Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cleveland Indians sign Matt Capps

The Twins inactivity over the last few weeks has turned this from a Twins blog to a former Twins blog.  I discussed the Delmon Young and Kevin Slowey signings last week, and now I get to write about Matt Capps.  Capps signed a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians today.  He will get a chance to show that he has some life left in his 29-year-old shoulder.  I'll be honest, I think it was a good signing and I would not have been upset if the Twins had brought him back in 2013. 

*ducks pointy, flaming pitchforks; dons Capps jersey; waves on all comers; is defeated by first comer; returns to laptop; weeps*

Matt Capps and I have had a complicated relationship.  I first knew of Matt Capps as a cheap saves option in fantasy baseball.  He replaced Solomon Torres as the Pirates' closer in June of 2007 and you better believe I rushed out and picked him up.  Here is a re-enactment.  He spent the rest of that 2007 season as closer and picked up 18 saves while posting a 2.28 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.  Not bad at all.  I owned Capps in '08 and '09 as well.  2009 was the year we first broke up, as he imploded more often than not and eventually earned my ire for posting a 5.80 ERA due to increased walks and a borderline unfair .360 BABIP. 

In 2010, Capps returned to form a bit, while pitching for the Washington Nationals.  He pitched well enough as their closer to net the Nationals promising catching prospect Wilson Ramos from the Twins in a mid-season trade.  The Twins likely regret that deal now, but Capps was great for the rest of 2010, posting a 2.00 ERA and earning 16 saves, while helping to lead the Twins to an American League Central championship.  I was back on the Capps bandwagon, pumping my fist and cheering like a madman all along the way.

2011 was a different story.  Capps simultaneously became a save-blowing device and a fan-repelling device.  He saved 15 of 24 chances, but held down the closer role while Joe Nathan acclimated himself after having Tommy John surgery.  The Twins tanked alongside Capps, finishing last in the division and losing 99 games in the process.  One of the few bright spots of the 2011 season was Glen Perkins' emergence as a dominant reliever.  Many felt that Perkins would become the closer as Capps' contract expired.  They were wrong.  We were all wrong.  So very wrong.  Capps was re-signed and placed back in the closer role, much to the dismay of the many fans who grew to loathe him.  Put it this way, Matt Capps was the Kevin Correia of the 2011 off-season.  Yeah, that bad.

Twins fans probably felt lucky that Capps only threw 29 innings in 2012.  He spent most of the season dealing with shoulder problems and wasn't very effective when he did pitch.  However, he is still only 29-years-old.  He has never been a strikeout machine, but prior to 2011, he got enough to be effective.  He doesn't walk many, but can be a bit home run prone.  Pitchf/x data shows that he has lost about a mile off his fastball and sinker, but still works around 93 mph.  He was starting to get his velocity back in June, but his injuries really derailed his season. 

He really hasn't been good since 2010, but this is such a low risk signing that it really doesn't matter.  If his shoulder is strong, he could be an effective late inning option, as crazy as that may seem to Twins' fans.  Also, he is apparently a legendarily nice person, so that is pretty cool.  I Googled "Matt Capps is really nice" but got nothing.  So, yeah, Matt Capps is an Indian.  Good stuff.  I'll be back in a few days when I figure out which Target Matt Tolbert is working at.  That's not nice.  I'm sorry.  Let me just delet

Saturday, January 26, 2013

My Top 10 Minnesota Twins (with pictures!)

I have received two complaints in my entire life.  1.  You don't illustrate enough.  2.  You haven't made your 10 favorite Twins of all time clear enough.  I plan to take care of both of those complaints in one fell swoop.  I have drawn representative images of each of my 10 favorite Twins, using Paint.  Each image portrays the player as I remember them.  Some are portraits, some are scenes and some are more conceptual.  I'll analyze the image and discuss the player as we count down from 10 to 1.  I have only been a fan since about 1986, due to my inability to have been born and then form memories prior to that.  Blame science if your favorite player is not on my list.

10.  Jacque Jones

The image is a bit unsettling to me for some reason.  My favorite Jacque Jones quirk happened only every so often, but it was great when it happened.  He would get a ball in the outfield, rear back and then just rifle the ball straight into the ground.  This is my artist's representation of that phenomenon.  I always hoped the ball would burrow into the ground, but it usually just bounced off the Metrodome turf.  This is probably one of the best images you are going to see in the series, so get settled in.  

Jones was miscast as a lead-off hitter, but certainly had his moments.  Whenever he would hit a home run  Torii Hunter would seem to come up and swing out of his shoes trying to hit one too.  Jones never walked much, but hit for high averages during his early years.  He had a really great 2002, posting a 3.7 rWAR and helping the Twins make the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.  I always liked him because he was smaller, he played hard and he seemed to enjoy himself.  That is really all it takes for me.

Oh dear, there is a lot to discuss here.  This is a strike zone chart, I guess.  I am trying to illustrate Radke's pinpoint control.  See, the joke is that he only threw two balls his whole career!  He did paint the corners, much as I did in this image.  Now, Radke did not pitch only to strange alien-like creatures with extremely tiny arms and faces that look like they are being blown in a hurricane-strength wind.  In fact, most of the hitters he faced did not have thinning hair.  If he had, he may have been even better.  As it were, Radke was an underrated pitcher during a hitters' heyday.  His career ERA+ was 113, so he was statistically above-average.  His final game was pitched on my 24th birthday.  I celebrated the one-year anniversary of that event by renting a car.

