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.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In the Ring with the Heckler: Lakers, Duke, AFC/NFC Championship Game, San Diego State/Cincinnati

As we draw closer to another weekend of fantastic sporting action, let's take a look at what we learned after last weekends flurry of sports.

Last week the Nation learned how bad of a NFL predictor that the Heckler was. I have gone 1-7 over the last two weeks.

Last weekend we also learned that the Duke Blue Devils will not go wire to wire number 1.

We learned that the Bears, the Packers, the Jets, and the Steelers are the class of the NFL (apparently).

The Nation also learned that Blake Griffin and the Clippers are now on the verge of becoming legit playoff contender.

This week let's look at 5 more topics to think about entering this weekend.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are 31-13, they have the 3rd best record in the NBA, they have a 10 game lead in the Pacific division, 8 of their 13 losses have come against potential playoff teams, 5 of their 13 losses have come by 10pts or more.

NOW...having said all of that: who cares?

Laker fans you have to realize that the Lakers are not going to go 65-17 every year. These core of players have won so much (3 straight NBA Finals, having won 2 in a row) that is going to be impossible for them to get up for every game in the months of November, December, and January.

They get up for the stretch run. The Lakers have floundered around the top 4 the last 4 or 5 years early in the year (with the exception of the 65-17 season), then when the stretch run of late February to April hits they hit their stride and enter the playoffs ready to go.

As a Laker fan it's always funny to hear, "what's wrong with the Lakers right now?"

To which I always look at the standings to see what the Lakers record is, and without missing a beat their record is usually in the top 4 of the NBA. I understand though, it is like being a Yankee fan (calm down Lakers fans I am not calling you a Yankee fan, I am merely saying that it is analogous to my point.) and only being satisfied with a World Series Title.

The Lakers have 38 games left before the playoffs start. Don't be surprised to see the Lakers go 28-10 or 29-9 down the stretch and end up with a 59-23 or a 60-22 record (and a #1 seed, the Spurs are due for a slump sometime in February or March).

So calm down Lakers Nation the only worry we have resides in Boston and plays in the Eastern Conference. Come June the worrying can began, until then kick back and relax. Enjoy the show that is the regular season. Hey check out that Griffin kid, he is worth the admission (or the price of the NBA League Pass)

Duke Blue Devils

#5 Duke (17-1, 4-1) lost on January 12, 2011 to the Florida State Seminoles. For both teams the outcome feels like de ja vu. Florida State has beaten Duke three times (including this years game) at home, over the last 8 or 9 years. I knew that if Duke was going to lose games it was going to start at Florida State.

The loss of Kyrie Irving has turned Duke into a more one dimensional team. Nolan Smith is an athlete and a super guard (and the heart and soul of the defense) but he cannot drive the hole and create his own shot (nor does he have the vast court vision) as easily as Irving could. Now teams have taken to clogging the middle a bit and then just defending the three point line. When Duke is shooting 6-26 from three (or some variation of that stat) then the game is no longer tilted in favor of the Blue Devils and their shooters.

What the loss of Irving really exposes is the lack of size that the #5 Duke Blue Devils have in their interior. Florida State exposed the undersized Blue Devils on the boards that January night. The Devils bounced back and have won 2 straight conference games (Virginia and North Carolina State) heading into the Wake Forest game this Saturday.

Don't be surprised if the Blue Devils lose 2 or 3 more games this year (2/2 - @Maryland; 2/9 - v.North Carolina; 2/26 @Virginia Tech)

NFL Conference Finals

Green Bay Packers v. Chicago Bears

The most played rivalry in the history of the NFL writes another chapter this weekend as the Bears and Packers meet on the frozen field of Soldier Field. The Bears try and get back to the Super Bowl as they face the Packers for the second time in their storied history in the playoffs. The Packers try and continue the magical playoff that they have been on since week 15 of the regular season (maybe even since week 12). Aaron Rodgers is trying to come full circle on his career as the Quarterback of the Green Bay Packers by getting the Super Bowl.

The question of the game will be: which Jay Cutler will show up for the NFC Championship Game?

