Polo Grounds

Polo Grounds

Sunday, December 6, 2015

2016 Hall of Fame Ballot

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Hall of Fame ballot time! Instead of arguing over the dinner table about Politics or Religion, I prefer to argue about whether or not Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens should get elected into the Hall of Fame. We've been hearing this argument for five years now, and Buster Olney is sick of it. He's not alone. Many people are frustrated with the current voting system the Hall of Fame is employing. Voters are only allowed to vote for 10 players at a time, meaning some very talented players, players many would consider Hall of Famers, aren't getting votes. Olney's piece details his frustration, in which he has concluded that he will abstain from voting, in order to help a guy like Mike Mussina. Casting a ballot and not voting for Mussina is actually hurting Mussina's HOF chances, something Olney wants to avoid. If this is a topic that interests you I encourage you to read his piece.

For me, however, I will still cast my fictional ballot, since leaving someone off of it does not have any impact on their actual HOF candidacy, just their feelings (If you're reading this, sorry Randy Winn). I would like to point out that I agree with Olney's (and others) points about the flaws in the system, and will have to leave players off of my ballot that I believe are Hall of Famers. I don't know if I would abstain like Olney is doing, but I can see his point.

Below is a list of all the players on the ballot, with how I "categorize" them:

Garrett Anderson (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Brad Ausmus (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Jeff Bagwell (HOFer)
Barry Bonds (PEDs)
Luis Castillo (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Roger Clemens (PEDs)
David Eckstein (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Jim Edmonds (close but no cigar)
Nomar Garciaparra (close but no cigar)
Troy Glaus (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Ken Griffey Junior (HOFer)
Mark Grudzielanek (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Mike Hampton (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Trevor Hoffman (HOFer)
Jason Kendall (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Jeff Kent (HOFer)
Mike Lowell (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Edgar Martinez (HOFer)
Fred McGriff (HOFer)
Mark McGwire (PEDs)
Mike Mussina (HOFer)
Mike Piazza (HOFer)
Tim Raines (HOFer)
Curt Schilling (HOFer)
Gary Sheffield (PEDs)
Lee Smith (close but no cigar)
Sammy Sosa (PEDs)
Mike Sweeney (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Alan Trammell (HOFer)
Billy Wagner (close but no cigar)
Larry Walker (HOFer)
Randy Winn (ballot filler, less than 5%)

After eliminating the ballot fillers and the "close but no cigar players", we are left with 17 players.

Five of those players (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Gary Sheffield, and Sammy Sosa) have very heavy steroid clouds hanging above them. While I believe that they are HOF caliber players, I will choose to use my votes elsewhere. Kevin Cooney, a voter from Philadelphia, explained his thought process, saying "With a numbers crunch, you have to set a standard. Mine is 'clean guys' first". While it is impossible to know who is or isn't clean (Piazza and Bagwell have been suspected, and many people believe Sheffield is clean) I want to cast my vote for players who I believe are HOF caliber, and who I think did it the right way. There is no way to know for sure, but the system only allows me to vote for ten, and I want to vote "clean" players in first.

So now I am left with 12. Here is where I have trouble. I believe all 12 of these players are HOFers, but I can only vote for 10. Looking at the list, there are eight that stand out as guaranteed votes in my mind:

Griffey, Hoffman, Bagwell, Piazza, Martinez, McGriff, Raines,and Schilling.

This leaves me with only two spots for four players: Alan Trammell, Mike Mussina, Larry Walker and Jeff Kent.

Trammell gets a vote. He's in his final year on the ballot, he accrued a career WAR of 70.4 (about the same as Derek Jeter) was one of the best defensive SS of all time, hit 185 HR, and was the 1984 WS MVP. I am surprised how little his support has been over the past 15 years, and can only hope the voters have a very massive shift in viewpoint this year. Otherwise, his candidacy will be left up to the Veteran's Committee down the road.

Jeff Kent, despite being one of the most prolific offensive second basemen of all time, loses a vote from me. He had a great career, but doesn't quite stack up to Mussina and Walker in my opinion. He had a surly demeanor as well, something that I think is hurting him with the voters, many of whom have stories of his bad attitude toward them.

I would love to see Larry Walker and Mike Mussina in a cage match for my final vote, but Walker certainly would have an edge size wise (provided of course that he is healthy, which was a longshot during his career). I have written about both of them separately (Larry here, and Mike here) and have advocated that each of them should be in the Hall of Fame. This makes this decision hard, but I am going to leave Mike Mussina off my ballot and give my final vote to Larry Walker. Mussina seems to come up the most in discussions about the HOF's "Rule of Ten" with Olney citing him specifically in his article linked above, and Tim Kurkjian memorably calling out the Hall of Fame's rule about only being able to vote for ten players, saying "I lost sleep last night over not voting for Mike Mussina".

I predict that Ken Griffey jr and Mike Piazza both go in next year, thinning out the ballot slightly (both Alan Trammell and Mark McGwire will come off the ballot next year as well). I think Bagwell and Hoffman will both come very close, and will eventually see enshrinement.

I welcome any and all questions, comments, opinions, etc on my ballot and my thoughts on the Hall of Fame. Happy reading!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Assessing my 2015 predictions (yikes)

Alright, so I (regrettably) owe it to all of you to analyze the predictions I made before the season started. Some of these I feel pretty good about, but overall, not my best work. I did win my Fantasy Baseball league, however, so at least my guesswork there was pretty solid. Without further ado, let's dig in:

1. Oswaldo Arcia is the AL Home Run leader (wrong. 0/1)

Not even close. Arcia hit two early on, then succumbed to a lengthy injury. He returned and went down to AAA, where he only managed to hit 12 home runs, with a .199 BA. It is hard to tell what his future is with the Twins, and in Major League Baseball. Chris Davis was the leader with 47, only 45 more than Arcia.

