Archive for the ‘Clearing the Bases’ category

Derek Jeter blasts hit #3000

July 9, 2011

And boy, was it an A-Bomb if I ever saw one. Seriously, I don’t think he’s hit a ball that far, or 400+ feet for that matter, since at least 2009.

In all seriousness though, what a hit, and what a career for Jeter. I do get on his case because of how much the MSM loves him in the present despite his poor play at this stage in his career, but he has been the ultimate professional and I can think of no better athlete to represent the sport and the sports most iconic franchise (run-on sentence over).

Congratulations, Derek. Now if only from here on out you can pretend every at-bat is going to be your 3000th* hit.

*3185 hits really

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Yankees ALDS rotation

October 5, 2010

The Yankees ALDS rotation is official. CC Sabathia will start game 1, Andy Pettitte will pitch game 2, and Phil Hughes will start game 3. CC Sabathia will go on short rest in game 4 (which makes me happy since I’ll be in attendance assuming there is a game).

My one area of concern is the decision to start Andy game 2 and not Phil Hughes.

PROS

– The Twins big bats are lefty- Joe Mauer and Jim Thome. By throwing Pettitte game 2, the Twins lefties ideally will be at a disadvantage for the first two games.

– If CC pitches game 4, the game 2 starter would have to pitch game 5 if there is a game 5. Obviously, the Yankees would prefer Andy to pitch in game 5 because 1)they don’t want Phil to go too far over his innings limit and 2) Andy is the “proven vet”. 3) The lefty issue talked about above.

CONS

– Phil is much better on the road. He is a fly ball pitcher so Yankee Stadium is not very kind to him. Considering how spacious Target Field is, Phil could potentially excel there for one game.

– As mentioned, the Twins best two hitters are left-handed. NYS is very kind to lefties. NYS is not kind to Phil Hughes. Mauer and Thome could have field days in the Bronx. But if Pettitte, a lefty, was going then that would contain the Minnesota lefties in NYS.

In the end, pitching Phil game 3 is the only scenario. Sure, he would probably pitch better on the road, but throwing Andy in game 2 lets the Yankees throw four lefties in the series to limit Thome and Mauer. That benefit seems to outweigh Phil’s potential production boost pitching on the road.

My take on SABR-heads v the average fan

August 12, 2010

Republicans and Democrats. The Jets and the Sharks. Pokemon and Digimon. Some groups of people (or in the case of the latter, Japanese creations) will never get along. With the advancement of statistics in baseball over the past decade, another group of people that seemingly will never co-exist are SABR-heads and the average baseball fan.

The common fan loves the game. They are typically from an older generation, or young but have no taste for doing math outside the classroom. Baseball is a game they played growing up and is a game they love to watch. That’s all. They don’t want to analyze players or game theory- leave that to the GM’s and managers. Baseball is supposed to be fun and crunching numbers is not fun. It’s work. Baseball is not work.

The SABR-head also loves baseball. For the most part, most SABR-heads are from the current generation. College students and recent graduates or who love math. They may or may not have played baseball growing up, but they enjoy watching the game. However, it doesn’t stop there. The SABR-head loves to think and question things and crunch numbers. Instead of taking a managers move for granted, they question it. They question the game theory behind the move. Was it right to pinch-hit in that situation or not? And why? To them, the analysis of the game is just as fun as the game itself.

The saying is that “opposites attract” but that is not the case here. When it comes to baseball, there is a great divide between the SABR-heads and common fans. The two groups cannot co-exist- they hate each other with a passion. SABR-heads can take junk stats and “shove it down their ass”. The common fan “doesn’t know jack shit about anything and should never talk again”. Clearly these are two groups of people that cannot along.

Why?

When talking about the other group, each group says the other comes across arrogant. I can see that. The common fan throws stats aside like they are worthless. They don’t care at all for them and because of that, the SABR-head is an idiot. Therefore, the SABR thinks the common fan is arrogant or ignorant Since SABR-heads love stats, they throw them around like crazy. Because of that, there is a sense of feeling that they think they’re better than the common fan.

So who is to blame?

