Archive for January 2014

How do you follow a Love Train?   Leave a comment

My blog title isn’t a set-up for a joke, so settle down, readers.  This quick blog (and it’s been a while since I’ve written one, so I might be out of practice) is a reminder that “Love Train – the Soul of Motown” is winding up its amazing run at Stage West Calgary this weekend.  If you still haven’t seen it – or if you need to see it again – there are only five shows left, the last one taking place on Sunday evening, February 2nd.

“Love Train” earned rave reviews, and audiences loved it.  It will be – in not just the proverbial sense – a tough act to follow.  But the show must go on, and here’s the show to do it.

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“This laugh-out-loud comedy has everything one can hope for in a modern-day farce: two likable cops operating way out of their league, a supposedly crooked mayor with impeccable timing, his innocent-acting wife, a shy accountant with a penchant for dropping her drawers, a nervous double agent who’d like to get IN those drawers, a Scottish hit man whose brogue gets thicker the angrier he gets, two adjoining motel rooms, simmering sexual tension and eight doors a slammin’.” –  Donald V. Calamia, Between the Lines

Two cops.  Three crooks.  Eight doors.  Go!

 

 

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Posted January 30, 2014 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Stage West Calgary and the Calgary Zoo fundraiser   Leave a comment

This is a very short post, as you will see below.  Help out for a good cause – tickets are going fast.

stagelogotransparentbg
Tickets for the
Tuesday January 21, 2014 Calgary Zoo Fundraiser
event are available for as low as
$49.87 per person
including the 120-item buffet dinner and performance.
100% of proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the rebuild fund for the Calgary Zoo. Donations above the minimum ticket price are also appreciated.
Box Office: 403-243-6642
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Posted January 15, 2014 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

My imaginary 2014 Hall of Fame ballot   Leave a comment

This is it, folks.  The end of my Cooperstown series for the 2014 voting period.  I’ve probably written more words this year on the matter than any, and I’m pretty happy about that.  If you just stumbled upon this post without reading any of the ones that preceded it, I strongly encourage you to do so, and you can just click on any of them.  In order, they are:

An introduction
A comparative exercise
A brief explanation of the process

The catchers
The first basemen
The second basemen
The shortstops
The third basemen

The left fielders
The right fielders

The pitchers

My goal, my theme, this year was to use Bill James’ Win Shares data, based on two of the books he published in the early 2000s.  I’m not going to lie – some of it is pretty dry.  Nonetheless, the work James put into devising a formula to quantify the overall skills of any and every individual MLB player made his book Win Shares a must-read.  There are a lot of charts, and tables, that sort the players by position, by year, by offensive and defensive contribution, and other criteria.  Again, if you like that sort of stuff, you should try to find the book.

When it came out over a decade ago, his top ten players – the top ten Win Share earners – were as follows:

Babe Ruth, 756
Ty Cobb, 722
Honus Wagner, 655
Hank Aaron, 643
Willie Mays, 642
Cy Young, 634
Tris Speaker, 630
Stan Musial, 604
Eddie Collins, 574
Mickey Mantle, 565

As far as lists go, ranking the best major league baseball players that ever lived, this is a damn good list.  If this is strictly the result of using the Win Share (WS) formula, well, I think it’s worth using as a tool.  Granted, the math is his, and there might be parts that you don’t agree with – and that’s perfectly fine.  Nor would I consider WS to be the only or ultimate method of sabermetric analysis.  Many other people have designed their own systems for measuring output and ranking players, then and now.

But I like Win Shares, and I wanted to use them to help me decide who I would put on my 2014 Cooperstown ballot, assuming I had one.  Unfortunately, I only had my “old” books, and I could not find any information that would show the current WS total for the numerous candidates on the BBWAA ballot.  That is, until just a couple of days ago.  Bill Gilbert has done exactly what I wanted to do, and he published an article that ranked those candidates with the WS method.  That article can be found here.  Without further ado, here are the WS rankings of the 22 players I looked at over the last couple of weeks.