2. Nelson Cruz hits less than 30 home runs (wrong. 0/2)

I'm not upset I got this one wrong. I worked for the Mariners this summer and got to see a lot of Nelson's blasts up close and personal, and it was a very fun experience! Cruz hit .302 with 44 bombs, second only to Davis.

3. Kris Bryant hits over 25 home runs after getting called up (Yes! 1/3)

Bryant had a tremendous rookie campaign, hitting 26 home runs with 99 RBI's and a .275 BA. He was an All-Star, the NL Rookie of the Year, and finished 11th in MVP Voting. Look for big things for him in the future with the Cubbies.

4. Jose Iglesias wins the AL SS Gold Glove award (wrong. 1/4)

Alcides Escobar took the award this year, and though I think Iglesias was the mret exciting defensive SS to watch, Escobar had a great year defensively, and Iglesias struggled a bit more than expected. He's still young, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a few come his way in the future.

5. James Paxton wins 15 games, records over 180 strikeouts (wrong. 1/5)

Injuries once again derailed what looked to be a promising season for Paxton, and we have yet to see what he can do with a full season under his belt. He finished 2015 with a 3-4 record, 3.90 ERA, 7.5 K/9 and 56 K's in 67 innings. He still has some work to do to get the K numbers where they could be, but until we see a full season of him, it will be hard to know what kind of skill level he possesses at the big league level.

6. Albert Pujols passes Mike Schmidt (548) on the all-time home run list this season (Yes! 2/6)

This was the first goal I officially got to put in the books as correct, as Albert mashed his way to 28 home runs at the All-Star break, finishing with 40 overall - his most since 2010 with St. Louis. It was great to see Albert back to "Machine" form, and I hope he passes a few more people next year.

7. The San Diego Padres finish below .500. (Yes! 3/7)

My buddy who is a Padres fan blamed me all year for their woes, saying my prediction is what caused their disappointing season. Troy, here's to hoping you find a new infield (except Gyorko) and make me predict that they win 100 games and make the WS next year.

8. Mike Trout joins the 40-40 club. (wrong. 3/8)

I acknowledged right off the bat that this was a bold prediction, so I'm not surprised I didn't get this one. Trout did have his first 40 HR season, but the home run output by Pujols meant Trouty didn't have to run as much, hence the 11 steals he finished with last year. Trout certainly has the skillset for a 40-40 season, however, so don't be surprised if he chases that type of performance in the near future.

9. Drew Smyly finishes in the top 10 for the AL Cy Young award. (wrong. 3/9)

A 3.11 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 10.4 K/9 over a full season would almost certainly put you into the conversation as a top 10 Cy Young candidate. Those are the numbers Smyly put up last year - only problem is that they were over 66 innings as Smyly battled a very serious shoulder injury that derailed most of his season. A full, healthy season of Smyly could easily be one of the top ten starters in the American League.

10. Brian Dozier hits more HR than every other second baseman in the league. (Yes! 4/10)

Dozier Bulldozed his way to 28 home runs last year, seven more than second place two bagger Robinson Cano. Dozier didn't hit particularly well outside of all the dingers, however, and will need to improve upon that to become one of the top tier second baseman in the game.

11. George Springer hits 35+ home runs. (wrong. 4/11)

Not quite. Springer struggled with injuries (the theme of my predictions so far) and wasn't able to find the power stroke that he used to swat 20 home runs in 78 games in 2014. He managed 16 last year in 102 games, a clear step backward. Hopefully he can have a healthy offseason and display some more of that power next year.

12. AL play-off teams: Mariners, Royals, Red Sox, Angels, Tigers. (1/5) (5/16)

Yikes. I'm a big AL fan, and only mustered 1/5 play-off teams. In fact, only the Angels came close to making the Play-offs, the Mariners, Red Sox, and Tigers all finished near or at the bottom of their divisions. Just goes to show how unpredictable a full season of baseball can really be.

13. NL play-off teams: Dodgers, Pirates, Nationals, Cardinals, Brewers (3/5) (8/21)

"The NL Central is a power division, and the Cubs are just on the outside looking in while their prospects continue to develop together."

^ That is what I wrote for my prediction last year, and it is mostly true, with the exception of course being that the Cubs prospect development happened much sooner than anticipated. Also, 4/5 were very solid predictions, but man the Brewers were bad.

14. Red Sox and Cardinals play for the World Series. (0/2 - 8/23)

"I hate, hate, hate myself for this prediction. God I hate myself for this prediction."

I still hate that I made this prediction - but I'm glad neither team made the World Series.

15. Red Sox in 7. (0/1) (8/24)


33% correct. Not as bad as I thought, and I am proud of the ones that I did get right, but hopefully some room for improvement for next year! I need a team doctor on hand when I make my predictions, otherwise I'll continue to predict big season for players who end up missing large chunks of time due to injuries.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Oregon Baseball - Hitters

127 MLB players were born in the State of Oregon. While that only makes up 0.7% of all MLB players, we can still construct a very solid 25 man roster from the players native to the Beaver state. Without further ado, let's take a look at the squad:

We will start with the hitters, with a blog to follow with the pitching staff.

1. Jacoby Ellsbury - Centerfield (2007-Active)

Ellsbury was born in Madras, Oregon and went to local Madras High School before playing his College ball at Oregon State University. He slots in perfectly as the leadoff hitter for the Oregon squad, thanks to his 299 career steals and stellar .344 on base percentage. At age 31, there may still be plenty left in the tank for Jacoby, who signed a massive seven year contract with the Yankees before the 2014 season. However, injuries have certainly taken their toll, and it remains to be seen if he can ever repeat his amazing 2011 season, where he hit 32 home runs, drove in 105 runs, stole 39 bases and hit .321/.376/.552.

