Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT
Sunday, December 21, 2003
 
Mantle's Stats and Rankings Unplugged

I received several e-mails about the Mickey Mantle article, questioning his place in history. As a result, I decided to take a look at Mantle's career from different vantage points other than Win Shares and Runs Created Above Average and Above Position on a year-by-year basis.

Only eight players in the history of baseball rank higher than Mantle in all four of the Hall of Fame criteria (Black Ink, Gray Ink, HOF Standards, and HOF Monitor) established by Bill James.



ELITE EIGHT (in alphabetical order):

Hank Aaron
Ty Cobb
Lou Gehrig
Rogers Hornsby
Stan Musial
Babe Ruth
Honus Wagner
Ted Williams

Of the eight players, all but Aaron have also earned The QUAD Award for leading the league in the two most important counting stats (times on base and total bases) and the two most important rate stats (on base percentage and slugging average). Capturing the QUAD demonstrates sheer dominance over the league and is a good measure of peak value, validating the appropriateness of the Elite Eight. Furthermore, all but Hornsby led the entire major league in each of the four categories rather than just their league. The Rajah was victimized by having a concurrent career with Ruth. Cobb (2x), Hornsby (4), Musial (2), Ruth (5), and Williams (5) have been bestowed QUAD honors for their individual league multiple times.

Based on the Jamesian standards outlined above, the Elite Eight would rank ahead of Mantle given that they all beat him out in each of the four categories. But one could make a strong case for placing Mantle ninth on the all-time list of players with the greatest career achievements. An argument could also be made on behalf of Willie Mays, who ranks ahead of his counterpart in three of the four areas (including two top fives). Mays comes up a little short in the Black Ink test (65 for the Oklahoma Kid and 57 for the Say Hey Kid).

There are only seven other players who outpoint Mantle in two of the four lists. By definition, it means that The Mick ranks higher than them in two of the four as well. However, in the case of Mantle, he places no lower than 18th in each of the rankings. Of the seven, only Barry Bonds and Nap Lajoie rate in the top 20 in all four standings. The other five (Jimmie Foxx, Charlie Gehringer, Mel Ott, Frank Robinson, and Tris Speaker) are not only Hall of Famers but among the best ever at their position.

Bonds, of course, is still active and is likely to continue climbing the leader boards every season between now and his retirement. Bonds needs ten more Black Ink and four more Gray Ink to surpass Mantle. In defense of Bonds, he has played his entire career with at least 12 teams in his league whereas Mantle spent half of his career with only eight and the other half with ten. As a result, Bonds has competed against more players than Mantle (and all of the other players from the pre-expansion era), making it more difficult for him to acquire Black and Gray Ink.

Based on the above discussion, there are 11 players who stand out in the all-time rankings offensively, at least in terms of the Black and Gray Ink, HOF Standards, and HOF Monitor lists.

ENORMOUS ELEVEN (in alpha order):

Hank Aaron
Barry Bonds
Ty Cobb
Lou Gehrig
Rogers Hornsby
Mickey Mantle
Willie Mays
Stan Musial
Babe Ruth
Honus Wagner
Ted Williams

Interestingly, these 11 players also rank among the top 17 in batting Win Shares. I had mentioned three (Ott, Robinson, and Speaker) of the remaining six previously. The others are Eddie Collins (who ranks in the top 20 in three of the four tests), Rickey Henderson (no top 20s), and Pete Rose (two top 20s). Like Bonds, Henderson and Rose (to a lesser extent) have been disadvantaged by playing during the post-expansion era.

Given that these rankings are all based on cumulative stats, a review of a rate-based stat such as Adjusted OPS might provide some further color on the subject.

TOP 20 OPS+

Babe Ruth	         207

Ted Williams 190
Barry Bonds 179
Lou Gehrig 179
Rogers Hornsby 175
Mickey Mantle 172
Joe Jackson 170
Ty Cobb 167
Jimmie Foxx 163
Mark McGwire 163
Frank Thomas 162
Stan Musial 159
Hank Greenberg 158
Johnny Mize 158
Tris Speaker 158
Manny Ramirez 157
Dick Allen 156
Willie Mays 156
Hank Aaron 155
Joe DiMaggio 155
Mel Ott 155

Only Honus Wagner (T28th at 150) from the list of 11 fails to place among the top 20 in OPS+. Interestingly, if we use the 11 players as a baseline for the top offensive performers, we can then rank them using OPS+ to get a feel for the best ever on a combined quantitative and qualitative basis.

Babe Ruth	         207

Ted Williams 190
Barry Bonds 179
Lou Gehrig 179
Rogers Hornsby 175
Mickey Mantle 172
Ty Cobb 167
Stan Musial 159
Willie Mays 156
Hank Aaron 155
Honus Wagner 150

That's not a bad list, and it may serve as a ballpark ranking of the top offensive players of all time. We can create groups within groups, too. For example, Ruth, Williams, Gehrig, Hornsby, and Cobb are the only players who place among the top ten in all four of the Bill James HOF standards as well as Adjusted OPS. Musial and Aaron rank among the top ten in the HOF standards and 12th and 19th, respectively, in OPS+.

Getting back to the issue of Mantle, only four players--Ruth, Williams, Gehrig, and Hornsby--rank higher than him in all five areas. This does not mean that Mantle is the fifth most productive offensive player ever. It just suggests it would be difficult to argue that he deserves to be listed among the top four. Nonetheless, I think it is fair to place Mantle somewhere between #6 and #11 on the all-time list of hitters. The upper end would be determined more on peak value, rate stats, and relative rankings whereas the lower end would be predicated more on career totals.

RUNS CREATED ABOVE AVERAGE

1    Babe Ruth                  1795   

2 Ted Williams 1475
3 Ty Cobb 1369
4 Barry Bonds 1344
5 Lou Gehrig 1247
6 Stan Musial 1204
7 Mickey Mantle 1099
8 Rogers Hornsby 1084
9 Tris Speaker 1053
10 Hank Aaron 1032
11 Willie Mays 1008
12 Mel Ott 989
13 Jimmie Foxx 985
14 Honus Wagner 938
15 Frank Robinson 852
16 Frank Thomas 770
17 Rickey Henderson 763
18 Eddie Collins 747
19 Joe DiMaggio 708
20 Johnny Mize 667

Voila! The top eight in RCAA are among the top 11 discussed throughout. Looked at another way, the 11 players I've identified all rank among the top 14 in RCAA. More impressively, 10 of these 11 players comprise the top 10 in Runs Created Above Position (RCAP). Aaron is the only one of the Enormous Eleven outside the top 10 in RCAP, and he is not far back in a tie for 12th place.


RUNS CREATED ABOVE POSITION

1    Babe Ruth                  1594   

2 Ted Williams 1246
3 Barry Bonds 1218
4 Rogers Hornsby 1094
5 Ty Cobb 1078
6 Mickey Mantle 1009
7 Honus Wagner 994
8 Stan Musial 992
9 Lou Gehrig 988
10 Willie Mays 856
11 Mel Ott 831
T12 Eddie Collins 822
T12 Hank Aaron 822
14 Joe Morgan 820
15 Tris Speaker 777
16 Jimmie Foxx 700
17 Frank Robinson 674
18 Rickey Henderson 636
19 Eddie Mathews 633
20 Joe DiMaggio 629

What Does It All Mean?

From my vantage point, these lists suggest that no matter which metrics (HOF standards, OPS+, Win Shares, and/or RCAA and RCAP) or style (counting, rate, and/or relative stats) one uses, the best offensive players identify themselves. This study also goes a long way in proving that Mantle has unquestionably earned his status as one of the very best hitters ever. Choosing the best overall players is more problematic, given the need to account for positions, defensive performance, and baserunning skills. Having said that, I wouldn't dismiss any of these 11 from, say, a list of the top 15 overall players (excluding pitchers) as none of them are so poor defensively or on the base paths as to detract materially from their production at the plate.

Williams is probably the worst combination of position (LF), defense ("C") and baserunning (24 career SB, 17 CS; 58%), followed by Ruth (corner OF w/ "C-" grade and 110 SB vs. 117 CS in the years both were counted) and Hornsby (2B w/ "C" and only 56 SB vs. 64 CS in the years both were counted). Gehrig (1B, "B-", 102 SB/101 CS) and Musial (corner OF, "B", 29 SB/31 CS in the years both were counted--which unfairly penalizes him by excluding the first nine years of his career) were above-average defensively and on the basepaths. Aaron and Bonds rank surprisingly low defensively ("C") but both were fast with high stolen base totals and outstanding SB percentages. As corner outfielders, I believe Win Shares undervalues their defensive contributions by comparing them to CF. Aaron won three Gold Gloves and had a 2.08 range factor vs. 1.88 for the league average and a .980 fielding percentage vs. .976. Bonds has won eight Gold Gloves and has an above-average range factor (2.24 vs. 1.92) and fielding percentage (.985 vs. .981).

