Friday, July 11, 2003
Questions and AnswersIn honor of this blog crossing the 100,000-visitor mark a few weeks ago, I asked all of you to send me questions about literally anything you wanted me to answer. Since it was a while ago and some of you have probably forgotten all about it, here is exactly what I said:
"I was trying to think of a really cool and original way to celebrate reaching 100,000 visitors, but I couldn't come up with anything brilliant to do. So, instead of doing something original, I am going to steal an idea I saw on another blog I visit occasionally. Sarah Crabtree, a Michigan State student who runs a non-sports blog called "The Dub Side," had the brilliant idea to create a "Frequently Asked Questions" page about herself.And boy did you!
I was deluged with emails, so much so that there was no chance of me answering them all in this space. Any thought I had of my audience not being interested in this idea was pleasantly squashed. I want to thank everyone who sent me emails and questions and I want to thank Sarah Crabtree of "The Dub Side" for allowing me to steal her idea (she actually emailed me and seemed happy to be stolen from).
Without further ado, I present to you...
Aaron's Baseball Blog: Frequently Asked QuestionsWho are you and how did you get into my life?
Well, for starters, my name is Aaron Gleeman. I am a 20 year old college student, living in Minnesota. I attend the University of Minnesota and am majoring in journalism.
As for how I got into your life, that probably varies quite a bit. I started this blog back on August 1st of last year and, gradually, the readership grew. At first, I was ecstatic to be getting 20 visitors a day and now, the site is averaging about 1,000 visitors per day. The most likely scenario is that you came here either via a link on another website or by word of mouth.
Lately, I think the word of mouth thing may actually be getting to be a more popular way of finding this site, because the amount of people who come here by way of a Yahoo! or Google search for "Aaron Gleeman" or "Aaron's Baseball Blog" seems to be growing by the day, which is pretty awesome.
What the heck is a blog?
See, now this is a great question. It bothers me to think that there are those of you out there visiting this website everyday who have very basic questions about things related to it, such as this one. Why don't you send me an email and ask? I hate to think that there are people out there who have come here dozens of times and are wondering why it is called "Aaron's Baseball Blog" each and everytime.
Anyway, the word "blog" is short for web log (weB LOG). Here is one definition of the word, courtesy of Yahoo:
"A weblog is usually defined as a personal or noncommercial web site that uses a dated log format (usually with the most recent addition at the top of the page) and contains links to other web sites along with commentary about those sites."I'd say that's a pretty good definition.
The majority of blogs are unlike mine, because they are frequently updated with shorter entries. For example, David Pinto over at Baseball Musings often has 10, 20 and sometimes a lot more entries every single day. Sometimes his entries are just a few words accompanying a link to an interesting article and sometimes they are longer. There are many other blogs like this and, in fact, the majority of blogs are like this.
My blog, on the other hand, is certainly known for anything but short entries. Except in rare occasions, I basically write one lengthy "article" or "column" each day. So, in a sense, this website isn't really much of a blog at all. But hey, it's probably too late to change the name now anyway!
How exactly does the "Today's picks" section work? And can you send me some of the money you've made so far this year?
I got this question quite a few times and I'm glad, because apparently a lot of you don't quite know what I have been doing at the bottom of every single entry this entire baseball season! Just like with the "What's a blog?" thing, you should have emailed me sooner and asked if you were wondering.
Anyway, it's pretty simple. Everyday, I make hypothetical bets on a few of that day's games, using the actual odds provided to me by a certain sports-betting website that shall remain nameless.
For example, you may see the following:
Minnesota (Radke) -150 over Detroit (Maroth)
What that means is that I have "picked" the Twins, who are starting Brad Radke, to beat the Tigers, who are starting Mike Maroth. The -150 means that, in order to win $100 on the Twins, I need to risk losing $150.
Now, if you see the following:
Tampa Bay (Kennedy) +200 over Boston (Martinez)
What that means is that I am taking the Devil Rays over the Red Sox and the payoff, should Tampa Bay win, is $200 for every $100 I bet. If they lose, I lose my $100.
In short, if the number is a "plus" number, like +120 or +150 or +200, that means I could potentially lose $100 and win whatever the +___ is. If the number is a "minus" number, like -120 or -150 or -200, that means I need to bet (and risk losing) the -___ amount, in order to potentially win $100.
Oh, and as for me sending you some of my "winnings," all "picks" are purely hypothetical and, I can assure you, no actual money is exchanging hands (my hypothetical lawyer told me to say that).
