Friday, January 31, 2014
For one, it's based off of Facebook "likes". If this is the future of how we statistically determine what people follow and/or like, I'm expecting a Candy Crush movie sometime in 2015 and NBC to be bought out by Buzzfeed so they can run a prime-time show telling me the 18 worst things for left-handed people (Spoiler: It will star Matt LeBlanc and the #1 answer is spiral notebooks).
Second, and by the author's own admission "I decided that a border should be contiguous...My border tried to maximize the number of towns with more than 50% Sox fans on the Red Sox side and the number of towns with more than 50% Yankee fans on the Yankee side."
Well, this isn't the 19th Century and we aren't the Brits carving up Africa any which way we want because we want pretty borders. My hometown, Farmington, gets lumped in with the second-rate side from the Bronx because Avon happens to be Yankee territory. Which isn't surprising if you know anything about Avon. But because that one town barely leans to NY...six other towns that are 50%+ Boston territory get thrown in the pit. Because little Durham is a Yankee town, the much larger and Sox-friendly town of Wallingford gets stuck behind the lines. I call shenanigans. All told, 13 Sox-majority towns are stuck in the doldrums of Yankee-land. Only five NY-majority towns get lumped in with the superior Sox.
And then there is this. Aviv says "My good friend Dave often dismisses the poll, saying Fairfield County, the county that is closest to New York City and has the densest population, isn't really part of Connecticut and doesn't count."
And he's right. Fairfield County isn't part of Connecticut. I mean, sure, legally it's part of Connecticut. But everyone knows that New England actually stops somewhere west of Bristol and south of Southington.
Every year, the fine folks at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., conduct a poll of Connecticut residents to see where our baseball loyalties lie.
The results have been pretty consistent with about 42 percent of residents claiming to be Yankees fans and 37 percent Red Sox fans (and 8 percent Mets fans). The percentages may go up or down a point or two from year to year, but generally the Yankees outpace the Sox by 5 percent.
My good friend Dave often dismisses the poll, saying Fairfield County, the county that is closest to New York City and has the densest population, isn't really part of Connecticut and doesn't count.
Ben Blatt from The Harvard Sports Analysis Collective set out to determine the true border between the two warring baseball nations. The findings show Yankee Universe's reach extends well into this divide state.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Jack had been eagerly awaiting the opportunity take the mound for quite some time. While watching major league games, he would often mimic the windups he'd be watching, pretending he was staring down a David Ortiz or Miguel Cabrera.
So as manager of Jack's team, I made sure to get Jack on the mound. It was a moment he had been dreaming about, but the decision to allow him to pitch did not come without trepidation or anxiety.
I wasn't worried about how he'd perform. That was the least of my concerns. Rather it was the images of Bryce Florie, David Huff, Brandon McCarthy and many others writhing in pain on the mound after taking a hard line drive off the head that gave me pause.
Major League Baseball on Tuesday took a step to help alleviate those concerns and improve player safety by approving a padded pitcher's hat. Unfortunately, major league pitchers, including McCarthy, are not rushing to embrace the new technology.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Yes, the Sox should sign Ortiz to a multi-year deal.
It's not a slam-dunk decision - there are one or two factors that would argue against it. But overall, Ortiz still provides enough value to Boston that signing him makes more sense than letting him go at the end of 2014.
This question has to be asked as we have arrived at that biennial occurrence: the one where David Ortiz talks about playing elsewhere if he doesn't get a multi-year deal.
“I always keep on telling people, this is a business. Sometimes you’ve got to do what’s best for you and your family,” Ortiz said. “As long as they keep offering me a job and I keep doing what I’m supposed to do and the relationship keeps on building up, I’m going to be there. Hopefully, I won’t have to go and wear another uniform.”
His regular season production would also argue in favor of extending his deal. Here are his numbers from 2011 and 2013, courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com. I left out 2012 because he played only 90 games and was shut down in a very odd year for Boston that was full of odd decisions.
