Sunday Notes: Edgar’s Worthiness, Phillips’ Folly, Clubhouse Quality, more

Per Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame Tracker, Edgar Martinez has received 69% of support from voters who have made their ballots public. This puts him well ahead of last year’s pace, although it’s likely that he’ll fall short of the 75% needed to put him over the top. This is the Seattle legend’s eighth year of eligibility.

While Martinez belongs in Cooperstown, it is understandable that some voters haven’t checked off his name. The 10-man limit is a primary culprit, as the ballot is once again stacked with strong candidates. Also working against him is his time as a designated hitter. Fairly or not, a not-insignificant number of ballot-casters hold that against him with a cudgel.

At least one voter feels Martinez simply wasn’t good enough. With ample room on his ballot, and a claim that DH had nothing to do with it, the scribe opined that he “never thought of him as a dominant, feared hitter in his era.”

Martinez had a higher batting average than George Brett, a higher OBP than Wade Boggs, a higher SLG than Rafael Palmeiro, more doubles than Frank Thomas, and more home runs than Ryne Sandberg. Those were his peers. Not considering Martinez dominant is indefensible.

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Edwin Encarnacion has an attendance clause in the contract he just signed with Cleveland. The former Blue Jay will reportedly begin receiving the supplemental greenbacks when two million personages have passed through the turnstiles at Progressive Field next season.

Will that happen? The American League champs finished third from the bottom in attendance in 2016, attracting just 1,591,667 fans. Only Oakland and Tampa Bay — losing teams who play in inferior venues — had fewer fans show up. Ohio’s other team, the 94-loss Reds, outdrew the Indians by better than 300,000.

Encarnacion has no real need for any extra coinage that may or may not come his way. He’s guaranteed $60 million over the next three seasons, regardless of how many people deign to show up.

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Brandon Phillips reportedly blocked a trade to the Atlanta Braves in November. Last offseason, he used his 12-5 rights to squelch deals that would have sent him to the Diamondbacks, and to Nationals. The Cincinnati second sacker was well within his rights on each occasion.

Why he has insisted on staying in the Queen City is a question only Phillips can answer. He is clearly not wanted, which becomes more obvious with each attempt to move him. The rebuilding Reds don’t need past-their-prime 35-year-olds on their roster. Phillips’ continued presence serves as a hindrance, which he is presumably self-aware enough to recognize.

Maybe there’s a good reason he wants to remain a Red. Regardless — and again, that’s his prerogative — he’s doing the organization a disservice by refusing to go a team where he’d be an asset rather than a detriment to the better good.

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Bud Black has been featured here at FanGraphs a handful times since he was hired to manage the Rockies in November. We’ll hear from once again, this time on the mental side of the game.

“Every organization talks about their mission statements,” said Black. “They talk about the physical component of the player, the fundamental component of the player, and the mental component of the player. The analytics world bases everything on the physical. What does he do? But the mental component is huge. At Coors, mentally tough players are required, particularly on the pitching side. As an organization, we’re very aware of that.”

Colorado isn’t the only club that values character. Teams employ sport psychologists and mental skills coaches for a reason. Performance is the bottom line — you need talent to win — but more goes into performance than physical skills alone.

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Mike Napoli’s value goes beyond his numbers. The power-hitting free agent received plenty of kudos for his clubhouse presence. That was especially true in Cleveland, where he helped lead the resilient Indians to the precipice of a World Series title.

“You can definitely credit Napoli with a little bit of setting a precedence where we stay focused on the goals,” Kipnis said during the postseason. “He’s made it a team thing where it doesn’t matter who it is. Guys have done a great job of just playing the game.”

Brandon Guyer, who was experiencing October for the first time, shared similar sentiments. When I asked about his emotional mindset, Napoli was one of two teammates he cited as a calming influence.

“I had a lot of energy with the crowd and the environment, but otherwise it didn’t feel too different,” said Guyer. “Talking to guys like Coco (Crisp) and Napoli, who have been in the playoffs before — they said to take deep breaths and act like it’s another game. I did that. I was able to channel everything and not let the moment get to me.”

The results back up the words. In 24 postseason plate appearances, Guyer slashed a calm-as-a-cucumber .333/.500/.389. In Game 7 of the World Series, he doubled off Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning, then drew a 10th-inning walk against Carl Edwards.