Why do you always pick whoever's playing against the Twins to beat them in your daily picks?
I got this question several times, in various forms. And yes, I was aware that I do it.
I am, admittedly, extraordinarily pessimistic when it comes to my favorite sports teams. I don't think there has ever been a game that I have watched when I said, at the start, "The Twins/Vikings/Wolves/Gophers will win this easily." That's just how I work.
Basically, when I think the Twins have a good chance of winning, I don't bet on them, possibly for fear of some sort of jinx or something. And I think I have a good feel for which teams/pitchers are bad matchups for the Twins, in which case I pick against them.
Some people wondered if picking against the Twins all the time takes some joy out of me watching the game or some happiness away from them winning. Absolutely not. I would happily give up a hypothetical bet (or a real one even) in a trade for a Twins win.
One reader of mine even calculated my record for picking against the Twins. According to "Tim" (as of June 30th):
"By my rough count, you have picked a Twins game 42 times & picked the Twins to lose 35 of them. I think that your record is 23-18 overall with one rainout."That's interesting to me. I am actually surprised I took the Twins to win that many times, believe it or not. I went back through July's picks and saw that, since Tim's calculation, I have gone on to pick a Twins game 3 more times, all going against the Twins. I am 3-0, which means, (if Tim's numbers are correct), that I have picked a Twins game 45 times this year, going with them to lose in 38 of them. And I am 26-18, with one rainout. That's a .591 "winning" percentage, which is pretty great in baseball and awesome in baseball betting.
You're a Twins fan, so who's you're favorite Twin ever?
Hmm...this is a tough one for me. I'm pretty sure the older men in my family, the ones who have seen all or most of the Twins' 40 or so years as a franchise, would say Tony Oliva, and Tony O certainly seems like the kind of player I would have loved. But Oliva retired in 1976 and I wasn't born until 1983, so he's out of the picture for me.
No, my time period for Twinsfandom is from about 1990 until the present.
Here are my all-time (or at least 1990-2003), top 10 favorite Twins:
1) Torii Hunter - Great defense, streaky offense, good personality - sort of like Puckett-light (and no, that's not a weight joke).
2) Kirby Puckett - Yeah, I know it turns out that he isn't such a wonderful human being after all, but that doesn't wipe away all the memories of him I have. In fact, my first real memories as a baseball fan were of Kirby Puckett's heroics in the 1991 World Series. I mean, can you imagine the very first year you start seriously paying attention to baseball and your team wins the World Series? It doesn't get much better than that.
Can you picture how excited a little Aaron Gleeman was when Jack Buck screamed out, "...and we'll see you TOMORROW NIGHT!" Plus, it was fun to watch Kirby go from, "cute and pudgy" Kirby to "Wow, his butt is getting big, can he still play centerfield" Kirby to "He sure is getting fat since he retired" Kirby to "That's Kirby?! Geez" Kirby. Of course, "I heard his wife locked herself in the bathroom and Kirby sawed through the door with a power tool" Kirby wasn't quite so much fun, but you can't have everything, I guess.
3) Bobby Kielty - I mean really, what's not to like? He's got the bright-red hair, the aw shucks personality, the switch-hitting power, the plate discipline. Plus, I like the fact that the Twins outfield of Hunter, Jacque Jones and Matt Lawton used to call themselves the "Soul Patrol" and, now that Lawton is gone, Torii and Jacque have become great friends with Kielty and have welcomed him into the Soul Patrol. There's just something likable about a big red-head that's part of a "Soul Patrol" with two guys named Torii and Jacque.
4) Johan Santana - Before he got to be a phenomenal pitcher, I liked Johan Santana just because his name was really cool. Now, I like him because of the name and because he throws 95 MPH gas by hitters on a regular-basis and then drops a devastating changeup on them. I like watching batters shake their head on the way back to the dugout after an at bat against Johan. And he is, of course, "The Official Pitcher of Aaron's Baseball Blog."
5) Matthew LeCroy - I don't know if this is true, but Matthew LeCroy strikes me as someone who is just a big goofball, a "good old boy" if you will. He's chubby, he is maybe the slowest human being on the planet, he's got one of the thickest southern drawls I have ever heard and he's almost always smiling. Plus, I like that, when he first came up to the Twins, the announcers and everyone else would call him "Matt LeCroy." He kept quiet for a while, but once he figured out he was gonna be on the team for more than a week or so, he sent official word up to the booth for the announcers to call him "MattHEW LEEEcroy" from then on. I still remember Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven (the Twins' announcers) discussing the name change on the air.