Position Win Shares
Barry Bonds LF 661
Roger Clemens SP 421
Craig Biggio 2B 411
Frank Thomas 1B 405
Greg Maddux SP 398
Rafael Palmeiro 1B 394
Tim Raines LF 390
Jeff Bagwell 1B 387
Mark McGwire 1B 342
Jeff Kent 2B 338
Fred McGriff 1B 326
Alan Trammell SS 318
Tom Glavine SP 314
Sammy Sosa RF 311
Mike Piazza C 309
Larry Walker RF 307
Edgar Martinez 3B 305
Mike Mussina SP 270
Don Mattingly 1B 263
Curt Schilling SP 227
Jack Morris SP 225
Lee Smith RP 198

There is no magical Win Share number for voters.  Generally speaking, 300 is a good number to reach; 400 is a number only the very best residents of Cooperstown have hit, and as such, any eligible player hitting that total should feel confident about enshrinement .  There are some Hall of Famers below that mark, some non-HoFers above it, and getting to 300 Win Shares seems to be more difficult if you are a pitcher.  I’m glad I found Gilbert’s article; with the various “baseball card” statistics to choose from, the advanced metrics available at sites such as baseball-reference and wargraphs, and using James’ theorems and opinions, I feel like I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be to fill out my ballot.  Some of the questions I used?  Glad you asked.

Who is the best player of his generation not currently in the Hall of Fame?
Who is the best player at his position not in the Hall?
Who is the best new player on the ballot?
How does he compare statistically to the other Hall of Famers at his position?
Was he the dominant player of his era, and/or at his position?

I crunched the numbers, asked myself those questions, and came up with the following ballot.  Listed alphabetically, my ballot includes these ten men.

Position Win Shares WAR (b-r) WAR7 JAWS Career OPS+ ERA+
Jeff Bagwell 1B 387 79.5 48.2 63.8 149
Barry Bonds LF 661 162.5 72.8 117.7 182
Roger Clemens SP 421 140.3 66.3 103.3 143
Tom Glavine SP 314 81.4 44.3 62.9 118
Greg Maddux SP 398 106.8 56.3 81.6 132
Mike Piazza C 309 59.2 43.1 51.1 143
Tim Raines LF 390 69.1 42.2 55.6 123
Frank Thomas 1B 405 73.6 45.3 59.5 156
Alan Trammell SS 318 70.3 44.6 57.5 110
Larry Walker RF 307 72.6 44.6 58.6 141

Bagwell:  one of the ten greatest first basemen ever.  A five-tool infielder that was a dominating player during his era whose basic statistics, Win Share total, WAR, WAR7, and JAWS figures all put him ahead of the “average” Hall of Fame first baseman.

Bonds:  ranks third all-time in Win Shares.  He is one of the best players who ever lived (I say begrudgingly, because I hated him on the field).  Something to consider about the Hall – it is not only a shrine to the greatest players of all-time, it is also a museum.  Many of his belongings are already in there; I don’t feel the need to exclude the plaque he deserves.  Besides, you can write whatever you want on that plaque, too.  This is a personal opinion, and one that has changed over the years.  I used to think that the PED posse should not get that one last day in the sun, but in the end, he – and all of them – are just men, some of whom bear flaws that we know about, some we do not.  And if you do believe that the current voting process is similarly damaged (and I do as well), a great way to put pressure on it is to induct Bonds, and have him make his speech in front of thousands of people and the peers who have said publicly – some, at least – that they will not share the stage with any player who allegedly use performance-enhancing drugs.

Clemens:  seven Cy Young awards.  You can take my Bonds diatribe above, and use it here as well.

Glavine:  a 300-game winner in the five-man rotation era.  Note the yellow number in his table row; it indicates that his WAR7 was below the average Cooperstown chucker.  Otherwise, his other numbers are above average – impressive, given the 300-inning, 40-start-a-year hurlers that came before him.  Not overpowering, but consistently excellent for a long time.

Maddux:  only seven men won more games than he did, and the youngest of that lot was born in 1921.  There is no good reason why Maddux shouldn’t receive 100% of the BBWAA vote, but he will not… a few blank ballots will be sent in, and a couple of other voters will go with the “Bath Ruth wasn’t a unanimous selection, so no one should be” argument.  An all-time great.

