Tuesday, February 8, 2011

In the Ring with the Heckler: Cleveland Cavaliers, NL West quick pick, The Bubble

Hello there Ross and Heckler Nation, hope you all enjoyed the Super Bowl. The game was great, the commercials were above average, and the food...well, amazing as usual.

First of all we here at Ross and The Heckler Speak would like to congratulate Aaron Rodgers for his superb Super Bowl performance and for winning his first Super Bowl (as well as his first Super Bowl MVP). I won't go into how he should have been a Niner, but I will say this to all of those people that say, "You don't know that Aaron Rodgers would have been any good if the Niners would have drafted him. The 3 years sitting behind Favre was the intangible that he needed to become who he is."

If you watched Aaron Rodgers perform in his first ever Super Bowl appearance (along with his whole postseason) you realize that he is a special player, the Niners would have had their franchise QB, but I digress.

Today we are going to discuss the 25 game losing streak of the 2011 Cavaliers, the 2011 NL West (a quick pick if you will, a longer detailed preview will come in a month or so.), and we will examine a couple of teams that are on the Bubble

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Louisville Colonels of Major League Baseball (26 losses in a row in 1889) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League (26 losses in a row 1976-77) are about to get a new member into the "26 losses in a row club". The Cleveland Cavaliers are 1 loss away from tying the most losses by any team out of the 4 major sporting leagues. They just broke the NBA record (which belonged to the Cavaliers from the 70s).

The funny thing is with LeBron last year, they were the first team to 40 wins. LeBron is never going to be allowed back in the city of Cleveland for the rest of his life.

The next 10 games for the Cavs look like this:

2/9 - Detroit Pistons
2/11 - Los Angeles Clippers
2/13 - Washington Wizards
2/16 - Los Angeles Lakers
2/23 - Houston Rockets
2/25 - New York Knicks
2/27 - Philadelphia 76ers
3/2 - San Antonio Spurs
3/4 - @New York Knicks
3/6 - New Orleans Hornets

If they cannot break their losing streak in the first 3 games of their next homestand, they won't have another legit chance at a win until they face the 76ers on February 27th. It may be a long February for the city of Cleveland.

NL West Quick Pick

1. San Francisco Giants
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. San Diego Padres
4. Colorado Rockies
5. Arizona Diamondbacks

MVP of the NL West: Buster Posey (possibly MLB MVP)
CY Young of the NL West: Matt Latos
Mgr of the Year for the NL West: Bouchy
Rookie of the Year for the NL West: Someone on the Padres

The only way the NL West is going to get more than 1 team into the playoffs is if the Dodgers offense can come around in 2011, otherwise it will be the Giants once again winning the West. Buster is going to be (if it's possible) better this up coming year.

The Bubble

In this first installment of The Heckler's: Who is on the Bubble watch, we are just going to look at all the teams that are on the Bubble (based on the fact that they are not one of the teams that are for sure in the Dance; i.e. the top 10)

A-10: Richmond, Dayton, Temple and (who ever doesn't win the conference between Duquesne and Xavier)
ACC: Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Maryland
Big XII: Baylor, Texas A&M, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas State, and Nebraska
Big East: West Virginia, Cincinnati, Marquette, and St. John's
Big Ten: Northwestern, Minnesota, Penn State, Illinois, Michigan State
Conference U.S.A.: Memphis, U.A.B., Southern Mississippi, and U.T.E.P.
Horizon: Wright State, Cleveland State, and Butler
MVC: Northern Iowa, Wichita State and Missouri State
Mountain West: New Mexico, U.N.L.V., and Colorado State
Pac-10: U.C.L.A., Washington, and Cal
SEC: Georgia, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Mississippi State and Arkansas
WCC: Gonzaga
WAC: New Mexico State

All of the above teams are teams from conferences that usually make some noise in the Tournament. Not all of these teams are going to make the Dance, heck in 2 weeks half of these teams will be off the Bubble because they will no longer have a shot at making the NCAA tournament. Out of all of the teams named above, the 3 teams you should pay a real close attention to are:

Gonzaga, Kentucky and Virgina Tech; these 3 teams may have more to say about where they go in March than the other teams above. These 3 will be the one's that will be able to control their own destinies.

