Archive for December 2010

Captain Clutch vs. three guys without fancy nicknames   Leave a comment

Happy last day of 2010, everybody.  Continuing the Hall of Fame discussion today, albeit with a shorter post than others this week; after all, it’s New Year’s Eve, and we all have important things to do.

If Deter Jeter retired today, I suspect that most people would call him a sure-fire Hall of Famer.  Almost 3,000 hits, almost 1,700 runs, over 1,100 RBI, over 4,200 total bases… and let’s not forget the World Series rings, the Yankee captaincy, and all the other gritty and clutchy and gamer intangibles that have been (somewhat accurately) attributed to him over the past 16 seasons.

Let’s compare him to three other middle infielders.  Two of them started their major league careers about 20 years before Jeter; the third started about a decade before him.  Two of them played together nearly their entire careers, while the third did his job about 250 miles away.  Comparing the three on the Cooperstown ballot, one garnered just over 50% of the vote on his first try, one has struggled to get even half of that in nine years, and one fell off the ballot after his first and only year on it.

I’m using Wargraphs to chart Jeter and the men hinted at above.  It’s such a neat tool for comparing ballplayers – any position, any era – that if my wife had merely showed me the link for Christmas, I’d have considered it a good haul.  If you’re at all statistically inclined, you probably know about WAR – Wins Above Replacement – and how it compares and ranks players according to how much better they are to a baseline, “replacement-level” player in that given year.  For the record, here are the top ten players ranked by WAR:

  1. Babe Ruth – 190.00
  2. Barry Bonds – 171.80
  3. Ty Cobb – 159.50
  4. Willie Mays – 154.70
  5. Cy Young – 143.20
  6. Hank Aaron – 141.60
  7. Walter Johnson – 139.80
  8. Honus Wagner – 134.50
  9. Tris Speaker – 132.90
  10. Roger Clemens – 128.80

At a glance, maybe you might want to shuffle them around, but if someone presented this list as the ten greatest baseball players of all-time, I could buy their logic.  That said, I don’t consider WAR as the definitive tool for such a study.  There is no one thing that can do that.  I’m also a little leery of trusting its defensive component – I’m not saying it’s wrong, but defensive metrics are always going to be difficult to quantify.  They aren’t as black-and-white as the pitching or hitting components – they’re getting better, but I don’t know if they’ll ever be 100% infallible.

Still, I tend to trust it.  And as a simple comparitive tool, it works for me.

I ran Derek Jeter, Barry Larkin, Alan Trammell, and Lou Whitaker through the Wargraphs device, as you can see by clicking here .  Very, very similar players – Whitaker’s the odd man out, in that he played second base, while the other three played short.  My favorite of the three graphs is the middle one, where it compares them by cumulative WAR by age.  At the “age 35” season – where Jeter is now – it’s a virtual dead heat.  In fact, Jeter and Whitaker have almost an identical career path – at least, graphically.  Their careers, as per Wargraphs on a cumulative basis, are remarkably similar.

One more note: using baseball-reference.com as my source, Jeter just took the career WAR lead, at 70.1, over the other three.  Whitaker is just behind at 69.7.  Larkin has a WAR score of 68.9, and Trammell is at 66.9.  Using this as my source, 84% of eligible players with a WAR of 63 or more are in Cooperstown.

Larkin’s the one who got half the vote in his first try.  His chances for inshrinement seem pretty good.

Trammell’s languishing in that 20-25% range.  It does not look good for Tram.

Whitaker was one-and-done in 2001, capturing a measly 2.9% of the vote.

Jeter WILL stroll in the moment he’s eligible to do so – he will, of course, continue to add to his numbers for the next few seasons, but he’s a no-brainer nonetheless.  Why, then, are these guys such question marks?

Advertisements

Posted December 31, 2010 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Along the lines of Rickey vs. Raines… now, the sluggers   Leave a comment

Following up on the last post now.  I firmly believe that it’s an injustice to Tim Raines to directly compare him to Rickey Henderson.  Rickey’s one of a kind.  To BE compared to him, with any sort of positivity, is an awesome compliment.  If you compare Raines to Henderson in a Cooperstown argument, you better compare him to other guys as well – guys that played in his era, and guys that also displayed a similar skill set.  Not just Henderson.

I don’t think using the most dominant player should be the baseline for getting Hall of Fame votes.  I haven’t read anyone else write, “Fred McGriff was a darn good player, but he’s no Babe Ruth.”  Of course not.  And in this specific case, I admit I’m exaggerating for the sake of my argument.  Two players, different positions, different eras, but both primarily defined by their ability to hit the crap out of a baseball.  Who wins?  The Bambino.  He’ll trump all but… geez, who?  He, like Henderson, is off the charts.

