January 2009

Simmons’ Logic Flawed.

Bill Simmons: See, another team that should sign him –
the Nats. People in DC do not care about that team. At all. Manny
doesn’t make them more interesting????? They’re willing to give Tex 170
million – a guy who has played on bad teams for nearly his entire
career – but Manny isn’t worth $75m for three? He wouldn’t sell
tickets? He wouldn’t hit?

     Not intending to rip on Bill Simmons, again, for simply the sake of ripping on Bill Simmons.  As I included in my last post referring to a Simmons ‘flaw of logic,” it is the way he thinks in regarding to certain baseball and football related topics that I disagree with.  Simmons does do something that I could never do, entertain a large crowd.  The way that he introduces the readers to entertainment-intersecting-with-sports is pretty much unparalled on a national scale.  But for someone who is in the national spotlight, someone who most likely spends more time than I do perusing the internet, one would think that he would dig a little deeper to find out what value in baseball is, what the worth of an individual player is.  Maybe spend a few minutes on Baseball Prospectus or The Hardball Times.  Ok, one doesn’t have to be infatuated with the numbers to understand baseball.  That seems to be a popular misconception nowadays.  But it helps, trust me, it does.  If one understands why there are numbers in the first place–to aid in the process of evaluating players, teams, etc, not to eliminate scouts, talent evaluators, etc–Then they will simply have a greater understanding of the game.  I may be adept with the numbers, somewhat, but I am no scout, nor do I think I know more than the average scout.  But it is much easier for someone to research stats, and what they mean, then to learn how to evaluate a player based on what they see.  I am not asking Bill Simmons to grade Buchholz’s change up, I am simply asking him to try and understand an established players value.

     So what does this mean when speaking of Teixeira?  “A guy who has played on bad teams nearly his entire career.”  Maybe I am looking too much into it and maybe my thinking is flawed.  But for some reason it sounds like Tex is being penalized because the Rangers only addressed one side of the ball over the duration of his time spent with Texas.  Manny has played on winning teams, and been part of the reason they have been winners, arguably the largest part at times.  But Tex never had Schilling and Pedro on the mound.  Tex never had a great season from Josh Beckett and another quality year of Curt Schilling.  And while Tex had some hitters in his lineup, “plus-talent” around him at times, so did Manny.  The Red Sox won two championships while Manny was with them.  But replacing Manny with an average LF would have resulted in winning seasons, probably not the playoffs, but still, winning seasons.  Those Indians teams were stacked with good hitters, and while they too, like the Rangers, did not exactly address the pitching as much as they should have, at least they had a few good pitchers. 

     The reason that this irritates me so much is that Mark Teixiera is now a Yankee (winner).  This season, maybe the Yankees don’t win a championship, but they will be a winning ballclub.  So all of a sudden Tex is a winning player because he has more talent surrounding him than he ever has in his career?  That is why I hate this.  Some baseball writers think that a player can win 40 games on his own, or so it seems.  Statistically, that isn’t the case at all.  Players cannot be that large a part of a team.  Did you know that accoring to WARP1 Manny Ramirez was worth 9.8 Wins above a “replacement player?”  That is basically 10 wins.  So Manny would have been 10 wins better then some Minor Leaguer that comes up and plays with the team when there is no one else to field the position.  Maybe that statistic is not perfect, but it provides a much greater understanding of how many wins a player is worth, rather than simply guessing a number as some appear to do.  Simply put, you put Manny Ramirez on the Pirates this season, and the Pirates will still miss the playoffs, probably by a lot.  You put Manny Ramirez from any season of his career on next years Pittsburgh Pirates, and they still miss the playoffs.

     These are the pitching staffs summed up in ERA+ in Tex’s Rangers years:  88, 111, 93, 100, 95 (95 was a partial season for Tex).  That 111 stands out a lot.  But the problem is that the offense was actually slightly below average that season (97).  Tex may have had some “hitters” around him during his time in Texas, but the offense as a whole was, believe it or not, better than average only one time (105).  There was a season of 101 in there too, but that is basically average, since average is 100.  It may seem like the Rangers have a great offense more often, but that ballpark does help their case in most seasons, excluding last year, when they actually had a really good offense.  

