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A Baseball Blog - Scientific and Speculative Thoughts from Third Base

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Some Small Fixes to Help with Hall Voting

Hall of Fame season is fast descending upon us; the ballot for the 2013 was announced Wednesday, and writers are already mobilizing to build support for voting movements and ideologies.

I think most people can agree that the Hall of Fame is facing several issues, both in this election and the upcoming ones, and people are always determined to come up with solutions to the problems. Ideas like letting the players and managers vote, introducing a limit on ballots a player can appear on, and banning steroid users get thrown out with alarming frequency at this time of year.

So many of these fixes aren’t worth the trouble, though. The players and managers have a horrible track record in recognizing greatness in fellow players, whether through the All-Star Game back-ups or Gold Glove awards. Limiting a player ignores the many deserving players who, for one reason or another, haven’t gone in on the first ballot. Banning steroids users ignores the long history of cheaters already enshrined.

In truth, the real fixes Cooperstown needs are much simpler.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Rays Lock Up Evan Longoria Forever (Pretty Much)

The Tampa Bay Rays have done something very un-Rays-like today, handing Evan Longoria a $100 million, six-year contract.

Now, a $100 million deal in general would seem odd for the Rays, but what makes this one odd no matter who it’s from is the years. Specifically, the Rays already had Longoria signed through 2016. The six years in this deal run from 2017 to 2022 (with an option for 2023).

On a side note, I would like to add that it blows my mind that we have contracts running into 2023. 2020 still seems far away, but into the mid-2020s? That just seems ridiculous.

Anyway, Longoria just finished his age-26 season, meaning that this deal also covers him until he’s 37. Normally, that would be a bad thing, right? Locking up a player for a large sum of money until they’re in their late 30s? Aren't the Rays supposed to be smarter than your average front office?

Actually, I would say this deal fits in with the Rays normal moves. Despite the general aversion to long-term, $100 million deals, this one looks like the Rays might come out on top.

2013 Hall of Fame Poll Added: The Apocalypse Ballot Is Upon Us

The Hall of Fame voting season is upon us; in anticipation of that, I added two polls on the right sidebar. One asks the standard "What would your ballot look like?", while the other asks "How many players on the ballot are deserving of induction?"

This year should be interesting. I think there are very easy cases to make for fourteen different candidates. I've already started writing about some of them. Either way, it's a crowded ballot. I'm going to have to leave off some players I think are deserving. I honestly don't know who I'll leave off for my BBA ballot when the time comes, although I have ideas. Who knows what havoc this will wreak on the election process, though.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2012 Ryan Howard Awards

In keeping with a tradition I started last year, I would like to award the 2012 Ryan Howard Award Winners. Basically, the award is for the player whose finish in MVP voting most overstated their season. The Award is named for Ryan Howard, perhaps the best example of this phenomena (did you remember that Howard finished tenth in MVP voting last year? Tenth!?!).

This year, with Mr. Howard out of commission for most of the season, the BBWAA had to find a new target. They settled on two different targets in the National League. Adam Laroche finished tied for sixth with my midseason favorite, David Wright. Meanwhile, Jay Bruce finished tenth. LaRoche put up 3.8 fWAR and 4.0 bWAR, neither of which is bad, but both still stick out in the top seven. He did play first base (which did allow him to hit a solid, but not-spectacular-for-a-corner-position 128 OPS+) on a winning team, though, which helped him rack up 100 RBIs and woo voters.

Bruce, on the other hand, finished tenth with only 2.4 fWAR and 1.4 bWAR. His 118 OPS+, coupled with his average defense in a spot generally for power hitters, hurt his overall value. He did rack up 99 RBI, though, which voters, again, love.

In the AL, the choices were more solid. Derek Jeter probably takes the cake, with a 3.2 fWAR and a 2.1 bWAR. He wasn't awful, but his poor fielding as a shortstop gave back a lot of his value. Even with a 114 OPS+, it wasn't enough to totally cover up his deficiencies. Jeter had a great bounce-back year, but he was definitely not the seventh-best player in the AL.

Awards Explanations, Part 2

Again, these are a little late, but I’ve been busy these past few days. The original ballot can be found here, and Part 1 can be found here.