If you read the last post, you saw my “dirty math” comparison of Raines and Henderson.  I wanted to do the same for a different kind of hitter – the slugger.  However, I did not use Babe Ruth – he was so demonstrably better than his peers, and he literally changed the game.  So yeah, no Babe.  Instead, I chose a player that didn’t overwhelmingly dominate his competition, but DID mash the ball year in and year out with enviable consistancy.  To many, he will always be the home run champ.

Hank Aaron is the man.

I then had to find someone to compare him to, to try to make my point that it’s more than ridiculous to compare anyone directly to him.  I wanted a genuine Hall of Famer, preferably someone that played at about the same time, a National Leaguer, and a right fielder, in that order.  The first person I thought of was Billy Williams, who played 18 years in the bigs, mainly for the Chicago Cubs, and he was welcomed into Cooperstown on his sixth try.  (He started with just 23.4% of the vote, and every year, he gained 10 to 15 per cent of the vote.  He JUST missed on his fifth year on the ballot, with 74.1%.  Odd voting pattern.)

Williams put up some fine numbers, and no one wants to kick him out of the Hall.  Yet, and with all due respect to the man, I didn’t think using him as my “test subject” against Aaron was the best choice.  Williams failed to reach 500 home runs, and fell short of the 1,500-RBI mark as well.  Furthermore, he played left field, not right.  He was a great hitter, but I wanted someone… more sluggerly.

I kept looking for someone to fit my criteria.  Frank Robinson played the majority of his career in right, but he also played some left… and he also spent half his career in the American League.  Al Kaline was a true right fielder, but also a true American Leaguer.

I then decided I’d use all three guys – AND I’d up the ante by including another iconic ballplayer against whom comparisons will inevitably fall short.  Like Aaron, he’s a National League outfielder.  Tons of power.  However, he played center field… and did so extremely well.  Come on down, Willie Mays!

Here’s the chart.  I averaged the four players’ stats – Williams, Robinson, Kaline, and Mays – then used those individual averages and expressed them as an average of Hank Aaron.  I also bolded the categories that each player holds the lead in – it’s not germane to the calculation, but it’s there anyways.  Again, as mentioned in the previous post, it’s somewhat crude.  Basic stats, none weighted higher than any others, but they help form the composite.

  Aaron Williams Robinson Kaline Mays AVG OF 4 % OF AARON
G 3298 2488 2808 2834 2992 2780.5 84.31%
PA 13940 10519 11743 11597 12493 11588 83.13%
AB 12364 9350 10006 10116 10881 10088 81.59%
R 2174 1410 1829 1622 2062 1731 79.61%
H 3771 2711 2943 3007 3283 2986 79.18%
2B 624 434 528 498 523 496 79.45%
3B 98 88 72 75 140 94 95.66%
HR 755 426 586 399 660 518 68.58%
RBI 2297 1475 1812 1583 1903 1693 73.72%
SB 240 90 204 137 338 192 80.10%
BB 1402 1045 1420 1277 1464 1302 92.83%
SO 1383 1046 1532 1020 1526 1281 92.62%
BA 0.305 0.29 0.294 0.297 0.302 0.296 96.97%
OBP 0.374 0.361 0.389 0.376 0.384 0.378 100.94%
SLG 0.555 0.492 0.537 0.48 0.557 0.517 93.06%
OPS 0.928 0.853 0.926 0.855 0.941 0.894 96.31%
OPS+ 155 133 154 134 1
55
144 92.90%
TB 6856 4599 5373 4852 6066 5223 76.17%

The result?  Very similar to the other – counting stat advantage, Aaron; percentage stats, pretty close.  Still, it’s futile to match up with the Hammer.  He wasn’t as flashy as Rickey Henderson, but there are casinos in Las Vegas that fail that test, too.  Then I calculated the “average percentage” of the 18 stat categories: 85.95.

The number for Raines vs. Henderson?  86.11.

I took four bonafide, no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famers, compared them to a fifth Hall of Famer, and got almost the exact same “average percentage”.  (When I take Mays out of the equation, it drops to 81.37 – “meaning” that the trio of Williams/Kaline/Robinson compare less favorably to Aaron, than Raines does to Henderson.)  Different kinds of players, but all darn good and comparable nonetheless.

What you think it proves is up to you.  I still think it’s a great case for Tim Raines.

Posted December 29, 2010 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Tim Raines is AT LEAST 17/20ths the player Rickey Henderson was!   Leave a comment

But not quite nine-tenths.  So endeth my blog.

Well, no.  This’ll be my last comparison of Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines.  The near-unanimous Hall of Famer, who holds the all-time record for stolen bases and runs, who stroked over 3,000 hits, and is considered the greatest leadoff man ever… against a guy whose highest Hall of Fame vote percentage thus far is 30.4%.  The argument I see against Raines – quite often, it seems – is that (a) he’s a poor man’s Rickey Henderson, or (b) he wasn’t as good as Rickey Henderson.