2. Johnny Pesky - Shortstop (1942-1954)

Pesky is one of the most iconic Red Sox players of all-time, but he was actually born in Portland, Oregon and played high school ball at Lincoln High School. He was signed as a free agent in 1940 and made his MLB debut in 1942, promptly leading the league in hits with 205, complimented by a .331 batting average. Pesky then went overseas and served in the US Military for three seasons, before returning in 1946 and leading the league in hits AGAIN, this time with 208 and a .335 average. As if that wasn't enough, Pesky led the league in hits for a third (non) consecutive season, with 207 in 1947 to go along with a .324 average. Pesky finished his career with 1455 career hits, but a blistering slash line of .307/.394/.386. He didn't hit home runs or steal a lot of bases, but he played a good shortstop and his .394 on base percentage will make him a great table setter for the big home run hitters in the middle of the line-up.

3. Dale Murphy - Right Field (1976-1993)

Dale Murphy was born in Portland and went to local Wilson High School, before playing his college ball at BYU. Murphy was primarily a centerfielder, but with Ellsbury on the roster he will shift to right field, where he played 749 games in his career. Murphy was one of the most dominant outfielders of his generation, particularly during a six year stretch with Atlanta between 1982-1987, where he averaged 36 home runs, 105 RBI's, 18 steals, slashed .289/.382/.531 and made the all-star game every year, won back to back MVP awards, 5 gold glove awards, and four silver sluggers. The rest of Murphy's career was extremely good as well, and he finished with 398 home runs, 161 steals, a .346 on base percentage and 2111 hits. Murphy was on the HOF ballot for 15 years, never reaching above 24 percent of the vote. He will soon be eligible for the Veteran's Committee, and if he is selected will become the first Oregon born baseball player inducted into the Hall of Fame.

4. Dave Kingman - Designated Hitter (1971-1986)

Kingman is the most prolific home run hitter of this group, having mashed 442 bombs during his career. Born in Pendleton, Kingman moved early on and ended up playing his high school ball in Mount Prospect, Illinois. Nevertheless, as an Oregon born boy, he occupies the clean-up spot in the batting order, and serves as the designated hitter thanks to his absolutely atrocious glove work during his career. In fact, outside of mashing home runs, Kingman was not a very good ball player. His .236 batting average and .302 on base percentage are poor, and his defense was bad, but he led the league in home runs twice and was only 58 home runs away from 500, which he may have gotten had the league not colluded against him, choosing not to sign him to a contract after 1986 despite coming off of a 35 home run season with the A's. As it stands, he will add some power to the line-up.

5. Richie Sexson - First Base (1997-2008)

Sexson, another Portland born boy, rounds out an incredibly powerful 3-4-5 in this line-up, having mashed 306 home runs in his career. Similarly to Kingman, Sexson was barely more than a power hitter, having struck out over 1300 times in his career and playing below average defense at first base. However, with a .344 on base percentage, Sexson at least knew how to draw a walk, and a .261 batting average is respectable. Career home run totals of 398, 442 and 306 in the middle of the line-up is certainly going to make pitchers tread pretty carefully.

6. Ken Williams - Left Field (1915-1929)

Ken Williams was born in Grants Pass, Oregon in 1890, making him the oldest player on this team. Williams cracks the line-up because of his well-rounded set of skills. During his career, Williams hit 196 home runs, stole 154 bases, slashed .319/.353/.530, and played above average (for the time period) defense in left field. A guy who is capable of hitting a 3 run home run or setting the table with a single and a stolen base, Williams makes for a great number six hitter.

7. Scott Brosius - Third Base (1991-2001)

Brosius was born in Hillsboro, attended Rex Putnam High School, and went to Linfield College before being taken by Oakland in the draft. He remains an Oregon baseball icon because after his playing career, he has returned and coached at both of his alma maters. One of the more well-known Oregon baseball players, Brosius was no slouch as an MLB player as well, blasting 141 home runs in his 11 year career with the A's and the Yankees, where he won 3 World Series rings and the 1998 WS MVP award, when he hit .471 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI's. A clutch hitter, a good fielder, and an Oregon baseball legend make Brosius an easy pick to man the hot corner and hit seventh for this squad.

8. Ben Petrick - Catcher (1999-2003)

Most local baseball folks know the story of Ben Petrick. An incredibly talented backstop out of Glencoe High School in Hillsboro, Oregon, Petrick was selected in the 2nd round by the Colorado Rockies in 1995. He made his debut in 1999 and hit .322/.406/.495 over 71 games between 1999 and 2000, with seven home runs and good defense behind the plate. Then, suddenly, his production fell off. He hit .230 over the next two seasons in Colorado before being dealt to Detroit in 2003, where he hit .225 in 43 games. He attempted a comeback in the minor leagues, and then retired after the 2004 season, announcing that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, which impacted his ability to play baseball at such a high level. He later found out he had late stage Lyme Disease. Since retiring, Petrick has been active in the Oregon community, coaching both baseball and football at Glencoe High School and working as a special consultant with the Hillsboro Hops, a short-season A ball team with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Petrick may not have the most impressive statistics of any Oregon born catcher, but his talent was the highest, and his story is the best. Petrick, in his prime, would have easily been worthy of a starting gig on this team, and hitting 8th may have even been too low.