-The Heckler

Next Time:

Favorites for the NCAA tournament, NASCAR (maybe), NL East and Central Quick Picks

What to Watch: Wednesday February 9, 2011 - #21 North Carolina Tar Heels v. #5 Duke Blue Devils (Cameron Indoor Stadium - ESPNHD)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

In the Ring with the Heckler: Super Bowl XLV

Hey out there in Sports Land, tomorrow is Super Sunday! I am looking forward to: the commercials, the food, the beer, and of course the game itself. So with a little more than 26 hours left before the game I am going to give you my prediction for the game.

SUPER BOWL XLV: Pittsburgh Steelers v. Green Bay Packers

There will be over 100,000 people in Dallas on Sunday, they will be witness to a great game.

1st Quarter

After 2 weeks of hype the game will finally begin. The Steelers are going to come out and try and establish their running game with Rashard Mendenhall. The Steelers are going to take advantage of the Packers speedy linebackers. They will come out with a lot of misdirection plays early and often. A lot of counter action, along with a lot of play action. The Steelers will manage to get a FG or two but they will soon realize that the Packer run defense is as good as advertised. The Packers on the other hand will try and come out with a balanced offensive attack. James Stark has clearly established himself as the number 1 back in the Packer backfield as he has rumbled trough the playoffs with confidence and strength. Aaron Rodgers is going to try and attack the middle of the Steeler secondary early and see if they can cover his array of receivers. They will manage a touchdown but it will come late in the quarter.

Steelers 6
Packers 7

2nd Quarter

After the late touchdown to end the 1st quarter the Steelers are going to answer back with a long drive of their own to start the 2nd quarter. They will go 12 plays and take up 6 to 8 minutes of the clock. They are going to get their only touchdown of the half with a 3 yard run by Mendenhall. The Packers defense will stiffen after that drive and not allow the Steelers any more sniffs into the Red Zone. The Packers offense will similarly be stifled by the aggressive Steeler defense. They will manage to get a couple of drives down the field, but they will only be able to get FG attempts out of them (going 1 of 2 on those attempts). The first half will come to a close with the Steelers up by 3, and the momentum will still be down the middle. Both teams will go into half time trying to tighten up their game for the 2nd half.

Steelers 13
Packers 10

3rd Quarter

In the second half both teams will come motivated to take home the Lombardi Trophy. The Steelers will look like they are going to blow open the Super Bowl by scoring 10 unanswered points in the quarter. Mendenhall will figure out the Packer defense just enough to get the bulk of his yards in this quarter. He will also get the Steelers 2nd touchdown of the game. The 3rd quarter is going to come to a close with the Steelers holding onto a commanding 13 point lead. The Packers will be able to get a first down here or there, but turnovers and a sputtering offense will not net them any points in the 3rd quarter.

Steelers 23
Packers 10

4th Quarter

The Steelers are going to come out in the 4th and try and run out the game with their running game. The Packers are not going to have any of it, they are going to make the Super Bowl interesting by scoring 13 unanswered points so that the game is tied heading into the depths of the 4th quarter. Aaron Rodgers will finally get going in this quarter as he throws for 2 touchdowns (one to Driver and one to Jennings). The second guessing will occur when Mike McCarthy chooses to go for 2 instead of going for the tying extra point near the end of the game (after Rodgers' 2nd touchdown of the quarter). The Steelers will take the ball and drive down the field to kick the winning FG and take away their NFL record 7th Super Bowl title.

Steelers 26
Packers 23

Super Bowl MVP: Rashard Mendenhall

Well there you go Ross and Heckler Nation, there is my Super Bowl XLV prediction. I hate both teams, but I am figuring that this is going to be a great Super Bowl. Enjoy the chips and dip everyone, and don't drink too much beer before halftime, you may want to be awake in the second half to watch the end of this game. Enjoy your Super Sunday, I know I will.

-The Heckler

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Q & A with Adam Darowski from Beyond the Box Score

I'd like to thank Adam Darowski for taking the time to answer some questions about HOF player evaluation and wWAR. You can see his personal page here or check him out at Beyond the Box Score.

1.) Can you tell us a little about yourself? Feel free to include anything you deem relevant (include which baseball team you are a fan of)

Let's see, I live in the Providence, RI area—deep in Red Sox Nation. I have an incredible family—a wondeful wife and three awesome kids. I'm a web developer for an amazing company called PatientsLikeMe where I get to build cool stuff for the web while changing the world.

