Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Archive for July, 2013

Is it time to fire Davey Johnson?

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Davey Johnson can't get this team in gear.  Is it time to go?  Photo Getty via mlb.com

Davey Johnson can’t get this team in gear. Is it time to go? Photo Getty via mlb.com

I know this is blasphemous to say.

I know it’ll never happen, not under this GM and not under this ownership group, both of whom have far more respect for Davey Johnson than to give him such an ignominious end to his time here.

And I know that Johnson is as good of a manager as is out there.  I may have been critical of his decisions here and there (especially related to yanking starters on low pitch counts), but I recognize he’s a Hall of Famer and cannot argue against his career accomplishments.

But I’m beginning to believe that the only way to shake this team out of its current malaise is to change the message coming from the top.

They tried demoting players who weren’t hitting (Danny EspinosaTyler Moore).   They’ve tried calling up their best remaining prospects (Anthony Rendon, Nathan Karns and Taylor Jordan).  They’ve tried cleaning house of underperforming relievers (Henry RodriguezZach Duke, and Drew Storen).  They’ve tried changing key staff (firing Rick Eckstein).  They’ve tried ridiculous lineups (your best power hitter Bryce Harper leading off??)   Nothing has made a difference; the team has basically been playing .500 ball for weeks and weeks now.

For whatever reason, this team of players, picked by every baseball pundit out there to make the playoffs and by a good portion to make it to or win the World Series, is now 10 games out of of the divisional lead.  They’re 10 games back of Atlanta, which themselves has only played .500 ball since mid April after a 12-1 start.  The Nats just finished June and July playing 50 games in a row against teams that missed the 2012 playoffs (perhaps not the best bench mark, since Pittsburgh has the best record in baseball this year, but still), and finished the stretch 5 games south of .500.

The team looks like its sleepwaking through games.  They look like they have no voice, no spark, no sense of urgency.  No leadership.

The trade deadline won’t help at all; the Nats have practically no tradeable assets.  Their only FAs to be are Dan Haren and Chad Tracy.  Kurt Suzuki has a 2014 option that clearly won’t be exercised, so he counts too.  But who is out there lineing up for these 3 guys?  Meanwhile, despite their offensive woes, there’s really not a spot on the field that can be improved through trade.  Go around the field and you’ve got players on deals that at least extend through 2014 (LaRoche and Span), or  you’ve got guys on major contracts (Zimmerman and Werth) or you’ve got cornerstone younger players (HarperRamosDesmond and Rendon).  Who are you going to replace?  Maybe you think about trading Rafael Soriano (after all, the last thing a losing team needs is a high-priced closer) but a quick glance at the teams in playoff contention does not easily find a team in need of a closer (the best candidate may be Pittsburgh, who just lost their closer Jason Grilli to a forearm injury, but they’re not exactly rolling in dollars nor likely to take on an $11M/year guy).

Maybe its time to bring in a new voice, and see if he can scare this team into an August and September run.

Sorry Davey; you know how the old saying goes.  You can’t fire 25 players, but its pretty easy to fire the manager.

Taylor Jordan: Never too soon to think about the future…

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Jordan is making a case for his future with this organization.  Photo via wffn.net/hueytaxi on flikr.com

Taylor Jordan is making a case for his future with this organization. Photo via wffn.net/hueytaxi on flikr.com

I’ll file this as one of the “Patently Obvious” responses that have come out of Mike Rizzo‘s mouth in response to a reporter’s question, but Rizzo went “on record” as saying that Taylor Jordan will “get every opportunity to be in the mix for the rotation next year” per beat reports (this example from Byron Kerr) after Jordan got his first major league victory in Sunday 7/28/13’s 14-1 blow-out of the Mets.

Well, of course he’ll get a chance to compete for the rotation.   He’s pitching a hell of a lot better right now than $13M man Dan Haren, for approximately 1/30th of the cost.  What GM doesn’t want that??

One of the big reasons I started this blog was to talk about the development of Nats minor league pitchers.  Back in the dark days, when the team was spending $15M on the FA market to acquire 5th starters like Jason Marquis, I became convinced that the single most valuable commodity in Major League Baseball (in terms of talent development and acquisition) was the pre-arbitration starting pitcher.   Our farm system had the “Loria/Bowden” holes in terms of player development in the 2007-2009 time frame and for a few years the team couldn’t develop an effective starter, instead relying on guys like Marquis and on other minor league/low-end free agent signings (think Tim ReddingDaniel Cabrera, and the aging Livan Hernandez being examples).   Rizzo came in, put the emphasis on drafting and development, and now the opening day rotation features 3 home-grown guys and a fourth in Gio Gonzalez who was acquired by trading other home-grown guys.

One of my biggest data-collection projects was the information behind my regular “Pitcher Wins on the Free Agency Market” post.   After looking at pretty much every significant FA pitcher signing that baseball has ever had, and calculating salary versus wins, it became clear that teams are historically doing well if they get about one win per $1M spent on a FA pitcher.  Sign a guy for $13M a year?  You hope to get 13 wins out of him.

But this analysis also shows just how valuable the pre-arbitration, cost-controlled starter is.  Consider Clay Buchholz for Boston in 2010; he goes 17-7 in his 3rd active year, earning the MLB minimum of $443,000.  That 17-win capability eventually earned him a $12-$13M/year contract, but while he was getting the minimum he was winning games for Boston for pennies on the dollar versus what it would have cost Boston to purchase that capability on the open market.

Combine this point with the continually dwindling talent available on the FA market these as teams lock up their players earlier and more frequently, and the price for pitching just continues to go higher.  Zack Greinke signed a 6 year $147M contract paying him more than $24M annually last summer partly because he was the only significant pitcher out there.  Grienke is talented, don’t get me wrong, but outside of his unbelievable 2009 season he’s basically pitched like a #3 starter.   Even this year, he’s pitching to a rather pedestrian 103 ERA+, just barely above the league average of adjusted ERA for starters.  Not exactly what you expect for that kind of money.  The 2014 Free Agent Market in terms of pitching is looking equally as bare as 2013.   The best guy out there may be Matt Garza, who again is talented but is also injury prone and not exactly a league-wide Ace.   Get past Garza and you’re looking at inconsistent (Ricky Nolasco or Phil Hughes), injury plagued (Shawn Marcum or Colby Lewis), just old guys (Freddy Garcia, Hiroki Kuroda) and pure wild cards (Tim Lincecum or Scott Kazmir).

