Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Voting For the Hall of Fame

So the votes are in and we'll have two new members to the Hall of Fame this year. It's not surprising that Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. made the cut. Piazza was the best offensive catcher since Carter and Fisk hung up their cleats. And Junior is the best position player I have ever seen in my life. A defining moment of all the times I have been to Fenway Park will be when I saw Junior, on a dead run, make an over the shoulder catch at the Triangle in center field.

I was surprised others did not make it in. If I were a voter for the Hall (and I'm not), my ballot would have looked like this:

  • Mike Piazza
  • Ken Griffey Jr.
  • Jeff Bagwell
  • Trevor Hoffman
  • Curt Schilling
  • Mike Mussina
  • Larry Walker

To me the other two no-brainers on that list are Jeff Bagwell and Trevor Hoffman. Bagwell was a monster at first base. Rookie of the Year in 1991. He won the MVP, albeit in the 1994 strike-shortened season. Of course, that same year he pulled off an amazing feat by averaging more than one RBI per game (116 in 110 games). His lifetime JAWS of 63.9 ranks 6th all-time for first basemen. Bagwell is 64th all-time in total WAR. Hoffman is one of only two closers to have 600+ saves (the other being Mariano Rivera). No one else even has 500 saves. A lifetime ERA of 2.87. Eighth all-time in WHIP (1.058). And you could make a strong argument that he should have won the 1998 NL Cy Young Award.

Then you have the ones that you have to argue for. Curt Schilling never won the Cy Young. But he came in second three times. He had two dominant years back-to-back in 2001-02. In both those years he was the Sporting News NL Pitcher of the Year. From 2001-04 his average was 18-7 with a 3.11 ERA (ERA+ 150)and 252 strikeouts. But his true value came in the post-season. In 12 series his record was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and a 0.968 WHIP. In the World Series those numbers were 4-1 | 2.06 ERA | 0.896 WHIP. His 80.7 WAR is 26th all-time for pitchers. His career WHIP of 1.127 is in the top 50 all-time. Most impressively, his K/BB ratio of 4.383 is second all-time, trailing only Tommy Bond, who pitched before there were airplanes.

Mike Mussina was in the top 6 of Cy Young voting in 9 of his 18 years. He registered 11+ wins per year for 17 straight years, only missing out in his rookie season. That alone is an amazing feat. He won seven Gold Gloves as a pitcher. 24th all-time in WAR for pitchers (82.7). 33rd all-time in wins with 270. 19th in strikeouts. One of only 12 pitchers to have a WAR higher than 80 with 270+ wins and 2800+ strikeouts. His consistency was probably why he wasn't appreciated more.

Larry Walker in his hey-day was a monster. If you look at his prime three years (1997-99) you see a dominant batter at the height of his powers. His average over those three years: .369 BA | 36 HR | 104 RBI | .451 OBP | 1.141 OPS. Throw in a MVP award in 1997 while you're at it. Seven Gold Gloves. .313 lifetime batting average. 15th all-time in OPS. His fielding percentage in right field (.986) is 30th all-time. He contributed at the plate and in the field.

So yeah, I am one of those guys who doesn't vote for Tim Raines because while he was good at a lot of things he was only great at stealing bases. I can't vote for Bonds or Clemens because of the PED issue, although I think they will get in before their 10 years are up. I feel bad for Alan Trammel; had he played 10 years later or if sabermetrics came along 10 years earlier I think he'd be in.

But I think this would be a ballot you could look at and defend. No glaring absences. None of that "No one should be a unanimous 1st year inductee" crap.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sox Trade Wade Miley and Aro to Seattle for Carson Smith and Roenas Elias

Let's play a quick game. I am going to put down two projection lines for two pitchers in the AL for 2016. The stats are from Baseball Reference.

Pitcher A

9-10 | 4.27 ERA | 177 IP | 145 K | 1.362 WHIP | 7.4 K/9

Pitcher B

7-9 | 4.02 ERA | 132 IP | 115 K | 1.303 WHIP | 7.8 K/9

Pitcher A is Wade Miley. Pitcher B is Roenas Elias. And this is why yesterday's deal may have been a steal for Boston.

