Monday, December 21, 2009

The Game of Life

You'll understand how clever I am in a moment.

First off, I've got several posts in the works, but life (post title reference #1) got in the way of late, as I had an inordinate number of final projects to grade. I'm on vacation now. Booyah.

Secondly, and significantly more importantly, what the fucking fuck? Milton Bradley (post title reference #2) for Carlos Silva plus pittance? Look, I know that Bradley didn't dig Chicago. And I know that Chicago didn't particularly dig Bradley. And I know that Bradley, for all his skills as a baseball player, is injury- and explosion-prone. But he was still an above-average player last year (between 0.5 and 1.0 WAR, depending on whose formula you trust), a year when his power numbers basically evaporated (he slugged only .397). But Bradley's batting eye didn't evaporate: he OBPed .378. And he stayed relatively healthy, playing in 124 games, his third most ever. All of this was good for a 99 OPS+, which is hardly what Chicago paid for, but not exactly a Mike Hampton level blunder, either.

And Silva? Well, his career best WHIP is 1.173, which doesn't sound too bad until we look at the rest of his career: his second best WHIP is 1.312 (1.310 if you count his 84.0 IP as a rookie reliever). Silva has been a starter for six years, and in that time has had an above average ERA+ thrice (2004, 2005, and 2007), and in one of those years (2007) he was still just about as average as can be (102 ERA+). He's posted a positive WAR only three times (the same seasons his ERA+ topped the century mark), and has cost his team more than a win in the other three seasons he's started (including, importantly, both of his years with Seattle).

With Seattle's crazygonuts outfield defense, don't expect Milton to spend much time roaming around in right. That means Bradley will be moving into the DH slot in Seattle, which will protect him from injury the way the Cubs couldn't, potentially adding to his value (paradoxically, as moving to DH is usually a downgrade in value for all but the worst fielders). As for Silva, he might eat up some innings. He's done so before. And he might be good. He'll probably be OK-to-bad. Bradley will be OK-to-exceptional.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see whether any of those middling prospects Seattle sent our way work out.



Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cy Young opinions.

I caught a snippet from Sportscenter today and some commenter was discussing the Tim Lincecum NL Cy Young. He was asked if being on the same team hurt Carpenter and Wainwright's chances and his response seemed to be "it doesn't make a difference to me" but he said that some people might have a problem with it. Here's the problem: he said some people may consider it and said "Well it's the argument that Carpenter didn't lead his own team in wins and Wainwright didn't lead his own team in ERA."

I think the argument against someone that they didn't lead their own team in something is dumb but it is amazing that he picked the two common pitcher stats that I care the least about.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


The last AL Cy Young award winner not from the Central was Bartolo Colon. God.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

World Series Fun

Congrats to the Yanks are in order I suppose.

For fun:
If Matsui had hit like he did in the World Series all year (.615/.643/1.385) he would have hit 105 HR with 280 RBI. He also would not have turned to see the destruction which followed in his wake.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Clutchiest Clutch of Clutches That Ever Clutched

Because I have, as recently as last night, been known to yell corrections at my (see: my roommate's) television during baseball telecasts in the vain hope that the announcers might one day actually (most likely magically) hear me, and because I have, as recently as last week, yelled at said television while watching the Yankees-Twins series and listening to drivel regarding Alex Rodriguez's lack of postseason clutchiness (followed closely by drivel regarding Alex Rodriguez's newly-discovered postseason clutchiness), and because I have, as recently as last year, written about the absurdity of A-Rod's postseason performance becoming a metaphor for failure, I will, at this time, direct your attention to this piece by Matthew Carruth over at FanGraphs. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

You may now return to reading sentences of an acceptable (see: non-long-19th-century) length.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

West Loop MVP

West Loop MVP 2009
Princess Fielder

She takes a lot of walks and is an expert of the suicide squeeze.

144/145 SB/CS
Rickey Henderson was the symbol of great base stealing. But today, my dog is greatest of all time. Thank you.

It's not just a name, mothaf*****s.

12.1 WAR
Not quite as good as Pujols.


The season is now over and we can look back at the years various players had and evaluate how well they did. Remember this post? Well now we get to see how accurate it is to predict things less than one-fifth of the way through the season.

C - Yadier Molina
.293/.366/.383, .273 EqA, 6.3 WAR

1B - Albert Pujols
.327/.443/.658, .362 EqA, 12.2 WAR

2B - Felipe Lopez*
.320/.407/.448, .304 EqA, 2.4 WAR
*MIL numbers; Brandon Phillips had a higher WAR (3.0) but Lopez did this in only 66 G in Milwaukee, adding in his ARI stats would lower his rate stats but increase his WAR total

SS- Miguel Tejada
.313/.340/.455, .279 EqA, 5.3 WAR

3B - Andy LaRoche
.258/.330/.401, .260 EqA, 2.7 WAR

OF - Andrew McCutchen
.286/.365/.471, .297 EqA, 5.5 WAR

OF - Ryan Braun
.320/.386/.551, .323 EqA, 6.9 WAR

OF - Mike Cameron
.250/.342/.452, .281 EqA, 5.0 WAR

P - Chris Carpenter
192.2 IP, 1.01 WHIP, 0.33 HR/9, 6.73 K/9

Notes: 3B was a tough one. LaRoche won it out on strong defense and a full season. Ramirez had much better offensive rates but played a half a season due to injury and below average defense.

In the outfield Michael Bourn was close with a higher WAR than Cameron but they both play great defense and Cameron has way more power.

Overall among the ten positions four stayed the same (or 40%). More than the 19.1% of the season played the previous go around but it shows that one-fifth of a season is not a reliable indicator of the season as a whole.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thus Ends the NL Central

And with a whimper, the season ends.

I said before the playoffs started that the Cardinals had about a 25% chance to get to the World Series this year. Every team, to me, seems about the same. Every team is not without it's faults: With the Cardinals, the bullpen. Dodgers, the starting pitching. Rockies, starting pitching. Phillies, bullpen. I don't think anyone in St. Louis expected them to come out as flat as they did this series.

Matt Holliday is going to bear the brunt of the ire for "losing the series", maybe rightfully so, but the truth is that Franklin still gave up two hits and a walk and didn't do his job either. Also, Carpenter didn't pitch his A-game, the bats were dead, poor baserunning, questionable managing, and the worst part being that in game 3 once they were down, they seemed to just give up.

One thing that I think this will mean for the franchise, and I hate to say I told you so, is that the majority of the "best fans in baseball" are going to be screaming to NOT pay Matt Holliday now, forgetting about how much he bolstered the offense through the late part of the season. Go check out the message boards on for all of your Holliday bashing needs. For what it's worth I still don't think Holliday will re-sign here, and the negativity surrounding him now certainly won't help that (though it might drive his price down), but I think that any notion now of his signing at a "home-town discount" are out the window. Not to mention the Angels and Yanks both need OF help this offseason, have higher payrolls to play with, and are better teams. C'est la vie.

It may in fact be rebuilding time for St. Louis, an idea that I for one am all for. Maybe we will have some decent giveaways and lower concession prices and be able to sit wherever you want in the upper deck since it's not a sellout. A few losing seasons might prepare us for our next run at a string of postseason appearances, and that's not a bad thing in the long run. We've been very spoiled here this past decade. Time to give someone else a little run? Okay, as long as it's not the Cubs.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Your Playoff Broadcasters.

While watching the start of the Cardinals-Dodgers game Cass reminded me that I picked the right girl by talking about how stupid everything that came out of Tim McCarver's mouth was.

Monday, October 5, 2009

More Awesome

Hell yeah one game playoff. It's outstanding because it is impossible to predict and the most condensed form of sport there is, in the sense that no other sport plays 162 games and now the season comes down to just one game for both teams.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

No 20-game Winners? YES!

It isn't simple schadenfreude that makes me so happy that both Adam Wainwright and C.C. Sabathia failed to collect their 20th wins last night. What really has me excited is the effect that C.C.'s loss and Wainwright's no decision could have on the Cy Young races; with no 20-game winner this year, voters will (hopefully) be more likely to delve beyond the wins column in selecting their candidates.

Now I don't mean to suggest that Sabathia and Wainwright don't deserve CYA votes. They absolutely do. But they shouldn't be getting many, if any, first place votes.

Let's start with Sabathia and the AL. The baseball worlds (all of them, from the traditional media outlets to the amateur blogroll) were abuzz with talk of Zach Greinke's amazing start. Then the wins started drying up, and fewer voices were raised in support of Zach. This isn't to say that Greinke supporters abandoned the cause, but a lot of the early hubbub was gone (particularly in traditional media) because the wins column wasn't 8-0 anymore. Why not? Because Greinke pitches for the Kansas City Royals.

Sabathia, on the other hand, led the American League in wins thanks in part to a Yankees offense that scored a shade under 6 runs per Sabathia start (versus 3.7 for Greinke in KC). Craig Brown over at the Hardball Times has created an excellent breakdown of the top Cy Young candidates in the AL. Although Brown leaves the question of who to choose somewhat open-ended (he is, however, a Greinke supporter, as am I), Sabathia's case really takes a hit when subjected to Brown's analysis. The only major statistical category in which Sabathia leads the pack is wins. Greinke, meanwhile, destroys the field in ERA, ERA+, PRC, and WAR, is tied for the lead in SHO, pitched in eight games in which his team gave him no more than 1 run of support, and had four wins blown by his bullpen.

Sabathia had a great year. Greinke, and arguably Halladay, Verlander, and King Felix, had a better one.

Meanwhile, on the NL side, Wainwright's 19 wins are the result of a fantastic year (and a potent offense), to be sure. But Adam Wainwright, as good as he was in '09, was not even the best starting pitcher on his own team.

Let's look at two seasons:

Season 1: 1.007 WHIP, 2.24 ERA, 186 ERA+, 192.2 IP, 144/38 K/BB, 7 HR, 3 CG, 1 SHO, 5.7 WAR

Season 2: 1.210 WHIP, 2.63 ERA, 159 ERA+, 233.0 IP, 212/66 K/BB, 17 HR, 1 CG, 0 SHO, 5.8 WAR

Season 1 is tops in WHIP, ERA, ERA+, K/BB ratio, BB, HR allowed, HR/9, BB/9, H/9, CG, and SHO. Season 2 leads in IP, K, and K/9, and has a slight edge in WAR.

