Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Building for 2009: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates are in disarray. No kidding, right? That statement has been true for quite some time. They have a .420 winning percentage, which puts them on pace to win 68 games this year. The good news is that they have a few talented young players; the bad news is that they don't nearly have enough.

The Pirates two highest paid players are arguably their worst everyday players. Second baseman Freddy Sanchez (scheduled to make $6.1M in 2009) and shortstop Jack Wilson (scheduled to make $7.5M in 2009) are being paid based on past performance and their present performance doesn't come close to those levels. Sanchez won the batting title in 2006 and was a valuable player that year, putting up a .344/.378/.473 line. He didn't walk a lot or hit a lot of home runs (6), but he hit a ton of singles and doubles. Unfortunately for the Pirates, they paid him based on that season and he has been progressively worse each year since then. In 2007 his line was .304/.343/.442 and this season it has been .267/.295/.368. He is only 30 years old this season, so it is possible that he could recoup some of the value that he's lost over the last two seasons, but it is unlikely that he will ever get back to his 2006 form, or provide enough value to be worth his contract.

Jack Wilson, on the other hand, has been bad for some time. In 2007 the Pirates benched him and tried to trade him (they couldn't find anyone willing to take on his contract) and it seemed to light a fire under Jack as he bounced back to put up a .296/.350/.440 line. It was good enough that the Pirates decided to stick with Jack and he started this season as the starting shortstop. Unfortunately, he reverted to his previous form and has put up a .274/.314/.351 line while playing only about half of the time.

The other half of their infield consists of the LaRoche brothers at the corners. The Pirates acquired Adam LaRoche after the 2006 season, when LaRoche had hit .285/.354/.561 with 32 homeruns. In a recurring theme, LaRoche hasn't repeated that performance since the trade. He has been solid, but not quite the intimidating middle-of-the-order threat that the Pirates had envisioned. They traded for Adam's younger brother Andy during this season. Andy has been a highly touted prospect for several years in the Dodgers organization. Andy crushed the ball at AAA, but never had the same performance at the big league level and many blamed his struggles on the Dodgers refusal to give him consistent playing time. He has struggled mightily since the trade (and he has been given consistent playing time for the Pirates), but he will begin 2009 as the everyday third baseman for the Pirates and most expect him to play well.

The Pirates best position player is playing center field for them this year. Nate McLouth didn't exactly come out of nowhere, but it was next to nowhere. McLouth was seen as a fourth outfielder type of guy that couldn't sustain his hitting as a full time player, but his at bats have increased in each of his four seasons and his numbers have gotten better as his playing time has increased. There was some hint of a breakout in his numbers last season (.258/.351/.459), but no one expected the season that he has had. McLouth has hit 26 home runs and stolen 20 bases while putting up a .280/.359/.515 line. I would expect that McLouth's numbers will regress towards his 2007 numbers, but he has earned himself a spot in the outfield next year.

The rest of the team is a mix of potential and potential gone wrong. Their catcher, Ryan Doumit has been excellent this year, putting up a .3185/.357/.495 line. He is a solid building block for the future. In addition to Andy LaRoche, the Pirates received outfielder Brandon Moss as part of the trade of Jason Bay. Moss has struggled a bit since coming over, and he doesn't look like a star, but he could be a solid major leaguer. The pitching staff has a lot of guys in their mid-20's that have had varied success in living up to their expectations. Starter Paul Maholm and closer Matt Capps have both pitched very well this season, while Zach Duke and Ian Snell have had their ups and downs. Jeff Karstens, who they received from the Yankees in the Xavier Nady trade, has pitched pretty well since becoming a Pirate.

So what should the Pirates do to build for 2009? Well, unfortunately, under even the sunniest of scenarios it is difficult to see the Pirates reaching .500 next year. Sure, they could back up a truck full of money and lure CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets, Mark Teixeira and several other free agents to the team and they'd be pretty good, but that isn't going to happen. The Pirates payroll was at $48.6M for 2008 and, except for getting Matt Morris' horrendous $9.5M off the books, the budget should be about the same for next year.

