Sunday, December 6, 2009

2010 HoF Ballot coming...

The Veterans committee announces on 12/7, and the BBWAA announces 1/6/2010. At current there's exactly 108 BBWAA voted members of the HoF, and the 2010 ballot has some interesting candidates.

There seems to only be one clear cut candidates this time around; Roberto Alomar. There's been 9 BBWAA elected 2nd baseman in baseball history, 6 of which played in the early part of the century. There's only a few contemporary 2nd basement to use as comparisons to Alomar: Rod Carew, Joe Morgan and Ryne Sandberg. Alomar was an all star 12 straight seasons, had gold gloves, silver sluggers and several MVP top 5 results. He was a dominant defensive player, had a career .300 average and 210 homers from a middle infield position. He should be a first ballot election, except for a troubling tailing off of production resulting in retirement at 36 and some questionable character issues (the spitting incident and the HIV allegations). Being that BBWAA are in fact members of the press, and Alomar had a somewhat prickly relationship with them, might cost him votes.

Andre Dawson might benefit from a lack of decent new candidates and finally push his 67% vote production last year above the 75% barrier. His numbers speak for themselves; he had a great combination of power, speed and defensive prowness, and seems to be in the "just prior to the homer era."

I think the candidacy of Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris can both be summarized as "good pitchers" but not hall of fame calibre. Blyleven had 287 wins and a gazillion strikeouts, but always seemed to hover around .500 and only had 3 or 4 seasons even worthy of Cy Young votes. Morris' reputation as a workhorse and "pitching to score" was somewhat debunked recently in a stats-heavy analysis; in reality he was a era+ 105 career, barely above average, but is remembered as a post season savior for two teams. If anything Morris deserves more consideration based on his 9 times being in the cy young top 10.

Lee Smith, it is argued, is a better closer than those already enshrined (Bruce Sutter specifically) but I remember him as a plodding closer who picked up a lot of saves without really being that dominant.

Edgar Martinez, Barry Larkin, Tim Raines, and Fred McGriff all statistically speaking show up as exactly the same slightly-below-borderline hall of famers, but each seems to have flaws that the voters cannot get over. Martinez had a fabulous career OPS+ of 147 but spent half it being purely a DH (which didn't really hurt Paul Molitor but seems to really bug voters with Martinez). Larkin was indeed a great one-team player, 12-time all star with an MVP vote, but I can't put him in the same breath as modern SS enshrinees Ripken, Yount and Ozzie Smith. Raines might have been on the path to being a Rickey Henderson clone, but decided to basically stop being an impact player once he turned 28. McGriff had some serious career HR totals (493 just prior to the steriod/homer era) but never really sniffed an MVP.

Alomar and Dawson, with perhaps Blyleven sneaking in.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The NBA is Stupid...

Caught some of the NBA draft last night, if for any other reason, the Phils were getting smoked by Tampa, and as if it wasn't bad enough, Durbin was getting absolutely squeezed by (Home plate umpire Rampuano I think it was?) Ball right down the heart of the plate to Burrell, and no call. Next thing Durbin and Ruiz are nearly two-on-oneing the ump, so Utley has to come in and play peacemaker. Sadly after the first inning, that was the only highlight of the Phils game. Man, things looked so good two weeks ago, and now the Phils can't buy a win. Nothing like the ups and downs of a 162-game baseball season.