There’s a reason Tampa went nearly 8 full seasons without having a Free Agent acquisition start a game for them; they know exactly what it means to develop effective starters, and they have a stableful of them.  Trade away James Shields and Wade Davis?  No problem; just call up Chris Archer and Alex Colome (never mind the rest of their Durham rotation).

So, back to Jordan.  If the Nats can find an effective 4th or 5th starter from their farm system right now, it frees them from the one-year hired gun strategy of Haren and Edwin Jackson.  It gives them the flexibility to continue to allow their best prospects in the lower minors to develop (i’m thinking specifically of A.J. ColeRobbie RaySammy Solis, and Matthew Purke, though Cole and Ray aren’t exactly in the “low” minors anymore with their promotions to AA).  It gives them the depth they did not have this year to cover for a starting pitcher injury.   It gives them time to let Nathan Karns figure out if he’s going to be a starter or a reliever at the MLB level.  It gives them added payroll flexibility can go towards fixing holes in the short term.  Longer term it allows the team to spend money on extending the core guys, or allows them to consider whether the rising price tag on someone like Ross Detwiler is worth paying (much like they cut loose John Lannan last year).  If you’re going to pay market value for Strasburg and Harper, then you’re going to need some low-cost players who can contribute to counter balance the payroll.

Or, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see this either, it gives Rizzo interesting trade chips that he could package with other guys to acquire the Haren/Jackson hurler instead of buying him.

Two years ago we acquired Gonzalez for two near-to-the-majors starters, a surplus catcher prospect and a low-minors/high profile arm.  Right now it seems like we could put nearly the same package together (Jordan, Karns, Jhonatan Solano or Sandy Leon and then a decent arm from A-ball, or maybe even a Ray or Cole) and move them for such a resource.  I wouldn’t put it past Rizzo; Jordan may be looking good right now, but his peripherals don’t project as a “Rizzo Guy.”  Neither did Tommy Milone so he got shipped out; will Jordan be a 5th starter candidate in 2014 or trade bait?

Personally, I’d like to see Jordan succeed.  He’s a great success story; unhearalded 9th rounder coming off an injury that most of us thought was good, but who also thought that finishing the year successfully at high-A would have been a great achievement.  Instead he blows through high-A and AA ball and is now more than holding his own in the majors.

Storen to the minors… did he deserve it?

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Storen will look to re-group in AAA..  Photo Andrew Harnik/washingtontimes.com

Storen will look to re-group in AAA.. Photo Andrew Harnik/washingtontimes.com

Talk about a fall from grace.  Drew Storen went from being the closer for a 98 win team in Oct, 2012 to being optioned to the minors after Friday 7/26/13’s doubleheader.

On the face of it, it makes sense.  This team is struggling, Ryan Mattheus is off the D/L, and there were 8 relievers for 7 spots.  Storen’s numbers in 2013 have been abhorrent: a 5.95 ERA and a 1.512 whip in 42 1/3 innings.  The team isn’t scoring any runs, so the last thing they need is a reliever who can’t hold a close lead right now.

A look deeper into Storen’s numbers though reveals a very tough-luck case.  Looking at his advanced stats from Fangraphs, he’s got a .346 BABIP right now, 45-50 points above the league average and a good 60 points above his career average.  He’s been very unlucky on balls in play.  This contributes to the huge gap between his ERA (5.95) and his FIP (4.16), and especially his xFIP (3.59).  This expected FIP by they way is significantly better than Rafael Soriano‘s current xFIP (4.26).  The point?  Storen has been unlucky so far this season and, were he given the chance to allow his appearances to regress to the expected mean, he likely would have pitched a ton better going forward.

Side Note:  Luigi De Guzman (aka “Ouij”) from Natstradamus did a fantastic bit of data mining, looking at Storen’s detailed pitch f/x data to delve into the reasons for Storen’s downfall.  Definitely go over there and read that piece.

Steve McCatty was quoted during Saturday’s broadcast as saying that he wanted Storen to work on his mechanics.  Specifically, Storen used to vary his left leg motion between the straight legged approach and a conventional knee bend.  This is confirmed by beat reporter James Wagner‘s story to the same.  Makes sense to me: the straight leg kick causes him to be slower to the plate, making it harder for him to hold runners.  The Nats as a team are already struggling to hold runners in general.  Plus, I’ve privately wondered if the varying leg kick causes him to struggle to hold his mechanics.  McCatty alluded to this, wondering if Storen’s control is affected.

On a different note; I’ve said this before, but I cannot help but think that Storen’s mental state has been in question ever since the acquisition of Soriano.  Buying Soriano on the FA market was essentially management telling Storen either a) we don’t trust you anymore after your game 5 meltdown, or b) we don’t think you’re good enough to be our closer any more.  It was an public and embarrassing demotion, and not every guy will take it in stride.  Tyler Clippard may have had an easier time with it since he was already an established 8th inning guy, and he was never really in line this season to be the closer.  These are the kind of man-management issues I think us casual fans forget about; just like you have problems in your office, so do players have problems in the clubhouse.

So, tough break for Storen.  Two straight awful appearances plus the blown save in 7/20’s Los Angeles game conspired to get him sent to the minors.  Lets hope he regroups, clears his head and is ready to come backup when the next spot in the bullpen opens up.

 

Written by Todd Boss

July 29th, 2013 at 7:02 am

Ryan Zimmerman; Mr. Walkoff

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Zimmerman's 9th career walk-off homer couldn't have come at a better time.  Photo Greg Fiume via amazingavenue

Zimmerman’s 9th career walk-off homer couldn’t have come at a better time. Photo Greg Fiume via amazingavenue

Its been a little while since Ryan Zimmerman hit a walk-off home-run (about two years) but on Friday night 7/26/13 he delivered again, giving the Nats a second walk-off win in two days.

In his Washington career he’s had some memorable walk-off homers:

  • A 2-run walk-off against Chien-Ming Wang on Fathers Day 2006 against the Yankees, a game in which the team set its long-running regular season attendance record (only surpassed on Opening day 2013).
  • A 2-out, 2-strike come-from-behind homer against Florida on the 4th of July that same year.
  • Perhaps his most amazing walk-off homer; the game-winner in the Nats Stadium opener in April 2008, a leading candidate for “Best Nats game of all time.”

