WTNYNovember 30, 2004
Pardon As They Relieve Themselves
By Bryan Smith

When perusing through scouting reports on prospects, you'll often read that starting pitcher prospects would make a great closer. I don't have enough time to make a full entry today, but I wanted to combine a few scouting reports and extra thoughts to get your opinions on the prospects of four top 50 pitchers moving to the bullpen. Normally I am greatly against this, but if it appears that the player simply will not reach his full potential in the rotation, making him the closer is hardly despicable.

The Win Shares leaderboards are hardly as dominated by starters as one would think, James' system recognizes relievers as important players too. If a player is better suited in relief, stretching his career out into mediocre 5-6 inning appearances is a bad idea. Today, I will attack four players: Scott Kazmir, Jose Capellan, Merkin Valdez and Denny Bautista. In the comments, please tell me your thoughts on these players, the idea of moving these players to the bullpen, and your idea of that philosophy in general. Let's go in order of how high I would rank them, starting with the ex-Met (sorry, needed that quick jab).

Scott Kazmir- First, for the proper scouting report on Kazmir, I give you what Rich Lederer wrote following his debut, in an article entitled "Great Scott". This sums up a lot of the thoughts I had when vieweing Kazmir myself:

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...He already has a major-league caliber fastball and slider and only needs to further develop his change-up (a pitch that he wasnt afraid to use Monday night) and improve his control to become known as the Kazmir Sweaterthe type of pitcher that will send opponents perspiring in anticipation of facing him.

For years, I was a seller of Kazmir, buying into the "poor man's Billy Wagner" hype a lot more than Ron Guidry, as Rich also suggested. His blend of height, power, and a lack of a third pitch cry for a move to the bullpen. But Kazmir did not have troubles when facing the Red Sox or Tigers for a second time, as relief-worthy starting pitchers sometimes do. The only negative is that during pitches 46-60, and then 61-75, Kazmir allowed respective OPS numbers of 1.423 and 1.311. Yes, this is an insanely small sample size, but if Kazmir flops at 45 like Pedro does at 100, maybe using him as a closer won't be so bad for the Devil Rays after all.

Jose Capellan- Not well known before the season, Capellan flew through four levels in 2004, finishing the season with the Braves. His HR/9 rates were amazing in the minors, a trait needed for a good reliever, but also a telling statistic for a starting pitcher. Using the wonderful MLB TV, I tuned in for Capellan's first start, and afterwards wrote this:

Like in the Futures Game, Capellan began the game throwing primarily fastballs. Its a great pitch, 96-99 mph, but without anything else caused some problems. In the first inning, Capellan allowed two hits, two walks and a run, pitches out of a bases loaded, one out jam. This was because Jose started to mix in his curve, a low-80s pitch with sharp, downward bite. Its a good pitch, and sees problems when he leaves it up in the zone. He finished the game well, retiring eight of the last nine batters he faced...With thick thighs powering his fastball, Capellan is reminiscent of the Bartolo Colon, Livan Hernandez type pitcher. After watching the Futures Game, I speculated Capellan may be best out of the bullpen, but I think he could have a Colon-like career in starting.

And then there is this comment I made after watching Capellan throw all of fifteen pitches at the 2004 Futures Game, in my game report entitled "Baseball's Crystal Ball".

The same wasnt true by Jose Capellan, the Braves prospect that seemed to dominate his inning despite allowing a hit to Wright. Capellan threw his fastball from 95-98, using it on thirteen of his fifteen total pitches. His curve was rather unimpressive, and though this might depress Braves fans, Capellan reminded me of a younger Kyle Farnsworth.

So, in the course of two months, I gave two drastically different comparisons for Capellan: Colon and Farnsworth. It seemed as I liked his curveball more the second time around, citing the bite, while acknowledging his tendency to leave it up in the zone too much. Expect Leo Mazzone to attack this matter quickly, and thoroughly. But still, this only gives him two real pitches. While it hasn't been talked about, could John Smoltz and Capellan switch roles in 2005?

Merkin Valdez- This is an odd example, because it is not an idea thought of by prospect evaluators, but by the San Francisco Giants themselves. Since the club was in the middle of a pennant race without a closer, Brian Sabean began to think of new ideas to find the player who would dominate the ninth inning. Matt Herges was not up for the role, neither was 2003 first-rounder David Aardsma. They hadn't yet thought of Dustin Hermanson, who would do the job fine in September. So, they brought in Valdez, who did a terrible job, and was almost immediately sent back to starting. But was Sabean onto something? Here were my Future Game thoughts:

El Mago threw the bottom half, throwing one of the easiest mid-90s fastballs that I have ever seen. It didnt look like Valdez was laboring at all, and he also threw a change and curve in his eight pitch stint. After retiring Fielder and Wright, Valdez was taken out to let the fans see Jairo Garcia, the As reliever that just finished storming threw the Midwest League.

It's hard to give too much of a scouting report based on eight pitches, but I could quickly tell that Valdez was quite the talent. My feeling that he threw 'easy' is something that works well for a starting pitcher, because it means that he puts little stress on his arm. An innings-eater with a mid-90s fastball is a rare commodity, and one of the few that should not in anyway be subject to the move to closer. Also, since he threw two other solid pitches in such a short appearance, I'm convinced that Valdez has the versatility to be another Giant starting prospect. Jerome Williams, Matt Cain, Jesse Foppert and Merkin Valdez. Even Logan White might be jealous of that foursome.

Before getting to Bautista, let me say that this is when my personal account becomes less affective, and I will lean on Baseball America. I hate to do this, to simply regurgiate other's work, but for the purpose of discussion, excuse me just this once.

Denny Bautista- No matter how you look at it, this was the steal of the 2004 season. Jason Grimsley, a fairly-replaceable right-handed reliever, was a coveted attraction by the non-contending Baltimore Orioles. Somehow, Baird had enough leverage to demand Bautista, who the Orioles had stolen from the Marlins for Jeff Conine the previous season. Why they gave in, I'll never fully understand. I don't have too many thoughts on Bautista, but did offer this bit when placing Bautista in my preseason top 50 prospects:

No one impressed me more at the Futures Game than Denny Bautista, a huge right-hander that the Orioles acquired for Jeff Conine last season. Bautista, a cousin of Pedro and Ramon Martinez, throws a fantastic fastball that was the best of any pitcher at the Futures Game. His curveball was impressive as well, but I wont be shocked to see Bautista to become a reliever.

OK, so I saw it more than a year ago, and the talk keeps getting louder as Bautista moves up the ladder. While the U.S. Cellular Field radar gun was terrible during the 2003 Futures Game, I'll never forget Bautista's "heavy" mid-90s fastball. Even from my seats on the third base line, I was able to see the movement on Bautista's fastball, and how it troubled hitters greatly. According to Baseball America, Bautista has as many as four solid pitches, just none like that fastball. In his chat on the system, Will Kimmey kept reiterating that Bautista's future might be replacing Mike MacDougal. I hope they at least give him a chance to prove himself otherwise first.

OK, I just want to start the discussion here. If you have seen these players pitch, voice in. If you follow these teams, voice in. If you have opinions on moving pitchers to the bullpen, voice in. Hell, if you have any prospect-related question or comment, voice in. I'm just beginning the dialogue...

WTNYNovember 29, 2004
Once Good
By Bryan Smith

1985. Michael Jordan was just becoming a household name, and the Chicago Bears were the national icons from the Windy City. They dominated our televisions, and the likes of George Michael and Madonna ruled our radios. And in a thrilling October, the Kansas City Royals won the World Series.

The team ruled by George Brett, Charlie Liebrandt, Bret Saberhagen and Dan Quisenberry would narrowly eclipse the St. Louis Cardinals, winning the last three games to take the crown in seven. What we could not have predicted then was this team would not win a division in the next 20 years, while passing the 85 win barrier just once. This organization, one that dominated it's division from 1976-1985, would become one of the laughingstocks of baseball.

In the 20 years since the great Royal team of October, the Royals have had nine different managers. This ranged from the young John Wathan, to the old Bob Boone; from the fiery Hal McRae to the player's favorite Tony Pena. They have had eleven different ERA leaders, from Saberhagen to Kevin Appier to Mac Suzuki. And finally, twelve different players have led the team in OPS, including Gary Gaetti, Danny Tartabull and good ol' Chili Davis.

If I have not proved it yet, the Royal organization is a poor one. But I have praised Allard Baird in the past months, and admittedly (and embarassingly) predicted KC to take the AL Central this past season. Why I feel some connection to this franchise, despite needing a team to root for against the White Sox, is beyond me. But I do, and the desire to start from the basement has intrigued me. So, I ask, when will Kansas City become the organization it was 20 years ago?

Despite all the bad teams, a number of good players have come through Kansas City. The latest - Carlos Beltran - is currently the hottest name on the free agent market. The problems Baird has is that he's not giving his player development staff enough good players, and once he has them, he can't keep them long. Sure, he can have the occasional Mike Sweeney, but even that can turn into a disaster.

I don't mean to keep bashing the Royals, but when I research the team, there is little to praise. Sweeney was the wrong player to lock up, and Baird's hauls from both Beltran and Jermaine Dye are not anything to be proud of. But I don't mean to keep raining on Kauffman Stadium - a ballpark I really liked - so I'll get to the good things.

Even if you don't consider Buck, Wood and Teahen enough for Beltran, you have to recognize that Beltran did have some steals on the trade market this season. Jason Grimsley, an aging reliever with little importance to the team, was traded for Denny Bautista, arguably their top prospect. And Justin Huber, once one of the game's best catching prospects, was acquired for little more than a waiver acquisition. Jamie Cerda was stolen from the Mets a little ways into the season, for some flame-throwing arm no different than Nate Field. So all six players, for Beltran, is definitely something to be proud of.

And even though the team finished with the second-worst record in baseball, they had some young players provide some real bright spots. The most obvious was Zack Greinke, my vote for American League Rookie of the Year. A favorite of mine, Greinke was at times dominating, while impressing his front office, players and opponents alike. The home run rates need to decline, but his improvement in striking out batters towards the end of the season was intriguing. David DeJesus produced an impressive .360 on-base percentage, though his .401 SLG must improve, as well as his 8/19 record on the basepaths. Calvin Pickering quickly proved that there is solid available talent constantly on the minor league free agent market.

By the same token, a lot of youngsters took a step back in 2004. Jimmy Gobble's ri-gosh-damn-diculous 2.98 K/9 is way, way too low, and will never allow his ERA to dip below 4.00. Mike MacDougal and Jeremy Affeldt failed to step forward and become dominant forces in the late innings. Angel Berroa took a huge step backwards, even earning a demotion during an ugly August. Mike Wood and John Buck were both a bit disappointing in September call-ups, making me think even worse of the Beltran trade. And if any of you readers like Ken Harvey...ahh...ahh...calm down, Bryan.

So, if I act as armchair General Manager, where do I go from here? First, let me compliment Baird on the quiet signing of Chris Truby, formerly known as the next Astro third basemen. Truby hit .300/.367/.558 in AAA with the Pirates last season, even while playing every single infield position. Truby could prove to being a better signing than Tony Graffanino, one of my favorite players, and someone I wanted to platoon with Todd Walker rather than Grudzi in Chicago last season. Truby will allow the Royals to slow down Mark Teahen, who keeps pressing that he is ready for Major League play. Sooner or later, they have to give in, but not quite.

Teahen was a huge favorite of Baird, and I always wonder when talented scouts rave about certain players. His defense at third base is fantastic, and I believe he can hit for league average in the AVE category for the length of his career. My concerns lie more in the OBP, SLG and K categories. During his tear of the Texas League, Teahen struck out in more than 22% of his at-bats, and in 28.9% of his AAA at-bats. This is simply too much for someone who could only muster a 156 ISO in the Pacific Coast League. And I could go for a few more walks, and what worries me is that he started drawing less when moving to Omaha, an organization that preached discipline far less.

Joining Truby/Teahen on the left side next April will be Angel Berroa, who should not draw a lot of competition. Berroa was fantastic in September, hitting .321/.379/.453 and showing what made him the Rookie of the Year. After showing a knack for leading off, Berroa was abysmal in the one-spot in 2004, preferring to hit eighth in the lineup. This will be OK with the emergence of DeJesus, the Beltran/Damon successor. Expect a bit more out of Berroa next year, though I think he will gradually build towards those rookie numbers, not immediately return to them.

Who should turn the double play with Berroa, is the larger question. Ruben Gotay showed some good things and some bad things during his stint, and thus should be sent to AAA to refine his skills. Tony Graffanino will be healthy in April, and I would go with my former favorite White Sox with the position. If Teahen proves to be ready, than maybe Truby could play the Michael Cuddyer role and occasionally spell TGraff. But since they have the stopgap already under contract, they might as well let the position battle between Gotay and Donnie Murphy be decided in the minor leagues.

One position battle that cannot be ignored, is that between Ken Harvey and Calvin Pickering. If you have gotten this far in the article, you likely realize my choice would be Pickering. If I were Baird, I would desperately try to work a three-way trade in which he trades either Harvey or Mike Sweeney, and can somehow land Ryan Howard. Having the Pickering-Howard power in the middle would be a nice start in reworking this team. But something tells me that KC fans will be left waiting for Sweeney's contract to end and Harvey's power to come. One will come sooner than the other, but both are just too far away to wait for.

The outfield is another big question mark, with only DeJesus really a lock to claim a spot. I assume that Matt Stairs will get a full-time position, though I would prefer it was Stairs vs. RH, and Ruben Mateo (another nifty waiver claim) facing the southpaws. As for right field, it looks like Terence Long. Just close your eyes Royals fans, maybe Chris Lubanski will break out, jump three levels and be there...by 2006.

So, what about the rotation. If I close my eyes and wonder what Kansas City will have there in five years, I see this: Greinke, Bautista, Mike Pelfrey, J.P. Howell. The fifth I don't know, but I can tell you that I fully expect the Royals to take Pelfrey - a Royal fan and Wichita State University superstar - with the second choice in next June's draft. And yes, I do realize the insanity in predicting a college player to be in a certain team's rotation come 2009. But hey, that's what I do.

But for now, the team might as well try out the Jimmy Gobbles, Mike Woods, Runlevys Hernandezs and Miguel Asencios. They might as well keep trying to pluck the next Johan Santana from the Rule V draft, possibly selecting Andy Sisco from my Cubbies this December. They should keep checking the waiver wire and minor league free agency market for someone they can land on the cheap, while keeping around at least one Brian Anderson-type. Because of the liberty Baird has here, I really like the Dennis Tankersly acquisition.

Kansas City is going to be bad, for awhile. But taking care of the Angel Berroas, Mark Teahens, Zack Greinkes and Denny Bautistas, while looking for more in the Dennys Reyes-mold, is the right idea. Don't fight Daniel Glass for dollars now, that time will come...though I do worry that will be closer to 2085.

Baseball BeatNovember 29, 2004
Abstracts From The Abstracts
By Rich Lederer

Part Ten: 1986 Baseball Abstract

The Bill James Baseball Abstract in 1986 was the tenth in a series that lasted twelve years. It was probably nine more than what James anticipated when he self-published the first edition in 1977. Who would have thought back then that the Baseball Abstracts would end up selling hundreds of thousands of copies and find their way onto the New York Times bestseller list?

The price of the 1986 Abstract was raised one dollar for the second consecutive year to $8.95. I still have a Crown Books sticker for $6.71 on the front cover of my book, a 25% discount off the publisher's price. The value obviously rests in the record 340 pages of fresh content rather than in the design of the cover that features an amateurish home plate that only a pitcher could love.

James dedicates the book to John and Sue Dewan and thanks, among others, Susan McCarthy ("heckuva good wife"), Dan Okrent ("still appreciated for the role that he played several years ago in bringing this book to the attention of the nation"), Pete Palmer ("esteemed colleague and occasional competitor"), and Craig Wright ("treasured friend and compatriot").

I wanted to thank Willie Mays for being Willie Mays, George Brett for being George Brett and Frank White for being Frank White. They don't give a hoot for the book, but what the heck, it wouldn't be the same without them, would it? Since the Royals won the World Championship, I'll even thank John Schuerholz for being John Schuerholz.

In refuting the statement that "baseball is 75% pitching," James points out in the Introduction and Methods section that, "No pitcher allows home runs as often as Dale Murphy hits home runs. No pitcher allows home runs as seldom as Bob Dernier hits home runs. . .No pitcher allows hits as often as Wade Boggs gets hits. No pitcher, not even Dwight Gooden, allows hits as infrequently as Steve Lake will get a hit. . .No pitcher strikes out hitters as often as Rob Deer strikes out. No pitcher strikes out hitters as rarely as Bill Buckner strikes out.

"This is true of every significant area of performance, including those things like walks and hit batsmen, which are usually considered to be controlled by the pitcher. And what does that mean? It means that in order to create a working model or simulation of a baseball game, you must allow the hitters to be the dominant, shaping force in the game. And if baseball were 75% pitching, one would not expect that to be true."

In Here We Go Again, James explains "the major principles and methods which are used and/or referred to repeatedly in sabermetrics." He reviews Runs Created, Value Approximation, the Defensive Spectrum, the Brock6 System, Range Factor, Minors to Majors Projection System, and The Favorite Toy.

With respect to runs created, James acknowledges that "the formulas are imperfect. . .there are many factors of a real-world baseball economy which we cannot measure. . .Base-running is one of those. The ability to move baserunners by making outs--that legendary little thing which doesn't show up in the box score--is another one. The ability to create extra runs by producing at key moments, if such an ability exists, is poorly measured, and not really accounted for in the current formulas."

Nonetheless, James believes "there are essentially stable relationships between batting average, home runs, walks, other offensive elements--and runs. The relationship is not random or arbitrary." He shares three conclusions from studies made by Palmer, Paul Johnson, Wright, and himself over the past few decades:

1) The old idea that a high-average hitter is the man who makes an offense go, and that low-average power hitters don't really do much for the team, is nonsense...Power is an extremely important element in the production of runs.

2) Don't ignore the number of walks that a player draws. The number of walks drawn by a player is far more important than many of the more commonly seen statistics, such as how many doubles and triples he hits.

3) On balance, stolen bases have very little to do with runs scored.

James goes on to explain that a team with a high on-base percentage and slugging percentage "will always do well in runs scored, no matter what else they don't do. They can be slow as the devil, they can be terrible bunters, bad clutch hitters, stupid baserunners and completely inept at hitting behind the runner. They will still score runs."

In explaining that baseball statistics are circular, James emphasizes that "the sum total of measured successes and measured failures" is always .500. As such, he believes it is "of paramount importance to try to understand the meaning of what the player has done in its own context. Missing this essential point, one would wind up with the conclusion that almost everybody who played in 1930 was a great hitter, while almost no one who played in the 1960s was of the same level."

To understand the value of any accomplishment in baseball, we must constantly relate the accomplishment to the context.

James amplifies his point with the following statement: "There are two major variables which define context: time and place. The level of run production has changed dramatically over time, and adjustments must always be made for this when comparing players in different eras. . .The levels of run production also change dramatically from place to place. . .Or, to put it another way, ballparks create gigantic illusions in player statistics."

It is not possible to make accurate evaluations of any player's accomplishments without adjusting for this bias. The effect of the park in which the man plays must constantly be kept in mind when evaluating his accomplishments.
* * * * * * *

In Baseball's Big Honor, James provides an updated version of his Hall of Fame Monitor, which he originally published in the 1980 Baseball Abstract and re-printed in the 1983 edition.

What we are trying to do here is not to decide who should go into the Hall of Fame. What we are looking at is who will, who is likely to and who is not likely to. . .I constructed this method by an after-the-fact analysis of voting patterns, combined with a limited amount of intuition to cover things that can't be entirely cleared up by the voting. . .The system is intended to help the baseball fan monitor the progress of a player toward the Hall of Fame. It is not intended to say who should or should not be selected.

