Eno Sarris at Fangraphs on how the new schedule will affect the NL's use of the DH. Basically, it comes down to: keep a full-time DH (i.e. pretend you're in the AL anyway), use a pinch-hitter, move an aging or bad-glove guy into the slot, or most intriguingly, add someone to the roster in June. Andre Ethier, whose contract is now pretty pricey for a guy who can only hit righties, starts to look a little better in that light.
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“I made my major league debut in 1964 at old Colt Stadium, a rickety wooden structure that wasn’t any better that the minor league stadium in Los Angeles where I watched the Hollywood Stars and the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League. In September of that year, Colt Stadium occupied a small corner of what was to be the Astrodome parking lot while the dome itself, with all the cranes surrounding it issued a stark announcement of the things to come . . . I never dreamed that the steel structure I saw in September could become so magnificent in the space of six months, vaulting over Dodger Stadium and that of every other major league team. A monument unto itself.”
- Larry Dierker, This Ain’t Brain Surgery: How to Win the Pennant Without Losing Your Mind
January 3rd, 1962 marked the official start of construction for the Astrodome and ushered a new era for sports and entertainment for the city of Houston. The only stadium to be prominently featured as a part of a professional team’s logo, the Astrodome is forever linked with a city that was a prominent part of advances in space exploration in the 1960’s and the baseball team that called it home for 34 years. As the team transitions to the American League, the Astrodome will stand as one the prominent symbols of the Astros history in the National League.
Baseball-Statistics.com has a very nice write up on the history of the Dome, but here are some of the particulars:
At the time of its completion in 1965, the Astrodome (dubbed “the eighth wonder of the world”) boasted many engineering accomplishments. At 660’ wide, the circular roof was the world’s largest self supporting dome. Encompassing 9½ acres, an 18-story build could be tucked away inside. This massive expanse added up to the world’s first multi-purpose (baseball, football) sports dome.
The enormity of the Astrodome is reflected in the field demensions: 340’ at the left and right corners, 375’ in the power alleys and 406’ to dead center. The stadium would become more imposing for hitters when the power alleys were moved to 390’ for the 1966 season. Think Petco Park with a roof and the ball does not carry in air-conditioning. Updates were made to the Dome in 1977, lowering the outfield walls from 16’ to 10’ and moving them in to 375’ in the power alleys and 400' in strait away center. The foul lines would also be steadily brought in over the years to a final resting place of 325’.
Looking at Jeff Bagwell’s home/away splits for 1999 – the last season for baseball in the Astrodome – we find that during away games we have the following differentials during away games*:
Runs: +15; HR: +18; RBI: +32; Average: +.066; Slugging %: +.240; Total Bases: +72
*Stats taken from Baseball-Reference.com
As difficult as the dimensions of the field made it to send one out, the roof made it just as difficult to pick up the spin on the ball. Light coming through the white-washed Lucite roof panels impaired batters ability to see the ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand. Minute Maid Park has the same problem during mid-afternoon games with light coming throught its glass paneling. Painting the panels helped with tracking fly balls, but it did not allow enough light for the field grass to survive. This lead to the development of “Astroturf”: a synthetic playing surface that continues to have a major impact on the world of sports to this day. The turf itself was not installed until 1966, so for the inaugural 1965 season the field was mostly green painted dirt.
Sending out a homerun in the Dome may have posed a major challenge for hitters, but the feat was not impossible. For a retelling of the first long ball to soar over the 16’ outfield walls, Larry Dierker’s This Ain’t Brain Surgery sets the scene nicely:
“The first official preseason game in the Dome came the next day and it was played at night, when tracking fly balls was not a problem . . . Yankees skipper Johnny Keane inserted Mickey Mantle in the lead-off spot so that he would be the first batter in Astrodome history and Mantle hit a long home run off Turk Farrell into the big ramp beyond the center field fence that served as the batters eye . . . We ended up beating the Bombers 2-1 in extra innings on a hit by our first base coach, Nellie Fox. Looking back, the game foreshadowed the entire history of the stadium where low-scoring games were common.”