If the 5 interception, throw into coverage, "My arm is stronger than John Elway" Jay Cutler shows up for the game then, the Bears are going to lose to their most hated division rival for the right to go to the Super Bowl.

If the 2 passing touchdowns, 2 rushing touchdowns, good decisions for the whole game Jay Cutler shows up to the game then...


We may then have the next NFL Classic Game in the making.

The Heckler's Pick: Chicago Bears 16 Green Bay Packers 24

New York Jets v. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Jets are the hottest team in the AFC, they come off beating Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back to back weeks on the road. Now they come into Pittsburgh and face Ben Roethlisberger and the opportunistic Steeler defense.

The Steelers have quietly done what the Pittsburgh Steelers do. They won games, they won road games, they won division games, they won from ahead, they won from behind (see the playoff game against the Ravens). The Steelers also have to deal with the genius of Rex Ryan. They have to deal with Mark Sanchez who is 4-1 in the playoffs (all on the road). The Steelers have chugged along all year and hope to do the same thing in the AFC Championship Game against a tough gritty Jets team.

Like in the NFC game the question will be: Which Mark Sanchez will show up for the AFC Championship Game?

If the Mark Sanchez that leads his team and makes great decision all game shows up the Jets have a chance to upset the Steelers. If the Mark Sanchez that thinks he sees openings and then throws untimely picks shows up then it may be a long day for the Jets.

The Heckler's Pick: New York Jets 23 Pittsburgh Steelers 20

#6 San Diego State Aztecs and #25 Cincinnati Bearcats

The Aztecs (19-0, 5-0) have a chance to do something only a handful of teams have ever done. They have a chance to go undefeated during the regular season. The only obstacles that stand in their way are:

1. Tonight's game @ #9 B.Y.U. (18-1, 4-0)

2. February 12, 2011 @ U.N.L.V. (14-5, 2-3)

3. February 26, 2011 v. #9 B.Y.U. (18-1, 4-0)

The Bearcats (16-3, 3-3) are going to have plenty of chances to quiet skeptics like myself, but as of right now they are failing to convince anyone of their legitimacy. They have a 335 strength of schedule out of a rank of 345 and they have lost all 3 games in conference against the ranked teams. Maybe a month from now we will all be eating humble pie, but for my money I think the Bearcats will be out of March consideration by then.

What to watch this weekend

Friday 1/21:
NBA - Lakers v. Nuggets (7:30pm - ESPN)

Saturday 1/22:
MCB - #7 Villanova v. #3 Syracuse (9am - ESPN); #1 Ohio State v. #22 Illinois (9am - CBS); #11 Texas v. #2 Kansas (1pm - CBS); #18 Michigan State v. #13 Purdue (6pm -ESPN)

Sunday 1/23:
NFL - NFC Championship Game (12pm - FOX); AFC Championship Game (3:30pm - CBS)

Have a Great Weekend everyone

-The Heckler

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In the Ring with the Heckler: NFL Divisional Semifinals, San Francisco 49ers, B.C.S. Championship Game, and Men's College Basketball

Hello there folks, how was your Christmas Holiday? Mine? Well it was nice and relaxing. Lot's of home cooking and a lot of sleep. Back to business, my record after the B.C.S. Championship Game was 4-3 in my Bowl Game predictions. I went 0-4 in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs.

Anyway, in this article I will be rambling about a few things; from the NFL to the NCAA.


I am going to rank these games from 1 to 4 (in order of how interesting I think the games will be).