So, anyway, back to the NBA draft. I've asked this question many times over the years in this forum, and so I'll ask it again -- my question with the NBA. WHAT'S THE FREAKING POINT? I keep hearing maybe three or four guys might have an impact on an NBA lineup out of all the guys drafted last night. So my point is:
  • If you can't make any deals because of the salary cap
  • If you can't improve through the trade
What's the point of even following a team when there's exactly 100% chance they don't have any chance of making it to the East Finals, let alone Finals. And for another 5-8 years. What's the point?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

CWS Field set; Boss's predictions

The CWS is set, and its looking like a pretty good field.

top half:
#1 Texas d #16 TCU
unseeded Southern Miss (who took out #9 Ga Tech and #8 Florida en route)
#5 ASU d #12 clemson
x #4 UNC d #13 ECU

bottom half.
#3 LSU d #14 rice
unseeded UVA d #13 Ole Miss
unseeded Arkansas d #10 Florida State
#2 CS Fullerton d #15 Louisville

So, basically the top 5 seeds advanced to the CWS, and the 6,7,8 seeds were taken out by a vastly underseeded UVA, a very powerful Arkansas team that went from the #1 ranking mid-season to a tailspin just prior to the SEC tourney, and a total upstart in Southern Miss.

The top half of the CWS is packed. 1,4,5 national seeds and #1,2 and 4 RPI rankings. Its going to be very tough to advance for any of those teams. UNC's pitching took a big step up in the super regional, while Texas struggled. ASU seems like a one-trick pony in Leake while Southern Miss seems in over their head. I think UNC battles back but can't overcome the losers bracket.

The bottom half seems weaker: #2,4,7 nationally ranked teams and 3,4,6,14 RPIs. Its definitely a strong group. Fullerton has just pulverized teams and plays a brand of baseball that nobody really can match. UVA is the dark horse, but I'm not sure they can keep up the underdog story all the way through. LSU knows Arkansas and beat them 2 of 3 in Arkansas but I don't think they can overcome Fullerton.

My predictions:
top half: Texas, UNC, ASU, Southern Miss
bottom half: Fullerton, LSU, UVA, Arkansas

CWS final: Fullerton takes out Texas to win their 5th national baseball title.

Monday, June 8, 2009

USMNT pulls one out... somehow

Another soccer post: feel free to skip if you're not interested in US Men's soccer.

After a 3-1 pasting in Costa Rica, the US let in another early, easy goal against Honduras on saturday and I was saying, "geeze here we go." However, they fought back to eventually take the game 2-1 and stay in 2nd place in the concacaf World cup qualifying standings (top 3 automatically qualify for South Africa 2010, 4th place plays 5th place from South America).

The US started to dominate after the shaky start, had a pretty clear penalty against Clark waved off before a handball 2 minutes later was called, giving Donovan yet another opportunity to do his ridiculous pre-PK ritual of kneeling, kissing his knuckles and hands, etc before scoring. Since its his only method of scoring international goals lately, I guess he needs a ritual worth mocking. Later in the 2nd half Bocanegra headed in a loose ball for the 2-1 victory.

My specific thoughts on the US players in the Honduras game:
- Spector and Bornstein proved why they are far better alternatives to Beasley and Wynne in the defense. Spector has a fantastic game and Bornstein was equally as solid.
- For the umpeenth time Onyewu and Bocanegra were paired together. I guess this will continue ad naseum, despite the fact that I believe DeMerit is a better player.
- Mastreoni is done. He has looked slow, inept on the ball and unable to do his job in these past two games. His halftime substitution should be a ritual burial for his international career. Feilhaber, despite not really playing anywhere for 2 years, played pretty well in 2nd half in his place.
- Donovan was listed as having a "great game" per reports, but I thought he was once again invisible, putting in poor free kicks and poor crosses. Spector and Dempsey were more talented on teh ball.
- Altidore was ok, Casey was not. Beasley is useless and needs to be removed from the pool of players. We have better options now and he's proven that he's a one-trick pony (speed).

Lastly; i think its time for a new coach. One who can instill some backbone into this team, find a playmaker they desperately need and move forward. I know it won't happen; but Bradley is basically going to get this team to South Africa and be 3-and-out.