Like the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome, the Astrodome became a haven for those seeking refuge from the devastation of Hurricane Karina in 2008. I am not sure what the next few years will bring for the Astrodome as it has not be utilized as an entertainment venue since 2006, but I would hate for it to go the way of the King Dome in Seattle and the RCA dome in Indianapolis. My grandparents moved to Houston in the early ‘60s. My grandfather delivered some of the first loads of steel to the Astrodome construction site in ’62. To see this monument – Larry Dierker’s words, not mine – leveled in a cloud of dust, would be a dark day in the history of the team and the city. I think it is very fitting that Reliant Stadium, the first retractable roof venue in the NFL, stands next to the original innovator at 8400 Kirby Drive.
While Mr. McCatty is more than entitled to that opinion, I could not help but disagree.
What is so peculiar about this comment, is that Washington's starting pitchers had the second-best ERA of any time in baseball, and were fourth in K%. McCatty obviously knows a bit about pitching, as the Nationals rotation is one of the best in baseball, and he is the pitching coach of said staff.
While everyone agrees that strikeouts are the best outcome a pitcher can get, as they are for the most part a guaranteed out, there may be some logic to the notion that high strikeout rates may lead to higher pitch counts and earlier exits from games.
I ran some numbers for the sample of qualified starters from 2002-2012, and came up with some interesting findings.
When I ran K% with innings pitched per start (IP/S), I found a positive correlation with an r-squared of .108 (chart below), but that is hardly definitive. There is a bias, in that pitchers who strike more batters out are going to pitch more innings, because they tend to be better than pitchers who don't strike a lot of batters out.
While that data would in theory make McCatty seem wrong, it is not the strongest correlation and there appears to be a bias. I decided to look closer into his comments, specifically:
"If you try to strike out every hitter you're going to burn up pitches," says McCatty, the Nationals pitching coach. "Look, just do the math. If you're taking 15-20 pitches to get through every inning that will multiply fast."
Since Mr. McCatty asked us to do the math, I did. When running pitches per plate appearance (P/PA) with IP/S, I found that there was an almost nonexistent negative correlation (r-squared of .032), so there may not be as strong a connection between the two as McCatty (or myself) would have expected.
Even though the relationship between P/PA and IP/S was weak, I think common sense should prevail that McCatty has a good point regarding P/PA and IP/S. I just challenge the fact that strikeouts are detrimental to any pitcher's success, because they tend to be the best outcome a pitcher can get.
The reason that this caught my attention is the fact that Stephen Strasburg is possibly the best pitching prospect since Mets' phenom Dwight Gooden, who many believe was corrupted by Mel Stottlemyre, the Mets' pitching coach at the time. Stottlemyre thought it would be best to alter Gooden's repertoire by adding a two-seam fastball. The Mets feared that Gooden would blow his arm out, and wanted to have him pitch to more contact.
After his magnificent 1985 season, the Mets worked with Gooden on a two-seam fastball during the 1986 Spring Training. After that (chart below), his K% dropped dramatically and his ERA- rose accordingly.
As recent studies right here at BtB have shown, strikeouts do not cause injuries. The numbers above show that strikeouts are not necessarily the culprit when it comes to shortening pitcher's outings. That tends to result from poor pitching, which throwing less-hard and trying to pitch to contact may lead to.
I believe that most of what I have said is generally accepted by the sabermetric community and is not groundbreaking, but hopefully Dwight Gooden stands as warning to the Nationals to not tinker with their young phenom. It would be a tragedy to watch history repeat itself.
2013 is officially upon us, and 2012 is in the history books. During the 2012 season, the Braves had plenty of thrilling and memorable moments for their fans, but which one was more so than all the rest? I pored over each of the close victories and walk-off wins of their 94 total and found plenty of worthy candidates, but these four stood out over all the rest. Here are the nominees for Game of the Year.