2011: 146 G | 162 H | 29 HR | 96 RBI | .309 BA | .953 OPS | 291 TB | 3.9 WAR
2013: 137 G | 160 H | 30 HR | 103 RBI | .309 BA | .959 OPS | 292 TB | 4.4 WAR
Ortiz also went to the All-Star game and won the Silver Slugger Award for DH in both seasons. It shows a remarkable continuity in his performance. He was also fourth both years in on-base percentage and OPS. And according to Fangraphs his value for the two years was $17.5M and $19M respectfully. In other words, Ortiz easily exceeded his contract value in what he brought to Boston. Even in 2012, he almost broke even despite playing just over half a season.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
It's also the kind of deal that the Yankees were forced to make. And one the Sox didn't have to make, which is why they never got past the early stages of pursuing Tanaka.
As Aviv pointed out yesterday, the Yankees' "barren farm system" forced their hand on this deal. With too many holes and question marks in their rotation, and an institutional inability to actually take a year (or two) to rebuild, what else were they going to do? The Yankees are locked into a kind of death spiral, where their poor farm system forces them to spend big money on free agents, which (like Ellsbury) cost them draft picks or takes up money they could use in other areas. Which then limits their farm system and repeat forever.
To that point, MLB is about to release their list of the top 100 prospects in baseball. They have been releasing top 10 lists at each position over the past week or so to get people ready for it. Of course, at Sox vs. Stripes we only care about the Red Sox and Yankees on the list because the other 28 teams are an afterthought.
But in truth, this is really about the Boston prospects. As you'll see, these lists are yet another example of what building a farm system provides a team, as opposed to throwing away draft picks and spending ridiculous amounts of money on free agents.
So by position, here are the Boston and/or New York prospects with their rank at that position
RHP: NoneYou can see the difference between the two teams quite clearly. Boston has a top 10 prospect in seven of the eight positions. New York has them in only two. And those two position are among the "weakest" when it comes to quality and depth prospect-wise across the league.
LHP: Boston - Henry Owens (2), Trey Ball (9) | New York - None
C: Boston - Blake Swihart (5) | New York - Gary Sanchez (4)
1B: Boston - Travis Shaw (8) | New York - Greg Bird (7)
2B: Boston - Mookie Betts (3) | New York - None
3B: Boston - Garin Cecchini (6) | New York - None
SS: Boston - Xander Bogaerts (1) | New York - None
OF: Boston - Jackie Bradley, Jr. (6) | New York - None
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
The Bombers landed the last big free agent on the market, signing Japanese phenom pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to a whopping seven-year, $155 million contract that includes an opt out after year four. The Yanks also will pay the Rakuten Eagles a $20 million posting fee.
Tanaka received the fifth largest contract ever given to a pitcher, trailing Clayton Kershaw ($215 million), Justin Verlander ($180 million), Felix Hernandex ($175 million) and CC Sabathia ($161 million). Not bad for a guy who hasn't even thrown a pitch in a major league game.
The truth is that given their barren farm system and the holes in the starting rotation, the Yankees probably needed to sign Tanaka more than any other team. But it's a signing that carries a ton of risk and still doesn't make the Yankees a favorite to win the AL East, much less the World Series.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
5. David Wells (2005) - It's weird putting an ex-Yankee in this spot. And it's kind of cheating because Wells changed his number during the season from 3 to 16. But you cannot deny that Wells had a good season for the Sox in 2005. And we need someone for the fifth slot, so just go with it.
Signed as a free agent in the off-season, Wells posted a 15-7 record in 2005. His ERA was league-average (4.45, 102 ERA+) and his WHIP was a little high (1.31). But he helped stabilize a pitching roster where Tim Wakefield was the #1 pitcher and helped Boston into the post-season. His WAR was solid (3.2) and he was second in the AL in walks per nine innings (1.027). But that was his last good year; in 2006 off-season knee surgery diminished his ability and the Sox traded him to the Padres so he could fulfill his desire to finish his career on the West Coast.
3. Walt Dropo (1949-52) - The Moose!* A personal favorite from my alma mater (UConn) and arguably the best Serbian-American to ever play the sport**. Walt spent the first 3 1/2 seasons of his 13-year career with the Sox. While manning first base he not only went to the 1950 All-Star Game but won the AL Rookie of the Year. That season he hit a blistering .322 with a .961 OPS, 34 homers and 144 RBIs. Walt also led the AL in total bases and RBIs, and placed top 10 in six other categories. Those are impressive numbers even in the current era. He would also finish in the Top 30 for MVP voting twice; 6th in 1950 and 26th in 1952.
