Archive for January 2014

Don Mattingly: Best Player At His Peak?

January 5, 2014

When looking at Don Mattingly’s Hall of Fame case many journalists mention how Mattingly was the best player in baseball during his peak and before his back was a problem. So that got me thinking- was Don Mattingly truly the best player in baseball during his peak?

Mattingly’s peak was four years- 1984 to 1987. He accumulated a 24.7 fWAR which was good for 6.2 WAR per season or 5.8 WAR/650 PA. So Mattingly was an MVP level player for four seasons- pretty dang good. Mattingly played another eight seasons after 1987 but only had a 3+ WAR season twice and only had 600+ PA a season four times in that span. His average wRC+ was 152 so the man could hit. This was achieved with a high .300’s OBP and mid .500’s SLG.

As the numbers show Mattingly does have a good case for the being the best player in baseball during his peak. But was he really “the best”?

Candidates:

Rickey Henderson- 2392 PA, .289/.397/.484/.391/145+; 274 SB, 26.7 fWAR, 7.3 WAR/650PA

Tim Raines- 2674 PA, .323/.409/.477/.388/146+; 265 SB, 26.6 fWAR, 6.5 WAR/650PA

Wade Boggs- 2844 PA, .353/.442/.489/.411/152+; 31.4 fWAR, 7.2 WAR/650PA

Cal Ripken- 2858 PA, .280/.352/.469/.362/124+; 25.6 fWAR, 5.8 WAR/650PA

Mike Schmidt- 2547 PA, .284/.384/.541/.395/148+; 24.3 fWAR, 6.2 WAR/650PA

Tony Gwynn- 2727 PA, .341/.400/.457/.376/139+; 24.2 fWAR, 5.8 WAR/650PA

After looking at it, I do not think Mattingly was the best player in baseball during his peak. Of the candidates, I would take Henderson, Raines, Boggs, Ripken, and Schmidt over him. Why? When it comes to Henderson and Raines I think both were simply better players. Mattingly certainly had more power, but Rickey and Raines were better OBP who could field, hit, and run. Mattingly was simply a hitter who played first base. That is partly why I would also take Mike Schmidt and Cal Ripken as well. Third and short are more valuable positions- and both Schmidt and Ripken were exceptional fielders who are also all-time hitters at their respective positions. As for Boggs, I think he may be the best player between 1984 and 1987, if not Rickey or Raines.

In the end though, it’s super close and still being a top five player at your peak is still impressive.

 

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Hall of Fame Watch: Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling

January 4, 2014

The voting results for the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot will be released next week. It might be the most stacked ballot ever (until 2015). So over the next couple days I will try to highlight a couple players on the ballot.

First- the obvious “yes” players to both stat and non-stat fans: Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez.

Maddux and Thomas are HOF’ers to the SABR crowd and non-SABR crowd. Bagwell is a no-doubter unless you think he was a PED-user. Martinez is a no-doubter if you get off the “he was a DH!” high horse. Dude finished with a .300/.400/.500 line. Offensive era and ballpark? He still had a 60+ fWAR career with the DH positional hit affecting his WAR.

With that, let’s take a quick look at Mike Mussina and his statistical twin, Curt Schilling.

Here are his stats:

3562 IP, 3.68 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 7.11 K/9, 1.98 BB/9, 0.95 HR/9, 1.19 WHIP, 82.5 fWAR, 4.6 fWAR/200IP

Let’s work backwards on this one. He has a career 82.5 WAR. That puts him at 19th, ALL-TIME. If you go by bWAR Mussina is still the in the top 20. In case you’re wondering, there are most than 20 pitchers in the Hall of Fame. Now let’s see why his WAR is so high.

He was a control master. His highest BB/9 was 2.55 in 1996. Retiring with a sub 2.0 BB/9 is absurd. For comparison, Greg Maddux, who many consider to be one of the best strike throwing pitchers of all-time, had a BB/9 of 1.80. So Mussina kept runners off base which helped keep runs off the board.

His one flaw was the long ball. However, consider the context- in pitched in Camden Yards and Yankee Stadium during an era of high home runs that. Although high, his HR/9 is still under 1.0 at 0.85.

The average HOF pitcher throws 3788 career innings. Mussina is about 200 innings or a season short of that. On average Mussina pitched 198 innings a season- a figure which jumps to 204 if you remove his rookie season where he made just 12 starts. So Mussina was a consistent pitcher who could be relied on for 200+ innings a season.

Overall, Mussina is a great HOF candidate who would actually be one of the better pitchers to be inducted into Cooperstown.

Now we can look at Mussina’s twin, Curt Schilling.

3261 IP, 3.46 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 8.60 FIP, 1.96 BB/9, 0.96 HR/9, 1.14 WHIP, 83.2 fWAR, 5.1 WAR/200IP

Mussina threw exactly 301 more career innings. They are within 1 WAR of each other, 0.05 WHIP, 0.001 HR/9, and 0.00 BB/9. Wow. Both were strike throwers who walked very few and gave up the long ball with some frequency, but not enough to dampen their effectiveness. Removing seasons where he pitched out of the bullpen, Schilling was good an average of 202 innings per year. He hit his peak in the late 1990s and early 2000s when he would throw 250-270 innings a season.

Where Schilling and Mussina differ is the strikeout and and “dominance”. Schilling strike out just about a batter an inning. Strikeouts are the best way to prevent runs and Schilling was fantastic at that. Moreover, from 1998-2004 Schilling had five MVP-caliber WAR seasons (above 6.0) including two in the 7’s, two in the 8’s, and one at 9.3 in 2002. On the other hand, Mussina had “just” three MVP WAR seasons and all were in the 6’s. Instead though, he consistently sat around 5-6 WAR year after year, whereas Schilling would peak and valley between 7 WAR seasons and 3 WAR seasons.

Either way, both pitchers had phenomenal careers. If Mussina is HOF worthy then Schilling should definitely be worthy. When it comes to the three true outcomes, both are identical with BB and HR, but Schilling did a better job striking batters out, which is better at preventing base runners and runs then letting a ball be hit into play.