Don Sutton is qualified not using the lowest common denominator, but using the highest common denominator. "It is not that there is a precedent for putting Don Sutton in the Hall of Fame, but that there is no precedent for keeping him out."

James introduces Similarity Scores as a means to objectively compare the "degree of resemblance" between two players. "The similarity scores begin with the assumption that players who are all identical in all respects considered will have a similarity score of 1000." Points are subtracted based on the statistical and position differences between players.

James is quick to point out that "uniqueness is one of the fundamental tests of quality," something that I'm not sure most followers of similarity scores fully comprehend. For example, Rickey Henderson's highest similarity score is 686 (Paul Molitor), which I believe to be the lowest among Hall of Fame caliber players. According to James, similarity scores of 600 indicate players "who possess slight similarities, but major differences."

James suggests several areas in which similarity scores might be useful, including Hall of Fame voting, making minors-to-majors adjustments and career projections, salary negotiations, and evaluating trade proposals. He also believes similarity scores have an even greater potential to "(1) define control groups which have the characteristics of the group under study in all areas except the one being investigated, and (2) construct theoretical models (or 'profiles') and identify real teams which are similar to the model."

Other things being equal, a catcher's career will be shorter than that of a player at any other position. Using this method, we'll be able to measure for the first time exactly how much catching shortens a player's career on the average.

Other things being equal, a 22-year-old rookie should have somewhat more growth potential as a hitter than a 25-year-old rookie. Using this method, we will be able to define equivalent groups of 22-year-old and 25-year-old rookies, and assess what the differences are.

In How is Project Scoresheet Doing?, James answers, "Very well, thank you." Owing to the "Herculean efforts of John and Sue Dewan," accounts of all major league games are now available to the public. He also mentions that STATS (of which James is "a minor shareholder") markets some of the information developed through Project Scoresheet to organized baseball.

* * * * * * *

In Section II (Team Comments), James devotes 30 pages to his hometown Kansas City Royals, split between "A History of Being a Kansas City Baseball Fan" and "A World Series Notebook." The latter recounts the 1985 World Series between the Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals.

James talks about Gene Mauch and his one-run strategies in the California Angels comments. "Strategies such as the sacrifice bunt and the stolen base are called one-run strategies because they tend to increase the number of times that a team will score one run in an inning, but tend to decrease the number of times that a team will score 3, 4, 5 or more runs in an inning."

The 1985 Chicago White Sox "were a terrific ballclub" in the clutch, begging the question by James if clutch ability exists. "Clutch performance certainly exists, but whether it is a function of ability or random chance is an issue on which there is no definitive or convincing evidence."

James cites a study by Don Zminda regarding the White Sox success in moving a runner from second to third with no outs. He proclaims, "And anybody who thinks you can win baseball games by making outs is probably one of those guys who tries to tell you that you can get rich by remembering to write your underwear off on your taxes." Is Buster Olney a CPA?

James lists the young talent on the Seattle Mariners--Ivan Calderon, Jim Presley, Alvin Davis, Phil Bradley, Spike Owen, Danny Tartabull, Mike Moore, Matt Young, Karl Best, Edwin Nunez--and says, "One gets the feeling that somewhere between one and three of these kids is going to turn out to be a Hall of Famer, but who can tell which ones?" In hindsight, it turns out we can tell which ones. None of the above. Doh!

In the New York Yankees segment, James introduces the term "secondary average," which he defines as "the sum of his extra bases on hits, walks and stolen bases, expressed on a per-at bat basis."

Unlike total average, runs produced, estimated runs produced, runs created, base/out percentage, linear weights and runs ad infinitum, secondary average does not attempt to sum up all of a player's offensive contributions; rather, it focuses on the major areas of offensive productivity which are not reflected in the player's batting average.

James describes secondary average as "a summation of the strength of the 'kickers' to the player's primary average." James makes two points worthy of our understanding. "Overall secondary averages are almost identical to overall primary batting averages" and "secondary average is...a better indicator of hitting ability than is batting average."

The relationship of secondary average to batting average didn't begin to approximate one another until the post-World War II years. Since James introduced the concept in 1986, the secondary average for the major leagues (including caught stealing as an offset against stolen bases) has been .257 vs. a batting average of .263. In 2004, the secondary average and batting average were .268 vs. .266, respectively. The spread between the first (Barry Bonds, who had an all-time single-season high of 1.086) and last (Sean Burroughs, .128) in SEC is much wider than between the top (Ichiro Suzuki, .372) and the bottom (Jose Valentin, .216) in AVG, which suggests that secondary average does a better job than batting average in identifying the relative value of offensive contributions from player to player.

In reviewing the Cardinals, who had the second-most stolen bases (314) since 1912 while leading the National League in batting average and walks, James repeats "the one most universal truth about good offenses is that they get lots of people on base. If there is one thing that separates a good team from a bad team, it is the ability to get runners on base--as well as, defensively, the ability to keep runners off the bases." According to James, the fact that St. Louis had the best OBP in the league--and not base stealing (despite claims to the contrary)--is the reason why the Cardinals led the league in runs scored.

In "The Devil's Theory of Ballpark Effects" within the Chicago Cubs commentary, James speculates that "baseball teams tend to develop those characteristics which are least favored by the park in which they play."

Park illusions create unequal and misplaced pressures upon teams and players, which in the long run yield results which are precisely opposed to the characteristics of the park.

James theorizes further on ballpark effects when discussing the Philadelphia Phillies:

1) The way in which people think about baseball players is essentially formed by their statistics;

2) Those statistics are heavily influenced by the park in which the player performs;

3) The image of the park tends to become confused with the image of the player.

In the Houston Astros segment, James writes about "Late Season Success" and determines that teams that finish strongly have "an unmistakable advantage" the following year, particularly those with records of .500 or better. In "Hot Streaks," James commissioned a study performed by Steven Copley, who found that there was "a moderatley strong inverse relationship between a player's average in his last ten games and his likely performance 'today'...a tactical corollary to Bill's Plexiglass principle."

James wonders why inexperienced managers (such as Jim Davenport of the San Francisco Giants) aren't required to manage their teams "through a thousand or so games of table baseball" before taking the helm if, for no other reason, "just to get a feel for what works and what doesn't." He answers himself, "Because those games are for fans, that's why. We're professionals, you know; we don't have anything to learn from these fans."

In many other professions, simulations are much prized as educational tools; a major airline would never think of sending a pilot up with lives in his hands unless he had pulled a few dozen planes out of simulated crashes. And what is an APBA game, anyway? Why, it is a simulation of a manager's job, nothing more nor less.
* * * * * * *

In the Introduction to Player Ratings, James, in defending his decision to rank players by a poll of the scorers who participated in Project Scoresheet, writes what some may believe is contradictory to the development of Win Shares nearly 15 years later.

...I've always said that the best evaluation of players is subjective judgment; this is just the first time I have acted in a way that is consistent with what I have written. I've always railed against "great statistics," arguing that it is inappropriate to try to summarize everything a player can do in one number unless or until you can actually measure everything that he does. The problem with formal rating structures is that there are simply too many things that we don't know. To rate players by strictly objective methods, we have to construct a model of the baseball world. The real baseball world is inevitably going to be hundreds of times more complicated than the model that we construct, and therefore we are going to have to a) leave out many factors, factors which are very real and very important even though we can't measure them, and b) make assumptions about things that we don't really know.

Notable comments:

  • Willie Upshaw: "Cecil Fielder, trying to move into a platoon role at first base, follows the general rule that players named White are always Black and players name Black are always White. He's a born DH. . ."

  • Pete Rose: "Who?" It was Rose's last year as a player and his third year as a manager. He had broken Ty Cobb's record for most hits in a career the previous season.

  • Toby Harrah: "I have a theory that when an older player's walks total suddenly shoots upward, his batting average will decline the next year by at least 20 points--as, for example, Gary Matthews a year ago, or Willie Mays in 1971. One of the reasons that walk totals explode like this is that it is a case of a veteran hitter compensating for slowing reflexes by trying to work the count in his favor. That only works for so long; then the pitchers will start making the hitter hit good pitches. We'll see what happens."

    Well, I checked and, sure enough, ol' Bill hit the nail squarely on the head once again. After hitting .270 and walking a career-high 113 times in 1985, Harrah's batting average fell to .218 in 1986 with no change in team or home ballpark. He was granted free agency that November and never hooked on with another team again.

  • Graig Nettles: "Had a remarkable season, doing a good job with the glove and the bat while turning 41 in August. It was the best season ever for a 40-year-old third baseman." Wade Boggs, Gary Gaetti, and Cal Ripken are the only other 40-year-old 3B who have played more than 60 games since then and not one of them had what could be termed a "good" year. Vinny Castilla turns 38 in July. Cal Ripken's 1999 is the best on record for a 38-year-old, and he played fewer than 90 games. The combination of age and playing home games away from Coors Field does not bode well for Vinny. Way to go, Bowden, for giving Castilla a two-year deal. Whose money are you spending anyway?

  • Ozzie Smith: "...If Ozzie Smith wasn't the MVP in 1985, then can any player of his type even be the MVP? It is hard to see how. Ozzie is unquestionably the greatest player of his type, isn't he? He is generally regarded as the greatest defensive shortstop ever to play the game, and he has the best defensive statistics of any shortstop to play the game. Of his species--the light hitting defensive wizard--he is one of the best offensive players. He isn't a high-average hitter or a power hitter, but he hits for a decent average (second best in the league at the position), his strikeout and walk data is exceptional (the second-best in baseball, exceeded only by Mike Scioscia), and he is a base stealer and a good percentage base stealer. He is not only the best defensive, but also the best offensive shortstop in the league.

    "So what you have is: 1) the greatest defensive player ever; 2) at one of the two most important defensive positions; 3) who is also the best hitter in the league at his position; 4) having his best season offensively as well as possibly defensively; 5) holding together a team expected to collapse; 6) and leading them to the league championship. That is about as good a definition of an MVP as one can write--yet Ozzie finished eighteenth in the MVP voting! He was mentioned on only two ballots, placing eighth and ninth on those two.

    "I didn't expect that, I don't understand it, I can't justify it, and I don't think it reflects very well on the award or the men who did the voting."

  • Jim Rice: "...Brock6 projection retires him in just a few more years with totals of 399 home runs, 1434 RBI and a .298 average, 2419 hits. That probably is much too conservative." Oh contraire. Rice ended up with 382, 1451, .298, 2452. Not too shabby, Bill.

  • Rickey Henderson: "...The American League MVP vote, while not as offensive as the National League's forgetting that Ozzie Smith existed, was no prize either. Baseball writers tend to be fascinated with 'pay-off' statistics like RBI, wins and saves. These are important performance areas, but one must remember that they represent the end products of accomplishments to which others must contribute. A pitcher does not 'win' the game by himself; he must receive help from the rest of the team. . .What Henderson did was far more unique than what Don Mattingly did--yet Mattingly received the lion's share of the credit for it. . .Henderson scored more runs than any player since 1949, and became the first player since 1939 to score more than one run per game played. Henderson's year was very possibly the greatest season that any lead-off man has ever had--while Mattingly's year, while an exceptional effort, was obviously not the greatest year ever for a number three hitter. . .Henderson, and not Mattingly, was the unique and irreplaceable element of the combination."

    James goes on and says George Brett should have been named the MVP, citing "a much higher offensive winning percentage" than Mattingly or Henderson as well as a Gold Glove and, "with the pennant on the line in the last week of the season...as good a week as any player ever had under those conditions."

    * * * * * * *

    In Section IV (Essays, Etc.), James writes about "Age and Performance" and provides all-time all-star teams for each age from 18 to 42 along with single-season, career, and active player records along with the pace of the record holder at each particular age for the categories shown. He also names the Most Valuable Player for each age. I remember being mesmerized by this information when it was revealed as it was something that nobody (as far as I knew) had ever put together. Back then, I felt like I had gotten my money's worth on this feature alone.

    Lastly, Bill's wife, Susan McCarthy, writes a two-pager "Looking Backward at Ten" in response to the tenth anniversary of the Baseball Abstract. It is an interesting and revealing history of the Abstract, dating to its primitive beginnings and covering the progress made over the ensuing decade.

    Ten down, Susie, and two to go.

    Next up: 1987 Baseball Abstract

    [Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]

    * * * * * * *

    Abstracts From The Abstracts:

    1977 Baseball Abstract
    1978 Baseball Abstract
    1979 Baseball Abstract
    1980 Baseball Abstract
    1981 Baseball Abstract
    1982 Baseball Abstract
    1983 Baseball Abstract
    1984 Baseball Abstract
    1985 Baseball Abstract

  • Baseball BeatNovember 24, 2004
    Underappreciated? That's a Mora
    By Rich Lederer

    When the Quad hits your eye like a big-a pizza pie
    That's a Mora
    When the MVP voters don't treat you kind like they've had too much wine
    That's a Mora

    (With apologies to Dean Martin)

    More than anything, putting together The 2004 Quad Leaders allowed me to appreciate just how well Melvin Mora performed last season. It's a shame the writers who voted for the Most Valuable Player Award failed to give him his proper due.

    Mora was one of only three players in the American League to place in the top ten in all four of the Quad categories (on-base percentage, slugging average, times on base, and total bases). The other two players--Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez--finished first and third in the MVP balloting. Mora? Tied for 18th.

    Only two of 28 writers even saw fit to vote for Mora. One writer listed the 32-year-old Venezuelan 8th and the other 9th. By comparison, all 28 voters had Guerrero and Ramirez on their ballots and nobody placed either player lower than fifth.

    Did Guerrero and Ramirez really do that much better than Mora? Let's take a look.

                 AVG     OBP     SLG     OPS    OPS+     
    Guerrero    .337    .391    .598    .989    154
    Ramirez     .308    .397    .613   1.009    152
    Mora        .340    .419    .562    .989    149

    I don't know about you, but I can't discern much of a difference in their rate stats. Mora had the highest batting average and on-base percentage, Ramirez had the best slugging average and on-base plus slugging average, and Guerrero had the number one on-base plus slugging normalized for both the park and the league.

    Hmmm. It must have been something in their counting stats. Well, perhaps. All three players reached base essentially the same number of times but Guerrero and Ramirez outdistanced Mora in total bases by 57 and 39, respectively.

                TOB     TB
    Guerrero    266    366
    Ramirez     263    348
    Mora        264    309

    Let's call the rate stats even while giving a slight edge to Guerrero and Ramirez in counting stats. But is the difference enough to justify Vlad and Manny finishing 1st and 3rd in the voting and Mora T18th?

    Mora, the father of three-year-old quintuplets, plays the most difficult position of the three although not all that well, I might add. However, Guerrero is no better than an average right fielder in spite of his strong arm and Ramirez is barely acceptable in left. Mora and Guerrero are faster and better baserunners than Ramirez.

    Then what is it that the voters see that I don't see?

                  W      L     PCT     PLACE
    Anaheim      92     70    .568      1st
    Boston       98     64    .605      2nd
    Baltimore    78     84    .481      3rd

    Ahh, Guerrero and Ramirez played on winning ballclubs while Mora, working on a three-year, $10.5 million contract, played on a losing team. A cynic might say that Vlad and Manny had the good fortune of playing for two owners who were willing to spend over $100 million on their team's payrolls. The Baltimore Orioles, on the other hand, spent just $51 million or about half the Angels and 40% of the Red Sox. Put a red uniform on the popular and versatile Mora and I gotta think he would have contended for MVP honors.

    I'm not mocking the selection of Guerrero as the MVP nor am I questioning the fact that Ramirez placed third. Far from it. I actually had Guerrero and Ramirez in those exact same spots on my ballot for the Internet Baseball Writers Association Awards. If anything, I am guilty of underestimating Mora myself as I listed him eighth--as high as any voter from the Baseball Writers Association of America but lower than he deserved.

    Not only did Mora get on base and drive runners around the bases with the best in the league, but he was arguably the most consistent player in all of baseball. Melvin's splits tell it all. He hit righties (.352/.419/.567) and lefties (.303/.418/.545). He hit at home (.356/.452/.605) and away (.327/.389/.525). He hit in the first half (.347/.433/.556) and second half (.333/.406/.567). He hit with nobody on base (.334/.409/.597) and with runners on base (.346/.430/.521). He even hit when batting second in the lineup (.354/.444/.594) and third (.331/.400/.541). No matter the situation, Mora flat out raked last year.

    Unbeknownst to most, Mora actually had one of the better seasons among third basemen in the history of the game. As a point in fact, he is one of only 17 players at the hot corner to put up rate stats that were 20% better than the league average across the board.


                             YEAR   RCAP     AVG     OBA     SLG     OPS    
    1    George Brett        1980     85     145     137     166     153   
    2    Wade Boggs          1987     83     137     138     138     138   
    3    George Brett        1985     74     128     133     144     139   
    T4   Al Rosen            1953     73     124     122     154     139   
    T4   Joe Torre           1971     73     140     129     146     138   
    6    Wade Boggs          1988     66     141     147     125     135   
    7    Ken Caminiti        1996     65     121     120     147     135   
    8    Home Run Baker      1913     64     127     123     142     132   
    9    Chipper Jones       2001     63     123     126     137     132   
    10   Wade Boggs          1983     62     136     136     121     128   
    T11  Melvin Mora         2004     55     126     124     129     127   
    T11  Edgar Martinez      1992     55     132     123     141     133   
    13   Minnie Minoso       1951     45     121     120     127     124   
    14   Pete Rose           1976     43     123     123     120     121   
    15   Harry Steinfeldt    1906     37     129     124     134     129   
    16   Rogers Hornsby      1919     35     120     121     124     122   
    17   Bill Madlock        1976     31     129     125     134     130

    That's not a bad list. Of the ten players listed above Mora, four of them (George Brett, 1980; Al Rosen, Joe Torre, and Ken Caminiti) were MVPs in the year shown. The other six finished no worse than 12th (Wade Boggs, 1983). Even the players below Mora fared better than he did in the MVP voting, ranging from Minnie Minoso (who played more games at 3B than any other single position that year although he played more often in the OF than 3B) and Pete Rose, fourth, and Edgar Martinez, 12th. For the record, there was no MVP voting in 1906 (Harry Steinfeldt) or 1919 (Rogers Hornsby).

    First in OBP. Second in AVG. Fourth in OPS+. Fifth in SLG and OPS. Who could that have been in 2004? That's a Mora.

    [Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]

    WTNYNovember 23, 2004
    It's Like This and Like That...
    By Bryan Smith

    I'm heading out of town for the rest of the week today, so call this site on Thanksgiving break until next Monday. Before I do so, I want to get rid of a lot of the random thoughts floating around my brain.

    - Now that the AFL has gone, you'll probably see a lot of critiques over real small sample sizes. These numbers are a lot like short-season ball (where it's college players over high school) but instead hitters over pitchers. Sandy Alderson has publicly stated that one of the AFL's largest problems is the quality of pitching doesn't match that of the hitting. This is true for two reasons: teams don't want their top prospects throwing another 20-40 innings, and Arizona isn't the place for pitching. The first step to bridging the gap would be moving over to Florida, a move that Major League Baseball is quite unprepared to make. So for now, we'll have to settle for fringe pitchers fighting for 40-man roster spots.

    - This was done successfully by a few players, notably Russ Rohlicek in the Cubs organization. During his 19.2 innings in the AFL, Russ provided what he has done for the last two years: great peripherals that don't involve the BB column. His problem is control, and has been for years. A player with a BB/9 over 4.50 is not valuable, even in short LOOGY-like appearances. But what would make Rohlicek a likely Rule 5 pick is that a team would hope their pitching coach could get the walks under control, while keeping all the other good things. I was pleased to see the Cubs make the right decision here, though I'm not so sure with Geovany Soto.