     While Manny played in Boston, the Red Sox have had team pitching, and team offense numbers in eight seasons, giving us eight years of offense, and eight years of pitching; 16 total.  During that time, the Red Sox have below average pitching twice (96, 98).  And a below average offense only once (99).  And those numbers of 98 and 99 are dangerously close to being average.  Basically, Ramirez played on teams that had just about an average offense 8 times in eight seasons.  And an average pitching staff basically 6 of 8 times, possibly even 7 if you want to include the 98.  And average is an understatement.  Each side of the ball has been well above average in several seasons, including pitching seasons of 121 and 123.  Those, my friends, are great pitching staffs.
     So sure, Manny Ramirez was a part of why those Red Sox teams were great, but that part seems to be magnified in Simmons’ eyes.  There was only so much that he could do alone.  And while Tex will probably end up the lesser player when their career’s are all said and done, both will be considered great, I would imagine.  Manny’s career is great already, Tex seems likely to finish what will be a great career–maybe not a Hall of Famer–but he should be very close if he continues to stay healthy.  And I understand that part of the point Simmons is trying to make is that Manny will sell more tickets in Washington.  That, I do not dispute.  But I feel that it is unfair for Simmons to include that Tex has played on “losing teams,” because that is not his fault.  He was a great player on a team with below average talent around him most years.  And just one more thing; Tex actually does play defense, and plays it very well.  Something that 37 year old Manny Ramirez will not do, and has never done. 

     So, Bill.  Continue writing, you do have a lot of talent.  But seriously try and find a better way to understand a players value in the sport we know as baseball.  Because pinning the failures of a team on an individual just doesn’t make much sense to me, or present much logic.    


Catcher By Committee.

     “Hitting in the number 3 spot today, game 162 of the season, catcher Victor Martinez steps to the plate.  Refreshed, relaxed, full of energy.  Anyone can notice the extra giddy-up, the exuberance that Martinez has in his body language of late.  As we have mentioned several times this season, the Indians have implemented a new program for their catchers.  The team has begun to use the Anaheim Angels approach of using two catchers, platooning,  Or, a “catcher by committee” if you will.  With Joakim Soria on the mound, Martinez is going to need all the energy that he has to catch up to that fastball.  Again, two on two out, Royals up 3-2.  If the Indians win, they hold off the Twins and win the division.  If they lose, a one game playoff will be taking place, as the Twins were already victorious earlier in the day.  And Soria delivers from the stretch; A first pitch slider missing a little inside to the switch hitting catcher, batting left handed against the right handed throwing Soria.  Well off target with his slider as Buck was setting up away.  Again, Soria delivers, this time a change-up catching the outer half of the plate for a strike.  Soria is showing his respect to Victor Martinez today, throwing a pitch that he rarely does throw, and trying to confuse the very smart mind of Martinez.  The Pitch…another ball, another off speed pitch.  This was Soria’s slider yet again, missing down and away this time.  Soria is nit-picking, and rightfully so.  Martinez has been as productive as most hitters this season, but of course this is only his 100th game of the season, due to the platoon the Indians have stressed.  So, 2-1 count.  A red-hot Victor Martinez at the plate.  One of the best closers in the game on the mound.  Here’s the pitch…And. That ball is drilled!!!   Back…At the track!  Outta here!  The Indians win!  The Indians win!  The Indians are going to play on into October!  Oh my, it cannot get any better than this!  Martinez just got around easily on that 94 MPH fastball and ripped it well into the right field seats…

     Ok, maybe the “catcher by committee” wouldn’t result in a division championship, definitely unlikely in this fashion.  And realistically, it is would be very difficult to find two catchers who are prodcutive enough at the plate to make it work.  One reason being that if a team does have two catchers that are good enough to play every day, then there is always another team that could use one of them.  Catchers who can hit aren’t exactly growing on trees.  So it would probably make sense to trade one of the catchers to improve the team in another area.  But, catcher is the most physically demanding position in baseball.  Just as running back is the most physically demanding position in football.  Now, I understand that running through a hole and knowing that you are going to be met by at least a defender, or more, is a little different than crouching down for a long period of time, over a great number of games.  But just as running backs retire earlier than that of other positions, or are not effective anymore, seemingly earlier than any other position.  Catchers are in relatively the same boat.  Catchers rarely acheive success late in their careers.  It is difficult to do, as their bodies have gone through more than any other position in the sport.  But I find the “Catcher by Committee” to be intriguing. 

