Baseball BeatAugust 31, 2004
"School's Out" For Weaver
By Rich Lederer

According to an article in the Long Beach Press-Telegram this morning, "a school official confirmed that unsigned Angels first-round pick Jered Weaver will not enroll this year, ensuring the Angels retain rights to the 12th overall selection."

Weaver remains one of six unsigned first-round picks. Old Dominion's Justin Verlander (#2, Tigers) and Rice's threesome of Philip Humber (#3, Mets), Jeff Niemann (#4, Devil Rays) and Wade Townsend (#8, Orioles) have not signed yet. These four pitchers are undoubtedly waiting to see what Weaver gets before committing as I have no doubt that the College Player of the Year will wind up with the most lucrative financial package of all the draftees.

In the meantime, Baseball America is reporting that Stephen Drew has been offered a four-year major league contract by the Arizona Diamondbacks for "close to the $4.79 million package Rickie Weeks got from the Brewers" as the second overall pick in the 2003 draft. The contract offer reportedly would allow Drew to earn 50% more than Weeks' maximum of $5.5 million.

According to the Baseball America article, "a Drew family source said there are concerns with Arizona's proposal. The two main sticking points are that more than half of the signing bonus is deferred to the years 2011 and 2013, and that the guaranteed money is less than Weeks' and well short of what Drew made it be known he wanted at the time of the draft, believed to be at least $7 million."

Drew's contract is important to Weaver because both players were considered #1 draft picks at one point but fell because of signability concerns. Drew and Weaver also share the same agent--Scott Boras. Although neither player is likely to get as much as they may have had they gone first or second in the draft, both stand a good chance of signing for as much or more than anyone else despite slipping to the 12th (Weaver) and 15th (Drew) spots.

As an indication that a player's draft position isn't necessarily correlated to the size of the contract, consider that the Angels paid 18th-round third baseman Mark Trumbo, a first-round caliber talent who had signed a letter of intent to attend USC, $1.425 million.

Had Weaver attended class when school started on Monday, the Angels would have lost the rights to sign him. Instead, the Angels will retain negotiating rights until next year's draft in June.

Given the fact that Weaver is a Southern California native, it would seem as if the two parties are a match made in heaven. However, the Angels are not willing to offer the eight-figure contract that Boras indicated might be necessary to sign his client. Former USC star Mark Prior received a $10 million package from the Chicago Cubs in 2001 and Boras apparently is intent on getting a similar deal for Weaver.

The Angels, on the other hand, are probably thinking in terms of a $5 million type package. Is there room for a compromise? Probably, but it may take a while for both sides to see the light.

Angels minor leaguers report for instructional league on September 16, and the organization's top prospects will begin play in the Arizona Fall League the following month.

"Fall League is really important to Jered," P-T reporter Gabe Lacques quotes Eddie Bane, the Angels scouting director, in today's article. "(Weaver) needs to be here and start competing for a job in the Angels organization."

For more on the status of the other draft choices, check out All-Baseball colleague Bryan Smith's Wait 'Til Next Year columns.

WTNYAugust 30, 2004
My Kind of Notes
By Bryan Smith

First of all, I would not suggest to any reader to buy a Dell. After ordering my computer almost a month ago, I'm expecting the computer to come any day now. Three weeks late, forcing me to use a friend's computer to stay afloat in blogdom. Yikes.

- After writing about the possibility of Stephen Drew returning to Florida State University, Baseball America reported that the Diamondbacks upped their offer for the star shortstop. My guess is that Drew will sign in the neighborhood of $5 million, meaning another victory for Scott Boras. I still don't see the advantage of signing amateurs to Major League contracts, especially due to the Wily Mo Pena factor. Oh wait, he's not a valid example anymore.

If Drew does sign, the Diamondbacks have more decision-making with their first pick next year. Upton would appear to be the logical pick, though Sergio Santos and Drew already provide a lot of shortstop depth. But because both Santos and Drew have been questioned on defense, it's still very likely that Justin Upton will be playing in Phoenix before too long.

- Here's a quick update on the top ten picks of the 2004 amateur draft:

1. Matt Bush- .181/.302/.236 in 72 AZL AB
2. Justin Verlander- Unsigned
3. Phillip Humber- Unsigned
4. Jeff Niemann- Unsigned
5. Mark Rogers- 0-3 4.73 30/26.2 34/14 (AZL)
6. Jeremy Sowers- Just Signed
7. Homer Bailey- 0-1 4.38 14/12.1 9/3 (AZL)
8. Wade Townsend- Unsigned
9. Chris Nelson- .339/.438/.492 in 124 PIO AB
10. Thomas Diamond- 1-0 1.69 12/26.2 36/6 (MID)

San Diego's justification for Matt Bush is becoming less and less credible, with Bush showing talent and character issues within two months of being drafted. Diamond looks like the best choice, and could reach the Majors by 2006 if handled correctly. But Jamey Newberg recently pointed out in e-mail that with Fuson leaving, the workload of Texas prospects has increased. That's bad news for Diamond, Danks and Hudgins.

There is a reason the four unsigned players are college pitchers: they are college pitchers. All four had hefty workloads, and as Kenny Baugh will tell you, Rice pitchers could always use the extra time off. Negotiations with these four will likely heat up in early September, so they could make stops in the Instructional League before shutting it down.

- Memo to Mets fans: keep your heads up. First, Yusmeiro Petit has shown no sign of slowing down, and has now been promoted to AA. Petit's first start looked like his Sally League lines: four hits, no walks, ten strikeouts in seven innings. Only Jose Capellan has seen a rise like Petit, moving up three levels in one season. Over at the Raindrops, Avkash posted a scouting report one of his readers gave him. Good stuff, and if minor league viewers ever want to talk about players, please let this site be your venue. With respect to Lastings Milledge, there is really no question that Petit is the Mets top player.

As if the Mets needed more reason to be happy, Scott Kazmir was lit up in his second start as a Major Leaguer. The A's had nine hits off the 20-year-old in only three innings, as Kazmir allowed five earned runs while striking out only two. His problem isn't stuff, it's location. This is why after looking at the first start of Kazmir, and the first of Jeff Francis, I had to predict more success for the latter. Kazmir's control problems continued, and again not in the form of walks, but too many pitches. Tampa's prodigy threw 71 pitches in three innings, largely because he had only 48 strikes.

And finally, as my friend breathes down my neck, is my current top 5:

1. Andy Marte
2. Felix Hernandez
3. Delmon Young
4. Dallas McPherson
5. Matt Cain

Discuss.

WTNYAugust 26, 2004
Wait 'Til Next June
By Bryan Smith

According to Baseball America, it is likely the Arizona Diamondbacks first-round pick, Stephen Drew, will opt to return to Florida State University. Drew was unanimously ranked as one of the draft's top two prospects, and Dave Cameron put him first in an interview Monday. While scouts disagree on whether Drew will stick at shortstop, none doubt his athleticism or his bat.

This is not the first time Drew has seen the draft shaken up, as his brother J.D. did not sign with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1997. Instead, Drew spent a year in the Independent League before signing with the St. Louis Cardinals. Stephen has a year of eligibility left, and met FSU officials on registering for his senior season. Not only would this completely shake up the 2005 NCAA rankings, but next June's draft as well.

Baseball's latest Collective Bargaining Agreement contains changes in the amateur draft, which will be first set in place next June. The most notable is the abolishment of the alternating draft order, instead borrowing the NFL's 'worst to first' policy. While Detroit was far and away the league's worst team in 2003, San Diego held the first choice because it was the NL's season. Under the new rules, Detroit would have chosen first, likely still selecting Justin Verlander. So, who is in line for the 2005 first pick.

A look at the game's worst win percentages:

Arizona (.305)
Kansas City (.355)
Seattle (.368)
Toronto (.414)
Montreal (.425)
Colorado (.437)
Milwaukee (.440)

Ironically, the league-worst Diamondbacks will have the first stab at selecting Drew. This is highly unlikely, notably due to bad blood developed during negotiations, but rivalry between Jeff Moorad and Scott Boras as well. Moorad has just recently given up his status of 'power agent', for a new role atop the Diamondbacks. Once battling for clients with Boras, it's doubtful Moorad will venture into dollar and cents arguments with his once-rival anytime soon.

Now seems to be the perfect time to introduce Justin Upton, B.J.'s younger and talented brother. The only junior on Baseball America's All-American team, Upton was the unquestioned top amateur until these Drew developments. But with the Diamondbacks likely holding the draft's first choice, Upton should still be projected to go #1. While Arizona already has a good SS prospect in Sergio Santos, the expectations of him outgrowing the position, coupled with Upton's talent make that projection a no-brainer.

Drew's sensational junior season was not enough to win the Golden Spikes Award, the NCAA's equivalent to the MVP. Instead, the award went to Jered Weaver, Long Beach State ace and All-Baseball favorite. With a return to college ball, Drew immediately become's the 2005 favorite. Previous winners include Rickie Weeks and Khalil Greene, which convey Drew's skill well.

In my mind, the Seminole will have two or three contenders for that top spot. Two Pac-10 sluggers, USC's Jeff Clement and Stanford's John Mayberry Jr., should challenge Drew. The third is Wichita State right-hander Mike Pelfrey. Baseball America's top-rated college player, Pelfrey was interviewed at THT this past spring. Finally, I should mention that North Carolina sophomore Andrew Miller could emerge as the ACC's best talent. The 6-6 power southpaw had a great summer in the Cape Cod League, and enters this season as the 2006 top prospect.

Mayberry, who also has Major League pedigree, presents an interesting draft scenario as well. Out of high school, Mayberry had huge bonus demands, using his Stanford scholarship as leverage. Pre-draft rumors of this led the Kansas City Royals to re-think drafting him, instead selecting some pitcher named Zack Greinke. Mayberry fell to #28, where he wound up not signing with the Seattle Mariners. Curiously enough, if the regular season ended today, the Royals and Mariners would have the #2 and 3 picks in the '05 draft, respectively.

Frugal Daniel Glass, Kansas City's owner, is not known for paying up in the amateur draft. In fact, the Royals are often bound to select 'cheap' players in the first round, often at the cost of talent. So, unless Glass has a change of philosophy overnight, it's highly unlikely the Royals would draft Stephen Drew. My guess is the club will select a player from the Midwest, such as Pelfrey or Nebraska's Alex Gordon.

So, that leaves the Mariners to Stephen Drew. Seattle, who paid record third-round money for Matt Tuiasosopo, isn't likely to have dollar concerns. Despite modest depth at the shortstop position, selecting a highly athletic, versatile player like Drew still fits. In my mind, only one thing can stop Stephen from becoming a Mariner: himself. Brother J.D. has often expressed a strong preference for the South, and if Stephen agrees, it could be a snag in the signing process. But as a recent poster at U.S.S. Mariner mentioned, maybe this situation could be a selling point for J.D., guaranteeing his brother would fall in the same organization?

Next on the draft stop are Blue Jays, who have taken a terrible season to a top five finish. You know Riccardi will be thinking college here, so I wanted to mention a few possibilities. J.P. chose a college infielder with his first two first-round picks, and could be interested in Tyler Greene in 2005. The Yellow Jacket has better defense than Drew, and a bat that has begun to raise eyebrows this summer. Another possibility is Jeff Clement, though the last USC catcher drafted in the top ten was Eric Munson. Riccardi might also like versatile 1B/LHP Stephen Head, my guess is Mayberry. While GMs often stress they don't draft with the Major League club in mind, I believe solid college players change that. Months removed from Carlos Delgado's exit, I'll predict the Blue Jays select powerful slugger Mayberry.

This is all too bad for the Expos, who would have loved to start a Virginia/Washington D.C. franchise around local Upton. After a horrific season's opening this appeared to be a lock, but recent decency has ended this possibility. Now the Expos, or Senators, will be resigned to the fifth hole. This may be Pelfrey or Gordon, or if they stay the college route, Baylor right-hander Mark McCormick. If they opt for high school players, some possibilities include Richmond shortstop Justin Bristow, Texas slugger Jordan Danks (brother of John), and Florida outfielder Andrew McCutchen.

But to paraphrase Dave Cameron from my interview, let's just be happy the draft comes next June.

P.S. Another slow signing process has been the one involving Jered Weaver. For more on those negotiations, keep your eye over at RWBB. He's already had one report, and you can bet the obsession won't end just because Weaver's no longer a Dirtbag...for now.

WTNYAugust 26, 2004
More of the Future
By Bryan Smith

Amidst a solid amount of fanfare, highly acclaimed pitching prospects Scott Kazmir and Jeff Francis made their Major League debuts this week. Both southpaws, and 2002 first rounders, were having dominating seasons for unproductive organizations, and were two of the game's top ten prospects. This is when comparisons between the two end.

Kazmir has been in the eye of a hurricane recently, and not Charley, which tore up south of where Scott now calls home. Instead, he's been in the middle of controversy in New York about the deadline deal that sent Kazmir to the Devil Rays for Victor Zambrano. Mets fans had glorified Kazmir, the short southpaw with the huge arm. Now the fans have turned their energy against the organization, vocally criticizing GM Jim Duquette, as well as trade proponents Rick Peterson and Al Leiter. A 20-year-old with a cannon drawing New York headlines, wow.

That sure ain't Jeff Francis. Chosen by the Rockies ninth overall out of Canada, Francis wasn't known for his radar gun readings. With perfect polish and stellar command, Francis drew significantly less scouts at the University of British Columbia than Kazmir did at his Texas high school. While his 3.47 ERA in Asheville wasn't too attractive to Rockie fans, few had noticed that Francis had closed the season better than anyone in the minors. His star began shining this seaso, when the gangly 6-5 Francis quickly became the Texas League's star. Now, a virtual lock to win Minor League Player of the Year, Francis will be spending his year in the game's worst stadium.

Even their debuts were in sharp contrast. Kazmir opened his Major League career against the AL hits leader in Ichiro, but an otherwise sorry team in the Mariners. Francis began by striking out Rafael Furcal on the division leading Atlanta Braves. Kazmir would pitch five scoreless innings, giving Mets fans even more reason to hate Duquette. Francis would give up six runs in five innings, including three runs in a game not played in Coors. Kazmir threw 16 more pitches than Francis, but struggled more with control, throwing only five more strikes (56 to 51), and two more walks. Francis even showed more dominance, striking out eight Braves to Kazmir's four. Kazmir allowed two less hits, understandable when considering the competition.

Unfortunately, Dell has put my new computer on backorder, leaving me waiting to begin an MLB TV subscription. This unfortunately caused me to miss both games, of which I'll watch at a later date. For Kazmir's debut, I recommend well-written chronicles by Derek Zumsteg, Avkash Patel and our own Rich Lederer. The consensus was that Kazmir had everything scouts had said: no height, a mid-90s fastball, diving slider, and no third pitch. He was said to struggle badly with control, and will likely take his aches and pains in the next month and a half.

Francis, on the other hand, only struggled with home runs. All in all this is just a bad time to catch Chipper Jones, who has hit eight home runs in just 77 August at-bats. Francis helped add two to that total Wednesday, giving up a two-run homer in the first and a three-run homer in the sixth. The first came on a Francis fastball, touted by most scouts at 87-89 mph. Chipper's second shot came on a change that Francis left just a little too high, and Jones took it to straightaway center. But the Canadian showed very solid breaking pitches, which he used often with two-strike counts.

And if asked today, I would guess that these two southpaws will continue to not mirror eachother in the slightest. Francis should pitch well the rest of the season, showing an ERA bloated by this particular start and Coors, where he will make his fourth start. Kazmir should struggle for the Devil Rays, possibly even shut down before the end of the season. But what these two share, more than anything else, is one helluva bright future.

Next on the schedule

Kazmir: Aug. 29 @ Oakland vs. Mark Mulder
Francis: Aug. 31 @ San Fran v. Brett Tomko

WTNYAugust 25, 2004
WTNY Hot Seat: Dave Cameron
By Bryan Smith

Monday afternoon, I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Dave Cameron, most known for his great work at U.S.S. Mariner. But Cameron's draw to WTNY was not for his Mariner knowledge, but his intelligence for minor league baseball. An avid Carolina League watcher, Cameron sees more prospects than I'm able to, and with his sources hears about more. My favorite of Cameron's pieces come at Baseball Prospectus, when he finds the time to write a prospect profile. So I asked Dave to sit down with me and talk about everything from the game's best prospects, to the Mariners, to proper minor league analyzation.

Bryan Smith: Well, let's start at the top. I, for one, would rank Andy Marte tops overall in the minors with B.J. Upton gone. In my mind, there are arguments for three players: Marte, Felix Hernandez and Delmon Young. I know you're a Mariners fan, and even the guy that introduced me to Felix a year ago, so would you argue for the King in the top throne?

Dave Cameron: No, I wouldn't, simply because of the monumental attrition rate of teenage pitchers. Felix Hernandez may be the most talented player in the minors, but you can't simply ignore the risk that comes every time he takes the mound. The last few pitching prospects that have been in this kind of class are guys like Rick Ankiel, Josh Beckett, and Ryan Anderson. Not exactly a hall of fame trio. The risk is just too high to take Felix over an established hitting prospect like Marte. He could be better, but he could just as easily be nothing.

Smith: What about Delmon? After starting the year on slow he's really coming on hard down the stretch, breathing down the neck of Hernandez for the #2 spot in my opinion. I mean, Kevin Goldstein noted the other day he was hitting .460 over a 20-game stretch. He's shot past Dallas McPherson in the three spot, who is actually dropping in my mind with bad patience in the PCL.

Cameron: Delmon's a tough case. A year ago, scouts loved him and statistical analysis had no opinion. Now, his statistics are ridiculously impressive for an 18-year-old in the South Atlantic League, but he hasn't made some adjustments that some would like. Like Prince Fielder, I don't think he's a normal 18-year-old who is going to grow at the same rate most do. He's a very mature physical specimen for his age, and I don't see a huge David Wright-style leap in his future. He's already way ahead of where most teenagers are, but I think his development is going to be in smaller increments. His defense is still mediocre at best and he's got some things to work on in his swing and pitch recognition. His numbers, I think, overstate his potential. He's one of the better prospects in the game, but he's not the next great phenom.

Smith: Young's just part of the pre-alcohol trio in the Tampa system. Upton has been up and down since being summoned, keeping his average above .300. And the last of the three, Scott Kazmir, makes his debut tonight against, who else but the Mariners. I know you'll be watching. He was obviously the steal of the deadline, though I can't help but wonder if the scouts are right about Kazmir. But overall, this 3 is about as good as it gets, and you can't help but wonder if the sun might actually reach Tropicana Field soon.

Cameron: I'm not sure I'd agree that Upton has been up and down. He's hitting .306/.348/.500 as a 20-year-old in the majors. That's pretty much just up and up. Good luck finding a scout who doesn't work for the Mets who will say bad things about Kazmir, by the way.

Smith: Well, the downs came mostly in his first couple of games, which I guess is expected given his age. As for Kazmir, you don't doubt he'll be able to stay in the starting rotation. The southpaw version of Roy Oswalt?

Cameron: The knocks on Kazmir staying in the rotation could apply to 95 percent of all pitching prospects. He's not built like a horse, but most aren't. He only has two major league pitches right now; so does Kerry Wood. He might end up in the bullpen, but every pitching prospect might end up in the bullpen. Kazmir isn't behind in his development, and the talk of him needing to move to relief work is pure speculation at this point.

