Archive for December, 2010

Is Andruw Jones A Hall-Of-Famer?

I wrote a piece for ESPN Insider today that talks about defensive metrics and Hall Of Fame voting. The main example used in the story is Andruw Jones, who you might be shocked to learn has accumulated +70.5 WAR in his career, putting him in a dead-even tie with Derek Jeter. Of course, Jeter did most of his damage with the stick, while Jones has racked up a huge percentage of his career value on defense, and there is usually far more acceptance of offensive value than defense value.

I’m curious, though, what our readers think, given what you know about Jones’ career, and, even with his lofty WAR ratings, would you support his candidacy for the Hall Of Fame? Poll after the jump.

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Adjusting Our Opinion on Pitch Counts

This is a continuation of my last article, Handling Young Pitchers. Both pieces focus on a recent article written by Craig Wright for the Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2011.

In part one, I analyzed Wright’s belief that pitchers in their formative years need to be handled with care, and discussed the difficulties teams face when trying to limit their young pitchers. For established pitchers, however, Wright carries a different viewpoint. Throughout the article, Wright argues against the current limitations of pitch counts, and suggests that some pitchers can handle larger workloads than others. While it may be a controversial stance, it could be time to revise our views on pitch counts.
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How Will Toronto’s Offense Fare in 2011?

An uneducated expectation is a dangerous weapon. Just yesterday, while looking over the CAIRO projections one more time, I stumbled upon the Toronto Blue Jays’ modest 74 wins. The Jays fooled me last season – I joined in the fray that figured they would finish below an upstart Baltimore Orioles’ club – with an unexpected brand of offensive voodoo that resulted in roughly 750 runs. They hit a lot of home runs (257; 46 more than the next highest total and more than the Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, and Albert Pujols combined) and they made a lot of outs (fifth lowest on-base percentage in the league). There’s a reason the Jays are the only team in league history to hit more than 250 home runs and score under 800 runs.
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NHL Winter Classic: I’m Glad Selig Didn’t Think of That

On New Year’s Day, the National Hockey League will play its annual Winter Classic — that’s the one day a year that NHL hockey is played outside, on a rink in a football stadium that’s constructed in a couple of weeks and used precisely once. I was in Pittsburgh for Christmas, and went to Heinz Field to see the Steelers-Panthers game, and got to see the practice rink that was built just outside the stadium; following that game, the gridiron turf would be covered by ice.

I’m not hugely opposed to two-sport arenas — the cookie-cutter baseball-football stadia of the ’70s may have been ugly, but they were serviceable, and terrific baseball was played in them. But I’m glad that baseball hasn’t gotten into trying to build a stadium that has to be demolished a week later. The Winter Classic is a fine idea, and it has proven a ratings boon, but one has to mention: isn’t it gigantically wasteful to build a huge hockey rink that, simply by virtue of its being on a football field, can only be used once?

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I’m Just Saying

This has been done before, most often by Craig Calcaterra, but after reading a host of articles about why this writer or that writer is not voting for Jeff Bagwell, I’m compelled to offer the following comparison.

Morris, writing about Raul Ibanez last summer:

Thirdly, it’s time for me to begrudgingly acknowledge the elephant in the room: any aging hitter who puts up numbers this much better than his career averages is going to immediately generate suspicion that the numbers are not natural, that perhaps he is under the influence of some sort of performance enhancer. And since I was not able to draw any absolute parallels between his prodigously improved HR rate and his new ballpark’s hitter-friendliness, it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility that “other” performance enhancers could be part of the equation.

Sorry Raul Ibanez and Major League Baseball, that’s just the era that we are in — testing or no testing.

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More Suitors for Adrian Beltre

Adrian Beltre might very well be the best remaining free agent, but at this point he doesn’t have many clear suitors. Last week, after we heard light rumors that the Angels were taking a step back, Matthew explored some other possible fits. One of those bit the dust yesterday, as Ken Rosenthal reports that the A’s have removed themselves from the picture. While the Angels, despite the rumors, remain the favorites to sign Beltre, there is one other team that I can see making a run.

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Factual Assertions Are Not Opinions

This time of year, we generally get three things: Christmas presents, cold weather, and arguments about the voting for baseball’s Hall Of Fame. For a few reasons, I generally try to stay out of the arguments about the Hall of Fame; I think the divide that is created between traditional media and the statistical community on this issue is unfortunate, and in general, both sides end up just talking past each other. The conversations do more to alienate people who should get along then it does to advance the cause of quality Hall Of Fame voting.

I do, however, want to use the voting process – and one article in particular – to highlight a point that I believe drives a large portion of the vehement disagreement that we see every year. The following is the introduction to the most recent by piece Danny Knobler, senior writer for, where he lays out his reasoning for his personal ballot.
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The Playoffs Sweet Spot

Baseball season is officially creeping ever closer with the release of the first CAIRO projections. With the news cycle a little slow, these projections can serve as discussion fodder but shouldn’t be taken as gospel given the premature state of rosters and depth charts. With those necessary disclaimers out of the way, let’s do some exploring.
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Free Agents Shifting Leagues

Cliff Lee spent all of 2010 in the American League earning 7.1 WAR. Now in the National League, Lee swings a lot of value from the AL to the NL. If you thought an American League team was, on average, say five wins better than a National League team in 2010 then Cliff Lee could have lessened that gap to four wins all by his lonesome had he spent the year in the NL.