On the other hand, Wagner and Mays rank high defensively ("A+") and both were among the fastest and most successful base stealers of their time (Wagner, 722 SB--10th all time--with limited CS data; Mays, 338 SB/103 CS, 76%). Cobb ("B+" defensively with 892 SB--4th all time--and a 72% success rate during the only three years in his prime in which CS were kept) would rate right behind Wagner and Mays in these peripheral areas. A case could also be made on behalf of Mantle ("B+" and considered one of the fastest runners in the history of baseball in his early years plus an astounding 80% SB rate) ranking on the heels of this trio.

Among the players on the fringes, Collins (2B, "A-", 744 SB--7th all time) and Speaker (CF, "A+", 432 SB--54th all time--but only a 56% success rate in the years in which CS were maintained) would rate best based on a combination of defense and baserunning. One might be able to make a case for DiMaggio (CF, "A+"), too, although it is difficult to give him as high of a mark for his baserunning given his lack of stolen bases (30) although he was effective (76%). Adding these three players into the mix produces a total of 14. Throw in the next top three sluggers (Foxx, Ott, and Robinson) plus several players (Lajoie, Henderson, Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, and Alex Rodriguez come to mind) from positions (3B, C, and SS) or eras (decade of the 1900s plus 1970s-on) that are under represented and one can come up with the makings of a pretty good top 25 list (excluding pitchers, 19th century performers, and Negro League players).

Sources: Baseball-Reference.com (Black Ink, Gray Ink, HOF Standards, HOF Monitor, and OPS+), the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia (RCAA and RCAP), and Win Shares by Bill James and Jim Henzler.

Richard Lederer
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT
www.baseballbeat.blogspot.com

Friday, December 19, 2003
 
A Gleeful Interview With The New Aaron of Baseball

Up until the summer of 2002, if a baseball fan mentioned "Aaron", you knew they were referring to baseball's all-time home run king. Well, things have changed over the past 16 months. Online baseball fans now know that the name "Aaron" is none other than Aaron Gleeman, the proprietor of Aaron's Baseball Blog. Aaron's blog is arguably the most widely read one in existence, and it is inarguably the most entertaining.

Aaron was born and raised in Minnesota. He is an undergrad student majoring in journalism at the University of Minnesota. In addition to maintaining his blog, Aaron has written articles for Baseball Primer, InsiderBaseball.com, and is currently working with RotoWorld.com on its fantasy baseball annual.

I corresponded with Aaron by email and instant messaging during the past week during his winter break. Not surprisingly, Aaron responded with a Gleeman-length interview.

RWBB: How long have you been a baseball fan?

Aaron: I really wish I had a cool story to tell, like how I went to my first game and saw Kirby Puckett hit a game-winning homer and I fell in love with the sport or something, but I really don't have a good story.

My mom's side of the family is really into sports and so I guess I just got into it that way. I do remember my grandmother (on my dad's side) buying me my first baseball cards. 1987 Topps, with the borders that looked like wood paneling. I had three stacks, held together by rubber bands.

In my early days as a sports fan, baseball was probably #3 on the list, behind basketball and football. My uncle, who is the biggest baseball lover I have ever met, used to always tell me that one day I would see the light and see that baseball is the sport to fall in love with. Sometime around my 15th or 16th birthday, I saw the light.

RWBB: Being from Minnesota, what do you remember about the 1987 and 1991 Minnesota Twins world championship teams?

Aaron: Sadly, I remember absolutely nothing about 1987. I was only four years old then. I'm sure I watched (or slept through) the games, but I have no memory of them.

1991 is right around the time I started to follow baseball, which is pretty convenient. I remember I used to watch the playoff games with a notebook in my hand. I would keep my own stats for all the players, a stat-head from the very start. I have fond memories of watching Game Seven in 1991. I remember how incredibly happy everyone around me was and I don't think I quite grasped it at the time. As far as I knew, winning championships was a yearly thing for the Twins.

RWBB: Who is your all-time favorite Twin?

Aaron: I go back and forth on this one. The easy answer is Kirby, but he stopped playing when I was 11 and it turns out he isn't such a wonderful guy. I took a liking to Torii Hunter after Kirby, because he seemed to me to be sort of a similar guy. Outgoing, funny, full of smiles, exciting on the field. Hopefully, Torii doesn't chase his wife around the house with a power-saw like Kirby.

But really, if I'm being honest, I'd say my favorite Twin is Johan Santana. I sort of feel like I have watched him grow up, which is funny for a 20-year old kid to be saying. But it's true. I am proud to say I was on the bandwagon right away and I am very excited to see how his career plays out. Plus, Johan seems like a pretty good guy, and I like his demeanor on the mound and the fact that he can make hitters look absolutely ridiculous at times.

RWBB: You list Ted Williams on your "about me" page as your favorite ballplayer of all time. That's heady stuff for a 20-year-old.

Aaron: For whatever reason, I tend to take a liking to guys who are portrayed as jerks. To me, there is something interesting about someone like that. Someone like Cal Ripken or A-Rod or some other "perfect" guy just isn't that interesting to me. But Ted Williams? That's a guy I could read about forever. And really, what does it matter if we hear he wasn't nice to the media or that he didn't tip his cap to the fans in Boston? Kirby was loved by the media and fans like no other player I have ever seen and he turned out to be 100 times the jerk Ted Williams ever was.

I like personalities, good or bad. Plus, the man can flat-out hit and, beyond that, he has thoughts about hitting that are incredibly interesting to hear/read about.

RWBB: Barry Bonds is another one of your favorites.

Aaron: See, Bonds is just like Williams, another guy I love who is supposed to be a jerk. I like a guy who wants his own recliner in the locker room. I like a guy who hits a ball 500 feet and stands at the plate admiring it. If you hit the damn thing that far you should be able to do whatever you want. We need more Jeffrey Leonard doing one-flap down, if you ask me. If the pitcher doesn't like it, tell him not to let him hit it that far.

RWBB: Let's say you're putting together a team and you need a left fielder. Who would it be, Ted Williams or Barry Bonds?

Aaron: I don't get a DH? This is really tough, but I think I would go with Barry for his defense. If you ask me next week though, I may give a different answer. It's like asking me to pick between Heidi Klum and Jessica Alba. I'd rather let Heidi DH and not have to make the choice.

RWBB: Did you play baseball as a kid?

Aaron: Yeah, I did. I played Little League until I was like...I don't know...I think maybe 15 or so. When I started I couldn't hit at all, but I was a good fielder. Then, as I got older, I still couldn't hit, but I wasn't absolutely horrible at the plate. My final year I batted fifth and played second base. We had a couple of future Golden Gophers on that team.

I hit right-handed and my offense was all singles. I'd love to say that I walked a lot, but I honestly don't think that I did. My specialty was blooping singles into right field. At second, I had very good hands, very little range and zero arm.

RWBB: Sounds like the Twins could use you.

Aaron: Trust me, the Twins have all the no-range, no-hit second basemen they need as it is.

RWBB: Good point.

Aaron: I actually got beaned right in the forehead when I was like 13 or so. The ball was thrown way behind me and I instinctively jumped back, which actually was really dumb. If I had just stood there, it would have hit my back or maybe missed me completely. Instead, it went under the brim of my helmet and nailed me right in the forehead. I had a really good bruise/egg for like a week. After that, I was scared of the ball in a lot of ways, which is just about the worst thing you can be in baseball (besides Neifi Perez).

RWBB: Other than to rag on poor Neifi, what made you decide to create Aaron's Baseball Blog?

Aaron: Well, I was home for the summer in 2002 and I started checking out some blogs like David Pinto's Baseball Musings, Mike's Baseball Rants and Only Baseball Matters. One day David posted something about how some of his readers were creating blogs and he showed how to sign up for one. So, I went and did it and had my first post up that night. It was about A.J. Burnett and how I was worried about his health, which turned out to be a pretty good little prediction! As for why I did it, I have no idea. I guess I was just bored one summer day and I wanted to talk baseball.