Smith: As for Upton, I gotta ask what you make of this nine-year deal that Tampa and Upton's agent have been talking about. It would end about halfway through B.J.'s 'prime' years, providing financial security for both parties involved. Are we going to see contracts evolve from a Vernon Wells-type contract (buying out auto-renewal AND arbitration years) into this?

Cameron: I'm not a fan of committing to anything besides a spouse for longer than about 6 years. There are just too many unpredictable variables that could ruin this deal for either side. Unless Upton gets the Devil Rays to pay him a rate that would adjust for fair market value in 2011, he could be leaving a ton of money on the table. On the flip side, he could tear his ACL tomorrow and never live up to his potential, giving the D'Rays a decade long albatross. I don't like the idea for either side.

Smith: Upton's not the only young shortstop that has been debuting lately, as we've seen Jose Lopez have 77 at-bats in Seattle. I took some flak last month for leaving Jose off my top 100 prospects list, but I can't help not being a fan. With all the questions surrounding him (defense, patience, low average), there just doesn't seem to be reason to buy his stock. I mean, age can't rule over all statistical indicators, can it?

Cameron: I don't think there's any way you can leave Lopez off the top 100, but he's also fairly overrated by most observers. He was actually having a very successful season statistically for Tacoma, showing legitimate power in cavernous Cheney Stadium. I wouldn't classify him as a low-average hitter, either, as he was hitting .295 in Tacoma and hit .336 in the Cal League as an 18-year-old in 2002. There's no question his lack of patience is going to limit his abilities to turn into a superstar, and his defense isn't very good, but he still projects as a second or third baseman with above average power. He might be Tony Batista, but he might be Jeff Kent. He's not anywhere close to a B.J. Upton kind of talent, but he's still a pretty nifty prospect, and I'm glad the M's have him.

Smith: I posed some analysis of Seattle's farm system Monday, which I'm sure you have comments on. I ranked the group second in the AL West, centering my analysis on a pair of infielders, Matt Tuiasosopo and Asrdrubal Cedeno. Man, those names sound like the DP combo of Grudzielanek-Garciaparra in Chicago. Now the question is, will they ever be that good?

Cameron: Asdrubal Cabrera has a chance to be Jose Lopez offensively with gold glove defense. His work with the glove at shortstop is near major league quality right now, and he's probably the best defensive infielder the M's have had in their minor league system in ten years. Offensively, he's got some work to do, but he has the makings of being a gap power hitter with a high enough average to overcome his swing-at-anything approach. He's still got a long ways to go, but on potential alone, he's definitely one to watch.

Tuiasosopo tore the cover off the ball in Arizona and his first week in Everett, but pitchers have caught on and started exposing him with breaking balls, working him in and away successfully. He has a solid swing with legitimate opposite field power, but his approach needs work. Defensively, he's just not a shortstop. Most organizations had him pegged as a rightfielder heading into the draft, and he hasn't done anything to change anyones' mind about that since. Expect him to move to the outfield permanently in 2006 at the latest. He may have the bat to carry out there, but we just don't know right now. He's more project than prospect at this moment.

Smith: The AL West's other farm systems bring up some interesting stories. I mean, Anaheim has middle infield depth that trumps Seattle's, not to mention Kotchman, McPherson, Santana, etc. Texas looks replenished under the work of Grady Fuson, who has to be one of the game's top free agents. And most surprisingly, Billy Beane's system looks weak, though the latest draft could change that. What do you make of the competing farm systems?

Cameron: I think Anaheim's system is the best in the game, and it isn't particularly close. Kotchman is an unbelievable talent if he can stay healthy. Mathis, McPherson, and Santana are the big names, but the lower levels are stacked as well. They just have waves of talent heading towards Edison Field.

Texas' system has some intriguing talents but lacks the prime time stud that Seattle and Anaheim boast. Fuson did a fantastic job bringing in a lot of depth, and they should produce more quality major leaguers than the rest of the division. I wouldn't expect too many all-stars to come out of their current crop, however.

Oakland's system is doing exactly what Beane wants it to do; give him chips to trade to keep his current team competitive. If the A's weren't world series contenders, they'd draft differently. They are exploiting a current trend of being able to acquire major league talent relatively cheaply during the season, and so they have made a conscious decision to acquire players that will have significant trade value quickly. It will hurt them in a few years, but that's a tradeoff they are willing to make to keep this team competitive in 2004.

The Mariners system is full of athletes who the organization hopes can figure out how to play baseball, but three miserable drafts under old scouting director Frank Mattox have hurt the farm system. Nearly every top prospect in the system comes with above average risk, and the M's are hoping to beat the odds on a few players. There aren't any sure-fire major leaguers in the whole bunch, but they have several possible big time talents.

Smith: Well, my vote for the game's top system (Kotchman doesn't count in my mind since he played in the Majors) is Atlanta, who have great pitching depth with a good hitting pair in Marte and Francouer. I know you like to make it out to Carolina League games, so you probably know Braves prospects well. Do you like what you've seen from Myrtle Beach lately?

Cameron: This year's Myrtle Beach squad is the weakest they've had in the past few years, talent wise. Francoeur is a nice talent, though he has significantly less upside as a right fielder than he did as a center fielder. Brian McCann has pop from behind the plate, but has a long ways to go before he's a major league hitter. Pitching wise, Jose Capellan began his assent through the system at MB, but he's almost certainly a reliever in the big leagues. Kyle Davies has some promise as a mid-to-back-end starter and Matt Wright, Blaine Boyer, and Anthony Lerew have solid arms and decent performances, but these guys aren't front line prospects.

Smith: I thought the same of Capellan after seeing him in the Futures Game, as he's way too dependent on one pitch. But I like Davies, especially if you buy Dayn Perry's analysis about the importance of low HR/9 totals...

Cameron: I don't think there's any doubt that low home run rates are a good thing, but I doubt too many people could take you or me deep in Costal Federal Field. That place is just ridiculously hard to hit a longball, and almost all of the pitching stats put up there have to be taken with large truckfulls of salt. If you love HR/9, Matt Wright (4 in 119 innings) or Blaine Boyer (3 in 137) are your guys. Davies is better than Lerew, but his HR/9 rate isn't that good. 3 HR's allowed in 75 IP is one of the worst marks on that team. CFF is just an unbelievable pitchers park.

Smith: Well, let's talk about the Carolina League as a whole. Prospects-wise it hasn't been a fantastic year for the league, has it? Capellan, Aubrey and Brandon McCarthy all briefly played there, moving on to better places. Who has been the best player you've seen, who's the best player there now, and who is the best player the normal fan wouldn't know?

Cameron: The best prospect in the league this year was probably Francoeur, edging out Michael Aubrey. Francoeur still has a ways to go in his development, but he's the one guy that I saw who could be a regular at all-star games in the next 10 years. The best prospect in the league now may be Fernando Nieve, a diminuitive right-hander who I've been talking up for two years. His velocity has been down to the low 90's this year, but his command and breaking ball have improved and he's setting up hitters well. A sleeper could be Thomas Pauly with the Reds, who has been brilliant but gotten very little press outside of Cincinnati

Smith: I really like Nieve, listing him as my Houston breakout prospect before the season. Did you get a chance to see McCarthy, and is Nieve the best pitcher you've seen?

Cameron: I've liked Nieve ever since I saw him in Martinsville just eating people up with a 98 MPH fastball and a hammer curve. He's a different pitcher now than he was, but he's still getting people out. The Sox were nice enough to promote McCarthy three days before I had a chance to see him, so unfortunately, I have no first hand accounts, but everyone I talk to says the same thing; average stuff, impeccable command, pitching over his head.

Smith: A modern day, right-handed Joe Kennedy.

Cameron: Perhaps, though I've always had a soft spot for Joe Kennedy

Smith: It's obvious when you talk about prospects how much you value your first-hand account, or the scouting reports you hear of a player. How would you say is the proper way to balance tools vs. numbers when evaluating a prospect?

Cameron: I think the key is to understand the limitations of our information. Statistical analysis is only as good as the sample size and the competition and only provides information in retrospect, while scouting is prone to inconsistencies among observers bias', inability to track consistency and important things like a players approach on a day-to-day basis, and the trickeries of the human eye and mind. If you understand the limitations of each and try to complement those with the strengths of the other, I believe you can see a more complete portion of the truth that we're trying to obtain. I don't know that we have a perfect way of balancing projection vs results, but it's pretty clear to me that both are valid to a point and faulty by themselves. Ignoring either one is a waste.

Smith: Is there one great statistic you use to evaluate minor leaguers? Does one not exist? Could one even be created?

Cameron: The search for one all encompassing statistic is useless. There are so many different things to evaluate in a player that trying to add them into one formula successfully is going to take more time than its worth. It really isn't that hard to look at statistics that judge individual player skills without lumping them together. Why would you want to combine perfectly good numbers that reveal a players ability to make contact and hit for power into one less effective number that doesn't do either as well? One of the challenges that statistical analysts face is getting past the belief that the statistics are skills themselves. There's no such thing as the walk-to-strikeout ratio skill. We must remember that the numbers are just tools to use to help us evaluate the player's actual abilities, and the less we focus on trying to come up with one number and the more we focus on understanding the skills, the better off we'll be.

Smith: Rich mentions this in his latest breakdown of Bill James in the 1982 abstract, where James talks about statistics more as a language than a number...

Cameron: Right. Statistics are useful in revealing what a player can and cannot do, but we have to realize that a change in those skills will be noticable to a scout long before they are noticable to a statistical analyst, who has to wait for the sample size to catch up before he claims it as something more than random chance. What we're trying to do is determine just what kind of skills these kids have. The numbers tell us part and scouting tell us part.

Smith: OK...onto the speed round...Put the following five in order: Rios, Sizemore, Upton, Wright, Mauer...
Cameron: Upton, Wright, Mauer, huge enormous gap, Sizemore, Rios

Smith: Finish this sentence: the next great baseball phenom is...
Cameron: Felix Hernandez, if he doesn't blow his arm out.

Smith: Should the Diamondbacks take Justin Upton despite already having solid depth at shortstop in Santos and Drew?
Cameron: Depends on how much he demands in signing bonus and who else is available. If they had to choose today, yes. But let's all be glad they don't.

Smith: Who might we see a Jeff Francis like bust-out from in 2005?
Cameron: Jeremy Hermida. Get him out of the Florida State League and add a few more pounds and he's going to take off.

bsmithwtny: The best talent from the 2004 draft was...
Cameron: No one can match Jeff Niemann's sick size and talent, but his arm problems are a pretty serious question mark. If I'm taking one player from the draft, its Stephen Drew, but that's only if I don't have to sign him.

Smith: And finally, the player you're most excited to watch in the Carolina League next year is...
Cameron: Probably Adam Miller, if the Indians don't bump him up to Double-A.

Smith: Dave Cameron, you are off the Wait 'Til Next Year hot seat.

That's all for today. Hopefully I'll be able to get something on the site tomorrow, since my sleeper pick of the year (Jeff Francis), will be making his debut with the Rockies. As Kevin Goldstein points out, the Rockies have created a situation where the Candian southpaw won't make his first Coors Field start until his fourth. Best of luck to Jeff Francis, and congratulations to Scott Kazmir on a fantastic first start. More tomorrow...

Baseball BeatAugust 24, 2004
Great Scott!
By Rich Lederer

As green as the color of his hat, Scott Kazmir made his major league debut Monday evening against the Seattle Mariners a victorious one. The highly touted rookie stole the spotlight on a night that featured many of the best pitchers in baseball.

Johan Santana, the frontrunner for the American League Cy Young Award, pitched another brilliant game, striking out 11 batters while only allowing four hits and one walk over eight innings to gain his 14th win of the season. Pedro Martinez, a three-time Cy Young winner, struck out 10 but was overshadowed by Ted Lilly--who K'd 13 Red Sox in a three-hit, complete-game shutout. (It should also be noted that Jeremy Bonderman pitched the game of his life, fanning 14 and walking just one while registering a CG SHO.)

Over in the National League, Roger Clemens, the recipient of six Cy Youngs, hurled seven strong innings despite an injured right calf to notch his 323rd career victory. Jake Peavy, who has a good shot at leading the league in ERA, pitched well enough to defeat the organization that traded away the lefthander who was once thought to be an untouchable.

Now whether Mets fans should lay the blame for inexplicably trading away Kazmir at the feet of the Wilpons, Jim Duquette, Al Goldis, Rick Peterson, or Al Leiter, I have no idea. What I do know is that this trade made absolutely no sense. The Mets will rue the day they swapped a 20-year-old phenom for a 29-year-old stiff. I didn't get it a month ago, don't get it now, and won't get it in the future (even if it turns out that the Mets were right and I was wrong).

Despite the notion that There is No Such Thing as a Pitching Prospect, I would take my chances on Kazmir all morning, day, and night over Victor "The Wrong" Zambrano. (Tip of the cap to Avkash Patel at The Raindrops for the nickname.) No matter what kind of magic Peterson thinks he might be able to perform on pitchers, guys who lead the league in walks, hit batters, and wild pitches don't give me much reason for hope. Sure, there are a couple of indicators (H/IP and K/IP) that might lead one to think Zambrano has the makings of a decent pitcher. But despite having good stuff, he has shown no signs whatsoever of having the requisite command or control of his pitches to become a big-league star.

The fact that Zambrano was placed on the disabled list last week has no bearing in my thinking. Instead, it just shows that even veteran pitchers are health hazards. His elbow tendinitis may not cause the Mets' brass to stay up at night but hearing that Kazmir was making his first appearance in a big league game last night sure as heck made me stay up and take notice.

Thanks to MLB Extra Innings, I was able to watch every pitch that Kazmir threw yesterday--from the very first (a 94-mph fastball called strike to Ichiro Suzuki) to the very last (a ball to Raul Ibanez that catcher Toby Hall threw to Julio Lugo to throw out Ichiro trying to steal second). When Kazmir retired for the evening, he had thrown 101 pitches over the course of five well-pitched innings. (Pitch by pitch.)

             IP   H   R   ER   BB    K
Kazmir        5   4   0    0    3    4

Benefiting from a four-run outburst in the top of the sixth, the young southpaw earned his first victory in the major leagues. Although Kazmir didn't allow a run, it was far from a perfect performance. He walked three, went too deep in the count on most batters, and was fortunate that Edgar Martinez's drive to right-center field in the third inning hit the thick yellow line at the top of the fence and bounced back into play for a double--inches short of being ruled a home run.

The #15 overall pick in the 2002 draft, Kazmir was everything we had all heard and read. He threw 93-95 mph consistently and hit 96 and 97 on the gun on occasion. The lefty has an easy throwing motion, filthy stuff, and seemingly impressive composure for someone who is not even old enough to drink.

Five months shy of his 21st birthday, Kazmir is not only the youngest pitcher to perform in the major leagues this season but perhaps one of the most talented as well. The kid who tossed six no-hitters in high school and led all minor league pitchers in K/IP in 2003 (with nearly 12 per nine innings) bypassed Triple-A after posting a combined ERA of 1.59 with 53 Ks and no home runs in 51 IP for the Mets' and Devil Rays' Double-A affiliates this summer.

The 6'0", 170-pound lefthanded power pitcher has been compared to a young Billy Wagner or even Ron Guidry or Randy Myers from the not too distant past. If handled properly, Kazmir has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starter for many years. He already has a major-league caliber fastball and slider and only needs to further develop his change-up (a pitch that he wasn't afraid to use Monday night) and improve his control to become known as the Kazmir Sweater--the type of pitcher that will send opponents perspiring in anticipation of facing him. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if Kazmir causes more than a few lefthanded hitters down the road to find an excuse to take the day off when he is scheduled to pitch.

Is Kazmir a sure thing? Of course not. He hasn't even faced the Yankees or Red Sox yet. But I distinctly remember the last undersized, hard-throwing young pitcher who was traded for immediate help because it was thought he was a health risk or would never make it as a starter. Although it would be ludicrous to say that Kazmir is going to duplicate Pedro's career, I would venture to say that he may have already exceeded Zambrano's.

WTNYAugust 22, 2004
25 and Under (ALW Edition)
By Bryan Smith

After completing a top 100 prospects list, my comments were filled with requests of farm system rankings. To correctly evaluate a team's system though, it's hard to look just below the major league surface. If so, Tampa would've taken a huge loss when B.J. Upton graduated, which should be more of a reward than a punishment. In fact, often times those young Major Leaguers offer a better evaluation of a system than their prospect counterparts. So I've tried to combat this, not using the typical 'organizational prospect rankings' title. Instead, I'll spend the next 6 weeks on my organizational 25 and under rankings.

No, this name does not derive from pornography, but refers to youth in a Major League system. I've debated changing the age requirement, or even using service time rather than birth years. But in the end, we come out with a very similar and much simpler outcome with 25 and under. So ignore the occasional freak like C.C. Sabathia, who at age 24 is more accomplished than 90% of Major League pitchers. Another rule is the player must have been a product of the minor league system. So Joe Nathan, who was raised a Giant and turned a Twin, will not factor into the rankings. Get it? Got it? Good.

Before we get started, let me explain the ranking process. Every week I'll handle a new division, starting today with the AL West. On Mondays I'll rank strictly the farm systems, which include players with zero Major League experience. Fridays will be Major League youth rankings, along with an updated breakdown. Wednesdays will be open for my own thoughts, ranging from the AFL, to the Justin Upton futility battle, to a special treat this week. This present will delay part two of the AFL article, which should be excusable when seeing my excuse. But for that, check back Wednesday. Today...is the AL West.

Moneyball may have briefly glorified the A's farm system, which is in divisional ranking freefall due to surrounding excellence. It appears the A's are slowly going dry, especially with the graduation of players like Bobby Crosby and Jairo Garcia. The infamous 2001 draft has struggled, with the traded Mark Teahen appearing to be their best selection. Luckily, Beane has already built a solid young core that won't need much revamping.

Heading down the state, the Angels are prepared for a slight makeover. Prior to the season there were no questions the Angels had one of the game's top systems. While Bobby Jenks and Jeff Mathis fall into the underachieving pile, Casey Kotchman has reached the Majors with Dallas McPherson nipping at his heels. And to improve things even more, Anaheim's low minor clubs feature more middle infield depth than you can imagine. With Arte Moreno throwing dollars at players like crazy, Anaheim will need a few working for the minimum.

Seattle's Major League explosion is already happening, with Jose Lopez, Clint Nageotte and Travis Blackley all donning Seattle aqua. But the only true validation of the system will be the performance of Felix Hernandez, one of the game's top prospects. A bad year has equaled chances for youth, giving hope for outfielders Snelling, Reed and Choo. And while depth isn't existent in the Northwest, breeding the next Doc Gooden would excuse that.

Opposite the Mariners are the Texas Rangers, a team with immense depth built by Grady Fuson. Beane's former top man, Fuson is the reason for the Hudsons, Tejadas and Giambis of the world. Front office controversy has led to the departure of Fuson, who could be one of the offseason's best buys. He leaves behind him a solid system, built behind trades and late round steals. Teixeira, Nix and Gerald Laird have just began to show the system's strength, with Adrian Gonzalez and John Hudgins on the next tier. Expect John Hart to carefully pick and choose who, over time, gets kept or dealt.

Below are better descriptions of the farm systems, arranged from best to worst. Remember, this only includes players with no Major League experience. Let's begin with the AL West's best...Anaheim.

