Thursday, November 19, 2015

Game 26 Power Rankings

It's still pretty early in the season, but some trends may be emerging in the long horse race that is an HBD season.  Ranked roughly by expected winning % and sorted vaguely into types of horses:

Top-Of-The-Line Thoroughbreds - these teams have broken fast from the gate and appear to be the class of the field, although it's still early:

Kansas City:  good pitching + 3rd in AL runs + .993 Fielding % = #1

Houston:  champs started slowly but are now riding a W7

 can't ignore the 19-7 start;  SP Sherry Gray - 3-1, 2.38 ERA

tops in NL in runs with a lineup full of pseudo-SS's

Montreal:  Jim Colin (3-2, 1.54), Matty James (3-1, 2.16) and Mel Durham (3-2, 2.36) have pitched 46% of their innings

Tampa Bay: expected winning % padded by recent 23-7 and 32-1 wins over Jays, but they're solid across the board

More Than A Touch Of Class - could still easily prove themselves among the elite as the season progresses:

Washington D.C.:  3-6 record in 1-runners looms overly large at the point; still the prohibitive favorite for their 7th straight Division crown

Sluggers Hawkins (10HR) and Sodowsky (9HR) powering the good start

San Francisco:  Breakthrough year?  3 straight seasons of 96+ wins plus a legit ace in Camacho

Chicago White Sox: best pitching staff in both leagues through 26 games

Detroit:  while the league ERA has been falling the last couple of years, Detroit's has crept up over 4.00

San Diego:  
Melvin Charleston still going strong at 34:  .304/.383/.441

Minnesota:  Who needs starting pitchers?  The Twins' top 3 starters (by games started) have pitched only 35% of their innings

Competent Runners - contending is not out of the question, but these horses will likely have some issues to resolve if that's going to happen

Cleveland: 2nd in ERA and 11th in runs scored; I sense a pitching-for-hitting trade at some point

Atlanta:  their hitters are better than they've been so far; expect a move up 

Pittsburgh:  the magic coach will turn back into a pumpkin soon, but next year's looking good

Florida:  looking like a return to form after only 1 down year

Colorado:  with 3B Fernandez OPSing .645, no promotion for Bacsik?

St. Louis:
  "except for giving up 14 runs in one loss, playing a lot of close games and winning more than I lose.  I'm hoping the bats wake up soon.  Wow.  Not good." (thanks jclarkbaker)

Oakland:  Another team with strong pitching (3.55 ERA) that could use an offense infusion (102 runs - 16th)

Anaheim:  OPS vs lefties .841; vs righties .704

Who Knows?

HOF?  Eswalin Camacho (at age 37) has 211 wins and a 2.91 ERA over 3254 IP

Chicago Cubs:  biggest gap between actual winning % (.308) and expected (.482).  Coincidentally, 0-7 in 1-run games.  This will improve.

Philadelphia:  Something wrong with the home cooking?  .631 OPS at home; .707 away

Los Angeles:  Maybe the West IS that tough - Dodgers are 0-10 versus the West, 9-7 against everybody else
Texas:  The rake: 1B Walter Brooks leading both leagues in OPS - 1.182

New York Yankees:  Biggest positive gap between actual (.538) and expected (.426)

New York Mets:  unexpected L8 has moved them down a lot, but watch for a big move up as Bonilla and Pena settle in

Better-Suited For A Plow

Baltimore:  What's up with Flip Harris?  Season 28 #1 overall is 1-5, 6.95 ERA in 44 ML innings so far.

Anybody home?  Zeroed-out staff just gave up 32 and 27 runs to Tampa.

Nashville:  Some young talent on the roster, but it's not coming together so far

Ready For The Soap Factory

Cincinnati:  this is no reflection on chinchilla, who only took over this mess on 11/11 (and just cobbled together his first winning streak, congrats), but we have to call it the way it is

Monday, November 16, 2015

Rookie Promotion Watch

Game 20 is coming up and we have a big batch of ML-ready talent whose owners may or may not choose to bring them up.  Here are the big names to watch for (yes, it's an entirely NL-centric list)...