The Phillies jumped out to a 6-0 lead thanks to a four-run third inning against Tommy Hanson. Down by six against one of the game's best in Roy Halladay, the Braves answered back in a big way in the fifth: Michael Bourn and Martin Prado delivered run-scoring singles with the bases loaded, but Brian McCann provided the biggest blow of the inning with his eighth career grand slam to tie the game. Jason Heyward's two-run single in the sixth gave Atlanta the lead, but Carlos Ruiz stole it back first with a three-run homer in the seventh followed by his three-run double in the eighth, giving the Phillies a 12-8 lead late.
Atlanta's offense, though, came roaring back against a faulty Phillies bullpen with a five-run eighth to capture the lead yet again. However, the pesky Phillies would not be denied, plating a run against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth to force extra innings, tied at 13. In the 11th, Chipper Jones ended the suspenseful battle, sending the Atlanta crowd home happy with a walk-off two-run homer, his first such home run since 2006.
The Natspos frequently give the Braves fits, but more so when the Braves are the visitors and this game was no different, especially now that the Nats were a first-place team to be reckoned with. Washington struck first with Michael Morse's 465 ft. three-run bomb in the first inning off Tommy Hanson. Not to be outdone, Ryan Zimmerman belted a three-run homer of his own in the fourth. Hanson was chased from the game in the fifth, but the Nats added three more with a bases-loaded walk and a two-run single to put the Braves in a 9-0 hole against Stephen Strasburg. Initiate comeback mode.
In the sixth, Brian McCann belted a two-run homer followed by Martin Prado's two-run double to cut Washington's lead to 9-4. Facing the Nats bullpen in the eighth, the Braves continued to chip away. A bases-loaded walk and two run-scoring singles suddenly trimmed a seemingly insurmountable deficit down to a single run. Washington turned to Tyler Clippard to deny the Braves further, but like Storen and Burnett before him, he too was ineffective. Michael Bourn stepped to the plate with two on and drove a triple high off the right field wall, scoring both runners and completing an incredible comeback. The Braves now had a one-run lead heading to the ninth with Craig Kimbrel primed to hammer the final nail in the coffin.
Danny Espinosa, however, spoiled those plans by hammering a Kimbrel fastball over the left field wall to tie the game and send the game to extras. In the 11th, Dan Uggla was at third base when Paul Janish popped up a perfectly placed fly ball that dropped just out of the reach of Ian Desmond. Uggla scored easily and Chad Durbin retired the side in order to seal an improbable victory. Chipper's RBI single in the eighth gave him the most RBI among third basemen in MLB history.
This was not a good day to be Paul Maholm. The Braves had lost each of his two previous starts, and early on in this game, a third loss appeared inevitable. The Phillies plated five first-inning runs on five hits, three of them doubles, and scored two more in the third inning once Maholm was pulled from the game to take a 7-1 lead.
Cole Hamels had established himself as the Phillies' best starter in 2012 and had held the Braves to three hits through five innings. Reed Johnson's two-run single in the sixth pulled Atlanta to within four, but that was all the offense could manage against the Phillies lefty. Meanwhile, five Atlanta relievers stifled the Phillies bats long enough to give the Braves one final chance.
With two on in the bottom of the ninth, Jonathan Papelbon was summoned from the Phillies bullpen to squash Atlanta's rally. Instead, he walked Michael Bourn to load the bases and a line drive by Martin Prado deflected off third baseman Kevin Frandsen allowed two runs to score, trimming the lead to two. Chipper Jones then stepped to the plate with two on and two out. He had already burned the Phillies earlier in the year with a walk-off homer, but he couldn't do it again, could he?
Yes he could. Chipper sent Papelbon's 1-1 pitch deep into the Atlanta night for his 468th, and final, career home run.
Win and you're in. All the Braves had to do was beat the flailing Marlins and they would secure a playoff spot. They certainly had the man on the mound to do it in Kris Medlen; the Braves had won 21 straight Medlen starts leading up to this game. The Marlins countered with Nathan Eovaldi, who had held the Braves scoreless through eight innings in his previous start.
