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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Our Fantasy League in Review

So the 2006 season is over and it saw our own little pussyface joshwhite finally get his first elusive fantasy title. So to anybody who says that Head to head is a lot of luck, you are correct.
In all seriousness, jw did a good job (mostly by adding Tori Hunter the Sunday before the finals started and then riding Hunter's unexpected power streak to the victory) and deserves, well, nothing from us. As has become my custom, I've prepared a season in review, which I'm sure not more than 2 of you will read (counting me).

Best Draft Pick:
Jermaine Dye: This 24th round selection by Beantown Boners ended the season as the 12th overall ranked player with 44 homers, 120 RBI and 1.007 OPS.

Honorable Mentions:
Franciso Liriano - I Laid Gretchen - 22nd Round:
12 Wins, 144 K's, 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP - 45th ranked player overall

Jonathan Papelbon - Beantown Boners - 19th Round
35 Saves, 75 K's, 0.92 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 14th ranked player overall

Aaron Harang - I Hate Baseball - 24th Round:
16 Wins, 216 K's (Both NL leaders) 3.76 ERA, 34th ranked player overall

Tom Gordon - Getting of the Juice - 19th Round
34 Saves, 68 K's, 3.34 ERA, drafted after Valverde, Dempster, Gonzalez, Foulke, Duchscherer

Jeremy Bonderman - A New Tie Wearing - 25th Round
14 Wins, 202 K's, Ranked 58th Overall ahead of Johnson, Peavy, Lackey, Sabathia, Schmidt

Brandon Webb - The Burrell Train - 13th Round
16 Wins, 178 K's, 3.10 ERA, 1.113 WHIP, 31st overall player.
Drafted after: Tim Hudson, Brett Myers, Zito, Mulder

Note: With arguably the best two picks in the draft, how did Beantown Boners manage to finish the regular season in 6th place, a whopping 51 games off the pace?? Surely part of the blame rests on picks like Helton, Bonds, Ensberg and Isringhausen, part on his general incompetence and the rest on what I can only assume was a busy work schedule which left him able to make only 12 add/drops.

Worst Draft Pick:
Chone Figgins - New Look Same Suck - 3rd Round - 21st Overall
Sure he's versitile and steals bases, but he just crushes you in OPS, HR and RBI. How can you justify taking somebody who hurts you in half the categories with your first non-keeper pick? Still available: Berkman, Soriano, Halladay, Oswalt, Reyes

Honorable Mentions:
Felix Hernandez - New Look Same Suck - 4th Round - 28th Overall
A big gamble that did not pay off. Talk of limited innings and a lack of experience didn't stop Francis from attempting to anchor his staff with a 2o year old rookie with less than half a season under his belt. The result was not good.
Still Available: Zambrano, Berkman, Soriano, Randy Johnson

Juan Pierre - Taking the Plunge - 6th Round - 43rd Overall
Coming off a huge fantasy victory in 2005, Steve started 2006 with arguably the best keeper tandem in the league in Oritz and Manny. Could he mess it up? You bet your ass he could. Steve's first 4 non-keeper picks were Ichiro - Reyes - Harden - Pierre, a veritable murderer's row of the powerless and injury plagued. Why Steve felt the need to add Pierre to a roster teeming with singles hitters is beyond the realm of anyone's understanding. Unfortunately for Steve, it led to the rather amusing double meaning of his team name. Originally intended only to refer to his upcoming nuptials, "Taking the Plunge" also quickly and precisely portrayed his position in the standings.
Still Available: Sizemore, Konerko, Victor Martinez

Morgan Ensberg - Beantown Boners - 8th Round - 36th Overall
Coming off of an unexpected 36 HR season, it's understandable that some people would have high expectations. Ensberg didn't meet them, hitting .235 with 24 HR and whopping 58 RBI.
Still Available: Chipper Jones, Thome, Matsui, Ryan, Smoltz, Damon,

Best Free Agent Addition:
Matt Holliday - A New Tie Wearing - April 15
How was he available? We'll see in a bit. Holliday ended the year as the 9th overall player.
119 Runs, 196 Hits, 34 Homers, 114 RBI, 10 SB, .973 OPS.

Honorable Mentions:
Justin Morneau - The Burrell Train - June 15
A little late, but a huge contributer down the stretch. Morneau's second half is quite possibly the biggest reason this moron won the league.
23rd Overall Rank, 34 - 130, .934 OPS

J.J. Putz - I Hate Baseball - May 5
24th Overall player, 36 Saves, 104 K's (against 13 walks), 2.30 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 4 Wins

Garrett Atkins - Getting off the Juice - ??
19th Overall player; 117 Runs, 198 Hits, 29 HR, 120 RBI, .965 OPS

Others of Note:
Brian McCann (129th - Joshwite), Raul Ibanez (48th - Chris P.), Frank Thomas (98th - Megan)
Takashi Saito (35th - Chris P), Antonio Otsuka (92 - Francis), Bronson Arroyo (47th - Joshwhite), Michael Cuddyer (72nd - Chris F)

Worst Free Agent Drops:
Matt Holliday - New Look Same Suck - April 15th
Dropped the day before starting a 7 game homestand en route to a huge season. Not all was lost, though as Francis replaced him with Jay Gibbons. This decision likely sealed Francis's fate for the 2006 season.

Honorable Mention:
Hanley Ramirez - The Burrell Train - June 23rd
His OPS would be over .900 for the rest of the season and he'd end the year ranked 28th overall. But hey, sometimes you just have to add Anthony Reyes.

Worst Injuries:
Derrek Lee - I Laid Gretchen
Only team to lose more than a month from a postion player keeper. Even when he came back, his power stroke was gone.

Travis Hafner (and Gary Sheffield)- A New Tie Wearing
Certainly the least timely injury as Hafner's broken hand bone was discovered 2 days before the playoffs began. Would Joshwhite have beaten me by 2 RBI if Hafner was healthy? Probably not.
Hideki Matsui - New Look Same Suck
Francis's roster couldn't begin to overcome the loss of this perennial 100 RBI man for over 4 months. But at least he still had Holliday...

Pedro Martinez - Beantown Boners

Some Things of Interest:
So the third season of Head-to-head has come and gone and not once has the regular season champ won in the playoffs. 2006 actually marked the second consecutive year that the team with the best record didn't even make it to the finals. What does this tell us?
Nothing. Our playoffs are just like the MLB playoffs. It's a crapshoot. Whatever team gets hot (i.e. has Morneau) and stays healthy wins.
It's also the third different league winner in the last 3 years, so we definitely have some parity in our league, though some managers are more consistent than others. In the last 4 years, Megan's finishes have gone: 2-1-3-3
While Steve's have rather impressively gone: 8-8-1-8 (and yes, it's out of 8 players).
The rest:
Jon: 7-2-7-5
Chris F: 4-4-8-6
JW: 6-7-2-1
Francis: 3-5-6-7
Dave: 5-6-5-4
Chris P: 1-3-4-2
Is it funny or sad that the person who has averaged the best finish over the last 4 years claims to truly hate fantasy baseball?

Though I doubt a lot of you took notice, there were some cool new features to our league. One such feature showed each team's performance in each category. For example, all of our records in the Runs category. Theoretically this is a good place to look if your team is struggling, because it will show exactly where you need to improve (ex. Steve probably should have tried to trade for some power at some point, but hey, you know what they say about hindsight).