Season 1 belongs to Chris Carpenter. Season 2 is Adam Wainwright's.

There are certainly arguments to be made for Wainwright over Carpenter: Wainwright ate up more innings, which kept spot starters and lesser bullpen arms off the mound. And 212 punch outs is pretty sexy. But Carpenter leads the Cardinals rotation in so many other important statistical categories while, importantly, not yielding much in the way of WAR to his teammate, that Wainwright is far from a slam dunk (and more likely a doink! in my book).

And the argument gets more complicated:

Carpenter: 1.007 WHIP, 2.24 ERA, 186 ERA+, 192.2 IP, 144/38 K/BB, 7 HR, 3 CG, 1 SHO, 5.7 WAR

Wainwright: 1.210 WHIP, 2.63 ERA, 159 ERA+, 233.0 IP, 212/66 K/BB, 17 HR, 1 CG, 0 SHO, 5.8 WAR

Lincecum: 1.047 WHIP, 2.48 ERA, 173 ERA+, 225.1 IP, 261/68 K/BB, 10 HR, 4 CG, 2 SHO, 8.3 WAR

Tim Lincecum put up another monster year in 2009 (even better than his 2008 campaign, in fact), further complicating things for voters. The leaderboard now?

Carpenter: WHIP, ERA, ERA+, BB, BB/9, HR, HR/9
Lincecum: K, K/9, K/BB, CG, SHO, WAR
Wainwright: IP

Wainwright's case gets even shakier, as both Carpenter and Lincecum have had ridiculous years. Wainwright, like Sabathia, was excellent in '09. But like Sabathia, he wasn't tops in his league. And thanks to last night, the door has been opened for deserving candidates to avoid the 20-win elephant in the voting booth when the Cy Young winners are determined later this month.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Baseball is awesome.

Mike Blowers, journeyman, career OPS+ 97, and one of the most amazing things I've ever heard.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cubs "All-Time 9"

This seems like it would be a good idea. The Cubs are, after all, a franchise steeped in history, and some of the greats have played on the North Side (especially given's one-season format, which allows us to pretend that Rogers Hornsby belongs on an all-time Cubs list despite his HoF career as a Cardinal). So compiling an "All-Time 9" list seems like it could be a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, there are a few problems. First off, most of the statistics given on the ballot are junk. Runs and RBIs are too dependent on teammates to be reliable for...well, much of anything when we're talking individual performance. Batting average, when combined with OBP and slugging, can actually tell us quite a bit about a hitter. Of course, it's presented alone, which tells us very little. SB totals are nice, but without CS numbers it's impossible to know whether the player ran himself into bonus bases or right back into the dugout. Home runs are great, and definitely the best "stand-alone" stat that gives us, though it would be nice to see doubles in there as well (I'm not going to ask for anything crazy here like isolated slugging).

But these troubles are easy to overcome and, frankly, the sort of thing I'd expect. Most fans aren't interested in the sorts of numbers that I'm interested in. Fortunately, there's always I pointed my browser B-R-ward and started creating some play index pages by position, sorting by runs created (which seemed the best statistic to use, seeing as the purpose of's little thought experiment is to determine the best offensive lineup).

That's when the real problems became apparent.

Even before I hit up Baseball-Reference, I noticed some glaring omissions from the ballot. Example: who the fuck leaves Cap Anson off any so-called "All-Time 9" ballot for the Chicago Cubs? I don't care if we're talking all-time seasons, careers, or months of June; Cap Anson was an insanely good baseball player and one of the Cubs' first stars. In fact, he's probably the greatest first baseman to ever lace up for the North Siders.

But the hits just kept on coming: even when the right names are on the ballot, the right years aren't always there (RBI/BA bias in several cases, but some of the choices were absolutely baffling).

Clearly, the solution to these problems is for an anal-retentive Cubs fan, who happens to maintain a ridiculously obscure pseudo-sabermetric blog [very] loosely based on the NL Central, to write about said problems.

Fortunately, I know just such a fan.

Following is my position-by-position analysis of the "All-Time 9" ballot. Sometimes does a solid job of picking candidates. Sometimes they don't. And sometimes, they pick Pittsburgh Pirates.

Read on, if you dare.

FIRST BASE's ballot:
1982 Bill Buckner (98 RC)
1903 Frank Chance (83 RC)
1995 Mark Grace (115 RC)
1922 Ray Grimes (125 RC)
2005 Derrek Lee (167 RC)
2002 Fred McGriff (93 RC)

Frank Chance was awesome, and I'm glad to see an "old schooler" from the turn-of-the-century Cubs dynasty on the ballot. But Frank doesn't belong in this conversation if we're talking single-season dominance, unfortunately, as he simply did not hit for power.

Fred McGriff did hit for power, but as much as I love the Crime Dog, he also doesn't belong on this list (though his 30 HRs and 100+ RBIs explain why he made the ballots, methinks).

Bill Buckner is probably the 7th or 8th most deserving first baseman, so his inclusion on the list isn't a big problem: he's not going to win, and neither are the guys who turned in slightly better performances. So why not give the much-maligned Buckner (who, it's worth noting for the umpteenth time, was a solid ballplayer) his day in the sun?

My ballot:
2005 Derrek Lee
1970 Jim Hickman (129 RC)
1922 Ray Grimes
1886 Cap Anson (119 RC)
1995 Mark Grace
1953 Dee Fondy (100 RC) was right on when it came to Lee, Grace, and Grimes; all three should be in this discussion, and for the years they appear on the ballot. But what about Jim Hickman's 1970 campaign? Only Lee's 2005 beats out Hickman's 1970 in RC for a Cubs first baseman. And how about Cap Anson? He may not be the third beat in the Tinker-to-Evers connection, but if Frank Chance is fair game for the All-Time 9, why the hell wouldn't Mr. Burns' first choice at first base be? Fondy and Buckner could easily be switched, but Dee slightly outperformed Bill in every rate state and several counting stats (Buckner's RBI total appears to have been the deciding factor for, so I went with Fondy's '53.

Top 100 by RC. Note that Phil Cavarretta had a couple big years in 1944 and 1945 but did not make my list. That's because in 1945, the total number of arms in Major League Baseball was not an even number.

Best season: 2005 Derrek Lee
My vote: 2005 Derrek Lee

SECOND BASE's ballot:
1912 Johnny Evers (91 RC)
1935 Billy Herman (120 RC)
1929 Rogers Hornsby (188 RC)
1990 Ryne Sandberg (124 RC)

One of these things is not like the other things. I'll give's writers credit for knowing their baseball poetics, but Evers really shouldn't be on this list. Hornsby and Herman, however, are spot on, as is Sandberg (though I prefer his 1984 season slightly).

My ballot:
1929 Rogers Hornsby
1935 Billy Herman
1984 Ryne Sandberg (126 RC)

Sure, I could add a fourth player to the list, in which case it would be between 2000 Eric Young and 2008 Mark DeRosa, but neither player topped the 100 RC mark, making them massive underdogs (just as Evers was), and DeRo wasn't exclusively a second sacker in '08. Best to keep this one simple, methinks.

Top 100 by RC. Note that Sandberg and Herman absolutely dominate this list.

Best season: 1929 Rogers Hornsby
My vote: 1929 Rogers Hornsby

SHORTSTOP's ballot:
1958 Ernie Banks (135 RC)
1978 Ivan DeJesus (84 RC)
1995 Shawon Dunston (68 RC)
1931 Woody English (101 RC)
1922 Charlie Hollochar (97 RC)
1912 Joe Tinker (63 RC)

Now things are starting to get tricky. Why? Because when I started digging into the numbers, it seemed like Woody English should be on the ballot for his 1930 campaign, in which he totalled a club-best 139 RC splitting time at short and third.'s rationale seems pretty obvious: in 1931, English played SS almost exclusively, whereas he played SS only about half the time the previous year (and actually played more games at third). But sweet merciful crap was his 1930 line a thing to behold: .335/.430/.511 (vs. .319/.391/.413 the following year).

As for the rest of the ballot, enough with "Baseball's Sad Lexicon," already: Joe Tinker doesn't belong here. And much as I love Shawon Dunston, he wasn't exactly the most feared hitter in baseball back in the day.

My ballot:
1958 Ernie Banks
1931 Woody English
1894 Bill Dahlen (125 RC)

Much like the second base ballot, this one is pretty straight-forward. If I had to add a couple more names to the list for the sake of argument, I'd take 1922 Hollocher, 1978 DeJesus, and 1969 Don Kessinger.

Top 100 by RC. Note that Ernie Banks was really, really good at baseball.

Best season: 1958 Ernie Banks
My vote: 1958 Ernie Banks

THIRD BASE's ballot:
1983 Ron Cey (90 RC)
1976 Bill Madlock (100 RC)
1948 Andy Pafko (105 RC)
2004 Aramis Ramirez (109 RC)
1964 Ron Santo (135 RC)
1912 Heinie Zimmerman (131 RC)

This is probably the best ballot created. Most of the players are right on. Most of the years are, too. But Ron Cey really doesn't belong here, particularly since there is one glaring omission, not to mention one arguable omission: Woody English, playing just over half his time at third in 1930, put up an RC of 139 and could have made this a three horse race (OK, so I mentioned it). For the glaring omission, see my ballot...

My ballot:
1976 Bill Madlock
1948 Andy Pafko
2006 Aramis Ramirez (115 RC)
1964 Ron Santo
1912 Heinie Zimmerman
1938 Stan Hack (108 RC)

Stan Hack has no business being left off this list. He put up four of the top 15 RC seasons by Cubs third basemen. Granted, all were during World War II, but his best season (1938) came before the U.S. started sending Big Leaguers off to fight (or anyone, for that matter). So why was he left off the list? I have two guesses: 4 HR and 67 RBI. Of course, he also put up a .320/.411/.432 line. But in a battle of traditional statistics, Hack's not gonna do so well.

As for Aramis, his 2004 season was actually only his third best offensively as a Cub: 2006 and 2008 were both better. In fact, the only reason I can find for to select Ramirez's 2004 over his 2006 campaign is batting average; even Ramirez's traditional stats were better in 2006, with the exception of BA (.291/38/119 in '06 vs. .318/36/103 in '04). Ah, the siren's call of the .300 average...