What held Dropo back from a bigger career was the wrist fracture he suffered in 1951. Unable to recapture the form he showed in 1950, he was traded to the Tigers in 1952 in the deal that sent Johnny Pesky to Detroit as well. Walt retired after the 1961 season and sadly passed away in 2010 at the age of 87. He is still recognized as one of the greatest athletes to come out of the University of Connecticut.
Monday, January 20, 2014
Nikkan Sports reported on Saturday that the New York Yankees are among five teams to have made formal offers to Masahiro Tanaka. The Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Cubs and White Sox also made pitches.
All the offers are reported to be for six-years and at least $100 million, with the Diamondbacks coming in at $120 million and the Yankees and Dodgers said to be in that neighborhood.
And without having thrown a single pitch in the Major Leagues, Tanaka will become one of the highest paid pitchers in the game with the ability to decide where he wants to play.
That's everything the MLBPA could have ever wanted, and probably not exactly what Major League baseball envisioned when it reworked the posting system with Japanese leagues in December.
Friday, January 17, 2014
And despite their massive, ill-conceived, pre-Christmas spending spree, the Yankees still have a ton of work to do.
The Yankees are pursuing Japanese phenom Mashiro Tanaka to bolster the rotation. The bullpen needs a veteran presence to support likely closer David Robertson. Third base is a huge question mark with A-Rod's suspension. And the outfield remains overload, despite releasing Vernon Wells on Thursday.
Yep. Brian Cashman has his hands full.
Even with Wells' departure, the Yankees still have Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki and Brett Gardner on the roster. That's five players for three outfield spots and shared time at designated hitter with Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann.
Simply put, the Yankees have too many assets in the outfield and too many glaring needs elsewhere.
Moves have to be made.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
4. Mike Andrews (1967-1970) - One of the lesser-known members of the "Impossible Dream" 1967 squad, Andrews manned second base for the Sox during his time with the team. He went to the All-Star game in 1969, a year where he batted .293 with a .845 OPS, 15 homers and 59 RBIs. He finished in the top 30 for AL MVP twice; 1968 (21) and 1969 (26).
3. Carl Everett (2000-2001) - "Crazy Carl" may have driven us nuts, but he could play. He went to the 2000 All-Star Game and batted .300 for the season with a .960 OPS, 34 homeruns and 108 RBI. He also ranked top 10 in OPS and #8 in slugging that year. Next year, the wheels fell off and Carl wore his welcome out.**
Sunday, January 12, 2014
The one thing that became all too clear was that in 2010 A-Rod, driven by his massive ego and a quest to become the only player to hit 800, sought out Anthony Bosch to create a schedule for taking performance enhancing drugs that would be undetectable to Major League Baseball's drug testing protocols.
And he has no one to blame but himself.
There is no witch hunt. There is no conspiracy.
There is just A-Rod's stupidity and his over-sized ego.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
On Saturday, arbitrator Frederic Horowitz finally issued his ruling of A-Rod's appeal of baseball's ban for PED use and cut the penalty to the entire 2014 season, including the playoffs.
Rodriguez, as expected, is crying foul, saying in a statement that the ban didn't come as a surprise and the deck had been stacked against him. He added that he will seek an injunction and jury trial, though it is highly unlikely either will ever happen, according to ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson. Basically, short of being able to show that Horowitz engaged in any sort of misconduct, Rodriguez is highly unlikely to convince the courts to review an arbitration decision. Horowitz's ruling itself also has not yet been released, but could be made public if A-Rod follows through on his threat to seek and injunction.
Yes, there are questions about baseball's investigation and evidence, but we should learn more about that Sunday on "60 Minutes," which will have an interview with Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch. I'll hold off on commented on the evidence against Rodriguez until I see the piece, though I expect that based on Horowitz's decision, MLB had A-Rod dead to rights.
Wondering where it all went wrong, Alex? Start with PEDs.
