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June 24, 2010 8:46 AM

How Much Have Young Pitchers Contributed to the "Year of the Pitcher"?

There has been plenty of talk this year comparing 2010 to 1968, also known as the Year of the Pitcher.  While I believe the comparison is a bit farfetched, there is an aspect of this discussion that does grab my attention.  This renaissance is being led by a young group of pitcher's such as Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson and Stephen Strasburg, and is a group that many are considering to be one of the best of all time.  After seemingly going through somewhat of a dry spell during the early 2000's, it appears that the latest troupe of pitchers has arrived en masse.  Many people are comparing this group to the vaunted group of pitcher that debuted in the late 1960's, including Hall of Famers Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Fergie Jenkins, Jim Palmer and Don Sutton.JImenez.jpg  

I am a big subscriber to the theory that people think whatever is happening in the present is the greatest event of all time, so I decided to compare just how good the young pitcherss of this generation were compared to their counterparts from years past.  I took a snapshot of Major League Baseball right now in 2010, as well as the end of the 1970 season and the 1990 season.  1990 was chosen because it was halfway between the two year's in question, and would give an indication of whether or not the late 1960's and today's era were special or just the norm when it comes to young pitchers.  Using the Baseball Reference Play Index, I identified the pitcher's age 27 and under who I thought had accomplished the most prior to the given years.  In my analysis, nothing that happened after the cut-off years is taken into consideration; I just want to know how good these pitchers were at the given dates.  Also, please keep in mind the era's, as the ERA numbers from the 1970 group are not as impressive as you may think.  It was just not worth it to calculate the ERA+ of each player to illustrate my point, especially thanks to the presence of WAR, and I think most of the people reading this are smart enough to realize that a 3.50 ERA in 1970 is not the same as in 2010.  All WAR data prior to 2010 is from Rally's WAR database, and 2010 information is from FanGraphs.

1970

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Reading through the names on this list is pretty impressive.  However, when you look at the numbers, they lose some of their lustre.  For example, at the end of the 1970 season, Don Sutton was 25 years old, owned a career record of 66-73, and had only posted two seasons with an above average ERA, the best being a 110 ERA+ in 1966.  Hardly Hall of Fame material.  Many of these players went on to have very successful careers, but the fact of the matter is it is highly unlikely that people in 1970 were talking about a golden age of young pitchers.  Relative to the rest of the league, there was not much special about these guys outside of a select few, which can be seen by the average WAR/200 IP of 2.93.  The majority of them had their best seasons after 1970, as evidenced by the presence of only two Cy Young Award winners. 

1990

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As you can see, this list is much shorter, and there certainly was not as much young pitching depth as twenty years prior.  However, the quality is far superior, as the ERA's are very impressive when compared to league average, and the average WAR is higher by .72.  This group includes four Cy Young Award winners, and Roger Clemens was just entering his peak.  Time has not remembered this group as kindly as there is only one slam-dunk Hall of Famer (Maddux), a solid HOF candidate (Smoltz) and a tarnished legend (Clemens).  However, when taking a snapshot at the end of the 1990 season, I believe this group is stronger than the top candidates from 1970.

2010

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Now let's take a look at today's players.  Obviously the win totals are suppressed as players spend more time in the minors and make fewer and shorter starts.  However, outside of Nolasco and Santana, the ERA numbers are very impressive, and the average WAR is slightly higher than the 1990 group.  They are a little short on accolades, but I wouldn't begrudge you if you argued that the 2010 season is not finished, and following this season we can probably put CYA-'10 next to Jimenez or Johnson, and maybe ROY-'10 next to Strasburg.  This group is fairly equal to the 1990 group and I believe we have several exciting years of baseball ahead of us thanks to these guys.

Conclusion

This is certainly a very subjective topic as it is very difficult to discuss players from the past without letting their future accomplishments cloud your judgement.  I have done my best to isolate this flaw by only considering data from before a certain date when each of these players was still considered young.  If I had to rank these groups given the statistics shown above, it would go 2010, 1990, 1970.  However, we also must remember that the pitchers from the 1960's carried a much heavier workload.  On average, they had thrown 1,075 innings while the most recent group averages only 619 innings pitched.  Rating WAR on a scale of 200 IP might not also be the best measure, as these pitchers often threw more than 250 innings per season.  If we change our baseline to 250 IP the average WAR jumps to 3.67, which is more in line with the other two samples.

