Mailing List

Sign up for email updates from Hot Corner Harbor any time there's a new post!

    Wednesday, December 31, 2014

    My 2015 Hall of Fame Ballot

    Once again, it’s time for me to cast my vote in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance’s Hall of Fame election. This year, they switched to a binary “Yes/No” choice for each player, rather than keeping the BBWAA’s system of a ten-person limit. That saved me the trouble of trying to decide whether to leave off the top choices to make room for the down-ballot players. So, briefly, here are my thoughts on each player.

    Sunday, December 28, 2014

    Why Steroid Rumors Against Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza Are TotallyBaseless (Beyond the Obvious...)

    This is more of a short collection of my thoughts as we lead up to the Hall of Fame announcements, to refer to this year and in future Hall elections. Unfortunately, It will probably take future elections. Baseball Think Factory’s Ballot Collecting Gizmo has Mike Piazza at 79.3% and Jeff Bagwell at 73.9% as we speak, and generally speaking, every player sees their percentage drop due to writers who don’t reveal their ballot. So while Piazza barely clears the 75% cutoff, he probably won’t make it this year, especially with four candidates ahead of him (last year, he went from 67.9% all the way down to 62.2%, and a drop off that size this year would leave him just over 73%). Bagwell, being further back, will almost certainly need to wait until next year.

    This is not due to a lack of worthiness on their part; the fault lies totally on the electorate. Both are easily among the top ten at their positions all-time, and arguably among the top five. Bagwell hit 449 home runs, stole 202 bases and fell just shy of posting a .300/.400/.500 career batting line (he hit .297/.408/.540). His career weighted Runs Created+ (like OPS+, but properly weights OBP and slugging) is 149, and is fifth among first basemen with over 8000 plate appearances, and he was by most measures a good fielder. Piazza was the best hitting catcher ever. The only qualified catcher with a higher wRC+ is Buster Posey at 141, and he still hasn’t entered his decline phase; he’s played in a third as many games as Piazza.

    The five reasons for not voting for them, as I can tell, are as follows:

    1) Not understanding how to evaluate baseball players
    2) Not understanding what the Hall’s standards are
    3) Running out of space on the ballot (rather justified, especially given this year)
    4) Imposing an artificial limit on your ballot beyond the existing ten-man limit (which is not at all justified, especially given this year); or
    5) Penalizing them for imagined PED use

    The latter is the most irritating. The perception is that, as sluggers, Piazza and Bagwell are more likely to have been taking steroids. They’ve never been linked to them in any official capacity, though. And on top of that, good luck finding any consistency in characteristics among players busted for taking steroids. Even among the batters, there’s no common link, with almost as many slap hitters as sluggers.

    But both have additional “strikes” against them, in the mind of voters; both are seen to have “become” power hitters.  Even if we ignore the wide range of results we’ve seen in players taking steroids, in both cases, there are plenty of other factors in play.

    Saturday, December 27, 2014

    Brian Giles: The 2015 Hall Ballot's Forgotten Candidate

    We are fast approaching 2015, and with it, the announcement of who will be added to the Hall of Fame. January 6th is the big day, and already we’re starting to get an idea on who might be in and who might not. I’ll be posting my ballot in a few days, but there’s one specific player that I want to focus on for the time being. Someone who probably won’t get a second thought from most voters, let alone a vote: Brian Giles.

    I suppose you could say that part of my reason for wanting to write about Giles is personal. I lived in Pittsburgh for a while when I was younger. It wasn’t enough to make me a Pirates fan (really, given the awfulness of those early-2000s Pirates teams, it’s a minor miracle I didn’t develop a burning hatred for the entire sport), but it gave me a soft spot for the team and the stars from that era. I’ve written about Jason Kendall and Jack Wilson already (here and here, respectively), but Brian hung up his cleats a little earlier than either of them. So I’ll take this temporary return to relevance as an excuse to reflect on all that he did, since most people probably won’t be.

    To start with, a personal story. At least, this isn’t really relevant to the rest of the article, so I’ll just say it here. Back when I played Little League, I used to look forward each year to seeing what jersey number I would get and who had that number in the Majors. I remember the year that I got 24 specifically because it was Brian Giles’s number. I don’t remember if I ever got 8 for Cal Ripken, or 17 or 27 for Scott Rolen, or any of my other favorite players from back then, but 24 sticks out in my mind.

    As a young child in Pittsburgh, I remember thinking the Pirates would be good soon. Even after the chances of me actually being a fan of the Pirates were basically zero, you still sort of overestimate the hometown team. So when 2003 came around, I figured that the Pirates would be competing that year. After all, they had Kendall and Giles and Wilson and Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton and Reggie Sanders and Matt Stairs and Kip Wells and Kris Benson and Jeff Suppan and Josh Fogg and Randall Simon

    No really, I actually remember being excited about Randall Simon and Josh Fogg. It’s easy for a small child to get caught up in the newness of acquisitions and the blind optimism of local fans and so on. That team would disappoint, going 75 and 87 for their eleventh straight losing season (officially halfway done with the streak, though!), with Giles and several of the other players being shipped out midseason.

    Friday, December 19, 2014

    Who Will Be the Last Active Player from the 1990s?

    The offseason is the time for indulging in strange, off-the-wall investigations. And so, I will take this opportunity to explore a question that occurred to me during the regular season: who will be the last active player who debuted in the 1990s?

    I really wish I remember what inspired this question, but the context is lost to the sands of time, as all the remains is a note on my “To Do” list that says “WHO WILL BE THE LAST PLAYER FROM THE ‘90s?” Apparently, I was really excited about it when it occurred to me, and that’s all that really matters.

    With that, I headed to Baseball-Reference’s Play Index to find out who all was left from the ‘90s. The details of my search were pretty simple: sort by ascending year of debut, active players with last season 2013 or later. I thought about setting final season to 2014 or later, but I figured there might be a few cases of players who were active in 2014 but couldn’t play due to, say, injury, or steroid suspension.

    With those criteria set, I got a list of 30 players who fit the criteria. However, I had to cull the list even more, as some of the results were no longer possibilities. Derek Jeter, Paul Konerko, Bobby Abreu, Eric Chavez, Ryan Dempster, and Alfonso Soriano have all announced their retirements. I suppose comeback tours are all possible, but I don’t know that we should be betting on them happening. That leaves us with 24 names.

    Tuesday, December 9, 2014

    Offseason Plan #2: Baltimore Orioles Edition

    Earlier this week, Nelson Cruz officially became a Seattle Mariner. And yesterday (well, it was yesterday when I started this…), Nick Markakis became a member of the Atlanta Braves for the next few years. As an Orioles fan, Cruz moving on was expected for more or less all of 2014. And Markakis, while a sentimental favorite as a nine-year veteran of the Orioles, seemed gone as soon as rumors began to surface that he and the Orioles had hit a rough patch in negotiations.

    However, that doesn’t change that the team has lost two outfielders (or “outfielder”, in the case of Cruz) in a week (this also isn’t even to mention that the surprisingly effective Delmon Young might also depart, as he’s a free agent). So where does the team go from here? Well, first it helps to look at what they’re losing. (Note: While reliever Andrew Miller, I won’t focus on him as much both because they only had him from the Trade Deadline on and because it’s easier to limit the scope of this article to what the Orioles can do for their offense.)

    Let’s start with Cruz. In 159 games, the slugger put up 40 home runs to lead the league. However, that doesn’t tell the full story; his weighted Runs Created+ was only 137, indicating he was only 37% better than league average. That’ll happen when you have a .333 OBP. Granted, that’s still respectable (tied for 17th in the majors last season), but it’s not like leading the league in homers. And to be fair, at 34, it’s unlikely that Cruz himself will duplicate that performance in 2015. Add in that he was primarily a DH, and that when he did field, he did so poorly, and you have yourself a player who was worth just shy of 4 Wins Above Replacement in 2014 (3.9, Fangraphs).

    By WAR, Markakis is an even easier replacement. The right fielder was worth 2.5 Wins on the strength of a 106 wRC+ and better fielding metrics than he’s posted in years. Like, a full win better than anything he’s done in five seasons (although still not deserving of the Gold Glove award he received), in fact, which makes me expect regression in that department in 2015. Add in that he’s apparently facing neck surgery (albeit offseason surgery), and I’m even more glad that the Orioles didn’t get into a bidding war with Atlanta.

    But still, those are two players the Orioles will have to replace. What are their options?

    Wednesday, November 5, 2014

    Crazy Offseason Plan #1: Chicago Cubs Edition

    This is just a short thing while I’m in between larger projects, but I felt it was worth sharing. We’re finally in the offseason, and it’s time for backseat GM-ing. This is the result of a pair of stories, so let me introduce each of them first before explaining where they tie in.

    Thursday, October 30, 2014

    Best Active Players Without a World Series 2014: The Quiz

    I've been busy lately, but I had time to post the follow-up to my piece from a bit ago, the Sporcle quiz of the Best Active Players Without a World Series. Now that the Giants are the 2014 Champions, I could remove Tim Hudson from the list. That leaves 63 more for you all to guess. Have fun!

    Thursday, October 9, 2014

    First Round of Awards Voting, 2014

    I've been busy lately, and I will eventually post my reasoning behind my voting. However, I need to post some of my ballots now so that they'll count in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance awards. So here are four of the ten awards:

    AL Manager of the Year
    1. Buck Showalter, Orioles
    2. Mike Scioscia, Angels
    3. Joe Girardi, Yankees

    NL Manager of the Year
    1. Mike Matheny, Cardinals
    2. Clint Hurdle, Pirates
    3. Bruce Bochy, Giants

    AL Rookie of the Year
    1. Jose Abreu, 1B, White Sox
    2. Marcus Stroman, SP, Blue Jays
    3. Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Rays

    NL Rookie of the Year
    1. Jacob deGrom, SP, Mets
    2. Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds
    3. Ender Inciarte, OF, Diamondbacks

    Wednesday, September 24, 2014

    The Best Players Without a World Series, 2014 Edition

    As I wrote a few weeks ago, this offseason looks like it might be one of the best drought-busters in recent memory. That got me thinking, though, specifically about an article I wrote last year (and the accompanying Sporcle quiz). Who are the best active players without a World Series win? Does the quantity of new teams in the mix for the World Series mean that a similar number of titleless players will be appearing in the Fall Classic this year?

    I’ll probably make another quiz later this year, once the World Series itself is over and we know who all we can cross off the list. For now, though, let’s just look at these unfortunate souls and see who has the best chance of having their misery alleviated.

    First, I used a pretty straight-forward methodology. I just went down Baseball-Reference’s list of most Wins Above Replacement among active players and manually took out anyone who had played on a champion. Right now, 64 of the top 100 players are without a title to their name. (WAR totals as of 9/24).

    Saturday, September 20, 2014

    The Most Underrated Players of (Offset) Decades, Part Two

    This is part two of the most underrated players by offset (as in, starting in years than end in a 5) decades. It took me a while to come back to it, but I finally did. For part one, see here.

    Monday, September 15, 2014

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

    The Directionless Rockies Continue to Baffle Me

    I don’t understand the Colorado Rockies. At all.

    News came out yesterday that the team had resigned pitcher Jorge De La Rosa to a two-year deal. And it made me remember something I had thought of many times before: I’m pretty sure the Rockies don’t really have a strategy.

    Sure, they have a solid core. Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are great…when they aren’t injured. Nolan Arenado has prospect pedigree and has shown talent at the major league level (hopefully he avoids the problems with injuries the other two have had). After that, though, they are surprisingly shallow in talent. Sure, Charlie Blackmon, Drew Stubbs, and Corey Dickerson are okay, but that’s pretty much every other decent part they have left.

    And you know what’s the sad thing? It didn’t have to be this way.

    You know when the last time the Rockies had a winning season was? 2010. It wasn’t even that successful a season, either, with only 83 wins. And yet, here are the things they have done since then to improve:

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

    A Different Way to Look at Parity: Analyzing World Series Droughts

    I was looking at the playoff picture for this year and was struck by something interesting: this might be the freshest playoff picture we’ve had in years.

    I’m not really sure what made me think of that. I think I was just reflecting on how odd it was that the Yankees and Red Sox and Phillies and Braves and Tigers and Cardinals were all of out of or falling out of contention a few weeks ago. Since then, the Cardinals have come roaring back into first place, but I still thought it might be worth looking at somewhat analytically.

    It was a pretty simple process. I simply looked at the teams currently in place for a playoff spot, then looked at what year they last won the World Series. Next, I repeated this for each year of the wild card era. I realize that this method isn’t perfect, but it’s a quick and easy way to look at it, and since the number of teams who win the World Series each year has remained more constant than the number of teams in the playoffs to begin with, this method seemed more stable from year-to-year.

    So, for example, this year’s playoff picture looks as such:

    Thursday, August 21, 2014

    The Most Underrated Players of (Offset) Decades, Part One

    Last week, Graham Womack of Baseball Past and Present did a run down of the most underrated players per decade (the rest of the pieces are linked to at the bottom of that one). It was fun, and I wanted to do something quick and related. So, I decided to look at the same topic, but shifted half a decade. Basically, the only difference is that I look at decades that start with a 5 year and end with a 4 year (for example, 2005-2014). With those parameters, who are the most underrated players?