Eovaldi proved to be just as tough this time around, but the Atlanta offense broke through early in the second inning. The Braves already trailing 1-0 on Donovan Solano's first major-league home run, Dan Uggla tied the score with a second-inning single. Neither pitcher budged for the next three innings, but Chipper Jones broke the tie with a sacrifice fly in the sixth. However, Solano stunned a great number of fans when in the seventh, he took Medlen deep a second time, this time a two-run shot to give the Marlins a one-run lead.
Still trailing by one in the ninth, Atlanta faced former Brave Mike Dunn and Chipper Jones greeted him with a leadoff double. The very next batter, Freddie Freeman, wasted little time in making the hometown crowd happy. He hammered Dunn's 1-1 pitch over the center field wall to send the Braves to the playoffs. The home run was the first walk-off homer for Freeman.
There you have it. Vote for the Braves' 2012 Game of the Year below!
I was inspired to run this query for several reasons, really, but the primary catalyst was the recent announcement from Hideki Matsui that he will be retiring from baseball after ten MLB seasons. Matsui had been a reliable contributor to the Yankees lineup for years beginning in 2003, but his value, especially in terms of WAR, plummeted in the later days of his career, ultimately bottoming out at -1.4 for the Tampa Bay Rays in his final season.
This led to me to recall those players in my lifetime that were able to prevent this late-career slide into irrelevance, and instead "go out on top," as it were. Of course, the first example I thought of was another long-time Yankee, Mike Mussina. Mussina was the perfect example of a pitcher who learned to adapt his game as he grew older, and in his final season in 2008 he went 20-9 with a 78 ERA- and a remarkable 4.8 WAR at age 39.
What I wanted, then, was a list of Mussinas: a group of inspiring players that walked away from the game, head held high, age-defying and resilient, without ever having endured the decay that seems to seize the vast majority of baseball greats in their final years.
Instead, my database mostly returned a slate of unfortunate tragedies and abbreviated careers a la Roberto Clemente and Ray Chapman-- players that had clearly and sadly gone too soon. Despite this undesirable turn of events, I've decided to leave the title as I originally intended: Greatest Final Seasons. Hopefully we can at least remember them as they were before they left-- as great ballplayers.
Still, a few Mussinas did make the cut (including 'Moose' himself), and the list isn't entirely depressing. But I insist you to try and guess which position players and pitchers made the top 15 before you read the tables below, as you might find yourself as surprised as I did at some of the results.
All seasons are sorted by Baseball-Reference WAR, and I have restricted the list to final seasons after 1900. Let's begin with the hitters:
Prior to the 1921 season, Shoeless Joe Jackson was famously banned from baseball by commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis for his participation in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal. Jackson was one of the best players in the league at the time of his exile, posting 5+ WAR in four of his last five seasons. The conditions of his sudden and abrupt dismissal from the game of baseball are obviously quite extraordinary, as it's nearly impossible to imagine a 7 WAR player being exiled from the game today.
Similarly, Jackson's teammate Happy Felsch at #2 was also exiled from the game in 1920 for his own involvement in the same scandal. Unlike Jackson, who was 32 years old at the time, Happy was at the peak of his career at age 28 and was just coming off his best season to date.
This past New Year's Eve marked the 40th anniversary of Roberto Clemente's death in the 1972 off-season. Clemente was en route to Nicaragua on a relief mission to assist earthquake victims when his plane tragically crashed off the coast of Puerto Rico immediately after take-off. Clemente is remembered for his humanitarian efforts as much as his baseball talent, and the latter is especially highlighted by his placement at #3 in this table, with an outstanding 4.7 WAR in his final season at age 37.
There are few baseball icons larger than Clemente, but Jackie Robinson is almost certainly that. Robinson, interestingly, is the first player on our list to voluntarily leave the game, although the adverse effects of his diabetes at age 37 certainly played a large part in his decision to retire. It is likely that Robinson had a few good years left in him, hanging it up after an outstanding 4.3 WAR season.