1. Green Bay Packers v. Atlanta Falcons

The Packers went into Philadelphia last weekend and beat the Eagles at their own game. The Packers ran the ball all around, and through, the Eagles defense. Then at the end of the game the Packers let Micheal Vick make the mistake, as he threw the game ending interception into the endzone. The Packers are wounded warriors all throughout this season. The only team that can even make a claim to be more injured than the 2010-2011 Packers are the Indianapolis Colts. Yet through all of their injuries here they are, at 11-6 and playing a team that is the number 1 seed in the NFC. The Falcons already have 12 wins, they have a stone cold killer at quarterback in Matt Ryan, they have the number 1 receiving wideout in the NFL in Roddy White. They are virtually unbeatable at home, but the Falcons can tell you all of that doesn't matter when you enter the playoffs. In 1999 these Falcons went into then 15-1 Minnesota and pulled out a victory that sent them to their only Super Bowl. The Falcons will try and batter the Packers, who only got a short week to rest their bodies and minds. Micheal Turner will try and break the wills of the Packers defense so that Matt Ryan can take away their souls. The Packers are hoping that their running game made it to Atlanta, otherwise the Falcons defense is going to tee off on Aaron Rodgers. This may be the most entertaining game of the weekend.

Heckler's Pick: Green Bay Packers 17 Atlanta Falcons 31

2. Seattle Seahawks v. Chicago Bears

The Seahawks showed the Nation last week that a 7-9 record can be deceiving and sent the Saints back to New Orleans after beating the defending champions 41-36. They now head into the Windy City to take on the number 2 seed in the NFC, the Chicago Bears. The Bears have rode the arm of Jay Cutler and ride into the playoffs with more confidence then they have had in years. I think that the Bears come into this game overconfident and with the bad Jay Cutler. The Seahawks come in and establish their running game while the Bears try and defend the passing attack. Marshawn Lynch has a field day and the Seahawks unimaginably move on

Heckler's Pick: Seattle Seahawks 19 Chicago Bears 17

3. Baltimore Ravens v. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Ravens went into Kansas City last week and put in on the Chiefs 30-7. The game was a lot closer than the score would indicate. The Chiefs played with the Ravens for a half but couldn't sustain the mental fortitude that it takes to stay with a team from the AFC North. This week the Ravens get a team that they are very familiar with: the Pittsburgh Steelers. This will be the third time this year that these teams will face off. As each team has won a game in the series this will be the rubber match. The Ravens came a bad call away from sweeping the Steelers. I think that it will be another AFC North grind it out battle but in the end the Ravens will be too much for the Steelers to handle.

Heckler's Pick: Baltimore Ravens 23 Pittsburgh Steelers 9

4. New York Jets v. New England Patriots

The Jets come off a 17-16 win over the always difficult Colts. Now they come into New England trying to beat their divisional rival. The Jets and Patriots have also faced each other two other times. They have each won their games that they played at home. The Jets backed into the playoffs and are hoping to make the most of their opportunity. The Patriots are just chugging along and doing what they do best, win. Tom Brady is looking to surgically dissect the Jets on his way to a fourth Super Bowl ring. The Jets will be all bark and no bite in this game.

New York Jets 17 New England Patriots 45


The 49ers almost came within a week 16 win of being, the first team with a 7-9 record to make and host a playoff game. Then they fired Mike Singletary, and hired Jim Harbaugh. They hired a new General Manager (Jim Baalke) to lead the 49ers back into the realm of the playoffs.

The 49ers have the number 7 pick in this years up coming draft. They can go a lot of ways with that pick. They could draft a Wide Receiver with speed and size to compliment both Micheal Crabtree and Vernon Davis. They could draft a franchise Quarterback to solidify a position that has been in flux since Jeff Garcia left the team. They could draft a game changing Defensive Lineman or a Lock down Cornerback to solidify the defense. Or they could trade the pick to get more picks later in the draft to get more talent onto the roster.

Whatever they do though the 49ers are going to have to improve soon, because the fans in the Bay Area will only wait for so long before they turn on their beloved 49ers.

The B.C.S. National Championship Game

Auburn 22 Oregon 19

Auburn blew the lead late in the game when Cam Newton fumbled to give Oregon life. Oregon took that chance and drove down the field and tied the game. Then in the most important moment in the 2010-2011 season the Ducks gave up a big return on the kickoff. Then they didn't play until the whistle and a 8 yard run became a 37 yard run (Micheal Dyer 4th Quarter 1:56). Auburn won their 2nd National Title in school history, and Oregon established themselves as a school that would be around for the future.

