Weekend BlogMarch 03, 2007
For the Record
By The Baseball Analysts Staff

  • Former Dodgers relief pitcher Clem Labine passed away on Friday. He was 80. Steve Henson of the Los Angeles Times wrote an excellent obituary, highlighting the career of the man who once appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

    Based on a link provided by Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts, I also read an obit by MLB.com's Ken Gurnick, which included the following tidbit:

    At one point, Labine retired future Hall of Famer Stan Musial 49 consecutive times.

    Even though Tom Lasorda called Labine "one of the finest pitchers to ever play the game," I didn't think Gurnick's statement passed the smell test. As such, I checked Labine's pitching vs. batting record at Baseball-Reference.com. I scrolled down and learned that Musial was 1-for-13 with 4 BB vs. Labine. I clicked on Stan the Man's name and was directed to a more detailed page. I was reminded that the data only covered 1957-on (which is as far back as Retrosheet, the provider of this information, goes - at least at this point in time).

    Given that Labine made his major-league debut in 1950, it was clear that the pitching vs. batting record was incomplete. I sent my friend Dave Smith, the creator of Retrosheet, an email with "Hyperbole?" in the subject title, asking if he could shed some light on this subject. Dave wrote back, "Hyperbole is way too polite a word. I first prepared this report in 1999 when I saw the story for the first time. Here are the numbers. I will contact the MLB site to explain how incorrect the claim is - he didn't even face him 49 times!"

    Career results of Stan Musial vs Clem Labine:
    AB   H  2B  3B  HR  BB  HP  SO  SF  RBI    AVG   OBP   SLG
    42  10   1   1   1   6   0   2   0    3   .238  .333  .381

    A little investigative work later and the fable was removed from Gurnick's article.

    Update: As it turns out, there are a number of sites guilty of perpetuating this myth.

    - Rich Lederer, 3/2/07, 8:00 p.m. PST

  • I'm going to be a guest on Grant Paulsen's Minors and Majors show on XM Satellite Radio on Saturday morning at about 11:30 a.m. ET. If you're an XM subscriber, you can hear it live on MLB Home Plate (XM 175).

    - Rich Lederer, 3/2/07, 9:50 p.m. PST

  • I have to give Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus some props for going public in his latest Future Shock article and admitting that he was "dead wrong" on Jered Weaver last year. Goldstein wasn't the only one who missed the boat on Weaver, but he is the first to admit his mistake. Under "Players I Was Lower On Than Most" in his Systems Retrospective, Kevin wrote the following:

    Los Angeles Angels

    Player: Jered Weaver, RHP

    What I said: "... hard to project as more than a No. 3 or 4 starter."

    What happened: Weaver cruised through Triple-A, and won 11 games in 19 big league starts with a 2.56 ERA, which would have been good enough for the American League lead if he had enough innings. Following one of his early big league starts, a pro scout emailed me with simply, "If that's not a top of the rotation starter, I don't know what is." I was dead wrong, and provided his early-season arm troubles don't become a long-term concern, he'll probably rack up some genuine ERA titles down the road.

    Grade: F

    - Rich Lederer, 3/3/07, 9:15 a.m. PST

  • I caught some of the March 1st Colorado Rockies game and of course I was checking out Todd Helton. Looks like the position and loading of the hands is still similar to last year, but physically, he looks like a beast. Hasn't shaved since end of last season, and apparantly he has added back any/all of the weight he lost last year - and it doesn't look like he did it with pizza and ice cream. Not that I have seen much of Helton on TV in the past, but he looked impressive in the close-up they had of him at the beginning of the game. Looks like he is ready to get after it this year.

    - Jeff Albert, 3/3/07, 2:55 p.m. CST

  • During my baseball playing days, I didn't have any real grasp on what made a hitter a valued offensive contributor. I was a back-of-the-baseball-card, triple crown numbers kind of guy. In addition, I took a great deal of pride in the fact that I rarely struck out.

    When all else is equal, striking out infrequently is better than the alternative, but rarely is everything equal. I mention all of this in light of Mike Schmidt's recent comments about Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell, during which he referred to the pair as "mediocre" and cited their high number of strikeouts as the reason why.

    Pat Burrell is not "mediocre." Adam Dunn is sure as hell not "mediocre." Both strike out a lot, but both also make outs of any kind more rarely than most of their peers. And yet here is what Dunn had to say regarding Schmidt's criticism. From a piece by Jayson Stark of ESPN.com:

    "Well, that's a Hall of Fame opinion. I'm not proud of it, either. But I don't need somebody going around saying it when I already know it. I don't need to hear it from people. I think some of these guys forget how hard the game was."

