Archive for December 2011

The Cooperstown case for… Larry Walker   Leave a comment

Full disclosure: I’m an Expos fan.  I also have a soft spot for baseball players with strong arms – catchers, infielders, and outfielders alike.  And Larry Walker had a cannon for an arm.  It was strong, accurate, and he had a quick release.  He was a tough guy to run on, and every once in a while, he’d even try to throw out a hitter at first base if the conditions were right for it – slow runner, sharply-hit ball, playing shallow… he’d try.

So one point for him there.  Walker recorded 150 assists from right field, and 154 in total.  The guy could flat-out throw.  He was also an excellent fielder, period.  He won seven Gold Gloves, and was certainly good enough to play centerfield on a regular basis if the manager wanted him to.  From a purely defensive perspective, Larry Walker was one of the best right fielders of the last half-century.

I haven’t mentioned the hitting part yet.  The numbers should speak for themselves, and if you’d like to take a gander at them, here you go:

A .313 lifetime batting average, a .400 on-base percentage, and a .565 slugging percentage.  His lifetime OPS of .965 ranks sixteenth all-time.  383 home runs, 1,311 runs batted in, 916 extra-base hits, and 230 stolen bases.

His accolades?  The Gold Gloves.  Three batting titles, five All-Star appearances, and an MVP award.

Walker’s numbers don’t put him in the Aaron-Ruth-Mays pantheon, but they don’t have to.  Aaron is not the Hall of Fame standard.  Walker’s contributions to the game have to be weighed against those of his peers, his contemporaries, and – in the Cooperstown context – every member of the Hall.

Generally speaking, that resume puts a player in the Hall of Fame conversation.  However, there are two things that don’t help his case: his Coors Field numbers are freakishly good, and his career wasn’t exceptionally long.

Let’s tackle the Colorado factor first.  Coors Field was an outstanding hitters’ park for about 15 years.  (It still is very good, thanks to the air and its size, but the batter’s advantage has been neutralized a bit.)  Home runs flew out of that park at a ridiculous rate.  It helped make mediocre hitters look good, good hitters look great, and great hitters awesome.  Just about every Rockie during that stretch of time hit better – usually, a lot better – at home.

Thus, a lot of people looked at the video-game-sized numbers Walker and his ilk put up back then and dismissed them.  Only one player – Walker, in 1997 – won an MVP award.  His teammates, good to great players like Todd Helton, Dante Bichette, Ellis Burks, Vinny Castilla, and so on… none of them were similarly honored.  Collectively, that lineup was given little credit for their hitting prowess, because of the ballpark.  And because of this, Walker (and the rest of them) didn’t earn a lot of All-Star nods, or top-five placings in MVP balloting… things voters tend to look for during Cooperstown debates.

Also, because Walker did so much damage at home during that time, it’s easy to dismiss him as a Coors-manufactured talent.  One common argument is that he hit better during this time than he did in Montreal or St. Louis… this is true.  Measurably true.  Of course, he was a Rockie during the prime of his career; he got his start, young, in Montreal, and ended in St. Louis.

So he was a terror at home.  A five-tool fiend.  But we can also check how he hit, in his prime, on the road as well.  Let’s take a look, shall we?  Taken from baseball-reference.com :

600 games played, 550 starts.   If you broke that into four seasons, he averages 27.5 home runs, 85.5 RBI, 14 steals, 88 runs, while playing Gold Glove defense.  His hitting line is .280/.384/.515, with an OPS of .899.  Those are pretty good numbers if you have the benefit of 75 home games under your belt, let alone a full slate of road games.  His road OPS during that stretch would put him in the top 70, all-time, of players with more than 3,000 plate appearances.  It’s better than the career OPS put up by no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famers such as Willie McCovey, Eddie Mathews, Willie Stargell, and Harmon Killebrew.  Was he helped by Coors?  Sure.  But could he hit?  Absolutely.

I also took his career statistics and compared them to the last ten outfielders elected into Cooperstown: Andre Dawson, Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice, Tony Gwynn, Kirby Puckett, Dave Winfield, Robin Yount, Reggie Jackson, Carl Yastrzemski, and Willie Stargell.  A good cross-section of sluggers, pure hitters, defenders, great peaks, and longevity, and in my mind, a very fair representation of the peer group Walker should be compared to.

So how does he do?  His career totals don’t rank very well – the only player to accumulate fewer games was Kirby Puckett, who played only twelve full seasons before retiring at the age of 35 due to an eye injury.  (He was also still playing near his peak.  Walker’s final year wasn’t too shabby, either – a .289/.384/.502 line in 100 games.)  Walker was tenth in total games and plate appearances, eleventh in hits, sixth in home runs, eighth in RBI, and tenth in total bases, amongst other things.