The last thing that this game did was raise the clamor for a playoff. The Nation saw that either Stanford or T.C.U. (or even a Ohio State or Wisconsin) could have beaten either one of these teams.

Men's College Basketball

Now that College Football has closed the books the Nation turns their collective attention to Men's College Basketball. What they will find is five undefeated teams: #1 Duke (15-0), #2 Ohio State (16-0), #3 Kansas (15-0), #4 Syracuse (16-0), and #7 Sand Diego State (17-0).

The dominant team in College Basketball right now is #1 Duke. The surprise school of the year is #7 San Diego State. As the season gets in the meat of February the questions are going to be:

1. Can #1 Duke sustain their intensity for a whole season and repeat as National Champions?
2. Can #2 Ohio State use the moxie of a Senior and the naivete of a Freshman to make it to the Final Four and hopefully win a National Championship?
3. Will #3 Kansas be a great regular season team that falls short in the Tournament again?
4. Can #4 Syracuse take all that promise and catch lightening in a bottle for another magical Tournament run?
5. Is #7 San Diego State this years Butler?
6. Will the Big East and the Big Ten get more than 7 teams each into the Tournament?
7. How bad is the Pac-10?
8. Will Butler and Gonzaga regain their swagger and make some noise in the Tournament?
9. Can the #25 Cincinnati Bearcats (15-1) show the Nation that they are for real? Or will they just be another squad that got fat off of a weak non-conference schedule?
10. How will the new play-in weekend before the first round of the NCAA Tournament effect the way the end of the College Basketball season is viewed?

Enjoy the week guys, there are a lot of good games on TV all week leading up to the NFL Divisional Round games. Here are some games that you guys should look out for:

Wednesday January 12, 2011
4pm: #5 Pittsburgh v. #19 Georgetown (ESPN); #4 Syracuse v. St. John's (ESPNU); #17 Louisville v. #7 Villanova (ESPN2)
6pm: #1 Duke v. Florida St. (ESPN); #3 Kansas v. Iowa St. (ESPN2)

Thursday January 13, 2011;
4pm: #8 Purdue v. #25 Minnesota (ESPN)
5pm: Orlando v. Oklahoma City Thunder (TNT)
7:30pm: Miami Heat v. Denver Nuggets (TNT)

Friday, Saturday and Sunday are Beasts of their own. Let's just say it is going to be a great weekend of sports: both collegiate as well as professional. Enjoy the Weekend and hope you have a Great New Year!

The Heckler

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Cases for Larkin and McGriff

Barry Larkin and Fred McGriff are two players that I forgot to discuss in my previous installment of my reworking of the MLB HOF. I’ll tackle that here.

Let’s start off with a couple of wonderful graphics done by Adam Darowski for Beyond the Boxscore (http://darowski.com/ballot/) and
Simply by looking at those two graphs, and understanding my love of WAR you can probably deduce where this argument is going but for the sake of entertainment let’s play the argument out a little further.

First the case for (or against) Fred McGriff:

I realize that McGriff nearly has 500 homeruns and 1500 RBI, which used to be automatic qualifiers, but he played in an era in which hitting .285 with 30 HR and 100 RBI wasn’t all that special. I realize that he was never implicated in the steroid scandal, and based on his career WAR arc he probably wasn’t a user. However, until St. Peter questions every player on their usage with the penalty for lying being an eternity of fire and brimstone, I’m taking the Bill James route and pretending that everyone was on a level playing field. McGriff was never a top 3 MVP finisher (4th once in 1993) and only in the top ten 5 times (4th, 6th twice and 10th twice). He was only in the top 10 for WAR among position players three times (3rd, 4th and 7th) and his career WAR of 50.4 ranks him 164th all time behind guys like Cesar Cedeno, Bob Elliot and Jack Clark. He did finish in the top 4 in his league home runs from 1988-94 (AL from 88-90 and NL from 91-94) and in the top 6 of adjusted OPS+ for those same seasons (leading the AL in 1989) but his overall gray and black ink scores on baseball reference (a metric based on how many times a player led or finished in the top ten in a certain category) leave him far short of the average hall of famer. I think McGriff falls into the very good category, but comes up far short of being great and he is left out of my HOF. In fact according to the fangraphs WAR graph, Fred McGriff looks a lot more like Will Clark (who I left out) than Jeff Bagwell (who I put in).