Top 100 by RC. Santo is a Hall of Famer. Just sayin'.

Best season: 1964 Ron Santo
My vote: 1964 Ron Santo

CATCHER's ballot:
1984 Jody Davis (63 RC)
1935 Gabby Hartnett (91 RC)
2008 Geovany Soto (91 RC)
1993 Rick Wilkins (95 RC)

On the heels of's best ballot comes their worst ballot. The catcher race only looks close because of two terrible, terrible calls: the inclusion of Jody Davis at all (and the use of his third best year as Cubs catcher, to boot!) and the inexplicable decision to use Gabby Hartnett's 1935 season instead of his 1930, when he was worth a staggering 129 runs at the plate.

My ballot:
1930 Gabby Hartnett (129 RC)
2008 Geovany Soto
1993 Rick Wilkins
1923 Bob O'Farrell (88 RC)

Ol' Bob ain't gonna win this one, but at least his performance is in line with Soto's and Wilkins's.

As for the Hartnett mixup, I can only shake my head in dumbfounded wonder. Let's take a look at two seasons:

Season 1: .339/.404/.630, 37 HR, 31 2B, 172 H, 84 R, and 122 RBI in 141 games
Season 2: .344/.404/.545, 13 HR, 32 2B, 142 H, 67 R, and 91 RBI in 116 games

Which was the better season? If you said Season 1, it's because the answer is really, really obvious. I even included a couple numbers I don't put much stock in (R and RBI) to illustrate how hard it is to get this one wrong even when relying on the BA/HR/RBI split stat style of player evaluation. So what the hell happened? Are five points of batting average really worth 24 homers (just for starters)?

Top 100 by RC.

Best season: 1930 Gabby Hartnett
My vote: 1935 Gabby Hartnett

I probably should've gone with Rick Wilkins since, based on the ballot, it was technically the best answer and it would be a nice, petty move on my part in response to the ridiculously crappy catcher ballot. But I couldn't say no to the greatest catcher in Cubs history, even if it meant cheating a little bit.

OUTFIELD's ballot:
1961 George Altman (105 RC)
1925 Kiki Cuyler (154 RC)
1987 Andre Dawson (111 RC)
1937 Frank Demaree (114 RC)
1982 Leon Durham (108 RC)
1970 Jim Hickman (129 RC)
1979 Dave Kingman (112 RC)
1939 Hank Leiber (82 RC)
1943 Bill Nicholson (123 RC)
1950 Andy Pafko (117 RC)
1952 Hank Sauer (107 RC)
2007 Alfonso Soriano (107 RC)
1998 Sammy Sosa (149 RC)
1929 Riggs Stephenson (122 RC)
1970 Billy Williams (147 RC)
1930 Hack Wilson (192 RC)

There are quite a few snubs on the outfielder ballot, but it's such a gigantic field that I tend to be forgiving so long as we're at least talking about a guy who was over the century mark in run value. But Hank Leiber? Really?

Also: Kiki Cuyler was awesome in 1925. And a Pittsburgh Pirate.

My ballot:
2001 Sammy Sosa (193 RC)
1930 Hack Wilson
1970 Billy Williams
1930 Kiki "Chicago Cub" Cuyler (147 RC)
1970 Jim Hickman
2004 Moises Alou (123 RC)
1929 Riggs Stephenson
1936 Frank Demaree (120 RC)
1935 Augie Galan (119 RC)
1950 Andy Pafko
1911 Frank Shulte (117 RC)
1979 Dave Kingman
1987 Andre Dawson

Sosa's '98 was awesome. His His 2000 and 2001 seasons were even better. His '98 is on the ballot only because of the chase: he hit two fewer homers in '01, but with 2 more RBIs (for those who care) and a batting average that was 20 points higher (and, more tellingly, an OBP up 60 points and a SLG up 90 points). Sosa's 2001 season is, for all intents and purposes, tied with Hack Wilson's 1930 campaign (and possibly Rogers Hornsby's 1929) as the best offensive season by a Cubs player. Ever. At any position. But it wasn't part of a magical home run chase, so it's not on the ballot.


Fortunately, Sosa's '98 is still comfortably in the top three on this ballot. Poor Kiki Cuyler, though, gets screwed over. If actually listed Cuyler's best season as a Cub, I'd have a tough decision between Kiki and Billy Williams for the third outfield spot. As things stand, however, I'm not voting for a Pirate on an all-time Cubs list. (Though for what it's worth, Cuyler's value is inflated due to the fact that MLB didn't keep CS records during his playing days, so I'd probably vote for Billy W. regardless.)

And as a final note, where's the love for Moises Alou? The man gave us two fantastic seasons in 2003 and 2004, and yet he gets snubbed for the likes of Soriano? For shame, For shame.

Top 100 by RC. Note that Bill Lange's 1895 (124 RC) did not make my ballot. That's because the lack of CS numbers from way back when result in what appears to be a 67-for-67 SB record, which is almost certainly inaccurate. Since I don't know whether he got caught once or 68 times, and since he isn't going to win anyway, I left Lange off my list (perhaps unfairly).

Best seasons: 2001 Sammy Sosa, 1930 Hack Wilson, 1970 Billy Williams
My votes: 1998 Sammy Sosa, 1930 Hack Wilson, 1970 Billy Williams

PITCHER's ballot:
1921 Grover Alexander (11 RC)
1918 Claude Hendrix (12 RC)
1971 Fergie Jenkins (16 RC)
1930 Pat Malone (11 RC)
1933 Lon Warneke (14 RC)
2008 Carlos Zambrano (13 RC)

Pitcher is a really, really tough position for this sort of vote. Since the All-Time 9, as proposed by, is intended as purely an offensive force, it doesn't matter whether the pitcher is actually good at pitching (though it's worth noting that most of these guys were), which makes things a bit easier. But the pitcher's spot in the batting order is where the differences between the game of the late nineteenth century and the game since the early twentieth century are perhaps most obvious: pitchers started (and finished!) a lot more games back then (see John Clarkson), which really skewed the all-time seasonal RC leaderboard in favor of the olde timers.'s solution seems like the right move in my mind. Rather than loading up the ballot with obscure names from the 1870's, they went with 20th- and 21st-century hurlers. This makes a lot of sense. Even once I sorted out pitchers who'd appeared in more than 45 games, 19th-century types still lurked atop the leaderboard en masse. Some of these performances are damned impressive (Scott Stratton's 1894 season is absolutely eye-popping, in fact). But many of these pitchers, Stratton included, saw time at other positions, and even those who didn't tended to be left in games longer, resulting in more at bats and, therefore, more accumulated value with the bat.

So with the 19th century eliminated, how did do?

My ballot:
1921 Grover Alexander
1918 Claude Hendrix
1971 Fergie Jenkins
1924 Tony Kaufman (11 RC)
1933 Lon Warneke
2008 Carlos Zambrano

They did pretty damned well, as it turns out. There's an argument to be made for Jack Taylor's 1902, in theory, but his line really wasn't all that impressive: those extra runs (he put up 14 RC that year) are a function of his 204 PAs (79 more than any player on's ballot) rather than his lackluster .237/.272/.280 line. Tony Kaufman's 1924 should probably replace Malone's 1930, but it's such a close call (it really comes down to rate vs. counting stats evening out in RC) that I can't fault for going with the guy who got more PAs in this case.

Top 100 by RC (post-1900).

Best season: 1971 Fergie Jenkins
My vote: 1971 Fergie Jenkins's All-Time 9 is a great idea. And in some ways, it's executed very well. The stats on the ballot are crap, but even when the positional ballots themselves are garbage, I'm usually able to pick the best player(s), if not always the best year(s), and that's not something that should be sold short. Still, I wish that more of the ballots looked like those for third base (pretty much dead-on) or pitcher (arguable, but with solid logic backing the choices). A+ for the concept, and a big "thank you" to for giving me an excuse to dive into the B-R archives, but just a little more statistical legwork would have made the All-Time 9 a much, much better experiment.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Holliday Revisited

I am not willing to, as yet, admit that I was dead wrong a couple months ago when I bashed the hell out of the trade to acquire Matt Holiday from Oakland. I still think that signing him is going to be an issue, and the playoffs will of course be an issue as well. But man, oh, man, has he been fun to watch.

I'm not going to get into specific numbers and all that rigmarole, because that's just not what I do. What I know for sure is that the Cardinals would not be the team they are now without his bat in their cleanup slot every night. He's managed to put up over 100 RBIs this season despite a very inauspicious first half with the A's, and with his bat and, to a lesser extent, Mark DeRosa's bat as well, the Cardinals are being mentioned by many as the "team to beat" in the NL.

Not so fast.

Let me dig up some numbers, because they are important for this part. Okay. So, the question remains: Are these Cardinals good enough to get to the World Series? The short answer, in my opinion, is yes. However, I could just as easily see them ousted in the first round. Of the teams that are likely to make the playoffs (that is, the Rockies, Dodgers, and Phillies), all have at least one dominant-to-very-good left handed starter. Cardinals average against lefties this year? .234. I just watched Sean West of Florida tear through our lineup like it was wet toilet paper and then proceed to get mauled my the Kip Wells-led Reds club in Cincy.

Jorge De La Rosa of Colorado is their lone dominant lefty, however the Rockies are playing like the best team in the NL over the past month or so. I do not want to play a streaky team...I found out how that works when we won in '06. And that guy is tough, and on a side note I will probably thank his waiver-wire pickup for me winning in fantasy baseball this year.

The Dodgers would throw Kershaw, Billingsley, and Randy Wolf at us, probably in that order. I don't trust this Cardinal team to beat Kershaw or even Wolf. Wainwright matches up well with Billingsley but you have to admit that ol' Chad is not a bad pitcher in his own right. Thus, the Dodgers scare me.

Finally the Phillies. Oh, the Phillies. You and your possible 7 man rotation. If I'm Charlie Manuel, the Cardinals get Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ and good night Irene. Not to mention they have a very potent offense and, for the record, I believe them to be the NL Champs this year.