Help will be on its way from the minor leagues. Top prospect Andrew McCutcheon should be ready to start in center field for the Pirates next season. He is the proverbial 5 tool player and should be the guy that the Pirates build around for the future. Another guy to build around is Pedro Alvarez (assuming that the contract snafu with Scott Boras ever gets resolved). He was just drafted this past June and hasn't yet played any professional baseball, but he is expected to move very quickly through the farm system and might be ready for a major league role by 2010. The Pirates also have the enigmatic Jose Tabata, who they also received in the Xavier Nady trade. He has a lot of talent, but has never really lived up to the expectations placed on him. Perhaps he can blossom since he no longer has the pressure of being a Yankees prospect.

This isn't a very hopeful offseason plan, but my suggestion would be to try and trade Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez and one or two of their middling pitchers (Zach Duke or Phil Dumatrait might have some value) and try to get young middle infield talent and/or pitching. Nate McLouth, Andrew McCutcheon, Ryan Doumit, Andy LaRoche, Matt Capps and Paul Maholm are all young, inexpensive and under team control for the next several years. They should use those guys as the foundation for the team and continue to look for talent others have overlooked and fill around the core with inexpensive options. There would be no point in signing anyone to a big free agent contract at this point. The Pirates are playing for 2010-2011.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Desperation: The Milwaukee Brewers


Today the Brewers fired manager Ned Yost. Rob Neyer called the move unprecedented, in that no manager of a team in the running for the playoffs has been fired this late in the season. If the season ended today, the Brewers would be tied for the Wild Card. Of course, the Brewers have been in a big slide, having gone 3-11 so far this month.

So, has Yost been to blame for the slide? Well, Joe Sheehan points out that some questionable moves by Yost certainly haven't helped, but I don't think that you can reasonably place the blame on Yost for the Brewer's slide (mainly because managerial decisions don't really have that big of an impact on games).

But here's the thing: the Brewers had no other option. They went all in prior to the deadline by trading for CC Sabathia and that worked beautifully for them. Sabathia has been better than they could have ever hoped for. But Sabathia isn't enough and the Brewers can't make any more player moves. The playoffs are slowly slipping away from them and the team felt like it needed to make a move. Taking out Yost was really all that was left for them. The hope is that the move will serve as a wake up call over the next fifteen days and the team will catch fire heading into the playoffs. It is a move of desperation and probably the only move the team had left. The real question is why a talented team like this would need such a desperate measure to motivate them.

Daily Links - 9/16/08

A few days ago, when I posted about Mickey Mantle being the greatest switch-hitter of all time, a commenter asked about Pete Rose (and continued to argue for Rose in private correspondence). I still don't think it is close between Mantle and Rose, although Rose was a great ballplayer. Coincidentally, Joe Posnanski (TBSWIA) posted a comparison between Derek Jeter and Rose that is very close, at least through their age 34 seasons. I think I prefer Rose in that comparison, but it is a close call - Jeter will have to keep up his pace for several more years, though, in order to be close at the end of his career.

Is the Diamondbacks fall from grace due to the decidedly "un-clutch" David Eckstein? [Note: I pray that some day some one will find this site by googling "Decidedly un-clutch & Eckstein." That would be fantastic.]

Here are the quotes from last week. The Ned Yost quotes are particularly interesting.

This is an interesting Q&A from Baseball America that goes back and re-thinks the 2006 draft using what we know now about the players.

This post lists the worst #9 hitters ever. Why? I'm not really sure, but it is strangely fascinating. The worst ever was so bad that a baseball term was coined based on how crappy he was with a bat in his hands.

Daily Links - 9/15/08

The Fire Joe Morgan guys are back with a nice, snarky little post about Ned Colletti.

Many people, me included, have complained about the selection process (and rationale) for the Hall of Fame - in this post, Chris Jaffe takes a look inside that process and explains why we shouldn't give up on it.

Carlos Zambrano pitched a no-hitter last night (and, of course, I wasn't watching - continuing my streak of missing no-hitters or turning the game on just as the first hit is allowed). His performance is broken down here.

And once again my internet connection is horribly slow this morning. I will try and update with more links later.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The After-Effects of a Work Stoppage (v.2008)


I am going to poach an article that I wrote for my old website six years ago (I actually couldn't believe it when I saw the date on the article - it is amazing that I have been writing this drivel for that long). I am going back to this article because it is a topic that I find fascinating and because I think there is more to the story than I hit on back then.