9. Harold Reynolds - Second Base (1983-1994)

Reynolds was born in Eugene Oregon, but went to High School in Corvallis before playing college ball at San Diego State, and then spending 11 years in the Majors. Reynolds was a good defensive second baseman, earning three gold glove awards and a 6.7 dWAR for his career. He was also very fast, stealing 250 bases, including 60 in 1987 to lead the league. His hitting may have left some to be desired, with a .258/.327/.341 slash line, but his speed and defense make him an important piece of this team. I've always liked using the 9 spot as a second lead-off spot, and Reynolds certainly fits that bill.


Jed Lowrie - Utility infielder (2008-active)

Lowrie's ability to switch-hit and play every position in the infield make him a great platoon/pinch hitting option, and his power is greater than both starting middle infielders as well.

Scott Hatteberg - Catcher/First Basemen (1995-2008)

While Hatteberg may have spent more of his career as a first baseman, the Salem native fits in perfectly on this team as a backup catcher to Petrick. Known primarily for his ability to draw a walk, as highlighted in the film Moneyball, Hatteberg hit .273/.361/.410 with 106 home runs in a 13 year career with Boston, Oakland and Cincinnati. He also hits from the left side, making him a great platoon option with Petrick and potentially Sexson/Kingman as well.

Aaron Rowand - Outfielder (2001-2011)

Rowand is a great option as a fourth outfielder, as he has experience at all three outfield spots, with his primary experience being in center, making him a good option for the injury prone Ellsbury. Rowand played for 11 years, hitting .273 with 136 home runs and 267 doubles, giving the Oregon club some power off the bench, and a great option to slide into the line-up when any of the starters need a break.

John Jaha - DH/1B (1992-2001)

Jaha didn't break into the bigs until he was 26, but the Portland native immediately starting making his mark, blasting 19 home runs in his first full season, and 34 in 1996. He flamed out rather quickly, but not before finishing with 141 home runs, and an impressive .369 on base percentage. Unfortunately, as a right handed hitter, he cannot platoon with Kingman or Sexson, who both also hit right-handed. His power and ability to draw a walk, however, make him a valuable pinch hitting option.

Darwin Barney - Utility Infielder (2010-active)

Barney's value to this team is not with the bat, but rather with the glove. An unimpressive .245/.293/.335 hitter, Barney has accrued a 1.5 oWAR in his career. However, his 7.5 dWAR is incredible, as evidenced by his 2012 Gold Glove award. The Portland native may never be a great hitter, but is one of the better fielding middle infielders in the game, and could be used as a late inning defensive replacement and a pinch runner.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Larry Walker and the Hall of Fame

I have written blog posts about a lot of the players who will appear on the 2016 HOF ballot, including Jim Edmonds, Billy Wagner, Nomar Garciaparra, Fred McGriff, Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling. I have very strong feelings about a lot of these players, and am hoping to get a post out about a vast majority of the players who are hoping for induction next year.

Up next is a player who is entering his sixth year on the ballot, but who has seen his percentage drop from 22.9% in 2012 down to 11.8% last year. It is hard to understand why the voters are ignoring the five tool talent possessed by former Expos, Rockies and Cardinals right fielder Larry Walker, but let's examine the entirety of his career a little closer and see what comes up:

For Larry Walker and the Hall of Fame:

As I have mentioned before, there are a few different "types" of Hall of Famers: The longevity guy (like Craig Biggio) who put together a steady career that amounted in milestone numbers (like 3000 hits or 300 wins) but who may not have been the most dominant player of his era. Then there are the peak players, players who simply dominated a period of time, but did not last long enough to reach those peak numbers. (Obviously there are also players who fit into both categories, guys like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron etc).

Walker definitely fits into the second category. His career may have spanned 17 seasons, but he only played more than 150 games once, as he was constantly nagged by injuries. He was consistently good, but definitely peaked for a six year period between 1997-2002. This peak, however, needs to be talked about as one of the best six year peaks of all time (5 1/2 really, he missed most of the 2000 season with an injury). Between 1997-2002, Walker slashed a blistering .353/.441/.648/1.089 with a 157 OPS+. He averaged 30 home runs and 98 RBI's, and accrued 392 walks compared to 419 strikeouts. His WAR during this period was 36.1, or about a 6 WAR per season.

During this time period, Walker was a three time batting champion (98, 99, 01) with second place finishes in 97 and 02 (he hit .366(!) in 97 but finished second to Tony Gwynn, and he only hit .338 in 02, losing to Bonds' steroid fueled .370 average). He was a five time gold glove winner, a two time silver slugger winner, a four time all-star, and the 1997 MVP. Perhaps most tragically, he finished a distant tenth in MVP voting in 1999 despite slashing .379/.458/.710/1.168, good for first place in every single category, along with 37 home runs and 115 RBI's.

In addition to having a peak rivaling the best hitters of all-time (right fielders in the HOF average a seven year peak WAR of 43, Walker's was 44.6) Walker was also an incredible five tool talent. He could hit for average (.313 career and three batting titles), and power (383 home runs and 471 doubles, led league with 49 bombs in 1997), he had speed (230 steals and 62 triples for a power hitter) and an incredible arm in the outfield (he won seven gold gloves and is 17th all time in assists as a RF and 9th in double plays).

All of these talents helped him accrue a career WAR of 72.6, good for 56th all time for position players, ahead of Hall of Fame outfielders Dave Winfield, Andre Dawson, Tony Gwynn, and Duke Snider.

Larry Walker is 12th all time in slugging %, and 15th all time in OPS, ahead of sluggers like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Alex Rodriguez, Stan Musial and Frank Robinson.

According to baseball-reference, Larry Walker has a HOF monitor score of 148 and a HOF standards score of 58, where the average HOFer scores 100 and 50, respectively.