Piazza:  one of the ten greatest catchers ever.  Ranks just about dead-even with Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench as the best-hitting catchers by WAR, and he wasn’t that bad with the glove; he didn’t have a great throwing arm, but he didn’t play in a steal-happy era, either.  Piazza will earn a few more votes this year, but he won’t get in – which is a shame, because he certainly deserves it.

Raines: arguably the second-greatest leadoff man of all-time, and the best eligible left fielder not in the Hall.  Raines has made significant progress moving up the ballot in the last couple of years, but I fear his momentum will be slowed by the newcomers on this and next year’s ballot (which will include Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, and Gary Sheffield).  He ranks above the average Hall of Fame left fielder in WAR, WAR7, and JAWS; of the seven hitters listed on my ballot, he ranks third in Win Shares.  A sentimental favorite, to be sure, but also a legitimate Hall of Famer.

Thomas:  one of the most dominant hitters of his era.  In his first 11 years in the American League – including his abbreviated rookie campaign in 1990 – the “Big Hurt” averaged 31 home runs, 108 runs batted in, and a slash line of .321/.440/.579, with an OPS+ of 169.  Though he did spend most of his time as a designated hitter, he did also play almost 1,000 games at first base, so that should satisfy most of the “DH isn’t a position” voters.

Trammell:  put up WAR / WAR7 / JAWS totals that rank him ahead of the average Hall of Fame shortstop.  There is no eligible 20th century shortstop with better totals in any of those three categories; his WAR puts him a hair behind no-doubter Derek Jeter, and a hair above HoFers Barry Larkin, Ernie Banks, and many other residents of Cooperstown.  Unfortunately for Trammell, his peers Cal Ripken and Robin Yount were that much greater.  In a way, the lifelong Tiger is similar to Duke Snider, who played in the same city, at the same time, and at the same position as a couple of guys named Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.  It took Snider 11 tries to get into Cooperstown.  Trammell is on the ballot for his 13th time, and he is not going in with the writers’ help.  I wish that he, and Lou Whitaker a decade earlier, got the same support as their teammate Jack Morris received over the years.

Walker:  no right fielder has a higher WAR or JAWS total than Walker that isn’t in Cooperstown, and the only right fielder that had a better WAR7 was Shoeless Joe Jackson.  He was a five-tool player who won three batting titles, slugged .565 for his career, and won seven Gold Gloves.  Perhaps I’m showing my Expos bias here, but Walker was one of the best players in baseball for a decade, whose only issue was staying healthy.  That said, he did play almost 2,000 big league games, and over 1,700 games in right, so I would say that that qualifies as a distinguished career.

I’ll name another player that had a long and distinguished career – Craig Biggio.  In fact, he played over five full seasons’ worth of games more than Walker, and ranks 16th all-time in the games played department.  He tallied over 3,000 hits, over 1,800 runs, and over 400 steals, and if I had room for 11 people on my ballot, he’d be on it.  However, in my opinion, Walker was the superior player.  Despite the shorter career, I thought Walker had a more impactful one, and if you had to take one of them, in their prime, it would be the right fielder.  I suppose my tie-breaking criteria here was this:  Walker is the best retired right fielder that isn’t in Cooperstown, whereas I would argue that Biggio is not the best retired second baseman in the Hall (I would look to Lou Whitaker or Bobby Grich first).  Is it fair to Biggio that the BBWAA voters completely overlooked the men I just mentioned?  Absolutely not.  But I only had room for ten names.

Bonds and Clemens.  Maddux and Glavine.  Piazza and Walker.  Bagwell and the Big Hurt.  Trammell and Raines.

frank-thomas

Posted January 7, 2014 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

From the mound to Cooperstown   Leave a comment

The position players are finished – you have been reading my other Hall of Fame posts, right? – and we’re ready to look at the pitchers on the BBWAA ballot now.  Not all of them, though; I drew an imaginary line above Kenny Rogers’ name, and he, along with several other hurlers on the list, just did not make my cut.