Both sides are to blame. I know there are individual cases on both sides where people do act reasonable and get along. But for the most part that doesn’t happen. There are blogs like Fire Joe Morgan that attack “idiotic writing”. In return, many other blogs and writers criticize the SABR-heads with columns lamenting “strange acronyms like WAR, UZR, and AKSDZHHZJWEU8WERW8E@$$”.

Really though, we should try to get along and put aside the stereotypes (common fans are jocks; SABR-heads are math nerds. I’ve played competitive baseball my whole life and still do). If you a SABR-head, try and have patience. Realize not everyone wants to get into stats. So if you’re in a conversation with someone like that, know your audience. Take it easy on them and don’t overload them with information and numbers.

At the same time, if you are a common fan and don’t want to worry about stats, that’s fine. I don’t care, it’s your choice. But do not criticize stats or call them worthless because you don’t want to take the time to understand them. If you are talking with a SABR-head, just realize the stats he is using are good and tell him you’re not into it. Don’t call them crappy. That leads to the contention between the groups. As a SABR-head, that is the most annoying thing about the common fan. I love talking baseball with the average person, but if they criticize any stats that I may bring up, that’s when the conversation is over.

So we can get along. SABR-heads need to cool it with the holier than thou attitude. The average fan needs to understand that advanced stats are good stats and not worthless, so there is no need to attack them because they may seem confusing and new and different than what you learned growing up. It will be tough at times to follow these guidelines and it will be difficult. But it’s for the best interest of both parties.

Clearing the Bases : Los Angeles Angels

March 30, 2010

The Angels lost several key players for their team over the past two seasons. Last year Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira were the two main losses. Losing two players that are rated very highly at their positions, they settled for a cheaper Brian Fuentes and Kendry Morales. Both had pretty good seasons.

But this off season was a little different. They lost their ace pitcher John Lackey to the Red Sox. They lost Chone Figgins to a divisional foe in the Mariners. Vladimir Guerrero and Darren Oliver both signed with the Texas Rangers. And Kelvim Escobar went to the Mets while Jose Arredondo signed with the Reds.

However, LA still has a good club. They downgraded at third base and their bullpen is not as good. The rotation will look like this if everyone remains healthy:

Jared Weaver
Ervin Santana
Joe Saunders
Scott Kazmir
Joel Pineiro

The Angels usually do a good job at getting the cheaper player who can still put up good numbers the next season. Take Kendry Morales for example. Lets see what the Angels are losing/gaining this season by checking some projections on some of the players they lost and who is now there. Pineiro took Lackey’s rotation spot, Brandon Wood is taking over for Chone Figgins at third, and Matsui for Vladdy.

John Lackey :

IP : 186
Hits : 185
Home Runs : 20
Runs : 88
ERA : 3.92
SO : 141
BB : 51

Joel Pineiro :

IP : 168
Hits : 198
Home Runs : 17
Runs : 90
ERA : 4.45
SO : 79
BB : 35

The numbers show that Lackey is the better choice. Field dimensions do play a part in this, but Boston is more of a hitters park and Lackey will still post better numbers than Pineiro according to Chone’s projections. I agree with the struggles of Pineiro with a middle 4.00 ERA. This is why the Angels must stay healthy this year- I don’t feel like they have too many quality pitchers, especially considering depth is a weak point.

Chone Figgins :

AB : 522
R : 189
Hits : 142
HR : 4
SB : 33
BB : 79
SO : 103
OBP : .370
SLG : .358

Brandon Wood :

AB : 422
R : 58
Hits : 104
HR : 19
SB : 6
BB : 35
SO : 120
OBP : .309
SLG : .445

The Angels not only lost a good third baseman, but a big part of their team style. A gritty team that likes to steal bases and manufacture runs. With Chone Figgins this is possible. With Brandon Wood, not so much. They might have an okay middle of the lineup this year, but the top of the order will suffer without Figgins.

Vladimir Guerrero

AB : 469
R : 65
Hits : 137
HR : 23
BB : 27
SO : 67
OBP : .337
SLG : .495

Hideki Matsui :

AB : 428
R : 61
Hits : 113
HR : 17
BB : 54
SO : 67
OBP : .351
SLG : .437

Matsui is the better choice here. He will mostly be a DH too. But Vlad would still be serviceable.