RWBB: You have received over 300,000 hits since your blog's inception on August 1, 2002. That's a lot of clicks of the refresh arrow.
(Laughs.)
Aaron: Believe it or not, the thing that tracks the hits allows you to "block" certain IP addresses, so I blocked my mom's computer at home and at work, because I know she probably checks it like 10 times a day and I didn't want a fake count.

The fact that the site cracked 300,000 is absolutely unbelievable to me. I remember that first week or two, I would sit around all day and stare at the "Site Meter" thing, just waiting for someone to show up. I think I got a plug on Pinto's site after a few days and I got 35 hits. I was in heaven.

Now I am averaging somewhere around 1,500-2,000 per day. Some days it reaches over 3,000. It's pretty crazy. I still get a kick out of seeing the visitor counts everyday and I love finding out where people are coming from, what sites have linked to my blog. I am a night-owl, so it is fun to check the visitor count at like 2 am and see that 243 people have already stopped by. Hopefully that will never stop giving me a thrill.

RWBB: What do your Mom and Dad think about it all?

Aaron: At first my mom loved it, because it was something to take up my time. I think parents' #1 goal in life is to get their child to do stuff, no matter what it is, just so they aren't sitting around doing nothing. She's very supportive of what I do. She's always telling people to go to the site, people I have never met before.

My dad thinks it's cool, I guess. He asks me about it once in a while, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't read it. He is not a sports fan at all, but he tries to fake it sometimes. He'll often ask, "Did you watch the game last night?" I'll say, "Which game?" He'll sort of confess and say, "I don't know, I just figured you watched a game."

RWBB: How is college life at the University of Minnesota treating you?

Aaron: It's not bad. I like the whole living on my own thing. I'm not such a fan of the going to class everyday thing though. My main problem with school is that someone like me, who has known for years that he wants to do nothing but be a writer, is forced to take math classes and science classes and foreign languages classes. That's fine for people who want a well-rounded education or for people who don't know what they want to be, but I want to write and I want to do nothing but take classes on writing. A journalism class here is 3 days a week. A foreign language is 5 days a week. It doesn't make sense to me.

RWBB: Habla Espanol or sprechen sie Deutsch?

Aaron: I have enough trouble with English as it is. Trying to get me to master another language is like trying to teach Rey Ordonez a better home run trot. It's just not needed and there are plenty of other areas to work on first.

RWBB: You're majoring in journalism, you have one of the most widely read baseball websites in the entire blogosphere, and yet you have not been able to land a job with the student newspaper. What gives?

Aaron: Kind of weird, isn't it? I'm a little limited in what I can/should say, because the MN Daily is already very angry at me, apparently.

But I will say the bare facts, which is that I applied for an entry-level position in the sports department at the all-student newspaper here at the U of M on four different occasions, spread over three years. Sometimes, I applied for an unpaid internship, other times for a low-paying beat writing position covering one of the lesser sports like volleyball or track and field or gymnastics, etc.

Twice I went in for interviews with the sports editors and another time I did a phone interview. And I didn't get the job any of the four times. There are some other details that make the situation more frustrating for me, but I should probably keep my big mouth shut for once. I wrote about getting rejected for the 4th time on my blog some time ago, because I was upset that they didn't even let me know that I hadn't gotten the job. Over a month had passed and I hadn't heard anything from them, so I wrote about my frustration on the blog. And then, wouldn't you know it, I got an email from them the very next day.

It's very frustrating, because all I want to do in life is write about sports and the MN Daily is a very good and respected student paper. My aunt wrote for them and she loved it, and it was a big part of my plans when I started school here. Plus, it sucks getting asked all the time if I write for the student paper and having to say no. It's a great paper and I would be honored to write for them. For whatever reason, they don't want me.

RWBB: Have you ever had a real job?

Aaron: Sort of. When I was in junior high and high school I used to do sports card and memorabilia shows all across the country. I did shows in all over Minnesota and in California, Georgia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois - all sorts of places. They were on the weekends and I would buy a booth and set up my merchandise. It was a lot of fun and very good money for a young kid. I think it was a good experience, having to manage a little business. You had to invest in product and you had to manage your resources.

After that, I worked for a little while recording stats for NBA games for STATS Inc. Of late, I wrote prospect reports for InsiderBaseball.com last season and am planning on doing that again this year.

I've had some jobs. No 9-5 stuff and no stuff that isn't related to sports. I'd like to keep it that way for as long as possible.

RWBB: What year are you and when do you plan to graduate?

Aaron: I am officially a junior, but more accurately I am in my third year. I plan on graduating at some point in the next 10 years. I'd say I'm on the "five-year plan," but that might be kind.

I'm in no hurry to leave. I've heard the real world is kind of scary. I'll say this though, if someone were to offer me a nice job doing something interesting, I would accept it immediately and quit school. It's the same reason I am in favor of high school players going to the NBA. If you have a chance to do something you want to do, don't wait around because of school. You can always go back to school.

RWBB: What would you like to do when you "grow up"?

Aaron: There have only been three jobs I have ever wanted in my entire life. One was to play major league baseball. That was done as a possibility when I was born, pretty much. The second is to write about sports, either for a newspaper, magazine or website. As long as I can remember, I would reply "sports writer" to anyone who asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. It has never changed. No "fireman" or "astronaut" or anything like that.

And then the third thing would be to work in an MLB front office. I think that's the dream of anyone who follows baseball like I do. You want to be the guy making the moves, instead of the guy talking about the guy who made the moves. If there are any teams out there, I will work for free. Seriously. Zero pay and I'll quit school immediately.

RWBB: You turn 21 on January 3rd. Do you have any plans to celebrate your big birthday?

Aaron: Oh yeah! I'm heading to Vegas on the 4th for a week. My first trip there. I can't wait. If anyone reading this is out there, look for me at the MGM Grand sports book. I'll be the guy with the blue Twins hat and no money.

RWBB: Maybe that PayPal button you have displayed will come in handy between now and then. By the way, are these donations treated as income for tax purposes?

Aaron: (Nervous laugh) I don't know what you're talking about...

Actually, that Paypal thing is basically just there for the look of it. I figure if I keep it there maybe some rich baseball fan will decide to give me a million bucks some day. But it's not exactly a money-maker, which is fine. I mentioned it one day and asked for donations and I was incredibly surprised by how many people donated. But I feel wrong bringing it up on a regular-basis, so I have just done so that one time.

RWBB: To your credit, you list some of the negative as well as positive comments about your blog in the sidebar.

Aaron: I actually just added that a couple weeks ago. I thought it might be funny and the blank space on the sidebar was bugging me.

RWBB: Will Carroll has said, "Gleeman is prolific, yes, but a factory that churns out lots of crap is still a crap factory." Do you care to respond?

Aaron: Will's quote is the reason I thought to add that stuff. Will and I have become good buddies over the last few months. We are both usually up very late, so our paths cross at like 3 am a lot of the time. He's usually the only guy on my buddy list at that point and I suspect I'm probably one of the only guys on his too, so we've become friends. That quote was from a year or so ago, when we didn't know each other so well.

I like it, mainly because it is a really awesome line. And then also because I think it's somewhat truthful. I have a bit of a rep for churning out lots of "stuff." I talked about it with Will the other day and I can't remember exactly what he said. I'm glad he didn't try to take it back or something like that. I like a guy willing to rip someone and then stand by his ripping.

RWBB: Al Bethke, on the other hand, calls Aaron's Baseball Blog "the best baseball weblog out there".

Aaron: Al is a good guy, despite being a Brewers fan.

My favorite quote on there is from the Chicago Tribune, just shortly after I started the blog back in the middle of 2002. The article was about various baseball blogs and there was a description of www.TwinsGeek.com that was very glowing and complimentary. And then there was a quick mention of my site that said it was, "Nearly as prolific but less intriguing."

On one hand I was likely holy shit, I just got mentioned in the Chicago Tribune. It's the sort of thing you tell someone about, but leave out the actual quote. If Aaron's Baseball Blog were a movie, I would use that quote in the preview and it would say, "The Chicago Tribune says it is Prolific....Intriguing..."

RWBB: Others have compared you to a young Rob Neyer.

Aaron: That is a huge compliment. Rob was probably the first sabermetric writer I came across. Either him or the Prospectus guys. Even before Bill James. Rob does what I try to do, which is blend numbers into baseball, while maintaining a conversational, informal style.

Rob has my dream job, without a doubt. He writes about baseball for a great website, he (presumably) gets a nice chunk of change, he can work on other projects, and he has the freedom to write about whichever subjects come to mind. He's a lucky man and he deserves it.

RWBB: You've got a great knack for it all, especially being so young.