Montreal - OF/1B Leonardo Grimm (Sea 30 #15):  even though he's only in his 3rd pro year, Grimm's very high contact and good power could help out the 1st-place Expos; ML 1B Ernie McNichol is off to a punchless (2 RBI) start.

New York Mets - OF Cecil Bonilla (Sea 29 #2) and Daniel Stevenson (Sea 29 #8): At 9-6 with 6-time defending champ D.C. struggling, this is the year the Mets make their move back into contention.  Bonilla will be an instant ROY candidate.  The outlook is less certain for Stevenson, but at bare minimum he should be a reliable, innings-gobbling SP.

Pittsburgh - RP Ernesto Johnson (Sea 29 IFA, $23MM): the Pirates are a year away from being serious contenders, but it's time to promote Johnson.  He joins Esmil Gonzalez (140+ IP last 2 seasons) as the Buccos' 2nd big-innings RP.

Florida - RP Peter Creek (Sea 28 #29):  Creek's development has been a pleasant surprise for the Marlins.  With the AL South a 4-team dogfight at the moment, any little bit helps, even though Florida already sports a 2.96 team ERA.

Colorado - 3B James Bacsik (Sea 28 #10): Bacsik has patiently worked his way through every minor-league level, waiting for incumbent ML 3rd sacker Luis Fernandez to grow old.  That day has arrived:  Fernandez is OPSing .656 and the Rockies are in for a tough fight with the Giants and Padres.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Hall of Fame Edition, Part 3 - This Year's Pitchers

The Gaggle (Casey, Grant, Garrido, Jacquez, Rijo, Sirotka):  I don't know if any of these pitchers is in danger of drawing more than a vote or 2, but they were all very good.  None won a Cy Young or did anything else particularly remarkable.  As a group they were remarkable only in their ridiculous similarity.  Look at these stats, especially the OBP:

                    IP        Wins   OBP    ERA   Weighted era
Casey        2709       186     305     3.43          + .26
Grant         2944       183     303     3.27          + 1.39    
Garrido      2837       173     308    3.28               0
Jacquez     2724        185     301    3.32           +.58
Rijo           2760        178    305     3.45          +.28
Sirotka      3188        205     311    3.70           +1.87

Ave of
HOF SP     3491       250     287     3.03         +1.32

OK, so what's "Weighted era"?  I'm trying to provide 1 number that describes the effects of the various hitting eras we've seen (see

So I just arbitrarily assigned a number to each era that's like our -4 to + 4 ballpark ratings.  I gave the Wild West (Seasons 1 and 2) a +4.  The Mini Steroid (3-8) gets a +3.  The Transition (9-13) gets a +1.5.  And the Long Normal (14-29) gets a 0.  Then I just averaged the seasons (quick and dirty I admit, so a season with 50 IP gets the same weight as a season of 250 IP).

The result is probably accurate but not precise.  For purposes of evaluating the Gaggle, it means only Sirotka pitched, on average in a more pitcher-hostile time than the average HOF SP.

In any event, I'm not going to vote for any of the Gaggle.

2 Monster Relievers - Lance Woolf (RP, Seasons 1-19) and Hugh Taylor (RP, Seasons 7-24):  Woolf was one of the most versatile (he was used as a closer, setup and long reliever - even started 2 games), durable (2600 IP and topped 200 in a season twice) and dominant (2.71 ERA, .285 OBP, .316 Slugging %) relievers of all time.  He rolled up 154 wins and 362 while pitching in all 8 seasons of the Wild West and Mini Steroid Eras, and pitching in Colorado for his first 3 seasons.

Taylor was more of a short reliever but not always a pure closer and certainly not a low-innings RP (1435 IP and went over 100 IP in 5 seasons).  Not as impacted by the steroid eras as Woolf, he spent his first 8 seasons in hitter-friendly Wrigley.  His qualitatives - 2.65 ERA, .280 OBP, .317 Slugging% - are easily HOF quality.  His 95 wins and 340 saves could have been higher had he been used more exclusively as a middle reliever or closer, but I think the versatility should help his candidacy.

Woolf and Taylor have been 2 of the best and most prolific RP's in league history - we should make them our first 2 RP's in the HOF.