8.  Chuck Knoblauch

As a Social Studies teacher, I know how important a good key can be.  On maps, a key explains the important parts of the map and what each symbol means.  In the case of this image, the key is the only possible way that this joke can land.  Many forget that Chuck Knoblauch was a Kabuki performer while on the Yankees.  I didn't.  Chuck Knoblauch was a really excellent player for a good 6-7 season stretch.  He had the audacity to ask for a trade from Minnesota and Twins fans were a mix of sad and mad.  It did not help that he was traded to the Yankees, and immediately started playing for Championship teams.  See, we have a bit of an inferiority complex here in Minnesota, and we tend to be a bit provincial when it comes to our state.  Knoblauch left, had team success and we responded in the most rational way possible.  We threw batteries at him.

Well, I should clarify that WE didn't throw anything at Knoblauch.  In fact, I've never thrown anything at Chuck Knoblauch.  In addition, I recycle my batteries at the local Best Buy (Minnesota company, you know!) like a good human being.  However, I may have missed a press conference where Knoblauch asked the fans to pelt him with dangerous objects and if that is the case, I apologize.  Look how sad he is in the drawing; do you really think he asked for this?  Either way, Knoblauch developed a throwing issue that moved him off of second base, to Kansas City and out of baseball at age 33.  It's kind of sad, I think he may have been heading toward a Hall of Fame career if the second half of his career had gone better.

7.  Justin Morneau

This doubles as an homage to a nation that I love.  As we know, Canada is known for terribly drawn Maple Leaves, hockey, curling, grizzly bears, and The Basketball Jones, a daily video NBA podcast.  I'm not going to lie, that grizzly bear is kind of cute.  Justin Morneau is from Canada.  Many have articulated that he struggles when he plays the Blue Jays, because he is trying too hard in his home nation.  This would ignore the fact that Morneau is from British Columbia which is about a billion miles from Toronto.  Oh well.

Morneau might be playing his final season with the Twins.  He won the 2006 MVP and hit a lot of huge home runs.  I remember being in Milwaukee when he was first coming up.  He hit a ball so far that it hit the scoreboard and broke some lights.  It was impressive.  I was hooked.  That same game I said that Joe Nathan would be out as closer by the end of the season and Jesse Crain would take over.  I am pretty sure I was right about that, but the over 200 saves Nathan recorded from that point on make me question myself.

6.  Shane Mack

I recreated the 1991 Fleer Shane Mack card for you.  These were some of the prettiest yellow cards of the early 90s.  I think I have roughly 100,000 of these cards.  Younger Brad didn't seem to understand how much space old baseball cards take up in a future crawlspace.  Shane Mack was my little brother's favorite player.  He collected his cards.  I think I made fun of him.  WHO'S LAUGHING NOW?!?!  Younger Brad didn't know how to properly value players.  He was a bit of a dummy.  Looking back, Shane Mack was a very underrated player, living in Kirby Puckett's shadow.  He had a good power-speed combo and played good defense.  He was a patient and dangerous hitter.  I'm glad I understand how to value players now, but I am sad that I never had the chance to tell Shane how much I care.

5.  Kent Hrbek

This is how I remember that play ending.  Kent Hrbek triumphantly standing on Ron Gant's back after pulling him off of first base to record the final out of the 3rd inning in Game 2 of the World Series.  There were no other players on the field and Hrbek and Gant had doubled in size.  Hrbek raised his arms triumphantly and the Twins went on to win Game 2 and take a 2-0 lead in the World Series.  The moment was properly immortalized as a bobblehead doll.

This moment isn't the only reason why Hrbek is in my top 5.  He had a quietly good career, ending with a 35.7 rWAR as a full-time first baseman.  He hit 293 home runs, drove in over 1000 runners and had a career OPS+ of 128.  He was a legitimately above average or maybe even better hitter.  He retired at 34 after the strike-shortened 1994 season.  He had been relatively effective that season, but was starting to decline.  In some ways, he was the offensive Brad Radke.  Not because he told naughty jokes but because he was a good player, sometimes a great player and he retired before he declined too much.  Plus, he is from Minnesota and we just love that here!

4.  Johan Santana

I'm still bitter about the 2005 Cy Young Award vote.  If you look at the stats, Bartolo Colon stole that award from Santana.  Santana was better than Colon in all ways other than wins and lbs.  Santana didn't even finish second, he finished third behind Mariano Rivera.  Santana definitely should have 3 consecutive Cy Youngs and possibly a 4th (see 2008, his first season in New York). Drawing Bartolo Colon in this way was very cathartic.  I now feel so much better about that vote and so much worse about myself as a person.  Santana was not shorter than Colon either.

Johan Santana was so much fun to watch.  He worked quickly and you could just see his confidence on the mound.  His changeup is just amazing.  You knew it was coming and you somehow still didn't expect it.  Hitters looked terrible trying to make contact.  He wasn't a big, overpowering pitcher, but he was extremely effective.  I really hope he has a little career renaissance in the coming years and puts up some good to great stats.  He took over the title as best pitcher in baseball from Pedro Martinez and held it for a good 5-6 year span.  He was working on a Hall of Fame career and I sentimentally hope he resumes it going forward.

3.  Joe Mauer

I may have exaggerated the sideburns.  Joe Mauer is a player that I have been critical of in the past but have really grown to appreciate over the years.  Again, younger Brad had no idea how to value players.  I wanted dingers.  I ignored all the great things he did at the plate and as a catcher.  He has a career .405 OBP.  The fact that he only makes outs roughly 60% of the time that he bats makes him an extremely valuable player.  Early in his career, he was a dynamic defensive catcher and while he isn't really one anymore, his offense at the position makes up for it.  Twins fans are likely watching a Hall of Fame player in his prime.

Mauer is one of the best offensive catchers ever and he is only 30 years old.  He has a career OPS+ of 135!  If he can put up 6 or 7 more healthy seasons, he'll earn his massive contract.  He is the face of the franchise and seems like a legitimately nice, unassuming guy.  The "Aw Shucks" in the picture is a bit of a joke, as Mauer gets that "Average Joe" label a lot.  I have written a few times that we as fans can either continue to worry about the home runs he doesn't hit, the games he doesn't catch and the fire he doesn't show, or we can simply enjoy the fact that those are pretty much the only 3 negative things we can say about him.  He is also from Minnesota, so bonus points.