The seven men listed below did.  In my previous posts, I also listed other similar candidates who had either recently retired, or are still active and playing at an elite level.  For example, in examining Jeff Bagwell’s case, I also looked at Jim Thome, Joey Votto, and a bunch of other great first basemen from the last 20 years.  However, I’m not going to do that in this blog.  Trying to predict how a pitcher’s career is going to go is too tricky.  Dwight Gooden was incredible in his first five major league seasons: he averaged 18 wins, 213 strikeouts, a 2.62 ERA, and a 1.10 WHIP.  He also averaged a staggering 235 innings per year, from the ages of 19 to 23, and Doc’s arm really wasn’t the same after that.  Bret Saberhagen also had a five-year run early in his career where he won two Cy Young awards, and he won 92 games before he turned 26.  Unfortunately, neither man has a plaque in Cooperstown.

So let’s look at the magnificent seven, shall we?

First Last Position Top 100 WAR, Total % WAR,
Season Season Rank Rank 2001-now WAR post-Abstract
Roger Clemens 1984 2007 11 49 30.5 139.4 21.88%
Greg Maddux 1986 2008 14 92 22.9 104.6 21.89%
Tom Glavine 1987 2008 60 n/a 22.7 74 30.68%
Mike Mussina 1991 2008 n/a n/a 35.1 82.7 42.44%
Curt Schilling 1988 2007 n/a n/a 41.3 80.7 51.18%
Jack Morris 1977 1994 n/a n/a 0 43.8 0.00%
Lee Smith 1980 1997 n/a n/a 0 29.4 0.00%
Average WAR,   SP = 72.6

I’m going to start with Lee Smith, because – ironically? – he is the only reliever on the chart.  Smith had a distinguished 18-year career, and has been on the ballot for 11 long years.  For the past few years, he’s been stuck in neutral, gaining less than half of the total vote (last year, it was 47.8%).  Big Lee led his league in saves four times, and placed second four more times.  When he retired in 1997, he was the all-time saves leader with 478, and he held the record until Trevor Hoffman passed him in 2006.  Since then, of course, Mariano Rivera passed both men.  Smith also finished in the top five for Cy Young voting three times, but never won the award.

There are only five relievers in Cooperstown.  By most metrics, he ranks considerably below three of the HoFers above him (Dennis Eckersley, Hoyt Wilhelm, and Rich Gossage), and slightly better than the other two (Rollie Fingers and Bruce Sutter).  In terms of total value, there aren’t many pure relievers – pitchers who pitched exclusively from the bullpen their entire careers – ahead of him.  By WAR, he ranks 11th on baseball-reference amongst “relievers”; however, only three of those men started 50 or fewer games in their careers.  As far as modern-era closers go, Smith is one of the game’s all-time greats, and better than I initially gave him credit for.  However, he is not going to go into the Hall this year, and probably not on the BBWAA ballot at all.

Now, that Roger Clemens guy.  This is his second year on the ballot.  He only earned about half of the required 75% vote total last year, despite (deep breath) 354 wins, 4,672 strikeouts, and seven Cy Young awards.  I could list the many, many other things he has accomplished in his long career – for example, he ranks third in career pitching WAR, behind only Cy Young and Walter Johnson – but you know who Clemens is.  “The Rocket” would be no borderline choice if he got inducted into Cooperstown.  Back in 2001, Bill James thought he was the 11th greatest pitcher of all-time, and that was before he won the last two of his Cy Youngs, winning an additional 94 games in the process.  However, there are those PED allegations and the perjury trials, and even after being found not guilty in 2012, many lump him in with the McGwire/Bonds/Sosa gang.

Greg Maddux didn’t trail Clemens by that much in James’ estimation (14th all-time, and the 92nd greatest player ever), and I’m confident that he has risen up those ranks, too.  Maddux is a rookie on the BBWAA ballot, and if anyone is a no-doubter on this year’s card, it’s him.  Early HoF polling, in fact, pegs him as an unanimous choice, though that most certainly will not occur.  I’m just going to list a couple of his resume highlights, if for no other reason than to give an impression of some sort of “analysis”: more lifetime wins than any pitcher living today; 17 straight seasons of 15 or more wins; four consecutive Cy Young awards; 18 Gold Gloves; zero PED scandals or mentions.

