Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Longer We Wait

I'm starting to think the longer it takes Bryce Harper to sign with anyone, the better the chances are that the Washington Nationals resign Harper. I think most of baseball would love for him to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies, while we would not be surprised that the Los Angeles Dodgers swoop in and sign him as well.

Recent news has the San Diego Padres of all teams, suddenly getting in on the Bryce Harper-Manny Machado sweepstakes.... Machado especially. Early reports are that the San Diego Padres plan for a meeting with Machado. The Padres might be able to get this done, maybe they are sick of sitting at the kids table, and they want to graduate to the big boys table. The Padres landed Eric Hosmer last off-season, and are apparently one of the teams talking to the Miami Marlins in acquiring J.T. Realmuto, who many consider the best catcher in all of baseball.

The Padres have plenty of young talent coming up, they need to merge veteran ready-to-play stars with this youth movement for what they have been working on to ultimately pay off. Imagine if they had Machado, Realmuto & maybe even Corey Kluber eventually joining Hosmer -- then they would be in business, right? But would it cost them some of the big prospects such as Fernando Tatis Jr.? We'll have to see. The Padres are in a tricky spot, they could stay low and see if all these prospects pay off, but that may be another two to three years until their full potential is realized, and that's if these prospects fully materialize.

Now will Machado sign with San Diego? Overall, I can't see him doing it unless, the Padres land Kluber and Realmuto in the next few days. I do like the idea of Kluber heading that rotation in San Diego though.

Like I mentioned above, it would not surprise me now if the Nationals resign Harper, but I'm guessing if they do, there would be a player option for Harper to bail out of a new contract with Washington, if the Nationals still keep coming up short of a world championship.

This season's off-season moves for the most part have looked good for the Nationals, maybe this could be one last hurrah with the acquisitions of Patrick Corbin, Anibal Sanchez, Yan Gomes & Brian Dozier. Sanchez was a low-risk signing which can pay huge dividends if it pays off, but the idea of Sanchez to repeat last season's performance this late in his career, while putting up more innings is a lot to ask for. I hope it works out, I like Anibal from his Tigers days, and he will be rejoining Max Scherzer. Don't get me wrong, I think Dozier is on the decline, but his glove is definitely an upgrade over Daniel Murphy's glove, and with that rotation you want good fielders behind you.

I also want to take the moment and mention, with the slow off-season and this becoming the new norm, maybe MLB preview magazines such as Athlons, The Sporting News, Street & Smith's, should heavily consider pushing their publications for these issues back for release dates in mid-March now. No one wants to shell out $8 to $10 on a magazine that doesn't have Harper, Machado or any other big name guys on any big league rosters.

While us fans (particularly in the Midwest) are freezing, while trying to stay warm in our beds, really need the hot stove to heat up... Baseball fans really live for the off-season, and for at least the second consecutive year its a dud, and with the bigger contracts, we may unfortunately see more and more of this as it is becoming the new norm.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

My 2019 MLB Hall of Fame Ballot / New Cases

Many of my readers know my thoughts already on many of these potential Hall of Famers. I will first introduce my 2019 MLB Hall of Fame ballot, breaking down my reasons and choices, while I will later introduce other players who have new cases for the Hall of Fame, thanks to recent year inductions of Jack Morris, Gary Carter & Harold Baines.

Major League Baseball will announce on January 22nd, the newest members of the MLB Hall of Fame, to join in the veteran committee's recent additions of Lee Smith & Harold Baines.

My ballot looks like this (no particular order for most part)...

1. Edgar Martinez - DH
2. Larry Walker - OF
3. Fred McGriff - 1B
4. Curt Schilling - SP
5. Mike Mussina - SP
6. Mariano Rivera - RP
7. Roy Halladay - SP
8. Todd Helton - 1B
9. Jeff Kent - 2B

Before I go to obvious additions like Edgar Martinez and Fred McGriff, who I have done plenty of research and articles in my "The Ongoing Hall of Fame Debate" thread. Let's go through some of the other cases that many baseball fans are having more difficult with, or having debates with one another.

Todd Helton was a beast from 1998 to 2007, there was maybe only two hitters that consistently put up better numbers, year-to-year during this stretch, (off the top of my head) and they were Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez. I happened to have all three of these players for my Atlanta Braves, in the APBA computer league with my U.S. Navy buddies at the time, and yes... that trio won me a few championships.

Helton's numbers are ridiculous during the stretch mentioned above, he was also relatively injury-free (averaging 154 games), before injuries started to arrive in 2009...

  • Per 162 games: .332 AVG, 32 HR, 113 RBI, 195 hits, 115 runs, 103 BB & 48 doubles, while he had a excellent .432 on-base percentage, added to a .585 slugging which equaled a 1.017 OPS. 

Helton seems to suffer from the whole "He played half of his games at Coors" label, just like his former teammate Larry Walker did. Yes, Helton batted .347 at home, but .287 on the road is not lousy by all means, his career OPS on the road is .855.

Just taking Helton's .855 road OPS alone, here is a list of active Hall of Famers with career OPS of .855 or less (That is both home & road combined for these guys)...
  • Al Kaline - .855
  • Jim Rice - .854
  • Eddie Collins - .853
  • Billy Williams - .853
  • Orlando Cepeda - .853
  • Tony Gwynn - .847
  • George Sisler - .847
  • Reggie Jackson - .846
  • Nap Lajoie - .846
  • Cap Anson - .841
  • Carl Yastrzemski - .841
  • Kirby Puckett - .837
  • Roberto Clemente - .834
  • Ernie Banks - .830
  • Yogi Berra - .830
  • Dave Winfield - .827
  • Rod Carew - .822
  • Joe Morgan - .819
  • Johnny Bench - .817
  • Paul Molitor- .817
  • Zack Wheat - .817
  • Sam Crawford - .814
  • Home Run Baker - .805
... Oh, and there is about 50-60 more hitters below this, that are in the Hall of Fame, it's time for people to put away the Coor's excuse - This is complete evidence of that...

To the people that write off OPS for being a sabermetric or not a Baseball statistic, that is complete rubbish. I don't consider OPS as a sabermetric stat, it's only On-Base Percentage added to Slugging Percentage. 

Every baseball hitter is taught growing up, the most important baseball statistic for a hitter, and that's getting on base... If that means collecting hits, drawing a walk, or getting beaned, so be it. Then you add on slugging, which with OPS, you would have a guy that knows how to get on base, and happens to also be an excellent slugger... which means the higher the OPS, the better all-around player that you are. 

OPS is one of the most accurate statistics in all of baseball, so it's no surprise that Babe Ruth ranks #1 in career OPS, he was the best all-around player to ever play the game.

By the way, Walker's road OPS was .865, if anyone was wondering.

Jeff Kent is an interesting case. To be honest, I was never really a fan of his, nothing real flashy for him, while he was also not the greatest fielder. Early in his career, he played multiple positions and was playing for multiple teams (Blue Jays, Mets, Indians)... all while trying to find his place, somewhere he could fit.

It would all come together for Kent, when he arrived with the San Francisco Giants in 1997, at age 29 (quite a late bloomer). He won the 2000 N.L. Most Valuable Player Award, while being elected as a 5-time All-Star & 4-time Silver Slugger Award winner.

The numbers below (from 1997 to 2005) are Kent's yearly averages...
  • .296 AVG, 28 HR, 110 RBI, 40 doubles - .365 OBP / .529 SLG / .895 OPS (147 games).
  • Per 162 games: .296 AVG, 31 HR, 122 RBI, 44 doubles & 103 runs.
Prior to 1997: .274 AVG, 21 HR, 86 RBI, 32 doubles - .325 OBP / .777 OPS (Per 162 games).

During this period, Kent also had 8 seasons out of 9 seasons, with 100+ RBI, to put it into perspective. Larry Walker had only 5 100 RBI seasons, all with the Rockies. Kent accomplished this playing 6 seasons for the Giants, 1 of his 2 seasons for the Astros & one season with the Dodgers.

Don't get me wrong, I was hesitant to put Kent on my ballot as a initial reaction, but once I dove into the stats, trying to find a way to disprove he is Hall material, I found myself supporting his causes, because the stats back it up.

Roy Halladay gets his 1st shot at the ballot, I put together these statistical accomplishments in an old post, but here they are repeated for you to enjoy...

He won two Cy Young Awards, one with the Toronto Blue Jays (2003) and later on the National League side with the Philadelphia Phillies (2011). He finished with 203 wins, while winning 20+ games in a single-season, three times... plus a career 64.7 WAR.

To put his 64.7 career WAR in perspective, it's higher than Bob Feller (63.6, granted he had some years serving our country), Vic Willis (63.5), Juan Marichal (63.1), Mickey Welch (63.1), Hal Newhouser (63.0), Clark Griffith (61.8), Early Wynn (61.3), Stan Coveleski (60.2), Dazzy Vance (59.9), Jim Bunning (59.4), Al Spalding (59.0) & Rube Waddell (58.6) who are all Hall of Famers to go along with a small handful of other Hall of Fame pitchers not named ranking below this bunch.

He had a 3.38 career ERA with a very respectable 1.178 WHIP, finishing with 2,117 strikeouts... his strikeout rates was much higher in the later part of his career, as he recorded 200+ strikeouts for four consecutive seasons (2008-2011).

He may have been the best pitcher in all of baseball during his 2008-2011 stretch, which he went 77-37 (.675 winning pct), 2.59 ERA, with 853 K's in 969.1 innings (7.9 K / 1.3 BB per 9 innings). During this stretch, he logged 35 complete games with a 1.065 WHIP, while his ERA+ stood at 160.

In the history of Major League Baseball, there are not much better four-year periods than this, add this to his already impressive accomplishments, we should see him in Cooperstown someday... the sad part is that he won't be able to enjoy this accomplishment down here with the rest of us.

We jump over to another former Philly in Curt Schilling, here is a list of interesting stats for him...
  • Didn't get started really until 1992, 1994 & 1995 combines for one season (due to injuries) and he was a consistent force from 92-2007, leading the 93' Phillies to the World Series, while leading the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks2004 & 2007 Boston Red Sox to World Championships (3 rings).
  • 300 or more strikeouts, 3 times! Back-to-back seasons of the accomplishment for a 619 K's combination in two years!
  • 3,116 K's (15th All-Time), 216 career wins with a winning percentage of .597. Sure it's not the magical 300 wins number, but he was a dependable winner. Almost a 1,000 more K's than Jim Palmer, Palmer only had two rings (66' & 83').
  • Schilling's ERA of 3.46 was not that of Palmer's 2.86. But here's some food for thought, Palmer didn't get 300 wins either (268) and Schilling has him beat in the WHIP area 1.137 to 1.180.
  • Career 79.6 WAR
Fred McGriff is another player who played for numerous teams, that belongs in the Hall of Fame. Playing for 7 MLB teams during his career, while his longest stint was actually with the Atlanta Braves (4 1/2 years), not the Toronto Blue Jays (4 years). Most folks including myself, a fan of the 1990's Atlanta Braves & a former owner of a McGriff Braves' T-Shirt, think of him as a Blue Jay though.

Serious Crime: Why McGriff belongs...
  • Just shy of 2,500 career hits (2,490)
  • Just shy of the magical lock-in Hall number of 500 homers (493).
  • Career .284 hitter 
  • 5-Time All-Star (All-Star Game MVP)
  • 3-Time Silver Slugger
  • 1,550 Career RBI
  • .377 career On-Base Percentage (above all players mentioned above, including Oliva).
  • .886 Career OPS
  • 134 OPS+

As a full-time player, McGriff dipped below an .800 OPS only once! His incredible consistency seemed to play against him, which is simply odd in my opinion. I question if it's the fact that he wasn't flashy or the fact he did not have an outspoken personality in the likes of Reggie Jackson or Barry Bonds, that he's not getting more HOF consideration... or if it's because he has bounced around to many fan bases, that no fan base was allowed to see him long enough, to see him as Hall of Famer? Not sure, but it's an overall crime if McGriff never gets in.

The Jack Morris Effect (His Induction & New Cases)

The 2018 Hall of Fame induction of Jack Morris, is already causing quite an effect, when you consider similar pitchers who now will have a case, thanks to Morris.

Here is list of Morris' statistics...

  • 254-186 record (.577 pct)
  • Three 20+ win seasons, while leading the league in wins twice.
  • 15 seasons with double-digit wins totals.
  • Career 3.90 ERA - The highest among those inducted into the Hall of Fame.
  • The winningest pitcher of the 1980s: 162 wins (which includes only 6 wins in 1989).
  • 2,478 career strikeouts (leading the A.L. with 232 in 1983).
  • 175 complete games & 28 shutouts.
  • Career 1.296 WHIP
  • 3 World Series Rings (84' Tigers, 91' Twins & 92' Blue Jays).
  • 5-time All-Star
  • Career 43.9 WAR.
I was a huge supporter for Morris, for years, until recent years leading up to the actual induction. It's a mixed bag with me, his career WAR is on the low side, and when you compare him to some of the players posted below, they suddenly have a case for the Hall... Some may make you laugh, but the stats make you think twice.

Jim Kaat
  • 283-237 record (.544 pct)
  • Three 20+ win seasons - leading the A.L. with 25 wins in 1966.
  • 16 seasons with double-digit wins totals.
  • Career 3.45 ERA
  • 159 wins from 1962-1971. 
  • 2,461 career strikeouts
  • 180 complete games & 32 shutouts.
  • Career 1.259 WHIP
  • 1982 World Championship with Cardinals.
  • 3-time All-Star
  • Career 50.7 WAR
  • 16 Gold Glove Awards
Ron Guidry
  • 170-91 record (.651 pct)
  • Three 20+ win seasons - leading the league twice (25 wins in 1978).
  • 9 seasons with double-digit wins totals.
  • Career 3.29 ERA
  • 163 wins from 1977-1986.
  • 1,778 strikeouts 
  • 95 complete games & 26 shutouts.
  • Career 1.184 WHIP
  • 2 World Series Rings (1977 & 1978)
  • 4-time All-Star
  • Career 48.1 WAR
  • 5 Gold Glove Awards
  • 1978 A.L. Cy Young winner.

Dave Stieb
  • 176-137 record (.562 pct)
  • No 20-win seasons.
  • 10 double-digit wins totals.
  • Career 3.44 ERA (A.L. ERA title - 2.48 in 1985).
  • 146 wins from 1981-1990.
  • 1,669 strikeouts
  • 103 complete games & 30 shutouts.
  • Career 1.245 WHIP
  • 7-time All-Star
  • Career 56.7 WAR
  • No World Series rings.
Andy Pettitte
  • 256-153 record (.626 pct)
  • Two 20+ win seasons - leading the A.L. with 21 in 1996.
  • 16 double-digit wins totals.
  • Career 3.85 ERA
  • 160 wins from 1996-2005.
  • 2,448 strikeouts
  • Only 26 complete games & 4 shutouts. 
  • Career 1.351 WHIP
  • 3-time All-Star
  • Career 60.3 WAR
  • 5 World Series Rings (1996, 1998-2000 & 2009).
  • 19-11 Postseason record (.633 pct) with 3.81 ERA.
Roy Oswalt
  • 163-102 record (.615 pct)
  • Two 20-win seasons - leading the N.L. in 2004.
  • 9 double-digit wins totals.
  • Career 3.36 ERA (N.L. ERA title - 2.98 in 2006).
  • 150 wins from 2001-2010.
  • 1,852 strikeouts
  • Only 28 complete games & 8 shutouts.
  • Career 1.211 WHIP
  • 3-time All-Star
  • Career 50.1 WAR
  • No World Series rings.
First of all, let's note that all of the pitchers listed below Morris here, have higher career WAR. 

Jim Kaat, who I believe has an excellent case, while I believe the veteran's committee will finally reward him with a future HOF induction, especially considering the fact that he won 283 games while playing with a handful of losing teams. Kaat had back-to-back 20-win seasons with two losing Chicago White Sox teams. His 16 Gold Gloves are pretty impressive.

Ron Guidry's career is pretty much summed up during a 10-year period from 1977-1986, he was a statistical stud during those years. His career strikeouts (1,778) or 6.7 strikeouts per nine, may not jump out at you... but if you take his 162 K's per season from 77'-86', and make it a 20-year career, you suddenly have 3,240 career strikeouts -- problem is, he did not play 20 seasons. Guidry's career WHIP and ERA though, are better than Morris, plus the others from this list.

I use to write off players like Andy Pettitte, I felt many people gave him a case due to his postseason success, but his career numbers are pretty solid. I don't have him on my ballot due heavily on the HGH connection. If Pettitte was elected, his career ERA and WHIPs will be on the higher end of the Hall of Famers along with Morris. His 60.3 WAR is too difficult to simply ignore, while his 250+ career wins will come up big for those who support that overrated stat. 

Dave Stieb was without a doubt one of the very best pitchers in the 1980's. When I often think of A.L. pitchers in the 80's, I think Roger Clemens, Jack Morris and then Dave Stieb... You may laugh at this, but a few things to consider...
  • Career WHIP (1.245) lower than both Morris & Kaat.
  • Career WAR (56.7) higher than Morris, Guidry, Kaat & Oswalt.
  • Stieb's 30 career shutouts were higher than totals by Morris (28) & Guidry (26).
Just like Guidry & Oswalt, Stieb was solid for only about 10 years.

I was watching MLB Now with Brian Kenny, I caught the tail-end of his support piece for Roy Oswalt.... My initial reaction was you've got to be kidding me? Then I put together these stats listed above, and suddenly he has an arguable case, but once again a lot of this has to do with the recent induction of Jack Morris.

Morris' HOF induction has opened a door for new cases, we'll have to see over time if this was for better or for worse.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Braves Win in Dramatic Fashion, Up 3-1 in 96' NLCS

The Atlanta Braves are one game within reaching the 1996 World Series. Doug Drabek pitched a strong game for the Braves, allowing only 3 hits and one earned run through 7 innings of work. Drabek at one point, through 5 full innings was pitching a no-hitter.

The Braves' reliever Mike Timlin was not as effective as he would allow a two-run homer to the Expos' big slugger Barry Bonds, breaking up a 1-1 tie.

The Braves' pinch-hit Brian R. Hunter in place of the pitcher Russ Springer. Hunter would draw a walk off or reliever Jose Mesa, putting the tying run at the plate in Johnny Damon. The Montreal Expos would call on their closer to face Damon, John Franco in an attempt to even the series.

Damon would reach safely on a fielding error by Expos' second baseman Delino DeShields (Runners on 1st & 2nd). Chipper Jones would hit into a fielder's choice as the Expos get the out at second (Damon), while Hunter advances to third. Ryan Klesko, who has been clutch all year, hits a ball into the right-center gap, driving in Hunter, while Chipper would reach third.

Mike Kinkade, with one out, and a 1-2 count, would smack a liner into the left-center gap, scoring Hunter (tying the game), while Klesko reaches second. Kinkade, primarily a third baseman, came into the game to play out of position behind the plate, when Atlanta pinch-ran Deion Sanders. It was a gutsy call by manager Bobby Cox, but it eventually paid off. Kinkade has dedicated some of his practice time, taking reps behind the plate.

Jason Giambi would fly out to center to make it two outs, with Expos one out away from tying the series, while Klesko remained on second.

Brian McRae would step up to the plate, while already having a productive day with a Bases on Balls & RBI double back in the bottom of the 6th, which tied the game at the time. McRae, would find his pitch, hitting a line drive to deep center, while Klesko digged around third, and just making it under Darrin Fletcher's glove at the plate to be called safe. The Braves mobbed Klesko at the plate, while the Expos hang their heads in defeat.

Browne during his playing days with Cubs.
"We squandered opportunities," says 1st-year manager, former big leaguer Byron Browne. Browne took over the Expos after manager Tom Runnells' team fell short of the playoffs last year, after back-to-back World Championship teams in 1993 & 1994. Runnells (445-315, .586 pct) also won the N.L. Manager of the Year for three consecutive seasons (1992-1994). After being a bench coach for the Cincinnati Reds from 1993-1995, Browne led the Expos to 106 wins this season. Browne added, "We were an out away from evening this series, and that's the positive that we can try to take away from this loss, that the series is still very much alive."

The Expos and Braves have had quite the rivalry over the last few years. The Braves eliminated the Expos, 4-3, back in 1992, as the Braves advanced to the World Series only to be eliminated by the Minnesota Twins, who repeated. The Expos got revenge in 1993 by sweeping the Braves, while defeating Atlanta again in 1994, 4-1. Both teams didn't qualify for the postseason in 1995, while this season marks the 4th time in 5 years that these two teams have met in the National League Championship Series.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Sneak Peak on Things to Come

Dan "The Man" wants that ring!

Ray Lewis bursting out of the tunnel in Miami.

Curtis Martin in training camp for the Bengals.

Kerry Collins drafted by the New York Jets.

More to come...

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Altuve's UAL Rankings in Top 10

Jose Altuve won the A.L. Most Valuable Player Award (and rightfully so) for the Houston Astros in 2017. He is playing just as well, if not possibly better for my Traverse City Fighting Tigers during the 2018 UAL Season (2017 Season cards).

Here is where he ranks among the top 10 in some of the UAL categories at the All-Star Break...

  • Batting Average (.369) - 1st
  • Hits (117) - 1st
  • Stolen Bases (30) - 1st
  • On-Base Percentage (.428) - 2nd
  • Runs (58) - 5th
  • Total Bases (167) - 10th
He also ranks just outside of the top 10's in RBI (58) and OPS (.955) this season.

For those that don't know, Jose Altuve is my favorite position player in the game today, while he plays on the same team with my favorite overall player in the game - Justin Verlander, who joined the Astros midway through 2017 on their way to a World Series title.

I acquired this team in the UAL from my friend Ken Schulz, who put together the majority of this team. He did an excellent job in trades that acquired pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Taijuan Walker among a few other deals. Samardzija by the way is 3rd in wins with 10, while on pace for 20 as a Grade C-XZ... He did have a 2.83 ERA through the first 2 months, but fell back to Earth in the ERA department after getting roughed up in December.

The Fighting Tigers are currently in a three-way tie in 1st place with a 52-28 record, tied with the Ephrata Diamond Dogs and the Durham Bulls.
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