Our only hope in the next world cup is having Mexico somehow not qualify. Because that would guarantee us the seed out of this region and would guarantee we don't have a second european team in our group. It would also mean we would miss every major power in the group stage. Consider our group and mexico's groups in the last three cups while they were seeded:

US groups:
2006: Italy, Ghana, Czech Republic
2002: Portugal, Poland, Korea
1998: Germany, Yugoslavia, Iran

Mexico groups:
2006: Portugal, Angola, Iran
2002: Italy, Croatia, Equador
1998: Netherlands, Belgium, Korea

In each case, you can easily make the argument that Mexico's groups almost guaranteed passage while our groups have been exceedingly difficult. With the tables turned, the US may be talking about routine quarterfinal appearances and not be talking about just "playing well."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Randy Johnson: Greatest LHP of all time?

Caple, Neyer and Stark (espn's top three baseball analysts) had a running back and forth arbument printed about this very question. Now, I kinda hate arguments like this where everyone thinks the "greatest of all time" is whoever is hottest right now. But there's some serious arguments for Johnson...

Candidates mentioned (in reverse historical order): all numbers are career #s:
Randy Johnson; 300-164, 4845Ks, 3.29 era, 136 era+, 5 CYAs, 3 second places
Steve Carlton: 329-244, 4136Ks, 3.22 era, 115 era+, 4 CYAs, a 3rd and a 4th
Sandy Koufax: 165-87, 2396 Ks, 2.76 era, 131 era+, 3 CYAs and a 3rd, retired at 30.
Whitey Ford: 236-106, 1956 Ks, 2.75 era, 133 era+
Warren Spahn: 363-245, 2583 Ks, 3.09 era, 118 era+, 1 CYA, 3 seconds and a third (but award didn't exist til he was 35 and half way through his career. Probably would have at least 3 more).
Lefty Grove: 300-141, 2266 Ks, 3.06 era, 148 era+ , won MVP in a 31-4 season in 1931
Carl Hubbell: 253-154, 1677 Ks, 2.98 era, 130 era+ , 2 mvps
Eddie Plank: 326-194, 2246 Ks, 2.35 era, 122 era+, never anywhere close to an MVP.

In the end, I believe 2 picked Johnson, one picked Spahn. However I think they're both wrong. For me, Lefty Grove is the greatest ever slightly ahead of Johnson. Their biggest argument against Grove seemed to be the lack of black players in the MLB at the time; my counter to that is the following: there were 1/2 as many teams playing in an era in the USA where there was ONE sport that every school kid played. That says to me that the lineups of the day were ferocious enough. We constantly hear about the elite talent of the Negro leagues but I suspect that the stars would still have been stars in the MLB, but there wouldn't have been a major difference in the up-and-down talent levels otherwise.

My order: Grove, Johnson, Spahn, Carlton, Hubbell, Koufax, Ford, Plank. Imagine if Koufax played another 5 years or so. He would have had 4000 Ks and 300 wins and we'd be wondering if Johnson was half as good as he was.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Randy Johnson: The Last 300-Game Winner? Probably Not

Last month, Boss touched on some single-season baseball records that may never be broken. Tonight, just minutes after Randy Johnson's 300th win, I wonder if we'll ever see another pitcher win 300 games in his career. First, let's take a look at the highest win totals among active players (age in parentheses):

1.Tom Glavine (43)305L
2.Randy Johnson (45)300L
3.Jamie Moyer (46)250L
4.Andy Pettitte (37)220L
5.Pedro Martinez (37)214R
6.John Smoltz (42)210R

Keep in mind that this list doesn't include the recently retired Greg Maddux (355 wins) and the scandal-ridden Roger Clemens (354 wins). And if you exclude Glavine and Johnson, who already have 300 wins, you're looking at an average age of 40.5 among the four pitchers with more than 200 wins and an average of 76.5 wins to get to 300. I'm going to take a look at the other guys on the list and give my estimate of their odds of winning 300 wins, which is based on nothing more than a gut feeling. Feel free to provide your own estimates in the comments section.