No, he was not.  No one was.  Rickey was a freak of nature, and it’s a travesty that he wasn’t inducted into Cooperstown unanimously.  Unfortunately for Raines, Henderson played in the same era, at the same position, and almost exclusively from the same position in the batting order.  The comparison was obvious, and because Raines doesn’t match up, he’ll forever be known as second-best… IF that.

I wanted to compare a variety of statistics between the two, using baseball-reference.com as my source.  Admittedly, it’s kind of crude; I only used numbers from the standard batting table, primarily the stats you’d find on the back of a baseball card.  I simply took Raines’s career numbers and divided them by Henderson’s, expressing them as, for lack of a better term, a percentage of Rickey.  Again, not the most scientific measure you’ll ever see – but better than the random “Player X isn’t half as good as Player Y” observations.  I have real percentages, by gum!

Here goes.

  Henderson Raines % of Rickey
GAMES 3081 2502 81.21%
PA 13346 10359 77.62%
AB 10961 8872 80.94%
R 2295 1571 68.45%
H 3055 2605 85.27%
2B 510 430 84.31%
3B 66 113 171.21%
HR 297 170 57.24%
RBI 1115 980 87.89%
SB 1406 808 57.47%
BB 2190 1330 60.73%
SO 1694 966 57.02%
BA 0.279 0.294 105.38%
OBP 0.401 0.385 96.01%
SLG 0.419 0.425 101.43%
OPS 0.82 0.81 98.78%
OPS+ 127 123 96.85%
T BASES 4588 3771 82.19%

So for example, in the counting stats, Raines doesn’t fare as well.  Rickey has a lot more steals.  More homers.  More walks and runs.  But in the percentage stats, things like batting average, on-base percentage, and so forth – Raines is right there with him.

Then I did more dirty math.  I took an average of the various percentages to come up with, well, an average percentage.  I didn’t give weight to one category over another – to be honest, I don’t think it’s possible to accurately do so.  Should stolen bases “rank” higher than doubles?  Probably, sure, but by how much?  Thus, for this purpose, they’re all the same.  So… how does Tim Raines compare to the great Rickey Henderson, expressed as a simple percentage?

According to my conclusive study, Tim Raines is 86.11% as good as Rickey Henderson.

If you were a general manager, and you could get your hands on a player that you KNEW would be as fractionally comparable to Rickey Henderson – for 2,502 games, to boot – wouldn’t you do everything you could to get him?  Wouldn’t you then say you’ve got yourself a Hall of Famer?

I’m probably biased, but I would.  My next post wi
ll be along the same lines as this one, and will address a couple of points made here.

Posted December 29, 2010 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

The Jack Morris debate – was he THAT dominant?   Leave a comment

More Hall of Fame ramblings today.  The vote for 2011 will be revealed in a couple of weeks, and as January 5th approaches, several writers – qualified or otherwise – are publishing their picks.  Members of the BBWAA, sportswriters, internet columnists, and John Q. Publicks worldwide lobby for, argue against, and present fact and opinion for any and all to see.  I really like reading it… unless, of course, I read something that strikes me as so uninformed or illogical that it makes me shake my fist at the World Wide Web.

Wait, let me clarify that.  Everyone’s entitled to their opinions.  But opinion isn’t always fact.  Nor should opinion be presented AS fact.

The player I want to discuss today is Jack Morris.  This is his twelfth year on the Cooperstown ballot, and he has slowly but steadily gained votes since 2000.  If he doesn’t get the necessary 75% this season, he’ll stay on the ballot for just three more seasons.  After that, it’ll be up to the Veterans Committee.  And at the rate they’ve been inducting former players – which is to say, hardly ever – better now than later for ol’ Jack.

Let me clarify something else, too.  It might look like I’m tearing apart Morris’s case for Cooperstown, or that I don’t think he belongs.  Let me say this: if you make it to the big leagues, it requires exceptional physical skill, dedication, and mental toughness.  If you carve out a five-to-ten year career, you possess talents that few on this planet do.  And if you’ve succeeded to such a degree where you’re even considered as a Hall of Famer, you’re in select, select company.  I personally think Jack Morris was a damn fine pitcher, and if, as a major league manager, I had five of him in my starting rotation every year, I’d do just swell.

At the same time, I don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer.  Not quite.  Those that think otherwise point to some impressive statistics – 254 wins, three 20-win seasons, over 3,800 innings pitched – and these are all laudable numbers.  Other numbers, like a career 3.90 earned run average, aren’t so great, and are brought up by folks that think he’s not Cooperstown material.  So in the face of conflicting statistical data, it seems like there are three other common arguments for the pro-Morris camp:

  1. His post-season record – specifically, Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
  2. He pitched to the score, meaning that he just went out there to win, “sacrificing” hits and runs in order to get the W.
  3. He won the most games in the 1980s / he was the most dominant pitcher of the 1980s.