2.) How did you get involved in the baseball blog world? How did you become a writer for Beyond the Box Score?

Interestingly, I started researching and writing baseball probably around 2005 when I (in retrospect, foolishly) wondered why Lance Parrish got no consideration for the Hall of Fame while Gary Carter walked in with relative ease. This, of course, was pre-WAR. I then took a bit of a break before starting a new site (BaseballTwit) at the end of 2008. It was then that I also opened a second Twitter account (@baseballtwit) just for baseball-related info.

While writing for BaseballTwit, I became an avid reader of Beyond the Box Score thanks to the excellent work Sky Kalkman did with Sean Smith's WAR database. Historical WAR really raised my level of interest in sabermetrics up a notch. I've always been drawn to history and the Hall of Fame more than anything. And WAR was the first tool I could use to effectively compare players across eras. I really have to thank Erik Manning, Sky, and Dan Turkenkopf for getting me in at Beyond the Box Score. They were into my work at BaseballTwit and I told them I'd love to write for Beyond the Box Score. Rather quickly, they made it happen.

3.) What gave you the idea for wWAR? How did you decide on 3 and 6 for your WAE and WAM levels?

4.) For the uninitiated, could you give us a simple breakdown of exactly what you intended wWAR to be a measure of?

WAR is great and it does a great job of showing who provided the most value in their careers. But the Hall of Fame is about more than total value. Hall voters love to see peak performance. They love to see that you were among the best in the game. wWAR is simply a version of WAR that rewards peak performance.

Wins Above Excellence was actually created by Sean Smith. I thought the baseline was nice, but I wanted to see which players exceeded MVP level, more than just the "solidly above average" level. Hence the creation of WAM in addition to (the very useful) WAE. To get wWAR, you just add WAR, WAE, and WAM. What it breaks down to is wins above 3.0 getting double credit and wins above 6.0 getting triple credit.

5.) How do you feel about dWAR calculations? Does it worry you that Barry Bonds is 6th all time in dWAR?

dWAR is a weird stat. If it was truly meant to be "Defensive WAR", it would have the positional adjustment in it, no? Really, it should be called "the difference between our version of WAR and a version of WAR that strips out Total Zone because I don't trust it". I never look at that stat.

As for Barry Bonds being sixth... the eight Gold Gloves show that he's generally been considered a great defender. Total Zone seems to back that up. Other outfielders in the Total Zone runs top ten include Andruw Jones (10 Gold Gloves), Roberto Clemente (12 Gold Gloves), Carl Yastrzemski (7 Gold Gloves), Jesse Barfield (2 Gold Gloves), and Paul Blair (8 Gold Gloves). The only one that ever made me say "huh" was Barfield, and over 40% of his Total Zone runs come from his arm. Kind of a different beast from the rest.

6.) Could you explain the differences in the two different WAR calculations? Which do you prefer and why?

From a position player perspective, Fangraphs uses Ultimate Zone Rating for defense while Rally's WAR (on Baseball-Reference) uses Total Zone. That's the biggest difference. Fangraphs WAR also has a lower replacement level, so their figures tend to be higher.

Pitching is where it differs greatly. Fangraphs is based on Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), which strips all defensive contributions out of a pitcher's record. For this reason, Fangraphs WAR is a good measure of the results a pitcher "should" have gotten rather than what he actually did. Luck is stripped from the equation.

Rally's WAR actually starts with runs allowed by the pitcher. Then a series of adjustments are made, most notably for the defense behind the pitcher. So, Jack Morris takes a big hit because WAR acknowledges that a lot of his success should be (and is) attributed to guys like Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell. Of course, Hall of Fame voters are slow to catch on to this, as Morris gets about half the vote, Trammell apparently has no shot, and Whitaker was tossed aside after one "look".

Since I work primarily from a historical perspective, I use Rally's WAR. It is based more on what actually happened, but applies credit (or blame) where it can. If I was looking at what relief pitcher I'd like to acquire for my team in the coming season, I would most definitely use Fangraphs WAR. It is a much better projection tool.