So we come full circle. If the Cardinals fall short, which no one in St. Louis expects them to, will the Matt Holliday trade have been for naught? I have to say yes to this, and that is regardless of what kind of players Clay Mortensen and Brett Wallace become. He has added a spark to this team that I didn't expect, though, that much I can admit. But one of two things need to happen to cause me to completely rethink this trade: 1) A World Series appearance, or 2) Re-sign him. I do give props to John Mozeliak and the front office for trying to make things happen this year, though. Too many times we have watched the Cardinals go on their merry way and not pick up anyone who could give the team a boost. This year they went out and got 3 of those guys.

Nothing to do now but wait til the playoffs to start and look for an old hat to eat. Go Cards!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wait 'til next year

Yeah, things are pretty quiet for us in Chicago about now. My Brewers failed to make the type of move that got them in the playoffs last year and aren't going anywhere.

We still cheer of course but until the end of the season when we can do awards and stuff we are mostly just waiting out the year.

I did want to mention one thing: Jim Thome left Chicago for the Dodgers and I am very sad to see him go as he is one of my true favorites in the league. I wanted to quote Jon Bois to illustrate how great a guy Thome is: "Perhaps the most telling acid test: think back to all the insults you’ve heard from Cubs fans. They hate Ozzie Guillen, they hate Gordon Beckham, they hate Jermaine Dye. But I have never, ever heard a Cubs fan speak ill of Jim Thome. It’s almost like speaking ill of Buck O’Neil. It doesn’t make any sense."

Happy FJM Day

The Gang from FJM is getting back together for a day of guest editing over at Deadspin. We here of course adore FJM and are happy to see them back in any form at all. Go read and understand what bad sports journalism looks like when it is being mocked by sarcastic know-it-alls.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Here's to the Next 17 Years!

As most of you probably already know, the Pirates clinched their record 17th consecutive losing season on Monday following a 4-2 loss to the Cubs. It seems nothing's gone right for the Pirates since that devastating loss in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS, and Pittsburgh's season-long fire sale suggests that the streak could hit 20 unless some young Pirates develop quickly and simultaneously in the next couple years.

So how do small-market franchises like the Pirates, Royals, and Nationals compete? Joe Posnanski has some ideas. As always, Joe P's piece is a damned good read, but with apologies to Joe, I think my favorite part of his article this time 'round is actually a link: "How David Beats Goliath" is one of the most enjoyable New Yorker essays I've read in a long while (which is saying something), and it's food for thought for a beleaguered small-budget ball club. And as Justin Bopp's recent BtB post illustrates, a small-market club can get a lot of bang for its bucks if it makes smart (and lucky) investments or manages to exploit inefficiencies in the market (as Sabermetricians have attempted to do since time immemorial).

#17 is all but in the books now, Pittsburgh front office. It's time to do something gutsy and innovative. Hire Bill James. Bat your best hitter second. Scout soft-tossing control artists. Put together a team of banjo-hitting defenders that makes the Mariners outfield look like Little Leaguers trying to shag flies in a 30 mph crosswind. Sign a golden retriever. But don't simply stay the course and doom your fans to 17 more years of "rebuilding."

Concerning Large Numbers

The Rays are up 2-0 against the Yankees on ESPN right now, but Derek Jeter has moved two hits closer to Lou Gehrig on the all-time Yanks hit list thanks to a bunt single and a ground rule double. When Derek stepping into the box for his second at bat, however, I heard something absolutely astonishing: Steve Phillips believes that Jeter will get to 4000 hits.

Actually, I think he said that Jeter has a "very good chance," or something along those lines, but still. Phillips went on to explain that Jeter "only" (and he did in fact use the word "only") needs to play eight more seasons (the man is 35) and average 158 hits in each of those seasons in order to crack 4000.

Now, I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who are statistically savvy enough to use aging curves and such to illustrate how unlikely Phillips' claim really is, but I'm not one of those people.

Instead, I'm going to point here and here. Pete Rose and Ty Cobb are the only members of the 4000 hit club, and I think we can all agree that they were both pretty good at baseball. Rose played for about three minutes shy of forever. Cobb was done at 41. Rose averaged 167 hits between his age 36 and age 43 seasons. Cobb averaged 154 from 36 on. Jeter is a damned fine hitter, but 158 hits for eight more seasons, even assuming that, like Rose and Cobb, Jeter is going to pile up hits totals in the high 100's or even low 200's until he's 40 or so, is no easy task (one that Ty Cobb, he of the 4189 hits and .366 career average, failed).

The Yankee captain has a further disadvantage due to his position: there is almost no damned way any manager in his right mind is going to trot out a 43-year-old to the shortstop position every day (even Vizquel was only the everyday shortstop through his age 40 season), and Jeter's numbers aren't likely to be DH-worthy into his 40's.

Where Jeter actually has an advantage over Rose, though, is in the slugging category. Rose had a career SLG of .409; Jeter has slugged .459 over his career (Cobb slugged .512, because he was Ty Fucking Cobb). Jeter's hit totals are less dependent on legging out singles than Rose's were, so it's likely that while there's still some pop in #2's bat, he'll continue to rack up hits as he's always done. And there's no doubting Jeter's commitment: his off-season training regime (which emphasized lateral quickness, particularly on defense) has resulted in Jeter's best defensive season to date (he's worth 5.1 runs at short so far this year, a far cry from the negative numbers that usually "grace" Derek's WAR charts).

But will all this translate into the longevity and productivity that Jeter would need to reach the 4000 hit plateau? Probably not. There is, after all, a damned good reason that only two players have cracked 4k in 150 years of baseball: it is really, really hard to play baseball into your 40's, particularly at a high level, And Jeter's .409 SLG, while better than Rose's and solid for a SS, isn't a number most managers want their first basemen or DHs turning in.

Steve Phillips could be right, of course. Derek Jeter could one day rap hit number 4000. He might even hit number 4257. But to claim that Jeter has a "very good chance" of doing so is absurd, as is taking eight seasons of 158-hit production for granted.

Fortunately, Steve Phillips' little speech was intercut with shots of Nick Swisher screwing around in the dugout, and was followed by Swish striking out and yelling "fuck!" on national television. Nick Swisher is amazing even when he strikes out.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Haha Awesome

The Onion's Little League World Series Highlights isn't all that funny but one entry on the list warrants it receiving it's own post:

"Georgia player Kyle King slides headfirst so as to avoid breaking the crack vials in his back pocket."

Hell yeah, Rock. Even if you never make the Hall you are an immortal.

Baseball Movies

These are the Top Five performances in Baseball Movies.

5. Tom Selleck as Jack Elliot in Mr. Baseball
There are definitely some memorable scenes in this movie although overall it is somewhat lackluster. Selleck does a decent job with mediocre material and certainly gets some mileage out of being a jerk through the first 80% of the movie. It's a fun enough movie to watch though and Selleck had to carry the whole movie. Watching it again I remembered some scenes as being better than they were but it was a fun nostalgia trip and I swear we saw Fukudome in there.

4. Walter Mathau as Morris Buttermaker in The Bad News Bears
There's something about Walter Matthau that shines through in his performances. Although he is playing a crank or a jerk in some of his most memorable roles (including this one) he still manages to be lovable. I never connected with this film the way many did because I liked playing baseball and was supported when I was growing up. I still enjoyed it and some of the kids do great jobs.

3. Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs in The Natural
It took me a while to get The Natural and understand it as more than a baseball movie. I remember watching it when I was a kid and not liking it because it wasn't real enough. Of course it isn't supposed to be and Redford plays the larger than life Hobbs as a fantasy character perfectly. He's less a person than a phenomenon at times and of course the final scene is a fulfillment of every baseball dream ever. He's just lucky he had that enchanted jockstrap.

2. Kevin Costner as Crash Davis in Bull Durham
There are about a million memorable scenes in Bull Durham and to be fair part of that should be credited to the ensemble cast. It's Costner though who creates a memorable character that is grounded and believable. Minor league journeymen are as common as flash in the pan pitching prospects but Tim Robbins character has a few too many quirks and eccentricities for my taste. Costner is able to give the right lines significance and project his character's frustrations and desperation when necessary. For the record the conference on the mound scene would rank somewhere in the top ten of my favorite movie moments of all time.

1. Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own
Quite simply the movie is average at best without Tom Hanks. Hanks plays a former player as a whiskey soaked ballbuster who doesn't really give a crap about anything, which is probably a fairly accurate portrayal. His comedic timing is perfect and he also is able to display emotion subtly when he has to, although he does have to deliver some sappy lines but that is the fault of the script and Hanks does what he can with it. Everyone remembers the "there's no crying in baseball" scene but it's probably around the 15th funniest thing Hanks does in the movie.

For your enjoyment:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Little League World Series is Amazing

Things I have seen from Williamsport, PA that are much more heartening than the Cubs impression of one of those Heimlich maneuver charts:

1.) a 6' 2", 220 lb. player
2.) a 4' 6", 75 lb. player
3.) an inning-ending, bases loaded double play on a layout grab by the pitcher (the ball was popped up midway between third and home, right on the line) followed by a nearly-botched throw to second to double up an overly aggressive baserunner.
4.) a runner getting thrown out at first on a hard line drive to right field
5.) a team from Chula Vista, CA hitting seven home runs in only five innings
6.) a pitcher batting cleanup
7.) a left-handed third baseman
8.) a shortstop who high-fived an opposing player who was trotting around the bases after a monstrous home run
9.) a delayed steal of home in a league that doesn't allow leadoffs
10.) Orestes Destrade's baffling lack of understanding of human anatomy (it is possible to injure something that isn't a knee, good sir)
11.) a ground ball to third base that resulted in three seperate run-downs with two different runners
12.) a mother who, after requesting (and being denied) leave without pay to travel to the United States to watch her son play in the LLWS, quit her job and hopped a plain to PA
13.) a mother who took her two youngest children to the U.S. aboard a C-17 cargo plane that departed Germany at 3:30 in the morning and only took her as far as the Eastern seaboard; she then waited four hours for a rental car to be delivered to the airbase where she'd touched down and drove the rest of the way, tykes in tow
14.) sportsmanship (almost) across the board

And, perhaps my favorite story of the LLWS so far:

15.) a player whose father was redeployed to Germany from Texas and had to leave his league (where he was an All-Star) and try out for a new team in a new country: he made the Ramstein Air Force All-Star team, which won the European tournament and a bid in the LLWS, and was then reunited with his teammates from Texas, who also went all the way to Williamsport (representing the U.S. Southwest).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

All Rooting Interest Team

In an effort to do something softer I have decided to make a team of players that I root for regardless of ability. A common criticism of sabermetricians is that they too often favor numbers over the human element of the game and I think that at times the criticism can be valid, although it is perfectly acceptable to enjoy both.