Against Larry Walker and the Hall of Fame:

There is one argument that gets thrown around constantly when discussing Larry Walker's HOF candidacy: The fact that his dominant seasons (specifically 1995-2004) were spent in the pre-humidor Coors Field era. In 2007, Coors field installed humidors to store the baseballs in before the games, in an effort to combat the drastically higher elevation at Coors Field (Coors is at 5200 feet above sea level, the next highest stadium is Chase Field in Arizona, at 1100 feet). Prior to this installation Coors had far more home runs, doubles, and triples than any other stadium, thanks largely in part to the drier, more elastic baseballs.

It would be pretty pointless to argue that Walker wasn't at his most productive in Colorado. He spent 10 seasons there, accruing 48.2 of his 72.6 WAR, including 258 of his 383 home runs. While a member of the Rockies, Walker hit .334/.426/.618 compared to his .281/.357/.483 in his first six seasons in Montreal. He never hit more than 23 home runs in Montreal, before blasting 36 his first year in Colorado in 1995. He led the league in doubles in 1994 with Montreal, but other then that he was only ever a league leader in Colorado, where he won all three of his batting titles.

Walker, much like current ballot partner Nomar Garciaparra, suffered from a rash of injuries that kept his career numbers from reaching certain milestones. Walker only played over 150 games once, and only played over 140 games four times over 17 seasons. He missed about half of the 1996 and 2000 seasons, which were right in the heart of his peak. Had he been healthy those seasons alone, he probably would have mashed another 35 home runs and 110 RBI's. As it stands, Walker finished with 383 bombs and 1311 RBI's, fine career totals but short of the expectations for power hitting outfielders (63rd all time in home runs and 105th all time in RBI's).

Lastly, I believe the voters are abstaining from voting for certain players in the 90's that they believe may have been using PED's. Personally, I don't believe in withholding a vote from someone based on nothing substantial, but Walker, along with Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, appear to be suffering for this. Unless something damning comes out about any of these players, I believe you should vote based on merit, and not perceived cheating.


I think Larry Walker is a Hall of Famer. I understand the Coors Field argument, but I think it is completely unfair to penalize Walker based on where he played his home games. He did not demand to play there, he simply took advantage of the opportunity given to him. It is impossible to know exactly what his career would have looked like had Coors field used humidors sooner, or had he played elsewhere. However, Coors field didn't make him stronger or faster or a better outfielder, all traits he had long before he played in Colorado. His five tool talent alone should give him the necessary merit, without having to evaluate the field he played on.


Sadly, Walker's numbers have been floating downward recently and have yet to come close to the 75% necessary for induction into the Hall of Fame. I think with four players going in last year there may be a slight uptick in Walker's vote totals, but it does not look like it will reach the 75% necessary. He will be evaluated by the Veteran's committee years from now, and perhaps they will give him a shot.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The 2020 All-Star Game

It is no secret that baseball today has a wealth of young talent. A huge majority of today's superstars are under the age of 25, and, provided they stay healthy, could help make the next decade of baseball the most exciting it's ever been, bringing it back to the days of Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, and Sandy Koufax. After watching the home run derby yesterday and preparing for today's All-Star game, I started thinking about what the 2020 all-star game could look like five years from now. I added five years to everyone's current age and made some tentative rosters. I made the assumption that everyone stays with their current team (which is obviously not true, half these guys will be on the Yankees or Red Sox by then). So without further ado, here is a look at some names to look out for in the 2020 All-Star game (Age in July 2020 listed in parenthesees)

2020 All-Star Game:

AL Starting line-ups:
1. CF Mike Trout (28) - Angels
2. 2B Jose Altuve (30) - Astros
3. LF George Springer (30) - Astros
4. DH Joey Gallo (26) - Rangers
5. SS Manny Machado (28) - Orioles
6. RF Byron Buxton (26) - Twins
7. 3B Miguel Sano (27) - Twins
8. C Salvador Perez (30) - Royals
9. 1B DJ Peterson (28) - Mariners

AL Bench: 
Mookie Betts (27) OF - Red Sox
Carlos Correa (25) SS - Astros
Xander Bogaerts (27) SS - Red Sox
Jose Iglesias (30) SS - Tigers
Yoenis Cespedes (34) OF - Tigers
Yoan Moncada (25) 2B - Red Sox
Kole Calhoun (32) OF - Angels
Jason Kipnis (32) 2B - Indians
Mike Zunino (29) C - Mariners
Mike Moustakas (31) 3B - Royals

AL Pitchers:
Felix Hernandez (34) - Mariners
Chris Sale (31) - White Sox
Chris Archer (31) - Rays
David Price (34) - Tigers
Taijuan Walker (27) - Mariners
Sonny Gray (30) - A's
Dallas Keuchel (32) - Astros
Wade Davis (34) - Royals
Garrett Richards (32) - Angels
Dellin Betances (32) - Yankees

AL Final Vote Candidates:
Josh Donaldson (34) 3B - Blue Jays
Francisco Lindor (26) SS - Indians
Hector Santiago (32) SP - Angels
Brian Dozier (32) 2B - Twins
Josmil Pinto (31) C - Twins

Others to think about: 
Miguel Cabrera (37), Kyle Seager (32), Robinson Cano (37), Rusney Castillo (33), Devon Travis (29), Delino DeShields (27), Mark Appel (28), and Yordano Ventura (29).

I made the assumption that Manny Machado is going to move over to SS in the next few years, something that has often been discussed. If he does not, Carlos Correa would make a fine substitution at the position. First base does not have a ton of young talent in the AL (that I'm aware of) but I know that DJ Peterson of the Mariners is a stud and thought he has a chance to make a difference in the next few years. It also seems likely that one of either Miguel Sano or Joey Gallo moves over to first, what with their tremendous power and defensive deficiencies. I chose mostly to look at young players, but it seems unfair to discount Cano, Cabrera and Donaldson who all seem like they have the potential to still be all-star caliber in five years.