Friday, January 10, 2014
I think everyone is pleased that, unlike last year, some people were actually voted into the Hall. But some of the outcomes were really surprising and/or disappointing.
The most disappointing result, to me, was Greg Maddux only getting 97.2% of the vote. There are many, many players where we can debate if they are or aren't HOF-worthy. Heck, I wish the Veterans Committee would have that debate about Dwight Evans, who absolutely deserves to be in Cooperstown.
JAWS score of 81.6 is 10th all-time for starting pitchers. There no legitimate reason, none, to deny Maddux the vote.
And yet Maddux wasn't unanimous. One voter, Ken Gurnick, explained he refuses to vote for anyone from the "Steroid Era". This despite the fact that if you look at Maddux's numbers, they are consistent in his prime and degrade at the rate one would expect from a player as he ages. As opposed to, say, Roger Clemens, who had two of his best statistical seasons at ages 38 and 41.
Maddux not being a unanimous inductee is a travesty, but at least he got in.
Glavine and Thomas as first-ballot inductees is right on the money. Glavine, like Maddux, has the kind of peak and decline you expect to see in a talented pitcher. Thomas had his best years before the age of 32, which makes sense as those are the peak years for an athlete. And his decline after that made sense: after 32 he never hit over .300 again and never had an OPS over 1.000.
Glavine and Thomas also had what I like to call the "last hurrah" season. As a player ages, their performance declines. But in that decline there is usually one last season that recaptures a piece of their younger self. And then the decline continues.
For Glavine, that year was 2006. He was 40, went 15-7 with a 3.82 ERA, struck out 131 batters and a 1.333 WHIP. For Thomas, it happened at age 38 in 2006. He had a .926 OPS, hit 39 HR with 114 RBI, cranked out 147 hits and had a 3.2 WAR. That was the only time he cracked 3.0 WAR or higher over the last five years of his career.
It's interesting to see that season occur in the careers of many Hall of Fame inductees or HOF-caliber players. Hank Aaron in 1973 at age 39. Willie Mays in 1971 at age 40. Frank Robinson in 1973 at age 37. Yaz at age 40 in 1980. Dave Winfield and his ridiculous 1990 season with the Jays at age 40. Catfish Hunter going 12-6 in 1978, his next-to-last year in his career. Randy Johnson, a mortal lock for the Hall next year (except on Gurnick's ballot, apparently) going 11-10 at age 44 in 2008 with a 3.2 WAR.
Monday, January 6, 2014
I bring this up because of the Hall of Fame voting, which we will find out the results of on Wednesday. On that ballot is one Barry Lamar Bonds, who cheated his way to numerous records. So way, way, way back in 2005, when Game of Shadows came out, I considered whether or not his achievements prior to his juicing should still allow him into the Hall. So what is below is what I wrote in 2005.
It's pure insanity that it took this book to force baseball to undertake an investigation into who used steroids in baseball. But why should we be surprised? The owners and management of MLB turned a blind eye to the increasing use of PEDs, reveling in the increased home run totals and matching gate receipts. Meanwhile, the players swelled to Michelin Man proportions.
And none more than Barry Bonds
When Barry broke upon the scene in 1986, he was a recognized five-tool player. A star in the making. And he fulfilled that promise. Between 1986 and 1998, Bonds was a 8-time All-Star. A three-time MVP. Eight Gold Gloves.
But that wasn't enough. In the late 90s he saw sluggers like McGwire and Sosa capturing the eyes of America while he, the complete player, was left to the side. So he decided to do something about it. And that something was steroids and the rest.
And it was so obvious. So I compiled some numbers.
When Barry Bonds denies using PEDs, you have to look beyond his slowly expanding head. You have to look at the stats. And when you do, you see a very interesting pattern.
As some background, remember that Bonds entered the National League in 1986. He will be 41 on July 24, 2005.
Here are the five best years for Barry Bonds' career in OPS, AVG and HRs:
* OPS: 2004, 2002, 2001, 2003, 2000You'll notice that in each category, all the years are post-1999 with the exception of 1993 in both AVG and HRs. 1993 is the last year Bonds won the National League MVP before his streak of four straight MVP awards began in 2001.