Here are the best and worst records in each stat:
Chris P: 19-6
Chris F: 9-16

Megan: 16-9
Chris F: 6-18-1

Home Runs
Chris P: 18-5-2
Steve: 5-18-2

Chris P: 18-7
Francis: 6-18-1

Steve: 20-5
Joshwhite: 7-14-4

Chris P: 15-10
Francis: 7-18

Dave: 14-9-2
Joshwhite: 6-13-6

Dave: 18-7
Steve: 6-19

Chris P: 18-5-2
Steve: 6-18-1

Chris F: 16-9
Steve: 6-19

Jon: 16-9
Megan: 10-15

Jon: 19-6
Steve: 7-18

What does this tell us? Admittedly, not a lot. But how bad was Steve's team? His pitching was even worse than his hitting. Amusingly enough, Steve actually led the league in total Wins with 107. That tells us that he started a lot of extra pitchers and while he got the wins for it, his ratios paid the price. Something to think about.

Two of the most amusing weeks would have to be week #5 when Steve's team only hit 3 homers, and week #1 when Megan's team ERA was 7.49. The other weekly superlatives are on the leauge site under "record books" and I'm not interested in listing them all here.

For the third straight year, the winning team was very weak on closers and the team that finished second was stocked with them. Still not sure if this is just a coincidence, but I figure that like Jon's heterosexuality, it should probably be looked into.

The finals put on an exciting finish if anybody besides Joshwhite and I were paying attention, and you probably were not. We actually finished tied, with pussyface taking the title on the first tiebreaker, ERA. I'm not one to bitch and moan but the sack of shit beat me by just 2 RBI when I was without my best hitter the whole time, and on the last day of the season 8 (yes eight) of my starting offensive players took the day off. But hey, sometimes you get the breaks and sometimes a fucking piece of shit in Florida gets them. Not much can be done.

Looking toward 2007 those of us with our original keepers get one more year out of them, so on draft day in 2008 Pujols, Manny, Ortiz, Hafner, Arod, Santana, Wright, Crawford etc. will all be back in play.

Enjoy the winter.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Baseball journalists & sportswriters

Sportswriters are much maligned. Maybe its because we think they have an easy job. Or maybe its because they get paid to watch and analyze sports. Or perhaps it is because they frequently put their foot in their mouth and make stupid, illogical and even flat out false statements.

Exhibit A: John Kruk has said on numerous occasions (most recently on 10/1 Baseball Tonight) that Ryan Howard put up amazing numbers "..despite batting in the #6-7 slot the first month, month and a half" (Previously he had said #7 slot).

Verdict: False. Howard batted in the #7 slot in 2 games: here and here. He batted in the #6 slot in 17 games (not going to bother listing all of them but they were pretty much all in April and start of May). Together we have 19 games. Hardly a month and a half, much less a month.

Exhibit B: A picture, but something's missing from's just me WITHOUT MY BIKE---err nevermind, wrong exhibit...Richard Justice (a sportswriter for the Houston Chronicle) wrote on the subject of the Astros acquiring Alex Rodriguez (the best or possibly 2nd best player in all of baseball) to replace Adam Everett. Justice's opinion: "A-Rod? Absolutely not." He also said (1) "First of all, the guy is walking, talking distraction. If the Astros get A-Rod, they ought to go get Terrell Owens, too." He also said, (2) "He's not worth it, either in terms of salary (the team that acquires him will owe him $64 million over the next four years..." Finally (and this is mentioned purely for hillarity's sake) (3) "Listen, if Derek Jeter doesn't like you--and Derek Jeter has embraced a lot of different guys over the years--there's a problem."

Verdict: Stupid/Idiotic. Ignoring the obvious typo/grammar error in statement 1, I have yet to see A-Rod whine about how he needs a new contract less than a year after he just signed a multi-year deal because he needs money to feed his family, complain about the performance of his fellow teammates, or be suspended by his own team for detrimental conduct. As soon as AROD commits any of those actions, he can be lumped together with TO. Regarding statement 2, $64 million for 4 years is going to be a bargain for one of the best hitters in the game that plays a premium defensive position and plays it well (assuming he would go back to SS). Compare that to the contracts free agents Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano who both play OF (and LF for that matter) are going to get. Nevermind that AROD's OPS beat both of them and his RC/27 beat both of them at a premium defensive position. Also, while we here at REAL BBBB love Adam Everett in that he serves as a good benchmark point for SS fielding skill (cough, cough Jeter), he isn't the same ballpark as AROD offensively. Probably not even the same zip code, county, or state. Maybe the same region. But AROD's offense more than makes up for his subpar (at least compared to Adam Everett) defense--Hey Richard, did you know that AROD would have finished 1st (tied) in HR for SS, and 2nd in OPS for SS even in a down year???. Finally, we have come to the REAL reason why AROD has very little value as a baseball player: his Derek Jeter likability factor rating is too low (he's only a 2.5 which is barely above replacement-level).

Exhibit C: In a chat on Thursday, Rob Neyer said the following:

Mark (Bangor, PA): Hafner over or under on 50 HR's next year?
Rob Neyer: Under. Gotta stay healthy first.

Verdict: Misleading. Rob Neyer says that Hafner needs to stay healthy in order to show that he can reach 50 HR implying that Hafner has some sort of injury problem. It is true that Hafner missed time during each of the last 2 seasons due to injuries. It is true that missing time can prevent one from hitting 50 home runs. However, let's take a closer look at Hafner's "inability to stay healthy":

2005: Hafner missed 17 games after he was hit in the head by Mark Buehrle in a July 16 game. He suffered a concussion from the HBP.

2006: Hafner missed the last 29 games of the season after he was hit on the hand by CJ Wilson in a Sept. 2 game against the Rangers. His hand turned out to be fractured and he was quoted as saying that he couldn't even tie his shoes 4-5 days after being hit.

Thus, Hafner clearly needs to "stay healthy" and has a problem of getting out of the way of pitcher's pitches which are thrown at him. The problem with Neyer's answer is that he is asserting that since Hafner was injured during the previous 2 years, it is likely that he will not be healthy for a full season this year. If Hafner's injuries affected his leg or arm muscles or happened while doing something during the game (besides standing and holding a bat), then I could see that correlation. But Hafner's injuries are completely freakish and coincidental in that he has gotten hit by a pitch (in 2 different locations) and sustained serious injuries for 2 straight years. There was no "skill" involved in avoiding those injuries (unless Travis Hafner can invent a miracle potion to turn himself invisible just before he is about to get HBP); it was just pure bad luck (much like when Derek Jeter got injured back in 2003---BTW, Neyer, the Yankees won without Jeter then; guess he's become a whole lot more "valuable" in the last 3 years). And Hafner isn't one of those Craig Biggio types that gets HBP all the time, so you can't use the argument that he was due for an injury by putting himself at risk. 9 HPB in 2005; 7 HBP in 2006. Maybe Neyer thinks that bad luck is destined to repeat itself, but given all the columns and chats he has spent talking about luck and chance, it would seem that he knows better than this.

In any case, the main point to take away from the aforementioned examples is that a lot of sportswriters (particularly baseball writers) just don't pay close enough attention to what is actually happening day-to-day during a season. I'm sure John Kruk watches a lot of Phillies games and he probably saw the 2 games that Ryan Howard batted in the #7 slot in and some games where he batted #6. But he just carried those assumptions over for the first 25% of the season without any factual evidence to back it up. The same is true with Richard Justice. He's probably saw AROD strike out a couple times this year with runners on in a close game and watched him have terrible 2005 & 2006 postseasons. Did he see AROD his .358 in Sept. with 8 HR and 25 RBI (48 HR/150 RBI full seasons translations)? No, of course he didn't. Because if he did, he might actually be interested in adding one of the league's best hitters to the 6th worst offense in the league (3rd worst if you go by OPS). Finally, I have no idea what is going on with Rob Neyer. He's usually on top of his game, but those Jeter puffs he ate must still be affecting him.

It just seems to me that hardcore fantasy baseball players such as myself (*cgh, League Champion *cgh) and Tent Time seem to know more about baseball and statistics and the daily happenings of the game, then these sports writers who job it is to follow the game. For example, does John Kruk know who that Rafael Furcal had more HR after the AS Break than Magglio Ordonez? or that Bill Hall led all major league SS in HR's with 35? or that 18% (roughly 1 out of every 5) of the runs given up by Kelvim Escobar was unearned (thank you Vladamir Guerrero)? I'd venture to say no. Granted some sports writers are only for specific teams so you can't really expect them to follow the rest of the MLB spectrum. And the season, with games every night of the week for 26 straight weeks, is no walk in the park. But that doesn't excuse the claim that Ryan Howard batted #6-7 for the first 1.5 months of the seasons (especially when such a claim can be very easily verified).

P.S. the Exhibit B line was from Pee Wee's Big Adventure for those that didn't get it...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

10 Overrated Fantasy Seasons

As a compliment to our earlier article, we here at REAL BBBB offer you the 10 most overrated fantasy seasons of 2006. These are players who most people think had good to above average seasons, but when the final numbers were added up, really weren't that good at all. People like Jason Varitek, or Brad Lidge aren't what we're looking for here because everyone knows that their seasons were bad. So here goes.

Brad Penny (SP): The 10-2 start Penny had at the All-Star break along with his 2.91 ERA had him as one of the top first-half pitchers. Unfortunately, like most good Orioles teams, he slowly sank to the bottom and completely fizzled in the 2nd half (6.25 ERA!). Overall, the 16 wins are nice, but his high ERA (4.33) and WHIP (1.33) in a NL Pitcher's park really weren't that good . He finished 96th overall and was the 34th best SP finishing behind Beckett, Derek Lowe, Millwood, Wang, and Freddy Garcia.

Adam Dunn (OF): Dunn pulled a reverse-holliday and stunk up August and September including .157/2/5 line from Sept. Although his HR total was right in line with last year, his runs were down (107 v 99), RBI's down (101 v 92) and his AVG (.234)/OPS (.855) were the lowest they had been since '03. Thus, he finished at 122 overall behind players such as Nick Johnson, Overbay, Byrnes, and Mike Cameron.

Todd Helton (1B): If I had been writing this list for the past 3 years, it seems that Helton would have been on it every year. Despite a rejuvinated Rockies offense, Helton suffered declines in every category except RBI (79 v 81) and steals (3 v 3). His average was only .302 and he only scored 94 runs despite batting #2 and #3 for a large majority of the season. His 15 homers were fewer than several light-hitting shortstops (Rollins, Furcal, Ramirez) and he finished 163rd overall. Players he was behind included Adrian Gonzalez, Jacque Jones, Joe Crede, Adrian Beltre, and Corey Patterson.

Michael Young (SS): After having a solid 4 category season last year, Young went very high in drafts and justifiably so at a pervceived weak SS position. He finished 2nd in the AL in hits (217) and collected 100 RBI's (103) for the first time ever. However, this was more than balanced out by lower than usual run numbers (114 v 93), HR's (24 v 14), and AVG (.331 v .314). Young went from 8th in the league in runs ('05) to 50th this year ('06). Some of this was due to struggling by his supporting cast (cough cough..Teixeira), but his own lack of power didn't help any. He was only the 10th best SS (Glaus qualified in Yahoo leagues) and 95th overall finished behind Bill Hall, Carlos Guillen, Furcal, Michael Cuddyer, and Gary Matthews, Jr.

Chone Figgins (too many to list): Figgins is another player whose stats were partly affected by the struggling of his lineup, but he also contributed 20 fewer hits to lower his avg (.290 to .267). He was another well sought after commodity on draft day and he did deliver 52 steals, and comparable HR/RBI numbers to last year. But the lower AVG and runs were what hurt him as they both decreased significantly (20 runs, .23 BA pts). Although he as eligibilty at 6 positions, one must remember that he was only the 5th best 2B and only provided above-average numbers in one category.

Juan Pierre (OF): Pierre had a very similar season to Figgins except that he didn't have the benefit of being able to be filled in at almost any spot in your lineup. Pierre was again a one-trick pony getting you 58 steals (good for 2nd best overall) and not much else. He only scored 87 runs, terrible for a leadoff man and 66th overall. Granted this was due in part to the Cubs anemica offense (and Derrek Lee's injuries), but try using that excuse when your team finished 5th in the standings. He was never a great contributor in HR/RBI, so 3/40 was pretty much was most were expecting. While his average did improve 16 pts from last year (.276 v .292), Pierre was nowhere near a precious commodity as his 104th overall ranking (23rd among OF) indicate.

Chris Capuano (SP): Capuano was another player who had a post All-Star Break meltdown to turn a fantastic season into a truly average one. His 5.17 ERA and 1.34 WHIP post ASB, caused his ERA/WHIP to finish at 4.03/1.25 which would seem quite high for a pitcher that tied for the MLB lead in Quality Starts with 25. Capuano did provide excellent K totals (174), and overall his numbers weren't that much different than last year (2 fewer K's, slightly lower ERA, much lower WHP 1.38 v 1.25 and more Complete Games). This just goes to show how fluky win totals are as he dropped from 18 to 11 (including only 1 in the last 2.5 months of the season). Thus, Capuano finished 101st overall behind such other pitchers as Kenny Rogers, Penny, Beckett, Garcia, Millwood, and Pettite.

Edgar Renteria (SS): Renteria was another player who started off the year with a bang, but finished with a whimper (re: Adam Dunn). Although the dropoff wasn't quite as extreme, his overall numbers weren't that good even for a shortstop. The 100 runs were the only category he excelled in as his 14 HR, 70 RBI and 17 Steals were overshadowed by many other players (including several shortstops) and he didn't even hit .300 (.293) despite going into the ASB with a .318 AVG. Althought he might have been a value because he was taken so late in drafts, he finished 136th overall and was only the 12th best SS. He finished behind Bill Hall, Felipe Lopez, Ray Durham, Patterson, and Overbay.

Freddie Sanchez (SS): Freddie Sanchez won a batting title this year and for that he should be congratulated. However, his overall value to fantasy baseball was grossly overshadowed by this title. Sanchez's .344 AVG definitely carried your team in that category, but his 85 runs, 85 RBI's, and 3 steals did little to help you elsewhere. While the 85 RBI and .344 AVG are great for a MI, his 6 HR and 85 Runs were not. There were only 7 players who had a comparable number of at-bats to Sanchez and had fewer HR (Loretta, Vizquel, Pierre, Podsednik, Castillo, Kendall, Taveras). Thus, he was essentially a lead balloon in 2 categories (HR/Steals) which caused him to be ranked 144th overall. While it is nice to have someone with multiple position eligibility that can be plugged in anywhere at a moment's notice, he was no higher than 10th at any of the individual positions (2B, SS, 3B) and finished behind Nomar, Laroche, Dunn, Mike Cameron, and Lopez.

Ryan Zimmerman (3B): Ryan Zimmerman may win NL Rookie of the Year and like Freddie Sanchez, he should be congratulated for that. However, if you won your fantasy league this year, he was probably not the player you were congratulating for it. His 110 RBI's were impressive (especially on a low scoring NL team) and he chipped in 11 steals. But only 20 HRs, a .287 AVG (only .13 above the league average), and 84 runs weren't outstanding overall. Granted, he is a rookie, but Chipper Jones bettered him in 3 out of 5 categories despite playing in 47 fewer games. Zimmerman should have a bright future ahead of him, but his season wasn't all that spectacular as evidenced by the fact that he was 105th overall and only the 12th best 3B. He finished behind people such as Bill Hall, Figgins, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez (both ROY candidates as well), and Rolen.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Unexpected Postseason Gems

Sometimes greatness comes unexpectedly. Just ask my wife. (Although to be honest, I haven't really delivered any greatness yet. I look like shit and basically, that's what I am.) In the last 20 years there have been hundreds of postseason games with great drama and excitement. Many of these games have been pitched by players we don't all remember, or want to remember. And sometimes, on rare occasions, one of these rather unspectacular pitchers steps up and delivers a performance of an ace and forces us to remember them. But since we don't, I'll list some of them here.