I originally wrote this in August of 2002, as major league baseball was preparing for a work stoppage (which was averted before the deadline). What I wrote mainly concerns the fate of the Montreal Expos after the 1994 strike and then mentions a few other feats that were in progress in 1994 that were interrupted. Here is what I wrote then:

The Major League Player's Association has set a strike date for this Friday, September 30. I'm sure you already know this fact (if you don't then you've probably clicked on the wrong link). There are a multitude of articles being written lately about how the economics of baseball works (or doesn't work) and why there will or won't be a strike, depending on who is doing the writing. But I am going to take a different approach to this article, I am going to write about the effects of a work stoppage. No, I don't mean that fans will lose interest and that the economics will actually probably get worse before they ever get better. No, I am referring to the effects on the history of the game. Baseball is an inherently historical game. Players and teams do not just face their opponents of the day, but they also are challenging their historical predecessors. This is true because the game of baseball and its history is so very statistically oriented. The majority of baseball fans could tell you the signifigance of the numbers 755, 56, and 61. This article, then, will make a case study of the 1994 strike shortened season and its effects on the history and statistics of baseball.

In 1994 the player's union stuck in early August. Most teams had completed between 110 and 120 games of their schedule. The Montreal Expos had completed 114 games. Their record was 74-40, which is a winning percentage of .649, and they were six games ahead of Atlanta in the National League East. It is possible that Atlanta would have mounted a charge in the last 50 games to catch Montreal, but we will never know. Instead, let's look at the statistical projections based on the first 114 games of Montreal's season. They would have won the East by 9 games, winning a total of 105 games (which, by the way, would have projected to the best record in baseball). Here is their starting lineup and primary pitchers (with projected stats):

[Note: back in 2002 the level of sophistication that I used for statistics was really quite low. To project the stats I just took the prorated portion of the season and extended the statistics out as if they played 162 games. I am sure that BP and others have more sophisticated projection models that would take into account the remaining schedule and usage patterns in making a projection, but this is good enough for the purposes of this post]

C - Darrin Fletcher .260 14 hrs 81 rbi 0 sb
1B - Cliff Floyd .281 6 hrs 58 rbi 14 sb
2B - Mike Lansing .266 7 hrs 50 rbi 17 sb
3B - Sean Berry .278 16 hrs 58 rbi 20 sb
SS - Wil Cordero .294 21 hrs 90 rbi 23 sb
OF - Marquis Grissom .288 16 hrs 64 rbi 51 sb
OF - Moises Alou .339 31 hrs 111 rbi 10 sb
OF - Larry Walker .322 27 hrs 122 rbi 21 sb

SP - Ken Hill 23-7 3.32 era
SP - Pedro Martinez 16-7 3.42 era
SP - Jeff Fassero 11-9 2.99 era
SP - Kirk Rueter 10-4 5.17 era
SP - Butch Henry 11-4 2.43 era
RP - John Wetteland 6-9 2.83 era 36 saves
RP - Mel Rojas 4-3 3.32 era 23 saves
RP - Jeff Shaw 7-3 3.88 era

This team led the national league in ERA and SB, was tied for second in batting average, and was third in homeruns. The next year, though, Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom, Ken Hill, and John Wetteland were gone. By 1998 not a single player listed above still played for the Expos. Would this team have been able to win the World Series in 1994? No one can answer that, but it was certainly a possibility. Would the Expos have been able to keep this team together even without the financial strain caused by the strike? Impossible to say, but you have to believe that the strike had a direct correlation with Montreal's subsequent fire sale of players. We know that Larry Walker went on to have an MVP season and continues to be one of the top players in the game, Moises Alou put up all-star numbers until the last two years when he disappeared due to injury, John Wetteland was an all-star closer and won a World Series with the Yankees, Cliff Floyd is just now reaching his full potential after years of solid play, Jeff Shaw was a solid closer for the Dodgers for several years, and of course, Pedro Martinez has been one of the top four or five pitchers in all of baseball over the last five years.

It is obvious that, if Montreal could have kept the core of this team together, they would have been one of the elite teams in baseball throughout the late 1990's. Usually success breeds fan interest. If the Expos had that kind of success, would there have been enough fan interest to remove them from Bud Selig's contraction chopping block?