That thought got me thinking about the rest of the transactions this winter concerning players switching leagues. Read the rest of this entry »

WAR Graphs

If you’re on twitter and you follow some of the same people I do, you’ve probably been inundated with one thing over the last few days – WAR Graphs. Perhaps one of the most underrated parts of the site, it is especially fun around times like this when Hall Of Fame voting is a popular topic of discussion. Mike Axisa was having so much fun using the graphs to compare different players that he opened a twitter account, @WARGraphs, specifically for the purpose of sending out such gems as the one below. Even though it has nothing to do with Cooperstown, this one was one of my favorites.

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FanGraphs Chat – 12/29/10

Dotel Signs With Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays entered the offseason knowing that the team’s bullpen would look drastically different on Opening Day 2011 than it did last October. While Jason Frasor decided to accept Toronto’s arbitration offer rather than testing the market as a Type A free agent, fellow Type A Scott Downs signed a three-year deal with the Angels, and Type B free agent Kevin Gregg is expected to pitch out of someone else’s ‘pen next year. Attempting to compensate for those relief losses, the Jays have reportedly signed Octavio Dotel to a one-year, $3.5 million deal. Dotel’s pact pays him $2.75 million in 2011, with a $3.75 million club option for 2012 that includes a $750K buyout.

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Microeconomics And Offense (Part 2)

Last week’s post examined offense in the American League through the prism of capital and labor. This week, it’s the National League’s turn.

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FanGraphs Chat – 12/28/10

Chris Cwik will swing by at 3:00 pm eastern time for his inaugural chat here on FanGraphs. Come meet the new guy and talk baseball for an hour or so.

The Cheap DH Cycle

While the market for relief pitchers has been brisk, there’s one group of players that have generally been ignored so far this winter – designated hitters. Thanks to the glut of available bat-only players, teams with open spots at DH have been content to sit around and let the off-season play out, and it looks like we’ll head into January with a half dozen or so designated hitters still looking for jobs; Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Johnny Damon, Russell Branyan, and for a team with a serious appetite for risk, Nick Johnson.

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Show Me the $! End-of-Year Payrolls

On some level, it’s simple to say that each of the Big-4 sports in Northern America are different. Baseball doesn’t have a clock; the NHL uses a puck; the NBA uses a hoop; the NFL has downs.

Yes, I’m being over simplistic here, but on the salary side, the distance between MLB and its other Big-4 brethren diverge further still.

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Hu’s on Short?

On Monday, the Mets traded left-hander Michael Antonini for the Dodgers’ future shortstop of the past – Chin-Lung Hu. Though the move didn’t include any top prospects, it may have real implications for the Mets going forward.

Antonini does pitch with his left hand, and may be close to the major leagues (the 25-year-old just finished his second stint at Triple-A), but he looks like he’s headed to the bullpen. His fastball tops out around 89 MPH and though he controls it well to both sides of plate – as evidenced by his 2.1 career minor league walk rate – he owns only a mediocre changeup otherwise. He also hasn’t been able to rack up the strikeouts you’d like to see out of a future major-league rotation stalwart (7.0 K/9 career, 6.1 at Triple-A Buffalo). Perhaps he can be a LOOGY. Here’s a little more about him from Toby Hyde at MetsMinorLeagueBlog.

From the Dodgers’ perspective, they may feel that they have traded a backup shortstop for a left-handed bullpen option that might be able to help them this year.

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Brewers Strengthen Bullpen With Saito

After improving its starting rotation with the acquisitions of Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke, the Brewers have moved onto other aspects of team building. On offense the team appears set, as they’re returning seven of the eight starters who contributed to the team’s 110 wRC+ last season, which ranked third in the majors. Where the team could use some fortification is in the bullpen. It has addressed this by signing Takashi Saito to a one-year contract.

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Webb, Texas Ranger

The representatives of Brandon Webb and the Texas Rangers front office managed to take some time out of their undoubtedly busy Boxing Day schedule to agree to a one-year contract. Terms of the deal have not been released as of Sunday night, but the deal is “incentive-laden,” according to Nick Piecoro. If this deal fits into the market of Rich Harden and Erik Bedard type market, we can be fairly sure that the deal will pay Webb less than $4-5 million guaranteed.

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Atkins to Pittsburgh

Brad Hawpe wasn’t the only former Colorado Rockies’ slugger to find a new team over the holiday weekend. For the second consecutive winter, Garrett Atkins will attempt to re-establish himself with a perennial cellar-dweller. The Baltimore phase of his mission went stunningly poor, so his new (minor league) deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates couldn’t possibly go any worse, could it?
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