I hereby present to you the 10 most unexpectedly dominant performances by a pitcher in the last 20 years of postseason play. Enjoy.

10. 1993 NLCS Game 3: With the Braves and Phillies tied at a game apiece, the series shifted to Atlanta. Phillies starter Danny Jackson delivered 7.2 innings of one run baseball and knocked in the winning run of a 2-1 win that turned the series around and led the Phillies to a 4-2 series upset. Danny Jackson was a rather unspectacular 12-10 with a 3.77 ERA during the regular season and this was his only win of the 1993 playoffs.

9. 1993 ALCS Game 2: The 1993 season was the best of Wilson Alvarez's career. He posted a record of 15-8 and his 2.95 ERA was second in the league. It was his first season as a full time starting pitcher and in his first career postseason start, with his team down 2-0 to the World Champion Blue Jays and on the road in Toronto Alvarez delivered the only postseason win of his career. He threw 9 innings of 1-run baseball to get the White Sox back in the series

8. 2002 ALCS Game 1: Joe Mays concluded the 2002 season with a 4-8 record and an ERA of 5.38. Coming off of a terrible start and loss in the ALDS, not much was expected out of Mays in his Game 1 start of the ALCS, but Mays delivered 8 innings allowing 4 hits and 1 unearned run to lead the Twins to a game 1 win over the Angels. Unfortunately for them, it would be the only game the Twins would win in the series, and the game remains the only postseason win of Mays' career.

7. 1987 NLCS Game 2: Coming off a season which saw him go 10-12 with an ERA of 3.43, Dave Dravecky took the ball on the road with his Giants down 1-0 in their best of seven series with St. Louis. Dravecky delivered a 2-hit masterpiece to even up the series. He would later take a hard luck loss in game 6, and 2 years later, after only 9 more starts, he was out of baseball.

6. 1987 NLCS Game 7: During the 1987 season, Danny Cox was a pedestrian 11-9 with a 3.88 ERA. Having already lost game 4 of the series to the Giants, Cox again took the mound in Game 7. This time, however, Cox did something that he didn't do in any of his 31 regular season starts in the 1987 season, and in fact he had not done since 1985: he threw a shutout. Cox's gem sent the Cardinals into the World Series to face the Royals. Unfortunately for Cox, his career was shortlived. 31 starts and 398.1 innings later he was out of baseball. Cox remained otherwise unspectacular in his career, finishing with a record of 74-75, but on October 14, 1987 he was pretty close.

5. 1997 NLCS Game 4: With a rotation that featured future Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, Denny Neagle often found himself relegated to the sidelines. He didn't pitch in the '97 Division Series, but after losses by Maddux and Smoltz, the Braves found themselves down 2-1 to the Florida Marlins. Atlanta turned to Neagle to start game 4 and he took advantage of the opportunity, tossing a 4-hit shutout with 7 K's to even the series at 2-2. It would be the only start that Neagle would get to make that postseason, as the Braves were eliminated by Florida (and umpire Eric Gregg) in 6 games.

4. 1992 NLCS Game 5: In his mere 19 regular season starts in 1992, Bob Walk allowed nearly a hit per inning and his 60 K's against 43 walks were not encouraging. In game 2 of the '92 NLCS, Walk pitched 2.2 innings of relief, allowing 3 hits, 2 walks and 4 runs. Facing Steve Avery (1991 NLCS MVP against the Pirates) and possible elimination in game 5 of the 1992 NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, the Pirates sent Walk to the mound with low expectations. All Walk did was throw a complete game 3-hitter, allowing only 1 run and stave off elimination. It would be the last big game of his career, as Walk would pitch only 1 more season in the majors, going 13-14 with an ERA of 5.68 in 1993.

3. 2006 ALDS Game 3: With the series tied at a game apiece, the Tigers returned home for two games against the dreaded Yankees and their modern day murderers row: a lineup that featured 9 all-stars and 2 MVP's. The Tigers countered with Kenny Rogers, who had not beaten the Yankees since 1994 and whose postseason resume revealed an 0-3 record with an ERA of 8.81. Rogers was fired up, however, and lead the Tigers to a surprise victory with 7 2/3 scoreless and downright shocking innings. It was a game Detroit was not supposed to win, in a series they were not supposed to win. But Rogers' performance turned the series and the next day, they did just that, eliminating the Yankees 3-1.

2. 2000 NLDS Game 4: With an 11-6 regular season record and a 5.06 ERA, Bobby Jones was relegated to being the number 4 starter for the Mets when the playoffs began. Up 2 games to 1 in the series, the Mets sent Jones to the mound against Barry Bonds and the Giants. Naturally, Jones twirled a 1-hit shutout, including an 0-4 day from Bonds. The only hit Jones allowed all day was a harmless double by Jeff Kent in the 5th inning. The Mets clinched the series 3-1 and went on the beat the Cardinals in the NLCS. As the Mets charged to the World Series, Jones made 2 other starts, totalling 9 innings and allowed 10 hits and 9 runs. Before his 1-hit masterpiece, Jones hadn't thrown a shutout in the big leagues since 1997. The next year, in 2001, he signed with San Diego and in his 2 years out west he went 15-27 with an ERA north of 5.00. He called it quits after 2002.

1. 2004 NLDS Game 3: You could argue that Jose Lima had 2 good seasons as a major league pitcher. 2004 was not one of them. In 1998-99 he went a combined 37-18 with an ERA slightly over 3.50. In 2004, Lima had an ERA over 4.00, gave up over a hit per inning and struck out only 93 batters in 170 innings. In the 2004 NLDS, Lima's Dodgers were facing the St. Louis Cardinals and their big offense lead by Pujols, Rolen and Edmonds. The Cardinals won 105 games in 2004 and lead the National League in runs scored, hits, batting average and slugging percentage. As expected, the Cardinals dominated the Dodgers in the first two games of the series, scoring 16 runs in the process. But that all changed when the Dodgers sent Lima to the mound for Game 3.
Lima tossed 9 innings of 5-hit shutout baseball at the Cardinals to get the Dodgers on the board. How unlikely was this? Don't worry I'll tell you. It was Lima's second career postseason start, and the first (in 1999 against the Braves) didn't go well. In Lima's career in the regular season, he has made 235 starts. Exactly 1 (one) of those was a shutout and that game took place in 1998, a full 6 years earlier. Lima hadn't thrown a complete game since 2001. (It's worth noting that Lima made 32 starts during the following 2005 season for Kansas City and was about as bad as you can be giving up 219 hits in 168 innings on route to a 5-16 record and a 6.99 ERA.) Not surprisingly, the Cardinals came out the next day in game 4 and scored 6 runs in a victory to advance to the NLCS, but I'm sure most of them were still scratching their heads about what Jose Lima had done to them the day before. I bet some of them still are.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

10 Underrated Fantasy Seasons

Here at RBBBB, we know that you love fantasy baseball as much as we do. That's why we're starting to roll out some articles about the 2006 season looking ahead to 2007 since Spring Training is only a short 18 weeks away. So, first I offer 10 underrated/under-the-radar seasons. These are going to be players who ended up much higher in the rankings than anyone would guess. Draft position does play some part in this, but this post isn't meant to target people like Jermaine Day or Brandon Webb. Everyone is aware of the monster seasons they both had (after being drafted in Round 13+). This is meant to spotlight seasons like Aubrey Huff's 2003 when he hit 34 HR, 107 RBI and OPS'ed .922. Or Andy Pettite last year 17-9, 2.39 ERA, 1.03 WHIP (due in large part to his post AS break ERA/WHIP of 1.69/.90). So here we go:

Matt Holliday (OF): Everyone who didn't know him learned of Holliday this year and the reason he makes this list is because of the unbelievable month of September he had. Going into September, he had been hovering around the 30's-40's in overall rankings, but he went on a tear (.333/10/34/1.145/29 runs) and finished #9 overall. He finished tied for 5th in runs, 10th in Avg, 11th in OPS and threw in 10 steals. He finished ahead of pereniall studs such as Beltran, Berkman, AROD, Morneau, Vernon Wells, David Wright, Jason Bay, Konerko, and Thome.