Zimmerman had accumulated no less than eight walk-off homers by the end of his 6th professional season in 2011, and he seemed a sure bet to shatter the all time MLB record for such events.  The long-standing record for career walk-offs was shared by this quintet of Hall-of-Famers at 12: Jimmy Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial and Frank Robinson before one Jim Thome hit his 13th in June of 2012 to take over the career lead just before he retired.  Friday’s was Zimmerman’s 9th, and you’d have to think he remains a good bet to possibly take over the career lead before his career (which is seemingly only about half way done) is over.

The current active leader in walk-offs is another noteworthy name; David Ortiz connected for his 11th such walk-off homer on 6/6/13, as detailed by Billy-Ball.com.  Ortiz’ most noteworthy walk-off homers though are the post-season variety, not captured by these regular season records.

Zimmerman has had a 2 year walk-off drought; will we see another moment of magic later this year?

Written by Todd Boss

July 27th, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Movie Review: 42

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Robinson's most iconic moment; stealing home in the 1955 World Series.

Robinson’s most iconic moment; stealing home in the 1955 World Series.

So, one thing we’ve noticed about having a kid is how our television and movie watching habits have changed.  Here’s a summary:

1. We never go out to movies anymore.

2. We watch about 30 minutes of something between the time we get him down at night and the time we have to go to bed and collapse from exhaustion.

3. If we do rent a movie …  it is something that came out months ago and is either on HBO or on-demand for $5 bucks.  We watch it in 30 minute increments around his sleep schedule.

So, given the above parameters, we just finished watching the movie 42, which chronicles Jackie Robinson‘s breaking of the color barrier in Baseball in the mid 1940s.   Some Links about the topic: IMDB’s movie page, Jackie Robinson’s Wikipedia page and Robinson’s Baseball-Reference page.

Here’s what I thought.

Story and Acting: My wife enjoyed the movie moreso than I did; perhaps it is because of the “love interest” storyline between Jackie and his wife, or perhaps it is because she doesn’t know the whole story of Robinson.  I knew, for example, that Robinson won the Rookie of the Year award in his debut season and a subsequent MVP award, so someone who doesn’t know Robinson’s history would watch the latter half of the movie regarding his MLB debut and maintain some suspense as to how he performed.  The various players just sort of allude to Robinson’s talent level here or there; never letting on just how good of a player he is.

Robinson’s relationship with his wife is a large feature on the movie.  I have no idea how pertinent this is to the man and this story, having not yet read one of the many Jackie Robinson books out there (the most frequently mentioned being Baseball’s Greatest Experiment by Jules Tygiel and Opening Day by Jonathan Eig, not to mention the fact that Robinson seems to have penned at least 4 autobiographies).  But enough emphasis is given that at one point my wife asked, “He doesn’t frigging cheat on her, does he?”  Perhaps a statement on our low expectations of professional athletes in the modern world, thanks to the travails of stars like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan.

Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey might be the best acting job I’ve ever seen him perform outside of Witness or The Fugitive.  I thought Ford was washed up as an actor, but he played a compelling, complex Rickey character who at times was using Robinson’s debut both as a money-grabbing ploy and a morality play.  The two relatively unknown actors playing Jackie and Rachel Robinson were fantastic, all things considered.  Chadwick Boseman and Nicole Beharie both gave excellent performances.

The story itself, as tends to happen, left out some details.  It had to, in order to fit into a 2 hour time period.  I wish they would have spent more time discussing Robinson’s college and military background; he was an absolutely fantastic all-around athlete, winning varsity letters at UCLA in FOUR different sports.  Instead the movie seemed to imply that Robinson had been kicked out of the military (which did not occur) and barely mentioned his background prior to his being plucked out of the Negro Leagues in Birmingham.  Fair enough; Robinson’s legacy had to do with baseball, not his collegiate football accomplishments.

Baseball Sequences: Unlike some baseball movies we’ve seen, at least the pitchers looked like they could pitch in this movie.  Boseman’s ability to look natural at the plate was nearly convincing; per his biography he’s an athlete who still plays basketball.  As it turned out though, they didn’t really have to show a ton of baseball footage despite this film’s title subject; most of this story was to bring to the screen the oppressive and unbelievable racism prevalent in the mid 1940s and to subsequently show how the Robinsons faced it.  Nowhere was this more prevalent or obvious than in the first Brooklyn-Philadelphia game, where the opposing manager (Ben Chapman) stood on the field and hurled insult after insult at Robinson in what seemed like pure racism, but was later explained away as “gamesmanship” by the coach.

Unfortunately, the best baseball sequences didn’t appear until the credits started to roll, where what looked like B-film capturing the players making diving stops in the field appear in slow motion.  Perhaps it is fitting that the baseball action is limited; this isn’t really a “baseball story” like The Natural or Major League is; it does not depend on believable baseball action to make its point.  Robinson could walk and triumphantly trot to first base and it can appear as a monumental moral statement.

Some clarifications on the legacy of early black players: the movie implies that the Dodgers were considering Robinson, Roy Campanella and Satchel Paige to be the first player to integrate.  What’s left unsaid is that the real “star” of the Negro Leagues at the time was Josh Gibson.  Also interesting to me was the fact that a second black player named Johnny Wright was signed in early 1946 and played in the minors the same season that Robinson debued.  I didn’t necessarily know this, but Larry Doby broke the color barrier in the American League just a couple months after Robinson did, to very little fan fare (see this list on Wikipedia of the earliest black players by date and team).  I only mention this because the film post-credits say that (paraphrased) Robinson paved the way for black athletes like Campanella and Don Newcombe.  That’s true: Campanella and Newcombe were the next two black players to play for Brooklyn, but not in the major leagues.

Conclusion: Decent movie.   Probably will never watch it again.  I may be in the minority though; the film grossed nearly $100M and now stands as the 2nd highest grossing baseball film ever made.   I’m not sure i’ve got it in my top 10 baseball movies of all time, but it may slide into contention for best baseball-related drama.  I’ll keep it in mind the next time I update my Baseball Movie post.

What did you guys think?

 

Ask Boswell 7/22/13

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Denard Span is catching a lot of criticism right now.  Photo: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Denard Span is catching a lot of criticism right now. Photo: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Well, Phil Mickelson came out of nowhere to take the British Open over the weekend, NFL training camps are coming up soon and the Nats just got swept anemically at home.  I wonder how many baseball questions there are in this week’s ask Tom Boswell chat?  Lets find out.

As always, I answer here before reading Boswell’s response, only take his baseball/Nats questions and edit those questions for clarity.