Angels
Top Ten Prospects
1. Dallas McPherson
2. Ervin Santana
3. Jeff Mathis
4. Erick Aybar
5. Brandon Wood
6. Bobby Jenks
7. Howie Kendrick
8. Alberto Callaspo
9. Sean Rodriguez
10. Warner Madrigal

In case you're keeping track, half of that list is made up of middle infielders, three of whom are shortstops. This group is led by Erick Aybar, who is currently in a battle with Brian Stavinsky for the California League MVP. Aybar is tops in the league in stolen bases, and top three in batting average. A little raw, Aybar has 29 errors and 34 caught stealing. This is a little concerning, but forgivable when remembering his age of 20. He reminds me of Josh Barfield, indicating a possible rough 2005, though Texas League inflation will surely help.

In his spot goes Brandon Wood, the Angels first-round pick of 2003. Thought of as a bit of a reach last year, Wood has shown nice power and speed in the Midwest League. He's already hit the 100 strikeout mark, though, and like Aybar is nearing in on 30 errors. The final shortstop is Sean Rodriguez, currently tearing up the short-season Pioneer League to the tune of .366/.496/.629. Only 19 years old, Rodriguez already has won the first half MVP award, and is destined for a great future.

There are five other hitters in the top ten, most notably Dallas McPherson, who I've written about in the past. McPherson's loss of patience in the PCL is concerning, making me wonder more and more if the Angels have the reincarnate of Jeremy Burnitz. Is that really a bad thing? Jeff Mathis and Alberto Callaspo have both disappointed in the Texas League, failing to show averages that are even worthy of 2005 promotions. Who knows, maybe reuniting with Aybar will help the 21-year-old second basemen. As for Mathis, the Angels have delayed re-signing Ben Molina just for him, making his failures the most frustrating.

Failure has always been predicted upon Bobby Jenks, a hard-throwing righthander that always had high gun readings and walk totals. An arm injury has basically derailed his season, which has been nothing to right home about. As for Santana, while an injury kept him out the first month-and-a-half, he's bounced back and is in line for a September start and 2005 rotation spot.

Worth mentioning is the Angels latest draft, when they ruffled a few feathers paying more than $2 million for Nick Adenhart and Mark Trumbo. Both considered first-round talents, Adenhart dropped to the fourteenth round because of arm surgery, while Trumbo's bonus demands saw him fall to the 18th round. Adenhart will resume pitching in 2006 at the age of 20, and was always considered a more favorable prospect than fellow New Englander Mark Rogers, who was drafted fifth overall. Trumbo can pitch or play third base, making him extremely versatile and athletic.

As Rich Lederer has written about, the Angels are also currently negotiating with Jered Weaver, and stand as far as $1 million apart. Weaver is playing hardball, and Peter Gammons has rumored the LBSU right-hander may opt to stay a dirtbag for one last hurrah. Also worth mentioning from the '04 draft are 2B Josh LeBlanc and 3B Andrew Toussaint, both former teammates of Rickie Weeks at Southern University. Both are playing fantastically with Rodriguez in the Pioneer League, and Toussaint should be in the California League next season.

So while deep, the Angels system stands to get even deeper if Weaver gets signed, Adenhart gets healthy, and Trumbo plays the right position. Watch out.

Mariners
Top Ten Prospects
1. Felix Hernandez
2. Jeremy Reed
3. Shin-Soo Choo
4. Matt Tuiasosopo
5. Bobby Livingston
6. Asdrubal Cabrera
7. Mike Morse
8. Tom Oldham
9. Casey Craig
10. Rett Johnson

It was a tough decision to rank the Mariners over the Rangers here, and the play of Matt Tuiasosopo could change things by season's end. Tui, brother of the Oakland Raiders QB, was given a record third-round bonus to spurn University of Washington and play baseball full-time. After tearing up the Arizona League, the shortstop has stayed challenged in the Northwest League, still solid at .304/.365/.464. He reminds me of a shortstop version of Lastings Milledge, showing raw power and speed with a complete lack of polish. But without worrying about throwing a spiral, Tuiasosopo could burst into the spotlight soon.

His arrival led to the position-switch of one of my favorite sleeper picks, Asdrubal Cabrera. The switch-hitting 18-year-old is hitting a solid .284, and sports an ISO of .179. He doesn't strike out nearly as much as most young players, and walks a little. He'll be in the Midwest League at 19, but could stay under the radar until the Texas League boosts his numbers. I ranked him ahead of Mike Morse, one of the acquisitions for Freddy Garcia. Morse is simply too big to stay at shortstop, and doesn't hit enough to play third. I'm not a fan at all, and would urge fantasy players to stay far away from.

Impressing me this year has been the pitching of Bobby Livingston, a southpaw with a 3.48 ERA in 165 innings so far in the California League. Allowing a prospect to throw that many innings is negligent, and Livingston should draw as much a red light as Felix Hernandez. And while you hate to see a H/9 more than 9.00, I love K/BB ratios of four-and-a-half. He would normally rank behind Rett Johnson, who broke out last year before getting injured. Johnson has just returned, and could be #4 in these rankings real soon.

Rangers
Top Ten Prospects
1. Ian Kinsler
2. John Danks
3. John Hudgins
4. Thomas Diamond
5. Joaquin Arias
6. Vincent Sinisi
7. Michael Nickeas
8. Josh Rupe
9. Chris Young
10. Mark Roberts

Descriptions of these ten players are so different, it shows the strength of Grady Fuson: he ain't narrow-minded. Kinsler was a college shortstop who couldn't hit, and was drafted past the 20th round. Danks was a top ten choice, a hard throwing southpaw out of a Texas high school. Hudgins was a second rounder out of Stanford, completely polished and having thrown WAY too many college innings. Diamond was a college right-hander from New Orleans, lacking the polish of most 21-year-olds. Arias is a 19-year-old shortstop acquired in the A-Rod deal, while Sinisi was a second rounder with huge numbers from Rice. Further down the list, you have Chris Young who stands at 6-10 and was acquired for Einar Diaz.

So, you get the point. Unlike the A's, Fuson's former home, Rangers prospects don't fit one profile. Unlike the Braves, Fuson won't draft from one area, one type of player. He's the ultimate scout, seeing things in players that others won't, choosing players that others wouldn't. I really like this guy, if you haven't noticed.

Kinsler's rise has been well documented, and I should say that Hudgins is closer to Danks than ever. Diamond has pitched fantastically, and is already throwing in the Midwest League. Roberts, who was overlooked as a Sooner, has some fantastic peripherals in the Pioneer League. Also in that draft was Nickeas, a catcher from Georgia Tech also playing fantastically in short-season ball. Between them stand Rupe, a four-pitch ex-White Sox in the Josh Fogg mold, and Chris Young, who's promotion to the PCL has worked out great.

Texas will soon show how valuable Grady Fuson was, and I can guarantee the system strength will start dropping in about three years, the time it took him to establish himself. But hey, John Hart sure has reaped the benefits.

Athletics
Top Ten Prospects
1. Omar Quintanilla
2. Joe Blanton
3. Nick Swisher
4. Dan Johnson
5. Brad Snyder
6. Huston Street
7. Brad Knox
8. Daniel Putnam
9. Jason Windsor
10. David Castillo

If you say anything about this system, mention the latest draft. With the most picks he's had since 2001, Beane was able to find a ton of players right in his mold. Street was a closer at Texas that is already pitching in Midland. If he has a Chad Cordero-like rise, the A's could let Street and Jairo Garcia close games next year. Putnam was great at Stanford, and showing power in the Midwest League he didn't display as a Cardinal. Windsor is like John Hudgins from above, a great arm that threw a ton of innings at a college powerhouse. I also love Kurt Suzuki, Windsor's bat-first catcher from Cal-State Fullerton. Beane did a great job this June, and for his system's strength, it simply must not flop like 2001 has.

Still kicking from 2001 are Joe Blanton and Nick Swisher. I can't even begin to guess what Joe Blanton's problem is, though it looks like he caught the Jeremy Guthrie disease. Guthrie, a well-established college hurler, was a fantastic prospect until the International League halted his development. But the A's need Blanton to work out, as they are depending on him to fill the hole that an offseason Barry Zito trade will open. If he doesn't improve, the A's might get cold feet on this one, possibly preventing them from re-signing any of the Big Three.

Who I really like here is Quintanilla and Dan Johnson. Quintanilla just missed my top 100, and immediately after, sought out to prove me wrong. He has, as the left-handed shortstop is hitting .407 in nine games since a promotion. Quintanilla shows power and patience, but hasn't been great at defense this year. Beane will probably expirament with moving Quintanilla to second in the AFL, as Bobby Crosby would block him at the Major League level anyway. But lord does Quintanilla remind me of a worse-fielding version of Khalil Greene, another accomplished college shortstop who might just win the Rookie of the Year.

Scott Hatteberg, also glorified in Moneyball, will likely be too expensive a commodity for Beane this offseason. In his spot will come Dan Johnson, who has been blocked for far too long. It has even forced the A's to try Johnson out in the outfield, which works out about as well as Durazo playing there. But the patient, powerful Johnson will get his chance next year, saving the A's about $2 million at first base. And if he screws up, there is always Graham Koonce.

**************

So that's all for today, though I urge everyone to come back Wednesday for a WTNY special.

Baseball BeatAugust 22, 2004
Abstracts From The Abstracts
By Rich Lederer

Part Six: 1982 Baseball Abstract

The Bill James Baseball Abstract took a major step forward in 1982 when Ballantine Books won a bidding war to publish "The One Book All Real Baseball Fans Must Have!" The price of the soft-cover, 213-page book was $5.95 in the USA and $7.25 in Canada.

The Baseball Abstracts had been self-published by James the previous five years. Interestingly, the 1982 edition was the first that included "Bill James" in the title of the book. James' name didn't even appear on an Abstract cover until 1979 and only then as the author.

The use of color on the cover was also a first. Auguste Rodin's The Thinker sits atop a baseball with the caption, "The thinking man's guide to baseball" in red script. The book also features a testimonial--"James finds things in statistics that most people don't know are there!"--from a Sports Illustrated article written by Daniel Okrent the previous year.

Okrent's piece in SI essentially introduced James and his brand of sabermetrics to a segment of the baseball fan base that was hungry for more (and better) statistics and analysis. James credits Okrent, one of the original 75 owners of the 1977 Baseball Abstract, with developing "an affection for my work, an affection which he has worked very hard to share with the world at large."

Okrent was also one of the founding fathers of Rotisserie Baseball in 1980. The birth and subsequent growth of rotisserie and fantasy baseball helped propel James' Baseball Abstracts from a cottage industry into national bestsellers despite appealing to a market that was originally considered too narrow for such commercial success.

In addition to Okrent, James acknowledges his wife Susie (for whom the book is dedicated) and his father George (among others). The Introduction on page three replaces the "Dear Reader" letter, which James wrote each year from the second edition in 1978 through the last of his self-published books in 1981.

If you sometimes get the feeling between here and the back cover that you are coming in on the middle of a discussion, it is because you are. This is the sixth annual edition of a book which throughout its first five years has been read by a number of people who could congregate peacefully in the restrooms in the left field bleachers in Yankee Stadium.

The 1982 Abstract is divided into five parts, namely The Baseball Abstract and Sabermetrics, Team Comments, Player Ratings and Comments, The Game, and Not of Any General Interest.

Each of those five is divided into dozens or hundreds of smaller parts, every one of which is related in one way or another to every other. It traces a circuit among the 26 teams and among several hundred players and among thousands of issues, and around that circuit there is no natural beginning or end. For that reason, the book can be read backward or forward or at random.

In the opening chapter, entitled "Pesky/Stuart: Understanding Offensive Statistics," James discusses the concept of runs created and offers the simplest version of the formula he first introduced in the 1979 edition:

(HITS + WALKS) (TOTAL BASES)
AT BATS + WALKS
It looks so simple that you think it can't possibly work, but it does. 99.9% of the illions of offensive rating indices which are proposed yearly are more sophisticated, more complex and intricate, than this spare 4-element don't-need-no-college-arithmetic-to-understand-it-formula, and 99.8% of them are also less accurate.

When applying the formula to estimate the runs created by a league, it is usually within 1% and almost always within 2%...When dealing with teams, the formula is usually accurate within 3%...When dealing with players, we can only speculate as to what the standard error might be, since we have no independent way of knowing how many runs each player has created. When teams are figured as a sequence of individuals, however, the results seem to be about as accurate as the team estimates shown before.

The standards in runs created are very similar to the standards in runs scored or runs batted in; indeed, individual totals of runs created are usually close to the player's runs scored and RBI counts...A player who creates 100 runs in a season, like a player who scores 100 or drives in 100, is a very good hitter.

James explains that hits plus walks represents the player's ability to get on base, total bases his ability to advance baserunners, and at bats plus walks the number of opportunities. He expresses the runs created formula in three other ways:

  • Runs = (On Base Percentage) x (Total Bases) or

  • Runs = (Advancement Percentage) x (Number of Times on Base) where advancement percentage is total bases divided by plate appearances, or

  • Runs = (On Base Percentage) x (Slugging Percentage) x (At Bats)

    Graph courtesy of Studes, Baseball Graphs and The Hardball Times.

    James proceeds to compare and contrast Johnny Pesky and Dick Stuart, who regularly debated which of the two was the better hitter "at great length and full volume" on the Red Sox team bus during the early '60s. He concludes that the high-OBP Pesky and the high-SLG Stuart "were arguing about nothing."

    There isn't a dime's worth of difference between them. In his three best years, Pesky created 299 runs; in his three best years, Stuart created 300. Pesky did this while using 1,257 outs, Stuart while using 1,259.

    Pesky had all three of his good years in Fenway Park; Stuart two of his three in the same park. Pesky may have been a better ballplayer because he was a decent shortstop, whereas Stuart was a first baseman and a terrible one...But that isn't what the argument was about. As hitters, the only thing to choose between is the needs of the team. If you were leaving people on base, you'd need Stuart; it you were having trouble getting on base, you'd need Pesky.

    In chapter two, "The Tool Shack," James discusses opposition stolen bases by catchers and starting pitchers. He highlights Gary Carter because his OSB totals "have been outstanding"; John Candelaria as the pitcher "most consistently effective at cutting off the running game"; and Jim Bibby, a teammate of Candelaria's since 1978, who "has truly terrible OSB records."

    James points out that the lists of league leaders in fewest stolen bases allowed have been dominated by left-handed pitchers while the lists of league leaders in most OSB have been dominated by right-handed power pitchers.

    The number of bases that are stolen against a pitcher will be proportional to the number of pitches that it takes him to dispose of a batter. A pitcher who throws a lot of balls and a lot of strikes, a pitcher with a high strikeout and walk totals, will almost always be victimized by a large number of opposition stolen bases. The reason, I believe, is deceptively simple: he gives the runner more pitches to go on.

    Joe Morgan's analysis has been mocked for years but how many of his critics realize that James may have been the first one to expose him?

    Another thing that you hear sometimes--I think this is a Joe Morgan original--is that a left-handed pitcher is easier to run on than a righthander because the baserunner gets to watch a lefthander better. This is one of those things which people say in part to counteract the natural assumption that the opposite is true. People say that the lefthander is easier to run on when what they mean is that he is not as much harder to run on as you might think.

    James also brings his new readers up to speed on The Pythagorean Method, Offensive Wins and Losses, The Value Approximation Method, and The Favorite Toy. I have covered all of these other than Offensive Wins and Losses in the prior reviews. James creates an offensive won and lost record for each player by combining the Pythagorean and runs created formuals as follows:

    (Runs Created/Game)2
    --------------------------
    (Runs Created/Game)2+(League Runs/Game)2

    In "Making Sense of Numbers," James gives a wonderful description of baseball statistics as a form of language.

    Suppose that you see the number 48 in a player's home run column...Do you think about 48 cents or 48 soldiers or 48 sheep jumping over a fence? Absolutely not. You think about Harmon Killebrew, about Mike Schmidt, about Ted Kluszewski, about Gorman Thomas. You think about power.

    In this way, the number 48 functions not as a number, as a count of something, but as a word, to suggest meaning. The existence of universally recognized standards--.300, 100 RBI, 20 wins, 30 homers--plus the daily lists of league leaders and the weekly summary of everybody, transmogrifies the lines of statistics into a peculiar, precise form of language. We all know what .312 means. We all know what 12 triples means, and what 0 triples means. We know what 0 triples means when it is combined with 0 home runs (slap hitter, chokes up and punches), and we know what it means when it is combined with 41 home runs (uppercuts, holds the bat at the knob, can't run and doesn't need to).

    There are many sabermetricians--myself included--who can improve their writing and analysis by heeding the following words of wisdom:

    What is disturbing to some people about sabermetrics is that in sabermetrics we use the numbers as numbers. We add them together; we multiply and divide them. Rather than saying that Gunzie Bushcracker is a .300 hitter as a way of saying that Gunzie is a good ballplayer, we say that he is a .304 hitter and that the measurable impact of this is ... [the ellipsis marks are James' and not mine and are meant as a way to "fill in the blank"] In using the numbers in the way that we do, in adjusting them for whatever influences them unfairly, in restating them in unfamiliar forms in which they retain no standards, we rob them of their traditional meaning. Sabermetricians often aggravate this problem by dismissing as meaningless the traditional reference points, so as to emphasize the need for their new methods. It is not surprising that this is disorienting and sometimes irritating to baseball fans who love the numbers as words.

    James elaborates on The Defensive Spectrum (shown below) in more detail than ever before.

    DH | 1B | LF | RF | 3B | CF | 2B | SS
    As a player grows older, and in certain other cases, he tends to be shifted leftward along this spectrum. Sometimes he moves in dramatic leaps, like Ernie Banks, a shortstop one year and a first baseman the next, or Rod Carew, from second to first. Sometimes he crawls unevenly along the spectrum, like Pete Rose. Sometimes, like Willie Mays, the only movement in a player's career is within the area covered by one position; that is, the player moves gradually from being a center fielder who has outstanding range to being a center fielder with very little range. But always he moves leftward, never right. Can you name one aging first baseman who has been shifted to second base or shortstop to keep his bat in the lineup?

    James concedes that certain young players whose position-specific skills are either undeveloped or under-utilized can move rightward but notes these shifts are always dangerous and often disastrous. He also points out the implications of the leftward drift in building a ballclub, including the need "to allow the talent at the left end of the spectrum to take care of itself, as it will, and to worry first about the right end."

    At the end of Part I, James takes a jab at people who "analyze" the game of baseball by correlating anything with everything and running regression analyses "till hell wouldn't have it."

    If it is done with intelligence, it becomes the equivalent of kicking the television set vigorously. If it is done with persistence, it becomes the equivalent of kicking the television set repeatedly. If your TV goes on the blink at a crucial moment, you may derive a certain amount of gratification from kicking it; if baseball mystifies you, you may derive some satisfaction out of correlating things willy-nilly, running regression analyses and making up more and more ways to rate the hitters. But it is not going to fix the television set. Unless you get unusually lucky.

    The Team Comments in Part II contain a lot of information presented in the 1977-1981 Abstracts, much of which I have covered in the reviews to date. James provides team and individual player statistics in this section but nothing that is particularly groundbreaking. One noteworthy item in the Oakland A's discussion is the unveiling of The Plexiglas Principle, which "holds that all things in baseball have a powerful tendency to return to the form which they previously held."

    The Player Ratings and Comments in Part III are a joy--not for their rankings but for the free form style of writing and opinions that defines James. I love the varying lengths of comments, from one liners in the case of many to 1 1/2 pages for none other than Butch Hobson. James doesn't even mention Hobson by name until the eighth paragraph of an essay on the differences between baseball and other sports, including the psychological makeup of the athletes.

    Butch always plays as if there were no game tomorrow. The problem with that is that there is a game tomorrow, and one the day after. I will never understand why baseball fans admire a player who runs into walls. Running into walls is a stupid waste of talent. Playing hard in baseball is so much admired that people make up lists of players who play hard, with the implication that this is a good to be sought after in its own right. The problem is that 80% of the people on those lists are dyed-in-the-doubleknit losers. And the ones who aren't losers are players like George Brett and Paul Molitor who spend a third of the season on the disabled list.

    Other player comments that stand out:

  • Rod Carew: "I, for one, like unusual batting stances...I think that hitters like John Wockenfuss or Brian Downing who have the guts to do things in an odd or different way very often wind up being better hitters than they have any right to be. I think that someday some struggling young player is going to adopt a Wockenfuss or Downing type of stance and, with better luck, become a superstar. Anyway, Carew at the moment is my best example. Great players are those who construct the conventions of the future, not those who accept the conventions of the past."

  • Mike Schmidt: "On the double MVP award: I'm glad to see it. Schmidt is the most valuable player in the National League, by almost any standard...Some people say, 'Aw, it's somebody's else's turn. Look at the year Davey Concepcion had. Let's give it to him.' I think that opens the door to favoritism and, eventually, to all kinds of politics in the voting. It's not an award to the man whose turn it is. It is an award to the Most Valuable Player, and that is Mike Schmidt." Still very fitting today in view of Barry Bonds' stranglehold on the N.L. MVP award.

  • George Brett: "The Royals keep talking about about moving him to first base. I hope they don't for two reasons....He will be worth a lot more to his team as a third baseman than he would be playing somewhere else. The other reason is that Brett has a chance to become generally recognized as the greatest third baseman of all time." Fast forward 22 years and you can understand why baseball purists cringed when Alex Rodriguez made the move from shortstop to third base.

  • Roy Howell: In what James refers to as the Tim Foli Effect, he refutes the argument that players benefit by moving from a poor-hitting to a good-hitting team. "What I think has actually happened in the great majority of these cases is that the player has moved from a poor-hitting park to a good-hitting park, and the change in his hitting record merely incorporates the park illusion...I'm keeping any open mind. But I still see no evidence that it is easier to hit with a good hitter coming up behind you than it is without. And I still see no reason why it should be."

  • Dale Murphy: "I believe he should stay in the outfield, although possibly in right, and for a simple reason. Talents which are not used tend to deteriorate much faster than those which are tested daily. If Murphy played first base for about two years, he'd wind up a Dave Kingman type, which, physically, is what he is. He would lose the speed and the arm and become unable to do anything other than play first base."

  • Bobby Bonds: "...with 2 exceptions, every team which has acquired Bobby Bonds has gotten worse when he arrived while, with 2 exceptions, the teams which have traded him away have gotten better. The 8 teams which acquired Bonds declined from 655-637 (.507) to 521-550 (.486); the 7 teams surrendering him improved from 475-503 (.486) to 547-492 (.526)."

  • Leon Durham: "I'm trying to draw up a list of some people who can be expected to win batting titles in the next three or four years. What things do we know that could help us make such a prediction?" James lists 15 players who he expects will win battting titles in the next five years based on the fact that "over 80% of all batting titles will be won by players who play in one of the four best hitter's parks in the league...about two-thirds are won by lefthanded batters and switch hitters...and virtually all players who are destined to become batting champions will hit .300 (or at least come very close) in their first two or three years in the league."

    From James' list of candidates, only Willie Wilson (1982) won a batting title in the next five years. However, he was spot on in his criteria. Nine of the ten batting champs hit lefthanded or both. Six of the ten played on one of the teams nominated by James. And they all hit close to .300 or better early in their careers. What threw James for a loop was failing to account for a couple of players who had yet to play in a major league game--one who went on to win five of the following seven A.L. batting titles and another who ended up leading the N.L. eight times (including his first in 1984). Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn. Boggs fit the James mold to a tee. Gwynn had everything James looked for as well except he didn't play his home games in a hitter's park.

    In the comments under Rick Burleson, Bake McBride, and Don Baylor, James takes to task Tony Kubek and the general belief that players do a better job of selecting Hall of Famers, MVPs/Players of the Year, and Rookies of the Year. He then examines the differences between the types of players who win awards voted on by players vs. those voted by writers.

    ...it simply is not true that the players are more willing than the writers to ignore the offensive stats and vote for some Rick Burleson type who plays defense. In point of fact, quite the opposite pattern exists; the players vote as if they had never heard the word defense mentioned. In many cases where there is a conflict between the votes, it is a matter of the writers voting for a shortstop or second baseman or catcher who combined considerable offensive skills with defensive ability, and the players voting for an outfielder or first baseman who hit a little more.

    James then shows the discrepancies with MVPs voted by writers followed by The Sporting News Players of the Year voted by players. Joe Morgan vs. George Foster in 1976; Johnny Bench vs. Billy Williams in 1972; Zoilo Versalles vs. Tony Oliva in 1965; Elston Howard vs. Al Kaline in 1963; Mickey Mantle vs. Ted Williams in 1957; Roy Campanella and Yogi Berra vs. various OF and 1B in 1955 and 1951; Jackie Robinson vs. Enos Slaughter in 1949; and two more examples from the 1930s.

    There is, on the other hand, not one single case, not one, in which the players have picked a catcher, second baseman or shortstop, but the writers have ignored him to pick an outfielder or first baseman with better offensive totals.

    James does not rank the relief pitchers because he admits not having a "very good way to rate them nor anything very interesting to say about most of them." However, his comments about saves vs. wins and the use of relief pitchers are worth noting, especially in view of the time.

    The truth is that saves are far better defined than wins and losses are, that the description is far more carefully tailored to avoid rewarding an undeserving pitcher than is the description of the "win," which requires of a starter only that he last five. People seize on the occasional undeserved save because it is uncommon, whereas they simply accept the large numbers of undeserved wins and losses because they are commonplace.

    ...The other objection is that saves are imbalanced; there should be a "failure to save" to balance the books. Well, great, count them...People actually say that saves are the only category in baseball where the positive is not balanced by any potential negative, where the player has a possibility of gaining something without any chance of losing something. This is riotous nonsense. Did you ever see a record for runners not driven in? How about double plays not turned? Sacrifice hits not delivered? The record books are full of uncounted negatives.

    Not that saves are perfect. They're not, but neither is any other category. People make demands of a "new" statistic that they would never think of making of the traditional data. They demand that the statistic be pure wheat and no chaff. They demand that it tell them all there is to know about the subject. By those standards, all statistics would be found wanting.

    As far as usage goes, James attributes Herman Franks with developing "the idea of never, ever using Bruce Sutter except when he was in a 'save' situation or occasionally when tied" in response to Sutter's habit of wearing down late in the season during his first few years. James says, "This strategy took hold like a new flu strain, until within about three years--now--the way in which Sutter was used has become the way in which virtually all relief aces are used."

    Over the years, it seems as if Tony LaRussa--for the way that he used Dennis Eckersley beginning in 1988--has superseded Franks in getting "credit" for pioneering the above strategy. In any event, James acknowledges, "The gradual acceptance of saves as the standard of effectiveness for a reliever has, I think, played a major role in hastening the widespread adoption of the Sutter strategy as the correct way to handle a reliever."

    Whether this change is "correct" or "logical" or not I have no idea. It would seem to me that a relief pitcher could have just as much impact on his team's chances of winning by preventing a team from going ahead by more than one run as he could in many "save" situations, but I really don't know. I think it would make an interesting study.

    In "Looking For The Prime," James determines that "the heights of excellence are scaled most frequently by players aged 26 to 30, not 28 to 32 as was long believed." Drilling down further, James says players attain their greatest value at the age of 27. He also concludes "most players are declining by age 30; all players are declining by age 33."

    With respect to superstars and aging, James writes:

    In all of my baseball research, I have discovered only one thing which could be described as an absolute rule. That rule is this: any hitter who is destined to become a great ballplayer will reach the majors at an early age. I know of no clear-cut exception to this rule in the history of baseball.

    On the heels of discussing theories of aging, James closes the narrative section of the book with the following nugget:

    The Baseball Abstract never ends; I will know more about this subject a year from now than I know now. We will never reach the point at which we will be able to say that Mike Schmidt will hit .244 with 21 HR in 1993 and then retire, and because we will never reach that point, we will always be approaching it. The goal of science--and sabermetrics is a science--is not to predict what will happen but to understand what does happen; predictability attains significance only as a test of knowledge. However well we might speculate about the future, it is an article of faith that that future, once accomplished, will resemble the past far more closely than it resembles any of our speculations about it.

    For owners of the 1977-1981 Abstracts, the 1982 edition is by far the most redundant--but it is a classic nonetheless. James not only reviews many of the concepts that he introduced previously but he literally reprints several commentaries as if they were being written for the first time. Having said that, James did what was necessary to inform and enlighten his new and growing readership base--myself included, as it wasn't until my brother and I read the 1982 Baseball Abstract that we ordered the first five.

    Next up: 1983 Baseball Abstract

    [Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]

  • WTNYAugust 20, 2004
    AFL Report
    By Bryan Smith

    Just yesterday, Baseball America and Major League Baseball announced the preliminary rosters for the 2004 Arizona Fall League. There are still a lot of spots to be filled, but as of now, its enough to be analyzed.

    To let everyone know whats coming in the future, Ill say my organizational rankings will begin on Monday, with the AL West. My theories will be expanded more next week, but rather than rank farm systems, I find it better to rank 25 and unders. These rankings will take up my Monday and Friday installments for the next six weeks. That leaves Wednesdays open, where I will further dabble in the history of the Major League draft.

    For those not familiar with the AFL, its a six team lead made up of six prospects from five different teams. These players have experience that ranges from the Midwest League to the Majors, and often is home for some of the games brightest stars. The league is normally dominated by hitters, though this years crop has more pitching prospects than last year featured. Today, Ill be looking at who is on what team, and finish off the article with a ranking of the top prospects to see in the 2004 AFL.

    Team 1: Grand Canyon Rafers
    Teams: Twins, Yankees, Tigers, Braves, Giants

    Without the Twins, this team would struggle, as Minneosta has sent over J.D. Durbin, Scott Baker, Jason Bartlett and Jason Kubel. They seem to be employing an interesting philosophy here, sending four players that all could factor into the 2005 plans. Im sure that the actions of Durbin/Baker, Bartlett and Kubel will give Terry Ryan an idea of what to do with the back end of his rotation, Christian Guzman and Jacque Jones, respectively. If they follow the trend, their final pitching spot will be given to Jesse Crain, though a more fringe prospect like Boof or Francisco Liriano makes more sense to me.

    Kubel will be starting in a prospect-laden outfield, where he is surprisingly not the top prospect. That label goes to Jeff Francoeur, the former Atlanta first round pick that is easily a top 20 overall prospect. Despite missing about four weeks with an injury suffered from being hit by a pitch, Jeff is in the midst of a breakout season in a very difficult park for hitters. Like Andy Marte did this year, just wait for Francoeur to turn on the jets next season. Alongside Kubel and Francoeur will be Curtis Granderson, a sabermetric fav from the Tiger franchise that has just started his flight up prospect lists. Now hitting .313/.415/.538 in a huge hitters paradise, Granderson is an all-around solid player that should hit the Majors mid-way through next season.

    While Ive often touted the Braves great pitching depth, it appears their best pitchers will not be sent to the AFL, as Macay McBride is the best to get the call so far. My guess is the final slot will be filled by Chuck James or Anthony Lerew, both solid but overlooked players. The second best Braves prospect going is Brian McCann, a 20-year-old catcher with a solid if unspectacular year in the FSL. The infield will primarily feature Bartlett and Yankee Bronson Sardinha, though it would be a nice experiment by the Bombers to try the contact-not-power first Sardinha at second base. The right side will likely have Ryan Raburn, the Tigers projected 2006 2B, and a platoon of non-prospects Scott Thorman and Mitch Jones. But the Giants, who havent given any names, will likely stick Lance Niekro in at first everyday.

    This team reminds me of past AFL years, with a few great position prospects, and little in the pitching department. Minnesotas ML-ready players should help the team, which could see great improvement if the Giants send Matt Cain or Merkin Valdez there. Not likely, but David Aardesma and Brad Hennessey are two likely additions.

    Team 2: Mesa Solar Sox
    Teams: White Sox, Cardinals, Cubs, Rockies, Devil Rays

    Experience doesnt come flush with the Solar Sox, who are sending two players with no experience above low-A. Luckily for Mesa, those two players are Delmon Young and Brian Dopirak, two of the games up-and-coming players. Dopirak is likely being sent to work on his plate discipline, while Youngs performance will help dictate whether the California League or Southern League is a better destination for him next year. The other two offensive weapons, Jeff Baker and Brian Anderson, have very little experience in AA. Baker got the call over Ian Stewart, who will probably be one of the AFLs best 2005 prospects.

    Joey Gathright is the most experienced of the group, the up-and-down Tampa centerfielder destined for the leadoff role. The rest of the offense will be filled out by Jayson Nix and John Nelson up the middle, with Cubs 21-year-old AA catcher Geovany Soto eating most of the at-bats at catcher. Whether Young and Dopirak can handle much more advanced pitching will dictate just how well this offense performs in Arizona.

    The pitching is largely undecided, as neither the Rockies or Devil Rays have announced their three choices each. I doubt Scott Kazmir gets the call, and he shouldnt, although the team should send Chris Seddon there. Colorado, obviously very protective with Jeff Francis, will likely keep their prized southpaw on the sideline. Recent acquisition Chris Narveson is almost a lock to go, as should be relief ace Ryan Speier. This is all merely speculation, just adding to the wealth thats already there.

    Mesas best pitcher is a toss-up between the old prospect Adam Wainwright, and the new one in Brandon McCarthy. Despite oodles of potential, Wainwright has hit a snag in the PCL, with a 5.37 ERA in 12 starts. His peripherals show hes much better than that, and I expect Wainright to have a Dewon Brazelton-like year in 2004. To you unexperienced AFL fans, Brazelton was the leagues most heralded pitcher last year before a nice breakout this season. McCarthys fantastic play in high-A, a 103/21 K/BB ratio in 88 innings, has led the right-hander to a promotion and top prospect status.

    Both of those pitchers stand a tall 6-7, and will be joined in the rotation by fellow tall southpaw, Cubs hurler Sean Marshall. The front office was a little aggressive moving Marshall to AA a little early, though no one doubts the kids potential. He has fringe stuff though, and should be lit up here. I prefer Jae-Kuk Ryu, the other Cub hurler most known for his bad experience with a bird last season. Not nearly the headcase some consider him, Ryu will show hes one of the Cubs best talents here.

    Edit: My computer is acting up, and this is all I'm able to get out so far. I'll try to comment about the other teams as soon as I can. Thanks in advance for your patience.

    WTNYAugust 18, 2004
    A Pack
    By Bryan Smith

    While I dont have the link, Ill never forget my favorite Rob Neyer column of old. An idol of mine, I thought his articles describing players that he found in a pack of trading cards were excellent. This site is supposed to emphasize players 25 and under, usually prohibiting me from writing a similar piece. But while in Target recently, I found a pack of Bowman trading cards. For you non-collectors, Bowman features not only Major Leaguers, but minor leaguers in their packs.

    So, thinking of that Neyer column, I treated myself to a pack of 2004 Bowman baseball cards. The packs feature Delmon Young, last years first overall choice and currently one of the games top three prospects, behind only Andy Marte and Felix Hernandez. Each pack has ten cards, half of which are minor league players. I also believe that within the five minor league cards comes one First Bowman year card, a thicker, gold card. Each of the ten features a replica autograph, along with a picture on the front. The back features the basics (height, weight, etc.), a scouting report (with resume and skillset), and the players 2003 statistics. Minor league scouting reports for three dollars?

    Whether by design or coincidence, I opened my pack to the five minor leaguers in sequence, followed by their Major League counterparts. All five minor league cards are commented on below. So, I opened the pack to find

    Card 1: Ricky Nolasco
    Pitcher, Chicago Cubs, AA

    Skills: Throws with over-the-top motionImpresses
    with strong, reliable armSolidly built prospect who
    gets good late movement on fastball.

    Often lost in the great pitching depth of the Cubs system, Nolasco opened some eyes with a sub-3.00 ERA in Daytona in 2003. The late movement the Bowman card speaks of is referring to the sinking fastball Nolasco throws. A former fourth round draft pick, Nolascos stock was climbing rapidly at seasons beginning. After six starts, Nolasco had a 2.45 ERA in AA, earning a promotion to the Iowa Cubs. I say earning lightly, since his K/9 was under 9.00 and K/BB was under 2.00. And in three of the four starts before his promotion, Nolasco allowed more hits than innings. In those four, Nolasco had a K/BB of 14/11, and gave up all his three home runs allowed in each of his last 3 starts.

    So, the Cubs were probably pressing a bit on the promotion. This showed when his trip to Iowa crashed and burned, resulting in arguably the worst promotion Ive seen this season. Nolasco had a 9.30 ERA in nine PCL starts, allowing 68 hits in 40.1 innings. He struck out only 28 batters, while allowing sixteen walks. But the organization waited this long to demote Nolasco, as they were content with a AA rotation of Bobby Brownlie, Angel Guzman, Sean Marshall, Chadd Blasko and Carmen Pignatiello. But the team finally bit the bullet, and sent the struggling Californian back to Jackson, TN.

    Struggles have continued in Nolascos second AA stint, where hes allowed a 5.10 ERA in nine starts since returning. Hes allowed 54 hits in 47.2 innings, striking out 50 while walking 15. The improvements in K/9, W/9 and K/BB are encouraging, and his ERA is boosted by one start. On August 10, Nolasco allowed eight runs in 4.1 innings, and if taken away, would drop his 2nd stint ERA to 3.95. Not so bad, right?

    In my opinion, Nolasco is not the prospect the Cubs thought after six 2004 starts, but more of a prospect than the average fan would see in his current numbers. His H/9 is still way too high, but there is evidence that Nolasco is improving as a pitcher.

    Card 2: Leo Nunez
    Pitcher, Pittsburgh Pirates, High-A

    Skills: Top-notch arm strengthOccasionally gets into
    the mid-90sExcellent command of fastballUses slider
    as second-best pitchWill try to develop secondary
    offerings.

    Ill admit to not knowing Leo Nunezs name before opening my pack, but since, Ive started to like the guy. I was first insulted by his arrival in my pack, as his picture is reminiscent of a cocky high school player. The card is quick to say that Nunez weighs in at 150 pounds, and when looking at him, you might not even believe that.

    Considering his place of origin (Dominican), his size (lanky) and his stuff, Nunez reminds me greatly of Juan Cruz. Cruz struggled his first two years after signing, not faring well in the Arizona League and Northwest League at ages 17 and 18, respectively. The light turned on as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League, where he had a 3.28 ERA in 17 games. After an average AA season at age 20, along with a few Major League starts, Cruz began his full-time Major League career at age 21.

    The problem with this comparison, is that Nunez just turned 21, and is currently pitching in the Sally League. He struggled there last year, after spending the prior two years in the Gulf Coast League. This season the light has turned on, as Nunez has a 2.97 ERA in fourteen appearances. Hes allowed just 107 hits and 41 walks in 127.1 innings, while striking out 125. His 12 home runs allowed makes the Cruz comparison more apt, as my complaint with Juan has always fell in the HR column.

    Nunez is on a much slower pace than Juan Cruz was, but seems to be of a similar style. He should be gaining more attention than he currently has, but really has the makings of a top 100 prospect. But to really succeed, this kid HAS to fill out.

