Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Next Six Hall of Fame Ballots

With my recent Hall of Fame kick, I’ve been looking at this year’s ballot and prospective future ballots a lot. And every time, all I can think of is how crazy the ballot will start to look in the future. I just needed to put it all in writing, though, to share my thoughts. I feel like I’ve written this before, but either way, it wasn’t recent enough that I remember doing it, the issue is still relevant, it still shocks me every time.

So, we know that this year has a lot of candidates. As I’ve said, I’d vote for eighteen if given the choice: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Mussina, Larry Walker, Tom Glavine, Mike Piazza, Alan Trammell, Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines, Craig Biggio, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Jeff Kent. We’ll probably get one of them elected this year. Some number will almost certainly drop off the ballot, which is really unfortunate.

On that note, this ballot should have been even more crowded. Kenny Lofton and Kevin Brown should be there, too, but both fell off after one go-around unfortunately. Who all will join them in no-man’s land next year, not on the ballot but too recent for the Veterans Committee? My guesses would start with Kent and Sosa, but I also wouldn’t be shocked about McGwire or Palmeiro. Maybe even Mussina or Walker if we’re really unlucky.

Next year, to replace Maddux and whoever else is gone (Jack Morris at least, since this is his 15th year), we’ll see Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Gary Sheffield, all of whom have Hall Ratings over 100. I’d also like to give a special mention to Brian Giles-he was a personal favorite growing up, and he was almost certainly better than you remember (even a 98 Hall Rating!). In a world with an unlimited ballot, I’d definitely at least throw him a vote based on those two factors, although I imagine I’d be more or less the only person to do so.

Then we have possibly the weakest ballot of the six upcoming in 2016. I’m not sure who all will fall off after the 2015 vote, but we’ll definitely be adding a pair of worthy center fielders in Ken Griffey, Jr. and Jim Edmonds. Edmonds will almost certainly be underrated and may even fall off the ballot in one try, which will be an absolute travesty (and not just because I’m an Edmonds fan). On the note of personal favorites, Jason Kendall will join that year. He’s a dead match for Giles, in that he has a surprisingly high Hall rating (87!) and he was another personal favorite. Also, the Hall doesn’t seem to have a clear idea of how to deal with relievers, but we’ll be getting to of the better ones in recent memory that year with Billy Wagner and Trevor Hoffman. Yes, this is our “breather/catch-up” year. It will also mark Alan Trammell’s final year, barring unusual occurrences.

2017 will see an interesting quartet added. Ivan Rodriguez is the surest bet of any of them, but who the hell knows how the voters will go anymore. On top of that, we get the introduction of Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero, and Jorge Posada. Manny Will bring an interesting and spirited debate, I’m sure. Vlad and Jorge are both more borderline, although again, I wouldn’t be shocked if both immediately fall of the ballot because that’s how the BBWAA rolls these days.

The 2018 ballot is a doozy, with interesting newcomers just oozing off of it. Chipper Jones will hopefully be elected in his first try. Jim Thome is poised to join the debate that year as well, assuming he doesn’t manage a comeback this year. It’ll be interesting to see how things go for him, although Frank Thomas this year may be a test case. Also, Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones, and Bobby Abreu are all set to come up in 2018. I’d say all three are worthy. Abreu looks a lot like Tony Gwynn, believe it or not. Andruw Jones is maybe the best fielder of all-time. I’ve covered Rolen a lot already. He may be my favorite player of all-time (either him, Albert Pujols, or Cal Ripken, Jr.), but even then, his case looks a lot like Ron Santo’s. All the worthiness in the world didn’t get him elected for decades and decades.

Not helping matters is that 2018 is also the year that Omar Vizquel, Johnny Damon, Chris Carpenter, and Jamie Moyer will all join the ballot. I wouldn’t vote for any of them, but I would almost guarantee that they’ll all get some level of support. Vizquel is probably the player most likely to inspire heated generational debates that are currently sparked by Jack Morris.

That’s the last year that we know for sure, but we already have something of an idea about 2019’s additions. Mariano Rivera, Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte, and Roy Halladay have all announced that they won’t play in 2014, making them eligible then. On top of that, Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman are free agents who may not garner contracts for next season, but both will deserve a good, hard look upon their appearance on the ballot. I’m not sure I see that happening if the ballot is 30 players deep at this point. Assuming nobody I've mentioned falls off other than the players that age out, we'll easily top that mark, even assuming that the BBWAA actually elects somebody in that span.

Worrying about it this early won’t really do anything, but I figured I should bring it up since it was on my mind.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Breaking Down This Year's 50 Best Not in the Hall: Which Team Gets Snubbed the Most?

I may as well continue with the Hall of Fame theme I have going on. One thing that I always wonder when filling out my 50 Best Players in the Hall of Fame ballot is if there’s any noticeable bias in who gets snubbed from the Hall. Like, whether there’s a specific position that the voters overlook, or if certain teams get passed over more often than others. I guess it’s also possible it’s my bias, but I’d like to think I’m objective in filling this out.