Accuracy of ADV vs. INT, HS and COL

This is from the 7/28/2015 post in the Critical News Forum:

Now that most worlds have rolled to the next season where the new logic from the May 26th release is in place, I wanted to provide a general overview of how the new scouting system is working since we've been receiving some customer support tickets from folks after their Amateur Draft.
In the old system, the accuracy of all the scouting departments was the same (driven by budget amounts, of course).  A high school scout (with a budget of $10M) would be about as accurate as an advanced scout (with a budget of $10M).  If you had $10M budget for both your high school scouting and your advanced scouting and you drafted a high school prospect, his projected ratings would not change much when you signed him.
In the new system, the accuracy of the high school, college and international scouting departments is now different and less accurate than the advanced scouting department. And because current ratings are no longer visible for prospects, scouts can now under project a prospect's ratings. This means the shift in projected ratings once a player enters your advanced scouting department can be potentially larger in the past.
This also means the Amateur Draft will be less formulaic.  Budgets still matter very much, but there is more variability.  Can you occasionally have a scout be way off on a player with a $15 budget? Sure, but it'll be less likely than if you had a $10M or $5M budget. But it also means your scout may be wrong in a favorable way as well.
Hope this helps explain what you may have experienced (or what may lie ahead).

Friday, November 6, 2015

Hall of Fame Edition, Part 2 - This Year's Hitters

Let's take a look at the leading candidates for HOF hitters among this year's crop:

Alejandro Cruz (2B, Seasons 10-26):  I'm leading off with Cruz because he's the classic "overlookable" candidate - for one thing, he's listed as a RF.  If you're like me, you usually take a quick scan of the HOF candidates, look at their position and stats, and make a snap decision.  I guarantee a few people will look at Cruz as a COF and decide his .840 OPS and 341 HR's doesn't cut it.

Hold everything.  Cruz played 12,300+ innings as a 2B to only 4,000 as a corner OF.

Not only that - he was a superb defensive 2B.  4 Gold Gloves, plus 178 plus plays (our all-time leader at 2B, by the way) and a .983 fielding percentage.

Now how does that .841 OPS look?

Here are our 3 current HOF 2B and Cruz
                                   Career OPS     2B +/- Plays    2B Fielding %      Seasons   2B Sil Sluggers
Dicky Scharein              .991                  5/17                 .977                    1-15              2
Derrin Davenport          .920                  12/25               .980                     4-20             1
Jae Nakano                    .911                  49/18               .980                     3-21             9
Alejandro Cruz              .840                 178/1                .983                    10-26            6

Remember, everything before  Season 14 was a much better hitting environment than the time since; I don't know how you'd adjust those OPS numbers to get true comparisons, but however you did it Cruz would look better.  And if you look at # of Silver Sluggers as some indication of offensive dominance at a position, Cruz compares quite well (bonus:  he picked up 2 SS's at CF as well).

Finally, throw in the 57 + plays Cruz turned in as a CF and COF, and you have one of the best all-round defensive players in Major Leagues history.

I think it's a close race between Nakano and Cruz as the best 2B in league history.  I'd go with Cruz because he was a very good hitter + maybe the best defensive 2B ever;  Nakano was a great hitter and a solid defensive 2B.

In any event, Cruz should be in the Hall.

Catchers Pedro Caballero (Seasons 12-28) and Butch Reed (Seasons 10-25):  Since we haven't inducted a C into the Hall so far, I'm making the big assumption here that these 2 are the best catchers in ML history who have finished their careers.  I'm also assuming that after 31 seasons, we've seen enough C's that the best one should be in the Hall.

One or both of these assumptions could be wrong.  But I'm proceeding as thought they're correct...I'm saying based on that, one or both of these guys should be in.

It's essentially a power vs. on-base comparison.  Caballero put up a superlative .395 OBP vs. Reed's good .366; Reed compiled a .533 Slugging % with 468 HR's to Pedro's .439 with 236 HR's.

The only real defensive stat we have to compare is caught stealing:  Pedro caught 27.9% to Butch's 24.4%.

I'd be happy with either or both in the HOF.  For this year, I'm going with Pedro; I might vote for Butch in subsequent years.