AVG: 2002, 2004, 2003, 1993, 2001
* HRs: 2001, 2000, 2002 and 1993, 2003 and 2004
So Bonds' best years have all occurred after the age of 36, with the exception of 1993. And his overall best year was 2002, when he was 38 years old.
If you look at his career stats, the improvement after 1999 is shocking. And completely at odds with the basic way human biology works. It makes no logical sense that Bonds should improve yearly starting in his late 30s. And increasingly so. You could easily make the argument his second best year was 2004.
So his two best years in his 18-year career were when he was 38 and 40?? Only if he was juicing, because the human male doesn't age that way.
It was 1999 when he started using PEDs. That year was cut short after 102 games because of an elbow injury he blamed on the steroids. But when he adjusted his schedule for the 2000 season...well, we know what happened.
And is it that surprising that five years later, injuries cost him most of a season? Or that his head grew in size, which shouldn't happen in the normal course of events
Let's be blunt - batters don't get better as they get older. There is some statistical evidence that pitchers can maintain quality into their 40s. But not batters.
Compare Barry's increasing stats with the last full year of another great Giant, one Willie Mays.
In 1971, at the age of 40, Mays played 136 games. His batting average was 32 points below his career average. He struck out 123 times, the highest one-year total in his career. He had 201 total bases, the lowest total in his career when he player 120 games or more. He hit only 18 home runs, again the lowest total for Mays when he played 120 games or more.
That is what happens to the great players as they age. They don't outslug and outhit players 10-15 years younger than them. It just doesn't happen.
Let's take another great player, the legendary Hank Aaron. He played three seasons where he was 40 or older. Those three seasons his home run totals were the three lowest in his career. His batting averages were the three lowest in his career. And that shouldn't be surprising. That is the normal progression of aging.
So when Bonds so blatantly flaunts that progression, it shouldn't take years, two books, a Congressional hearing and grand jury testimony to finally do something about it.
So yeah, the guy cheated. Anything after 1998 is ridiculously suspect. But here's the thing; if someone's career prior to that is still Hall of Fame caliber, should they get in?
Thursday, January 2, 2014
Keep in mind as I make my way up the list that there were no numbers on Sox uniforms prior to 1931. So there's a whole slew of players like Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Cy Young and Smokey Joe Wood who aren't in this list. So no e-mails complaining about that.
The other rule is that I won't necessarily have five players listed. I'm not going to sully the list by including some hack that had the number for one year and played in six games just to have five names. I'll give all five spots to one player if I have to.
5. Bernie Carbo (1974-1978) - Bernie actually lost this number for a few months in 1976 when the Sox traded him to the Brewers for Tom Murphy and Bobby Darwin. But that December he came back to the Sox with George Scott for Cecil Cooper. And the less said about that, the better. He never put up stellar numbers, but he did have that great appearance in the 1975 World Series. For that alone, he deserves to be mentioned in this list.
From Boston to Detroit: Walt Dropo, Fred Hatfield, Don Lenhardt, Johnny Pesky and Bill Wight
From Detroit to Boston: George Kell, Hoot Evers, Johnny Lipon and Dizzy Trout
It was a trade that really didn't do anything for either team: the Sox finished sixth that year in the AL while the Tigers were dead last.
Kell was a five-time All-Star when he came to the Sox. He went two more times as a member of the Red Sox in both 1952 and 1953. He replaced Vern Stephens at third, who had in turn replaced Johnny Pesky at third the previous year*. In his one full season with the Sox (1953), Kell hit .307 with an .866 OPS. He finished in the top 30 for MVP voting in the AL that year. His .307 average was fourth-best in the AL in 1953. His .972 fielding percentage at third was the best in the AL at that position in 1953 as well.
Early in 1954 he was traded to the White Sox for Grady Hatton and $100,000. He would retire in 1957 and was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans' Committee in 1983. He also was a long-time announcer for the Tigers.
Fun fact: Kell kept Ted Williams from winning the Triple Crown in 1949. On the last day of the season Williams went 0-2 and Kell was 2-3. Kell's final average was .3429 while Williams' was .3427.