What follows are my positional picks for players that I support regardless of how good they are. I will include reasoning for why I root for these players. Some of these reasons will be petty or silly but that is part of being a fan. I avoided naming people who play for the Brewers simply because they play for my team and I did not name any players who I root for simply because they are good. Sometimes hoping for someone to do well is as much fun as watching someone do well.

I would encourage my colleagues here to do something similar.

SP - C.C. Sabathia
Reasoning: in a sport so plagued with steroid controversies it is kind of wonderful to watch a 250 lb man; it's nice knowing that there are professional athletes that I can easily outrun; he hit homeruns in each league last year becoming only the third pitcher in history to homer in both leagues in one season, one of those insane, nitpicky records that makes baseball wonderful, his big grin.

RP - David Aardsma
Reasoning: read this if you haven't yet; he is the first player alphabetically in major league history, replacing Hank Aaron and this is funny to me for some reason; his sister is an actress who appeared on CSI. Her character's name? Sexy Mistress.

C - Mike Napoli
Reasoning: was best friends with the man playing in front of him and by all accounts has been really supportive; his entrance song is "I'm On a Boat".

1b - Kevin Youkilis
Reasoning: on his wikipedia page the following phrases are found: "roly-poly", "pudgy", "fat kid"; Terry Francona's response when asked about his nickname (The Greek God of Walks) was "I've seen him in the shower, he isn't Greek God of anything."; holds the major league record for consecutive errorless games at first base, which is the most arbitrary record possible.

2B - Ian Kinsler
Reasoning: he is a small Jewish kid with asthma playing a professional sport; active in community charity work.

3B - Gordon Beckham
Reasoning: Josie's on a vacation far away come around and talk it over so many things I wanna say you know I like my girls a little bit older I just wanna use your love tonight I don't wanna lose your love tonight I ain't got many friends left to talk to nowhere to run when I'm in trouble you know I'd do anything for you stay the night but keep it undercover.

SS - Marco Scutaro
Reasoning: not necessarily stat-based but is supposedly a strong believer in sabermetrics as memorialized here; the entire trivia section of his wikipedia page is awesome but this in particular is incredible: On June 18, 2009, after being issued a walk by Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton, Scutaro immediately took off for second base and slid in safely.

LF - Juan Pierre
Reasoning: as much as he is crapped on my sabermetricians stories of him showing up early to ballparks and throwing balls against the wall to figure out how to play balls are endearing; is named after Juan Marichal; received the Cool Papa Bell award from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and Cool Papa Bell is tremendous; robbed Barry Bonds of what would have been career home run number 714 on May 9, 2006.

CF - Curtis Granderson
Reasoning: fellow UIC alumnus; charity work; appeared on TNA Wrestling's Slammiversary PPV but I am deciding not to hold that against him.

RF - Ichiro Suzuki
Reasoning: his swing is awesome and I love imitating it during softball; I wish I was left handed so I could actually use his swing; his arm is astounding; he is probably the best current baseball player named Ichiro; his success makes teams continue signing Japanese players for ungodly sums of money in case they found the next Ichiro; they have not.

DH - Jim Thome
Reasoning: second place finisher in 2007 SI poll asking major league players to name the nicest player in baseball (behind Sean Casey who had 46%!!); put all 10 of his nieces and nephews through college;

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Prince Fielder Erases Baseball From History

Sweet merciful crap. With one mighty Princefieldian whallop, the cow whence came that baseball has been violently torn from the fabric of history, sent spinning through the ceaseless void we call Eternity until all skies fall and all light fails.

Watching videos like this one, I find myself wondering what could possibly be going through a pitcher's mind when Prince Fielder lumbers to the plate and starts taking hacks as though he could cleave the world in twain. I suspect most pitchers feel a combination of amusement, confusion, and fear, much like how I feel whenever I watch this. And given Fielder's 2009 season, I suspect that the balance falls nearest to fear.

Fielder isn't just having a good year; if it weren't for some guy named Pujols (who seems to get a lot of press these days), Fielder would be the story in the NL Central (and possibly the NL). He's put up mind-boggling numbers so far: .311/.420/.600 with 31 homers, 27 doubles, 257 TB, and an OPS+ of 166 despite the fact that the Prince Fielder shift (as previously discussed) moves two outfielders into the right field seats. Yesterday's Superlaser blast is simply the latest exclamation mark to a season that has been punctuated like a text message from an overly excited 14-year-old (OMG prince felder iz 2 kewl!!! lolol!!!!!!!).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reality Check

Cubs fans: We're playing against Philadelphia. We're not in Philadelphia. Here's hoping Captain Douchebag has an assault charge waiting for him for this bit of idiocy.

Kudos to Shane Victorino for handling his recent rash of center field insanity as well as he has.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Our corner

When we started this blog it was mostly so Dave and I could talk baseball with each other but loud enough so anyone could hear it. Well now it has a new purpose: to officially declare that the NL Central is where first basemen go to crush faces.

This division is absolutely stacked at first base. I wanted to show this so I took a look at the WAR1 for the regular first basemen for each team and sorted them by division. I hate using WAR1 as an all encompassing statistic but it is much better than showing five different graphs and looking at the differences. It also includes defense and I wanted to allow for the possibility of a defense minded first baseman because it could happen even if it is stupid.

There were some platooning issues on some teams. I used the regular first baseman if his games played total was greater than 75% of the team games. Otherwise I used the highest WAR for a player who played 1B for the team. This came up for five teams: Atlanta (minor issue), Arizona, Cleveland, Texas and Oakland. For some of these teams they are lucky I did that because part of the platoon they used had a negative WAR.

The NL Central just destroys all the other divisions. These are sorted from highest to lowest so there is the issue of having one extra team in the division. But get this: even without Albert Pujols the division still has a higher WAR total for first basemen than all but one division: the NL West. However, the NL West includes Arizona for which I used Mark Reynolds for this analysis even though he is not their regular first baseman. I did this for the reason listed above. In actuality the player who has started the most games for them at first is Chad Tracy and his WAR is -1.0.

There was some issue of games lost but this really evened out overall. Most divisions had one or two teams with a regular first basemen who has missed 10 games or so but it didn't affect the overall balance.

In summary our first basemen are awesome. If you don't count the farm-system-for-the-entire-MLB Pirates as an actual team then the worst first basemen in our division is Derrek Lee, and Derrek Lee (WAR 2.5) kicks ass.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

National Pride

While no one was looking except for Jay Wackerly the Nationals have gone on an eight game winning streak, improving their record to 40-72. They are outscoring opponents 57-33 in the stretch. If they can keep this up for an unprecedented 50 more games they can finish 90-72, in the wild card hunt but still missing the playoffs. Get your red on, NatsTown.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Last Holliday

No, it's not an article about that wonderful Queen Latifah film.

It is an article about what I feel is the biggest mistake the Cardinals have made in recent memory. This post may drone on for a bit, which should make up for my general lack of participation on this blog, however I only post when I feel strongly about something, and I feel the need to make my opinion known on this matter. John Mozeliak did make one good move this week, shipping the pathetic mess known as Chris Duncan off - and actually getting a player in return instead of the bag of used jockstraps we deserved. And then he goes and does this.

Mark my words, the deal for Matt Holliday this afternoon will come back to haunt this team for years to come. First of all, with due respect to the Brewers and Cubs, the Cardinals seemed to be on their way to winning, or at least competing for, another Central Division crown this year with or without this move. Adding Holliday probably makes this a definite, however, it does not put us up there as World Series contenders. Not by a long shot. We're likely going to play the Dodgers in the first round of the playoffs, barring anything unforseen, and we still don't have what it takes to beat their pitching in a short series. So, what have we gained? Sure, a solid bat (and that's all he is - solid. Not great, but solid) behind Albert and Ludwick is nice, but for a two-month rental? The chances of us re-signing this Scott Boras client is slim to none. Maybe we offer and he agrees to arbitration at around 15 million next year, but that's it. Furthermore, I don't think that a player of Holliday's ilk is worth that kind of money, especially for the long-term deal he'll be seeking.

So, what have we lost, you might ask?

Well, for starters, we lose a 3B/OF/1B prospect by the name of Brett Wallace, who has been compared to Ryan Braun both offensively and defensively and is by all accounts Major League-ready. He may make a few blunders in the field but if his numbers could be compared to Braun's, I think Caleb knows that anyone in their right mind should take that and run with it, especially given the fact that his numbers would come at the price of peanuts for years to come compared with veteran talent putting up similar numbers. Our slugger of the future, down the drain.

We also lose Clay Mortensen, who is also close to, if not already, Major League ready. One of our top starting pitchers in the minors who also had a cup of coffee earlier this year with the big club. He's 7-6 in AAA this year with an ERA just over 4. However, I guarantee Oakland's scouts see something special in him to make him a part of this deal.

I don't know much about this Shane Peterson character, and maybe he's just a throw-in but we'll see how that all pans out for him.

This PLUS we are on the hook for around 5 million of Holliday's 2009 salary. Let's also keep in mind that a month or so ago, the Cardinals were inquiring about Holliday and they said "We want Wallace." GM John Mozeliak said no. Fast forward to today, and we give up not only Wallace, but two other talents, PLUS pick up some salary. So apparently by waiting, we managed to get a worse deal for the same player. Billy Beane has done it to us again, ladies and gentlemen. Fleeced us like a thief in the night. Remember the Dan Haren trade? Billy Beane is smarter than anyone in the Cardinal organization and he has pulled the wool over our eyes yet again. Mozeliak must be the worst negotiator in the history of baseball.

Mozeliak: We want Matt Holliday.
Beane: Great. We want Brett Wallace.
Mozeliak: No deal.
Mozeliak: We still want Matt Holliday.
Beane: We still want Brett Wallace.
Mozeliak: Is that your final offer?
Beane: We also want a couple other guys.
Mozeliak: Uh, huh.
Beane: And you pick up some salary.
Mozeliak: Deal!

