Friday, May 16, 2003
SummertimeHave you ever done really poorly on a test? No, no, I mean really poorly?
Well, I have.
I took my last final exam of the 2002/2003 school year (for my foreign language class) on Wednesday afternoon. As some of you may remember, I actually moved out of my dorm room and back into my mom's house last Friday, because all of my other finals were last Thursday. Anyway, my plan was to study for this last final during the weekend and on Monday and Tuesday, so that I could finish off my Sophomore year by doing well on my last test. Saturday came and went. Sunday too. Monday and Tuesday were pretty much a blur. And, all of a sudden, it was Wednesday morning and my alarm was going off.
I looked at the clock. I had about two hours until I had to be back at the U of M to take the exam. I took my dog outside, checked my email and then sat down at the kitchen table. My plan was to study for about an hour. After about 20 minutes, I said screw it. For some reason, I had already mentally left school when I moved out last Friday. My Summer had already started and the fact that I still had an important test to take was not registering in whatever part of my brain usually does the studying. So, I put the books away, read the newspaper, sent out a few emails and, before I knew it, it was time to make the drive back to campus.
As soon as I stepped foot inside the classroom, I had a bad feeling. As I said, my mind had already checked itself out for the Summer and it wasn't anticipating coming back into this room, seeing these classmates and this teacher again - and it certainly wasn't prepared to recall information it had stored throughout the last several months.
The test was scheduled for 2 hours. About an hour into it, I was done. Now, I have had other tests in my life when I have finished in half the allotted time and, generally speaking, they have gone really well. The theory being, I suppose, that if you truly know the information, it shouldn't take you that long to express it on the test. In this case though, I didn't truly know any information and me being done early simply meant that I didn't have any idea how to answer some of the things on the test and I didn't have the skills nor the energy to even make an attempt.
All of this description doesn't do my test-taking experience from Wednesday proper justice. No, the thing that correctly summarizes the way I performned and the feeling I had while performing is that I felt so ashamed of the test that I had just completed that I tried to figure out a way to hand it in without having to make eye contact with the professor.
Then it got worse. I noticed that, as people were handing in their completed tests, she was chatting with them and wishing them well for the Summer, while she leafed through their answers. I even saw her make a few comments to people about how they had done. At this point, my goal was no longer not to make eye contact, it was to avoid standing there while she leafed through my hideously done test.
So, with an hour left and my test completed, I sat in my chair and waited. I waited until several people got up to hand their tests in at the same time, so that I could join the group, hand in the test with them and sneak away, without being noticed. It worked, in that I did not have to face the teacher's realization that one of her students was a complete and utter moron and that all of her hard work during the past semester was wasted on him.
I snuck away like a bank-robber who knew the alarm was going to go off any second. I walked up to the front of the room, blending in with the others, and handed in my paper. With my back quickly turned, I made my way back to my chair, grabbed my backpack and, without even putting it on, made my way out the door. I am sure that, seconds after I made my way down the stairs and outside the building, the professor leafed through my test. As I type this, I can see the look of surprise and disappointment on her face. I'm just glad I didn't actually have to stand there and see it in person.
And with that, as I left the building and started walking down University Avenue, finally flipping my backpack over my shoulders, I became a Junior in college. Pretty scary, huh? Of course, that's assuming I don't flunk the class that the extraordinarily bad final was taken in, which can't be considered a given at this point.
I have been thinking about my college experience thus far. The school-related stuff, not the keggers and puking in the dorm hallway stuff. I can't help but wonder if I am closer to being ready to be a grown-up, closer to being ready to be a person with a real job. I have taken a bunch of classes, some good and some bad. I have gotten a bunch of grades, some good and some bad. And I have taken a bunch of tests, some good and some (very) bad. But have I learned anything significant? Have I developed any skills that will help me throughout my life? Have I made any advancements towards possibly getting an actual job that may lead to something?
I honestly think that the answer to those questions is no. The classes I have enjoyed have not been in the field (journalism) that I plan to go in to. And the journalism classes I have taken have certainly not strengthened my belief that it is a field I want to make my life in. I have tried several times for an internship at the college newspaper, the "Minnesota Daily," handing in a resume with clips of my writing multiple times and even having a sit down interview with the sports editor. Each time, I was denied, and, each time, the taste left in my mouth regarding the entire experience soured just a little bit more.
On the other hand, I have this blog that I love writing on. I have a small, but expanding audience. I get encouragement from people who enjoy reading what I have to say. I get a chance to write about and work on things that I find interesting. I have made infinitely more "contacts" in the months I have been writing this blog than I have in two years at the University. I have been mentioned in major national publications and on major websites, by experienced, respected writers. I have gotten a chance to write for a great website in Baseball Primer. I have made dozens of new friends that share a common love of baseball with me.
Really, this blog and the emails and writing and friends and experiences that have come along with it, is the greatest experience of my young life. I sometimes wonder, as I have regarding school, if it will lead to anything more. Will someone notice me and hire me to write for them? Deep down, that is what I hope will happen as a result of all of this, but I don't think it needs to happen for me to continue to be incredibly happy with the entire experience.
I love baseball. I love reading about baseball and watching baseball and, recently, I love writing about baseball. It thrills me that there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of baseball fans in this world that know my name, that enjoy my writing. Each and every morning I wake up excited to check my email, excited to see what new messages I have from readers, excited to learn what websites have mentioned my work.
As is the case with most college students, people I know often ask me if I have a job. The answer is no, I don't. At this moment, my monetary needs are very limited. I buy some baseball books and video games, and occasionally a Diamond-Mind disk. Other than that, I live at the dorm or at my mom's house, mooching off of her food, her phone line, her AOL.
What I do have is a little website that I write about baseball on, and I have never enjoyed something in my life as much as I have enjoyed this. I don't know if it will lead to anything more and I don't think it has to, but I am gonna take my shot and see where this whole thing takes me. I hope you will all be along for the ride.
So now, I am officially on Summer vacation. As I said, I have no job. I have a room with a TV and a laptop computer, and a dog that likes to sleep next to it and snore while I bang away on the keyboard. I have MLB Extra Innings and a subscription to Baseball America, and I have an uncle that wakes me up in the mornings and gets me out of bed to play one-on-one baseball with him all Summer long.
There has never been anything in my life that has captured my attention and energy like sports. During the school year, I will procrastinate on literally every single reading or assignment that I am supposed to complete, but you give me a baseball book and I will read it in one sitting. They say that, for every hour in class that you have during a normal school week, you should spend 2 hours studying outside of class. There have been weeks during the past year that I did not spend 2 hours studying outside of class the entire week, for all my classes combined. Yet, I write a new blog entry, sometimes an incredibly long and detailed one, every single weekday and have done so for almost a year now.
What does that say about me? I am not sure. It can't be that I am not motivated, just that I am not motivated about certain things. It can't be that I am not a hard worker, just that I don't work hard at certain things. I really don't know. What I do know is that I am in love with the game of baseball and it is the one thing in my life that I am truly passionate about at the moment.
I took a non-fiction writing class this semester and there were several books assigned throughout the class. There was one book that I didn't read a single word of, and others that I read as many pages as I could on the 10-minute bus ride to class.
Yet, this weekend, perhaps as you are reading this very sentence, I will have begun reading "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis, which I got in the mail last night. I suspect that, just a few short hours after I open it, I will have finished it. From what I have heard about it, the book is incredible and fascinating.
In case you have been living under a rock of late, Moneyball has been a hot topic all over the internet. People at Baseball Primer are talking about it, Rob Neyer recently interviewed Michael Lewis on ESPN.com and excerpts have appeared in Sports Illustrated and the New York Times. My blogging buddy Alex Belth over at "Bronx Banter" has already read the book and wrote up a great "review" of it on his blog the other day.