Now the case for Barry Larkin: going back to the images by Adam Darowski, you can see that Larkin makes the cut compared to the HOF median in terms of wWAR. Let’s compare him to some other middle infielders who have made the cut into my HOF already:

You can see that his career is basically on par with Ryne Sandberg as far as WAR goes and he is not far off from Roberto Alomar either. Cal Ripken is in another galaxy though. Larkin won a MVP in 1995 (although he has fewer career MVP shares than Fred McGriff) and his gray ink score is very similar to McGriff. Why am I arguing for Larkin’s inclusion then? Simple, he played shortstop. Larkin was no Ozzie Smith with the glove, but he was at least average with the glove posting a better than average RF for his career, and posting a dWAR of 2.3 for his career. Combine that with the fact that he hit nearly .300 for his career (.295), stole 379 bases, got on base at a .371 clip and sligged .444, you have yourself a member of my new and improved HOF. Thankyouverymuch.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Case for Jeff Bagwell

The Case for Jeff Bagwell making the HOF seems to be a pretty clear cut one to me.

While his younger years don’t compare to Eddie Murray or George Brett in terms of WAR, the middle of his career was actually superior, and just look how his career WAR arc compares to Jim Rice. He twice led the league in WAR (1994 and ’99) and is 37th all time in WAR among non-pitchers. That puts him ahead of Johnny Bench, Ken Griffey Jr., Brooks Robinson, Derek Jeter, Pete Rose, Paul Molitor, Reggie Jackson, Tony Gwynn and Duke Snider. Bagwell is about 3 career wins behind Joe DiMaggio. He posted season with a WAR above 8 three times during his career, was above 5.0 nine times, and had greater than 3.5 a whopping 13 times during his 15 year career.

Bagwell was MVP in 1994, finished second in 1999 and third in 1997 and is 35th all time in career MVP win shares, placing him ahead of names like Roberto Clemente, Mel Ott, Johnny Bench, Carl Yastrzemski, Ernie Banks, Derek Jeter, and Cal Ripken Jr.

He was in the top 10 in homeruns (while playing in the cavernous Astrodome) seven times. He was in the top five during four seasons, and finished second twice. He led the league in runs scored three different times (’94,’99 and 2000) and finished his career with over 1500 runs, which used to be an almost automatic qualifier for the hall. Bags also finished his career with a .297/.408/.540 slash line placing him ahead of Reggie Jackson, Carl Yastrzemski, Rafael Palmeiro, and Jim Rice in all three categories. *Correction* Jim Rice had a career average of .298 so Bagwell is .001 behind him there.

Finally, Bagwell posted a career walk rate of 14.8% (which is considered excellent) and his BB/K ratio was 0.899, which is also considered excellent. Not only did he hit for average, and power, but he was patient at the plate and was willing to put himself on base with a walk, which is a stat that I feel is severely underrated in evaluating a player's effectiveness.

Bagwell finished his career with a wWAR of 197.2, which is well ahead of the HOF median of about 127. Here's another Adam Darowski post to clarify just what wWAR is.

I’ll leave you with a comparison by Adam Darowski at Beyond The Box Score

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Starting the SABR HOF

**NOTE: I am in no way associated with the MLB or the Society of American Baseball Research (I am a SABR.org member however). I'm simply producing MY OWN version of the HOF for the history of the MLB using some of the stats that SABR has deemed important.**

So I’ve begun the task of producing a SABR-based web Hall of Fame for the MLB, which will no doubt be imperfect. However, I (with the help of some very educated baseball dorks) think that I can do a better job than the writers have done over the past century in electing the players that need (Dwight Evans, Bert Blyleven) to be there and keeping the ones who don’t deserve to be there out (I’m looking at you Jim Rice). Writers such as John Heyman spend more time defending why they won’t vote for certain players (Blyleven) than they do showing us the merits of the players they do vote for (Jack Morris) all while stooping to name calling to bloggers who have much more insightful points of view. Other writers such as Dan Graziano refuse to vote for certain players because it is POSSIBLE that they used steroids while maintaining voting records that are dubious at best. Others refuse to vote for sure fire HOFers (Rickey Henderson) because they feel they don’t deserve as much of the vote as a Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb.