Plus, as I always tell people, Matthew LeCroy is the type of baseball player I think I would be. He is really not interested in doing anything beyond hitting the baseball. He likes to eat, he doesn't like to run, he's got a nice goatee going and I bet he'd be perfectly fine with being a DH for the next decade or so. Heck, I bet he'd be even happier if he could just hit and then have a "designated runner" stand just outside the batter's box and take off for first base after he makes contact. A lot of people frown upon complete laziness in a person. For me, it makes you one of my favorite ballplayers.
6) Chad Allen - This might seem like a weird selection, but Chad Allen always struck me as a guy that would literally be willing to run through a brick wall for the team. Like if Tom Kelly had said, "Hey Allen, see that wall over there? Go smash your head into it," all Chad's response would have been (as he was running toward the wall) was "Yes Sir!"
Chad Allen will always be etched in my mind for something he did in Jacobs Field. He was playing right field at the time and a ball was hit up against the wall. Allen went after it and, in doing so, completely tore his knee. He fell to the ground, obviously in tremendous pain. But the ball was still live, so he pulled himself up, hobbled like 15 feet, picked it up, threw it to the cutoff man and then collapsed to the ground like he'd been shot. It was really quite amazing to watch and I'll always have a soft-spot for Chad Allen because of what he did that night.
7) Brent Gates - Gates' career was winding down when he got to the Twins, but he was a superstar at the University of Minnesota and I used to go to the Gopher baseball games with my uncle (before he had his own kids) and we'd sit by Brent Gates' family. Why? Well, for one thing, his sister was unbelievably attractive. I was like 7 years old at the time and, sadly, I never got anywhere with her (the first of many such instances in my life).
8) Lenny Webster - Lenny was the Twins' backup catcher for a few years. I met him once when I was like 9 years old at a "Twins Fest" and he signed a baseball card for me. He was very friendly and I thought he looked like he was about my age, so he's been a favorite of mine ever since.
9) Matt Lawton - I always had a soft spot for "Matty Law" and I'm not sure why. I guess he was just a very solid, all-around player that had a lot of nice moments as a Twin. Lawton and Brad Radke were sort of like the bridge from the Puckett/Knoblauch Twins to the current group. The Lawton for Rick Reed trade still confuses me, although I will admit that it has worked out much better than I thought it would have. Lawton has struggled with injuries and his hitting since leaving Minnesota, but he appears to be back on-track with the Indians, which is good to see.
10) Doug Mientkiewicz/A.J. Pierzynski/Corey Koskie - I can't decide which of the current "veteran" Twins I like more, so I'll give them a tie for 10th. I like Mientkiewicz because his defense is phenomenal and, while his hitting may never be great, I always have the feeling like he'd be the one guy I would want at the plate with the tying run on base in the 9th inning. I like Pierzynski because he plays catcher and he hits, which is a rare combination. Plus, he appears to be a pretty sizable jerk and a lot of other teams despise him, which is always fun. Koskie is just a very good player and has been for a lot of years. He's the veteran hitter on the club and seems to just go about his business very quietly and professionally, which I admire.
Honorable (and dishonorable) mention: Al Newman, Bernardo Brito, Otis Nixon, Hector Carrasco, Kent Hrbek, Shane Mack, Carl "Big Train" Willis, Scott Leuis, Frankie Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Bob Tewksbury, Cristian Guzman.
Do you think Frank Thomas will make the Hall of Fame?
The beginning of my time as a baseball fan was somewhere around 1990 or 1991, which coincided very nicely with Frank Thomas' arrival in the major leagues. I took a liking to "The Big Hurt" almost immediately. He was my favorite baseball player for my entire baseball-watching childhood, from 1990 until around 1997 or 1998. I used to collect all his baseball cards, watch every White Sox game I could on TV and check out his amazing numbers in the boxscore every morning.
I'm not quite sure why I liked Frank Thomas so much as a little kid. I think it was that he was such a hulking, menacing presence in the batter's box and that his offensive numbers simply amazed me. The batting averages, the RBIs, the home runs - I loved it. I'd like to say that, even at the age of 9 or 10, I liked Frank Thomas because he took walks and posted amazingly high on-base percentages, but I had no idea what an on-base percentage was back then and the only thing I knew about walks was that Frank Thomas got a bunch of them.