This week's "Baseball Prospectus Radio" is even devoted entirely to the book. BP Radio's host, Will Carroll, will be talking with not only the book's author, Michael Lewis, but also with one the book's main characters, Oakland GM Billy Beane. I am definitely going to tune in. The live "net feed" of the broadcast can be heard at 9 am (eastern) on Saturday morning at www.espn950.com. For more info on BP Radio, go to http://radio.baseballprospectus.com/.
I collect baseball books. It's really one of my only vices. Right now there are baseball books in at least 10 different locations in my room, and the room is only about 150 square feet. I have a whole bunch on my bookshelf, some strewn on the floor, a couple on top of my dresser, one on top of my TV and Rob Neyer's latest is currently on the bookcase/headboard of my bed. Baseball books excite me and I love to collect them and read them over and over. Yet, I have never been quite as excited about reading a book as I am right now about Michael Lewis' Moneyball.
Who knows why. Maybe it is the massive amount of hype and buildup the book has received - lord knows it certainly couldn't have hurt. Maybe it is the subject of the book - Billy Beane and the Oakland A's - for whom I respect/admire/cheer for a great deal. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Lewis is an incredibly accomplished writer who receives almost universal praise for his other books. Whatever it is, it's got me hooked and reading this book has turned into a sort of event for me.
I "advertised" Rob Neyer's new book a little while back and, since none of you emailed me saying you were terribly offended to be hearing a sales pitch from me on a book that I didn't even write, I figured I would give it another try with Moneyball.
I am 100% confident that, if you buy Moneyball you will enjoy it. I bought my copy from Amazon.com earlier this week for $17 and it arrived in the mail last night. If you are interested in buying a copy for yourself (or someone you know) on Amazon.com, here is a link to do so:
Amazon.com - "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game"
The nice thing (for me) about you clicking on the link I just provided and buying the book I just tried to get you to buy, is that, if you do buy it, I get a 5% commission from Amazon.com. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra. In fact, Amazon.com is selling the book for 30% off the cover price.
If you think you might buy Moneyball at some point and you wouldn't mind it if I got myself 87 cents of commission, I would really appreciate you clicking on the link I provided and buying the book. If 20 of you click on the link and buy the book, I would make enough money on the commission to pay for my own copy, which would be pretty cool.
Thanks, and I appologize if this offends anyone, because I can understand how it might.
So, if you'll excuse me now, I think I'll go crack it open...
Summer, summer, summertime
--- DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, "Summertime"
Philadelphia (Padilla) -105 over Houston (Robertson)
San Diego (Peavy) +140 over Atlanta (Hampton)
Detroit (Bonderman) +180 over Seattle (Meche)
Oakland (Mulder) -160 over Cleveland (Sabathia)
Chicago (Buehrle) +110 over Minnesota (Radke)
Total to date: + $1,815
W/L record: 86-79 (2-4 yesterday for -210, dropping me back below 2,000 total)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Thursday, May 15, 2003
Fun with JoseI was checking out ESPN.com, as I do everyday, and I came across the following headline:
Crowded Cincinnati outfield has Guillen talking trade
Before I even clicked on the link to read the article, I had a feeling I'd be talking about it here. Then I opened it up and it didn't let me down...
"ST. LOUIS -- Jose Guillen, the odd man out in the Cincinnati Reds' outfield on Wednesday, wants to be traded."Keep in mind, this is the same Jose Guillen that has over 2,300 career plate appearances spanning 7 seasons in the major leagues, and has a career hitting line of .263/.307/.408.
"'In my mind and in my body I can be an everyday player for a long time, and I know I'm not going to be an everyday player here,' Guillen said. 'So hopefully they'll trade me and let me go somewhere else where I can play every day.'"Not only does Jose feel he is an everyday player in his mind, he also feels it in his body. Unfortunately, it is the same body that has produced a career OPS of .715, so maybe he shouldn't be so quick to trust what it tells him.
The one thing he is right about is that, as long as Ken Griffey Jr. is healthy (and Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns too), he won't be playing everyday for the Reds. Those are just the facts when two of the guys you are going up against for playing time are among the best young hitters in all of baseball and the third guy has 469 career homers and a massive long-term contract. Of course, the fact that Griffey hasn't been healthy since before I had my driver's license is a whole 'nother issue.
As for the Reds trading Guillen so he can "go somewhere else where [he] can play every day" - I am pretty sure that place doesn't exist, at least not on the planet he and I both live on.
The last time Jose Guillen was an everyday player was 1997 and 1998, his first two seasons as a major leaguer. Back then, he was with the Pirates and he still had that shiny "top prospect" label. He hit .267/.300/.412 as a rookie, which, along with the fact that he jumped all the way from Single-A to the majors, was enough to give people hope that he'd become a valuable player.
Then, in 1998, he did something that is extremely hard for a 22 year old player to do - he had the exact same season that he had as a rookie:
Year AVG OBP SLGThat pretty much ended his career as an everyday player. He still had a little of that prospect-shine left on him and everyone loved his cannon arm in right field, but when you hit in the 260s with very little power and absolutely no sign of plate discipline, you don't make a whole lot of believers. And when you do it two seasons in a row, showing absolutely no improvement from your rookie season...well, you get traded to the Devil Rays.
After 40 games with the Pirates in 1999, they finally got sick of him and sent him down to Triple-A. It probably would have been a whole lot better for all involved if he had made a stop in Triple-A a few years earlier but, at this point, it was too late for that.
After a little time in Triple-A, the Pirates shipped him off to Tampa Bay (there is some joke here about Triple-A and the D-Rays being one and the same, but I can't quite find it).
Guillen appeared in another 47 games for Tampa, finishing the 1999 season with a combined 288 at bats and a .253/.315/.340 performance.
The D-Rays liked him so much that they kept him for the next season and even gave him frequent playing time. Guillen got 316 at bats and hit .253/.320/.430 - otherwise known as the best season of his career.
Since then however, Guillen has bounced around quite a bit. Cincinnati is his 4th major league organization in less than 3 years and he has spent time with 3 different Triple-A clubs in that span.
Moving on to more fun quotes...
"A disgruntled Guillen met with manager Bob Boone before the Reds played the St. Louis Cardinals."Why exactly is he disgruntled? Did he not realize that Ken Griffey Jr. was still alive and would eventually be healthy enough to attempt to return to playing? Living in Cincinnati, I bet Guillen has had multiple chances to read updates on Griffey's injury and I'd even bet it has been discussed by other Cincinnati players around him. But whaddya know, Jose woke up yesterday and suddenly realized Ken Griffey Jr. was gonna be taking his job back. It's funny what one good month after 6 or 7 bad years can do to make a guy feel entitled to a job.
"Guillen, 26, is with his fifth team in seven seasons. The Reds signed him to a minor league contract last August after he had been released by the Rockies. Guillen can be a free agent after this season. If he's not traded, he indicated he would leave the Reds."There is a gap between the reality of the first three sentences and the "reality" of the last sentence. A guy that was released by a team and signed to a minor league contract by another team is now threatening to leave as a free agent after the season? Oh no!
"'I'm just looking for a good spot where I can play, just move on and down the road, just stay on one team and be an everyday player for years to come,' Guillen said."That sounds like a very good goal, Jose. Similarly, I am "just" looking to get hired by ESPN or Sports Illustrated, so that I can "just" begin my career as a well-paid columnist for years to come.
"It's kind of driving me crazy."Don't worry Jose, we can all see that very clearly.
In other, non-Jose Guillen news...