7.) I am a big fan of the interactive graphics you've become well known for, any new ones currently in the works? Any ideas for future interactive graphics?

Why thanks! In the short term, I'm planning some minor tweaks to the Hall of Fame Timeline (that one's my favorite). I'm slowly but steadily working on a larger project and I'm sure some graphs will be involved with that. There's nothing else really started right now, but they do tend to come together rather quickly. Whatever comes next, I can pretty much guarantee that it'll have something to do with the Hall of Fame.

8.) Name the one player not in the Baseball Hall of Fame that you feel is most deserving. Why?

To me, the best position player is Jeff Bagwell. There are only 32 Hall of Famers with a better wWAR than him. Five (Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Roger Conner, Cap Anson, and Dan Brouthers) are first basemen.

Bagwell has only been on the ballot once, though. I'm fairly certainly he'll be inducted soon—possibly even next season. I'm holding out hope that voters were just giving him an exaggerated version of the "not on the first ballot!" treatment. After Bagwell, the easy choice is Ron Santo. Not only is Santo the best position player to fall off of the BBWAA ballot, he also played third base. And third base is the most atrociously underpopulated position in the Hall of Fame. The writers and the vets really blew it on this one.

Bert Blyleven was the consensus "best pitcher not in the Hall" for so long, I'm curious who the next one will be. Honestly, with all of our Bert support, we probably let the next best slip by just this season. And that's Kevin Brown. Rick Reuschel leads in WAR, but Brown passes him via wWAR. The wWAR list also shows some 1800s pitchers leapfrogging Brown, but much of that is due to pitcher usage of the time. However, if you count those 1800s pitchers you get Jim McCormick. Who's after the 1800s pitchers, Brown, and Reuschel? That'd be Luis Tiant. Then, David Cone.

Who do I believe it is? I'm not really sure. That's a great question.

9.) Name the one player in the Baseball Hall of Fame that you feel is least deserving. Why?

In all honesty, I only *just* realized that Tommy McCarthy is in the Hall of Fame as a player. We're talking a sub-20 WAR player. That's just ridiculous. Rick Ferrell, Ray Schalk, Lloyd Waner, George Kelly, and Bill Mazeroski are also crazy choices.

Among pitchers, there's a difference between "worst pitcher" and "least valuable". The "least valuable" label would point to the relievers, specifically Rollie Fingers and Bruce Sutter. But, of course, they were damn good pitchers. I'd throw starters like Rube Marquard, Jesse Haines, and Catfish Hunter under the bus before Fingers and Sutter.

10.) Give us your predictions for the 2011 baseball season: AL and NL Champs and WS winner.

Wow, somebody wants me to talk about the present? :) Today's game hilariously is not my forte, but my gut says Red Sox and Phillies (although that's the easy route). I have to pick the Sox to go all the way.

But if you want a real prediction from me for the coming year, I'll say that Barry Larkin is inducted to the Hall of Fame with 78% of the vote. Jeff Bagwell jumps up to 72%. Bernie Williams leads new candidates—but falls off the ballot with less than 5%.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Giants 2011 Lineup

The McCovey Chronicles has taken a crack at the Giants 2011 batting order, you can see it here. Or Here:


My first reaction is: Aubrey Huff hitting second? Are you insane? Did you watch Freddy Sanchez play when he was 100% healthy? His logic is that by moving Huff and Posey up to 2nd and 3rd, they will get more at bats over the course of the season. That would be fine, except Huff probably doesn't repeat his 6 WAR season, and unless we want Posey to be the next Russ Martin, he either needs to spend time at 1B or get more days off, adding more ABs to his resume is not the way to prolong his career or get the most out of his bat. I realize that Sanchez had off-season surgery (again), but all the reports I'm hearing are that he'll be 100% for opening day.

