Wednesday, March 31, 2010

SportsNation: ESPN2 at 4PM and Midnight

Some exciting news:

ESPN2's SportsNation (4 PM) names a different sports site that they like every day.  They informed me that the winner today will be Baseball In-Depth.  It's not something I expected, but it is an honor to have this site dicussed on ESPN.  I appreciate all of the loyal readers of this blog and welcome any new visitors here as a result of SportsNation.     

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Top ten teams?

Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci recently published a list of his top ten teams ever.  This type of list is tricky, but he did a good job.  I  am going to try and figure out what other teams could have legitimately made the list:

Tom Verducci: 10 Ten Teams
1. 1927 Yankees: 110 Wins, 4-0
2. 1939 Yankees: 106 Wins, 4-0
3. 1998 Yankees: 114 Wins, 4-0
4. 1929 A's: 104 Wins, 4-1
5. 1975 Reds: 108 Wins, 4-3
6. 1961 Yankees: 108 Wins, 4-1
7. 1970 Orioles: 108 Wins, 4-1
8. 1907 Cubs: 107 Wins, 4-0-1
9. 1932 Yankees: 107 Wins, 4-0
10. 1902 Pirates: 103 Wins

They all won the World Series, except for the 1902 Pirates, because the first World Series wasn't held until 1903.  The first 9 teams on the list won at least 104 regular season games and the World Series.  Other teams that have done this:
  • 1905 Giants: 105 Wins, 4-1
  • 1909 Pirates: 110 Wins, 4-3
  • 1912 Red Sox: 105 Wins, 4-3-1
  • 1942 Cardinals: 106 Wins, 4-1
  • 1944 Cardinals: 105 Wins, 4-2
  • 1984 Tigers: 104 Wins, 4-1
  • 1986 Mets: 108 Wins, 4-3
The Cardinals of the early to mid '40s were incredibly successful, but a lot of players, including Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, were away fighting in WWII for a few years.  The level of play wasn't the same as it had been or would be once things returned to normal.  The 1986 Mets would seem to fit the bill, but they came way too close to losing the World Series, and all of the scandals don't help either.

I can't quibble too much with Verducci's list, although I'm kind of skeptical of only having one team on the list (1998 Yankees) since 1975.  What if the list was done only since 1920?  Who would be the final two teams?  I would round it out with the
  • 1976 Reds: 102-60; Swept the Yankees (also swept the Phillies in the NLCS)
  • 1984 Tigers: 104-58: 4-1 over Padres (swept the Royals in the ALCS)
The next 5, in no particular order, would probably include the 2009 Yankees, 1986 Mets, 1989 A's, 1968 Tigers, 1937 Yankees.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Where should Ryan Ludwick hit?

Top RBI Averages (RBI/PA): 2009 (min. 400 PA)
Ryan Howard: .200
Prince Fielder: .196
Albert Pujols: .193
Jason Bay: .187
Alex Rodriguez: .187
Jorge Posada: .185
Derrek Lee: .180
Ryan Ludwick: .180
Jim Thome: .178
Torii Hunter: .178

RBI Average 2008-2009 (min. 800 PA)
Ryan Howard .204
Albert Pujols: .187
Ryan Ludwick: .181
Alex Rodriguez: .180
Aramis Ramirez: .178
Carlos Lee: .176
Justin Morneau: .176
Mark Teixeira: .175
Kevin Youkilis: .173
Josh Hamilton: .172

The only players that made both lists were Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Ludwick.  Ludwick will probably remain productive, but he will likely fall off the list though, because the acquisition of Matt Holliday push him back in the lineup. 

After hitting 2nd part of 2008, he had settled into hitting 4th before Holliday arrived last July.  He slowed down after being moved back in the lineup.  He stopped hitting home runs and went from a monster July, to a tepid August and September. 

2008
4th: 20 HR, 59 RBI, 264 AB

2009
4th: 14 HR, 55 RBI, 234 AB
5th: 7 HR, 35 RBI, 206 AB

Holliday has the longer track record and the (much) bigger salary, but Ludwick played amazingly well when hitting 4th (similar numbers to what a productive Matt Holliday should put up), and mediocre when hitting 5th.  If Holliday can be just as effective hitting 5th, the Cardinals might want to consider rearranging the lineup.      

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Will the Indians' rotation be better this year?

Buster Olney had an interesting article about Fausto Carmona, who seems to be back on track, which is great news for the Indians.

Last year, the Indians went 65-97, and Carmona led the team in starts, with 24.  If they hadn't traded Cliff Lee, he would have led the team, as he had 22 when he was traded at the deadline.

It looks like their rotation will likely be Carmona, Aaron Laffey, Justin Masterson, David Huff and Jake Westbrook.  Jeremy Sowers, who was roughed up by the Brewers on Tuesday, is not fully healed from his injury and will not start the year in the rotation. 