    Card 3: Jared Wells
    Pitcher, San Diego Padres, High-A

    Skills: Blessed with a live armThrows in
    low-to-mid-90s..Can reach 97 mph on occasionOwns
    solid secondary pitches.

    Live arms look nice on a scouting report, but they dont matter much to opposing hitters. Wells was a 2002 draft-and-follow, spending half of his year as one of the nations best junior college pitchers. He pitched solid in his 14 start debut, though striking out 53 in 78.2 innings is not exactly what a live arm should do. Believe me, this trend continues.

    Wells started this season in the Midwest League, with less than jaw-dropping numbers. In 81.1 innings, Wells allowed 91 hits and struck out just 72, but somehow earned a promotion. His walk and home run totals were pretty low, but there was no reason to think he was ready for the California League. And looking back, nine CL appearances later, there is still no reason to believe that. Wells has a 5.70 ERA, and has struck out just 25 in 47.1 innings. Combine that with 59 hits, and what you dont have is a real prospect.

    Kevin Towers: Its time to shut this kid down, tell him to go home for the year. Maybe send him to the Instructional League where he can be taught the arm of pitching, because it isnt going well.

    Card 4: David Aardsma
    Pitcher, San Francisco Giants, AAA

    Skills: A power pitcher who owns excellent control of
    his fastballGets good break on his slider and
    curveHas proven he can shut the door.

    Brian Sabean is known for off-the-wall first round draft picks, and Aardsma is no exception. Thinking he might need a solid relief arm down the 2003 stretch or for the 2004 season, Sabean selected Aardsma, fresh off closer duties for the nations top college team. After quickly signing Aardsma, the team sent him to the California League, where the right-hander allowed two runs in 18.1 innings and struck out 28.

    The team toyed with converting Aardsma to a starter, trying to harness the skills he possessed as a reliever. But the idea was scrapped when it appeared the 04 Giants were in need of some relief help. With Robb Nen out for the season, the team was hoping Aardsma would make the quick step to the Majors that his college relief counterpart Chad Cordero did. Things looked well after six appearances, when his ERA stood at a solid 1.80. Now the ERA is 6.23, which translates to things fell apart after six appearances.

    When pitching in the Pacific Coast League, things have gone well for the Rice right-hander. He has a 2.64 ERA in 38 appearances, and has allowed just 38 hits in 47.2 innings. The good news is that hes also given up only one home run. The bad news, is hes allowed 25 walks. The first two, along with a K/9 just under 9.00, bodes well for the Giants 2005 projected closer. He could just take the job now, I mean, Dustin Hermanson is closing.

    Card 5: Jerome Gamble
    Pitcher, Boston Red Sox, AA

    Skills: Plays off 93-mph fastball with improving
    change-upBreaks off a hard curveKeeps ball below
    kneesCommitted worker with nice upside.

    Not exactly the best person to have the gold card of. Gamble was selected in the fourth round of the 1998 draft out of high school. Hes looked solid in two different Sally League appearances, one before and one after Tommy John Surgery in 2001. And then he was selected by the Reds in the 2003 Rule V draft, but failed to make the team out of Spring Training. Things look to be going downhill for the right-hander that was once the Red Sox best pitching prospect.

    Now, in the Eastern League, Gamble has struck out just 36 in 61.2 innings. Like Wells from above, he has some solid numbers, but nothing that should get you too excited.

    But for some reason, Jerome Gamble reminds me of Kenny Baugh. The Tigers selected Baugh in the first round of the 2001 draft, 11th overall. He had been the ace of Rice in both his Junior and Senior seasons, during which his ERA was about 2.00 and he threw 260 innings. This is a ton for college pitchers, and IIRC, Prospectus even predicted his downfall. Arm surgery came in 2002, when Baugh missed the entire season before debuting in high-A in 2003. After just four starts, Baugh was moved up to the Eastern League, where he had a 4.60 ERA in nineteen appearances.

    My interest in college baseball began in Baugh senior season, and I always looked fondly on the right-hander that was so dominant in the NCAA. So in an article before the season, I predicted Baugh as one of my 2004 breakout prospects. While things are going slowly, I would think this has been a good year for Baugh, despite already surpassing the 140 inning mark in AA. He has a 3.72 ERA during that time, and a K/BB of about 2.50. There is no doubt that Baugh will be moved up to AAA next year, and is likely a candidate for some 2005 starts. Ill always like Kenny Baugh, and hopefully his chances in Detroit will go well.


    And that is how the cookie crumbles. My Major League cards were solid: Podsednik, Blalock, Sosa, Ramirez, Colon, albeit unexciting. Sosa is currently my least favorite Cub, although you wont ever catch me admitting he was on steroids. Instead of Sosa, I think Solo fits him better.

    Finally, let me give some ups to B.J. Upton, who hit his first Major League home run off Kelvim Escobar yesterday. Batting in the two-hole, Upton went 2/5, also doubling off Kevin Gregg. This raised my former #1 prospects season line to .357/.386/.548 in 42 at-bats. Tuesdays game gave the shortstop a seven-game hitting streak, during which he has thirteen hits in 28 at-bats. His largest struggles have come defensively, where hes already made three errors, though it sounds as it hes improving. But no matter how you slice it, Upton was the top prospect in baseball deservingly.

    WTNYAugust 16, 2004
    History Lesson
    By Bryan Smith

    Everyone is so quick to call the Major League amateur draft a fool's game, no one stops to view the past results. While factors that scouting directors can't imagine are thrown into the mix when creating a superstar, there's no question that scouts know something. There was a reason Matt Bush was selected first overall this year, and his chance of success is significantly better than the Joe Schmoe selected with the last pick in the 50th round.

    You'll often hear people say that you can't evaluate a trade immediately, and the same is true for a draft. In fact, I think it takes six years before you can ever begin to break it down. My reasoning:

    Year 1: Drafted, short-season ball
    Year 2: Low-A
    Year 3: High-A
    Year 4: AA
    Year 5: AAA
    Year 6: MLB

    This would be an extremely slow and gracious pace for a prospect, who might even lose 'prospect' status by year 5. Most good players would have taken a quicker route, even hitting the Majors as early as year two. While Mark Prior hit the Majors in May of 2002, only 11 months after being drafted, Gavin Floyd (drafted 4th overall in 2001) is still in the minors.

    If we replace 'Year 6' with 2004, now would be the proper time to begin evaluating the 1999 draft. With the help of the Baseball Cube, one of the Internet's best resources, I was able to go through all 50 rounds of the 1999 draft. My results follow...

    1999 Draft: A Recourse

    After clawing and scratching through their first year of existence in 1998, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were given the first overall draft pick in the June 1999 draft. Behind them were the Florida Marlins, who with only 54 wins had the worst record from 1998. This prevented the Arizona Diamondbacks, who joined the Majors alongside Tampa, from picking until fourth overall. Detroit, who has had problems since the strike year of 1994, split the two NL teams with the third overall choice. You have to believe there was some animosity felt in Florida that year, as everybody around the Devil Rays wanted a piece of the Josh Hamilton pie.

    Hamilton, an high school outfielder from North Carolina, was a lock for the top pick in '99. He had it all: a powerful bat, rocket arm, and perfect makeup. Originally from Raleigh, Hamilton was an icon in the state, tearing through every high school record ever created by the state. And he did it all smiling, never escaping the Catholic boy image that scouts fell in love with. He was a scout's dream, and had 80s across the board. And then injuries came, and with injuries time, and with time corruption. His life went slowly down the wrong path, taking the unexpected turn into drugs. Still in rehab, Chuck Lamar is still praying his bonus baby will again pick up a bat.

    Behind Hamilton stood another high school phenom in the form of Josh Beckett. Most of my knowledge of Beckett comes from this article by Ryan Levy, one of the "30 players to get a hit of [Beckett] during his senior year." Beckett was almost as big as Hamilton, though a town filled with baseball superstars prevented Josh from reaching icon status. His makeup wasn't quite up to Hamilton standards, likely the reason the Spring, TX native fell to the Marlins with the second overall choice.

    The field narrowed after the first two, though the Tigers seemed please to select the nation's most complete college hitter: Eric Munson. One of about six chosen from USC that year, teams still believed Munson could stay behind the plate. Time has proven this belief to be false, along with the thought that he could hit for average in the Major Leagues. But, for their money, we can at least say the Tigers have received over six extra wins (16 WS) for him.

    This is more than can be said for the sorry excuses for baseball players chosen in the 4-6 slots. Arizona's first ever draft choice, Corey Myers, is now in AAA. An infielder out of high school, Myers is currently shuffling between the C/1B/3B positons with a line of 263/323/377. That is more than can be said for B.J. Garbe, Minnesota's toolsy outfielder that is still as raw as the day he was drafted. In AA, Garbe currently has a .291 slugging percentage AND on-base percentage. Finally, despite a relatively productive draft, the Expos' whiffed on their first choice, a HS southpaw named Josh Girdley. Still with the Expos, the leftie hasn't made it through ten games in the Florida State League.

    Kansas City selected seventh, surprisingly making Kyle Snyder from USC the first college hurler selected. Ben Sheets and Barry Zito were an argument within themselves, which has worked out to be true. Those two were selected ninth and tenth (Zito then Sheets), with Pittsburgh right-hander Bobby Bradley in the middle. Bradley has yet to avoid arm injury enough to compete, though he has the makings of a Major League pitcher.

    Well, that was the top ten in detail. As for choices 11-30, they are below, with players who have made the Major Leagues in bold:

    11. Seattle- Ryan Christianson- C
    12. Philly- Brett Myers- P
    13. Baltimore- Mike Paradis- P
    14. Cincinnati- Ty Howington- P
    15. ChiSox- Jason Stumm- P
    16. Colorado- Jason Jennings- P
    17. Boston- Rick Asadoorian- OF
    18. Baltimore- Rich Stahl- P
    19. Toronto- Alexis Rios- OF
    20. San Diego- Vince Faison- OF
    21. Baltimore- Larry Bigbie- OF
    22. ChiSox- Matt Ginter- P

    23. Baltimore- Keith Reed- OF
    24. San Fran- Kurt Ainsowrth- P
    25. Kansas City- Mike MacDougal- P

    26. ChiCubs- Ben Christensen- P
    27. Yankees- David Walling- P
    28. San Diego- Gerik Baxter- P
    29. San Diego- Omar Ortiz- P
    30. St. Louis- Chance Caple- P

    Baltimore and San Diego had seven picks between the two teams, and only one made the Major Leagues. Larry Bigbie looks like a success story, but the rest of the choices look horrible. Alexis Rios, who wasn't considered to have the talent of the rest, looks to be the best player of the bunch. This wasn't true too long ago, seeing as though Jason Jennings once won the Rookie of the Year.

    Ben Christensen would have gone in the top 10 on talent alone, but his bad makeup dropped him to the Cubs in the 26th slot. But the right-hander has had injuries derail his career, and the troubled pitcher is currently pitching in the Seattle organization. Howington and Stumm were both thought to be locks in the past December's Rule V draft, but neither's name was mentioned.

    Rather than go through every round, I have some final numbers to show. Overall, 93 players have made the Major Leagues from the 1999 draft. About 25 aren't worth a nickel, players like Matt Diaz or Prentice Redman that have little other than a September call-up on their resume. The last player selected to make the Majors was Chad Bentz, originally selected by the Yankees in the 34th round. The southpaw made the Expos Opening Day roster this year, and has been the LOOGY for much of the year. Other players selected below the 30th round are Mike Neu, Nick Green, Erik Eckenstahler, Bo Hart, and Jason Frasor.

    Of the 93, 51 of 54.84% are pitchers. The best of the group is likely Sheets, though he draws competition from Cy Young winner Zito and World Series MVP Beckett. The best hitter is undoubtedly Albert Pujols, amazingly drafted in the 13th round. Other good hitters are Hank Blalock, Carl Crawford, and Justin Morneau.

    St. Louis found a star in Pujols, and also were one of three teams with six draftees making the Majors. Besides Pujols, the Cardinals also saw Josh Pearce (2nd), Jim Journell (4th), Coco Crisp (7th), Mike Crudale (24th) and Hart (33rd). Seattle also had six make the Majors, with Willie Bloomquist (3rd), Clint Nageotte (5th) and Justin Leone (13th) worth noting. Finally, those teams are joined by Kansas City, who had five players in five rounds make the Majors (Snyder, MacDougal, Gobble, Obermuller, Harvey).

    On the other side of the coin, Pittsburgh and Cleveland are the only teams with just one success story. Both aren't exactly heroes either, with J.R. House and Jason Davis representing the two teams. House rose to the top of the organizational rankings before numerous injuries tore his career apart. Davis was a 21st round pitcher from the Cleveland area that threw a fastball just good enough to get noticed. Loads of teams only had two reach the Majors, with my Cubbies containing some of the worst graduates: Steve Smyth and Pete Zoccolillo.

    Finally, below is my all-1999 draft team:

    C- Josh Bard (3rd)
    1B- Lyle Overbay (18th)
    2B- Mark Ellis (9th)
    SS- Brian Roberts (1st)
    3B- Hank Blalock (3rd)
    LF- Albert Pujols (13th)
    CF- Carl Crawford (2nd)
    RF- Alexis Rios (1st)
    DH- Justin Morneau (3rd)

    1. Ben Sheets (1st)
    2. Josh Beckett (1st)
    3. Barry Zito (1st)
    4. Jake Peavy (15th)
    5. Brett Myers (1st)

    CL- Mike MacDougal (1st)
    SU- Jason Frasor (33rd)

    It also should be mentioned that fifty of the 93 players to make it came in the top 5 rounds, indicating that scouts have some idea what they are doing.

    While the largest superstar of the draft came in the 13th round, most of the best players were selected in the top 3 rounds, which had 36 success stories. Each player has his own timetable, but this lesson should tell us to always keep those top drafted players in the front of our brain.

    WTNYAugust 13, 2004
    Hendry (Part 2)
    By Bryan Smith

    The first half of this article can be found at the Cub Reporter.

    Trading for Nomar Garciaparra was far and away the most heroic move in recent memory of General Managers. There is no question the time is now, that the Cubs have World Series aspirations this year. But we still cant help worrying about who we gave away, and what they will become.

    While evaluating past deals wont give us the crystal ball reading, it can tell us if Jim Hendry and cabinet identify suitable players to trade. In part one, I established that Hendry has done nothing but help this team, on the Major League level. This is obviously job #1 for GMs, though the farm system should never be undervalued. The effect a farm system can have on a Major League club is sensationally large, as witnessed by the success of the Atlanta Braves.

    Rather than reprint a list of the 19 pre-Nomar Hendry trades, I thought to give the names of just the minor leaguers that were traded away, along with their accompanying 2004 statistics:

    David Noyce: out of baseball?
    Gary Johnson: .244/.338/.366 in 262 AAA AB
    Ryan Gripp: out of baseball?
    Travis Anderson: 0-1 7.25 25/22.1 14K/15BB 7HR (AA)
    Matt Bruback: 1-8 5.84 85/69.1 49/30 7 (AAA) AND 4-1 3.88 53/48.2 54/21 4 (AA)
    Jason Fransz: .257/.325/.441 in 136 low-A AB
    Ray Sadler: .268/.310/.487 in 351 AA AB
    Emmanuel Ramirez: 3-5 3.47 39/57 61/36 2 (AA)
    Mike Nannini: 7-7 5.34 132/121.1 85/34 26 (AAA)
    Wilton Chavez: 5-10 4.25 142/137.2 96/36 16 (AAA)
    Steve Smyth: 4-3 5.34 59/60.2 42/44 11 (AA)
    Felix Sanchez: 2-2 7.24 18/13.2 12/6 2 (AA)

    No real incriminating names here, obviously none have come up on prospect lists recently. Two of the 12 are out of baseball, three have since changed teams, and all but three are failing miserably. At first glance, this is a great sign for Hendry, who is becoming a better GM with every word I write.

    First, let's deal with the three who aren't doing pathetic: Ray Sadler, Emmanuel Ramirez and Wilton Chavez. What is the most frustrating aspect of these three players, is that we acquired Randall Simon, Tony Womack and Jose Macias for them, respectively. While prospects in larger trades have seldom worked out, these small role players in smaller trades are worth hanging onto.

    Sadler, traded for El Chorizo Grande last year, is a 23-year-old centerfielder once drafted in the 30th round. In 2000, Sadler made his debut in the Arizona League, hitting .339/.398/.448 in just 42 games. While his five triples surely helped the slugging percentage, Sadler stole a season-low of four bases. The number jumped to 18 in 2001, when he hit .341/.378/.508 for the Lansing Lugnuts. His power numbers dropped, as expected, when playing in the Florida State League in 2002, slugging only .429 in 462 AB. His average stayed impressive at .286, though his BB/K of 27/91 was very frightening. Following the same path in AA in 2003, the Cubs weren't afraid to deal away the speedy centerfielder. Sadler's power numbers are back up this year, a .219 ISO, and if he can return his average of old times he could be a decent player. But, I sure wouldn't bet on anyone with a career BB/K of 127/347.

    It's likely the Cubs soured on Emmanuel Ramirez after finding out he wasn't Pedro Olivero, but the 28 months older Ramirez. Now 24, Ramirez had a career minor league ERA of 2.12 entering this year. He walks too many players, and his slider isn't a great pitch yet. Mid-90s heat is enough to retire AA batters in small workloads, but Ramirez likely won't be a reliever in the Majors. Wilton Chavez is another victim of agegate, adding three years to make him 26. His ERAs have generally been in the low-4.00s, making this year no surprise. Landing a chance on the Expos won't be a problem, but players like Chavez are a dime a dozen with the Cubs. I'll take Leicester, even after yesterday, thank you.

    As for the bad players, there isn't a lot to say. Matt Bruback's probelms must be frustrating, because he was looking to be on the verge when the Cubs dealt him. He was worse than Wellemeyer or Leicester then, and now he's even worse than Chavez. Travis Anderson and Mike Nannini were one-year rentals, and both give up far too many HR to be successful anytime soon. Smyth has moved from the Braves to the A's organization, and while his H/9 is now below 9.00, he allows way too many walks, and way too few Ks. Finally, I liked Felix Sanchez at the beginning of the year, and find his struggles to be quite confusing. I still think he has a future as a LOOGY, though there is seemingly something wrong with him now.

    Also needed in a proper evaluation is how those young players we've acquired have done. Much excitement has been garnered about not only the Nomar acquisition, but the landing of Matt Murton as well. I called the former Cape Cod home run champ the current Cubs' eighth best prospect, and is shooting for the title as the best minor league Hendry acquisition. Here is his competition, not including the players the Cubs subsequently traded away:

    Jared Blasdell: 2-4 4.44 46/48.2 49/31 5 (AA)
    Russ Rohlicek: 4-5 2.21 35/57 56/40 1 (AA)
    Jason Karnuth: Not With Cubs (Tigers organization)
    Jeff Verplancke: Not with Cubs
    Jon Connolly: 10-5 2.77 138/133 93/28 9 (A+)
    Richard Lewis: .329/.391/.532 in 380 AA AB
    Gookie Dawkins: .274/.328/.438 in 281 AAA AB
    Andrew Shipman: 2-1 3.32 30/40.2 44/20 5 (A+)

    The first four were acquired in the 'firesale' of 2002, which hasn't amounted to much. Rohlicek is the Cubs' answer to Ramirez, a solid reliever with way too many walks. His H/9 and HR/9 and really low, and since he's left-handed, he has a chance, albeit an outside one. Blasdell is a less exciting reliever, right-handed, with no shot.