There were other things happening in 1994 at the time of the strike besides the Expos strong season. Tony Gwynn was batting .394. Once again, we can only speculate as to whether he would have been able to improve his batting average by .006 over his last 45 games (San Diego played 117 before the strike), but it is certainly possible. The last person to bat .400 for a season was Ted Williams, but for the 1994 strike that piece of history might have changed. Matt Williams hit 43 homeruns in 1994. That put him on pace to hit 60.57 homeruns through a full season. Would he have broken the single season homerun record then held by Roger Maris? Who knows, but it was well within the realm of possibilities. If he had hit 62 homeruns, would people have treated Mark McGwire's 70 homeruns in 1998 with the same "disinterest" (that term is used loosely here) as they did with Barry Bonds' 73 homeruns in 2001? Instead McGwire is seen as the hero breaking Maris' record and Bonds is seen as, well, still a jerk, regardless of what he does on the field.

What we can see from this look back at 1994 is that the 20/20 vision of hindsight will be the true judge of the effects on baseball of a strike. It is impossible to see now what far-reaching effects the strike could have on the game of baseball.

Ok, so that wasn't too bad - my writing hasn't really gotten better in the last six years, which is disappointing, but otherwise I think the point was adequately made (the one funny thing I found is how much I disliked Barry Bonds back then - I have mellowed on that quite a bit). I think the part about the strike leading to the downfall of the Expos is pretty good, actually.

Anyway, we now have even more perspective on the costs of the work stoppage, as some of the stars of that era have retired or are wrapping up their careers. I want to look especially at a player who wasn't mentioned in the original piece because he wasn't chasing any records, but who had a significant part of his prime cut down by the strike (there was somewhere in the neighborhood of 65-70 games per team lost due to the strike between 1994 and 1995 and if you assume a player has a three year "prime" then we are talking about close to 15% of their prime that was lost).

Greg Maddux

I once wrote an ill-conceived article for my old website about the twenty greatest pitching seasons ever. It was ill-conceived because my method for ranking the seasons was irretreivably flawed. Nonetheless, the two seasons that jumped out at me when making the list were Maddux' 1994 and 1995 seasons. Maddux clearly had other great seasons - '94 and '95 were #3-4 of a four year Cy Young streak for Maddux, and he is a no doubt first ballot Hall of Famer, but these two seasons were his absolute best.

In 1994 Maddux had an ERA+ of 271 (on an ERA of 1.56), which means that he was 171% better than league average. He went 16-6 with 10 complete games and three shutouts. He struck out 156 batters in 202 innings (people don't think of him as a strikeout pitcher, but his strikeout numbers are actually quite good) and walked an amazingly low 31 batters (as it turns out this wasn't his lowest BB/IP of his career, neither was 1995, but it is still incredible).

In 1995 Maddux had an ERA of 1.62, which made for an ERA+ of 262 (which, by the way, make Maddux' 1994 and 1995 the fourth and fifth best single season ERA+ ever). He went 19-2 and again had 10 complete games and 3 shutouts. He struck out 181 batters over 209.2 innings and only walked 23 batters (three of which were intentional - same as in 1994).

So what did Maddux lose in the strike? In 1994 he probably lost nine or ten starts and probably another four at the start of 1995. So baseball fans missed out on fourteen starts from one of the top two or three pitchers of the last twenty-five years at the very apex of his career. Statistically, Maddux probably would have two more 20 win seasons on his resume and 10 or 11 wins to add to his already-gaudy total, not to mention all of the peripheral counting stats he would have compiled. It may not seem like much because Maddux has had such a long and distinguished career that his accomplishments are still Hall of Fame worthy. But think about other superstar players and what their careers would look like if you cut out 15% of their prime. Just imagine what Maddux' career would look like if he had that 15% back.


Daily Links - 9/11/08

This is a great post by Joe Posnanski (TBSWIA) about Carlos Beltran, but the best part was when he listed the most absurd mishaps of the Royals over the last decade. What a team!

Buster Olney likes the Blue Jays going forward.

Here is a convincing argument that Todd Helton may be underrated and an attractive trade target this offseason.

Every year Tom Tango solicits opinions from fans on the fielding abilities of players they watch on a regular basis - a "wisdom of crowds" study. Here, Tom breaks down how fans viewed one team compared with how a (pseudo) expert viewed the same players.