Aaron: I used to be young. Now there are a whole bunch of bloggers out there younger than me! Blogging is a kid's game, I think. Who else has the time to spend on baseball everyday? Has to be someone with no life or family. Someone who can skip their biology lecture so they can write about Mike Cameron.

RWBB: What do you say to those who think you are cocky or arrogant, especially for someone your age.

Aaron: Hmm...Well, as you can probably tell by my liking guys like Williams and Bonds, I don't necessarily think cocky and arrogant are horrible things to be. That said, before I started this blogging thing, I never would have guessed that I came off cocky or arrogant. I think people would get a very different impression of me in person. I have never, in my entire 20+ years on this earth, been said to be cocky, arrogant or anything at all like that by someone who has actually met me. At least not to my face.

I'm not entirely sure where I get that rep from. I suppose it has to do with having strong opinions or my willingness to "pick on" other writers? I don't know. A weak opinion isn't interesting and how can you resist Joe Morgan? I mean really, Joe is so wonderful, but he is just asking to be ripped apart sometimes. And people have ripped me plenty. It's only fair.

RWBB: Speaking of Li'l Joe, you love to give him and Tim McCarver a hard time.

Aaron: Yeah, I do. I try not to sometimes, but it's really difficult. With Joe it has to do with what he writes for ESPN.com and what he says in his ESPN.com "chats." I don't have a problem with him as an announcer or as a player. When he is asked to put his opinion down on paper, that's when I think he gets in trouble.

With McCarver, I have no idea whether he is able to even put his ideas down on paper, but I have heard him speak enough so that my ears begin to bleed at the very mention of his name. I am told that at one point people thought McCarver was a pretty good announcer. Having been forced to listen to him do the most important baseball games of the entire year, year after year, I have to wonder about that. At this point all he really does is repeat tired cliches, kiss certain players' asses and make what he thinks are brilliant points about things that don't particularly make much sense.

If Saturday Night Live were to do a parody of an old announcer, McCarver would be it. The one thing McCarver and Morgan have in common as announcers (and it isn't much, which is a compliment to Morgan) is that they both subscribe to the "everything was better when we played" theory. I'd say about 95% of all their thoughts and opinions come from that starting point.

RWBB: You recently created the Gleeman Production Average or GPA. Please explain.

Aaron: My stat of choice for measuring offense is Baseball Prospectus' Equivalent Average (EqA). The stat of choice for more and more casual fans these days is becoming OPS (on-base % + slugging %). I find OPS to be somewhat useless and in fact hardly ever use it. At the same time, I found myself wanting something that was simple to calculate and use like OPS, but that added more value and told me more. So, I came up with GPA, which fit what I was looking for perfectly.

It is like a cross between EqA and OPS, giving you some of EqA's value and some of OPS' speed and simplicity. You can not only use it for full-season numbers or career numbers, but also stuff like lefty/righty splits, home/road splits and stuff like that. I have found it to be very handy for me to use.

RWBB: Don't you think we have enough baseball metrics for evaluating performance already?

Aaron: Yeah, we probably do. Part of the reason I love baseball so much is the numbers though. I think the numbers in baseball can tell you more about the game and about the teams and players than the numbers in any other sport.

GPA is definitely not here to replace EqA or Win Shares or Linear Weights or any of that other stuff that is good to use. It's just here because I couldn't find a stat to use in some situations that I found myself in, and GPA fills that void for me. If other people also find it useful in similar situations, that's a bonus.

RWBB: I'm as guilty as the next, but I fear that it's all beginning to look like alphabet soup to the more casual fan.

Aaron: Definitely. The casual fan, for the most part, isn't even ready to use OPS yet. GPA isn't for the guy who argues about who the MVP should be by using his batting average and RBI-totals. It is for guys like me, the Baseball Prospectus/Baseball Primer/Bill James crowd, who like to look beyond simple stats.

RWBB: Having said all that, who would comprise your all-GPA team?

Aaron: Here's the starting lineup from last year, using the best GPA at each position:
C - Javy Lopez (.341)
1B - Todd Helton (.363)
2B - Marcus Giles (.305)
SS - Alex Rodriguez (.328)
3B - Bill Mueller (.312)
LF - Barry Bonds (.425)
CF - Jim Edmonds (.327)
RF - Gary Sheffield (.340)

If we're in the AL, you can stick Albert Pujols (.364) in at DH.

RWBB: Which players show up as the most undervalued?

Aaron: The guys who show up as undervalued are the high-OBP guys, which is how it should be. The 27 outs in a game are like a team's currency. Once you spend it, you're done.

If you ever find yourself saying "Yeah, he gets on base a lot but he doesn't hit for much power" about a player, he's probably undervalued.

RWBB: Who would GPA identify as overvalued?

Aaron: I would say the overvalued guys with GPA are the same guys who are, for the most part, overvalued in baseball. Guys like Juan Gonzalez or Juan Encarnacion or Shea Hillenbrand or Jacque Jones. Basically, guys who are very good hitters for average and power and everything like that, but who simply make a ton of outs.

This is part of the problem with OPS. If you say there are two guys who each have an .850 OPS, they are equals. But if one of them gets his .850 OPS from a .330 OBP and a .520 SLG, he isn't nearly as valuable as the guy who gets the .850 OPS with a .400 OBP and a .450 SLG.

RWBB: Multiplying OBP by SLG works better than adding them and, in fact, would identify the latter player as more valuable. In any event, who is your best bet as a breakout player this year?

Aaron: Mike Cameron, without a doubt. I've been singing his praises on my blog for some time now and I think he is set for a big year, simply because he'll be away from Safeco Field, which has destroyed his offense.

Some other guys who I think could breakout in a big way this year: Mark Teixeira, Adam Dunn, Nick Johnson. On a lesser scale, I think Michael Cuddyer, if given the playing time, will finally have the year I've been waiting for with the Twins.

For pitchers, it's definitely Johan Santana, although I guess his "breakout" came last year. The big breakout pitcher this year might be Rafael Soriano, who looks like "the next" Santana to me. If he gets a chance to start, he could be incredible. Other pitchers I like to breakout are Jake Peavy and Grant Balfour.

RWBB: You were an early supporter of Bobby Kielty. Do you feel vindicated given J.P. Ricciardi's and Billy Beane's subsequent interest in him?

Aaron: Well, I think they see in him what I see in him, which is a switch-hitter who plays good defense at all three outfield spots, has incredible plate discipline and some good power. Now, Kielty definitely had a sub-par year last season, but I still think he can be a special hitter.

He's the type of guy the Twins almost never have, which is maybe why I took a liking to him immediately. And, of course, they only had him for a little while. It was tough to see him go, but the deal (for Shannon Stewart) has turned out about as well as the Twins could have hoped. I still think they should have kept Kielty though.

RWBB: Do you think Joe Mauer will become a better player than Butch Wynegar, another highly touted Twins catcher from a previous generation?

Aaron: Yeah, I think Joe Mauer is going to be very special. Maybe not immediately, because the guy is actually like 6 months younger than I am, but at some point. Everyone seems to think his defense is great, right now, and his offense has been spectacular in every area except power. I think his pessimistic projection is someone like Jason Kendall - a high AVG/high OBP/low power guy with good speed. His high-end projection? Who knows? There aren't a whole lot of Gold Glove catchers who hit .330 with good power and tons of walks.

I still think about Mark Prior and Johan Santana in the same rotation though. Hopefully Mauer will make me forget all about that.

RWBB: What do you see for Justin Morneau?

Aaron: Hopefully a lot of home runs. Morneau is the first Twins prospect in a long time who has a chance to be a legit slugger. Since I've been following the team and actually long before that, they've been built around batting averages and gap hitters. The Twins haven't had a 30-homer season from anyone since 1987, which is pretty amazing considering the rise in homers that has gone on of late.

Morneau has a chance to be an elite offensive player. He's not ready to do that right now, but I am hoping he'll be starting at first base in 2005.

RWBB: Very enlightening, Aaron. One final question: Which teams are you going to place bets to win the World Series when you go to Vegas next month?

Aaron: The Twins, of course. I might go with Boston, just because I like to suffer along with them and because I think they are the best team right now, on paper. For a sleeper team in the mold of Florida and Anaheim the last two years, I think maybe Toronto or San Diego, or maybe even the Mets.

I have no patience for long-term bets though, so I'll probably just stick to putting ridiculous amounts of money (for me, at least) on whatever college basketball game happens to be on the big screen while I'm there.

RWBB: If Vegas would book it, I would load up on a long-term bet on Aaron. Now.