    Obviously, Connolly and Lewis are the two worth talking about. Connolly was the minors' ERA leader of 2003, but is pushed off prospect lists due to 'bad stuff'. But if he keeps these numbers up, stuff doesn't matter much. Lewis broke out last year in the Arizona Fall League, leading Hendry to believe there was more than his career .255 average would suggest. It was a fantastic call by Hendry, seeing that Lewis has recently been promoted to AAA. Lewis might replace Mark Grudzielanek next year, though I believe re-signing Todd Walker as a bench/back-up option would be a good idea.

    Gookie's numbers look bad overall, but he's hitting .348/.412/.565 since joining the Iowa Cubs. Once viewed as Barry Larkin's successor, the Cubs were forced to release Rey Ordonez and trade Ricky Gutierrez just to give him an everyday AAA job. At 25 years of age he's still worth the shot, though I believe he'll be a minor league free agent at year's end. Someone will bite, you can bank on that.

    Conclusion

    With a re-evaluation of Hendry, I think I've proven my thesis that he's one of the game's best. His Major League decisions are historically beneficial, and the yield seldom works out. Jones is an arm surgery waiting to happen, but Francis Beltran and Brendan Harris should be on the Washington Senators' roster in 2005. I like all three players, but we have depth at each of those positions, and I love Nomar. Plus, I have confidence in my GM, one of the game's best, to get him re-signed.

    WTNYAugust 11, 2004
    Makings of a Star
    By Bryan Smith

    "It's so gratifying to see this kid come in here and do that, this kid wasn't fazed at all. He had good poise all night long...This kid is maybe going to pick us up offensively. Dontrelle's been doing it on the hill. This is what we've been looking for, a little spark on the offensive side. This guy's a threat now.''

    - Florida manager Jack McKeon on June 20, 2003

    This kid, the one McKeon speaks of, was the greatest Marlin prospect in their short history. This kid was willing to move from the hot corner to an outfield corner, just for his shot in the Majors. This kid hit a home run in his fifth Major League at-bat, a 419-foot walk-off home run. And yes, this kid is also shaping up to be the greatest Marlin ever, period. Finally, he really is a kid, turning 21 in April of this season.

    As Rich Lederer moves further in his Abstract series, he will likely detail a piece in the ’84 Abstract called “Where Does Talent Come From.” In this article, James attempts to identify that background and age of players by team. For example, James tells us that the 1983 Boston Red Sox received more production from homegrown players than anyone else. But how does this relate to us? Well, when identifying age, James creates four age brackets: young (up to 25), prime (26-29), past-prime (30-34), and old (35+). This is what I take issues with, more specifically, his ‘young’ age bracket.

    Without statistical evidence, I propose the young bracket be seperated into young (22-25), and developmental (up to 21). Coaches would be the first to tell you that the ages 17-21 shape a player, whether he chooses the college route or not. A high school player, if he is a real prospect, should spend his developmental years in the minors, debuting in the Majors around the age of 22. The sabermetric world has began good studies on the developmental years, particularly Dayn Perry and Craig Burley. While these deal with players spending their developmental years in the minors or college, I wish to focus with Major League players still in their d-years.

    And this brings us back to the lanky 21-year-old from the beginning, better known as Miguel Cabrera. His play undoubtedly played a chief role in a resurgent Marlins team that ultimately became World Champions. His mature play landed him an ESPN the magazine cover shoot, but with his publicity came vocal doubters. Some existed within the depths of All-Baseball, which spawned an argument on the home page shortly before the season. I took Cabrera’s side, using my list of comps to bullishly predict a .200/.300/.400 line. Yes, buyers please step forward and collect your prize.

    Fact is, Miguel has exceeded not only the predictions of his critics, but his supporters as well. Rather than watch quietly, I want to recognize the greatness Cabrera has displayed. His transfer from an A-ball doubles hitter to Major League slugger was unusually quick...historically quick. Miguel’s power spike is a sight, evidence for the ‘old age’ types that swear power is a learned and developed trait. His league-by-league Isolated Power numbers:


    League ISO
    GCL 0.092
    Mid 0.114
    FSL 0.147
    Sou. 0.244
    MLB 0.219

    While most players spend developmental years in the minors, Cabrera has spent his final ‘d-year’ season tearing up Major League pitching. Rarely, if ever, do we see 21-year-old superstars, making Cabrera even more special than he gets credit for. I mentioned Cabrera being part of a special group before the season, and not only has that not changed, but the group has become more impressive. In every 11.7% of his career at-bats, Miguel Cabrera has had an extra-base hit. When establishing a minimum of 90 XBH, a number he’s sure to pass, only six players have done better.

    Met Ott, Alex Rodriguez, Jimmie Foxx, Eddie Mathews, Hal Trosky and Ted Williams. These six had a better XBH/AB rate than 11.7%, and only these six. Four Hall of Famers, and one surely destined for his day in Cooperstown. Trosky, once only trailing Lou Gehrig as the AL’s best first basemen, is the only bust on this list. Trosky’s career was shortened by an early retirement caused by headaches, and like Michael Jordan, had an unsuccessful go at a comeback later in his career. After these six, we have eleven more that were between the Cabrera rate and 10.0%. This group doesn’t exactly have the success rate of the aforementioned six, but there is still three Hall of Famers, two in Ken Griffey Jr. and Ron Santo that should be, and one Andruw Jones. The eleven, ranked by their pre-22 XBH/AB:


    Name XBH%
    Ken Griffey Jr. 10.10%
    Cesar Cedeno 10.30%
    Ron Santo 10.40%
    Ruben Sierra 10.50%
    Vada Pinson 11.00%
    Orlando Cepeda 11.00%
    Bob Horner 11.10%
    Hank Aaron 11.10%
    Tony Conigliaro 11.20%
    Andruw Jones 11.20%
    Frank Robinson 11.30%

    In my belief, these numbers alone create a good list of comparable players. But, while this is a start, I’m also under the belief that strikeouts and walks are very telling of a player’s future. So, the below table documents how these 18 players rank in terms of both OBP-AVE (DIS) and K/AB:

    Name DIS Name K/AB
    Williams 0.103 Ott 0.074
    Ott 0.097 Trosky 0.091
    Foxx 0.094 Aaron 0.093
    Mathews 0.092 Williams 0.105
    Santo 0.072 Foxx 0.120
    Robinson 0.071 Santo 0.131
    Jones 0.068 Horner 0.143
    Griffey 0.068 Cedeno 0.144
    Cabrera 0.067 Pinson 0.152
    Conig. 0.066 Cepeda 0.152
    Trosky 0.058 Griffey 0.154
    Pinson 0.056 Robinson 0.158
    Rodriguez 0.052 Sierra 0.175
    Aaron 0.048 Mathews 0.179
    Cedeno 0.043 Rodriguez 0.191
    Sierra 0.039 Conig. 0.206
    Horner 0.037 Jones 0.244
    Cepeda 0.034 Cabrera 0.260

    A couple observations about this table:

    - First, we see the interesting similarities between Tony Conigliaro and Andruw Jones. The pair have immensely similar numbers in DIS and XBH%, and are respectively the two worst in K/AB. Conigliaro, the youngest player to lead a league in home runs, also saw his career end early, due to vision problems. Jones always flirts with his own greatness, including four straight 30-HR seasons, six straight Gold Gloves, and 202 postseason at-bats.
    - I like these lists because they begin to show the divide between less talented players (read: Sierra, Pinson, Cedeno), and some of the all-time greats (Williams, Ott, Foxx). If anything, this only further proves the importance of the BB and K.
    - Finally, the K/AB chart shows a huge dependence on time period. Cabrera and Andruw Jones have the worst, with Sierra, Griffey and A-Rod all lurking closely behind.

    The latter point leads me to the next part of this project: league-adjusted statistics. Using the always amazing Baseball-Reference, I figured what a league average player would have done in our three categories over the time period of each of the 18 players. And then I divided the player by the average, multiplied by 100, and came away with a stat similar to OPS+. Rather than make three different tables, here is one with the 18 players adjusted statistics in each category, ranked by XBH+:


    Name XBH+ DIS+ K+
    Williams 181 147 99
    Trosky 178 83 92
    Mathews 168 139 143
    Conig. 158 102 116
    Foxx 155 141 152
    Horner 154 58 95
    Cedeno 151 65 87
    Robinson 147 113 113
    Ott 147 167 89
    Pinson 145 88 97
    Cepeda 141 53 101
    Aaron 141 70 74
    Santo 135 113 82
    Rodriguez 135 75 106
    Griffey 133 103 94
    Jones 132 103 124
    Cabrera 130 97 135
    Sierra 127 58 102

    Wow. We see that Cabrera slips to from seventh to 17th, largely because the league average XBH% in 2003 and 2004 is right around 9%, which is extraordinarily high. Cabrera drops from first in strikeouts, falling behind Eddie Mathews and Jimmie Foxx, but still in front of Andruw Jones. His DIS+ of 97 is right around league average, very similar to the numbers of Jones, Conigliaro and Griffey.

    Overall, there is no question that Cabrera matches up best to Jones, who has fallen quite a bit behind Conigliaro in terms of XBH+. Jones is a bit superior in every category, but very narrowly, so much that it won’t make a difference. While he stole bases earlier in his career, Andruw only stole four bases in 2003. He’s hit 66 extra-base hits every year since turning 22, and is considered in his ‘prime season’ this year. While staying solid, I expect Jones to never again reach the player he was between ages 24-26, a scary notion for Cabrera.

    Miguel will likely fall somewhere between Jones, Griffey and Ron Santo. The former Cub saw his decline start after the age of 29, with his prime years right where James slated him (26-29). Griffey’s well-documented struggles began during a similar time period, with 1993-1994 being his best seasons to date.

    While Cabrera has already bested my predictions once, I expect him to follow a similar career pattern to the aforementioned three. While he might be one of the NL’s most feared hitters between 2006-2008, by 2012 we will see a sharp decline. It won’t take much to become the Marlins’ best player ever, but Cabrera still has a long way to prove he’s a future Hall of Famer.

    Baseball BeatAugust 11, 2004
    "If Cooperstown is Calling, It's No Fluke..."
    By Rich Lederer

    Courtesy of Seth Stohs, I recently learned Only The Lonely: The Hall of Fame Trials and Tribulations of Bert Blyleven article I wrote in December has been posted on none other than Bert Blyleven's Official Website.

    Blyleven's home page includes a welcome letter and hyperlinks to Autographs, Columns, Biography, Career Statistics, and Hall of Fame. Visitors who click on the Hall of Fame link are directed to a page entitled "Hall of Famer? -- You Decide..."

    There are many baseball fans that feel I deserve to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. I have been on the ballot now for seven years and on the last ballot I received almost 35% of the baseball writer's votes. My site will give you the opportunity to see where I rank on the All-Time lists in pitching categories and see why I should or should not be elected.

    There are six articles referring to Bert being inducted into the Hall of Fame--three by Rob Neyer, one by Michael Wolverton, one by Joe Saraceno, and another by yours truly. My article was originally published on the baseballbeat.blogspot.com site although it is also located in the archives of my new address at all-baseball.com.

  • By any measure, Blyleven should be in, by Michael Wolverton, published at ESPN.com
  • Letters on the Hall, by Rob Neyer, published at ESPN.com
  • December Archives, by Rob Neyer, published at ESPN.com
  • Five for the Hall of Fame, by Rob Neyer, published at ESPN.com
  • The Hall of Fame Trials and Tribulations of Bert Blyleven, by Richard Lederer, published at baseballbeat.blogspot.com
  • Blyleven's pitch for Hall is legit, by Jon Saraceno, published at USAtoday.com

    Bert also presents eight tables showing how his numbers stack up against other Hall of Famers. These lists are eerily similar to the ones I created for my article. He also shows his other accomplishments below these tables, such as his no-hitter and five one-hitters, Rookie Pitcher of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year awards, two World Series championships and a postseason record of 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA, and the number of top ten rankings in various statistical categories.

    There is no doubt that Blyleven has the credentials to gain admission to Cooperstown. The only thing missing at this point are the required number of votes. We'll see if we can rectify that situation come this winter.

  • Baseball BeatAugust 09, 2004
    RWBB Hooks Up With Redbird Nation
    By Rich Lederer

    I took a weekend off from writing Part Six of The Bill James Baseball Abstract reviews in order to co-author a magazine-length article on Jim Edmonds with Brian Gunn of Redbird Nation. The Most Under Over Underrated Player in Baseball was appropriately published on the best Cardinals website in the baseball blogosphere.

    Thats Jim Edmonds for you one of the most mercurial players in the game, and perhaps the only one to catch grief for being both under-emotional and over-emotional. Hes been called, variously, a showboat, a stud, a lazybones, a workhorse, a whiner, a powerhouse, an overachiever, an underachiever, you name it. But let us submit to you one label you almost never hear in relation to Jim Edmonds: Hall of Famer.

    Hall of Famer? Jim Edmonds? The guy whos finished in the top ten in MVP balloting exactly once? The player whos never led the league in any hitting category, whos not even halfway to 3,000 hits, who has fewer career homers than Kent Hrbek? Is that the Cooperstown Jimmy Edmonds youre talking about?

    Collaborating with an outstanding writer like Brian was a very enjoyable experience for me, similar to the joint effort All-Baseball colleague Alex Belth and I created last February when we wrote an article on Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter (The Odd Couple) for Alex's Bronx Banter.

    If you haven't already done so, I recommend you check out both of these articles. Who's better? Bernie or Jimmy? I'm torn between the two myself, but I'm beginning to believe that Edmonds may end up with the superior career.

    [Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]

    WTNYAugust 09, 2004
    Off My Chest
    By Bryan Smith

    Note: the following article is a breed between a mission statement and a collected group of 'shout-outs', read at your own discretion.

    A while back, I chose to change the focus of this site to minor league analysis. Not only is it immesely important within a Major League organization, but it's also vastly uncovered by the media. Will's site has had some great posts on the purpose of the 'weblog world', all leading to the fact that our job is to keep the media honest. If Rich Lederer thinks Bert Blyleven is getting screwed, he sees it as his job to write about it. When Christian and Alex see flaws beneath the Cubs' surface, they'll say it, where as a beat writer might just think it. Just imagine what Will Carroll's former newsletter has transformed into.

    My job? I like to think that it's going to be minor league reporting. I want fans to know who's next long before they wear Major League colors. I want fans to know if the guy their team stuck in a deal won't be another Bagwell or Brock. Obviously, the conglomerate known as Baseball America offers this in fantastic form, but I want to make sure they're not a monopoly. Work, and starting a new experience at the Hardball Times, has derailed what was once a daily blog. When things are more routine next April, if not sooner, minor league content will be available daily. Pushing myself is simply the only way this site will match the great ones I am surrounded by.

    But at the same time, I recognize I'm not alone in the minor league world. As previously mentioned, Baseball America is one of the best magazines in the world, and the Prospect Report one of the Internet's best features. Dayn Perry has started to focus on youth at BP, and has seemingly found his niche. When creating my preseason prospect rankings, I often mentioned Mike Gullo, who writes at the Minors First. On Deck Baseball is a site that not only offers solid daily reports, but also a 'Future 500' to boot. Finally, Jeremy Deloney has a minor league blog that averages about four good posts a day, as well as some solid work at MVN. I hardly view these guys as competition, but rather more people joining the minor league push.

    All the previous sites are general minor league sites, but many others are more specialized. Just like an avid fan will follow his teams' beat writer, many sites offer daily minor league reports that help keep me up with the minors' latest. This is Brad Dowdy's specialty, and he offers great, detailed reports at No Pepper. At the Batter's Box, one of the sites 23 writers follow each of the Jays' teams daily. Not only that, but we also get the occasional post like this, putting stats truely into context. Avkash Patel does the same at the Raindrops, offering inciteful posts on many Mets minor leaguers, along with near-daily updates. Readers of this site don't need me to prove Fabian's Yankee intelligence, which is available not only regularly in my comments, but also at his site. Finally, with all the Mariner sites on-line, it's nice to see someone just choose one area.

    Few people know their teams as well as Joe Ptak and Jamey Newberg, and I urge you to read both. At the Cleveland Indians Report, Ptak provides detailed analysis of both Major and minor league happenings. Ptak is extremely knowledgable, and his annual draft analysis is priceless. I shouldn't have to boast Newberg, because if you miss his daily e-mail, you're truely missing out. Newberg represents everything Texas Ranger, providing more on the Rangers than anyone else. Heck, the guy even writes an annual book...no one can compete with that.

    Ranking prospects is a difficult task, and a few sites kep team rankings updated that are invaluable. Dave Cameron, who wrote some great columns at Prospectus, handles that job over at U.S.S. Mariner. This is where I first discovered some kid named Felix Hernandez, who is now my second overall prospect. The aforementioned No Pepper debuted a 'Hot 30' this year, which has always been very helpful to me. Lastly, reading all about the upcoming Brewers' system is available at Brewerfan.net, where their list is expanded to fifty names.

    As I once mentioned in a THT article, I haven't been a baseball fanatic as long as a lot of people. But it was minor league baseball, and Kerry Wood's twenty strikeout game, that put me over the top. You'll never find perfect baseball in the minors, but stories from Miguel Cabrera to Bucky Jacobsen are enough for me. I'll try to always have minor league baseball be my focus- please keep me honest- with much more content coming in the future.

    Please, to help not only me but also my readers, drop links to other minor league blogs in the comments. The blog world is becoming much too big for my surfing to handle, but any daily minor league report will be read by these eyes.

    Baseball BeatAugust 06, 2004
    Weaver and Stoneman Unable to Say "Halo"
    By Rich Lederer

    Jered Weaver and the Angels are "nowhere close to an agreement" according to Doug Miller, a reporter for MLB.com. (Thanks to Darren Viola, aka Repoz, for pointing me toward this story.)

    Miller quotes Angels General Manager Bill Stoneman, "I don't think it's going normally, no. I'm not sure exactly what we expected, but we were hoping to have a negotiation here and it's not really happening."

    Not surprisingly, Scott Boras is believed to be asking for a deal similar to the five-year, $10.5 million contract Mark Prior signed with the Chicago Cubs in August 2001. Boras is well-known in baseball circles as a tough negotiator. He is a highly controversial figure who some say gets the most for his clients while others argue that his mere presence reduces the "signability" of those he represents.

    Call Boras what you want but don't call him impatient. Like an owner looking to sell a prime piece of real estate, I have no doubt he will wait until he gets close to his asking price.

    If Weaver hired you to represent him, what would you ask for? Well, if it were me, I would insist on Prior type money. Why not?

    Weaver vs. Prior

                 IP    H   R   ER   BB     K    W-L
    Weaver    144.0   81  31   26   21   213   15-1
    Prior     138.2  100  32   26   18   202   15-1
                 H/9    BB/9    K/9    K/BB     ERA
    Weaver       5.1     1.3   13.3    10.1    1.62
    Prior        6.5     1.2   13.1    11.2    1.69

    Given the fact that Weaver's stats for his junior season were arguably better than Prior's, I guess it wouldn't be unreasonable to ask for more money. But, what the heck, I'm not greedy. Gosh, I might even allow the Angels to get the best of me and settle for a nice round number like $10 million--or $500,000 less than what Prior received.

    Granted, the Angels will undoubtedly point out that Weaver slipped to the 12th pick in this year's draft whereas Prior was chosen second. Yes, that's true. However, I would remind Messrs. Moreno and Stoneman that Weaver may have gone as high as number one if money wasn't a factor. Like the Padres and ten other teams before them, the Halos should have passed on Weaver if they weren't willing to pay the freight.