2.  Frank Viola

I drew the Frank Viola blue because I had never seen a blue Frank Viola before and to be honest with you, I just wanted to see a blue Frank Viola.  Actually, I think I didn't fill in a line and everything turned blue when I used the fill tool to color the background.  He also seems to be really clenching his teeth.  I certainly remember him with wild, untamed hair and just a great mustache.  He also financed a baseball field in my old neighborhood and it was creatively named "Frank Viola Field."  Finally, I tell people I named my dog after him, which is a lie.  I just liked the name Frank.

Frank Viola ranks this high on my list because I watched him as a child.  I feel that most people have favorite players who they watched as they grew up.  Number one on my list certainly fits that mold, but Viola was a pitcher and I wanted to be a pitcher.  Specifically, I wanted to be a left-handed pitcher.  This would ignore the fact that I am right-handed, but young Brad was pretty uninformed about how handedness worked.  When the Twins traded Viola in 1989, I remember being pretty sad.  Kids don't really understand the business of baseball.  Or, some do, I don't talk with a lot of kids about it.  I just know that Viola is the reason I am a Twins fan.  I remember watching him in the 1987 World Series and trying to repeat his delivery.  Being right-handed, it was somewhat awkward.  Regardless, I was hooked on baseball and the Twins from that point on.  Every 5-year-old's favorite team should win the World Series.  I will run for President on that platform.

1.  Kirby Puckett

Do you remember how thin Kirby Puckett used to be!?!?!?  He also seems to have a hole in his head and had lost all his muscle tone.  I drew this image from memory, just so you know.  This would be a demonstration of how many times I have watched this moment in my life.  The 1991 World Series was so much different from the 1987 World Series.  I was 9 instead of 5.  I had like 20 Twins shirts and about 12 million Kirby Puckett baseball cards by 1991.  In 1987, I was just becoming a fan, but by 1991, I was a superfan.  It meant so much more, because I was aware of what was happening.

Game 6 was crazy.  It was a Saturday, and my Sister was at a birthday party.  I was home with my Mom and my 5-year-old Brother.  My Dad went to watch the game with some friends.  We knew that we had to pick up my sister at some point, but the game was likely to be over by then.  I was a wreck.  The Twins had just lost 3 straight games in Atlanta and my David Justice hatred was at DEFCON 1.  The game started as well as it could have, with the Twins scoring 2 runs in the 1st inning and likely preventing this particular 9-year-old from having a heart attack.  In the 3rd inning, Kirby Puckett made a ridiculous catch that I would try to re-enact for the next 5 (honestly 21) years.  It saved the game, as much as a 3rd inning catch can save a game.    

The Braves tied the game in the 5th.  Always resilient  the Twins immediately took the lead back in the bottom of the 5th on a Kirby Puckett sacrifice fly.  The Braves then tied the game at 3 in the top of the 7th.  In addition to that, it was getting closer and closer to the time when we had to leave to pick my Sister up at the Shoreview Community Center.  Now, I can't remember all the details, and it might have had something to do with the baseball game actually, but the Community Center was open later that night.  This will help to explain later events.  Anyway, innings 7, 8, and 9 passed and the game moved to extra innings.

After the 10th, my Mom had to explain to two crazy Twins fans that we had to stop watching the game to go pick up my Sister.  She said we could listen to it on the radio.  I'm sure I took that really well.  My Mom is the greatest, so I know she felt really badly about the whole situation.  Luckily, the Community Center was pretty close by.  I knew that Kirby would lead off the bottom of the 11th.  We listened to Rick Aguilera get through a relatively easy top of the 11th as my Mom drove toward our destination.  I remember wishing it would have been a longer inning, with the same result.  It was literally no more than a 10 minute drive, but it seemed like an eternity once that inning ended and the commercials began.

As we pulled into the parking lot, the broadcast came back from commercial break.  I knew Kirby was coming up, so I bolted from the car toward the Community Center, I suppose just hoping there was a TV there that I could watch.  I'm not sure I even waited for the van to stop.  We had a van.  You had to park pretty far from the entrance, so it felt like I had run a marathon.  I got in the building and there was a TV on right where you enter, just above the area where you could watch the pool.  Right as I looked up, Kirby launched that home run over the fence.  It was the replay, but I didn't care.  No one in the parking lot spoiled it for me, so I was on cloud nine.  I jumped up and down in that lobby area like a crazy person.

I don't remember anything from that moment on.  Not in my life, you know, I'm not Memento.  But I remember nothing else from that night.  I may have passed out in the van on the way home.  I was just so happy.  My favorite player just won the game for my favorite team, and I got to see it.  The next night I got to watch my favorite team win their second World Series in my short life.  I couldn't have been happier.  The 1991 World Series meant so much more to me because I lived every single game from 1988 to that moment.  While I have had happier days since, I'll always remember Game 6 and my own personal fun story that I get to have.  One of my favorite childhood memories was given to me by this extremely talented and charismatic person named Kirby Puckett and that is why he will always be number 1 for me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Miami Marlins sign Kevin Slowey

"If any Twins pitcher is going to just all of a sudden turn into Greg Maddux, it's Kevin Slowey." - Brad Swanson in 2010.

"Brad Swanson is an idiot." - Everyone else, right after the previous statement was said.

"You're mom." - Unknown.

Kevin Slowey signed with the Miami Marlins this evening.  He signed a minor league contract and I fully expect him to win a job in Spring Training, win the Cy Young Award and lead the Marlins to their 3rd World Series championship.  As you can likely tell from the title of my blog, I feel Kevin Slowey was not given a fair shake by the Twins.  It stands to reason that if you want some Kevin Slowey analysis, you would come to this blog.  Well, I don't want to let that one person in Russia who reads this blog down. 