Anyway, if you need refreshing, here’s the selection of 50 Players I ended up going with this year. I wanted a quick number to look at for Hall worthiness, so I went with Adam Darowski’s Hall Ratings, since 1) that’s exactly what they were designed for, and 2) he includes breakdowns of how much of a player’s Hall Rating came in each season, with each team in total, and so on.

First, we have the straight number of players each franchise had on the list:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Hall of Fame Ballot, Part 2

I know I’ve harped on the Ballot backlog enough, but I’m always finding new ways to put it in to number form. For example, take my ballot for the 50 Best Players not in Cooperstown. I said I would put all 50 players in. I’ve pointed out before how it wouldn’t actually water down the Hall, but here’s another way to think about it.

Adam Darowski has an objective look at the Hall of Fame in his Hall of Stats and its Hall Rating system. I’ve explained it enough before, but the highlights: based on Baseball-Reference WAR (rWAR), on a scale like OPS+ (so 100 is Hall minimum, 200 is equal to 2 Hall of Famers worth of value, etc.). My ballot this year had an average Hall Rating of 137.7. That would slide comfortably into 70th place (out of 208) in the real Hall of Fame, which itself only has an average Hall Rating of 132.9 (you can check the numbers from his site if you want, they’re available for download).

This year’s ballot is even stronger. As I said last time, there are 18 players I would vote for this year. Those 18 average out to a 164.6 Hall rating, nestled nicely between Steve Carlton (167) and Carlton Fisk (158).* Even if you want to throw out Barry Bonds as an outlier, you get 152.9. Bonds and Roger Clemens? 144.1. Bonds, Clemens, and Greg Maddux? 139.1.

*Those two aren’t right next to each other, but I liked the symmetry.

Basically, I want to get across that this ballot is incredibly deep. Which is going to make whittling it down to ten for my Baseball Bloggers Alliance ballot even harder. First, which eighteen am I focusing on?

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Mussina, Larry Walker, Tom Glavine, Mike Piazza, Alan Trammell, Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines, Craig Biggio, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Jeff Kent

I hate having to ask “Why wasn’t this person Hall-worthy?” It feels so negative. Unfortunately, it seems like that might be how I have to go about this part, since I have to cut almost half of the names off. I’ll then list any mitigating factors to their negatives, things like titles, extreme stats, or other variables. Let’s start:

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My 2014 Hall of Fame Ballot, Part 1

Continuing my theme of Hall of Fame articles, I should probably write something about my Hall of Fame ballot for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. Actually, I don’t know who all I’m voting for yet, so this would be a good opportunity to sort things out in my head.

So, last year, my ballot was:
Jeff Bagwell
Craig Biggio
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Kenny Lofton
Mark McGwire
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Curt Schilling
Alan Trammell

I also thought that there were four more Hall-worthy players on last year’s ballot, in Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Edgar Martinez, and Larry Walker. Thankfully, the voters helped to clear up this logjam by…giving Kenny Lofton less than 5% of the vote so that he fell off the ballot. Thanks, guys!

So with only thirteen worthy holdovers, we look to the newcomers. Now, you probably have some idea of my thoughts on these guys if you read my 50 Best Players not in the Hall of Fame piece for this year. However, I’ll give them proper run-throughs now. First, here’s every first-year player on the ballot:

Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent, Kenny Rogers, Luis Gonzalez, Moises Alou, Ray Durham, Hideo Nomo, Richie Sexson, Paul Lo Duca, Armando Benitez, Mike Timlin, Sean Casey, Jacque Jones, Eric Gagne, J.T. Snow, Todd Jones

That list is already conveniently sorted by Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement. Now, I know that Wins Above Replacement is not the only thing that matters, but I don’t want to do write-ups for all 19 players. I’ll just limit it to the top eight, since Moises Alou sits at almost 40 WAR exactly and that seems like as good a cut-off as any. Sorry to the other eleven; if anyone wants me to write why any of those wouldn’t get my vote, I’ll take them up on it I guess. Now then, the case for each of those eight, in alphabetical order:

Moises Alou: 332 home runs, putting him right in a group with Shawn Green, Mo Vaughn, Boog Powell. 2134 hits. A .303/.369/.516 batting line over 17 seasons, which is good, but becomes a 128 OPS+ in the steroid era. That can be borderline Hall-of-Fame stuff if it comes with good defense, or more plate appearances (Alou didn’t even reach 8000), or a difficult position (Keith Hernandez, Sammy Sosa, Jim Wynn, for starters), but Alou comes with none of those. 39.7 Baseball-Reference WAR (or rWAR*); 48.2 Fangraphs WAR (fWAR). Adam Darowski’s Hall Rating from the Hall of Stats gives him a 71. NO

