Nationals Arm Race

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Obligatory Post on the 2020 Hall of Fame class

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Jeter waves to the fans in his last home game. AP photo via abcnews.com

Jeter waves to the fans in his last home game. AP photo via abcnews.com

Its that time of the year, so that means Hall of Fame Ballot time.  BBWAA Writers should have mailed in their ballots by 12/31/19, and we should start seeing a glut of “this is who I voted for and why” posts come out this week.

How many years have I been doing this post?  Basically as long as we’ve had the blog.  Here’s (by class) 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.  Dunno what happened for the 2016 preview; must have been busy or something right at the end of the year in 2015.

I know lots of people have lost faith in the Hall of Fame, are tired of reading analysis like this, etc etc.  Fair enough; feel free to move on.

Here’s two key links for you, if you’re still reading.

My consideration of candidates for the Hall, unlike my consideration of a lot of stuff in baseball, does include “feel” in addition to stats.  I know Jay Jaffe  has his great JAWS thing that tries to do both peak and longevity.  I know b-r.com has a bunch of metrics per player.  That’s all great.  But it isn’t the hall of stats, it isn’t the hall of WAR.  Its the Hall of Fame.  Its the hall of marquee players from their day.  I look at the players I’d vote for and … they’re the guys you paid money to see.  They’re the arms that were on the mound and you gave the opposing team little chance.  They’re the sluggers who you wanted up in the 9th inning of a tie game.  That’s what makes the game exciting and that’s the lens I like to use when judging players.  Yeah its subjective and partisan; so is every person voting in the BBWAA.  Even Jaffe admits there’s stats and then there’s consideration in his excellent article linked above.

With my imaginary ballot, here’s how i’d vote.  Since there’s a limit of 10 players per ballot, I’ll list these players in rough order of voting priority to start:

New to the 2020 Ballot Candidates:

  • Absolute Yes on Derek Jeter
    • Jeter may very well join Mariano Rivera as a unanimous electee; I can’t see any logical reason why a sane voter without a grudge would not vote for him.
    • I’ve seen people online actually ask if his tenure as the face of the Miami Marlins ownership group will harm his candidacy.  I sure as hell hope not: he’s clearly enacting the policy of his ownership group, and his playing qualifications have absolutely nothing to do with his management career.  But, since we live in the “Hot Take” universe of twitter-length arguments, I’m sure someone will withold a vote for some personal reason (and then will stay anonymous like the chicken-sh*t voters who continue to do so).
  • Slight pause on Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi
    • Abreu’s accumulation stats really added up, but he was never seriously in consideration for anything close to being the best player in the league at any point in his career.
    • Giambi had a torrid 3-4 year stretch where he was perhaps the most feared hitter in the league.  His slash line in 2001 was a ridiculous .342/.477/.660.  And he didn’t even win the MVP (he lost out to the narrative-driven Ichiro Suzuki despite producing nearly two more wins of value).  But … this was basically it for Giambi; he dominated at the height of the PED era and admitted (in leaked Grand Jury testimony) that throughout his peak he took BALCO products, steroids and HGH.  There’s just no way he’s ever getting in.  But man he was a slugger in his prime.
  • No on everyone else, and i’m not sure there’s anyone really close.
    • there’s one guy on the ballot (Heath Bell) who had less career bWAR than Mike Trout had in 2019.  In case you still held on to some belief that relievers are the game changing players that they’re made out to be by some sportswriters.

Returning Ballot Candidates

I’m not re-litigating these candidates, since i’ve written many times on them in the past.   Plus, most of these guys have been on the ballot so long that, frankly, nobody wants to hear your justification any more.  Its like politics; reading my blog post isn’t going to change your opinion on the Impeachment inquiry.  I’m sure the Cooperstown guys can’t wait for Bonds and Clemens in particular to age off the ballot; this is t heir 8th year of 10.  Almost there.

  • Yes on Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez
  • More Tepid Yes on Fred McGriff, Larry Walker
  • Almost ready to say Yes on Gary Sheffield, Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones
  • Pass for now on Jeff Kent, Sammy Sosa, Todd Helton, Lance BerkmanAndy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt
  • No on Omar VizquelBilly Wagner, Bobby Abreu, Jeremy Giambi,  and the rest of the 2020 class not already discussed

Its Walker’s 10th and last year on the ballot, typically a time when people give him a bump.  He was at 54% last year; can he get to 75%  It’ll be tough.  its a thin ballot, which means lots of guys are going to get votes who may not normally get them.  Will it be enough?

So i’ve got absolute Yes’s on five guys, tepid Yes on another two, then would probably throw the “almost ready” three guys on to fill out the ballot of 10 names.

I vote Yes on (in order): Jeter, Clemens, Bonds, Schilling, Ramirez, McGriff, Walker, Sheffield, Rolen, Jones.