This Splashing Pumpkins blog entry echoes my views in a very well written piece: and this video from the Colbert Report does the same:

Starting with the most recently retired players and working backwards, I’m going to establish my own “SABR” HOF using WAR and some other personal biases in an attempt to determine how good a player was within his era, and use that ranking to determine if he is really HOF worthy. I won’t be touching executives, owners, umpires or other people who contributed to the game off the field. The focus here is only on field accomplishment. That being said, you can bet Pete Rose is getting in. Also, it is hard to find accurate statistics for Negro League players, so I’ll save them for last in order to do as accurate a job as possible.

First up will be players who gained their HOF eligibility for the first time between 2004 and 2010 (retired from 1998 to 2005).

First I looked at the players who were already elected by the BBWA during this time; of these Rickey Henderson Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. are absolute no brainers. Done. In. If you feel the need to debate the worthiness of any of those three, please go away.

Next up was Ryne Sandberg, and while I don’t debate his greatness, he wasn’t a sure thing for me. After a bit of research and comparing his career WAR to that of Robbie Alomar, Jeff Kent and Lou Whitaker, who are other 2B that I deem worthy, I decided he is also in. Wade Boggs get in easily on the merits of 3000 hits, 1500 runs and 5 batting titles, and an 89 WAR for his career.

Paul Molitor was next up on the list. I wondered if Molitor was truly great or if he was just very good for a long time. While he has 3300 hits and 1700 runs, his best five WAR seasons were 7, 6.2, 6.1, 5.8 and 5.7. Compare that to Wade Boggs whose best five WAR seasons were 9.1, 8.7, 8.6, 8.5 and 8.2. I realize that Molitor wasn’t only a 3B and he played a lot at 2B and SS (as well as 3B, 1B and OF) so comparing him to a great 3B might be unfair, but his career dWAR is only 0.8, meaning he was an average fielder all over the diamond and had many seasons with a negative WAR. Also, Molitor’s best defensive season was a 0.8 in 1983 when he was primarily a third baseman. Molitor does rank 68th on the all time WAR leader board at baseball reference, ahead of players like Derek Jeter, Brooks Robinson and Tony Gwynn. However, he only has about 8 more WAR for his career than Ron Santo (who is a borderline HOF case in many people’s minds) despite playing 6 more seasons. Molitor is 150th all time in MVP shares with 1.43, which ranks him behind the likes of Carlos Delgado, Justin Morneau, Terry Pendleton, Jose Canseco, and Will Clark. On the other hand he was in the top 10 in the league for WAR 7 times, and in batting average ten times. After much hemming and hawing, I decided that Molitor was a borderline HOFer, who pushed himself in by being very good for very long. If his career were only 16 or 17 seasons instead of 21, he probably wouldn’t have gotten in.

Last on the list of players elected by the BBWA from 2004-2010 is Dennis Eckersley. Let me preface this by saying that other than Rickey Henderson, Eck is my favorite non-Giants player of all time, so I am a bit biased here. I realize that many people think saves are a useless stat, but I only partially subscribe to that mode of thinking. I think that the 9th inning presents a new set of pressures, and the last three outs of a baseball game really are the toughest three to get. I know that there is no way to justify this line of thinking, but hey, I’m the one writing this article and doing the research so I make the rules. All of that being said, Eck won a CY and a MVP as a closer, which may have been unfounded given his WAR rating of 3.0 in 1992 while Roger Clemens posted a WAR of 7.9 and Mike Mussina a WAR of 7.4. I’m going to include Eck on the following line of reasoning: closers are the best relievers, and they pitch the most important innings, and it is much harder for a closer to accumulate enough stats to be deemed worthy for the HOF than a starter (just look at the number of closers in the HOF compared to SP) and while Eck isn’t the greatest closer of all time, he is certainly the greatest of his generation and in the top 5 all time. Eck is in. End of story.