Another thing to consider is that human nature does not allow us to remember and process partial careers, and as such, most people consider the pitchers who debuted in the 1960's as far superior to those in the 1980's.  Considering the careers that Carlton, Seaver and the rest of that group went on to have, I can understand why.  If you only take away one thing from reading this article I hope it is an understanding that nobody will be able to remember exactly how we felt halfway through the 2010 season about our young pitchers.  Time will make the memories murky, and ultimately, this group will be measured based on the overall success of their careers, not just what they accomplished prior to 2010.  If Tim Lincecum continues to lose velocity and is done by age 30 and Stephen Strasburg blows out his arm in 2013, future generations will not be talking about all of the great young pitchers we were fortunate enough to see in 2010.  Enjoy them while you can.

June 5, 2010 11:48 AM

Who'd You Rather? Griffey or Edmonds

With the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr., one of the most beloved players of all time, I thought I would put him to the test against my most beloved player, Jim Edmonds.  They are arguably the top two center fielders of the last quarter century, and played more or less at the same time.  The question I want to ask is: as a General Manager, whose career would have rather had control of?  All factors are considered, performance, salary, marketability, and anything else you can think of.  I'll give you the background information to get you started.  WAR data courtesy of Rally's WAR database, salary information is from Biz of Baseball, and I pulled their 2010 WAR from FanGraphs.

Griffey ranks 37th all time with 78.3 career WAR, while Edmonds is further down the list at 64th with 67.5 WAR.  However, he is having a good year, and could conceivable move into to top 60, leaping Hall of Famers like Jesse Burkett and Tony Gwynn.  For his career, Griffey averaged 3.56 WAR per season, while Edmonds logged 3.97 WAR per season.  If you prefer WAR/600 PA, Griffey managed 4.16 while Edmonds was at 5.18  They also peaked during different periods, Griffey during the mid and late 1990's, while Edmonds put up his best seasons as a member of the Cardinals in the early 2000's.Griffey.jpg 

Now let's talk salary.  Griffey pulled in $178,625,334 inflation adjusted dollars in his career, while Edmonds paled in comparison with $98,952,568.  Edmonds also started his career four years later, meaning he would be expected to make more for similar production, as baseball player salaries greatly outpaced inflation during this time period.  Overall, Griffey was paid $2.28 million per win, while Edmonds only made $1.47 million per win.

Call me blasphemous, but I would take Edmonds.  Even all the marketing dollars associated with Junior cannot make me overlook the fact that on a per plate appearance, and more importantly, per dollar basis, Edmonds was the more valuable player.  It's no coincidence that Edmonds made seven playoff appearances, winning one World Series, while Griffey only made the postseason three times, and won only one playoff series.

I am a little too young to fully appreciate how good Griffey was at his peak, so I'm curious what your thoughts are.  Please feel free to comment.     

 

May 28, 2010 1:32 AM

Believe the Hype: Looking Back at the 2005 Draft

With the 2010 MLB Draft just around the corner, and excitement in the air, many writers have been cautioning optimistic fans.  Throughout the 1990's, very few first rounders contributed anything meaningful in the big leagues. However, I believe times have changed, and improved scouting and statistical analysis have lead to better draft choices across the board.  To see this theory in action, we have to look no further than the stacked first round of the 2005 MLB Draft.  Only five years after the fact, 18 of the 30 draft choices have posted a positive WAR in the big leagues.  All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and MiLB.com.

1. Justin Upton:  5.7 WAR

Drafted out of high school, Upton has already made a big impact at the Major League Level, posting a .388 wOBA for the Diamondbacks in 2009.  The team has locked him up, and he appears to be a superstar in the making.

2. Alex Gordon: 4.3 WAR

After strong showings in 2007 and 2008, Gordon has struggled in recent years, and the Royals have sent him down to AAA to learn how to play left field, where he is currently mashing minor league pitching (1.207 OPS).

3. Jeff Clement: -.4 WAR

Despite posting some decent numbers in the minors, Clement couldn't seem to put it together for the Mariners.  He also struggled behind the plate, and was shipped to the Pirates where he is currently manning first base, quite unsuccessfully I might add.

4. Ryan Zimmerman: 21 WAR

Zimmerman has already logged 2783 PA's for the Nationals, and has contributed the most WAR of any player from the 2005 draft class.  Not much else to say other than he is one of the top third basemen in the league.

 5. Ryan Braun: 13.9 WARBraun.jpg

No one ever questioned Braun's bat, but defence was a big question mark. After a monster rookie season in which he posted a .422 wOBA, he was moved to left field thanks to a -27.7 UZR at third base, which cost him almost three wins in value.  Much more comfortable swinging his big stick in left field, he holds a career wOBA of .402.