Here's my lineup
1. Torres- He's the only legit leadoff hitter the Giants have, and while many expect him to regress this season, they have to ride him until he proves he can't handle the job.
2. Freddy Sanchez- Owns a career .298 batting avg and a .344 OBP. Averages 38 doubles per 162 games. Why wouldn't he hit second?
3. Aubrey Huff- Until he proves he doesn't deserve to hit 3rd.
4. Buster Posey- I'd be ok with him and Huff swapping spots, but I think having the 3rd place hitter be a little faster than the cleanup guy is a good thing.
5. Pat Burrell- Great plate discipline, if he can come close to repeating what he did in 2010 for the Giants he'll be a great fit here, if he falls off expect Mark DeRosa (healthy?) to take his place
6. Cody Ross- He can hit 4th when Halladay is pitching.
7. Pablo Sandoval- Until he proves he's worthy of hitting higher..If he performs, I'd like to see him move up to 5th.
8. Miguel Tejada- good contact hitter, with some moderate power. Asking Sandoval to hit 8th and expand his zone is NOT a good thing.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

In the Ring with the Heckler: Michigan State, Ohio State, San Diego State/B.Y.U., Tiger Woods, Jerry West

Hello folks, welcome to another edition of "In the Ring with the Heckler". First of all I would like to congratulate my partner Ross on a great interview segment this last Tuesday. It is a very informative interview with lots of baseball insight and if you haven't checked it out yet you should definitely give it a read.

Today I am going to be tackling Michigan State and what might happen to their season if they don't right the ship soon. I am going to be talking about how Ohio State could be this years favorite to win the Men's National Championship in basketball. I will be going over the battle that happened in B.Y.U. and why the Nation may be talking about B.Y.U. and not San Diego State in about a month. What to expect from Tiger Woods in 2011. Why Jerry West is either dilusional or a Laker mastermind.

Michigan State Spartans (12-8, 4-4)

Let's see what the Spartans have been going through the last month:

1. Korie Lucious was dismissed from the team for conduct detrimental to the team

2. 4-4 in the Big Ten

3. They have lost the last 3 games in a row

4. They just lost to Michigan in East Lansing for the first time in 11 tries

This year, by far, has been the most trying year in the long tenured career of Mike Izzo at Michigan State. The Spartans have to go back to what has made a perennial NCAA tournament team. They have to start playing better team defense, and on offense they need better spacing and ball movement. They also have to rebound better. This is not year typical Spartan team, they will have to round into form later in the season than they are used to. If they don't right the ship in the next month then they may just miss the tournament regardless of what they do in the Big Ten tournament (short of winning it.)

Ohio State Buckeyes (21-0, 8-0)

The Buckeyes are having a season for the ages. They are making the people of Columbus pay attention to them instead of the off-season football recruiting. They have had one rough stretch this year. Between January 4 and January 15, they won by 5, 3, 4, and 3. They have 10 games left. They play on the road 5 times (@Northwestern, @#18 Minnesota, @#15 Wisconsin, @#12 Purdue, @Penn State). Five of their next ten opponents are ranked in the top 25.

Ohio State has a chance to go 31-0 overall and 18-0 in the Big Ten. Don't be surprised to see them go 8-2 down the stretch, but 10-0 is a definite possibility. The Buckeyes are going to be one of the four #1 seeds this coming March. They will also be a favorite to win it all (along with Kansas, Duke, and Pittsburgh)

We will see how the Buckeyes will fair in the next 2 months.

San Diego State/B.Y.U.

San Diego State had a chance to show the Nation that they were a legit NCAA tournament team. They couldn't stop the man child that is Jimmer Ferdette (43 pts) and they left Provo, Utah with their first loss of the season (71-58). Now San Diego State has to face two truths:

1. they aren't in first place anymore in the MWC (that distinction belongs to 6-0 B.Y.U.)

2. where do they go from here?

The Aztecs have a opportunity to gain some revenge when they get B.Y.U. on their home court February 26. They just have to forget about it and win all their games up to their point. Otherwise they will fall pretty fast in the polls and in the minds of the NCAA committee. You don't want to go from a solid 2 or 3 seed to a unstable 5 or 6 seed by going 6-4 down the stretch.

The next 10 games, along with the MWC tournament will a lot to say as to where San Diego State is going to be slotted this coming March.

Tiger Woods

Tiger is back this weekend. He shot a 69 in his first competitive round of 2011. This is the first year that he enters a season without being the defending champion of any tournament.

Tiger is freshly divorced and now tries to get back to being the dominate force he once was on Tour. He wants to show the World that he is better than the #3 Ranked Player in the World

Don't be surprised to see Tiger win 9 to 11 tournaments and at least 2 Majors (The Masters and the U.S. Open for sure).