Well… point by point.  His post-season record mirrored his regular-season record, and it’s not, as a whole, spectacular.  92.1 total innings pitched over four seasons, a 7-4 record with a 3.80 ERA, 64 strikeouts compared to 32 walks.  His World Series numbers are better, aided by the aforementioned ’91 performance, a 10-inning, 1-0 win over the Braves that earned the Minnesota Twins a World Series title.  I watched that game, and it kept me on the edge of my seat.  But I don’t think it, by itself, makes a guy a Hall of Famer.  I also remember Orel Hershiser’s dominating performance in ’88 against the favored Oakland Athletics – 18 innings pitched, two complete games, two runs allowed.  Bret Saberhagen against the Cardinals in ’85 – two complete games, 11 hits allowed, ten strikeouts and no walks.  Both of these men also had enviable careers, but neither got HOF support.  Nor did I mention any of the other great pitching performances in the World Series; I trust the point’s been made.  I just want to say that one game does not a Hall of Famer make.

(P.S. – While citing Morris’s Game Seven win, his supporters often fail to note his awful ’92 postseason with the Blue Jays – 0-2, 8.44 ERA, but the Jays still prevailed – OR the fact that, a season later,  he was left off the ’93 Jays postseason roster altogether.)

So there’s that.  To the second point.  Morris did not pitch to the score.  He had no magical ability to bear down or get tougher if the game was close, nor did he simply throw it up there when the game was well in hand for his team.  And if HE did, why didn’t others?  I could break down some numbers if you like but this article, published in 2003, does it way better than I ever can.

The final point.  Was Jack Morris the best pitcher of the decade?

He did win the most games in the 1980s, after all – 162 of them.  And again, I cannot stress enough how good a pitcher you have to be to do that.  Morris was a workhorse, averaging 250 innings a year; game in and game out he took the ball, and won more times than he lost.  Full marks for that.

Still… was he that good?  Was he the best?  Was he dominant?  And was there a better pitcher during that time than him?

I wanted to find one.  A guy that, ideally, pitched for a single team during that same decade.  An American Leaguer, preferably someone in the AL East, someone that bore that same tag as an ace.  The first person I thought of – and relatively quickly, too, given that I’m Canadian – was Dave Stieb.  Hell, he even had a similar moustache.

My line of thinking went like this: if you were the dominant pitcher of that decade, you must have had dominant seasons within that decade.  So, with the aid of baseball-reference.com, I wanted to see which “positive” categories each pitcher led the American League in.  These categories are just those listed in the standard pitching table; simple statistical measures that anyone should be able to make sense out of.  Ready?

Morris led the league just four times in “good stuff”: wins in ’81; strikeouts and innings pitched in ’83; and shutouts in ’86.

Stieb led the league in nine things: complete games, shutouts, and innings pitched in ’82, innings, ERA-plus, and hits per nine innings in ’84; and ERA, ERA-plus, and hits per nine in ’85.

Morris used to lead the AL regularly in wild pitches, probably a side effect of that splitter he used to throw.  Stieb used to lead the AL in hit batsmen.  Just something I thought I’d mention…

Based on these traditional stats, I would suggest that neither were category-fillingly (yes, that’s a word) dominant… but I’d say that Stieb had more.  In fact, I’d say Morris NEVER had a single dominating season.  So let’s check them head-to-head, from 1980 to 1989.  Morris started just one more game than Stieb, 332 to 331, so it should be pretty straight-forward, right?

  • Morris over Stieb in wins, 162-140. **
  • Stieb over Morris in ERA, 3.32 to 3.66.
  • Morris over Stieb in complete games, 133 to 92.
  • Stieb over Morris in shutouts, 27 to 20.
  • Morris over Stieb in innings pitched, 2443.2 to 2328.2 (a difference of 115 IP).
  • Stieb over Morris in fewer hits allowed, 2,019 t
    o 2,212 (a difference of 193 hits).
  • Stieb over Morris in fewer home runs allowed, 183 to 264.  Using the ballpark factors cited by baseball-reference.com, Exhibition Stadium – Stieb’s homepark – played better for hitters, while Tiger Stadium seemed relatively neutral, maybe leaning thismuch to pitchers.  (Use this as you will.)
  • Stieb over Morris in walks, 825 to 858.  However, their walks per nine innings is identical – 3.2.
  • Morris over Stieb in strikeouts, 1,629 to 1,380.  His K/9 rate was also better, 6.0 to 5.3.
  • Stieb over Morris in ERA-plus, 127 to 109.  This statistic notes that Stieb’s ERA was better than Morris’s, relative to both the league and the ballparks they pitched in.
  • Stieb had a better WHIP, 1.22 to 1.26.
  • Stieb over Morris in hits per nine innings, 7.8 to 8.1.
  • Morris over Stieb in strikeout to walk ratio, 1.9 to 1.67

A simple category score gives Stieb the advantage, 8-6-1.  Generally speaking, Morris tops Stieb in the counting categories (wins, complete games, strikeouts) – all important categories, but indicative of the fact that Morris logged more innings in his starts than Stieb.  NOT something to be trivialized – again, Morris was someone a manager and a team could always count on.  The guy was a special pitcher.