Let me add some context, while also revealing the story behind the name of this blog (AT LONG LAST!).  I first started caring about stats late in 2009.  I was trying to create a foolproof fantasy baseball strategy and I stumbled across Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster.  Since I read at a roughly 3rd grade level, I only scanned the pages.  While scanning, I got it in my head that K:BB ratio is the only required stat for finding good pitchers.  I was scouring spreadsheets looking for pitchers with good K:BB  ratios who didn't have good ERAs.  I figured this would help me find some pitchers who would improve that coming season and help my fantasy team win many free Yahoo leagues.  This lead me to my hometown Twins, and Kevin Slowey.

I was already a fan, just take a look at his 2008 season to see why.  Now I was also aware that Kevin Slowey possesses an elite skill.  He doesn't walk anyone.  He has only walked 3.7% of the batters he has faced in his career.  League average is over double that.  So, Slowey doesn't walk anyone and he reaches the magic 6.0 strikeout rate that the aforementioned handbook deemed acceptable for a starting pitcher.  I was hooked.  I drafted Kevin Slowey until the cows came home.  Oddly, he was always available!  He was coming off a year when he was 10 and 3, with a 5.00 K/BB ratio.  5.0!!!!!!  That is quite high.  He only threw 90.2 innings and still had a 4.86 ERA, but I was blinded by that one ratio.  Only Roy Halladay, Dan Haren and Javier Vazquez had K/BB ratios higher than 5.0 in 2012.  Elite territory.

Unfortunately, elite results did not follow into that elite territory.  Slowey started 28 games in 2010, but only threw 155.2 innings.  He barely averaged 5 innings per start.  He posted a 4.0 K/BB ratio, but also a 4.45 ERA and 91 ERA+.  He was below average and I didn't get it.  He had such a good K/BB ratio!  The following year was even worse, as he went 0 and 8, posted a 6.67 ERA, but a dominant 6.8 K/BB with a miniscule 1.9% walk percentage.  These are crazy stats and they don't really add up on paper.  My world was shattered.

On the mound, Kevin Slowey was and probably still is a nibbler.  He thought he knew how to get everyone out, but his stuff wasn't good enough.  He seemed to prefer giving up hits to walking people, but I have no proof for that.  He resisted the Twins' pitch to contact strategy and butted heads with coaches and fellow players.  That doesn't really bother me, but when you add it to the poor results, it makes sense that the Twins traded him away after the 2011 season.  The Rockies acquired him, then turned around and sent him to Cleveland.  He only threw roughly 50 AAA innings in 2012,  missing much of the season with a stress fracture in his rib cage.  That would hurt.  Probably a lot. 

What will his 2013 season bring?  If he can somehow make the team, I still hold out hope that he will be an effective starter.  He still doesn't walk anyone and can get some strikeouts.  He has been prone to some home runs and his ground ball rates are very low.  The old Kevin Slowey would throw 100 pitches, give up 2 or 3 runs and get lifted in the middle of the 6th inning.  I used to argue with people that I would take those innings from Slowey rather than 7 terrible innings from Nick Blackburn, but that just seems like a reason to rip Nick Blackburn in this post.  Slowey's inability to pitch deep hurt the bullpen, which hurts the team.  I realize that now.  I am so sorry.     

He is a smart guy by all accounts.  You can check out his off-season blog from a few years ago if you want some proof.  He has some interesting thoughts, he spells well and uses ellipses properly (most of the time).  He seems averse to using capitalization though, but this isn't an English critique.  However, those smarts are also supposedly part of the reason why he was not accepted in the Twins clubhouse.  He read books, which was NOT COOL.  His intelligence supposedly made him aloof, or at least that was the perception.  If that is true, then he was traded for a terrible reason.  If the team just got tired of dealing with a malcontent that couldn't produce, then it makes perfect sense. 

I'll always like Kevin Slowey for some reason.  I like the idea of a nerd infiltrating a baseball clubhouse full of jocks.  If nothing else, maybe he can mentor Jose Fernandez in AAA.  I just hope Mike Redmond doesn't try to pants him or something.  That would be so Red-Dog.

By all accounts, Kevin Slowey is probably not a nerd, but a good narrative is too hard to pass up.  Who is your favorite nerd?  What is your favorite Slow-ride (my term for a Slowey-related memory)?  Which former Twin do you like for reasons unknown?  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Philadelphia Phillies sign Delmon Young

Twins fans, let me give you a few seconds to stop giggling.


My favorite Delmon Young moment came during his magical run back in 2010.  I was actually at Target Field, for the only game I witnessed in person that season.  Delmon was up with a runner or two on, I can't remember the exact situation.  I turned to my brother and said, "Delmon's going to line one over there."  I was pointing toward the right-center field gap.  The man in front of me was listening, and I know this because after Delmon did just that, the guy turned around and said, "whoa, you totally called that."  I'm sure he thought I was a wizard, and the fact that I was dressed like this probably perpetuated his feelings a bit.  The reality was, Delmon was actually hitting the ball well during that stretch, with the majority of his hits going in that direction.  He would line the ball into the gap and start chugging those tiny steps toward second base.  He actually had 46 doubles that season.

This is all anecdotal, I admit, but it certainly seemed like Delmon was on fire during that part of the 2010 season.  Perhaps the man who thinks I am a wizard is in the Philadelphia Phillies front office.  That might explain their signing of Delmon Young to a one-year, $750,000 contract to play baseball for them in 2013.  Young will be making 6 million dollars less than he did in 2012, which has to be one of the biggest pay cuts in MLB history for a player coming off his age 26 season.  Apparently, Young will play right field, leaving the Phillies an outfield of presumably Delmon Young, Ben Revere in center and Domonic Brown or John Mayberry Jr in left.  The Phillies seem to hate Brown, so bet on Mayberry Jr.  I would personally love it if they gave Brown's jersey number to Young.  Nothing against Brown, but their unwillingness to give him a shot is borderline comical at this point.