However, his non-counting stats stack up extremely well compared to this group.  Third in batting average, second in OBP, first in slugging and OPS, and second in OPS+.  When I averaged the stats put up by the other ten, his average is 22 points better, his on-base is 92 points better, and his slugging is 133 points better.  Looks pretty darn good, doesn’t it?

It does point out the fact, though, that Walker’s career is comparitively short.  (It doesn’t help his case that four of the players I just compared him to – Yaz, Rickey, Winfield, and Yount – rank in the top 15, all-time, in games played.  But that’s just the way it is.)  He played less than 2,000 games, primarily due to injury.  Some of the fellows that played more during his era include Ellis Burks, Wally Joyner, and Jay Bell – good players all, but no one’s breaking their back making a Cooperstown case for them.  And aside from Puckett, there hasn’t been an inductee voted in by the BBWAA that played in the last 30 years or so that played fewer games than Walker.

On the other hand, there are plenty of Hall of Fame players that did log less starts than Walker.  While he didn’t have the durability of Cal Ripken, he played, and played exceptionally well, for many years.  As of this writing, he ranks 87th all-time in games played by an outfielder, and 14th all-time for defensive games as a right fielder (though that last stat is skewed by the fact that baseball-reference.com only goes back as far as 1954 to record actual outfield positioning).  Isn’t that long enough?  One argument used against certain players is that they played too long – past their prime, just hanging on, accumulating stats.  It’s difficult to please both camps, where you have to play a very long time, yet get out at the right time.  Walker played well enough in 2005 that I’m sure he could have found a job the next season if he wanted to – right field, first base, maybe even DHed if he wanted to switch leagues.  But he didn’t.  Depending on your camp, so to speak, that matters… or doesn’t.

Larry Walker had several fantastic years, and an excellent career, certainly one worthy of putting him into a serious conversation about being inducted into the Hall.  I can see where some writers will hold his years in Colorado against him, as well as his relatively short care
er.  I tried to do this as dispassionately as possible, but in the end, in my eyes, he is a Hall of Famer.

Walker_debut

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Posted December 29, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

The countdown to Cooperstown begins – a love/hate relationship   Leave a comment

My friend Chris tells me I stress too much about this.

It’s Hall of Fame time.  The time of year when the ballots get mailed in and some members of the BBWAA choose to publicly disclose their choices via Twitter, their personal websites, or other means.  I applaud those writers that do; I don’t agree with them all, but I respect the fact that they are willing to put their ballot out there for public consumption and dissection.

Not all do.  Last year, just under 600 writers voted, and about 20% of them shared it with the world.  Some of them had well-written and well-researched analyses for their picks, some… did not.  At least, in my opinion.  I don’t personally care if a guy thinks Dale Murphy belongs and Mark McGwire does not, if that guy backs it up with the facts.

“Dale Murphy won back-to-back National League MVP awards, hit 30 or more home runs six times, ranked first or second in OPS four times, won five consecutive Gold Gloves as a center fielder, and was recognized with both the Lou Gehrig Award and the Roberto Clemente award for his skill, integrity, character, and community work.”  This would be a strong, factual statement.

“Dale Murphy was a five-tool ball player, a great guy in the community, and one of the best outfielders in the 1980s.  I know what I saw.”  Not so much.

And I like Dale Murphy – he was one of my favorite players when I was a kid.  I’m just using him as an example.

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I figured I had one or two Cooperstown articles in me this week, and one of the promises I made myself before hitting the keyboard was that I wouldn’t feature any of the players I wrote about last year.  I figured I didn’t have to dissect the case of Tim Raines again; there are plenty of other notable players on this year’s ballot.

Sorry, folks.  I read this article this afternoon, written by Ron Chimelis.  He is a BBWAA voter, and he “revealed” his selections for enshrinement: Jeff Bagwell, Jack Morris, Barry Larkin, and Fred McGriff.  All of them were great players, and though I wish Chimelis had written more about each of them, on the face of it… well, I’ve seen worse ballots than that.  Maybe he had only so much space to devote to his column.  Maybe he was running close to deadline.  I don’t know.  My point here is that I think he could have used better data to back up his Cooperstown case for each man, but to his credit, he didn’t just list a name and call it a day.

He did not put Raines on his ballot.  I would have, but it’s not my ballot.  If he, or any other writer, truly doesn’t believe that Raines is a Hall of Famer, and backs it up with credible data (he didn’t do this, his career was that, etc.), the matter is pretty much closed.  Every writer uses the facts at his or her disposal, sorts them and deciphers them, and makes a decision.  I love the debate, and I hate it… but dammit, I do love it more.