It is funny though that, as a kid, before I knew about on-base percentages and slugging percentages and all that sort of stuff, my favorite player was the epitome of the type of player I would grow up to admire and tout as the desired type of hitter. He took walks, he got on base, he made pitchers throw him his pitch and, when they didn't he took it for a ball and, when they did, he smacked the hell out of it.
Okay, enough with the childhood memories, let's talk a little bit about Frank Thomas and his Hall of Fame credentials...
Quite simply, Frank Thomas is one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball.
There is a stat that I like to use called OPS+, which adjusts a player's offensive contributions for the eras, leagues and ballparks he played in. For example, a player who played from 1995-2002 and had Coors Field as his home ballpark is going to have severely inflated numbers when compared to someone who played from 1960-1968 and played half his games in Dodger Stadium.
OPS+ adjusts for that, putting everyone in baseball history on (essentially) an even playing field. So, where does Frank Thomas rank among the all-time best OPS+ career numbers?
Well, here is where he stood, prior to this season:
# Player OPS+ PAThat's it, that's the top 10 (or actually 12) in the entire history of the sport. You've got 8 Hall of Famers, 1 guy who got in trouble during the 1919 World Series and Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire. Oh, and Frank Thomas too.
So maybe the guy wasn't the greatest fielding first baseman and maybe he is a bit of a jerk sometimes, but who cares - the man can hit! From the time he debuted in 1990 through his age-29 season in 1997, Frank Thomas was an absolute monster offensively.
Here are his on-base percentages during that time-span:
And now here are his slugging percentages:
And what the heck, here are his batting averages:
That is offensive domination at its finest. From the time he debuted at age-22 until the time he was 29, Frank Thomas hit .330/.452/.600. The league during that same span hit .267/.338/.415 and the "average" first baseman hit .277/.364/.465 - meaning Thomas' offensive performance was about 40% better than the league's and 30% better than the average player at his position. That is dominance.
During his first 7 full-seasons in the majors leagues, Frank Thomas drove in 100+ runs every single year, scored 100+ runs every single year, batted .300+ every single year and drew 100+ walks every single year. He won back-to-back American League MVP awards in 1993 and 1994 and was selected to 5 straight all-star games. He was also among the top 10 vote-getters in the MVP balloting every single year.
After turning 30, his numbers haven't been as dominant and he's been a whole lot less consistent. After ranking either 1, 2 or 3 in American League OPS+ in all of his first 7 full-seasons, Thomas was not even in the top 10 in 1998 or 1999. He bounced back in a huge way in 2000 though, hitting .328/.436/.625 with 43 homers, 44 doubles and 143 runs batted in, on his way to a 2nd place finish in the AL MVP balloting. After an injury-wrecked 2001 season and a very un-Frank Thomas-like 2002 season, The Big Hurt is back in a big way this season and is currently batting .275/.413/.563, the 4th-best OPS (on-base % + slugging %) in the AL.
If he hadn't had the performance drop-off after turning 30, Frank Thomas would be one of the top 5 hitters in the history of baseball. As it stands now, he is one of the top dozen or so and he should absolutely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
How many ballparks have you been to? What's your favorite and least favorite?
My least favorite, by far, is the Metrodome. However, that might partly be because, when it was at it's "peak" in 1987 and 1991, I was never in attendance to feel it. I've just been there for the "there's 12,000 people here and the turf looks really crappy" days.
My favorite is Jacobs Field in Cleveland, because it is the type of stadium I dream about for the Twins. It is beautiful, open-air, has some cool new stuff in it and is simply a fantastic place to watch a baseball game.
Other stadiums I have been to: Wrigley Field, Milwaukee County Stadium, Comiskey, Midway Stadium, Scottsdale Stadium, Peoria Sports Complex, Maryvale Baseball Park, Phoenix Municipal Stadium, Mesa HoHoKam Park, and just about every other Spring Training/Arizona Fall League complex in the state of Arizona.
Best sporting event you've ever attended in person?
This one is easy. While I was a student, my high school (Highland Park) won the Minnesota high school basketball tournament, the final 2 games of which were held at Williams Arena, where the U of M Gophers play. I attended both games and the title game was, by far, the hardest I have ever rooted for a team in my entire life. The fact that every single person sitting near me was rooting just as hard for the same team was amazingly exciting. Plus, it was a hell of a game and we won! After the game, everyone went back to the high school for a little pep-rally that lasted well into the night, during which all the players (including current Gopher star Mo Hargrow) were treated like the Beatles. It was really just an awesome experience and the most "a part" of a team I have ever felt.