Back to Young.  Even in his breakout 2010 season, he still only managed a 2.9 rWAR, mostly due to the fact that he played terrible defense and didn't walk at all.  He drove in runs and hit for decent power, but has not even approached those numbers in his last two seasons.  His 89 OPS+ and -1.2 rWAR in 2012 would indicate that he has little to nothing to offer the Phillies beyond human body parts that work (to an extent).  Perhaps Young's tiny little steps will play better in Philadelphia than they did in Minnesota, Detroit or Tampa Bay.  He was the ALCS MVP last season.  Although, I am guessing the Phillies will be required to play a season longer than 4 games, which might lead to some regression from Young.

Philadelphia has the strangest roster.  Their pitching is obviously great, with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.  You can say what you will about closers, but Jonathan Papelbon is pretty great.  Their offense is just... confusing I guess?  They are so old.  Quick, how old is Chase Utley?  Nope, not 75.  He is actually just 34 although he seems a lot older.  Jimmy Rollins is 34 too.  Ryan Howard is 33.  Michael Young, the new third baseman, is 36.  The outfield is younger, but Delmon Young plays like he is 50.  Ben Revere is 24 and Domonic Brown is 25.  But, remember, Domonic Brown = Phillies poison and Ben Revere has no power.  There is legitimate debate as to whether Revere will ever hit a home run.  This paragraph is too age-y, but you get my point.  I just want to point out that love Chase Utley, so, you know.

Philadelphia's outfield defense just got worse.  This statement is true regardless of which outfield you are adding Delmon Young to.  Delmon Young is the Miracle Whip of baseball.  He is terrible to begin with and ruins anything you add him to.  It's just best not to have any of either around.  The Twins are using Josh Willingham in left field and Twins fans are happy with that.  That is how scarring it was to watch Delmon Young patrol left field, taking tiny steps and crazy routes to the ball.  This is an artist's rendering of a typical Delmon Young fly ball route.  Ben Revere has great range and crazy speed, but even he can't play two positions.      

It seems like Delmon Young has been around forever.  He is only 27 years old!  More ages!  Young should be entering his prime.  He just might not have a prime.  He was awful last season.  He posted a robust 5.5 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio, an OBP below .300 and a slugging percentage just above .400.  He somehow managed a triple, which probably took him about 400 steps to leg out (again, tiny steps).  So, his offense was terrible.  Everyone knows that his defense needs work (trying to be nice).  I think we may have just answered the question of "Is it possible to sign a player for $750,000 and have it actually hurt a team?"  The answer:  Yes, if that player is Delmon Young.

Reading my first paragraph again, I guess that Delmon Young moment was more of a Wizard Brad Swanson moment.  Therefore, my real favorite Delmon Young moment was the time he got hit in the side with a pitch and completely freaked out, yelling and pointing at his own dugout while clutching his side.  I refuse to look up the reason why this happened.  I like to imagine that he just spazzed out like a little kid and yelled in the direction that he was facing.  Phillies fans are just going to hate Delmon Young, and something tells me they will be yelling in his direction.  A lot.   

Friday, January 18, 2013

Going down the Baseball Reference Rabbit Hole is my favorite website.  I can spend hours there.  Sometimes, I'll start somewhere and within a few minutes, I am somewhere within their site that I have never seen before.  I won't even remember how I got there.  There is just so much information, it is crazy.  From time to time, I think it will be fun to chronicle my travels through the site.  I'll start with no plan and I'll ride the wave, where it takes me.  I'll post these from time to time, unless I get arrested.

Starting Point - 1994 Minnesota Twins

1994 was the strike year.  The Twins were bad, but not 90s Twins bad.  They were 53-60 that year, but odds are they would have dropped off significantly because they were terrible.  Their Pythagorean record was 49-64.  So yeah.  The Twins drew 1.4 million fans that year, a 2.1 million fan pace (more or less).  OH!  Alex Cole was on that team.  I think we found our next destination. 

Alex Cole

Alex Cole was 6' 2"!   He was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  He debuted in 1990 at age 24.  He played 7 seasons in the majors.  He stole 40 bases as a rookie.  He only hit 5 career home runs, 4 in 1994 with the Twins.  His speed must have made him a relatively valuable player as he had a WAR around 2 for his first two seasons.  He had good OBPs those years too.  It seems like he should have been a useful player.  I'm not sure what happened to him, but he was a poor defender it seems.  His dWAR was negative pretty much every year.  His most similar player is Nyjer Morgan.  Ok, Alex Cole bores me.  His last game was on May 22, 1996.  Let's look at the box score.

May 22, 1996 - Seattle 6, Boston 1

Russ Davis and Darren Bragg went yard for the Mariners.  Bob Wolcott went 5.2 innings, giving up 1 earned run for the win. 

Short Tangent - Bob Wolcott

Bob Wolcott started 58 games for 3 teams in five seasons.  He was 16 and 21 with a 5.86 ERA.  Career 1.58 K:BB ratio.  He was out of baseball by age 26.

Back to the Box Score!

Tim Wakefield started for the Red Sox.  He gave up 6 ER in 6 IP.  El Guapo, Rich Garces came in and game 2 great innings, striking out 4 and walking none.  Norm Charlton had a wild pitch.  Edgar Martinez was intentionally walked twice.  The Mariners had a 2-3-4 of Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez.  That's solid.  The Mariners stole 3 bases off of Wakefield.  Alex Cole pinch hit for Jose Canseco.  Ok.