Now on to players who retired between 1998 and 2005 who haven’t been elected. The players I found that are worthy of discussion are Larry Walker, Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Kevin Brown, Barry Larkin, Tim Raines, David Cone, Mark McGwire, Will Clark and Albert Belle.

First the players who didn’t quite make it: Albert Belle wasn’t good for long enough, and even though he was downright scary for six or seven years, he never posted a great WAR season, his best being a 7.4 in 1998 (he was only over 6 two other times).

Will Clark is a favorite of mine and I would love to be able to justify putting him in, but 1989 was his only great season and he compares poorly to the other 1B of his era. McGwire was another player I rooted for growing up, but he was too one dimensional and spent too much time on the DL for me to include, leaving Big Mac and the Thrill out is something that hurts, but in the name of all that is SABR, I have to do it.

David Cone is an interesting case, although he only has 197 wins, he was in the top 5 for WAR among pitchers six times, and is 47th all time in pitching WAR. He was the Cy Young award winner in 1994, and finished in the top six of the voting four other times (3rd in 1988, 4th in 1995 and 1998 and 6th in 1999). He also ranks ahead of Whitey Ford and Mordecai Brown in career WAR. The case against Cone is that in the seasons he wasn’t in the CY running, he was very average. Ten times he posted a WAR below 4 (seven times below 2), and while that may have been due to the myriad of injuries he sustained during his career, it is enough to keep him out of this hall of fame.

I’ll let this comparison of WAR over career do my finger wagging at Palmeiro. You’ll never, ever, EVER get in. No way. I’m insulted you think you belong. Go away Raffy.
It took Palmeiro 7 seasons to break 20 WAR total, Clark, Bagwell and Thomas all did it in 4. Comparing nth best WAR seasons, Thomas and Bagwell posted 4 seasons with WAR higher than Palmiero’s best season.

That graph also makes a very strong case for Jeff Bagwell being in. Bags played most of his career in the great expanses of the Astrodome, making his numbers more impressive. The chart also compares his stats to two players who also played in the steroid era, one of them even testing positive, and Bags compares favorably to both. I’m putting Bagwell in.

Kevin Brown was a very good pitcher, even among the league’s best for a number of years, but he never won a CY and only finished in the top six of vote getters five times. However, he led the league in WAR for pitchers twice, and was in the top three for pitching WAR four other times (Six times total in the top 3). He ranks 34th on the career WAR list among pitchers ahead of Carl Hubbell, Jim Palmer, Juan Marichal and Amos Rusie and right behind Don Drysdale, Bob Feller and Tom Glavine. In the new age of SABR stat analysis, wins aren’t as important as they used to be, so the fact that he only has 211 wins shouldn’t be held against him. He led the league in ERA twice, and was second two other times. My initial inclination was to put Brown in, but after reading an article by Joe Posnanski in which he compares Kevin Brown to Curt Schilling, I began to think otherwise. Yes Kevin Brown ranked very highly in ERA and WAR compared to other pitchers during the time he played, but he is still a borderline case (as is Schilling). One could argue that Brown prevented runs as well as anyone, but the three main factors pitchers can control are walks, strikeouts and homeruns. Schilling posted a historic career K/BB rate of 3,116 to 711 (the best since 1900) while Brown posted a very good K/BB rate of 2,397 to 901. Brown posted a career HR/9 rate of 0.6 compared to 1.0 for Schilling in an almost identical number of regular season innings. Schilling also spent a lot of time in Boston and Arizona, parks that are not as pitcher friendly as Jack Murphy or Joe Robbie. Another thing that sets Schilling apart from Brown is his postseason performance. We all remember the bloody sock game, but how many of us remember that Schilling posted a postseason mark of 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA (4-1 with a 2.06 ERA in the World Series), while Brown was 5-5 with a 4.19 ERA in the postseason (0-3 6.04 ERA in the World Series). I agree with Posnanski that borderline cases such as Schilling and Brown need something extra to push them over the edge, and in Schilling’s case his K/BB ratio and postseason performance do just that. Brown, however, is probably going to be one of the best pitchers NOT to make it in to my SABR-HOF.