Roy Cullenbine is a sad story of a different kind-- one of an under-appreciated career rather than blatant career-ending tragedy. Cullenbine regularly posted walk rates between 15-20% over the course of his 10 year career from 1938-1947. His ability to harness the power of the free-pass only improved as time went on, ultimately topping out at a remarkable rate of 22.6% in his final season in 1947. Unfortunately for Cullenbine, his unique knack for the bases on balls came at a time in baseball history where significantly more weight was placed on batting average (Roy only hit .224 that year). Despite providing his club with three consecutive seasons of 4+ WAR, Cullenbine was released from the Detroit Tigers at the age of 33.
Chick Stahl at #6 was a player-manager for the Boston Americans at the time of his suicide by carbolic acid in 1907. Stahl was 33 at the time of his death, coming off a 3.9 WAR season. The reasons for his suicide remain a mystery to this day.
Will Clark at #7 represents one of the more recent additions to this list, retiring in 2000 as a 6-time all-star. Clark was just 36 years old at the time of his retirement, coming off a 3.8 WAR season where he hit .319/ .418/ .546 for two teams over just 130 games. Clark cited nagging injuries and 'time with his family' as reasons for leaving the game, but he clearly had plenty off production left in his bat.
Ray Chapman at #8 was an excellent hitting shortstop for the Cleveland Indians until he was hit in the head by a pitch in the fifth inning of a game on August 16, 1920. Chapman died 12 hours later. He was 29 years old.
Jim Doyle at #9 was a third basemen for the Chicago Cubs who died from a burst appendix in the off-season prior to the 1912 season. In his 1911 rookie-season, Doyle posted an impressive 3.2 WAR at the age of 29.
#10 Buck Weaver: Black Sox.
Hank Greenberg at #11 decided to end his Hall of Fame career after nagging injuries mainly in his elbow began affecting his play. Greenberg still managed to produce a sizable 3.2 WAR, and was just one season removed from a 6.3 WAR season in 1946.
And Barry Bonds at #12, of course, was effectively shut out of baseball when no club agreed to sign him in 2008 after he was indicted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in November of the previous year.
Sandy Koufax at #1 should have been an obvious guess for those who were playing along at home. Koufax's outstanding final season in 1966 was worth a mystifying 10 WAR and sits miles above the runner-up. Incidentally this amazingly valuable final season also scores well above the 7.3 WAR from Joe Jackson, who led all position players. Koufax had been warned early into that final year that his 'left-arm of God" would not be able to withstand the rigors of another season. As a consequence, Koufax was forced to leave the game of baseball behind despite leading the league in wins, strikeouts, ERA, and Innings Pitched. Koufax's 1966 is unquestionably the greatest of the greatest final seasons of all time.
Win Mercer at #2 is probably not the most familiar pitcher you'll read about today, but his story is likely one you'll remember after today. Mercer had a number of fine seasons in his early twenties, beginning with his 4.3 WAR rookie-season in 1894. He struggled over the next few seasons until finally posting a triumphant 5.7 WAR in his final season at age 28. Sadly, Mercer committed suicide by inhalation of illuminating gas that off-season. Reports vary as to the reasons behind Mercer's suicide, including claims that he had unconquerable gambling debts, women troubles, pulmonary disease, and severe bouts of depression.
Mike Mussina at #3 is really the only case among all 30 of these ballplayers where retirement was a decision made almost entirely on his own terms and not the result of nagging injury, death, tragedy, permanent exile, the world at war, or collusion. Mike Mussina, as near as I can tell, is the best example of any baseball player who decided, fully of his own volition, to go out on top.
Eddie Cicotte, inventor of the knuckleball, owner of an 82 ERA- and 53 career WAR before the age of 36, was also banned from baseball for his participation in the Black Sox scandal of 1919. He is the fourth and final player we will read about this morning to have been banned for the throwing of the 1919 World Series.
Strangely, I failed to find much of any information on the early death of Dutch Ulrich at age 28. He pitched three seasons of professional baseball from 1925-1927 with a fantastic career 82 ERA-. The same goes for the early retirement at age 33 of Red Donahue, whose career spanned 13 seasons from 1893-1906. If anyone has any information about Dutch or Red, I'd appreciate the heads up.