The third pitcher James included in his list of pitchers was lefty Tom Glavine, who pitched alongside Maddux with the Atlanta Braves for many years.  James ranked him 60th back then; I daresay the 97 wins he earned after the 2000 demarcation date would now place Glavine in the top 25 to 30 hurlers.  Like Clemens and Maddux, Glavine broke the 300-win mark, which is one of those magic numbers voters like.  He won 20 or more games five different times, won two Cy Young awards, and finished top-three four other times.  He wasn’t an overpowering pitcher – he never struck out 200 hitters in a season – but he was obviously a highly effective one.

Mike Mussina did not win 300 games.  He never won a Cy Young, never won a World Series, never led the league in strikeouts, and only won 20 games in a season once – his final one.  However, “Moose” definitely belongs on the BBWAA ballot.  He won 270 games, more than Jim Palmer, Bob Gibson, and many other Hall of Famers.  He struck 2,813 men out, ranking 19th all-time.  In over 3,500 innings, all of them as a member of an American League East team, he allowed less hits than innings pitched, two walks per nine IP, and an ERA+ of 123, meaning that the AL’s cumulative ERA was 23% higher than his.  Mussina had six top-five Cy Young finishes, and fielded his spot very well, winning seven Gold Gloves.  Lastly, his career WAR of 82.7 ranks 24th all-time (ahead of Glavine, amongst others): there are 19 Hall of Famers ahead of him, ballotmates Clemens and Maddux, and next year’s newcomers, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez.  In terms of WAR, that’s it.  He sure sounds like a Hall of Famer, doesn’t he?  However, I suspect he’ll get less than overwhelming support from the writers next week…

… sort of like Curt Schilling received last year, his first on the BBWAA ballot.  Schilling got just 38.8% of the vote – a number I don’t think Mussina will accrue, by the way – which I suspect was based primarily on his meager win total of 216.  That’s a pretty impressive number, but that’s also a number Charlie Hough matched, and no one thinks he’s a Hall of Famer.  Jerry Reuss won 220 games; David Wells won 239 games, and he nabbed just 0.9% of the vote in his only year on the ballot.  So, there must be other reasons Schilling is worth examining – maybe the 3,116 career strikeouts matter.  Or the three 20-win seasons that coincide with each of his runner-up Cy Young finishes.  Or the 4.3826 strikeout-to-walk ratio that ranks second all-time, behind a guy that pitched his last game in 1884.  Or the 11-2 post-season record – that’s a great reason.

Schilling will slowly work his way up to the 75% needed to get into Cooperstown, but it will take a while.  He was a dominating pitcher for a few years, but he also had several mediocre seasons as well, and he didn’t become an MLB starter until he was 25 years old.  Would I vote for him?  Well, I do have one more Cooperstown blog to write, you know… and we’re getting there.

The final pitcher on the BBWAA ballot is Jack Morris.  This is his 15th and final shot at “regular” induction – should he not make it this year, his fate will be determined (perhaps several times) by the Veterans’ Committee.  If you’ve read this far, then you probably know the pros and cons of Morris’s case, and I don’t need to rehash most of them here.  In fact, your opinion on the matter might already be formed.  I am only going to highlight one part of the argument for him (and in doing so, you’ll probably guess which side of the fence I’m on.)

Morris’s supporters often mention that he was the winningest pitcher of the 1980s, and (according to some), that makes him the premiere or most dominant pitcher of that decade, and such a track record of dominance should therefore qualify him for a spot in Cooperstown.  However, despite all of those wins, the voters back then didn’t think he was very dominant, either.