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When I talked to Brad Ziegler in late September, he bemoaned having walked Troy Tulowitzki with two outs and none on in a recent game. The sidewinder told me he’d have rather given up a hit. In his opinion, psychology is in play with each free pass.

“From a pitcher’s perspective, you feel like you’re struggling all of a sudden,” explained Ziegler. “When you give up a hit, you kind of just tip your hat and move on. If a guy bounces a ball up the middle on me, I’m fine with that. Walking a guy is different. It means you threw four pitches where you didn’t want them, and that’s something I hate doing.”

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Clayton Kershaw’s insanely low 0.66 BB/9 drew a lot of attention this past season. The future Hall of Famer issued just 11 free passes in 149 innings. Josh Tomlin, as he is wont to do, was likewise stingy. Among pitchers to throw at least 50 innings, he had the third-lowest walk rate, at 1.03.

Wedged between the two was a righty reliever who is barely on the radar. Oakland rookie Zach Neal walked six batters in 70 innings, which ranked him right behind Kershaw, at 0.77.

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Left on the cutting room floor in Friday’s interview with Tuffy Gosewisch were the catcher’s thoughts on Archie Bradley’s fastball-curveball mix. Gosewisch — now with the Braves — caught Bradley in Arizona this past season.

“We’re really starting to utilize the high fastball,” Gosewisch told me. “There are certain pitchers where that’s not part of their game, so we’re not going to go there, but guys who can… Archie Bradley, with his mix, can pitch up in the zone. He’s got a four-seam, a curveball, and a changeup. If you throw a high fastball, the curveball plays better. He can be really successful with that.”

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Ryan Howard is 37 years old and coming off a year where he hit .196/.257/.453. The Philadelphia Phillies, with whom he spent 13 seasons, have bid him adieu. It’s easy to imagine him heading off into the sunset, never to be seen again.

That might not happen. Howard hopes to keep playing, and the idea of him of finding a opportunity isn’t as far-fetched as you might think. He went deep 25 times in 331 at bats this past season, and his .480 SLG against righties was respectable (Chris Carter slugged .487 versus righties). An American League team in want of a platoon DH doesn’t have much to lose by giving him a spring training invite.

Howard’s 382 career home runs tie him with Frank Howard and Jim Rice for 67th all-time.

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Al Oliver fell off the Hall of Fame ballot after receiving just 4.3% of support in his first year of eligibility. Much like Jim Edmonds and Lou Whitaker, he arguably deserved a longer look.

A seven-time All-Star, Oliver slashed .303/.344/.451 and won a batting title. In an era where batting average was a stat that mattered, the sweet-swinging outfielder hit .300 or better 11 times. He topped that mark every season from 1974-1983. Oliver wasn’t a bopper, but 825 of his 2,743 safeties went for extra bases, so he wasn’t a banjo hitter either. He led the NL in total bases and RBI in 1982.

Does the former Pirate, Ranger, and Expo belong in Cooperstown? Probably not, but his string of .300s does beg a question: Is it fair to discount BA in Hall of Fame arguments when the stat was of utmost importance when the player in question was judged by his peers?

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One last Hall of Fame note: The 181st ballot tabulated by Ryan Thibodaux was that of Murray Chass. Mr. Chass checked off no names, and added a note saying, “This ballot is intentionally blank.”

As was the case with the writer who feels Edgar Martinez wasn’t a dominant hitter, Mr. Chass had the right to do. That said, I think the vast majority of us feel he was wrong. Hall of Fame voting is an imperfect system.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

Who do MLB executives consider the top prospect in each league? Jonathan Mayo has the answer at MLB Pipeline.

Jim Allen of the Kyodo News wrote about how former Kansas City Royals and Nippon Ham Fighters manager Trey Hillman is looking to apply past lessons in South Korea.

At Behind The Box Score, Ryan Romano opined that Curt Schilling is a horrible person, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.

Marvin Miller’s legacy includes a player boycott of Topps in 1967-1968. Mark Armour has the details at SABR’s Baseball Card Blog.

RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Per MLB.com’s Daren Willman, when Clayton Kershaw was ahead in the count this past season, he threw an off-speed pitch 68% of the time, the highest percentage of non-knuckleball pitchers.

Through age 28, Clayton Kershaw has a record of 126-60 and 15 shutouts. Through age 28, Pedro Martinez had a record of 125-56 and 15 shutouts.