Richard Lederer
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT
www.baseballbeat.blogspot.com

Monday, December 15, 2003
 
Items on Mickey's Mantel Draw Millions of Dollars

"I measure it by Cadillacs. I used to pay $5,000 for mine. They pay $20,000 now. So if they make three times as much as I did, what's the difference?"

--Mickey Mantle, 1979

Guernsey's conducted an auction of Mickey Mantle memorabilia at Madison Square Garden last Monday that raised $3.25 million. The items were affixed with a "Mickey Mantle Auction" tag and accompanied by a certificate signed by a member of the Mantle family certifying that the items came directly from the family's archives. The proceeds from the auction are slated to pay for the college education and first homes for each of Mantle's four grandchildren.





There were no 1952 "rookie" cards or any other pieces of cardboard. Instead, the family disposed of Mickey's trophies, plaques, rings, gloves, bats, balls, and other personal belongings of the legendary baseball player. Mantle's 1957 MVP trophy took high honors at $319,250. Mick's Silver Slugger bat for leading the league in batting average in 1956 sold for $313,500, his 1962 MVP Award went for $290,500, his Rawlings glove drew a bid for $212,400, his 1956 Babe Ruth Sultan of Swat award was hammered down at $198,500, and his 1962 World Series ring was purchased for $165,200.





Although the hardware was the primary focus of the auction, it was Mantle's original baseball contracts that caught my attention. There were 20 in total, including Mickey's first professional contract in 1949, every major league season (1951-1968), plus an agreement for 1969 that was never signed due to Mantle's retirement that March.





The Commerce Comet signed his first professional contract on June 13, 1949, the night he graduated from high school. The terms of the contract were agreed upon in the back of the scout's car. Mickey signed with the Independence Baseball Club of the National Association, a Class D minor league farm team of the New York Yankees. The contract called for Mantle to receive $140.00 per month plus it had a provision that "player is to receive a bonus of $1150.00 to be paid by the Independence Club as follows: $400.00 upon approval of contract by the President of the National Association and the remainder, $750.00 payable on June 30th 1949 if player retained by Independence or any assigned club."


YEAR		SALARY

1951 $ 5,000
1952 $ 7,500
1953 $ 17,500
1954 $ 21,000
1955 $ 25,000
1956 $ 32,000
1957 $ 60,000
1958 $ 65,000
1959 $ 70,000
1960 $ 60,000
1961 $ 70,000
1962 $ 90,000
1963 $100,000
1964 $100,000
1965 $100,000
1966 $100,000
1967 $100,000
1968 $100,000

Mantle earned a total of $1,123,000 during his major league career, ranging from his rookie salary of $5,000 to his peak of $100,000 for the final six seasons of his career. Mickey received his biggest percentage increases after his outstanding sophomore season at the age of 20 and on the heels of winning the Triple Crown in 1956. Mantle's other raises were fairly pedestrian for a player of his accomplishments, especially when you consider that the Yankees were the best team in baseball during his career and regularly led the league in attendance throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. In fact, the $10,000 paycut that Mantle took for the 1960 season seems rather harsh given his production the previous year.

Mantle's 1959 Counting Stats:

G	AB	R	H	2B	3B	HR	RBI	SB	CS	BB	SO

144 541 104 154 23 4 31 75 21 3 93 126

Mantle's 1959 Rate Stats vs. the League Average:

		BA	OBP	SLG	OPS	OPS+

Mantle .285 .390 .514 .904 150
League Avg. .257 .328 .393 .720

Mantle ranked 2nd in the A.L. in runs and stolen bases; 3rd in walks; and 4th in home runs, times on base, extra base hits, and total bases. The Yankees slugger also placed 2nd in the league in OPS and OPS+. Moreover, Mickey led the league in Runs Created Above Average (RCAA) and Runs Created Above Position (RCAP).

1959 A.L. RCAA
1    Mickey Mantle                54   

2 Tito Francona 48
3 Harvey Kuenn 43
4 Al Kaline 42
5 Eddie Yost 37
6 Gene Woodling 34
7 Minnie Minoso 30
8 Harmon Killebrew 27
9 Pete Runnels 26
10 Rocky Colavito 25

1959 A.L. RCAP
1    Mickey Mantle                43   

2 Tito Francona 40
T3 Eddie Yost 33
T3 Harvey Kuenn 33
5 Yogi Berra 32
6 Pete Runnels 31
T7 Al Kaline 29
T7 Nellie Fox 29
9 Gene Woodling 25
10 Harmon Killebrew 23

Source: Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia


Mantle also tied for the league lead in Win Shares along with Nellie Fox, the MVP honoree that year.

1959 A.L. WIN SHARES

Mickey Mantle		30

Nellie Fox 30
Rocky Colavito 29
Minnie Minoso 29
Tito Francona 27
Al Kaline 27
Eddie Yost 27
Harvey Kuenn 25
Jim Landis 25
Camilo Pascual 24
Pete Runnels 24

Given that the Chicago White Sox won the pennant in 1959, I don't really have a problem with the writers voting for the slick-fielding second baseman despite his inferior offensive stats (.306/.380/.389). To Fox's credit, he hit over .300, had 71 walks against just 13 strikeouts, captured a Gold Glove, and was the best player on the best team.

Nevertheless, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever that Mantle ended up 17th in the MVP balloting in 1959. Mantle was simply held to a higher standard than his peers and almost anyone else who ever played the game. The Yankees finished in third place that year, one of only two times between Mickey's rookie year in 1951 and his last great year in 1964 in which the team did not win the American League pennant (1954 being the other). Rather than winning three MVPs, Mantle could have won as many as ten based on the fact that the Yankees center fielder led or tied for the league in Win Shares every year from 1954-1964, except 1963 when he was injured and played in only 65 games.

      Win Shares MVP      Actual MVP

1954 Mantle Berra
1955 Mantle Berra
1956 Mantle Mantle
1957 Mantle Mantle
1958 Mantle Jensen
1959 Mantle/Fox Fox
1960 Mantle Maris
1961 Mantle Maris
1962 Mantle Mantle
1963 Yaz/Tresh Howard, E.
1964 Mantle Robinson, B.

As Bill James wrote in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, "Of course, Mantle didn't win all of those awards, as the writers went through an annual process of figuring out, (a) who do we give the MVP Award to this year, other than Mantle, and (b) why is it we're snubbing Mickey this year?"

Mantle was not only snubbed by the MVP voters in 1959, but he was slighted in 1954 (15th), 1955 (5th), and 1958 (5th) when he failed to pick up a single first-place vote in any of these four years. Mickey earned some respect in 1960, 1961, and 1964 when he trailed the winner only. However, one could argue that he deserved better in 1960 when he was the recipient of more first-place votes (10) than Roger Maris (8), yet finished three points behind his teammate.

Mantle's Runs Created Above Average and Runs Created Above Position yearly rankings also validate his greatness.

	RCAA		RCAP

1951 23rd 24th
1952 1st 1st
1953 3rd 4th
1954 2nd 2nd
1955 1st 1st
1956 1st 1st
1957 1st 1st
1958 1st 1st
1959 1st 1st
1960 1st 1st
1961 2nd 1st
1962 1st 1st
1963 10th 9th
1964 1st 1st
1965 15th 28th
1966 5th 6th
1967 7th 11th
1968 9th 11th

As detailed, Mantle topped the A.L. in both categories nine times (1952, 1955-1960, 1962, and 1964). He also led the league in RCAP in 1961 when he finished second (behind Norm Cash) in RCAA. Whether Mickey earned ten MVPs (based on Win Shares and RCAP) or nine (RCAA), this study at least points out that Mantle was robbed of as many as seven MVP Awards during his career.

As another indication of Mantle's lack of proper respect, he received raises of only $5,000 and $10,000, respectively, after his MVP campaigns in 1957 and 1962. Furthermore, he topped out at the $100,000 mark and made the same salary for each of his final six seasons. In fact, his 1968 contract had a special covenant that read as follows:

"It is specifically understood and agreed that of the $100,000.00 provided for, $25,000.00 shall be paid during the 1968 year. The remaining $75,000.00 shall be paid as follows: $25,000.00 on January 15, 1969; $25,000.00 on January 15, 1970; and $25,000.00 on January 15, 1971. The above sums cannot be withdrawn before the maturity date."