     Mike Scioscia and the Angels applied this thinking to what they did last year behind the plate.  Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis split time as backstops; Mathis caught 793 innings, Napoli caught 625.  But one problem, possibly, with this is that Napoli was a significantly better hitter.  Jeff Mathis was terrible at the plate, an OPS+ of 55, which is not worthy of receiving any playing time, and 90 games was too much.  Mike Napoli killed the ball.  OPS+ of 147, in a decent sampling, yet not really a great sample size.  Mathis cannot hit, yet, while Napoli can.  I know there is more to catching than just hitting, but Napoli deserves more playing time in 2009, unless Mathis improves at the plate.  But part of me wonders if Napoli hit so well because he didn’t play much.  Maybe Napoli was well rested and never experienced the effects that most catchers feel over the long, 162 game season.  Napoli is a good hitting catcher, but if he were to have played, say 135 games last year, his numbers probably would have come down, because while he is good, I doubt he is that good.  So, playing more games–a greater sample size–Napoli would most likely have had his numbers decrease, at least some.  But, I wonder if Napoli plays 100 games each year, rather than 135, would he always put up better numbers in the shortened seasons then he would by playing 135 games?  It feels as though a catcher would be better, the more he rests, within reason, because they still need to get pretty consistent AB’s.  And I understand the difficulty that an organization would have committing time to two catchers, such as Napoli and Mathis, when one is so much greater at the plate. 

     But just because the Angels “platoon” may not be best example of this, the Indians might have a better chance to do this, assuming that they keep Kelly Shoppach this year, which seems likely at this point (as he is under contract, and still with the club).  The difference between Shoppach and Mathis is that Shoppach can actually hit well enough to start.  Shoppach may have experienced a career year in 2008 (OPS+ 123).  But it is safe to assume that he is roughly average at the plate, if not better, AND right in his prime.  And an average hitter, at the catcher position, is a pretty good player, assuming Shoppach isn’t challenged behind the plate. 

     But keeping Victor Martinez rested appears to make sense.  The Indians want his bat in the lineup, which I understand completely.  But if they could say, limit Martinez to catching around 100 games, while giving him some time off, and playing him at first some, they may increase his productivity at the plate.  Maybe a 100 games is too few, but Ryan Garko isn’t exactly Lou Gehrig at the plate.  Victor should be catching fewer games than most great hitting catchers, because of the personnel that the Indians have.  And first base does present an opportunity for the Indians to get Martinez some more AB’s while not having the team suffer any.

     Which leads me to yet another example of the platooning of catchers.  Let us say that Varitek ends up accepting the contract offer he has been presented, and the Red Sox have he and Josh Bard.  Neither catcher can hit much, and both might have the same problem; They cannot hit from the left side.  If last year holds any water, Varitek’s days having any kind of success from the left side are well over.  But since Jason is 37 now, platooning may be the best option for the team, with those two on the roster I mean.  Keeping Varitek rested, and hoping that helps his bat get through the zone in less than 4 seconds, seems to be the best option if they do not choose to trade for their catcher of the future (which still seems like a good option to me).  I could see a scenario where each plays 80 games, or something like that.  Varitek half the time seems a better option than Varitek full time.  Plus, that would give him the chance to stay in the clubhouse and have whatever positive effect he seems to have in there. 

     But I do wonder how much teams will explore having a “catcher by Committee in the future.  It
seems that catchers are expected to hit much more than they were in the past.  So in the future, where there are more catchers who are good behind the plate AND good AT the plate, maybe the option will arise to carry two starting catchers on as many teams as possible.  I don’t mean two Joe Mauer’s.  I mean maybe a Shoppach/Martinez combo.  Or a Posada/Shoppach.  Something like that.     

Good For Him!

     What do Jason Bay and Mike Sweeney have in common?  They both have seen their talents seemingly diminished in the public eye due to the markets they have played in.  Jason Bay is now getting the recognition that he deserves for being a really good baseball player.  Mike Sweeney on the other hand, will never be remembered for more than a pretty good player, who played on lousy Royals teams, and no one ever said much about him.  But now, Sweeney has yet another chance to redeem himself as a baseball player. 

     Injury riddled, unnoticed when he actually was healthy, Sweeney has, believe it or not, encountered some really good years.  But who knew?  I did.  But I spent many years reading the USA Today’s baseball statistics and Sweeney fell in on some of the leaderboards for a few years there.  Sweeney actually batted .333 in 2000, do you remember that?  And get this, as crummy as the Royals have been for a long time, Sweeney actually drove in 144 runs that season.  144!  No one associates RBI totals like that coming from Kansas City.  Ok, there were actually a few players on that team;  Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, Jermaine Dye.  Base runners actually existed on their basepaths–unlike today.  But still, as flawed as RBI’s can be, I know that someone who ends up with 144 of them, probably just had a very successful year. 