Power Hitting COF's Mark Payton (Seasons 14-28) and Bernard Evert (Seasons 8-25):  Major Leagues is unusual in its relative paucity of power-hitting 1B's and COF's in its HOF - Adams and Heffner and that's it.  2 of our 3 2B and all 4 3B were sluggers as well.  Maybe we just haven't had great OF's or maybe we've been more discerning than most worlds...I don't know.

But I do know that in most worlds, both these OF's would be in without a thought based on their 600+ HR's.

What do we do with them?

Here are Payton and Evert with our HOF sluggers:
                            Slug %   OBP   HRs  Sil Sluggers*   Seasons
Scharein (2B)      612          379    553        5                  1-15
Norton (3B)         531          328   657        1                   1-17
Davenport (2B)    573         347    684        3                  4-20
Heffner (RF)        565         359    672        7                  3-20
Mendoza (3B)      553         339    598        2                  4-21
Adams (1B)          554         370    564        7                 12-28
Sanchez (3B)       497          353    553        7                  9-27        
Wood (3B)           519         335     740       4                  11-29
Payton (COF)       559         351    654        3                  14-28
Evert (COF)         521         346     612       0                   8-25

I scratched out Mendoza, Sanchez and Wood because they weren't elected as pure sluggers.  All 3 were very good (or better) 3B's.

All the others are pretty much in the Hall because they were power hitters.  The 2B's (Scharein and Davenport) were middling-to-poor fielders, and the other 3B (Norton) was a bad fielder (and our only HOF mistake, in my opinion).

Payton looks like he belongs in this list.  His Slugging, OBP and HR's all hold up to the competition. If we somehow adjusted for the era, he'd look better.

Critics might argue that Payton benefitted from the Colorado ballpark and its power alley jet-streams (+4 and +4) for 5 seasons.  He did, but he played the rest of his career (9 more full seasons) in HR-punitive parks (mostly Pittsburgh and its -2, -2).

Evert is close, but looks more like the mistake Norton than the others (they're the 2 lowest Slugging and OBP's on the list).  He got few more seasons at the outset of his career in the hitter -friendly Transition Era.  Finally, he was a sub-par LF with 4/56 +/- plays (Payton was 36/32 as a RF).

I won't vote for Evert.  Too much of a 1-trick pony with nothing else but HR's.  Payton would be my 6th vote, so he's a maybe for future years.

Sean Westbrook (RF, Seasons 11-30):  This year's longevity candidate (20 seasons), and more importantly, this world's all-time hits leader (3,691).

I have mixed feelings about HOF candidates who are candidates only because of longevity, and Westbrook is certainly one.  Had he been a 22 year-old college draftee, and/or missed a season or 2 to injury, and or started declining at age 35 instead of 38, we wouldn't be talking about him.  His .379 career OBP is very good, but his Slugging % of .448 is nothing special for an OF.  And he wasn't an inspiring defender with his 1/125 +/- in RF.

But counting stats do matter, and he has been the best ever at accumulating a pretty important stat.

He gets my 5th vote, a shade ahead of Payton.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Hall Of Fame Edition, Part 1

Hall of Famers by Position

SP  -  6
2B  -  3
3B  -  4
1B  -  2
RF  -  1
CF  -  1

C, LF, SS, RP - 0

No HOF Shortstops...Really?

We've been very exclusive in our HOF selection (only 17 so far), but it's hard to believe we haven't inducted a single SS.

I (very unscientifically) went back through all our Gold Glove and Silver Slugger-winning SSs', figuring if we had a deserving HOF'er or 2, they'd show up prominently in those lists.

Gold Glovers
We've had 9 SS's win 3 or more GG's (max is 4, and only 2 have done that).

Of the very early (remember, great hitting era) 3+  GG'ers, only Chad Fitzgerald could hit a lick.  His career .696 OPS seems more like a product of the times (his career spanned Seasons 1-10)...certainly ratings like his would produce much lower offensive numbers today.

Of more recent vintage, Zephyr Mailman posted a career OPS of .678  and won a Silver Slugger (albeit with a .715 OPS), and Artie Linebrink has a career .693 OPS.  Adjusting for era, those 2 are probably the best hitters to win 3+ Gold Gloves.  Neither really seems compelling though.

