WTNYMarch 12, 2004
Note Friday
By Bryan Smith

First of all, let me again point you to our index here at All-Baseball.com. Christian Ruzich has already posted the three roundtable discussions our group has had, with at least four more coming in the near future. The behind-the-scenes talk at All-Baseball is enriching, and our roundtables are a way to bring this into the public. Adding our homepage to your daily All-Baseball stops would be a good idea as there is going to be content added regularly there. Any suggestions readers have about All-Baseball should land in a comment somewhere, as we are dedicated to creating one of the best baseball stops on the Internet.

Yesterday, I mentioned the Joe Sheehan piece at Baseball Prospectus on Joe Mauer, as well as Aaron Gleeman’s rebuttal. Sheehan points to Mauer’s height, 6-4, as a reason to discredit Mauer’s future. He shows that only 28 catchers in the history of baseball have accumulated 200 career at-bats while being at Mauer’s height. The list includes no Hall of Famers, Tom Haller is the best, meaning Mauer is going to have to overcome some obstacles to reach stardom.

Gleeman responds to Sheehan:

It's an interesting point that Sheehan makes and certainly Mauer's height is worth looking at, but I just don't think it's all that significant. If we drop the magic cutoff number one inch - from 6'4" to 6'3" - we suddenly get a much bigger and better list of players.

Aaron goes on to prove that 78 catchers have been 6’3” or taller, including seven players who have made the All-Star team at least five times. I agree with both writers here. Sheehan makes a good point to discredit Mauer, but Gleeman does a good job pointing out a flaw. My response would be to add on another qualification, the fact that Mauer bats left-handed. This is somewhat rare among catchers, and another attribute to seperate Mauer.

In the history of baseball, only 22 catchers have had 1000 career at-bats while batting left-handed and being taller than 6’1”. Only one player on this list, Babe Phelps, had a career OPS above .800. Only six had 100 or more career home runs. Yikes. I ranked Mauer first overall on my prospect list, but I did debate going with Upton or Edwin Jackson.

Sheehan’s article gave me motivation to write yesterday’s piece on Dontrelle Willis, in which I used history to determine Willis’ future. Willis was one of 14 southpaws in 80 years to have more than twelve wins at twenty-one years of age. The only other current player on that list was C.C. Sabathia. I decided to do some research on Sabathia, and found some very interesting results.

Sabathia is one of eleven southpaws since 1900 to win thirty or more games before turning 23, while starting in less than 100 games. Sabathia actually ranks third on the list with 43, and I found some interesting names here. The top seven on this list: Fernando Valenzuela, Don Gullett, Sabathia, Chuck Stobbs, Noodles Hahn, Sam McDowell, and Hal Newhouser. One Hall of Famer (Newhouser), and two other greats in Fernando and Sam.

Of the top seven, all of the players seemed to have a common link. Four of them were not playing professional baseball by their 33rd birthday, and the two exceptions (Valenzuela and Newhouser) were basically inept by then. Also, all of the players had their best years from about the ages 23-26, with little variation. The players seemed to peak early and exit early, something I’ll look for in Sabathia.

In terms of size, only Sam McDowell (6-5), is close to Sabathia’s huge 6-7 frame. McDowell was a better pitcher at age 22 than Sabathia, but C.C. could follow McDowell’s career path: very good from 23-27, out by the age of 32. Like I did with Willis, I checked Sabathia’s PECOTA card, and I disagreed with it. PECOTA’s weighted mean has Sabathia’s ERA at 4.18, but he should be closer to his 75th percentile prediction of 3.34. I’m a buyer for C.C. in fantasy leagues this year, he could be a nice keeper choice for the next four or five seasons.

On Monday, I wrote a piece on this year’s Major League draft. With my interest in college baseball reaching it’s career high, I was thrilled to read Craig Burley’s research on the topic. Yesterday Burley gave his top 50 pitchers from the 2003 season, including this top ten:

1. Jeff Niemann- Rice
2. John Hudgins (Texas Rangers)
3. Jered Weaver- Long Beach State
4. Tom Mastny (Toronto Blue Jays)
5. Wade Townsend- Rice
6. Abe Alvarez (Boston Red Sox)
7. J.P. Howell- Texas
8. Jason Windsor- Cal State Fullerton
9. Philip Humber- Rice
10. Jeremy Sowers- Vanderbilt

This is a very interesting top ten, and does nothing to discredit drafting Weaver first overall. Niemann was so amazing last year, it’s such a shame that he’s injured this year. As for the hitters, Burley’s top ten was:

1. Jeremy Cleveland (Texas Rangers)
2. Michael Aubrey (Cleveland Indians)
3. Rickie Weeks (Milwaukee Brewers)
4. Ryan Roberts (Toronto Blue Jays)
5. Brian Buscher (San Francisco Giants)
6. Ricardo Nanita (Chicago White Sox)
7. Stephen Drew- Florida State
8. Tony Richie (Chicago Cubs)
9. Tony McQuade (Chicago Cubs)
10. Jonny Kaplan- Tulane

Only two players are still in college on this list, the first of which being Stephen Drew. Burley proves that a top three of Weaver, Drew and Townsend is not only plausible, but sensible. Burley’s research is innovating and fascinating, and well worth your time. I hope to talk to Craig much more about this in the future, and I can’t wait to further apply it to the 2004 draft.

Finally, in prospect related news, Greg Miller is going under the knife. Miller will be on the DL to start the season, and if serious damage is found during surgery, could miss up to one year. While I ripped Baseball Prospectus for ranking Miller in the 30s, don’t they look smarter than me now? Like always, I bow down before the men at BP.

That’s all for now, have a good weekend...


I'm really amazed that with all the baseball statistics and would be SABRmetricians so many people forget that correlation does not equal causality. In other words, there may not be much history on very good tall catchers or pitchers, but that does not means that being tall is a limit to being a very good player.

There was time when the SS was for guys who were 5'6" and weighed 150lbs. Then CAl Ripken showed that a big guy could actually play SS and by being big could hit for power. 30 years ago, A-Rod would have been an outfielder.

Thanks for the kind words Bryan. A much fuller picture, including data for every D-I player from 2002 and 2003, will be available very soon, I am working out some kinks.

I should note that my list isn't so much a "top hitters" and "top pitchers" list, as a list of the best _performances_. A lot goes into performance other than ability, and I'd hate for someone to think I thought Tom Mastny was the "fourth best" college pitcher in 2003. His performance, I feel confident in saying, was the fourth-best in D-I. I think Tim Stauffer's a better pitcher.


I've been looking around and came across your site by accident. The information you link to from your home page is quite informative so thanks for taking the time to post it.