6. Ricky Romero:  4.8 WAR

The Blue Jays were widely criticized for taking the Cal-State Fullerton product, but the pick has turned out quite nice.  Romero is arguably the ace of the Jays staff, and owns a 2.84 FIP so far in 2010.

7. Troy Tulowitzki: 13.3 WAR

Bryan Smith said yesterday that he could be the best college shortstop drafted in the last 25 years, and I am not going to disagree.  Despite struggling in 2008, Tulowitzki is widely viewed as one of the top shortstops in the game, and is locked into a very team-friendly contract in Colorado

8. Wade Townsend - Did not pitch above AA

Despite a standout collegiate career at Rice, Townsend could not succeed in professional baseball.  Control issues and an affinity for gopherballs were his kryptonite.  He does not appear destined to appear in a major league uniform, although he did apparently earn a minor league deal from the Blue Jays for the 2010 campaign (but I can't seem to find any statistics for him with their affiliates).

9. Mike Pelfrey : 6.3 WAR

Through his first 480 innings of big league work, Pelfrey appeared to be nothing more than an average starter, which certainly isn't the worst prognosis for a 9th overall pick.  He appears to have turned a bit of a corner in 2010, however, as he owns a 3.53 FIP.  He will never been an ace, but can certainly be a contributor on a first division club.

10. Cameron Maybin:  1.3 WAR

A highly touted prep prospect, Maybin was drafted by the Tigers and traded to the Marlins as the key piece in the Miguel Cabrera deal.  He has terrorized minor league pitching (his worst single season wOBA was .381 in AA in 2008), but has not been nearly as successful in the Majors.  However, he is still only 23 years old, and has plenty of time to improve. 

11. Andrew McCutchen:  4.6 WAR

After a healthy apprenticeship in the Pirates farm system, McCutchen debuted for the Pirates in early 2009, and has not looked back.  So far this year, he owns a .318/.381/.469 triple slash and looks like a perennial All-Star.

12. Jay Bruce: 3.6 WAR

Bruce is only 23 years old and already has 1025 PA's and 47 HR's to his name.  After suffering a broken wrist last season which robbed him of significant playing time, he has bounced back nicely this year, accumulating 1.2 WAR and posting a career high BB% of 14.0%.

13. Brandon Synder: Has not played above AAA

After being selected as a prep catcher, Snyder has moved counter-clockwise around the basepaths and now mans first base for the Norfolk Tide.  Marc Hulet ranked him as Baltimore's 6th best prospect prior to the season, although he has struggled mightily this season with a .610 OPS

14. Trevor Crowe: .3 WAR  

Already 26, Crowe does not profile as much more than a backup outfielder.  After coming in as the Indians  #15 prospect on BA's 2009 list, he saw 202 AB's for the Tribe in 2009, posting a triple slash of .235/.278/.333.

15. Lance Broadway: .6 WAR

After 55 undistinguished innings with the White Sox and Mets, Broadway has latched on with the Blue Jays.  He currently owns a 6.19 ERA in 48 innings of work for Las Vegas, and it does not appear he will be back in the majors any time soon. 

16. Chris Volstad: 2.3 WAR

After climbing through the Marlins farm system, Volstad jump right to the Majors from AA in 2008, and posted a 3.82 FIP.  He struggled in 2009 with a FIP of 5.29, but has been a solid contributor so far this year, posting a FIP of 4.17.  He should continue to be a reliable back of the rotation starter for the near future, and is still only 23 years old.

17. CJ Henry: Did not play above A+

After a brutal minor league career spent bouncing between the Phillies and Yankees organizations, Henry quit baseball to pursue a college basketball career with the Kansas Jayhawks.  He averaged 3.1 PPG last season.   

18. Cesar Carrillo:-.7 WAR

After making it to AAA in his first professional season, Carrillo's star has dimmed considerably.  After ranking as San Diego's 20th best prospect in 2009 according to BA, he failed to make the top 30 this year.  He currently owns a 3.14 ERA in 51.2 innings of work in AAA, so there is still some hope for him yet.   

19. John Mayberry: -.2 WAR

Mayberry was a first round pick coming out of high school and college, but the 26 year old has failed to make an impact in the Majors.  Marc Hulet had him ranked as the Phillies 9th best prospect prior to 2010, although he failed to make BA's top 30 list.  He currently has a .847 OPS for LeHigh Valley, and could see some playing time next year should Jayson Werth depart through free agency.