NL Starters:

1. CF Andrew McCutchen (33) - Pirates
2. RF Bryce Harper (27) - Nationals
3. DH Giancarlo Stanton (30) - Marlins
4. 1B Paul Goldschmidt (32) - Diamondbacks
5. C Buster Posey (33) - Giants
6. 3B Nolan Arenado (29) - Rockies
7. LF Joc Pederson (28) - Dodgers
8. SS Andrelton Simmons (30) - Braves
9. 2B Dee Gordon (32) - Marlins

NL Bench:
Corey Seager (26) SS - Dodgers
Kris Bryant (28) LF - Cubs
Anthony Rizzo (30) 1B - Cubs
Justin Upton (32) LF - Padres
Jonathan Lucroy (34) C - Brewers
Todd Frazier (34) 3B - Reds
Addison Russell (26) SS - Cubs
Kolten Wong (29) 2B - Cardinals
Joe Panik (29) 2B - Giants
Billy Hamilton (29) CF - Reds

NL Pitchers: 
Clayton Kershaw (32) - Dodgers
Madison Bumgarner (29) - Giants
Matt Harvey (31) - Mets
Jose Fernandez (27) - Marlins
Jacob deGrom (32) - Mets
Noah Syndergaard (27) - Mets
Carlos Martinez (28) - Cardinals
Craig Kimbrel (32) - Padres
Aroldis Chapman (32) - Reds
Gerrit Cole (29) - Pirates

NL Final Vote:
Carlos Gomez (34) - Brewers
Michael Wacha (29) - Cardinals
Christian Yelich (28) - Marlins
Brandon Belt (32) - Giants
Stephan Matz (29) - Mets

Others to think about:
Jason Heyward (30), DJ LeMahieu (32), Charlie Blackmon (34), Troy Tulowitzki (35), Hunter Pence (37), Jorge Soler (28), Johnny Cueto (34), Jean Segura (30) and Wil Myers (29).

I cannot stop looking at how filthy that NL starting line-up is. Practically all the Cubs hitters and most of the Mets pitchers make this roster; meaning if they are able to keep that core together we could be looking at some spectacular teams. It blows my mind that Jason Hayward will only be 30 in five years, and that Wil Myers will only be 29. Those two could be forces in the next few years, if they can stay healthy. Also, who isn't excited to watch Arenado and Frazier battle it out at third base for the next five plus years?

Potential home run derby match-ups:

Stanton vs. Gallo
Rizzo vs. Pederson
Harper vs. Trout
Sano vs. Bryant

This could be a really fun All-Star game.

Buy your tickets now.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Billy Wagner and the Hall of Fame

Shortly after the Hall of Fame class of 2015 was announced, I wrote a post (which can be found here) about my reactions to the voting, as well as some looking ahead to the class of 2016. I opined that Ken Griffey jr and Trevor Hoffman would be getting my votes in 2016, but that none of the other new candidates looked to be Hall of Famers. I have since examined more closely the career of Jim Edmonds, and although he has an extremely legitimate case, I think he falls just short of HOF consideration. However, there is another player reaching the ballot for the first time in 2016 who I think merits a closer look, and that is former flame throwing left-hander Billy Wagner.

Wagner retired in 2010 following a 16 year career that saw him amass 422 saves, 1196 K's (in 903 innings) a 2.31 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. Is it Hall worthy? Let's examine.

Instead of doing my traditional For/Against/Verdict argument, I want to take a different approach with Wagner, since relievers cannot be addressed in the same manner as position players or starting pitchers. When evaluating an outfielder or a catcher, one can more or less evaluate them against their peers at that position, and come up with a pretty well informed opinion. However, relievers have been used in such a variety of ways and have only been used in the traditional, 9th inning, save focused manner for a few decades, and the Hall of Fame has not yet gotten to vote on very many of these types of players. So comparing Billy Wagner to guys like Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley and even Lee Smith doesn't seem very fair, since they were used drastically differently than Wagner was. Just as an example, Rollie Fingers threw 1700 career innings, nearly double what Wagner threw, even though they threw about the same number of years (17 for Fingers and 16 for Wagner) and Fingers only made 37 starts in his career. This means that Fingers' strikeout numbers are likely to be higher (they are) and his ERA and WHIP will also be higher. So my point is that Wagner having a lower ERA/WHIP than Fingers does not mean as much when you consider the drastic difference in innings pitched.

Wagner can only truly be evaluated as compared to his true peers, which are other ninth inning specialists. Since none of them are in the Hall of Fame yet, it becomes tricky to determine where the line is for what constitutes a HOF career or not. Mariano Rivera will very clearly go into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot, with over 90% of the vote. But no one is disputing that Rivera is the best reliever of his era, and quite likely of all time. Wagner should not be unfairly judged against the greatest of all time. Trevor Hoffman, Wagner's ballot partner, threw slightly more innings than Wagner, while recording 601 saves (over 150 more than Wagner) and 1133 strikeouts. While Hoffman dominates the save category, the rest of their stats tell a different tale:

Wagner:   903 G        2.31 ERA   0.99 WHIP   1196 K's   11.9 K/9   187 ERA+   27.7 WAR
Hoffman:  1089 G      2.87 ERA   1.06 WHIP   1133 K's    9.4 K/9    141 ERA+   28.0 WAR

So outside of a drastic difference in total number of Saves (Hoffman certainly played on more successful teams, which may have played a part) it looks like Wagner was a more dominant 9th inning presence. But there are more 9th inning relievers than just Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera. When looking at the top ten all time in Saves, Rivera and Hoffman are one and two, Lee Smith comes in third, John Franco is fourth, Wagner is fifth, and 6-10 are Eckersley, Joe Nathan, Jeff Reardon, Francisco Rodriguez and Troy Percival.