Hanley Ramirez (SS): He started off the year on a tear batting in the .330's by the middle of May, but cooled off and his average was down to the .260's for the middle of June. The runs were always there as he batted leadoff in a decent lineup. But after the All-Star break, the HR's and steals began to pile up and he shot up the rankings. He finished 28th overall and as the 4th best shortstop due to his 51 steals (5th) and 119 runs (tied-5th). Behind him were people such as Miguel Tejada, Michael Young, Grady Sizemore, Johny Damon, Manny Ramirez, Carlos Delgado, and Chone Figgins (who Ramirez bettered in every category except steals 52-51).

Aaron Harang (SP): 6th best starting pitcher (no Papelbon doesn't count despite SP eligibilty) in 2006 in part due to NL Leading 216 K's (2nd overall to Santana), respectable 16 wins, and 6 (yes league leading) complete games including 2 shutouts. His ERA and WHIP were a tad on the high side, but one must consider his home ballpark as well---Home ERA 4.61, Road ERA 2.98. This is mainly due to home runs given up at home vs on the road (20-8) as his WHIP (1.28 v 1.26) and BAA (.268 v .269) were almost identical. He also didn't kill you with walks (i.e. Zambrano you) as he was tied 48th. He is on the bubble of a bona fide ace considering the durability and strikeout numbers he gives you. Finished ahead of Oswalt, Halliday, Peavy, Randy Johnson, and Verlander.

Joe Nathan (RP): Everyone knows Joe Nathan by now and knows that he is a dominant reliever. However, not everyone knows that he was the best rated fantasy RP, only blew 2 saves all year long (tied with Saito for lowest BS total--although Saito only had 26 chances, Nathan had 38), finished 3rd in ERA for all closers (1.58) and barely behind Papelbon for WHIP (.78 vs .79). Add 7 wins to his 36 saves and 95 K's and Nathan was purely dominating. Everyone that was worried on June 1st when he had only 6 saves had their fears calmed over the last 4 months of the season. Finished ahead of Papelbon, Rivera, Lidge, and BJ Ryan (the last 3 of which were taken before him in almost every draft).

Derek Lowe (SP): Lowe is another player who had an amazing Aug/Sept. to vault him up the fantasy rankings. Although lacking in K's (123), he delivered 16 wins, respectable 3.63 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and didnt' kill you with walks. After an absolutely putrid July (ERA/WHIP 7.11/1.86) he posted Aug/Sept. numbers of 1.69/0.78 and 3.08/1.37. He was no doubt helped by the spacious confines of Dodger Stadium, but his road ERA/WHIP were only 4.18/1.35. Finished ahead of Jason Schmidt, Beckett, Wang, Freddy Garcia, Pettite, Capuano, and Glavine.

Michael Cuddyer (OF/1B): Cuddyer will not doubt lose some value next year as he only retains OF and 1B eligibility as compared to this year when he was eligible at 3 out of 4 infield spots (not SS). However, he finished 72nd overall due to 24 HR, 109 RBI's, an .866 OPS, .284 AVG, and 102 runs. He was the 3rd best 2B overall, ahead of Figgins, Brian Roberts, Cano, and even Uggla. He finished ahead of peple such as Delgado, Giambi, Dunn, Glaus, and Frank Thomas.

Garrett Atkins (3B): Basically a carbon copy of Holliday at 3B, Atkins put up tremendous numbers (117 runs, .329 AVG, .965 OPS) and was within a hair of being the highest ranked 3rd basemen in the game. He finished at 19th overall, 2 spots behind Cabrera and 1 spot behind AROD. While his splits favored his home ballpark, HR were split evenly (15-14) and he batted .313/OPS'ed .933 on the road, both respectable numbers. Finished ahead of Wright, Aramis Ramirez, Glaus, Sizemore, Thome, Konerko, Bay.

Carlos Guillen (SS): Injuries the past 2 years had dampened the expectations on Guillen, but when healthy for a full season he showed that he is a solid 5 category contributing player. Although his RBI numbers were down (85) he had AVG/OPS of .320/.920, 19 HR, and scored 100 runs despite batting in the #5 spot a majority of the time. He finished 57th overall ahead of Young, Felipe Lopez, Figgins, Manny Ramirez, and Delgado.

Chipper Jones (3B): Jones missed time with injuries at 3 different points during the season and only played in 110 games. Yet, he still managed to finished 70th overall because of .324 AVG/1.006 OPS. He only finished 9 RBI's and 7 runs behind Rolen despite playing in 32 fewer games. Jones stats translate out to 36 HR/120 RBI/122 Runs over a full season (154 games--we can't really expect this 34-year old to play in every game). Finished ahead of Glaus, Rolen, Nomar, Frank Thomas, Young, and Giambi.

Takashi Saito (RP): Saito's season may be overlooked because he only had 24 saves, but his periphery stats clearly exhibited how good his season was. The low saves total was due mainly to the Dodgers win margins and the fact that he didn't become the closer until the middle of May. His 107 K's led all full-time relievers and his 2.07 ERA/.910 WHIP were right at the top in those categories. He only blew 2 saves (tied with Nathan) and contributed 6 wins. Finished ahead of Rivera, Huson Street, Hoffman, Chris Ray, and Francisco Cordero.

Note: Rankings were from Yahoo's rankings based on standard 5 X 5 leagues. Using different categories in your league such as OPS instead of AVG can positively (Dunn, Delgado, etc.) or negatively (Crawford, Ichiro) affect player's rankings and value.

My AL MVP Ballot

1. David Ortiz
2. Justin Morneau
3. Johan Santana
4. Travis Hafner
5. Joe Mauer
6. Frank Thomas
7. Derek Jeter
8. Jermaine Dye
9. Carlos Guillen
10. Grady Sizemore

Like I said in the comments of Cuckoo for Jeter Puffs 2, the award really should go to Travis Hafner. Who cares if he doesn't play defense. He still ends up with more overall value to the team than people who play premium defensive positions and do it well (Sizemore, Guillen, Mauer) or not well (Jeter). But since Hafner got injured and missed significant time (for the 2nd straight year), he gets knocked down a couple of spots. So therefore, I am at a tossup between Ortiz and Morneau. While Ortiz has better stats, he does have Manny protecting him (for most of the season), while Morneau has to rely on Torii Hunter. The only reason writers are ignoring Ortiz this year is because the Red Sox didn't finish in the playoffs, which is hardly his fault.

Reasons the Red Sox tanked in August/September:
1) Josh Beckett sucking
2) Every other RS starter getting injured at some point during the season
3) A very weak powerless RS lineup
4) injuries to the aforementioned pitchers, and Trot Nixon, Coco Crisp, Wily Mo Pena, Jason Varitek, Alex Gonzalez, and Manny Ramirez during the season.
5) A terrible (sans Papelbon who was eventually shutdown) bullpen.