Tom Glavine: 305 wins, which is all that a lot of voters need to hear. He also had a 3.54 ERA (118 ERA+) over 22 years, which fits in nicely with players like Bert Blyleven and Gaylord Perry. Didn’t strike out as many guys as you might have liked, with only 2607 total and no seasons with over 200. There’s definitely Hall-level value in allowing runs at the rate he did over 4400 innings (74.0 rWAR, 64.3 fWAR), and he does bring a pair of Cy Young awards to the table, but he may only be the fifth-best pitcher on the ballot this year. Overall, he has a 149 Hall Rating as well. YES

Luis Gonzalez: He’s probably closer than you’d first realize. His 596 doubles are fifteenth of all-time, plus he had 354 home runs on top of that. His .283/.367/.479 line was good for a 119 OPS+; like Alou, that can work if you have some fielding going for you, but being an average corner outfielder won’t really do it. He did last a little longer than Alou, though, at 19 seasons. Overall, Gonzalez was worth a solid 51.5 rWAR and 55.3 fWAR, which translates to a 90 in the Hall of Stats. NO

Jeff Kent: Kent is an interesting case. He’s the all-time leader in home runs by a second baseman with 377, and for the other common hitter milestone, he has 2461 hits. Not bad. His .290/.356/.500 line means a 123 OPS+, but unlike Gonzalez or Alou, he actually does have some defensive value going for him.

Well, kind of. Having that kind of production from a second baseman is always great…but Kent wasn’t exactly a great fielder. In fact, he negated almost all of his value from playing second base by being bad at it (Fangraphs has his fielding at +1.2 runs, combining the two aspects). His other benefit over the other two is that Kent had a much higher peak than either of them, with an MVP award and three other top-10 finishes. Overall, it comes out to a Hall rating of 103, 55.2 rWAR, and 56.6 fWAR. I think Kent is borderline, but his hitting makes me err on the side of putting him in. I’m not really sure why; fielding in such large sample sets is probably much more stable than I’m giving it credit for.

Maybe part of it is assumed regression? Think of it this way: Gonzalez is a 50-win player who was mediocre at fielding, Kent is a 50-win player with atrocious fielding. I don’t know how bad Kent was at fielding, but it’s a lot easy to assume he wasn’t an extreme negative than it is to imagine that any given player wasn’t just average (given no prior knowledge). I hope that makes sense? Also, I didn’t really see Kent field, so maybe he was awful. Like I said, he’s borderline enough that I won’t be as upset if he falls off as I was about Kenny Lofton. YES

Greg Maddux: Four-time Cy Young Award winner; lifetime 355-227 record; 3371 strikeouts against only 999 walks (177 of which were intentional); 3.16 ERA (132 ERA+) over 23 seasons; 18 Gold Gloves; 104.6 rWAR (eighth all-time); 114.3 fWAR (fourth all-time); 220 Hall Rating

Greg Maddux is great to write about because it’s almost easier to write what about him wouldn’t merit induction. I can more or less pick out any of his stats and just list them without context and it’ll still be obvious that he belongs. YES

Mike Mussina: He didn’t reach either of the major pitching milestones, but he very well could have with two more seasons (270 wins, 2813 Ks). And he went out more or less on top, plus he missed time from the 1994-5 strike. His 123 ERA+ (3.68 ERA) over eighteen years is right in line with players like Juan Marichal and Bob Feller. He had six top-5 finishes in Cy Young voting as well. Also, he was a master of control: since the mound was moved back to 60 feet, 6 inches in 1893, only one player has a higher K/BB ratio (3.58) in over 3000 innings (Curt Schilling, 4.38). His Hall Rating is a solid 163. At 82.7 rWAR, he’s between Fergie Jenkins and Bob Gibson (24th). His 82.3 fWAR is between Schilling and Warren Spahn (19th). YES

Kenny Rogers: His 4.27 ERA would be far and away the worst of Hall starters (although it was still a solid 107 ERA+ over twenty years). He didn’t even reach 2000 strikeouts (1968), and he didn’t have the control of Schilling or Maddux or Mussina, with 1175 walks. Again, there’s value to being above average for twenty years (51.1 rWAR, 46.8 fWAR, 96 Hall Rating), but not Hall-level value. NO

Frank Thomas: Like Kent, Thomas did not offer a lot of defensive value. The Big Hurt, however, was a much better hitter overall: 521 home runs, 2468 hits, a .301/.419/.555 batting line, and so on. His 156 OPS+ is tied for nineteenth of all-time. All in all, he was worth 73.6 rWAR and 72.4 fWAR while racking up a 140 Hall Rating. YES

*I had abbreviated this as bWAR in the past for convenience sake, but the general standard over the rest of the internet has been to call it rWAR for its creator, Sean “Rally” Smith. I’ll start referring to it as such from now on.

In total, that’s thirteen holdovers and five newcomers, so I have 18 people on this year’s ballot that I want to vote for. Unfortunately, I only get ten slots. Next time, I will attempt to whittle this group down.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame, 2013

For the last two years, I’ve participated in Graham Womack’s 50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame project. So naturally, I had to participate when he announced his fourth edition of the project. This year, I’m taking a bit of a shortcut; I’ve written about all of these players over the last two years, and I don’t want to waste too much time going over old ground. So instead, I’ll post my list from last year for reference.