20. Mark Pawelek: Did not pitch above Hi-A

Chalk Pawelek up as another draft bust.  After three seasons with the Cubs in which he failed to pitch above A-ball, he signed on with the Reds before the 2009 season, posting a 6.09 FIP in Hi-A.

21. Cliff Pennington: 0.7 WAR

After ranking as Oakland's 17th best prospect before the 2009 season according to BA, Pennington posted a .332 wOBA  in 229 PA's with the big club.  He has struggled so far this year with a .290 wOBA but appears to be the short-term answer in Oakland.

22. Aaron Thompson: Has not yet pitched above AAA

Prior to the season, Thompson ranked as Washington's 12th best prospect according to BA, and is on the team's 40-man roster.  He has spent most of the season accumulating a 5.51 ERA in AA, but also made one start for Syracuse in AAA.  He is only 23 years old so he should get a shot with the Nationals eventually.

23. Jacoby Ellsbury: 7.9 WAR

After swiping 120 bags over the last two seasons as the Red Sox center fielder, Ellsbury moved over to left field in 2010 to move room in center for off-season acquisition Mike Cameron.  Both players have been hampered by injuries, but Ellsbury recently returned to the lineup.  Continue to expect 50+ steals and a 3-4 win player for the foreseeable future. 

24. Brian Bogusevic: Has not played above AAA

Following a weak 2009 campaign in AAA which saw him post a .328 wOBA, BA downgraded Bogusevic from #4 to #21 on the Astros prospect list.  He has redeemed himself a bit this year, increasing his SLG by almost 100 points, and should get a shot as at least a bench player.

25. Matt Garza: 9.3 WAR

After posting a 4.18 FIP in 83 innings for the Twins in 2007, Garza was shipped to Tampa Bay as part of the Delmon Young trade.  Since then, he has won 24 games, and posted ERA's of 3.70, 3.95 and 2.97.  However, the peripherals are not as kind, as he has not posted a FIP below 4.14 in his time with Tampa Bay.  Overall, he is a solid addition to any pitching staff that just happens to benefit from Tampa Bay's strong defence. 

26. Craig Hansen: -.4 WAR

Hansen quickly jumped to the Majors as a member of the Red Sox, but a 6.63 ERA quickly got him sent down to AAA before he was shipped to Pittsburgh as part of the Jason Bay trade.  He appeared sparingly for the Bucs in 2008 and 2009, but does not appear to have a future in the Major Leagues.

27. Joey Devine: 1.2 WAR

In my opinion, Devine has had the most interesting career of any first round pick from 2005.  First, he began his career with the Braves by giving up grand slams in his first two major league appearances.  Then, prior to the 2008 season, he was trade to the A's for Mark Kotsay. His 0.59 ERA that year would have qualified as the lowest in MLB history had he only pitched 4.1 more innings.  He has since undergone Tommy John Surgery, and has yet to make his return to the big leagues.   

28.Colby Rasmus: 3.2 WAR

Despite a mediocre 2008 season in AAA, the highly-touted Rasmus opened 2009 on the Cardinals roster.  He rewarded them with a 2.3 WAR season, and was in contention for Rookie of the Year.  This season, Rasmus has made a significant jump, posting a .375 wOBA on the strength of a 15.6% BB%.  He will be a mainstay in the Cards lineup for several years, and a couple All-Star appearances is not out of the question.

29. Jacob Marceaux: Has not pitched above AA

After a non-descript three seasons in the Marlins farm systems, Marceaux joined the White Sox AA club for the 2009 season.  He gave up 2 runs in 0.2 innings, and appears to be done.

30. Tyler Greene: -.1 WAR

After appearing at #16 on BA's prospect list for the Cardinals in 2009, Greene saw 116 PA's with the big club and posted a .272 wOBA.  He moved up to #14 this season, and has seen another 28 PA's with the Cardinals.  At age 26, he does not project to be anything more than a bench player or AAA placeholder.

Overall, these 30 players have already contributed 102.5 WAR at the Major League level, making 2005 one of, if not the most successful draft classes in recent memory.  Other notable players from the 2005 draft include Tommy Hanson, Yunel Escobar, Austin Jackson, Kevin Slowey, Gaby Sanchez, Jaime Garcia, Brett Gardner, Clay Bucholz and Chase Headley. 

2005 may just be an aberration, but I believe it speaks volumes of how far amateur scouting and projection has come since the 1990's. Don't let Erik Manning's or my previous writing scare you too much.          