It's not that I hate Matt Holliday; I think he's a good player. Again, good, not great. .286/11/54 isn't great. Mark DeRosa has comparable numbers. I just think that this trade will start a sequence of events as follows:

Cards aquire Matt Holliday
Cards lose in first round of the playoffs in 2009
Matt Holliday becomes a free agent this offseason
Cardinals are stuck with Nick Stavinoha or rookie Daryl Jones in LF and Joe Thurston/Brian Barden/David Freese at 3B next year, barring a F/A signing (which, if history is any judge, would not be for an "impact" player at either position)
Cards finish in 3rd place or lower in 2010
Cards struggle in 2011 with another poor team, resulting in Albert Pujols being traded for prospects similar to what we just gave up for Matt Holliday
Cards suck in 2012 with their rookie squad out there every day
Cards finally get back above .500 in 2013 as the young studs mature

So that's just great. 3 years of futility await us. At least maybe I can go back to getting tickets at the gate and won't have to mortgage my house for season tickets for the next couple years. If I'm wrong I'll eat my hat - I just remember how I laughed and laughed at Milwaukee over the Sabathia trade last year and here we are with the shoe on the other foot. They better win it all this year, and I think that's what they are shooting for, but I think this whole thing was a big, big mistake.

Felipe Lopez the answer to Brewers pitching woes.

At least he better be because otherwise trading for him makes no sense. Admittedly he was decent enough last year (especially after he arrived in St. Louis) with a .283/.343/.387 line and this year he is posting .308/.370/.421, which is good. But the Brewers already have a solid 2B in Casey McGehee (.323/.376/.534) who is also a utility infielder like Lopez. In addition the Brewers also have utility infielder Craig Counsell to fill in around the diamond as well (.291/.362/.421). This indicates to me that the Brewers plan on shopping an infielder for pitching soon, or at least they better be.

If the Diamondbacks were willing to trade with you though why not just trade for pitching from them? Between Haren, Davis and Scherzer there are three starting pitchers on the D-Backs that would come in and be in the top two in ERA+, and all three would be tied for or lead the team in HR/9, which I bring up because the Brewers rank last in HR surrendered. So the Brewers better be doing everything they can to get some help. They better be.

Any Sufficiently Advanced Defense is Indistinguishable From Pitching

Congratulations to Dewayne Wise for 1/27th of a perfect game. Oh yeah, and to Mark Buehrle for pitching the thing.

Buehrle's second no-no (and first perfecto) is a textbook example of just how hard it is to throw a no-hitter: Buerhrle struck out 6, which means his defense had to account for the other 21 putouts. And not all of those were weak grounders to second, as Mr. Wise's robbery illustrates.

Kudos to you, White Sox. To all of you, from your ace starting pitcher to your late-inning defensive substitute. And especially to Ramon Castro, for not being A.J. Pierzynski.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Complaint Department

Before I say anything, I want to acknowledge three things of which I am aware:

1) He went 2 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI and a HBP.

2) We won the game.

3) Lineups barely matter.

All that being said why in the hell was Jason Kendall leading off for us last night? His career high numbers of .332/.428/.511 would make him a good choice in the top of the order but that was in 1999 and he only played in (career worst, admittedly) 78 games. He's a 35 year old catcher now and his line of .237/.327/.279 this year isn't doing you any favors anywhere in the lineup let alone at the top. In the lineup last night only two Brewer position players had a worse OBP: Corey Hart and J.J. Hardy, and both of those guys hit for more power than Kendall (.422 and .381 respectively). At least Hart and Hardy were in the 7th and 8th positions in the lineup.

Now that I'm on the subject of J.J. Hardy I have to imagine he can be dangled as trade bait to get some better pitching. I'd hate to see him go but some teams might be interested and we desperately need an arm. Granted he is having a bad year (career worst if he doesn't pick up) but the previous two seasons he posted OPS+ of 100 and 113 and he's only 26. That and prospects should be able to land some kind of help. Plus you have Counsell to slide it at shortstop. Our infield would look drastically different from the opening day lineup (2-3-SS Weeks-Hall-Hardy v McGehee-Gamel-Counsell) but we might be better off for it, not that I am happy Weeks got hurt.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dear NL All Star Managers,

Please stop putting the Padres closer on your roster.

NL Central Stage

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Final Vote

The final position of the All-Star game is decided by online vote among five candidates. Go vote now. Wait, not now. After I tell you who to vote for.

NL: Matt Kemp
First things first: if you vote for Cristian Guzman and his .310/.325/.418 then I'm coming to your house and punching you in the head. Matt Kemp (.307/.372/.474) leads all NL OFs with a 4.6 WAR. That is very good. He is fourth among position players in the NL. He's done it on both sides of the ball with 28 BRAR and 25 FRAR. I feel sort of bad for Pablo Sandoval (.328/.381/.564) as he's having a great year and is second in NL 3B in WAR, but the leader (Casey Blake) isn't even on the roster because David Wright is popular and Ryan Zimmerman is the default Nationals representative. No big deal though: Sandoval is 22 and will get more chances. So will Kemp but he deserves this one.

AL: Ian Kinsler
Kinsler should be starting. I understand how people voted for Pedroia (Kinsler: .252/.329/.498 3.9WAR, Pedroia: .290/.370/.392 2.6WAR) seeing as how he is the reigning MVP but why is Aaron Hill (.296/.335/.495 2.8WAR) ahead of him when the Blue Jays already were sending Roy Halladay? Granted, looking at their lines it becomes clear that Kinsler is playing great defense, but that was known anecdotally as he has been featured on all kinds of highlight reels this season for his glove. Anyway, go vote for Kinsler.

In reality I was going to tell you to choose the guy playing kickass defense because I think the All-Star game sucks when the players in the field aren't making plays like it's important. It turned out to be the persons leading in WAR.


The All-Star Rosters were announced and we here at NL Central Stage have no real complaints about players being left off. The NL Central got appropriate representation and the only snubs that come to mind are starting pitchers and the general rule seems to be not to mess too much with them so that rotations aren't ruined. Mike Cameron has an argument based on his glove vs. Brad Hawpe's bat but I could argue either way so I'm not up in arms about it.

Miguel Tejada squeezed in just by his bat. By my count he is fourth among NL shortstops in WAR (trailing Ramirez, Escobar, and Tulowitzki). He is second in terms of offensive output but his FRAA of -8 is terrible. H-Ram is destroying him on both sides of the ball.

The game is in St. Louis so we get to showcase some Midwest flavor, being mostly fat people and the food that made them that way. Pujols and Fielder get to have fun in the prior-to-the-fake-game-fake competition of the Home Run Derby. I'm picking Adrian Gonzalez for the win for no reason whatsoever because it is a silly competition for which no amount of information or data could lend any credible foresight. If nothing else the Home Run Derby stresses this: first base is an offense first position.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Identity Crisis

No no no BrewCrew. It's the Mets who do this sort of thing.

They scored 5 runs off of Santana the previous day and got blanked by Mike Pelfry. Gallardo takes the loss because he really should have struck out 13 batters.

Gallardo is striking out more than 9/9IP. He is Yovani.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

NLCS Presents: Informed Political Discourse


New project: tricking search engines and link aggregaters by embedding (H.J. Res. 57) misleading (llama farming) words (Brangelina) and phrases (natural male enhancement) into my posts.

Towards that end, Evan Longoria will henceforce be referred to as Eva [sic] Longoria, and one or more of the words "hot," "nude," "naked," "sex," "movies," or "pics" will always precede and/or follow any mention of his achievements.

Example: Eva [sic] Longoria has slowed down a bit after his hot April/May start, but he still leads the A.L. in XBH and is in the top ten in runs created, batting wins, SLG, OPS, OPS+, HR, sextape, 2B, and TB.


Balloteering for positions.

Wondering who in the NL Central deserves a spot in the All-Star Game? I kind of was, so I wrote an article about it.

Really I was looking at who could reasonably be argued as one of the top two at a given position in the National League. I focused mainly on WAR, OPS+, and EqA. Here are the choices by team:

Chicago Cubs: None.
Fukudome comes close but he's tied for 8th among OF for WAR and his EqA is only .279. Ramirez would be up there but he actually tried to show some range in the field and his shoulder rebelled against this idea.

Cincinnati Reds: None.
Poor Joey Votto. He's having a great year but trails Pujols, Gonzalez, and Fielder in most categories. Brandon Phillips is having a good year as well but Utley and Sanchez edge him out. Ryan Hannigan is having a good year at the plate but is not as good offensively as McCann or defensively as Molina and they both lead him out in WAR.

Houston Astros: Hunter Pence
Pence is surprising me and I'll eat my words if he maintains this through the end of the season (BABIP .355 so far). Michael Bourn is tied with Fukudome at 8th for OF WAR and is having a slightly better year at the plate. I would be surprised if it is enough. I wouldn't be surprised if Rodriguez gets elected in what is expected to be his last year.

Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun, Mike Cameron
Braun is developing into a true superstar which has me excited and nervous. There are stories about his marketability being targeted by all kinds of people and this makes it harder for me to envision him remaining in Milwaukee. Cameron started the year crushing at the plate and although he has cooled off his work in the field has been outstanding (20 FRAR, 9 FRAA). Fielder is trailing only Gonzalez and Pujols but it might be enough to keep him out.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Freddy Sanchez
Sanchez is having an excellent year at the plate and in the field and trails only Chase Utley among second basemen for WAR. Watch for him at the trade deadline as his contract ends with a club option for next year that the Pirates may not want to spend. This may be good for Freddy as the Pirates are terrible.

St Louis Cardinals: Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina
Pujols just barely edges out just kidding he is destoying everything. Yadier's decent year at the plate combined with his always awesome defense keeps him in the top two C for WAR.

EDIT: I realized as I finished writing that I ignored injuries. I know Beltran and Ibanez both may not play the game if elected which could open up windows for Fukudome or Bourn. I don't feel like going back and checking each leaderboard for injured players so my lists assume the game is being played in an XBox and injures are set to "only Aramis Ramirez."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Common sense

Albert Pujols has passed Chase Utley and now is the top vote getter for the All-Star game. While I encourage this seeing as how Pujols leads the league in everything there is a small discrepancy I'd like to acknowledge. All-Star ballotting is done by league and by position. Pujols leads all players in WAR with 5.5. The next closest NL 1B is Adrian Gonzalez with 4.7. Utley sits at 3.2. The next closest NL 2B is Freddy Sanchez with 3.0. It really shouldn't be this close.