I am not going to deny that I was hoping Miley would stay in Boston. He was the only free agent Boston signed last year to give the Sox exactly what they expected. He was a solid back-end starter who ate up innings. The only reason Boston's bullpen didn't completely burn out last year was that Miley averaged six innings a start.

But that also made Miley a valuable trade chip. He's cheap money for the next two years, reliable and under 30. So to flip Miley to Seattle for Carson Smith made a lot of sense.

Carson Smith has the potential to give Boston a 1-2 punch for the next three years like the Yankees had with Betances and Miller. Last year Smith posted a 2.31 ERA, 13 saves, 22 holds and a 1.01 WHIP while striking out 90 batters over 70 innings. And while that may not be how Boston starts the year (I can't see them kicking Uehara back as a 6th/7th inning guy yet) don't be surprised if it happens by mid-season.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

David Price Joins the Red Sox - Breaking it Down

The bombshell in the sporting world last night was the news that the Red Sox signed free-agent pitcher David Price to a seven-year, $217M dollar contract. The premier free-agent pitcher on the market this off-season, Price gives the Sox the top-flight pitcher they were lacking last year. Between this and the trade for Craig Kimbrel, Sox GM Dave Dombrowski has solidified Boston's pitching to a large degree.

The details of the deal are pretty straight-forward. Price can opt out after three years (end of 2018 season). He makes $30M each year for the first three years, $31M in the fourth and $32M each of the last three years. So you can also look at this as a three-year deal, which changes some things we can talk about in a moment.

Lifetime, Price is 104-56 with a 3.09 ERA. He won the Cy Young in 2012 and finished second in 2010 and 2015. He has thrown 200+ innings in five of the last six years. He is without argument one of the best pitchers in baseball and gives Boston their first Cy Young winner in the rotation since Pedro Martinez left at the end of the 2004 season.

Lifetime at Fenway, Price is 6-1 in 11 starts with a 1.95 ERA and a 0.946 WHIP. He is 16-2 lifetime against the Blue Jays, 13-7 against the Yankees. Being a lefty in Fenway has not presented Price with many problems over his career and I don't think it will now, any more than it did Jon Lester. And he is solid against the big teams in the AL East.

Oh, and Price doesn't cost the Red Sox their first-round draft pick.

So based off of the above, this sounds like a great signing. And for the most part, it is. But there is one rather large red flag.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What will David Ortiz's Last Season Look Like?

The big news in New England today is that David Ortiz will be retiring after the 2016 season.

Ortiz will retire as the most beloved Sox slugger since Yaz hung up his cleats after the 1983 season. But if the first thought in Boston's fan is to be sad about his retirement, the second one is most likely "What kind of season will Papi have in 2016?"

Ortiz turns 40 today (Happy Birthday, Papi!). Not too many players have a career that goes into their 40s and stay productive when they get there. His last three seasons have been remarkably consistent, all with 30+ home runs, 100+ RBI and 500+ AB. He has stayed healthy and has contributed. But 40...things change when you hit 40.

Baseball Reference has this projection for Ortiz in 2016:

567 Plate Appearances | 130 H | 30 2B | 30 HR | 91 RBI | .863 OPS

That would represent his lowest OPS since 2009 and the first time he went under 600 plate appearances in a 100+ game season since 2008. That said, it would still be a pretty remarkable season for a hitter in his 40s. In fact, you could argue that it would be the best season ever for a 40+ hitter with 500 or more homers not named Ted Williams. Which either speaks to Ortiz's longevity or Baseball Reference being too optimistic.

If those stats held, here would be Ortiz's final career numbers:

10032 Plate Appearances | 2433 H | 614 2B | 533 HR | 1732 RBI

And for his career, here is where he would place all-time:

Plate Appearances: 82nd

Hits: 117th

Doubles: 11th

Home Runs: 19th

RBI: 21st (tied with Honus Wagner)

It is also worth noting that Ortiz would be one of only three players in MLB history to retire with 500+ HR, 600+ 2B and 1600+ RBI. The other two players are Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron. Which I think will make for some very interesting and volatile HOF arguments once Ortiz retires.

My gut says that BR is being slightly optimistic. The past couple of seasons Ortiz has started cold and needed a scorching second half of a season to get his numbers up. Can he do that again at age 40? I think it will be a little harder to do. But I do think he will still reach 600+ doubles. So get those HOF arguments ready.