In addition to their names, I’ll include their Hall Rating from Adam Darowski’s Hall of Stats. As a refresher, that’s based on Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement and normalized to a scale like OPS+. So, a 100 rating is the minimum to make the Hall of Stats. For reference, a 150 would be the equivalent of one-and-a-half Hall of Fame careers, a 200 rating would be as good as 2 Hall of Famers mashed together, and so on-you can read more about it at his site.

Anyway, my 2013 list included the following names:

Barry Bonds, 363
Roger Clemens, 293
Curt Schilling, 172
Jeff Bagwell, 164
(5) Larry Walker, 151
Pete Rose, 150
Mike Piazza, 147
Bill Dahlen, 145
Lou Whitaker, 144
(10) Alan Trammell, 143
Bobby Grich, 141
Kevin Brown, 138
Rick Reuschel, 136
Edgar Martinez, 135
(15) Kenny Lofton, 132
Jack Glasscock, 131
Shoeless Joe Jackson, 130
Luis Tiant, 130
David Cone, 129
(20) Tim Raines, 128
Craig Biggio, 126
Graig Nettles, 126
Rafael Palmeiro, 125
Reggie Smith, 125
(25) Buddy Bell, 124
Mark McGwire, 124
Willie Randolph, 124
Dwight Evans, 123
Bret Saberhagen, 121
(30) Sal Bando, 118
Ken Boyer, 118
Dick Allen, 116
Sammy Sosa, 116
Keith Hernandez, 115
(35) Dave Stieb, 115
Deacon White, 114
Ted Simmons, 113
Kevin Appier, 112
Joe Torre, 112
(40) Bobby Bonds, 111
Sherry Magee, 111
Eddie Cicotte, 111
Jim Wynn, 110
Darrell Evans, 106
(45) Tommy Bond, 103
Thurman Munson, 101
Minnie Minoso, 99.8
Bob Caruthers, 96
Ross Barnes, 83
(50) Ezra Sutton, 71

The numbers are a little wonky with some of the older players (Sutton and Barnes retired in 1888 and 1881, respectively), as playing time was very different then (and in Minoso’s case, he caught the tail-end of segregated leagues). But that’s a pretty solid list.

One of the things that you need to do with this list is indicate how many players on your list you would actually put in the Hall of Fame. The last two years, I’ve said that I would put every player on my list in the Hall. I’ve always wondered if this waters down the Hall too much. I finally looked at that a little, though.

For an unrelated project, I examined the Hall of Fame and the best players not in the Hall in a variety of stats; Baseball-Reference’s WAR was one. I know it’s just one standard, and by no means the end-all, be-all, but: the average WAR of the top 62 hitters not in the Hall of Fame and the average WAR of Hall of Fame hitters is not statistically significant. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not lower…but at the same time, I also only added 39 hitters last year rather than the full 63.

Going all the way down to the 60s gets you players like Jim Fregosi, Brett Butler, Bernie Williams, or Bobby Veach… I’m still not quite that far down the list. So the point is, I’m still in the same neighborhood as the actual Hall. I wouldn’t be shocked if I was improving the pitchers, given that I’m only adding 13 this year (we’ll go over the changes shortly, and it’s quite an impressive bunch, with an average Hall rating of over 150).

But now, the big question: what changes does this year bring? Well, first, Deacon White was inducted last year, meaning I can clear him off my list. Joe Torre was just inducted as a manager…but since that was for the class of 2014, it doesn’t take effect yet. All the others are in the same place they were last year.

So who takes this one spot? Well, this year’s ballot brings five people that I would consider worthy into the discussion. In the format from earlier:

Greg Maddux, 220
Mike Mussina, 163
Tom Glavine, 149
Frank Thomas, 140
Jeff Kent, 103

That’s a solid group, to say the least. Maddux takes White’s spot by default. Also, if you remember, in my wrap up last year, I was feeling a little uneasy about Sutton and Barnes. I replaced them with Tommy John (106) and John Olerud (103) for a variety of reasons. I realize it was a different time and you have to account for the different playing times, but at the same time, my research about how the Hall has changed over time made me feel more willing to side with more recent players. So those two should probably go into the discussion as well. There are a few more players from my first edition that may also work their way back in to consideration, in particular Wes Ferrell (111), who I had a hard time cutting last year.

On top of that, Adam has revised his Hall system even more, which gives me a little bit of a different perspective on these players. A lot of the changes are to the early days of the baseball and how Hall rating works with regards to playing time and pitching back then; that’s why you may notice players like Bob Caruthers and Tommy Bond taking dives compared to where they were last year (the long-short of it: since part of WAR is playing time, and pitchers back then threw so many more innings, Adam’s formula was overestimating how valuable they were compared to their peers).