Q: Is one of the reasons for the Nats malaise because they know Johnson is a short timer?

A: The implication of the question is this: if Davey Johnson suggests a change, the player says, “Eh, you’re gone by the end of the season, why should I listen to you?”  I have a hard time believing this for two reasons:

1. I’m not convinced there’s that much “coaching” going on in the majors.  Especially for veterans.  These guys are professionals, they’ve been playing professional baseball for years.  If you don’t know how to bunt, or how to field by the time you’ve made the majors then I don’t think you’re ever going to get it.  Maybe I’m wrong.

2. I’m also not convinced that managers really have that much to do with a game’s being won or lost.  Yes, disastrous bullpen decisions can back fire.  But its still on the hitters to hit, the starters to pitch, the fielders to make plays.

Related to #2; word came out today that the Nats have fired hitting coach Rick Eckstein.  Is this sort of like firing the secretary when the entire office puts out bad work?  Johnson was really upset by it and said so in the media … and I don’t have any doubt that this is a reactionary move to the poor offensive numbers.  But ask yourself; what is a new hitting coach going to do to turn this team of hitters around between now and September 30th?

Boswell gives Johnson lots of credit in 2012 for instilling confidence in the youngsters and garnering more respect out of the veterans (in comparison to Jim Riggleman). 

Q: Suzuki, Soriano, LaRoche. Any reason the Nats shouldn’t be sellers this year?

A: The Nats will not sell.  Because that would be Mike Rizzo admitting that all his moves last off-season were wrong.  And he’s not going to admit that.

Lets play the what-if game though; what if the Nats were to become sellers.  First guys on the block are FAs in their last (or only) year.  We only have a couple of those guys: Kurt SuzukiDan Haren and Chad Tracy.  Look at that list and ask yourself who would want these guys and what they’d be willing to give up?  Even newly acquired Scott Hairston is signed through 2014.  But then again, teams are smarter and generally won’t give up good prospects anymore for rentals.

One last point: the Red Sox blew a 9 game lead in September two years ago.  The Nats are only 7 out of the division lead, even playing as poorly as they have.  It’s still just mid July.

Boswell says wait until July 31st.  And interestingly he criticizes the Denard Span acquisition. 

Q: Can we get rid of Span?

A: Ironic that Boswell took this question right after killing him.  I have always thought that the Span acquisition was Rizzo being too clever, too focused on defense.  And so far it looks like the critics were right.  Span is posting an 86 OPS+ right now.  His OBP is about the same as the guy we had to jettison to make room for him (Michael Morse).   Except Morse at any moment can hit the ball 430 feet; it’d take Span 3 swings to get it that far.  To say nothing of driving out a fan favorite/good clubhouse guy.

Can we get rid of him?  Nope.  Stuck with him and most of this team through next season.  But, at that point he seems tailor made to flip to bring up someone like Brian Goodwin.

Boswell says that Bernadina isn’t the answer.

Q: Isn’t it galling to the team that Rafael Soriano acts differently on the mound — e.g., windup vs. stretch — depending on whether or not it is a save situation?

A: The word on Rafael Soriano wasn’t positive before he got here, and the whole “shirt untuck” seems to smack of showing people up.  And it’s clear to me that he’s a “Save snob;” look no further than his numbers in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  In2010 as a closer in Tampa?  226 ERA+.  The next year as a setup guy in New York?  4.12 era.  Then when Mariano Rivera goes down and he gets the closer job in 2012?  Back to being excellent.  If he purposely pitches differently in save vs non-save situations?  I’d be really, really pissed as a player.  But luckily the stats don’t support it; his ERA in non-save situations is better than in save situations, by a lot.  Boswell says that Soriano’s behavior is being noticed.  great.

Q: Should we start platooning Span with Hairston?

A: Is this what it’s come to with Span?  That we’re talking about platooning him with a guy hitting .170?  Yes Hairston’s lefty splits are good … but come on.  It isn’t like he’s an all-star slugger.  At least span brings plus-plus defense to center.  Bat him 8th, where his damage is limited.  Boswell says Yes its time to platoon.

Q: Everybody says Nats Park can’t get an All-Star Game because the surrounding area isn’t developed enough. But how does that explain sites like Busch Stadium (their development plan is further behind than ours), Angel Stadium (surrounded by parking lots and freeways), or Citi Field (surrounded by parking lots, a subway line, and a junkyard)?

A: Great question.  Maybe Bud Selig hasn’t seen all the development going on.  Or maybe Ted Lerner just don’t want to get on his knees and beg for it before the omnipowerful commissioner.  I do think its kind of ridiculous that baseball has chosen to return to parks that have previously hosted before giving a game to every new park.    Boswell doesn’t really answer.

Q: How good has Gio been over the past two months?

A: Before his 6 shutout/11k outing last weekend Gio Gonzalez had won 4 straight starts.  The worst of them was a 6 2/3 3 run performance that the team won easily anyway.  Maybe he’s pitching to score (ooh, don’t say that too loudly, the sabre nerds get all pissed).  Yeah he’s pitching great.  Boswell agrees.

Q: Should Krol start working later in games?

A: I’m still not entirely convinced Ian Krol can be more than a loogy.  Every time i’ve seen him, he’s been a one-pitch/one-trick guy.  I’ve literally never seen him throw his off-speed stuff for strikes.  Luckily the deception and velocity on his fastball are good enough to let him ride to a very good season statistically so far.  I’d stick with what we’re doing now; using him and Fernando Abad as situational relievers and leaving the hard work for Clippard and Soriano.  Drew Storen?  Now that’s another story.  Boswell says give him more work.

Q: I’ve seen a recent increase in the criticism of Davey Johnson’s managerial decisions. I can’t believe fans are blaming him for where the Nats currently stand. I put the blame on the players. It’s execution that’s at fault. Right? What else could/should Davey do that he hasn’t already tried?

A: Stop using poor relievers.  Stop pulling effective starters after 90 pitches.  Stop batting Span 1st and drop him to 8th where he belongs.  That’s what I’d do.  Boswell shared some ancedotes.

Q: I was so in favor of the Span acquisition, now it just looks horrible. Do you think he can get back to the .392 On Base Percentage he has in 2009 or is he really a .317 OBP guy? Will this team ever solve CF and lead off?