But Stieb was no quick hook out there, either.  He AVERAGED 233 innings a season; only two men (Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter) logged that many innings AT ALL in 2010.  And in those innings, Stieb was quantitatively better in ERA and ERA-plus, WHIP, hits per nine… so one could argue than Stieb was better, couldn’t one?

** This is as good a time as any for me to admit that I thought that Morris would fare a lot better than Stieb in the wins department simply because the Tigers were so much better than the expansion-era Jays during the eighties.  At least, so I thought.  Turns out the Tigers were better, but only by about two games a season.  And though they outscored the Jays during that era, it wasn’t by a lot, either.

Even with all that evidence, I can still foresee some pro-Morris guys arguing for their guy.  After all, he made four All-Star teams in the ’80s, and got Cy Young award votes in five of those years.  Dave Stieb only received votes in three of those years… but on the other hand, he was a SIX-time All-Star.  Maybe it’s worth trotting out some of those new-fangled stats, like WAR.

WAR is Wins Above Replacement.  It is a pretty reliable measure of how much better a player – like Morris or Stieb – would be over an “average player”, or someone you could readily find on the free agent market.  It’s not on the back of a baseball card like wins or stolen bases, but it’s been in circulation for a while, and for two contemporaries like these guys, it’s as straightforward as it gets.  For example, if you have a pitcher WAR season of five or more, it’s a Cy Young caliber year.  From 1980 to 1989, Morris had zero.  Stieb had four.  His lowest of the four was 6.4, in 1983.

(If you think I picked “five” out of thin air to make Stieb look way better, I didn’t.  But even if I use 4.5 WAR as the measuring stick – still a darn good year! – Stieb still had more of THOSE years, “winning” 5-3.)

Stieb’s WAR for the decade: 45.2.  Morris’s?  27.9.  Telling, isn’t it?

Do you believe in Win Shares?  It’s a Bill James device that seeks to quantify a player’s season with a single number.  Another new sabermetric tool that has found favor with most… though I don’t think it’s perfect, nor do I understand ALL of it – it is, after all, based on one person’s math.  That said, I tend to believe it more than I don’t.  So using Win Shares for both men, 1980-1989… Stieb tops Morris 175-154.  Kinda close, but Stieb prevails.  In fact, he earned the most Win Shares of any pitcher during the ’80s – Morris finished second, nothing to sneeze at.  (In a hundred years, would you have guessed Dan Quisenberry would be third, with 153, one behind Morris?  Wow.)  Furthermore, Stieb had a four-year run from 1982 to 1985 when he either finished first or second in AL Win Shares – Morris, to his credit, scored a third place in Win Shares in 1981.

One last time – I’m not trying to say Morris was an overrated pitcher, nor say that his Hall of Fame case lacks merit.  Jack Morris WAS one of the best pitchers of his era, and you can’t just stroll out to the pitching mound and tally over 250 wins in a career without knowing what you’re doing out there.  What I AM trying to do is point out some of the flaws in three of the biggest arguments I’ve read that some think make him an automatic Hall of Famer.  We’ll all find out how he does in a couple of weeks, won’t we?  And in all sincerity – ’cause I’m sure he’s reading – good luck, Jack Morris.

Dave
Jack

Posted December 28, 2010 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

The imaginary life of Edgar Martinez   Leave a comment

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, all.  I’m not going to be doing too many work-related posts for the next few days, unless something really catches my eye.  Instead, I’ll be doing some baseball and Hall of Fame stuff, as that is one of my favorite things to discuss.  Furthermore, in a couple of weeks we’ll know who received the necessary numbers of votes to make that glorious trip to Cooperstown, so it’s kinda relevant.

This blog will discuss Edgar Martinez.  This is his second year on the ballot, and he captured 36.2% of the vote last year – good, but not great.  Despite gaudy numbers – a career .312 batting average, an OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) of .933, and more – his detractors will point to a relatively short career (2,055 games) and the fact that he was primarily a designated hitter, rather than someone who took the field everyday.

Personally, I’m kind of on the fence with Edgar.  He was a GREAT hitter, and had several seasons that put him in the argument of “best right-handed hitter of his generation”.  But it is also true that he didn’t have a lengthy career, and thus didn’t hit a lot of those statistical milestones that HOF voters love… nor did he win a pile of individual awards, aside from five Silver Slugger awards.