Anyway, I anticipated a hard time deciding who all to kick off to make room for everyone. The starting place would probably be Barnes and Sutton; I was already kicking them off last year, so I may as well start there this year. That frees up two spaces, which probably go to Mussina and Glavine. Tommy Bond is someone I had been meaning to kick off last year, too. I’m not an expert on early baseball, and Adam wrote an interesting piece last year about 19th century pitchers. The biggest takeaway: Bond played in a wildly different time. He’s still the all-time leader in K/BB ratio…but he also had no value after the league moved the mound back from 45 feet (!!!). His spot probably goes to Frank Thomas.

Those are really the big moves, actually. Jeff Kent falls into a weird level for me; he’s sort of on the level of players like Robin Ventura, Will Clark, and John Olerud…all players who have made my list in the past, mind you. I would support all of them for the Hall, but they’re sort of my borderline, and they don’t quite make this top 50 list. If, say, we elected 10 players this year and freed up a ton of spots for next year? They’d be first on the list. But right now, they’ll have to settle for honorable mentions.

There are two other changes I would make to this list, though. First, Adam’s rejiggering of Hall Rating has given me second thoughts. I waffled back and forth on getting rid of Wes Ferrell last year; his combination of pitching and hitting was hard to beat. Bob Caruthers had a similar case, actually. However, Caruthers played much earlier in the history of the game. In the refiguring of innings pitched value for early pitchers, Caruthers dropped quite a bit. I’d be more than willing to swap Caruthers out for Ferrell, especially since they fill a similar niche.

One other player I have second thoughts about every year is Eddie Cicotte. I even marked him on my spreadsheet from last year. He always looks like a good idea, but when I would do my write-up for him, I’d always sort of lose my conviction on him. Also, I’ve been wanting to fit Tommy John onto the list. This seems like as good a swap as any. Also, it’s worth bringing up their Fangraphs WAR, where John is over 75 while Cicotte is below 50. Fangraphs WAR for older pitchers is a little weird for my liking (maybe I just need to get used to it more, who knows; there are just a few pitchers who seem a little higher or lower than I would have thought), but I think that’s a pretty comfortable margin to go by.

And…that’s about it, really. My list is the same as last year’s version, with six changes:

Deacon White (elected to Hall) -> Greg Maddux
Ezra Sutton -> Mike Mussina
Ross Barnes -> Tom Glavine
Tommy Bond -> Frank Thomas
Bob Caruthers -> Wes Ferrell
Eddie Cicotte -> Tommy John

Monday, December 9, 2013

Roy Halladay's Retirement and Cooperstown

I wanted to explain my awards ballot, but a faulty computer and other commitments have eaten into my opportunities to do that. So rather than dwell on older news, I figured that I may as well move on to newer things, especially since Hall of Fame season is coming up. And so, this piece will be about the Hall of Fame.

Not the newly-elected Veterans Committee picks, though. As I wrote last time, all three were deserving, but they only represented about half (or less) of the deserving people on the ballot. Besides, I would just rehash old ground (such as, why was there a vote cap, or why were managers competing with executive and players for induction, or who exactly picked those players anyway). No, I’m going to start looking forward, to recently-retired Roy Halladay’s case. What will his debate look like come late 2018?

Let’s start like most Hall voters probably will, with pitching wins. Halladay had 203 of them, a rather low total for the traditionally wins-centric BBWAA. 203 ties him with Lew Burdette, Silver King, and Jack Stivetts, not the biggest bunch of names. Right above him are Orel Hershiser and Al Orth, right below him are Charlie Root and Hall member Rube Marquard. Marquard isn’t exactly the best Hall of Famer to stake your case on, though.

Winning Percentage paints him a lot better-Halladay is 17th all-time. Everyone above him with as many seasons pitched is in Cooperstown or will be. Pedro Martinez is the will be, in this case, and he makes for a pretty good comp, career-length-wise, and both had a similarly low amount of wins. Pedro was better, but he’ll probably serve as an indicator of how Doc’s case will fare, if nothing else.

Let’s move from the ridiculous to the only kind of dumb; every pitcher with three or more Cy Young Awards is in the Hall (or is Roger Clemens). Doc has two. What has that meant historically? His fellow two-Cy pitchers and their Hall verdict:

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hall of Fame Season Begins with the Veterans Committee!

As a preface-this was meant to be posted two weeks ago. And then my computer crashed. Thankfully, this was salvaged though!
I forgot that the Veterans Committee ballot was released so much earlier than the rest of the Hall of Fame season. I also forgot to save frequently, so the first version of this article vanished into the ether. Which is a shame, because I was on a roll, too. I’ll try to recapture my muse, though.

Anyway, since I usually weigh in on Hall of Fame things, I should probably offer my two cents. The ballot this year is fairly load as far as these things go. The twelve finalists include:

Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, Billy Martin, George Steinbrenner, Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dave Parker, Dan Quisenberry, and Dave Concepcion

It’s a bit of a confusing list. First, why limit it to twelve? There are plenty of people from the Expansion Era who would hold their own on a Hall ballot (I should write more about the Veterans Committee process later). Let’s assume that the limit is just for practicality though. Then why these twelve? Why are managers competing with players (not even getting into the weirdness of Steinbrenner and Miller)?

And even if we do narrow it down to just players, why these players? For example, I’ve written for the 50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame project. Just look at this list to start with. Why isn’t Lou Whitaker on the list? Or Bobby Grich? Or Dwight Evans, or Sal Bando, or Graig Nettles, or Keith Hernandez, or Luis Tiant, or Dick Allen, or any number of other worthy recent players?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cardinals Fall Short in 2013 Series, but There's a Lot to Look Forward To

Now that the World Series is over and the Cardinals are finally done, I guess I can get back to writing about baseball. And what better way to get back into the swing of things than writing about the Series that just ended?

On one hand, this is a particularly rough way for my team go down. I had been particularly hoping the Cardinals won this one on behalf of Carlos Beltran. He’s been, by all accounts, an incredible and underrated star with a history of great postseason performances and disappointing endings. And by all accounts, he’s been a great guy, too; it’s hard not to feel miserable for him. I’m sorry we couldn’t get him a ring the way we did with Lance Berkman.

There are other reasons to feel frustrated about this series, too. Mike Matheny looked overmatched at times. The Cardinals were utterly deserted by the luck they had experienced with runners in scoring position during the regular season-St. Louis actually outhit the Red Sox 45 to 41 over the six games, despite being outscored 27 to 14. It’s not hard to imagine a title with only two or three more lucky breaks.

But, at the same time, there’s a lot to be excited for in the future. This team won 97 games this season, but there’s still reason to hope for improvement. First and foremost is the pitching; Adam Wainwright may or may not replicate his stellar year as the team’s ace, but there’s still plenty of depth around him. Shelby Miller, just 22 this season, burst out the gates, making a case for Rookie of the Year. Michael Wacha, who turned 22 in July, made a name for himself in September and October.

And then there’s Carlos Martinez (turned 22 in September) and set-up man-turned-closer Trevor Rosenthal (23), who will both hopefully get to show their stuff in the rotation (Jason Motte will be returning from surgery next year, meaning they should have enough depth to shift them). And that’s not even getting into Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, and Joe Kelly, all of whom will still be around.

There’s good things on offense, too. Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, and Allen Craig will all be returning. Matt Carpenter had a breakout year at the top of the lineup, and can either stay at second or move to third if prospect Kolten Wong forces his way into the lineup. Matt Adams may become a regular force in the lineup, and the team also has top prospect Oscar Taveras in the wings.

There’s even more to be excited about for 2014. The team could always make a move from outside the organization. Beltran will be hard to replace, but the only other players who are free agents are Jake Westbrook (who looks to be the eighth or so starter on the depth chart), Edward Mujica (who was admittedly a good reliever for most of the season, but those are rather replaceable), Chris Carpenter, and Rafael Furcal (both of whom were injured the entirety of 2013).

All in all, those five represent over $40 million coming off the books, with only one part looking hard to replace. Granted, there will be player raises through arbitration and such, but that still leaves them with something in the neighborhood of $30 million to use as needed for whatever holes they can’t fill internally. It’s a lot of flexibility, especially for a team with as much of a long-term core in place.

It’s always tough to take a loss like this, when you were so close to the top. But it makes me feel better that there are so many reasons for Cardinals fans to be optimistic about 2014 and beyond.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Evaluating Postseason Performance, with Carlos Beltran, David Ortiz, and WAR

Many fans outside of New England and the Midwest may be upset with this year’s World Series match-up; no matter which team wins, the Red Sox and Cardinals will have combined for half of the past decade’s titles. One upside of it though is that the world gets a little bit more of two of the game’s greatest postseason hitters in Carlos Beltran and David Ortiz.

Beltran and Ortiz are both special for another reason; a majority of fans still see them as borderline Hall candidates in need of more October glory to stamp their eventual ticket to Cooperstown. Several writers this week have looked at the issue already. I would agree with Dave Cameron’s thinking that Beltran is already a Hall of Famer, but I wanted to look at it in another way.

Wins Above Replacement has taken off in the national consciousness as of late, and for good reason. Few stats can take as all-encompassing a look at on-field results and turn them into something easy to understand and compare. With the spread of the WAR framework, many people have gotten used to the scale it works on as well. For example, by Baseball-Reference’s version of the calculation, players start to get serious Hall consideration around 60 or so Wins and become locks around 70.

Beltran already has a solid case at 67.5, while Ortiz is a little lagging at only 44.2. However, those figures don’t account for their aforementioned post-season prowess. Is there a way we can add that in to the WAR framework?

2013 Baseball Bloggers Alliance Award Ballot

The postseason is a weird time for me. Despite all the baseball going on, I usually don’t write as much. Partly because watching games takes up a larger percentage of my time than it normally does, with multiple must-watch games on most days, but also partly because I really just don’t do reaction writing to individuals games. It just seems too reactionary to what is generally a pretty randomized tournament.