The case for Larry Walker:

I compared Larry Walker to three other outfielders who made All-Star teams in the mid to late 90’s, and his career WAR arc looks much more like Tony Gwynn’s than Steve Finley’s or Reggie Sanders’. Walker ranks 69th in WAR all time among position players ahead of Edgar Martinez (who many in the SABR crowd argue should be in), Eddie Murray and Willie McCovey. I think that his WAR numbers speak for themselves. Walker also gets in.

There are places all over the web to find arguments for Tim Raines being in, I won’t rehash them here, and he gets in. The same goes for Roberto Alomar, who will probably be voted in this year.

Here’s the list of inductees so far:
Rickey Henderson, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Cal Ripken Jr., Ryne Sandberg, Paul Molitor, Dennis Eckersley, Tim Raines, Roberto Alomar, Jeff Bagwell, Larry Walker.

Next week I’ll tackle players who retired between 1990 and 1997. Hello Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell!

Special thanks to the Splashing Pumpkins blog for help with this article, make sure to check them out. All information contained in this post came from BaseballReference.com or Fangraphs.com except for the information on Brown and Schilling, which came from a Joe Posnanski post on SI.com

Saturday, January 1, 2011

PAC-10 vs SEC

So, I've been hearing a lot of announcers (on tv) and friends of mine (usually at slimy bars) saying how much better the SEC is than the PAC-10. While, I don't think they are necessarily wrong, I do think it is a lot closer than people expect it to be. So I decided to a bit of research and see what the numbers say. I looked at RPI and the Sagarin rankings for this post:

A look at RPI:

Auburn is #1
LSU is #9
Alabama is #17
South Carolina is #24
Miss St #28
Florida #36
Georgia #70
Tenn #71
Kentucky #75
Mississippi #82
Vandy #110

PAC 10
Oregon is #3
Stanford is #6
Utah #19
USC #42
Washington #52
Arizona #53
ASU #60
Oregon St. #64
Cal #72
Colorado #78
UCLA #90
Wazzou #107

The RPI says its pretty even at the top, the SEC has the advantage in the middle and the PAC-10 has the advantage at the bottom. So it still looks like the SEC has an edge, albeit a slim one.

Now let’s look at Sagarin computer based rankings () that only take into account strength of schedule and Wins and Losses, not preseason rankings. The numbers represent a point spread, and 3 points are given to a home team, so a team A rated 90 playing team B rated 87 (at team A’s stadium) would be favored by 6. If they played at the team B’s stadium the game would be a pick 'em.The computer model actually puts the PAC-10 ahead.

Total Conference Rating:
PAC-10 #1 with 80.22 mean rating
SEC #2 with 80.19 mean rating.

Just for fun here are the two teams joining the PAC-10 next year
*Utah #21-81.78
*Colorado #60- 71.86

Oregon #1- 94.68
Stanford #2- 94.51
USC #22- 81.65
Arizona #23- 81.54
ASU #24- 80.95
Oregon St #31- 79.12
Cal #34- 78.14
Wash #43- 75.70
UCLA #61- 71.63
Wazzou #83- 66.53

Auburn #3-94.47
Alabama #5- 90.59
Arkansas #7- 89.76
LSU #11- 88.07
S Car #17- 85.03
Miss St. #25- 80.43
Florida #26- 79.82
Georgia #36- 77.03
Tenn #54- 73.07
UK #66- 70.23
Miss #85- 66.49
Vandy #121- 59.23

The Sagarin rankings actually have the best two teams in the country coming from the PAC-10, and they make the PAC-10 look deeper than the SEC from top to bottom, not to mention the bottom 4 PAC-10 teams being much better than the bottom 4 SEC teams. All in all, its looks like the conferences are pretty evenly matched, and the National title game will go a long way to settle this debate