While today's entry is a relatively short one, I seem to have a reputation for occasionally producing rather large blog entries. I think maybe the 8,000 or so words I wrote about Rafael Palmeiro in the last 2 days have something do with it...
Anyway, Christian Ruzich over at "The Cub Reporter" recently published an email "conversation" he had with Will Carroll, of Baseball Prospectus fame. They chatted about pitch-counts, the Chicago Cubs and a bunch of other good stuff, and it was a long entry. What did Christian refer to his lengthy blog entry as?
A "Gleeman-length installment" of course!
I don't know why, but I am strangely proud of this. I am well aware that I am very long-winded and tend to produce a freakish amount of material on this site, so I figure I might as well embrace my freakiness.
From now on, anytime you are at a party and someone you are talking to drones on and on telling you a story, feel free to refer to it as a "Gleeman-length story." Who knows, maybe someday it can even work its way into the lexicon, sort of like "Babe Ruth-type power" or "Rickey Henderson-esque speed."
What's that you say? I'm droning on and on and not making any sense (again)? Okay fine, see you tomorrow!
Houston (Oswalt) -150 over Pittsburgh (Benson)
Milwaukee (Sheets) +180 over Chicago (Wood)
Cincinnati (Riedling) +150 over St. Louis (Stephenson)
Philadelphia (Wolf) -155 over Arizona (Dessens)
Montreal (Vazquez) -110 over Colorado (Jennings)
Texas (Benes) +320 over Boston (Martinez)
Total to date: + $2,025
W/L record: 84-75 (Yesterday was a great day for making picks. I went 3-1 for +385, including a +175 and a +260! I am now up over $2,000 in hypothetical winnings this year! I hope some of you have been picking along with me...)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Raffy versus The Crime Dog
Yesterday's entry about Rafael Palmeiro's Hall of Fame resume generated the most visitors in the history of this blog. It got its own "Clutch Hit" over at Baseball Primer, and I received a ton of emails about it.
So, since the majority of you guys seem to have a lot of interest in Palmeiro's Hall of Fame candidacy, I figured it would be worth devoting a second entry to it. But what could I cover that would be interesting and that I had not already covered in the 5,000 words I wrote yesterday? To be honest, I wasn't quite sure. I was trying to think of a different Palmeiro "angle" to discuss and I wasn't coming up with any brilliant ideas. Then I checked my email and saw the following:
Hi Aaron -I also got this one:
Aaron,Thanks for the emails fellas. I agree with Sam that, at first glance, the careers of Rafael Palmeiro and Fred McGriff are very similar to this point. However, I disagree with two things in Matt's email:
1) That letting someone into the Hall of Fame automatically starts some sort of "slippery slope" that leads to undeserving players being let in.
2) That Fred McGriff is necessarily someone that should not be "let in" anyway, regardless of Palmeiro.
So, with all that in mind, let's take a look at the careers of Rafael Palmeiro and Fred McGriff...
Here are their career stats, prior to this season:
Player G PA AVG OBP SLG HR 2B OPS+Basically, Palmeiro and McGriff are about as close as two players can get.
Palmeiro's OPS+ is 135 and McGriff's is 136. Palmeiro is a .293 hitter, McGriff is a .286 hitter. Palmeiro got on base 37.3% of the time, McGriff got on base 38.0% of the time. Palmeiro slugged .522, McGriff slugged .514.
Even the offensive environments they played in are remarkably similar. Adjusting for the leagues and parks they played in, the "league-average" for Palmeiro's career thus far is .269/.339/.418 and the league-average for McGriff's career up to this point is .269/.338/.417 - virtually identical.
Palmeiro has an edge in the "counting stats" because he has about one additional full-season's worth of plate appearances over McGriff (10,319 to 9,764).
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Rafael Palmeiro's #1 most similar player in baseball history is Fred McGriff and Fred McGriff's #2 most similar player in baseball history is Rafael Palmeiro.
These are two players playing the same position, in the same era and their career totals and "rate" stats are essentially identical. How do we distinguish between the two and decide who the better player is? Well, one way to do it is to examine how they accumulated those nearly identical career totals.
For the sake of simplicity, let's take a look at each player's "full" seasons (550 or more PAs, except in strike years) and stack them up, best to worst, according to OPS+:
(Conveniently, both players have played 15 full seasons thus far, making this a whole lot easier)
Palmeiro McGriff(The better OPS+ is in bold)
Okay, so what does that little chart tell us? Well, basically, Fred McGriff has a whole lot more "upper-level" hitting seasons. Each of his top 9 seasons are better than the same season of Palmeiro's career. What does that mean? For instance, McGriff's top season is a 165 OPS+ and Palmeiro's top season is 160. McGriff's 5th best season is 157, Palmeiro's 5th best season is 144. And so on, for each of their top 9 seasons.
However, Palmeiro's 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th best seasons and better than McGriff's 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th best seasons.
Here's another way of looking at the same numbers...
OPS+ - seasons:
160+ - McGriff 2 / Palmeiro 1
150+ - McGriff 5 / Palmeiro 3
140+ - McGriff 9 / Palmeiro 7
130+ - McGriff 9 / Palmeiro 11
120+ - McGriff 11 / Palmeiro 13
110+ - McGriff 12 / Palmeiro 14
100+ - McGriff 15 / Palmeiro 15
All of that stuff pretty much tells me that Palmeiro was a more consistently "good" player, but that Fred McGriff's "peak" was better. McGriff had more seasons over 140, 150 and 160, but Palmeiro had more seasons above 110, 120 and 130. I would definitely give the edge to McGriff here.
Another, similar way to look at their careers is to examine their "Win Shares" (again, stacked from best to worst, for full seasons).
Palmeiro McGriffI have to admit that, after seeing how McGriff dominates the top seasons of the OPS+ comparison, I was a bit confused as to how Palmeiro could have an edge in Win Shares. After thinking about it, I am pretty sure I know two of the big reasons:
Both players have played first base for almost their entire career. Palmeiro also played a little bit of left field early on and some DH, while McGriff played some DH also. While neither of them is a good defensive first baseman at this point in their career, Rafael Palmeiro was actually a very good first baseman. In fact, he won 3 straight AL Gold Glove awards, from 1997-1999.
According to Baseball Prospectus' fielding stats:
Fred McGriff is +115 "Fielding Runs Above Replacement" (FRAR) for his career, while Palmeiro is +261 FRAR. Judging their fielding above the "average" first baseman, instead of a "replacement level" first baseman, Prospectus says that McGriff has been -88 "Fielding Runs Above Average' (FRAR) over his career, while Palmeiro has been +55 FRAR. With either stat, that's a difference of well over 100 runs, which is not insignificant.
The other factor is durability. Each player has played 15 full seasons in the major leagues. During those 15 full seasons...
Fred McGriff - 2,237 games played / 149 per season
Rafael Palmeiro - 2,307 games played / 154 per season
Again, that is a difference of 70 games, which is definitely a significant amount. Palmeiro has averaged about 5 more games played per season, which, along with his better defense, is a big part of why his Win Shares are better than McGriff's.
According to Win Shares, Palmeiro has 352 career WS and McGriff has 333 career WS (prior to this year).
Calculating that for a per game rate, you get:
Rafael Palmeiro - 0.146 Wins Shares/game
Fred McGriff - 0.142 Wins Shares/game
At a per 162 game rate, you get:
Palmeiro - 23.6 Wins Shares/162 games
McGriff - 23.0 Win Shares/162 games
Like I said, they are about as close as two players can be after playing well over 2,000 games in the major leagues. I think that, any way you look at it, Rafael Palmeiro and Fred McGriff are pretty damn close at this point in their careers. On offense, McGriff has more top-level seasons, while Palmeiro has been more consistently good. On defense, Palmeiro gets the nod and he has also been more durable.