I made up a spreadsheet that added up all of the Cy Young voting points that every pitcher earned from 1980 to 1989.  Winners obviously fared better, as any first-place vote was worth more points (five) than a second (three) or third (one).  After putting them all down on virtual paper, I grouped the men who earned Cy Young votes in three or more seasons; I wanted to rank pitchers that had, for lack of a better term, a real track record during the 80s.  Therefore, I didn’t include some good pitchers who had one great season, like John Denny or Mark Davis, CYA winners both.  Nor did I include two-time winner Saberhagen, who never earned a single point during that decade other than in his award-winning years.  In all, 20 pitchers fit the criteria.

Morris, the pitcher who won the most games during that time span, finished 12th.

Steve Carlton 280
Roger Clemens 272
Dan Quisenberry 208
Rick Sutcliffe 189
Fernando Valenzuela 187
Dwight Gooden 178
Mike Scott 172
Orel Hershiser 158
Frank Viola 145
Dave Stewart 128
Ron Guidry 95
JACK MORRIS 76
Mario Soto 64
Bert Blyleven 63
Bruce Sutter 59
Nolan Ryan 46
Steve Rogers 45
Rich Gossage 43
Dave Stieb 39
Joaquin Andujar 1

Despite all of those wins, he never won a Cy Young.  He had two third-place finishes, a fifth, a seventh, and a ninth – some impressive showings, but not once in those ten years did the voters collectively consider him to be the best, or even second-best, pitcher in the American League.  And in case you think, “The competition must have been fierce those years, it’s just a fluke”… well, I suppose the competition to win any individual award is fierce.  However, there is only one starting pitcher ahead of him on that list that currently sports a plaque in Cooperstown, and that’s Steve Carlton.  He did earn more decade votes than HoFers Bert Blyleven and Nolan Ryan, but the purpose of this was not to illustrate that Morris is somehow equal to those three men.  It simply was to show that he simply wasn’t the best pitcher of his era.

I have one more post left on the matter, and that will be my incredibly inconsequential and hypothetical ballot.  Stay tuned.

mg

Posted January 4, 2014 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Cooperstown and the right field eligibles… mainly Larry Walker   Leave a comment

With no true centerfielder on this year’s BBWAA ballot, we jump over to right field for this post.  Let’s look at the pros and cons of inducting Larry Walker and Sammy Sosa into the Hall of Fame, as well as recent retirees Bobby Abreu, Gary Sheffield, Vladimir Guerrero, and Ichiro Suzuki.

Defining outfielders by their position is a bit tricky.  I suspect that the fielding records and box scores kept at the turn of the century aren’t as accurate, or as thorough, as today’s.  Also, many players move from the middle field to a corner, or corner to corner, as they age, or as necessitated by trade or other happenstance.  For example, Manny Ramirez played just about the same amount of time in right field as he did left.  Andre Dawson played about a season’s worth more games in right field than he did center, but I can easily picture him patrolling center field (I mean, centre field) for the Expos.  Et cetera, et cetera.

If I missed anybody, or left somebody out in this blog that you think I should have mentioned, let me know.  Let’s start with Larry Walker.  You could start here – that’s a post I wrote specifically about him nearly two years ago to the day.  But I’m going to try to use some new material for this one, and material fitting the ongoing theme.

Walker was at the tail end of his prime when James published his Historical Abstract in 2001, turning 34 at the end of James’ evaluation period.  He retired at the end of the 2005 season at the age of 38, hitting a still-robust .289/.384./502 with the Cardinals.  A National Leaguer for his entire career, I have no doubt that, if he was healthy, he could have padded his career stats a bit more.  According to baseball-reference, Walker is just ahead of the “average” right fielder in WAR, WAR7, and JAWS; every man ahead of him in WAR or JAWS already has a plaque on the wall in Cooperstown.

He has only earned a tad more than 20% of the BBWAA vote thus far in three tries, and I fear that that number is going to drop significantly this year.  Despite his excellent all-around play, and incredible statistical achievements (a lifetime OPS of .965, for example), Walker doesn’t get his due for a few reasons.  He played all of his home games in Colorado for about a decade, where hitters thrive in the thin air; he played 150+ games in an MLB season just once; he started his career relatively quietly in Montreal; and finally, his teams only made the playoffs three times in his 17 seasons.