    - Despite the lack of depth in the AFL pitching corps, I do want to mention the players that had a successful fall. Macay McBride falls under the same column as Rohlicek, as his performance locked up his 40-man roster spot. While his ERA was high, that's a column you should pretty much ignore, his good strikeout numbers are enthusiastic. The same can be said for Bobby Bradley, the once highly-thought of Pirates prospect battling back from injury. Sean Marshall, also from the Cubs organization, pitched for the first time in a few weeks, and his K/BB of 8 raises some eyebrows. Finally, Twins prospects J.D. Durbin and Scott Baker were talked about both for their velocity, and poise.

    - But the most impressive Fall pitching performances came in the bullpen, from Huston Street and Brad Baker. Street, a first-round pick just last June, struck out 19 and walked only two hitters in 18.1 innings. His continued success keeps drawing interest, and fuels debate that Street should begin the season in the back end of the bullpen. While some worried last March about the A's fringe back-end of Chad Bradford, Jim Mecir and Arthur Rhodes, 2005 provides hope that the 7-8-9 innings of Street, Jairo Garcia and Octavio Dotel will improve at a cheaper cost. As for Baker, it looks as if his move to relief will be another success story, and he should join Akinori Otsuka in the late innings relatively soon.

    - As for the sluggers, I would say eight hitters really impressed me with their autumn actions. Chris Shelton was the best player in the league, following a year spent at the highest level in professional baseball. In the very least, Shelton proved that he should at least factor in as the leftie-hitting side of a platoon, if not take over for Carlos Pena in 2005. The next most impressive, and winner of the inaugural Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award, was the Royals' Mark Teahen. Allard Baird really liked Teahen before pulling the trigger on the Carlos Beltran deal, and has left the hot corner wide open next year. Who knows if Teahen will hit for power, but he saves a lot of money, with no loss in OPS from Joe Randa.

    Shelton was not the only first basemen raising eyebrows, as that position reigned supreme. Ryan Howard, while making his attempt to learn the left field position (behind the scenes), led the league with 14 doubles. The Phillies are most definitely going to trade Howard for a center fielder this winter, and I've heard names from Scott Podsednik to Endy Chavez even to Vernon Wells mentioned as candidates. The sticking point in trades will be whether Howard can make the transition, which I'm not so sure. While the Indians just traded for Josh Phelps a couple months ago, they have his immediate successor ready in Ryan Garko.

    Pardon me while I get sidetracked for a second, but the Indians have a ton of offensive depth, and it's time for Mark Shapiro to start using this for his advantage. Casey Blake just finished up a fantastic year at the hot corner, as did Ronnie Belliard up the middle. Omar Vizquel's exit will allow either Johnny Peralta (IL MVP) or Brandon Phillips (ex-enormous prospect) to fill his shoes. Add Aaron Boone to the mix, and you have a crowded situation. In just 1B and DH, the Indians have Ben Broussard, Travis Hafner, Phelps and Garko. In the outfield, they have Matt Lawton, Grady Sizemore, Coco Crisp, and Jody Gerut. I say...

    1. Try to find suitor (Cubs?) for Matt Lawton, one of the more expensive players on the team. In return, get a back-end starter or reliever (Farnsworth?).

    2. Package both Phelps and Brandon Phillips together, and see if you can get anything of value. I would imagine a team like the Devil Rays, searching for cheap options, would come in handy here.

    3. Move Broussard to left, and keep Coco on the bench for a Gerut injury, or a Garko/Sizemore breakdown.

    Easier said than done. Now back to the AFL, with Jason Botts being the last first basemen on my impressed list. Botts obviously can rake, and could either slide into the DH spot (like this move) or let Mark Teixiera move to left (don't like). He has power, and in Coors Light, that power ain't going anywhere. Two already solid prospects, Jeremy Hermida and Conor Jackson, also enjoyed powerful Fall Leagues, with the former leading the AFL in XBH and the latter in HR. Maybe Dave Cameron is right, and Hermida will make the Jeff Francis-ish leap to the top of prospect lists next year.

    A couple days after being a bit harsh on Omar Quintanilla, I want to mention his Fall League was fantastic, possibly signaling his late surge was for real. But his zero home runs satisfy the power doubts I have about him, though things could be worse. The kid only struck out five times in 91 at-bats, though he only walked 5 times as well. Note to Billy Beane: start teaching this kid second base...now.

    - I pretty much agree with the general consensus that the Angels won in the Jose Guillen trade, as Stonemann got as much back in Rivera as he gave up, for a much cheaper price. I have my doubts about Izturis, though maybe he could enjoy an Alex Cora-like career. And remember that in 2000, though in only 110 at-bats, Cora hit .373 in AAA...at the age of 24. OK, looking at minor league numbers, they are actually a lot more alike than I first realized when I thought of the comparison...weird.

    Rivera showed last year that he has a real bat, something that should interest the Arizona Diamondbacks. One spin I didn't hear among major media types, is that this Rivera probably won't spend a day in Anaheim if Stonemann had his wish. The Angels, who could already have a solid Anderson-Erstad-Guerrero outfield, have little room and time for a player like Rivera. But shipping him, as well as some more prospects to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Randy Johnson makes some sense.

    - If Peter Gammons is right, and the A's really can get Marcus Giles, Dan Meyer and another prospect for a member of the Big Three, they better do it. I love Dan Meyer, though I do realize that having Mark Redman and Meyer on the same team would be a bit odd.

    - Question of the week, and if you are still reading at this point, you must answer. This will in no way be enforced, but I am trusting you the reader here. My top three prospects are going to contain the names Felix Hernandez, Casey Kotchman and Delmon Young. How would you rank these three players?

    And enjoy the turkey.

    WTNYNovember 22, 2004
    The June 10
    By Bryan Smith

    As I slowly piece together a prospect list, one of the main questions I am encountered with is that of inclusion. Should I allow Casey Kotchman or Scott Kazmir, who were eerily close to the rookie cutoff? Yes. Should I allow Joe Mauer, who did not have enough official at-bats, but did have enough service time? No.

    Should I include players that were drafted this past June?

    This answer has changed in the last year, after putting both Rickie Weeks and Delmon Young in my preseason top twenty prospects. I have decided that no matter the hype, comparing 100 short-season at-bats to Jason Kubel's AA/AAA split is too difficult for a stat-driven prospector like myself. I applaud the geniuses over at Baseball America for being able to piece the two on one list, but that just ain't happening here.

    But ignoring the presence, the results of these draftees would be foolish, and go against the "Future Comes First" mentality here at WTNY. So in what I hope will become an annual tradition, I will precede any prospect list with a look back at the finds of the draft. Today we will be looking solely at the first-round selections, while I will at a later date hit on the post-Round 1 steals.

    Remember, Adam Miller and Chad Billingsley were late first-rounders in 2003, Matt Cain and Greg Miller in '02, and Bobby Crosby and Jeremy Bonderman in '01. There is always talent in the 20-40 section, and there is always someone to explode on the scene the next season. Some of this can be attributed to new pitches or new knowledge, but I like to think that we have a chance at seeing it coming.

    In this draft - despite it being mid-November - a lot of the players have left us with no statistical results at all. Whether it be a continued holdout, a cautious front office or an unsigned player, nine of the first 41 choices have all of zero appearances as professional players. Furthermore, two pitchers (yes I am looking at you Bill Bray and Philip Hughes) don't even have ten innings under their wings. So for that - and because not including them brings the number to 30 - these 11 players have been left out.

    Below is my account of the debuts of ten players, in the order of which they were drafted. The other twenty will be commented on in the coming days/weeks. Please drop your comments on any of these players, or those not spoken of, at the end of the article.

    Matt Bush- San Diego Padres- The Arizona Diamondbacks have taken a lot of heat for their half-hire of Wally Backman, allowing Kevin Towers and staff to back away from the 'Spotlight of Embarassment'. After considering many different options with their record fifth different first overall selection, the Padres sided with their pocketbook and chose the local Bush. Shortly after his signing, Bush was arrested shortly after debuting in the organization.

    But a bad head is not the only thing separating Bush from prospectdom, a bad bat is as well. Bush's season-line, split between the Arizona and Northwest Leagues, was .198/.304/.260. He shows solid range and a cannon arm up the middle, but that can only get you so far. Thirteen walks in 96 at-bats, good. Twenty-three strikeouts, bad. While Delmon Young and Joe Mauer have recently salvaged the first overall legacy, Bush looks like he belongs closer to the Brian Bullington/Josh Hamilton side.

    Mark Rogers- Milwaukee Brewers- I criticized the Brewers for this pick after the draft, mostly because the words 'raw', 'New Englander' and 'high school' seldom belong in the same sentence. A few months later, I reserve the right to stick with my original thought process, Homer Bailey and Jeremy Sowers were just better choices. Despite the recent successes of Jack Zduriencik, I see a lot more bad in Rogers than good.

    To clarify what I am looking at, it's a 4.72 ERA in the Arizona League. It's about a 10.12 H/9 in the least advanced league in professional baseball. Yes, I see the 0 HR allowed in 26.2 innings, and the 11.81 K/9, but if we're projecting relief for a player just drafted, he's in trouble.

    Chris Nelson- Colorado Rockies- Time to give your scouting department a raise. With their third top ten selection in three years, the Rockies have what looks to be a third solid choice. Jeff Francis was a polished Canadian southpaw in 2002, and Ian Stewart a California-boy with a lot of raw power. And finally, we have Nelson, a Georgian shortstop with the whole package.

    In the Pioneer League, Nelson hit .347 in just south of 150 at-bats. He also hit thirteen extra-base hits during that time, three of which were triples. I am in the belief that triples in the minors unfairly jack up slugging percentages across the board. But no matter how you look at it, Nelson has everything Bush does (minus the criminal record) and then some. Good choice by the Rockies, even if Nelson won't hit this good anytime soon.

    Thomas Diamond- Texas Rangers- Grady Fuson may have been run out of Texas, but not before he could provide them with a good draft, and a great player at the top. While I am pretty skeptical of collegiate pitchers from not-known programs, like the Univesity of New Orleans, Diamond showed fantastic polish after signing with the Rangers. Diamond pitched extremely well in the Northwest League - twenty-six strikeouts in 15.1 innings - and then continued his dominance in the Midwest League.

    Besides the college relievers, and the well-advanced Jered Weaver and Stephen Drew, I expect Diamond to be one of the first choices to hit the big leagues. He should be sent straight to high-A next season, as his 68/13 strikeout-walk ratio implies. With mid-90s gas and a solid breaking ball, Diamond could be joining a Ranger rotation that is becoming formidable...fast.

    Neil Walker- Pittsburgh Pirates- Despite my dislike for players that are drafted in accordance to where they live (Walker is from Pennsylvania), I like the Walker selection. I have heard good things about Walker behind the plate, both from him calling a good game to having a rocket arm. Plus, though his .156 ISO wasn't too indicative, a power bat behind the plate always sounds exquisite. Dave Littlefield has been itching to get out of Jason Kendall's contract since he was hired, and in Walker, the Pirates have likely found his successor.

    Billy Butler- Kansas City Royals- After reading this chat over at BA, defending Butler's selection as the Royals top prospect, I am pretty sold on this kid. In 260 at-bats in short-season baseball, Butler hit .373/.488/.596, one of the few minor leaguers to top a 1.000 OPS. His power is sensational...already...and according to Baseball America, has drawn comparisons to Zack Greinke of all people from Royals brass. Why Greinke? For his "cerebral approach" to each at-bat, which of course includes the willingness to watch four balls.

    David Purcey (Toronto) and Chris Lambert (St. Louis)- Forgive me while I break the "in the order of which they were drafted" methodology, so I can properly judge the Jays decision. With these two, it was J.P.'s choice between: a big, hard-throwing southpaw with solid control and no second pitch or a Big East rightie with good pitches but some control/mechanical problems. In the end, Riccardi went with the former, a move that is still a bit too early to criticize.

    Purcey pitched well in his twelve-inning debut, allowing six hits and one walk while striking out thirteen. But he went to a Big 12 school, so we can only hope short-season baseball was not too much of a test. Lambert had a bit less of what we'd call a sample size, getting in 38.1 solid innings. The knack on Lambert was proven true by his pitching, as he allowed 31 hits, struck out 46, but walked 24. How these players react to high-A ball, likely their next stop, will prove if J.P. made the right decision after all.

    Scott Elbert- Los Angeles Dodgers- Many people are treating the Paul DePodesta-Logan White relationship, one that they inherited, as a time bomb. Surely the "computer nerd" can't deal with such an impulse-buyer as White, right? Wrong. Logan White is one of the three best in the game in his position, and DePo will be willing to coexist wiht Logan as long as his farm system remains stacked.

    Elbert, I'm afraid, may not add to the stacked column. I think this draft will turn out fine for the Dodgers - you'll see later how much I like Blake DeWitt - but I just think Elbert could be a flopper. It's not really the 5.26 ERA that convinced me, it was more the low 1.50 K/BB and mediocre other peripherals across the board. Logan struck gold with Miller and Billingsley in back-to-back years, you couldn't honestly expect three out of three.

    Josh Fields- Chicago White Sox- I don't really know what to make out of Fields. Is he raw because he has spent so much time focusing on football? Is he polished because the White Sox sent him to the Carolina League upon his arrival in professional baseball? Ken Williams' new ideology of challenging his prospects, also seen in his placement of Sweeney and promotion of Anderson, often leaves us unsure of where these players stand, and Fields is not unique in that regard.

    With that being said, I can tell you that Fields is a very good hitter. Hitting .285, with a .160 ISO at this level, is awful impressive. And you better believe this kid has an arm...he's an ex-quarterback for God's sake!

    OK, ok, I'll bite. Here is your ranking of these ten players: Billy Butler, Chris Nelson, Thomas Diamond, Josh Fields, Neil Walker, Chris Lambert, David Purcey, Matt Bush, Mark Rogers and Scott Elbert.

    Baseball BeatNovember 22, 2004
    The 2004 QUAD Leaders
    By Rich Lederer

    Now that the Most Valuable Player awards have been announced, I thought it would be interesting to compare the results of the voting with the offensive statistics that really matter. I'm not talking about batting average, home runs, and runs batted in, nor am I referring to a "great" stat like Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) or Win Shares--both of which have been widely quoted by members of the baseball blogging and analyst community as a means to support their MVP selections.

    The stats that I am referring to--times on base, on base percentage, total bases, and slugging average--can be tracked with each and every plate appearance and do not involve some complicated, impossible to recite formula. They may not be as sophisticated as some of the more advanced summary stats, but they are actual "counting" and "rate" stats (rather than derivatives) and are easily understood.

    The way to win baseball games is to score runs when at bat and prevent runs when in the field. With respect to the offensive end of the game, the four components of what I have previously called "The Quad" (TOB, OBP, TB, and SLG) are the true determinants of run production. Times on base and total bases measure quantity whereas on-base percentage and slugging average measure quality. Players who show up among the best quantitatively and qualitatively are those who are succeeding on a per plate appearance the most times over the course of a full season.

    There are multiple problems with the traditional Triple Crown stats (BA, HR, RBI). They ignore walks, treat doubles and triples the same as singles, and one of the three variables is highly team dependent. The Quad, on the other hand, measures the two most important components of run production--the ability to get on base and the ability to drive baserunners home. The former is covered via on base percentage (OBP) and times on base (TOB). The latter is covered via slugging average (SLG) and total bases (TB). It is also important to note that these stats are not team dependent.

    Another beauty of The Quad is that the components are the factors in calculating runs created, which is essentially nothing more than OBP x TB or SLG x TOB. Slugging average could be replaced by what Bill James calls "advancement percentage" (total bases divided by plate appearances) if one wanted to fine tune it and measure performance based on PA rather than AB.

    * * * * * * *

    With the foregoing as a backdrop, lets take a look at the National and American League players who did the best job of getting on base and accumulating bases (both in terms of the number of times as well as the percentage of times).


    1    Barry Bonds                 376   
    2    Todd Helton                 320   
    3    Lance Berkman               309   
    4    Bobby Abreu                 305   
    5    Albert Pujols               287   
    6    J.D. Drew                   281   
    7    Mark Loretta                275   
    8    Juan Pierre                 274   
    9    Brian Giles                 266   
    10   Adam Dunn                   264

    As shown, Barry Bonds is heads and shoulders above the field when it comes to getting on base. In fact, Barry set a National League record in 2004 for the number of times that he reached base, surpassing his old mark of 356 in 2002. He fell three short of Babe Ruth's all-time record set in 1923 but now owns three of the top ten spots on the single-season leaderboard and is the only player from the N.L. among the top 14. Bonds has led the league five times. He is also the first player in baseball history to have more times on base than official at bats over the course of a season. Yes, you read that correctly. He had 376 TOB and 373 AB!


    1    Barry Bonds                .609   
    2    Todd Helton                .469   
    3    Lance Berkman              .450   
    4    J.D. Drew                  .436   
    5    Bobby Abreu                .428   
    6    Jim Edmonds                .418   
    7    Albert Pujols              .415   
    8    Scott Rolen                .409   
    9    Jason Kendall              .399   
    10   Jim Thome                  .396

    Not surprisingly, Bonds also led the league in on-base percentage. In fact, the Giant slugger set a major league single-season record, beating his two-year mark by .027. He now holds four of the top ten spots all-time. Ruth and Ted Williams comprise the other six with three each. Bonds has topped the league in OBP a total of eight times, including each of the last four years.

    The difference between Bonds and the second-place Todd Helton (whose .469 OBP would have easily led the A.L.) was the same as second place and 65th place. Furthermore, to lay to rest the notion that Bonds' OBP was mostly a function of his record-breaking intentional walk total of 120, please be aware that Barry's 2004 season would have placed in the top ten in baseball history without including a single IBB.


    1    Albert Pujols               389   
    2    Adrian Beltre               376   
    3    Todd Helton                 339   
    4    Moises Alou                 335   
    5    Adam Dunn                   323   
    6    Jim Edmonds                 320   
    7    Aramis Ramirez              316   
    T8   Vinny Castilla              312   
    T8   Bobby Abreu                 312   
    10   Miguel Cabrera              309

    Albert Pujols edged out Adrian Beltre in total bases. It was the second consecutive year that Pujols has led the league in this category. He has finished in the top seven in all four of his seasons. For the record, Bonds placed 16th with 303. Bonds has only led the league in total bases once, owing to an unusually high number of BB throughout his career (which, of course, limits his opportunities to accumulate TB).


    1    Barry Bonds                .812   
    2    Albert Pujols              .657   
    3    Jim Edmonds                .643   
    4    Adrian Beltre              .629   
    5    Todd Helton                .620   
    6    Scott Rolen                .598   
    7    Jim Thome                  .581   
    8    Aramis Ramirez             .578   
    9    J.D. Drew                  .569   
    10   Adam Dunn                  .569

    Yawn. Bonds once again shows up as the top dog. Although Bonds fell short of his single-season record of .863 set in 2001, his slugging average this past year was only the fourth time a player has exceeded .800. Bonds and Ruth hold the top six spots on the single-season list with three each.

    * * * * * * *


    1    Ichiro Suzuki               315   
    2    Gary Sheffield              269   
    3    Johnny Damon                267   
    4    Vladimir Guerrero           266   
    5    Hideki Matsui               265   
    6    Melvin Mora                 264   
    7    Manny Ramirez               263   
    8    Alex Rodriguez              262   
    T9   Michael Young               261   
    T9   Miguel Tejada               261

    Everyone knows that Ichiro Suzuki set an all-time record for the number of hits in a season with 262 (his fourth year in a row of 200+ hits and the only player to reach that milestone in each of his first four seasons), but it is less known that he also led the league in the number of times on base. Suzuki reached base 46 more times than the next closest pursuer. Numbers two through ten were all bunched in the 260s.