But on the other hand – the third hand? – the annual award given to the best DH was re-named in his honor in 2004.  That counts too, right?

This blog will also probably read like a coulda, woulda, shoulda type of column.  I’m not going to try to extrapolate statistics or compare him to other Hall of Fame third basemen (or DHs, for that matter) to make a case for or against him.  I’m just (well, not really “just”) going to show you some of the various situations he encountered during his professional career.

Here we go.  Most of the numbers and sources I cite are courtesy baseball-reference.com .

His first full season in the majors was in 1990, when he was 27 years old.  He did play in 65 games the previous year, but Martinez also toiled in Triple-A that season – his fourth Triple-A season.  Using the Calgary Cannons’ media guide as my primary source (as Calgary was Seattle’s minor league affiliate back then), he made 1,141 plate appearances in Calgary from 1985 to 1989.  His line?  A cumulative .344 average, with a slash line (OBP/slugging/total) of .450/.495/.945.  Pretty damn good, isn’t it?  So what was holding him back?

I can think of three things.  First – the Pacific Coast League is a hitters’ league, and Calgary played as a hitters’ park, so the numbers he put up might have been slightly downgraded by the Seattle braintrust.  Second – for all his hitting prowess, he only managed, in total,  21 home runs and 167 RBI.  Seattle might have figured that was kinda light for a corner infielder.  Third – the Mariners were using Jim Presley at third base.

Presley DID hit for power, socking 79 homers from 1985 to 1987.  He was, in my estimation, a hair below average defensively, and he tailed off quickly after ’87.  Presley only managed an OBP over .300 twice, and his last season in Seattle was 1989.  Thus, Edgar was blocked here, whether we like it or not.

Could Seattle have dealt Presley earlier?  Or could they have made another move, perhaps freeing up first base or DH that soon for Martinez?  I don’t think so.  I think they were waiting for his power to develop.  Furthermore, they had Mr. Mariner, Alvin Davis, at first (no move happening there) and a surprisingly (to me, at least) effective Ken Phelps at DH, where he averaged 20+ home runs and an OPS around .930.  Yes, the Mariners COULD have done something, but I’m not at all surprised that they didn’t.

So Martinez finally breaks through in 1990, playing third base just about everyday.  The power wasn’t there yet, but it was improving; the plate discipline was already in place.  Defensively, that first year was pretty rough – 27 errors, and range factors that fell below league average.  But in 1991, he only made 15 errors, ranked second in the league in assists, and – again, using range factors – made himself an average defensive third baseman.  In ’92, Martinez seemed to regress a tad, but he didn’t humiliate himself out there.  I daresay he wasn’t the iron-gloved stiff it seems he’s sometimes made out to be.

In 1993, at the age of 30, he suffers an early-season leg injury, the first of several.  He managed to get into just 42 games, splitting his time between third base and DH.  Again, it seems pretty logical to me… let the expert batsman rest his legs and do his damage in the batters’ box.

The next year, the strike-shortened ’94 season, Martinez comes back to play 89 of 112 games.  He started 65 games at the hot corner, and played them pretty much like an average third baseman would.  A .950 fielding percentage, slightly better-than-average range factors… no harm, no foul.  And the power kept progressing, as he popped 13 homers in 89 games.

And then, in 1995, he became a full-time designated hitter.

To summarize this portion of my blog: Edgar Martinez got a late start in the big leagues, supressing his career offensive numbers.  He was not a crushingly bad defensive liability – as “good” as anybody the Mariners had at the time.  And it would seem that he was moved off third to save his legs, at the ripe old age of 32.  If you have other statistical evidence, or more advanced defensive metrics to steer me straight, by all means, send ’em in.

What did Edgar, and the Mariners, do after that?  Well, Edgar continued to rake.  From ’95 till the end of his career in 2004 – a span of ten years – he averaged 25 home runs and 99 RBI.  A .316 batting average.  A slash of .430/.541/.971.  An adjusted OPS (this takes his home ballpark into consideration) of 153.  Put a bat in his hand, and the gentlemanly Martinez turns into a beast. *

* By ALL accounts, Edgar Martinez was one of the most beloved and respected players of his era. too.  I just don’t know how to quantify it.

At this point, why didn’t he go back to third base – or maybe even first base?  This would help nullify the argument that he was only a DH, and if he had played the field longer, Hall of Fame voters would consider his case more thoroughly.

In 1995, Mike Blowers got the majority of the at-bats at third base.  His bat kept him in the lineup, and he was about average with the glove.  Tino Martinez was at first base, and he was a very good first baseman, in all respects.  No sense upsetting the apple cart there.