Of all of those aforementioned reasons, I believe the first one I listed is the primary one keeping him out of Coooperstown.  Award voters tended to discount the accomplishments of the hitters that played at Coors Field, claiming (and not entirely inaccurately) that anyone can hit in Denver.  Thus, Walker only won one MVP award there, and finished seventh for his only other top-ten finish.  (In fact, Walker is the only Rockie to thus far win an MVP trophy.)  However, a lesser factor in this may be the non-playoff teams he toiled for as well – voters like winners, too.

You can examine all of his other stats, but I’m going to concentrate on his three batting title years.  I’m also going to compare him to the four other men that won three or more National League batting titles over the last fifty years (1963-today): Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose, Bill Madlock, and Tony Gwynn.  (For the purposes of this, I did not include Clemente’s 1961 title season, as it fell just outside the date range.)  Admittedly, the math here is a little dirty – I simply took their home/road splits in the years they won batting championships, and averaged their slash lines.  For example, Gwynn won eight titles, so I divided the sum of his averages by eight.  Generally speaking, each man played an equal amount of home and road games in each season.

The first chart illustrates their average home season, and the second depicts their average road season.

Batting Avg OBP Slugging
Clemente 0.357 0.406 0.509
Rose 0.364 0.423 0.524
Madlock 0.348 0.405 0.522
Gwynn 0.365 0.423 0.495
Walker 0.428 0.499 0.803

Batting Avg OBP Slugging
Clemente 0.327 0.372 0.492
Rose 0.318 0.391 0.423
Madlock 0.329 0.401 0.423
Gwynn 0.349 0.400 0.463
Walker 0.293 0.398 0.519

Remember, I’m not comparing Larry Walker to a group of run-of-the-mill hitters – I’m comparing him to batting champions, and aside from Madlock, Hall of Famers.  His home averages dwarf his competition.  It is undeniable that he played in a more offensively-minded era, and in the best hitter’s park of his time… nonetheless, he beats them in all three categories.  Walker wasn’t just a hack-and-slasher, he had a great eye, and power to spare.

Now let’s compare those road averages.  Walker has the lowest batting average at .293 – a mark that almost every major league hitter would gladly take.  He also sits in the middle of the pack in on-base percentage, just three “points” behind the leader, Madlock.  Finally, he tops the quintet in slugging percentage at .519, 27 points ahead of the next man, Clemente.  Keeping in mind that almost every player – and these five men are no exception – performs better at home than on the road, and that Walker’s lifetime road slash-line is .278/.370/.495, you can’t merely state that he is a Coors Field creation.

One more note about these batting title seasons, and the lack of MVP respect that Rockies have gotten… Walker’s best finish in the MVP rankings in the three years he won the hitting crown was tenth.  He also finished 17th and 24th.  Bad teams, no respect.  Rose, on the other hand, finished first, second, and fourth.  Clemente’s best finish was third, Gwynn also third, and Madlock sixth.

Finally, one last note about Walker, and a couple of other outfielders.  Jim Rice and Andre Dawson are in the Hall of Fame.  Dwight Evans, Rice’s teammate for 15 years, fell off the ballot after just three years of eligibility.  I just wanted to put up a War Graph comparing the four.

walker etc

As per war-graphs, Rice ranked last at 50.4.  An excellent hitter for over a decade, but far below the standards set by the trio above him, primarily on the strength of their defense and baserunning.

First Last Position Top 100 WAR, Total % WAR,
  Season Season Rank Rank 2001-now WAR post-Abstract
Larry Walker 1989 2005 55 n/a 23.4 72.6 32.23%
Sammy Sosa 1989 2007 45 n/a 19.1 58.4 32.71%
Bobby Abreu 1996 2012 n/a n/a 41.4 60.4 68.54%
Gary Sheffield 1988 2009 54 n/a 27.4 60.4 45.36%
Vladimir Guerrero 1996 2011 n/a n/a 40.4 59.9 67.45%
Ichiro Suzuki 2001 current n/a n/a 58.5 58.5 100.00%
Average RF,   WAR = 73.3