The closest guy on the list, Jamie Moyer, signed a two-year deal prior to this year, but took five starts to win #250. Excluding this year, Moyer has average 13.67 wins over the last three years. At that pace, Moyer would need 3 2/3rds more seasons to reach 300 and pitch until he's nearly 50. Perhaps if Moyer gets close to 300, some team would take a flyer on him as a 50-year-old in hopes of selling tickets, but I don't see him as the type of guy who would allow himself to become a circus show. Chance of reaching 300 wins: 15%

A little-known fact is that Andy Pettitte is tied with Randy Johnson for the most wins since 2000 (139) . Excluding this year, Pettitte has averaged 14.3 wins over the last three years. At that pace, he would need about 5 2/3rds years to make it to 300. That would put him around 42 years old, roughly the same age Glavine was when he hit 300. Pettitte also has durability working for him, having made at least 30 starts every year since 2005. Chance of reaching 300 wins: 50%

Prior to 2006, Pedro Martinez probably had the best chance of anyone on this list to reach 300 wins. At that point, Martinez had 197 wins at age 33. From 2003-2005, Martinez averaged 15 wins. Had he been able to keep up that pace, Martinez would have reached 300 wins in a little less than seven season. Unfortunately, Martinez only won 17 games from 2006-2008 and is currently looking for a team to take a chance on him. Even at his old average of 15 wins, Martinez would need to pitch until age 42 to reach 300 wins. Not likely given his trouble staying healthy, but still, Pedro is Pedro. If he can come back healthy, maybe he makes a run at it. Chance of 300 wins: 15%

Had John Smoltz not spent four years as a closer--three of which he was one of the best in the majors--we would be talking about him as the next 300-game winner. In the three years prior to becoming a closer, Smoltz averaged 14.3 wins. In the three years after being a closer, Smoltz averaged 15 wins. If we assume that Smoltz would have racked up 15 wins in each of the four years he was a closer, he'd currently be sitting at 270 wins. Of course, that's a huge assumption, especially given the arm troubles that he had after the 2007 season. Would he have broken down sooner? We'll never know. As it is, he's 90 wins away and is already in his 40's. Chance of 300 wins: 5%

Looking further done the active wins list, there's an intriguing candidate in Roy Halladay, who turned 32 on May 14 yet has 140 wins to his credit. Over the last FIVE years, Halladay has averaged 14.4 wins a season, but over the last three seasons, he's averaged 17.3 wins. This year, he already has 9 wins. Were he to pitch until he's 40, Halladay would need to average 18.78 wins over the next eight years. Were he to pitch until he's 42, 15.36 wins per year. The 15.36 wins per year doesn't sound too difficult, but managing to avoid injury for eight years certainly does. Chance of 300 wins: 35%

Another interesting contender is Roy Oswalt, who has averaged 14.88 wins over his entire eight-year career for a total of 131 at age 31. At that pace, Oswalt would need to pitch 12 more years (until age 43) to get to 300. Oswalt has also been very durable, making at least 30 starts in each of the last five years. Chance of 300 wins: 40%

At age 30, Mark Buehrle has 128 wins and has averaged 13.8 wins over the last five years. At that pace, Buehrle would need to pitch until he's 42 to reach 300 wins. And unlike Oswalt and Halladay, Buehrle tends to be in the 10-15 win range rather than the 15-18 range. Chance of 300 wins: 20%

Before we consider any more candidates, let's pause for a trivia question. Who are the only two pitchers in their 20's with at least 100 wins? One answer is pretty easy. The other might surprise you.

(The answer is just below, so you stop and hazard a couple of guesses before you start scrolling again).