In his first full-season at age 21 Britt Burns produced a mammoth 6.7 WAR and a sparkling 78 ERA- for the Chicago White Sox, inviting high-expectations for the breakout rookie star. Britt posted a fairly equal mix of excellent and disappointing seasons after that, but ultimately ended with a formidable 4 WAR season in 1985 at the age of 26. Shortly after being traded to the Yankees, it was revealed that Burns had a degenerative hip disease that kept him entirely out of baseball for the next several seasons. Britt attempted a comeback in 1990, where he made 4 starts for two minor league clubs, culminating in a disastrous 11.08 ERA. He never again pitched in a major league game.
Larry Jackson at #8 was a four time all-star for three clubs over the course of 14 seasons from 1955-1968. His career is a fairly impressive one in retrospect, ultimately earning 48 WAR. His Hall of Fame rating, according to Adam Darowski's Hall of Stats, is a very Dale Murphy-esque 86. Yet, at the age of 37, Jackson was selected by the Montreal Expos in the 1969 expansion draft and opted to retire rather than take his chances with the Canadian start-up club. (Gil Mcdougald, #14 among position players, allegedly retired for similar reasons in 1960.)
Monty Stratton at #9 was another promising and rising star in the Chicago White Sox organization whose career was abruptly derailed by tragedy. After a combined 8.5 WAR in his first two full seasons as a starter for the southsiders, Stratton was involved in a hunting accident in the 1939 off-season where he shot himself in the right leg. Even after amputation and the long process of accustoming himself with using a wooden leg, Stratton still attempted a comeback several times in the minors with mixed results. His 1938 season would in fact prove to be his last, but his resolve to overcome his adversity was impressive enough to inspire Hollywood to make a feature film of his life, starring Jimmy Stewart:
Larry French at #10 also had a long, admirable career, totaling 42 WAR and an 81 Hall Rating. French left baseball in 1942, like many of his contemporaries did, to join the armed services. But French, age 34 at the time of his enlistment, opted to remain in the Navy after the war and continued his service until he eventually retired at the age of 62 in 1969.
Curt Schilling was an unstoppable force of nature. 3.8 WAR in 151 IP at age 40 just about says it all.
Mike Sirotka at #12 was a yet another promising young pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, who posted an impressive 90 ERA- over six seasons before being traded to the Blue Jays in the off-season of 2001. Coincidentally or not, it was revealed shortly thereafter that Sirotka had severe shoulder damage and would never pitch again. The controversial incident, sometimes called "Shouldergate," sparked a heated debate between the two front offices for quite some time afterward.
The first exclusion I felt required investigation was Thurman Munson in 1979. Munson, who died practicing touch-and-go landings in a small jet, actually finished the 1978 season with 2.2 WAR in just 97 games. Lou Gherig, incidentally, retired after 8 games in 1939 at the age of 36. In his previous season he posted 4.2 WAR, which would have placed 5th overall amongst position player's final seasons.
Also, one final note: the code for this query required that I eliminated 2012 seasons outright (as well as 2011 seasons for pitchers for reasons that would take too long to explain). As a consequence, any player retiring in either of these seasons would not have made the list. To my memory, there were no recently-retired players who would have cracked either top 15. If I have missed any, please let me know.
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Knowing what was coming, in a way I already responded to Troy Renck's Hall of Fame ballot a week ago, as his Javert act (guess which movie I saw this week,) against Larry Walker's Lasik surgery and other perceived crimes against the game, combined with a false view of the outfielder's worthiness statistically, kept Walker off his ballot last year, and I figured the reporter's reasoning wouldn't shift that quickly at all. Renck does vote for several players that don't measure up to Walker statistically, while saying the outfielder comes up just short:
Edgar Martinez - at the plate alone he beats Walker, but add in fair value Larry Walker's baserunning and defense, and it's a different story. I'm okay with Martinez as a Hall of Famer, but if you consider him to be one, so is Walker
Mike Piazza - It's a similar story here, Piazza (143 OPS+) had a slightly better bat than Walker (141 OPS+) through their careers. Piazza also played a more difficult position for most of his, but he played it very poorly. A writer might not want to hold this against Piazza and even give him credit for the added wear and tear of playing catcher, but they should try to also add the defensive and baserunning value to Walker to be fair. All told, Walker added about two MVP level seasons to his value over Piazza by having a position that he could play well at by the stats, but I think both are HOF worthy, ultimately.