     But that isn’t all.  Sweeney had seven straight seasons with an OPS+ of 117 or greater.  Mild problem, some of those seasons Sweeney missed some time.  But at least while he was on the field, he was a good player.  Health has been an issue for a long, unfortunately.  Only once has he played more than 108 games in the last six years (122 in 2005).  Billy Beane took a chance on him last season, the chance did not end up being a successful one.  But now, since I haven’t said it yet, Mike Sweeney gets another chance with the Seattle Mariners…

     Sure, it is a minor league deal, but it is something.  I have been kind of hoping that Sweeney could stay healthy and get back somewhere near where he used to be (Don’t ask me why, just cheering for the guy I guess).  Doubtful that he does end up being productive, I know.  But Sweeney is 35, not 40, and hopefully he can move up the ladder, and get some playing time with what will probably be a team out of contention.  This move really is just about meaningless as far as helping the Seattle Mariners field a contender.  But for Mike Sweeney, well, let us just hope for the best.  And a very unlikely scenario, but maybe, just maybe, Sweeney stays healthy, hits decent enough, and the Mariners dish him off to a contender at the deadline so he has a chance to play on a winning team.     

Manny Ramirez is Underrated.

    Bill Simmons says so

     Manny Ramirez underrated?  Is that logical?  Manny Ramirez has been glorified for many seasons now, especially after he joined the Red Sox.  People constantly refer to Manny as being one of the greatest right handed hitters of all time.  There is no one, at least that I’ve come across, that doubts his greatness, or that he is a Hall of Famer.  Maybe I am missing the point Bill Simmons.  I know what you are saying, you seem to think that teams that don’t want to pay him $25 million are undervaluing him.  On this market, a 37 year old player should get paid $25 million a season for multiple seasons?  It doesn’t mean that Manny is underrated, it means that Manny is asking for too much, in a time when the economy is struggling, and even baseball teams seem to be feeling the effect. 

     Bill Simmons is actually an entertaining writer.  Bias?  Yes.  Ill-informed at times?  Yes.  But the way he mixes in popular culture with sports is a talent that I respect.  Simmons, ever since Manny was traded, has sided with Manny, rather than with the Red Sox.  I guess he thinks that the Red Sox treated him poorly by not letting him know whether or not they were going to pick up his option.  Simmons, if you think that, then so be it.  But there is no one out there that denies that Manny makes any team better.  But is that “better” worth $75 million over three years, or $50 million over two?  Whatever the figure is, it is very logical for a team to pass on it.  That much money tied up in one player isn’t exactly the best route, especially one that is 37 AND has a history of self-motivation, and is somewhere in the same arena as being a “defensive liability.” 

     I will always appreciate Manny Ramirez as a baseball player.  And I will continue to read Bill Simmons’ sports column because I find them entertaining–although lacking sports logic at times.  But I have to say that Bill is wrong on this subject. 

Who Was Better? Glavine or Mussina?

     Both are probably Hall of Famer’s, both are basically done–even though Glavine is still pitching–and both have similar ERA+’s.  Similar, not identical.  Mussina actually has the better ERA+ of 123 to Glavine’s 118.  But Glavine has thrown more innings, so naturally, it is going to be difficult to pitch at the same rate.  They both have strong cases for induction to the Hall, Glavine’s a bit stronger in actuality because of the 300 Wins.  But Wins are overrated, although in this case they are an indicator of Glavine helping his team win more, due to pitching longer, at a slightly lesser rate than Mussina. 

The Regular Season    

     Glavine:  Tom Glavine is the lesser of the “trio of greatness” that Atlanta had during the 90’s.  Smoltz was more dominating.  Maddux was even more deceptive.  But Glavine was great in his own way.  One does not win a Cy Young, or two in this case, award by being mediocre.  Glavine accumulated 4,413 innings over his career.  Struck out 2,607 batters while walking 1500.  Glavine’s ERA+ was 118.  He had an astounding ten seasons greater than 125 in the ERA+ category.  And like Greg Maddux, Glavine was a very, very durable pitcher.  17 times starting 30+ games, and no fewer than 25 starts in a season, if one were to exclude his 2008 where he started only 13 games at age 42.  Tom Glavine was a great pitcher, and like I said, Glavine’s ERA+ is lower (higher the better) than Mussina’s because he has pitched more innings, and pitched 2+ seasons longer than Mussina, meaning that Glavine was older and closer to average, Mussina chose to retire. 

     Mussina:  Mike Mussina’s case has grown a lot since his near-retirement, and ultimately his actual retirement.  So what if Mussina wasn’t Pedro, Randy, Maddux or Clemens.  Mussina was pretty darn close to Smoltz, Glavine, and Schilling.  If over a period of over ten seasons, a pitcher is one of the eight best, even if he is the eighth best, is that not great?  One thing that can be held against Mussina is the zero Cy Youngs.  But that is subjective analysis at its best.  I don’t ignore the votes, or the awards, but I try and dig deeper, because it is very possible that the best pitcher doesn’t always win. 