His rationale for not voting for Raines is – to me, at least – utterly baffling.  As I mentioned above, maybe he was constrained for time and typed out the first thing that occurred to him, a bullet point amongst several scrawled down during his preliminary examination… I certainly hope this was the case.  His vote is important.  He should be knowledgable about the sport, its history and tradition, and how it is played today.  I’m not saying that a test should be written to determine one’s credentials, but after covering the sport for ten consecutive years (that’s basically how the BBWAA gives you voting privileges), you should know what you’re talking about.

I’m paraphrasing now: he didn’t vote for Tim Raines because Raines ranks fifth in career stolen bases, and the lesser-skilled Vince Coleman ranks sixth.  And if Raines gets in, what about Coleman?

I had to bold that because… well, because it can’t be the only reason, can it?  Who breaks down a Hall of Fame “case” by using a single statistic and applying it to two players who rank in consecutive order in its application?  ONE statistic… with no apparent regard whatsoever for their respective primes, careers, or overall ability.  Andres Galarraga had more runs batted in than Robin Yount, and RBI is a meaningful, well-established baseball statistic – ergo, Galarraga is a better player than Yount.

(Not really, no.)

I actually took the trouble to create a spreadsheet comparing Raines to Coleman (thanks to http://www.baseball-reference.com/), and the difference between the two is staggering.  I won’t lay it out line by line here, and I’m not going to use the non-traditional categories like WAR or Win Shares, or even non-quantitive things like All-Star appearances… just the “baseball card” stuff.

Raines is better at everything.  Literally.  Everything.

He played longer, making 4,389 more plate appearances.  He reached base over two thousand more times than Coleman, and almost 4,000 times in total.  He had much more power, and drove in many more runs.  He is 30 points better in batting average, 61 points better in on-base percentage, and 80 points better in slugging precentage.  He walked 853 more times, and in those aforementioned 4,389 additional plate appearances, he struck out more than Coleman – but just six times.

He was even caught stealing fewer times than Coleman, 146 to 177.

If Chimelis had said, “Tim Raines and Vince Coleman were both outfielders who led the National League in stolen bases several times during the 1980s”, I’d accept that as fact.  After that, there is little comparison between the two men.  Raines is generally regarded as one of the best lead-off men of all-time, and merits serious Hall of Fame consideration.  Coleman is generally regarded as a fast player who stole a lot of bases, and that’s it.

And that ends my Tim Raines ranting for 2011.

Raines
Murphy

Coleman

Posted December 27, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

The 39 Steps – opening soon at Stage West Dinner Theatre   Leave a comment

In about five weeks time, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will end its fabulous run at Stage West Calgary – tickets are still available, by the way.  If you’re planning a post-Christmas party, or if you’re still looking for that special event for New Year’s Eve, I can think of far worse things you could be doing than enjoying our buffet and watching a supremely talented cast of characters strutting their collective stuff on our stage.

When it wraps up, a decidedly different production will begin, called The 39 Steps.  Operators – that’d be me – are standing by for your call.

(Give the picture below a few seconds to load… it’s worth the wait, AND I made it myself!)

Posted December 23, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Worst. Fight. Ever.   Leave a comment

A brief follow-up to yesterday’s post about the three comic book movies I’m eager to see in 2012.  One can only hope that none of those films feature a battle that even remotely resembles what you’ll see below.

 

Posted December 23, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

2012 – the year of the comic book movie   Leave a comment

While there have been other years where three or more comic book-based films have been released, next year shapes up to be the big one.  Marvel Comics (Marvel Studios) puts four years of shared continuity and an all-star cast of characters into The Avengers, while DC Comics (Time Warner) counters with the Christopher Nolan’s final installment of his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.  Not to be overlooked is The Amazing Spider-Man reboot from Columbia Pictures – not Marvel Studios – which looks like a darker re-telling of the web-slinger’s origin.

Which one are you looking forward to most?  In order of release date:

 

Posted December 21, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Just Imagine… coming to Stage West Calgary. (Really! A Lennon tribute!)   Leave a comment

The last of my Monday triple-header post-a-thon.  The Stagewest Concert Series presents Just Imagine, a John Lennon tribute, next year.  These acts are always popular – if you want to bring your friends out, treat your staff, or entertain your clients, let me know.  The sooner, the better, trust me.

Posted December 19, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Stage West Calgary – check out this limited time offer!   Leave a comment

I’ve done some cutting-and-pasting to a promotion that just got approved.  If you want to attend a show next week, or know somebody that does, OR you’re doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, you really oughta check this out.