I think the Angels could fight for the wild card in the AL, but the Mariners and Rangers both got better while the Angels gotten worse. Their style of play will never be the same unless they find someone to fill Chone’s role, and I really don’t like the rotation all too much. A lot of if’s.

Clearing the Bases: Pittsburgh Pirates

March 15, 2010

The Pittsburgh Pirates organization has been disastrous since joining the NL Central, and that’s putting it nicely.  Since switching from the NL East in 1994, the team has failed to finish above .500 in any of the last 16 seasons, let alone contend for a playoff spot.

If the Red Sox suffered from the curse of the Bambino after trading Babe Ruth, the Pirates might be victim to the curse of the Barroid.  Reaching the NLCS and forcing the series to at least 6 games in each year from 1990-1992, the Pirates traded legendary outfielder Barry Bonds to the Giants prior to the 1993 season, and the franchise has been stumbling over itself ever since.

However, the franchise finally appears to be in good hands, and those hands belong to general manager Neal Huntington.  Huntington began his MLB front office tenure with the Montreal Expos in the mid-90s before joining the Cleveland Indians and eventually joining the Pirates in 2007.

Huntington spent little time making his intentions known.  He immediately began moving the team’s major league contributors for a much needed injection of minor league talent.  Jason Bay, Nate McLouth, Xavier Nady, Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson; all were dealt from Pittsburgh over the past two years.

While these deals brought much ire from the Pittsburgh faithful who, like most fans, yearned for success sooner rather than later, these deals have only benefited the now promising team.  Nady and reliever Damaso Marte netted the Pirates promising 5-tool outfielder Jose Tabata from the Yankees.  Nate McLouth was sent to Atlanta for a couple top prospects, Jeff Locke and Gorkys Hernandez.  The former Pirates middle infield was flipped into a pair of more recent first round picks, the powerful hitting Jeff Clement and promising starting pitcher, Tim Alderson.  Huntington also sent the limited Nyjer Morgan to Washington in exchange for the talent-laced Lastings Milledge.

It’s impossible to predict how these players will pan out, but we have already seen a fruit of Huntington’s labor in last year’s surprise player, Garrett Jones.  The 28-year-old lefty had been in the minors since 1999, seeing a brief MLB stint with the Minnesota Twins in 2007 before he was brought to Pittsburgh and given the chance to play extensively with the big league club last year.  In just 82 games, Jones hit .293, boasted a .938 OPS, slugged 21 homers, and stole 10 bases.

Combine those moves with what appears to be a strong drafting performance, highlighted by their commitment to Scott Boras client Pedro Alvarez, and the Pirates now have something they haven’t had in a while: a future.

Clearing the Bases: New York Yankees

March 3, 2010

The New York Yankees are the most storied franchise in sports history. Yankee Stadium is home to forty pennants, thirty-nine Hall of Famers, twenty-seven World Championships, twenty-two MVP’s, seventeen retired numbers, and five Cy Young’s. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez are among the countless number of legends that have donned the pinstripes. Going position by position, the Yankees have an all-time player at each spot. Catcher? Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey. First base? Lou Gehrig. Third base? A-Rod. Shortstop? Derek Jeter? Left field? Rickey Henderson, Charlie Keller. Center field? Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio. Right field? Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson. Hmmm…am I missing a position? What’s that- second base? Oh snap.

Despite all those championships, Hall of Famer’s, and MVP’s, the Yankees have no major standout at second base. Sure, Tony Lazzeri and Joe Gordon are both Hall of Famer’s, but neither player is considered an “all-time” player. Going further, both players got into the Hall of Fame by way of the Veteran’s Committe. It took Lazzeri fifty-one years to finally get inducted and it took Gordon fifty-eight years to be inducted. Lazzeri played for twelve seasons during the live ball era, overshadowed by Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio. Gordon played just seven seasons in pinstripes, losing two seasons to WWII. It’s amazing an organization that was home to so many legends, is so weak at a particular position. Once Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera have their numbers retired, the Yankees will have a retired number at every spot except second base (Billy Martin  is more renown for his managerial career). Actually, scratch that. Jackie Robinson’s number 42 is retired. Make that one Dodger second baseman with their number retired by the Yankees.