May 21, 2010 3:14 AM

How Well Did Your Favourite Team Draft in the 90's?

Erik Manning wrote an article on FanGraphs a couple of days ago in which he reminded us just how few first round picks panned out.  For evidence, he used every player drafted in the first round during the 1990's. In the comments section, two questions caught my eye.  1) What is the breakdown on a team by team basis and 2) How does WAR correlate with where the player was drafted within the round.

MLB-Logo 90.gifThe second question has been covered extensively before, so I won't comment much other than there was little statistical significance in the sample of players that I examined.  My equation was 7.716 - (overall selection slot * 0.237), but had an r squared of only .062.  On a related note, college players produced on average 4.59 WAR, while high school kids produced 4.00.  I haven't broken it down by position yet, but I think that will deserve its own article.    

A little juicier is to look back at how each team did with their first round draft picks in the 1990's.  To do this, I simple listed every player that was drafted, tagged them with the team they were drafted by and used Rally's WAR database to figure out roughly how many Wins Above Replacement each player garnered during their first six years of Major League service.  A quick warning, the data is not going to be perfect.  I pinpointed guys like JD Drew and Jason Varitek that did not sign the first time they were drafted, but it is conceivable that I missed some less well-known players and they could be assigned to the wrong team.  On a couple of occasions I also guesstimated a player's service time, so it may be off by a little bit.  However, as this exercise is more for fun than to teach us anything, I wasn't going to sweat it.

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You can draw your own conclusions from the table, but there are a couple of observations I would like to make:

·         The Giants were the only team to have their first round picks produce negative WAR.  Two of their picks produced nothing, two produced 2.3 WAR between them, and the rest were all negative.   

·         The Blue Jays did very well (3rd highest average WAR) despite drafting ten high school players among their twelve picks.  The big contributors were two pitchers (Chris Carpenter, Roy Halladay) and four outfielders (Shawn Green, Shannon Stewart, Vernon Wells, Alex Rios).

·         Going heavy on pitchers backfired big time on a couple of teams:

o   The White Sox drafted pitchers with seven of their eleven picks and had an average WAR of 2.3.

o   The Royals used eight of their 12 selections on pitchers and achieved an average WAR of 0.5.

o   The Tigers drafted six pitchers with their nine picks and had an average return of 2.2 WAR.

·         A couple of teams were bailed out by one good selection:

o   Todd Helton contributed 33.7 of the Rockies 56.1 WAR.

o   Derek Jeter produced 31.3 of the Yankees 43.0 WAR.

o   Mike Mussina was worth 30.4 of the Orioles 52.3 WAR.

o   Chipper Jones was worth 32.6 WAR to the Braves; their other five selections worth -1.9.

·         Since the A's were mentioned specifally in the FanGraphs comments, they produced three excellent players (Eric Chavez, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito).  It may be hard to remember because they are terrible now but these three were dynamitein their pre free-agency years.

Well I hope that was an enjoyable read and you don't exit this window too frustrated at your favourite team's draft record. 

May 13, 2010 2:10 AM

Putting The WHIP Away

I don't remember how long ago it was, but I used to really like WHIP.  It seemed that every baseball article out there describing a pitcher was using this stat along with ERA to describe the pitcher's skill level and effectiveness.  Even today, it is one of the standard categories in fantasy baseball (but that's a story for another day).  Times have changed.  You don't even have to be on one of the more saber-slanted blogs to notice the almost extinction of the stat. 

Let's take a look why.  WHIP tells us how many base runners a pitcher allows for each inning he is on the hill.  Makes sense right? Certainly a good tool for the casual observer.  Unfortunately, not all base runners are created equal.  Would you rather have a pitcher with an impossible 0.50 WHIP, but whose only base runners are home runs, or a guy with a more pedestrian WHIP of 1.20, but only allows sindanharen.jpggles and walks.  Ya, I like player number two as well.  To really hammer home this point, let's compare WHIP to WAR, the best tool we currently have for evaluating a player's overall value (all information courtesy of FanGraphs).  I ran a simple regression using every pitcher who pitched 100 innings in either 2008 or 2009, giving us 272 data points.  Plotting WHIP against WAR, we have an equation of "Predicted War =  13.05 -7.71(WHIP)" (maybe should have scaled WHIP to make the coefficient a bit more intuitive.  Oh well) and an R Squared of .481.