As I said yesterday, I believe Rafael Palmeiro is a Hall of Famer. I think that, if you believe Palmeiro deserves a place in Cooperstown, then you should probably believe that McGriff does too.
The "wild card" in all of this is, of course, that both Palmeiro and McGriff are still productive players. Palmeiro is currently hitting .252/.377/.543 and has 10 homers in his first 36 games, while McGriff is hitting .271/.338/.443 with 5 homers and 9 doubles in 38 games (in Dodger Stadium). Both players are definitely showing signs of slowing down and are certainly nearing the end of their days as upper-level first baseman (particularly McGriff), but they are both still adding quite a bit of value to their careers.
So, to revisit the original questions that got me started on this whole entry: Yes, I do believe that Fred McGriff and Rafael Palmeiro are remarkably similar players, both in longevity and overall value. I also believe that the argument that the Hall of Fame is not "The Hall of Very Good" (as the emailer suggested) is ridiculous. Just looking at some recent Hall of Fame inductees from the last decade or so, I see guys like Bill Mazeroski, Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda, Don Sutton, Nellie Fox, Jim Bunning, Dave Winfield - the list could go on and on. These are not players at the level of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Walter Johnson, but they are all in the Hall of Fame and the majority of them are certainly deserving of a spot among the all-time greats in baseball history.
Rafael Palmeiro and Fred McGriff have had tremendously successful and valuable careers and deserve recognition among the special players in baseball history. I don't think the Hall of Fame will be any worse off for having them and I certainly don't think allowing 2 players with nearly 1,000 combined homers, over 5,000 hits, 3,000 RBI, 3,000 runs and OPS+ figures that match up with many other Hall of Famers is going to eventually lead to Travis Lee and Doug Mientkiewicz being voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 2030.
To read my entry from yesterday and about Rafael Palmeiro click on the following link:
"Raffy" (May 13, 2003)
For more Rafael Palmeiro discussion, head over to the Baseball Primer "thread" that was started about my entry from yesterday. Here's the link:
BaseballPrimer.com (Clutch Hits) - "Raffy"
Also, if you have any opinions, questions or comments that you'd like to add to this discussion, feel free to email me with them and maybe later this week or early next week I'll do a special Rafael Palmeiro/Fred McGriff-edition of "Reader Mailbag."
San Francisco (Foppert) -150 over Montreal (Vargas)
Arizona (Schilling) -130 over Philadelphia (Myers)
Detroit (Knotts) +260 over Oakland (Hudson)
Anaheim (Appier) +175 over New York (Wells)
Total to date: + $1,640
W/L record: 81-74 (2-2 yesterday for +50, including a nifty +220 on the Angels over Mussina and the Yanks)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Rafael Palmeiro hit his 500th career home run Sunday night and along with that milestone has come a lot of talk about his career as a whole and, more specifically, how it measures up regarding the Hall of Fame. Since a lot of other people are doing it, I figured I would take my own shot at looking at Rafael Palmeiro's Hall of Fame candidacy.
However, before I do so, I want to give one "disclaimer." Basically, I think it is very difficult to look at someone's Hall of Fame credentials while their career is still going on. There are rare cases where the player in question is so obviously a Hall of Famer that it is not much of an issue (see: Bonds, Barry). Still, in other cases, a player that appears to be a "lock" suddenly is a whole lot less of one just a few years later (see: Griffey, Ken Jr.).
In Rafael Palmeiro's case, the remaining time he has in his career is essential to any Hall of Fame argument. Palmeiro is still pretty much at his peak (or reasonably close to it), so stopping now to measure his career is difficult. He hit 47 homers in 2001, 43 last year and appears headed towards another 40+ homer season this year. Stopping to examine his career as a whole right now can't help but short-change him, at least a little bit. If he hits 42 homers this year, does that increase his Hall of Fame credentials? Of course. What if he hits 42 this year and 40 next year? And so on and so on.
Determining if a very good player deserves to be a "Hall of Fame player" is difficult enough when that player has been done playing for five years, but it becomes damn near impossible when the player is not only still playing, but still playing at a very high level and still adding tons of value to his career.
With all that said, let's take a closer look at Rafael Palmeiro...
The Chicago Cubs made Rafael Palmeiro, a sweet-swinging left-handed hitter from Missisippi State, the 22nd overall pick in the 1985 draft.
Palmeiro started his pro career at Single-A Peoria in 1985, where he hit .297 and slugged .459 in 73 games. He hit only 5 homers, but showed good doubles power and good plate discipline. He moved to Double-A Pittsfield in 1986, where he hit .306/.367/.442 with 12 homers and 29 doubles in 590 at bats. That performance earned him a late-season call-up with the Cubs and, as a 21 year old left fielder, Palmeiro made his major league debut on September 8th by going 1-4 with a single and an RBI in a 7-4 win over the Phillies. He played 22 games and got 73 at bats that first year, hitting .247/.295/.425. All in all, not a bad MLB debut for a 21 year old player.
The next year, Palmeiro started the season back in the minors, at Triple-A Iowa. He hit .299 and slugged .547 with 11 homers and 14 doubles in only 214 at bats, before the Cubs called him up again. Palmeiro appeared in 84 games with the Cubs in 1987, splitting time between left field, right field and first base. He hit .276/.336/.543 with 14 homers and 15 doubles in 221 at bats, while batting almost exclusively against right-handed pitching. If he had had enough playing time to be eligible for the batting title, his .543 slugging % would have ranked him 7th in the National League, right behind Mike Schmidt (.548) and right ahead of Pedro Guerrero (.539). At 22 years old, Palmeiro looked like a superstar in the making.
In 1988, the Cubs made Palmeiro their everyday left fielder. In his first full-season, he hit .307, but his "raw" power numbers were way down from the previous year. He hit only 8 homers in 580 at bats and slugged just .436. There were, however, several reasons why his first full-season was not as "bad" as it looked.
First and foremost, the National League in 1988 was a lot less offensive than in 1987. The league slugging percentage in '88 (adjusted to Wrigley Field) was .384. It was .427 in 1987. If you take Palmeiro's 1988 slugging percentage of .436 and adjust it to 1987's level of offense, it comes out to .484, which looks a whole lot better than .436 and is quite impressive for a young hitter in his first full-season.
In addition to that, Palmeiro was also no longer strictly a platoon player and he faced a lot of left-handed pitching, which he did not do in 1986, when 88% of his total at bats came against righties. The fact that his slugging percentage dropped off a little bit (and not nearly as much as the raw numbers suggest) is not unexpected from a player moving into a bigger role for the first time.
Another aspect of his power in 1988 that is somewhat "hidden" is that, while he hit only 8 homers, he also smacked 41 doubles. I am a big believer in doubles being sign of future home run power in young hitters, so a 23 year old hitting 41 doubles in a league that slugged only .384 is pretty impressive to me. Still, Palmeiro's raw numbers - .436 SLG, 8 homers, 53 RBI - were certainly not impressive and definitely looked a lot worse than the numbers he put up the season before. I don't know for sure, but I would guess that his "drop" in performance had something to do with the Cubs trading him - which they did in December of 1988.
If I were writing Palmeiro's career as a "story," I could definitely see where it was going next. A well-regarded young hitter comes up with the Cubs and slugs .543 his first year. Then his slugging % drops all the way to .436 the next year, but his potential power is hidden because of a league-wide drop in hitting and the fact that he hit a very impressive 41 doubles. The player gets traded to a new team and *BOOM*, he suddenly realizes all of that power potential.