    1    Melvin Mora                .419   
    2    Ichiro Suzuki              .414   
    3    Travis Hafner              .410   
    4    Jorge Posada               .400   
    5    Eric Chavez                .397   
    6    Manny Ramirez              .397   
    7    Erubiel Durazo             .396   
    8    Gary Sheffield             .393   
    9    Vladimir Guerrero          .391   
    10   Jason Varitek              .390

    Melvin Mora led the league in on-base percentage, having created 76 fewer outs than Suzuki in 126 fewer plate appearances. Suzuki finished second with the highest OBP of his major league career (2004 marked the first time he reached the .400 plateau). If you think Mora's season was a fluke, just remember that he had a similarly outstanding campaign in 2003, but it generally went unnoticed because he played less than 100 games due to injuries.


    1    Vladimir Guerrero           366   
    2    David Ortiz                 351   
    3    Miguel Tejada               349   
    4    Manny Ramirez               348   
    5    Michael Young               333   
    6    Ichiro Suzuki               320   
    7    Hank Blalock                312   
    8    Carlos Lee                  310   
    9    Melvin Mora                 309   
    10   Alex Rodriguez              308

    Vladimir Guerrero led the league in total bases for the second time in his career. He also finished atop the N.L. in 2002. In a league with designated hitters, it is interesting to see two shortstops and three third basemen among the top ten in a category usually reserved for first basemen, corner outfielders, and DHs.


    1    Manny Ramirez              .613   
    2    David Ortiz                .603   
    3    Vladimir Guerrero          .598   
    4    Travis Hafner              .583   
    5    Melvin Mora                .562   
    6    Mark Teixeira              .560   
    7    Aaron Rowand               .544   
    8    Carlos Guillen             .542   
    9    Carlos Delgado             .535   
    10   Paul Konerko               .535

    Manny Ramirez beat out teammate David Ortiz for the best slugging average in the league. It was the third time Ramirez has led the league and the seventh consecutive year that he has finished in the top four--something that Bonds has yet to accomplish.

    * * * * * * *

    In determining worthy MVP candidates, I like to look for players who led their league in these categories and/or finished in the top ten multiple times. I also tend to sit up and take notice when players other than 1B and corner OF show up on such top ten lists, especially when they are "plus" defensive types. Conversely, I discount those hitters who had the fortune of playing home games in extreme ballparks (i.e., Colorado and, to a lesser extent, Texas).

    In this regard, it is noteworthy that Bonds led the N.L. in three of the four categories. There have only been 31 different players covering 47 separate seasons who have led in three of the four legs of the Quad. Bonds has accomplished this feat five times. (For the record, 17 different players have earned "The Quad Award" by leading their respective league in all four categories. Six players have achieved this honor on more than one occasion--led by Ruth and Williams with five each.)

    No player in the A.L. led in more than one category. Guerrero, Mora, and Ramirez stand out for finishing first once and landing in the top ten in all four. Over in the N.L., only Helton and Pujols ended up in the top ten in each of these four areas. Suzuki had three top tens as did Bobby Abreu, Bonds, J.D. Drew, Adam Dunn, and Jim Edmonds.

    Among non-1B/DH/corner OF, Beltre, Edmonds, Aramis Ramirez, and Scott Rolen all finished in the top ten in the N.L. two or more times, while Mora, Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, and Michael Young did the same in the A.L.

    The following matrix provides a way to quantify the results of The Quad in a manner similar to the MVP voting (14 points for 1st, 9 for 2nd, 8 for 3rd, etc.).

    Bonds		14	14		14	42
    Pujols		6	4	14	9	33
    Helton		9	9	8	6	32
    Edmonds			5	5	8	18
    Berkman		8	8			16
    Beltre				9	7	16
    Abreu		7	6	2		15
    Drew		5	7		2	14
    Dunn		1		6	1	8
    Rolen			3		5	8
    Alou				7		7
    Ramirez				4	3	7
    Thome			1		4	5
    Loretta		4				4
    Pierre		3				3
    Giles B		2				2
    Kendall			2			2
    Castilla			2		2
    Cabrera				2		2
    Guerrero	7	2	14	8	31
    Ramirez		4	5	7	14	30
    Suzuki		14	9	5		28
    Mora		5	14	2	6	27
    Ortiz				9	9	18
    Hafner			8		7	15
    Sheffield	9	3			12
    Tejada		1		8		9
    Damon		8				8
    Young		2		6		8
    Posada			7			7
    Matsui 		6				6
    Chavez			6			6
    Teixeira				5	5
    A-Rod		3		1		4
    Durazo			4			4
    Blalock				4		4
    Rowand					4	4
    Lee				3		3
    Guillen					3	3
    Delgado					2	2
    Varitek			1			1
    Konerko					1	1

    To the credit of the MVP voters, it looks like they got it right. Let's face it, Bonds was a no-brainer in the N.L. although, with only 24 of the 32 first-place votes, that means there were eight writers who should have joined Dorothy on her way to go see the Wizard of Oz in hopes of getting a brain.

    Incredibly, Guerrero received the same percentage of first-place votes (75%) as Bonds. He was a worthy honoree but in no way, shape, or form should have gotten the same respect as Bonds. Understand, I have no beef with Guerrero's selection and, in fact, picked him as the MVP in the Internet Baseball Writers Association Awards.

    As far as injustices go, look no further than Abreu, who finished tied for 23rd place in the N.L. voting, and Mora, who finished tied for 18th in the A.L. Only two out of 32 voters in the N.L. even saw fit to include Abreu in their top ten (one 9th and one 10th) and just two of 28 voters in the A.L. listed Mora on their ballots (one 8th and one 9th). The IBWA, on the other hand, placed Abreu and Mora 7th in the N.L. and A.L., respectively, with 25 and 26 of the 37 voters including them in their top ten.

    Let's hope that the two voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America who put Chone Figgins 10th on their ballots were the same ones who had Mora 8th and 9th, so help me John Kruk. Figgins played an important role for the Angels, manning six different positions (including 13 or more games at 3B, CF, 2B, and SS) while putting up a slightly above-average OBP and a slightly below-average SLG. Figgins' versatility makes for a nice story, but it does not make him the 10th best player in the entire league.

    I had Mora listed eighth on my ballot and, upon further review, now believe he warranted no worse than a fourth place finish (behind Guerrero, Johan Santana, and possibly Ramirez). I failed to include Suzuki and now believe he was more worthy of a top ten choice than Mariano Rivera. However, it should be pointed out that Suzuki, along with Hank Blalock, Tejada, and Young in the A.L. and Juan Pierre in the N.L., finished in the top ten in outs--a "counting" stat that doesn't get as much negative attention as it deserves.

    Defense and baserunning are also important elements and The Quad, by design, ignores pitching. Despite claims to the contrary, I'm not convinced that we have quantified defense down to a science yet. I think some of the advanced metrics are doing a good job at identifying the outliers, but they are not as reliable as hitting stats in my judgment.

    I think we run the risk that the public will never catch onto the latest alphabet soup of stats if we don't do a better job of bridging the gap between the "old" stats and the "new" first. The four measures referred throughout this article capture as well as anything the ability to get on base and drive runners around the bases--and isn't that what it is all about?

    There is a place for VORP, Win Shares, and other all-encompassing measurements, but they are much more esoteric than those stats that can be tracked with each and every plate appearance. If you can't recite the formulas to a friend sitting next to you at a ballgame, I advise you to stick to what can be more easily explained and understood. Maybe then--and only then--will more fans come our way.

    [Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]

    Baseball BeatNovember 19, 2004
    Hello, Is Scott Boras There?
    By Rich Lederer

    According to Mark Saxon in an article in The Orange County Register this morning ("First come, first served?"), Jered Weaver could find himself on the outside looking in if the Anaheim Los Angeles Angels decide to use the money earmarked for their #1 pick to sign Kendry Morales, a switch-hitting young slugger who defected from Cuba in June and is now living in the Dominican Republic.

    Morales, reputed to be 20 years old, is represented by David Valdes, who is reportedly seeking a deal similar to the four-year, $9.5 million contract that Mark Teixeira received from the Texas Rangers as the fifth pick overall in the 2001 draft. Teixeira was an All-American at Georgia Tech and the NCAA Player of the Year in 2000.

    The dollar amount is believed to be in the neighborhood of what Weaver's agent Scott Boras is seeking for his client. The Angel draftee's college stats are on par with Mark Prior--another high-profile signee from the 2001 draft--and the Chicago Cubs ponied up $10.5 million for the former USC Trojan.

    Boras and Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman, however, have not begun serious negotiations. Scouting director Eddie Bane, no doubt frustrated that Weaver isn't already signed, sealed, and delivered with a month of instructional or fall league ball under his belt, fired off the following quote:

    "It's just time to get going. I don't sense any urgency on their part at all. We've just been like, 'OK, we'll see what happens.' But (Boras) ran into a very patient man in Stoneman. He knows what he wants to do. We're not going to bid against ourselves."

    Although Bane insists "there's only a finite amount of money," Weaver says the deal is "going to get done" and that he will be an Angel by spring training. Weaver's options are limited, especially in view of the fact that he apparently isn't interested in playing independent ball if a deal can't be worked out with the Angels.

    In the meantime, the Angels are also pursuing free agent Carlos Beltran and exploring a Randy Johnson trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Arte Moreno has a lot of money and seems willing to spend it aggressively in the hopes of bringing another World Series championship to Orange County. That said, my sense is that there may not be room in the so-called budget for both Weaver and Morales.

    Could the Angels' interest in Morales be a ploy to get Boras' attention? Sure. With Weaver unlikely to return to college or play in an independent league, his only other option is to wait out the Angels and return to the draft next June. The question Boras has to ask himself is whether the market is apt to be better or worse seven months from now, taking into consideration the potential loss of income for a year as he goes through a new round of negotiations with another major league team.

    Like it or not, the Angels have more leverage than Weaver under the rules of the draft. Granted, Boras is not one to be bullied, but he ought to be at least talking to the Angels given Weaver's desire to sign and what should be a match made in heaven for the hometown Halos and the College Player of the Year.

    (Thanks go out to Repoz at Baseball Think Factory for alerting me to this developing story.)

    WTNYNovember 18, 2004
    Up the Middle
    By Bryan Smith

    Against little fight, Bobby Crosby won the American League Rookie of the Year crown. And while Jason Bay picked up the NL award, he was given quite the fight by the San Diego Padres Khalil Greene. Quite the week for collegiate shortstops, huh?

    When noticing my neglect for the Arizona Fall League, I plan to spend by next couple entries on AFL standouts. There are few better places to start, than Omar Quintanilla, who has been on and off the batting crown during the last couple weeks. Simultaneously, I am compiling my top group of prospects, and was at a loss where and if Aaron Hill should fit in. I thought the two, a pair of 2003 first-round collegiate shortstops, would make a good joint article.

    With the arrival of Crosby and Greene, the Major Leagues were home to four first-round collegiate shortstops. The other two are quite well-accomplished, in Barry Larkin and free agent Nomar Garciaparra. Today, I want to look at the minor league careers of this group, and use that to help us see what path Quintanilla and Hill are currently on.

    Barry Larkin was a stud at the University of Michigan, chosen fourth in the 1985 draft, which had one of the best top tens ever drafted, including the selection of Barry Bonds by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Larkin was 6-0, 185 pounds, and had the whole package. The Reds were so confident in his abilities that they sent Larkin to AA immediately upon signing.

    In the Eastern League, Larkin hit .267, but with a .078 ISO showing a lack of power. He hit only 16 extra-base hits, 13 of them doubles, providing a bit of hope for the future. Showing a lot of plate discipline, Barry struck out only 21 times in 255 at-bats, walking 23 times. With 12 stolen bases, Larkin was a few home runs from a five-tool talent.

    That came the next year, in the since-abandoned American Association, in which Larkin hit .329, with a .525 slugging percentage. This time around he hit 51 extra-base hits in 413 at-bats, including ten triples. One problem I have with the minor leagues, of which Ill write about at a later point, is how HBP and 3B can juice up OBP and SLG, respectively. He also kept up his discipline, striking out just 43 times (but only walking 31!).

    So, how have these numbers been indicative of Larkins career? Barry currently has a career batting average of .295, split between his AA and AAA seasons. His SLG of .444 is also about half-way, though I should note he didnt have a slugging percentage above .450 until his sixth season in the Major Leagues. His peak, during an insane 1996 peak was .567, though it was the only time he eclipsed .510. The strikeout numbers stayed low, with Barry never whiffing 70 times in a season. His patience waited as long as his power did, with an IsoP consistently in the .070 range after.

    Next, we have Nomar Garciaparra, who in my Nomar Destination of the Week will land with the White Sox, who will overpay to the tune of 2/18 or 3/25. Long before this free agency, Nomar was the 12th overall selection of the 1994 draft, following his Junior season with Georgia Tech. He was immediately sent to the Florida State League, where he hit .295, with a .419 slugging. In 105 at-bats, he had ten extra-base hits, eight of which were doubles. He walked more than he struck out as well, 10 and 6, respectively.

    A move to the Eastern League did not treat Nomar well, as his average slipped to .267, and his slugging to .384. Still his patience was great, with a 50/42 walk-strikeout ratio in 513 at-bats. He was still quite doubles-dependent, and shockingly, stole 35 bases that season. His IL experience with Pawtucket went perfectly, hitting .343 with a Bonds-esque .733 slugging. He homered more than he doubled, and while the BB/K slipped to 14/21, it was still quite solid.

    Let me interrupt your regularly-scheduled article to get back to Aaron Hill, who fits in quite nicely here. Chosen just one spot after Nomar nine years later, Hill spent his 2003 campaign split between the NYPL and the FSL. He expectedly dominated the NYPL, but his FSL numbers were quite pedestrian. He did hit .286, yes, but 7 doubles represented all his power in 119 at-bats, good for a .059 ISO. In fourteen more at-bats than Nomar at that level, Hill hit three less extra-base hits, but also showed the great plate discipline of Nomar.

    And like Nomar, Hill also moved to the Eastern League in his next season. He hit .279/.368/.410 in 480 at-bats, 33 less than Nomar. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that he walked thirteen times more, though he also struck out nineteen more. The power numbers are very similar, with Hills .131 ISO besting Nomars .117. Im hardly saying they are on par for similar careers, just noting the facts.

    Both Hill and Omar Quintanilla have used the seemingly new popular trend for collegiate shortstops: send them to short-season ball, and then high-A. This was also used by Khalil Greene, who briefly stopped in the Northwest League, before making 183 California League at-bats. He hit .317/.368/.525 there, but then struggled in the Southern League with a .733 OPS. A modest PCL line of .288/.346/.442 was enough to convince the Padres staff they had their new shortstop groomed for action. Not a bad choice.

    Ill touch back with Quintanilla here, because I think Greene bears the closest resemblance to him. Both are pretty short, though Greenes listed weight is 25 pounds more than Omars. Q does hit left-handed, and is the only one on my list to do so. But I think his .314/.370/.480 line in the California League this past year is pretty telling. Though Im sure Omars AA numbers will look better than Greenes did (well, they already do!), thats the Texas-Southern League advantage.

    During his 2004 season, Greene hit .273/.349/.446. To me, this implies that Omar would hit about .270/.340/.420 in his rookie season, with a peak looking pretty similar to his CL line. If he moves to second as expected, that wont be bad, though Crosby will be showing him up a bit.

    While I might not have thought so before hand, Aaron Hill is the better prospect than Omar Quintanilla, by a pretty good ways. In fact, I would be willing to say that Baseball America should have chosen Hill not Brandon League as the top Blue Jays prospect.

    *By the way, sorry for my lack of posts this week, call it a combination of computer problems, real life, and WTNY projects. You should see a well-researched piece next week, and I am starting to try and put a top prospects piece to life, cuz I know how yall love those rankings.

    WTNYNovember 15, 2004
    By Bryan Smith

    When prospect mavens look back at the big selections from the first round of the 2003 draft, they will surely look at Delmon Young and Lastings Milledge. What they might overlook is the fact that chosen between the two stars were three outfielders that lack the hype and big debut numbers.

    While Young and Milledge came greatly polished from their California and Florida high schools, the meat of this outfield sandwich was drafted extremely raw. Sure, Nick Markakis was the junior college player of the year, but that was as a pitcher. Doc Rodgers, once the director of the farm system, preferred Markakis bat. And sure, Ryan Harvey was from a Florida school too, but he had missed a lot of time his senior season from surgery. Chris Lubanski? He was just some Pennsylvania speedster with low bonus demands.

    Both Milledge and Harvey were scouted as better prospects than Lubanski by most before the draft, but the Royals ability to sign a pre-draft deal made the latter the fifth overall pick. He was the first player signed from the draft, and as a result, had 221 at-bats in the Arizona League. Neither of the other two posed signability issues, as the Cubs always get their player, and Baltimore ownership was fond of the Greek Markakis.

    A year ago today, it looked like the Royals had outscouted everyone, as Lubanskis debut led the trio. In his 53 games, the left-handed swinger hit .326, with an .834 OPS. His defense and basestealing capabilities (9/19 SB) were extremely raw, though his outstanding speed was evident. He struck out just about every game, and walked every three, hardly outstanding ratios.

    Who was second last year is a toss-up, Markakis showed more polish while Harvey displayed a higher ceiling. The former hit .283 in 205 games in the New York-Penn League, though his .112 ISO made some question Rodgers decision. Most intriguing was his 30/33 strikeout-walk ratio, and thirteen stolen bases in eighteen attempts on the basepaths.

    Harvey was the last to sign, only playing in fourteen games during the 2003 season. Depressingly for Cubs brass, the man some named Sosas successor before playing a professional game struck out 21 times in those fourteen games, in all of 51 at-bats. What looked good was the fact that of his twelve hits, half went for extra bases, which led to a .196 ISO.

    So, just three months after becoming top ten selections, it looked as if the seventh overall pick (Markakis) had jumped above the sixth (Harvey) in prospect terms. Some would even place the Greek two-way star tops of the three.

    A year later, the story remains true on the top: Markakis Reigns. While Young, Stewart and Milledge were the first-rounders to star in the Sally League, few noticed that Markakis put a very solid Sophomore campaign together. The big leftie hit .299, with a .171 ISO and .072 IsoP (OBP-BA). His power bat looks to be coming around, and his arm is obviously good enough for right field. Oriole fans can now commence dreaming about Val Majewski and Nick Markakis living on their outfield corners.

    Unfortunately, it doesnt look like Lubanski and Harvey offer such safe bets as Markakis does. Lubanski suffered the largest flop of the three, hitting just .276/.340/.419 in 439 at-bats in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League. His stolen base completion percentage was over 50%, and his K/G was farther below 1.00 than it was in season 1. But, Lubanski does not look like he will hit with enough power to be in the middle of an order, or walk enough to be on the top. Hes simply the baseball version of a tweener.

    Ryan Harvey, on the other hand, is either going to be power hitter or bust. The Cubs, like they were with Brian Dopirak, are showing reluctance to move their hitting prospects at even a decent pace. So Harvey repeated short-season ball, this time moving from the Arizona League, to the Northwest League. He hit just .264 in 231 at-bats, striking out in more than 33% of AB. But his ISO was .217, showing that there is the power in his bat that leads some to believe hell be a great power prospect.

    If I was constructing a top 50 which I am currently working on Markakis would undoubtedly factor in the plans. Harvey and Lubanski will not garner any attention for the top 50, and would be stretches for the top 100 in my eyes. Expect Baseball America to view things differentvery different.

    Baseball BeatNovember 14, 2004
    Abstracts From The Abstracts
    By Rich Lederer

    Part Nine: 1985 Baseball Abstract

    Bill James produced his ninth Baseball Abstract in 1985. The previous year's edition was the most successful to date, selling approximately 150,000 copies and peaking at the #4 spot on the New York Times bestseller list. The price of the 1985 Abstract was raised from $6.95 to $7.95 in the U.S. and from $8.95 to $10.75 in Canada, perhaps in recognition of its growing popularity as well as a 70-page expansion in the size of the book since the last price increase in 1983.

    This year's Abstract also found competition in the form of The 1985 Elias Baseball Analyst, a reference book produced by the Elias Sports Bureau that contained reports generated from play-by-play details that had formerly been marketed only to the major league teams. There is no doubt that Seymour Siwoff & Co. seized upon the success of James' Abstracts in deciding to make this information available to the public for the first time.

    The "Baseball fever . . . hatch it!" slogan on the front cover was recycled from the 1981 Abstract. Sport Magazine gives James a glowing review on the back side of the book.

    ...But success hasn't spoiled Bill James. He's still the Sultan of Stats, the man who's done more for baseball enlightenment in the last decade than any sportswriter alive. And he's back to knock the cover off more myths and misconceptions with all new material for the '85 campaign, including the usual brilliant charts and graphs, arguments and insights that are unmistakeably, well, Jamesian.

    Craig Wright writes a two-page foreward, which includes the following definition of sabermetrics and a clarification of what sabermetricians do:

    Sabermetrics is the scientific research of the available evidence to identify, study, and measure forces in professional baseball. A sabermetrician is not a statistician. Sabermetricians do not study baseball statistics. Sabermetricians are actually involved in research, scientific study, and the subject is baseball.
    * * * * * * *

    In the Introduction for New Readers, James mentions "a method of translating minor league batting statistics into equivalent major league performance." He proceeds to explain the system in the Introduction for Old Readers.

    As a guide to major league performance, minor league batting statistics are reliable virtually 100% of the time. . .In anticipating future major league performance, minor league batting records are of essentially the same degree of reliability as previous major league batting statistics.

    Before getting into the evidence supporting his point, James looks at the four foundations of the myth "that minor league batting statistics are not valid as an indicator of major league hitting ability."

    1. Major league players actively promote and defend the belief that minor league batting statistics are meaningless because this belief helps to reduce the threat of competition, and thus greatly increases their job security.

    2. Members of the media prefer to believe that minor league batting statistics are meaningless because it creates a mystique about major league performance.

    3. Given an option to do so, all men prefer to reject information.

    4. Minor league batting statistics are, in fact, subject to powerful illusions, and therefore difficult to interpret accurately.

    This, of course, is the most important of the four factors; it is this element of confusion which enables the other factors to operate freely. If minor league batting statistics were easy to understand, then the mechanisms for rejecting them would be stymied.

    In Making Sense of Minor League Batting Statistics, James adjusts for (1) the run environment, (2) the calibre of competition ["since a player ordinarily loses about 18% of his offensive ability relative to the league in moving from AAA to the majors, we will multiply the environment adjustment by .82"], (3) the levels of major league productivity, and (4) park factors. He completes the process by re-assembling the player's record (in this case, Dick Schofield and Tony Fernandez, two shortstops who were in the minors in 1983 and the majors in 1984) in the same context of games and outs as were used in the minor leagues.

    The minor league translation is not a prediction of what the player will do, but an evaluation of what he has done. Incidentally, it is true in most cases that what he does next will be somewhat similar to what he has done in the past.

    James concludes that "the most important research that I have ever done" will allow major league executives to project major league performance on the basis of minor league stats, completely altering "the way in which decisions about marginal players are made."

    Will the baseball world ever accept that what I am saying here is true? Absolutely. They will have to; it is a truth so powerful that ultimately it cannot be locked out. Some will resist believing it for a year, some for ten years.

    And some have already accepted it. They may not have understood the trivial truth--that minor league batting statistics can be accurately projected into the majors--but they have certainly understood the essential truth, which is that good minor league talent is a far better thing to bet on than "proven" major league talent that isn't good enough to win.

    James also introduces another projection method known as the Brock2 system. The name is in deference to Greg Brock who, at the time, was a young first baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This system takes the actual records that a player has produced and projects them for the rest of his career. He admits that his method doesn't create knowledge nor is it necessarily accurate or sophisticated ("I wish it were half as sophisticated as it is complex"). Instead, his reason for including it in the book is that "it's fun to play around with." James offers a complete five-page explanation of the system in the back of the book, located between the glossary and the appendix (both of which are useful for those looking for definitions and formulas).

    * * * * * * *

    In the section on The Teams, James provides the results for and against the Toronto Blue Jays of the first pitch and when the first pitch was put in play--courtesy of Project Scoresheet (which was launched the previous year) and David Driscoll, one of more than 100 volunteers who signed up for a project that James called "a limited success." Upon examining Driscoll's research and analysis, James opines that "the data on the whole does support the Ted Williams-Earl Weaver offensive philosophy very powerfully and very consistently, and, speaking for myself, makes a valuable contribution toward understanding both sides of the issue."

    James' comments about the "nibbler's edge" on the first pitch are particularly interesting in the aftermath of the World Series in which disciplined Red Sox hitters negated the first-pitch advantage of the Cardinal pitchers, who succeeded during the year by getting impatient hitters to go after "their" pitch.

    This study also inspires James to share the following words of wisdom:

  • "One player--a leadoff hitter, no less--said a few years ago that if he wanted to walk he'd have been a mailman. Common sense would suggest that the response considered appropriate to such a comment would be to yank the player aside and say, 'Look, you yoyo, you're not out there trying to prove to girls in the bleachers what a big strong hitter you are. We're trying to win ballgames here. You're expected to help.' But no, the attitude was that it was kind of cute that the player wanted to prove himself and disdained the easy advantage of the game. Would a player be allowed to say that he couldn't be bothered to catch flies, that he didn't want to hit the cutoff man because he preferred to show off what a strong arm he had by throwing home or that he just didn't feel like going from first to third on a single? It's the same thing."

  • "Early in his career, a player realizes (consciously or subconsciously) that when he hits the first pitch his batting average goes up. This is only true so long as the first pitch is likely to be a good pitch, but that is the equal footing on which everyone begins. He also sees that there is no walk column in the newspaper; the thing that draws positive attention is getting hits and getting your batting average up a few points. When his career begins to slide, then, what does he do? If he takes a pitch and is called out, it looks bad; people tell him that he has to become more aggressive at the plate. Trying to drive his average back upward, the player swings at more and more first pitches, until he is locked in a cycle in which his strike zone is growing larger and larger, and the pitchers will throw fewer and fewer pitches over the heart of the plate. The long-term answer for him is to re-establish his strike zone, but he has no time for long-term solutions; the pressure is on him to produce right now. And then one day he discovers that he's become Garth Iorg and the other guy has become Wade Boggs, and it's too late to do anything about it."

    James gives Ralph Houk credit for his lineup selection (Boggs, Evans, Rice, Armas, Easler, Buckner, Gedman, Barrett, and Gutierrez), calling it "the best-structured, best-defined batting order in the major leagues."

    If you have nine hitters and nine batting order slots to put them in there are 362,880 ways to do it, and only one of them is right . . . It was not only an impressive collection of hitting talent, as was so often remarked, but an order as polished as Wren's buildings, Mozart's music or Angell's prose.

    In the Cleveland Indians segment, James offers one of his most famous compositions ("Counting The Stitches") in response to a series of mailings designed to promote the Hall of Fame candidacy of Ken Keltner. James admits that he can follow the logic of "whether or not a player belongs in the Hall of Fame" only this far:

    Q. What is a Hall of Famer?
    A. A Hall of Famer is a player of the quality usually elected to the Hall of Fame.
    Q. What is the quality of player who is usually elected to the Hall of Fame?
    A. It all depends.

    Given the ambiguity of the question of what constitutes a Hall of Famer, James develops what has become known as The Keltner List--a series of subjective questions ("a kind of common-sense approach") to evaluate where a player stands.

    1) Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

    2) Was he the best player on his team?

    3) Was he the best player in baseball at his position?

    4) Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

    5) Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?

    6) Was he the best player in the league at his position?

    7) Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

    8) Are most of the players who have comparable triple crown stats in the Hall of Fame?

    9) Are the player's totals of career approximate value and offensive wins and losses similar to those of other Hall of Famers?

    10) Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

    11) Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?

    12) How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP Award? If not, how many times was he close?

    13) How many All Star-type seasons did he have? How many All Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go into the Hall of Fame?

    14) If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

    In The Politics of Glory (later renamed Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?), James makes a few revisions to the above list. He combines questions three and six, replaces "triple crown stats" with "career statistics," drops the notion of "career approximate value and offensive wins and losses" in lieu of "Hall of Fame standards," and adds two new ones:

    14) What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

    15) Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

    In the 1985 Baseball Abstract (as well as in The Politics of Glory with minor modifications, including substituting Ryne Sandberg for Dale Murphy), James concludes:

    None of these questions is unanimously accepted as a criterion of Hall of Fame selection, and I'm not suggesting that it should be. . .If you review this set of questions for a player of the calibre of Mantle, Mays, Schmidt or Dale Murphy, you'll find that almost every answer is positive. It seems to me that if a man doesn't meet any of the standards outlined here, you've got to ask yourself why you are considering putting him in the Hall of Fame.
    * * * * * * *

    In the Kansas City Royals commentary, James discusses the fact that player walk totals historically had not been accounted for in the weekly batting summaries and daily lists of league leaders compiled by the wire services, The Sporting News weekly batting lists, the box scores, baseball cards, Who's Who in Baseball, The Sporting News Baseball Register, or Daguerreotypes ("another Sporting News publication that is basically a Baseball Register for players from the past").

    Because these were the essential sources that were used by announcers and sportswriters, they were largely unaware of whether the player walked a great deal of whether he swung at everything and drew 15 walks a year. . .a walk was something that the pitcher did; the batter was just the guy who was standing there when he did it.

    . . .When I began to analyze baseball as an adult, two things were immediately obvious to me. One was that the batter, far from being an innocent bystander to the occurrence, was a larger factor in determining where and when a walk would happen than was the pitcher. Some batters would walk 20 times a year; some would walk 100. This obviously was not coincidence--and, since the hitters who drew the 100 walks were often not the best hitters, neither was it merely a side-effect of the pitcher's reluctance to throw the ball in the strike zone. In fact, the differences among different hitters as to walk frequency were larger than the differences among different pitchers.

    The other thing that was obvious was that it [a walk] was just as important as I had always been told that it was. I found that . . .

    a) there was a clear, predictable relationship between the individual offensive acts of a team's players--their singles, doubles, home runs, walks, etc.--and the number of runs the team would score, and

    b) in the relationship, the number of walks drawn was one of the most important determinants of the number of runs resulting. There are basically three things that are important--batting average, power and walks. Runs result from the proportions of those three.

    James gives himself a pat on the shoulder ("through the efforts of men like David Neft, Pete Palmer, Earl Weaver and myself") when detailing the progress that has been made in the last 15 years "in overcoming the legacy of neglect that the walk has suffered." He mentions several sources that now list walk information, including The Baseball Abstract.

    Of course, those of us who played APBA and Strat-O-Matic were well ahead of the baseball public at large when it came to understanding and appreciating the value of walks. When evaluating APBA cards and lineup construction, one of the first things I considered was the number of 14s (a base on balls in most instances) on a player's card. I'm sure Strat players did the same.

    In the Oakland A's review, James says he would not have traded Rickey Henderson (who he describes as "one of the greatest players in baseball, one of the most exciting players in baseball, and possibly the greatest leadoff man in the history of baseball") to the New York Yankees for Stan Javier, Jay Howell, Jose Rijo, Eric Plunk, and Tim Birtsas the previous December. "Did they get a fair price for Rickey Henderson? It's kind of like if you're an art collector and you have the Mona Lisa, what's a fair price for it? The idea in building a championship team is to acquire players like Rickey Henderson. It's a sad day when you have to give one away."

    James discusses the "Johnson effect" (named after Bryan Johnson, a Toronto journalist) and the Law of Competitive Balance in the Chicago White Sox section.

    The Johnson effect states that when a team wins more games than it could be expected to win in view of the number of runs scored and runs allowed . . . that team will tend to decline in the following season. When a team wins significantly fewer games than could be expected in view of its runs scored and runs allowed . . . that team will tend to improve in the following season.

    James also determines "that there is a Johnson effect which applies to the creation of runs. . .a larger and more powerful than the Law of Competitive Balance" (which suggests that all things in baseball tend to be drawn toward the center).

    Under the subtitle "Telling Stories" in the Houston Astros commentary, James writes:

    Even before I got into sabermetrics I had always been fascinated by baseball statistics. . .I didn't care about the statistics in anything else. I didn't, and don't, pay any attention to statistics on the stock market, the weather, the crime rate, the gross national product, the circulation of magazines, the ebb and flow of literacy among football fans and how many people are going to starve to death before the year 2050 if I don't start adopting them for $3.69 a month; just baseball. Now why is that?

    It is because baseball statistics, unlike the statistics in any other area, have acquired the powers of language.

    1) Baseball statistics have the ability to conjure images.

    2) Baseball statistics can tell stories.

    3) Baseball statistics acquire from these other properties a powerful ability to delude us.

    Regarding the first two points, James creates stat lines for two mythical players, asking questions such as "Which one runs faster? Which one is stronger? Which one is older?" As to the third point, James unleashes a two-page, wonderfully thought out and written analysis on Jose Cruz, including home and road splits for the 1981-1984 seasons for the Astro outfielder as well as Jim Rice, Dale Murphy, and Bill Madlock. Cruz' slugging percentage at home was .099 below Madlock's, .126 below Rice's, and .168 below Murphy's, yet his SLG on the road was higher than all three.

    * * * * * * *

    James summarizes a "hard study of the baseball draft" in the Cincinnati Reds segment that was first published as a special edition for The Bill James Baseball Abstract Newsletter. His conclusion 20 years ago has had a profound effect on the drafting strategies of several major league organizations since then with an ever growing appreciation the past decade or so.

    Not only is there no basis for the prejudice against the drafting of college players, but in fact the reverse is true. College players, from the beginning of the draft until at least 1978, had been seriously under-valued and under-drafted in comparison to high school players.

    James offers three theories why college players have shown an advantage:

    1) College competition, operating at a higher level, is more difficult to dominate than high school competition. Scouts are bowled over by people who hit .573 and drive in three runs per game; you can't do that in college. College players are good enough that they expose one another's weaknesses.

    2) College players succeed relative to their expectations because there is still a prejudice against them, operating at a lower level. A "preference" for drafting high school players, however small, might cause college players to be drafted lower than they ought to be. This would cause their rates of return to be higher.

    3) College players are older and more mature than those drafted out of high school, thus better able to deal with and succeed through minor league life. A player drafted out of high school is going to be away from home for the first time; a player drafted out of college isn't.

    James provides four other conclusions from his study:

    1) The South has been seriously over-scouted and over-drafted.

    2) It is going to be very common for a team to lose a free agent and come out ahead on the deal. The first prominent example of this is that the Seattle Mariners got a second-round draft pick from the Texas Rangers as compensation for Bill Stein; that second-round pick turned out to be Mark Langston. That's a hell of a trade, and there are going to be a lot more like it.

    3) Pitchers who have been made very high draft picks (among the first ten players taken) have proven to be quite poor risks.

    Moving along, James provides an interesting piece of trivia in the Pittsburgh Pirates comments. In 1984, the Bucs were the first team in the history of major league baseball to lead the league in ERA and finish last. Amazingly, the Chicago Cubs had the division's worst ERA that year and finished first. James indicates that the Atlanta Braves in 1982 were the only other team to win a division despite having the worst ERA in the division. My research shows that no team with the best ERA has finished last and no team with the worst ERA has ended up in first since then.

    Upon ranking the top dozen best-hitting pitchers in baseball, James remarks that "it is very unlikely that any pitcher could be a good enough hitter that his batting could have a consistent value of one win per year to his team." He works through the numbers and concludes, "A pitcher's ability to swing a bat plays a very minor role in determining his ability to help the team win, and thus in determining his value to the team."

    * * * * * * *

    In the Player Comments section, James ranks more than 200 players and analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of each. He gives us a glimpse of his humor when describing Bill Madlock's weaknesses--"sour cream, fudge, desserts of all kinds"--and "the five most reasonable explanations that I can think of why anyone would trade Don Slaught for Jim Sundberg:

    1. Don Slaught is a secret hemophiliac and his hobby is playing with chain saws.
    2. Don Slaught likes to jump out of airplanes and frequently forgets to put on his face mask before the start of an inning.
    3. Don Slaught made a pass at Ewing Kaufmann's wife.
    4. Don Slaught made a pass at Ewing Kaufmann.
    5. Don Slaught's agent carries a razor.

    If none of these conditions applies, then I really don't understand the trade."

  • Enos Cabell: In the 1983 Baseball Abstract, James included "an extremely accurate synopsis" of Cabell's contribution to his team. In admitting that this piece was "one of the more controversial things that I've written," James says "it was unkind, and I regret that." However, he says the essential point wasn't that Cabell was a terrible player but that "ballgames--all ballgames--are won and lost on the field of play. 'Attitude' and 'leadership' are very real things; they are on the same plane of existence as 'talent,' 'desire,' 'training,' and 'experience,' which is to say that they are very valuable if you can turn them into on-field results. If you don't turn them into results, and Enos was not at that time, they're meaningless words. . .If you score three runs and the other team scores four, you lose, period; how much 'leadership' and 'ability' you have does not have one blessed thing to do with it. If you lose a ballgame on the field you cannot win it back in the clubhouse, and anybody who thinks you can is a loser."

  • German Rivera: "Why doesn't somebody do a study of these outfield-to-third base conversions, and see how often they work? I've been watching people try to convert outfielders into third basemen for as long as I can remember, and it doesn't seem like it works one time in twenty." Can you say Austin Kearns? (Paging Cincinnati Reds General Manager Dan O'Brien and Manager Dave Miley...)

  • Jim Rice: "Virtually all sportswriters, I suppose, believe that Jim Rice is an outstanding player. If you ask them how they know this, they'll tell you that they just know; I've seen him play. That's the difference in a nutshell between knowledge and bullshit; knowledge is something that can be objectively demonstrated to be true, and bullshit is something that you just 'know.' If someone can actually demonstrate that Jim Rice is a great ballplayer, I'd be most interested to see the evidence."

  • Dale Murphy: "Rates with Mays, Mantle, DiMaggio, Cobb and Speaker as the greatest center fielders baseball has ever had." And to think that I rate Jim Edmonds too highly?

    James also publishes the results of Jim Baker's study regarding Murphy's batting records with and without Bob Horner in the lineup, and it was determined that "it makes absolutely no difference" whether Horner is or is not in the lineup or if Horner is or is not batting directly behind him.

    * * * * * * *

    In A History of the Beanball (not to be confused with Billy Beane or Moneyball), James writes a six-page article followed by a four-page Record of Known Cases of Death From Pitched Ball in Professional Baseball (1900-1984) and a Summary of Significant Injuries Resulting from Hit Batsmen (1950-1984).

    James revisits "Range Factor" and includes an essay by Paul Johnson, entitled "Estimated Runs Produced," in the back of the book. Estimated Runs Produced is similar to runs created in that "both are designed to calculate the number of runs that individual players produce for their teams."

    Lastly, James shares his "Other Efforts," including Project Scoresheet ("an attempt to collect and make available to the public the complete records of each and every major league game"), The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), The Newsletter ("I don't know that to this point we have delivered a quality product . . . but we're trying"), The Baseball Analyst ("for people who have a real interest in hard-core sabermetrics"), and The Historical Abstract (a 721-page hardcover book that was published by Villard Books in December 1985 under the title of "The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract").

    I like the book--in fact, I like that book quite a bit better than I like this one. . .This [meaning the '85 Abstract] is probably the heaviest and most technical book that I've written, and I'm not real pleased with it in that respect--but the other one [the Historical Abstract] is certainly the lightest and least technical book, and the most fun book, that I have done.

    Next up: 1986 Baseball Abstract

    [Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]

    * * * * * * *

    Abstracts From The Abstracts:

    1977 Baseball Abstract
    1978 Baseball Abstract
    1979 Baseball Abstract
    1980 Baseball Abstract
    1981 Baseball Abstract
    1982 Baseball Abstract
    1983 Baseball Abstract
    1984 Baseball Abstract

  • WTNYNovember 11, 2004
    By Bryan Smith

    Back in mid-August, I wrote an article entitled History Lesson, a recourse into the 1999 draft. I really enjoyed writing and researching for this article, and vowed to do so about another draft this offseason. Well, I take one day off, and voila. Today we deal with the ugliness of the 2000 draft.

