THT Dartboard: July 7, 2006

Editor’s Note: THT Dartboard typically runs on Thursday and as such all numbers below are through Wednesday’s games.

Welcome to The Hardball Times Dartboard, our weekly attempt to rank all the teams in baseball. The Dartboard Factor is how many wins a team would be expected to have at the end of the season if it played a neutral schedule. Next to that, you’ll find the change in the Dartboard Factor from the previous week. An explanation of our method can be found here.

This week, in honor of the All-Star game, we’re looking at the players from each team that made it to the Midsummer Classic.

1. Detroit Tigers (Dartboard Factor = 105, -1): Despite having the best record in the major leagues, the Tigers have only two All-Stars in Kenny Rogers and Ivan Rodriguez. Over the past four years, the team with the best record in baseball has averaged over six representatives in the Midsummer Classic. Perhaps part of the reason more Detroit players did not get chosen is that the Tigers are winning in large part because of their defense, and, well, players don’t generally get placed on the All-Star team because of their fielding prowess.

2. Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 100, -2): Ozzie Guillen named two of his starting pitchers to the American League staff, drawing a lot of criticism, especially for picking Mark Buehrle. Buehrle is actually having a pretty good season—he’s in the top-20 in the AL in pitching runs created and continues to be a workhorse for the White Sox. A bigger worry is that the two starters—Buehrle and Jose Contreras—have expected ERAs of 5.04 and 4.42. That doesn’t bode well for their second-half performances.

3. Boston Red Sox (Dartboard Factor = 99, -1): The Red Sox’s four selections have a higher combined win probability added (WPA) than any other team’s All-Stars, excluding the White Sox whose six players (thank you, Ozzie Guillen), have combined for a 1,118 WPA. With a WPA of 1051.1, the Red Sox players beat out the Mets (six selections, 935.8 WPA), Blue Jays (five selections, 810.8 WPA), and Yankees (four selections, 522.5 WPA).

4. New York Yankees (Dartboard Factor = 97, -3): Three-quarters of the Yankees infield will be participating in the All-Star Game, but ironically, their best infielder won’t be there. Sure, Jason Giambi has played most of his games as a designated hitter this year, but since the Midsummer Classic is being played in a National League park this year, that’s where he would go. Giambi has a .352 gross production average this year (GPA), 38 points better than Alex Rodriguez (who is second on the team in GPA).

5. Toronto Blue Jays (Dartboard Factor = 97, +1): BJ Ryan has been worth six-and-a-half wins above average this season. He’s about halfway towards fulfilling the total value of his contract. Yes, it was a lot of money, but suddenly the deal isn’t looking so stupid. The Blue Jays are 7-2 in one-run games after going 16-31 last year.

6. New York Mets (Dartboard Factor = 93, -4): We’re getting tantalizingly close: Tom Glavine is just 14 wins away from 300.

7. Minnesota Twins (Dartboard Factor = 89, +4): The Twins’ three All-Stars have an average age of 24. For all of Terry Ryan’s questionable decisions regarding major league talent, he sure has an eye for minor leaguers. Acquiring Fransisco Liriano and Joe Nathan for AJ Pierzynski? Genius. Pure genius.

8. Cleveland Indians (Dartboard Factor = 88, +2): Grady Sizemore isn’t just a good hitter—though with a .923 OPS and 46 extra-base hits, he certainly is that as well—he’s also a gritty player. Sizemore is third in the American League in hit-by-pitches with eight, has yet to ground into a double play, has 13 steals on 15 attempts, and in addition to all that, he’s a good fielder—sixth in the major leagues in range factor thus far. Those little things add up.

9. Texas Rangers (Dartboard Factor = 88, -2): Michael Young just got his 1,000th career hit this week, and is well on-pace to hit .300 for the fourth consecutive season. In this new era of power-hitting infielders, Young’s accomplishments have gone relatively unnoticed, but the fact is, a 6’1″, 200 pound professional-hitting shortstop is still a rarity and a very new type of player.

10. Oakland Athletics (Dartboard Factor = 84, -2): A further testament to the genius of Billy Beane: Since trading away two of the big three, Mark Mulder has 101 pitching runs created (PRC), Tim Hudson has 120, and Barry Zito has 163.

11. Los Angeles Dodgers (Dartboard Factor = 83, -1): The Brad Penny trade, one of Paul Depodesta’s biggest and boldest (and most criticized) moves, is really starting to pay off. Penny has a 2.92 ERA on the season, making him the best of Florida’s once-promising big-three (Penny, Josh Beckett, AJ Burnett) this year.

12. Colorado Rockies (Dartboard Factor = 82, 0): It’s hard to evaluate Rockies hitters this year because Coors Field has played so much more like a neutral park this season. Still, no matter how you slice it, Matt Holliday’s .339/.386/.593 line is very impressive.

13. Seattle Mariners (Dartboard Factor = 82, -1): Some might notice that the more groundballs Ichiro hits, the higher his batting average, which is not something that is true for most hitters. That’s because Ichiro’s batting average on groundballs has always been consistently high. From 2002-06, here are his batting averages on groundballs: .403, .410, .505, .393, .424. Okay, so his 2004 (.505) doesn’t fit into that pattern so well. Then again, when you set the major league record for hits, nothing is going to be consistent with previous performances.

Retroactive Review: Ace
Looking back at some of Justin Verlander's most interesting moments.