Can you imagine a player of Mickey Mantle's stature today getting three quarters of his pay deferred without even any interest? Don't get me wrong, Mantle was paid as well as any player in the game in the early 1960s. I recognize that Mantle's seemingly "paltry" salaries and increases were more a function of the times than anything else. However, it is still a fun exercise to compare his pay back then to the players of today. Even if you exclude the salaries that were negotiated at the top of the market a few years ago prior to the establishment of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, it would be safe to assume that Mantle would be "worth" at least $15 million per year in today's world. That is 150 times Mantle's highest annual level. Using Mantle's reasoning about the correlation between Cadillacs and salaries, that would mean General Motors should now be charging $750,000 for its luxury automobile.

Given that most Caddies go for about $50,000 now, one can deduce that Cadillacs were either overvalued back then or are dramatically undervalued today. Alternatively, one could argue that Mickey Mantle was either unbelievably underpaid in his playing days or the current superstars are overpaid. No matter where your opinion falls, there is no doubt that Mantle--even as great and as beloved as he was--was still underappreciated throughout his Hall of Fame career.

Richard Lederer
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT

Wednesday, December 10, 2003
 
The Handiest Reference Book of 'Em All

As promised last Sunday, I am posting a mid-week special regarding the 2004 edition of The Bill James Handbook. The Handbook is unlike The Bill James Abstracts from 1977-1988, the Bill James Baseball Books from 1990-1992, and The Bill James Player Ratings Books from 1993-1995. The major difference between this book and the others is the amount of commentary from Bill James. The Handbook has a grand total of five pages written by James whereas the others are full of his comments, evaluations, and stories.

Despite a dearth of writing on the part of James, I found the Handbook to be full of interesting statistics and facts about the 2003 season and the career records of every active major league player. The book also features fielding statistics, park factors, left/right splits for all batters and pitchers, and year-by-year and career Win Shares for all active players. I wouldn't recommend the book for those who are numerically challenged but would encourage fans who are sabermetrically inclined to add it to your baseball library.





Radar Love

The Angels free agent signings of Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar give the team the second and third hardest-throwing starters in the American League based on the average speed of their fastballs in 2003. C.C. Sabathia ranked first at 93.9 mph with Colon (93.4) and Escobar (93.3) right behind. All three trail National Leaguers Kerry Wood (95.3) and Jason Schmidt (95.0), who ranked one-two in the majors.

Although Escobar was the third hardest thrower among starters last year in the A.L., he threw the fifth lowest number of fastballs (52.6%)--the only pitcher in the league to rank in the top ten in average speed and the bottom ten in terms of the percentage of fastballs thrown. In the N.L., Curt Schilling, at 92.3 mph and 50.0%, was the only SP to rank in the top ten in speed and bottom ten in the usage of his FB.

If You've Got It, Flaunt It

Colon (93.4 mph and 75.4%), Jeremy Bonderman (93.3 and 66.1%), Jason Davis (92.6 and 72.9%), and John Thomson (92.0 and 71.2%) ranked in the top ten in the A.L. in the average speed of their fastballs and highest percentage of fastballs thrown. Schmidt (95.0 and 71.1%), Carlos Zambrano (92.7 abd 76.5%), and Vicente Padilla (91.9 and 79.3%) ranked in the top ten in the N.L. in both departments.

Slow Down, Cowboy

On the other hand, Tim Wakefield (75.9 mph and 9.0%), Jamie Moyer (82.9 and 49.5%), Kenny Rogers (85.3 and 48.9%), and Mike Maroth (85.3 and 54.2%) were in the top ten in the A.L. for the slowest average fastball and the lowest percentage of fastballs. The latter three are all lefty "thumbers" who rely on pinpoint control and changing speeds. In fact, Moyer (32.2%) and Rogers (24.1%) ranked 1-2 in the A.L. in the percentage of changeups thrown. Maroth (17.9%) was eighth.

Brian Lawrence (83.6 mph and 55.0%), Garrett Stephenson (86.7 and 51.1%), Hideo Nomo (87.1 and 54.1%), and Jeff D'Amico (87.2 and 51.7%) were in the top ten in the N.L. for the slowest average fastball and the lowest percentage of fastballs.

Turning Up The Heat

Billy Wagner led the major leagues with 159 pitches thrown at 100+ mph. The next highest was Colon with 12. Kyle Farnsworth (8), Jorge Julio (4), Josh Beckett (3), Jesus Colome (3), Francisco Cordero (2), Tom Gordon (2), and Braden Looper (2) were the only other pitchers in the majors to throw more than one pitch at 100 mph. Wagner also placed third in the majors in the number of pitches thrown at 95+ mph, a remarkable achievement for a reliever. Wood was number one in the latter category with 1,138.

Changing Speeds

Odalis Perez threw the lowest number of fastballs (48.3%) and the third highest number of changeups (22.7%) in the N.L. He also ranked eighth in the percentage of sliders thrown (17.6%). Interestingly, Perez was third in the number of stolen bases allowed (25), yet tied for fourth in caught stealing (9) and tied for first in pickoffs (7).

Strange But True

Joe Kennedy tied for the highest game score in the A.L. with a 90, and he had the worst game score with a minus 5. Amazingly, these games were in back-to-back outings as follows:

	Date	IP	H	R	ER	BB	SO

vs. DET 2-May 9 1 0 0 1 6
vs. MIN 7-May 4 13 10 10 2 1

By the way, Randy Johnson had the highest game score of the year in the majors with a 96.

	Date	IP	H	R	ER	BB	SO

vs. COL 14-Sep 9 1 0 0 1 12

Pedro Martinez gave up 10 earned runs in one outing and only 36 in his other 28 starts. Excluding that one performance in April, Pedro's ERA for the year was a microscopic 1.78--a testament to just how truly dominating Martinez was last year.

If Pedro's ERAs over the years haven't convinced you of his greatness, consider that his Component ERA (ERC)--a statistic that estimates what a pitcher's ERA should have been based on his pitching performance--has been equal to or even lower than his actual ERA every year from 1994-on. Pedro has had five years with ERCs under 2.00 with a career average of 2.27.

Still not sure? The Boston righthander is number one among all active pitchers in career ERA (2.58), W-L % (.712), OBA (.206), OBP (.268), SLG (.315), OPS (.583), BR/9 (9.55), H/9 (6.72), and K/BB (4.38).

The Best Of The Rest

While we're on the subject of Pedro, he was one of only seven pitchers in the A.L. who ranked in the top ten in opponent on-base percentage and slugging average in 2003. Martinez was #1 in OPS at .586. Pedro nearly turned all batters into the status of Ramon Santiago (.576), the least productive offensive player in the A.L. Mark Mussina, Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson, Esteban Loaiza, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder comprised the other six hurlers.

Schmidt, Schilling, Mark Prior, Kevin Brown, and Brandon Webb were the only National League pitchers who made the top ten in the lowest OBP and SLG. Schmidt was #1 in OPS at .566. In other words, the Giants ace reduced all hitters to less than Brad Ausmus (.594) and Cesar Izturis (.597), the two lowest-ranking hitters in the N.L.

Oh What A Relief It Is

Eric Gagne led all National League relievers in OBA (.133), OBP (.199), and SLG (.176) and was number two in ERA (1.20). Likewise, Rafael Soriano placed first among all American League relievers in OBA (.162), OBP (.224), and SLG (.238), and number two in ERA (1.53). I don't know if Soriano is the next Gagne, a closer in waiting, or Johan Santana, a setup man serving his apprenticeship before becoming a starter. Either way, look for the hard-throwing Soriano to be one of the most valuable pitchers in the league over the next several seasons.

The Fab Four

Only Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Todd Helton, and Gary Sheffield finished in the top ten in SLG vs. LHP and RHP in the N.L. Not surprisingly, Bonds (1.278), Pujols (1.106), Helton (1.088), and Sheffield (1.023) ranked one through four, respectively, in OPS.

Bonds and Helton were the only LHB to place in the top ten in SLG vs. LHP in the N.L. Pujols and Sheffield along with Javy Lopez and Preston Wilson were the only RHB in the top ten in SLG vs. RHP.

Mr. Consistency

Helton was the only player in the major leagues to place among the top ten in his league in OPS vs. fastballs (1.108), curveballs (1.057), sliders (1.090), and changeups (1.053). Moreover, Helton actually ranked in the top ten in all four pitch categories in both leagues combined.

Helton, Pujols, and Sheffield were the only players in the N.L. to rank in the top ten in OPS in the first and second half of the season. (Bonds did not have enough PA to qualify in the 2H or he would have placed otherwise).

Money Players

Only Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez, the two principals in the much ballyhooed Hot Stove trade talk between the Red Sox and Rangers, finished in the top ten in SLG vs. LHP and RHP in the A.L.