Not the reason the Red Sox tanked in Aug/Sept.:
1) David Ortiz's performance in Sept/Oct. (AVG/OPS/HR/RBI/BB)

August: .276/1.112/10/16/25
September: .292/1.146/7/16/26

Granted the HR/RBI numbers are down because he got walked so many times with no protection behind him when Manny was hurt. But you're going to tell me that averaging 8.5 HR/month; 16 RBI/month and OPS'ing 1.129/month (which leads to season averages of 51 HR, 96 RBI, 1.129 OPS) isn't valuable or doesn't help your team win or i.e. is one of the main reasons why your team stopped winning. Ridiculous.

Santana could possibly be several spots lower. I don't have a problem with him being anywhere from 2nd-10th.

I only have Mauer 5th because he plays catcher, and plays it very well offensively and defensively. Yes, he won a batting title as a catcher which is great and amazing, but that doesn't make up for the fact that 71% of his hits are singles. When he hits a single, a run is only created when Morneau (or during the last 3 weeks of the season Hunter) drive him in. Whereas when Morneau comes up and homers, he still creates a run even if Mauer isn't on base. Frank Thomas really should be ahead of him in terms of overall value to one's team, but Thomas's statistics weren't good enough to justify him in front of a good defensive catcher.

Next, we have Jeter. I've already written extensively on why I don't think Jeter should be MVP. 8 All-Stars and 2 former MVP's providing lineup protection with subpar defense and the best closer of all time, yet a #2 singles hitter is the reason they win. 'Nuff said.

8-10 are really interchangable. Sizemore and Guillen definitely get defensive points over Dye but Dye did OPS 1.006. Granted Dye has lineup protection of Konerko and Thome though (but still he doesn't have 8 other All-Stars protecting him). Pretty much anyone from #4-#8 could be switched without any major complaints from me. But I do think Guillen and Sizemore had underappreciated seasons.

Insightful commentary from Steve Lyons

Tigers-Yankees: 3rd/4th(?) inning 10/7/06. Steve Lyons gives us the following gems:

1) Talking about Derek Jeter he says that Jeter should probably be the MVP and "is having the best offensive season of his career."

1999.324 9.21 161 108.7
2006.309 7.58 138 79.2

The only category that Jeter has better numbers in during 2006 than 1999 is WARP-3 and possible Win Shares (I can't find 1999 Win Share values). Which would completely make sense since he had a worse statistical season and played in a much better offensive lineup in 2006. Maybe it is coming from the fact his defense is better in 2006 than it was in 1999?

2) The other half of this blog (Tent time) reminded me of Steve Lyons' other insightful comment. With 2 outs and Magglio Ordonez on 1st, Carlos Guillen hit a looper over Robbie Cano's head into right field. Ordonez (running on contact since there were 2 outs) made it to third easily which led Lyons to praise his baserunning ability: "..he was running as soon as it was hit, he knew it would be a hit, he didn't hesitate and that's why he made it to third base." Hey Steve, there were 2 outs at the time. That's why he didn't hestitate to see if the ball would be caught. Because if the ball was caught, then the inning was over.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Keith Law MVP Debate--Plus, our first f*ckup

Keith Law posted his MVP ballot (top 10) last week here. Naturally, he has Derek Jeter at the top since every ESPN commentator has chosen Jeter as the MVP (except Buster Olney who hedged between Jeter and Morneau). So the argument against Jeter you can read in another thread. But there are some other things to comment on.

1) Joe Mauer 7 spots ahead of Justin Morneau: Look, Joe Mauer won a batting title as a catcher, which is an amazing accomplishment. But he isn't the reason the Twins won the AL Central after being 10 games back in June. All of Mauer's singles are useless without Morneau or Cuddyer (i.e. Morneau) hitting home runs or doubles to drive Mauer in. I just don't see how defense can make up that big of a difference between players. Also, Mauer is not the best defensive catcher in the game. When he throws out over 50% of attempted steals, then you call him that.

2) Grady Sizemore at #5 ahead of Travis Hafner and Morneau: Like I said above, I don't think defense can make up that much of a difference when you have 1 hitter that beats another in every category (HR, OBP, SLG, RBI, etc.) Apparently, the VORP calculators don't think so either because Travis Hafner stills beats Sizemore despite playing 80% of the season. And he does a comparison between Sizemore and Morneau " Would you rather have, say, .292/.377/.536 with average defense in center (Sizemore) or .321/.376/.560 with fringe-average defense at first (Morneau)? " Seeing as how they have identical OBP (even though Sizemore bats #1 and Morneau #5), I think I'd take the guy that is slugging 25 pts higher even though he doesn't play center field. Morneau is by no means a defensive liability (i.e. Manny Ramirez or Mike Piazza).

3) "if David Ortiz doesn't make my ballot, " Can you explain why David Ortiz is not on your ballot Keith? I know that you're going to go back to the same argument about not playing defense and would rather have a great centerfielder who OPS's .900 or a DH. Well, that's what they made up VORP for, which takes into account defensive position. And Ortiz still beats Sizemore. I just don't see how a guy who is 8-9 (with 4 BB's) and 13 RBI in "game-winning situations" over the last 3 years isn't "valuable". But maybe that's just me. Oh yeah, I know why he isn't valuable. Because every Red Sox starter got injured or sucked (Beckett) and the Red Sox folded away in August/September. Which brings us to:

My first REAL BBB f-up: So in Keith Law's chat today (10/6) I asked him the following:

Josh (XXXX, FL): Keith, You talk about Grady Sizmore as an MVP candidate, yet Travis Hafner (who does everything better than Sizemore except defense) is nowhere to be found? Why??? Hafner has better OBP, SLG, more HR, more RBI, and higher VORP despite only playing 80% of the season. Yet you'd rather have Sizemore?? Keith Law: My MVP ballot had Sizemore #5 and Hafner #8. And I'd much prefer to have a capable centerfielder than a DH. Centerfielders who can hit like Sizemore are so difficult to find, and they put you well ahead of the game compared to other clubs who have to settle for less in center on either offense or defense.

Keith Law: My MVP ballot had Sizemore #5 and Hafner #8. And I'd much prefer to have a capable centerfielder than a DH. Centerfielders who can hit like Sizemore are so difficult to find, and they put you well ahead of the game compared to other clubs who have to settle for less in center on either offense or defense.

While it may be true that "CF's who can hit like Sizemore are so difficult to find..", it is any more difficult than other outfield positions, such as say Right Field. Looking at the Top 10 OPS numbers for CF and RF for all of MLB

CF: range: 795-982; avg: 866;
RF: range: 799-1066; avg 877;

Worst Postseason Pitchers

As with any best list, it must be followed by a worst list, just to balance things out. For this particular list, I've branced out and included both starters and relievers in the last 20 years. For their benefit, I won't go into as many specifics with these poor bastards. I'm sure there are others I've forgotten, so please feel free to point them out to me.

Today's trivia: From 2000-2006, what player holds the record for most runs scored in a single season with 152?

10. Hideo Nomo: 0-2, 10.38 ERA, 12 hits in 8 IP. He's only this far down the list because of limited opportunities.

9. Storm Davis: 1-3, 5.12 ERA, 32 hits in 31 innings, 19/11 K/BB ratio. Not a key cog in Oakland's late 80's early 90's run.

8. Terry Mullholland: 1-2, 6.61 ERA, 38 hits in 31 innings, 15/10 K/BB ratio. A lot of innings and a lot of hits. But at least he's not old.