It's worth noting that only 1 other SS has won both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger - current Giants SS Renyel Ozuna.  But even though his  Silver-Slugger-winning OPS of .761 in Season 31 looks pretty good, his career mark is only.593.

If we consider career "+" plays as a marker for career defensive greatness, 3 currently-active players dominate the list.  Current White Sox SS and 3-time GG Rafael Manzanillo leads with 185 career good plays at SS.  Right behind him are current Cleveland SS Kurt Blackley (4 GG's and 183 + plays) and Ozuna (178 + plays and 2 GG's, although he probably should have won his 3rd last year). At age 29 - 2 years younger than Blackley and 4 younger than Manzanillo, Ozuna seems likely headed for the top of this list. He also has a higher lifetime fielding % (.984) than either Blackley (.980) or Mazanillo (.974).

So Ozuna could emerge in a few years as the best defensive SS in league history.  Is that enough for HOF by itself?  I'd be tempted to say yes, but I'd sure like to see a higher career OPS than .593 accompanying it.

The Hitting Shorstops

On the flip side, we're looking for hitting shortstops who were at least pretty good fielders, so we're starting with winners of at least 2 Silver Sluggers at SS.

First thing we do is eliminate guys who won SS's but played more games in their careers at 3B, 2B etc than they did at SS.  That knocks out Vin Sanchez, who won 4 shortstop SS's early in his career.

Then I took a a couple of arbitrary defensive metrics - I eliminated the guys whose bad plays far outnumbered their good plays (career at SS) or had a shortstop fielding % below .965.  This consigned most of the field to "3B's masquerading as SS's to get another bat in the lineup" status (technically, it eliminated all but 1), but several are worth commenting on.

Dustan Beimel won 6 shortstop silver sluggers from Seasons 14-22, compiling a career .791 OPS.  But he had 5 good plays to 158 bad, and his .966 fielding % is on the extreme low end of consideration for "real SS" status.

Adam Shipley won 3 shortstop Silver Sluggers, and came in at 46-14 on +/-.  But the career fielding % was .956.  Troy Freeman was better defensively (112/4, .964), but even with 2 Silver Sluggers was only a career .698 OPS.

Gil Sodowsky merits mention because he's at 6 Silver Sluggers and counting.  But he's at 11/39 on +/- and .952 fielding %.

One player made it through this filter:  Santiago Vazquez.  Vazquez played in 1956 (1166 of them at SS) games for the Astros, Mets and Padres from Seasons 10-22.  He won Silver Sluggers in Seasons 13 (.823 OPS - .274/44/115) and 15 (.864 OPS - .294/36/98) en route to a career .794 OPS with 391 home runs...pretty spiffy for an actual SS.  His +/- was a pedestrian (but certainly not terrible) 25/37, but his career fielding % was a very respectable .979.

Vazquez' HOF eligibility expired long ago, but would I advocate for him if he were eligible?  Probably so.  Unless I overlooked someone (completely possible), he's probably been the best combination of offense/defense in a shortstop we've had.

Moot point there, though.  I think the bigger question is, "Do we put an all-defense SS in the HOF if he's the best defensive shortstop ever?"  I think we'll be facing this question for real a few years hence when Ozuna retires.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Countdown: #1 Pitcher In Major Leagues History

#1 - Chris Nen

One minute he's random molecules floating around, the next he's zapped into existence as a 32 year-old digital baseball player with a combination rocket launcher and rubber hose for a right arm.

Nen was one of the original players in the formation of Major Leagues - maybe the best player in its history, and certainly its best pitcher.

Among his many accomplishments:
  • Won the first 6 AL Cy Young's
  • Averaged 20 wins a season
  • Single-season records for the lowest ERA (1.15, Season 4), Innings Pitched (320.3, Season 3 - Seasons 1 and 2 are #'s 2 and 5), OBA Allowed (.223 - Season 3), Shutouts (9, Season 3), WHIP (.80, Season 3)
  • 37 Quality Starts in Season 3 (#1 All-time), 36 in Season 4 (#2 All-time)
  • Won 31 games in his Age-40 season (admittedly as a middle reliever); his Season 3 28 wins and Season 4 26 wins are #'s 2 and 3 all-time
  • Did all this in the most explosive hitting era in our history, and half of it after age 36 and in decline.
There were a few "anomalies" in the early days of HBD...remember the "triples" bug (in the first couple of HBD seasons there were players in most leagues who had 40-50 triples).  The creation of a super-player like Nen may have been one of them.  In recent years I've only seen 1 other player rival the dominance of a Nen (an he was a hitter, so has less influence on the outcome of a single game than a SP).  In any event, he's the #1 hurler in Major Leagues history.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Countdown - 10 Greatest P's In Major Leagues History: 2-4