In the AL, I went Trout first. I wrote about my take on the Cabrera-Trout issue just before the end of the season, and the final games did nothing to change my opinion. Trout actually overtook Cabrera in OPS+ (171 to 165) and tied him in weighted Runs Created (wRC+) at 166. In the meantime, he ran and fielded much better than Cabrera at an equally-difficult position. Really, the only way you can argue for Cabrera while remaining totally intellectually honest is to severely penalize Trout for playing in 22 fewer games, to the point where you actually believe that not playing for the Angels subtracted value rather than just providing a net-zero. For reference, Fangraphs had them at 10.0 (Trout) and 7.1 (Cabrera) WAR.

I considered putting Cano second over Cabrera too, actually. Both versions of WAR had him above Cabrera, thanks to his 150 wRC+ and 149 OPS+ while playing stellar defense at an up-the-middle position. I decided that might be to controversial, though, and chickened out, in part because some of Cano’s value came from a random uptick in his fielding stats. Still, at 7.8 WAR, that’s a reasonable gap. I think you could definitely argue for Cano second.

Last year’s AL Cy Young, Justin Verlander, posted similar numbers to his MVP campaign. However, he lacked the shiny wins total, probably costing him the repeat Cy Young award. The top 3 were pretty clearly Verlander, Felix Hernandez, and David Price, though.

Verlander-238.1 IP, 9.03 K/9, 2.27 BB/9, .72 HR/9, 2.64 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 6.8 fWAR
Hernandez- 232.0, 8.65 K/9, 2.17 BB/9, .54 HR/9, 3.06 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 6.1 fWAR
Price- 211.0, 8.74 K/9, 2.52 BB/9, .68 HR/9, 2.56 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 5.1 fWAR

In the NL Cy Young race, RA Dickey was just a hair behind Clayton Kershaw in most advanced metrics, but knuckleballers have a history of being underrated by those same stats. Most of these advanced numbers try to explain away variation in batted balls, but knucklers have in general defied those expectations. So, with two pretty similar pitchers, it seemed fair to give the tiebreaker to the historically-underrated one (although, to be fair, looking back, this could have very easily gone to Kershaw; this is the one award where I might have regrets about my voting).

In the NL MVP race, I went with Buster Posey. My thinking generally held from my first look piece, And I decided the near-tie in value should probably go to the catcher, given the difficulty in filling the position.

Relievers of the Year Fernando Rodney and Craig Kimbrel both had incredibly historic seasons. Jim Johnson and Aroldis Chapman were great, but neither could quite live up to either’s dominance in my mind. Each also led their leagues in WAR, although Chapman made it close with his innings lead over Kimbrel.

Of the first four awards, it looks like I went 2-for-4

Really Belated Random Thoughts on the Giants' World Series

Congratulations to the 2012 San Francisco Giants and their World Series Title!

I realize this is late, but I was very busy with classes the last few weeks, and this was the earliest that I could write. There are really two things I want to focus on from it, both more long term.

The first: Are the Giants a dynasty now? With 2 titles in 3 years, it’s at least a fair question to ask. The first thing to ask would be what makes a dynasty? A dynasty should, in theory (at least, my theory), combine a strong regular season with some sort of post-season success.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Awards Explanations, Part 1

Well, I've predicted three of the awards unveiled so far correctly. So I might as well explain those ballots. Here's my original ballot. Now then, explanations:

AL Rookie
It had to be Mike Trout, right? Any other choice is just wrong. Yu Darvish was solid enough in his introduction to the pros. He had a high K rate, and did a good job at keeping the ball in the park (especially for the Ballpark in Arlington). Too many walks still, but he did manage a 3.29 FIP and 5.1 fWAR. I feel like he and Yoennis Cespedes are very standard 2-3 choices. Not a very difficult ballot, although there were a lot of other decent rookies.

NL Rookie
I already wrote about this, before Harper went off in September. He and Miley were both good-about equally good, in fact (4.9 fWAR to 4.8 fWAR). In short, Harper gets the extra edge for his age. Yasmani Grandal was a great hitter, especially for a catcher (144 weighted Runs Created, third among 200 plate appearance-catchers behind Buster Posey and Carlos Ruiz). He didn't get enough playing time for me to list him higher. Shame he got busted for testosterone.

Managers of the Year.
The AL was basically between Buck Showalter and Bob Melvin. I went with Showalter because I felt he deserved some credit for the O's record in one-run games. Melvin was still a good choice. Joe Maddon is always a good third choice; guiding the Rays to 90 wins without Evan Longoria for most of the season was huge.

In the NL, Davey Johnson took the surprising Nationals to the best record in the League. After that, there were fewer huge surprises, so I went in record order more or less. I feel like that wasn't a bad call in this case.