7. Kyle Farnsworth: 7.36 ERA in 11 innings. Most notable meltdowns include not exactly putting out the fire after Prior left the 8th inning of the now infamous 6th game of the 2003 NLCS against the Marlins, and failing to protect a 5 (yes five) run lead for the Braves against Houston in the 4th and final game of the 2006 NLDS. (Though it's worth noting that this didn't stop the Yankees from throwing $18million at him to be a set up guy in the Bronx. I'm sure that will go well.)

6. Matt Morris: 2-6, 4.05 ERA, 44/34 K/BB ratio. Morris seems like a nice enough guy but just can't quite get it done in crunch time. As the playoffs roll on, he gets worse. NLDS: 2.02, NLCS: 5.62, WS: 8.31.

5. Tom Gordon: 0-1, 7.32 ERA, 22 hits in 19 and 2/3 innings.
Never has someone so bad in big spots been so consistently thrust into them. Blew a huge save for the Red Sox in the 1998 NLDS against Cleveland, and then got so badly hammered by Boston in the 2003 ALCS that he was reportedly vomiting in the bullpen while warming up.

4. Mitch Williams: 2-2, 7.00 ERA, 12 hits in 9 innings, 8/6 K/BB ratio.
The "Wild Thing" was exactly that as he used his unusual delivery to blow 4 out of 7 save opportunities for the Phillies during their 1993 run to the World Series. Who knows, maybe they would have won it all if not for Williams' performance in the WS (0-2, 20.25 ERA).

3. Kenny Rogers: 0-3, 8.85 ERA, 32 hits in 20 and 2/3 innings, 15/16 K/BB ratio.
Quite simply, not good. Probably most famous for his 1999 NLCS ending walk to Andruw Jones with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th inning that ended the Mets season.

2. Jack McDowell: 0-4, 8.72 ERA, 32 hits in 21 innings.
McDowell had some great regular seasons for the White Sox and one good one for the Yankees but that did not translate well in his four playoff starts and one forgettable relief appearance. If you remember, it was McDowell against whom Griffey made his famous dash for home on the Edgar Martinez double to score the series winning run in the 11th inning of game 5 of the 1995 ALDS.

1. Aaron Sele: 0-6, 4.46 ERA, 42 hits in 36 innings, 17/13 K/BB ratio.
Hard to argue with an 0-6 record that took Sele all of 7 post season starts to accumulate. Even worse, 5 of those 6 losses came against the same team; the Yankees. Sele is proof that pitchers with high ERA's but pretty looking w-l records because of their offense and bullpen are not actually as good as some writers seem to think they are.

Pitchers off to Bad Postseason Starts
Jake Peavy: 0-2, 12.10 ERA
Matt Clement: 1-2, 8.62 ERA
Odalis Perez: 1-1, 15.00 ERA, 13 hits and 9 BB's in 6 innings.
Chris Reitsma: 17.05 ERA with 12 hits allowed in 6 and 1/3 innings.

Trivia Answer:
Jeff Bagwell scored 152 runs in the year 2000, in the Astrodome, a big time pitcher's park. It's worth noting that the 152 runs scored by Bagwell were the most since Lou Gehrig scored 167 in 1936.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Cuckoo for Jeter Puffs---the sequel

On Tuesday Sept. 26, Rob Neyer answered an email from a fan regarding Derek Jeter as the MVP choice. I was quite disappointed as I read the email he answered since I had emailed 3-4 days earlier with pretty much the same content you see listed below (I admittedly did not include the specifc VORP and OPS stats from 99 and 06). However, Neyer answered a very weak and unorganized email here and basically made the argument that if you look at VORP and Win Shares, Jeter has the best combination out of any of the candidates. He also discounted Morneau because he is 18th in OBP and only 7th in OPS and said that Joe Mauer was more preferable over Morneau. So I decided to drop into one of Rob's chat on Sept. 28th. I continuously submitted the email I sent to him on 1-2 minute intervals. Neyer obviously got the messages (which he refused to answer) as he closed the chat with the following line:

Rob Neyer: Probably not, and no. I was being theoretical. Thanks for the questions (except for Josh in Florida), hope to see you tomorrow (except for Josh in Florida).

As you could probably tell, I was the "Josh in Florida". So I dropped into Neyer's chat the next day and submitted a shorter, different version of my original email. To my chagrin, Neyer actually answered it:

Josh (XXXX,FL): Hey Cuckoo for Jeter Puffs, The award is titled MVP, not "Player having the best statistical season" award. If it was, AROD would have 5 or 6 of them, and Jeter would be a perfect candidate for it. But since it is NOT, excuse me if I discount Jeter's stats from playing in a 9 All-Star batting lineup with 450+ wins on the mound (including 18QS from the #3 starter) and the greatest closer of all time...

Rob Neyer: I've heard this sentiment a LOT this week (mostly because I argued for Jeter as MVP in a column on Tuesday). Here's the problem with this "logic" . . . Josh, yours is a standard that's rarely (if ever) been applied. As I think I mentioned in this space last week, when Joe Morgan won MVP Awards in 1975 and '76, his Reds finished those seasons with 20- and 10-game leads, and would have won division titles with anybody at second base. MANY MVP's have come from great teams that didn't actually need him. And Jeter's no different.

Here's where Neyer is completely and totally dead wrong:

1) He says "yours is a standard that's rarely (if ever) been applied. " Now I don't know exactly what he was talking about, but I think he was referencing my "standard" which was that players who play on really good teams aren't discounted or downgraded in the MVP race because of the team they play on. That isn't the point that I was trying to make. While that may be true (although the Yankees won 4 WS titles in 5 years yet never had anyone higher than 3rd in MVP voting which leads one to believe that their individual stars were discounted), the point is that Jeter's stats are a product of his environemnt. An environment which includes 2 former MVP's providing lineup protection behind him. You take Jeter and put him in the #2 slot of the Royals lineup or the Padres lineup and he sure ain't hitting .340 with 100 RBI's. People pitch to him because they aren't worried that he will hurt them since he never ever homers.

2) He mentions Joe Morgan as someone who won the MVP award who played on good teams which would have won their divisions easily if he was removed. While that me be true, it is also true that Joe Morgan lead the National League in OPS both years (by .40 in '75 and .100 in '76). He had OPS+ of 169 and 189 (Jeter best OPS+ is 161 in 1998---when he finished 6th in MVP voting in case you forgot). The point being that Morgan was a truly dominant productive middle of the order (#3) hitter. As soon as Jeter leads the league in OPS or nearly doubles the league average OPS, I'll gladly hand him an MVP.

I wrote Rob an email with the above things mentioned after his 9/29 chat. He responeded with the point that Jeter was the best player on his team this year, if not, the league (AL) itself and that according to the best evidence (VORP, WARP-3, Win Shares) he was at the top. Therefore, he was a credible MVP candidate. Nothing about the fact that Jeter plays in possibly the best lineup of all time. Nothing about the fact that Joe Morgan was in fact a worthy MVP (even if his teams won the division by 10-20 games).

I replied to Rob talking about VORP and Win Shares with the basic point that his VORP was inflated because he is a poor defensive shortstop (and VORP only considers position, NOT quality of skill at position). Also, his Win Shares total is inflated because he plays on a winning team. I laid out an extensive argument about how if Jeter went 4-4 in a game with 3 singles and a double in the Yankees lineup he would probably score 3 or 4 runs and the Yankees would win 12-6 and he would get some credit applied towards his win shares. However, if he played on the Orioles or the Nationals and had the exact same line, they would lose 8-5 and he would get NO credit applied towards his win share total (since they are calculated from actual win numbers). That might possibly explain why Travis Hafner is more valuable than Jeter (despite playing no position and Jeter getting inflated SS value) yet is 7 win shares behind him.

No response from Neyer yet...Still waiting..Perhaps I will drop into a chat of his coming up.