So with that in mind, just who is the best second baseman in Yankees history?

Although second base has lacked superstars, there have been decent (but mainly sub-par) players throughout the years such as Snuffy Stirnweiss, Bobby Richardson, Chuck Knoblach, and Alfonso Soriano. To narrow down the search for the best second baseman in team history, the minimum number of games at second base in Yankee pinstripes to qualify is 1000. Sorry Gil McDougald. That leaves us with three candidates: Tony Lazzeri, Joe Gordon, and Willie Randolph. Let’s get crackin’!

*Right click tables and hit view table to see larger image*

Tony Lazzeri (1926-1937, 1456 games)


Tony “Poosh ‘Em Up” Lazzeri was the first good Yankee second baseman in team history (and one of the first good Italian Yankee players), playing from 1926-1937. Born in 1903 in San Francisco, Lazzeri was twenty-two when he made his Yankees debut. That rookie season he went on to hit .275/.338/.462 with a 117 wRC+ and by 1928 he broke out with a 154 wRC+. He was a key piece of the famed Murderer’s Row, but his legacy loomed in the shadows of Ruth and Gehrig. He won five World Series, was an All-Star in 1933, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991 by the Veteran’s Committee.

Tony "Poosh 'Em Up" Lazzeri

His numbers might have been inflated due to the live ball era, but he was still a right handed batter in Yankee Stadium and still put up numbers quite a bit better than the league average, as indicated by his wRAA/600 PA. For a second baseman, he put up solid power numbers, but his better attribute was getting on base. During his stay with the Yankees, his wOBA never went below .350 and topped the .400 mark three times, with a career high of .437 in 1929. Lazzeri wasn’t the best fielder, but he held his own. He was a solid hitter with a decent glove. He peaked from 1927-1929, putting up WAR’s of 5.8, 4.7, and 7.8 respectively, and he had several solid seasons thereafter. By 1937 he was slowing down, however, and retired with a career Yankee WAR/150 of 4.2. That’s a good number, but is it enough to be considered the best Yankee second baseman of all-time?

Joe Gordon (1938-1946, 1000 games)

Born in 1915 in Los Angeles, Joe “Flash” Gordon took over the second base gig from Lazzeri in 1938. He hit the ground running posting a 4.1 WAR in his rookie season, which turned out to be his lowest single season Yankee WAR until 1946, his last season in the Bronx. His WAR hovered in the 4-6 range, finally peaking in 1942 with an 8.4 WAR. Looking purely at OBP, it may not appear Gordon was as good at getting on base as Lazzeri, but the numbers are somewhat skewed by a low BA. When it comes to drawing a walk, Gordon had a better BB rate and better BB%.  Despite a barely lower wRC+, it surely was due to a horrible campaign in 1946. Not to mention he missed two years because of war obligations. Had he been able to play in 1944 and 1945, his age 29 and 30 season no less, his numbers could have been even better.

Gordon won four World Series in the Bronx, appeared in six All-Star games, and won the AL MVP in 1942. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009 via the Veteran’s Committee.

Willie Randolph (1976-1988, 1693 games)

Born in 1954 in South Carolina, the next good Yankee second baseman since Gordon left in 1946 played his first game in pinstripes thirty years later, in 1976. After his playing days, Willie became a bench coach for the Yankees for thirteen seasons, becoming a fan favorite. He also managed the Mets and is currently the Milwaukee Brewers bench coach. He won two World Series with the Yankees as a player and was a five time All-Star during his stay in “The City That Never Sleeps”. He won a Silver Slugger Award and was the team captain from 1986 until 1988.