Eckersley, Reardon and Lee Smith did not play the true 9th inning stopper role, so they will not be used for this comparison (Smith did toward the end of his career, but early on he was much more of a fireman type pitcher).

Wagner compares favorably to all of these guys:

Wagner:   903 G        2.31 ERA   0.99 WHIP   1196 K's   11.9 K/9   187 ERA+   27.7 WAR
Franco:   1119 G       2.89 ERA   1.33 WHIP    975 K's     7.0 K/9    138 ERA+   23.7 WAR
Nathan*:  777 G        2.89 ERA   1.12 WHIP    967 K's     9.5 K/9    150 ERA+   26.1 WAR
K-Rod*:  821 G        2.69 ERA   1.15 WHIP   1029 K's   10.8 K/9   157 ERA+   23.3 WAR
Percival:  703 G         3.17 ERA   1.11 WHIP    781 K's     9.9 K/9    146 ERA+   17.2 WAR

* Active

It's pretty apparent when looking at these statistics that Wagner is superior to these guys - he finishes in first in every single category. There are other statistics that could be used of course, but a closer's primary goals are to keep runners from scoring, keep them off the bases in general, and to strike people out. So these seemed to be the most important stats to measure a closer's effectiveness (outside of saves of course, where Wagner finishes second, two behind John Franco).

What does this mean for the Hall of Fame? Hard to say really. John Franco appeared on the ballot in 2011 and received 4.6% of the vote, not quite enough to remain on the ballot for future years. Percival appeared on last years ballot and earned 0.7% of the vote. Joe Nathan and Francisco Rodriguez are still active, although both appear to be at the end of their line (Nathan says he wants to pitch next year after recovering from elbow surgery, but we will see if he gets picked up). Neither of them have been discussed as Hall of Famers with any regularity.

So if Rivera and Hoffman are Hall of Famers, and this group of pitchers are not, where does that leave Wagner? His stats are closest to Hoffman's, but his save totals are closer to Franco's.

Ultimately, in my opinion, the 9th inning stopper has become such a big, important piece of the baseball echelon that the best of the best should be rewarded with a plaque in Cooperstown. Only saying two players at this position are Hall worthy is doing a disservice to the position in general (similar to the Hall's steadfast refusal to allow Edgar Martinez, the most prominent DH of all time, into the Hall). At this point in the history of the 9th inning closer, Billy Wagner is the third best of all time, and has an argument for being second. That, along with his simply dominant statistics, should be enough to merit Hall of Fame consideration.

I don't think the voters will see it that way, however. I think his support will be similar to that gained by John Franco a few years ago, and he may not be long for the Hall of Fame ballot, which is a shame. I hope I am wrong.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Special Assistant to the GM - Best job in sports

It is extremely common for former players to stay in baseball past their playing carers. The majority of minor and major league coaches are former ballplayers, and almost every talking head you see announcing games or acting as an analyst on Baseball Tonight is a former player.

Outside of coaching and announcing, there is one position that seems to be filled quite frequently by former players: The title of Special Assistant. It seems as if you have a productive career as a member of a certain team, you mysteriously end up gaining this title and continuing to work for the organization. As you can see below, many of the best players of the last twenty years or so continue to work as "Special Assistants". What these players do besides wear their teams color and smile and wave is beyond me, but hey, if a team wants to continue to pay one of their legends to stay with the organization, who am I to complain?

11 Hall of Famers, too many all-star games to count, a lot of ejections (see Braves) and one average baseball player made famous by a Brad Pitt movie (A's), let's take a look at each teams special assistants / Former greats:

Boston Red Sox - Special Assistant to the GM - Jason Varitek and Pedro Martinez*

One of the better battery combinations of the last twenty years, these two will continue to serve the Red Sox in this role. Wouldn't be surprised to see David Ortiz or Kevin Youkilis in this role in the future.

Toronto Blue Jays - Special Assistant to the Organization - Roberto Alomar*, Carlos Delgado, Pat Hentgen, George Bell and Paul Quantrill.

The Blue Jays apparently just pick five of their most famous former players and give them this title. Roy Halladay I assume will be submitting his resume shortly. (I wonder if they have to submit resumes?)

White Sox - Special Assistant to the GM - Jim Thome

Thome played for roughly 25 teams, but the White Sox won the bidding to have him as their Special Assistant. A future landing spot for Mark Buehrle I would imagine.

Tigers - Special Assistant to the President - Al Kaline* and Willie Horton

With Alan Trammell representing the team as an assistant coach, it makes sense to reach to their 1968 WS team to fill the special assistant roles.

Royals - Special Assistant to the GM - Mike Sweeney

Sweeney is about the Royals only good player of the last 20 years, so of course he gets the nod until Alex Gordon retires.

Twins - Special Assistants - Rod Carew*, Kent Hrbek, Jack Morris, Tony Oliva, Bert Blyleven*

Go big or go home, said the Twins. With Molitor as their manager, why not? Joe Mauer has already been groomed as the replacement.

Astros - Special Assistant to the GM - Roger Clemens and Craig Biggio*

Could you imagine these two guys working together? Polar opposite personalities I feel like. It also feels wrong for Biggio and Bagwell to not be together on this one. I am sure Lance Berkman will be in shortly.

Angels - Special Assistant to the GM - Tim Bogar

Bogar's 1.9 WAR and the fact that he never played for the Angels means he may be hired on merit alone, which seems rather surprising.