It should be noted that Sanchez narrows the gap between himself and Utley mostly through defense even though he is having a good year at the plate.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Yeah, yeah, so I've been busy. Sue me. But while we're on the topic of the "worst" awesome player in baseball today, I'll float out a little nugget of conversation obliterating the St. Louis radiowaves lately.

A poll question on, the website for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, begged the question of this, and I paraphrase:

What would be worse for the city of St. Louis to lose? The St. Louis Rams, or Albert Pujols?

The answer, to me, is obvious. The answer was obvious to many people in my fantasy baseball league as well, only their obvious answer went the other way. Now, I hope you are right thinking people and understand the economic loss the city would sustain if a National Football League franchise were to leave town, which was my argument. One player, who very well may be starting a decline by 2011 (debatable, sure), is unquestionably better for the city to lose than a football team. In simple numbers, if Pujols leaves, one job leaves town. If the Rams leave, hundreds of jobs leave town or are lost completely. Simple mathematics.

Clearly the question is just that, a poll question. Most folks reading this blog are not from St. Louis, I assume, and thus don't really know how Cardinal management does business. Allow me to enlighten you. Now, I know, I know, "stop complaining, the Cardinals are competitive every year, yadda yadda yadda." I know. It's been a sweet ride. However, the Cardinals operate as a small market team. Our payroll is something like 81 million right now. Middle of the pack. Not showing off, not lagging behind. A lot of our success has come from, no offense, but from being in a shitty division. A .530 winning percentage is generally good enough to win the Central, but it's not the mark of a pennant contender. Granted in 2004 and 2005 the Cardinals were, in a word, great. But we won in 2006 with a shitty team that got hot at the right time.

In his tenure, Cardinal owner Bill DeWitt has done nothing to indicate that he is much more than a money grubbing owner. The payroll is always middle of the pack - I believe we are 14th currently. The team is generally competetive but not stellar...juuuuust good enough to stay competetive until October. Couple that with the fact that we are 4th in terms of highest ticket prices with the most expensive concessions in the league, and old Billy Boy is making money hand over fist. I get that it's a business, but the team could always be so much better, and it's more than a coincidence that we never go out and get a FA who isn't a "project" (Kyle Lohse, Kip Wells) who we can get off the scrap heap and hope Dave Duncan can work another miracle. The last "big" free agent we picked up was Jason Isringhausen, I believe, and he wasn't that big. Before that it was Ron Gant. They've done well through trades (Jim Edmonds), but then again they've also done not so well (Dan Haren).

My point through this incoherent rambling is this: the Cardinals are in no way a sure-fire lock to re-sign Albert Pujols. He'll command 25-30 million a year, and more importantly he wants to win. Not squeak by and have a shot at the Central, but he wants a team that is committed to giving him protection and a team that is a perennial contender. All the folks in my fantasy league and all the yahoos on sports talk radio better deal with the good possibility that Albert might be gone in 2011 and it won't be the end of the world. We'll come away with a fucking HAUL of young stud talent that should shore up two positions and 2/5 of the pitching staff for years to come - and theoretically we'll have another 30 million to spend on free agents (yeah, right!).

Believe me, I'd love to have my cake and eat it too. But since I know I can't, Pujols can go and give me the prospects. I'd rather have 5-10 more years atop the standings than .500 ball or worse with 1/3 of our salary going to one dude. Oh, and let us keep the Rams - no matter how shitty they are.

Comparing Pirates Aces

Only one team remains in my WAR-based analysis of NL Central aces of the last half century: the Pittsburgh Pirates. Once again, I had to do some digging to find my four candidates. Two were obvious: Doug Drabek, whose brilliant 1990 campaign is an early formative baseball memory of mine, and Dock Ellis, charter member of the Shrine of the Eternals and subject of some of the great baseball stories of the '60s and '70s. Once I bolstered my Pirates knowledge with a bit of research, I realized that to round out my final four I need look no further than the Bobs: Bob Friend and Bob Veale. Both were excellent pitchers who get overlooked because, with the exception of Friend's World Champion Pirates of 1960, their teams were mediocre to terrible. But, as I hope to show, they were extremely valuable on the mound during their tenures in Pittsburgh.

Because Friend started pitching before my available WAR data (his rookie year was 1951, but Sean Smith's WAR database begins with 1953), he gets short shrift in this analysis. But, once each pitcher's seasonal WAR is graphed in descending order, it becomes pretty obvious that Friend was still far and away the most valuable Pirates pitcher of the past half century:

Friend easily outpaces the rest of the Pirates pitchers on my short list. His 48.2 Pirates WAR is likely low by 2-3 wins since neither his 1951 nor his 1952 season is accounted for (which, by the way, is why I haven't included a career WAR graph as I have in previous posts), but Veale's 26.8 is the next highest total, and he's not even close. Veale surprised me, actually. I expected him to beat out Drabek, which he did (26.8 to 21.8), but I expected Drabek's peak to be higher. Basically, I figured that Drabek burned a bit brighter but not for long enough, when in fact Veale's Xth best year beat out Drabek's Xth best year every single time. Impressive.

Unfortunately, Ellis surprised me, too. I was really pulling for Dock to make a better showing than the 14.5 WAR he put up as a Pirate. But he just didn't produce like the other three men on my list (though I will say this for Ellis: how many stories do people tell about Bob Friend throwing at every single batter he faced in order to motivate his team?).

Next up: the final "battle royale" between the top pitchers from each team. Gibson! Jenkins! Higuera! Oswalt! Rijo! Friend!

Numbers! Graphs! Unicorns! Exclamation marks!

Nothing to see here.

Just an "All-Star" going 0 for 2 with no runs scored, no RsBI, and no talent. He did leave two men on base though so at least his day wasn't a total waste.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

This Person Exists

From "Farnsworth said he owned two American bulldogs, one about 80 pounds and the other about 90 pounds. They're named Strike and Rambo."

Stone. Strike. Rambo. Wow.

A most unimpressive homerun by Pujols.

A solo shot when his team wins 11-2 is not enough to convince me Pujols is anything other than another overrated superfart.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pujols sucks it up while the rest of the Cardinals...join him in sucking it up

Pujols went 0 for 3 yesterday in a none too surprising move, given his general awfulness. The Cards only got three hits off of Cliff Lee who carried a no hitter into the eighth so the good news is that Pujols wasn't dragging his team down for once.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Is This the End of Zombie Shakes...Eric Chavez?

Unfortunately, it's the end of Chavez's 2009 season at the least, and perhaps of his career, as the oft-injured Athletics third baseman will have back surgery yet again.

Chavez hasn't played more than 90 games since 2006, and he hasn't been even close to 90 games since 2007. But from 2000 to 2006, he was a perennial Gold Glover who hit for power and was consistently above average in OPS+. Put simply, he was a bright young star in the A's system (despite, incidentally, never making an All-Star team) who got hurt in his prime:

As a fan and an athlete myself (though, as evidenced by the fact that I write about baseball rather than playing it, not much of an athlete in the grand scheme), I hate to see this sort of thing happen to a player; Chavy seemed to have found his groove as a consistently All-Star caliber third baseman (something that, hopefully, voters outside of Oakland would have eventually recognized) when the injury bug bit.

But as much of a shame as it would be to see Chavez forced to walk away from the game so prematurely, it would be even worse to see him ruin his chance at a healthy post-baseball life if he stages an ill-conceived comeback attempt. So here's hoping that whether next year finds Chavez stepping to the plate in uniform to continue his career or in a suit to end it, A's fans give him the standing ovation he deserves.

Best of luck, Eric.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Today's Pujols bashing posted after the 1st inning.

Nice strikeout. I assume the rest of his day went about the same.

I Shin-Soo Choo Choo Choose You

That's right, I went there.

Just when non-Zach-Greinke things couldn't get any worse for the Royals...well, you know the rest of that cliché. Shin-Soo Choo won the game for the Indians on Thursday with a walk off single against Royals reliever Kyle "Professor" Farnsworth—and off a particularly well- (or, depending on your perspective, poorly-) placed seagull.

The ridiculous end to Thursday's game prompted a particularly entertaining post from Joe Posnanski (I'm reminded of the mostly-wonderful Royals by Mail).

Choo's seagull shot also puts him in second place on my all-time gullball list, which now reads as follows:

1.) Randy Johnson
2.) Shin-Soo Choo
3.) Randy Johnson
4.) Randy Johnson
5.) Randy Johnson
6.) Randy Johnson
7.) Randy Johnson
8.) Randy Johnson
9.) Randy Johnson
10.) Randy Johnson

Todd Helton, the Hall of Fame, and a Rain-Delayed White Sox Game

This past Thursday, I attended my first game at U.S. Cellular Field since September 20, 2006 when the Tigers came to town and beat the Southsiders 6-2 in what was, for all intents and purposes, playoff caliber baseball. The Tigers were in town on Thursday, as well, albeit on a much drearier, rainier day. Caleb and I sat through a three hour rain delay before the game began, during which we had a couple beers, listened to stadium organist Nancy Faust play all manner of amazingly hilarious renditions of popular music from the past forty years (her first selection after we arrived at the ballpark at 12:45 was this), and watched 7+ innings of the Brewers-Rockies series finale on the jumbotron.

* * *

It was while watching the Brewers game that I saw a familiar poll question appear on the bigscreen: is Todd Helton a first-ballot Hall of Famer? Len Kasper and Bob Brenly brought up this very question when the Rockies came to town earlier this year, and then as now I felt as though the commentators were asking the wrong question. The question, I thought, shouldn't be whether or not Todd Helton is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but whether or not Todd Helton is a Hall of Famer at all. With those questions in mind once more, I decided to do a little digging into Todd Helton's Hall of Fame case.