Now that number means that WHIP isn't completely useless, but it isn't terribly valuable either. By applying the formula, I compared the difference between each players actual WAR and predicted WAR.  On average, the model was off by 1.04 WAR, a very significant amount considering the average pitcher was only worth 2.52 WAR.

To put that in a broader perspective, xFIP had a .670 correlation with WAR, and even ERA had a .528 correlation.  Just goes to show that there is a lot more to being a pitcher than simply limiting the number of base runners allowed.  I am certainly not reinventing the wheel here, but I think it is interesting how fast an "advanced" stat can fall out of favour.     

May 4, 2010 2:20 AM

Is Greinke a Cy Young Candidate Despite Non-Existent Win Totals?

In years past we have seen guys like Matt Cain who just can't seem to buy a run from their offence when they are on the hill.  Zack Greinke has taken that to a new level so far this season.  Through six starts and 39.2 innings he has posted a 2.27 ERA.  His peripherals aren't as good; his K/9 is down to 7.49, leading to a 3.56 FIP, but the fact of the matter is you would expect a pretty good record for a guy whoGreinke.jpg has only conceded thirteen run through six starts.  Then again, the Royals are 4th from the bottom in runs scored in the American League, and the bullpen hasn't been much help either.  While the Royals have managed sixteen runs in his six games, the bullpen has conceded an astonishing twenty runs after Greinke leaves the game.  This has lead to an 0-3 record for the 2009 Cy Young Winner. 

Now I'm not telling you anything new, so I want to pose an interesting question.  Sabermetricians have long disputed the validity of W-L record when discussing the value of a starting pitcher, but it still carries weight among Cy Young voters.  My question is: Is Greinke a legitimate Cy Young candidate if this trend continues throughout the year?  Obviously he won't go winless the remainder of the year, but in my opinion a 2.27 ERA is Cy Young material.  Let's say he posts a 2.27 ERA and 200+ K's, but only wins ten games.  Voters have shown they are willing to overlook win totals, as evidence by Tim Lincecum's 15-win Cy Young campaign, but what is the cut-off?  Can a guy who barely reaches double digits in the win column even crack the top three in voting?  In my eyes, yes he can, but I am also from a different generation than the majority of voters.  This all may be moot, as the Royals could bounce back to win Greinke 15 games, but it is an interesting topic for early in the season. 

April 17, 2010 9:05 PM

LaRussa's Extra Innings Strategy

I have wasted the better part of today watching the Mets and Cardinals... It is an epic pitching matchup, 0-0 through 14 innings, and not a single extra base hit innings 2 through 13.  The Mets have squandered a couple opportuntony larussa.jpgities through questionable baserunning (what else is new), but what I really want to talk about is Tony LaRussa's decisions late in the game.

In the 12th inning, Pujols came up with 2 on, 2 out and the pitcher Jason Motte on deck.  He was obviously walked.  Rather than use his backup catcher Bryan Anderson to try and win the game, LaRussa sent Motte up to the dish.  He promptly K'd.  Onto the 13th.  Again, in the bottom of the 14th, Pujols was walked with 2 outs to load the bases.  Anderson was still available to hit, and LaRussa sent out pitcher Blake Hawksworth.  He... K'd.  I understand LaRussa's desire to keep a player on the bench for injury reasons, especially his backup catcher considering Yadier Molina is still in the game.  He also sent the pitcher back out to pitch the next inning, a luxury he wouldn't have ahd he pinch hit.  However, he is sacrificing a prime opportunity to win the game, and basically guaranteeing that he is going to have to burn up another inning from his bullpen.

I have a ton of respect for LaRussa, and was willing to look the other way when it happened the first time, but a second, I'm not so sure.  Also, you are just asking for trouble when you move your pitcher to the 4th spot behind Pujols.  He is going to get walked every time. 

UPDATE:  LaRussa finally sent Anderson to the dish with 2 on and 1 out in the bottom of the 16th.  He grounded to second base.  Pujols broke up up the double play at second but a heads up play by Jose Reyes allowed him to gun Ryan Ludwick at the plate.  My goodness what a game.  If you are watching this or Ubaldo Jimenez's performance against the Braves is has been a great day.

UPDATE 2: Felipe Lopez is into pitch the 18th for the Cards, Kyle Lohse is in left.

UPDATE 3: The Mets have scored on a Jeff Francoeur sacrifice fly with Cards OF Joe Mather on the hill.  Is a merciful end in sight?

UPDATE 4: Nope.  Molina singles in Pujols off of K-Rod to tie it.  Bring on the 20th.  Who will pitch for St. Louis??