Willie Randolph

Unlike the other two second basemen discussed so far, Randolph is not a Hall of Famer. However, Randolph is one of the more underrated players in baseball and Yankee history. Many think of him as a coach or the Yankee captain, but in reality he is a borderline Hall of Famer (but falls short in my book). With the Yankees he was not a slugger by any means. His Yankee SLG of .357 is putrid, but even more so when comapred to the SLG of Lazzeri and Gordon. He made up for that with his OBP skills. Randolph was adept at walking and getting on base. His lowest BB% as a Yankee was 10.3%, with his career high being 18.5%(!) in 1980. While he wasn’t an exceptional hitter, he was above average and had several quality seasons at the dish from 1978-1980 and 1985-1987. What he was really good at though, was defense. In thirteen seasons he compiled a Total Zone of 70 and had several seasons where he saved 10+ runs. His three year peak from 1978-1980 is comparable to the best peaks of Lazzeri and Gordon. After that, Randolph continued to be a solid 3-4 WAR for the Bronx Bombers. 1981 and 1982 were down years for Willie, where he posted WAR’s of 2.9 and 2.4 respectively. To be honest, those year’s might have cost him a chance at the Hall of Fame. Had he been able to just put 4+ WAR seasons like he had been doing thus far in New York, his career WAR would have been in the mid-sixties. 1981 and 1982 may have cost him a chance at the Hall, but will it cost him the title of best Yankee second baseman?

After comparing the players head to head, you realize just how close they are to each other. It was tough to separate them, but here is how they rank:

1.) Joe Gordon

2.) Tony Lazzeri

2a.) Willie Randolph

Despite being a Yankee for just seven seasons and meeting the minimum requirement of games played dead on, he did enough to establish himself as the best in team history. Offensively, he was just as good as Lazzeri, if not better. While Lazzeri did have a better wRC+, Gordon had the best wRAA/600 PA of the three players, he was a great defender (much superior to Lazzeri), and his WAR/150 was a full win better than Lazzeri and Randolph. Imagine if he had the chance to play in 1944 and 1945 to pad his stats? If not for WWII, this question might have been settled already.

Joe Gordon, best second baseman in Yankee history

As  for second place, Lazzeri and Randolph were indistinguishable despite being opposites.  Lazzeri was the big hitter with an average glove. Randolph was the big time fielder, who was above average at the dish. Lazzeri has a 4.2 WAR/150. Randolph has a 4.3 WAR/150. In the end though, I give a slight, slight edge to Lazzeri. He was just a plain out better hitter, regardless of era. And despite the fact that Randolph was a much better fielder, Lazzeri was decent enough with the glove to hold off Randolph. Randolph got a lot of his WAR value from TZ, but I don’t trust TZ too much. So in a close contest like this, I will give the benefit of the doubt to the better hitter.

Currently in the Bronx, there is a twenty-seven year old second baseman who has been making a name for himself. His name is Robinson Cano. Although he figures to have a long ways to go before he can challenge Gordon, Lazzeri, and Randolph, how does he stack up right now? And what will he need to do in the future to become a contender for best second baseman in Yankees history?

Robinson Cano (2005-2009, 734 games)

Right away you can tell Robbie’s career stats are the victim of a terrible 2008. As a result, his first five seasons do not compare at all to the first five season’s of Lazzeri, Gordon, and Randolph. RC is going to need a sustained peak to make up ground. There are positive signs though for Cano. He is just twenty-seven and figures to have about five more solid to great seasons in his projected prime. There is no reason to think he can’t improve, as he’s already had two seasons of 5+ WAR in his low and mid twenties. (One small note on that though- his TZ ratings view him as a solid fielder. UZR disagrees big time. For the sake of consistency in comparing to past players, I used TZ). Moreover, longevity can be on his side. Assuming he stays with New York through his option years, he’ll have four more years in pinstripes.

How do I see it? Robbie will need a long, sustained peak in pinstripes. Like all things with Cano though, offensive success will depend on his “luck” with BABIP. Defensively, he’s flashed signs of brilliance so he just needs to bring that talent to the field on an everyday basis. If he can prove himself to be an average fielder with a good bat, Cano will add a couple more 5+ WAR seasons to his belt. In the end, I see Robbie matching Lazzeri. He will never match Gordon’s defense, but Cano can be a good offense, average defense player, much like “Poosh ‘Em Up” Tony. However, he still has a long, long way to go.