First, the easy person. At age 28, CC Sabathia has 122 wins and has averaged 16 wins over the last three years. At that pace, Carsten Charles Sabathia would need to pitch nearly 11 more years, or until he's 39. Note that he's the only guy on this list who projects to reach 300 wins before he turns 40. That said, he's lead the major leagues in innings pitched the last two years and he weighs 250 pounds, so breakdown is a concern. Still, given his pedigree (he's averaged 14.62 wins over the course of his career), he probably has one of the better chances to make it to 300. Chance of 300 wins: 50%

The second 20-something with more than 100 wins? Jon Garland, who at age 29 has 110 wins. Garland's win total is more due to beginning his career at a young age (20) than years of accumulating high win totals (he only has two seasons with more than 15 wins). Over the last three years, Garland has averaged 14 wins. At that pace, he would need to pitch nearly 14 more years to make it to 300. Chance of 300 wins: 3%

Given most teams' reluctance to pitch their starters much more than 200 innings, plus the fact that rotations are now five people instead of four, reaching 300 wins is harder now than probably at any other time in history. Don't believe me? Consider this:

If a pitcher were to enter the major leagues at age 23, he would need to AVERAGE 20 wins for the next 15 years to reach 300 and pitch until age 38.

That doesn't convince you? What if I told you that there have been a total of only twelve 20-win seasons over the last five years? And of those twelve 20-win seasons, only one pitcher had more than one (Oswalt in '04 and '05).

Does that mean that we might not ever see another 300-game winner? I don't think so. I think that, sooner or later, there will be another one of those pitchers who can win 14-15 games over a 20+ year career. Will that person come from the current crop of MLB players? Only time will tell. Do I think that we'll see another 300-game winner within the next 15 years? Yes. The people with the best shot to make it? Probably Pettitte, with Sabathia, Halladay, and Oswalt close behind.

Will we ever see anyone else approach Greg Maddux's 355 wins? Or Roger Clemens's 354 wins? I seriously doubt it.

Dave Sheinin also examined this topic in a recent blog post for the Washington Post. The top five contenders that he lists? 5) Stephen Strasburg ("a bit tongue in cheek," he admits 40-1 odds) 4) Mark Buehrle (18-1 odds) 3) CC Sabathia (12-1 odds) 2) Roy Halladay (9-1 odds) 1) Johan Santana (7-1 odds).

If you ask me, the odds for Buehrle, Sabathia, Halladay, and Santana are way to low. For comparison's sake, the odds for the loaded New York Yankees to win the World Series at the beginning of the year was 9-1. That seems like a much sure bet than Halladay or Santana reaching 300 wins.

Note that I didn't consider Santana in my analysis because he doesn't either have 200 wins or was still in his 20's with 100 wins.

Hmmm. I guess in his defense, he did have 109 wins when he was 29, so let's take a look at his odds. Over the last three years, he's averaged 16.67 wins, which would mean that he would about 11 1/2 years to reach 300, putting him into his early 40's. Also in his favor is that he plays for a team in the New York Mets that typically spends more than most teams and usually has a better chance than most to post a decent record. Still, he didn't get his 12th win until he was 24, which put him behind a lot of others on this list. But, at the same time, he doesn't have the number of innings pitched on his arm as others on this list do. I still don't think that he has a better chance than the people I listed earlier (Pettitte, Halladay, Oswalt, and Sabathia), but he's got a decent chance. Chance of 300 wins: 35%

And here's just a little bit more on the subject from Ted Keith at Sports Illustrated. He points out that "for the first time since Nolan Ryan won his 300th in July of 1990, baseball is preparing to witness the initiation of another member in this exclusive fraternity without any reasonable guess as to who the next initiate will be." Keith notes that there were only four active pitchers with at least 200 wins when Ryan won #300 and none of them got to 300. And of the four pitchers who would eventually get to #300, only Clemens with 109 was even a third of the way home. Maddux had 52 wins in his fifth season, Tom Glavine had 29 in his fourth year and Johnson had 19 in his third.