A's - Special Assistant to Baseball Ops - Scott Hatteberg

A true legend of Moneyball, Hatteberg put up a 5.4 WAR for Oakland in his time there, but is immortalized for a game winning dinger and a high on base percentage. Eric Chavez and Jason Giambi seem prime candidates for future roles in the organization.

Braves - Special Assistant to the GM - Bobby Cox

I hope Bobby sits close enough to the field where he can get tossed by an umpire.

Marlins - Special Assistant to the President - Andre Dawson*, Tony Perez* and Jeff Conine

The Marlins do not have an extensive history of great players, so they had to borrow from the Cubs and Reds with Dawson and Perez. Conine, however, fits the bill of a team legend, which says more about the Marlins than it does about him.

Cubs - Special Assistant to the GM - Kerry Wood and Ted Lilly

After losing out on Dawson to the Marlins and Sandberg to the Phillies, the Cubs went with two pitchers who will be really great at helping the pitching staff rehab from injuries.

Reds - Special Assistant to the GM - Miguel Cairo, Mario Soto and Eric Davis

Eric Davis could have been one of the greatest had he not gotten injured, so his presence makes sense. Soto was a stud, but Miguel Cairo kind of brings the whole talent level down a tad. Expecting Joey Votto to waltz into this role in a few years.

Pirates - Special Assistant to the GM - Doug Strange

The Pirates haven't been good in a while, but Doug Strange certainly does not represent their best, as he hit .173 in 201 at-bats in 1998. Jason Kendall seems a solid fit.

Cardinals - Special Assistant to the GM - Cal Eldred, Ryan Franklin, Mike Jorgensen, Willie McGee, Red Schoendienst*

The Cardinals are represented by one of their most recognized figures, and then four very average players from their history. I bet Chris Carpenter or Adam Wainwright will replace Franklin in the future.

Diamondbacks - Special Assistant to the President - J.J. Putz, Randy Johnson*, Luis Gonzalez

With a former player as a GM, it's not surprising to see the D-Backs have three of their franchise cornerstones in a Special Assistant role. Putz got the job roughly 9 seconds after he retired I think. Also, with Randy on this list only John Smoltz from this years HOF class is not a special assistant somewhere.

Dodgers - Director of Player Development - Gabe Kapler

Special Assistant/Player Personnel - Aaron Sele and Jose Vizcaino

Haha. Aaron Sele. I guess with Mattingly and McGwire in your dugout, and Magic Johnson as an owner, you can afford to go light on the Special Assistants.

Padres - Special Assistant to Baseball Operations - Mark Loretta

Loretta hit .314 with the Padres in three seasons, good enough to earn a spot on the payroll I suppose.

Giants - Special Assistants - J.T. Snow, Willie Mays*, Will Clark

Senior Advisor - Willie McCovey*

Special Assistant to the GM - Felipe Alou

Community Ambassador - Orlando Cepeda* and Dave Dravecky.

If this were a competition, the Giants would win. Mays, McCovey and Cepeda are true legends, and Will Clark and Felipe Alou were great as well. JT Snow forever earned a paycheck from the Giants simply by rescuing Dusty Baker's son 13 years ago, so he was a lock.

I think I will send in an application for the role with the Seattle Mariners, since they are one of the few teams that doesn't have a former player in that role. However, as evidenced by their track record, maybe these teams know something they don't about hiring former players. Griffey/Buhner/Edgar should submit an app, maybe that's what the M's team to get some Wins under their belt.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Houston Astros legend Randy Johnson

When Randy Johnson was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame at the start of this year, the debate immediately began: which hat will the Big Unit wear into the Hall? Would he go in as a D-Back, the team he won a WS with, as well as four consecutive Cy Young awards? Or would he go in as a Mariner, the team that really gave him his start, where he led the league in Strikeouts four times and where he threw a No-Hitter? While the debate was clearly only between those two teams (and ultimately won by the D-Backs) Johnson actually played for six total teams: The Expos, Mariners, Astros, Diamondbacks, Yankees and Giants. His time with the Expos was unremarkable, and he was into his 40's and past his prime when he began his stints with the Yankees and Giants.

But one of the most successful parts of the Big Unit's magnificent career was an 11 game stint with the Houston Astros, from August 2, 1998 till September 23, 1998. Johnson was traded by the Mariners at midseason to the Astros for Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen and John Halama - all big pieces of the Mariners eventual 116 win season in 2001. At the end of the season, Johnson signed a massive contract with the Diamondbacks, and went on to win a WS in 2001 and 4 Cy Young awards.

The Astros gave up three young players and only got 11 starts from Johnson (and a first round exit in the play-offs by the NL Champion San Diego Padres) but what a half a season. Johnson made 11 starts, and finished his brief Astros career with a 10-1 record, a 1.28 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP, and 116 strikeouts in 84 innings pitched, good for a 12.4 K/9 ratio. Johnson had a 4.3 WAR in only eleven starts.

Let's take a look start-by-start at Johnson's extraordinary, albeit brief, career with the Houston Astros:

There is almost too much to digest with these numbers. The few things that immediately jump out: Randy had four complete game shutouts in 11 starts, and he NEVER gave up more than three earned runs (which he only did once). 10/11 starts were quality starts, with only a 5 inning, 3 ER performance not making the cut. He had 7 double digit strikeout games, and had 8 or more strikeouts in all but one game. His season record went from 9-10 to 19-11 and his ERA dropped from 4.33 to 3.28.

Randy Johnson is one of the best pitchers of all-time, and this eleven game sample is just a snippet of how excellent he truly was. I am happy to see one of my all-time favorites in the Hall of Fame, and look forward to his speech this July.

Happy opening day weekend! Baseball is (finally) back!