Alright, onto Sosa.  He earned almost the exact percentage of his career WAR after James’ abstract was published as Walker.  I would think that if James re-ranked both men, they would both land in the mid-teens.  At his peak, Sosa was one of the game’s premier sluggers, and beloved by the baseball world.  He ended his career with 609 home runs, which stands at the eighth-best mark in the game’s long history, and drove in 1,667 runs.  He hit 60 bombs in a season three times, and even stole 30+ bases three different times as well.  Sosa won one MVP, finished second once, and had five other top-ten finishes.  No ring, though – as you may have heard, the Cubs aren’t exactly World Series contenders too often.

Is he a Hall of Famer?  If he put up those same numbers, say, 30 years ago, then there wouldn’t even be a debate about it.  However, two things hurt him today, first and foremost being the fact that he was called before Congress to discuss PEDs in 2005.  Also, even if the majority of voters didn’t think his numbers were artificially produced (he only nabbed 12.5% of the vote last year, his first on the BBWAA ballot), he could legitimately be outclassed by a host of worthy Cooperstown candidates this year.

Bobby Abreu and Gary Sheffield each produced 60.4 WAR, but got there in different ways.  (In the WarGraphs version, Sheffield was better than Abreu, 62.5-58.6.  Let’s stick with baseball-reference, though.)  Sheffield was primarily a right fielder, though he played parts of seven seasons in left, and parts of six seasons at third base after arriving in Milwaukee as a shortstop back in 1988.  A nine-time All-Star, he mashed 509 home runs, drove in 1,676 runs, and stole 253 bases, with a line of .292/.393/.514.  If batting stances got you into the Hall, Sheffield is a first-ballot lock.  Abreu did not have as much power, but he was faster, and like Sheffield, he took plenty of walks.  His career line of .292/.396/.477 reflects that.  He was also very durable, playing 150 or more games per season 13 times in a row.  However, Abreu never fared well in awards voting, and only went to two All-Star games.  Neither man led their respective leagues in any statistical category with any regularity, either, faring poorly in the “Black Ink” test that denotes league leaders.

My prediction:  Sheffield will do better than Abreu in the balloting process, unless the PED allegations stick on him.  However, neither man will gain much traction or sympathy from the electorate, given the busy ballot, and the lack of individual honors for either man.  Adjusted Jamesian rank for both men:  in the 25-to-30 range.

Vladimir Guerrero didn’t play as long as Sheffield or Abreu, but he was every bit as fearsome, and in my opinion, might actually benefit from a relatively early retirement.  He had no end-of-career lull (at least, compared to most mortal men).  Guerrero’s slash line of .318/.379/.553, with an OPS+ of 140, was incredible.  He hit 449 home runs, drove in 1,496, and had a powerful (if erratic) arm in the field.  Also, he did rack up a list of solo achievements: nine All-Star appearances, an AL MVP award in 2004, two top-three MVP finishes, and two more finishes in the top six.  I also think he will have the intangibles voters like, too, with his reputation as a hitter that pitchers could not throw around.  Despite his not-quite-to-par WAR / WAR7 / JAWS scores, I think he gets in.  And deservedly, as well.

Ichiro will also get into the Hall of Fame.  He came into the American League in 2001, winning the Rookie of the Year and MVP that season.  He cranked out ten consecutive 200+ hit seasons to start his career, as well as ten Gold Gloves and ten All-Star appearances.  Suzuki has led the league in hits seven times, scored 100+ runs eight times, and stolen 30+ bases ten times.  He doesn’t have the prototypical Hall of Fame right fielder’s power numbers, but as soon as he is eligible, he will be making a speech on the Cooperstown stage.

lwalker

Posted January 2, 2014 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

You still have time to get on the “Love Train”!   Leave a comment

As in, the musical revue “Love Train – the Soul of Motown”, playing for one more month at Stage West Calgary.

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Remember, it’s only scheduled to play until Sunday, February 2nd, 2014.  If you want to organize a group function, please let me know!  This is a show I guarantee you will enjoy.

Posted January 2, 2014 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized