego, more selfish than that of most.  But I am a believer that Barry Bonds would want to play a few months, and walk away from the game feeling a little better about what just happened, what just transpired.  Call me crazy, call me whatever, these are just my views.