Ramirez and A-Rod were also the only RHB to place in the top ten in SLG vs. RHP in the A.L. Rafael Palmeiro was the only LHB in the top ten vs. LHP.

Ramirez and Carlos Delgado were the only players in the A.L. to rank in the top ten in OPS in the first and second half of the season.

Hit and...Walk

Helton and Ramirez were the only two hitters in the majors to finish in the top ten in their league in hits and walks. The Rockies first baseman had 209 H and 111 BB, becoming just the fifth player in history to record two 200-hit, 100-walk seasons in a career.

How About Triples?

Vernon Wells led the A.L. in hits (215) and total bases (373) and was in the top ten in singles (128), doubles (49), and home runs (33). Wells also placed among the top ten in BA (.317) and SLG (.550). Importantly, the Blue Jays center fielder increased the number of walks by 15 and reduced the number of strikeouts by 5. If he can continue to improve his BB/SO rate over the course of his career, Wells could go from All-Star to MVP to HOF.

Can't Touch This

Jason Giambi led the A.L. in BB (129), SO (140), and HBP (21), the first time any player has ever reached all three of those heights in a single season. Giambi failed to make contact 290 times (the seventh highest in history according to my research) or in 42% of his plate appearances. Delgado was second in BB (109), tied for second in SO (137), and third in HBP (19). A-Rod finished in the top ten in all three.

Go Figure

Tony Batista had the fifth lowest ground ball-to-fly ball ratio (0.70) in the A.L., yet was sixth in grounded into DP (20). Similarly, Aramis Ramirez was ninth in GB/FB ratio (0.79) and tied for sixth in GIDP (21).

Under The Radar Screen

Craig Biggio was #1 in HBP (27) and in the top ten in the lowest GIDP rate in the N.L., two stats that don't show up on the back of baseball cards. Biggio ranks first in HBP among active players and is within 26 of the all-time lead.

Mike Cameron had the largest differential between first and second place in range factor in both absolute and relative terms among all major leaguers. However, it should be noted that Seattle had three of the highest ten pitchers in the A.L. in FB/GB ratios. As a result, Cameron had more opportunities to run down flyballs than anyone else.

Mr. Clutch

No such thing as a "clutch" hitter? Well, Scott Podsednik ranked in the top ten in the N.L. in batting average in late and close games (.398), batting average with runners in scoring position (.381), and batting average with the bases loaded (.556). I realize there may be some double counting here but only three other players in the N.L. even placed among the top ten in two of these three areas. Delgado was the only hitter in the A.L. to rank in the top ten in all three measures with just two others placing among the top ten in two of these categories.

Green Light

Six players in each league finished in the top ten in stolen bases and stolen base percentage.

NL		AL

Pierre, J. Crawford, C.
Podsednik, S. Beltran, C.
Renteria, E. Soriano, A.
Lofton, K. Suzuki, I.
Furcal, R. Damon, J.
Cabrera, O. Winn, R.

In trying to determine the fastest baserunners in the majors, I checked to see which players ranked among the top ten in their league in SB%, GIDP%, and triples. There were only three players who fit the bill--Carl Crawford, Ichiro Suzuki, and Rafael Furcal. The Atlanta shortstop actually placed first in all three. Crawford and Suzuki also showed their speed by finishing atop their position range factor rankings among fielders with 100 or more games. Carlos Beltran, Eric Byrnes, and Christian Guzman ranked in the top ten in the A.L. in two of the three components. Likewise, Kenny Lofton, Corey Patterson, Juan Pierre, and Podsednik ranked in the top ten in the N.L. in two of the three areas.

Guzman, in fact, led the league in triples for the third time in four years. However, he had his lowest SLG since his rookie season. Moreover, he had 40 fewer total bases than he had in 2001 despite having 41 more at bats. Yikes!

Good News and Bad News

Derek Jeter's OBP (.393) and SLG (.450) reversed yearly slides that began after he reached career highs of .438 and .552, respectively, in 1999 through 2002. The only disturbing fact is that the Yankees shortstop had more than two times the number of strikeouts as walks, the worst rate since his rookie year in 1996.

The Trend Is Your Friend

Would you take a chance on this player?

	BA	OBP	SLG	BB/SO

2001 .194 .308 .313 0.47
2002 .243 .347 .402 0.49
2003 .284 .422 .472 1.23

He's 6'3", 224 and 25 years old. And, oh yes, he had an OBP of .454 in "AA" when he was 20 years old. His name? You guessed it. Nick Johnson, the newly acquired first baseman of the Montreal Expos. Health permitting, Johnson should be one of the best "values" over the next few years--a perfect fit for the budget-conscious Expos.

For those of you who are still hungry for even more tidbits of information from The Bill James Handbook, I recommend you head over to Aaron's Baseball Blog now to read his review. Aaron will be the subject of my next interview in two weekends.

Regarding interviews, I urge readers to check out Alex Belth's excellent exchange with Tom Verducci, the head baseball writer at Sports Illustrated, over at Bronx Banter. As always, this is a must read for the true baseball fan.

Richard Lederer
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT

Sunday, December 07, 2003
 
Ranting and Raving About Baseball With Mike Carminati (Part Two)

I divided my interview with Mike Carminati of Mike's Baseball Rants into two sections. Part One covered Mike's opinions on topics ranging from his beloved Phillies to sabermetrics to his favorite players and baseball heroes. Part Two is exclusively devoted to Mike's views on the merits of certain Hall of Fame candidates.

RWBB: You recently posted an article, listing the players on this year's Hall of Fame ballot along with a few of those tables that tend to frequent your site. Let's go over several of the leading candidates and then we will discuss some of the omissions from the past.

Mike: Let me say that I have looked at the percentage of active players at any given time who eventually end up in the Hall, and the average is about 6% with a normal range around 4-8%. There have been three periods since the early 1880s in which the percentage went out of that range. When the National League contracted to eight teams in 1900--one year before the American League became a major league--the percentage skyrocketed to about 13%. In the late Twenties and early Thirties, the percentage sometimes reached about 12%. This is due to the bloated offensive numbers of the day and the disproportionate power given the players of that era when they were on the Hall's Veterans' Committee. The third period is since the early Seventies. The percentage has not been over 4%--the nominal low--since then, and it shrank rapidly thereafter. I know that there are still a number of players from the period who are eligible for the Hall vote, but we're not talking about an odd Bert Blyleven here. We're talking about one half to one quarter the number of people being admitted as compared to the previous 80-90 years. The players from the expansion era are getting screwed.

I'm a bit more liberal in doling out Hall plaques to players from my youth than the average sabermetrician.

RWBB: Paul Molitor is newly eligible. Is he HOF worthy?

Mike: I want to answer this question three ways. Will he get in? Should he get in given the de facto Hall standards? And would I put him in? The first is just handicapping. The second is estimating what the Hall standards are and if he matches them. The third is simply my opinion. Molitor will go in on the first ballot. He should go in according to the established standards. And I would put him in.

RWBB: Dennis Eckersley is another first timer.

Mike: Eck will go in, hopefully, on the first ballot. He should go in, and I would put him in.

RWBB: If he gets the nod, that would mean three relievers--Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, and Hoyt Wilhelm--would be in the Hall of Fame. How do you feel about Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Lee Smith?

Mike: Goose may go in via the writers. However, he has been treading water lately. He should go in. It's hard to say what the Hall standards are for closers, but I think Gossage would have made it more easily if his career had not gone on so long after he had stopped being a closer. Fingers got in so easily. Gossage was more qualified, but in the intervening years between their careers and becoming eligible, the number of saves for closers went through the roof. Then everyone forgot how good Gossage was and focused on the save totals. I would put him in.

I think Sutter will go in but may run out of time with the writers. He may be voted in by whatever body eventually replaces today's Veterans' Committee. Sutter is a special case in my book. Probably on his stats alone he wouldn't go in. However, he was the first modern closer and was amazing in his day. If you were to tell the story of relief pitching and reduced it down to one man, it would be Sutter. He's the one that changed it all. He just had a shorter peak than most. The Hall has found room for Candy Cummings for supposedly inventing the curveball and on Morgan Bulkeley for being the first president in the NL even though William Hulbert called the shots. I would say this is more deserving. Would I put him in? After conducting an exhausting study of relief pitching, decade by decade, I would say emphatically yes, and before Gossage and Eck.