Daily Links - 9/10/08

In 1998, when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing each other and Roger Maris, I was living in Virginia. Both of my roommates were huge baseball fans, although not Cardinals fans, and so we saw a lot of games. I remember that at the time that I would argue with people about McGwire being on steroids. I would argue that just because they found creatine in his locker, which wasn't illegal, it didn't mean that he took steroids. That seems pretty naive now and I think that I knew better even back then. But I wanted to believe. I wanted McGwire to break the record and become a national hero because he played for my hometown team (which is sort of silly when you think about it, but next to winning championships, holding all time records comes in second in bragging rights for a franchise).

It's funny, I don't think that the home run chase saved baseball for me - mid to late 1990's baseball was exciting enough to keep my interest (the emergence of the Yankees dynasty, the exploits of Griffey Jr., my hometown team becoming relevant again after a few lean years, etc.), but I think that the chase brought back a lot of the casual fans. A lot of people point to Cal Ripken, Jr. breaking Lou Gehrig's consecutive games record, but, while that was made out to be an epic event, it wasn't as dramatic and engrossing as the home run chase. The home run chase was easy for the casual fan to follow and understand and it made for great summer theater. The steroids scandal has tainted the chase, but it was one of the greatest baseball events of this generation and the memory of that summer is still fond for me. The Jerks agree with me on this, too.

Kevin Goldstein is one of the best in the business when it comes to writing about baseball prospects. In this article (subscription only) he writes about a player from each major league team that took a big step forward in the minor leagues this year. (Prediction: Daryl Jones will be the player Kevin writes about for the Cardinals when he does the NL teams).

And here's a non-subscription Baseball Prospectus item: I don't agree with Joe Sheehan a lot of the time, but he covers a lot of ground in this chat and covers it well.

Here's a quick note about the surprising leaders in the category of infield hits.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Greatest Switch Hitter of All Time


I have one of those page-a-day calendars on my desk that has sports trivia on each day. It is a little odd because the trivia doesn't have anything to do with what day it is, like most do, they are just random facts. Last week one of the facts started out like this: "Arguably the greatest switch hitter of all time, Mickey Mantle..."

Reading that, I wondered what the argument would be - who could possibly be argued to be a better switch hitter than the Mick? So I did a little digging and I don't think there is much of an argument. Here are the Mick's credentials:

18 season career: .298/.421/.557 536 home runs, 1,509 rbi (if you like that kind of thing), 153 stolen bases, 344 doubles, 2,415 hits, 172 OPS+. He also hit 50 or more homers twice, 40 or more homers four times, and 30 or more homers nine times. He also had more than 100 rbi four times and batted over .300 nine times. He won three MVP's, went to 20 all star games (early in his career there were two per year), won a triple crown and won a gold glove.

No other switch hitter really comes close to matching those numbers, but for fun here are the two closest competitors. First, their credentials:

Player #1 - 15 season career: .310/.406/.547 406 home runs, 1,366 rbi, 137 stolen bases, 445 doubles, 2,258 hits, 144 OPS+. He hit 40 or more homers once, and 30 or more six times. He had more than 100 rbi nine times and batted over .300 ten times. He won one MVP and went to five all star games.

Player #2 - 21 season career: .287/.359/.476 504 home runs, 1,917 rbi, 110 stolen bases, 560 doubles, 3,255 hits, 129 OPS+. He hit 30 or more homers five times, had 100 or more rbi six times and batted over .300 seven times. He also won rookie of the year, three gold gloves and went to eight all star games.

Can you guess who they are? Clearly, Player #2 is inferior to Player #1 (and certainly to Mantle). He doesn't get on base as much and didn't hit for as much power, although the length of his career allowed him to accumulate good numbers in the counting statistics. Player #2 is Eddie Murray. Quality ballplayer, not on same level as Mickey Mantle, but probably the third best switch hitter of all time.

Player #1 isn't much below Mantle in on base percentage or slugging percentage, but he does lag behind a bit. He is also behind in the counting stats, but, since this is an active player, he can still add to those totals. Player #1 is Chipper Jones. Jones is having a great season this year, although it has been marred by nagging injuries. Jones is only 36, so it isn't out of the question that he could play another three years to match Mantle's 18 seasons. If he does, it is likely that he would pass the Mick in rbi and hits, although it is unlikely that he will hit 130 home runs over that period. It is possible, however that he could get to 500 home runs in that time (although it might be a stretch considering his health issues).