     Speaking of:  In 2001 Roger Clemens won the Cy Young award, now I don’t know who deserved the award most, but Mussina had a lower ERA on the same team, and had the same amount of strikeouts, but about 20 fewer walks.  Clemens finished 20-3.  Mussina 17-11.  But Mussina received only 4.09 Runs/Game, while Clemens had 5.88 Runs/Game behind him in his victories.  That is pretty close to two runs a game extra that Clemens received.  Now I am not saying that Mussina deserved the award, as there were other good pitchers that year too.  But voters chose Clemens based on his record, and I am sure partially on his reputation.  He WAS Roger Clemens after all.  ( I stole JoePo’s format of using italics when I digress)

     Back to Mussina’s numbers though, which I kind of need to get out there.  ERA+ of 123 as I mentioned; 3,562 Innings, 2813 K’s, 785 walks.  Mussina wasn’t as durable as Glavine, and I believe this is where he will be hurt most in the comparison.  12 times Mussina starter over 30 games, and of course Mussina retired earlier than Glavine did.  But it isn’t as though Mussina spent chunks of time on the DL either.  Mussina threw fewer than 30 games on five different occasions, yet still never threw fewer than 24. 

     Mussina’s WHIP was 1.192, clearly better than Glavine’s 1.314.  You don’t like WHIP for some reason?  Well, Mussina allowed fewer baserunners based on whatever metric you choose to use; .297-.319.  And Mussina’s “opponents OPS” was .696 versus .697 for Glavine–virtually identical–except…Mussina had to face a DH his entire career, Glavine had to face pitchers and pinch hitters instead. 

   The Postseason

     Glavine spent an absurd amount of time in the playoffs, opportunities that Mussina did not have while with the orioles.  I firmly believe that if Mussina takes Glavine’s spot on that Braves roster, then the Braves would of had the same kind of success.  Glavine pitched a full season’s worth of innings in the postseason; 218.  His ERA was actually lower at 3.42, pretty close to his regular season ERA of 3.54, but the playoffs have stronger opponents.  Glavine was a good postseason pitcher, as he was in the regular season.

     Mussina never won a World Series, but was on the cusp of one, and it wasn’t his fault that Rivera blew a save, even though he never blew saves.  Mussina’s sampling of the postseason is smaller than Glavine’s, however, still much greater than most pitchers will experience:  139 innings and a 3.42 ERA, which is exactly what Glavine’s was.  Crazy, I know.  Mussina too had success in the postseason, even though some seem to think otherwise.

     Both experienced good postseason’s on an individual basis.  Both were great in the regular season, although not the best of their time  Both were in the Top 10, which is pretty good in my book, the book that I haven’t written of course.  Both all around were eerily similiar.  Glavine pitched longer, and owns the counting numbers.  Mussina owns the rate numbers.

     So, there you have it.  After all that.  A bunch of numbers and some distant memories. 

     Who was better? 

UPDATE/EDIT:  Jason, from the blog “Baseball and the Boogie Down” already compared Mussina and Glavine HereI guess maybe that is why I chose the two, because it seeped into my brain a while back after I read it.  I don’t know.  But for the record, I was not intentionally ripping off anyone’s ideas.  I simply forgot that Jason had explored this already.  However, I do explore it in a different manner, so enjoy the slightly different perspectives. 

The Annual Joba Debate.

     Joba Chamberlain will never, ever, be as dominant, per inning, as a starter, than he was as a reliever.  If that is what you are searching for, a reliever that can throw 98-100 MPH for an inning or two at a time, while striking out 12.75 batters per nine innings, then fine.  If you are searching for those same numbers as a starter, then, Good Luck!  But there is a reason that Joba appears more dominant in the pen, it’s because he can max out and increase his velocity to its fullest, because its easier to do that over a shorter period of time.  It doesn’t mean that he is “better,” or more “valuable” in the bullpen. 