A: Just had this discussion with someone over email.  He does look horrible at the plate.  But he plays a great center field!  Rizzo just had to have his center fielder; well now you have him, and the guy he displaced (Mores) has about the same OBP this year as Span.  To go along with 200 points of slugging.  So there’s that.  You say “well Morse has been injured?”  I say sure … he got injured in Seattle.  No reason to assume the same thing would have happened here.  We gave up Morse’s power in the middle of the order and moved a perfectly capable defender (Harper) off center to acquire Span and have him drag down the top of the order.  Can’t do anything about it now (or until 2015 frankly): I say bat him 8th until he proves he deserves to return to the top.   Boswell points out that Span’s OBP is only 1% better than league average.

Q: Should we keep Soriano in the closer role?

A: Pretty much; $11M a year and he’ll be a sullen clubhouse cancer if he’s not closing.   He’s being paid way too much money to flip, even to teams that covet closers.  Well, maybe we can talk to Boston; they seem to be idiots when it comes to paying for closers (as noted in this space).   Boswell also mentions Boston but points out how battle-tested Soriano is, implying he has value.  I’m clearly on the record in my opinion about closers and paying big money for them, disagreed with the acquisition and disagree with Boswell here; if we could trade him, you do it.

Q: Is Jayson Werth immature and/or a hypocrite?

A: You’d have to read the whole question (which clearly implies the opinion of the asker), but there’s some vitriol in there.  I can’t think of any incidents that make me ever put Jayson Werth in the same maturity category as Nyjer Morgan.  I think the questioner is off-base here.  Boswell predictably defends Werth.  I will say this: go look at Werth’s hitting stats this year; he’s been very, very good.

 

Innings limits and media hypocrisy

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Matt Harvey is lucky he isn't pitching for a contender .. Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Harvey is lucky he isn’t pitching for a contender .. Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I just noticed this little report float across the wire: the Miami Marlins plan to shut down their rising star 20-yr old Jose Fernandez when he reaches 170 innings.  We’ve already seen the Mets manipulate Matt Harvey‘s pre-all-star start in an attempt to limit his innings and stretch him out as long as possible, and they too have talked about an innings limit for their new-found Ace (Editor Note: this was before his unfortunate UCL injury).  Cub’s rising Ace Jeff Samardzija was shut down on September 8th of 2012 after reaching a prescribed limit that the team had set.  And our own Jordan Zimmermann worked on a 160 inning limit and was shut down in late August of 2011 after recovering from Tommy John surgery.  And there’s more: see the following for a quick summary of Operation Shutdown 2013:

So what’s the common theme here?  When the Nats shutdown Zimmermann in 2011 they were not a playoff team.  Nor were the Cubs with Samardzija in 2012.  And this year clearly the Mets and Marlins are not playoff teams.  BUT, when the Nationals in 2012 were clearly a playoff team and did a similar innings-limit shutdown with Stephen Strasburg, there was (and continues to be) national media uproar over the decision.  The Nats (and by proxy Mike Rizzo) were described as “arrogant” by more than one “anonymous GM” (aka gutless chicken-sh*t executive who wouldn’t go on the record criticizing a colleague who had to make a pretty significant, difficult decision), as dutifully and gleefully reported by bloggers and writers who go to great lengths to state their own opinions on the matter.   And it didn’t take but a few hours after the Game 5 meltdown (and in some cases even before then) for said writers to pipe up yet again with their opinions that the NLDS absolutely would have turned out differently if Strasburg was pitching.

And keep in mind, Strasburg was coming back from an injury!  Nearly every one of these 2013 Operation Shutdown guys weren’t ever hurt; they were just limited by executives who may prescribe to the Tom Verducci effect of increased workloads (whether or not you agree with the principle, which has been disproven on the macro level yet Verducci maintains an 80% successful prediction rate.  Discussion on both sides from a January 2013 post here).

Why the hypocrisy?  Because there’s a huge double standard here.  Its “OK” to shutdown your ace for health-related or longevity-related issues …. but only if your team sucks and you’re not making the playoffs.  However, if you are making the playoffs and you follow-through on your season-long stated intention to shutdown your star pitcher coming off a major arm injury … then you’re an idiot.  At least, that’s my interpretation of the media reaction in September of 2012 of Strasburg-shutdown versus Samardzija-shutdown.

Its ok to ignore doctor’s recommendations and attempt to blow out your 24-yr old’s arm again so that he can make one or two post-season starts … because, hey, Flags fly forever, and you may never get back to the playoffs.   I think this statement encapsulates the argument very simply; some people value making the playoffs for one year far above the long-term health of one particular baseball pitcher’s arm.  People with these opinions are gleefully watching our team struggle in 2013, and I’ve seen more than one opinion posted that say this is “karma” on the Nats for shutting down Strasburg last year.  Really?  Karma?  Not the 29th ranked offense in the league as being the root of all our troubles right now?

The point is this: if you were against an innings limit for Strasburg … then you should stand up and say you’re against innings limits for any pitcher.  All the “well we don’t know if shutting down a pitcher helps or hurts” arguments (which are all entirely true; we don’t have any idea if Strasburg’s career will be 3 more years or 15, and we have no idea if the 2012 shutdown will help, hurt or have no impact), shouldn’t be affected by the team’s place in the standings.  If you’re against the Strasburg shutdown on principle, then you should be equally outraged that the Mets, Cubs, and Marlins plan to “tank” games in August that their aces would have been scheduled to pitch as well.

I’m sure that we’ll continue to hear more “shutdown dates” being announced for the slew of young power arms that are making 2013 increasingly the “Year of the Rookie pitcher.”  None of these names have been mentioned yet, but rookies with decent MLB workloads such as Shelby MillerGerrit ColeZach WheelerJacob TurnerTony CingraniAlex Cobb, and maybe even guys like Jarred CosartChris Archer and Martin Perez could all be names that teams look to protect going forward.  And some of these guys (especially Miller and Cole) are pitching significant innings for playoff contenders, and are going to blow by 2012 innings numbers by mid-August.  Will we see another Strasburg-esque shutdown media blitz in 2013?


Post Script added 7/26/13: we have announced that our own Taylor Jordan will be facing an innings limit in 2013, and it is coming up very fast.  “20-30” more innings, or roughly 5-6 more starts.  That hopefully will coincide with Ross Detwiler‘s return from the D/L but it may not, forcing the team to scramble to fill that rotation spot.  Update: this on 8/18/13 after Jordan suffered a sprain that would have made it impossible to come back anyway.  Shut down at 142 total innings for 2013.

