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    Thursday, December 29, 2011

    Retired Numbers Series: Los Angeles Dodgers

    The Dodgers, as one of the more storied teams in baseball history, have one of the more extensive lists of honorees I’ll cover in the Retired Number Series. They also choose to recognize franchise cornerstones from before their move, unlike many other teams, which helps demonstrate that rich history.

    Like the Red Sox and the Mariners, the Dodgers have a rule limiting who can have their number retired with the team. But, like the Red Sox, the Dodgers have made an exception to that rule, meaning any player is fair game in terms of speculation.

    On to the numbers.

    Notes on the Numbers

    Some quick notes on the stats: the two most prominent stats I used are similarly named. Both are called WAR, or Wins Above Replacement. They both try to account for every part of a player’s game, including, but not limited to: offense, defense, position, and playing time. So, it is a counting stat, like hits or home runs (with the small difference that bad seasons can actually decrease your WAR, if you are worse than a replacement player). WAR credits a player with how many wins they have provided to their team. They aren’t perfect, but for my purposes (a single number showing roughly how good a player has been), they work perfectly.

    There are two major sites that provide WAR, Baseball-Reference (henceforth called bWAR) and Fangraphs (fWAR). The two are mostly the same, with the biggest difference coming from the different fielding stats the two use. Fangraphs has a fairly good summary of what makes up WAR and how it is calculated (for those wanting a more general summary, the introduction works just fine). Pitching is slightly different: Fangraphs’ WAR for pitchers only goes back to 1974, so for my purposes, I stuck to just bWAR for them.

    Wednesday, December 28, 2011

    General Announcement

    Just as a warning (so that none of you die of shock tomorrow), I finished the next part in my Retired Numbers Series. It's been sitting on my computer, waiting to be finished for four months, but it's finally done. It just needs to be edited and posted for tomorrow. As a side note, I have now covered 1/3 of MLB teams.

    Monday, December 26, 2011

    50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame Ballot Explanations, Part 3

    A quick continuation of explaining my ballot for the 50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame project. These players are the final nine from my first round of additions; again, I wrote on my ballot that I supported every one of these players becoming Hall of Famers. To see the earlier parts of my ballot, see Part 1 and Part 2.

    Keith Hernandez, Cardinals/Mets/Indians, 1B - Hernandez isn’t like the now-common model of slugging first basemen, but he could still hit well and get on base (426 doubles to go with 162 homers, a .296/.384/.436 line, a 128 OPS+). On top of this, he’s arguably the best fielding first baseman of all-time; both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs put him in the range of 12 to 13 wins just from his fielding. Going by Total Zone Runs, Keith Hernandez saved 117 runs, most all-time for first basemen (and really, only three others are close: Albert Pujols at 114, Todd Helton at 100, and John Olerud at 97. More on this in a bit). Overall, his career and peak seem to match the Hall’s standards: 61.0 bWAR, 61.8 fWAR, and 90.8 bWAR.

    Shoeless Joe Jackson, Naps(Indians)/White Sox/Athletics, LF - As a side note, I always forget that Shoeless Joe spent more time in Cleveland than he did in Chicago. Anyway, I don’t really know that Jackson’s playing days are the problem for his candidacy. For example, his career batting line of .356/.423/.517 is good for a 169 OPS+, good for ninth all-time. Despite really only playing for nine full seasons, Jackson amassed 62.9 bWAR and 67.0 fWAR in his career.

    Anyway, I get the feeling that Jackson’s problem is with his banishment. First of all, the Hall of Fame is not actually included in the gambling banishment. The Hall separately added a clause banning players on MLB’s banned list years afterwards. MLB’s ban just prevents these players from holding a position in MLB like player or manager.

    But, more than that, the Hall of Fame is supposed to be a museum to remember the game’s best players. That applies to Jackson. At the very least, the guy’s been dead for over six decades. Let it go already; make it a lifetime ban. I feel like the Hall is losing more by not letting him in than he is by being kept out at this point.

    Wednesday, December 21, 2011

    Trivia Break, Part 3

    And now, the third part in the series. I don't think I'll go any further back as of right now, but who knows about later. I'm busy with so many other writing projects right now, and I'd like to get back to those.

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame Ballot Explanations, Part 2

    This is the continuation of my explanation of my “50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame” Ballot. Part 1 can be found here. These are the next nine players that I added to the ballot in Round 1 of my cutting process, listed alphabetically. The last nine first rounders will be in their own post, so that I can elaborate more fully on each candidate. I marked on my ballot that I support all of these players for induction.

    Dick Allen, Phillies/White Sox/Dodgers/Cardinals/Athletics, 1B/3B - Allen was a little hard to get along with, explaining his frequent team changes and relatively short career (his first full season was 1964, and his final was 1977). However, the man could really hit; despite playing during a low-offense era, he hit 351 home runs and put up a .292/.378/.534 career line, good for a 156 OPS+. That puts him tied for nineteenth all-time with Frank Thomas. For his career, he had 61.2 bWAR and 67.9 fWAR.

    Sal Bando, Athletics/Brewers, 3B - I hadn’t actually heard of Bando until I started reading Adam Darowski’s Hall of wWAR project. As I mentioned in part 1, third base is overall underrepresented in the Hall of Fame, and this will start to come up more and more as I get further into my ballot. Bando is one of four third basemen that I view as those most deserving of induction now that Ron Santo is in. Two of the other three are in Round 1, while the final one got a little extra consideration due to the fact that he was up for election this year.

    Bando presented good hitting (119 career OPS+) and solid defense at an important position over an extended period of time; basically, he did a little bit of everything, and he did it all well. This led to 60.6 bWAR and 62.7 fWAR. Also of note, he had a strong peak; this is represented in his weighted WAR (wWAR) of 93. This puts him ninth among all eligible third baseman, just behind Brooks Robinson (also of note about this ranking is that, with the election of Santo, Bando is the highest-rated third baseman by this metric not in the Hall).

    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    Extended Trivia Break-Teammates with All-Star Seasons, Part 2

    Continuing with yesterday's trivia theme, I have another Sporcle quiz up. Same idea as yesterday, but for the 2000-2005 seasons.

    A Recommendation

    I am a huge Jeff Bagwell supporter for the Hall of Fame election, so I cannot recommend this piece by The Common Man highly enough. I feel the idea is both perfect as an analogy and overall brilliant; I agree 100%.

    Trivia Break-Teammates with All-Star Seasons

    I needed a break from writing, so I made a Sporcle quiz instead. This one is naming the teammates with 5+ WAR seasons (as per Fangraphs) from 2006-2011. Look for another quiz tomorrow!

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame Ballot Explanations, Part 1

    I participated in Baseball: Past and Present’s now-annual “50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame” Project. This is the intersection of all sorts of different things that I love: baseball, baseball stats, the Hall of Fame, arguing, snubs and overlooks, lists, voting, really big projects, and so on. The full list will be coming soon, but seeing as I’d like to actually explain my picks (including some of the people who didn’t make the list), the most prudent thing to do is to break the list down into parts.

    Part of the ballot was listing whether we thought our 50 Best were actually Hall of Famers. So, I suppose I should start by saying that I am definitely a big Hall of Fame guy; I marked all 50 Players on my ballot as Yeses (there are actually players who didn’t make my final ballot that I would still put in). I operate on the thinking that the Hall was intended to be closer to a big Hall, anyway. Some of the Veterans Committee players that got in under Frankie Frisch weren’t great, but at the same time, they’re in.

    Additionally, the game (and, therefore, the number of players in the game) is growing much faster than the Hall of Fame. For example, there are nearly twice as many teams now as there were when the Hall was founded; shouldn’t we be inducting more players now? (If not at a 2 to 1 rate, then maybe a 1.5 to 1 rate or so.) And even more than that, I like to remember players. Every player was someone’s favorite, and each one has some stories that made them stand out. The Hall of Fame is without a doubt the best way to remember and honor great players, so why not add a few more in any way? It’s not like it would detract from the best of them; nobody now cares any less about Babe Ruth because High Pockets Kelly is in Cooperstown with him.

    Sunday, December 11, 2011

    Best 50 Players Not in the Hall of Fame

    Baseball Past and Present just put up their post on the 50 best players not in Cooperstown. I voted, and my explanations will be forthcoming. Right now, I figured I would redirect people to the main project page.

    Friday, December 9, 2011

    Thoughts on Albert Pujols to the Angels

    Well, that didn't happen at all the way I thought it would.

    It's been weird; I heard about it minutes after it happened, but didn't get a chance to stop what I was doing and write something until now. Really, I didn't even get a chance to reflect on it until now.

    First, I was more expecting the Marlins to offer just plain stupid trump offer. Even more than that, though,  I wasn't expecting a just plain stupid trump offer. I was more or less expecting the Cardinals to overpay for sentimental reasons to bring back Pujols, and the $220 million dollar price tag would hurt, but we'd get over it, and at least there would be the memories to comfort Cardinal fans during the decline years of the contract. Instead, the Angels jumped in out of nowhere to sign him away.

    I don't really begrudge Pujols for leaving, or the Cardinals for not upping their offer. Really, this isn't meant to be a bitter piece.

    First, I would like thank Albert for his eleven years as a Cardinals. Nothing can take away those three MVP years, or two World Series trophies, or anything else. I still can't wait to see number 5 retired and Albert in Cooperstown with a St. Louis hat (and both will come, eventually).

    Next, I would like to thank the Cardinals front office for sticking to their plan and not upping their offer to Pujols. The deal they offered was already about as long as I could have stomached; I think any longer or bigger would have actually crippled the team (and, as an optimist, I didn't even think a $220 million/10 year deal would ruin the team's chances in the future...). So kudos to them.

    (Also, in a weird way, I would like to thank the Angels. They saved us $220 million dollars, and I'm sure there will be some humor ten years from now when they're paying a 42-year-old first baseman $26 million+ per year. Essentially, they're paying him whatever we owed him from his time in St. Louis.)

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    The 2011 Ryan Howard Awards

    So, this may or may not be my last piece on the 2011 Awards season, but it is the last one that requires the BBWAA’s voting results. Ladies and gentleman, I present...

    The 2011 Ryan Howard Awards

    So, what is it, you ask? Simply put, it is the most inexplicable result of the MVP voting. The name sake is Ryan Howard, for two reason. The first is that he was what inspired the award last winter. Last year, I wrote about Ryan Zimmerman’s MVP-quality year, but noted he was getting no attention for his great play. Sure enough, he finished sixteenth in the voting, in spite of his good year. While I was looking at the player who had finished ahead of him, I noticed that Ryan Howard finished tenth. There were other odd choices ahead of Zimmerman, but Howard was definitely the strangest, as he was barely starter-level in 2010 (bWAR had him at 2.0, while fWAR put him at 1.4).

    This led me to look closer at the AL voting; my choice for the 2010 AL Ryan Howard Award was also tenth place in the voting. If you recalled that this was Delmon Young, then congratulations; you must understand the Baseball Writers Association better than I do. Young hit 21 home runs and drove in 112 runs...which was apparently enough for the BBWAA to collectively overlook the fact that .298/.333/.493. And .826 OPS with bad defense in left field just isn’t that valuable, which partly explains his 1.7 bWAR (lowest among all MVP vote-getters in either league).

    So, who are the Ryan Howard Award winners for the 2011 season? Well, the award requires a combination of votes and awfulness. So, David Robertson got an MVP vote in the AL, but he won’t win the Ryan Howard Award because he was so unsupported. Voting for a reliever for MVP is a fairly bad choice, but in Robertson’s case, he got one point. These things happen; writers vote for friends or guys they like or so on. The RHA winner has to be both unjustifiable as MVP, but at the same time a popular MVP choice.

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Why the Newest Pujols-to-Miami Rumors Make No Sense

    So, the current buzz is that the Marlins are still going after Pujols, but they mean it this time!

    Really, I’m still skeptical for several reasons. First, the Cardinals were apparently the only team left standing on Pujols as recently a week ago, meaning that they didn’t need to raise their bid for his services. Now, suddenly, the Marlins (and Cubs!) are showing interest. This seems an awful lot like the classic “mystery team” ploy (or, it could be both teams trying to force the Cardinals to up their offer, which would more or less be the same thing, just a different instigator).

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    Ron Santo Elected to Hall of Fame

    It's long overdue, but Ron Santo has finally made the Hall of Fame. It's a shame it took until after his death for it to happen, but at least he's finally in.

    It's good to see another third baseman make the Hall, too. The position has long been underrepresented.

    Sunday, December 4, 2011

    MLB's Borderline-Insane New Draft Gimmick

    So, did you hear that MLB has a new draft pick lottery thing? Yep, as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Selig made sure to fix that much-squabbled about problem of who gets the picks after the first round of the draft.

    I don’t want to say this is the dumbest thing in baseball history; baseball has had numerous dumb things in history. There’s this. These. Most of these. This and this (you’ll know them when you see them). Yeah, not to beat the point into the ground, but if you’re looking for dumb things, there are worse. But I’m not sure how many of them rival the Competitive Balance Lottery on things like poor planning, inexplicability, or sheer out-of-nowhereness.

    Granted, people had issues with the draft. The Free Agent type rankings were a mess, most of the owners wanted to curb spending on amateurs, some people wanted to add countries to the draft or remove them, and so on. Nowhere did I hear anything about teams needing more picks or less picks or anything like that.