At #4 we have our all-time Cy Young leader with 7 - Keith Caldwell. From Seasons 21 through 28, only 1 season went by with Caldwell winning a CY somewhere (4 NL and 3 AL).  He also dominates the quality stats leaderboards like no one not named Rojas - 3rd in BA allowed, 2nd in OB% allowed, 2nd in Slugging % allowed, 2nd in WHIP, 2nd in ERA.

At #3 we have our sole reliever and longevity champ (still going strong at 40), Ramiro Goya.  The 5-time FOY winner is far and away our career saves leader (with 734, over 100 ahead of #2).  In the qualitative stats, he's #1 in WHIP, OBA allowed and K/BB, #3 in Slugging % Allowed and ERA, and #4 in BA Allowed.

At #2 we have the best pitcher of the modern era, Miguel Rojas.  He dominates the qualitative stats career leaderboards - tops in BA allowed, #3 on OBA allowed, #1 in Slugging allowed, #1 in ERA and #3 in WHIP.  All in a fairly pitcher-hostile ballpark.  The only possible knock on Rojas was that he wasn't a monster innings eater - he was usually in the 210's in IP - but his 276 wins is still #3 all-time.  Throw in 5 Cy Young's and he's a pretty unassailable #2.

Countdown - 10 Greatest P's In Major Leagues History: 5-7

At #'s 5-7 we have the big counting-stats guys.  Some of the key numbers: 6, 303, and 33...

At #7, we have 6-time Cy Young winner Vincenzo Smalley.  He's also #2 on the all-time wins list with 296.  Not quite the qualitative numbers of some higher on the list (he faced DH's in the AL for all but a few minutes of his career), he's had the longest period of dominance of any AL pitcher.

In at #6 is our all-time wins leader (303), Luis Contreras.  Although obviously a dominant pitcher, his claim to fame stems from his longevity - he's still our career leader in quality starts and strikeouts, and is #2 in shutouts.

At #5, we're getting into the territory of the guys who combine top counting stats with qualitative dominance.  At age 33, Tony Moya is already our career leader in shutouts (33), and is #5 all-time in WHIP and On-Base % Allowed.  With 4 Cy Youngs already, he seems a lock for 1 or 2 more.

Countdown - 10 Greatest P's In Major Leagues History: 8-10

Continuing with our history theme, we're counting down the 10 greatest pitchers and position players in Major Leagues' history.

Checking in at #10, we have the current 2-time defending AL Cy Young winner, Manuel Cano.  In addition to the 2 CY's, Cano has 6 All-Star appearances and has surged into the top 5 in career batting average allowed and career ERA.  Detractors point to Detroit's pitcher-friendly dimensions - it's a consideration, for sure, but his performance has been superior.  Style points note:  in 8 seasons his ERA has never been above 3.00.

At #9 we go back to a tougher pitching era and Bartolo Escobar.  Escobar dominated the AL from Seasons 9-13, winning the CY 4 times in those 5 years and baffling the sluggers of the day.  He wasn't a big innings guy, posting 2750 fro his career and usually around 200 per season.  But he was undoubtedly the top pitcher of the era immediately preceding Contreras and Rojas.

At #8, we have the NL equivalent of Escobar, Cesar Carrasquel.  No other pitcher dominated the NL during the pre-Long Normal era like Carrasquel.  He was more prolific than Escober, throwing nearly1000 more innings, and was more dominant in the qualitative stats.  And there was the glorious 4-straight CY stretch from seasons 5-8, when he averaged 20 wins and an ERA well under 3.  He may well have an argument for a higher ranking.

Should the Portland Mavericks replace the Nashville Sounds when the opportunity arises?