This isn’t to say that I don’t have anything planned about the play-offs, though, so be on the look-out in the next few days. However, until that’s ready, I’m getting a jump start on the offseason awards by posting my ballots for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance elections. In the coming weeks, I’ll be going in depth on each selection, but until then, I’m just making sure that my ballot gets in on time.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The All-Expansion World Series That Never Was: A Brief History of Expansion Teams in the Post-Season

Something interesting that I saw pointed out in an article the other day: the Rays were the only expansion team that made the playoffs (even counting that stupid Wild Card Round). Just think about that for a second; almost half the league (fourteen out of thirty, to be exact) is expansion teams, and a full third of the league makes the playoffs now (still stupid), but only one-tenth of the playoff teams were expansion teams. Or, to put it another way, over half of the original sixteen teams were in the playoffs.

On top of that, there has never been an all-expansion team World Series. That’s why, in the event that I don’t have a rooting interest remaining, playoff droughts and expansion teams generally get my sympathies in the postseason. It seems so small, yet ground-breaking.

In any case, what’s the closest baseball has ever gotten to an all-expansion World Series? And what are the prospects of it happening in the future? Let’s start with the first question.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Why I Hate the Wild Card Game

I feel like I've railed against the new one-and-done playoff round before, but this year is a perfect example of why I dislike it.

I know people love to say that the Wild Card is the "easy" way in to the playoffs, which is why it's okay for the top two Wild Card teams to fight for the spot. But look at the NL. This year, the 94-win Pirates and Francisco Liriano get one game to "prove" that they're better than Johnny Cueto and the 90-win Reds. How does that make any sense? Why does this one game mean so much more than the previous 162? Or the 19 other games the Reds faced the Pirates this year (of which the Pirates won 11)? One false slip (like, say, this) and that 4-win difference means nothing.

People always come back to that with "well, they should have won their division." That's still awful reasoning to justify an unfair system. Why do the Pirates' 94 wins (in a division with three playoff teams, one of whom had the best record in the NL, no less) count for less than the Dodgers' 92 (and in a division where the second best team went 81-81*)? Why is it the Pirates who have to justify their place in October? Why not have a one-game playoff between the Reds and Dodgers? Is it just because the Dodgers had the foresight to move west fifty-odd years ago?

*Although, strangely enough, the Dodgers actually carried a losing record against their NL West opponents.

This happened last year, too, when the 88-win Tigers (sixth-best record in the AL) snuck in through the weak AL Central while the 90+ win Orioles and Rangers had a one-game playoff (to be fair, since they had the same record, that would have happened in the old system too). But I think this one is an even better example of the ridiculousness of it, given that 1) one Wild Card team surpassed a division-winner; 2) the Wild Card teams play in the same division, so there's no "unbalanced schedule" argument; and 3) the race for top Wild Card wasn't particularly close. The only argument against actually having the two worst playoff teams play each other seems to be the divisions, a completely arbitrary assignment.

I probably shouldn't be as worked up about this. The World Series stopped being about crowning the best team in baseball long ago. But maybe the fact that so many people pretend it is is what annoys me. Or maybe it's just the awful logical reasonings that get thrown around to justify it, as if this is a better, more exciting, or more fair system than what existed before. It very clearly is not.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Appreciating Todd Helton and Andy Pettitte (and the Hall of Fame, of course)

Within the past week, both Andy Pettitte and Todd Helton made their retirements official. And as expected, people have turned to the Hall of Fame and where these two fit into the conversation. And of course, because I look for every excuse possible to write about the Hall, I may as well jump in with my take.

I’ve said this several times, but I err on the side of a larger Hall of Fame. So I see Todd Helton’s 55.8 career fWAR and 61.3 bWAR and see someone who’s nowhere near the worst choice for first basemen. For his career (as of right now, at least), he has 368 home runs (75th all-time) and 591 doubles (16th). His career batting line is .316/.414/.539 (average/OBP/slugging), making him one of twenty-three players in history with a .300/.400/.500 career batting line (over 3000 plate appearances*). His career OPS+ (which is park-adjusted, remember) is 133, right there with Hall of Famers like Al Kaline, Paul Waner, Orlando Cepeda, Al Simmons, Billy Williams, Joe Medwick, and Tony Gwynn. Granted, there are also non-Hall of Famers in that range, but it’s a good start at least.

*Fun fact: I first had the limit set to 1000 games when I searched this. The 1000 game cut-off includes reliever Roberto Hernandez, who appeared in 1010 games and went 1 for 2 with a single and a strike out over seventeen seasons, giving him a .500/.500/.500 line.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Retired Number Spin-Offs: Retired Number Rates Throughout the League, and Thoughts About Them

To celebrate the 300th post at Hot Corner Harbor, I’m taking a look at my favorite topic in a way that I’ve wanted to for a while now. One thing that I began wondering about a lot while working on the Retired Numbers Series was the rate that different teams retired numbers. For example, both the Astros and the Pirates had nine retired numbers, but those nines were not arrived at through similar means at all. So what does each team look like on a rate basis?