    Now while its most appropriate to give minor leaguers six years after being signed, most of the solid members from the 2000 draft should be identifiable. And let me tell you, it aint much. In the last round, I gave an All-1999 draft team, but this draft does not allow me to do so. Instead, I will give you nine of the more accomplished players, in order of being drafted:

    - Rocco Baldelli (6th overall)
    - Chase Utley (15th overall)
    - Xavier Nady (49th overall)
    - Cliff Lee (105th overall)
    - Dontrelle Willis (223rd overall)
    - Brandon Webb (249th overall)
    - Rich Harden (510th overall)
    - Jason Bay (645th overall)
    - Adam LaRoche (880th overall)

    Let me add that this list was difficult to compile, and any accomplished list with Utley and Nady in the top ten isnt too deep. So they have two Rookies of the Year and two more legit candidates who cares? Only three players in the first three rounds were worth noting, two of which were the least accomplished of the group. What I also found noticeable is that no players in the top five are present, which we did not see in our last review.

    In fact, Baldelli is the only member of the top ten to appear in fifty Major League games. There are only three in the top 40. While the Marlins had hit jackpot choosing Josh Beckett second overall in the 1999 draft, their NL worst record led them to a rather dry crop of players in 2000. It appeared that Californian high school first basemen Adrian Gonzalez was the cream of the crop, with fantastic defense and a pure bat. Flop!

    This left the Minnesota Twins, at the height of their futility, to the best collegiate player out there: Adam Johnson. A power started from the hailed Cal-State Fullerton program, lets just say that Johnson has not achieved the levels of success that the 2001 second overall pick (Prior) would reach. I could talk about his make-up issues that have prohibited his real arrival in Minnesota, but his career AAA ERA over 5.00 is whats to blame. Flop!

    As a Cubs fan, it pains me to speak of the third overall choice. It pained me to read on that June 2000 day that my team had chosen a Florida high school shortstop first overall. Why? While not quite a prospect evaluator yet, I was understandably afraid of the word raw. Years later, raw seemed to be the perfect word, so perfect that Montanez was moved from short to the outfield this season, being demoted to short-season ball in the process. Flop!

    229 strikeouts in 366 innings. 4.62 ERA. 1.42 WHIP. Meet the fourth overall selection, Mike Stodolka, five years later. Kansas City was choosing on the cheap here, because they didnt want to pay the big dollars to Stanford ace Justin Wayne or Matt Harrington, who was said to have huge bonus demands. Flop!

    Wayne went fifth to the Expos, and would later be traded to the Florida Marlins in a deal for Cliff Floyd. Hes the most accomplished of the top five a sorry feat with 26 games and 62 innings under his belt.

    Matthew Wheatland, Mark Phillips, Joe Torres, Shaun Boyd, Beau Hale, Miguel Negron. Meet the busts of the top twenty. Pardon me as I had to step over the great likes of Dave Krynzel, Joe Borchard, Chase Utley, Billy Traber, and the famous Ben Diggins. So if you havent caught my drift quite yet, let me be blunt: this was the worst draft in recent memoryby far.

    But I wont be too critical. There have been 73 players from the draft to reach the Majors, only twenty less than the draft the season before. They are banking that players like Grady Sizemore, Dave Krynzel, Jason Kubel and J.D. Durbin create a belief that some depth exists.

    I am leaving you fairly short today, but let me throw in a quick few numbers for you to chew on:

    - No other draft has proven the dominance of collegiate selections like this one. Of the 73 players to make the Majors, an astounding 55 (75.3%) come from University programs. This doesnt include Ruben Gotay (community college) or Bobby Hill, who had spent the prior season in the Independent League, a la J.D. Drew. But the high school roster has a far higher ceiling:

    1. Adrian Gonzalez
    2. Rocco Baldelli
    3. Dave Krynzel
    4. Sean Brunett
    5. J.D. Durbin
    6. Grady Sizemore
    7. Laynce Nix
    8. Josh Kroeger
    9. Shawn Hill
    10. Dontrelle Willis
    11. Jason Kubel
    12. Brian Bruney
    13. Justin Germano
    14. Ian Snell
    15. Victor Diaz

    - Both the Montreal Expos and Colorado Rockies had seven draftees make the Majors, with the Chicago Cubs (6) the only other team to have five. Unfortunately, Washington lost Wayne, Sizemore, Bay, Lee and Phil Seibel, keeping only Shawn Hill and Anthony Ferrari. The Rockies players have been unsuccessful, but fill in as decent role players. Despite the hideous Montanez selection, Cubs fans have to be pleased with the selections of Todd Wellemeyer, Jon Leicester and Jason Dubois.

    - In the last draft review, we saw 50 of the 93 success stories came from the first five rounds, about 53.7%. This time around, we see 33 of the 73 from rounds 1-5, only 45.2%. The reason for this is the lack of a third and fifth rounds, which produced one Major Leaguer (Sizemore, Garrett Atkins) each. Talk about some busts.

    Thats all for today, though I am currently plugging away to see if the 2000 draft really has the worst top five selections of all-time

    WTNYNovember 09, 2004
    Battle Of Rarities
    By Bryan Smith

    While I hope everyone has enjoyed the team and position evaluations I have most recently written about, today will be geared back towards player comparisons. Todays topic will be three, young, switch-hitting shortstops who all spent a good portion of their season in high-A. As always, I hope a look into each player will provide a clear ranking of the three.

    Despite being about thirteen months older than his Dominican counterparts, our Queens native has 712 and 786 less at-bats, respectively. Chosen in the third round of the 2003 draft, Tony Giarratano was a good player in his Freshman and Junior seasons while at Tulane University.

    In his freshman season with the Green Wave, Giarratano hit an impressive .352/.448/.457 in 264 at-bats. This was good enough to get him on the first-team Freshman All-America squad, as decided by Baseball America. He was tenth in Conference USA in batting average, and fifth in hits. Playing the whole season at second base, Tony followed with mediocre performances on Team USA, and then the Cape Cod League.

    His stellar first collegiate season was followed by a Sophmore slump, in which the infielder missed more than 15 games, and saw his OPS drop to .639. He split time all over the diamond, playing primarily on the left side of the infield. For his final season he would be moved to shortstop, where Giarratano enjoyed a .336/.394/.507 season. The combination of his poor sophomore season, lack of a defined position, and lack of power helped him slip to the third round, where the Tigers gave him a solid $500,000 bonus.

    A relatively quick signing allowed the Tigers to send their shortstop to the NYPL, where Giarratano was able to play 47 games. During his time there, the Tulane infielder hit .328/.369/.476. While this is somewhat intriguing, it should be noted that sabermatricians would be thrown off by his decline patience numbers. His IsoD (OBP-BA) was .086 his freshman year, solid, and the highest he has posted since leaving high school. It feel to .080 his sophomore season, then .058 as a power-hitting senior, and just .041 when making the transition to professional baseball.

    Enough about some ex-Tigers draft pick, what about the Dominican shortstops in the high-profile Red Sox and Angel organizations? What were Hanley Ramirez and Erick Aybar doing prior to entering the 2004 season?

    Both growing up in the Dominican Republic, in towns fairly close to each other (Ramirez- Santo Domingo, Aybar- Bani), Ramirez was the first to make a recorded debut in professional baseball. As a 17-year-old, Hanley had 197 at-bats in the Dominican Summer League. While The Baseball Cube does not have enough information to give me his on-base percentage, I can see that Ramirez hit .345 with a .533 slugging percentage. Already, there were rumors that Dan Duquette had hit the jackpot.

    In 2002, both players saw short-season ball action as 18-year-olds. Aybar was sent to the hitter-friendly Pioneer League, where he hit .326/.395/.469 in 273 at-bats. He also stole 15 bases in that fairly short amount of time, showing the speed that is often associated with him. Meanwhile, Hanley split the season between the GCL and NYPL, registering 164 and 97 at-bats, respectively. He hit .341/.402/.555 before being promoted, in which he worsened to .371/.400/.536. The sharp decline in plate discipline is a little worrisome, but the organization hardly believed Ramirez was immune to the walk.

    So, at this point, Hanley is by far the best prospect of the three. Aybar made a nice little splash, but was lost in a pretty solid Anaheim system. Giarratano has allowed a terrible sophomore season to cloud his future in professional baseball. We know what 2003 brought to the latter, but no one would have seen what it presented Hanley.

    A slump, a suspension, a label. Like Giarratano did in his second season at Tulane, Ramirez had a slump in 2003 as a 19-year-old in the South Atlantic League. He hit .275/.327/.403, hardly the numbers of the top prospect he had been labeled before the season. Furthermore, the Red Sox had suspended him indefinitely for undisclosed attitude problems, which has kept the arrogant tag on Ramirez neck ever since.

    Aybar saw this and ran with it. While the Midwest League is often far more difficult to hit in than the Sally League, Aybar had a solid .308/.346/.446 season. While this wasnt enough to drop jaws, for the first time in his baseball existence, he was turning heads. A shortstop with a good batting average, a bit of pop, and 32 stolen bases? And still a teenager? Damn

    Still, factor in Hanleys disappointing seasons as well as good years by Aybar and TonyG, and you still have Ramirez atop the prospect list. He was showing Gold Glove-type defense as a teenager, with enough promise in his bat to allow Bostonians to hold their breath a bit longer.

    And this season, they were finally able to sigh some relief. Ramirez was dynamite this season, split between the Florida State League and the Eastern League. His batting average was .310 in both places and on-base percentage near .360 in both, but his rise in slugging (.389 to .512) will effect Theos decision-making this winter. If Ramirez can sustain the .310/.360/.512 type line he had in the Eastern League, he is a better option than Orlando Cabrera in 2007, if not 2006. Maybe Omar Vizquel can play a role for someone: placeholder.

    But Ramirez was not the only one of the three with gaudy numbers, ask Erick Aybar. The 20-year-old shortstop nearly won the California League MVP trophy, once Josh Barfields, after hitting .330/.370/.485. I would highly doubt if that slugging is ever approached again, as the CL has been known to do that to players before. Yes, he did steal 51 bases, but this has to be taken with a grain of salt considering the 36 times he was thrown out.

    TonyG had a good season as well, with a unique offensive explosion when moving from the MWL to the FSL. For some reason, Tiger brass saw it necessary to promote their third-rounder after just 43 Midwest League games, and an OPS of just .735. In hindsight, it looks like a golden move. Giarratano hit .376/.421/.505 with the Lakeland Tigers, and stole 25 bases for the season. Hes made the full-time move to shortstop, where he shows a good arm and a lack of sensational range.

    So, whats next for these guys? Ramirez should actually stay in the Red Sox organization, with a spot opening up for him when ready. I would be shocked in the BoSox sign a SS for more than two years, basically calling for the trade of their best prospect.

    The opposite is true in Anaheim, where Arte Moreno will nearly surely sign either Nomar Garciaparra or Edgar Renteria. This officially puts Erick Aybar on the block, which is fine, considering some scouts like Brandon Wood better. I see Aybar sniffing an .800 OPS in his peak, with mostly a Cristian Guzman type career on the horizon. Actually, thats a pretty sensational comparison.

    While hes the oldest at the group, nearly 22, Im most torn on TonyG. Is he, or is he not, a better prospect than Aybar. Im leaning towards no, considering his ISO and IsoD werent even that good despite a great FSL average. He lacks the speed and range of Aybar, though hes equally as batting average-dependent. Its close, but I think you have to give the spot to Aybar.

    So, there you have it. To me, Hanley Ramirez is the best switch-hitting shortstop in the minor leagues, and is wrestling Ian Kinsler for the #2 SS prospect in baseball label. He probably loses by a little bit, with a top five of: Guzman, Kinsler, Ramirez, Santos, Quintanilla. Aybar and Giarratano round out the top 7, though J.J. Hardy will want his inclusion in there somewhere.

    How about this for the question of the day: name the 14 AL starting shortstops on Opening Day, 2007. Mine will be comment #1

    WTNYNovember 08, 2004
    By Bryan Smith

    So, we have already established the lack of a great left-handed pitching prospect, despite the noticeable depth there. Instead, it is their right-wing counterparts that encompass at least the top five spots in the pitching depth chart. None yet old enough to order a drink, there is a lot of hope invested in these five right arms.

    Three of them came as no surprise to their organizations, who selected them in the first-round of a draft. Chad Billingsley and Adam Miller were chosen within six picks of each other in the 2003 amateur draft, Matt Cain is a 2002 bonus baby. The 2003 draft, the first after the release of Moneyball, allowed Billingsley and Miller to be just the third and fourth high school pitchers selected, in the 24th and 31st positions respectively. While John Danks and Jeff Allison looked like the sure picks, it has been the Logan White and Mark Shapiro selections that are second to no other pitchers.

    Our final two were not chosen in any draft, but instead signed from the land below the United States, a.k.a. Venezuela. A new hotbed of talent, Felix Hernandez and Yusmeiro Petit hope to add two more names to the countrys growing reputation. No one could believe that a seventeen-year-old could do so much when Hernandez burst on the storm last year, tearing up both the Northwestern and Midwest Leagues. But it was his follow-up, encore performance at 18 that has validated his status as the games best pitching prospect. For Petit, it was a deadline trade and the New York spotlight that got his name out in the open.

    But enough about where they came from, lets talk about where they are now. Ive already hinted towards who is first on the list, but you knew that anyway. Now lets look at why.

    First, lets go through the rate stats for the year. This alone shows the flaw that evaluating prospects solely on statistics presents. Yusmeiro Petit, the most unknown of the group, led the fivesome in H/9, K/9, BB/9 and K/BB. By the same token, Felix Hernandez was the groups worst in H/9, and failed to lead in any category. He was second or third across the board, narrowly trailing Billingsley for the HR/9 lead.

    Lets not be too harsh though, they do have quite a purpose. I would never have guessed that Matt Cain would be the only pitcher to not have a K/9 over ten, registering at just 9.13. The combination of the second highest H/9 and BB/9 is a bad combination as well. Throw that in with the highest HR/9, and Cain has left me more unimpressed than I started. Yes, he has played in hitters parks, but Billingsley shows a lot more raw potential, and Miller seems to be more refined.

    So, how do we go from Felix being one of the statistics worst- and Petit being the best- to a complete switch? First of all, age. While everyone but Miller closed out the season in AA, Hernandez was the only pitcher who did so during his age 18 season. This dominance at such a young age has been the spark of Doc Gooden comparisons that have plagued Hernandez since pitching in Everett of the short-season Northwest League.

    The rest of em just completed their final teenage season, but Petit does have a couple features that separates him from the group. At 6-0, 230 pounds, Petits stature is unlike any other pitcher on this list. Baseball America started the Sid Fernandez comparisons this year, which seem quite apt a year later. His inability to light up a radar gun is what costs him points in the prospect department, no matter how much higher his K/BB is above the rest of the group. Mediocre stuff combined with New York lights dont add up great, ask Aaron Heilman.

    We have first and last, how does the middle of the pack go? Its extremely close, but right now I would say Billingsley, Cain, Miller. Ask me in a week, and Ill give you a completely different order. The Dodger has drawn comparisons to Kerry Wood for his great fastball-curveball combination, as well as his problems with control. Billingsley has a chance to hit the Majors next year, not even two years after Logan White made the gutsy choice. And thats why this guy should get some big bucks.

    If you had asked me before I plugged the numbers and sat in front of my computer, I would have told you Matt Cain would be before Billingsley. Someone I respect, though I cant remember who, once referred to Cain as a manchild. He was the best pitcher in the California League, including King Felix, before some peripheral struggles in Double-A. His timetable is a bit longer than Billingsley, and he already has a year on him. Anyway, lets hope the two will be in some great match-ups for much of their careers.

    Can you imagine the NLCS in 7 years with Jerome Williams, Jesse Foppert and Matt Cain vs. Edwin Jackson, Greg Miller and Chad Billingsley? Me too.

    Finally, we have Miller, who I wrote about back in this comparison with John Danks a few weeks ago. No other prospect, barring maybe Chuck Tiffany, closed out the season better than Miller. While playoff statistics dont show up in end of the season totals, the Texan was the star of the Carolina League playoffs. His numbers are great across the board, and he was apparently up in the high-90s at years end.

    So, there you go, the top five pitching prospects who closed the season in the minor leagues:

    1) Felix Hernandez
    2) Chad Billingsley
    3) Matt Cain
    4) Adam Miller
    5) Yusmeiro Petit

    Now when you throw in Francis, Kazmir and Capellan it might make a difference, but not a huge one. Come on Deloney, pony up and give me your top ten. Yall do it.

    Baseball BeatNovember 07, 2004
    Rich's Weekend Edmonds Beat
    By Rich Lederer

    Lee Sinins provided the following table in his Around The Majors report yesterday when revealing that Houston Astros outfielder Lance Berkman had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee playing flag football.

    Runs Created Above Average (2001-2004)

    1    Barry Bonds                 597
    2    Todd Helton                 284
    3    Albert Pujols               281
    4    Jim Thome                   250
    5    Manny Ramirez               240
    6    Lance Berkman               236
    7    Jason Giambi                225
    8    Alex Rodriguez              218
    9    Jim Edmonds                 216
    10   Gary Sheffield              210

    Other than the fact that Barry Bonds has generated more than twice as many runs created above average as any other player in the major leagues over the past four years (if that's not a testament to how truly dominant he has been, I don't know what is), do you notice anything unusual? Well, what jumps out at me is the fact that Alex Rodriguez and Jim Edmonds are the only two players on this list who are not corner outfielders or first basemen.

    While A-Rod has certainly received his due throughout his career, Edmonds is generally viewed as a good player rather than a great player. Edmonds' offensive productivity has essentially been the same as Rodriguez' over the past four years during a period in which the latter has won an MVP and led the league in home runs three times, runs and total bases twice, plus slugging average, extra-base hits, runs batted in, and runs created once each.

    I'm not trying to take away anything from A-Rod. He deservedly is considered one of the two best players in all of baseball and the finest in his league. Rodriguez was also on pace to become one of the two best shortstops in the history of the game before shifting to third base last year in an attempt to win his first World Series championship. When A-Rod retires, he will be remembered as an inner circle Hall of Famer--perhaps one of the top 20 players ever.

    Why then is Edmonds so overlooked? It's my contention that he unfairly gets grouped among all outfielders rather than just center fielders when discussing and comparing players. Comparing CF to LF and RF is almost like viewing SS in the same light as 1B and 3B. Just as not any infielder can play short, most corner outfielders are incapable of playing center. Saying that Edmonds "plays center" is an understatement. He has won seven Gold Gloves, including five in a row.

    Although Edmonds ranks among the best outfielders as detailed in the table above, he has unquestionably been the best center fielder in the game over the past four years.

    Center Fielders
    RCAA (2001-2004)

    1    Jim Edmonds                 216   
    2    Carlos Beltran              121   
    3    Bernie Williams              91   
    4    Lance Berkman                55   
    5    Mark Kotsay                  51

    Edmonds, in fact, has shown a similar superiority over his fellow center fielders as Bonds has over the entire field. Don't get me wrong here. I'm not suggesting that Edmonds compares favorably to Bonds. I'm only making the case that he has outdistanced his peers in CF by almost the same margin as Bonds versus all of baseball. In other words, if you think that there should be no argument about Bonds being the best player over the past four years, then there should be no debate that Edmonds has been the best center fielder during the same period.

    What's even more amazing is the fact that Edmonds ranks number one among all CF in RCAA from 1994-2004, 1995-2004, 1996-2004, 1997-2004, 1998-2004, 1999-2004, 2000-2004, 2001-2004, 2002-2004, 2003-2004, and 2004. The only other player in baseball who can make such a claim over his position is Barry Bonds. (Had A-Rod not been moved to 3B, he would have also qualified--assuming that his offensive numbers would have been the same last year as a SS.)