In Mike Trout’s five full seasons, he’s never had had an adjusted OPS under 168. Alex Rodriguez had an adjusted OPS of 168 or higher twice in his 22 seasons.

Joey Votto has played nine full seasons and led the National League in OBP five times. The eight starters on the 1975 “Big Red Machine” combined to play 157 seasons and lead their league in OBP six times. Joe Morgan did so four times, Pete Rose twice.

Among players with at least 500 plate appearances from 1967-2016, Barry Bonds (20.3%) and Mickey Mantle (19.4%) have the highest walk rates. Who ranks third and fourth? None other than Frank Fernandez (18.2%) and Mike Fiore (18.0%).

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Deacon Phillippe threw five complete games against the Boston Americans in the 1903 World Series. From 1996-2016, there were five complete games thrown in the World Series.

Jerry Dipoto, Mike Ferrin, Mike Hazen, and Brian Kenny are among the featured speakers who have been added to the upcoming SABR Analytics Conference, which will be held in Phoenix from March 9-11.

We hoped you liked reading Sunday Notes: Edgar’s Worthiness, Phillips’ Folly, Clubhouse Quality, more by David Laurila!

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Psychic... Powerless...
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Member
Psychic... Powerless...

The Brandon Phillips note seems a little judgmental. Teams trade or cut players all the time without considering what’s best for the player. Why should players be held to a higher standard?

PC1970
Member
PC1970

I agree. I don’t know Phillips’ personal situation, but, there could be any # of reasons he wants to stay put. He could have business interests that he wants to be around. Maybe he has post playing day plans that might be disrupted by a move. Maybe he has a family with kids that he doesn’t want to move & that he doesn’t want to miss for 6 months. Maybe he likes the community ties.

Shirtless Bartolo Colon
Member

Maybe he didn’t want to see me every day. Too painful to be reminded that I was an All-Star while he was a minor leaguer (before he was traded for 1/3 of me), and I’m still an All-Star now that he’s over the hill.

John Autin
Member
Member
John Autin

I strongly agree with this. Phillips is not exploiting some loophole, but exercising one of the essential rights players earned through their first major labor action (IIRC).

Phillips is playing out the 6-year deal he signed in April 2012, at age 30. Given market rates and the historical decline patterns for middle infielders, the Reds have already gotten as much value as they ever should have expected. Neither legally or ethically does Phillips owe them anything.

It’s worth noting that Phillips signed this deal coming off his best year, by batting & by bWAR. Had he maintained or raised his level through the course of the deal, he would have been much underpaid — yet no one would be chiding the Reds for not voluntarily giving him more money.

If he is now a detriment to their plans, they can cut him and “eat” the $14 million owed, or offer him enough $$ to take a trade — as have countless teams in the same situation.

This is business. Don’t make it personal.

LHPSU
Member
LHPSU

He turned down a trade to the Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks had Segura, and they’re the Diamondbacks.
He turned down a trade to the Nationals. The Nationals had Murphy.
He turned down a trade to the Braves. It’s not like the Braves are exactly contenders.

bosoxforlife
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Member
bosoxforlife

The Nationals only signed Murphy after Phillips refused to accept the trade.

Joser
Member
Joser

Nor is the author suggesting he’s exploiting some loophole; he prefaces his opinion with “The Cincinnati second sacker was well within his rights on each occasion.”

paperlions
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Member
paperlions

More than that…what does Phillips owe the Reds? A disservice to the organization? Players have to wait 10 or so years to become a FA (if they make it that far), are traded across the country without their input, have no ability to negotiate their own salary for several years (including MiLB time), and then even as veterans they are supposed to do what is best for MLB organizations instead of what is best for themselves?

That…is just a horrible opinion. Would the author say, “sure thing boss” if fangraphs told him to pack up because he’s been traded to bleacher report (yes, I realize this would require no packing or actual moving) out of loyalty to an employer that is trying to get rid of him?

jkaflagg
Member
Member
jkaflagg

The other thing to take into account is (as always) $$$ – players who are asked to waive their no-trade or 10/5 rights often expect to be compensated for waiving those rights – sometimes cash, sometimes guaranteeing an option etc. Again, perfectly within his rights, and the teams supposedly interested (in particular the D-Backs and Braves) may not have wanted to take on that additional cost.