So, in conclusion, I don't really think it is arguable that anyone has been a better switch hitter than Mickey Mantle. For that matter, there isn't really anyone currently active that could challenge him for that title: Chipper will fall short and guys like Lance Berkman and Mark Teixeira aren't really on pace to do it, either.

Daily Links - 9/9/08

Here is a credible argument that Curtis Granderson is as good or better than Grady Sizemore.

Also from Fangraphs is a two part argument for Max Scherzer being in the Arizona starting rotation. Here is part one and here is part two.

Here is a pitching workload study on CC Sabathia from Josh Kalk.

A seemingly disinterested AL team has a tangential reason to watch the NL playoff race.

Daily Links - 9/8/08

I live in Kansas City and in 2004 I bought a partial season ticket package for the Royals. I didn't do this because I am a huge Royals fan (my allegiance was and always will be with the Cardinals), but because I love baseball and the 2004 Royals seemed like an interesting team. They were coming off of a 2003 in which they were over .500 for the first time in 75 years (or it seemed that way, at least) and the team went out and spent some money on big name free agents (Juan Gonzalez and Benito Santiago are the two I remember off the top of my head). They had Carlos Beltran, Mike Sweeney and the reigning ROY: Angel Berroa. They also had some interesting pitching: Zach Greinke was a rookie that year and Mike McDougal and Jeremy Affeldt were nasty in the bullpen.

But things went horribly wrong for that Royals team. Gonzalez was hurt early in the season and played a total of 33 games for the Royals. Santiago was old and really bad. Greinke was magical at times, but the other pitchers were pretty disappointing. Tony Pena had managed in 2003 by the seat of his pants and all of his crazy manuevering somehow worked in his favor, against all odds. In 2004 every crazy move worked out the way it statistically should have: horribly.* And (here is the part where I actually get to the point and give you a link) Angel Berroa turned out to be a really poor baseball player. Joe Posnanski, TBSWIA, provides his account of Berroa's Royals career here. The next season I did not renew my season tickets but instead took the money and bought the Extra Inning package and several sets of Royals tickets to games that I actually cared about - a tradition that carries on to this day.

*Ok, so I am stealing the Posterisk thing from Joe, which I figure is fair since I am linking to his blog. The highlight of the 2004 season had to be opening day, which I attended with a friend. The Royals were behind big going into the ninth inning and somehow got the tying run to the plate in the form of Matt Stairs, one of the few true power threats that the Royals possessed. To counter Stairs, a lefty, the White Sox brought in Damaso Marte at which time Tony Pena made one of his absolutely insane moves and burned Matt Stairs for... wait for it... Mendy Lopez. I mean, sure, he was playing the lefty/righty matchup, but I think that 99 out of 100 times you would rather have Stairs face a lefty in that situation than have Mendy Lopez in the game at all. Luckily for Pena this was the 1 out of 100 time that it worked out: Mendy Lopez hit a game tying homer, which sent the crowd into a frenzy. Carlos Beltran followed with a walk-off home run, making the game perfect. By the way, Mendy Lopez batted .105/.209/.184 on the season with exactly one home run.

I agree with this post that finds the recent Dustin Pedroia-for-MVP movement a little bit over the top.

And actually, the links are going to be light today because my computer is running extremely slow and I need to get going. I will try and update this post later in the day.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Daily Links - 9/5/08

What is the deal with Dustin Pedroia? That dude has been white hot recently and has carried the Red Sox offensively. Who would have thought that would happen?

Here is more evidence that K-Rod shouldn't be the Cy Young winner in the AL - this is the worst season of his career.

Aubrey Huff is a dark horse MVP candidate. Seriously. If Baltimore was anywhere near the playoff hunt he'd have an outside shot at it. This post discusses Huff's great season.

Here is Keith Law's early look at the 2009 MLB draft.

I missed this because it didn't show up on his blog (it's on SI), but here's Joe Posnanski (TBSWIA)'s take on the Tampa Bay Rays and hope.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Postseason Awards - American League

As promised yesterday, here is the breakdown for the American League postseason awards.