     This is a debate that the media salivates over.  Bloggers all over, experts everywhere, analysts around, they all debate this.  Joba Chamberlain HAS ALWAYS BEEN A STARTER.  Why not give him a shot at the Major League level?  It isn’t as though Joba started 12 games, and had an ERA over 5.00.  Or that Joba struggled some in the minors in the beginning games.  Joba has had success starting at every level, that he has ever played at, ever, ever, ever.  His Minor League numbers indicate pure dominance:  88 innings, 135 K’s, 27 walks, 2.45 ERA.  Ok, that is the minors.  So what about the Majors?  65 Innings, 74 K’s, 25 walks, 2.76 ERA.  Pretty good, right?  It is a small sample, Joba did give up sixty hits, so it wasn’t as though he was “unhittable.”  But do you remember this past season when Joba dominated the Red Sox and threw a shutout against Josh Beckett?  Well, that is an indicator of what he is capable of.  Learning to throw in the Big Leagues is a process, there is time that it takes to make the transisition, especially since the Yankees placed him in the bullpen first. 

     Believe me, I understand when people consider him to be a better option as a dominant reliever, because they have seen him do it at the Major League level.  But what I saw last season, and what I see in the numbers, Majors and Minors, is that Joba can be a good starter, maybe even great, although I don’t want to label anyone great, those expectations are ,well, great.  He just needs the chance to prove it.  If he gets the chance, pitches well, everyone will forget about Joba the reliever.  And as far as I am concerned, Joba the starter is > Joba the reliever. 

Give CASH-man some credit.

     This is not originally my thought, but I agree.

      I am not exactly an advocate for giving props to someone for having the most resources, and ultimately succeeding.  But although I think that Brian Cashman is far from the best GM in baseball, I also think that sometimes he has received too much blame in the past when no other General Manager had a Steinbrenner breathing down his neck. 

     This offseason has resulted in the Yankees acquiring three Type-A free agents, creating a loss of three draft picks.  Giving these players more money than anyone else would give them?  Not exactly a praise-worthy strategy.  However, acquiring all three in the same season, meaning that the Yankees surrender a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick, well, if that was planned (as I believe it was) then it actually was a good decision by Cashman. 

     Rather than sign one high-profile player each season for the next three years, in turn, losing a first round pick each year, Cashman chose to make his moves in the same free agent market, and the positive aspect of that, was losing fewer first round picks.  Now, this is better than signing them in different seasons, but comparing this to not signing them at all is a different story.  If one feels that Cashman should have avoided signing any of these particular free agents, then so be it, but I am simply giving Cashman credit for doing it all in the same year, and not in seperate years. 

     Next years free agent class, or so I’ve heard, is going to be very limited, at least in relation to the current one.  So that is another reason Cashman is making these moves, now, rather than later.  That and the “expecting” by Yankees fans and the little Steinbrenner sons that the Yankees must win right now.  I would imagine that the Yanks will make a run at Matt Holliday next season, or even Jason Bay if the Red Sox do not extend Bay’s contract beforehand.  But other than that, the Yankees will not come close to spending the amount of money that they have spent for the three free agents that they just brought to the Bronx. 

     So even though Cashman is in the best position to succeed, it isn’t as though he is a clueless General Manager.   

The Legend Of Brian Giles.

     Baseball Analysts originally brought this to my attention, and it caught me by surprise, and “surprise” may be an understatement.  Brian Giles has enjoyed a very rewarding career, numbers wise, and I am sure he can’t complain about his finances either.  Giles’ case is the exact reason I rely on numbers, rather than a reliance on media created markets, and the same reason why I try and do my own thinking, and not place too much emphasis on what ESPN tells me to think. 
     See, Brian Giles has basically played on two teams throughout his career, aside from a brief two year stint with the Cleveland Indians.  The two teams that Giles has spent a combined ten years on, are the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Diego Padres.  Now tell me, who outside of those two cities actually watches the two teams play on a regular basis?  I sure don’t, in fact, even if I do choose to watch a few National League teams play, I can sure find some teams that are more exciting to watch than them.  They don’t win, or haven’t been consistent winners, other than some decent years by the Padres in which they seemed to be the worst team to make the playoffs when they did.  The Pirates even more so, they just don’t win, and have not experienced winning in some time now. 

     But back to Giles; the RF has put up some pretty stunning numbers for a player that gets little attention.  Have many ever referred to Giles as a great player?  An OPS+ of 139 in 14 seasons suggests that he might very well have been.  Giles has batted .294 over the duration of his career, reached base at a clip of .404, and slugged a very good .511.  Giles is a corner OF, so his expectations at the plate are slightly more demanding than most other positions.  But he has gone above and beyond that.  Giles hit 35+ home runs in four straight full seasons before splitting time between San Diego and Pittsburgh in 2003.  After that, Giles never even came close to hitting 30 home runs again, most likely because Petco was the park that he played in, and partially I am sure because was no longer in his “prime.” 

