Baseball BeatJanuary 31, 2004
Sheff's Special
By Rich Lederer

Power-Hitting OF Ranks Among the Game's Elite

My eight-year-old nephew opened up a pack of baseball cards on Christmas Eve. My brothers and I gathered around him as he shuffled through the cards. When he came to Gary Sheffield, I said, "Future Hall of Famer". I proceeded to grab the card so I could inspect it further. One of my brothers (the father of my nephew) looked at me in disbelief as if I were holding a Matt Stairs card.

Well, as it turns out, my brother isn't the only one who thinks Sheffield isn't worthy of such status. Two weeks later, ESPN's Jayson Stark, in Explaining My Hall Ballot, wrote the following in justifying his decision not to vote for Jim Rice:

He was a power hitter who barely cracks the top 50 all-time in homers (382) and RBI (1,451). In fact, his career numbers (.298 avg., 382 HR) are almost identical to Gary Sheffield's (.299, 379 HR). And does anyone out there see Sheffield as a Hall of Famer?
Yes, I do. Why not? The case for Sheffield is certainly a much easier one to make than the one against him. Don't believe me? Let's take a look.

First of all, I would like to point out that Rice appears to be a borderline Hall of Fame candidate who, in time, may be selected by either the Baseball Writers Association of America or the Veterans Committee. Rice has garnered more than 50% of the vote in each of the past five years. According to a study by Mike Carminati at Mike's Baseball Rants, every player who has ever received at least 50% of the votes from the BBWAA has eventually been enshrined in Cooperstown other than Gil Hodges.

Rice's HOF qualifications can be summarized as follows:

Black Ink: Batting - 33 (49) (Average HOFer ~ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting - 176 (56) (Average HOFer ~ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting - 42.9 (116) (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting - 147.0 (75) (Likely HOFer > 100)
Overall Rank in parentheses.

Rice meets three of the four standards as developed by Bill James, and he falls just shy of the fourth. I recognize that these metrics were designed by James to measure how likely a player is to gain admittance to the Hall of Fame and not necessarily how good they were. In any event, I believe these standards are a handy tool when reviewing the candidancies of retired players due to the fact that they encompass a wide range of quantitative and qualitative achievements.

Given James' follow-up work, it may make sense to add Win Shares to the above criteria when evaluating the worthiness of Hall of Famers. Rice ended his career with 282 Win Shares or 55 below the HOF average of 337 (as determined by Mike C.). As such, an argument regarding Rice's Hall worthiness can be made logically on or against his behalf.

With that behind us, let's now compare Rice to Sheffield.


           G     AB    R     H    2B    3B  HR   RBI    BB    SO
Sheffield 1882  6729  1190  2009  356   23  379  1232  1110   796
Rice      2089  8225  1249  2452  373   79  382  1451   670  1423
Although the two sluggers have almost identical home run totals as Stark pointed out, Rice has played 207 more games and has had 1,496 more at bats than Sheffield.


Sheffield	.299	.401	.527	.928	147
Rice		.298	.352	.502	.854	128
Yes, Jayson, Rice and Sheffield have virtually the same batting averages, too. However, is batting average the end all when it comes to measuring the prowess of hitters? Is it really a better gauge than on-base percentage and slugging average? Welcome to the 21st century. Sheffield beats Rice in OBP and SLG and, by definition, OPS. For those of you who may be concerned about context given the fact that Sheffield has played in a higher run-scoring environment than Rice, the former's adjusted on base plus slugging (OPS+) is 47% above the league average whereas the latter's is 28% above the norm.

Get the broom out. It's a clean sweep. Sheffield has higher OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+ totals. To the extent that Sheffield's rate stats decline slightly as he ages, he will more than make it up in his mounting cumulative totals. In fact, based on hitting 31 HR per year (a more than 10% regression from his five-year average), Sheffield will pierce the magical 500 plateau in 2007.

A season-by-season review of Rice's and Sheffield's OPS+ numbers shows that Sheff has topped his counterpart 12 out of 13 times (based on 300 or more plate appearances).

(Ranked from High to Low)

Rice	Sheffield
158	   190
154	   178
148	   168
141	   167
137	   167
131	   156
128	   144
123	   140
123	   138
121	   134
117	   120
112	   116
102	    82

Sheffield has produced six seasons with OPS+ totals over 150 whereas Rice only had two such years. (I have found that the number of campaigns of 150 or more for corner outfielders and first basemen an interesting guide for comparing and evaluating players. There are usually just a handful of players with OPS+ ratings of 150 each season.)

The biggest difference between Rice and Sheffield is in the number of outs that these two players have generated over the course of their careers.

Sheffield	8035	5067
Rice		9058	6221

Rice has created 1,154 more outs than Sheffield in only 1,023 more plate appearances. What does that all mean? Although I'm quite sure Yankee fans wouldn't be happy about it, Sheffield could basically go could oh-fer the next two seasons and not be any worse than Rice for his career. In a nutshell, the huge disparity in the number of outs between these two is the reason why Sheffield has been the more valuable offensive player. With respect to the rest of their games, Sheffield is by no means a lesser defensive player or baserunner than Rice. Therefore, his offensive superiority makes him the better overall ballplayer.

If Rice is a borderline Hall of Famer and Sheffield is shown to have superior credentials, then what does that make Sheffield? To borrow a page out of former vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen's playbook: "Jayson, I have studied Gary Sheffield. I know Gary Sheffield. Gary Sheffield is a great offensive player. Jayson, Jim Rice is no Gary Sheffield."

I'm sure some of you may be thinking, "That's great. Sheffield is better than Rice. But how does Sheffield compare to others?" For that, let's take a look at the incomparable's listing of similar batters through the age of 34.


Duke Snider (922) *
Reggie Jackson (900) *
Billy Williams (898) *
Jeff Bagwell (885)
Dale Murphy (880)
Rafael Palmeiro (879)
Jim Rice (872)
Orlando Cepeda (865) *
Dave Winfield (864) *
Dick Allen (863)

* Signifies Hall of Famer

Based on James' definitions, Duke Snider and Reggie Jackson have similarity scores that can be described as "truly similar" to Sheffield through the age of 34. The remaining players can be described as "similar" or "essentially similar". Five of the eight players on the above list eligible for the Hall of Fame have already been inducted. The two active players stand an excellent chance of being voted in five years after their retirements. As such, seven of Sheffield's ten most similar players are either in the Hall of Fame or are HOF bound. (Interestingly, Rice is among the three who have not been enshrined. He could easily make it eight-for-ten, and it is not unreasonable to assume that Dale Murphy and/or Dick Allen may one day gain admittance to Cooperstown.)

OK, Sheffield is similar to these players but is he better? Good question. For the answer, let's turn to two of my favorite stats--Runs Created Above Average and Runs Created Above Position (both from Lee Sinins' Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia).

(Career, 1900-on)

                                RCAA      OBA      SLG      OPS    
1    Babe Ruth                  1795     .474     .690    1.164   
2    Ted Williams               1475     .482     .634    1.116   
3    Ty Cobb                    1369     .433     .512     .945   
4    Barry Bonds                1344     .433     .602    1.035   
5    Lou Gehrig                 1247     .447     .632    1.080   
6    Stan Musial                1204     .417     .559     .976   
7    Mickey Mantle              1099     .421     .557     .977   
8    Rogers Hornsby             1084     .434     .577    1.010   
9    Tris Speaker               1053     .428     .500     .928   
10   Hank Aaron                 1032     .374     .555     .928   
11   Willie Mays                1008     .384     .557     .941   
12   Mel Ott                     989     .414     .533     .947   
13   Jimmie Foxx                 985     .428     .609    1.038   
14   Honus Wagner                938     .394     .468     .862   
15   Frank Robinson              852     .389     .537     .926   
16   Frank Thomas                770     .428     .568     .996   
17   Rickey Henderson            763     .401     .419     .820   
18   Eddie Collins               747     .424     .429     .853   
19   Joe DiMaggio                708     .398     .579     .977   
20   Johnny Mize                 667     .397     .562     .959   
21   Mark McGwire                665     .394     .588     .982   
T22  Joe Morgan                  663     .392     .427     .819   
T22  Harry Heilmann              663     .410     .520     .930   
T22  Jeff Bagwell                663     .411     .549     .959   
25   Eddie Mathews               655     .376     .509     .885   
26   Edgar Martinez              651     .423     .525     .948   
27   Nap Lajoie                  649     .381     .455     .835   
28   Mike Schmidt                623     .380     .527     .908   
29   Willie McCovey              606     .374     .515     .889   
30   Sam Crawford                594     .362     .452     .814   
31   George Brett                593     .369     .487     .857   
32   Paul Waner                  588     .404     .473     .877   
33   Joe Jackson                 580     .423     .518     .941   
T34  Gary Sheffield              565     .401     .527     .928   
T34  Reggie Jackson              565     .356     .490     .846   
36   Rafael Palmeiro             562     .373     .522     .894   
37   Wade Boggs                  556     .415     .443     .858   
38   Willie Stargell             553     .360     .529     .889   
39   Hank Greenberg              549     .412     .605    1.017   
40   Carl Yastrzemski            547     .379     .462     .841   
41   Al Kaline                   546     .376     .480     .855   
42   Ken Griffey Jr.             535     .379     .562     .940   
43   Jim Thome                   528     .411     .568     .979   
44   Manny Ramirez               524     .413     .598    1.010   
T45  Tim Raines                  516     .385     .425     .810   
T45  Harmon Killebrew            516     .376     .509     .884   
47   Dick Allen                  511     .378     .534     .912   
T48  Tony Gwynn                  504     .388     .459     .847   
T48  Al Simmons                  504     .380     .535     .915   
T50  Larry Walker                492     .400     .567     .967   
T50  Pete Rose                   492     .375     .409     .784

(Career, 1900-on)

                                RCAP      OBA      SLG      OPS    
1    Babe Ruth                  1594     .474     .690    1.164   
2    Ted Williams               1246     .482     .634    1.116   
3    Barry Bonds                1218     .433     .602    1.035   
4    Rogers Hornsby             1094     .434     .577    1.010   
5    Ty Cobb                    1078     .433     .512     .945   
6    Mickey Mantle              1009     .421     .557     .977   
7    Honus Wagner                994     .394     .468     .862   
8    Stan Musial                 992     .417     .559     .976   
9    Lou Gehrig                  988     .447     .632    1.080   
10   Willie Mays                 856     .384     .557     .941   
11   Mel Ott                     831     .414     .533     .947   
T12  Hank Aaron                  822     .374     .555     .928   
T12  Eddie Collins               822     .424     .429     .853   
14   Joe Morgan                  820     .392     .427     .819   
15   Tris Speaker                777     .428     .500     .928   
16   Jimmie Foxx                 700     .428     .609    1.038   
17   Frank Robinson              674     .389     .537     .926   
18   Rickey Henderson            636     .401     .419     .820   
19   Eddie Mathews               633     .376     .509     .885   
20   Joe DiMaggio                629     .398     .579     .977   
21   Nap Lajoie                  617     .381     .455     .835   
22   Arky Vaughan                598     .406     .453     .859   
23   Frank Thomas                594     .428     .568     .996   
24   Charlie Gehringer           581     .404     .480     .884   
25   Mike Schmidt                576     .380     .527     .908   
26   Wade Boggs                  575     .415     .443     .858   
27   Edgar Martinez              568     .423     .525     .948   
28   Ken Griffey Jr.             532     .379     .562     .940   
29   Mike Piazza                 528     .388     .572     .959   
30   Jeff Bagwell                513     .411     .549     .959   
31   Johnny Mize                 512     .397     .562     .959   
32   George Brett                508     .369     .487     .857   
33   Mark McGwire                503     .394     .588     .982   
34   Gary Sheffield              487     .401     .527     .928   
35   Barry Larkin                481     .371     .446     .817   
36   Rod Carew                   476     .393     .429     .822   
37   Alex Rodriguez              474     .382     .581     .963   
38   Bill Dickey                 473     .382     .486     .868   
39   Harry Heilmann              469     .410     .520     .930   
40   Willie McCovey              468     .374     .515     .889   
41   Reggie Jackson              458     .356     .490     .846   
42   Joe Jackson                 449     .423     .518     .941   
43   Willie Stargell             448     .360     .529     .889   
44   Craig Biggio                445     .375     .432     .807   
45   Manny Ramirez               444     .413     .598    1.010   
46   Yogi Berra                  440     .348     .482     .830   
47   Joe Cronin                  431     .390     .468     .857   
48   Mickey Cochrane             425     .419     .478     .897   
49   Paul Waner                  415     .404     .473     .877   
T50  Robin Yount                 408     .342     .430     .772   
T50  Cal Ripken                  408     .340     .447     .788   
T50  Jim Thome                   408     .411     .568     .979

Sheffield ranks 34th in RCAA and RCAP. Of Sheffield's ten most similar players, only Bagwell ranks higher in RCAA or RCAP. That is, Sheffield has already surpassed the retired Snider, Jackson, Billy Williams, Murphy, Rice, Orlando Cepeda, Dave Winfield, and Allen in both key stats, and he has a lead over the still active Rafael Palmeiro.

Importantly, all the players eligible for the Hall of Fame who rank above Sheffield have already been inducted. In fact, every player listed in the Top 50 in both rankings has a plaque in Cooperstown with the exception of Allen.

Only 15 of the players ranked ahead of Sheffield in RCAA and 14 in RCAP have also produced career OBP of .400 or better, SLG of .500+, and OPS of .900+. It could be argued that Sheffield is among the best and most balanced hitters of all time.

Sheffield has also been a very consistent hitter. He is one of only ten players who have had six or more consecutive seasons with a batting average of .300+, OBP .400+, and SLG .500+.

BA >= .300, OBA >= .400, SLG >= .500

1    Lou Gehrig               1926-37   12   
T2   Babe Ruth                1926-33    8   
T2   Stan Musial              1948-55    8   
T4   Harry Heilmann           1921-27    7   
T4   Frank Thomas             1991-97    7   
T4   Edgar Martinez           1995-01    7   
T7   Babe Ruth                1919-24    6   
T7   Tris Speaker             1920-25    6   
T7   Rogers Hornsby           1920-25    6   
T7   Chipper Jones            1998-03    6   
T7   Gary Sheffield           1998-03    6

All of the players eligible for the Hall of Fame listed above were enshrined long ago. Five of these six players (Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Tris Speaker, and Rogers Hornsby) are considered to be "inner circle" types. Of the three active players, Frank Thomas and Edgar Martinez should be shoo-ins for the Hall, and Chipper Jones is in the process of building a resume worthy of such hallowed status. (Interestingly, if not for Ruth's shortened season in 1925, he could have strung together a record 15 straight seasons of .300/.400/.500. In the meantime, the Babe will have to settle for second and seventh best--the only player to make the Top Ten twice.)

No matter how one slices or dices it, Gary Antonian Sheffield is in pretty exclusive company. Based solely on the numbers, it looks like the Sheff's Hall of Fame qualifications are made to order.

WTNYJanuary 29, 2004
The Phillies
By Bryan Smith

Major computer problems today, so my post can't be very long. I wanted to tackle the two Phillies who have yet to sign contracts, being Kevin Millwood and Placido Polanco. The former is asking for more than any other eligible player, requesting $12.5M in 2004, the Phillies are countering with $10M. Polanco wants $4.5M while Ed Wade submitted $3.4M as his figure.

First, Kevin Millwood has no business asking for $12.5M, and his agent did a terrible job determining his price. Three Millwood-type players have signed contracts this offseason (Vazquez, Halladay, Wood), so I wanted to use them as proof. In terms of H/9, Millwood ranked 3rd in this group, only .05 in front of Roy Halladay at 8.51. Vazquez (7.73) and Wood (6.48) blew them both away. Millwood is last in K/9, once again close to the AL Cy Young winner, but his 6.85 is well behind Vazquez (9.40) and Wood (11.35).

Millwood had the worst K/BB of the group, but his 2.49 checks in very closely with Wood's 2.66. Halladay was the best at this, sporting a 6.38 K/BB. Finally, Millwood had the worst ERA of the group by far, as his 4.01 is well behind Wood (3.20), Vazquez (3.24), and Halladay (3.25). Next year, Wood will make $9.75M, Vazquez will make 11.25M, and Halladay 10.5M. Millwood is definitely the worst of this bunch, but at worst will make more than Wood, who ranked best using the previous metrics.

In 2003, Millwood had a $9.9M salary. While years of eligibility is important in determining price, I had to ask myself, did Millwood's 2003 warrant a large raise from the salary he had a year ago? No way.

2002: 18-8 3.24 186/217 (7.71H/9) 178/65 (7.38K/9)
2003: 14-12 4.01 210/222 (8.51H/9) 169/68 (6.85K/9)

In 2002, the year determining Millwood's $9.9M, his H/9 was 9.4% less, and his K/9 was 7.7% more. The right-hander's performance took a considerable drop in 2003, so why give him a 26% salary increase? Millwood did a very good job accepting the team's arbitration offer, but there is no way his arguments can justify a $12.5M salary.

Mark Loretta made 1.25M last year. His AVE, his OBP, and his SLG were all better than Polanco's numbers. They had very similar extra-base hit numbers. Was Mark Grudzialnek worse than Polanco? Was Luis Castillo even with Polanco? No and No. End of case. I wish I could get into more detail, but Blogger's just too damn difficult.

Sorry for the small post, I'll be back tomorrow.

WTNYJanuary 28, 2004
Twins go to Arbitration
By Bryan Smith

In the last two days we have talked about the high-profile arbitration-eligble players, and now we move on to the second-tier group. Three players from the 2003 Minnesota Twins, Doug Mientkiewicz, Johan Santana, and now-Giant A.J. Pierzynski all are disputing their 2004 salaries. Below is what these players are asking for next year, and in parentheses, what their team will be fighting for.

Mientkiewicz- $3.6M ($2.5M)
Santana- $2.45M (1.6M)
Pierzynski- $3.5M ($2.25M)

I was very surprised when the Twins didn't non-tender Doug Mientkiewicz, as prospect Justin Morneau is ready for the Major Leagues. But Minnesota is very high on their first basemen, who will rip the manager, the front office, the White Sox, whomever to make a point. On the field, Mientkiewicz has become a good hitter, and has lived up to the defensive compliments he's always received.

Last year, Mientkiewicz had 19.58 Win Shares, which was good for 3rd in AL 1B. His 17.15 win shares for hitting settled him comfortably in third, well behind Jason Giambi (26.04), but well in front of Kevin Millar (13.34). On defense, Doug was second in the American League at 2.39, only behind John Olerud in the American League. His on-base percentage (.393) was good enough for ninth in the league, helped by the fact that he drew the thirteenth most walks. While Doug doesn't have the prototypical first base power, his 38 doubles were tied for thirteenth last year.

Here's a list of six players that will make more money than Mientkiewicz if given the Twins amount, but were worse in terms of Win Shares:

- John Olerud- $7.7M
- Tino Martinez- $7M
- Sean Casey- $6.8M
- Ryan Klesko- $6.5M
- Jeff Conine- $4.35M
- Kevin Millar- $2.65M

There is no way that an arbitrator would rule in favor of the Twins here, it's impossible to prove he is worse than his aforementioned peers.

In Johan Santana, we're getting another example of a first-year eligible player trying to make some money. Santana is reportedly upset with the Twins about long-term negotiations, and a deal isn't promising.

Last year, Santana found himself on the leaderboard of a few statistics, and has become the ace of the Twins' staff. He finished 5th in the AL in baserunners/9, fourth in ERA, second in H/9 and second in K/9. Some of the names in front of him, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Tim Hudson, all dwarf Santana in terms of salary.

Johan finished 13th in the American League in Win Shares by a pitcher, contributing 5.3 wins (16WS) to the Twins. The only player in the top 12 even close to Santana's demands is fellow first-year eligible southpaw, Darrell May, who just completed a deal with the Royals. May will make 2.475M next year, more than what Santana is asking about. So if I were an arbitrator, the key decision here is whether or not Johan has deserved the right to make an equal amount to Darrell May, or should he make less?

While Johan has less innings pitched than May, he has won six more games, struck out 96 more batters, and walked seven less in the last two seasons. His ERAs (2.99 and 3.07) are far lower than what May has done in two years (5.35 and 3.77). Johan is younger, and has much more projectability than his competitor. If there is any reason that May deserves more money than Santana, than Johan might as well take the loss. But...there isn't any reason.

Finally, there is A.J. Pierzynski. Let me say first and foremost that A.J. Pierzynski is a left-handed catcher, and those don't come around often. Since World War II, Pierzynski's 2003 had the second best average ever from a LH catcher, the second most doubles, and the sixteenth best on-base percentage. A.J. has been the best left-handed hitting catcher in quite some time, and already has been to an All-Star Game. This is his first-year eligible for arbitration, and asking for $3.5M is highly ambitious.

Last season, A.J. Pierzynski finished fourth in the Major Leagues for Win Shares by a catcher with 21.58. His 14.74 Win Shares on offense sit right in between Jason Kendall ($8M in 2004) and Mike Lieberthal ($7.5M in 2004). But the killer in this situation is that it's Pierzynski's first time eligible for arbitration, and the Giants will be quick to point to Ramon Hernandez, who will make $2.375M with the Padres. Of the three cases in this article, A.J. definitely has the best chance to lose. Should he? Probably.

I'll be back tomorrow...

WTNYJanuary 27, 2004
The Cardinal Clipper
By Bryan Smith

As I said yesterday, today I was hoping to tackle the Albert Pujols case. Aaron Gleeman beat me to the punch earlier in the week, going into detail on the Cardinal slugger. The two sides are talking long-term contract, but remain undecided on a 2004 salary. Pujols is asking for the largest sum ever by a first-year eligible player, $9.5M, while the Cardinals stand 3.5M less. That represents the highest difference between two players, and barring a long-term deal being inked, is likely to go to an arbitrator.

In the Gleeman piece, Aaron points out that Pujols finished tied for 12th all-time in home runs through the age of 23, tied for 10th in doubles, and 10th in RCAA. Using the indispensable Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia, I ran a few more tests, and discovered this coincidence:

A Pujols	.334	.412	.613	.279	259	438
Player A	.331	.384	.610	.279	261	449

While Aaron compared Pujols to Teddy Ballgame in his article, Player A is Joe Dimaggio. While Pujols was better in OBP than Dimaggio, Joltin' Joe had a leg up in Runs Created. Their Isolated Power is the exact same, and the AVG, SLG, and XBH numbers are eerily close. After his first three seasons, the Yankee Clipper peaked during his ages 24-26 seasons. He had averages of .381, .352, and .357 during that time, and topped a .600SLG for the final time. If Joe's numbers are indicative of what Pujols will do in the next three seasons, the Cards can expect a .360/.430/.650 player that will flirt with .400 at that point.

Using just statistics, Pujols would be guaranteed his $9.5M, and probably more. But as I pointed out with Gagne yesterday, Albert is likely to lose his case. Giving a first-year eligible player $9.5M increases prices given to those in his same category, and more players will go to the arbitrator. So instead of deciding whether Pujols will/should make $6M or $9.5M in 2004, I set out to find what his long-term contract terms should look like.