    It's nice that Dunn processes criticism and wants to get better but I am surprised that he does not seem to recognize just how good of a hitter he is. And I bet he is not alone in this regard. Perception becomes reality, even to the most accomplished players. I wonder if, say, Bobby Grich and Dwight Evans realize how good they were. Dunn may have struggled in 2006 for Cincinnati but still is a career .245/.380/.513 hitter, Hall of Fame neighborhood numbers if he can sustain them over a long career. There is a tendency by baseball fans, players and media - heck, by humans - to dwell on what an individual cannot do instead of appreciating all of the things a given person does well.

    Dunn may strike out a lot and he arguably is falling a bit short of his potential, but he is a very good player. It would be nice if the next time someone points out all of the strikeouts Dunn racks up, that the critic would give equal play to Dunn's ability to draw bases on balls and his impressive yearly HR per AB numbers.
    - Patrick Sullivan, 3/3/07, 5:25 PM EST

  • Comments

    Anyone who knows what a great hitter Musial was would find the 0 for 49 against Labine story to be as reliable as an Elvis sighting.

    I'm glad that Gurnick removed the stat at least. I think it dishonors someone to have their memory associated with a fable.

    There is a tendency by baseball fans, players and media - heck, by humans - to dwell on what an individual cannot do instead of appreciating all of the things a given person does well.

    Yes, author and radio talk show host Dennis Prager says human beings are afflicted with what he calls the "Missing Tile Syndrome." People tend to fixate on the bad (the missing tile) rather than the good (the beautiful ceiling). Ironically, the prettier the ceiling, the more you will concentrate on the missing tile and let it affect your enjoyment of it. All of us, baseball players included, have "missing tiles." Nobody is perfect.

    The fact that Dunn strikes out a lot comes with the territory of a slugger who regularly ranks among the league leaders in home runs and walks. No, he's not perfect, but he's one helluva hitter.

    Adam Dunn, HOF??? Wow. This guy is looking more like Steve Balboni than Dwight Evans.

    There are a few of players who had the following age 24-26 seasons...

    24 - .276/.375/.534, OPS .909, OPS+ 145
    25 - .288/.405/.606, OPS 1.011, OPS+161
    26 - .243/.366/.545, OPS .911, OPS+ 138

    24 - .282/.395/.546, .941, 158
    25 - .249/.367/.523, .890, 142
    26 - .262/.376/.524, .900, 151

    24 - .266/.388/.569, .957, 152
    25 - .247/.387/.540, .927, 135
    26 - .234/.365/.490, .855, 110

    Trouble telling the difference? Well, Player A and B are HOF players Harmon Killebrew and Mike Schmidt. Player C is the mediocre Adam Dunn. Mike Schmidt was a great player, but that doesn't make him an expert on what makes a player great...

    Sully didn't say Dunn was a HOFer. He just made the statement that Dunn had put up career rate stats that were in the "Hall of Fame neighborhood." His position, poor defense, and mediocre baserunning all detract a bit from his resumé, but there is no denying that Dunn has been a very productive force at the plate.

    Let's face it, the guy is who he is. He was one of five players (along with Troy Glaus, Jim Thome, Jason Bay, and Ryan Howard) in the majors who placed in the top ten in their respective leagues in HR, BB, and SO. Dunn was the sole repeater from 2005 and has now finished in the top ten in these "all or nothing" stats for three consecutive seasons. As I wrote in December, "the 6-foot-6, 275-pound lefthanded-hitting slugger might be working on a four-year streak, if not for an injury to his left thumb on 8/15/03 that sidelined him for the remainder of that campaign."

    I believe 2007 will be a pivotal season for Dunn. After slugging .563 from April through July (which was about on par with his two best years - the partial season in 2001 and the full season in 2004), he slumped miserably in August through the end of the campaign, going 33-for-188 (.176) with 76 SO. He turned 27 in November and that is the age when many players put up career seasons. However, his body type and tools are such that I would be inclined to bet "against" rather than "for" much, if any, improvement.

    Anyone for irony? Mike Schmidt led the league in strikeouts four times during a career in which he played 16 full seasons. Thus, he struck out more than anybody else in the National League 1 out of 4 years that he got the chance to do so. Mike Schmidt is number 7 on the all-time career strikeout list. By Mike's own calculations, he is the seventh worst player of all time.