Jerry West

The Logo of the NBA told a bunch of car dealers in Orange County that the Lakers were old and that their window of opportunity was closing. He told those esteemed gentlemen that with Kobe and the rest of the Superstars on that team getting older the Lakers were on their way out and that the Celtics were now the favorites to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

Calm down, I know (and Jerry knows) that the Celtics are a tree ring away from being just as old (if not older) as the Lakers. Jerry West sounds insane or senile. Yet if you don't know the genius of Jerry West you may be thinking this. You may be thinking that age has caught up with Jerry and he just isn't thinking straight anymore.

Let me tell you something: Jerry West is senile as a Fox.

After West threw out his comments the Lakers went out and beat the Jazz 120-91.

Mr. Laker was definitely trying to motivate his former club. Jerry West is too smart of a person to actually believe that the Lakers are going to have a window close on them. They will reload like they have always done (even when Jerry West was just a mere mortal and just a NBA player). They bought Wilt, they bought Kareem, they bought Shaq, they bought Pau. Whenever Kobe retires the Lakers will do what they always do.

They will draft the perimeter and then buy their Big Man.


News and Notes:

In the Next edition I will be talking about the Super Bowl...UCD is trying to seal the deal against UC Riverside tonight, up 60-28 with 14:11 left...Ohio State and Duke seperated themselves this week from the rest of the top 5...Blake Griffin just keeps on rolling on this year, 30 Double Doubles in his last 31 games.

-The Heckler

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

10 Questions with Julian Levine of Splashing Pumpkins Blog

Julian of Splashing Pumpkins has become one of our friends here at Ross and The Heckler speak, and I recently asked him to lend us some of his insight for the upcoming Giants questions by answering these ten questions for us. Make sure to check out his blog here

1.) Do you think Lincecum's performance in September and October prove that his horrible August was a fluke? Do you have any concerns of over-use or under-conditioning on his part?

Yes, I think his August was essentially anomalous. He did develop that slider in September, also, so that should give him add another great pitch to his arsenal. I’m not really concerned about overuse (he rarely pitches on short rest, and doesn’t throw too many complete games), but I do have a mild concerns about his conditioning. As a guy with a small frame, it’s absolutely ideal that he maintains great physical shape in order to endure a full season of maximum-effort pitching. Roy Oswalt has been great about conditioning, which has helped him remain successful in spite of his small frame and a loss of velocity. I hope Lincecum can do the same.

2.) What do you see for Matt Cain in 2011? Will this be the year he regresses to the levels predicted by his xFIP, or will he continue to be an outlier in this metric?

I think there’s a large enough sample to give Matt Cain the benefit of the doubt. I see him posting an ERA between 3.00 and 3.50, probably closer to 3.00 though. He has a natural talent for keeping flyballs in the ballpark, and I don’t think that this will change in 2011.

3.) Will the weight loss help the Panda as much as everyone hopes?

I think the weight loss will help the Panda a lot, but I don’t know that it will be the only factor of his improvement if he does in fact have a better season next year. He was a bit unlucky, as his 2010 BABIP would suggest, and I look for that and the improved fitness to give us a much better Panda in 2011.

4.) Biggest area of concern for the Giants in 2010?

Their pitching staff is as solid as ever, so I think the concern is what it has been the last couple of years: the offense. I think we have enough offense to support this pitching staff, but there are still some inherent flaws. The team is lacking in speed, and the Miguel Tejada signing will only exacerbate the Giants' double-play problems. They set a franchise record last year for GIDP, after all. And their OBP is still a big concern. I don't know that Huff will be able to maintain the walk rate he posted last year, and Pat Burrell probably won't be an everyday player, so that's something of concern. Tejada has horrible walk rate...I'm hoping Posey will step up in this aspect.

5.) What is the one area of the Giants team you are most confident about?

I’d have to say I’m most confident about their bullpen. They have key contributors who are pretty reliable in Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, and Jeremy Affeldt, and the other guys in the ‘pen are quite solid too. If any of them struggles, they shouldn’t have a hard time finding someone to step up and replace them.

6.) What do you predict Brandon Belt's role will be with the team in 2011?