Well, that's how it would have gone, except it didn't. Palmeiro came to the Texas Rangers and was their everyday first baseman in 1989. He hit only 8 homers in 559 at bats and his slugging % dropped all the way to .374, which was below the American League average (.387) in 1989. Heck, Palmeiro didn't even hit a lot of doubles (23) in 1989.
Palmeiro's first few seasons really are quite interesting:
1987 - A former 1st round pick and top prospect, he makes a big splash in his first taste of extended major league action.
1988 - He gets everyday playing time and sees power numbers drop, although they are made worse by the league-wide drop in offense.
1989 - He is traded to a new team and a new league and his power drops once again, this time below league-average and without good doubles power.
He went from "Wow, Palmeiro is great" to "Palmeiro had a down year, but it's better than it looked" to "What the heck happened?!"
Would you stick with a 25 year old Rafael Palmeiro at this point? After his slugging had dropped for the 2nd year in a row and some of the "hidden" things that suggested he would become a good player were vanishing? I would like to think that I would have, but really, who knows? To the Rangers' credit, they stuck with him and were rewarded with the first truly outstanding season of Rafael Palmeiro's career.
As Texas' everyday first baseman in 1990, Palmeiro hit .319/.361/.468 with 14 homers, 35 doubles and 6 triples in 154 games. The American League hit only .259/.327/.388 in 1990 and Palmeiro's adjusted OPS+ was 131, which ranked 10th in the AL.
Palmeiro followed that up with an even better season in 1991. He hit .322 and saw his homers go from 14 to 26 and his doubles climb from 35 to a league-leading 49. He also improved his plate discipline and posted a 72/68 K/BB ratio on his way to a .389 on-base % and 115 runs scored. All of that was good for an OPS+ of 155, which ranked 5th in the AL.
And just like that, at 25 years old, Rafael Palmeiro was a star hitter...
Well, not quite. After his breakout 1991 season, Palmeiro dropped way off in 1992. The power development that he had shown regressed quite a bit and he went from 26 homers to 22, from 49 doubles to only 27 and saw his slugging percentage drop nearly 100 points. It was certainly not a bad season by any means. Palmeiro hit .268/.352/.434 in a league that slugged only .378, which was good for an OPS+ of 124. Still, for a player that looked to be developing his power and turning into a superstar hitter, it was a disappointing season.
Then, in 1993, Rafael Palmeiro put everything together. He hit for the good batting average he had shown he could hit for, he continued to have great plate discipline, he laced a ton of doubles and, for the first time in his career, he belted a ton of homers. Palmeiro hit .295/.371/.554 with 37 homers, 40 doubles, 105 RBI and 124 runs scored in 1993. He even went 22/25 on stolen base attempts.
The gradual power development that had been taking place since he was a rookie had finally arrived in full and Palmeiro had turned into a real slugger for the Rangers - just in time for them to lose him to the Orioles in free agency.
After the 1993 season, Rafael Palmeiro signed a 5 year contract with Baltimore for $27 million dollars, making him one of the highest paid hitters in baseball.
In his first season as an Oriole, Palmeiro took up right where he had left off as a Ranger, hitting .319/.392/.550 in the strike-shortened 1994 season. Palmeiro went on to hit .310/.380/.583 in 1995, the first of 8 consecutive seasons with 35+ homers and 100+ RBI - a streak that looks likely to be extended to 9 this season.
After the 1998 season, his 5th as an Oriole and one in which he hit .296/.379/.565 with 43 homers, Rafael Palmeiro became a free agent once again and this time headed back to Texas to play for the Rangers again.
In fact, the Rangers and Orioles did an interesting first baseman-swap prior to the '99 season. Palmeiro left Baltimore, signed with Texas and replaced Will Clark as the Rangers' first baseman, while Will Clark left Texas, signed with Baltimore and replaced Rafael Palmeiro as the Orioles' first baseman. Making it even more interesting is the fact that Clark and Palmeiro were once teammates at Mississippi State and were both first round picks in the 1985 draft.
Will Clark had a good but injury-plagued 1999 season with the Orioles and retired from the game just a year later, after being traded to the Cardinals at the 2000 trade-deadline.
Palmeiro, on the other hand, had the best season of his career in the first year of his second stint with the Rangers, hitting .324/.420/.630 with 47 homers, 30 doubles and 148 RBI. His 1999 batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage are all career-highs, as are the 148 runs batted in. Palmeiro's OPS+ in 1999 was 160, which ranked 3rd in the American League. He also ranked second in the AL in both homers and RBI.
The past three seasons for Rafael Palmeiro have seen him transform his offensive game, for the second time in his career. After starting his career as a singles hitter without much power, he made himself into an all-around offensive threat, with good batting averages, excellent power and a fair amount of walks. This most recent change has been into that of a patient slugger.
Palmeiro has drawn 100+ walks in each of the past 3 seasons, the only 3 times he has done that in his career. In addition to that, his batting average has gradually been dipping. From 1986-1999, Rafael Palmeiro was a .296 hitter that hit .300+ 6 times, including .324 in 1999. Since then, his batting averages have been .288, .273 and .273.
He is defintitely playing the part of the "aging slugger." He has probably lost some bat speed and reflexes, but he adapted his game by being more patient at the plate and working more walks, in order to continue to get on base despite the lower batting averages.
Thus far this season, Rafael Palmeiro is continuing his recent pattern of less batting average, more walks and a lot of home run power. Through his first 35 games, Palmeiro is hitting .258/.380/.556 with 10 homers, 7 doubles and 23 walks. That works out to 44 homers, 31 doubles and 101 walks over a full-season.
He is currently 6th in the AL in homers and 12th in both slugging % and OPS. All of which brings me back to my original point of how difficult it is to judge someone's career while he is still in the middle of it.
How many more seasons with Palmeiro play? How many of those will he be a star-level hitter in? How many more homers will he hit? How many more runs will he drive in? I could try to make some educated guesses to find the answers to those questions and others, but it is really all just a guessing game.
Instead, I think it might be most useful to simply act as if Rafael Palmeiro had retired prior to this season. Let's say he thought 17 seasons were enough and he decided he would rather spend his time making Viagra commercials or something.
Here is what his finished career would like:
G PA AVG OBP SLG HR 2B RBI RUN BBBefore I try to dig a little deeper into Palmeiro's qualifications, let me say that those numbers look to me to be "Hall of Fame numbers," whatever that means. Over 10,000 career plate appearances, over 1,000 extra-base hits, 1,500+ runs batted in - those are numbers that make me think of a Hall of Famer, and not even someone that is a questionable selection. That said, my "gut" reaction to his numbers shouldn't determine anything, so let's try to do some serious analysis of his career.
To me, the quick and easy way to look at the total value of a player's career is to look at how much and how well he played, which can be summed up as follows:
Games - 2,413
Plate Appearances - 10,319
OPS+ - 135
The homers, the doubles, the walks, the RBI - all that other stuff is basically covered in those three stats above.
In the history of baseball, there are 87 players - including Rafael Palmeiro - who have played in at least 2,300 games. For the purposes of comparison, I would suggest that this is the group Palmeiro belongs in. 2,300+ games means a player played in at least 15 seasons - Palmeiro played in 17 (prior to this year).
Of that group of 87, 13 are not eligible for the Hall of Fame. Of the 74 that are eligible, 52 of them are Hall of Famers (70.3%).
I think that percentage is pretty startling. Basically, if you are good enough/healthy enough to play in 2,300+ games in your career, you have a 7 in 10 chance of being a Hall of Famer. And, with 2,413 games played, Palmeiro is almost a full-season's worth of playing time above that cutoff.