Here are the names that Keith adds to the list that are not mentioned here, along with a short sentence from him about their chances:
  • Carlos Zambrano: "Zambrano's temper, and his sometimes-balky shoulder, are the biggest factors standing in the way of a serious run at 300. He's on pace so far."
  • Josh Beckett: "Didn't win 10 games in a season until his fifth year. Unless he can shake the injury woes that have plagued him (only one season with more than 30 starts), he is a long shot."
  • Jake Pea-vy: "Peavy's on pace for now, but if he's traded, how will that factor in? Though his ERA has benefited from spacious PETCO Park (and before that, Qualcomm) -- it's more than 1.00 better than on the road -- Peavy has actually won more games away from San Diego than he has in his home ballpark."
  • Justin Verlander: "Won 35 games in his first two full seasons before taking a step backward last year. Seems to have fixed the problems that plagued him a year ago. Recent history has suggested that power pitchers (Seaver, Ryan, Clemens, Johnson) can get to 300 if they stay in shape, and Verlander falls into that category."
  • Felix Hernandez: "King Felix debuted at 19, giving him a major headstart on the race to 300, but despite all his wondrous gifts he has had only one winning season in his career. Is he a colossal bust or a clone of Johnson, who was 29 before he had a breakout year? King Felix better not wait that long if he wants to get to 300."
  • Zack Greinke: "Greinke is the story of the year so far, having a breakout season at age 26. Shades of Glavine, who had only 33 wins entering the season he turned 25?"
  • Cole Hamels: "Joining Steve Carlton as lefties who won 300 with the Phillies isn't necessary to endear last year's NLCS and World Series MVP to Philadelphia fans. Hamels has never won more than 15 games in a season, which will need to change if he's to mount any kind of serious charge to make up for inevitable late-career falloff."
  • Tim Lincecum: "So young, so good, so far away. Lincecum's crazy windup and superb stuff have baffled hitters, but it's way too soon to know whether he has the staying power to make a serious run at 300."
One other point from Keith, which says that, Pettitte, my favorite to be the next 300-game winner, doesn't seem as likely as first believed. "Yet when the duo [he's also talking about Moyer], two of the game's winningest active pitchers, were asked if they had any thoughts about trying to pitch long enough to win 300 games, the mere suggestion was so unfathomable that both men started laughing. 'I don't believe so,' said Pettitte, who with 220 wins is fourth among active pitchers. 'I don't have the desire to do that in my career.'"

Granted 220 at age 37 is a long ways away. But say Pettitte can win 25-30 games over this season and the next. Then he's sitting around 250 at age 39. Does that get him to start thinking about baseball immortality? Time will tell.

Baseball's Unwritten Rules

Being a long time baseball player myself, i'm intimately aware of some of the more obvious "unwritten rules" of baseball. Mostly because, I've seen the fights and beanings that break out when you break them.

But I always love it when they come into play in the majors. Most recent example: Josh Beckett took a no-hitter into the 7th, but it was Gerald Laird's bunt attempt in the 6th that really set some people off. It went foul; Becket loss the no-no in the 7th and plunked Laird in the 8th. Upon hearing this I immediately thought two things:
- served him right getting hit for bunting
- Beckett threw at him on purpose

(as it turned out, he got hit with a 2-2 fastball, which pretty much means he wasn't trying to hit him. Had he gotten hit w/ a first pitch, or a 1-0/2-0 fastball ...different story).

This wasn't the worst recent example. Schilling had a perfect game broken up in the 8th by a bunt single in 2001 (as remembered by Rob Neyer's article). Lots of people up in arms about that situation.

Some other common "unwritten rules" in baseball. Most of these are only in place "... with a big lead."
- No stealing with more than a 5 run lead
- don't swing for the fences on a 3-0 with a big lead.
- Don't try to break up a double play hard unless the game is close
- Don't barrel over the catcher unless the game is close (think about Utley's "slide" into Flores where he nearly broke his leg last year).
- Don't do anything to show up a team that you're beating handily, in general.
- If you're not a bunt hitter, don't bunt to break up an historic pitching event (no hitter and especially a perfect game).

So, thoughts. Do you agree with unwritten rules and do you think a bunt attempt is a bush league way to break up a no-hitter?