Any discussion of Todd Helton's Hall of Fame candidacy, of course, has to begin with his 2000-2004 seasons, during which he was an absolute monster. Just to put Helton's performances during that stretch into perspective, I took his five year season lows and put them all together to create his worst composite season during that period:

.329/.429/.577, 1.006 OPS (147 OPS+), 182 H, 39 2B, 2 3B, 30 HR, 319 TB, 98 BB, 104 SO, 0 SB, 5 CS, 107 R, 96 RBI

Obviously, those numbers don't add up due to my ridiculously imprecise "methods," and it's worth noting that a whole lot of those lows are from Helton's 2002 campaign, but I can't imagine a single major league GM who wouldn't love to add that kind of production to his lineup for even one year, let alone five. That's a superstar year, and it is in every way possible the worst year that I could cobble together for Helton during his five year peak.

But the next issue that any Helton-for-the-Hall discussion needs to deal with is his power outage after the '04 season. Since 2004, Todd Helton has never hit more than 20 home runs, and he's done that only once. In fairness to Helton, he still gets on base like a beast (if he maintains his .384 OBP for the rest of the 2009 season, it will be his lowest since 1998, his first full year in the bigs), and there are plenty of Hall of Fame hitters who either lost their power or never had any in the first place. Of course, most former power hitters who went on to the Hall of Fame enjoyed longer peaks than Helton (whose power peak lasted six years, including 1999), and most of the guys who never had any power in the first place were slick glove and/or speed men up the middle of the diamond (with some obvious exceptions like Boggs and Gwynn). Helton is a first baseman, and this year's Hall of Fame voting was not particularly kind to the most recently eligible all-OBP no-SLG first sacker.

Still, there's no denying that Helton was a monster for five or six years, and has been a very valuable ballplayer for another three or four. But how valuable, exactly, and how has his value stacked up against Hall of Fame hitters in general and, in light of the first ballot question, first-ballot hitters in particular?

The first question seems like the logical place to start. Helton's numbers were eye-popping during his peak years, but so were those of a lot of other players in the early aughts (lest we forget). So how good was Helton in context, and how valuable has he remained post-peak? Pretty valuable, as it turns out, as recently as 2007. Here's how Helton's numbers have translated into baseball currency (runs) over the course of his career, including adjustments for position:

Offense includes batting, baserunning, and GIDP values; Defense includes TotalZone and infield double play numbers, and Positional is the RAR system's way to account for different positions on the diamond. Math whizzes who aren't familiar with RAR will notice that the three values I've given first don't add up to the total RAR values. That's because I haven't graphed the replacement level values that go into converting from "raw" runs above average to runs above replacement.

But the graph is still telling: during his peak years, Helton was worth between 60 and 90 RAR for the Colorado Rockies, and much of that was on the strength of his bat (though it's worth noting that Helton's reputation as an excellent glove man at first is warranted; he has been above average on defense throughout most of his career). But are those big seasons enough for Cooperstown to come calling?

My immediate thought was to simply compare Helton's production to that of the already enshrined. Fortunately for me, several folks over at Beyond the Box Score (JBrew and TucsonRoyal in particular) have already done quite a bit of legwork in order to establish baseline Hall of Fame performance levels using Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which frequent readers of NLCS (both of you!) will recognize as one of my favorite statistics. (To put my first graph in context, 10 RAR ~ 1 WAR.)

My next move was to use JBrew's data for average Hall of Famer WAR and compare it to Helton's 12-year career (as of the end of 2008):

As you can see, Helton's best seven seasons compare favorably to those of the average Hall of Famer, but then Helton falls off a comparative cliff.

But the question raised by both the Cubs and Brewers telecasts that prompted me to perform this analysis in the first place was not whether Helton is a Hall of Famer, but whether Helton is a first ballot Hall of Famer. Comparing him to the average resident of Cooperstown doesn't do much to answer that question. So I narrowed the dataset down to include only those players who were inducted into the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility (data available here).

As it turns out, all but six first-balloters (Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, and Jackie Robinson) played recently enough that most or all of their careers are included in Sean Smith's historical WAR database. Once I had worked out what the average first ballot inductee's WAR looked like, I graphed Helton again, this time against the very creamiest of the crop:

Helton still stacks up pretty well in his top seven seasons; in fact, there doesn't seem to be much of an upward jump in Cooperstown standards when we limit the HoF WAR sampling to first balloters:

In general, the difference between a first ballot Hall of Famer and the average Hall of Famer (importantly, the "average" HoFer values include first balloters) is about half a win per year. Based on WAR, we can see that during his peak years Helton was playing like a borderline first-ballot Hall of Famer, then like a slightly below average Hall of Famer during his remaining good years, and that he's been well below the average immortal in the remaining five years of his career. And this twelve year WAR graph is something of a best case scenario right now, as most players who end up in Cooperstown these days played for much longer than 12 (soon to be 13) seasons:

That's an awful lot of ground for Helton to make up. In order for him to look like a first ballot Hall of Famer, he'll need another five or six years in the 3-5 WAR range, and Helton is already 35. That doesn't mean he won't be a Hall of Famer if he hangs up his spikes tomorrow; hell, he might already be a first ballot Hall of Famer in the eyes of enough voters for him to find himself at the podium in 2014 accepting his election as the Rockies' first representative in Cooperstown. But by at least one metric (and one that I tend to put a lot of stock in), he sure doesn't look like a first ballot Hall of Famer—and perhaps not even like a Hall of Famer, period.

In light of this, perhaps the question that we should be asking isn't "Is Todd Helton a first-ballot Hall of Famer?" or even "Is Todd Helton a Hall of Famer at all?" but rather "Why are we asking about Todd Helton's Hall of Fame chances right now?" His peak, while impressive, probably won't be enough for enshrinement on its own given the historical context, not to mention park effects, which I haven't even mentioned in my analysis [EDIT: though they are accounted for in WAR] but which will absolutely come into play any time a Rockie finds his way to a Hall of Fame ballot. And who knows? Helton could surprise us all and put up four or five good years before calling it quits. So let's wait and see what the next few seasons have in store for Helton, as well what next year's vote has in store for the first legitimate Hall of Fame candidate to put up most of his numbers in Denver, Larry Walker, before we go trying to figure out if Todd Helton has punched his ticket to Cooperstown.

* * *

I was, of course, unable to argue my point so clearly off the cuff, but Caleb and I talked of Helton and the Hall regardless. Were I to show Past Dave and Past Caleb the first half of this post, they'd both be rather surprised: we gave Helton a rather dismal shot at election at the time. But we were perhaps overly pessimistic, particularly in light of the ray of hope that was 2007.

When the game finally began around 4:00, Caleb and I had already been watching baseball and talking baseball for over three hours, but Chicago-Detroit didn't disappoint. Floyd pitched a gem, Thome and Granderson (the two players who both Caleb and I were most invested in) had big games, and thanks to Granderson's 2-run shot off of Bobby Jenks in the top of the ninth, there was plenty of drama late.

And of course, this was a Sox game, so when Ramon Santiago hit a solo home run in the eighth, the whole stadium gave him the booing of a lifetime (quoth Caleb, "Who bothers to boo Ramon Santiago?").*

*Before any furious Sox fans try to remind me: Yes, I'm well aware that Cubs fans en masse are just as bad.

But the highlight of the day for both of us, by far, occurred in the bottom of the second when highly touted prospect Gordon Beckham strode to the plate and this happened. That's right, the kid's entrance music is "Your Love" by The Outfield. Beckham gave one of Edwin Jackson's offerings a pretty good ride to left center, but it died on the track. He got good wood on another pitch in his second at-bat against Jackson, but to no avail.

Fortunately, he hit a home run with "Your Love" and, in doing so, instantly became both Caleb's and my favorite player on the White Sox (sorry, Jimmy T.). He also softened the blow of having to watch A.J. Pierzynski hit a home run to right. As I said to Caleb, "If every Pierzynski home run is followed by Gordon Beckham walking to the plate to that song, I hope he hits 170."

Going into the top of the ninth, I laid out my plans for the ideal game: the Tigers would score two runs to tie the game and the White Sox would be shut down in the ninth, sending us to extras and setting up Gordon Beckham's first Major League home run, a glorious walk-off in the bottom of the whatever. When Curtis Granderson took Bobby Jenks deep to tie things up, things were looking good for the Perfect Game.

But the ninth inning didn't work out quite as planned. Brian Anderson led off with a single off Joel Zumaya. Zumaya then mishandled Chris Goetz's sacrifice bunt attempt and threw the ball away, putting runners on second and third. Josh Fields walked to load the bases, bringing up Scott Podsednik with a chance to win the game. I told Caleb that if Beckham couldn't win the game, a Podsednik-struck walk-off grand slam would be one hell of a consolation prize. He quickly agreed.

And then things got weird.

Podsednik fouled a ball towards the third base side that Brandon Inge chased like a madman. Inge lunged into the stands in shallow left with a bead on the ball only to have it deflected away by a Sox fan. While Inge, furious, began to argue for fan interference (an argument that Jim Leyland and some of his staff joined), the fan raised the ball triumphantly in his hands and turned to all corners of the stadium to bask in the adulation of the rest of the ballpark. (On our way out of the park, we walked right past this guy while he, gesturing furiously and with the ball still in his hand, screamed "I took it away from you!" at every Tigers fan he passed.)

I have an inordinate amount of respect for Section 510, which joined us in booing this jerkbag until we were blue in the face. This includes several fans who were decked to the nines in Sox apparel, one of whom yelled "Let 'em fuckin' play!" in front of his gradeschool daughter.

What made this scene even more odious is the fact that, during the rain delay, we'd been "treated" to the White Sox World Series film, during which we'd watched Joe Crede make his amazing catch in the '05 series in much the same spot at Minute Maid Park as Podsednik's foul had landed at U.S. Cellular. At the time, Caleb and I had talked about how classy the fans in Houston were for getting out of the way of a ballplayer in general, and an opposing ballplayer in particular, and allowing him the chance to make a play. We had no idea how portentious such a line of discussion would turn out to be.

It's worth noting, by the way, that with all of Inge's momentum taking him away from the plate, not to mention the fact that he fell into the stands to try to make a play, Anderson probably could have tagged up and scored from third even if Inge had caught the ball. But, as history will forever show, Podsednik got another chance, and hit a sharp grounder through on the right side to end the game. It's likely that the Sox would have won regardless, but it was a shame to see a fan intentionally break up a play like that.

Come on, guys. Let 'em fuckin' play.