Does that mean Rafael Palmeiro, no matter what else he did during his career, has a 70% shot of going into the Hall because of how many games he played? Well...I don't know.
As a power hitting first baseman, is it really worthwhile to compare Palmeiro to all players that played 2,300+ games, when guys on that list include Ozzie Smith, Joe Morgan, Luis Aparicio, Carlton Fisk and other players who played much more demanding and less offensive-oriented positions? Probably not.
I would say that the positions most comparable to first base as far as defensive difficulty and offensive production are designated hitter, left field and right field. With that in mind, of the 87 players with 2,300+ career games, here is the positional breakdown:
First Base - 16
Left Field - 9
Right Field - 18
Designated Hitter - 4
(Note: For the positions, I simply looked at the place each player played the most at during his entire career, which is, admittedly, maybe not the greatest way to do it...)
I think that group gives us a better set of players to compare Palmeiro to. There are no slick-fielding shortstops, no speedy center fielders or durable catchers - these are the big boppers that managed to play a lot of years in the majors.
So, the "new" group of 2,300+ 1B/DH/LF/RF-types consists of 47 players, including Palmeiro.
Of those 47, it breaks down as follows:
Hall of Famer (27) - Musial, Murray, Perez, McCovey, Banks, Carew, Killebrew, Beckley, Foxx, Yastrzemski, Brock, B. Williams, Wheat, Stargell, Aaron, Winfield, Kaline, R. Jackson, F. Robinson, Ott, Waner, Crawford, Ruth, Clemente, Rice, Slaughter, Hooper
Not Eligible (10) - Baines, Molitor, C. Davis, Rose, Palmeiro, McGriff, Henderson, Raines, Bonds, Gwynn
Eligible and not in (10) - Downing, Buckner, Fairly, Vernon, Garvey, J. Cruz, Staub, Dawson, D. Evans, D. Parker
Let's ignore the guys that aren't eligible for a moment. If we do that, then 27 of the 37 guys playing "offensive positions" with 2,300+ career games are Hall of Famers. That works out to 73%, which is even higher than the overall percentage of everyone with 2,300+ games.
Here are the career OPS+s of the 10 1B/DH/LF/RF with 2,300+ games that are eligible for the Hall, but not in it:
Brian Downing - 122 OPS+
Bill Buckner - 99
Ron Fairly - 117
Mickey Vernon - 116
Steve Garvey - 116
Jose Cruz - 120
Rusty Staub - 124
Andre Dawson - 119
Dwight Evans - 127
Dave Parker - 121
That's an interesting list and, aside from Buckner, they are all fairly equal in OPS+ - ranging from 116-127.
Rafael Palmeiro - 135 OPS+
Palmeiro, if put into the above group, would stick out like a really good hitting sore thumb.
If there are 37 players eligible for the Hall of Fame with over 2,300+ games that played 1B/DH/LF/RF and only 10 of them are not in the Hall of Fame, what does it say that Rafael Palmeiro's hitting stats are above and beyond all 10 of them?
Actually, maybe not as much as you think. I hate to bring up the same thing over and over, but one of the reasons why it is so hard to compare a player's not-yet-completed career to other, retired players is that the player that is still playing not only has not finishing adding value to his career, he also has not experienced his full "decline." Except in rare cases, most great players finish their careers as not-so-great players.
Just a few examples from the 10 guys on the above list...
Steve Garvey had a career OPS+ of 116, but he finished his career with a 4-season run of 91, 109, 91, 36.
Andre Dawson had a career OPS+ of 119, but he finished his career with a 4-season run of 91, 82, 90, 93.
Jose Cruz had a career OPS+ of 120, but he finished his career with a 2-season run of 89, 52.
Of course, there are exceptions. Brian Downing finished off his career with OPS+ seasons of 137, 132 and 139.
So, what's my point? Well, basically that Rafael Palmeiro's career numbers look to be a step above those 10 players, but he has not had a chance to experience his entire "decline" yet (if such a decline is coming).
That said, with the way Palmeiro is hitting this year, I am confident that, no matter how bad the end of his career ends up being, his career OPS+ will remain a step above guys like Dawson, Parker, Garvey, etc.
I'll ask it again: If only 10 of the 37 players I've deemed appropriate to compare to Palmeiro are not in the Hall of Fame and Palmeiro appears to be a step above them, doesn't that make him a Hall of Famer?
Again, maybe not. The argument could be made that simply being a step above a bunch of guys that aren't Hall of Famers doesn't mean anything if you aren't an equal of guys that are Hall of Famers.
Okay, let's take a look at how Palmeiro's OPS+ (135) stacks up against those 1B/DH/LF/RF with 2,300+ games that are Hall of Famers...
Stan Musial - 159
Eddie Murray - 129
Tony Perez - 122
Willie McCovey - 148
Ernie Banks - 122
Rod Carew - 131
Harmon Killebrew - 143
Jake Beckley - 125
Jimmie Foxx - 163
Carl Yastrzemski - 130
Lou Brock - 109
Billy Williams - 132
Zack Wheat - 129
Willie Stargell - 147
Hank Aaron - 155
Dave Winfield - 129
Al Kaline - 134
Reggie Jackson - 139
Frank Robinson - 154
Mel Ott - 155
Paul Waner - 134
Sam Crawford - 144
Babe Ruth - 207
Roberto Clemente - 130
Sam Rice - 112
Enos Slaughter - 123
Harry Hooper - 114
16 of the 37 guys (43%) have a career OPS+ lower than Palmeiro's. Even if you take out Rod Carew and Ernie Banks, who both played almost half their games at tougher defensive positions, Palmeiro's OPS+ is still higher than 14/35 (40%).
Not only is his OPS+ above and beyond the OPS+s of the 10 guys in this little group that aren't in the Hall, it is pretty much right in the middle of the group of 37 that are Hall of Famers.
The main point against Palmeiro seems to be that he has played in a very good era for offense and has never really been one of the top handful of players in baseball.
The second of those points is almost undeniable. Palmeiro has never won an MVP and has only been a "serious" MVP-candidate a few times. However, the idea that he has played in an era filled with offense is only half true, in my opinion.
Palmeiro has played 15 seasons in which he had at least 400 plate appearances. Of those 15, here are the adjusted league-average OPS figures for the leagues he played in:
For the first 6 full-seasons of his career, Palmeiro played in environments that were not very good for scoring runs. And, since 1994, he has played in leagues/environments that have been good for offense.
Whether or not you want to call the leagues he played in good for offense or bad for offense, that all becomes irrelevent when his OPS+ is being discussed, because OPS+ is a stat that adjusts for the league and environment that performances are achieved in.
So, maybe his 500 career home runs don't mean quite as much as Mike Schmidt's or Reggie Jackson's, but there are only 19 players in the history of baseball with 500 home runs, so it is not as if achieving that stat just gets you to a "borderline" Hall of Fame case. And, regardless of that, Palmeiro's career is much more than 500 home runs. He has a .293 career batting average, over 1,100 career walks and over 500 career doubles.
And, again, OPS+ adjusts his hitting for league and context and still spits out a number that, along with the amount of seasons he has played, is definitely Hall of Fame worthy in my opinion.
A quick-and-dirty recap of Palmeiro's HoF "case":
70% of all HoF-elibible players with 2,300+ games played are in the HoF.
73% of all HoF-elibible 1B/DH/LF/RF with 2,300+ games played are in the HoF.
Of those with 2,300+ games that are not in the HoF, Palmeiro's career OPS+ is a step above all of them.
Of those with 2,300+ games that are in the HoF, Palmeiro's OPS+ is better than 43% of them.