So there you have it. Not in-depth explanations, but none of these picks so far is too shocking.

The Marlins Trade Away Everyone, Take Something or Other

So, the Marlins have continued their perpetual fire sale from last summer, sending Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and others to Toronto.

This seems a little like the Red Sox-Dodgers deal, but a little more even. The Blue Jays gave up less than the Dodgers and got more reasonable contracts. None of them will be huge bargains, but they're all probably more or less at market value. Last year, Reyes was worth 4.5 WAR (by Fangraphs), Johnson was worth 3.8, and Buehrle was worth 2.1. With the current estimates of $5 million per WAR on the open market, that comes out to $52 million. The contracts will be back-loaded, but none of the deals looks awful yet, and probably none will become Vernon Wells-level awful.

Really, the worst thing is the implications. Every major free agent the Marlins signed last year is gone, and it looks like the splurging was a shallow marketing lie to try and draw fans. They have shed close to $50 million in payroll in one offseason, and it really just doesn't look like they're serious about winning, only making a slightly larger profit. They also pissed off young face of the franchise Giancarlo Stanton, meaning his days are probably numbered (granted, he may have a few years with his lower at the moment salary). Jeffrey Loria shouldn't be an owner after his debacle in Montreal, and this only further solidifies my view on this.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are solid. Reyes provides a big line-up boost. The rotation, which was held together with tape and bubble gum last year, gets not only Buehrle and Johnson, but also a returning-from-injury Brandon Morrow (and hopefully Ricky Romero gets over whatever happened last year that made him awful). That's a solid top of the rotation. They also still have the rest of the off-season to improve. They might well be a strong contender next year, although I'd like to see what their divisional rivals do first before calling them favorites or anything.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Huge Recommendation: Hall of Stats

Hopefully, I'll be able to write an actual article this week. But for now, this will have to suffice:

Adam Darowski, Creator of the wonderful Hall of wWAR, among other things, had unveiled his newest project: the Hall of Stats. And it is a thing of beauty. I recommend exploring it for some time.

The only qualm I have is basic stuff that comes up with all-stat based Halls, like missing players with artificially-shortened careers (Enos Slaughter and Phil Rizzuto come to mind). Otherwise, it should provide hours of amazement this coming Hall of Fame season.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What Should the Orioles Do This Offseason?

The free agent season is officially underway, and before everything starts to get insane with rumors and theories and mystery teams buying everybody up, I want to look at some of the interesting situations to look forward to.

And few teams can promise a situation as interesting as the Baltimore Orioles. After years of dormancy, the O’s burst back on to the scene this year, winning 93 games and taking the Yankees to a decisive game 5 of the ALDS. A record like that is promising, but the Orioles would be ill-advised to rest on their laurels.

In general, a lot of things have to go right in any winning season. Expecting all of them to go right two years in a row can be problematic. The Orioles, especially, would have issues-they scored only 9 more runs than they allowed. With a run differential like that, the Orioles would normally be expected to carry an 82-80 record. A lot of the difference had to do with their historic 29-9 record in one-run games.

Maybe they can repeat some of that, but at the same time, a nine-game swing in expectations is a lot to make up. The Orioles will need to try to actively improve this offseason to stay somewhat competitive. But they also can’t set back rebuilding too much by trading away the farm, or splurge too much on budget.

So instead, I have several different proposals for what the Orioles could do to stay in the race for the AL East, and maybe even improve.

First Awards Season Update

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance has now officially announced the winners of this year's awards. I'll be explaining my picks next week when the results of the Baseball Writers election are announced, so for now, I'll merely post the results and my picks.
(My Picks/BBA Picks; matching picks will be listed only once)

AL Reliever of the Year: Fernando Rodney, Rays
NL Reliever of the Year:: Craig Kimbrel, Braves
AL Manager of the Year: Buck Showalter, Orioles/Bob Melvin, A's
NL Manager of the Year: Davey Johnson, Nationals
AL Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout, Angels
NL Rookie of the Year: Bryce Harper, Nationals
AL Pitcher of the Year: Justin Verlander, Tigers
NL Pitcher of the Year: R.A. Dickey, Mets
AL MVP: Mike Trout, Angels
NL MVP: Buster Posey, Giants

As you can see, nine of my ten picks ended up winning. I expect this to be pretty close to the opposite of what happens in the writers election next week.