As far as Lee Smith goes, I thought he would go in last year. The voters don't seem to know what to do with the closers. I think he'll probably make it within the next few years. Should he go in given the standards? The Hall has never barred anyone who is eligible and set the record for a significant stat. He set the record for saves, which is supposed to be the most important stat for closers. I like Adjusted Runs Prevented better. Who cares if a closer starts the ninth with a three-run lead and can hold on to it?

Personally, I think Smith had some great years especially early on with the Cubs, but I don't ever see him being the most dominant closer in the game. I would have to think about his long career and overall effectiveness. However, I don't think he had a high enough peak to qualify.

RWBB: Ryne Sandberg was the best second baseman in baseball for a ten-year stretch. Why do you think he was overlooked last year?

Mike: I thought Sandberg would go on the first ballot. I get the feeling that he was a victim of the bloated numbers of the past decade and of writers who wanted to ensure that he was not a first-ballot inductee. He could go as early as next year, but he will be voted in by the writers at some point. He definitely should go in. I would put him in.

RWBB: Jim Rice, Andre Dawson, Dave Parker, Dale Murphy. Four of the best outfielders in their time and MVPs all.

Mike: Rice's votes are going down though they are still high. I think that he'll eventually go in but I'm not sure when or how. I think that he is an extremely borderline case. I wouldn't single him out. I would rather put his old teammate, Dwight Evans, in first.

Dawson's numbers are climbing, and I think the voters will elect him in the next five or so years. Dawson is a better candidate than Rice or Parker. I'm on the fence as to whether I would put him in. Probably.

Murphy is an interesting case. He's facing attacks on two fronts. First, he went from great to average to sub-par in a very short time and at an early age. He had his last great season in 1987 at 31, was an average ballplayer for a couple of years, and then fell off the face of the earth. Being washed up at 35 hurts your Hall of Fame chances. It puts all the pressure on your peak value. Your peak had better be Koufaxian.

That's the second front he's facing. His peak went through a reevaluation after the offensive explosion of the Nineties. He's only been eligible for the Hall for about 5 years. .300 with 35 homers and 100 RBI just wasn't as impressive as it once had been. There were also feelings in the sabermetric world and in the baseball writer cognoscenti that he had been overvalued during his peak. People pointed to his relatively low adjusted OPS especially in 1982. They felt that his MVP candidacy was helped greatly by his being a Gold Glove center fielder. Also, there was a reevaluation of his defense and the feeling was it wasn't all that and a bag of chips.

I don't think he'll be voted in by the writers. His numbers are flagging. I think he'll be reassessed by whatever replaces the VC and given the distance of years and the abating offenses, he'll go in. I think that he definitely meets the criteria of the Hall. I would probably put him in, but he wouldn't be my first choice among outfielders.

RWBB: How do you feel about Steve Garvey, Keith Hernandez, and Don Mattingly?

Mike: First, let me say that Steve Garvey is not my Padre--sorry a little paternity suit humor. All three are borderline cases. They're three slick fielding first basemen who started to lose it around 33, 34 years old. Hernandez barely stayed on the ballot and may drop off after this year. Mattingly's vote numbers are dropping like a stone. Garvey is treading water among the second-tier candidates. I think that they are the types of candidates that in the past the Vets have jumped all over for the Hall. I could see them all going probably in this order: Mattingly, Garvey, and then Hernandez.

Do they qualify? Hernandez may have the best case from this point of view and is aided by the longest career of the group. Mattingly has the best peak but was a totally different ballplayer after 28. A lot of that is due to injuries but, if "woulda, shoulda" counted, Mark Fidrych and Lyman Bostock would be Hall of Famers. Garvey's defensive rep hit a bump after Total Baseball pronounced him a sub-par first baseman and then was revitalized by Bill James Win Shares. Like Derek Smalls, he is the lukewarm water of the group.

I don't know if I would put any of them in. Hernandez is the most likely.

RWBB: Now that Gary Carter finally made it in, I believe Bert Blyleven has become the most overlooked, multi-year candidate of all.

Mike: Blyleven's numbers are starting to grow, but they're still low. I'm thinking Veterans' Committee. Should Blyleven go in? A definite yes. He's the second best candidate on the list after Molitor. Would I put him in? Oh, yeah.

RWBB: Jim Kaat and Tommy John also may have been victimized by falling short of the 300 wins mark after it became magical.

Mike: Well, Kaat ran out of options and now has to wait for the veterans to get their act together. I think once they have a viable solution to the Vets' Committee, he will go in. Does he meet the standards? He's borderline. Would I put him in? Probably not, though I remember him fondly from his Phillies days.

John's votes have been slipping. He will probably be rescued by the Veterans' Committee. Does he meet the standards? See Kaat. Would I put him in? See Kaat. I would put him ahead of Kaat.

RWBB: Now, let's discuss a few players not on the BBWAA ballot. Ron Santo?

Mike: Given that Santo is a broadcaster in Chicago and given the publicity over his health, I could see his candidacy gathering steam. If the VC elects anyone, it will be him. Given the dearth of third basemen, he exceeds the standards and I believe I would put him in.

With respect to the Veterans' Committee, I have to say it was a travesty that Marvin Miller was not elected last year given his influence on the game and the number of voters who played during his tenure. I think that he could get some more support in the future though. There are players not on the VC ballot who are better than a number who are. Bobby Grich, Darrell and Dwight Evans, and Sweet Lou Whitaker come to mind. There is very little chance that they will get in though they should and I would support them.

RWBB: It's hard to believe that Grich and Whitaker couldn't even get 5% of the votes in their first and only year on the ballot.

Mike: Yeah, add Dan Quisenberry to that list. I could see them having problems because of their era and their positions, but no support whatsoever? I don't think that they'll ever be elected unless in some posthumous George Davis-type move. Grich and Whitaker don't have the strongest cases going by numbers solely, but when you consider that they were second basemen and are probably in the top dozen or so at that position, that really meets the Hall criteria. Grich is a particularly odd case because he was a Gold Glove winner and a power-hitting second baseman, which you'd think would garner him some votes. Maybe playing during Joe Morgan's hegemonic second base career wasn't the greatest idea. He's also hurt by having his best season during the 1981 strike, when he was arguably the best player in the AL but got no MVP support.

As far as Quisenberry, his career as a closer was too short and his numbers were hurt by the glut of saves in the Nineties, but his peak was pretty impressive. It was better than Smith's and Myers' and probably better than Gossage's. I don't think he should get in given the scant standards for closers nor would I put him in, but his candidacy merited more than a cursory, one-year review.

RWBB: Bill James believes Darrell Evans is the most underrated player in baseball history.

Mike: That sounds about right. Reggie Smith is another good one. So is the other Mr. D. Evans. I think Evans is hurt by never really having a peak. He had many good years but never had one of those headline-grabbing ones. He was overshadowed by Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, and Ron Cey at third in the NL in those days. It's hard to play in the same league as the greatest player in baseball history at your position. Ask Brian Giles.

Evans just happened to play the most overlooked position in the Hall and even though he was a power hitter, he did a lot of little things, defense, taking a walk, getting on base, that get overlooked. And he batted around .250. Santo and Graig Nettles suffer from similar biases. Maybe when Wade Boggs goes in, they will remember that third basemen can go in the Hall, too.

RWBB: OK, you brought up his name. Pete Rose. In or out?

Mike: Who? Oh yeah. I am probably the only person in America who thinks Rose probably bet on baseball but that his ban should be ended without an apology and he should go in the Hall. However, he cannot and should not go into the Hall until the ban is lifted. Who cares if Rose bet on baseball anyway? It carries a one-year suspension that he has served 14 times over. Did he bet on the Reds? I'm not sure, but I have not seen one credible shred of evidence in the Dowd witch hunt. If Rose apologizes, it would be the first credible piece of evidence. Moreover, if he did ever bet on the Reds, he should be banned permanently.

Baseball basically screwed Pete Rose. Bart Giamatti signed an agreement with Rose and went back on it before the ink dried and then died, thereby martyring himself and leaving Rose high and dry. It's high time that baseball closed this sordid chapter and they probably will soon. I think Rose will go in within five years. I wouldn't celebrate it, but it is eminently fair.

RWBB: There might be a Rose Parade all the way to the Hall of Fame with Pete out front twirling the baton if, and when, he becomes eligible. I have less of a problem with Rose in the HOF as I do allowing him back onto the field in some official capacity. His accomplishments as a player cannot be ignored but neither can the lifetime ban for conduct detrimental to the game in which Rose agreed be disregarded.

Check back on Wednesday for a mid-week special on tidbits gathered from the 2004 edition of The Bill James Handbook.

Until then,

Richard Lederer
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT


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