By setting the Sabermetric Encyclopedia's parameter to just 1994-2003, only six players were in the top ten in AVG, OBP, SLG, ISO, XBH, and RC at least five times. They are:

Pujols- 6
Alex Rodriguez- 6
Vladmir Guerrero- 6
Scott Rolen- 6
Eric Chavez- 6
Edgar Renteria- 5

I then looked at what the five players from above made from their team before hitting free agency. Before signing a record deal with the Texas Rangers, A-Rod made about $11M in his time with the Mariners. In September of 1998, the Expos signed Guerrero through his arbitration years, inking a five-year, $30M contract. It should be said that the timing of that deal would be synonymous if Pujols had signed a year ago, so it's a bit late. Scott Rolen made about $17M before signing a long-term deal with the Cardinals after the 2002 season. Eric Chavez was signed through his arbitration years at $11.75M, and Edgar Renteria is finishing out a four-year, $20M contract (with two option years) that he signed a year after Pujols would be signing.

The mean for the five players above is $20M, but none have scratched the surface on what Pujols means to this team. The Guerrero deal makes the most sense, but Pujols is looking beyond five years, and beyond $6M per season. Let's also look at the contract obligations the Cardinals currently have for every season beyond 2004:

2005: Rolen (11.25), Edmonds (10M), Izzy (6.75M), Suppan (3M), Sanders (3M), Tavarez (2.1M)= 36.10M
2006: Rolen (11.25), Edmonds (10M)= 21.25M

After assuming that the Edgar Renteria option years will be picked up, each of those totals have about $5M added to them. So before the Cards even begin to start talking to Pujols and Matt Morris about contract extensions, they have to worry about the $41M already spend towards the 2005 season, and the $26M geared towards 2007. Considering that the Cardinal payrolls hover around $85M, signing Pujols and Morris to $10M+ per year deals would be a burden on the franchise.

If I were Walt Jocketty, I would make Pujols an offer of about eight years, at an average of 11M per season. Build the contract so that the team pays less in 2004, 2005, and 2006, and more towards the end of the contract. Also put in incentives that can take the deal to about 14M per if Pujols performs well.

And then, there is the age issue. I might be naive in thinking that Pujols is telling the truth here, but I'm going to assume he is 24 until proven differently. Those who argue against me will say, "Well, look at what he's done so far..." to which I'll respond, "Albert Pujols has had a great first three seasons, but it's not even in the top 5 of Major League players ever, it is possible for players this young to do that." Any contract likely would/should have an age stipulation, in which the Cardinals can opt out if his age is proven different.

Albert Pujols is a very gifted player, and likely the favorite for the 2004 NL MVP. I mean, the Yankee Clipper won an MVP in his fourth year...

WTNYJanuary 26, 2004
Game Over
By Bryan Smith

The next week is going to be Arbitration Week at Wait 'Til Next Year, as I will spend time analyzing who will go to an arbitrator, and those who settled before arbitration. There are 26 players who remain unsigned for the 2004 season, and these are the six players who have the largest disagreement with their team:

1. Albert Pujols- $3.5M
2. Eric Gagne- $3M
3. Kevin Millwood- $2.5M
4. A.J. Pierzynski- $1.25M
5T. Placido Polanco- $1.1M
5T. Doug Mientkiewicz- $1.1M

With that being said, this is the rough schedule for the next five days here:

Monday: Eric Gagne
Tuesday: Albert Pujols (subject to change)
Wednesday: Twins (Mientkiewicz, Santana, and former Twin, Pierzynski)
Thursday: Phillies (Millwood and Polanco)
Friday: Those who settled prior to arbitration

That may all change, but I think all five posts will be well worth your time. As I said, today will be analyzing the contract situation of Eric Gagne, the 2003 NL Cy Young winner. Gagne was converted to relief prior to the 2002 season, and has immedietly become the best reliever in the game today.

2002: 4-1 1.97 55/82.1 114/16 52Sv
2003: 2-3 1.20 37/82.1 137/20 55Sv

Gagne's 107 saves are tied with Dave Righetti for 11th all-time in saves before the age of 28. While he is 71 behind the leader, Bobby Thigpen, no reliever has ever come close to the 107 Gagne has in the last two seasons. He has set the record for consecutive saves, which is still running at 63. And the scary thing about Gagne? He keeps getting better.

2003 1st half: 1-3 1.99 23/45.1 76/11
2003 2nd half: 1-0 0.24 14/37.0 61/9

Yes, you read that right. Eric Gagne only gave up one earned run in thirty-seven second half innings. And that run? On August 20th, Gagne gave up solo shot to Vladimir Guerrero in his second inning of work. Since that time he didn't give up a run in 18.1 innings. I mean, he only gave up 8 HITS! To further put Gagne's 2003 in perspective, the following tables are top ten lists of pitchers with more than 80IP in a season against their league average in ERA, H/9 and K/9:

ERA                           YEAR     DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE   
1    Pedro Martinez           2000     3.18     1.74     4.92   
2    Roberto Hernandez        1996     3.09     1.91     5.00   
3    Eric Gagne               2003     3.08     1.20     4.29   
4    Mariano Rivera           1996     2.91     2.09     5.00   
5    Tim Burke                1987     2.90     1.19     4.09   
6    Pedro Martinez           1999     2.80     2.07     4.87   
7    Robb Nen                 1998     2.71     1.52     4.24   
8    Felix Rodriguez          2001     2.68     1.68     4.36   
9    John Wetteland           1993     2.68     1.37     4.05   
10   Greg Maddux              1994     2.66     1.56     4.22   

1 Eric Gagne 2003 4.97 4.04 9.02
2 Jeff Zimmerman 1999 4.52 5.13 9.66
3 Pedro Martinez 2000 4.35 5.31 9.66
4 Francisco Rodriguez 2003 4.07 5.23 9.30
5 Scott Williamson 1999 4.05 5.21 9.25
6 Mitch Williams 1987 3.97 5.22 9.19
7 Trevor Hoffman 1996 3.93 5.11 9.05
8 Ricky Bottalico 1995 3.93 5.13 9.06
9 Tommy Byrne 1948 3.88 5.31 9.19
10 Goose Gossage 1977 3.70 5.28 8.97

1 Eric Gagne 2003 8.33 14.98 6.65
2 Rob Dibble 1991 7.63 13.55 5.92
3 Rob Dibble 1989 6.99 12.82 5.83
4 Pedro Martinez 1999 6.97 13.20 6.24
5 Rob Dibble 1990 6.71 12.49 5.78
6 Randy Johnson 2001 6.42 13.41 6.99
7 Randy Johnson 1995 6.28 12.35 6.07
8 Tom Henke 1987 6.27 12.26 5.99
9 Tom Henke 1989 6.25 11.73 5.48
10 Pedro Martinez 2001 6.13 12.57 6.44

After that, I think it is safe to say that Gagne's 2003 is the best relief season ever. No one has approached what he has done against league average in H/9 and K/9, and he is narrowly behind Pedro and Roberto Hernandez in ERA. There are so many fantastic stats about Gagne, the Dodgers should be paying him top reliever money, right?

Well, there is one problem: this is his first offseason being eligible for arbitration. He joins superstars Alfonso Soriano and Albert Pujols in that regard, but Soriano has already signed (5.4M), and Pujols is discussing a long-term contract. Gagne and the Dodgers are negotiating a contract for 2004, but remain three million dollars apart, $6M vs. $9M. Using Doug Pappas' fantastic website, I found out that $9M would be by far the most a first-year eligible player has gone to an arbitrator, excluding the $9.5M that Pujols is asking for. At this point, Derek Jeter is the leader, asking for $5M preceding the 1999 season. The funny thing about Jeter's case...he won.

Since Major League Baseball started using arbitration in 1974, players have a losing record of 194-259 (.428) against the owners, or about the record that the Cincinnati Reds had on the field last year. So Jeter's case is the exception to the rule. And is Eric Gagne, a reliever, more valuable than Jeter was after 1998, being a shortstop? That's a hard case to argue, because at that point Jeter joined two Hall of Famers who had posted three years of a .370OBP and .400SLG before the age of 25.

In a perfect world, Gagne would earn contracts around those of fellow top-notch closers, Billy Wagner (8M), Mariano Rivera (8.89), and John Smoltz (11M). But as we know all so well, the MLB's economic system is flawed. If Eric Gagne's case goes to the arbitrator, he likely will lose. He deserves so much more.

Baseball BeatJanuary 25, 2004
The Grooviest Lefty of All Time
By Rich Lederer

"I'll tell you about fastball pitchers. One day we were playing the Athletics in Yankee Stadium. We were behind by one run in the last of the ninth. We loaded the bases with nobody out. Connie Mack signaled his pitcher off the mound and we all looked toward the bullpen to see who was coming in. But nobody was coming in from the bullpen. Grove walked out of the dugout, threw five warmup pitches, then proceeded to fan the side on ten pitches. The last three he threw to me. I haven't seen any of them yet. Don't ever ask me about fastball pitchers again."

--Bill Dickey, New York Yankees Hall of Fame Catcher

Rob Neyer wrote two columns earlier this month regarding "quality of competition." In the first article, Rob mentioned that Lefty Grove was rarely allowed to pitch against the Yankees for a stretch in the early 1930s. In the next paragraph, Rob proceeded to write the following:

As a practical matter, it doesn't really matter if maybe Lefty Grove was slightly less brilliant than we think he was.

Based on my research, Grove may have started two or three fewer times against the Yankees than would be expected in 1930 and perhaps another time in 1931 and 1935. All told, the number of games that Grove may have been held back during that period is not statistically significant. If anything, it is important to note that Grove started a disproportionate number of games against the Yankees over the course of his career. As such, I don't think Grove deserves to be thought of any less brilliantly now than ever before.

Thanks to Retrosheet, I checked the game logs for each of Grove's 17 seasons in the major leagues and found that Lefty faced the Yankees 69 times out of a total of 457 games started. In other words, Grove went head-to-head vs. the Yankees in 15.1% of his outings. Given that there were eight teams in the league throughout Grove's career, it would be expected that he would start one-seventh or 14.2% of his games against each of the opponents. As it turned out, Grove actually drew the Yankees four more times than projected.


Year	 GS    vs. NYY	% GS   % vs. NYY
1925	 18	 4	22.2	  18.2
1926	 33	 7	21.2	  31.8
1927	 28	 5	17.9	  22.7
1928	 31	 7	22.6	  31.8
1929	 37	 5	13.5	  22.7
1930	 32	 2	 6.3	   9.1
1931	 30	 3	10.0	  13.6
1932	 30	 4	13.3	  18.2
1933	 28	 4	14.3	  18.2
1934	 12	 1	 8.3	   4.5
1935	 30	 3	10.0	  13.6
1936	 30	 7	23.3	  31.8
1937	 32	 5	15.6	  22.7
1938	 21	 4	19.0	  18.2
1939	 23	 4	17.4	  18.2
1940	 21	 2	 9.5	   9.1
1941	 21	 2	 9.5	   9.1
Total	457	69	15.1	  18.4

A cynic might point to the fact that Grove only started 18.4% of his team's games vs. the Yankees when, in fact, he should have been expected to start 20%-25% given the four and five-man rotations of the day. Such reasoning would be faulty due to the reality that Grove only started 17.5% of his team's games during his career. As a result, no matter which way one looks at it, Grove actually started more than his fair share of games vs. the Bronx Bombers.

Hall of Famers Galore

There was one particular game in which Grove started against the Yankees that is worth delving into in more detail.

In the first game of a doubleheader between the visiting New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Athletics on May 24, 1928, a record 13 future Hall of Famers took the field. An additional six HOFers either didn't play or were managers or umpires.

Miller Huggins of the Yankees featured a lineup of Earle Combs, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Leo Durocher, and Waite Hoyt. Connie Mack countered with Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Mickey Cochrane, Al Simmons, Eddie Collins, Jimmie Foxx, and Grove. In addition, Herb Pennock and Stan Coveleski of the Yankees were in uniform but didn't play. Tom Connolly and Bill McGowan umpired the game and later were enshrined in Cooperstown.

Cobb, Speaker, and Collins were all over 40 years old, and they were only remnants of their old selves. In fact, 1928 turned out to be Cobb's and Speaker's final year. Cobb and Speaker were part-time players, and Collins was nothing more than a pinch hitter.

Cobb played in 95 games and had an adjusted on-base plus slugging average (OPS+) of 112, the lowest since his rookie season in 1905. Speaker played in 64 games and had an OPS+ of 95, his third consecutive yearly decline and the lowest since 1908 when he had only 125 plate appearances in his second big league season. Collins played in 36 games and had 33 at bats that year.

Foxx, on the other hand, was 20 years old. He wasn't even old enough to vote, yet was in the midst of his fourth season in the big leagues (albeit the first with over 100 games). Foxx played 60 games at third base, 30 at first, and 19 as Cochrane's backup at catcher.

Cochrane won the first of his two Most Valuable Player Awards in 1928 despite not finishing in the top ten in batting average, on base percentage, or slugging average. He ended the season eighth in base on balls and tenth in runs scored and triples. Cochrane was an odd choice for MVP, but previous winners Ruth (1923) and Gehrig (1927) were ineligible under the rules of the day (later changed allowing Cochrane to win a second MVP as a Detroit Tiger in 1934).

By comparison, Ruth and Gehrig were one-two in runs, home runs, extra base hits, times on base, on base percentage, slugging average, and OPS, and they tied for the league lead in RBI. The Bambino also led in walks and total bases, while the Iron Horse tied for the lead in doubles.

Clash of the Titans

The Yankees (26-6) and A's (21-8) were in first and second place when the teams squared off at Shibe Park. The Yankees were coming off a 110-44 record and a sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series in 1927.

There was a lot of excitement in the air. The home team Athletics were on a five-game winning streak and Grove, the starting pitcher, had won six straight. Fans flocked to the stadium from far and wide with 500 "motor cars" bearing identification from such places as New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington D.C. according to Joseph J. Dittmar of the Baseball Records Registry. The reported paid attendance was nearly 42,000, the largest crowd to date in Philadelphia baseball history.

Lazzeri spoiled the afternoon for the home faithful with three hits and six RBI, leading the Bronx Bombers to a 9-7 win over the A's. Grove, who led the A.L. with 24 wins and 183 strikeouts, was tagged with one of his only eight losses for the year.

The A's won the nightcap of this landmark doubleheader, 5-2. However, the Yankees went on to win the American League pennant and sweep the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Gehrig led the way, going 6-for-11 with four home runs, nine RBI, and six BB in four games. Ruth went 10-for-16 with three homers and nine runs scored.

Grove definitely did not duck out against the Yankees that season. He started seven times or in nearly one-third of the match-ups between the rivals, including opening day and the first game of the series three other times. Although Grove didn't fare particularly well (winning only once), he definitely took the ball every time it was his turn to pitch.

According to Don Malcolm of the Big Bad Baseball fame in a post on Baseball Primer, Grove was 30-25 with an ERA of 3.82 as a starting pitcher vs. the Yankees, including 18-16, 4.34 with the A's and 12-9, 3.11 with the Red Sox. Those numbers are well below Grove's record vs. the rest of the league but that is not surprising given the fact that the Yankees were the best team in baseball for much of his career.

Holy (Robert) Moses!

Grove had an overall won-loss total of 300-141 with an ERA of 3.06. Lefty was named the Most Valuable Player in 1931 and captured the so-called Triple Crown of pitching in 1930 and 1931. From July 25, 1930 through September 24, 1931, he went 46-4. Grove led the league in ERA a record nine times, including four straight from 1929-1932. Grove also topped the circuit in strikeouts in each of his first seven seasons.

Based on the way staff aces are handled now, it might surprise some to learn that Lefty was one of the best relief pitchers of his day as well. Of Grove's 616 appearances, 159 were as a reliever. He saved a total of 55 games and finished in the top seven every year from 1926-1933, including a league-leading nine in 1930.

Grove became just the fifth pitcher to win 300 games in the modern era even though he didn't make it to the majors until he was 25 years old. Prior to that, he accumulated a record of 109-36 for the independently owned Baltimore Orioles of the International League. The O's won the pennant all five years Grove played for them with Lefty posting records of 12-2, 25-10, 18-8, 27-10, and 27-6 while leading the league in strikeouts in each of the final four campaigns. After the 1924 season, Connie Mack of the Philadelphia A's agreed to pay $100,000 for Grove's contract plus an extra $600 to make the purchase higher than the amount the Yankees paid the Red Sox for Babe Ruth.

An article featuring Robert Moses "Lefty" Grove would not be complete without the following lists:


1    Lefty Grove                 668   
2    Walter Johnson              643   
3    Roger Clemens               613   
4    Greg Maddux                 540   
5    Grover C Alexander          524   
6    Randy Johnson               461   
7    Pedro Martinez              453   
8    Christy Mathewson           405   
9    Tom Seaver                  404   
10   Carl Hubbell                355


1    Pedro Martinez              174
2    Lefty Grove                 148
3    Walter Johnson              146
4    Hoyt Wilhelm                146
5    Ed Walsh                    145
6    Randy Johnson               143
     Greg Maddux                 143
8    Addie Joss                  142
9    Roger Clemens               140
10   Mordecai Brown              138


                                DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE
1    Pedro Martinez             1.87     2.58     4.46   
2    Lefty Grove                1.36     3.06     4.42   
3    Randy Johnson              1.25     3.10     4.35   
4    Hoyt Wilhelm               1.24     2.52     3.76   
5    Roger Clemens              1.20     3.19     4.39   
6    Lefty Gomez                1.16     3.34     4.50   
7    Greg Maddux                1.16     2.89     4.05   
8    Kevin Brown                1.12     3.16     4.29   
9    Whitey Ford                1.10     2.74     3.84   
10   Walter Johnson             1.07     2.17     3.24


                                RATE   PLAYER   LEAGUE
1    Pedro Martinez              173     2.58     4.46   
2    Ed Walsh                    152     1.82     2.76   
3    Walter Johnson              149     2.17     3.24   
4    Hoyt Wilhelm                149     2.52     3.76   
5    Lefty Grove                 144     3.06     4.42   
6    Addie Joss                  144     1.89     2.72   
7    Mordecai Brown              140     2.06     2.89   
8    Randy Johnson               140     3.10     4.35   
9    Greg Maddux                 140     2.89     4.05   
10   Whitey Ford                 140     2.74     3.84

Based on these various ways of measuring runs saved versus the league average, Grove ranks anywhere from first to fifth all time. Of note, Pedro Martinez is the only pitcher who places higher than Grove more than once, sitting atop three of the four leader boards. Furthermore, Grove, Martinez, Walter Johnson, and Hoyt Wilhelm are the only pitchers listed in the top five at least three times. Finally, Grove, Martinez, W. Johnson, Greg Maddux, and Randy Johnson are the only pitchers who rank in the top ten in all four methods. Roger Clemens deserves special mention, placing in the top five twice and top ten three times. Wilhelm's top ten ratings are based solely on rate stats and are not validated by the RSAA counting stat. As a result, I would tend to discount his standing relative to the other six.

Sources: Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia and The above lists are based on career totals (modern 1900-on) and 2,000 or more innings pitched.

Photo Credit: Fulling.

WTNYJanuary 24, 2004
Food for Thought
By Bryan Smith

Rare weekend post, as there are a few topics I want to hit on, and a few I'd like to revisit. The first is about my article yesterday, in which I wrote about the throwing sessions of Orlando Hernandez and Maels Rodriguez. Will Carroll wrote on his blog yesterday that Rodriguez failed to top 90mph, maxing out at 87 with his fastball. El Duque, throwing at 85%, never hit above 78. This will hurt their 2004 salaries, and Maels is going to need to have a very impressive second outing to attract a signing. The Red Sox said that Maels was low to mid-90s earlier in the week, but could that have been to start driving up what the Yankees have to pay?

Since we're on the topic of bullpen sessions, Yankee Steve Karsay had an impressive workout on Friday, throwing 30 fastballs from the bullpen mound. The team isn't sure if Karsay will be ready for Opening Day, but it looks like the Yanks will have their #4 RH out of the bullpen back at full strength early on in the season.

I've ripped Dan O'Dowd often at this blog, so I couldn't hesitate from smiling when hearing that the team had signed LHP Shawn Estes to a minor league contract on Friday. This is O'Dowd trying to recreate the Darren Oliver addition from a year ago, but it just won't work. Estes does a decent job of keeping the ball on the ground, but if he was terrible in Wrigley, what is going to happen in Coors? Yikes.

Bob Melvin was talking about reshuffling the Mariner lineup this year, possibly moving Ichiro Suzuki to the #3 hole. Peter White of Mariner Musings and David Cameron at the U.S.S. Mariner have done a good job analyzing this move, saying that Ichiro is better fitted for hitting with runners on base. Cameron presents a mock lineup with arguments for each spot, something I hope to do for every Major League team here in the coming weeks. I can't say I agree with putting John Olerud in the fourth hole, but it will be bad enough when Bob Melvin makes Raul Ibanez his fifth hitter.

Finally, I never touched on the Glendon Rusch signing this week, so I thought this would be a good time to sound off my thoughts. Before this season, I couldn't have imagined a situation where a 1-12 pitcher would be sought after, but Glendon Rusch actually had some options. Mike Maddux worked wonders on Rusch, who had a 3.23ERA in the second half, with most of his appearances in relief. Maybe Rusch is built for middle/long relief, but I'm a believer that he can return to usefulness after years of inadequacy. I actually prefer this signing to Kenny Rogers, although the Gambler is a lot more likely to waste rotation space.

E-mail me with thoughts, suggestions, column ideas, etc.

WTNYJanuary 23, 2004
Cuban Refugees
By Bryan Smith

Yesterday, two Cuban pitchers took the mound in front of Major League scouts in an attempt to attract a large offer. One is a 24-year-old flamethrower that would be a 'rookie' in 2004, while the other is a 38-year-old five-year veteran. The latter has accumulated more than 50 wins during that time, including a 17-win 1999. Both have large injury concerns, the younger was said to lose 10mph off his fastball last year, while the elder didn't pitch in 2003.

So, that begs the questions, where will Maels Rodriguez and Orlando Hernandez pitch in 2004, and how effective will they be?

Hernandez threw at the University of Houston yesterday morning, in front of scouts from twenty Major League teams. El Duque said through an interpreter that he was about 85%, and that he would be 100% by Spring Training. Hernandez looked to have revive his career with a strong 2002 season, but shoulder surgery kept him out a year ago.

In 2002, Hernandez made 22 starts with the Yankees, compiling an 8-5 record with a 3.64ERA. He only allowed 131 hits in 146 innings, while striking out 113. His K/9 has always been around 7.00 during his career, but a K/BB of 3.14 was a career high. El Duque has always been a flyball pitcher, as his career GB/FB rate of 0.81 shows. Hernandez throws a ton of different pitches, and has used almost every arm angle in the book. In 2002 he revived the 'eephus' pitch, an lob that he threw to Alex Rodrigeuz, that the slugger promptly hit out of Arlington Park.

So far, we know that the Yankees, Dodgers, Mets, and Pirates were all present to see Hernandez throw. The Yankees seemed to be there out of courtesy, as vice president of major league scouting Damon Oppenheimer said, "We have a lot of respect for him, so we wanted to make sure we were down here." That doesn't indicate a whole lot of current interest, so don't expect the Yankees to make a run after him. Returning to New York is a possibility, but it would be as a member of the Mets. Hernandez would be effective in Shea Stadium, but not in Texas, another possible destination.