Worst, most gut wrenching, silent the entire 4 hour drive home, sporting event you've ever been to?
Well, I didn't go to this one, but last year's ALCS loss to the Angels was pretty bad. The Angels just kept getting hits and Adam Kennedy kept hitting like Babe Ruth. It was really quite sickening to watch.
If I am only counting games I was at, I would have to say the Timberwolves' first-round loss to the Rockets several years back. It was the first year Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury were together and it was the first season the Wolves ever made the playoffs. The excitement in the Target Center was awesome and the game was tight the whole way, but Hakeem, Barkley and Mario Elie (yes, Mario Elie) were too tough. Of course, if I knew Marbury would be leaving a couple years later, maybe it wouldn't have been so heartbreaking. Or maybe it would have been even more heartbreaking, who knows?
What do they actually do behind the curtain at the Metrodome?
Trust me, you don't want to know.
Bull Durham or Field of Dreams?
Let me tell you all something very important. There are two types of people in this world - people who prefer Bull Durham and people who prefer Field of Dreams. Bull Durham is a movie about baseball. Field of Dreams is a movie about god knows what, and it contains some baseball in it. Wanna take a guess at which one I like better?
Don't get me wrong, they are both great movies and I have watched them both too many times to count. But there is no contest between the two and one of the first things you should ask someone upon meeting them is, "Bull Durham or Field of Dreams?" It can tell you just about all you need to know about someone right away.
You seem to have an opinion on such things, so who is the best looking woman on the planet right now?
Long-time readers of Aaron's Baseball Blog may remember that I often used to post pictures of beautiful women on this site. It hasn't happened as much lately, mostly because I have gotten emails from people telling that, if I continue to post pictures of Jennifer Aniston's butt and Halle Berry's...well, you know what, then they will eventually be "blocked" from coming to this site at their office. Apparently, many places of business have a thing that tracks the websites their employees go to and is able to tell what type of content is on them. And, since many of you visit this site from your office, I certainly wouldn't want to become "blocked."
That said, for old time's sake, here are the 4 main contenders for the title of "best looking woman on the planet," as I see it:
As if you all didn't know, that is Heidi, Halle, Tyra and Ashley.
To paraphrase something a great man once said: "I wouldn't kick any of them out of bed for eating crackers."
The designated hitter. For it or against it?
As much as this probably pains several members of my family and much of my audience, I am actually for the DH. But, even more than that, I am for both leagues having the same rules. Playing by different rules was fine when there wasn't inter-league play, but now that the two leagues are playing hundreds of games against each other every year, there needs to be one standard set of rules. I really don't care if there is a DH or not to be honest, I just want whatever rule there is to be universal. I will say this though: Double-switches and sacrifice bunts are fun, but they don't make up for watching the pitcher make an out 85% of the time.
Okay, let's go into the lightning round...
Favorite baseball player?
All-time: Ted Williams
Current: Barry Bonds
The best food I have ever eaten in my life is the Philly cheese steak at a place called "Greasy Tony's" in Scottsdale, Arizona. If you are ever out there, you must go there and get yourself a "36 with no onions." It will change your life. It's a little hole in the wall with like 3 parking spots and they steal their napkins from a McDonalds down the street, but I have been to Arizona numerous times in my life and the highlight of the trip (beyond the baseball) is always Greasy Tony's. I don't know the exact address, but it's right across from the "Improv" and a couple blocks from where the Arizona Cardinals play.
Other than that, I am a sucker for pretty much anything Italian with red sauce on it. My number one food in Minnesota would have to be mostaccioli with sugo sauce from Cafe Di Napoli in downtown Minneapolis.
Honorable mention goes to nacho chips and hot cheese, because I have never had that anywhere and not enjoyed it.
Favorite TV show?
As I have become a bigger and bigger sports fan, I find myself watching fewer and fewer sitcoms and dramas on TV. Pretty much the only shows I consistently watch are NYPD Blue, Seinfeld reruns (which are on 3 times a day here!), Larry Sanders reruns (which, sadly, are not on 3 times a day here) and The Simpsons.
Other than that, it is baseball, baseball and more baseball. And then basketball, basketball and more basketball. And then foot...well, you get the picture.
Oh, and Howard Stern every night on E! At some point, I should write about my obsession with Howard Stern, but I'll save it for another day.