Jose Canseco

Apparently his nickname was The Chemist.  Is that a steroids reference?  I forgot that Canseco played for the Red Sox.  Who else played for the Red Sox in '96?

1996 Boston Red Sox

Wil Cordero.  Nomar, he must have been a rookie.  Kevin MitchellTom Gordon was starting.  Vaughn Eshelman?

Vaughn Eshelman

Hmm, he played 3 seasons with the Red Sox.  He was 15 and 9 with a 6.07 ERA.  His K:BB ratio in 1996 was just barely above 1.  It was a very Samuel Deduno season.  Eshelman was drafted out of the University of Houston in the 4th round by Baltimore. 

University of Houston

Here are some notable players drafted out of the University of Houston:  Michael Bourn, Chris Snyder, Woody Williams, Doug Drabek, Jesse Crain, Anthony Young and of course, Vaughn Eshelman.  Wasn't Anthony Young the guy that lost 20 games that one year?

Anthony Young

Nope, he lost a bunch of games in a row, I think.  He was 1 and 16 for the Mets in 1993, but had a 3.77 ERA.  His K:BB ratio was 1.48, which is bad, but not historically bad.  His ERA+ was 107.  He QUADRUPLED his win total the next season.  Do the math, y'all.  He had a career WAR of 0.8.  He was a 38th round pick in the 1987 draft.  I wonder if anyone else from that round made it to the Majors. 

38th Round of the 1987 amateur draft

Yeah, somehow, yeah.  Todd Haney played 101 games and hit 3 home runs (juiced!) and Tom Thobe pitched 7 games, netting a record of 0 and 1.  The Twins drafted Toi Cook in that round. 

Toi Cook

He went to Stanford.  Nice.  There are no stats.  He throws unknown, which would seem to work in his favor.  He was the 960th player drafted in 1996, let's see if any other players were drafted in that position, who would be notable.

960th Picks Overall

Irving Falu in 2001.  Shayne Bennett in 1992 - career WAR of -1.6.  In 1967, Barton Bell was drafted 960th but the SELECTION WAS VOIDED. 

Irving Falu (minors)

He played in the minors for a really long time.  He was at AAA for 4 years!  Over 400 games.  I guess his MLB debut last season was a better story than I was aware of.  He certainly put in his minor league time.  I like to hear about players who work hard, play in the minors for years and years and then come up and realize their dreams.  He was 28 when he made his debut and that is pretty cool.  So, we went from the 1994 Minnesota Twins and ended with Irving Falu.  Just another voyage and it ended on a sweet note.   

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2013 Hall of Fame Results Analysis

The 2013 Hall of Fame results are in and the winner is sanctimony.  The BBWAA decided as a group that there isn't a worthy Hall of Famer this year.  They are wrong, but I think everyone knows that, deep down in their guts.  By my count, there are 14 worthy players and 3 more that deserve serious consideration.  Surprisingly, I do not have a Hall of Fame vote.  Apparently, you have to be a blogger for more than 5 months.  Perhaps next year.  Because it's fun, I'm going to run down the results.  I am 99.99% sure that no one else has written about this, so I hope you enjoy this unique analysis. 

We'll start from the bottom.  I list vote totals first, because they are more important than the players.  For those that qualify, I'll try to determine using science (guessing) whether or not they will get in down the line.

Not much to see here.  Reggie Sanders was a really good player and once charged the mound against a pitcher throwing a perfect game (Pedro Martinez, likely Hall of Famer.  Well, I think...).  Rondell White is very likely to be enshrined in the Twins Hall of Fame (or maybe the exact opposite, I can't remember).  Finally, the voters likely did not see this important and exciting brochure for Ryan Klesko.

1 Vote - Aaron Sele

Eddie Murphy had a joke about how white people would get drunk and vote for Jesse Jackson for President as a joke.  Then, they would wake up, and be shocked that Jackson won.  I'm pretty sure I did that joke justice.  Regardless, it's all fun and games until Aaron Sele gets elected to the Hall of Fame.  

2 Votes - Shawn Green
4 Votes - Steve Finley
5 Votes - David Wells
6 Votes - Julio Franco
16 Votes - Sandy Alomar

All very nice players, none of whom deserve even one vote.  David Wells had a perfect game, Julio Franco played until he was 130, Steve Finley and Shawn Green were good and Sandy Alomar had a very strong arm.  Not much more to say.

18 Votes - Kenny Lofton
19 Votes - Bernie Williams

This is a failure of the system if you ask me.  I'm not sure either deserves to be elected, but each deserved a whole lot more votes than Sandy Alomar. 

Again, I have no vote, but I would vote for Kenny Lofton.  I like his type of player and I suspect, but have no proof, that he is undervalued.  I wouldn't be surprised if there is a time in the future when we adjust some metrics and figure out that speed and defense are actually undervalued even with our new statistics.  Using WAR, Kenny Lofton is at least roughly the same player as Craig Biggio, a player whose Hall of Fame induction is a foregone conclusion.  I also remember Lofton being on base constantly, a memory proven by his 1.000 OBP (fact check later, Brad).

Bernie Williams was a great player too.  I would not have voted for him, but I can see the valid argument.  He provided good power at a premium defensive position and was an integral part of quite a few championship teams.  It's a shame he didn't just swing more and turn some walks into singles.  His hit total would be higher and maybe he would have lasted on the ballot more than 2 years.  He wouldn't have been as good, but that isn't what matters.

50 Votes - Rafael Palmeiro

569 home runs, 3020 hits, 132 OPS+, 66.1 bWAR, one finger point.  What part do you remember?

Will he get in one day? - It doesn't look like it.