Can Robinson Cano become the best second baseman in Yankees history?

If RC ends up a lifelong Yankee though, he will be the best Yankee second baseman in team history. While his rate stats may not compare to Gordon by that point, the longevity factor will have to be taken into account, especially if the stats are still comparable and Cano has several major accomplishments under his belt, such as 3000 career hits.

So there you have it. For a weak position in a franchise of strength and depth, legends and history, Joe Gordon is the best second baseman in team history, followed by Tony Lazzeri and Willie Randolph.

Who do you consider the best second baseman in Yankees history? And where do you see Robbie Cano compared to the second base “Big Three” when his career his over?

Sources:

http://www.fangraphs.com/

http://baseballprojection.com/

http://www.baseball-reference.com/

Clearing the Bases: Colorado Rockies

February 14, 2010

Trade Brad Hawpe.

Sure this might be a tired topic in the SABR community, but it is true. The Rockies really should trade Brad Hawpe. Why?

1) It’ll open up their OF logjam for the better

2) It’ll save them some money

3) It can help them contend in 2010

4) Hawpe could bring in a decent return

As it stands right now, the Rockies have four OF: Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez, Seth Smith, and Brad Hawpe. It also looks like Fowler has the CF job locked up, while Gonzalez has the LF job locked up. That seemingly means Smith will be relegated to the bench, as Hawpe has been a starter in RF for 4.5 seasons now. However, that’s a big mistake.

Hawpe should not be starting in Colorado, despite being a good hitter. He tied his career high in wRC+ last season with 130, and has a career mark of 120+. He’s probably the best hitter among all their OF’ers. There’s also been no Coors affect with Hawpe, who is .379/.508/.375wOBA/121wRC+ hitter at home and .375/.489/.367wOBA/116wRC+ hitter on the road. But his defense is PUTRID. From 2007-2009 his UZR/150 was -27.2, -46.6, and -25.9. HOLY SHIT. That is terrible. -46.6? His glove was sooooooooooooooo bad, he took away about 4-5 wins on defense alone. The result is poor value. While he can hit, his glove erases all that offensive output and then some. His WAR in respective order the past three is seasons is 1.3, -.6, and 1.3. That’s not even the value of an average player!

Meanwhile, Seth Smith is younger, cheaper, and probably more valuable. While he may not be as good a hitter as Hawpe, he is close and certainly a better fielder. Smith raked in AA and AAA, and did the same in Colorado last season. In 387 PA (a relatively SSS compared to Hawpe), he had a wRC+ of 129. Rememeber, Hawpe’s was 130. Bill James, CHONE, Marcel, and the Fans all project Smith to have a wRC+ within the range of 125-130 in 2010. If he can do that, or come close, noone in Colorado will miss Hawpe. In over 700 career OF innings, a very SSS, he has a 9.0 UZR/150. Moreover, he is projected to have a 5.0 UZR/150 in 2010, compared to -19 for Hawpe.

Smith will provide more overall value for Colorado in 2010, and should be the everyday starter. So trading Hapwe ensures that Smith will start. Not only that, but it will save them money. Trading Hawpe, depending on who Colorado gets in return, will save the club $7mil. That could be huge for a team like Colorado when it comes to arbitration and signing players next season, or making trades at the deadline in 2010. Moreover, while it lowers payroll, the team just gets better. They’ll be promoting a better player to Hawpe’s spot. For a team that will be in the running for the NL West and the Wild Card, that could be a world of difference. And the icing on the cake is the return. Hawpe is probably seen as a solid player to baseball front offices. While he won’t command top prospects in return, the Rockies could heist someone for a couple decent prospects or a ML player who can contribute to the big league club and it’s run at the playoffs more than Hawpe would have.

Trading Brad Hawpe makes way too much sense for Colorado.

Possible suitors?

– Seattle Mariners: Sure they have Milton Bradley, but their offense is still weak, and there is a good chance he won’t work out. If he doesn’t, Hawpe would be a good DH, which is the optimal position for him if you want his max value.

– Tampa Bay Rays: If Pat Burrell struggles again and Tampa is in the playoff race, Hawpe would be a good bat to add to the lineup.