On paper, that is not a good rotation, but new manager Manny Acta may have found a way to get them in shape (their team ERA, 3.56, has been better than other teams in the Cactus League).  He's been using sabermetrics to show his pitchers the importance of things like throwing a first pitch strike.  Acta sees Masterson as a potential ace (MLB.com):
Acta expects him to keep showing the way once the whistle blows and games count. Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona have more extensive resumes that they are trying to revive, but Masterson is fresher ace timbre.


"I expect a lot from him," Acta said. "He can be that workhorse-type of guy."

And Masterson wants it, both the role and the responsibility.

"Being the workhorse is the coolest thing," he said. "You can be the one who starts to set the tone, and that can lead only to good things."
If Carmona doesn't regain some of his 2007 form, it seems very unlikely that they'll get much better this year:
2007: 19-8, 3.06 ERA, 2.25 SO/BB
2008: 8-7, 5.45, 0.83
2009: 5-12, 6.32, 1.13
2010 (spring training): 1 ER, 13 IP, 6 SO, 2 BB

The AL Central is shaping up to have some interesting stories, if not necessarily great teams: The Twins need to replace Joe Nathan, many people think Magglio Ordonez is returning to form and the White Sox won't lack for drama.

Fortunately for Indians fans, too, Carmona is signed to an relatively affordable deal with club options for 2012-14, so they wouldn't necessarily have to trade him at the deadline in 2011 if he wins the Cy Young Award this year.

Jim Ingraham, of the News-Herald, wrote a good article about the 30 most important players for the Indians, in order of importance, with Carmona and Westbrook being the top 2.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jacoby Ellsbury


Jacoby Ellsbury had a good season in 2009, but he had an interesting mix of stats that he won't want to repeat:

Jacoby Ellsbury (2009): .301 BA, 94 R, 70 SB

He led the ML in stolen bases by a healthy margin, with closest being Michael Bourn at 61.  Getting to 70 stolen bases is very difficult and it hasn't been done on a regular basis since the 80's, when Tim Raines, Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman were lighting up the basepaths.  He was only the 3rd player of the entire decade to have 70 steals in a season, with the others being Jose Reyes in 2007 (78) and Scott Podsednik in 2004 (70).

70+ Steals
1900's: 1
1910's: 9
1920's: 0
1930's: 0
1940's: 0
1950's: 0
1960's: 4
1970's: 10
1980's: 25
1990's: 8
2000's: 3

Out of the 60 times that it has occurred, there have only been 22 times that there has been a .300 average with it.  Out of the 22 times, there have only been 6 when the player has failed to score 100 runs:

.300 BA, 70+ SB, sub-100 runs
1910 Eddie Collins
1913 Clyde Milan
1980 Dave Collins
1981 Tim Raines
1986 Tim Raines
2009 Jacoby Ellsbury

When you add in that Ellsbury hit leadoff for most of the year and the Red Sox were 3rd in runs scored with 872, it becomes even more unusual.  He still had a very good season, and it probably doesn't mean too much, but it is unusual that someone leading off in a good lineup with so many steals didn't score 100 runs. 

It will also be interesting to see if he continues to run as often.  The last time anyone stole 80 bases was 1988, when both Vince Coleman and Rickey Henderson did it.  It would be a good goal to shoot for, but it may be out of reach.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ricky Nolasco's ERA should fall dramatically

                                                                    (image by wikipedia)
Ricky Nolasco (2009): 13-9, 5.06 ERA, 9.45 SO/9, 2.14 BB/9, 185 IP

185 IP, 9.45 SO/9, 2.15 BB/9 (Since 1900)
Sandy Koufax 1965
Roger Clemens 1988
John Smoltz 1996
Curt Schilling 1997-98, 2001-02
Pedro Martinez 1999, 2000, 2002
Mark Prior 2003

Randy Johnson 2004
Ben Sheets 2004
Johan Santana 2004, 2007

Zack Greinke 2009

Javier Vasquez 2009
Ricky Nolasco 2009

That is clearly impressive company for Nolasco to be in, and it shows how unbelieveable that he still finished with an ERA of 5.06.  The next highest ERA of any pitcher on that list was 3.33 from Johan Santana in 2007 and 14 of the 18 had an ERA under 3.00 in those seasons. 

His inflated ERA was mainly the result of being hammered mercilessly by National League hitters in April and May:

2009
April: 6.92 ERA, .327 BAA
May: 12.23, .365
June: 1.91, .221
July: 3.51, .228
August: 5.50, .243
September: 4.15, .221

In 2008, he was 15-8, with a 3.52 ERA and a SO/BB of 4.43 (his SO/BB in 2009 was also 4.43).  Someone who strikes out nearly 10 hitters per 9 innings while only walking 2 should not have an ERA of 5.00.  If he doesn't get off to such a slow start, he could emerge as an elite pitcher this season. 