Predictions?  I’ll say Jeter and Walker get in.

(side observation; on the Hall of Fame tracker this year, we’re seeing really odd things in some of the ballots so far.  For the first time in a while, there’s not 10 obvious candidates even for bigger-hall proponents like myself.  And we’re seeing voters actually remove votes from players they voted for last year … but not completely filling out the ballot. (??)  Explain that to me: how do you vote for a guy one year then the next … you don’t, and you’re not taking away that vote for an other players?   We also are seeing some real questionable ballots; one guy voted solely for Jeter this year and removed 7 others he had on his previous ballot.  Why would you do that??)

 

Nats Off-season News Items Wrap-up 12/13/11 edition

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Fare the well Mr Balester; we'll miss your moustache's twitter account. Photo Nats official Al Bello/Getty Images North America via zimbio.com

I have a new rule: when this post hits 1500 words, I’ll publish it no matter what the date.

Nationals In General

  • Re-signing Ryan Zimmerman thoughts, since it keeps coming up thanks to the Pujols signing, Jim Bowden comments and Natmosphere bloggers bringing it up.  After an injury-plagued year (and really, the 3rd such injury-marred year he’s had out of 6 full pro seasons, including 2 surgeries and one torn labrum he just rehabbed but which cost him 1/3 of a season), the team rightfully should be concerned about giving him a Troy Tulowitzki like deal, guaranteeing money for 10 years.  But on the flip side, ironically after such an injury year his value is down and the team probably can save some money by signing him longer term.  The new CBA takes away a lot of the draft pick compensation we would expect by letting him go to Free Agency, and trading him in the middle of 2013, while we’re probably in the middle of a pennant race, would be a non-starter.
  • Speaking of Zimmerman, everyone’s favorite ex-Nats GM Jim Bowden posts some potential Hanley Ramirez trade ideas, you know, since he’s a petulant superstar already prone to being a clubhouse cancer and now in the position of having to move to 3B, probably without being told ahead of time that the team was nearing a deal with Jose Reyes.  His #1 option: Ramirez for Zimmerman straight up.  Bowden is convinced the Nats, by virtue of not having addressed Zimmerman’s contract status, are going to let him walk at the end of 2013.  Its not the first time he’s brought it up.  Hey Jim; stop trying to MAKE the news and just report on it.
  • Some cool blog posts from Nats minor leaguer Ryan Tatusko, on the differences between learning in Pro ball versus College, and another posting just before it on the “art of throwing a ball.”
  • Trade announced Friday 12/9/11: Collin Balester to the Tigers for rhp Ryan Perry.  A good move for both sides: the Nats were likely to have to waive Balester at the end of spring training by virtue of his lack of options, so we get something for nothing.  Perry has an option left and, while his 2011 numbers were pretty bad, he does have one more  option remaining so the team can use spring training as a tryout of sorts.  Perry could be a natural replacement for Todd Coffey, and is a good move since clearly Balester’s value to the team has ceased and we still need a couple of bullpen arms.  Great analysis of the trade here from Masn’s new beat reporter Pete Kerzel.  Great human-interest angle here from Amanda Comak: Balester’s wife is from Detroit so the family is ecstatic that he’s playing so close now.
  • Byron Kerr, whose writing I normally like, wrote a laughably pro-team article about some of our marginal relievers.  The quotes about Doug Slaten are especially ridiculous, quoting our new bench coach Randy Knorr as saying that Slaten is “one of the three best left-handed relievers in the National League.”   That is so ridiculous that I had to comment on the article and call Kerr’s reporting into question.
  • Henry Rodriguez‘s change-up was listed among the “more interesting” pitches to talk about in baseball by Sam Miller from Baseball Prospectus.  Also thrown in there is Roy Halladay‘s cutter, Mariano Rivera‘s cutter, Javier Lopez‘s drop-down side-arm fastball and Brad Lidge‘s slider.  All of these pitches are analyzed in various statistical measures.
  • The Non-tender deadline came and went, and the team acted as I predicted here.  They protected all their arbitration-eligible guys outside of Doug Slaten.  Here’s a link to MLBtraderumors non-tender tracker for all 30 teams, and there are definitely some interesting names out there now for the Nats, who definitely have some FA needs.  Peter Moylan, Ryan Theriot, Joe Saunders, Andy Sonnanstine and a few others.  BJ Upton was tendered, meaning we’re going to have to give up some prospects to get him.  Mind you, some of these non-tenders are part of pre-arranged deals to come back to the club, but some are definitely the team cutting ties.