     The “counting stats” are not there, and that has something to do with Petco, definitely.  But even if Giles played in a neutral park, he probably would still fall short of the numbers a player “requires” to be inducted into Cooperstown.  300 home runs are not going to grab anyone’s attention 6+ seasons from now, but an OPS+ over 135 might, if the voters actually looked at it.  That .404 OBP might, if they focused on it a little more.  I am not suggesting that Giles is a Hall of Famer, necessarily, simply pointing out that his case is much stronger than most would probably think of it to be.  “Under the radar” is what Pittsburgh does to a player, just ask Jason Bay who has gone from underrated, to possibly being overrated after 2009 is spent in Boston (Bay is a very good player, but a few walk-offs in Boston may have him closer to the Pujols category in the minds of some fans).  

     So this is why I rely on the numbers.  Must I say it again?  I don’t watch Brian Giles enough, and almost definitely never will watch him enough in the future either.  He has gone somewhat unnoticed in two small markets, and I wouldn’t be all that surprised if he is off of the Hall of Fame ballot after a single year.  But that doesn’t mean that he isn’t worthy of at least sticking around a few years, or more…

Five Best CF’s on the Diamond.

     In relation to corner outfielders, CF’s have to possess a little more defensive prowess.  There is a very obvious reason why players like Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn, and Bobby Abreu–just to use a few names from this current Free Agent market–are placed in left or right, rather than in center.  They aren’t fast enough, they don’t take the correct path to the ball enough of the time, and if they did play the position, they would be terrible at it.  The Top 5 CF’s are (Included is 2008 OPS+):

  • Grady Sizemore:  OPS+ 128:  If I had to build a team around an individual player, Sizemore would probably be it.  Granted, his age factors into that decision a great deal, but so doesn’t the fact that he plays an up-the-middle position and the fact that he is a very good hitter.  Sizemore has begun his career with OPS’s of 123, 132, 122, 128, excluding his 43 game 2004 season.  The reputation that Sizemore has defensively, actually exceeds his actual skill.  Grady seems to be regarded as one of the best defenders in center, but from what I gather, and see in the +/-, is that Sizemore is overrated in this department.  Capable?  Yes.  And Sizemore will probably improve his route-running as he continues to field balls, but right now there are a handful of CF’s that play better defense.  By the way, Sizemore is a leadoff hitter, and a leadoff hitter with an OBP of between .370-.390 every season, while adding an abnormal slugging percentage from the first slot in the batting order, well, that helps his team win ballgames.
  • Carlos Beltran:  OPS+ 129:  Carlos Beltran is just about as underrated as they come.  Sure, Beltran has never been as great as he was in the 2004 postseason, where he slugged eight home runs, but all he does is produce great year after great year.  And to be fair, Beltran’s postseason was about as great as they get, so there is no way he is going to hit like that for entire seasons.  Because Beltran never says or implies much through even his body language, he is going to sneak up on everyone’s Hall of Fame ballots.  Beltran is just about as good as they come as far as defense in CF.  He actually has a strong case for number 1, as he has led ALL OF’s in Win Shares in two of the past three seasons.  See, Beltran suffers from JD Drew-syndrome, which is the ability to do things, make them look easy, all while showing little-to-no emotion.  Now Beltran is clearly better than Drew, and healthier, but the perception of each is similar.  The only reason that Beltran is not number one is because I think very highly of Grady Sizemore.  The two could very well be 1) and 1A) if it makes everyone feel better.  And Beltran could even have the number one spot all by himself if you wish. 
  • Curtis Granderson:  OPS+ 124:  Granderson was banged up in 2008, but what people failed to notice is that he was actually quite good, I am sure that is due partially to him playing on a poor, underacheiving team.  I am not sure, however,  that Curtis will ever be as good as his 2007 year, but he is still a top of the line CF.  The one thing that is scary is his strikeout totals, but each year they have decreased, meaning that he is putting the ball in play more often, at least giving himself a chance to reach base with the speed he has.  A player like Pat Burrell may not want to increase his contact rate, because it may cost him in the power department, and increase the amount of double plays he grounds into.  But Granderson can actually stay out of double plays, grounding into only 17 in over 500 games played.  Granderson is above average in the fielding department, and is a better defender than Sizemore, but not as good as Beltran.  But I think that three is a fair spot for CG. 
  • Josh Hamilton:  OPS+ 136:  Hamilton is actually getting statistically drilled by John Dewan’s +/- system.  Last season, Hamilton was regarded as a below average CF, if one relies on this metric.  But Hamilton drills a baseball the same way he has been drilled by defensive metrics.  One thing that might concern me a lot is the way Hamilton hits at home in Arlington versus the way he hits on the road.  But there may be something to that, so I am not going to look too much into his Home/Road splits just yet.  Because as we know, because the media continually tells us, Josh Hamilton has a rough past.  I could very well see where a player in his situation could feel overwhelmed on the road, given his what he has experienced.  But if it keeps up through his career in Texas, then we could definitely make a case for his hitting being overrated because of the ballpark in which he calls home. 