[After the fact post addition: ESPN’s Jerry Crasnik posted about the same topic on 8/7/13, with great updated innings counts for pitchers on contending teams.  He says the same things I’m saying here.  Sept2013 I updated this post whenever a new team announced they were shutting down a player].

9/15/13 post about innings limits

http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/09/14/are-pitch-counts-and-early-shutdowns-actually-helping-pitchers/

How much live action occurs in each sport? Ball-in-Play studies summarized

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How much live action actually occurs in each major sport?

Editor Post-publishing Update: this was originally published in July of 2013.  Over the years I have updated this post with additional information, resulting in adjusted numbers from the original.  I’m always looking for more and better information and am all ears if you have links to these kinds of studies.


 

I’ve never been the biggest NFL fan, despite living in a distinctly football town here in Washington DC.  But in the past few years or so, slowly my patience for watching an entire NFL football broadcast has ended.  Notice how games used to be slated for 1pm and 4pm on Sundays?  Now they’re 1pm and 4:15pm, with seemingly all that extra time now devoted to commercials.  Every time there’s a time-out, a break in play, after every challenge, there’s more commercials.  My friends and I have a joke.  I’ll ask “Hey, what time is the 8:00 game?”  And instead of the answer being obvious … the answer is 8:15 or 8:30 or whenever they’ve now pushed the late sunday night game thanks to the 4:00 games running late (you know, since they  now start at 4:15 or 4:25 or whenever they’re slated to start).

Ironically, the same distinct lack of action complaint is easily seen in baseball broadcasts.  So I can’t be casting too many hypocritical stones against my football-following brethren (this is a Baseball-focused blog after all).

I got to wondering; just how many frigging commercials do they really show in NFL games these days?  This pursuit led to the larger issue: How often is the ball actually in play in an NFL game?  How often are the fans just sitting there watching crowd shots or replays or pictures of cheerleaders or head coaches looking constipated?

So I started looking far and wide for “Ball in Play” studies for the 5 major professional sports to compare and contrast the TV viewer experience.  Here’s what I’ve found (all sources are listed at the bottom and referenced inline).  For some sports (Hockey and Basketball) it is relatively easy to assume that, if the clock is running, there’s action.  For the others, with either a lack of a clock (Baseball) or significant periods of inactivity while the clock is running (Soccer to some extent but especially in Football) the details are harder to come by.

  • Baseball: Per the 2013 WSJ study, Baseball games feature 17 minutes and 58 seconds of action.  Baseball games have been increasing in length (thanks in part to the eighteen annual 4-hour marathons between the glacial Boston Red Sox and equally glacial New York Yankees) over the years.  But, the amount of action has stayed roughly the same.  A 1952 TV broadcast showed about 13 minutes of action but just 9 minutes 45 seconds of commercials. The latest WSJ study found that fully 42 minutes and 41 seconds of between-inning inactivity would be purely commercial time on TV broadcasts.  That means there’s nearly 5 times as many commercials now than 50 years ago.  2015: thanks to new pace of play rules, the average length of a baseball game dropped by 6 minutes from 2014.
  • Football: Per the WSJ 2010 study, NFL games feature about 11 minutes of action.  The amount of action in football games has been roughly the same since the early 1900s.  There was roughly 13 1/2 minutes of action in 1912, and slightly less in the 2010 study.  Other studies have shown that football generally ranges between 12-17 minutes of action.  Personally I tracked one quarter of an NFL playoff game  a few years ago with these numbers: in 50 minutes of clock time we saw exactly 250 seconds of action (4 minutes, 10 seconds) accompanied by no less than 20 commercials.  And this turned out to be a relatively “easy” quarter: one time out, one two-minute warning and two challenges/reviews.  It could have been a lot worse.  More recent studies have found that things are worsening for the NFL: WP’s Fred Bowen counted the ads in a 2014 NFL game and had seen an astounding 152 advertisements during the game.  152; that was more ads than plays from scrimmage.  Update for 2015: the early returns on the first few weeks of the season show a huge up-tick in penalties, which have slowed the game by four minutes from 2014 and average times are now at 3hrs 10minutes for games.
  • Basketball: NBA games average 2 hours and 18 minutes in actual time.  Working backwards (since the clock only runs when the ball is in play and we know there’s exactly 48 minutes of play time) we know that there’s 138-48 = 90 minutes of “down time” of some sort in a typical NBA game.  Not all of that is commercial time but all of it is inaction.  I cannot find any documentation of typical number of commercials so i’ve just split the difference between on-screen inaction and off-screen commercials in the table below.  If you’re a big-time NBA watcher and feel this isn’t fair, please comment as such.
  • Hockey: The Livestrong piece below (side note: why is Livestrong doing “ball-in-play” studies on Hockey?) quotes average NHL games being 2hours and 19minutes in the 2003-4 season.  Working backwards from this, you have three 20-minute periods and two 17 minute intermissions, which leaves 46 minutes of remaining idle time.  Given that the idle times in Hockey are not nearly as long as those in basketball, I’m going to estimate that about 2/3rds of that 46minutes is commercials.
  • Soccer: Per the Soccerbythenumbers.com website 2011 study, between 62 and 65 minutes of ball-in-play action is seen on average in the major European pro leagues per game.  For the table below i’ll use 64 minutes as an average.  The duration of pro soccer games is relatively easy to calculate: they fit neatly into a 2 hour window by virtue of its 45minute halves, 15 minute break and an average of 3 minutes added-time on either side of the halves.  45+45+3+3+15 = 111 minutes of a 2 hour/120 minute time period.  Thanks to a bit of fluff on either side of the game, you generally count a soccer broadcast to last 1 hour and 55 minutes.  In the table below i’ve assumed that a huge portion of the intermission is commercial; in fact it is a lot less since most soccer broadcasts have a half-time show and highlights.  So if anything, the # of commercials in soccer broadcasts is less than listed.  Post 2014 World Cup Update: FIFA estimates that the group stage games averaged 57.6 minutes of action per game (if i’m reading their stat page correctly).  I’ll use this as the number going forward, even though World Cup games might be a bit “slower” than your average pro soccer game due to the careful, tactical nature of most of the matches.