Craig Biggio - Biggio played 20 seasons and collected over 3000 hits, he stole over 400 bases, and I seemed to recall his defense not being that bad in his prime. I'm sure many with Hall ballots remember the same. In the past he'd be a surefire Hall of Fame player for these reasons alone, and I'm guessing he'll still get in somewhat easily, but measurements show that he's a case of a player extending their career too long to the detriment of his team in selfish pursuit of those flashy round numbers that will get him in. He was a terrible liability on the field by the end of his career, and the Astros suffered for it. Renck judges Walker for not playing and hurting his team, however with Biggio, there's a case of a player that played too much for his own personal glory and also hurt his team. This is where I think casting the moral judgments that writers like Renck do gets very sticky, very quickly.
Jack Morris - Eh... it's banging one's head against a brick wall to continue arguing this one. They want Morris, who played well but not great with good teams in, but they don't want Dennis Martinez who had almost the exact same career with obscure teams to be allowed in. Neither should be Hall of Famers, but the similarity of the two careers with such a wide disparity of Hall treatment makes one wonder what in these players' backgrounds is causing the difference.
The Rockies signed pitchers Erick Threets and Tim Gustafson to minor league contracts. Threets pitched in the Dodgers and A's systems last season and hasn't allowed a run in 4.1 winter league innings, but last pitched in the majors for the White Sox in 2010. He had a pretty remarkable year as a LOOGY then, allowing just two runs in 32.1 innings between AAA and the majors before being shut down for TJ surgery and missing all of 2011. As an effective lefty, he could be an interesting sleeper candidate to take a spot in the Rockies bullpen out of Spring training, and as he's fully recovered from the surgery now, could almost certainly be expected at Coors Field at some point next season.
Gustafson's going to have a bit more of a hurdle to get past, as the former Georgia Tech pitcher has hit a AAA wall in both the Braves and Reds organizations. He's probably signed more for taking on innings at Colorado Springs and easing the strain on other pitchers in the system than for his own MLB potential, but with a rotation as weak as the Rockies, he probably recognized the increased chance he gets to see his MLB debut this year.
The Miami Marlins may still be in the process of building back the trust of fans after a tumultuous year of botched free-agent signing, finger-pointing, and fire sale trades, but believe it or not, the Fish could not have "picked" a better time to lay low in the free agent market.
Those around the game understood that aside from a few players, this free agent class would be a particularly weak one. Now that Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke have found new clubs, teams have been forced to pick from the scrap heap, and in some cases overpay for these players that could wind up being burdens on the payroll down the road.
After a disastrous 2012 season, we knew that the Marlins would not be major players for the big-name free agents like Hamilton, Greinke, etc., and it was likely that more roster overhaul was on the way. Though there were few people who believed we would see a deal as big as the one with the Toronto Blue Jays, the moves made thus far have not been entirely out of character for the franchise.
There has been plenty of cynicism surrounding the Miami Marlins over the last twelve months, but as the calendar turns to 2013, perhaps it's time to express a little optimism about the direction of the organization.
As it stands, the Fish have just $34.5 million worth of guaranteed contracts in 2013, with a whopping one third of that total committed to currently-disgruntled pitcher Ricky Nolasco. Their second-highest paid player at the moment is recent free agent signee Placido Polanco. The Marlins' peanut vendor will be the third-highest paid member of the organization before we know it.
Jokes aside, the Marlins have financial flexibility. They found out very quickly that throwing money at big-name players does not fix things and even though some were risky or plain bad investments to begin with (see: Heath Bell), the truth is money does not buy championships. But even with payroll slashed, it is clear that spending will only occur when and if Jeffrey Loria and company say it will. In other words, it is unlikely that a spending spree like the one we saw last winter will ever happen again with this team, but they will at least have a good deal of financial flexibility to do so if they so choose.