Best Postseason Starters

With the 2006 Postseason upon us, I feel its time to reflect on the best Postseason starters of the last 20 years. Forgive me for not going back further, but I feel I really should only comment on pitchers I've seen. And we won't bother discussing relievers because really, what's the point. Nobody is close to Rivera, who has been the lynchpin of the Yankees late 1990's success.
(Trivia: What reliever holds the record for lowest career Postseason ERA with a minimum of 20 and 2/3 IP? Answer at bottom)
So I present to you, one man's opinion of the top 5 playoff starters of the last 20 years (arguments welcome).

5. Dave Stewart: 10-6, 2.84 ERA
Stewart was the ace of the Oakland A's mini-dynasty from the late 80's through the early '90s. Nobody dominated the AL in playoffs like this guy. Stewart went 8-0 in LCS play, and never had ERA over 3.46 in any playoff series for the A's from 1988-1992 (7 post season series). Stewart has 2 LCS MVP's on his resume ('90, '93) to go along with a WS MVP ("89). We all remember his intimidating glare (and the far less intimidating, and slightly amusing imitation attempted by Andy Pettitte).

4. Orel Hershiser: 8-3. 2.59 ERA
Besides being the best athelete ever named Orel, Hershiser was an October dominator for two different teams in both leagues. Hershiser stepped up big when his undermanned and overmatched Dodgers team needed him in 1988. That year Orel hurt both the Mets and the A's by going a combined 3-0, with 1 save in 42 innings with an ERA of 1.05, collecting the NLCS and WS MVP trophies on the way. He then caught on with Cleveland in 1995 and led them to the World Series, and added another LCS MVP trophy to his mantle.

3. Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez: 9-3, 2.55 ERA, 107 K's in 106 innings.
Exagerrated raft stories aside, Hernandez burst onto the scene when the Yankees outbid the competition for his services and quickly became the most reliable postseason starter of the Yankees 1998-2000 run. Hernandez seemed impervious to the pressures of the postseason, starting his playoff career 8-0 and not losing until his 11th October game (which came in his 3rd season). Along the way, he collected the 1999 ALCS MVP to go along with his 3 World Series Rings.

2. John Smoltz: 15-4, 2.65 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
On a staff with future HOFers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, Smoltz emerged as the playoff ace for a team that unfortunately is known more for the WS titles it didn't win. The lack of titles can hardly be attributed to Smoltz, who has more playoff wins than anybody. You want consistency? NLDS: 2.52 ERA, NLCS: 2.83 ERA, World Series: 2.47 ERA. Some highlights include a CG SHO in game 7 of the 1991 NLCS against Pittsburgh and the 1992 NLCS MVP trophy and lets not forget that it was Smoltz who battled Jack Morris zero for zero in the famous seventh game of 1991 World series, which the Braves bullpen eventually lost in 10 innings. You want heart? With his shoulder aching, Smoltz dominated the Astros for 7 innings to level the 2005 NLDS at a game apiece. There isn't much in the playoffs that Smoltz hasn't done on the mound.

1. Curt Schilling: 8-2, 2.06, 0.926 WHIP
Schilling is the big game pitcher of his generation. He has taken 3 different teams to the World Series, making 15 playoff starts with 4 complete games and 2 shutouts. After carrying the Phillies to an improbable WS birth in 1993, Schilling made a living as the final piece needed by playoff contenders, helping both the Diamondbacks and Red Sox to World Series titles. Along the way, Schilling was awarded the 1993 LCS MVP and the 2001 WS MVP. We all know about the famous bloody sock, but more importantly, in games that his team was facing elimination Schilling is 3-0 with a 1.11 ERA.

Roger Clemens: 12-8, 3.71 ERA. Nice win total, but the relatively high ERA indicates some big game struggles. Among his losses, nobody ever mentions that in the 2004 NLCS game seven, when he was outdueld by Jeff Suppan. Never been postseason series MVP.

Andy Pettitte: 14-9, 4.08 ERA. With an ERA over 4, his reputation as big game pitcher appears to be caused by offensive support.

Randy Johnson: 7-8, 3.28. Yes, he was huge in 2001, but is 0-7 in 7 division series starts since 1995.

Greg Maddux: 11-14, 3.22 ERA. Good ERA indicates a lack of offensive support might have been this HOFer's biggest opponent, especially in WS play (2-3, 2.08 ERA).

David Wells: 10-4 3.15 ERA. Never big on fitness, Wells has come up big in the playoffs, bettering his regular season career ERA (4.07) by nearly a full point and even winning ALCS MVP honors in 1998.

Juan Guzman: 5-1, 2.44 ERA. Seriously. Who the hell is Juan Guzman? Toronto's #2 starter on the back to back WS Champion teams from 1992-93.

Next generation of Aces?
Chris Carpenter: 3-0, 1.97
Barry Zito: 4-2, 2.43
Roy Oswalt: 4-0, 3.66

Trivia Answer: Of course, it's John Rocker. 20 2/3 innings, 0 (zero) earned runs allowed. That's 1 run for every I.Q. point over 60.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Rob Neyer goes cuckoo for Jeter Puffs

I like Rob Neyer. I really do. He usually writes interesting articles with a wealth of information to solidy his points. However, ever since he went cuckoo for Jeter puffs, it seems that his "rock-solid" reasoning has disappeared. In response to Rob, declaring that Derek Jeter is a legitimate MVP candidate, if not the winner, I offer you the following reasons why Derek Jeter is NOT the mvp.

1) His 1999 season was better statistically than his 2006 season and he finished 6th that year in MVP voting. In fact, Jeter led all of basebal in VORP in '99 and OPS'ed .990 (granted, his VORP is inflated because the calculation doesn't include defensive quality, but still). This year Jeter is 2nd in the AL (and 4th overall) in VORP and OPS'ed .900. Was anyone lobbying for Jeter for MVP in '99? Didn't think so. Should he have finished higher than 6th in '99? Probably. But, I'm still waiting for someone to answer how he is now the AL MVP when he has worse stats than in '99 and plays in a much better lineup now than he did in '99.

2) He hits in a lineup with 8 other all-stars and 2 former MVPs. So I'd say it's a lot easier to put up his numbers in that lineup than say David Oritz who has 2 all-stars and 0 MVP's protecting him. Ditto for Justin Morneau, so excuse me if I discount Jeter's offensive stats (which aren't even that great to begin with). I just don't see how 1 All-Star out of 9 can really contribute that much more or be that much "more valuable" than the other 8 All-Stars (especially when this particular All-Star plays poor defense and only has an OPS+ of 138).

3) Would the Yankees win withough Jeter? Yes, they would and we have proof of this in 2003 when he missed the first month of the season and the Yanks started 26-11 (just like the Yankees continued to win this year without Sheffield and Matsui). Would the Red Sox win without Ortiz? They would, but nowhere near as much, and his 13 GW RBI's (along with 8-9 and 4 BB's in game winning situations the last 2-3 years) pretty much prove that. The Twins without Morneau? I don't know but all I have to say is I have him on my fantasy team and almost every single night he has a hit, walk, run, or RBI. (11/9/2006)---To further expand on this point, I offer you the video evidence of Steve Phillips who compares Jeter vs Morneau in BA, HR, RBI, Runs in their respective teams Wins vs Losses. ----back to the rest of the article.
I'll admit that I'm not a Yankee fan or Jeter fan, but I don't see how someone can objectively look at this situation and consider Jeter the frontrunner. Because when it all comes down to it, is Jeter the reason the Yankees win? No, the Yankees win because they have a $150 million lineup with 9 all-stars, 2 former MVP's, over 450 combined wins on the mound (including 18 Quality Starts from their #3 starter), and probably the best closer of all time.