He has the "magic number" of 500 homers - and he's still hitting more.
I am sure there are very intelligent arguments that could be made for Rafael Palmeiro not being a Hall of Fame player, but I suspect most of them center around his career numbers, specifically his homers, being overvalued because of the league levels of offense he has played in. To me, those arguments are valid, but only to a certain extent, because OPS+ adjusts for any overvaluing that may take place. And, after such adjustments, I think it is clear that Rafael Palmeiro's Hall of Fame resume is worthy of enshrinement, and it's only going to get better.
Rafael Palmeiro's career is an amazing one. He began as a sweet-swinging singles hitter whom many thought would never develop power and transformed himself into one of the most consistent power hitters of his era and one of only 19 players in major league history with 500+ career home runs. The end result is a remarkably productive and consistently good career that out-classes the careers of perhaps anyone that is not in the Hall of Fame and certainly compares to many of those in the Hall of Fame. I believe it is a Hall of Fame career.
Philadelphia (Millwood) -170 over Arizona (Webb)
Houston (Redding) -120 over Pittsburgh (Suppan)
Anaheim (Lackey) +220 over New York (Mussina)
Detroit (Maroth) +200 over Oakland (Lilly)
Total to date: + $1,590
W/L record: 79-72 (Made only one pick yesterday and got it right. Unfortunately it was against my Twins...)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Monday, May 12, 2003
Now, that's a good weekendGeez, where do I start?
Very late Thursday night/early Friday morning (like around 12:30 am), I suddenly got bombarded with emails. They were flying into my mailbox left and right and I was also getting "instant messaged" by just about everyone on my "buddy list." The basic topic of all of them was: "Holy s---! You got mentioned in a Jayson Stark article on ESPN.com!"
And sure enough, I did...
ESPN.com - Jayson Stark's Rumblings & Grumblings:
"Miscellaneous RumblingsHoly s--- indeed!
There are so many wonderful things contained in that little quote. First of all, I got my name on ESPN.com! ESPN.com has a "site search" function that allows someone to search out all content on the website about a particular person or phrase. For example, if you type in "Barry Bonds" you get a list of articles that Bonds' name appears in. And now, if you type in "Aaron Gleeman," you get a list of all the article(s) that my name appears in. Seriously, how cool is that?!
If you want to see what the results of the "Aaron Gleeman" search on ESPN.com look like, click on the following link:
ESPN.com search for "Aaron Gleeman"
Beyond having my name in lights, so to speak, I now know that Jayson Stark is a visitor to this blog. Not only is he a visitor, he is a visitor willing to admit it. And you know what they say, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery...
So, I've been mentioned on ESPN.com and Jayson Stark reads my stuff. In addition to that, the mention serves as a semi-plug for this blog. Why only "semi"?
Well, while Jayson did (graciously) mention my name and the name of the website, he didn't give the actual address of the website (www.baseballblog.blogspot.com) and he didn't provide an actual "link" to the site, so that people could click on it and be directed here. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. Anytime Jayson Stark or anyone else wants to mention me and this site I will be incredibly excited and tremendously greatful. That said, an actual link probably would have meant thousands and thousands of new visitors for this blog, which would have been nice too.
As it is, people that read Stark's column and were interested in coming here had to go to Yahoo or Google and search for "Aaron Gleeman" or "Aaron's Baseball Blog," which is frankly more work than most people surfing the web want to go through to find a new website.
So, I went to bed Thursday night a happy blogger. My head was nice and bloated as a result of my new found fame and I just felt really good to have been noticed by someone like Jayson Stark.
On Friday afternoon my dad and I moved all my crap out of the dorm and back into my house. It took us two trips and a stop for lunch at a Chinese buffet, but we eventually got everything out of the little 10x12 cell I've been calling my "room" for the past 2 years. Unfortunately, I think I used up all of my "moving" and "packing" motivation just getting the stuff from the dorm to my house, because, as I type this, pretty much everything I own is sitting on the floor of my room. This is a development that my dog seems to enjoy a whole lot more than my mom.
Friday evening, the Twins played the Red Sox, at the Metrodome. I had been thinking about going to the game, because it featured just about the best possible pitching matchup I could ever ask for: Johan vs. Pedro.
But, after hours and hours of moving, I was really tired and exhausted, plus my dad didn't really seem into going to the game, even when I mentioned it to him before we started the move. Turns out, I would have loved it if I had gone.
Johan Santana, who was making his first start of the year in place of an injured Rick Reed, was obviously on some sort of a short pitch-count, but he pitched 5 scoreless innings against one of the best lineups in baseball and then turned it over to the magnificent bullpen-trio of LaTroy, J.C. and Eddie, who combined to pitch 4 scoreless innings of their own.
And the Twins offense wasn't too bad either. They pretty much knocked around Pedro Martinez, which is especially impressive considering how he utterly dominated them just a week or so ago in Boston. Rookie and recent call-up Todd Sears started at DH and hit his first career homer, a 3-run shot off Pedro in the 2nd inning. He went 2-4 on the night and drove in 4 runs, as the Twins won 5-0.
The immergence of Sears further complicates the Twins' DH/1B/RF situation, which is definitely something that didn't seem possible, with seemingly dozens of qualified hitters already fighting for playing time. Denny Hocking came off the DL this weekend and the Twins decided to send Michael Cuddyer, not Sears, down to Triple-A to make room for their utility infielder.
Hocking is a useful player and has been in the Minnesota organization for a very long time, but I think his presence on the team is making things more difficult than they need to be. The Twins also have Chris Gomez as a capable backup infielder, so why do they need to keep Hocking and Gomez, when it means sending down a good, young hitter like Cuddyer? Heck, if you feel the need to send someone down to make room for Hocking, send Luis "Oh-For-Three-Vas" down. He's hitting .215, making bad plays on defense and throwing up in the dugout.
It appears as though Sears has won a spot on the roster for the time being, which is actually a good thing in my opinion. He gives the Twins a good left-handed bat, whether as a starter or off the bench, and that is something they have been lacking. With Doug Mientkiewicz slumping and Sears playing well, I wouldn't be opposed to Sears taking quite a few of Doug's at bats at first base either. The one thing I am worried about with Sears is that he is going to start costing Bobby Kielty playing time.
If Ron Gardenhire continues to stick with Mientkiewicz at 1B (and he has said he will), that means Sears has to play DH if he's in the lineup. And, if Sears is at DH, that leaves only right field for Dustan Mohr and Kielty to fight over. Mohr got off to a horrible start this year, but has really started to hit well of late. He's an excellent backup outfielder in my opinion. Of course, in my opinion, Bobby Kielty is a player that deserves to play everyday, so you can see where there might be some problems in right field.
Mohr has been hitting the ball extremely well lately and Gardenhire has been saying the same sort of stuff about him that he was saying about Kielty a couple weeks ago. Stuff like "I am going to have to find ways to get him into the lineup" and that sort of thing. Sending Cuddyer down to Triple-A eases a little bit of stress from the RF-situation, but Sears is complicating the DH-situation, which is where Kielty has been getting the bulk of his playing time lately.
In their year and some change with the Twins, both Kielty and Mohr have accumulated approximately a "full-season's" worth of playing time.
Mohr has 550 career plate appearances and Kielty has 577.
Here are their stats:
Player PA AVG OBP SLG HR 2B 3B BB SOLike I said, I think Dustan Mohr is a nice player to have and would make an excellent backup outfielder or even a decent starting outfielder on a poor team. However, he's not the hitter Bobby Kielty is, and I am just hoping that Ron Gardenhire doesn't fall back into the trap of not playing Kielty everyday.