Well, that’s a tricky question. First of all, not every retired number is retired equally. Specifically, there are four that are a little different. When writing my series, I covered every retired number, but for the purpose of a study, I threw out a few. First of all, the (rather ridiculous, to be completely honest) 455 retired by the Cleveland Indians is gone. It really has no predictive value, and relatively little historical value (that’s no longer even the sell-out record).

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Has Bryce Harper Been a Disappointment This Year?

I feel like I write about Bryce Harper a lot. At least he’s an interesting player to write about. Actually, that’s probably why I write about him so much. Anyway, today’s question: Has Bryce Harper been a disappointment this season?

I haven’t really seen many serious articles on this topic, which is really good (because it’s a dumb question). However, I feel like some fans are starting to have doubts about how good he is after this year. I’ve seen people point out a number of ways that he hasn’t “lived up to the hype” so far, though.

Again, it’s usually more from commenters than writers (I have long speculated I would be a happier person on the whole if I refrained from reading internet comments). But I’ve still seen the gamut of complaints, from people criticizing his selection to the All-Star Game (already his second, mind you) to “only” hitting .273 with 49 RBIs.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Retired Number Spin-Off: Going Where No Retired Numbers Have Gone Before, or Why Do Baseball Players Hate 8?

One cool thing about doing the Retired Number Series was all of the ideas for spin-offs I got. However, I wanted to wait until I finished the main series to work on those. Now that that’s out of the way, though, I can work on these side projects.

One thing that I always thought was interesting was the breadth of numbers worn. I remember seeing this chart from Flip Flop Fly Ball and thinking about teams needing triple digit numbers and all the numbers that would have to be out of use to get to them. And from there, I for some reason thought of how that span would look.

Basically, after doing 30 retired number pieces, you get to notice that some numbers show up more than others. In case you were wondering, 20 showed up more than any others, with nine occurrences.* In total, 51 useable numbers have been retired (this disqualifies Cleveland’s 455). They span from 1 (seven times) to 85 (once, Augie Busch). 72 was the highest one that was actually worn by a player (Carlton Fisk).

*Luis Gonzalez, Monte Irvin, Lou Brock, Pie Traynor, Mike Schmidt, Frank White, Don Sutton, and Frank Robinson twice

Seeing stuff like this made me wonder what the lowest unretired number was. When I began, it was 28. Since then, the Twins have honored Bert Blyleven. Apparently though, players don’t like the 8’s. The now-lowest unretired number is 38.

So what as-of-yet-unhonored numbers may someday join these illustrious ranks? Well, Baseball-Reference has introduced a cool tool (at least, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t around when I started). Clicking on a player’s jersey will take you to a list of all the players to wear a jersey in that team’s history (for example, see the Astros’ page). From there, you can navigate to each individual jersey’s page (again, see 20’s page for reference).

Now with a purpose, I investigated each number without a represented player to see what may eventually become the new lowest not-retired number.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Retired Numbers Series: Toronto Blue Jays

Just over two years ago, I started the Retired Numbers Series with the intent of taking a thorough examination at every team’s history and how their outlook for future ceremonies appeared. This is the culmination of those 26 months of effort; finally, we move north of the border to cover our last team, the only still-existent non-American team, the Toronto Blue Jays. One of the newer teams in the league, the Blue Jays have taken a somewhat unique approach to honoring former players, but have as of recently started to move in a more traditional direction. What does their future hold?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Retired Numbers Series: San Francisco Giants

As the Retired Number Series quickly draws closer to an end, we’re left with only two more teams to cover. But one of them is quite a big player in the retired-number-field. The San Francisco Giants are both the final National League team and the final original sixteen team I have left. With a history dating back to 1883, only two teams have honored as many players as the Giants. Will the future bring even more?

Notes on the Numbers
Some quick notes on the stats: the two most prominent stats I used are similarly named. Both are called WAR, or Wins Above Replacement. They both try to account for every part of a player’s game, including, but not limited to: offense, defense, position, and playing time. So, it is a counting stat, like hits or home runs (with the small difference that bad seasons can actually decrease your WAR, if you are worse than a replacement player). WAR credits a player with how many wins they have provided to their team. They aren’t perfect, but for my purposes (a single number showing roughly how good a player has been), they work perfectly.

There are two major sites that provide WAR, Baseball-Reference (henceforth called bWAR) and Fangraphs (fWAR). The two are mostly the same, with the biggest difference coming from the different fielding stats the two use. Fangraphs has a fairly good summary of what makes up WAR and how it is calculated (for those wanting a more general summary, the introduction works just fine). Pitching is slightly different: Fangraphs’ WAR for pitchers, until recently (as in, after I started this series), only went back to 1974, so for my purposes, I stuck to just bWAR for them.