71 Votes - Sammy Sosa

I'm very split on Sosa.  He was super fun to watch, but likely was not as good as his home run totals.  His home run skip and the way he poured water over his sweaty face are things I will never forget.  I wouldn't choose him in my top 10, but if I could vote for more than 10, I'd probably add him.  It's a moot point due to not having a vote and all, but also because there will likely be 10 players better than him on the ballot for the next 4-5 years.

Will he get in one day? - Tough One, but I'll say no.  Sosa will be the guy that writers use as their Steroid abuse scary story.  "He may have been great, but how much of that was the juice?"  You know, that BS.

75 Votes - Don Mattingly

Hall of Fame peak; Hall of Fame nickname (The Hit Man, not Donnie Baseball).  It's a shame that his back didn't hold up and that he got held back early in his career.  He still had a really good career, but he would fall just short for me.  He looks way different without his mustache.

Will he get in one day? - Nope. 

96 Votes - Mark McGwire

Fat Mac rejuvenated baseball in 1998 (with Sosa) and set off one of the more exciting individual chases in baseball history.  In addition, he had a really good career.  His career OPS+ is 163.  That is just ridiculous.  He got on base nearly 40 percent of his career.  I'm just not sure what else can be said in favor of McGwire.  Based on his numbers and historical significance, he has to be in. 

Will he get in one day? - It doesn't seem like it.  Although, he could get a renaissance in 5 or so years when the ballot should be less full or he could drop off altogether when it gets really full.

106 Votes - Dale Murphy

Off the ballot now.  Murphy had a sick peak and won two MVPs.  He didn't have the sustained longevity and he didn't really have great overall OBP or SLG.  Murphy and McGwire are right next to each other in the HOF results chart, and the stark contrast between their offensive stats is hard to ignore.  Murphy does get some bonus points for playing center early in his career, but it's not enough for me.  I really like him though, and I think the 1982 Braves Twitter account was a really cool idea.

118 Votes - Fred McGriff

Crime Dog!  Fell just short of 500 home runs and falls just short of the Hall of Fame.  To me, those two things are unrelated, but just a sentence that is true.  I enjoyed watching McGriff and of course, I love the Tom Emanski video.  McGriff did a lot of things really well but it just took too long.  I don't want to penalize him for having a long career, and he stayed effective as he aged, but maybe I just got spoiled by all the McGriff I got to see.  As you can clearly see, I do not have a good argument against McGriff.

Will he get in one day? ­- Nope, crime doesn't pay.  He should know that.

123 Votes - Larry Walker

He seems to be punished for playing in Colorado for a large portion of his career.  I guess I get that, but adjusted stats still seem to love him.  His OPS+ of 141 is the same as Chipper Jones's and I am guessing Jones will have no issue getting in.  His defense was pretty good and his arm was terrific.  If anyone who prominently played in Colorado during that era gets in, it will obviously be Walker.  His 1994 season is Montreal is key for me.  His numbers were huge and didn't exactly come out of nowhere.  He was likely peaking at that point and then continued his peak while playing in Colorado.  While some of his power likely came from the thin air, it is possible that he was just a really great baseball player as well. 

Will he get in one day?­ - Probably not unless some major research comes out to show that the 
Coors Effect was greatly overrated.

191 Votes - Alan Trammell

Trammell mixed some really great offensive seasons with some pretty poor offensive seasons over his career.  A couple of those poor seasons came during what should have been peak years.  1985 and 1989 to be exact.  However, he was consistently a great fielder at the most premium defensive position and he should have won an MVP in 1987.  Perhaps his fate lies down the road.  I can't even begin to pretend to understand how the Veteran's ballot works, but maybe one day he'll be enshrined at the same time as his double play mate Lou Whitaker.  That would be nice.  Aside from sentimentality, I'd vote for Trammell right now.

Will he get in one day? - Maybe as I described above, but not by the writers.

204 Votes - Edgar Martinez

The fact that Martinez was a DH only enhances his case in my opinion.  His WAR (64.4) without a defensive position is just insane.  WAR shouldn't be the only reason a player gets elected, but it is really hard to ignore a good WAR.  His career OPS+ is 147 (top 50) and his career OBP is .418 (21st of all time).  Frank Thomas will slide right into the HOF in a few years, and I'm not sure Martinez wasn't on or at least near his level.  I'd certainly take Thomas over Martinez, but the argument is really close.  He also played a decent amount of third base until he was 31, so it's not like he was a DH right from the start.  Would he really have been a better player if he played a poor first base for all those years?

Will he get in one day? - Probably not, unless something comes along that proves defense is overrated. 

206 Votes - Barry Bonds
214 Votes - Roger Clemens

YES WE CAN!  We did it everyone!  We preserved the moral grounds in which society depends upon.  We kept Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds out of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.  As we all know, the Hall of Fame is our most influential and sacred societal institution.  It is the very institution in which our collective moral compass resides.  In fact, without the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, we would have no way of knowing how to live a good, moral life.  Without it, we would simply give in to all of our worst temptations.  We finally have defeated the evils that lie within our society and we did so with a resounding vote.  The vile have been defeated by the virtuous.  No longer will we allow cheaters and abusers to run wild in our society without consequences.  We finally can face the fear that we have lost our collective conscience and celebrate the fact that we took back one of the most vital foundations of our fragile society!  Strike that, THE most vital foundation from our fragile history.

Wait, it's a baseball museum?

Yeah, we should probably vote for two of the greatest baseball players of all time then.

(end scene)

Will they get in one day? - Yeah, and it might be sooner than we think.  Grandstanding gets old.  Everyone knows that.  Also, if they really want to shame these guys, why couldn't they just use these heads for their plaques - Clemens, Bonds.  The Bonds one really hurts, since it's not him and whatnot.