In 1996, Tino Martinez was traded to the Yankees, and third baseman Russ Davis came back in return.  Tino was very well-liked, and I suspect Seattle almost HAD to play Davis on a regular basis to justify making the move.  Thus, out he went to third while Edgar stayed at DH.  Davis hit about 20 homers a season, and defensively, he was less than stellar.  In 1996 to 1998, he was bad by just about every method you could use; in 1999, he did rebound to have a fine season with the glove.  However – again, I suppose – it wouldn’t have looked good to take Davis out and re-install Martinez at third, not when (a) you traded Tino to get the guy, (b) he was six and a half years younger than Edgar, and (c) he had no leg problems to speak of.

So assum
ing they didn’t want to move Davis, and they wanted to keep Martinez’s glove in the lineup, perhaps they could move Edgar to first base?  Well… in 1996, they signed Paul Sorrento as a free agent to man first.  A solid left-handed bat, also good with the glove (just slightly above-average using range factors) for two years.  Sorrento was replaced in 1998 by David Segui, an EXCELLENT defensive first baseman.  Two years after that, John Olerud came in to play first base, and play it well he did for four and a half seasons.  Olerud might have been the best all-around first basemen the Mariners ever employed.

Mini-summary: Edgar Martinez was not going to get in the lineup as a converted first baseman.  They had no idea how he would play at first base.  The only opportunity, I see, for him to return to the field would be after Russ Davis went to the Giants in 2000.

Which would have been a ridiculous move.  After five amazing seasons as a DH, with nary a defensive inning to his credit, why risk moving the 37-year-old Martinez back to third?  Do you know how many full-time third basemen played at the age of 35 just last season, in 2010?  Five, and only one of them was an American Leaguer – the 36-year-old Miguel Tejada.  (The others were the truly-gifted Scott Rolen, the oft-injured Chipper Jones, and the basically-average Casey Blake and Pedro Feliz.)  There just aren’t a lot of old third baseman, period.

Conversely, if Martinez played for a National League team 15 years ago, and those leg injuries slowed him down then, don’t you think that the general manager would have found a way to either keep him in the lineup (first base seems to be the logical place, thus insuring that Martinez WOULD have logged those defensive innings that seem so desirable now), OR traded him to an American League team, making the defensive argument a moot point?

Like I said at the top, this is a big old load of hypotheticals mixed with a pinch of fact.  It’s a damn shame Edgar Martinez didn’t start his major league career sooner… but he didn’t.  It isn’t helping his Hall of Fame case that he’s primarily considered as a designated hitter… but he is.  However, he couldn’t call himself up from Calgary.  Nor could he write out the lineup card with a 3B beside his name.  Where he played, when he played, what spot in the lineup – all factors beyond his control.  One could argue that if he played a better third base, he’d’ve ended his career there – I doubt it very much, and regardless, he wasn’t that bad out there.  Did Seattle mismanage his career?  I don’t think the answer is yes there, either.  If he had been called up in 1988, after proving himself in the minors, he’d have better counting numbers… but he’s far from the first player that’s been left down on the farm too long.

But still… I wish he was in the Seattle lineup when he was younger, a la Griffey or Rodriguez.  Just didn’t happen. 

Em

Posted December 24, 2010 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

NOT in the Hall of Fame   Leave a comment

If you want to get me going, say something like, “Tim Raines?  He was just a poor man’s Rickey Henderson.  He’s no Hall of Famer.”  You’re ridiculous, it’s a ridiculous argument, and they were both great, great baseball players.

Early next month, Cooperstown will open its doors to a couple of ball players, most likely Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven… I suppose Jeff Bagwell will get pretty close, I sure think he deserves it, but you can never tell when over 500 writers have to come to a 75% consensus on someone.  And I love this kind of stuff, so I’ve been perusing other websites and blogs to see how other people’s opinions jive with mine.

I found a website yesterday called http://www.notinhalloffame.com/news.php .  It’s no clever play on words – it is exactly what it says it is.  I don’t think its contributors did hours and hours of research and sabremetric analysis on the baseball stuff, but it’s a good read.  They also do some analysis on eligible NHL hockey players, and NFL football players…

And on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…

And the WWE Hall of Fame.  That’s right – FINALLY, someone has done their homework, consulted with experts, researched the topic thoroughly, and made some indisputable conclusions about the physically-nonexistant World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame.

Again, it’s fun to read and debate.  Being the wrestling buff I am, it is indeed a travesty that Bruno Sammartino has not been honored thusly yet… but on the other hand, he kinda has to WANT to be in.  Why induct a guy if he wants nothing to do with the business anymore?  It’s not like the person/people that makes these choices every year do any sort of real analysis; it’s a formula that combines talent, loyalty, and marketability .  So yes, I do think it’s funny that someone, somewhere, is doing their damndest to make sure that guys like Randy Savage and Hillbilly Jim enter those hallowed non-existant halls – if you’re interested, click the link.