Despite all the negative things said and written about Alex Rodriguez, he is still one of the front-runners for the MVP award. He is ninth in the league in batting average, fifth in the league in on base percentage and first in slugging percentage. He has hit 30 home runs, which ties him for sixth in the league. He has also stolen 16 bases. My guess, though, is that he won't win the award this year. The decision this year is not as clear in years past and the Yankees disappointing season, combined with the negative press A-Rod receives will work against him this year.

Maybe he doesn't deserve it anyway. Grady Sizemore has put up a .273/.385/.525 line and has 31 home runs and 35 stolen bases. The problem for Grady is that the Indians are currently under .500 (although they are surging) and voters don't usually like candidates that play for teams that are out of the playoff hunt. Carlos Quentin plays for a contender and has a .288/.394/.571 line and leads the league with 36 home runs. An argument could be made for Josh Hamilton because he leads the league with 121 RBI, but I'm not even going to dignify that. Joe Mauer has a very good line, but his power numbers are a bit too low and his high batting average and on base percentage can't make up the difference between him and other candidates.

I really think that a vote for A-Rod or Grady Sizemore would be a rational pick, but that the BWAA will probably not be rational and will choose Quentin.

My pick: Alex Rodriguez
My preseason pick: Alex Rodriguez

Cy Young

By almost any metric, the answer here is Cliff Lee. He leads the league in wins (20-2) and ERA (2.32) and is second in innings pitched. The only starter that is close is Roy Halliday, who is tied for second in wins (17-9), third in ERA (2.69) and is third in the league in strikeouts with 178. The only problem with these two candidates is that their teams are not in contention, which is important to the voters. Ervin Santana pitches for the Angels, who will win the AL West, and he has a 14-5 record with a 3.31 ERA and 183 strikeouts. Those are great numbers, but I don't think the contention of his team is enough to overcome almost a full run in ERA.

The complicating factor this year is that Francisco Rodriguez will almost certainly break the single season record for saves this year. He already has 54 and those kinds of things really impress the voters. The problem is that, while he has piled up the saves, he hasn't really even been the best closer in the American League, much less the best pitcher. Joe Posnanski (TBSWIA) made the argument that K-Rod is undeserving of the Cy Young better than I could in a digression in this post, so just go there and read Joe's take - I'll wait. Ok, are you back? I can understand if you just stayed over there and read all of Joe's stuff, but then you would miss my picks:

My pick: Cliff Lee
My preseason pick: Daisuke Matsuzaka - he would have been a great pick if he hadn't missed some time this season: 16-2 with a 2.88 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 146.2 innings.


Evan Longoria was called up a month into the season and has missed about a month since then due to a hand injury, so he only has 381 at bats. In that time, however, he put up a .278/.352/.533 line with 22 home runs, seven stolen bases and outstanding third base defense. His competition is, uh, hmmm... Alexei Ramirez? With a .306/.324/.491 line and 16 home runs, he's had a solid season, but I'd put him short of Longoria. David Murphy? Ben Francisco? How about Armando Galarraga and his 12-4 record with a 3.17 ERA and 108 strikeouts? Nice, but...

My pick: Evan Longoria
My preseason pick: Adam Jones, who has had a good year, but apparently isn't eligible for the ROY (yup, I'm an idiot). I did mention Longoria would win if given enough at bats, so I get partial credit, right?


Daily Links - 9/4/08

TBSWIA, Joe Posnanski, weighs in on some Hall of Fame comparisons. This is another one of those classic topic to argue in baseball, just like postseason awards.

Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus takes a look at some interesting September call ups.

Buster Olney has the details of a great story from last night's games that will make any true baseball fan smile.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Post Season Awards - National League

This is such a typical topic - everyone that writes about baseball has a column like this every year. But I can't help it, these are the arguments that make baseball fun.

National League MVP

Call me biased, but I think the choice here is clear cut. Albert Pujols currently leads the National League in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage. He is in the top ten in hits, doubles, home runs and walks. Of course, unless a miracle occurs the Cardinals won't make the playoffs and a lot of voters put a lot of weight into a candidate's team success.

Albert's closest competitor also suffers from the same problem, however. Lance Berkman is third in batting average, third in on base percentage and second in slugging percentage. But he is a clear second to Pujols and since the Astros aren't going to make the playoffs either, it is unlikely that he will win the award over Albert.