14. Cincinnati Reds (Dartboard Factor = 81, 0): If you want to figure out how Bronson Arroyo has been so successful this year, you need to look no further than the number of batters he has hit. After hitting 34 batters over the previous two seasons, Arroyo has yet to plunk a batter this year. And while avoiding hitting batters helps his ERA a bit, more importantly it is an indicator that he has gotten his sweeping curveball under control this season, and that he is spotting it more effectively.

15. San Diego Padres (Dartboard Factor = 81, -1): Trevor Hoffman is making his fifth All-Star appearance, but he really has been an undervalued and underappreciated player over the past decade. In just about the same number of innings, Hoffman has 60 more saves than Mariano Rivera and two less blown saves. Obviously, Rivera has the sterling postseason record, but the difference between the two is still one of market size and not quality.

16. San Francisco Giants (Dartboard Factor = 81, +2): He’s having a great season, but Jason Schmidt is showing some clear signs of struggling from age an overuse. His K-rate has dropped below eight for the first time since 2000 and batters are hitting a lot of fly balls off him (only a 34.4 GB%). So what do the Giants do? Why work him harder than ever, of course. Remember, this is the same team that couldn’t win a World Series with Barry Bonds in the lineup.

17. Los Angeles Angels (Dartboard Factor = 80, +3): Guerrero has always been a free swinger, but he’s been a little too trigger-happy this year. Vlad is on-pace to set a career-low in walks, and with a .298 batting average, that’s just not cutting it for a player the whole lineup depends on. This is why the Angels are below .500 and practically out of contention.

18. St. Louis Cardinals (Dartboard Factor = 80, -1): After missing three weeks on the disabled list, Albert Pujols came back…still leading the National League in home runs. And he still has three more home runs than strikeouts.

19. Arizona Diamondbacks (Dartboard Factor = 76, +1): Who has forced more groundballs than Brandon Webb (1,155) over the past two-and-a-half years? No one, that’s who.

20. Baltimore Orioles (Dartboard Factor = 76, +1): For a guy with a lot of power (over 30 home runs a year since 2002, and over 70 extra-base hits), Miguel Tejada sure does ground into a whole lot of double plays. He’s been in the top-two in the league in four of the past five years, leading the league this season with 21.This is largely a function of Tejada’s propensity to put the ball in play (which he does more than 80% of the time) and his high ratio of groundballs to fly balls (more than half his balls in play are hit on the ground).

21. Houston Astros (Dartboard Factor = 76, +2): If he maintains his current pace, this will be the first time since 2000 that Lance Berkman’s on-base percentage is under .400. Of course, he’s currently at .399 so it’s not going to be that tough to make the extra push he needs. It doesn’t hurt that Berkman is on-pace to hit a career-high 47 home runs and 150 RBI.

22. Milwaukee Brewers (Dartboard Factor = 76, -3): Why is Derrick Turnbow in the All-Star Game again? He has a 4.78 ERA and is walking 5.26 batters a game. If Tony LaRussa uses him as a middle reliever, he will walk a batter and the American League will bring that batter around to score. I guarantee it.

23. Florida Marlins (Dartboard Factor = 72, -3): Miguel Cabrera has been more selective at the plate this year, walking in over 13% of his plate appearances, whereas coming into this season, he was walking less than 10% of the time. It’s paid off, as he’s hitting .347, and striking out only a little more often than he walks. Cabrera has cut down on his strikeouts in every major league season of his career.

24. Philadelphia Phillies (Dartboard Factor = 72, -1): Ryan Howard has surprisingly strong groundball tendencies, with a 1.30 G/F ratio this season (1.49 last year). But when Howard hits the ball in the air, boy does he hit it: More than a third of his fly balls leave the park.

25. Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Dartboard Factor = 72, +4): Scott Kazmir is the type of player who may be better projected subjectively. He’s having a great season, largely because he has cut down his walk rate quite a bit once again. Most observers thought Kazmir would do so, simply because his stuff is so un-hittable he has no need to be “fine,” but a projection system would not pick up that ability to take his game to the next level. Nevertheless, Kazmir is doing just as we all thought he would, and he may carry the Devil Rays to their first season with under 90 losses.

26. Atlanta Braves (Dartboard Factor = 71, +1): Joe Mauer might be getting all the attention over in the American League but Brian McCann is a 22 year-old catcher batting .347 with a .411 OBP and .516 SLG. Could Mike Piazza have been to catching what Cal Ripken was to shortstops: One great player who completely redefined a defense-first position followed by a flood of similar greats? When Ripken was at the tail end of his career, up came Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter, and Rodriguez. With Piazza’s career winding down, we have McCann, Mauer, and Victor Martinez.

27. Washington Nationals (Dartboard Factor = 69, 0): Alfonso Soriano has huge home run numbers, and big numbers overall this year, but it does seem like he’s been pressing a little bit. Soriano is striking out a little more often than usual, but when he makes contact, he’s been putting a charge into the ball. What that might mean is that he’s swinging a little harder, but also a little wilder, to inflate his stats as much as possible in this, his contract year.

28. Chicago Cubs (Dartboard Factor = 61, 0): It’s strange that Dusty Baker is so keen on pushing Carlos Zambrano so hard (over 112 pitches a start) given that Zambrano breaks down after 105 pitches, allowing hitters a .974 OPS past that point.

29. Pittsburgh Pirates (Dartboard Factor = 61, +3): As good as he has been (.305 GPA, .920 OPS), Jason Bay might actually do better the rest of the way. He has hit a line drive in only 14% of his plate appearances, a number that is bound to go up and bring his batting average up as it increases.

30. Kansas City Royals (Dartboard Factor = 59, +2): Mark Redman. That is all.

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