As for Maels Rodriguez, details of his throwing session haven't been published yet, but the Red Sox had a private workout with the right-hander earlier in the week. The "100mph fastball" that Cubans bragged about wasn't quite true, although the Red Sox did have him in the mid-90s. Rodriguez set the Cuban record for strikeouts in the 2000 season, compiling 263 in 178.1 innings. He was limited to 113 innings last year, but kept his strikeouts high at 117.

In a USA Today article this week, Milton Jamail, author of Full Count: Inside Cuban Baseball is quoted as saying "If I was a team with a lot of money, I'd take a chance with Maels. If I was in a middle market, I wouldn't consider it." Minnesota Twins GM Terry Ryan repeated more of the same, saying "When I see certain (big-spending) teams are going, I figure 'What's the point?.'"

The main competitors for Maels' services figure to be the Yankees, Rangers, and Mariners. With the retirement of Kaz Sasaki, the Mariners have the most money to spend, but Tom Hicks and George Steinbrenner aren't used to standing down in auctions. Rodriguez would help the Rangers the most, who have needed an ace atop their staff since Nolan Ryan left. Maels would replace Gil Meche in the Mariner rotation, but wouldn't even be guaranteed a spot with the Yankees. Instead, he would battle it out in Spring Training with Tommy John surgery recoveree Jon Lieber.

If Rodriguez signs with the Yankees he is likely to follow the path of fellow Cuban Jose Contreras. But, that's where the comparisons between the two countrymen end. Contreras was said to be Cuba's best pitcher, and is a 6-4, 224 lbs. beast. Rodriguez is said to be 5-11, which will turn many scouts away. While I consider Contreras with the highest regard, Rodriguez shouldn't be expected to have the same success. Someone will drastically overpay for Maels, who should be a little above league average during the life of the deal he signs.

In other workout news, A.J. Burnett had a 23-pitch session in the Florida bullpen Thursday, and is making fantastic progress from elbow surgery. The Marlins will pick up Rick Reed in the next couple of days, and Reed will hold down the 5th starter spot until Burnett is ready. Expect A.J. to start the season on the D.L., then appear in 5-10 games in relief, and then to bounce Reed from the team.

Jimy Williams announced yesterday that Tim Redding will be Houston's 5th starter, eliminating any competition that would have taken place in camp. This was disheartening for the likes of Carlos Hernandez, Jeriome Robertson, and Brandon Duckworth, but was the best move for the team. The rotation will be the least of Houston's worries in 2004, and Williams should spend camp much more worried about his offense and bullpen.

Finally, Roy Halladay signed a 4-year extension on Thursday, worth $42M. This is less than the $45M that Javier Vazquez signed for, and should help set the market for Kerry Wood and Kevin Millwood. Consider what Halladay and Vazquez have done the last two seasons:

Halladay: 41-14 3.10 476/505.1 372/94
Vazquez: 23-25 3.57 441/461.0 420/106

And here is what Wood and Millwood have done:

Wood: 26-22 3.43 321/424.2 483/197
Millwood: 32-20 3.63 396/439 347/133

And yes Jim Hendry and Ed Wade, you should use that in negotiations. Have a good weekend.

WTNYJanuary 22, 2004
Far Eastern Entry
By Bryan Smith

Earlier this week I discussed the story of Kaz Sasaki, the ex-Mariner that has opted not to return to the Major Leagues in 2004. Instead, he will stay with his family, yet hasn't ruled out the possibility of pitching in Japan. If he decides to do so, he'll be only 31 saves from becoming the Japanese all-time saves leader, a gap that should not widen any further since current recordholder, Shingo Takatsu, will be coming to America after signing a one-year, $1M contract with the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday.

Consider that when Kaz Sasaki left Japan after the 1999 season, he 'retired' with 229 saves. At that time, Takatsu only had 98 saves, but has caught on like wild fire the last five years, notching 162 saves in that span. Here is a look at what Takatsu has done from 1999-2003:

1999: 30Sv 2.18ERA 32H/41.1IP 38K/8BB
2000: 29Sv 2.08ERA 32H/34.2IP 29K/8BB
2001: 37Sv 2.61ERA 49H/51.2IP 39K/13BB
2002: 32Sv 3.89ERA 37H/41.2IP 28K/11BB
2003: 34Sv 3.00ERA 42H/42.0IP 26K/21BB

While his save totals and ERA are somewhat impressive, his peripheral numbers are less than amazing. His H/9 in the last five years is only 8.18, and has risen to 8.51 in the last three seasons. A K/9 rate of 6.81 isn't very intriguing, especially considering that number has decreased in each of the last five years. His K/BB has also decreased each season, hitting a concerning 1.24 last year. Admittedly it's hard to put these numbers into context with the MLB, so we'll look at how another closer (Sasaki) did before coming to Seattle. Here are Kaz Sasaki's numbers from 1995-1999:

1995: 32Sv 1.75ERA 30H/56.2IP 78K/17BB
1996: 25Sv 2.90ERA 37H/49.2IP 80K/16BB
1997: 38Sv 0.90ERA 25H/60.0IP 99K/17BB
1998: 45Sv 0.64ERA 32H/56.0IP 78K/13BB
1999: 19Sv 1.93ERA 19H/21.1IP 34K/6BB

Sasaki blows Takatsu away in every stat except saves, which is due to an injury-plagued 1999. Sasaki's H/9 of 5.28 dwarfs the Japanese saves leader's of 8.18, and Sasaki actually improved (4.98) in from 1997-1999. Kaz had an insanely high K/9 of 13.63, and a better BB/9 to boot. He was a much better pitcher, so his Major League success shouldn't be a surprise. Remember that in 2000, the year in which Sasaki won American League Rookie of the Year, his H/9 'rose' to 6.03, and his K/9 'fell' to 11.20. That means his H/9 rose 14.2%, while his K/9 fell 17.8%. If this happens to Takatsu, he'll have a H/9 of 9.34, and a K/9 of 5.60. Projected to 60 innings: 62.27 hits and 37.33 strikeouts. The man they call "Mr. Zero" in Japan may be worth just that.

If this is true, Takatsu will prove to be worth less than the $1M that Jerry Reinsdorf is paying him, but it's a decent bargain. Takatsu is still almost guaranteed a bullpen slot, along with Damaso Marte, Billy Koch, Cliff Politte, and Kelly Wunsch. That leaves only one to two bullpen slots open, yet the White Sox have hardly filled the roles. Possible relievers Scott Schoenweis and Danny Wright sit at the back end of the rotation, leaving uncertainty amidst the Sox pitching staff. So the team took a few gambles Wednesday, signing Vic Darensbourg, Robert Person, Mike Jackson, and Jose Santiago all to minor league contracts.

Ken Williams is still high off his Esteban Loaiza find, so don't be surprised to see him plucking underachieving veterans off the market for years to come. This year the big name is Robert Person, the former-15 game winner that fell off the face of the planet after a 2002 injury. He's only two years removed from usefulness, and even kept a high K rate in his short stint with the Red Sox. It's possible Person nabs a rotation job in Spring Training, which says less about the Sox than it does to compliment Person. Jackson and Santiago seem to be insurance that Billy Koch and Cliff Pollitte don't break down, but it's also entirely feasible one ends up with a middle relief job. Jackson's 2002 and Santiago's 2003 seem relatively similar, because they both kept ERAs down despite pretty bad peripheral numbers. The Sox organization is loaded with left-handers (Marte, Wunsch, Sanders, Munoz, Meaux, etc), so Darensbourg is probably in the wrong situation. He appears to be a 4-A pitcher that will get the inevitable cups of coffee for 15 games or so a year.

The team also made a few offensive moves yesterday, signing minor league infielders Bobby Smith, Kelly Dransfeldt, and Mike Bell to contracts, along with outfielder Marvin Benard. The infielders are Williams way of creating competition at second, which leads to asking, why again did they trade Aaron Miles? Bell and Dransfeldt are poor souls that never succeed, and are better suited for the Southern League than the International. Bobby Smith, on the other hand, has had four great IL years in the last five, but never gets it done at the ML level. He'll be tempting, but I guess when Willie Harris is the favorite, even Harold Reynolds would be appealing.

One big question surrounding Bernard is, can he still play centerfield? If so, the team's selection in him, and his selection of the White Sox make sense. He will make the team either way, but actually has a chance at a starting job in center. The competition will be between him, Aaron Rowand, and Jeremy Reed, whom I will label as the Proven Veteran, the favorite, and the rookie. Ozzie Guillen's choice will be reflective of his managerial style, something important to look out for in the early months.

All I know is, the White Sox are almost finished. With Bernard, Person, and Takatsu, the team's depth chart is up to 23 names. If we assume that Jackson, Santiago, or Darensbourg wins a rotation slot, we're at 24. That leaves one spot open for a hitter, and right now we only see Jamie Burke and Ross Gload vying for spots, yet more could be added later. The White Sox will need things to break right and for some people to bounce back in 2004 (see Konerko, Crede, Koch, Buerhle, Person) to contend. I see Kansas City and Minnesota as better teams at this moment, but time will tell. Tomorrow I'll be back on Maels Rodriguez, and his possible destinations.

(Thanks to for all the Japanese statistics used in this article)

WTNYJanuary 21, 2004
Asked and Answered
By Bryan Smith

I didn't think I had anything to write about today, until Twins Fan Dan over at Will Carroll's blog posed the question,
"What the sam-hell is Mark Shapiro doing?" For me, that question is definitely worthy of a 1,000 word response. Here's more than you will ever want to know about the 2004 Cleveland Indians, starting with their rough depth chart:

Position Players
C- Victor Martinez
1B- Travis Hafner
2B- Ronnie Belliard
SS- Omar Vizquel
3B- Casey Blake
LF- Escobar/Ludwick/Broussard
CF- Milton Bradley
RF- Jody Gerut
DH- Matt Lawton
Bench= Josh Bard, Ricky Gutierrez, John McDonald, Broussard/Escobar/Ludwick, Crisp

Pitching Staff
Rotation: C.C. Sabathia, Jake Westbrook, Jason Davis, Cliff Lee, Bere/Durbin/Stanford

Bullpen: Bob Wickman, Jose Jimenez, David Riske, Scott Stewart, Rafael Betancourt, Jack Cressend

I see potential in that roster, especially when considering how hogtied Shapiro is. He was in the organization in their mid-90s glory years, but agreed to take over a team that would have to see a signifcant decrease in salary. Last season, their Opening Day payroll was $47.6M, yet that will be on the decline next season. After recently signing David Riske and Scott Stewart to contracts, this is the list of guaranteed contracts the Indians will pay next season:

Vizquel- 7.500
Lawton- 6.750
Wickman- 5.300
Gutierrez- 3.820
Sabathia- 2.450
Bradley- 1.430
Riske- 1.025
Wohlers- 1.000
Jimenez- 1.000
Belliard- 1.000
Westbrook- .925
Stewart- .850
Bere- .400

TOTAL= $33.450

That means eleven of the twenty-six players I named above are under contract, so fifteen others will be auto-renewals. At most, that will cost about $6M, leaving the Indians payroll below $40M. With that little money, I'm much quicker to compliment Mark Shapiro than to question his motives.

First of all, the Indians are going to have a very good bullpen next season. Three of the members, the returnees of the group, had very good 2003 seasons. David Riske became the closer late in the season, and was very impressive. He gave up just a .196 average allowed, a K/9 rate of 9.88, and a fantastic 4.10 K/BB. While he's underrated, Rafael Betancourt may just be the best reliever you didn't know existed. After some insane AA numbers (33H/45.1IP 75K/13BB), the team quickly promoted him to Cleveland, in which he gave them 33 games with a 2.13ERA. Like Riske, his AVE allowed was .196, especially displaying great skills at negating right-handers (.133/.165/.253 allowed). Cressend bounced back from a poor 2002 very nicely, posting a 2.51ERA in 40+ innings. Cressend allowed only 2ER between 30 AA and AAA innings, and continued that middle relief success in the Major Leagues. The three 2003 Indians won't draw a lot of press, but are as effective as any trio at what they do, and should be valued higher in the stat-head community.

After that insanely long paragraph, I move to the other 3 bullpen members, whom Shapiro is counting on to bounce back. The first of which is Jose Jimenez, who finally gets to leave the altitude of Coors. Despite having a 5.81ERA as a reliever, there remains a lot to like about the former Rockie closer. For instance, Jimenez hasn't allowed his GB/FB ratio to dip from 2.50 in any season during his career, and the slick Indian infield should help. His HR ratio will also decline, but Jimenez needs to work on taking his K/BB back in the 4.27 range (see 2002), rather than 1.73 (see career). Stewart and Wickman are both hoping to bounce back from injuries, although Stewart had time for 51 average games last season. His effectiveness vs. LH dipped, and to be successful his LH Ave. allowed must regress to past seasons.

The rotation is going to...well, struggle. The team's rotation had a 4.41ERA last year, and I can't expect that to dip too much this year. C.C. Sabathia keeps pitching well despite worrying injury-gurus like Mr. Carroll. No matter how you slice it, Sabathia's an innings-eater who will allow an OPS of about .700, strike out about 6.5 per 9, and relies on his ability to get the ball over the plate on any given day. His ERA dropped last season largely because his 66BB were the lowest of his career. The only other starter I like is prospect Cliff Lee, part of what Shapiro got for Bartolo Colon in 2002. Lee had nine solid Major League starts, showing good hit and strikeout rates. For you fantasy players, Lee wouldn't be a bad last-round pick, as he could have 140K's very easily this season.

Victor Martinez and Milton Bradley are the only 2 starts that are 25 (or younger), and both have very bright futures. Bradley took a quantum leap last season, finally displaying what once made him a top Expos prospect. Bradley's OBP skills were fantastic, and it looks like he needs to be patient for success to come. He looks like a solid HR/SB guy, and could be 25/25 for sure. If he doesn't develop that power, he'll be good in the leadoff slot anyways. Martinez was a top prospect a year ago, and held his own in a 159AB stint with the Indians last season. He showed good contact and OBP skills, yet had absolutely no power. The team is praying that his September line of .344/.417/.422 is indicative of his talents, and I think so. Don't be shocked to see Martinez hit .290/.360/.400 next season, which would battle Benito Santiago for top catcher in the division.

The other youngsters from the lineup, the 2003 rookies, are Travis Hafner and Jody Gerut. The latter impressed the most, actually finishing top-3 for Rookie of the Year voting. Jody came out of nowhere to have 57 extra-base hits, including 22HR. In the end, he may end up a platoonable player, as he did hit .306/.360/.564 vs. RH, as opposed to .209/.274/.313 against southpaws. I like Gerut's potential, and he should be the lineup's power source this year. Helping will be Hafner, who didn't garner any attention, but caught on late. His second half numbers are .273/.348/.519, and he hit nine home runs in his final 156AB. Don't be shocked if he hits 25HR out of nowhere, and if the Indians actually have a decent middle-of-the-order (Gerut-Bradley-Hafner).

Finally, there are the veterans. Lawton and Vizquel are on the decline, yet both could post OBPs above .340, and I think Eric Wedge will place them atop the order. Casey Blake had a nice season, clubbing more than 50XBH after signing a minor league contracts. These are the moves Shapiro must thrive on, those being minor league signings, the waiver wire, and small trades. Ronnie Belliard is the no-name signing that Shapiro is bullish on, yet I must say I'm unimpressed. At best, you are looking at .280/.350/.400, which would be an improvement on the .209/.247/.320 line Indians 2B had last year.

And then, there is the Master Plan. Shapiro is praying that Brandon Phillips turns things around, that Grady Sizemore develops power, and that Michael Aubrey and Brad Snyder turn out. The team lacks a left side for the future, but everything else is covered, and covered well. Jeremy Guthrie will be in the Majors this season, possibly before June, and will be another great Stanford arm. The team has a ton of more prospects, and Shapiro is really planning on 2008-2010 being his years. Will Indian ownership being willing to wait? Hey, Chuck LaMar got his time.

WTNYJanuary 20, 2004
Far Eastern Retirement
By Bryan Smith

In a shocking move, yesterday Kaz Sasaki's agent announced he has no intentions of playing professional baseball in the United States, bypassing the $9.5M he was set to make from the Seattle Mariners. Sasaki wished to be closer to his family, and has no ruled out the possibility of playing in Japan. This move comes a little late for Bill Bavasi, who has already struggled mightily in his newest role atop the Mariner organization. Sasaki was penciled in as the Mariner's closer, although the team couldn't have been that excited about him:

2000: 6.03H/9, 4.45BB/9, 11.20K/9
2001: 6.48H/9, 1.49BB/9, 8.37K/9
2002: 6.53H/9, 2.97BB/9, 10.83K/9
2003: 8.37H/9, 4.05BB/9, 7.83K/9

And by using the Rob Neyer style, I'm going to break that into 2:

2000-2001: 6.26H/9, 2.92BB/9, 9.74K/9
2002-2003: 7.18H/9, 3.35BB/9, 9.77K/9

So, Sasaki's worst year came in 2003, and in the last two years, he's become much worse. His H/9 ratio increased in each of his four seasons, and excluding a walk-full rookie season, his walk ratio is on the upswing. His K/9 hit an all-time low in 2003, but a solid 2002 kept his K/9 equal to the previous two seasons. Some blame Sasaki's terrible 2003 on injuries, but I say his fastball just lost the pop it once had.

Much of Sasaki's bad year can be blamed on a disastrous April, in which he gave up nine earned runs in nine innings, blowing four out of his eight save attempts. He then seldomly pitched until August, upon which allowing a 4.91ERA and not getting a save opportunity. He finished September fine, but it was too little, too late. Sasaki's final win share total was 3.58, which can be rounded to 4. That converts to about one and one-third wins, or half of Rafael Soriano's contributions.

So, we've established that Sasaki's absence won't hurt the team from a talent standpoint, but where does that leave them? The team will now look something like this in the pitching department:

1. Jamie Moyer- LHP
2. Freddy Garcia- RHP
3. Joel Pineiro- RHP
4. Ryan Franklin- RHP
5. Gil Meche- RHP

CL- Rafael Soriano- RHP
SU- Eddie Guardado- LHP
MR- Shigetoshi Hasegawa- RHP
MR- Julio Mateo- RHP
LOOGY- Mike Myers
Long-Relief- Kevin Jarvis- LHP

Well, it doesn't exactly rival the Angels and Athletics, but hey, it beats the Rangers! Wasting Soriano in the closer's role (or maybe even set-up), while letting Gil Meche pitch in the rotation is indefensible, but hardly unbelievable from what we've come to expect from Mariner brass. Now word has it the team is interested in putting Sasaki's money into Maels Rodriguez, which I support. Cuban pitchers have done very well when coming to the United States, but some worry about the condition of Maels' arm. That will be settled January 22nd, but I think he might be better suited for the closer's role. And hey, the Mariners didn't do horribly the last time they overpayed for a foreign player to close.

With Soriano in the fifth slot, Rodriguez closing, Bavasi then might be able to trade Ben Davis, Gil Meche, and maybe even Kevin Jarvis. I really like the Mike Myers addition, as I supported the Cubs signing him months ago. When used in the right role, Myers can be very solid. Last year, lefties hit .237/.314/.421 off of Myers, and their OPS is a combined .692 in the last three seasons. He struggles vs. RH, but a good manager keeps him out of those situations. Given the right managing, I believe Myers can post a sub-3.00ERA again, but hey, I got a thing for sidearmers.

In the end, the Mariners will have a hard time moving from third place. Bill Bavasi has become one of the game's worst GMs in his first offseason, starting with the Raul Ibanez signing. You know it's bad when a player quitting is one of the better moves of the winter months...

WTNYJanuary 19, 2004
Baseball After Football Sunday
By Bryan Smith

It has been really hard for me to sit down and write this column because, well, nothing is going on in the baseball world. I'm sorry, but the signings of Rey Ordonez, Reggie Taylor, and Edgar Huerta don't really inspire me to write. There are some exciting long-term negotiations being discussed between Albert Pujols and the Cardinals, and Kerry Wood with the Cubs. On Thursday, Maels Rodriguez and Yobal Duenas will try out for teams, so Maels negotiations should fly through the roof.

Another happening of note is that the Detroit Tigers offered Pudge Rodriguez a four-year, $40M contract. Some say Pudge allowed the Tigers to get in the process to increase the Cubs offer, but Jim Hendry has called Boras' bluff. This is the best offer that Pudge is going to get anywhere, and I'm not exactly sure he's worth it.

Last year, Rodriguez was actually better in Pro Player Stadium, with his numbers declining to .279/.336/.443 on the road. Right-handers have started to get the best of him, as he only hit .274/.340/.444 against them last season. While he had a fantastic post season, Rodriguez declined in the second half, hitting only .294/.361/.417. In fact, Pudge only hit three home runs in the second half, during which time he had 218AB. Yes, that number should scare teams away, although the Tigers don't exactly have a lot to replace.

One of the reasons behind the Tigers ghastly performance in 2003, was the pitiful job done by their backstops. The catchers for Detroit hit a combined .190/.243/.308, led by the ever-terrible forgotten prospect Brandon Inge. Inge was the only of four catchers the Tigers had to hit above .200, although during 330AB, he hit only .203. The team chose Chris Shelton first overall in the Rule V Draft, although teams see Matt LeCroy in Shelton, so he won't get much time catching in 2004.

If the Rodriguez acquisition were to go through, Dave Dambrowski will have likely improved his team in four positions. Here are the lines for C, 2B, SS, and LF, of which the Tigers will/might have Rodriguez, Vina, Guillen, and Rondell White next season:

C- .190/.243/.308
2B- .253/.307/.350
SS- .220/.283/.282
LF- .244/.294/.480

And here are the lines of the four "replacements"...

Rodriguez- .297/.369/.474
Vina- .251/.309/.382
Guillen- .276/.359/.394
White- .289/.341/.488

Those four represent vast improvements, as they combined for something along the lines of .278/.355/.435, compared to the Tigers 2003 foursome of about .227/.282/.355. Also, consider that Dmitri Young, the Tigers lone All-Star whom hit .297/.372/.537 will now have all his at-bats in the DH slot, which accumulated a .270/.341/.440 line a year ago. Dave Dambrowski is hoping to see improvements from Carlos Pena and Eric Munson, while accepting that Alex Sanchez and the Bobby Higginson/Craig Monroe spots of the lineup will hurt the team.

As for Munson, I'm excited to see if his bat will catch up with the potential it once had. Remember, Munson hit 53HR in 1100 minor league AB, giving scouts much to drool over. Last year, the converted third basemen hit .240/.312/.441 in his first extended test of the Major Leagues. Yet, there was still potential within his bat. Munson showed a definite platoonable split, hitting only .208/.299/.377 in 77AB against southpaws. Fifteen of his eighteen home runs came against right-handers, and in only 236AB. Although he got injured, Eric was starting to turn it on as the season went on. Excusing a July slump, Munson improved with each month:

April: .175/.273/.333
May: .256/.344/.423
June: .291/.321/.506
July: .206/.316/.444
August: .273/.294/.545

So not including his July slump, Munson's OPS improved in each month, as he got more used to Major League life. I expect big things in 2004, especially 30HR. A .260/.330/.500 line is not out of his grasp. For you fantasy baseball competitiors, Munson is actually not a bad bench option to have, if not just for his power.

Dambrowski also improved the rotation this off season, recently signing Jason Johnson to a two-year contract. While Johnson's potential isn't very high, it hasn't been matched yet. His career GB/FB ratio of 1.05 wasn't great for Camden Yards, but will suffice in the spacious Comerica Park. Johnson succeeded with a high WHIP last season, which isn't the greatest indicator for future success. But, Jason has done well against most (excluding the White Sox) of his AL Central foes in recent seasons, and that move will help considerably. While I think Johnson's ERA will rise from 4.19 next season, he should pitch better than he did in 2003, and give hope for a promising 2005.

The rest of the rotation is up for grabs, with only Mike Maroth also guaranteed a spot. The final three slots will be a battle with Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Cornejo, Wil Ledezma, Matt Roney, Nate Robertson, Gary Knotts and more competiting for. The team is going to have to live and learn with Bonderman, and I imagine Trammell will pick Nate Cornejo, whom almost was the Tiger All-Star last season. Ledezma has the most promising future of the bunch, but he and Rule V partner Matt Roney struggled mightily in the few starts they were given. Robertson and Knotts didn't impress either, so really, it's a crapshoot. Anyways, don't be surprised if the team makes another stupid decision, hurrying the likes of Kenny Baugh or Preston Larrison.

The final piece of the puzzle is the bullpen, which I think could be good in 2004. I like the idea of Fernando (Rodney) & Franklyn (German) finishing games, as the two large guys can bring a lot of heat. As can Matt Anderson, whom may or may not be ready to get back to the pitcher he once was. Veterans Danny Patterson and Al Levine will solidify the right-handed situation. Knotts, Chris Spurling, and Chris Mears will also fight for slots. Left-hander Jamie Walker is a damn good LOOGY, as lefties only got on base 25.4% of the time last season.

So, there you go. I didn't know where I was headed when I started the article, but then went on a 1,000 word rant on the Tigers. In conclusion, I give you there newly updated depth chart (with Pudge), which unfortunately, doesn't have Cody Ross on it.

Starting Lineup
1. Fernando Vina- 2B
2. Carlos Guillen- SS
3. Pudge Rodriguez- C
4. Dmitri Young- DH
5. Rondell White- LF
6. Carlos Pena- 1B
7. Eric Munson- 3B
8. Bobby Higginson- RF
9. Alex Sanchez- CF

1. Mike Diefelice- C
2. Chris Shelton- C/1B
3. Greg Norton- 1B/3B/OF
4. Craig Monroe- OF
5. Pablo Ozuna/Omar Infante- MI

Starting Rotation
1. Jason Johnson- RH
2. Mike Maroth- LH
3. Jeremy Bonderman- RH
4. Nate Cornejo- RH
5. Wil Ledezma- LH

1. Fernando Rodney- RH
2. Franklyn German- RH
3. Matt Anderson- RH
4. Danny Patterson- RH
5. Al Levine- RH
6. Jamie Walker- LH
7. Chris Mears- RH

And while this whole article was about free agent Pudge Rodriguez, Walt Jocketty announced today the team will not be pursuing other top free agent Greg Maddux, who has seen his market decline more and more. I'm going to step out on a limb here and say either Pudge or Mad-Dog ends up with my Cubbies.

Baseball BeatJanuary 17, 2004
The Bert Alert
By Rich Lederer

The results of Neal Traven's 2004 Internet Hall of Fame (IHOF) vote were released about the same time as those from the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). Traven, who is the co-chair of the Statistical Analysis Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), has been conducting a HOF vote online since 1991.

As shown below, the IHOF and the BBWAA voters agree that Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor are worthy of enshrinement in Cooperstown. The two factions have not differed all that much over the past 12 years, seeing eye-to-eye on 14 of the 17 honorees. The Internet voters did not view Don Sutton, Tony Perez, and Kirby Puckett as deserving choices, and they saw fit to add Phil Niekro, Carlton Fisk, and Gary Carter one year before the BBWAA.

		       Internet Voting	        Actual Results	
Player		        Votes	Pct		Votes	Pct
Dennis Eckersley	1940	82.1		421	83.2
Paul Molitor		1888	79.9		431	85.2
Bert Blyleven		1717	72.7		179	35.4
Ryne Sandberg		1635	69.2		309	61.1
Rich Gossage		1236	52.3		206	40.7
Alan Trammell		968	41.0		70	13.8
Bruce Sutter		695	29.4		301	59.5
Jim Rice		553	23.4		276	54.6
Andre Dawson		510	21.6		253	50.0
Lee Smith		423	17.9		185	36.6
Tommy John		375	15.9		111	21.9
Jack Morris		368	15.6		133	26.3
Despite the unanimity with respect to Eckersley and Molitor, the Internet voters and the writers have a very different view of the other candidates. The player with the biggest disparity is none other than Bert Blyleven, who received nearly 73% of the online vote and only 35% of the actual vote. The latter, however, was a 6% improvement over the previous year. At that rate of progress, Blyleven will sneak into the HOF in his 14th year of eligibility.

If Blyleven can make it over the 50% hump, he will stand an excellent chance of eventually being inducted based on a study performed by Mike Carminati at Mike's Baseball Rants. According to Mike, Gil Hodges is the only player (other than those still on the ballot) who has received at least half of the votes and not been enshrined at a later date. Should the past be prologue, Ryne Sandberg (61%), Bruce Sutter (60%), Jim Rice (55%), and Andre Dawson (50%) appear to have an excellent shot at being enshrined.

Jay Jaffe, the proprietor of the Futility Infielder, wrote an outstanding and comprehensive two-part series for Baseball Prospectus analyzing the hitters and the pitchers from the Class of 2004. Here are a couple of excerpts from Jaffe's report on Blyleven:

Which brings us finally to Bert Blyleven, the stathead's choice among Hall-eligible starters, and quite possibly the best player not in the Hall of Fame...Hall of Fame voters perform all kinds of gymnastics in attempting to justify why Blyleven doesn't get their vote, most of them fixated on his relatively unimpressive winning percentage (.534), his 250 losses, a win total just shy of 300, and his failure to win a Cy Young award.

One of the traditional complaints against Blyleven is that he didn't win any Cy Young awards, and that he didn't win 300 games while a whole bunch of his contemporaries did. Well, here's how Bert compares to his enshrined contemporaries, ranked by weighted score:

           PRAA   PRAR   WARP3   PEAK   WPWT  PKPCT
Seaver 421 1463 142.9 50.2 96.6 35.1
Blyleven 311 1408 135.8 45.6 90.7 33.6
Perry 255 1434 133.4 47.7 90.6 35.8
Ryan 263 1488 131.1 42.2 86.7 32.2
Niekro 209 1385 130.0 42.2 86.1 32.5
Carlton 222 1357 123.8 38.0 80.9 33.6
Jenkins 236 1234 115.7 43.0 79.4 37.2
Palmer 230 1120 108.9 46.4 77.7 42.6
Sutton 170 1354 117.3 36.3 76.8 30.9
Hunter 38 836 76.0 42.0 59.0 55.3

One of these pitchers is not like the others, but it isn't Blyleven, it's Catfish Hunter, a pitcher who supposedly "pitched to the score" and thus had some high ERAs, not to mention a relatively short career. Blyleven is second among this group in WARP and PRAA, fourth in PEAK, and second in WPWT. At worst, by these measures, he's the fourth most valuable pitcher in this group. If that's not a Hall of Famer, I don't know what is. There isn't a player on the 2004 Hall of Fame ballot who deserves a vote more than Blyleven.

Jaffe is analytical, objective, and thorough. As such, his articles should be a must read by all of the Hall of Fame voters. If nothing else, these writers would at least be better informed the next time around. Quite frankly, basing decisions on memories and stats found on the back of a baseball card is simply an unacceptable method in the Information Age.

Steve Rushin of Sports Illlustrated devoted an entire column to Blyleven in the January 19, 2004 issue. Here is an excerpt from Rushin's "Hotfoot Him to the Hall":

Blyleven ranks fifth in career strikeouts. (Everyone else in the top 10 is or will be in the Hall of Fame.) He ranks ninth in shutouts. (Everyone else in the top 13 is in.) He ranks eighth all-time in games started. (Everyone else in the top 12 but sixth-ranked Tommy John is in.) And he ranks 13th all-time in innings pitched. (Everyone else in the top 16 is in.)

Hmmmm. I distinctly remember making some of those very arguments myself. Oh well, I'm glad to read that a member of the mainstream media is now jumping on the bandwagon. An article on behalf of Blyleven with the circulation of Sports Illustrated can only help his case. As I see it, the more, the merrier.

All aboard!

WTNYJanuary 16, 2004
Coming Back Home
By Bryan Smith

When the Houston Astros signed Andy Pettite, I blasted the team for overpaying for an overrated southpaw. I was hoping to do the same when the team I hate the most signed Roger Clemens, another player I hate. But, the evidence proves me wrong here, Roger Clemens is still one helluva pitcher. For $5 million, the Astros got a steal. Here's why:

Overall: 17-9 3.91 199/211.2 190/58
Home: 7-7 5.22 115/108.2 110/36
Away: 10-2 2.53 84/103 80/22
Pre-ASB: 8-6 3.68 111/124.2 128/35
Post-ASB: 9-3 4.24 88/87 62/23

Well, his splits are very clearly defined. Roger struggled in Yankee Stadium last season, but he hasn't always done so. Here's a look at Roger's home splits the previous four seasons:

2002: 9-1 2.84 74/101.1 122/27
2001: 10-1 3.10 83/98.2 98/26
2000: 8-4 3.86 110/126 123/42
1999: 9-5 3.56 103/113.2 102/46

So before this season's glitch, Clemens had been fantastic at home, accumulating a 36-11 record from 1999-2002. So, was last season a hiccup? Well, we don't know. But, here's a look at where he succeeded:

@ANA: 2-0 1.06 11/17 11/1
@BAL: 1-0 1.88 12/14.1 9/3
@TB: 2-1 3.43 15/21 15/6

Fenway was the only other stadium that Clemens threw 10 innings at last season, and his ERA was 4.26 there. In the last three seasons, Clemens has had a 6.18ERA against his former team the last three years, and will be happy to get away from Beantown. But, consider that Clemens won't be facing the Twins (0.41 in 22), the Angels (1.78 in 30.1), the Athletics (1.82 in 34.2), and the Devil Rays (2.85 in 101). Roger's done fairly well in limited experience against NL opponents, and I doubt he'll be intimidated by the likes of Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati.

One point against Clemens is that his K/9 was 'only' 8.08 last season, which was his second lowest in the last nine seasons. Only in 1999 did he go lower (7.82), and that was his worst season of note. But, to Clemens' credit, he also got much better with walks. His K/BB was the best since 1997, his 2.05 ERA year, and it was the first time his OBP allowed was under .300 since 1998. His SLG against has been above .375 each of the last five seasons, and has sat close to .400 each of the last two years. His 24HR allowed were the second highest of his career, not a good sign for moving to the smaller Minute Maid Park.

Interestingly enough, Clemens has been much tougher against lefties than righties the last three seasons, largely because of his splitter. Against southpaws, Clemens has allowed a stingy .224/.300/.347, but a .276/.315/.438 line vs. right-handers. That will actually hurt him against the likes of the Cubs (Sosa, Lee, Ramirez, etc.), and the Cardinals (Pujols, Renteria, Rolen).

What Clemens role will be in Houston isn't quite defined yet. There are rumors that Clemens will solely pitch in Minute Maid, that he will seldomly pitch away, or that he'll aim for all 32 starts. The club has room to carry a swingman 6th rotation member, with Carlos Hernandez, Jeriome Robertson, and Brandon Duckworth all eligible for that role. Clemens will surely feel the effects of pitching in a smaller stadium, and should be effected to facing some great in-division right-handed bats. But overall, Clemens will be earning $2.5M less than Sidney Ponson next season, and will be considerably less than Greg Maddux.

How will Roger Clemens do in Texas? ERA above 4.00, a K/9 above 8.10, and 12-15 wins. And no, the drama of him batting every fifth day won't be as great as the media is hoping. That's it, I'm out.

WTNYJanuary 15, 2004
This and That
By Bryan Smith

Not much happening in baseball of note, so it won't be a long post for me today. I'd like to first mention that my prediction on Jay Payton to the Padres came through, and I am very impressed with the San Diego lineup. In case you had forgotten, here it is:

1. Sean Burroughs- 3B
2. Mark Loretta- 2B
3. Brian Giles- OF
4. Ryan Klesko- OF
5. Phil Nevin- 1B
6. Ramon Hernandez- C
7. Jay Payton- CF
8. Khalil Greene- SS

Throw that with David Wells and some young, developing pitchers, and you have a divisional contender. While I don't think Jay Payton will hit .280 with the Padres, his help will be substantial. The Orioles signed Sidney Ponson to a three-year deal Wednesday, ending a long courtship that began last July. Ponson will make $7.5M next year, or what Greg Maddux is being offered by the Cubs. That's too much money to pay here, but they needed to find a way to take some pressure off a disastrous rotation.

A pair of formerly decent right-handed relievers signed in the last two days, as Turk Wendell went to Colorado, and Mike Williams to Tampa. Turk had a very good ERA and H/9 last year, but his BB/K was as ugly as they come. I worry about Wendell for this one fact:

1999- 0.62
2000- 0.94
2001- 0.76
2003- 0.89

In his last four seasons, Wendell has a lot more flyballs than groundballs, and that spells trouble in Colorado. That's going to be a pretty bad bullpen in Colorado, but Clint Hurdle better be sure to go to Steve Reed in important situations, not Wendell. As for Williams, I like the low-risk minor league signing. Williams has been good four of the last six years, and his ERA has bested 3.00 in that span twice. He gets a lot of grounders, and I think Mike has a decent chance of helping out the D-Rays in 2004.

Now, using the work I've done in the past week, here are a few predictions for where free agents go:

Greg Maddux- Cubs
Ivan Rodriguez- Tigers
Ugueth Urbina- Twins
Raul Mondesi- Orioles
Orlando Hernandez- Marlins
Rick Reed- Mets
Scott Sauerbeck- Marlins
Randall Simon- Pirates
Glendon Rusch- Rangers
Pedro Astacio- Rockies
Mark Guthrie- Phillies

That's enough for now, but if you want more of my educated guesses, let me know. In the coming days, expect to hear lots of Greg Maddux talk, as he would be smart to get the contract out of the way before January 22nd, when the Maels Rodriguez show hits the United States. The report the Mariners are interested doesn't make sense, and I can't see him in anything but pinstripes. Richard Hidalgo or Jacque Jones will be traded to the Dodgers, guaranteed. If they can do that in conjunction with signing Pudge, my feelings on Dan Evans might change yet. How about this in LA?...

1. Trade Paul Lo Duca for Jacque Jones
2. Sign Pudge Rodriguez
3. Sign Travis Lee

Just an idea. I'll be back tomorrow with you more regularly scheduled program...

Baseball BeatJanuary 14, 2004
Sandy Koufax and the 1965 World Series
By Rich Lederer

ESPN Sports Classic replayed the Seventh Game of the 1965 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Minnesota Twins last Saturday. Watching the videotape of this game was an enjoyable way to spend a weekend morning in January.

Let me set the stage. The Dodgers had won 13 consecutive games in the second half of September, including seven shutouts, to overtake the Cincinnati Reds and the San Francisco Giants (fresh off a 14-game win streak at the beginning of the month). Sandy Koufax beat the Milwaukee Braves, 2-1, on Saturday, October 2 to clinch the National League pennant in the second to last game of the season. Koufax, who led the N.L. that year in wins (26), ERA (2.04), complete games (27), and innings pitched (335 2/3), struck out 13 Braves to increase his then modern single-season record to 382.

Over in the American League, the Twins clinched their first pennant on the previous Sunday when Jim Kaat (18-11, 2.83) defeated the Washington Senators, 2-1. Minnesota dominated the A.L. in 1965. After opening day, the Twins were either in first or second place every day that season.

The linesmakers established the Dodgers as a 7:5 favorite to win the World Series. The Dodgers would have been an even heavier favorite if the first game had not fallen on Yom Kippur, causing Koufax to miss the opener and perhaps a third start should the Series go the distance.

In Game One, the underdog Twins knocked out Don Drysdale in the second inning en route to a 8-2 drubbing over the visitors. When Dodgers manager Walter Alston went to the mound to pull Drysdale, the big righthander reportedly quipped, "Hey, skip, I bet you wish I was Jewish today, too."

Kaat drove in Minnesota's first two runs and went on to defeat Koufax and the Dodgers, 5-1, in Game Two. The Dodgers bounced back and took games three through five in Los Angeles behind Claude Osteen's five-hit shutout, Drysdale's CG victory, and Koufax's four-hit shutout.

The Series returned to Metropolitan Stadium with the Twins down three games to two. Mudcat Grant hit a three-run homer and tossed a six hitter to beat the Dodgers, 5-1.

The Rubber Game of the Match

That brings us to Game Seven. Alston has a decision to make. Go with Drysdale in his normal turn in the rotation or bring back Koufax on two days rest? Alston announces at a team meeting the morning of Game Seven a decision he and his coaches had made the previous evening to go with "the lefthander". By starting Sandy rather than the Big D, Alston reasons that the Dodgers can throw a lefty (Koufax), righty (Drysdale), and lefty (Ron Perranoski) combination at the Twins, if need be.

The black and white telecast begins with Kaat, also back on two days rest, striking out Maury Wills. With Jim Gilliam on first base, Willie Davis tries to bunt for a hit. I can't fathom a number three hitter attempting a bunt single with a runner on first and one out in today's environment. Then again, a hitter of Davis' ineptitude would not be batting third either. I mean, can you imagine filling out the lineup card in the most crucial game of the year and writing down a player's name in the third slot with the following regular season stats?

        G   AB  R  H   2B  3B HR  RBI BB  SO  SB  CS AVG  OBP  SLG
Davis   142 558 52 133 24  3  10  57  14  81  25  9 .238 .263 .346  
Yes, that line is correct. The Dodgers #3 hitter had an on-base percentage of .263. The league average was .322 excluding pitchers. He also had an OPS of .609 versus .713 for the league. His OPS+ was 76, meaning he was 24% less productive than the average hitter, adjusted for ballpark conditions. Davis reached base 154 times (including just 14 by base on balls) and made 457 outs! Moneyball, anyone?

In defense of Alston, he didn't have much to choose from. Drysdale was the only player with a higher slugging average (.508) than Lou Johnson's .391 or an OPS (.839) better than Junior Gilliam's .758. And Double D was needed in the bullpen that day. As such, Alston went with Davis, the best "tools" player on the team.

Back to the ballgame. So, what did the "out machine" do? He promptly bunted the ball back to Kaat for an easy out at first. This strategy appears to be predicated on the belief that the Dodgers are looking to score one run anyway they can get it, knowing that Koufax has the potential of whitewashing the Twins once again.

In any event, the Dodgers cleanup hitter Johnson is retired to end the top of the first. Koufax takes the mound for his third start in eight days. The camera pans the field, showing the Dodgers defensively as well as Billy Martin coaching third for the Twins.

Zoilo Versalles, the A.L.'s MVP in 1965, strikes out to lead off the bottom of the first. Joe Nossek steps up and Koufax misses high on more than one occasion--owing to Metropolitan Stadium's "flat mound" as John Roseboro describes it in an audio clip, contrasting the Twins' flatter mound vs. the Dodgers' steeper mound. And you thought ballpark effects were mostly due to the distance of the outfield walls or the amount of foul territory?

Nossek strikes out, but Tony Oliva and Harmon Killebrew draw back-to-back walks. Koufax is clearly laboring at this point, taking his hat off and wiping his brow with his sleeve after almost every pitch. Drysdale starts loosening up in the bullpen. Sandy buckles down and whiffs Earl Battey to end the inning.

The videotape cuts to the bottom of the third inning. Kaat, while at the plate, is described by play-by-play announcer Ray Scott as "very fast...used as a pinch runner...likes to bunt for a base hit". Add in the fact that Kaat earned 16 consecutive Gold Gloves during his career, and it serves as a nice reminder just how good an athlete he was.

After Kaat is retired, Versalles lines a hanging curveball to center field for a single, prompting Drysdale to begin warming up for the second time. Zorro steals second but is sent back to first because the batter, Nossek, is called out for interference. Third base coach Martin walks toward home plate, arguing to no avail that Koufax is not coming to a full stop in his stretch. The Twins strand Versalles on first and the game heads to the fourth with no score.

Sweet Lou

Johnson leads off the top of the inning with a home run off the left field foul pole, giving the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. The "why do they call it a foul pole?" question rings through my mind. Ron Fairly doubles into the right field corner. Al Worthington, the ace of the Twins bullpen, begins to loosen up. Wes Parker follows with a groundball single to right, scoring Fairly with Parker taking second on Oliva's misplay. Dodgers two, Twins nothing. Sam Mele walks to the mound and points to the bullpen, calling for Worthington. Scott acknowledges that it's the "earliest" Worthington has appeared in a game in 1965.

Can you imagine Mike Scioscia bringing in Troy Percival or Joe Torre motioning for Mariano Rivera in the fourth inning of Game Seven of the World Series? Well, that is exactly what Mele did. Worthington had a 10-7 record with 21 saves (good for sixth in the A.L.) and an ERA of 2.14 in 1965. And, unlike a lot of other relievers in those days, Worthington had not pitched an unusually high number of innings during the regular season (only 80 spread over 62 games, for an average of 1 1/3 IP per game). Yet, in the final game of the season, the Twins "closer" was being asked to stop the bleeding right then and there.

Dick Tracewski, starting at second base in place of Jim Lefebvre (the N.L. Rookie of the Year in 1965), tries to sacrifice Parker to third but pops up to Worthington. Tracewski (.215/.313/.263 over the course of the season) goes 2-for-17 with one BB and no extra base hits in the Series. And modern-day Dodgers fans think Alex Cora and Cesar Izturis are pathetic? Worthington walks Roseboro, then retires Koufax and Wills to keep the game from getting out of hand early.

In the bottom of the fifth, Frank Quilici doubles off the base of the left center field fence. A check of Quilici's season stats (.208/.280/.255) makes Luis Rivas look like an acceptable option at second base. Drysdale gets up in the bullpen for the third time. Koufax walks Rich Rollins, who is pinch hitting for Worthington, on a 3-and-2 pitch, then slams his left fist into his glove. Alston walks to the mound while Vin Scully interjects that Koufax has had success with his fastball only. As Roseboro recalls in "True Blue--The Dramatic History of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Told by the Men Who Lived It":

"Sandy's arm was giving him problems in that last World Series game. He couldn't get his breaking ball over the plate. So I finally went out and said, 'Sandy, what's going on?' He said, 'I can't throw the goddamn curveball.' I said, 'Well, what are we gonna do?' He said, 'Fuck it! Let's just blow it by 'em!' "

The next batter, Versalles, then hits a sharp grounder down the third base line and Gilliam makes a spectacular backhanded catch, forcing Quilici at third and preventing at least one run from scoring. The so-called "NBC Instant Replay" allowed viewers to witness for a second time one of the best defensive plays in World Series history. Koufax gathers himself and retires Nossek on a 6-to-4 force out at second base. Nossek (.218/.250/.306), a righthanded-hitting rookie outfielder who went 4-for-20 in the Series with no walks or extra base hits, started in place of the lefthanded Jimmie Hall (.285/.347/.464) five times against Koufax and Osteen, the two Dodger southpaws. Hey, Sam, can you say "over manage"?

Koufax sets down Bob Allison, Don Mincher, and Quilici in order in the bottom of the seventh, and then gets pinch hitter Sandy Valdespino (a lefthanded reserve outfielder who, according to Scully, threw batting practice for the Twins before the game), Versalles, and Nossek 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth. With Drysdale, who has perhaps thrown as many pitches as Koufax, and Perranoski throwing in the bullpen behind Koufax, Scully reminds us that the Twins have Oliva, Killebrew, and Battey due up in the ninth.

In the top of the final frame, Koufax leads off and receives a round of applause from the Twins faithful. That would never happen today unless, of course, it was Roger Clemens' last...err, strike that thought. Nonetheless, Sandy swings and misses at a high fastball and laughs, then fails to check his swing on a breaking ball. Koufax pulls back his bat on a two-strike bunt attempt for ball one before feebly swinging and missing for strike three.

Scully, as only Vinny can do, then describes the defensive alignment for Wills, saying he "must feel like (third baseman) Killebrew's dentist". The Dodgers shortstop works Jim Perry for a walk. Scully, speculating as to whether Wills will try to steal, tells us that he has stolen three bases in the Series. Maury runs on the first pitch and is out on a good throw from Battey. Gilliam grounds out to end the inning.

Bottom of the Ninth

John Kennedy replaces Gilliam, the defensive star of the game, at third. Scott takes over the microphone and informs the viewers that the Twins must now face Sandy Koufax, "generally regarded as baseball's best pitcher".

Oliva steps in, swings and misses, losing his bat in the process as he was wont to do back then due to a bone chip in his hand. Tony O. hits an easy chopper to Kennedy for out number one. Koufax has now retired 12 in a row. Killebrew promptly lines a single to left. Battey walks to the plate, representing the tying run. The Twins catcher looks totally overmatched in his first two swings and then goes down looking. With two outs and a runner on first, up steps Allison. Scott chimes in, "It's Koufax's game to win or lose". Koufax blows down Allison swinging for his tenth strikeout of the game and second consecutive shutout, this time for all the grand marbles as the Dodgers beat the host Twins, 2-0, to wrap up the 1965 World Series championship. Game Seven was the only contest won by the visiting team. Alston and the Dodgers had won their fourth World Series title in eleven years.

After witnessing Sandy's clutch performance, I couldn't help but think poor ol' Grady Little must be wishing that he could have kibitzed with Koufax rather than Pedro Martinez in that all-important ALCS game last October. And that thought leads me to believe Sandy Koufax's place in baseball history has actually been undervalued by sabermetricians as a whole.

Brilliant If Not Brief

I recognize that Koufax benefited by pitching during the 1960s when runs were more scarce and by starting approximately half of his games in the expanse of Dodger Stadium, one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks of the past 40 years. However, sabermetricians routinely undervalue Koufax's counting stats during his peak years and fail to give proper credit for pitching on two or three days rest, especially at critical junctures in the season such as Game Seven of the 1965 World Series.

According to Jane Leavy in her masterfully written book, "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy", the Dodger great pitched on two days rest eight times in his career. He had six victories, including three complete game wins with a combined total of 35 strikeouts.

How valuable is it to get one additional game out of a pitcher like Koufax in a seven-game series? That's a 50% increase over the more normal two starts. If that extra game is what makes the difference between winning and losing the World Championship, how do we quantify that?

Since 1950, there have been only three starting pitchers besides Koufax who won Game Seven of the World Series on only two days of rest. All four pitchers won the fifth and seventh games on a Monday and Thursday. In 1957, Lew Burdette of the Milwaukee Braves defeated the New York Yankees, 1-0 and 5-0. In 1964, Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Yankees, 5-2 and 7-5. In 1968, Mickey Lolich of the Detroit Tigers beat the Cardinals, 5-3 and 4-1.

You may recall that Josh Beckett pitched a complete-game five-hitter, striking out nine to win Game Six and the 2003 World Series title on three days rest. Beckett's gutsy effort is sure to become part of World Series lore.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Christy Mathewson pitched three complete-game shutouts over the course of six days in the 1905 World Series, winning games one, three, and five. Mathewson's totals included three shutout wins, 18 strikeouts, 14 hits allowed, and only one walk in what may be the most remarkable pitching performance in World Series history.

For The Record

In Koufax's case, the two Series shutouts gave him a total of 29 complete games and 10 shutouts for the entire season. He threw 360 innings, striking out 411 batters along the way against only 76 walks. Sandy's won-loss record was 28-9 and his combined ERA was 1.93. He also had two saves in the only two games he didn't start that year.

Koufax's ERA for the regular season was 1.50 below the league average. His 2.04 ERA in a league context of 3.54 is better than a 3.00 ERA in today's league context of 4.50 because the former represents .576 of the league average versus .667 for the latter. Granted, the ballpark effects need to be evaluated but so do the incremental innings that Koufax pitched not only in the regular season but also in the postseason, an area that tends to get very little, if any, attention from the sabermetric crowd.

Factoring in park effects, Koufax's ERA was still an impressive 1.22 better than the league average. Based on the number of innings pitched, Koufax's superiority was worth about 56 runs on an actual basis and 45 runs on an adjusted basis vs. an average pitcher. And therein lies one of the problems when measuring Koufax's greatness. Average pitchers don't throw 300+ innings. A team might be able to change out 10 or 20 or even 25 innings at or close to an average rate, but it becomes a much more difficult proposition to replace the additional 50, 75, or 100 IP that Koufax provided his team.

Now I like Pedro Martinez as much as the next guy. On the basis of adjusted rate stats, Pedro compares favorably to just about any pitcher in the history of major league baseball. However, I think sabermetricians need to make sure they don't overlook just how dominant Sandy Koufax was during his heyday, too.

Soaking up Game Seven of the 1965 World Series 38 years later serves as a beautiful reminder of what once was.

WTNYJanuary 14, 2004
Five Degrees of Vladimir Guerrero
By Bryan Smith

I'd like to announce that today's article will also be posted at in the coming days, so do me a favor and check that out. It looks like I will be a regular contributor to their site, and I highly suggest heading over there and reading the works of Mike C, Alex Belth, John Strudel, and the other new addition, Seth Stohs. I thank Baseball Interactive for this opportunity, and hopefully everyone enjoys what they see there. Anyways, here is the article...

Vladimir Guerrero signing with the Angels has been the most shocking baseball news of 2004, for those of us who don't care about Pete Rose. After months of chess matches between Guerrero's agents, the Orioles, the Mets, and other teams, the Angels came out of nowhere to land the league's best rightfielder. The surprise was reminiscent of Florida signing Pudge a year ago, as Arte Moreno invested $70 million to renew Anaheim's forgotten optimism.

This signing has a substantial effect on a number of teams, notably his new and former teams, the Orioles, the Mets, and the Marlins. Guerrero will dictate what lineups teams will use in 2004, and also how they will finish the off season. Vladimir Guerrero was this year's top free agent, and while he was passed around until mid-January, it's still one of the top three most monumental moves of the past three months.

To define Guerrero's importance to the Angels, let's first look at his numbers from the last three seasons:

Year AVE GPA HR SB Win Shares
2001 .307 .311 34 37 23
2002 .336 .336 39 40 29
2003 .330 .338 25 9 18

Well, it looks like Alex Rodriguez has some MVP competition within his own division now. Despite back problems last season, Guerrero managed to increase his on-base percentage, while not sacrificing a loss in slugging. His stolen bases were down, but that isn't supposed to be a problem next season. Here's a look at the Angels lineup last year, as compared to what it will be in 2004:

2003 Lineup 2004 Lineup
C- Molina C- Molina
1B- Spezio 1B- Erstad
2B- Kennedy 2B- Kennedy
SS- Eckstein SS- Eckstein
3B- Glaus 3B- Glaus
LF- Anderson LF- Guillen
CF- Erstad CF- Anderson
RF- Salmon RF- Guerrero
DH- Fullmer DH- Salmon

Well, Erstad will move in from center, and Garrett Anderson will likely be moving over from left. Tim Salmon will be taking his hitting to DH full-time, assuming Guerrero stays off the DL. So in actuality, Guerrero and Guillen will be replacing what the Angels had at first base, and at whatever Salmon wasn't playing that day (DH or RF) in 2003. Last year, the Halos produced a .293/.362/.492 line from 1B, Jeff DaVanon hit .282/.360/.445 in right field duties, and Brad Fullmer hit .306/.387/.500 mostly as a DH. So, Guerrero and Guillen are being summoned to replace what is basically a .290/.365/.480 line?

Last season, Jose Guillen hit .311/.359/.569 in what should be looked at as a career season. Upon moving to Oakland for much of the second half, Guillen struggled, hitting .265/.311/.459. Those are much more in line with his career numbers of .270/.315/.430. Jose will be moving to a more hitter-friendly ballpark than he was during that second half, but I think it's hard to predict the Guillen repeating his 2003 success. My guess is he produces a line of .280/.330/.460. That means the Angels are asking Vladimir Guerrero to have a .300/.400/.500 season to keep their offense the same as last year. So keep in mind next season, while reading Vlad's numbers in the box scores, every point above .400OBP and .500SLG is another run for the Angels.

Early in the off season, Vlad turned down a 5-year, $75M offer to stay with the Montreal Expos. Little did he know then it would be his most lucrative offer, but I doubt he'll be missing the (un)friendly confines of Olympic Stadium next year. What surprised me most about researching for this story is that Omar Minaya, one of the most underrated GMs in the game, has actually managed to improved the Montreal offense.

To prove that, let me show you the numbers Montreal produced from the four corner positions a year ago:

1B (605) .274 .343 .448 22 61/129 80/100
3B (604) .230 .298 .331 9 51/102 61/49
LF (598) .261 .336 .426 19 65/148 78/84
RF (592) .302 .390 .527 31 81/106 93/114

All four of those positions will have different people in 2004, except left field. I included LF in the previous list because the team mistakenly gave more than 250AB to Ron Calloway and Jose Macias. You can bet that won't be happening again. So here are the four that will stand in those positions in 2004, prorated to 650PA apiece:

Nick Johnson .284 .422 .472 22 112/91 96/75
Tony Batista .235 .270 .393 25 27/99 74/96
B. Wilkerson .268 .380 .464 21 96/167 84/83
Carl Everett .287 .350 .510 30 57/91 100/99

Assuming all these players stay healthy, the Expos team OBP from their corners should be about .355-.360, up from about .340 a year ago. Their slugging will be about .460, where it was .433. They are projected to hit about 17 more HR, walk 34 more times, and strike out less. It's also very easy to foresee Johnson and Wilkerson improving from last year, and I don't think Batista can get much worse. By my projections, the Expos should have around 750R next season, where they only had 711 a year ago. Who would have thought that Omar Minaya would be happy that Vlad said "no"?

Two people that aren't happy about Vlad's recent decision are Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan, the two-headed GM combo that run the Orioles. I have criticized their hot and heavy pursuit for Vlad quite often this off season, pointing to their lack of pitching as my prime reasoning. The question now is, did they assume on Vlad so much that they left right field wide open?

Not really. For now, Jay Gibbons will remain in right field, while Rafael Palmiero plays first base. B.J. Surhoff, Jack Cust, Marty Cordova, and David Segui could slug it out for the DH spot. The team has been associated with Pudge Rodriguez in the past, but I don't see Pudge going anywhere but Los Angeles at this point. My take would be to not spend one more dollar on offense, as pitching should be their central concern.

Here is a list of the pitchers on the Orioles 40-man roster who have experience starting, along with their number of games started (in descending order):

Omar Daal- 164
Rodrigo Lopez- 60
Kurt Ainworth-15
Buddy Groom- 15
John Stephens- 11
Eric DuBose- 10
John Parrish- 9
Rick Bauer- 7
Matt Riley- 5
Mike Dejean- 1

Yes, you read that right. The Orioles currently have only two starters with more than fifty career starts, and those two have a combined career ERA of 4.61. Of this group, only Daal, Lopez, Ainsworth, DuBose, and Riley started games in 2004, which is the current rough outline for their rotation. While a lineup with Miguel Tejada and Javy Lopez might top 800R scored, the aforementioned rotation would likely allow 800R. And yes, that would be .500 or worse for a team spending millions to make the playoffs. Beattie/Flanagan: spend your money on Maels or Maddux, not Pudge.

>From the beginning, Guerrero was said to dislike New York, but the Mets push was almost enough for the 27-year-old right fielder. The Mets had a contract that would have paid more than $70M over five years, yet only about $30-35M was guaranteed. Mets fans around the Internet have been upset about the Mets wait on signing a right fielder, as Roger Cedeno is currently slated in at the position.

The free agent market doesn't have a lot of outfielders left, with Raul Mondesi, Troy O'Leary, Marvin benard, and Karim Garcia, the names that are available. I've been saying Mondesi for awhile, and I still believe that is true. Jim Duquette passed on quite a few names in his pursuit of Vlad, and I guarantee Juan Gonzalez would have worked in New York. Duquette's tenure with the Mets hasn't started exceptionally, and Fred Wilpon's unwillingness to guarantee money cost them Guerrero.

So where do the Mets go now? They could go and try to trade for Richard Hidalgo, while others say they'll recruit Tom Glavine's friend/ex-teammate Greg Maddux. I don't see a fit with him in New York, but the Mets will definitely have more money to offer than the Cubs.

Finally, for the second straight winter, the Florida Marlins attempted to make a late bid and land a huge name All-Star. While a one-year, $10M offer worked for Pudge Rodriguez, Vlad turned down what was a $13M offer. The Marlins are said to want one more big name player, and are said to be turning their attentions to Greg Maddux and Jason Kendall.

With the Orioles, Mets, and Cubs all hot on the trail of Maddux, there is virtually no chance of him winning his 300th game in Miami. The Marlins would have to come up with a huge offer to land Maddux, and I don't see it happening. But there wasn't a happier man in the world to hear the Jason Kendall to the Padres talks died yesterday than Larry Beinfest. It's likely the Marlins will go after Kendall now, offering Ramon Castro, and maybe someone like A.J. Burnett. The team has been hesitant to give Castro the catching reins for years, and 2004 doesn't appear to be any different.

Vladimir Guerrero was passed on for so long, it comes as a small surprise that teams are negatively impacted by his departure to Anaheim. This proves that having only plan A in January is the worst plan one can have.

WTNYJanuary 13, 2004
What's left in the NL
By Bryan Smith

Atlanta Braves

John Scheurholtz keeps making nothing out of nothing, and I keep forecasting his demise. I will do the same in 2004, but I'm sure the Braves will surprise me. Offensively, the team is week with Estrada, LaRoche, and DeRosa all demanding 500AB. They could break out, but if not, yikes. The Braves could add an infield bench player, but besides that, they look finished.

The rotation is all finished, even if it's not jaw-dropping. I'm a big fan of John Thomson in 2004, so write that down. Leo Mazzone and Bobby Cox are going to go with some interesting bullpen names, giving the huge AA combo of Alfonseca and Almanza a lot of innings. Jaret Wright, Will Cunnane, Kevin Gryboski and Jung Bong will all help complement John Smoltz. The Braves don't have much to do this offseason, but I will still be predicting them below first place...again.

Florida Marlins

Fresh of a World Championship, the Marlins have gone in a odd direction. They acquired Hee Seop Choi, and decided to give Miguel Cabrera and Jeff Conine the outfield corner spots. The catcher will be Ramon Castro, not example always being compared to Pudge. The team has Redmond, Mordecai, and Banks for their bench, but still could use replacements for Andy Fox and Todd Hollandsworth.

The rotation should be pretty good, but until A.J. Burnett comes back, Michael Tejera is plugged in the fifth hole. There have been Greg Maddux rumors, but a flyball pitcher like Rick Reed might just work here. The bullpen will have Benitz, Fox, Neu, and Tim Spooneybarger, for sure. Tommy Phelps and Tejera figure to get jobs as well, and Blaine Neal could land a spot.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies are the favorites to win the AL East, and they are all finished this offseason. Yesterday's signing of Doug Glanville fills their bench with Pratt, Wooten, Polanco, Perez, Ledee, and Glanville. And for all those who don't think the bullpen is finished, I imagine it will be Wagner-Worrell-Cormier at the end, with Roberto Hernandez and Amaury Telemaco getting some middle innings. The team may want a different LOOGY than Victor Alvarez, leaving Ed Wade one more job.

Montreal Expos

In a lot of ways, Omar Minaya is hog-tied. But he must put a decent 25-man roster on the field, and has a chance at besting the New York Mets, again. They really only need a backup catcher on offense, as Ron Calloway, Juan Rivera, Henry Mateo, and Jamey Carroll cover the other eight positions. Brian Schneider has no back-up, so signing a leftie killer might be a good idea.

The pitching staff is finished, as the team will use Livan, Day, Armas, Ohka, and Vargas in their rotation. Seung Song and Josh Karp will be ready relatively quickly. The bullpen currently has Luis Ayala, Chad Cordero, Rocky Biddle, Joey Eischen, Randy Choate, Dan Smith, and T.J. Tucker. Does that need upgrading? Probably not.

Who would have guessed the Expos would just need a backup C on January 13?

New York Mets

First and foremost, they need a right fielder. They need one bad. Right now, the only two real options are Raul Mondesi and Jay Payton. Ouch. A one-year deal would be best here, as Magglio Ordonez is an attractive candidate in a year's time. Besides that, I don't see Jim Duquette making another move to help this offense.

There is talk that the team wants to send Jeremy Griffiths and Aaron Heilman to AAA, so they will sign a pitcher before Spring Training. They will likely compete with the Orioles for Greg Maddux, and drive that price up considerably. The bullpen should be finished, and Art Howe will be sorting a lot in Spring Training.

Chicago Cubs

If Jim Hendry wants to be finished, he can be. Otherwise, there is still room for a fifth starter, and a sixth right-handed middle reliever. But like I said, they already have more than 25 guys.

Houston Astros

I'll detail the Clemens signing on Friday, but with that money committed, I don't think Drayton McLane can afford to do anything else. They now have enough pitchers to fill a bullpen and a rotation, and had the people to make a bench. It's all over for the Astros.

St. Louis Cardinals

Well, there will be decisions to be had in St. Louie. For instance, do they put John Gall at first base and keep Pujols in left? Do they sign anyone besides Marlon Anderson and Bo Hart for second? I like the idea of Gall, but I'm not so high on Anderson. Signing Cuban defector Yobal Duenas would be an interesting move, but after the So Taguchi disaster, I don't even know if Walt Jocketty will make a call.

The Cardinals current rotation has Morris, Williams, Suppan, Haren, and Carpenter, and that is probably enough. Just in case, they also have Jason Marquis waiting in the wings. While I wouldn't have reccomended the signing of Julian Tavarez, it did give them a complete bullpen. Isringhausen, Tavarez, Kline, Eldred, King, Calero, and Marquis. Wow, what an improvement from a year ago.

Cincy Reds

Can I have a team to skip? Please? I really don't like this team, and probably never will. Their bench looks filled with Corky Miller, Juan Castro, Ray Olmedo, Wil Mo Pena, Ryan Freel, and some other available options in their minor leagues.

Wow, what a bad rotation. There will be Jimmy Haynes, Paul Wilson, and Cory Lidle. Aaron Harang, Jose Acevedo, Josh Hall, and Brandon Claussen will battle for the last spot. They might sign one more fringe starter, but they have enough bullpen arms to fill that area.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Jason Kendall should be gone in days, and the Pirates lineup will have Cirillo at third and Stynes at second. If they end up signing Randall Simon, and I think they will, it will be a disastrous offseason. It's time to hand some jobs to youngsters, to start re-building. Maybe Dave Littlefield isn't fit for this job after all.

Milwaukee Brewers

I really think the Brewers should trade Junior Spivey to clear a space for Keith Ginter, but I don't think Doug Melvin reads this blog. Both the White Sox and Cardinals would be interested, and would give fair value back. Could they get Neal Cotts in a deal for Spivey? If so, I see no reason why they wouldn't jump on that. The Brewers have a few bench spots to fill, so they might be picking up the leftovers relatively soon.

No one can say what the Brew Crew will do with their pitching staff, besides the fact that Ben Sheets and Doug Davis will get spots. I would add one more starter, simply because the Brewers don't really have enough guys fighting for spots. And yes, Matt Kinney really does suck. The end of the season really proved they could have a good bullpen, and they are filled in that area. Picking up the scraps, and waiting for the kids is Doug Melvin's job during the upcoming seasons.

San Francisco Giants

Unfortunately my prediction for Greg Maddux didn't work out, as Brian Sabean decided to go for the cheaper, and worse version, Brett Tomko. That's a great rotation, and the team's bullpen looks to be finished as well. In fact, Brian Sabean has left Felipe Alou with a lot of options, and I don't think the Giants will spend another dollar this offseason.

Arizona Diamondbacks

I'll never understand Steve Sparks and Shane Reynolds, but I don't have to. If those two combine with Randy Johnson, Brandon Webb, and Elmer Dessens, I'll be making fun of this team. At least give one or two pitchers under 25 a chance. I mean, they don't have much of a chance in 2004, so they might as well be developing players. The bullpen has enough, and I like Valverde and Matt Mantei finishing ganes.

On offense, all the Diamondbacks need are backups in the outfield. They have just Bautista, Finley, and Gonzalez at this point, so adding another one of two would be a good idea.

Los Angeles Dodgers

My guess? They sign Pudge, but their offense is still terrible, as they'll have a Ventura/Loduca platoon at first, Encarnacion in left, and one of the worst middles in the game. It doesn't matter at this point, the ownership situation has screwed them. They will be bad in 2004, but I remain bullish on the Dodgers in the long run, notably in 2006. They'll get back to the top, it's just going to take some time.

Colorado Rockies

After my past articles on the Rockies, there's no way I'm going here.

San Diego Padres

I would highly recommend that the team signs Jay Payton, and I would personally find that to be more important than getting Kendall, although he's a great player. The Padres lineup is going to be fantastic, giving Khalil Greene the surroundings he'll need to win Rookie of the Year. Believe me, it's very possible.

That's all I can tonight folks, I'll be back on Vlad tomorrow.

WTNYJanuary 13, 2004
What's left in the NL
By Bryan Smith

Today I'll get right into it, here's what the National league needs to work on the rest of the offseason, which will help us determine where the remaining free agents will land.

Atlanta Braves

John Scheurholtz keeps making nothing out of nothing, and I keep forecasting his demise. I will do the same in 2004, but I'm sure the Braves will surprise me. Offensively, the team is week with Estrada, LaRoche, and DeRosa all demanding 500AB. They could break out, but if not, yikes. The Braves could add an infield bench player, but besides that, they look finished.

The rotation is all finished, even if it's not jaw-dropping. I'm a big fan of John Thomson in 2004, so write that down. Leo Mazzone and Bobby Cox are going to go with some interesting bullpen names, giving the huge AA combo of Alfonseca and Almanza a lot of innings. Jaret Wright, Will Cunnane, Kevin Gryboski and Jung Bong will all help complement John Smoltz. The Braves don't have much to do this offseason, but I will still be predicting them below first place...again.

Florida Marlins

Fresh of a World Championship, the Marlins have gone in a odd direction. They acquired Hee Seop Choi, and decided to give Miguel Cabrera and Jeff Conine the outfield corner spots. The catcher will be Ramon Castro, not example always being compared to Pudge. The team has Redmond, Mordecai, and Banks for their bench, but still could use replacements for Andy Fox and Todd Hollandsworth.

The rotation should be pretty good, but until A.J. Burnett comes back, Michael Tejera is plugged in the fifth hole. There have been Greg Maddux rumors, but a flyball pitcher like Rick Reed might just work here. The bullpen will have Benitz, Fox, Neu, and Tim Spooneybarger, for sure. Tommy Phelps and Tejera figure to get jobs as well, and Blaine Neal could land a spot.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies are the favorites to win the AL East, and they are all finished this offseason. Yesterday's signing of Doug Glanville fills their bench with Pratt, Wooten, Polanco, Perez, Ledee, and Glanville. And for all those who don't think the bullpen is finished, I imagine it will be Wagner-Worrell-Cormier at the end, with Roberto Hernandez and Amaury Telemaco getting some middle innings. The team may want a different LOOGY than Victor Alvarez, leaving Ed Wade one more job.

Montreal Expos

In a lot of ways, Omar Minaya is hog-tied. But he must put a decent 25-man roster on the field, and has a chance at besting the New York Mets, again. They really only need a backup catcher on offense, as Ron Calloway, Juan Rivera, Henry Mateo, and Jamey Carroll cover the other eight positions. Brian Schneider has no back-up, so signing a leftie killer might be a good idea.

The pitching staff is finished, as the team will use Livan, Day, Armas, Ohka, and Vargas in their rotation. Seung Song and Josh Karp will be ready relatively quickly. The bullpen currently has Luis Ayala, Chad Cordero, Rocky Biddle, Joey Eischen, Randy Choate, Dan Smith, and T.J. Tucker. Does that need upgrading? Probably not.

Who would have guessed the Expos would just need a backup C on January 13?

New York Mets

First and foremost, they need a right fielder. They need one bad. Right now, the only two real options are Raul Mondesi and Jay Payton. Ouch. A one-year deal would be best here, as Magglio Ordonez is an attractive candidate in a year's time. Besides that, I don't see Jim Duquette making another move to help this offense.

There is talk that the team wants to send Jeremy Griffiths and Aaron Heilman to AAA, so they will sign a pitcher before Spring Training. They will likely compete with the Orioles for Greg Maddux, and drive that price up considerably. The bullpen should be finished, and Art Howe will be sorting a lot in Spring Training.

Chicago Cubs

If Jim Hendry wants to be finished, he can be. Otherwise, there is still room for a fifth starter, and a sixth right-handed middle reliever. But like I said, they already have more than 25 guys.

Houston Astros

I'll detail the Clemens signing on Friday, but with that money committed, I don't think Drayton McLane can afford to do anything else. They now have enough pitchers to fill a bullpen and a rotation, and had the people to make a bench. It's all over for the Astros.

St. Louis Cardinals

Well, there will be decisions to be had in St. Louie. For instance, do they put John Gall at first base and keep Pujols in left? Do they sign anyone besides Marlon Anderson and Bo Hart for second? I like the idea of Gall, but I'm not so high on Anderson. Signing Cuban defector Yobal Duenas would be an interesting move, but after the So Taguchi disaster, I don't even know if Walt Jocketty will make a call.

The Cardinals current rotation has Morris, Williams, Suppan, Haren, and Carpenter, and that is probably enough. Just in case, they also have Jason Marquis waiting in the wings. While I wouldn't have reccomended the signing of Julian Tavarez, it did give them a complete bullpen. Isringhausen, Tavarez, Kline, Eldred, King, Calero, and Marquis. Wow, what an improvement from a year ago.

Cincy Reds

Can I have a team to skip? Please? I really don't like this team, and probably never will. Their bench looks filled with Corky Miller, Juan Castro, Ray Olmedo, Wil Mo Pena, Ryan Freel, and some other available options in their minor leagues.

Wow, what a bad rotation. There will be Jimmy Haynes, Paul Wilson, and Cory Lidle. Aaron Harang, Jose Acevedo, Josh Hall, and Brandon Claussen will battle for the last spot. They might sign one more fringe starter, but they have enough bullpen arms to fill that area.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Jason Kendall should be gone in days, and the Pirates lineup will have Cirillo at third and Stynes at second. If they end up signing Randall Simon, and I think they will, it will be a disastrous offseason. It's time to hand some jobs to youngsters, to start re-building. Maybe Dave Littlefield isn't fit for this job after all.

Milwaukee Brewers

I really think the Brewers should trade Junior Spivey to clear a space for Keith Ginter, but I don't think Doug Melvin reads this blog. Both the White Sox and Cardinals would be interested, and would give fair value back. Could they get Neal Cotts in a deal for Spivey? If so, I see no reason why they wouldn't jump on that. The Brewers have a few bench spots to fill, so they might be picking up the leftovers relatively soon.

No one can say what the Brew Crew will do with their pitching staff, besides the fact that Ben Sheets and Doug Davis will get spots. I would add one more starter, simply because the Brewers don't really have enough guys fighting for spots. And yes, Matt Kinney really does suck. The end of the season really proved they could have a good bullpen, and they are filled in that area. Picking up the scraps, and waiting for the kids is Doug Melvin's job during the upcoming seasons.

San Francisco Giants

Unfortunately my prediction for Greg Maddux didn't work out, as Brian Sabean decided to go for the cheaper, and worse version, Brett Tomko. That's a great rotation, and the team's bullpen looks to be finished as well. In fact, Brian Sabean has left Felipe Alou with a lot of options, and I don't think the Giants will spend another dollar this offseason.

Arizona Diamondbacks

I'll never understand Steve Sparks and Shane Reynolds, but I don't have to. If those two combine with Randy Johnson, Brandon Webb, and Elmer Dessens, I'll be making fun of this team. At least give one or two pitchers under 25 a chance. I mean, they don't have much of a chance in 2004, so they might as well be developing players. The bullpen has enough, and I like Valverde and Matt Mantei finishing ganes.

On offense, all the Diamondbacks need are backups in the outfield. They have just Bautista, Finley, and Gonzalez at this point, so adding another one of two would be a good idea.

Los Angeles Dodgers

My guess? They sign Pudge, but their offense is still terrible, as they'll have a Ventura/Loduca platoon at first, Encarnacion in left, and one of the worst middles in the game. It doesn't matter at this point, the ownership situation has screwed them. They will be bad in 2004, but I remain bullish on the Dodgers in the long run, notably in 2006. They'll get back to the top, it's just going to take some time.

Colorado Rockies

After my past articles on the Rockies, there's no way I'm going here.

San Diego Padres

I would highly recommend that the team signs Jay Payton, and I would personally find that to be more important than getting Kendall, although he's a great player. The Padres lineup is going to be fantastic, giving Khalil Greene the surroundings he'll need to win Rookie of the Year. Believe me, it's very possible.

That's all I can tonight folks, I'll be back on Vlad tomorrow.

WTNYJanuary 12, 2004
A Preview and Review
By Bryan Smith

Didn't make the weekend post I had hoped to, got a little busy. For all those who are thinking about going to see Blue Man Group, you have my full support. Good stuff around the Internet, Bill James' assistant Matthew Namee had some good work for Aaron Gleeman, Rich Lederer had a very nice interview of Joe Sheehan, and Will Carroll attempting to make headline news again. Believe me, Clemens is as overrated as Pettite.

To give a little overview of the week, I'll review what I said on Friday today, I'll detail the National League tomorrow, Wednesday will be devoted to the newest Halo, and Thursday we'll look at where the free agents should be going. Exciting times ahead on Wait 'Til Next Year...

On Friday I spent a long time detailing what American League teams have left, and today I'll review quickly what I said...

Oakland: RH reliever
Seattle: Trade Davis and Meche
Anaheim: Well, it was 1B, now it's make fun of the Mariners
Texas: One (or 2) starter(s) and one RH reliever

Minnesota: Trade Jacque Jones, one SP, one RH reliever
Chicago: SP and 2B
Kansas City: Sit around
Cleveland: Trade Ludwick or Escobar (Lawton?) for SP
Detroit: Apply to become part of International League and worry about rotation

Yankees: George wants one more SP
Boston: Back end of bullpen
Toronto: All finished
Baltimore: RF and SP, SP, SP!
Tampa Bay: Likely finished, maybe one bench spot

Sorry folks, that's all I got today, I'll have another 2500+ words tomorrow...

Baseball BeatJanuary 10, 2004
Not Your Average Joe
By Rich Lederer

BP's Sheehan Talks Baseball, Prospectus, and More Baseball

Joe Sheehan is a co-founder and author of Baseball Prospectus. Joe writes his Prospectus Today column, which is available to BP Premium subscribers, from the standpoint of the informed outsider. His analysis and opinions are highly entertaining and insightful.

Joe was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from the University of Southern California in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism (print emphasis). Joe and his wife Sophia have been married since 1996, and they currently reside in the greater Los Angeles area. Outside of baseball, Joe's interests include cooking, reading non-fiction, golf, and poker although "not in that order".

I had the pleasure of interviewing Joe as part of my offseason series of discussions with baseball's best online writers and analysts. Grab a cup of coffee, settle in, and be sure to take copious notes.

RWBB: When did you begin to follow baseball?

Joe: My earliest baseball memories are of a nighttime Mets game when I was four or five and of playing Wiffle ball on the sidewalk around that time. The first specific memories I have are of the Bucky Dent game, when I was seven.

RWBB: You must not be a Red Sox fan or you would have given ol' Bucky a certain middle name.

Joe: I'm a huge Yankees fan, have been since I was a little kid. My birthday present for a number of years was tickets to a doubleheader, back when they scheduled them. When I got older, I'd go to 20-25 games a summer. To me, no place in baseball will ever be like Yankee Stadium.

RWBB: Who was your favorite player growing up?

Joe: Chris Chambliss was my first. I cried when he was traded after the 1979 season, and I still remember Jerry Girard on WPIX making the announcement.

Starting in 1983, it was Don Mattingly. I imitated his batting style, cheered him like a maniac at the Stadium, and probably saw 80% of his at-bats from '84 through '89.

RWBB: You only followed Donnie Baseball in his good years, ehh?

Joe: Don't make me come over there, Rich. No, it's just that I went to college in '89, so I didn't see as many Yankee games living in L.A. It really hurt to watch the back take him down. 1990 was the worst, but he was such a different hitter after that, lacking the explosion out of the crouch that gave him his power.

Mattingly has talked about how he felt like he found his power late in 1995. The Tino Martinez acquisition forced him out of New York, but I've often wondered whether he might have had a resurgence had he continued playing.

RWBB: Who is your favorite player now?

Joe: I guess if I have to think about it, I really don't have one, huh? It was Greg Maddux for a while. I used to build my schedule to catch his starts. Now...I love watching Mark Prior (Fight On!)...Eric Gagne is a lot of fun.

RWBB: How would you compare Prior to another Trojan great, Tom Seaver?

Joe: I wouldn't. I think there are similarities in that both have excellent, but differing mechanics, and the USC connection works, but I really would be reluctant to compare the guy with 320 major-league innings to the guy with about that many wins.

RWBB: You were one of the five names on the cover of the first Baseball Prospectus book.

Joe: I've been involved with Baseball Prospectus since before it had a name. Gary Huckabay and Clay Davenport had a plan to publish Clay's Translations and Gary's projections along with player comments in a book. They had been doing so on USENET, in the newsgroup, for years.

Rany Jazayerli offered them his Organizational Pitching Reports for use in the as-yet-unnamed book. When Rany--who was a friend of mine though a Strat league--told me this, I offered my services as an editor on the project. Gary, who only really knew me through the newsgroup, invited me on board. I might even forgive him one day.

This all happened in the fourth quarter of 1995. We published BP 1996 just in time for Opening Day.

RWBB: Tell us about BP's original mission.

Joe: To write the book we all wanted to read.

RWBB: How has BP evolved over the years?

Joe: Well, the advent and popularity of the World Wide Web, which really wasn't a factor when we were doing the first book, changed things. We've evolved from a "book with a Web site" to a content provider across all media. Obviously we've grown from a staffing standpoint, from the original five to...oh, geez, we probably have 50 or more people doing some type of work for the company now.

Perhaps the most noticeable change, on a daily basis, is our relationship to the industry. We've worked hard to gain the respect of people within baseball, and we now have relationships with every front office, as well as most major media outlets. Our work has had an impact on the game, and I don't think we could have hoped for more in the winter of '95-'96.

RWBB: How successful has Baseball Prospectus Premium been thus far?

Joe: Very. When we went through the process last winter of setting it up, and making estimates of subscribers and what-not, we had a target number in mind. We passed that number by the middle of spring training, and have left it far, far, behind.

I can't say enough about how gratifying that was for us. Beyond the business success, to know that we'd actually underestimated how much people enjoy the work we do and the number who would pay for it was a great feeling.

RWBB: What new areas can you envision for BP in the future?

Joe: We're going to keep improving the Web site, and as technology and bandwidth allow, we want to develop new features that will enhance the user experience. The success of Baseball Prospectus Radio extends our reach and has created interest in developing a television property, something we're exploring. Syndicated content in print publications, such as last fall's run in the New York Sun, is also coming.

We want to reach baseball fans. Not just statheads, not just number crunchers, but the millions of people who love this game.

RWBB: There's been a lot said recently about the mainstream media vs. the Internet media. Where does BP fit in?

Joe: That's a false dichotomy. It's not about the medium or the characterization of it, but the content, disseminated in all forms to as many people as possible. We had to get our hands around that a few years back, when we realized that the Web site and radio gigs and were bringing more people in than the book was.

I know what you're asking, Rich, and I don't entirely know the answer myself. We're clearly not as mainstream as ESPN or The New York Times, but we're also not just some guys with a Web site. I can make a fairly strong argument that we're the first new-media company to have a claim to a spot next to those established entities, at least in the sports world.

RWBB: With respect to the BP book, you recently decided to change publishers.

Joe: Brassey's was a strong partner for a number of years, and we wish them well. To reach a larger audience, however, we wanted a larger publisher with more experience selling mainstream and sports books. We had interest from many, which was gratifying.

We're excited about the new relationship with Workman; they put out well-designed, eye-catching products, and they've shown a real enthusiasm for Baseball Prospectus 2004.

RWBB: What's in store for this year's edition?

Joe: Let's see...Nate Silver takes a look at PECOTA's performance in 2003, Clay Davenport revisits his Japanese League translations, Keith Woolner on catcher defense, and Doug Pappas on marginal wins per dollar going back 25 years.

That is, of course, in addition to the 30 team essays, the stats, the projections, and the commentary on 1500-odd players.

RWBB: Are you afraid of losing your good, young writers and analysts to MLB a la Keith Law?

Joe: Heck, no. If we were to become some kind of farm system for young baseball executives, that would be all kinds of good. The game would get better, we'd strengthen our ties to front offices, and obviously we would be able to attract new talent. The Baseball Prospectus name can only be enhanced by something like that.

Keep in mind that Keith's career path is a non-standard one. There are few people with his qualifications, which is why he's now part of a young front office just beginning to do great things. But it's not hard to see how people like Clay Davenport, Keith Woolner, and Gary Huckabay could help a team, especially one that needs to maximize its investments in player personnel.

RWBB: What do you see yourself doing in 3-5 years? Writing for BP or working for a major league team?

Joe: Depends on when you ask me. I really do have a cool job, although like any writer, the process can be frustrating. I want to avoid repeating myself, while continuing to do solid analysis and be entertaining.

Sometimes, I do think it would be fun to be putting this stuff into practice, rather than simply writing about it from the outside. I think applying the principles of the informed outsider to team-building, and making those mesh with the best insider approaches--and improving both sides along the way--would lead to better baseball.

So to answer the question, I'd like to be doing either.

RWBB: If you were a GM, would you place more emphasis on "tools" or "metrics"?

Joe: Yes.

You need to know about both. Performance is merely the results gained by applied tools (or skills, if you prefer). Performance is what has value, however; no one wins by having better tools. What I would have to work on is finding people who can evaluate tools outside of the existing biases in the scouting community. Don't tell me about "the good face," or the projectable body or that the guy doesn't look good with his shirt off. Tell me--quantify for me--what his physical abilities are, and how those apply to baseball.

Evaluating scouts--evaluating the entire process of scouting--is long overdue. I don't think anyone, myself included, knows exactly where to start or what that process will look like, but I can tell you that it's one of those "next" areas that progressive organizations will be addressing in the future.

RWBB: Which team has helped itself the most this off-season?

Joe: You have to split this into "AL East" and "Other" categories, don't you? The Yankees upgraded two rotation slots with #1 starters and added Gary Sheffield. Of course, they didn't address their defense. The Orioles made huge gains over their 2003 holes at shortstop and catcher by adding Miguel Tejada and Javy Lopez. The Red Sox fell short on Alex Rodriguez, but added 300 innings of right-handed goodness in Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke.

The Mets picked up a ton of talent up the middle in Kazuo Matsui and Mike Cameron. They could allow 60 fewer runs on defensive improvement alone.

So I'd rank them Orioles, Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, and note that the first two teams appear to be Vladimir Guerrero's biggest suitors.

RWBB: Given the Yankees and Red Sox "can you top this" drama this winter and the Brewers cutting payroll by 25%, do you think the CBA is working to restore competitive balance?

Joe: I think that's a loaded question. Competitive balance wasn't actually a problem under the old CBA; the perception of an imbalance, driven by a number of factors but foremost MLB's interest in the illusion, was. The relationships between payroll and success, or market size and revenue, or revenue and payroll, are much more complex than most fans or media understand.

If anything, the new CBA may be creating a problem, in that there is a set of rules in place that does appear to constrain the activities of 29 teams...but that one team doesn't really give a damn about. It's hard to see the Yankees not being affected by paying $60 million or more in success tax each year, but they're certainly not acting as if that's a deterrent.

RWBB: If the A-Rod-Manny trade doesn't go through, do you think the Red Sox clubhouse can recover from it?

Joe: Absolutely. We make too much of interpersonal issues, and whether one person or another has had his feelings hurt. The Sox will be just fine, because the people involved will behave better than the media covering them, much to that media's chagrin.

RWBB: Who is your best bet among players with fewer than 100 plate appearances last year to have a big season in 2004?

Joe: Jeremy Reed could fill the White Sox' CF hole and be Rookie of the Year. David DeJesus might be blocked in K.C., but he's a very good player who's ready. I have to mention Rickie Weeks as well.

RWBB: Does PECOTA tell you anything about Reed, DeJesus, or Weeks?

Joe: Sure. (Smiles.) But you'll have to check the book or BP Premium to find out exactly what.

RWBB: That's fair enough. Who is most likely in your judgment to be a bust in 2004?

Joe: I don't like any of the Angels' signings much, especially Kelvim Escobar. I worry about the number of pitches Carlos Zambrano threw and think he may decline or be hurt in '04.

RWBB: That would be a major blow to the Cubs.

Joe: They have starting pitching to burn, especially if Angel Guzman makes a quick recovery. I'm more concerned with their offense, which is heavily right-handed and slow. Of course, if two of the big three go down...

RWBB: ...then Dusty Baker will be in big trouble. Along this line of thought, which manager is most likely to be fired first?

Joe: Joe Torre, because Bad George is very much back.

RWBB: Is Brian Cashman just a figurehead or does he have much say in personnel matters?

Joe: "Figurehead" is a strong word. Ah, maybe it's not. Let's just say he'd like to be elsewhere.

RWBB: Where do you think the Expos will end up and when?

Joe: D.C., in either '05 or '06. The rest of the owners are getting sick of paying for the team, and the conflicts that creates are becoming untenable.

RWBB: You coined the term, "There Is No Such Thing As a Pitching Prospect". You don't think it is possible to identify the Mark Priors and Josh Becketts of the world?

Joe: I've become associated with that term, but the credit for it goes to Gary Huckabay.

I place Mark Prior, and what I call "fully-formed" college pitchers, in a category apart from pitching prospects. Mike Mussina, Barry Zito...guys like that aren't ever really "pitching prospects," although they may make 15-20 starts in the minors. I think drafting those guys is usually a good investment; it's like signing a free agent, really.

As great as Beckett was in October, isn't his career path an argument in favor of TNSTAAPP? He's made 44 starts in two seasons, and if the Marlins don't win the wild card, he's just another pitcher with potential and problems.

I'm not taking away from what he did in the postseason but am pointing out that the perception of his status is largely driven by that month. He'd been hampered by nagging injuries, mostly blisters, up to that point.

TNSTAAPP, as I wrote earlier this year, is a shorthand way of making the argument that we underestimate the path to becoming a major-league pitcher. Young men--teenagers, 20- and 21-year-olds--get hurt along the way, and hyping some kid who beats up the Carolina League is a completely unrealistic viewpoint when we know how different baseball is at that level. The necessary skills, the competition, and the conditions just don't compare.

Will the TNSTAAPP viewpoint miss some guys? Absolutely, but it will be right more often because it won't place outsized expectations on minor-league pitchers, and it will correctly assess the risks involved in their careers.

RWBB: What are the most important metrics you use in evaluating whether a minor leaguer can be successful in the bigs?

Joe: The most important ones vary depending on who we're talking about, but the first thing you need to know is age relative to level. Everything spins off of that.

Raw power, as measured by isolated slugging; plate discipline, as measured by K/BB ratio and the rates of both strikeouts and walks; positional value, both what he plays and the likelihood that he'll keep playing it. That last one requires input from people within the game, as well as whatever data on defense, such as Clay Davenport's, you can get.

For pitchers, I look at strikeout, walk, and home-run rates, as well as workload (usually IP/start, for short). How he's getting those numbers is important, too; command guys like the Pirates' Sean Burnett can often do well up to Triple-A, with great rates, but they don't miss enough bats to end up with comparable success.

RWBB: Which metrics do you think are still underappreciated or undervalued?

Joe: We probably need to find better ways to work "outs" into discussions of hitters. At-bats and plate appearances are poor substitutes. If we actually were able to show how many fewer outs that, say, Manny Ramirez made as opposed to Garret Anderson, it would highlight the difference between the two.

RWBB: Which ones do you feel are overappreciated or overvalued?

Joe: We'll probably never be done with RBI, which are a proxy for both "production" and "character." Pitcher wins are still seen as a strong measure of success, and there are few statistics more context- and teammate-dependent.

RWBB: Do you think there are any meaningful statistical areas that still need to be better developed?

Joe: Defense, defense, and defense. There's work being done by so many people now, but I don't think we're there with a silver bullet yet. We might never be, but it's better to see people working on that than on the 413th offensive metric.

RWBB: You're of the belief that the game today is much different than it was 30 or 40 years ago.

Joe: The game is always changing. We're in an era that is very hard on pitchers, with smaller strike zones, smaller ballparks, stronger players--especially at traditional non-hitting positions--and a trend towards working counts. Outs are more valuable than ever, so there's less bunting and stealing. I'm not of the opinion that one style of baseball is preferable to all others; I like that the game ebbs and flows, and I believe that it will change again.

RWBB: You've also talked about the difference in setting up a team for the regular season vs. the postseason.

Joe: Nah, lots of people have done that. I go back to what Bill James wrote: "In the postseason, depth don't count." You win in the postseason with your top 15 guys, and I'm as guilty as anyone of getting too worked up about what a manager does with his last roster spots. So you ride your best pitchers, and you go with guys on three days rest, and you let your top reliever go three innings. None of this is rocket science.