Final Update:  Game over, Mets win 2-1.  If only STL had busted out a starting pitcher.  That would have been a game for the ages.

April 4, 2010 2:51 AM

National League East Preview

With the start of the season just around the corner I figured it would be a good idea to share my thoughts on the projected standings for the 2010 season.  These are not scientific, at least not based on any of my own work, but I have studied the various projection systems out there.  I've already covered the AL, so let's move onto the NL, starting with the East.

One of the nice things about the NL East is that there is always one safe prediction; the Nationals will finish in the basement.  Other than that, it is anything goes.  The Phillies are as good as ever and added Roy Halladay, the Mets are hoping to stay healthy, the Braves are looking dangerous, and you just never know with the Marlins.

1. Philadelphia Phillies (90-72)

Some people are expecting the Braves to unseat the Phillies atop the East this season, but I am not among them.  Last I checked, the Phillies still have Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth, and the best second baseman in baseball, Chase Utley.  They also added the best pitcher in the league, Roy Halladay.  The biggest thing the Phillies have to worry about this year is Shane Victorino complaining about his spot in the batting order. 

2. Atlanta Braves (88-74)

Little known fact: the Braves posted the 6th best run differential in baseball jason-heyward.jpglast year.  More known fact: They traded their best pitcher, Javier Vazquez, and received little in return in the way of immediate contributors.  However, they do have some internal reinforcements in the form of top prospect Jason Heyward, and a full season from ace-in-training Tommy Hanson.  They also shored up the bullpen with the acquisitions of Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner.  We all know the Braves can score runs, and they can definitely prevent them. There season will come down to the health of the aforementioned relievers and former ace Tim Hudson.

3. New York Mets (82-80)

You almost have to start feeling bad for the Mets.  Their inaugural season at Citi Field was decimated by injuries, and the 2010 season is beginning to unfold the same.  Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes are elite players, and if they are on the DL, the Mets are not going to win.  Also, the rotation after Santana... not so hot. 

4. Florida Marlins (76-86)

The Fish overachieved big time last year in the win department, but this is a solid team.  Offensively, the only real question mark is in center field with Cameron Maybin, although any value Jorge Cantu provides with the bat is more or less erased by his glove.  The rotation is also strong, led by Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco (the unluckiest pitcher in baseball in 2009), and Anibal Sanchez (remember him, he threw a nono).  The bullpen is a little flaky, but other than that, there isn't much to criticize about this team.  It is a real shame that ownership won't fork over some money to compliment this great young core with a couple of key free agents.

5. Washington Nationals

Even with Stephen Strasburg, this is a boring team.  Strasburg is starting the season in AA, so who am I supposed to write about?   I'll tell you who, Willie Harris.  Harris is one of the most underappreciated players in baseball.  Over the last three seasons, he has contributed 5.9 WAR despite accumulating only 1200 plate appearances.  Will someone please give this guy a full time job?  Also, Adam Dunn may post a UZR score so bad that it causes someone at Fangraphs head to explode. 

April 4, 2010 2:20 AM

American League West

With the start of the season just around the corner I figured it would be a good idea to share my thoughts on the projected standings for the 2010 season.  These are not scientific, at least not based on any of my own work, but I have studied the various projection systems out there.  We've covered the AL East and Central, so let's move on to the West.

This should be a hotly contested division in 2010.  The Angels lost a couple of key players, the Mariners added two weapons in Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee, and the young Rangers just keep getting better.  However, this will also probably be the weakest division in the American League, and whoever advances will be cannon fodder in the ALDS.  However, that is also what most people though last year, and the Angels swept the Red Sox.

1. Texas Rangers (86-76)

Last season, the Rangers posted 87 wins and an impressive +44 run differential.  I have them listed at 86 wins, but that is a conservative estimate.  If Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler can give them full, healthy seasons, Chris Davis can rebound from an awful year, and Neftali Feliz is all he is billed up to be, this team could easily find themselves with more than 90 wins.