I think he's shown in the minors that he's got what it takes to produce on the major-league level. He hasn't had a lot of AAA experience, so I imagine he'd start the year there, but I'm sure he'll get plenty of major-league at-bats this year. Huff will probably move to the outfield some time midseason so Belt can slide into first. I wouldn't be surprised to see Belt's bat make an immediate impact in the lineup -- he's got nice combination of power and plate discipline that will serve him well.

7.) Which players do you see as candidates for regression from their 2010 seasons?

Based on peripherals, I'd expect Jonathan Sanchez to see a mild regression. Also, Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval should both see positive regressions, with Pablo's being the most significant.

8.) Do you think that Bumgarner secures his place as one of the best young LHP in the game this year? What sort of season do you see from him?

That’s a tough one. There are a lot of great young LHP in the game, namely Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Francisco Liriano, and Jon Lester. He certainly warrants consideration as one of the best, though. I think he'll put up solid numbers -- maybe a 3.50 ERA with 200+ IP.

9.) What do you think about the what the other teams in the NL West have done this offseason?

To be honest, I’m not too impressed. The Dodgers probably overpaid on Juan Uribe and Matt Guerrier, and didn’t do a great job replacing Manny Ramirez. The Rockies didn’t acquire any big names, but the extensions they gave will probably help them maintain a quality offense for several years to come. Ty Wiggington, Jose Lopez, and Felipe Paulino certainly aren’t names that scare me, though. The Diamondbacks – I don’t know what they’re doing. They signed the underwhelming Willie Bloomquist, which seems pointless given the fact that they already have Geoff Blum. And the Armando Galarraga acquisition wasn’t really a great move. The Padres have probably had the best offseason, acquiring good players at cheap prices in Orlando Hudson, Jason Bartlett, and Brad Hawpe. They also did well to acquire good prospects in the Adrian Gonzalez trade. I don’t know how they’ll be able to make up for the loss of Gonzalez, though.

10.) How do you predict the NL West to play out this year? (Give us an order of finish and # of wins if you would)

1. San Francisco Giants

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Colorado Rockies

4. San Diego Padres

5. Arizona Diamondbacks

I honestly have no clue how their records will play out. The NL Central could be competitive with the Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, and Brewers, or it could be as bad as it was last year. Similarly, the NL East might be pretty competitive with the Phillies, Braves, Marlins, and Mets, or it might just be average. The NL West records will depend on the quality of teams in other divisions, essentially.

Monday, January 24, 2011

HOF Discussion 1994 to 2003 Part 1

Today I will assess the qualifications of players that became eligible for the MLB HOF between 1994 and 2003 (retired between 1989 and 1998).
I used the player sorter tool to find players who had their last season fall in this range, and I picked the players I thought were at least worthy of a discussion.

Here is the list of players with links to their baseball reference profiles:
Robin Yount, Kirby Puckett, Chet Lemon, Ozzie Smith, Lou Whitaker, Willie Randolph, Dwight Evans, Gary Carter, and Jack Clark.

Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Nolan Ryan, Eddie Murray, and Dave Winfield, will be addressed in part two of the post.

For those who may be confused as to just what wWAR is, here is a link to an explanation of the metric by its creator Adam Darowski.

Let’s start with Robin Yount:
While he was the recipient of MVP awards in 1982 and 1989 he never finished in the top 10 in voting otherwise in his career despite finishing in the top 10 in WAR for all players 6 times. His career WAR of 76.9 places him ahead of Paul Molitor, Reggie Jackson, Tony Gwynn, Duke Snider and Larry Walker. His wWAR ranks him 38th all time just behind Reggie, but ahead of Willie McCovey, Tim Raines, Duke Snider and Paul Molitor as well as being well ahead of the HOF median. Add in the 3142 hits, 1632 runs, and 1406 RBI, and you have yourself a sure fire quality HOFer.

Let’s start with a cumulative WAR by year comparison for Puckett and three other outfielders who will make this version of the HOF from the same era; Griffey Jr, Yount and Molitor. Now if you’ve been reading the entries regularly you will know that I said Molitor was just about the hurdle which players had jump in order to make it in, looking at this graph, Puckett didn’t even come close.