    Thursday, August 14, 2014

    A Look at Joe Mauer's Hall of Fame Case, and the Sorry History ofCatchers in the Hall

    I was at the Houston Astros game yesterday, which means that I got to see Joe Mauer single in the first inning. This brought him to 1499 career hits, which he followed up during today’s day game with hit number 1500 in the first inning. It’s a big mark for one of the game’s longtime greats, and as I am wont to do, it made me think about his place among the all-time greats.

    There are a lot of ways to go about looking at it, so let’s start with the most basic. Right now, Mauer stands at 1501 hits, thanks to his single and home run today. If he made it to 3000 hits, even the most brain dead of Hall voters would surely vote for him. Well, maybe not “surely”, but it would at least check off the arbitrary milestone box that so many voters seem to fall back on to avoid critical thought.

    Let’s take a rough estimate of his chances of 3000 hits, then, since 500 home runs probably isn’t happening. Bill James’s career projection tool is good enough to use for our purposes. It requires full seasons, though, so let’s try and estimate where he’ll be at the end of the year first. Right now, Mauer sits at 87 hits in 79 games, with 43 games remaining. Let’s assume he continues at his current pace of 1.1 hits per game and plays in 35 of the final 43 games. That would give him about 38.5 hits left this season, which we’ll round to 39. That means he’d finish the season with 126 hits, for a career total of 1540.

    It’s easy to forget with all of his injury troubles, but Mauer is only 31. With our inputs, the projector spits out a career total of 2310 hits for Mauer, with a 3% chance to reach 3000 hits. 2310 hits might seem like a disappointment, but that would rank fourth all time among players with at least half of their games at catcher. The only other catchers with even 2200? Ivan Rodriguez, Ted Simmons, and Carlton Fisk.

    Thursday, July 31, 2014

    Predicting Hall of Fame Pitchers, Part II; or, Breaking Down the Likely Candidates by Age Group

    Now that I’ve gotten ranting about the stupidity of the Hall electorate out of my system from the other day, now it’s time for the actual predictions. What players active today are on a Hall of Fame pace? In case you don’t feel like looking back at the piece from the other day, here’s the data:

    Median WAR
    # HOF at median WAR
    # Non HOF at median
    # non HOF still on ballot
    % in HOF

    Since I conducted this study back before the season started, I’ll be primarily using Baseball-Reference WAR numbers from before the season started, although I won’t rule out referencing present-day stats. Now then, on to the players:

    Sunday, July 27, 2014

    Predicting Hall of Fame Pitchers Part I: or, The Voters Have Become Awful at Evaluating Starters

    I’ve been meaning for a long time to write a follow up to my update looking at future Hall of Fame hitters. The pitchers presented an interesting finding though, and I couldn’t figure out how best to summarize it, so I let it sit. And before long, it just didn’t make sense to follow up; we were starting the season and everything. So, I figured I’d let it go into Hall of Fame weekend.

    And now, finally, here we are. Once again into Hall of Fame season, thanks to the induction. All of the numbers are from before the season started, but the analysis is still good, so let’s go ahead.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2014

    2014 All-Star Roster Corrections, National League

    The other day, I began making my list of All-Star corrections with the American League roster. I have no idea why I always start with the American League, but what’s done is done. All that’s left now is to fix up the National League.

    The NL had a few more…interesting picks than the AL. Still, nothing mind-blowingly bad, but there was room to improve.

    Thursday, July 10, 2014

    2014 All-Star Roster Corrections, American League

    And now, it’s time for one of my favorite traditions: adopting a faux superior tone to criticize the All-Star Rosters!  But, it looks like I’m continuing last year’s downward trend in condescension; few of the picks this year made me sigh and shake my head in disbelief, like most of Bud Selig’s pet projects. For whatever reason, the All-Star Game rosters are just getting better and better. Maybe people take the job more seriously now that something is on the line? Maybe sites like Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs are disseminating information to voters better than ever before? Maybe Nate Silver implanted a chip into Bud Selig’s ear that whispers changes to the All-Star roster into his ear before they’re announced? Who knows!

    Either way, there are still a few nits I would pick if I were setting the rosters myself, and if there’s one thing that I love, it’s discussing the minor details of a roster for a one-off exhibition game. So, let’s get down to business!