Free Agents/Player Transaction News

  • Let the bidding begin!  Yu Darvish officially posts, and as a side-effect makes his soon-to-be-ex-wife a multi-millionare.  Good for him (and her).  Mike Rizzo and the Nationals have definitely scouted the guy and are interested; how high will be willing to go on the posting fee to “win” the negotiations?  Another thought: why wouldn’t we just blow out the posting fee, guarantee the win, then play uber-hardball with Darvish on a contract to make the entire package reasonable?  If we can’t agree on terms, he goes back to Japan (where he clearly has nothing left to prove) but nobody else gets him?  Sounds a little disingenuous but its a strategy.  In any case, we’ll know the posting winner by Wednesday.
  • How do the Tampa Bay Rays keep doing this?  Phenom pitcher Matt Moore signed a 5yr/$14M contract that has club options that could max it out at 8yrs/$40M and buys out the first two free agency years.  I wonder if, 4 years from now, we’ll be looking at this contract and absolutely shaking our heads in disbelief at how underpaid he is.  Kinda like how we look at Evan Longoria‘s contract and say the same thing.
  • A good point about the Angels’ Pujols signing: they now have way too many guys who play first base and outfield.  Morales, Trumbo, and Abreu seem to be first basemen only, and they still have the outfield quartet of Wells, Hunter, Bourjos and uber prospect Mike Trout.   They fixed some catcher depth issues, they don’t need starting pitching.  I wonder what the Nats could do to take some of these hitters off their hands?
  • Arizona lands one of the Oakland starters Trevor Cahill in trade.  Arizona bolsters their division-winning rotation, now looking at Kennedy, Hudson, Cahill, Saunders and Collmenter.  Not bad.  Most pundits are calling the trade a steal for Arizona, who gave up a 1st rounder but only two other mediocre prospects.
  • Turns out the Nats were off by a significant amount on Mark Buehrle.  We offered 3yrs/$39M versus the 4yrs/$58M he got from Miami.  No wonder he took their deal.  Too bad; he would have been a good addition.  Not the addition I would have gone after, but still a solid #3 starter for the next few years.
  • All those people who write “Pujols should have stayed”  or “Pujols has tarnished his legacy” articles should probably zip it.  As is depicted here, the Angels clearly showed they wanted Albert for the long term, including the personal services contract.  Not to mention their offer beat St. Louis’ by $40M.   You just cannot leave $40M on the table.  A few million over a number of years, sure.  $40M?  No way.  Oh, and for everyone who says “well, Stan Musial stayed with St. Louis his whole career,” I will counter with this: “Musial had a reserve clause, Pujols does not.  If icons from the pre 1970s had free agency as an option to earn more money and move to better situations, you’d be a fool to think that they wouldn’t have used that system.”
  • Would you take a flier on AJ Burnett?  The Yankees apparently are willing to eat $8M of the $33M owed to him over the next two years.  If he moved from the AL East to the NL East, he’d probably see a full point reduction in his ERA.  But a quick look at his career stats lends me to believe that he’s barely above mediocre but paid like a super-star.  Burnett’s career ERA+ is now 105.  Our own John Lannan‘s?  103.

General Baseball News

  • Since I’m a bay-area native, I’m always interested in reading news blips about San Francisco and Oakland teams.  Here’s Andrew Clem with a quick blog post with some interesting links to potential new stadium sites and designs.  The big sticking point, obviously, is that the Giants claim San Jose as their territory.  And its hard to argue with them; clearly the “bay area” of San Francisco is exactly the suburbs of San Francisco.  Even though its roughly the same geographical distance from DC to Baltimore as it is from San Francisco to San Jose, there are three major highways to ease the traffic flow (as opposed to one between the two east coast cities) and people routinely make their way up and down the peninsula to commute.  Thus, its going to be a very difficult sell for Oakland to move south, even if they stay across the bay in the Fremont area.  I don’t know the solution; just that the A’s now reside in the same division as the 2-time defending AL champs AND the Angels with their newly minted $170M payroll.  Ouch.
  • Unbelievable: the reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun reportedly has tested positive for a synthetic testosterone and faces a 50-game ban.  What an unexpected piece of news; one of the “new generation” of sluggers who wasn’t tainted at all by the shenanigans of the last 90s now has thrown us back into the same PED conversation we’ve been having for years.  That being said, there is some hope in reading the linked article.  Apparently he asked for a second test, and he was clean in the second test.  There are “false positive” tests all the time.  The case is under appeal but has leaked out (unfortunately for the slugger, who now faces the stigma of the positive test even if its a false positive).
  • Boston announces that Daniel Bard will be moved to the starting rotation in 2012.  Excellent move by Boston; if Bard is just a decent starter, he’s still far more valuable than as a reliever.  Of course, this more or less guts the back end of their bullpen, so look for Boston to sign some of the reliever/closer talent still available on the FA market.

General News; other

  • Not that you may care about the BCS and college football, but here’s a fantastic analysis of the BCS formulas and the flaws contained within them.  It isn’t a bombshell article, but does show some troubling facts about a system that has built in flaws, with coaches voting on items that have a direct effect on their own teams’ successes.