    While Carlos Beltran--who may be on the verge of signing a long-term contract for $100 million or more--is now all the rage, Edmonds has actually created more runs above average than his free agent counterpart every year since Carlos broke into the majors in 1998. I recognize that Beltran is seven years younger than Edmonds and arguably a more valuable property, but the truth of the matter is that the Cardinal slugger has been the more valuable player.

    Not only has Edmonds outshone his contemporaries, he has now entered the pantheon of the greatest center fielders of all time. No? Let's take a look.

    Center Fielders (Position Ranked By Career)
    Runs Created Above Average (1900-2004)

    1    Ty Cobb                    1369   
    2    Mickey Mantle              1099   
    3    Tris Speaker               1053   
    4    Willie Mays                1008   
    5    Joe DiMaggio                708   
    6    Ken Griffey Jr.             547   
    7    Duke Snider                 467   
    8    Earl Averill                391   
    9    Hack Wilson                 367   
    10   Bernie Williams             361   
    11   Larry Doby                  359   
    12   Jim Edmonds                 353

    As I have pointed out in previous articles (one of which was co-authored with Brian Gunn of Redbird Nation), the top five center fielders of all time (in alphabetical order, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Tris Speaker) are indisputable. You can rank them any way you like, but there really is no arguing which center fielders comprise the top five (unless one wanted to expand the universe to include players from the Negro Leagues, such as Oscar Charleston). It has also been my contention that the sixth and seventh best CF (Ken Griffey, Jr. and Duke Snider) have also earned their rightful places in history.

    Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly clear to me with each passing season that Edmonds has a legitimate shot at becoming the eighth best CF in the majors since the turn of the 20th century. To wit, Edmonds may well pass Earl Averill in RCAA in 2005--thus becoming #8 on the above list of CF. (For the record, Edmonds already ranks in the top ten--ahead of Hack Wilson and Bernie Williams--when you sort for primary position by season rather than career.)

    If Edmonds remains healthy and plays at or near his established level of play for another three years, it is conceivable that he could end up passing the Duke of Flatbush not only in terms of RCAA but possibly in runs, doubles, home runs, and walks. Although the run environments during the peaks of their careers favor Edmonds by approximately 4%, the home park factors give Snider about a 5% edge. As a result, I believe it is reasonable to compare their rate stats:

                  AVG     OBP     SLG     OPS
    Snider       .295    .380    .540    .920     
    Edmonds      .294    .384    .544    .928

    As shown, they are almost identical. In fairness to Snider, Edmonds has not yet entered the decline phase of his career. At Snider's peak in 1957, his rate stats were .303/.383/.560 (.943). Whether Edmonds can build upon his career averages at the age of 34 remains to be seen, but it wouldn't surprise me if he maintains all but his batting average over the next few years.

    My initial point though was not to suggest that Edmonds was the equal of Snider. Rather, it was to show that he has firmly established himself as the best center fielder over the last several years and now deserves to be mentioned among the top dozen all-time with the understanding that he could catapult into the top eight as early as next season.

    Source: Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia

    [Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]

    Baseball BeatNovember 05, 2004
    Banter Up
    By Rich Lederer

    Alex Belth invited me to join Allen Barra and Glenn Stout in a roundtable discussion focusing on the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Three Wise Men (as I look over my shoulder looking for the third member) can be read in its entirety at Alex's always informative and entertaining site, aptly known as Bronx Banter.

    The first installment of Belth's Season-Ending Review featured five baseball bloggers (including All-Baseball's very own Mike Carminati), King Kaufman, and Rob Neyer. It's a two-parter, entitled And Say Children, What Does it all Mean? and Mecca in the Nation.

    By the way, if the Yankees sign a couple of prized free agents during the offseason, will it be because New York has a monopoly on the letters B-e-l-t? You know, Alex B-e-l-t-(h), Adrian B-e-l-t-(re), and Carlos B-e-l-t-(ran). Maybe Alex will rename his site, the Bronx Belters.

    Baseball BeatNovember 05, 2004
    By Rich Lederer

    Tom Gardner of The Motley Fool recently conducted an exclusive five-part interview with Michael Lewis, author of the best-selling Moneyball. The interview is a must-read for investors and baseball fans.

    Some call it the best business book out there. Michael Lewis is the author of the best-selling Moneyball, a look into the roaring success the Oakland A's baseball team has achieved recently through contrary thinking and unconventional means.

    Part I: Moneyball's Home Run Insights

    Michael Lewis: Well, Moneyball is about how the Oakland A's, on a low budget, win so many baseball games. The way they've done it is by finding value in players that other people have overlooked. And the way they do that is actually rather complicated. It involves a sophisticated and, in some cases, original use of baseball statistics to measure a player's performance. What they've had to do in Oakland, out of economic necessity since they are a small-market team, is to question all the traditional statistics that get used to evaluate players. They've challenged the traditional measures, asking if they really are a good way to measure what a particular guy brings to a team and how much he contributes to winning.

    Believe it or not, the answer in most cases is "no" -- traditional measures are not very accurate. It turns out that you can find much better ways to measure value, if you approach the game unconventionally. And once you've done that, you can find value that other people haven't.

    * * *

    Part II: Don't Listen to Buffett

    Lewis: Here's an example. Bill James, all the way back in the early 1970s, starts asking questions about baseball statistics. He stumbles upon something like errors. Errors are used to measure whether a player is a good or bad defensive player. And James comes up with the radical notion that the errors statistic is complete baloney. Teams are judging all of their fielders by a system that is flawed. They're deciding who is a good defensive player on the basis of what a scorekeeper says is an error (a player mishandling a ball). But James forced everyone to ask: What is the easiest way to never get any errors? Just don't get to any balls. You can't mishandle any then! And anyone who does that is clearly a bad defensive player... someone who is too slow to even get to many balls. So he concludes that this clearly is an area where we need to rethink things.
    * * *

    Part III: Embrace the Unloved

    Lewis: In baseball, people were told for generations that batting average was what was really important. Well, it turns out that when you actually ran historical studies to determine what correlated highly with a team's run totals, batting average was very low on the list. Imagine that! And that's because you have these teams that have high batting averages who never get on base with walks and who don't hit for power. Compared to a team that had a lower batting average but walked a whole lot and hit home runs, they weren't on base as much so they weren't scoring as much. A fetish was made of the wrong number. It's been that way for decades in baseball and persists even today. And this created a huge opportunity for the Oakland A's.
    * * *

    Part IV: Finding Baseball and Stock Opportunities

    Lewis: The market in baseball players is actually getting more sophisticated pretty rapidly and so now what they are doing, they are almost short-term arbitrageurs. They are seeing that the market jumps around and the opportunities aren't as big as they once were. There are smaller opportunities that they have to fight to exploit. It feels like they are less Warren Buffett today and more John Meriwether. They're looking for a short-term mispricing of left-handed relievers or a short-term mispricing of outfield defense. That kind of stuff.

    ...But, having said that, the single biggest opportunity for someone running a baseball team is that black hole of misunderstanding surrounding amateur baseball players. If you can go out and find the guys who are in college or in high school who will be successful major league baseball players, you will have a dynasty like none that's ever been seen before because of the way baseball is structured. You will own all of the best players for the first six years of their big league careers. Yet nobody has figured out how to do it. This is the biggest opportunity out there. It's the mother of all inefficiencies in baseball.

    * * *

    Part V: Moneyball's Undervalued Players

    Lewis: This thing, baseball, has been going on for 100 years in full view. Everyone thinks they know it. And Bill James is a night watchman at a Stokely Van Camp's pork and bean factory who has no real background in math, in statistics. He's an English major who just starts to think and discovers the joy of rethinking conventional assumptions. And in doing it, he revolutionizes the entire sport. That is an incredible story.

    Yes, indeed.

    WTNYNovember 04, 2004
    For the Lefties
    By Bryan Smith

    Since yesterdays glowing report on Jon Lester was the best thing to happen to lefties this week, I have decided to spend today focusing on left-wingers. I know, I wouldnt expect me to talk about that either, as it has been a long time since I touched on this group. But, I cant write about hitters forever, and figured that southpaws deserved a piece.

    To my surprise, a look into left-handed pitchers in the minor leagues led me to a rather deep position, with a lot of solid arms. Im not sure how high a leftie will be on my rankings, but I know that once you get farther into the list, theyll appear quite often.

    And I should mention, that for the purpose of this article, I did not include 2004 draftees, which are a deep bunch with Bill Bray, Gio Gonzalez, Glen Perkins, etc. I also didnt include Scott Kazmir and Jeff Francis, as well as Adam Loewen, who I would not even know how to rank.

    After mentioning all the depth stuff, I should say that there is a clear-cut top two players on top of the heap: Scott Olsen and Cole Hamels. While there should not be a lot of debate that Olsen is the best arm, I do think that Baseball America/other prospect sources might overrate him a bit. While his 10.43 K/9 is great, Im less than impressed by a 3.50 BB/9 and mediocre 8.38 H/9. Finally, in what Baseball Prospectus has rated as a pitchers park, Olsen allowed 8 home runs in 136.1 innings, not a ton, but still a bit too much.

    Olsen is the typical power pitcher, with a big 6-4 frame that could be built for even more. He needs to cut down that walk rate a bit, and his H/9 needs to come down to be a top pitching prospect in my book. His stuff, along with one great peripheral puts him at #1, everything else is purely marginal.

    To be hyping Hamels this offseason would simply be beating the same drum we wrote last season. The southpaw pitched a total of 24 innings this season, four fantastic seasons in the Florida State League. His changeup is still presumably fantastic, and his intelligence while pitching has likely remained the same. Health is really the only thing that will hold him back, though that does remain a concern. Ill promise you that before releasing any overall rankings, I will make Will Carroll get on the phone with his Philly hook-ups.

    Following the top two players, there is a small, three-person battle for the third position. Candidate #1, the eldest, is Dan Meyer. His stuff is not going to amaze you, but I see Mark Redman, version 2.0. Both were first-rounders after their Junior seasons, with Redman a bit more highly thought of. But Meyers 2.73 ERA is far and away better than the 5.22 that Redman put up. Lets just say the Pacific Coast League did not treat Redman well.

    Second on the three-person ballot is Chuck Tiffany, who closed out the season stop Kevin Goldsteins Baseball America Prospect Report. I love players who close out the season well, and that will definitely help Tiffany and Adam Miller when it comes time for me to make my rankings. His 3.70 ERA, and a HR/9 near 1 are both bad numbers, but his K/9 is over 12.00, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is about 3.50. He reminds me of Scott Olsen, and should have similar numbers in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.

    The third and final candidate is the player always referred to as the poor mans Scott Kazmir. What does this mean? Texan, short, big fastball, decent slider, hardly guaranteed to stick in the rotation. After dominating the Midwest League, the California League handed Danks a H/9 over 10.00, and a K/BB under 1.00. Thats not good. Poor mans Kazmir sounds right after all.

    Right about now, you are probably thinking, Whatever happened to that awesome left-handed pitching prospect from last year? The one that came from nowhere? Oh, thought I forgot about Greg Miller, did ya? No, of course not. Im not one to gauge injuries very well, but I did believe in Miller a lot up to last February. The reports from Instructional League were that Miller looked good, so hes probably next on this list. If he can get back just part of what he used to be, he has the talent to be a lot higher.

    Only Dan Meyer has been the traditional soft-throwing left-handed pitcher that is often characterized in prospect lists. The next two will add a couple to that list: Mike Hinckley and Zach Duke. Ive been a Hinckley fan for a while now, and his solid season fits right into the plans I had for him. He should be slotted in to the Washington Greys rotation by 2006, with a chance of even become a card-carrying member in 2005.

    As for Duke, he had the season that no one could have guessed, the ERA under 2.00, good for first in the minor leagues. His success is perplexing, but its there. His BB/9 was under 2.00 all season, and he allowed just five home runs all season (including 2 in 51.1 Eastern League innings). Its hard for me to judge his performance, but I do think there is something to the fact that Dukes minor league career looks far better than Sean Burnetts did. And that is high praise. But the Pirates should remember- and Burnett is proof- that even soft throwers can hurt their arms.

    At this point weve hit another drop off, with a bunch of throwers below. First, Ill read the rest of the top 15 as I have it: Francisco Liriano, Jake Stevens, Jon Lester, Mike Megrew, Bill Murphy, Sean Marshall, Justin Jones.

    I should say that I am a large seller of Murphy and Jones, two players that are highly supported by other prospect sources. I was not a fan of Murphy in the Futures Game, his numbers arent very good, and players that get traded twice in prospecthood turn me off. Jones wasnt even solid in low-A, so Im not sold hell reach the potential that was once given to him (Kazmiresque).

    Lester has already received my billing, so Ill just start tooting Mike Megrews horn instead. A huge, 6-6 southpaw from New England, Megrew sounds like he does everything well. Los Angeles has a pitcher breakout every season, and I would choose Megrew to do so next year. Like Lester, his 3.41 ERA isnt great, but a 10.65 K/9 is. Also, his H/9 is considerably better than what Olsen showed this year, in the exact same league.

    Thats all for today, my top 25:

    1. Scott Olsen- Florida
    2. Cole Hamels- Philadelphia
    3. Chuck Tiffany- Los Angeles
    4. Dan Meyer- Atlanta
    5. John Danks- Texas
    6. Greg Miller- Los Angeles
    7. Mike Hinckley- Washington
    8. Zach Duke- Pittsburgh
    9. Francisco Liriano- Minnesota
    10. Jake Stevens- Atlanta
    11. Jon Lester- Boston
    12. Mike Megrew- Los Angeles
    13. Bill Murphy- Arizona
    14. Sean Marshall- Cubbies
    15. Justin Jones- Minnesota
    16. Tom Gorzelanny- Pittsburgh
    17. Chuck James- Atlanta
    18. Abe Alvarez- Boston
    19. Chris Seddon- Tampa Bay
    20. Gustavo Chacin- Toronto
    21. Manny Parra- Milwaukee
    22. Jon Connolly- Cubbies
    23. Paul Maholm- Pittsburgh
    24. Andy Sisco- Cubbies
    25. Matt Chico- Arizona

    Where am I wrong?

    WTNYNovember 03, 2004
    My Two
    By Bryan Smith

    I'm not looking to brag, but I predicted Jeff Francis' breakout before the season. No, I hardly believe this is much more than a lucky guess, and am not going to call myself the "Expert of Underrated Prospects." But today I'm going to go out on a limb, and predict the breakout of two more pitching prospects.

    How much success am I predicting? Well, let's say that I believe these two players will be, in one year's time, one of the 3 best 1-2 pitching prospect tandems in the minor leagues. Funny to think that a year ago, I never would have guessed it would the World Champion Boston Red Sox that would own their rights.

    My favorite of the two had a 4.28 ERA in the Florida State League, so it is fair to say I'm going out on a limb. But, the Red Sox 2002 second-round pick pitched much better than his ERA implies. A southpaw, Jon Lester had sparkling peripheral numbers, from a 8.17 H/9, to a 9.66 K/9, to a 0.19 HR/9. The latter ratio, quickly becoming a favorite peripheral to me, is amazingly low. Sarasota, according to Baseball Prospectus 2004, is a slight hitter's park, meaning Lester's achievement of 2 homers allowed in 90.1 innings is fantastic.

    Yes, you heard that right, only 90.1 innings. Lester had 21 appearances with the Sarastoa Red Sox during the season, with an average of a little more than 4 IP per game. The Red Sox are using his arm sparingly, worried they'll rupture one of their better prospects. This is a big kid, listed at 6-3, and 200 pounds. He will turn 21 years of age during the offseason, and spend the 2005 season in the Eastern League.

    Off the top of my head, I would say that Lester ranks in my top 5 of southpaw pitching prospects in the minor leagues. But that, my friends, is a topic for another day.

    Lester's teammate for two seasons has been Jon Papelbon, a 2003 fourth-round pick from Mississippi State University. The former Bulldog was a reliever in college, with a 2.28 ERA in 25 games in his Senior Season. After being signed quickly, the Red Sox sent Papelbon to the New York-Penn League, where he had a 6.34 ERA in 13 games split between relieving and starting. He showed a good ratios in K/9, K/BB and HR/9, intriguing the club to extend Papelbon's stay in the rotation.

    One year later, this looks like a fantastic decision. In 24 starts with the Sarasota Red Sox, as a 23-year-old, Papelbon had a 2.64 ERA. He only allowed 97 hits in 129.2 innings, striking out 153, walking 43, and surrendering six home runs. This was a great season for the 6-4, 230-pound right-hander.

    According to Peter Gammons, the Eastern League Red Sox organization will be stacked next year, with Lester, Papelbon, Abe Alvarez and Manny Declareman all in their rotation. I am a fan of Alvarez, though not so much on Declareman. I think all three of my favorite pitchers could be ready for the Majors by 2006, with Lester having the billing of a future star. Papelbon's future in the big leagues is near guaranteed, though he could end up back in the bullpen. Alvarez is a very solid pitcher that could be what Bronson Arroyo was this season.

    Lester-Papelbon for 2005. What's your pick?

    WTNYNovember 01, 2004
    Discipline and Stats
    By Bryan Smith

    In the comments of my Thursday notes piece, I had a reader ask me about the future careers of Jeff Francoeur and Joel Guzman. He was concerned that the prospect-evaluators were overrating these players, because both left a little to be desired in terms of plate discipline. I like both of these players, and will surely have both in my top 25 rankings, but like anyone they are not guarantees.

    Another reader accused me of being too statistically-inclined, which I have accepted to be true before. While I promise to work on getting connections, and getting first-hand scouting reports, all I have now are my readings and The Baseball Cube. If I side too much with sabermatricians on prospect issues, I apologize, Im trying to convert.

    Combining those two comments, I had the idea for my piece today: how much does plate discipline matter in prospectdom? Is it an essential trait, as some believe, or a learned trait, as the old schoolers will tell you? Today, we will be on the journey of that discovery

    There is no real way to answer this question completely, but I have decided to take the Dayn Perry approach. I went to the Hardball Times statistics page, and got the name for every player who contributed 24 win shares, or 8 wins, to his team this year. This included 34 names, from Barry Bonds to Melvin Mora to Jimmy Rollins. I wanted to look at how these players walked and struck out in the minors.

    First, I went through and got each players BB/K rates for short-season leagues. This includes the Arizona and Gulf Coast Leagues, as well as the Appalachian League, the Northwest League, etc. I did not include the Dominican or Venezuelan Summer Leagues, because I am not sure the competition is quite as strong there.

    Combined, the 26 players had a 601/915 ratio (BB/K) in short-season ball, good for a .657 ratio. This includes drastically poor numbers from David Ortiz (37/98), Moises Alou (38/108) and Jeff Kent (33/81). Overall seven players walked more than they struck out: Gary Sheffield, Johnny Damon, Hank Blalock, Melvin Mora, Jimmy Rollins, Brian Giles and Juan Pierre.

    The next level I tested was low-A, which is to say the South Atlantic League and the Midwest League. Eleven of the 34 players missed this level, with four (Teixeira, Bonds, Drew, Berkman) skipping both short-season and low-A ball. Overall, the 23 had a 1022/1508 K/BB, a 3.2% increase from short-season ball. This time four players had a ratio of more than 1.00, both Blalock and Pierre repeated, with Mike Lowell and Albert Pujols joining the mix. The worst of the ratios came from Derek Jeter, Ortiz, Michael Young, Carlos Lee, and Jim Edmonds.

    Moving up the ladder, we see another improvement as the collaborative 1146/1583 ratio represents a 6.7% increase on the low-A numbers. Ill give Sheff and Jason Kendall the credit here, they had a 128/70 split between the two. Edmonds continued his struggles, as did Alou, and both Miguel Tejada and Manny Ramirez were far from perfect. Even the great Barry Bonds could just muster a 37/52 rate. So, they arent perfect, people.