So, in summary, here’s how the five major sports look like in terms of Ball in Play and # of commercials the viewer is forced to endure in a typical broadcast:

Sport Clock Duration Amt of Action % of Action Amt of Commercial Time Est # of 30-second commercials # of commercials/hour
Baseball 2hrs 56mins 17mins, 58secs 10.21% 42.68 85 29
Football 3hrs 10mins 11mins 5.79% 75 150 47
Soccer 1hr 55mins 57.6mins 50.09% 19 38 20
Basketball 2hrs 18mins 48mins 34.78% 45 90 39
Hockey 2hrs 20mins 60mins 42.86% 30 60 26

From this you can clearly see that watching Soccer gives you the most amount of live “Action,” though cynics and soccer-haters would probably claim that a lot of that action is “dead action,” defenders passing the ball around and not the type of action you see in other sports.  I’m a soccer fan and would rather have this type of “dead action” than what we see in the NFL: one 3 second running play then more than 30 seconds of watching players stand around before running another 3 second running play.  Don’t be fooled; there’s plenty of dead action in other sports too that gets counted as “live action” here … players walking the ball up the court in slow motion for 10 seconds in Basketball, the dumping of the puck to the end of the ice to facilitate a line shift in hockey, etc.

Soccer is easily the most predictable of the five sports to plan a viewing experience around; you know for a fact that a regular-season/non-Overtime game is going to be over within 2 hours.  All the other sports can go into over-time and lengthen the time commitment.

Professional Football is at the bottom of all of these Viewer-experience measures: it is the longest broadcast, shows the least amount of game action and forces around 50 commercials an hour onto its viewers.  And the NFL is only getting worse; recent years have seen the introduction of new commercial breaks where none existed before (after a kickoff being the most ridiculous, but the mandated booth reviews at the end of halves now gift-wrap new commercial breaks to broadcasters at a game’s most critical time).

Thoughts?  If you have better information I’m all ears.  I’ve had very good suggestions to add to this data stuff like College Football, College Basketball and Tennis.  Perhaps some day with more research we’ll revisit.


 

Sources:

Written by Todd Boss

July 17th, 2013 at 8:20 am

Interesting Trade Season rumor…

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Could the Nats trade LaRoche? Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Could the Nats trade LaRoche? Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images

In a recent column, Jayson Stark floats an interesting trade scenario: basically the Nats trade Adam LaRoche, move Ryan Zimmerman to first base, move Anthony Rendon to his natural third, and recall the hopefully back-on-track Espinosa.

In other words, the exact future scenario envisioned for this team before locking in LaRoche for 2 years at first base, necessitating the jettison of Michael Morse (and his offense) this past off-season.

He wouldn’t have reported it if he hadn’t heard some rumblings in the industry about it; how seriously would the Nats consider such a  move?

Major issue with this situation?  You’re losing LaRoche’s bat.  This team needs all the offense it can get; it doesn’t need to trade their cleanup hitter away.  In this scenario you’re replacing LaRoche like-for-like in the rotation with Danny Espinosa, not exactly an even deal.

We’ve already heard that the team is playing Espinosa at short in AAA, in what most believe is a show-casing of Espinosa’s skills at the position.  He’s far more valuable to teams as a career .240 shortstop with 20-homer power than he is putting up those same numbers at second base.  However, as others have noted, trading Espinosa after the start he had in 2013 would be the definition of “selling low.”  So I’m guessing he’s just filling in where needed in Syracuse for now.  Once a short-stop, always a short-stop.  After a horrible start in Syracuse, reports are that Espinosa is tearing it up as of late.  Is he ready to come back up?

Another issue with this scenario is Zimmerman’s improved defense at third lately.  Is it possible that all his throwing issues were lingering effects of his off-season shoulder surgery?  You know, the surgery that was supposed take just a few weeks to recover from but whose recovery period is now well into the 2013 season?  Despite Rendon’s reputed skills at the hot-corner, you don’t lightly move Gold Glove-winning fielders off their positions.

What if LaRoche was packaged with Espinosa and moved to a team that could provide the Nats back with a bigger bat who plays first base but who is making too much money for the team in question?  I can’t think of someone like this off-hand, but the scenario would be the Nats providing payroll relief for some bad contract.

Thoughts?

Written by Todd Boss

July 16th, 2013 at 10:04 am

One Team Hall of Famers: a dying breed?

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Chipper Jones at his retirement game.  Photo via lostthatsportsblog

Chipper Jones at his retirement game. Photo via lostthatsportsblog

I was listening to a podcast this past weekend and the host mentioned something in passing related to Chipper Jones being the last of a dying breed: one-team Hall-of-Famers.  In the modern age of free agency, we’re seeing iconic players such as Albert Pujols (and in other sports lately, Paul Pierce and Peyton Manning) switch teams mid-to-end of their careers and sullying their legacy in their original city.

It got me thinking: who in baseball right now are the best remaining chances of guys being single-team Hall of Famers?

Using the Current Baseball-Reference Active career WAR leaders as a guide to finding players (and using Baseball Prospectus’ Cots Salary database to quote contract years), lets take a look.  The players are listed in descending order of total career WAR.  The first few names are obvious.  Then there’s a group of younger guys who have yet to play out their arbitration years and who could easily jump ship and sign elsewhere in free agency; i’ll put in a complete WAG as to the chances of the player staying with one team their entire career.

Hall of Fame Locks and Likelys

1. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees.   100% likelihood he retires as a Yankee, and 100% likelihood of being a first ballot hall of famer.

2. Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees.  As with Jeter, he’s 100% to retire as a Yankee (having already announced his retirement) and should be a first ballot hall of famer as inarguably the best late-inning reliever the game has known.

3. Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers.  Just kidding.  Come on, you laughed.

4. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins.  Its hard to envision someone being more of a franchise player than Mauer; born in Minnesota, High School in Minnesota, 1st overall draft pick by the Minnesota Franchise.  Massive contract with full no-trade through 2018.  I think Mauer will be a Twin for life.   Hall of Fame chances?  Looking pretty good; already has an MVP and has a career .323 BA for a catcher, pretty impressive.

5. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees.  He’s about half way through his career, but his numbers and accolades keep piling up.  Pretty soon we’re going to look up and he’s going to have 400 homers and a career BA above .300 as a 2nd baseman with a slew of top 5 MVP finishes, and we’ll be asking ourselves where Cano ranks in the pantheon of baseball 2nd basemen.  Here’s the canonical list of 2nd basemen elected to the hall of fame in the last 50 years: Roberto AlomarRyne Sandberg, Rod Carew and Joe Morgan.  Do you think Cano belongs there?  Now, will Cano stay a Yankee?  We’ll soon find out: he’s just played out his two option years and has not been extended.  Are the Yankees preparing to let him walk?

6. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers.  He’s struggled this year as compared to his typical lofty achievements, but he already owns the career trifecta of awards (RoY, MVP, Cy Young).   He’s signed through 2019 with a 2020 option, at which point he’ll be 37.    He probably won’t get to 300 wins but he could broach 250 with excellent career numbers.  Will he stay with Detroit?  It seems like a safe bet.

Honorable Mentions: Juston Morneau: early numbers supported it, but he has aged fast.  Update 9/1/13 traded away from Minnesota in a waiver-wire deal; no longer eligible.

 

Borderline Hall of Fame Guys

1. Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies.   He turns 40 in August, has played his entire career with Colorado and is in the final year of a two-year deal.  His production has vastly tailed off the last two years and I can’t see him playing again after this season.  But, we haven’t heard any retirement news either, so I wonder if he’s going to be one of these one-teamers that tries to play one season too long.  Chances of Hall-of-Fame:  33%.   I think he’s going to have the same issues that Larry Walker is having; despite a career 134 OPS+ his home OPS is nearly 200 points higher than his road OPS, and I think writers will believe him to be an offensive juggernaut borne of Denver.

2. Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies.  He’s struggled with injuries four seasons running now, but otherwise has great career offensive numbers for a 2nd Baseman.  Even if he gets healthy, he may fall short of the Hall of Fame for similar reasons to those of Jeff Kent.   And, Utley doesn’t have an MVP.  However, Utley may be falling off this list because his name is prominently mentioned in trade-rumors if the Phillies decide to sell.

3. David Wright, New York Mets.  He’s in his 10th season with the Mets and is signed through 2020, so his chances of being a career one-teamer seem high.  Not 100% though; He’ll be 37 at the end of this deal and may want a couple more seasons; will he be productive enough and stay healthy enough to earn another short-term deal that late in his career?  Is he trending towards the Hall of Fame?  Probably not; he’s got plenty of All Star appearances, Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers but relatively little MVP love.  In this respect he needs his team to be better.

4. Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies.  Rollins is the subject of a long, long running joke amongst my close friends.  One die-hard Philly fan made his argument that Rollins was a sure-fire Hall of Famer, and the rest of us mocked him for being such a homer.   In reality, his Hall of Fame case likely ends up being really debatable.   He has a smattering of career accomplishments but not nearly as many as (say Barry Larkin, the most recent elected SS).   Now, does Rollines remain in Philadelphia?  Probably; he’s signed through 2015, at which point he’ll be 37.  I can see Philadelphia keeping him on board with a 2 year deal at that point.

 

Too Early to tell Guys

1. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners.  Signed through 2019 for just absolutely ridiculous money (he’ll make $27M in the year 2019).  Of course, he’s just 27 now so he’ll still have some career left by then.  Will he stay in Seattle?  A good bet.  Will he continue to look like a hall-of-famer?  Also a good bet, despite his velocity loss.   But like any other guy who’s only 27, its hard to project 10-15 years down the road, especially for pitchers.

2. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox.  Pedroia doesn’t seem like a guy who is mentioned in the same breath as hall-of-famers, especially when compared to Cano above.  But here’s what Pedroia has that Cano doesn’t: A Rookie of the Year award AND an MVP award.  Pedroia has bounced back in 2013 from a couple of injury-plagued years and has put him self back in position to gain MVP votes if Boston makes the post-season.  Will he stay in Boston?  Seems like hit; he seems like a classic career Red Sox Captain-in-the-making.

3. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers.  Great production, career accolades, signed to a long-term deal for a mid-market team.  He has all the makings of being a classic one-team Hall of Famer …. except for the small fact that he’s a) already tested positive for banned substances and b) is becoming public enemy #2 (behind Alex Rodriguez) because of his arrogance in being caught up in the Biogenesis scandal AFTER beating the testing rap.  He could win 3 more MVPs and I don’t see him making the hall-of-fame until some veteran’s committee 75 years from now posthumously puts in all these PED cheaters of the 90s and today.

4. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays.   He’s signed with options through 2023.  He’s always on the short list of the best third basemen (offensively and defensively) in the majors.   He’s already had a series of all-time highlight moments in his career.  But from a cumulative accolades stand point, he’s very much lacking.  While he won the 2008 Rookie of the Year award, the closest he’s come to an MVP is 6th, and his 2013 All-Star snub means he’s only appeared in the game 3 times.  I think he’s going to need a run of healthy, strong seasons to really put his name in the HoF mix.

5. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals and Troy Tulowitzki with Colorado: both guys are here for the same reasons: they are each team’s “Face of the Franchise” and are likely never going to play anywhere else.   They’re both signed to very long term deals.  In Zimmerman’s case, he’s a local guy.  As for Hall of Fame chances, right now they look very negligible for both players.  Not because they’re not good, but because both are too inconsistently injured to put together the full seasons needed to stay in the minds of all-star and MVP voters.  They are what Longoria is heading towards: injury plagued solid players who are the cornerstone of their teams for a 15 year stretch.

6. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds.  Here’s a fun fact: Votto trails our own Ryan Zimmerman in career war despite being a year older.   He’s signed with Cincinnati with options through 2024, at which point he’ll be 41, so he’s almost guaranteed to be a one-team guy.  Will he accumulate enough accomplishments to be a Hall of Famer?  So far so good.  He’s one of the most feared hitters in the league and seems to be getting better.

7.  Matt CainCole HamelsJered Weaver: all three of these guys have nearly identical career WARs, all are signed for relatively long-term deals, all are on most people’s shorter lists of the best starters in the game, and all are between 28-30 right now.   But ironically, I don’t see any of them as hall-of-famer calibre talent when compared to the next small jump up in talent in the league right now (see the next player).

8. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers.  It is foolish to speculate on the Hall of Fame chances of a 25 year old pitcher.  But Kershaw seems to be a safe bet to sign the largest pitcher contract in history with the nouveaux-rich Dodger’s ownership group, so he could continue to pitch in the cavern of Dodger stadium for another 10 years and start to really approach some hall-of-fame mandate numbers.  Ask yourself this; who would you rather have for the next 10 years, Kershaw or Stephen Strasburg?

 

Summary: In all of baseball, just two HoF one-team locks.   A couple more good bets for being career one-teamers but by no means HoF locks.  So yeah, it seems like the one-team hall-of-famer is going the way of the Reserve Clause.