RWBB: Speaking of the postseason, which teams do you predict will make it to the World Series this year? And which team do you think will win it all?

Joe: I'll take the Yankees in the AL. The NL...there are some significant unknowns right now, and no great squads. If (Roger) Clemens were to pitch for the Astros, I might go with them; if the Mets sign Vlad, honestly, they start to look good. The Phillies seem to be a popular pick, but I expect Larry Bowa to screw it up.

Geez, I really don't know. I guess I'll go with the Giants. Yanks in 5.

RWBB: Well, Joe, I think we will leave it at that. Thank you for your time and valuable observations.

WTNYJanuary 09, 2004
The AL
By Bryan Smith

Not a lot going on in the baseball world, but I think in a week's time the Orioles will have contracts done to Vladimir Guerrero, Rafael Palmiero, and B.J. Surhoff. I think the team would be much better suited to spend Palmiero's money towards starters, but if Sidney Ponson ends up with them, my argument is void.

For the weekend, I'm going to post what I consider to be very important information: what each team has left to do this off season. It has been an interesting couple months in the very least, and a sign of the path that baseball is headed down.

Oakland Athletics

Billy Beane has a starting lineup in place, and it should definitely be an improvement over the group he fielded a year ago. An outfield of Kielty, Kotsay, and Dye could improve in big ways, and Bobby Crosby will be a top candidate for Rookie of the Year. The team easily has enough players to make a bench, and my guess is that Adam Melhuse, Eric Byrnes, Billy McMillon, Frank Menechino, and Marco Scutaro will get spots.

The A's will have a great pitching staff again in 2004, this time with Mark Redman as their fourth starter. Rich Harden is the best fifth starter in baseball, and Justin Duchscherer (PCL Pitcher of the Year) is waiting in the wings. The bullpen is really the only thing that needs a little tweaking. So far, the A's have a nice start in Arthur Rhodes, Chad Bradford, Ricardo Rincon, and Chris Hammond. Jim Mecir, Chad Harville, and Duchscherer will compete for spots. In my mind, the team needs to add one more right-handed reliever to make a good 'pen, and is a long way from matching what they did a year ago.

Seattle Mariners

Fans are not happy with how the off season has gone in Seattle, and Bill Bavasi is quickly becoming one of the worse GMs in the game. The Guillen-Aurilia swap will happen anyday now, yielding Ramon Santiago for the M's. They would then have a full lineup, with Raul Ibanez, Scott Spiezio, and Rich Aurilia replacing Mike Cameron, Jeff Cirillo, and Carlos Guillen. The bench is among the worst in baseball, with Wiki Gonzalez, Dave Hansen, Santiago, Willie Bloomquist, and Quinton McCracken all looking at spots. Ben Davis likely will be dealt, or he could push Gonzalez to Tacoma. I'm thinking the Mariners would be best suited to never pinch-hit next year, not a promising proposition for Bob Melvin.

As for the rotation, the Mariners actually have one too many players at this point. Jamie Moyer, Joel Pineiro, and Freddy Garcia are all but guaranteed spots next season. It would be hard to deny Ryan Franklin, who had a 3.34 second half ERA, a spot as well. That leaves Gil Meche to the fifth hole, although there is one small problem. Rafael Soriano deserves a spot as much as anyone. He was the best reliever in baseball during the last two months, and is dominating in the winter league. Give him a spot, and trade Davis and Meche together.

Eddie Guardado will be a big help in the bullpen, although they don't have the firepower they once had. Sasaki is getting worse every year, and can we honestly expect Hasegawa to match last season's performance? Julio Mateo might be their best reliever, although they won't see that. Kevin Jarvis is all but guaranteed the long relief spot, just because of the huge paycheck the Mariners are giving him. The last spot is up for grabs with in-house candidates J.J. Putz, Aaron Looper or Aaron Taylor likely to land the spot. Barring a Davis and/or Meche trade, that's all you'll see from the Mariners.

Anaheim Angels

The former World Champions are much improved, and will have a very potent rotation in 2004. Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar are the newest additions, and will be the first power pitchers the Angels have housed in awhile. Jarrod Washburn and Ramon Ortiz have spots, but they must drop their high HR/9 rates. World Series hero John Lackey should land the fifth slot, but expensive right-hander Aaron Sele at least gets a chance. If he doesn't win it, he'll likely be released, and the Angels will take the hit for his salary.

As for the bullpen, the Angels strength will once again be in finishing games. The Donnelly-Rodriguez-Percival trio is unbeatable, likely the best 7-8-9 in the Majors. Scot Shields and Ben Weber are also very effective. The team usually doesn't use LOOGYs, so Derrick Turnbow and Kevin Gregg will battle for the sixth spot.

Anaheim is one of the few teams without a completed lineup, as Bill Stonemann has yet to find Scott Spiezio's 1B replacement. Travis Lee has been a rumor for weeks, and I expect that deal to happen very soon. The bench currently has Jose Molina, Alfredo Amezaga, Jeff DaVanon, Chone Figgins, and Robb Quinlan should get a spot. That would leave the team with 24 players, possibly allowing Sele to make the team as a long reliever. All in all, Travis Lee is the only move I expect from the Angels.

Texas Rangers

While the Rangers lineup has questions, they already have enough players to fill all the necessary positions. At this point, we know that Einar Diaz will catch, and the infield will be Teixeira, Young, Rodriguez and Blalock. Brad Fullmer will act as DH, and Brian Jordan will have a corner spot. That leaves centerfield and another corner outfield spot, with David Delucci, Laynce Nix, Kevin Mench, Rusty Greer, and Ramon Nivar battling it out. Out of that group, Nix should land a spot, and if Nivar doesn't, he'll be returned to AAA. Eric Young may get a chance in center, but he is probably just middle infield insurance. Other bench players include Mike Lamb, Herbert Perry, and Gerald Laird.

As with all Ranger teams, the questions are in the pitching staff. The Rangers have been ridiculously slow to sign pitching, pretty much guaranteeing another last place finish. Chan Ho Park will have a spot, but that's all that is guaranteed at this point. The current depth chart would have Joaquin Benoit, Colby Lewis, Juan Dominguez, and either R.A. Dickey or Ryan Drese. With that being said, I guarantee the Rangers will add at least one starter still, and they really should add 2.

The bullpen is going to add a right-hander in the coming days, with rumors that a Turk Wendell contract is all but finished. Wendell will be used to set-up effective closer Francisco Cordero, who was dazzling a season ago. Jay Powell makes a lot of money, and was once effective as a middle reliever. Southpaws Ron Mahay, Brian Shouse, and Erasmo Ramirez all had their moments a year ago. I don't expect the Rangers to sign more than one right-handed reliever, although they probably should. Signing Maels Rodriguez should be their other plan of attack.

Minnesota Twins

Myself and Twins fans alike have been quick to bash Terry Ryan this offseason, who really made this club worse by not doing anything. It all starts in the rotation, where the Twins are yet to fill their five slots at this time. So far, Johan Santana, Brad Radke, Kyle Lohse, and Grant Balfour look to have spots. If the competition goes as low as Carlos Pulido and Carlos Silva, just give this division to someone else. Signing a starter should be a priority for the Twins, or at least trading Jacque Jones for one.

While the catcher position has no clear starter yet, the rest of the starting lineup is filled. The team has important decisions with rookies and outfielders, but have more than enough bats to fill a roster. The only weakness is up the middle, but it appears Augie Ojeda and Nick Punto are going to back up the Rivas and Guzman combo. Jacque Jones and Doug Mientkiewicz could get traded for pitching, and it would have minimal effect on the offense.

A lot of people are questioning the Twins bullpen, but I believe they are one man away from being pretty effective. Ugueth Urbina is rumored to be heading there, and he is probably the last of the good relievers left on the market, it's essential for Ryan to act here. Joe Nathan and J.C. Romero are fairly good as set-up men, and I like Juan Rincon a lot in middle relief. Michael Nakamura are Carlos Silva should land spots, leaving the seventh spot to be a battle between Pulido and Aaron Fultz. Note to Terry Ryan: start working!

Chicago White Sox

While Ken Williams tried to improve the White Sox this offseason, he failed mercifully. The White Sox are bad right now, very bad. Esteban Loaiza and Mark Buerhle have a lot of pressure at the top of the rotation, and Jon Garland needs to take a big step forward. After that the Sox rotation is eerily weak, with Scott Schoenweis, Dan Wright, and Neal Cotts among those battling for spots. The team has shown interest in Sidney Ponson, and I think they will likely end up signing him.

The bullpen will not be as strong as it was last season, as I don't see Cliff Politte matching the performance that Tom Gordon had last year. Damaso Marte and Billy Koch will battle for closer duties, and Kelly Wunsch is one of the league's better LOOGYs. Dan Wright and Scott Schoenweis could fill roles in the bullpen, but I think the White Sox should consider adding one more right-handed middle reliever.

Not many changes in the hitting department, although part-time players Robbie Alomar and Carl Everett are long gone. In their places, the team will be using Willie Harris and Aaron Rowand, respectively. If Harris struggles, Juan Uribe could be forced into the starting lineup. I also think the club will put in a phone call to Cuban defector, Yobal Duenas. The team has a few bench positions in must fill, as Sandy Alomar, Jamie Burke, Ross Gload and Uribe are the only ones currently occupying those positions. The White Sox have a lot of work to do, but I'm not sure if Ken Williams realizes this.

Kansas City Royals

Allan Baird has done a fantastic job this offseason, and he can now go to rest. With the recently announced Juan Gonzalez signing, I imagine the Royals are done for the offseason. The team has a lot of options, and will let David DeJesus get reps at AAA before a likely midseason call-up. The bench will have Kelly Stinnett, Ken Harvey, Tony Graffanino, Dee Brown and Rich Thompson.

The rotation is a little weak, but they make up for that with a fantastic bullpen. Curt Leskanic, Jeremy Affeldt, Mike MacDougal, Scott Sullivan, Jason Grimsley, and D.J. Carrasco are the top six for the bullpen, and the team will likely try Joey Dawley as the long relief man. The Royals are the favorites to win the AL Central, and can now sit on that title until February.

Cleveland Indians

Well, what can Mark Shapiro do? The Indians aren't going to be very good in 2004, but it's a waiting game in Cleveland. Shapiro has built this team to the best of his abilities, but they still come up lacking. With limited resources, sometimes all you can do is cry, "uncle." The lineup is their best asset, and they'll have a bench with Josh Bard, Ben Broussard, John McDonald, Ricky Gutierrez, and Ryan Ludwick. I'm not so sure on the choice of Ronnie Belliard at second base though.

Also somewhat respectable will be a bullpen filled with players you've never heard of. David Riske has proven to be reliable for a couple of years now, and it looks like the team will hand him the reins as closer. Jose Jimenez and Bob Wickman will serve as veteran set-up men, and I'm big on Jimenez bouncing back after some bad years in Coors. Rafael Betancourt, Scott Stewart, and Jack Cressend all bring strengths to the table, and with the proper managing, Eric Wedge could have a top 10 bullpen.

It's the rotation that I worry about. C.C. Sabathia proved he could be an ace, and Cliff Lee showed some very nice things in his short stine. Jake Westbrook was very hot and cold in Cleveland, but needs to improve his K/BB rate (58/56) to take it to the next level. Jason Stanford and Chad Durbin are penciled into the final two spots, but Jimenez and Jason Bere could steal those spots. Also, expect Jeremy Guthrie to demand a spot during the season. The Indians should improve each year as they find out a little more about this team, but Cleveland is going to need patience for the next three years.

Detroit Tigers

Well, now Dambrowski has some names that everyone has heard of. Their lineup:

C- Brandon Inge
1B- Carlos Pena
2B- Fernando Vina
SS- Carlos Guillen
3B- Eric Munson
LF- Rondell White
CF- Alex Sanchez
RF- Bobby Higginson/Cody Ross
DH- Dmitri Young

It's not a fabulous lineup, but I don't think they'll come last in the Majors in runs scored either. The bench is a little weak right now, with Mike Diefelice, Chris Shelton, Omar Infante, Dean Palmer, and Craig Monroe penciled in. The bullpen won't be too bad if Alan Trammell pushed the right buttons, as right-handers Fernando Rodney, Franklyn German, Matt Anderson, Al Levine, and Danny Patterson all have potential. Jamie Walker is a good LOOGY, and Chris Spurling had a nice rookie season.

Of all things, it's the rotation that frightens me the most. Jason Johnson, Mike Maroth, and Jeremy Bonderman sit atop what should be a pretty bad group. The last two spots will be a combination of Wil Ledezma, Gary Knotts, Nate Cornejo, and Nate Robertson. Yes, the Tigers are destined for last place once again. But now, they won't lose 119 games!

New York Yankees

Well, is the Boss ever really done? No, he'll always be looking for a signing to put his team a leg up, and this time his sights are on Maels Rodriguez. Apparently the thought of Jon Lieber serving as his fifth starter is hideous, and Steinbrenner is intent on landing another good arm for the rotation. The bullpen looks to be good, with Rivera, Gordon, Quantrill, Karsay, Heredia, and Gabe White handling the duties. Lieber should serve as the long man, similar to the role Jose Contreras started in last season.

While the Yankees don't have a great bench, they're likely finished with it. John Flaherty, Enrique Wilson, Miguel Cairo, Ruben Sierra, and Tony Clark will be the options Joe Torre has for pinch-hitting this season. I'm thinking he is going to stick with his starters this year, so once again, depth is a nervous issue with this team.

Boston Red Sox

Like George, Theo is always looking for a way to outdo his opponents, although there aren't many more moves left in this chess match. The only thing I can see Theo doing is trading Scott Williamson, but at this point, I think the team would be smartest to hang onto him. Foulke, Timilin, Williamson, Embree, and Bronson Arroyo is a nice group, and it appears the team is thinking of having Mark Malaska and either Ramiro Mendoza or Colter Bean fill their last spot. The rotation is fill with Pedro, Schilling, Wakefield, Lowe and Kim, so I really don't understand their interest in Maels.

Offensively, the team is finished. They will have a four man bench, with Doug Mirabelli, Pokey Reese, Gabe Kapler and Brian Daubach. They can do that with the versatility that Mark Bellhorn, Bill Mueller, Kevin Millar, and Trot Nixon all bring to the table. Expect a decline in offensive production next year, but not significant enough to take them out of this race.

Toronto Blue Jays

With the two recent signings of Terry Adams and Chris Gomez, J.P. Riccardi is all done this offseason. Instead of beating around the bush, here are your 2004 Toronto Blue Jays:

Lineup: Greg Myers, Carlos Delgado, Orlando Hudson, Chris Woodward, Eric Hinske, Frank Catalanotto, Vernon Wells, Reed Johnson

Bench: Kevin Cash, Dave Berg, Howie Clark, Chris Gomez, Chad Hermansen

Rotation: Roy Halladay, Miguel Batista, Ted Lilly, Pat Hentgen, Josh Towers

Bullpen: Terry Adams, Kerry Ligtenberg, Justin Speier, Aquilino Lopez, Valerio De Los Santos, Jayson Durocher

Baltimore Orioles

While the Orioles will surely get a lot of credit for their recent and upcoming signings, this is hardly a finished product. While an offense with Lopez, Palmiero, Hairston, Tejada, Mora, Bigbie, Matos, Guerrero, and Gibbons is more than appealing, they need pitching. The bench is also a little weak, with Geronimo Gil, Brian Roberts, B.J. Surhoff, Marty Cordova, and David Segui likely to get bench roles.

The starting rotation is ghastly at this point, with Rodrigo Lopez, Omar Daal, Kurt Ainsworth, Matt Riley, and Eric DuBose currently on the depth chart. Sidney Ponson is on their radar, but the team is more focused on finishing the Palmiero and Guerrero negotiations. If they miss him, then the Orioles are a .500 team at best. The bullpen has Jorge Julio, Mike Dejean, Willis Roberts, Buddy Groom, B.J. Ryan, and Rick Bauer, hardly an intimidating group. Maybe the plan was to focus on offense this year, and then worry about pitching, but if so, no one told me.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Chuck LaMar has been more proactive in this off season than he has in years, and I've come up with two theories behind that. Either Lou Piniella has instilled this new desire in LaMar to win, or he smells his days as GM shrinking. Either way, LaMar used limited resources to make the Devil Rays better this offseason, and while his acquisitions haven't been the best players, the fact that he's trying is a good start.

Offensively, the Devil Rays should be fine. The team signed Robert Fick today, and Fernando Tatis should be signed too as well. That would give Piniella a bench of Brook Fordyce, Geoff Blum, Fuck, Eduardo Perez, and either Antonio Perez or Damian Rolls. Jose Cruz is going to do very nice things during his stay, and I can't compliment the team enough for signing Aubrey Huff to a three year, $14.7M extension.

Lou has some choices to make for the starting rotation, but he sure has his options. I think Jeremi Gonzalez, Victor Zambrano, and Mark Hendrickson are all but locks to land the job. That leaves John Halama, Paul Abbott, Rob Bell, Chad Gaudin, Jon Switzer, Doug Waechter, Jorge Sosa, and Dewon Brazelton to wrestle for the last two spots. Yes, you read that right, the Devil Rays will have an eight-man competition for two spots.

The bullpen will be better, as Danys Baez and Trever Miller bring some experienced arms into Pinella's grasp. Lance Carter is close to being a very good reliever, and I'm also a big fan of Travis Harper and Jesus Colome. The last one or two spots will go to one of the aforementioned pitchers, so it could be a good bullpen. In conclusion, the Devil Rays are going to finish last in 2004, but it will be their best team ever. This club is making strides, and it won't be long until they finish on the right side of 81.

Wow, 3,277 words later, I'm finished with the American League. I'll write a quick recap of what I said for these teams over the weekend, have another long in-depth report on the National League for Monday, and then analyze what this means for free agents on Tuesday. Stay tuned, and have a good weekend.

WTNYJanuary 08, 2004
Rocky Times (part 2) and more
By Bryan Smith

To bring some closure to yesterday's piece, the reason I argued against the many offensive signings the Colorado Rockies have made thus far is money. The team needs to try and sign young players for their starting rotation, and see what kind of player will work here. Instead of Sidney Ponson, I'm hearing rumors of Kenny Rogers and Pedro Astacio.

Right now, the Rockies could go to Spring Training with five starters. Jason Jennings, two years removed from his Rookie of the Year trophy, is looking to revert back to 2002 form. To do so, he'll need substantial improvement on his 119/88 K/BB, and will need to work on his starts on the road. In 2003, Jennings home ERA was 4.64, while he had a 5.38ERA while on the road. Another three year vet the Rockies are depending on is Joe Kennedy, whom Dan O'Dowd acquired for Justin Speier. Kennedy has gotten slowly worse his whole career, and I can't see how his career 0.96 GB/FB ratio is appealing for Rockies brass. Kennedy did pitch well as a reliever, and may be the first to be booted from the rotation.

I imagine the Rockies will be hoping a pair of top prospects also land starting spots, those players being Aaron Cook and Chin-Hui Tsao. Cook was Baseball America's 2002 top Rockie prospect, even likening the young right-hander to Kevin Brown. While Cook maintained a solid GB/FB ratio, he struggled with a 6.49ERA at home. My guess is that the improved infield defense should help his numbers, but Cook needs to have a K/BB of at least one next year. As for Tsao, he is the 2003 top Rockie prospect, and is a top 50 Major League prospect after my first draft. He was great last season in AA, going 11-4 with a 2.36ERA, allowing 88 hits in 113.1IP, while maintaining a 125/26 K/BB. Tsao struggled in the Majors, battling control problems, as well as giving up 11 homers in 43.1 innings. Most of those came on the road, but I imagine he'll have troubles with Coors this season. He'll be the Rockies first homegrown power pitcher, so his performance should dictate what the Rockies do in the future.

In the last spot, the Rockies have Denny Neagle penciled in very lightly. Neagle only had seven appearances in 2003, starting late and ending early. He was disastrous in those 35 innings, and has a 5.57ERA in the last three seasons. It seems like Coors has effected southpaws Mike Hampton and Neagle more than anything, whether that is a sign or not, I'm not sure. Others contending for a rotation slot will be Scott Elarton, Adam Bernero, and Cory Vance. Also, expect the Rockies to make at least one veteran signing, pushing either Kennedy or Neagle to the bullpen, or possibly Tsao to AAA.

The bullpen looks to be the one area the Rockies may have success in during 2004. Shawn Chacon, a Rockie all-star a year ago, is moving to the closer spot, as the Rockies are looking to take better care of his arm. I still think he'll end up hurt, but if not, he could be a mean closer. The team also had considerable success with lefties Brian Fuentes and Javier Lopez a year ago, as well as side-armer Steve Reed. Of those brought in this offseason, Jeff Tam, Travis Driskill, and Allan Simpson have the best chances to nag a bullpen spot. I also think Bernero will end up here, as he didn't start a game after coming from Detroit a year ago.

To conclude, Dan O'Dowd isn't pushing the right buttons in Colorado. The team has a good farm system, and a good foundation in the Major Leagues, but never wins. It seems that every year there is a significant change to the roster, but I believe ownership should think first to changing the front office.

I received an e-mail today asking about my thoughts on Robbie Alomar, so I wanted to post them here. Like the Rockies, I think Arizona could have used the money for this signing better in the starting department. Alomar's skills are diminishing at a substantial rate, and it's hard to believe he only hit five home runs a year ago. Robbie is simply disastrous against left-handed pitching, yet managers Art Howe and Jerry Manuel allowed him to have 148 at-bats against southpaws during 2003, which led to a .189 batting average. Against right-handers he was .285/.364/.378, which means he has a little value. But what about Matt Kata? Didn't the D-Backs like him enough to deal Junior Spivey?

In all honesty, Alomar is bridging the gap until heralded prospect Scott Hairston makes the Major Leagues. Alomar can't hit left-handers, has no power, little speed, and overrated defense. For their $1M, the Diamondbacks get a player who isn't exactly a clubhouse leader, but also get the team name written on Alomar's future Hall of Fame plaque. I would never have guessed Arizona to make this signing, but there really is little upside here. Look for Robbie to hit .270/.340/.380 in what will/should be his final Major League season.

While I've touched on Juan Gonzalez in past articles, I've never gone into detail on why the Royals made such a good signing. Last season, Juan Gone hit .294/.329/.572 with the Rangers, and while some will argue his power numbers were helped in Arlington, Kansas City is hardly a pitcher's park. Sure, Gonzalez might not be capable of a .350 OBP ever again in his career, but the Royals have Matt Stairs for that department. In Igor, the Royals get an improvement over Raul Ibanez, for cheaper (and they got a draft pick from Seattle!) than Ibanez cost the Mariners. Gonzalez will be helped from playing only left field in Kauffman Stadium, but is hardly a sure-fire bet to stay healthy. But remember, if Igor goes down, Matt Stairs could play left, allowing Ken Harvey more time, or David DeJesus could get the call from AAA. Yes, Allan Baird is finally starting to get it.

I love reporting that team's are finished assembling their roster, and yesterday, the Toronto Blue Jays did just that. J.P. Riccardi signed Terry Adams and Chris Gomez, while designating Pete Walker for assignment and waiving Tom Wilson. Adams' ERA was deceiving a year ago, his peripherals weren't quite as strong as a 2.65ERA would indicate. Don't get me wrong, I'd love having Adams in middle relief, I just wouldn't expect an ERA below 3.25 again. As for Gomez, even Rey Ordonez may have been the better choice, but I don't anticipate he'll be seeing too much time anyway.

OK, here is the Blue Jays roster as I see it...

Starting Lineup
1. Reed Johnson- RF
2. Frank Catalanotto- LF
3. Vernon Wells- CF
4. Carlos Delgado- 1B
5. Eric Hinske- 3B
6. Josh Phelps- DH
7. Greg Myers- C
8. Orlando Hudson- 2B
9. Chris Woodward- SS

Bench: Kevin Cash, Dave Berg, Howie Clark, Chris Gomez, Chad Hermensen

Starting Rotation
1. Roy Halladay
2. Miguel Batista
3. Ted Lilly
4. Pat Hentgen
5. Josh Towers

- Terry Adams
- Aquilino Lopez
- Justin Speier
- Kerry Ligtenberg
- Valerio De Los Santos
- Jayson Durocher

Well, that's it for today. On the Vladimir Guerrero front, I'm now hearing four teams, although just the Mets and Orioles hold significant interest. The Marlins and Dodgers also have put in calls to Guerrero's agent. As for Greg Maddux, I will maintain that San Francisco is his destination until he signs elsewhere. Maels Rodriguez and Pedro Astacio will both be showing off for teams in coming weeks, and those are news stories worth listening for. Please, to anyone reading this, stop the Pete Rose stuff! Baseball deserves better air-time than Pete Rose.

WTNYJanuary 07, 2004
Rocky Times
By Bryan Smith

Maybe winning in Denver is impossible. Maybe whatever method anyone tries, the Rockies are doomed for failure. Maybe this mess isn't Dan O'Dowd's fault. But one thing that's for sure, one thing that eludes Rockie management, is that it's time for a front office change.

Since expansion built the infamous Coors Field, Denver has three one season where the Rockies finished five games over .500. The Rockies outdid their fellow new team, Florida, in the first three seasons, ultimately winning the Wild Card spot in 1995. But since then, the Marlins have won two world championships, while Colorado has barely smelled .500 baseball. Dan O'Dowd's tried a lot of things, for example, he has tried to outdo Coors Field by paying top dollar for great pitchers like the late Darryl Kile, Mike Hampton, and Denny Neagle. That method didn't work, as that trio's combined performance was a catastrophic 61-81, 5.72ERA.

Well, if curveballs won't curve, then beat 'em with bats, right? O'Dowd has tried that, locking up talents like Larry Walker and Todd Helton to long, expensive deals. Recently, he went after high-priced talents like Preston Wilson and Charles Johnson. But in 2003, if just didn't work...again. The Rockies need someone who will think differently, a new-age type. Whether that means DePodesta, Antonetti, or Gleeman, I don't know. My problems with Dan O'Dowd grew this offseason, during which the Rockies have not recognized fungibility. In Coors Field, hitters are fungible. Walker, Helton, Wilson and Johnson is a great start, but why spend a lot of money on 2B, SS, 3B, and LF? Instead, why not develop Major League ready players for the future?

O'Dowd started the offseason nicely in my mind, dealing weak-hitting, slick fielding shortstop Juan Uribe to the White Sox for 2B Aaron Miles. I've written on Miles in the past on this blog, as he has become one of my favorite players in the minors during recent seasons. I love the idea of a 5-8 second basemen winning International League MVP. I love the idea of a scrappy, blue collar player hitting .322/.369/.450 in AA ('02), and .304/.351/.445 in AAA. Even before that, O'Dowd re-signed Mark Bellhorn to a 490K non-guaranteed contract, a great job recognizing talent for cheap costs. Or so I thought...

After the Miles trade on December 4, I wrote on this blog with confidence that the Rockies would fill their four open slots with Miles (2B), Bellhorn (SS), Garret Atkins (3B), and Rene Reyes (LF). Since then, that idea has slowly deteriorated, to the point where none of those players currently sit first on the depth chart. How could this happen?

December 10- Rockies sign Vinny Castilla to one-year contract
December 16- Rockies trade Mark Bellhorn to Red Sox for PTBNL
December 23- Rockies sign Jeremy Burnitz to one-year contract
January 5- Rockies sign Royce Clayton and Damian Jackson to minor league, non-guaranteed deals

Yuk, my Miles-Bellhorn-Atkins-Reyes thought became Jackson-Clayton-Castilla-Burnitz in a month's time. While the latter group may match my choices in terms of baseball perfomances, my argument comes down to money. Next year, Aaron Miles, Garrett Atkins, and Rene Reyes are eligible for the Major League minimum. Mark Bellhorn will be playing in Beantown for the $490,000 contract Dan O'Dowd signed. Combined, those four players would have cost the Rockies $1.39M. But now, with the plan O'Dowd has created, his 2B/SS/3B/LF foursome will make much more. Castilla is slated to make $2.1M, and Burnitz is guaranteed $1.25M. While Clayton and Jackson aren't guaranteed money, you better believe their contracts have easily reachable incentives. That being said, I'm confident saying that group will make $5M next season, or $3.61M less than my choices. Now, let's go position-by-position, and talk about these players...

The closest battle this Spring Training will be at second base, where it appears Clint Hurdle is going to give Miles a chance. Instead of arguing for Miles, I'll go after Damian Jackson. For instance, in the last five years, only once has Jackson topped a .260 batting average (2003), and only once has he topped a .340OBP (2000). Never has he topped a .380 slugging percentage, and he hasn't played actively since 2001. What upside can the Rockies possibly see in this player, other than 30 meaningless steals? Earl Weaver might be great in Coors Field, because a smart baseball man realizes steals are not a good idea in Coors, just wait for the three-run jimmy-jack.

At shortstop, there is no way Royce Clayton is a better choice than Mark Bellhorn. While the latter struggled horribly last season, remember he hit 27 home runs in 2002, and that wasn't in Coors. As for Clayton, he's hit 27 home the last three seasons combined. While he's more slick with the glove than Bellhorn, his best OBP in the last four years was .315. Like Jackson, he hasn't sniffed a .400SLG in that time either. The keys in Coors are this: get on base and hit it deep. Jackson and Clayton don't do that, but Miles and Bellhorn can.

Garrett Atkins was the hit of Spring Training last year, hitting .525 in 40AB, including eight extra-base hits. He continued to hit while in AAA, finishing the season with a .319/.382/.481line. While he isn't highly regarded with the glove, the kid can hit. And Hell, if he doesn't, Rockie first-round pick Ian Stewart ain't too far behind. Castilla is probably getting money as payback for his great mid-90s seasons, I mean, his upside isn't much beyond Atkins'. Remember that since 1999, his last season in Denver, Castilla's highest OBP has been .331. He's only one year removed from a disastrous .232/.268/.348 2002 season, and he could definitely retreat back to that form. Why take the chance? That's a $2.1M bet...

As for left field, it's hard to argue against Jeremy Burnitz, who has forty home run potential in Coors. He's had .311 and .299 OBPs the last two seasons though, which is a little less than encouraging. Instead, I would push for Rene Reyes, who might not bring Burnitz's defense, but he'll bring a bat. He did just that in Colorado Springs a year ago, hitting .343 with a .380OBP and a .470SLG. If he doesn't work out, Brad Hawpe and Shin Soo-Choo will be hitting in AAA, so you really can't lose there.

To conclude this decision, I'll go to ZiPS predictions, thanks to Baseball Primer...

Miles: .298/.352/.456
Bellhorn: .244/.362/.411
Atkins: .297/.359/.439
Reyes: .319/.357/.467

Jackson: .276/.343/.371
Clayton: .229/.297/.336
Castilla: .268/.309/.449
Burnitz: .251/.330/.533

I'll be back tomorrow, finishing my argument on the Rox. And kudos to Allan Baird, whom has created a pretty sensational lineup:

1. Aaron Guiel- RF
2. Angel Berroa- SS
3. Juan Gonzalez- LF
4. Carlos Beltran- CF
5. Mike Sweeney- 1B
6. Matt Stairs- DH
7. Benito Santiago- C
8. Joe Randa- 3B
9. Desi Relaford- 2B

Yikes. Let's hope Gleeman's got the Royals in Vegas...

WTNYJanuary 06, 2004
Back from the Dead
By Bryan Smith

Well, I can't say I was pleased to get back from vacation and to hear the two baseball topics getting the most press are Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame. Yuk! The only thing I have to say about Rose is that he will make one great hitting coach, and I won't waste time reading his book. As for the Hall, I voted for Eck, Moliter, Blyleven, Sutter, Gossage, and Sandberg at the Internet Baseball Hall of Fame. I'll let others debate my choices, and move on to topics that interest me more, like...

Over at, Mike Gullo has posted his Top 100 prospects for 2004, and done a damn good job if I say so myself. I created a rough top 25 on my trip, and while it's a little different, all lists will remain virtually the same. I'll be making 4 posts relatively soon with twenty-five prospects everyday, and I'll let that serve as my rebuttal. I'll also be e-mailing Gullo, and hopefully I'll get enough discussion with him to make a post as well. Basically, my main thoughts are Bobby Jenks is way too low, Ryan Madson is too high, and I would flip Jason Bay and Prince Fielder for sure. But as I said, more on that later...

Since this is my first day back I want to touch on a lot of issues, and I'll get into more detail as the week progresses. So, here goes...

Not a great week for Ugueth Urbina, who couldn't have been happy to hear that Braden Looper and Danys Baez are all but signed to the Mets and Devil Rays, respectively. I predicted Urbina would end up in New York, but I can't say I'm surprised the team went the cheaper route in Looper. Braden has been more than reliable in the last five seasons, pitching in at least 71 games in each year. For a flamethrower, his K/9 numbers have remained quite low:

1999: 5.42
2000: 3.88
2001: 6.59
2002: 5.76
2003: 6.25

It shouldn't come as a surprise that 2000 was his worst year in terms of ERA, 4.41, and he has remained relatively effective each of the last three years, keeping a K/BB above 5.75. Looper also relies heavily on his walk total, and 2002 was his best season largely because he only issued 28 free passes in 86 innings. He definitely favors right-handers, and is much more likely to give up the extra-base hit to a leftie. As for Baez, while he won't be used in the middle relief role I suggest, Lou Piniella will prefer him to Lance Carter at the end of games. Baez is vicious to right-handers, only allowing them to bat .165 off him last season. He struggled a bit in the second half, but I imagine he'll get 25 saves with an ERA under 3.50 next season. As for Urbina, he's threatened to stay in Venezuela if he doesn't get a contract, and if Cliff Politte ends up with the White Sox, it might be between that and returning to Texas.

As I talk about Baez, the Indians made a deal to acquire another reliever, Scott Stewart, from the Expos. After doing pretty well the first three months of the season, Stewart broke down, only throwing 8.1 terrible innings (16H, 9ER). His H/9 was way down last season, but he should be OK next year, making a nice Cleveland bullpen next year, with David Riske, Bob Wickman, Rafael Betancourt, Jack Cressend, etc.

While I write this article, two new headlines have appeared on ESPN, first is the Robbie Alomar is headed to the Diamondbacks, and secondly that the Mariners are close to dealing Jeff Cirillo to the Padres. I don't see how Robbie is a better player than Matt Kata, so basically the Diamondbacks are paying millions for replaceable value. Justifiable for teams with lots of money, but not so much for a team complaining of having no money. The D-Backs rotation is slated to have Johnson, Brandon Webb, Elmer Dessens, and some distasteful combination of Casey Fossum, Mike Gosling, Edgar Gonzalez, John Patterson, Andrew Good, and Shane Reynolds. Yikes, don't ya think Alomar's money should be headed in the starting pitching direction?

Finally, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick is reporting Cirillo will be dealt with Brian Sweeney and cash for Kevin Jarvis, Wiki Gonzalez, Dave Hansen, and a minor leaguer. Cirillo will play very sparingly with the Padres, although Jarvis really didn't look to have a better fate. Jarvis will pitch the end of games for the Mariners, and might put up some decent numbers in the large stadium of Safeco. Both these players are terrible, so I won't waste your time going into detail about this move.

That's about it today, but I promise I'll have more up this week. The Royals are the frontrunners to land Juan Gonzalez, which would give Allan Baird an A+ for offseason moves in my book. Farewell to the great Tug McGraw, and for all those Cubs fans out there, take note of Javier Vazquez's 4-year, $45M deal with the Yankees, that sets Wood's market.

WTNYJanuary 04, 2004
Nueve Gordo Padre
By Bryan Smith

I'm still on vacation to all those who keep coming back looking for new content, but I figure I have enough time today to write on the David Wells situation. So, here goes...

In case you didn't hear, David Wells has signed a one-year, $1.25M contract with the San Diego Padres, with enough incentives to make the deal worth $7M. He broke a verbal agreement to sign a minor league deal with the Yankees, quite reminiscent of what he did to Jerry Colangelo two years back.

Wells'National League experience is limited to interleague games, and an 11-start stint with the Reds in 1995, where he went 6-5, with a 3.69ERA. Wells has exactly 200 wins in his career, and has found a second wind after a fairly ugly 1999-2001.

Last season Wells went 15-7 in 31 appearances (1 in relief), compiling a 4.14ERA during that time. His BAA was .286, well above his career mark, and joining only three seasons during which he's allowed a batting average against above .280. Those seasons were 2001 (4.47ERA), 1996 (5.14ERA), annd 1992 (5.40ERA). The reason Wells was able to keep his ERA down was walks. While they never have posed a problem for Boomer in the past, his BB/9 was the lowest in his career, and his 5.05K/BB is one of only three seasons that he's topped five, along with 2000 (4.12ERA) and 1998 (3.47).

Some good news for Wells is that he won't be pitching in Yankee Stadium anymore, as his ERA was 4.89 at home. He was 7-2 with a 3.36ERA on the road, although it's unknown how PETCO Park will play out for southpaws. Wells has always sat along the league average in terms of groundballs and flyballs, but he should benefit from not having the likes of Jeter, Soriano, and Giambi behind him next season.

Wells showed signs of age and/or fatigue in the second half, only going 4-4 with a 4.71ERA. The worst of that came in August, when Wells allowed 22 earned runs in 22.1 innings, which translates to an 0-2, 8.87ERA record. He bounced back in September, and had a nice playoff run as well. There were no significant injury problems during his two-year return with the Bronx Bombers, so there is no reason to believe his once-faulty back should hurt him in San Diego.

For the Padres, this creates an interesting situation in their starting rotation. Guaranteed slots are Wells, Brian Lawrence, and young phenom Jake Peavy. Adam Eaton pitched well while returning from arm surgery a year ago, showing huge promise, and he should land a spot as well. That means the team will have newly acquired pitchers Sterling Hitchock and Ismael Valdes fight for the last spot, with the expensive Kevin Jarvis getting a shot (unless he's traded for Jeff Cirillo this week).

Hitchcock has relief experience, appearing in 81 games as a reliever during his career, including 46 during the last two seasons. But, Sterling had a very nice run starting with the Cardinals in September, and is also guaranteed money by the Padres. Valdes signed a non-guaranteed contract, which is likely to make him a free agent come April 1. Valdes hasn't relieved actively since his rookie season in 1994, but has been very frustrating for teams ever since his wonderful 1995-1997 seasons in Los Angeles. My guess is that Hitchcock wins the job, and Valdes will land a rotation slot with a team that loses a starter to injury during Spring Training.

As for Steinbrenner's boys, this shouldn't hurt them too much, since Jon Lieber is still slated to pitch in the fifth hole. Some have rumored that the Boss will go after Cuban flamethrower Maels Rodriguez, after he works out for teams this month. Chuck Finley was contacted by the team, but declined an offer to pitch on the East Coast. The New York Times ran an article quoting a scout saying they need a left-hander for Yankee Stadium, likely leaving King George quite frustrated. If that doesn't make a person happy, what will?

I was very pleased to receive word of this transaction on my vacation for two reasons. One, the idea of Wells and Barry Bonds facing off numerous times should be entertaining in the least. Secondly, are there two better teammates in baseball than David Wells and Rod Beck. Just imagine them sitting in the clubhouse after a game, throwing back beers, weighing in at a combined weight of 500 pounds...

Baseball BeatJanuary 02, 2004
One Small Step For Blyleven...
By Rich Lederer giant leap for blogkind.

With the help of Seth Strohs of Seth Speaks, I sent emails with links to my article on "Only The Lonely, The Hall of Fame Trials and Tribulations of Bert Blyleven" to two voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Both writers--Bill Conlin and Jeff Peek--wrote back to me in a very timely manner. However, their responses were as different as night and day.

Bill Conlin is a longtime sports columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. He sent me the following email:

I think (Blyleven) will get in in an off year the way Carter did last year. It's really tough when an Eck and Molitor come along because a lot of us--including me--tend to vote for fewer guys rather than clutter the ballot with names you know have no shot that particular year. That's what happens when guys stay eligible 15 years.
I couldn't resist the temptation to write back to Bill.
Thanks, Bill. Blyleven has never received even 30% of the votes so he has a lot of ground to make up. His case can be summarized as follows:

1. Blyleven ranks fifth all time in career strikeouts. All the eligible pitchers among the top dozen are in the HOF.

2. Blyleven ranks ninth in shutouts. All the eligible pitchers among the top 20 are in the HOF.

3. Blyleven ranks 24th in wins. Every eligible pitcher with more wins is in the HOF save one.

Looking at more advanced metrics:

4. Blyleven ranks 14th in Neutral Wins. Every eligible pitcher in the top 20 is in the HOF.

5. Blyleven also ranks 17th in Runs Saved Above Average. Every eligible pitcher in the top 20 is in the HOF.

6. Blyleven ranks 19th in ERA vs. the league average among pitchers with 4,000 or more innings. Every eligible pitcher in the top 20 is in the HOF.

Lastly, I performed a study of Blyleven's seven most comparable pitchers (Carlton, Jenkins, Niekro, Perry, Roberts, Seaver, and Sutton) from a statistical standpoint and determined that he was better than the group average in the three metrics in which the pitcher has control over (strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed). All seven pitchers are in the HOF and deservingly so.

		BB/9	SO/9	HR/9
Blyleven 2.39 6.70 0.78
Group Average 2.47 6.07 0.80

Blyleven's absence from the HOF is conspicuous, and it should be rectified sooner rather than later.

Best regards,


Bill then wrote back a final time with the following beauty:

I find strikeouts to be the most overrated pitching stat. An out is an out. . .Just as 1-0 and 4-3 are both wins. I don't do cybergeek stuff, so you lost me after point 3.
I guess I could have left well enough alone at this point but his comments just begged a last-ditch effort on my part.
With all due respect, Bill, I can't imagine that you would place equal value for a pitcher on a 4-3 win as you would a 1-0 win.

I agree an out is an out, but a strikeout is the only out that a pitcher is not dependent on his fielders. As a result, I think strikeouts are an indication of power, dominance, and greatness--and the handful of great pitchers above him and below him are a testament to the importance of this stat.

Re the "cybergeek stuff", it's not that difficult to understand if you would just take the time. There is no need to feel threatened by it all. We have more information available to us today than ever before so why not take advantage of these facts rather than simply ignoring them?

You know from watching Mike Schmidt that he was a great ballplayer. You also know by measuring him with traditional stats that you grew up with using that he was a great player. But he also is equally, if not even more, outstanding if you throw in on-base percentage, slugging average, on-base plus slugging (OPS), ballpark/era-adjusted OPS (OPS+), runs created, and runs created above replacement or average.

If anything, batting average doesn't do a lot for Schmidt's case and RBI are highly team dependent. Accordingly, if one refuses to look beyond the stats on the back of a baseball card, you're left with HR as one of the only great measures of Schmidt's offensive production when, in fact, he was much, much more than just a home run hitter (as you know).

I don't mean to be argumentative. Instead, I am just trying to point out the virtues of non-traditional baseball stats. But, either way (traditional or non-traditional), Blyleven's name is surrounded with nothing but Hall of Famers.



I wasn't surprised in the least when Bill opted to end our email exchange right then and there. I mean there's no use trying to reason with a "cybergeek", right?

Bill obviously views himself as one of the gatekeepers to the Hall of Fame. That's fine and dandy. I just wish he had a more systematic way of determining when to open and close the padlock. It's much easier to debate Bill's omissions than his choices this year (Dennis Eckersley, Paul Molitor, and Ryne Sandberg), but his reasoning seems old school to me. I don't think he will ever see the light when it comes to using more advanced baseball statistics in evaluating the pros and cons of Hall of Fame candidates.

Jeff Peek is a sportswriter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle. He cast his first ballot this year and wrote an article, entitled "Hall of Fame's Voting Easier Said Than Done". Other than Jack Morris, I can't really find fault with any of his selections. Jeff listed Bert Blyleven as one of his "Near Misses".

Hi, Richard: Thanks for the e-mail. I read your piece on Blyleven with great interest. Your research is outstanding, and your column is must-reading for every voting member of the BBWAA. Let's face it, I blew it on Blyleven. He'll get my vote next year.
"Let's face it, I blew it on Blyleven. He'll get my vote next year." Did I read that right? Oh my gosh, I think my research and analysis may have had an impact on a voting member of the BBWAA. How flattering. That inspires me to keep up the fight, and it should serve as a reminder for those of us on the outside that we have an indirect say in such matters as the all-important vote for the HOF.

In a follow-up email, Jeff wrote the following:

I don't have a problem admitting I'm wrong. I'm more interested in getting it right--even if it's the second time around.
I think Jeff's candor and open-mindedness speaks volumes about him. He is the type of writer who takes his voting responsibility seriously and is willing to look at the merits of a player's case utilizing more than just the basic stats now that there is a whole lot more information at hand.

Ken Rosenthal of The Sporting News is another voter who is big enough to right the wrongs of the past based on the metrics that are now available to all of us. As Aaron Gleeman reported last Wednesday, Rosenthal now believes Blyleven should be in the HOF after previously thinking otherwise. "Upon further review, Blyleven deserves to be in the Hall" is a refreshing perspective from a younger writer/voter.

In addition to Blyleven, Rosenthal voted "for Eckersley and Molitor, plus holdover candidates Andre Dawson, Rich Gossage, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter and Alan Trammell". Fine candidates all. But, in this case, it's not so much who he voted for or who he didn't vote for. Instead, it's all about how he determined his vote, which can be summarized with the following excerpts:

But after considering the work of sabermetricians who insist Blyleven is Cooperstown worthy, I'm checking the box next to his name...Advanced statistical analysis offers fresh insight into the careers of pitchers such as Blyleven, providing richer context...Put it all together, and I'm finally sold.
Believe me, I'm not optimistic about Blyleven's chances this year at all. However, my sense is that he will take another small step and garner more than 30% of the votes for the first time ever. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the support for Bert reaches the mid-30s or almost half of the percentage required to gain admission to Cooperstown.
Year	Election    Votes     Pct
1998	BBWAA	      83     17.55
1999	BBWAA	      70     14.08
2000	BBWAA	      87     17.43
2001	BBWAA	     121     23.50
2002	BBWAA	     124     26.27
2003	BBWAA	     145     29.23
It will be a tough, uphill battle for Blyleven, but I am more confident today than ever before that he will eventually make it. Why? Two sentences. Old school is on its way out. New school is on its way in.

Keep the faith.

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