    The wall, as is usually recognized, is when a player reaches AA. Only three players (Bonds, Pujols, Cesar Izturis) skipped this level, leaving 31 to collect a K/BB of 1295/1615, a whopping 10.8% increase on high-A numbers. Eleven players walked more than they struck out, with Vladmir Guerrero, Adrian Beltre, Berkman and Todd Helton doing it for the first time. Four players had a ratio of worse than .5 (Ortiz, Carlos Guillen, Bobby Abreu, Edmonds), with another four right on the brink. Its good to be solid here, but its hardly disastrous if youre not.

    Triple-A represented a different kind of barrier, when plate discipline got worse for the group as a whole. Overall, 1397/1933, a 9.8% hit from AA. Six players hit the 1.0 mark, with Bonds, Scott Rolen, Sean Casey and Derek Jeter doing it for the first time. Three players (A-Rod, Edmonds, Izturis) were really bad, with the former two obviously becoming great players. Seven players skipped the level completely, with another two not even spending 20 games there. If you hit 1.0 here, youre money, but if you slip (a.k.a. Dallas McPherson), you can still be Mike Lowell.

    So, lets apply this knowledge to the aforementioned prospects, Francoeur and Guzman. Francoeur has never had a BB/K of over .500, and his high-A ratio would be the worst of the group of 34 players. While this is definitely perceived by bad by me, I still think that he can follow the paths of Bobby Abreu, Jim Edmonds or Moises Alou. The latter is the most applicable, because their K/AB ratios matched up quite favorably. Jeff has a bit more power potential than Alou, but remember, despite good batting averages, Alous OBP topped .350 only one in his first five seasons.

    Guzman is far worse, sporting a 77/306 ratio over his minor league career. This season was the first where his performance matched his hype, and he still did not top a .350 OBP. I am probably less of a believer in Guzman than most people, which is the reason I find it ludicrous for him to change positions. He is showing power at a young age that Miguel Tejada did not, but I still consider Miggy to be Guzmans ceiling. This is fairly high praise, but Tejadas first two seasons were terrible. This is somewhat how I expect Guzman to be, reaching some great moments, despite a less than intriguing debut.

    That is all for today, but if you want to know how other prospects match up, drop it in the comments and Ill tell ya. Fabian, I can tell you that both Carlos Lee and Scott Rolen are third basemen that drastically improved their plate discipline numbers when going from low-A to high-A. High praise for Eric Duncan

    Baseball BeatNovember 01, 2004
    Abstracts From The Abstracts
    By Rich Lederer

    (After taking a pause for the postseason, the twelve-part Abstracts From The Abstracts series resumes.)

    Part Eight: 1984 Baseball Abstract

    Twenty years ago, Bill James produced his eighth Baseball Abstract. Although the book was once again expanded (this time to a record 273 pages), the price was maintained at $6.95.

    James dedicates the 1984 Abstract to "three men that I don't know--Bob Hentzen, Jim Murray, and Leonard Koppett." The first sentence of Acknowledgments reads, "Sportswriters, not athletes, were the heroes of my adolescence."

    In his Welcome page, James announces the new changes for this year's Abstract, including hiring Jim Baker as his assistant; replacing two of the three runs created formulas used in the previous year's Abstract with new ones; changing the method by which players are rated "in light of new knowledge that has been developed;" introducing a section that discusses the characteristics of the managers in the American League; and the onset of Project Scoresheet, "which is one of the biggest things in my life right now."

    James concludes the introductory page with the following statement: "I'm sort of a baseball agnostic; I make it a point never to believe anything just because it is widely known to be so."

    In Inside-Out Perspective, James discusses the trend toward "inside stuff" in sportswriting when, in fact, "the walls between the public and the participants of sports are growing higher and higher and thicker and darker, and the media is developing a sense of desperation about the whole thing."

    This is outside baseball. This is a book about what baseball looks like if you step back from it and study it immensely and minutely, but from a distance.

    You know the expression about not being able to see the forest for the trees? Let's use that. What are the differences between the way a forest looks when you are inside the forest and the way it looks from the outside?

    The first thing is, the insider has a much better view of the details. He knows what the moss looks like, how high it grows around the base of an oak and how thickly it will cling to a sycamore. He knows the smells in the air and the tracks on the ground; he can guess the age of a redbud by peeling off a layer of bark. The outsider doesn't know any of that.

    James admits, "I can't tell you what a locker room smells like, praise the Lord."

    But perspective can be gained only when details are lost. A sense of the size of everything and the relationships between everything--this can never be put together from details. For the most essential fact of a forest is this: The forest itself is immensely larger than anything inside of it. That is why, of course, you can't see the forest for the trees; each detail, in proportion to its size and your proximity to it, obscures a thousand or a million other details.

    James asks if you can tell the height of a tree by standing beside it and looking up. "No, of course not; it's too big." He says you must stand back and look at the tree from a distance to get an idea how tall it is.

    I've never said, never thought, that it was better to be an outsider than it was to be an insider, that my view of the game was better than anyone else's. It's different; better in some ways, worse in some ways. What I have said is, since we are outsiders, since the players are going to put up walls to keep us out here, let us use our position as outsiders to what advantage we can. Let us back off from the trees, look at the forest as a whole, and see what we can learn from that. Let us stop prentending to be insiders if we're not. Let us fly over the forest, you and I, and look down; let us measure every tract of land and map out all the groves, and draw in every path that connects each living thing. Let us drive around the edges and photograph each and every tree from a variety of angles and with a variety of lenses; and insiders will be amazed at what we can help them to see.

    Well, how is that for foresight? Two decades later, not only have Billy Beane, J.P. Ricciardi, Theo Epstein, and Paul DePodesta been hired as General Managers but our man Bill James is now the Senior Baseball Operations Advisor for the World Series championship team.

    * * * * * * *

    In Logic and Methods in Baseball Analysis, James states axioms, corollaries, and the known principles of sabermetrics in the following order:

  • Axiom I: A ballplayer's purpose in playing ball is to do those things which create wins for his team, while avoiding those things which create losses for his team.

  • Axiom II: Wins result from runs scored. Losses result from runs allowed.

  • First Corollary to Axiom II: An offensive player's job is to create runs for his team.

  • The Known Principles of Sabermetrics. Item 1: There are two essential elements of an offense: its ability to get people on base and its ability to advance runners.

  • Axiom III: All offense and all defense occurs within a context of outs.

    That probably sounds so simple as to be childish; it is. It is, at the same time, one of the least understood basic truths about an offense or about an offensive player.

  • The Known Principles of Sabermetrics. Item 2: Batting and pitching statistics never represent pure accomplishments, but are heavily colored by all kinds of illusions and extraneous effects. One of the most important of these is park effects.

  • The Known Principles of Sabermetrics. Item 3: There is a predictable relationship between the number of runs a team scores, the number they allow, and the number of games that they will win.

    The ratio between a team's wins and its losses will be the ratio between the square of their runs scored and the square of their runs allowed. This is called the Pythagorean approach to won/lost percentage. If you score three runs for every two scored by your opponent, you'll win nine games for each four that he wins. If you score four to his three, you'll win sixteen games to his nine.

    ...Another method that I have never tested but which I suspect would work as well as the others would be just to "double the edge;" that is, if a team scores 10% more runs than their opponents, they should win 20% more games than their opponents. If they score 1% more runs, they should win 2% more games. That method would probably work as well or better than the Pythagorean approach.

    If there is just one takeaway from the 1984 Baseball Abstract, it is the above truisms. Read, study, and memorize 'em. You will become a more intelligent student of the game.

    James spends two short chapters on Victory Important RBI and RBI Importance in an attempt to measure "clutch performance," which is not to be confused with "clutch ability"--an area "I see little point in talking about." James later tweaked his runs created formula to account for deviations in performance in clutch hitting, and he uses this advanced version in calculating Win Shares where situational data is available.

    * * * * * * *

    Moving to Section II (The Teams), James compares Montreal Expos first baseman Al Oliver to Greg Brock, the first baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Unlike Pesky/Stuart (in which both players were comparable in offensive value despite one having a higher on-base percentage and the other a higher slugging average), Oliver and Brock had almost identical OBP and SLG. The difference is that Oliver's OBP (.348) was achieved via a high batting average (.300) and low walk rate (44) whereas Brock's was due to a high walk rate (83) and a low batting average (.224). Oliver's high batting average also produced the bulk of his SLG (.410) whereas Brock's SLG (.396) resulted from a superior number of home runs (20 to 8). The Dodger first baseman also had a higher stolen base percentage and hit into fewer double plays than his counterpart.

    When you add all this together, Oliver created 81 runs while using 458 outs, which is 4.79 runs per game; Brock created 64 runs while using 371 outs, which is 4.69 per game. Further, Brock created his runs in Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, where runs are scarcer and therefore more valuable than they are in Olympic Stadium in Montreal. When park adjustments are taken into account, Brock actually had a slightly better offensive season than did Al Oliver.

    Although the Chicago Cubs were coming off a 71-91 fifth-place finish the previous year, James encourages readers to take anyone up on a 100:1 offer against winning the N.L. East in 1984. He points to the team's 79-83 Pythagorean record; the change in managers from Lee Elia to Jim Frey; miracles taking place "in leagues where the difference between the best teams and the worst teams is not wide;" the problems of the incumbent division champion (Phillies); steps taken in the winter to improve the team's pitching; and the worst record in baseball on artificial turf (13-35), a "specific, correctable weakness." (Editor's note: The Cubs finished in first place in 1984 with a 96-65 record.)

    In the San Diego Padres comments, James highlights the fact that the team scored 653 runs versus a projected total based on the runs created formula of 602. He attributes the difference partially to the Padres infield (not the players but the playing surface, which resulted in an unusually large number of errors) as well as the effect of a "1-to-4 offense"--an offense that began with Alan Wiggins and ended with Terry Kennedy. "A 'bunched' offense is much more efficient than a spread-out offense; you receive a higher return on your opportunities."

    James claims "you cannot win a pennant with a four-man offense." I wonder if that adage could be updated to "you cannot win a World Series with a four-man offense" in view of the makeup of this year's Red Sox and Cardinals teams?

    In a segment entitled "The Future of Chili Davis," James develops a computer projection system designed to forecast the career totals of several past and present members of the San Francisco Giants. He advises against taking "this thing too seriously. It's just the first step up a long, dark stairway." (Later in the book, James estimates that Wade Boggs, entering only the third year of his career, will end up with 2,446 games, 3,023 hits, 129 home runs, and a lifetime .345 lifetime batting average. Actual totals? 2,439 games, 3,010 hits, 118 homers, and a .328 batting average.)

    James shows us his sense of humor in the opening paragraph of the Detroit Tigers comments.

    I wrote an article last summer for the Detroit Free Press (for which, by the way, they never paid me. So that's what that means; I'd been wondering since I was a kid how they could stay in business giving their paper away.)

    With the Yankees in the early stages of the franchise's biggest dryspell since the pre-Babe Ruth years (with no first-place finishes from 1982 to 1995), James calls George Steinbrenner to task for his free agent signings.

    Another thing that I think people often underestimate is how difficult it can be to accurately assess your needs. A lot of the free-agent signings that have been made in response to needs, it seems to me, have worked out badly. The Padres signed Oscar Gamble because they thought they needed power. The Yankees signed Dave Collins because they thought they needed speed.

    Whenever you talk yourself into thinking that you need a player that's when you pay too much for him. And that's what George has been doing in the last few years.

    Steinbrenner accused of overspending? Dog bites man. The only thing that has changed over the years is the size of the Yankees' payroll--a more than tenfold increase from 1984 to 2004.

    In the Toronto Blue Jays section, James gives Bobby Cox (then 42) credit for being one of a handful of managers who understands the distribution of talent in the major leagues. "Talent in baseball is not normally distributed. This is a fundamental fact of baseball life, and if you have any analytical interest in the game it is terrifically important to understand that." He points out that the most common level in the general population is the norm whereas in major league baseball it is the bottom, "the worst fellow out there." As such, "far more players are below average than are above average. You will always find that those who are above average are further from the average in absolute terms than those who are below average."

    James believes Project Scoresheet will definitively answer questions about baserunning, "one of baseball's unmeasured skills."

    Baserunning is perfectly measurable; it can be easily defined and, given properly maintained scoresheets, easily researched. Our lack of knowledge on the subject is attributable entirely to record-keeping decisions that were made a little over a century ago and have never been intelligently or systematically reviewed. We know so much about hitting that we can talk about it forever and measure it with extraordinary precision because a few men, at the beginning of Time, made some very good decisions about how to record and organize information, decisions that are now so natural a part of our thinking about the game that it is difficult even to see that any decision had ever to be made.

    For this we applaud them. Their decisions about baserunning and fielding were much less wise. They failed to address many issues, and drew arbitrary lines where they drew them at all, and time has laid waste to their designs.

    If this information is known today, it sure isn't widely disseminated. Why don't we know how often (in absolute terms and as a percentage of opportunities) various runners go from first to third on a single, first to home on a double, or second to home on a single? How often does Ichiro Suzuki reach base on an error as opposed to the average batter? Are we limited in recording the data or in distributing the data? Until this information is made available to the public, our ability to fully understand and appreciate all the nuances of the game and its players will be constrained.

    With respect to computers and its effects on baseball, James says "it is not going to do anything and it is not going to change anything."

    We are going to do things with the computer. You and I are going to change the world, and we're gong to change baseball, and we're going to use the computer to do it. Machines have no capabilities of their own. Your car cannot drive to Cleveland. What machines do is extend our capabilities.

    ...The main thing that is happening in computers now is that they are becoming much easier to use. As computers become easier to use, our dependence on "computer people" becomes smaller and smaller. Computer people are not going to be running baseball in a few years; indeed, computer people are not going to be running anything in a few years except computers. The rise of the computer age is not going to put computer specialists into positions of power any more than the rise of the auto age put auto mechanics and bus drivers into positions of power. Don't worry about it.

    I am engaged in a search for understanding. That is my profession. It has nothing to do with computers. Computers are going to have an impact on my life that is similar to the impact that the coming of the automobile age must have had on the life of a professional traveler or adventurer. The car made it easier to get from place to place; the computer will make it easier to deal with information. But knowing how to drive an automobile does not make you an adventurer, and knowing how to run a computer does not make you an analytical student of the game.

    * * * * * * *

    In Section III (Player Ratings), James writes separate essays in favor of and against "the idea of rating ballplayers." He concedes the reason for rating players is because "it sells books, and I have to make a living." However, James says the ratings provide a framework for his comments on players and cautions that his opinions "are offered in the spirit of fun."

    I am very leery of "great statistics," of statistics which consider everything and provide the once and final answer to great baseball questions, questions like "Who was the greatest player ever?" or "Who should have won the MVP award?" or "Who really belongs in the Hall of Fame?" or even, "Who is better, Dawson or Murphy?" It is my considered opinion that we have no business answering those questions by formula.

    James believes that great statistics "consume knowledge but don't yield it. They are not a part of the discussion, they are the end of a discussion."

    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 shared understanding.

    James questions great statistics because they "define out of existence everything that is not included in their measurement" (such as knowing how many times a player was out attempting to take an extra base, how many times a player gave away a base by throwing to the wrong one, how many runs an outfielder prevents by keeping runners on third base, or how many runs a catcher saves by his ability to call pitches or his ability to spot a problem with the pitcher's delivery). "And this is only the shadow of the monster; our whole ignorance is much larger than we can conceive of."

    The work of sabermetrics is not to ignore all of these considerations or to deny them, but to find ways to deal with them. Given enough good sabermetricians, those ways can and will be found. Bad sabermetricians characteristically insist that those things which cannot be measured are not important, that they do not even exist. They run from the monster in terror, and insist that he does not really exist, that there is only That Shadow.

    Here are some of the more noteworthy player comments:

  • Steve Garvey: "...he might do things that will help you sell tickets. Personally, I prefer players who do things that will help you win ballgames."

  • Joe Morgan: "Joe Morgan is quoted in Sports Illustrated (October 3, 1983, page 24) as saying, 'I don't think I've ever had a bad September.' I think we've finally found Joe's weakness: the man has no memory. He has probably had more bad Septembers than any other great player in history. Between 1973 and 1979 he hit below his average in September every year, seven straight years. And no, he was not compensating in other areas of the game."

  • Toby Harrah: "Somebody sent me a clipping from a paper in which Toby said that he liked to guard the lines more than other third basemen (who mostly guard them late in the game), because he figured that balls which got by him in the hole, while there might be more of them, would be singles, while the balls down the line would be doubles if he didn't stop them. This comment explains something which has always puzzled me, which is how Toby could have a good range factor as a shortstop, as he did in 1976, but a low range factor as a third baseman, as he did in 1977 and has ever since. Since he is guarding the lines a lot, the number of fair-ball plays that he makes is lower than it otherwise would be--but, as he suggests, the balls that he gets to are more important than the ones getting through."

    The discussion on Harrah raises an interesting philosophical question not only in terms of defensive positioning but as it relates to the advanced defensive metrics in vogue today. Are such stats tracking the quality of the results (i.e., the percentage of hits that go for singles as opposed to doubles) or are they just measuring the quantity of the balls hit into a particular zone?

  • Reggie Jackson: "Reggie said an interesting thing about Eddie Murray in the World Series when Eddie was struggling, trying to get untracked. He said that he thought Eddie had the 'character' and the 'determination' and the 'fortitude' to fight his way out of this thing and make his presence felt. You get it? What he's saying is, 'I didn't hit all those homers in the World Series play because I happen to be a great athlete. I didn't win two World Series MVP awards because I am strong and have a quick bat and saw a few pitches I could hit and hit them. Oh, no. I did that because I have character and fortitude and determination. I succeeded because I was a better human being than those other people out there on the field.'

    "You hear that stuff every day, although most athletes are smart enough to disguise it a little better. Many athletes truly believe that they are successful at what they do not because God made them strong and fast and agile, but because they're better people than the rest of us.

    "...Reggie Jackson is an ordinary human being, glib but of average intelligence at best, of character unshining and fortitude unknown, who has hit ten home runs in World Series play, and who is not, on that basis, entitled to the stature of a demi-god."

    In the Pitcher Ratings and Comments, James originates the idea of the Warren Spahn, Tommy John and Nolan Ryan family of pitchers--something he developed further in the Historical Abstract. James ranks the starting pitchers but does not provide comments, saving them for what he calls Relief Aces.

    Under Steve Bedrosian, James says "I'm a little skeptical about group bullpens in principle . . . if you don't have a bullpen ace, things can get awfully confused sometimes; one pitcher gets into a slump and then another and another, and you don't really know who it is that is supposed to get you out of this. I like definition in a pitching staff; I like a staff with four starters, a relief ace, a middle-inning man, a spot starter/long man, a lefthanded spot reliever, a mop-up man. I like that . . . it is easier to find five guys who can pitch than it is nine or ten. When you have a group bullpen, you're going to have your #8 pitcher out there on the mound with the game on the line 30 or 40 times a year. I don't like that. It also means that you have to find 8 or 9 effective pitchers, and I don't like that."

    * * * * * * *

    In Section IV (Essays and Articles), James writes about Project Scoresheet, the precursor to all the situational stats that are now recorded.

    PROJECT SCORESHEET is an attempt to build a network of fans to collect those scoresheets, and to construct the necessary administrative framework to get the scoresheets to the public. I'm asking for your help.

    What do you have to do? At a minimum, score some ballgames. Put the scoresheets in an envelope with somebody's name on it.

    ...When PROJECT SCORESHEET is in place, all previous measures of performance in baseball will immediately become obsolete, and an entire universe of research options will open up in front of us. With your help, ladies and gentlemen, there is no need for the next generation to be as ignorant as we are.

    Next up: 1985 Baseball Abstract

    [Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]