Savage

Posted December 21, 2010 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

The MLB Hot Stove 2010 All-Transaction team… so far   Leave a comment

Two posts in one day… don’t get used to it.

I love the hot-stove baseball season.  Already, even before 2010 draws to a close, it seems like we’ve seen a lot of trades and free agent signings.  So in that spirit, I’ve assembled a lineup of the All-Transaction Team – if I’m so inspired, maybe I’ll put together a full 25-man roster sometime in 2011.

LF  Carl Crawford (free agent, Rays to Red Sox)

CF  David DeJesus (trade, Royals to A’s; he hasn’t played much centerfield lately, but he can still get it)

1B  Adrian Gonzalez (trade, Padres to Red Sox)

C   Victor Martinez (free agent, Red Sox to Tigers)

DH  Adam Dunn (free agent, Nationals to White Sox)

RF  Jayson Werth (free agent, Phillies to Nationals)

2B  Dan Uggla (trade, Marlins to Braves)

3B  Mark Reynolds (trade, Diamondbacks to Orioles)

SS  Jason Bartlett (trade, Rays to Padres)

SP Cliff Lee (free agent, Rangers to Phillies); RP J.J. Putz (free agent, White Sox to Diamondbacks)

The three through six hitters you can mix and match depending on the day; guys like Greinke, Hudson, and Uribe were considerations too.

AgonWerthDunn

Posted December 20, 2010 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

All the (real estate) news that’s fit to print!   Leave a comment

I was trying to think of an old Saturday Night Live “Weekend Report” line to use as the title, but none of them seemed to work… anyways, I was looking through a couple of the newspapers online today, looking for good news to get my week started.  I think I found some.

I’ll attach a link to each story, and I’ll tell you what I think, OK?

http://www.calgaryherald.com/business/real-estate/Calgary+house+price+growth+predicted+short+term/4003381/story.html :  Short-term house price growth for Calgary is expected to be in the five-to-seven per cent range.  Growth is good.  Local growth is better.

http://www.calgaryherald.com/business/energy-resources/Shopping+frenzy+break+mall+records/3999621/story.html : The numbers of Christmas shoppers hitting CrossIrons Mills and Chinook Centre is staggering.  True, one mall is still relatively new, and the other is recently expanded… but it’s encouraging that people are out spend-spend-spending, isn’t it?

http://www.calgaryherald.com/business/Three+reasons+economy+ready+roll/4003222/story.html – an independant investment firm called BCA Research has come up with three reasons why the United States might re-establish its financial footing.  Will it for sure?  No one can truly predict that, but it’s one more sign of optimism.

Have a good day!

Posted December 20, 2010 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Now, I’m OFFICIALLY in the (BNI) club!   Leave a comment

Thursday, I became an offical member of the BNI Optimum chapter based in Calgary.  I took the oath, received my CD pack, ate the roast beef lunch, and felt well received by the other members of the group.  We’re off for two weeks now, so here’s hoping they remember me when we return to regularly scheduled meetings in 2011.  Seriously, though, I’m looking forward to being a part of such a large organization, and I hope it benefits all of us.

On an unrelated note, I bought my first case of Sam Adams Winter Lager.  It’s hard to find anything other than Boston Lager up here, and that was a beer I came to enjoy during my time in Colorado Springs way back in 1996.  My more recent sampling experiences with other Sam Adams products were hit-and-miss, but I’m liking this Winter Lager.  If “scratch-and-sniff” was a feature of this blog, I’m sure you’d agree.*

*(Scratchers must be legal drinking age to qualify.)

Christmas is great, but oh, the toll it can take on the waist size.  Free (and amazing) lunch courtesy of the in-laws yesterday afternoon, followed by a steak dinner double-date a few hours later.  As soon as I finish this beer, I’ll be sure to get on the elliptical machine.  Promise.

SaEllip

Posted December 18, 2010 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

The network must grow!   Leave a comment

I really planned on writing SOMETHING yesterday, but nothing really came to mind.  Cleveland Indians great Bob Feller died last night at the age of 92, and he would have been worthy of my blogatory efforts, but my own words wouldn’t have done him justice.  He was in the big leagues at age 17, he enlisted in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked… he was one of those guys who came from the “Greatest Generation”, as dubbed by Tom Brokaw.  And he had a hell of a fastball.

I met with a fellow in the land investment business today – just a brief meeting, perhaps 20 minutes or so.  A pleasant man, with years of experience and knowledge to spare.  He told me that the first few months would be tough (and I can attest to that), and it would take time to build upon my efforts, both valid points that I certainly understood making this career change.  Then he casually mentioned that he had a network of about 1,000 contacts.

One thousand.

Something to shoot for, isn’t it?

I don’t have a picture of George, so here’s Bob Feller.

Feller

Posted December 17, 2010 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized