Sunday, March 25, 2012

A golden age of second baseman?


OPS, Second Baseman (at least 80% of games) 2000+ AB (since 1915)
.899 Charlie Gehringer (1924-1942)
.882 Chase Utley (2003-present)
.855 Jeff Kent (1992-2008)
.846 Tony Lazzeri (1926-1939)
.843 Robinson Cano (2005-present)
.837 Dustin Pedroia (2006-present)
.824 Ian Kinsler (2006-present)
.824 Dan Uggla (2006-present)
.823 Bobby Doerr (1937-1951)
.822 Joe Gordon (1938-1950)

The next 3 on the list are Joe Morgan, Roberto Alomar and Ryne Sandberg.  Everyone on the list who has become eligible for the Hall of Fame has inducted, and Jeff Kent will certainly follow in a few years.  None of the active players are locks for the Hall of Fame, although Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia might be in a few years if they stay healthy. 

Chase Utley has the talent, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy and it might be too late to catch up (he turned 33 in the offseason).  Ian Kinsler and Dan Uggla are quality players, but don't seem to be Hall of Fame players right now.  Then again, they might have a chance because they will be judged against other second baseman. 

They might also be harmed by the fact that they won't stand out as much from other second baseman as someone like Jeff Kent did during his career.  This is a great era of second baseman, and all of them could still reach the Hall of Fame.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Andy Pettitte's Return


10+ wins, 3.50 ERA or lower (39+ years, LHP since 1965)
1984 Jerry Koosman
1988 Jerry Reuss
2002 Jamie Moyer
2003 Jamie Moyer
2004 Randy Johnson
2005 Kenny Rogers

Andy Pettitte, who will be 40 in June, is trying to make a comeback with the Yankees.  This is something that the Yankees have the luxery to do, and it makes sense.  They tend to do better in the postseason with Pettitte, and it'll be worth it if he can make a contribution in October.  Older lefties, especially those not named Jamie Moyer, haven't had much success, but Pettitte does have a shot at 39 coming off a year off.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Should Tim Hudson be a Hall of Famer?

This might seem kind of ridiculous, because Hudson (who will turn 37 this year) only has 181 wins and has never won a Cy Young award.  His win-loss% (.651) is excellent, but overall he just doesn't seem like Hall of Fame material.  At least some part of that calculation, though, is rooted in the idea that a starting pitcher (unless they're Sandy Koufax) needs 300 wins (or get really close) to make it in. 

Look at Bert Blyleven: he finished with 287 wins and was superior in many ways to pitchers already in the Hall of Fame with 300 wins (like Phil Niekro), but it took him 15 years to be elected.  For the time being (it will change with Maddux, Glavine and Randy Johnson), Blyleven is the only starting pitcher (I'll exclude pitchers like Eckersley and Smoltz who had unique careers combining starting and relieving) to start his career after 1967 and make it to the Hall.  There are various reasons for this, and one is the sustained reliance on 300 wins as a necessity.

Tim Hudson is just an example of someone that should be looked at.  It is common for voters to the Hall of Fame to evaluate players against other players from their era, not just some never-changing benchmark.  Tim Hudson has been one of the best pitchers of the past decade.  

Since his first year in 1999, he is 2nd in wins (to Roy Halladay) and is 7th (!) in W-L% of all pitchers with 275+ decisions since 1900 (Whitey Ford, Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove, Roy Halladay, Christy Mathewson, Roy Halladay).  Are these Hall of Fame credentials? Probably not, with the current way of voting. 

Winning 180 games over 13 years wouldn't have been that amazing if you starting your career in 1965, but times have changed.  The emergence of 5 man rotations and heavily used bullpens cut into the number of decisions every pitcher gets, even if they stay healthy. 

It is true that Johnson, Maddux and Glavine managed to win 300 games in the 90's and 00's, but that is becoming increasingly rare.  It might be time to rethink what it takes for a starting pitcher to get into the Hall of Fame to match the way the game is played now.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Is it a good idea to expand the playoffs?

Playoffs teams if 4 wild card playoff system had been in place
2011: Red Sox (90-72; 1 GB), Braves (89-73; 1 GB)
2010: Red Sox (89-73; 6 GB), Padres (90-72; 1 GB)
2009: Rangers (87-75; 8 GB), Giants (88-74; 4 GB)
2008: Yankees (89-73; 6 GB), Mets (89-73; 1 GB)
2007: Tigers (88-74; 6 GB), Padres (89-74; 1 GB)
2006: White Sox (90-72; 5 GB), Phillies (85-77; 3 GB)
2005: Indians (93-69; 2 GB), Phillies (88-74; 1 GB)
2004: A's (91-71; 7 GB), Giants (91-71; 1 GB)

MLB appears close to adding 2 wild card teams this season, with the two wc teams in each league having a one game playoff.  One stated reason for doing this is that there has not been enough of an incentive for teams to win their division if they are cruising to the wild card anyway. 

That sounds like a worthy goal, but that is not always realistic even under this new system.  For instance, way back in 2011, the Yankees had a huge lead in the AL East (won it by 6 games) and the Wild Card was going to come down to the collapsing Red Sox and the surging Rays.  The Red Sox were desperately trying to win the wild card and avoid ignominy. The final dash to the wild card produced one of the most exciting nights of baseball ever, capped off by Evan Longoria hitting a walk off home run against the Yankees after Jonathan Papelbon blew a save against the Orioles minutes earlier

Under the new proposed format, those games wouldn't have mattered much (except for home field in the one game playoff), and the Red Sox would have grabbed one of the Wild Card slots after their historic collapse.  That's only one example where doing this to make winning the division more important would not have worked. 

In this example, the new format would have allowed an undeserving team in the playoffs without making the division title more important.  Of course, there are other examples where the new system would make a difference (such as in 2010 where the Yankees and Rays were tied for the division going into the final game and no one else in the race for the Wild Card).

That does not mean that adding two new wild card teams is completely without merit.  There will be plenty of positives as well as negatives.  The one game playoffs would often be thrilling, and two additional teams (maybe teams that haven't been the playoffs a lot) would get their chance at getting to the World Series.  We would learn to love it, or at least accept it. 

It will be controversial if second place wild card teams that are 6 games back win these games on a regular basis.  Most people, though, love an underdog and won't complaint too much if the Yankees or Red Sox are that first place team.  Based on that last 8 years, that scenario is much more likely in the American League, where the second place wild card team was at least 5 games back in 6 of 8 years, while it never happened in the NL.

Turning it into a three game series might make it more fair, with the "better" team being less susceptible to losing in a fluky way.  Adding three games could make scheduling the playoffs a nightmare, especially now that they want the World Series to end in October.  It also might be too big of a punishment for not winning the division (especially when the wild card teams might have a better record than a division winner).  It will work itself out, but you have to hope that this is the last playoff expansion they have in mind.
 
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