Further complicating Kielty's situation is that he was injured in Saturday's game when he pulled a muscle in his rib-cage and left the ballgame early. From what I've heard, he is "day-to-day" and should be back soon, but when there is such a dog fight for playing time going on, you can't afford to miss time with injuries when your manager already has it in his mind that you might not be suited for an everyday role. We'll see what happens, I guess.
I am worried that Kielty is going to lose his starting job after only a couple of weeks, a job that took him over a year to "earn." But maybe that's just the pessimist in me...
So, with visions of Santana and Sears dancing in my head, in my own bed and with my dog sleeping at my feet, I went to bed Friday night and then woke up Saturday morning (the college-student definition of "morning," meaning "11:30 am"), had some breakfast (lunch) and flipped on DirecTV (did I mention how happy am I to be home?). After a few clicks of the remote, I was listening to Vin Scully and watching Javier Vazquez against Darren Dreifort. In other words, I was in heaven.
I would listen to Vin Scully talk about pretty much anything in the world. His voice just hits something inside of me, like it does in many other people, and he puts me into a sort of "zone" for watching baseball - where everything is peaceful and relaxing, and the game is incredibly enjoyable. Since getting DirecTV and MLB Extra Innings a couple of years ago, I have gotten into some definite patterns for watching certain teams.
First and foremost, I never miss a Twins game when it's on. Beyond that, I generally catch a lot of the Yankees, A's, Mariners, Red Sox and Giants, in part because they are good teams and in part because I like their announcers. Then there are the Dodgers, whom I have no real attachment to and whom I don't find particularly exciting or interesting to watch. However, whenever I get a chance, I make sure to watch Dodgers games, simply because Vin Scully makes any team interesting and every game exciting.
After watching the Dodgers/Expos game, I found out that this blog was mentioned in another place!
This mention came in the "New York Sun" newspaper, which, I must admit, I had not heard of prior to this weekend. According to NYSun.com, the New York Sun is a new daily newspaper in New York and is a "fast-growing metropolitan daily," with "an average daily paid circulation of 26,263." Here's what the New York Sun had to say about me and this website:
"For anyone who’s interested in reading some good baseball writing, I’d like to recommend a couple of smaller Web sites. The first, Aaron’s Baseball Blog (baseballblog.blogspot.com), is run by Aaron Gleeman, a Twins fan at the University of Minnesota who spends far, far too much time doing things like analyzing the roster of the 1976 Oakland A’s and relating their pitcher-usage patterns to today’s game. He keeps up on everything that goes on around the majors and shows how well one man can do at covering the entire game day in and day out."Well, golly, I think I'm blushing!
With my head rapidly swelling and an already great weekend in progress, I got a very special bonus: Jeff Torborg got fired.
In case you are new to this blog or haven't really been paying attention, I am not a real big Jeff Torborg fan.
While the "damage" has already been done in the case of A.J. Burnett, I am glad that Torborg is out of a job, if for no other reason than he does not deserve to be called a "Major League Manager" any longer (if he ever did).
I am pretty much burned out in regard to discussing the whole Burnett/Marlins/Torborg situation, so I am sorry that I don't have anything more interesting to add to Torborg's firing. I am happy he is out of a job and he certainly deserves what he got, and a lot more. I just hope some network doesn't hire him to announce games, because I don't think I could handle that.
After hearing the Torborg news, I went to bed Saturday night, with a smile going from ear-to-ear.
Then I woke up Sunday morning (again, the "noon" morning) and went to a nice Mother's Day lunch at my grandparents' house. It was a lot of fun. We had a little lunch, made a few jokes, watched the Spurs/Lakers playoff game, played some cards and basically just had a good time. After that, I went home and watched my Twinkies square off against the Red Sox in the final game of their series - on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. It is always interesting to me to hear other teams' announcers broadcast Twins games, because I have a certain perspective of the Twins and their players and it is interesting to hear what other people think of them. Plus, the announcers I usually listen to, Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven, are generally "homers" and, while I don't mind that, it can be enjoyable to listen to a more "objective" broadcast sometimes.
Say what you want about Joe Morgan (and believe me, I do), but he still does a nice job on TV, and Jon Miller is one of my favorite announcers. Plus, it was a hell of a game!
The Twins jumped on Derek Lowe early and often and jumped out to an 8-0 lead after only 4 innings, at which point Lowe was yanked. After 5 innings they were up 9-1. Then the Boston bats started to come alive. They scored a run in the 6th, 3 in the seventh, a run in the 8th and then 2 in the 9th - at which point I found myself watching a 9-8 game that was suddenly anything but an easy win for the Twins.
Down 9-8 with 2 outs in the 9th inning, the Red Sox had 2 runners on base and Bill Mueller at the plate. Mueller fell behind 0-2, but managed to work the count full against Eddie Guardado and, on the 8th pitch of the at bat, hit a routine ground ball to Cristian Guzman at shortstop. Of course, Guzman occasionally has problems with even the most routine throws and, sure enough, his toss over to Mientkiewicz sailed up the line and Doug had to do a full out, on his stomach, belly-flop stretch for the final out of the game.
Not exactly the way I envisioned the game ending as I was watching the Twins score their 8th straight run to begin the game, but a win is a win and I'll definitely take it. The Twins are now done playing the Red Sox, done playing the Yankees and done playing the Blue Jays, which is all very good news. Of course, they are all done playing the Devil Rays too.
Here is what their record for the year looks like against those four teams from the AL East:
vs New York - 0-6
vs Boston - 4-2
vs Toronto - 3-3
vs Tampa Bay - 6-0
TOTAL - 13-11 (.542)
If you would have told me I could have a 13-11 record against those four teams this year, I would definitely have taken it. It would have been nice if they weren't oh-for-New York, but a .542 winning percentage is great and, assuming they can win at least a game or two against Baltimore, the Twins will have a better record against the AL East than they did last season (and the divisision in much improved this year, in my opinion).
The next stretch of games for Minnesota is extremely important. They have 4 games against Kansas City, followed by 3 against the White Sox - all at home. If they can play well in those 7 games, they should be in first place at the end of the homestand. Of course, that is when it starts to get ugly. Following the 7-game homestand against Chicago and KC, the Twins play their next 15 games against Oakland, Seattle and San Francisco, with 9 of the 15 games on the road. Those 3 teams combined to win 291 games last year and are 71-39 (.645) thus far this season.
If the Twins can somehow manage to have a .500 record for the next 22 games, I think they will run away with the division, just like they did last year. But a .500 record against the White Sox, the Royals and 3 of the best teams in baseball is a whole lot easier said than done.
1 move back home
1 Mother's Day lunch with my family
2 mentions in a major media outlet
2 wins by the Twins against the Red Sox
1 fired Torborg
Not bad, huh?
Kansas City (Affeldt) +140 over Minnesota (Mays)
Total to date: + $1,450
W/L record: 78-72 (3-3 yesterday for +15, with one rainout)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Sunday, May 11, 2003
Happiness is... (Part Two)ESPN.com - Marlins oust manager Torborg
"The Miami Herald is reporting in Sunday editions that Marlins manager Jeff Torborg has been fired."Well, my job here is done.
San Francisco (Schmidt) -110 over Atlanta (Hampton)
Los Angeles (Perez) -105 over Montreal (Hernandez)
San Diego (Peavy) +125 over New York (Astacio)
Chicago (Clement) -115 over St. Louis (Tomko)
Detroit (Cornejo) -100 over Tampa Bay (Sosa)
Toronto (Halladay) +135 over Anaheim (Washburn)
Boston (Lowe) -110 over Minnesota (Radke)
Total to date: + $1,435
W/L record: 75-69 (2-2 yesterday)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****