221 Votes - Curt Schilling



Why isn't Curt Schilling a Hall of Famer?  He doesn't have the steroid cloud.  He was a big game pitcher.  He was an ace.  He won a lot of games.  He reminds me a lot of another pitcher, except he didn't have a mustache.  Did Jack Morris's mustache make him better than Curt Schilling in the eyes of about 160 voters?  Can it be that simple?  Schilling was better than Morris, but then again, lots of pitchers were better than Morris.  I think Schilling is a no-brainer, but I guess he isn't a "first ballot" Hall of Famer or something. 

Will he get in one day? - I should hope so.  Maybe they can make a bust of the bloody sock.  HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!

272 Votes - Lee Smith

Wait, Lee Smith?  He definitely had a lot of saves, that you can't argue.  I will argue that there is exactly one full-time closer who belongs in the Hall of Fame.  He isn't eligible or retired.  That man:  Frank Francisco.  Kidding.  Dennis Eckersley is fine with me too because he was an effective starter for awhile too.  How many failed starters could rack up saves if given a chance though?  It isn't a fully relevant question, but you get my point.

Will he get in one day? - Nope.

297 Votes - Tim Raines

Tim Raines was legally adopted by the SABR community a couple years ago.  Since then, he has been living a very happy life and has access to doctors, quality education, and a family.  He was also a ridiculously great baseball player.  I'm not sure he is the slam dunk that many proclaim him to be though.  He was amazing at the beginning of his career and from ages 23-27 he was elite.  From age 28-33 he was a good player and at times a great player.  After age 33, he was barely average.  However, when you add up his peak, his longevity and his versatility, he makes it on my ballot.  I can see the argument the other way though, and I don't think a vote against Raines is a slap in the face of the statistical revolution.      

Will he get in one day? - It seems like it, but if the stat-heads get too out of line, it is always possible that Raines will be punished for it.

329 Votes - Mike Piazza

Remember when Roger Clemens threw a bat piece at Piazza?  If both had rightly been elected, we could have re-enacted that monumental event.  Big miss, BBWAA!  Piazza was a premier offensive player at an extremely important defensive position.  Even if he didn't play that position all that well, the extra offense he provided made up for it.  Am I the only one who thinks he has the worst swing ever though?  If anything, overcoming that swing should be worth bonus points.  The suspicion of steroids might not have been his undoing, as he likely didn't pass the sacred "first ballot HOF" test either.  Regardless, he'll get there. 

Will he get in one day?­ - Oh yeah, he's one of the best offensive catchers of all time.

339 Votes - Jeff Bagwell

Come on.  This is getting silly.  Career OBP over .400, career OPS+ of 149, nearly 500 home runs.  He certainly could have hung on for a few more years and reached that milestone, but he chose to retire while still a relatively effective player.  I respect that.  Bagwell has never actually been linked to steroids in any meaningful way.  There isn't a bad beard clause in the HOF, so you can't hold that against him either.  The guy was one of the best hitters in a hitter's generation.  He should be in the museum so that people can remember that.

Will he get in one day? - Yes.

385 Votes - Jack Morris

Jack Morris was a great pitcher.  He was an excellent at times.  His 1983 season was fantastic.  He won 20 games, he led the league in innings and he posted a 3.34 ERA.  He was average at times as well.  In fact, most of his career, he was average.  In 1980, his ERA+ was 99, in 1982 it was 100, in 1988 it was 97.  His career ERA+ was 105.  In addition, he had some really bad seasons.  Go look at his 1989 season.  He won a lot of games on a team that won a lot of games.  He won 3 World Series titles and pitched one of the most famous games in World Series history.  He was a warrior on the mound and had a crazy thick mustache.  He was a great pitcher but he wasn't a Hall of Fame pitcher.  That's just how I feel.

Will he get in one day? - Well, it's next year or wait for the Veterans Committee.  I'm guessing he does get in.  I don't really care if he does.  It doesn't change how I feel about him either way.  Plus, I enjoyed Game 7 as much as anyone and Morris seems competent enough on the radio. 

388 Votes - Craig Biggio

People have pointed out that Biggio was well-built, right?  I mean, he was short, and I get that, but it's not like he was some rail thin second baseman who scrapped his way to 3000 hits.  This is not to cast any sort of accusation toward Biggio at all.  I don't think he did anything wrong ever.  He's never lied or even misled anyone in his life, as far as I know.  It just seems interesting that Biggio became this antithesis of the steroid abuser argument.  The dichotomy is strange; a player was either completely clean and deserves no suspicion, or was completely dirty and should be meticulously scrutinized for it.  Bagwell and Piazza get thrown under the bus because they may have cheated, but no one even thinks twice about Biggio.  Well, except for those blank ballot voters, but that is done for attention, I'm guessing. 

I hated writing that paragraph.  The worst part of that paragraph is that I think Biggio deserves major accolades.  I think he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.  He had a wonderful career and did great things on the field.  He played some difficult positions and excelled as an overall offensive player.  It is awful that I have to almost disparage a great player with a clean record just to try to defend other great players with clean records.  The morality clause is a crutch and I wish we could kick it out from under the writers' game legs.  That scenario doesn't make any sense, but neither does having a Hall of Fame ceremony in 2013 without guys like Bonds, Clemens, Bagwell, Piazza and even Biggio. 

Will he get in one day? - Yep, maybe even next year, when the ballot is even zanier.  Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, and Jeff Kent are all on the next ballot.  I'd vote for all of those guys (spoiler alert!).  In addition, you can check in with me next year as I make a feeble attempt to justify Hideo Nomo.  It should be madness.

If you care, here is who I would have voted for, given the 10 player constraint:
Bonds, Clemens, Bagwell, Piazza, Raines, Trammell, Martinez, McGwire, Walker, and Schilling.  Hard to exclude Biggio, Palmeiro, Lofton, and Sosa, but don't blame me, I'm not the one who decided that fake ballots could only contain 10 players.