2. Los Angeles Angels (83-79)

It looks like the Angels reign atop the West is finally coming to a close.  They lost two key free agents in John Lackey and Chone Figgins, and are attempting to replace them with Brandon Wood and Joel Pineiro.  Wood has impressive minor league numbers, but people are still sceptical about his ability to handle major league pitching.  Thankfully for the Angels, they have a strong replacement option with Maicer Izturis.  Pitching, however, will be the Angels undoing.  Jered Weaver was extremely lucky last season (3.75 ERA vs. 4.48 xFIP), last season was Pineiro's first xFIP season under 4.00 since 2002, Scott Kazmir was just awful last season, and Brian Fuentes' arm appears to be hanging on by a thread.chone_figgins.bmp

T3. Seattle Mariners (78-84)

The Mariners are a chic pick this year thanks to 85 wins last season and one of the best defences in the league.  I'm not buying it.  The wins were a mirage as their run differential was -52, 4th worst in the AL.  Chone Figgins will be a slight upgrade over Adrian Beltre, but the fact is this is a terrible offensive team, especially with the loss of slugger Russell Branyan, as well as Ryan Garko. I admire what GM Jack Zduriencik is doing, and would love to be wrong about this team, but I don't think I am. 

T3. Oakland Athletics (78-84)

Opposite the Mariners, the A's underperformed last season with only 75 wins but a -2 run differential.  They added a terrific defensive centerfielder in Coco Crisp (although he will miss significant time with a broken finger), and signed ace Ben Sheets to a one year deal.  Kurt Suzuki is one of the most underappreciated players in the game, and gives the A's some pop that most teams just don't have behind the plate.  Overall, this team doesn't do anything particularly well, but led by the unheralded (at least outside of sabermetric circles ) Brett Anderson, should do just enough to win a decent amount of ball games. 

March 31, 2010 11:50 PM

American League Central Preview

With the start of the season just around the corner I figured it would be a good idea to share my thoughts on the projected standings for the 2010 season.  These are not scientific, at least not based on any of my own work, but I have studied the various projection systems out there.  Following up the AL East is the AL Central.

 

Just like in 2009, the AL Central should be baseball's most exciting division, with a divisional crown going down to the wire.  Despite the loss of Joe Nathan, the Twins appear to be the consensus pick, but expect the White Sox, Indians or Tigers to have something to say about that.

1. Minnesota Twins (87-75)franciscoliriano.jpg

The Twins return essentially the same team that won them the Central title last season, with the addition of JJ Hardy, Orlando Hudson and Jim Thome.  While it may seem odd to hear, the Twins are going to win ball games by scoring by the boatload.  Mauer, Morneau, Thome, Hardy, Kubel and Cuddyer all have 20 home run power, and we should see some high scoring affairs at Target Field.  The real wild card is number five starter Francisco Liriano.  Will he be 2006 2.16 ERA Liriano, or 2009 5.80 ERA Liriano? 

2. Chicago White Sox (82-80)

A contender every year, the White Sox will be in the thick of things again in 2010.  Jake Peavy will be the key to the pitching staff, and it will be interesting to see how he fares after years of pitching in pitcher friendly Petco.  The offence will be relying on bounce back campaigns from Alex Rios and Carlos Quentin.  The real story, however, is in the bullpen, where a closer controversy appears to be brewing between incumbent Bobby Jenks and Matt Thornton.

3. Detroit Tigers (80-82)

The Tigers could be very good or very bad.  Will Johnny Damon hold up for the full year?  Will Magglio Ordonez hit like he did in the second half last year?  Can Dontrelle Willis regain his form?  The only constants on this team are Miguel Cabrera's stick and that Brandon Inge's glove will be a black hole at third base, but unfortunately, so will his bat.  Jose Valverde should be a welcome addition to the bullpen after saving 116 games over the last three seasons, and Scott Sizemore and Austin Jackson are a step in the right direction for the team's young core. 

4. Cleveland Indians (79-83)

The offence should hold its own, anchored by Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo, but it is hard to take seriously a team that lists Fausto Carmona as their number two starter behind Jake Westbrook, a guy who has thrown only 34.2 innings since 2007.  This team just has too many question marks, ranging from the rotation to the bullpen to former top prospect Matt LaPorta.

5. Kansas City Royals (71-91)

Unlike many of the other cellar dwellers in baseball, you can't blame the Royals for not spending money.  Over the last several years they have splurged for free agents like Gil Meche, Jose Guillen, Juan Cruz, Jason Kendall and Kyle Farnsworth.  While they are willing to spend money (2009 $70 million Opening Day Payroll), the free agents they attract are not the ones that will take them to the top of the AL Central.  Looking through the Royals depth chart, they have a lot of household names.  For most teams, this would be a good thing.  Unfortunately for Kansas City, most of these players are retreads from other organizations, and it means that the Royals are not developing their own home-grown players.  Only six of the teams projected regulars (including bullpen) were drafted or signed by the Royals.  If they want to get back into contention, the Royals need to do a better job of developing cheap talent.       

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