The Marlins should be contenders, considering that they were 87-75 last year and have even been spending some money of late, and Nolasco will have to be a huge part of it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tigers Opening Day Lineup: Will they get the Magglio of 2007?


According to Lynn Henning at the Detroit News, this will be the Tigers starting lineup on opening day.  There is good news and bad news, but the Tigers might be ok if he's right about Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen:

1. Austin Jackson CF
2. Johnny Damon LF
3. Magglio Ordonez RF(Detroit News)
All but transformed by an off-season conditioning program that would have made a Marine proud, Ordonez has been a stunning story. He is in the best condition of his life and hitting like the Ordonez of 2007.

4. Miguel Cabrera 1B
5. Carlos Guillen DH (Detroit News)
He is healthy. He is upbeat. He is a quality big-league hitter. A case could be made that Guillen is the most important person in Leyland's lineup. Without a productive Guillen at the fifth spot, the Tigers will have a miserable time delivering game-changing runs.
6. Scott Sizemore 2B
7. Brandon Inge 3B
8. Gerald Laird C
9. Adam Everett SS (Detroit News)
Nothing will change. Everett will hit .235, perhaps, and get a handful of big hits. Shortstop is the most important defensive position on the field, and Everett takes care of business there with the best of them. But at a place where offense also counts, the Tigers will get the minimum in 2010.

Scott Sizemore and Austin Jackson have never played in the Major Leagues, so that should be interesting.  Miguel Cabrera is probably going to be pitched around a lot, although he's not known for his patience (68 BB in 685 PA in 2009).  Magglio Ordonez has a lot to prove after everyone criticized the Tigers for allowing him to reach enough at-bats to trigger an option that will pay him $18 million, but few in Detroit will mind if he hits like he did in 2007. 

Magglio Ordonez (2007) .363 BA, 117 R, 28 HR, 139 RBI

For Carlos Guillen to be productive, he would need to go back to 2007-levels as well:
Carlos Guiilen (2007): .296, 21 HR, 102 RBI

If Ordonez and Guillen are healthy and productive, the Tigers might be able to score enough runs to be playoff contenders.  If they aren't productive, it'll be a long season and Miguel Cabrera won't see much to hit.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Teammates who can hit


(2009) Teams with at least 2 players with 25 HR, .280 BA There were no players with 25 HR and a .280 batting average who changed teams in the offseason.

Blue Jays: Adam Lind, Aaron Hill
Twins: Jason Kubel, Joe Mauer
Astros: Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee
Yankees: Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano
Angels: Juan Rivera, Kendry Morales
Brewers: Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun
Rays: Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria

Teams with a good chance of joining this list in 2010: Cardinals (Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Ryan Ludwick), Phillies (Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez), Dodgers (Manny Ramirez, Andrew Ethier, Matt Kemp), Rockies (Brad Hawpe, Troy Tulowitzki), Cubs (Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez)

1930
Cubs: Hack Wilson, Gabby Hartnett
Yankees: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig
A's: Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons

1940
Tigers: Hank Greenberg, Rudy York
Yankees: Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon

1950
Indians: Al Rosen, Larry Doby
Dodgers: Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella
Yankees: Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra
Red Sox: Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Walt Dropo, Vern Stephens

1960
Braves: Joe Adcock, Hank Aaron
Yankees: Roger Maris, Moose Skowron

1970
Reds: Johnny Bench, Tony Perez
Braves: Rico Carty, Orlando Cepeda
Orioles: Frank Robinson, Boog Powell
Giants: Bobby Bonds, Willie McCovey
Cubs: Billy Williams, Jim Hickman

1980
Dodgers: Dusty Baker, Steve Garvey
Brewers: Ben Oglivie, Cecil Cooper

1990
Dodgers: Kal Daniels, Eddie Murray
Braves: David Justice: Ron Gant
Pirates: Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla

2000
Angels, White Sox, Yankees, Rangers, Royals, Mariners, Blue Jays, Phillies, Padres, D-Backs, Braves, Mets, Cardinals, Astros, Giants

No teammates with .280 BA and 25 HR:  1900-24, 1926, 1943-46, 1951-52, 1967-68, 1971-72, 1974-75, 1981, 1989

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Stephen Strasburg

I wrote a post about what the Nationals should do with Stephen Strasburg on Gather.com

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How does Nomar's career stack up?