I realize that Puckett only played 12 seasons, but comparing just the first 12 seasons of these 4 career arcs, Puckett is still in last place. He never won a MVP, only had two seasons with MVP quality WAR (1988 with 7.2 and 1992 with 6.7). People may claim that he was a great defensive CF but his dWAR for his career is a -1.8. Looks like his popularity won him those gold gloves more than his skills with the leather. If his career had played out a few more years or if he had a couple more great seasons I might consider him. There is no doubt Puckett was a very good hitter, but this is not the Hall of Very Good, looks like Puckett is out.

I’ll let this WAR graph from fangraphs do the talking on Chet Lemon (and Jim Rice, Dale Murphy and Kirby Puckett too)

You can see that Lemon had a very similar career to Jim Rice, and that is exactly why he doesn’t belong. Lemon is 169th all time in career WAR among position players with his career best season barely cracking MVP levels (6.0 in 1984 oWAR of 4 and dWAR of 2). The wWAR statistic is also not kind to Chet Lemon. He’s out.

Ozzie Smith: Well, let’s start with the good; Ozzie is 4th all time in career dWAR, but Barry Bonds is 6th, leading me to debate the actual value of the metric for dWAR. His best finish in an MVP race is 2nd in 1987, when he probably should’ve finished no higher than 5th. His 43 total career oWAR is higher than Brooks Robinson’s 41.8, and Ozzie played the tougher defensive position. One can argue the merits of Ozzie’s HOF candidacy back and forth but one cannot argue that by whatever metric you wish to use, he was the best defensive shortstop during his reign. According to Sean Smith’s RField rating, Ozzie was 239 runs above average; meaning that Ozzie saved 239 runs over his career compared to an average shortstop. Even though Ozzie was -140 as a hitter, that still works out to a +100 runs over average rating for his career. There are plenty of one-dimensional players in the hall, and I think being one of the top 3 (if not #1) defensive shortstops qualifies you for induction.

Lou Whitaker: IN!

Whitaker has a wWAR of 147.6, which compares favorably with many players already in the HOF. Whitaker has an OPS+ of 116, which is identical to Roberto Alomar. Whitaker had 15 seasons with a WAR above 3.0 (the borderline for excellence set by Adam Darowski), which ranks him 13th all time, tied with Ted Williams, Rogers Hornsby and Joe Morgan. I think that Lou Whitaker is undoubtedly a Hall of Famer.

There’s also this little gem designed by Adam Darowski that compares Ozzie, Whitaker and Alan Trammell.

Willie Randolph is another tough case, and I will admit upon glancing at his stats I almost took him off of this list. However, he had 12 seasons with a WAR above 3.0, and his career 60.5 WAR rank him ahead of Hank Greenberg, Andre Dawson, Dave Winfield and Richie Ashburn while leaving him just 1.5 WAR behind Ryne Sandberg (who I have already deemed worthy). None of his offensive stats jump off of the page but take a look at this WAR comparison.

That looks like a comparison of four HOF worthy second basemen. Randolph also has a wWAR of 119 putting him 5th among the current HOF 2B, ahead of Robbie Alomar and Ryne Sandberg. Randolph passes the test. He’s in.

Dwight Evans has a career wWAR of 126.3 which ranks him ahead of Tony Gwynn, Reggie Jackson, Harmon Killebrew, Willie McCovey, Tony Perez, Jim Rice and Dave Winfield. Just from a pure numbers standpoint, 2446 hits, 385 HR, and 1384 RBI to go along with a .272/.370/.470 slash line, Evans is good enough to merit induction. He was valuable on defense as well, posting a career 6.9 WAR and he was good for 65 runs above replacement in the field. His career WAR of 61.8 would rank him 12th all time for RF, which would be right in the middle if he were to be elected. I think he belongs, and he makes the cut for my HOF.

Gary Carter with a career WAR of 66.3 and a wWAR of 98.6 there is no debate that Gary Carter belongs in the hall.

Jack Clark has a career wWAR of 104.5 and WAR of 55.0. His totals stats don’t reach anywhere near automatic induction numbers but he was a top 5 MVP vote getter twice, and top 10 a total of four times.

You can see that his career WAR arc is almost identical to Dawson, Winfield and D. Evans, but without the career longevity displayed by the other three. While I do include Dwight Evans in my HOF, I will admit that he is borderline (and helped by his strong wWAR). I think Jack Clark joins Kevin Brown as one of the best to be kept out.