Posted December 19, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Red Deer will be busy in 2012 – have you looked into it?   Leave a comment

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I own two undivided interests in Belterra’s Red Deer project, right?  Trust me, I did my due diligence before choosing to invest with these fine folks – after all, I’m pretty tight with my nickels.

So imagine my happiness when this article, courtesy of the Red Deer Advocate, crossed my monitor recently.  If you’re thinking about investing, let me know.

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HOME BUILDERS GEARING UP FOR BUSY 2012

By Harley Richards – Red Deer Advocate / December 1, 2011

The stars could be aligning for Red Deer homebuilders.

Régine Durand, a market analyst with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., said Wednesday that several factors could contribute to a jump in local housing starts next year.

Key among these, said Durand, is an improved supply of residential lots — with new land being serviced in Vanier Woods, Timberstone, Johnstone Park and Timberlands.

“When we add up all that, we are between 600 and 800 new lots for next year.”

By contrast, the inventory had dipped to 47 lots in September.

“I’ve spoken with lots of builders and they were all complaining that they didn’t have enough lots to work with,” said Durand.

Meanwhile, she added, demand for new housing should be fueled by the strengthening local economy. She cited Statistics Canada figures that indicated 2,700 new jobs were created in Red Deer between October 2010 and October 2011, with local unemployment dropping to 4.9 per cent in October from 8.8 per cent in March.

In the case of Red Deerians aged 25 to 44 — the demographic most likely to be buying homes — the jobless figure is below three per cent, said Durand. “This speaks well for housing demand.”

Red Deer’s inventory of new homes is 24 per cent lower than a year ago, she continued, but average prices have only risen three per cent — as compared with a five-year average of 13 per cent.

A month ago, CMHC was forecasting 340 residential construction starts in Red Deer next year, which would mark a nearly 10 per cent jump from 2011. But this number now seems conservative, said Durand.

Dan Ouwehand, president of the Central Alberta branch of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, said members of his organization are “cautiously optimistic.” He agreed that the improved availability of lots should support growth in the residential construction sector.

Durand anticipates that Central Alberta’s resale market will also perform better next year.

Higher income levels and low home ownership carrying costs should attract more people to the market, she said. Also noteworthy is the growing gap between the prices of new homes and resale properties.

“The difference in price now between a new single-family and an existing single-family in the city is around $100,000,” said Durand, noting that the figure last year was $82,000.

This should attract prospective buyers from the new home market, she said.

Patrick Galesloot, president of the Central Alberta Realtors Association, agreed there’s good reason to anticipate a more active market in 2012.

“We’re experiencing some of that already this year,” he said. “There’s a lot more optimism in the market today.”

Durand expects resale prices in Central Alberta to rise as a result of an improved balance between supply and demand.

In its last forecast, CMHC was calling for a one per cent increase in prices on Multiple Listing Service sales in Central Alberta next year.

“I believe we’re going to revise those forecasts upward,” said Durand.

Galesloot is also looking for price increases, but noted that the market in some parts of the region is more balanced than in others. So the situation could vary from community to community, he said.

In the case of Red Deer’s rental market, Durand said lower vacancy rates and higher rents are likely for 2012. This will be the result of local job gains and an in-migration of people to Alberta and the city, she said.

Optimism about a jump in construction activity is tempered by concerns about a pending labour shortage, said Ouwehand. And with the average age of tradespeople now in the late 50s, the problem could become severe.

He said the Canadian Home Builders’ Association has been lobbying for the trades to be promoted more aggressively to young people, and for the barriers that hinder skilled American workers from coming to Canada to be lessened.

“That’s an area where there are a lot of issues right now.”

Posted December 19, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Where ELSE to celebrate New Year’s Eve? Stage West Calgary!   Leave a comment

Have you decided what you’re doing on December 31?

If you haven’t, and you live in the Calgary area, you might want to check out this offer.  After all, how many opportunities do you get to dance with the cast of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat?

For $165 per person, you get the amazing spectacle that Joseph is.  You also get the buffet that Stage West Dinner Theatre is famous for.  Free parking, as always.  But – but! – this promotion also includes additional gourmet buffet items such as Roast Peking Duck and Lobster Tails, party favours, a midnight snack and champagne toast, plus dancing to DJ Hurricane Smith on stage with the cast after the show.

What are you waiting for?  Call now!

Joseph_megamix

Posted December 16, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Where to party in the New Year… hmmm… how about Stage West Mississauga?   Leave a comment

Pictures speak louder than words, my friends.  If you’re in Toronto (or within driving distance), check out the promotion below – courtesy of Stage West Mississauga.

Yearend_bash

Posted December 6, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized