Polo Grounds

Polo Grounds

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Predictions for 2015 MLB season

I didn't do so hot last year, but I'm here once again to try my 15 predictions for the 2015 season. Go easy on me. Many of these predictions, if they came true, would do wonders for my fantasy baseball team (who finished 6th out of 8 last year) so here's to hoping they work out, for my blog and my fantasy team (named BoSemien Rhapsody, by the way).

Here we go.

1. Oswaldo Arcia is the AL Home Run leader

Dude hit 20 last year in about a half season, and if he can cut down the K numbers and get some pitches to hit he should be able to come close to 40 this season. He will compete with Chris Carter and George Springer for the title.

2. Nelson Cruz hits less than 30 home runs

However, hitting 25-28 bombs while also hitting around .260 will be a huge, huge upgrade for Seattle at the DH position anyway.

3. Kris Bryant hits over 25 home runs after getting called up

I saw him play a lot against Gonzaga when he was in college, and that power is the real deal.

4. Jose Iglesias wins the AL SS Gold Glove award

If he stays healthy it won't even be a competition. Learning from Omar Vizquel is about as good as it gets.

5. James Paxton wins 15 games, records over 180 strikeouts

Highest average fastball velocity for Left-Handed starters last year, Paxton (if he stays healthy) will be able to rack up K's and wins with the revamped Mariners offense.

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

He needs 28 to do so, which is exactly how many he hit last year. More time at DH and a good line-up around him should give him some pitches to hit hard this year.

7. The San Diego Padres finish below .500.

Their infield is a disaster and Matt Kemp and Wil Myers are pretty big question marks. Quentin/Gyorko/Barmes/Solarte/Middlebrooks is nothing to write home about, and an aging bullpen won't do them any favors either.

8. Mike Trout joins the 40-40 club.

This one is pretty ballsy, but if Trout can cut down on the strikeouts and get more pitches to hit, he can easily have 40 HR power. The steals should come as well.

9. Drew Smyly finishes in the top 10 for the AL Cy Young award.

He was absolutely lights out with Tampa last year. An early season injury doesn't look to keep him out long, and his stuff is nasty. A better defense behind him can't hurt either.

10. Brian Dozier hits more HR than every other second baseman in the league.

Robinson Cano's power is down, Dustin Pedroia looked to be aging last year, and many other 2B don't have the power Dozier does.

11. George Springer hits 35+ home runs.

His power looks legit, and a full season in the Majors with a lot more firepower around him should get him there.

12. AL play-off teams: Mariners, Royals, Red Sox, Angels, Tigers.

The Mariners are much improved, the Royals proved the bullpen is vital, and the firepower of the Red Sox, Angels and Tigers line-ups prove too much for the rest of the AL.

13. NL play-off teams: Dodgers, Pirates, Nationals, Cardinals, Brewers

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

14. Red Sox and Cardinals play for the World Series.

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

15. Red Sox in 7.

Better than if it were the Cardinals.

Wish me luck! (Except for on the last two, I would be happy to get those wrong).

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

13 guys not named Derek Jeter who retired in 2014

Derek Jeter highlights a large list of players who played the last game of their career in 2014. Although he will be the most remembered, he is not the only player to hang up his spikes in 2014 who will merit consideration for the Hall of Fame (although he is the only lock).

Here is a list of 13 players who retired this year, and a brief discussion on their career accomplishments, and chances for the Hall of Fame. (Note: These players recorded their last game in 2014, meaning they will be eligible for the Hall in 2020. Players such as Dontrelle Willis and Juan Pierre, who haven't played in the MLB since 2012 and 2013, were not counted because they will be on the ballot before 2020)

Bobby Abreu

Abreu is quite possibly the most criminally underrated hitter of all time. He finished his career with 2470 hits, 574 doubles (21st all-time), 1476 walks (20th all-time), 288 home runs, 1363 RBI's, and exactly 400 stolen bases. Even more impressively, he finished his 18 year career with a slash line of .291/.395/.475/.870 and an OPS+ of 128. His career WAR of 59.9 is higher than Sammy Sosa, Vladimir Guerrero, Yogi Berra and Ichiro Suzuki. His HOF monitor score is 94, and his HOF standards score is 54. Abreu grades out as a fringe HOF candidate, but I don't know that the voters will vote for an OF with under 300 career HR, even though his speed and on-base skills should help counter that. Bobby was only a two time all-star and never considered a truly dominant player, which will make his case tough in the eyes of voters. He reminds me a lot of Tim Raines, a player who is gaining some late steam for a HOF push. Maybe the voters will be more saber metric minded when Abreu shows up on the ballot in 2020. For what it is worth, Abreu is the player on this list most likely to get a vote of support from me for the Hall.

Josh Beckett

Beckett will be best remembered for his outstanding World Series performances, both in 2003 with the Marlins (where he was the WS MVP) and 2007 with the Red Sox. Beckett was a very good pitcher in the regular season, but hit a new level in the World Series, where he threw 23 innings over three starts and only gave up 3 earned runs, while striking out 28 and walking six. His stellar performances were a huge piece of both of those WS victories, and those fans will remember him like that forever. His career numbers of 138 wins, a 3.88 ERA, 1901 K's, and a 111 ERA+ fall well short of HOF consideration, but Beckett may gain a few votes from voters who remember his HOF caliber performances in the World Series. I don't imagine it will be enough for him to last more than one year on the ballot, however.

Shawn Camp

Shawn Camp was your classic journeyman middle reliever, playing for 5 teams in 11 seasons, pitching in 541 games with a 29-33 record, 0 games started and 12 saves. He had one season with an ERA under 3.00 (2.99 in 2010) so his performance at best was as an average middle reliever, and at worst a mop up pitcher. Camp technically qualifies for the HOF ballot, but is unlikely to see a single vote. There is something to be said for a pitcher who can pitch in the major leagues for a full decade, however, so even though Camp may have been average at best, he still put together a relatively lengthy MLB career.

Eric Chavez

Fun fact - Eric Chavez hit 25 or more home runs in six consecutive seasons, had over 100 RBI's in four of those six seasons, and didn't make a single all-star game. This is partly a reflection of the era, where 25/100 as a third baseman was often not enough to merit AS consideration. Chavez was always considered an excellent defensive player, as evidenced by his six consecutive Gold Glove wins. He was no slouch with the bat though, accumulating 260 home runs, 902 RBI's and a 115 OPS+. Chavez is arguably one of the better players to never make an All-Star game, but his stats are not Hall worthy. Oakland will always remember him as a key member of their special 2002 team, and his approach at the plate (he led the league in walks in 2004) will make him a memorable figure of the moneyball era. Still, Chavez is very unlikely to receive enough votes to stay on the ballot for longer than a year, although he may get one or two.

Adam Dunn

Adam Dunn is one of the most fascinating players of the last few decades, and a player that will not soon be forgotten. It seemed that Dunn was only capable of being really good at something, or really bad at it. For example: Dunn blasted 462 home runs in his career, including hitting over 40 six times (5 years in a row!) and hitting at least 20 in 12 of his 14 seasons. No one is questioning Dunn's power, he is considered one of the most prolific home run hitters of all-time, and many of his blasts went well over 450 feet. Dunn was also excellent at drawing a walk. He finished his career 40th all time in walks, and led the league twice. If Dunn wasn't drawing a walk or hitting a home run, the odds are he was striking out. Dunn finished 3rd all time in K's, and led the league four times, including an astounding 222 K's in 2012. Dunn either walked, K'd or hit a home run in over 50% of his at-bats, an incredible feat, one that certainly has it's pros and cons (he walked and homered 1,779 times combined, and struck out 2,379 times, so he was striking out more often than anything else). Dunn also managed to record the worst defensive WAR in MLB history, putting up a negative 29.5 defensive WAR. This means that despite his 462 home runs, .364 OBP and 123 OPS+, Dunn only managed a career WAR of 16.6, which doesn't even place in the top thousand of all time. (For another frame of reference, Richie Sexson had a career WAR of 17.9 and former first baseman Fred McGriff, who has yet to hear his name called for Cooperstown, had a career WAR of 52.4, over three times what Dunn's WAR was).
Dunn was one of the most entertaining players in the game for the past 15 years, and was one of the most prolific three outcome players of all-time. His career, while impressive, is unlikely to merit consideration for the HOF. As long as guys like Dave Kingman, Andres Galarraga, Carlos Delgado and Fred McGriff are not in, then a player like Adam Dunn should not get in.

Mark Ellis

File this under strange but true: Mark Ellis has 1343 hits, 105 HR, a 92 OPS+ and a .327 OBP, yet still accrued a WAR of 33.2, more than double that of Adam Dunn. Of course, as you read above, that is more an indication of Dunn's abhorrent defensive metrics than anything. However, a career WAR of 33 is nothing to shake your head at, and Mark Ellis managed that mostly with excellent defensive numbers. He managed an offensive WAR of 19 and a defensive WAR of 17.6, which is tied with Chase Utley and Mike Schmidt for 70th all time. Ellis, like Chavez, was a big piece of that Moneyball team of 2002, as his .272/.359/.394 slash line was good enough to finish 8th in ROY voting. Ellis continued to put up solid numbers for the next eight years in Oakland, averaging about a 3.3 WAR per year while managing the keystone. While he was a good contributor with the glove and the bat, Ellis was nothing more than a slightly above average second baseman, and is not a HOF caliber player.

Jason Giambi

I will write a Hall of Fame case for just about anybody, but one of my few rules is that I try to avoid writing about known steroid users, because it ends up being a pretty pointless write-up. Statistically, Jason Giambi is a Hall of Famer, but his steroid cloud will most likely prevent him from getting enough votes to gain induction into the Hall. His on-field performance is not debatable, so the only debate is whether you are willing to vote for a player who used PED's during his career. So debating about his stats doesn't really matter. My hope is that by the time Giambi is eligible, the committee will have made a decision about steroid users, instead of leaving it up to the BBWAA to "play god" with their ballots. As it stands currently, Giambi is very unlikely to get enough votes to make the Hall of Fame, although he will certainly get some votes from the writers who have chosen to cast their ballots strictly on merit. A number along the lines of Sammy Sosa or Mark McGwire (9-20%) seems reasonable, assuming no changes are made to the structure of the voting.

Paul Konerko

Konerko was one of the most unheralded sluggers of the last decade, and retires this season with career numbers that may surprise many baseball fans outside the south side of Chicago. Unfortunately for Paulie, poor defensive numbers and a wealth of talent at the first base position give him a very hard path toward the Hall of Fame. Konerko ended his career with 2340 hits, 439 home runs, 1412 RBI's, 921 walks, a slash line of .279/.354/.486/.841 and an OPS+ of 118. His offensive numbers are stellar, but a negative 18.9 dWAR keeps Konerko at a career WAR of only 28.1. (Who would have thought that Mark Ellis would have a higher WAR than both Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn? Wow). This, coupled with the fact that he played the most offensively stacked position on the field, will detract heavily from Konerko's case for induction. When comparing him to other first basemen, Konerko compares closest to guys like Andres Galarraga, Fred McGriff, and Carlos Delgado, all great players but none who have yet to see the Hall of Fame, and most likely never will. Konerko was a six time all-star and twice finished top ten in the MVP voting, but was never a league leader and was overshadowed by many other first baseman who played alongside him (Albert Pujols, Jason Giambi, Miguel Cabrera to name a few). Ultimately, I think Konerko will get votes, but I fear his case will go similarly to those of Galarraga and Delgado, who both narrowly missed the 5% necessary to remain on the ballot for future years. I don't think Konerko is a HOFer, but he certainly merits at least consideration.

John McDonald

John McDonald had a 16 year MLB career, where he netted 2651 plate appearances, a number that Ichiro Suzuki eclipsed between 2004-2007. That, coupled with the .233 batting average and 59 OPS+ tells you about all you need to know about McDonald's case for the Hall of Fame. He was your standard utility infielder, averaging less than 200 at-bats per season while playing shortstop, second base and third base in over two hundred games each, and netting a defensive WAR of 11, which helped mask his career offensive WAR of -0.5. While he may not have been much with the bat, McDonald served a valuable role in his time in the Majors, which helped keep him around through the age of 40.

Lyle Overbay

My MLB 09: The Show video game always introduces Lyle Overbay as "the former doubles champ". Indeed in 2004 Overbay led the MLB with 53 doubles in a season in which he drove in 87 runs and hit .301/.385/.478. Had his career numbers looked more like that season, we would likely be talking about a HOF caliber player. As it stands, however, his .266/.347/.429 line and 106 OPS+ are wildly pedestrian, and his 17.2 WAR (although higher than Adam Dunn's) will do nothing to convince voters of his candidacy. Don't expect to see any votes next to Overbay's name in 2020, even if he was a doubles champion.

Brian Roberts

Brian Roberts is credited with a 14 year career, but due to injuries he was only really given seven years. He made the best of those seven, hitting 300 doubles, stealing 235 bases, and slashing .288/.362/.430 while making two all-star teams. That seven year peak was excellent, but injuries cost him the rest of his career, as he only hit .243 for the next 5 injury plagued years, accruing only 20 home runs and 29 steals. Had he stayed healthy, Roberts had a chance to make a solid name for himself at second and push himself toward a Hall conversation. As it stands, his career numbers fall short of HOF consideration. Another player whose career was derailed by injuries.

Alfonso Soriano

Second baseman turned outfielder Alfonso Soriano possessed arguably the most skill of anyone on this list, and he used his powerful frame and incredible speed to mash 412 home runs, drive in 1159 RBI's and steal 289 bases over a 16 year career. Soriano flirted with the 40-40 plateau in 2002 and 2003, before finally reaching it in his one year with the Nationals in 2006. Soriano also managed to lead the league in runs and hits in 2002, and finished up with a .270 career batting average. He never saw a pitch he didn't like, however, as evidenced by his .319 OBP and 1803 strikeouts, good for 17th all time. That, coupled with his poor defense both at second and in the outfield, led Soriano to a 27.2 career WAR. (Worth repeating yet again that Mark Ellis had a 33.2 for his career). Based purely on his power and speed, Soriano is a HOF caliber player. Looking at his career numbers though, he appears to fall just short. His HOF monitor and standards scores are 104 and 31 respectively, whereas the average HOF is 100 and 50, meaning Soriano is squarely in the conversation. He's a tough one for me. I think he had the talent of a HOFer, and he was absurdly fun to watch, but his career numbers don't quite add up. I think he will get votes, and part of me wants to vote for him because of his tool set and the fact that he appears to have done it cleanly, but it's a tough sell. My guess is he will get some love, but not enough to make it into the Hall.

Josh Willingham

Josh Willingham retired this season at the relatively young age of 35, after an 11 year career that saw him blast 195 home runs and get on base at a .358 clip. Willingham's retirement comes as somewhat of a surprise; as he hit 14 home runs last season between the Twins and the Royals, although that came with a .215 batting average. He is only two years removed from a Silver Slugger award in 2012, when he hit 35 home runs and drove in 110 runs. Willingham possessed above average power and a good eye at the plate, earning a .358 OBP% with only a .253 BA. His career was solid, but not worthy of consideration for the Hall of Fame.

To recap: Here are my predictions for each of the above players in their first year on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2020:

Abreu: 10-15 % of the vote, will remain on the ballot.
Beckett: Under 5% of the vote, will not remain on the ballot
Camp: May not even make the ballot, if he does will not receive any votes.
Chavez: Under 5% of the vote, will not remain on the ballot
Dunn: 5-10 % of the vote, will remain on the ballot.
Ellis: May not even make the ballot, if he does will not receive any votes.
Giambi: 10-15 % of the vote, will remain on the ballot (Unless changes are made to the voting structure RE: PED use)
Konerko: 4-6% of the vote, may or may not remain on the ballot
McDonald: May not even make the ballot, if he does will not receive any votes.
Overbay: May not even make the ballot, if he does will not receive any votes.
Roberts: Under 5% of the vote, will not remain on the ballot
Soriano: 10-15 % of the vote, will remain on the ballot.
Willingham: May not even make the ballot, if he does will not receive any votes.

So while Derek Jeter will sail into the Hall of Fame the day the ballots come out, look for guys like Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn, Jason Giambi, Paul Konerko and Alfonso Soriano to get some love as well. Ultimately, Jeter may be the only HOFer out of the bunch, but Abreu and Soriano at least have legitimate cases.

Let me know what you think!