Another reason for optimism is the vast improvement across the Fish's minor league system. In the past year, the club has added Rob Brantly, Nathan Eovaldi, Jacob Turner, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, Andrew Heaney to a system that already boasted Top 100 talents in Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich. Aside from Fernandez (and possibly Yelich), none of the players on this list project to be perennial All-Stars or batting champions, but they at the very least provide a system with plenty of depth. The Marlins also possess one of the best young players in the game in Giancarlo Stanton for the forseeable future. Even manager Mike Redmond represents a fresh perspective and managing style while at the same time being familiar with the organization. The fact is that one only has to look to the Fish's in-state counterpart, the Tampa Bay Rays, to see how a strong farm system can be the key to long-term success without having to break the bank in free agency.
The Marlins have a long ways to go before they can distance themselves from the bevy of poor personnel decisions that have made them the punchline of baseball over the last year, but that is not to say the glimmer of hope is completely absent.
Yesterday’s post suggested that if you look at Young’s overall WAR numbers over the last five seasons, he doesn’t fareRead the Rest...
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Eric Davis 1987 Donruss Highlights – ‘April Player Of The Month’ We all know who wound up with the MVP Award in the National League in 1987. But, Andre definitely had some competition that year. His two biggest challengers for … Continue reading →
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Rob Neyer at Baseball Nation talks about the DH rule: To DH or not to DH: That is the question (again?)
Hey, I can follow baseball writers on Twitter as well as the next guy. It's a good thing too! Because otherwise I wouldn't have begun to think that today would be the day to argue about the Designated Hitter! My thanks to The Week's Anna Hiatt for raising an issue that will, I hope, live forever:
Tom Tango at The Book Blog links to his archive of DH posts: DH archive
With interleague every day, it’s just a matter of time until we get interconference games instead (one league, one rule). There will be consistency across the board, and that means how to handle the pitcher-as-batter. We’ve had plenty of good threads on the subject, so for those interested, below is the whole list. If you want to make a comment, find the appropriate thread, and post there.
Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus looks at value that pitchers provide when not pitching: Pebble Hunting: The Non-Pitching Value of Pitchers
I was talking to a friend the other day who pointed out that, had Johnny Cueto not been knocked out in the first game, and had not Mike Leake been the Reds' uninspiring only option to replace him, the Giants probably wouldn’t have won the NLDS or, consequently, the World Series.
Matthew Kory of Over the Monster continues the ongoing debate over the trade value of Giancarlo Stanton: What The Boston Red Sox Might Have To Give Up For Giancarlo Stanton
Way back in late October, we OTM'ers wrote up our off-season prescriptions for the Red Sox. I don't mention this because I won the vote, although I did, I bring it up because my plan hinged on a somewhat outlandish idea: trading for Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.
People have expected big things from Freddie Freeman. I know this because Freeman is a professional baseball player, and all of those guys — each and every last one of them — was at one point considered a future star. The backup catcher, the disappointing first baseman, the 36-year-old in triple-A — former superstars, somewhere, thought to have the brightest of futures. Sometimes they fulfill their promise and most of the times they do not.
Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times talked about the 25,000th day-versary of an intentional walk with the bases-loaded, as well as other day-versaries: 25,000 days since a bases-loaded intentional walk
25,000 days ago, Cubs slugger Bill Nicholson had the greatest game of his career. It was very nearly a day for the ages—and topping it off, the opposing team paid Nicholson the highest of all compliments.
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Today's BtB Retro is an old post involving VORP (instant classic), written by Sky Kalkman: Introducing JustVORP (12/8/08)
One of the most popular sabermetric statistics ever invented is VORP, Baseball Prospectus' measure of offensive value over replacement player. Not only does it measure offense, it compares each player to his positional peers, because a catcher with an .800 OPS is much more valuable than a first baseman with an .800 OPS.