Nomar Garciaparra announced his retirement today, appropriately with the Red Sox.  If you had told someone after the 2000 season that he would retire 10 years later with less than 1000 runs or 1000 RBI and a mere .313 average, they probably wouldn't have believed it.  He was 26 years old, coming off of 2 consecutive batting titles and appeared to have a clear path to Cooperstown.   

Unfortunately, injuries derailed him and he never got close to another batting title after 2000, when he hit .372.  During his first 4 complete seasons (1997-2000), he won a Rookie of the Year Award, had 4 top-10 MVP finishes, .337 batting average and a .577 slugging percentage, which is Joe DiMaggio territory.  Factoring in the Coors Field Effect for Larry Walker and Todd Helton, Garciaparra was arguably the best overall hitter in baseball during that time period.

Despite his dropoff in later years, his career numbers still hold up well despite years of limited production.  Well, he wasn't that bad in his final years, just a shadow of his former self and constantly absent due to injuries.  He still managed to hit .287 over his last 5 seasons, but wasn't able to play in more than 122 games in any of them.

Nomar Garciaparra (1996-2009): .313 BA, .361 OBP, .521 SLG, 229 HR, 6116 PA

.313 BA, .521 SLG, 229 HR

Hall of Fame
Babe Ruth
Lou Gehrig
Ted Williams
Rogers Hornsby
Chuck Klein
Al Simmons
Earl Averill
Joe DiMaggio
Hank Greenberg
Stan Musial
Jimmie Foxx

Active
Manny Ramirez
Albert Pujols
Todd Helton
Vladimir Guerrero

Recently Retired
Nomar Garciaparra
Larry Walker

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Wandy Rodriguez: Breakout star in 2010?


Rodriguez, who is on the Astros, was amazing in the final couple of months of 2009, with the exception of 1 terrible start on August 14 at Milwaukee, where he gave up 10 ER over 4 IP:

2009
14-12, 205 IP, 3.02 ERA, 191 SO, 63 BB, 3.06 SO/BB

July-October: Final 17 starts (minus 1)
8-6, 1.97 ERA, 99 SO, 21 BB, 4.71 SO/BB

One concern about whether he is capable of becoming a star is that he is 31 years old and that seems a little old to finally become an elite pitcher.  It does happen, though: one recent example of a late bloomer was Chris Carpenter, who was mediocre until his late 20's, and excepting injuries, has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since he turned 30.  Randy Johnson also struggled with control issues until he hit 30, and then became of the all-time greats once he improved his control.

Rodriguez's steady improvement in his SO/BB ratio is an encouraging sign for his 2010 performance:

SO/BB
2005: 1.51
2006: 1.56
2007: 2.55
2008: 2.98
2009: 3.06
Final 17 starts (minus 1): 4.71

Based on how he finished last season, it seems very possible that he could to reach 200 IP, 200 SO, 3.20 ERA and 4.0 SO/BB.  If he put up those numbers, he would join an elite group of pitchers:

200 IP, 200 SO, 4.0 SO/BB, 3.20 ERA (2006-2009)
Johan Santana 2006
Roy Halladay 2008-09
Javier Vasquez 2009
Dan Haren 2009
Zack Greinke 2009

He's been constantly improving for a couple of years, so his impressive 2nd half doesn't appear to be a fluke.  If he stays healthy, and the Astros aren't terrible, he could make a run at 20 wins.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Uptons


Justin Upton was just rewarded by the D-Backs with $51 million over 6 years after his breakthrough season.  His breakthrough season was amazingly similar to his brother's in 2007, but the D-Backs probably don't want to dwell on that too much:

By age 22:  .300, 20 HR, 20 SB
Vada Pinson (1959): .316, 20 HR, 20 SB
Orlando Cepeda (1959): .317, 27 HR, 23 SB
Cesar Cedeno (1972): .320, 22 HR, 55 SB
Cesar Cedeno (1973): .320, 25 HR, 56 SB
A-Rod (1997): .300, 23 HR, 29 SB
A-Rod (1998): .310, 42 HR, 46 SB
B.J. Upton (2007): .300, 24 HR, 22 SB, .894 OPS
Justin Upton (2009): .300, 26 HR, 20 SB, .899 OPS

B.J. Upton: Post Breakthrough season
2008: .273 BA, .784 OPS, 9 HR, 44 SB
2009: .241 BA, 686 OPS, 11 HR, 55 SB

Of the 123 players with at least 550 PA in 2009, B.J. Upton had the 4th lowest OPS.  Even with the problems B.J. had with hustle, he looked primed for stardom after 2007, but it hasn't happened yet.  B.J. is still young and talented enough to get back on top, but there will probably be a lot of doubters if he doesn't do it soon. 

If he stays healthy, Justin probably will continue his path to becoming an elite player, but he needs to prove immediately that he deserves this contract and that he will not fall into the same problems as his brother.
 
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