    I'm not surprised at what has taken place thus far. As a matter of fact, I wrote the following on the day of the draft:

    Although I don't think he will get more than what Prior received, I believe the College Player of the Year could still end up getting the biggest contract of all the draftees despite being taken 12th.

    Despite the current stalemate, I'm not wavering in my belief one bit. Weaver may not get $10 million but, when it's all said and done, he will ink the richest pact of any draftee. Boras knows it. Weaver knows it. And the Angels know it.

    In the meantime, I don't think either side is in any hurry to get married. It's highly unlikely that Weaver will pitch this season, which is probably best for everyone anyway. As a result, it really doesn't matter whether they agree on a contract this month, next month, or the following month.

    Prior signed in late August, reported to spring training in February, broke camp with the club's Double-A entry in West Tennessee, was promoted to Triple-A Iowa, and made his major league debut on May 22--striking out 10 Pirates in a six-inning, four-hit, two-run victory.

    Only time will tell whether Weaver is placed on a similar fast track. If all goes well, I think it is possible that he could get a shot in the bigs sometime next year. But first things first.

    WTNYAugust 06, 2004
    No Debate
    By Bryan Smith

    Felix Hernandez is the best pitching prospect in baseball.

    I offer this statement with little doubt; teenagers like this dont come often. Seattle signed the 18-year-old right-hander out of Venezuela, and since the move has paid greater dividends than they could have ever imagined. Hernandez has flown through four levels, stopping just long enough to dominate at each one before moving on. His start came in the Northwest League, where few people could believe his fastball came from the arm of a seventeen-year-old.

    After finishing the year in the Midwest League, the Mariners courageously started their blossoming prospect in the California League. While expected to give him challenges, Hernandez yawned through the league, posting a 2.74 ERA in sixteen appearances. This led King Felix, as the boys at U.S.S. Mariner call him, to become the youngest player in the Texas League. Hernandez took a small break from professional ball in July to play in the Futures Game, an exhibition of the games best, when Hernandez showed intrigue like no one else. In fact, here was my report after watching the game:


    There was nothing nearly as exciting as watching Felix Hernandez, my top ranked pitching prospect, as he pitched to hitters nearly six years older than him. The 18-year-old seemed to have a strut walking around the mound, showing extreme confidence despite having to face Prince Fielder and David Wright to lead off the inning. Felix led off the inning with a two mid-90s fastballs, though the Milwaukee first basemen took the second one the other way for a single. Hernandez than went to a 82-84 mph, jaw-dropping curveball on three of the next four pitches, eliminating David Wright in quick order. Koyie Hill led off his at-bat taking a Hernandez fastball to second, where Ruben Gotay and Joel Guzman turned an impressive 4-6-3 double play.

    Armed with a high-90s fastball and mid-80s power curve, Felix shows uncanny poise while on the mound. His only bad start came in his fourth Texas League appearance, when the Frisco Roughriders roughed up the teenager for six runs in only 2.2 innings. Subtract that, and Hernandez has a season ERA of 2.64, compared to 3.03 with the start added. To see how Felix has arrived at that season ERA, I thought it would be beneficial to give his month-by-month statistics:
     
    Mon. IP ERA H/9 K/9 W/9
    April 20.2 3.48 7.84 11.76 3.05
    May 33 3.00 8.73 9.27 2.45
    June 38.1 2.11 8.22 12.44 2.35
    July 26.2 4.05 8.44 8.10 3.71

    Remember that Hernandez spent July in the Texas League, which should temper your opinions of the month. As the stats show, King Felix was dominant in June, allowing three runs in his final four starts, which spanned 27.1 innings, 38 strikeouts and only four walks. None of the eight home runs he has allowed came in June, though I should say three of his eight allowed homers have come against Diamondbacks prospects: Carlos Quentin on 4/21, Jamie DAntona on 5/11, and Jesus Cota on 7/6.

    In the latest Baseball America, Jim Callis writes a concerned article that such a young arm wont be able to handle the stress of the 2004 season. Always a worry, Callis points to Doc Gooden, who avoided arm injuries until age 24, when he had already become the backbone of the Mets rotation. Hernandez doesnt exactly parallel Gooden, who threw 191 innings at 18, and entered the Majors with a 4.67 BB/9 ratio from the minors. In fact, here is what Goodens minor league line looked like when entering the Majors:


    League IP ERA H/9 K/9 W/9
    Appy 65.2 2.47 7.26 9.05 3.43
    NYPL 13 4.15 7.62 12.46 2.08
    Caro. 191 2.50 5.70 14.14 5.28
    Total 269.2 2.57 6.17 12.82 4.67

    And for quick comparisons sake, here is what Felix Hernandez has thus far:

    League IP ERA H/9 K/9 W/9
    NWL 55 2.29 7.04 11.95 3.93
    Midw 14 1.93 5.79 11.57 1.93
    Cali 92 2.74 8.32 11.15 2.54
    Tex 26.2 4.05 8.44 8.10 3.71
    Total 187.2 2.73 7.77 10.98 3.07

    To put this into context, Hernandez would need to pitch 82 more innings to match Goodens 269.2 before turning nineteen. Furthermore, to match his peripherals, Felix would need a 2.20 ERA, 2.52 H/9 (23 allowed), 17.01 K/9 (155), and 8.34 W/9 (76). While the ERAs are seemingly close, Hernandez is more hittable, and more controlled. Though I should mention, according to a past Baseball America story, Hernandez has yet to unveil a slider in the low-90s, a pitch that would surely boost the K/9 considerably.

    While I could spend time comparing Hernandez to Jeff Francis or Matt Cain, the fact is that Hernandez is clearly in front of both. He has age on the Rockie, and pitchability on the Giant. With the slider, Hernandez will have three devastating pitches, with two (fast and curve) that can be thrown for strikes at any time.

    If dominant, Mariners brass admits they will not hold their prized prospect back. But Felix hasnt been great in AA, with two rocky starts in his first five. I think the 18-year-old should be shut down after a couple more starts, and definitely not allowed to participate in Winter Ball for his native Venezuela during the offseason. Felix should start next year in AA, providing a boost for Seattles rotation at about the time Zack Greinke arrived: late May.

    Seattle fans should be excited, but careful not to call Hernandez the second coming of the Doc. Bill Bavasi must be careful with the King, who is not only the best pitching prospect in baseball, but the second best overall prospect in the minor leagues.

    WTNYAugust 04, 2004
    The NOW Debate
    By Bryan Smith

    During Spring Training, many people would have told you that Joe Mauer, B.J. Upton and Alexis Rios were the nations top three hitting prospects. Mauer, the consensus top choice, graduated to the Majors on Opening Day. His season has been clouded with a knee injury, but must still be viewed as a success considering his .308/.369/.570 line. Rios was next to hit the AL, landing the call on May 27. The club stuck with him through a 9/50 start, but after a .343/.381/.495 July, has received solid play from their prized 23-year-old. After these two hit the Majors, debate began on which two players trailed Upton.

    An easy choice was David Wright, the 21-year-old third basemen sporting a Scott Rolen comparison. Wright was finishing a .363/.467/.619 season in the Eastern League when people started wondering if he might be better than B.J. Upton. Dayn Perry, BPs minor league guy, wrote a great piece on the debate last week, proving Upton emphatically. But Wright was still second, and by great lengths, thanks to showing few flaws in his entire game. The question became, who was the games third-best hitting prospect? Or better phrased, who immediately trailed Wright in third base rankings?

    Dallas McPherson or Andy Marte? Pick your poison. The two are no longer battling for second or third, but first after watching Wright and Upton debut. Wright has struggled a bit since receiving a heros welcome in the Big Apple, though he did hit his second home run on Sunday, fittingly when Upton was called up. But Lou Piniella chose not to play Upton on Sunday, instead choosing his first game to be Monday, where he went 1/3 in front of a nationally televised audience. His departure leaves a gaping hole for the top spot, one surely filled by either McPherson or Marte.

    Point #1 will lean towards Marte: age. McPherson was selected in the second round of the 2001 draft out of the Citadel. Three years later, Dallas is on the heels of his Major League debut at 24-years-old. Marte is a far different case, as the Braves signed the Dominican when he was just 16-years-old. That came in 2000, meaning Atlantas top prospect is in the Southern League at the tender age of twenty. While youth is always a positive in prospectdom, Moneyball readers will surely attest a college education aint bad. McPherson spent three years at the Citadel, posting these numbers in the process:


    Year AB AVE ISoP ISO
    1999 87 0.241 0.089 0.081
    2000 233 0.378 0.061 0.219
    2001 242 0.347 0.083 0.227
    *ISoP is simply OBP-AVE

    Though his overall slugging went down from sophomore to junior season0, this is more indicative of a decline in singles, seeing that he had six more extra-base hits. His plate discipline returned to freshman form, showing his overall game improved in 2001. McPherson was a great talent in a draft filled with them, though Im surprised the seemingly complete college athlete was nowhere on Billy Beanes wish list.

    After signing relatively quickly, McPherson was sent to the Provo Angels, where he had 124 at-bats in the Pioneer League. Across Rookie League ball, over in the Appalachian league, the Rome Braves were busy unveiling a 17-year-old third basemen that managed 125 AB.

    In true Perry style, their side-by-side Rookie League comparisons:

     
    Name AB AVE ISoP ISO
    McPherson 124 0.395 0.065 0.210
    Marte 125 0.200 0.124 0.072

    Interesting is how Martes numbers parallel McPhersons...as a college freshman. Low average, no power, lots of walks, yeah, Dallas knew that story well. While age will be a constant theme here, let me say that in 2001, Andy Marte was the age McPherson was as a high school junior. Dallas numbers were as they should have been, dominating, almost a statistical repeat of his sophomore year in college. His average was way up, with Isolated Patience and Power numbers only percentage points from his 2000 year.

    Staying conservative, the Angels put McPherson into the Midwest League. Atlanta, despite Martes 2001 struggles, showed the confidence to put the 18-year-old into the Sally League. Their low-A numbers:


    Name AB AVE ISoP ISO
    McPherson 499 0.277 0.104 0.150
    Marte 488 0.281 0.058 0.211

    McPherson changed into a different player overnight, becoming someone we hadnt seen before, and havent seen since. His thirty steals were a career high; his .427 SLG was the lowest since his freshman season. The ISO was a still solid .150, and his Isolated Patience was over .100 for the first and last time of his professional career. As for Marte, the comparisons to McPhersons college years continue, as his 2002 can be viewed as the sophomore season. His IsoP reached an all new low of .058, but his ISO was above .200 for the first time. This can be attributed to the 53 doubles he hit, showcasing just how much power was in that bat.

    Then came 2003, when McPherson truly broke out of his shell, giving the Angels confidence he could be their 2005 third basemen. The team was aggressive, promoting him half way through the year, so his high-A stats will only represent 77 games. Atlanta stayed on the one level per year pace with Marte, very young for the Carolina League at 19. The numbers:


    Name AB AVE ISoP ISO
    McPherson 292 0.308 0.096 0.298
    Marte 463 0.285 0.087 0.184


    Again, we see the similarity between Martes minor league numbers, and McPhersons from college. While his overall line doesnt look quite as impressive as the 2002 line, we saw his Isolated Patience go from .058 to .087. His drop in ISO, still at .184, is due to Myrtle Beach, one of the minors most extreme pitching havens. Over in the California League, Dallas McPherson became feared, seeing his ISO rise to .298. His 1.010 OPS was ridiculous, leaving some to call the 23-year-old the Angels best prospect. High praise in a system with Casey Kotchman, Jeff Mathis and Ervin Santana, wouldnt you say?

    Between 28 games last year and 68 this season, McPherson nearly had a full season of work at AA. Combining the seasons statistics was a wee bit difficult, so I cant promise the OBP and SLG are exact (though close). Martes numbers are his current stats through Sunday:

     
    Name AB AVE ISoP ISO
    McPherson 364 0.319 0.088 0.316
    Marte 261 0.284 0.089 0.295

    Story #1 here is Andy Marte, who has become atop prospect after taking his ISO to .300-like levels. Anyone worried that an ankle injury would derail Marte was wrong, considering his number 17 and 18 home runs came in a game last week. His Patience stayed the same, but now we get to see how important the milestone of reaching 20, and leaving the FSL really are. As for McPherson, this is basically the same story told in the California League: ISO over .300, OPS over 1.000, yawn. Note to Bill Stonemann: dont worry about talking with that Troy Glaus guy.

    Finally, the updated AAA season numbers for McPherson, also through Sunday:


    AB AVE ISoP ISO
    124 0.290 0.046 0.404

    Evaluating his numbers from a whole, we see a four-system decline in Patience, and the same four-system rise in Isolated Power. Who knows if McPherson will stay in this form, someone that doesnt walk much, or revert back to his old .090 Isolated Patience numbers. His .404 ISO is insane, but remember, Salt Lake is a hitters haven.

    Of all the numbers I just threw at you, I most recommend comparing the AA numbers of the two. Marte, four years McPhersons junior, had a higher IsoP, and an ISO only .021 points behind. While his contact skills have been a bit lower than McPhersons during their professional careers, he looks prime to make a leapfrog in the peripheral categories.

    If I had to guess, Marte should mold into a .285/.380/.520 player, becoming an All-Star with the Braves. He should be on the Alexis Rios path, starting the year in the International League and getting the call around next June. What Scheurholtz does between now and then is anyone's guess, but we better stop calling them out of the race.

    As for McPherson, his future doesn't appear to be so clean cut. His evaporating walk numbers are discouraging, even despite some fantastic slugging percentages. He appears more along the lines of .300/.360/.500, though the SLG I expect to be volatile throughout his career. Like the third basemen that precedes him, I expect Dallas to have huge ups and downs in his career. He'll never be the player Hank Blalock is across the division, but a middle of the order threat for sure.

    There's really not a story here folks, Andy Marte is the top prospect in baseball. He's one of the Southern League's most dominant hitters at the age of twenty, and his numbers reflect a huge breakout down the road. Avkash Patel be damned, the Braves just might never stop being contenders.

    WTNYAugust 02, 2004
    News Flash (not really)
    By Bryan Smith

    B.J. Upton, the consensus top prospect in baseball, has been summoned to the Major Leagues. The full story is here at ESPN, with lots of quotes from Upton and Lou Piniella.

    It appears Upton's first games will come as a designated hitter, likely the Devil Rays ploy to not show Tampa his only weakness: defese. After that stretch, Julio Lugo will move to second base, with Upton taking his everyday spot at short. Lugo didn't seem thrilled with the prospect of switching positions, saying, "I can't control whatever they do."

    The story says that Chuck Lamar is interested in re-signing the 28-year-old Lugo to a contract extension. A little overlooked this season, Lugo has been solid this season at .280/.344/.414, especially thriving in the two-hole. Not seen in this story is that Lamar is also looking to sign Upton to an unprecedented nine-year contract, buying out both his auto-renewal and arbitration years. I like the thought, especially since Lamar is obviously trying to establish good relations with the best player he's ever been around.

    Back to the main point of this post, Upton's debut should be televised today on ESPN at 7:15. It comes against the Boston Red Sox, and more specificially Tim Wakefield, who had a 3.75 ERA in July.

    Update: Upton is indeed playing DH tonight, and is in the ninth spot in the order. First and last? Probably.

    Update 2: First AB: 4-3. Upton swings through two knuckleballs to start his Major League career, both of which seemed a bit long. After watching the third pitch go by, Upton smokes a 71 mph knuckler to second base.

    Update 3: Walk. Wakefield throws four pitches, each right around the zone. Upton showed some nice plate discipline, a trait that's been present throughout his minor league career.

    Update 4: Carl Crawford singles to right field, and Upton flies to third base. Rocco Baldelli then hit a ball that Bill Mueller backhanded, giving Upton enough time to score his first Major League run.

    Update 5: B.J. Upton's first hit came on the tenth pitch he saw as a Major Leaguer, a 68 mph knuckleball from Tim Wakefield. Upton took the ball the other way, smoking it between Bill Mueller and Dave McCarty on the right side. Carl Crawford promptly hit into a fielder's choice, ending Upton's bid for a second run.

    Update 6: Upton strikes out against Keith Foulke to end the game. It took all of five pitches before Foulke got Upton swinging on an 81 mph change up low in the zone.

    Final Upton Debut Stats: 1/3, BB, R, K, 3.75 P/PA

    WTNYAugust 02, 2004
    More Where That Came From
    By Bryan Smith

    Kazmir

    In June of 2002, the Pittsburgh Pirates had the decision between Brian Bullington and B.J. Upton for the first overall choice. Seeing a higher chance for success in Bullington, they went with the 'Moneyball' theme, selecting a college player over a high school one. Tampa, like the Cubs had with Mark Prior the year before, picked up the best player in the draft with the next overall selection. Upton, was the best prospect in baseball until yesterday (he was called up), while Bullington is struggling in AA.

    Following the Devil Rays selection, Jim Bowden had a difficult choice in the three spot. The Reds, known more for economical choices than anything else, were left deciding between two high school pitchers: Chris Gruler and Scott Kazmir. With Kazmir's bonus demands growing by the day, Cincinnati was eventually forced to go with Gruler. Similar decisions took place for the Orioles and Angels, who drafted Adam Loewen and Joe Saunders in the fourth and 12th spots respectively. The Mets, never letting green effect their course, chose Kazmir fifteenth in the draft. Since then, Kazmir has flown to 10th on my prospect lists, while Gruler has pitched all but ten starts in two years, Loewen's ERA is 4.61 in low-A, and Saunders is slowly recovering from arm surgery.

    And then there is 2003, where due to a pitiful Major League season in 2002, the Devil Rays were slotted first for the June draft. After first considering every player under the sun, Tampa eventually narrowed their selection down to Delmon Young and Golden Spikes award winner Rickie Weeks. Convinced waiting for greatness was better than quick rewards, Lamar selected the outfielder with Major League pedigree first overall. Young is currently hitting .295/.348/.487 in the Sally League, while Weeks has a .254 batting average in AA.

    Upton, Kazmir, Young. All in one organization, projecting out to one team. No club in recent memory has had a trio of prospects like Tampa does now. Some say this will turn out to be Derek Jeter, Billy Wagner and Albert Belle. Some call for more, some predict less. But, the Devil Rays join the Cleveland Indians as the only teams to have three top 20 prospects, with Tampa's lot far better than Grady Sizemore, Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Aubrey.

    What could make this all the scarier for AL East fans is that Jeff Niemann fell to Tampa in the most recent Major League draft. After a 17-0, 11.70 ERA season as a sophomore in 2003, Niemann was a lock for the number one pick before offseason arm surgery shook his career for a scare. Niemann struggled a bit through his junior year, finishing the season with an ERA, gasp, above 3.00. But scouts are convinced the 6-9 Rice product will revert back to his old self with rest, mixing a high-90s fastball with a power curve sure to land him in a top 25 prospect list. Four in the top 25? Yikes.

    For this to happen, Tampa must show increased awareness of their prospect’s arms. I thought the Mets, even before Rick Peterson arrived, did a fantastic job with Kazmir. Due to the combination of his small size and big fastball, scouts have always been wary of the southpaw’s arm. Another scouting concern is whether Kazmir, who lacks a good offspeed pitch, will make it as a starter. Lord knows he’ll be given every opportunity to do so, judging from Dewon Brazelton’s 97 different chances. Tampa has lacked an ace since coming into the league, and now have found a potential ace somewhere between B.J. Upton and Delmon Young.

    Huber

    If we’re praising GMs for stealing prospects, Allard Baird deserves some recognition for his New York heist. Baird, who took loads of heat during the Royals’ long sub-.500 run, is seemingly becoming more accepted of late. In full rebuilding mode shortly after the Beltran trade, Baird saw fit to acquire Rule V pick Jose Bautista for absolutely nothing (cash). And now, after about 20 harmless games in KC, the club miraculously found an interested buyer in Pittsburgh. So with the Mets affixed on Kris Benson, Jim Duquette was quick to send Justin Huber to the Royals.

    Admittedly a bit overrated in my rankings, Huber is still undoubtedly one of the game’s top five catching prospects, if not second. Bad defense has led people to believe the Australian will be forced to make the Carlos Delgado, catcher to first, switch. Some wonder whether Huber has the power to succeed there, though his current ISO (nearing .200) is quieting those complaints. John Buck will likely be given the Royals job in 2005, and his performance there should dictate where Huber ultimately ends up.

    Hill and Murphy

    This move alters Arizona’s future considerably, as the 2007 everyday lineup now has Hill behind the dish, not Robby Hammock. It is a great upgrade, as Hill is currently my sixth best catching prospect in baseball. He’s not the threat that Justin Huber is at the plate, but he’s a better catcher and more Major League ready. If you’re keeping tabs on who will be playing in Phoenix come 2007, you should be thinking along these lines:

    C- Hill
    1B- Hillenbrand or Cota
    2B- Hairston
    SS- Santos
    3B- Tracy
    LF- Jackson
    CF- Drew (toss up at short)
    RF- Quentin

    Now the question is if Bill Murphy fits into the plans as well. Most places would tell you that Murphy is a better acquisition than Hill, but not me. Despite good stuff, Murphy has allowed far too many walks and home runs to project into a future All-Star. In fact, there is probably an equal probability he ends up a reliever. Murphy would have probably landed in my next group of ten prospects, while I would guess Baseball America thinks of him much higher.

    Also worth noting is the fact that with Murphy moving on, the new #2 Marlins prospect is Jason Stokes. Murphy had jumped over both Stokes and Scott Olsen, who was almost out in Bill’s place. Stokes has fantastic raw power, and with Choi’s trade, projects to be the Marlins; 2006 first basemen. Someone to watch is Robert Andino, who flew through short-season ball, and is flying up the shortstop rankings. Keep watching to see if he slows down, because if not, the Marlins may have another Edgar Renteria.

    Cubs, old and new

    Justin Jones had taken the worst fall of a Cubs’ prospect this year (well, maybe Blasko), dropping from the #2 prospect to somewhere around 8-10. This can be attributed to both the sore elbow he’s complained of since his professional arrival, and his less-than-dominating performance in the Midwest League. Often compared to Scott Kazmir, Jones has taken a much slower path than his southpaw counterpart thus far. Still, Jones’ stuff alone is enough to make him the Twins’ third or fourth best pitching prospect. And what did they get him for? Oh, just the opportunity to start Justin Morneau everyday. If it’s true, that defense at first base is overrated, Minnesosta improved themselves in a big way here. Now if they could just find a buyer for Luis Rivas!

    I was a bit surprised to see Harris included in the deal, as he’s been a favorite of Hendry’s since he was managing the farm system. Harris, who Baseball Prospectus once compared to Albert Pujols (sorry, couldn’t pass that one up), was coming on strong at AAA before a meaningless promotion. The infielder hit .400 playing everyday in June, along with a .700 slugging percentage. My guess is that Harris will be the 2005 Washington Senators’ third basemen, with Maicer Izturis at shortstop. The switch-hitting Izturis is hitting .365/.447/.442 in AAA, with only twenty strikeouts and eight errors in 74 games. Included in the Scott Stewart trade this past winter, the 23-year-old has hit around .440 in his last 20 games.

    And finally, there is Matt Murton, who Theo Epstein admitted he grudgingly included into the Nomah! trade. Murton was originally drafted by the Cubs, decided to go to Georgia Tech, and later won the Cape Cod home run crown. He was one of Epstein’s first draft picks, all after hitting .344/.434/.536 during his final college season. While this is a bit short of Mark Teixeira’s .427/.547/.772 line at GT, it still projects very well. Murton’s power has dipped a bit this season, but the numbers should improve in his final month, seeing as Daytona favors hitters. Murton, in my opinion, becomes the eighth best Cubs prospect, with this being my top ten:

    1. Felix Pie
    2. Angel Guzman
    3. Bobby Brownlie
    4. Ryan Harvey
    5. Andy Sisco
    6. Brian Dopirak
    7. Luke Hagerty
    8. Matt Murton
    9. Sean Marshall
    10. Bear Bay

    That’s still a damn good top ten considering it lost two players yesterday. Ol’ Hendry does it again.

    Mets, old and new

    Almost immediately after posting my final 100, a reader asked me why I didn’t include Matt Peterson onto the list. My guess, judging from New York stereotypes, is that same reader agrees with my decision now that Peterson has moved onto Pittsburgh. I just don’t understand why, after striking out 153 in 137.2 innings last year, Peterson’s K numbers are so far down this year. A sub-9.00 K/9 and 2.00 K/BB is just not the makings of a great prospect, though the Pirates will be praying I’m wrong. But, Peterson joins a strength of the organization, as the Pirates have become flush in pitching prospects: Van Benschoten, Burnett (doesn’t apply), Bullington, Peterson, Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny, Zach Duke, Bobby Bradley, etc.

    Mets’ fans were in depression this weekend, seeing that their GM traded away about half their farm system. But to solace New Yorkers, few teams would complain about owning the rights to the Wright-Petit-Milledge trio. Jeff Keppinger helped ease the pain as well, as Mets fans saw the 24-year-old second basemen was hitting .334/.384/.409 in the Eastern League. Keppinger reminds me a bit of Dustin Pedroia, one of the Red Sox first picks this year, and even more so after seeing Keppinger’s last college season saw him hit .389/.480/.691. Keppinger’s career minor league line should read about .310/.360/.410 right now, which should be good enough for some team to want him this winter. That’s surely what Duquette must be thinking, as he’s stuck with Reyes and Matsui up the middle for a while.

    Dealt: A Ranking

    Since I just can’t get enough of these rankings, I thought I’d rank the 20 prospects that changed teams this weekend. Below, along with their new organizations:

    1. Scott Kazmir- Tampa Bay Devil Rays
    2. Justin Huber- Kansas City Royals
    3. Koyie Hill- Arizona Diamondbacks
    4. Bill Murphy- Arizona Diamondbacks
    5. Matt Peterson- Pittsburgh Pirates
    6. Justin Jones- Minnesota Twins
    7. Alfredo Simon- San Francisco Giants
    8. Brendan Harris- ‘Montreal Expos’
    9. Matt Murton- Chicago Cubs
    10. Jeff Keppinger- New York Mets
    11. Joselo Diaz- Tampa Bay Devil Rays
    12. Henri Stanley- Los Angeles Dodgers
    13. Josh Hancock- Cincinnati Reds
    14. Bartolome Fortunato- New York Mets
    15. Travis Chick- Florida Marlins
    16. Matt Merricks- Los Angeles Dodgers
    17. Brad Correll- Philadelphia Phillies
    18. Jon Huber- Seattle Mariners
    19. Anderson Machado- Cincinnati Reds
    20. Reggie Abercrombie- Arizona Diamondbacks

    That’s all for today, I’ll be back with more come Wednesday.

    Baseball BeatAugust 02, 2004
    Abstracts From The Abstracts
    By Rich Lederer

    Part Five: 1981 Baseball Abstract

    The 5th Annual Edition is the last of Bill James' self-published Baseball Abstracts. It features a light-yellow cover with artwork by Susan McCarthy of a dozen baseballs in an egg carton with the handwritten inscription "Baseball Fever - Hatch It". Susie, as Bill calls her in the acknowledgements section, also created a silkscreen on the "same motif as the cover design". The 15" x 23" four-color serigraph, "suitable for matting and framing", was offered for sale at $12 ($9 cost, $3 for postage and handling).

    James also lists price information on back issues, noting 1980 and 1979 are "still available" for $10 and $7, respectively. He also mentions doing a reprint of the 1978 and 1977 editions and writes: "If you want one--and, to be frank about it, I don't know why anyone would--then send me a check or m.o. for the appropriate amount, the check sent before September 1 but dated (please) September 10. On September 1 I will count the checks and reprint the number needed. These copies will be exactly like the originals except they will say 'REPRINT' on the cover."

    Down below, James offers the 1977 book for $5 ("Virtually all numbers; only one essay remains interesting at this point") and the 1978 version for $8 ("Far better, but still largely outdated").

    James opens the 1981 Abstract with a two-page "Dear Reader" letter entirely on the subject of sabermetrics, including what is sabermetrics, the definition of sabermetrics, and the difference between sportswriting and sabermetrics.

    1) Sportswriting draws on the available evidence, and forces conclusions by selecting and arranging that evidence so that it points in the direction desired. Sabermetrics introduces new evidence, previously unknown data derived from original source material.

    2) Sportswriting designs its analysis to fit the situation being discussed; sabermetrics designs methods which would be applicable not only in the present case but in any other comparable situation. The sportswriter say this player is better than that one because this player had 20 more home runs, 10 more doubles, and 40 more walks and those things are more important than that players 60 extra base hits and 31 extra stolen bases, and besides, there is always defense and if all else fails team leadership. If player C is introduced into this discussion, he is a whole new article. Sabermetrics puts into place formulas, schematic designs, or theories of relationship which could compare not only this player to that one, but to any player who might be introduced into the discussion.

    3) Sportswriters characteristically begin their analysis with a position on an issue; sabermetrics begins with the issue itself. The most over-used form in journalism is the diatribe, the endless impassioned and quasi-logical pitches for the cause of the day--Mike Norris for the Cy Young Award, Rickey Henderson for MVP, Gil Hodges for the Hall of Fame, everybody for lower salaries and let's all line up against the DH. Sportswriting "analysis" is largely an adversary process, with the most successful sportswriter being the one who is the most effective advocate of his position. I personally, of course, have positions which I advocate occasionally, but sabermetrics by its nature is unemotional, non-committal. The sportswriter attempts to be a good lawyer; the sabermetrician, a fair judge.

    For that reason, good sabermetrics respects the validity of all types of evidence, including that which is beyond the scope of statistical validation.

    On the subject of sabermetrics, James intersperses the following remarks in the Player Ratings and Comments section:

    Bad sabermetrics attempts to end the discussion by saying that I have studied the issue and this is the answer. Good sabermetrics attempts to contribute to the discussion in such a way as to enable it to move forward on a ground of common understanding.

    Bad sabermetricians characteristically insist that those things which cannot be measured are not important, like Earnshaw Cook's incredible assertion that major league teams should play the best hitters available, more or less regardless of defense. Bad sabermetricians run from the monster in terror, and insist that he does not really exist, that there is only That Shadow.

    Speaking of Cook, James' disdain for the mathematician-turned-author shows up later in the book: "Cook knew everything about statistics and nothing at all about baseball--and for that reasons, all of his answers are wrong, all of his methods useless."

    James also takes on Tom Boswell's Big Bang Theory and Total Average. He disproves Boswell's assertion that "the winning team will score more runs in one inning than the loser will in all nine" in a significant majority of games. James says that "Boswell reached his conclusion by studying World Series games, and World Series games are not typical of regular-season games".

    As to Total Average, James huffs, "The world needs another offensive rating system like Custer needed more Indians...What we really need, as I wrote three years ago, is for the amateurs to clear the floor."

    I don't mean to sound harsh or negative about the work that Boswell has done. He is a first-rate writer, and I would happily say that he was a first-rate sabermetrician if I thought that any of you would believe it. If, like most of the nation's sportswriters, he had never developed a single idea about how baseball games were won, if he had never done a half-hour's research to check his idea, then I would not be criticizing him. It would hardly seem wise or fair to single him out for criticism because he did have a single idea, and he did do a half-hour's research, give or take ten minutes. The best ideas are those which have one saying, "Well, I wonder why nobody else ever thought of that?" Boswell has yet to come up with such an idea. But I would give a week's pay to have Boswell working for a KC newspaper, where I could read his stuff regularly. He's good.

    James uses his Value Approximation method throughout the book, including the creation of a "Talent Balance Sheet" for each major league team as well as a spin-off version that he refers to as "Trade Value" (defined as years remaining multiplied by established value). James says he might call Trade Value "Estimated Future Approximate Value" except for the fact that "I hate acronyms".

    No, they're alright in their place but they are too dangerous when you are writing about numbers; you can wind up saying that A has an EV of X and a PYR of Y and X times Y equals Z which is his EFAV and nobody knows what the hell you are talking about. Or cares.

    "The Favorite Toy" essay was a culmination of James' search "for some way to estimate accurately a player's chances of attaining some particular career goal". As James saw it, "the most relevant issues in the question of whether A can X are:

    1) Distance. How far away is A from X?

    2) Momentum. How fast is A approaching X? And

    3) Time. How long does A have to attain X?"

    James provides a table of "Major League Players Who Have At Least A .01 Chance Of Getting to 3000 Hits". The top three players are Rod Carew (53%), Robin Yount (32%), and George Brett (31%). Seven players in total eventually reached the magical plateau, including the three above plus Eddie Murray (24%), Dave Winfield (13%), Paul Molitor (7%), and Henderson (6%). Pete Rose (1978) and Carl Yastrzemski (1979) had already reached the 3000 hit mark, while Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, and Cal Ripken had yet to make their major league debuts.

    The total expectation for all of the players figured, from Rod Carew to Bill Russell, is 6.16; that is to say, this system would estimate that, out of all major league players now playing regularly but with less than 3000 hits, about 6 would eventually reach that mark. That is, I think, a very good guess.

    With respect to breaking Hank Aaron's career home run total, James predicts that the player "will have to do it from ahead, because, no one, comparing age levels, is goning to catch Aaron from behind". James points out, "The best 5-year home run period of Aaron's career began when Henry was 35 years old, and that is without historicial precedent. So if you're behind him at 33 or 35, forget it."

    Although Barry Bonds was only 16 years old when James wrote the 1981 Abstract, I thought it would be interesting to compare Bonds' and Aaron's home run totals from age 35-on.

                Aaron           Bonds
    Age 35       44              49
    Age 36       38              73
    Age 37       47              46
    Age 38       34              45
    Age 39       40              27 (through 7/31/04)

    Bonds has outhomered Hank, 240-203, from age 35-39 with a third of a season still to go. This is not meant to put James or Aaron down at all; rather, it is designed to show once again just how incredible Bonds has been these past five years.

    James asks himself, "If I were to name five American League players who should win an MVP award, I would name Molitor, Murray, Parrish, Wilson, and Henderson." He tells us to "save the list and we'll see". Well, I'm here to tell you, Bill, that you picked one correctly (Henderson, 1990). To his credit, Henderson or Murray finished second in the A.L. voting the following three years. However, the closest that Parrish and Wilson ever came to winning the MVP award was 9th and 10th, respectively.

    James further develops his ideas as to determining won/lost percentages in "Pythagoras and Logarithms". This essay is loaded with a graph and several formulas, including the log5 equation. James even provides a table of the NFL standings, showing the actual and projected W/L records (the latter based on points and opposition points by the Pythagorean method). "Of the 28 teams, 21 are within 1 game of being correct; the standard error is 1.27 games." James goes on to say that the approach "could also be used to estimate the won/lost records of hockey teams...and to do any number of other jobs within the world of sports statistics".

    In "Other Voices", fellow sabermetrician Pete Palmer writes a letter to James, telling him, "I still like my formula best." James concedes the difference between the two is that "the Palmer formula tends to be slightly more conservative, and to give answers which are a little closer to .500".

    James concludes in his essay on "Ability and Career Expectation" that the peak period for players is "more 26 to 30 than 28 to 32". He summarizes his finding by saying "very few players are still at their best at age 32". James also puts forth the notion that all players "move downward [as far as Offensive W-L%] and leftward [defensive spectrum] over time".

    Elsewhere, James raises several questions about areas of performance that are not as easily quantifiable.

    We do not know how many times each player was thrown out attempting to take an extra base. We do not know how many times each player gave away a base by throwing to the wrong one. We do not know how many hits Mark Belanger has robbed the opposition of over the years, how many doubles Greg Luzinski has given away. We don't have any idea how many runs Roberto Clemente prevented by keeping people at third on sacrifice flies. We couldn't even guess how many runs Mickey Cochrane saved his teams by knowing what pitches to call for, or Carlton Fisk. We do not know which or whether players are especially good in the clutch. And this is only the shadow of the monster; our whole ignorance is much larger than we can conceive of.

    James was early in discovering that, much to his and everyone else's surprise, power pitchers were more likely to have "better durability" than control pitchers.

    On the subject of pitching, James refutes the belief that "pitching is 75% of baseball" and suggests "about 35%" as the correct weighting. One of the most persuasive arguments James makes on behalf of hitting over pitching is as follows:

    Another point which seems to me to be relevant is that the spread of occurrence of every single type of offensive incident is wider for hitters than it is for pitchers. No pitcher allows home runs as often as Mike Schmidt hits them, or as rarely as Duane Kuiper hits them. No pitcher allows opposition batters an average of as high as George Brett, or as low as that of the league's lowest average. No pitcher strikes out batters as often as Gorman Thomas strikes out, or as in-frequently (sic) as Brett strikes out. No pitcher walks batters as often as Gene Tenace walks, or as rarely as Rob Picciolo walks, even though "walks" are traditionally considered the province of the pitcher.

    While sitting at the typewriter, James notices that "the lion's share of championships have been won by teams which play in pitcher's parks" and concludes by saying "more research, more research" when wondering if "there is an inherent advantage to a team which must force itself to learn to play the 1-run game that is often forced upon it by a low-scoring battle".

    A section entitled "Joint Project" was basically a request put forth by James to code the pitching motions of all the major league pitchers. It was his "first reader-participation project". The letters used in the coding remind me of those proposed in the last chapter in The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, entitled "Pitcher Codes".

    In a similar vein, James tells his readers he has a folder on his desk labeled The Baseball Analyst that for the last two years "has collected mostly dust".

    The Baseball Analyst, if it is to be, is to be a journal of sabermetrics. I will edit it, and occasionally make comments or even small contributions, but 90 to 95% of it will be written by other people. People like you.

    If you are interested, this is the way I'm going to set it up. The Analyst, or course, will not pay for copy. All people who contribute, whether they contribute a 5-page article or a paragraph, must also subscribe...The number printed will be exactly the number of subscribers. The Analyst would come out six times a year, and contain 20 pages an issue. The pages would look, in general, a lot like the earliest Abstract's (sic)--photo copied, staple bound. The cost: $12 a year.

    The system is set up to avoid the possibility of the Analyst running in the red, because I just couldn't afford to carry the thing if it doesn't pay for its own way...If you are interested, send a check for $12 to "Bill James" or "The Baseball Analyst", drawn on an account that will still be active on August 1...I will put all of the checks, and all of the work, in that same dusty folder, cleaned out for the occasion. If, on August 1, that folder contains at least 50 checks and at least 40 pages of material--enough for the first two issues--then the Baseball Analyst will finally get off the couch. If it fails on either account, the checks will be returned to you, and the folder put away.

    Next up: 1982 Baseball Abstract, the first of seven soft-cover annuals published by Ballantine Books.

    [Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]