  • BJ Upton:  OPS+ 107:  Upton is the real deal in the talent field, but there is a fine line, at least now, between he and the Top three CF’s.  Upton killed the ball in the postseason last year, hitting seven home runs in 16 games.  But what Upton has in talent, he lacks in the mental aspect of the game that we know of as baseball.  How many times is he going to nonchalantly watch a ball sail over his head because he seems to want to look good making a play?  I think he is a better defender than the next guy which would have been Nate Mclouth most likely, (better than the previous guy, too) and that is a large reason he is in this spot.  But he does get on base a lot, his .383 OBP is good evidence of that.  Upton seems like he may have a real breakout year in 2009 or 2010. 

Five Best 3B in Baseball.

     The Five Best at the “Hot Corner” in the game of baseball today are…

  • Alex Rodriguez:  Once his career is all said and done, I won’t mind if people say that he wasn’t the greatest ever.  But I will mind if they don’t include him in that discussion.  Some put a lot of emphasis on the postseason, and rightfully so, but even if he never has the great postseason that everyone expects from him, it will be tough to make a valid argument against 700+ home runs from an infield position other than first base.  His value on an individual basis has been diminished slightly because he moved off of the more difficult position of SS.  But 3B aren’t exactly supposed to be this great offensively, either.  If Alex Rodriguez is again the best player in baseball in 2009, as he was in 2007, then I will definitely not be surprised.  He has been the best player in baseball multiple seasons already.
  • David Wright:  What can’t David Wright do?  Play defense? Check that off.  Hit among the best players in baseball?  Color in the according circle.  Field questions from the media while no one else seems to as your team is collapsing?  Circle me silly.  And yet, it still isn’t enough.  Kind of reminds me of AROD actually, except Wright doesn’t make well over $20 million a year, which people definitely despise Rodriguez for doing.  Over the past three seasons, David Wright has three of the top 6 Win Share totals among 3B.  The other three belong to Miguel Cabrera (2), and to Alex Rodriguez (1).  So what can’t David Wright do?  Apparently, he cannot hit in the clutch, or so some think, even though Wright has batted .307/.407/.483 in “Late and Close” situations in his career. 
  • Chipper Jones:  The thing that separates Chipper from the top 2 3B is not performance, necessarily, but performance over a period of time.  Chipper is 36 now, and isn’t exactly staying on the field that much.  The past two seasons, Jones has played in 128 and 134 games.  But the two previous seasons, 2004 and 2005, Jones played in only 109 and 110 games.  If Chipper could stay healthy he may move up a slot, but he hasn’t been on the field enough the past four seasons.  Don’t take what I am saying the wrong way, because Chipper IS a Hall of Famer.  But he happens to slot in nicely at number 3 in this ranking, rather than higher up.  When we think of Chipper, think Edgar Martinez, except for one thing, Jones could field third well enough to stick around there, meaning he has/had more value.  
  • Aramis Ramirez:  This is where it drops a little, but far from a ton.  Aramis Ramirez, believe it or not, is a really good player.  He definitely gets less coverage than the first three 3B mentioned, but that is because two play in New York; one is a Hall of Famer already and appeared in 11 straight postseasons at one point.  Chicago is a media haven, but New York is even greater when talking about coverage.  Oh, and the other three 3B are better, which may be helpful in adding to why Ramirez gets less props.  But Ramirez has five straight seasons of OPS+ of 126 or greater.  His defense used to be regarded as semi-atrocious, but apparently he worked on it, and now he is good enough to be regarded as not “semi-atrocious.” 
  • Ryan Zimmerman:  This is where it gets dicey.  Evan Longoria may pass Zimmerman this season, but I have one season at the Major League level to analyze Longoria.  Zimmerman isn’t the hitter–or hasn’t been yet–that Longoria is most likely going to continue to be.  But one thing that Zimmerman does well is his field the position.  And three seasons of fielding the position well and batting a little above the average is greater in a ranking like this, than that of one good season.  Don’t forget either, Zimmerman is merely 23 years old, Longoria is 22.  Both are very young and BOTH have most likely not had the best seasons of their career yet.  I do however believe that Longoria moves into the top 5 after another season, might even move up to number 4.