So who is on a contending team that could win the award? Well, Ryan Braun has put up a .304/.344/.597 line with 34 homers and 11 stolen bases for the Brewers, Chase Utley has put up a .293/.382/.550 line with 31 home runs and 12 stolen bases for the Phillies and David Wright has put up a .292/.383/.521 line with 27 homers and 14 stolen bases for the Mets. Each of these candidates are inferior to Lance Berkman and, especially, Albert Pujols, but it wouldn't surprise me if one of them won the award, considering past voting of the BWAA.

My choice: Pujols.
My preseason choice: David Wright, who still has a shot.

Cy Young Award

This award isn't quite so clear. The question is muddied by the fact that Brandon Webb has three more wins than any other NL starter. He will likely be the league's only 20 game winner and the BWAA puts a lot of emphasis on wins, which is ridiculous. Webb has had a bad couple of starts lately, which has brought his peripheral stats back to the pack - three weeks ago it was inconceivable that anyone else could win this award. Now the matter is not so certain.

Webb is currently 19-6 with a 3.19 ERA and 160 strikeouts. The league leader in strikeouts and ERA is Tim Lincecum, who is 15-3 with a 2.43 ERA and 210 strikeouts. Lincecum has put up these numbers while pitching for a terrible Giants team, which you would think would make his numbers all that much more impressive, but voters, as with the MVP, often vote for a guy on a winning team.

Other candidates are Johan Santana, who is 12-7 with a 2.67 ERA and 169 strikeouts for the Mets, Ryan Dempster, who is 15-5 with a 2.95 ERA and 160 strikeouts for the Cubs, and Edinson Volquez, who is 16-5 with a 3.04 ERA and 161 strikeouts. Some are arguing for CC Sabathia, who is 9-0 with a 1.43 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 11 starts since being traded to the Brewers, but I don't like the idea of giving the award to a guy that only played in the NL for half the year.

My choice: Lincecum.
My preseason pick: Ben Sheets (12-7 with a 2.97 ERA and 144 strikeouts - not a bad choice, probably in the top ten).

Rookie of the Year

This has become a runaway race since Kosuke Fukudome has slumped badly in the second half. His departure from the race leaves his teammate Geovany Soto as the clear front runner. He has put up an excellent .292/.371/.508 line with 20 home runs. Coming in a distant second would be Joey Votto, who has put up a .294/.361/.458 line with 15 homers, which are decent numbers, but clearly second to Soto. Immediately after he was called up, Jay Bruce looked like he was going to take over this race, but he has fallen off quite a bit after a hot first couple of weeks.

My pick: Geovany Soto.
My preseason pick: Soto.

Tomorrow: the American League

Daily Links - 9/3/08

Tom Verducci agrees with me about CC Sabathia and the Cy Young and then lists the five most impactful mid-season trades of the last twenty-five years.

Here is a breakdown of the AL Central race by Baseball Musings.

Here is a look at the very nice crop of free agent pitchers that will be available this offseason.

This entry takes a look at what should be looked at when considering choices for MVP and Cy Young.

Daily Links - 9/2/08

Well, we've made it to September. I hope everyone had a great Labor Day - I did, mainly because I didn't do much but lay around. Perfect. Anyway, as we head down the home stretch I'm going to do a few more posts about building for 2009, a few posts about season performance vs. playoff performance and definitely a recap of my preseason predictions, so look for all that over the next few weeks. Now, on to the links:

Joe Posnanski (TBSWIA) was way more productive than I was over the holiday weekend, posting three times. This post is a breakdown of good managing as exemplified by Ron Gardenshire. Personally, I think managers are overrated: they neither help nor hurt their teams as much as most people suggest.

This post from Hef at Major League Jerks is also a few days old, but I love stuff like this. He breaks down the performance of the Dodgers and D-Backs since the respective trades for Manny Ramirez and Adam Dunn.

Quotes, quotes and more quotes.

Here is a detailed breakdown of Josh Beckett, whose health and success is essential for the Red Sox's chances in October.

I completely agree with this take on the Brewers protest of the scorer's decision during CC Sabathia's one-hitter that if overruled would make it a no-hitter.