No contest. The best book I have ever read is Ball Four, by Jim Bouton. I have read it cover-to-cover at least 6 times in the few years I have had it and every single time I enjoy it even more than I did the time before. If you don't have this book, you need to get it.
Al Pacino, hands down. I would watch him read the phonebook and I'd probably rent it on pay-per-view. "Hoo-ha!"
Obviously, Aaron's Baseball Blog is my favorite website, as I am sure is the case with everyone reading this right now. Right? RIGHT?!
Other than that, the first 5 sites I check every morning are:
Honorable mention goes to Baseball-Reference.com, which I use constantly, as well as the DTFC Twins Forum, where I can usually be found, arguing about Luis Rivas.
Do you have any pets?
Yes, I have a soon-to-be 4-year old Boston Terrier named Samantha. She is, quite possibly, the worst behaved dog in the history of dogs. She may also be the cutest dog ever, which, fortunately for her, saves her most of the time.
Britney or Christina?
Ah, the age-old question on everyone's mind...
Let me put it to you this way: In their primes (which, in my opinion, was about 2 years ago), Christina Aguilera could maybe have competed with Britney Spears in the looks department on her best day and Britney's worst day. Maybe.
At this point though, neither of them are really at the tops of their games, but Christina is in a serious, Roberto Alomar-like decline phase. She recently colored her hair black and appears to have put on about 30 pounds.
Meanwhile, Britney is no longer Britney, but she's still one of the best. She is sort of like Barry Bonds right now. He's not at the same level he was at in 2001 or last year, but he's still unbelievably good for anyone other than Barry Bonds.
Britney may no longer be able to reach this level...
...but, like Bonds, her sub par performances are pretty good...
...meanwhile, Christina occasionally looks like this, which should put any and all comparisons to rest...
And finally, let's finish with the question I got asked the most, in one form or another...
Don't you have a job? Do you work and simply write your entries at work? Or do you not work? Do you just wake up around 10am and eat breakfast while surfing the net, then spend a few hours writing, then watch baseball on TV, then go to bed and get up to do it all over again?
The other day, a fellow blogger wrote the following about me:
"As I've written here before, I am a big fan of Aaron's Baseball Blog. Aaron claims to be a college student, and I suppose he probably does take classes during the school year, but it is quite clear from reading his blog that all he does during the summer is sit around his mom's house watching baseball on satellite TV."I am, without a doubt, the laziest person I have ever met. And, I suspect, if you were to ever meet me, you would be able to say the same thing. There are very few things in life that I enjoy more than sitting in front of a big-screen TV, watching baseball on DirecTV, with my dog by my side. I suppose it could be better. I mean, you could add in some sort of strip-club element or hold the actual contest for "best looking woman on the planet" in my room or I could actually be in San Francisco watching Bonds or in Boston watching Pedro, but the setup I have during the summer is pretty damn good.
As for the whole job thing, no I am not currently employed. My dream is that someone with the ability to employ me will notice my writing on this blog (and on Baseball Primer) and they will offer me a writing job. Will it ever happen? Who knows, but it's my dream.
I actually write my entries at home (during the summer) or in my dorm room (during the school year). I work on an HP laptop computer and I don't really have a set time period during the day when I write. During the summer, I wake up whenever I'm done sleeping (see what I mean about it being a good setup?) and I check my email or watch some TV or go outside with the dog or go to the park to play some baseball. And, when a topic hits me, I start typing. During the school year, it's a little more difficult to find time to write stuff, so I usually work on entries at night or between classes if I have a big break.
The whole Aaron's Baseball Blog operation can best be described through a quote from my favorite TV show:
"Far as I can tell, your entire enterprise is little more than a solitary man with a messy apartment which may or may not contain a chicken."And let me tell you Aaron's Baseball Blog visitors, with your help and support, I'll get that chicken!
Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed this question and answer session. I want to thank everyone who sent me questions and feel free to send me more at any time.
If you missed some of this week's entries or feel like reading them again, here they are:
Monday: JOHAN SANTANA, FREE!
Tuesday: The Most Underrated Player in Baseball
Wednesday: The SI Player Survey
Thursday: Below .500
Have a great weekend and I'll see you Monday...
Chicago (Prior) -150 over Atlanta (Hampton)
Philadelphia (Wolf) -150 over New York (Heilman)
Los Angeles (Nomo) -110 over Colorado (Stark)
Minnesota (Santana) +125 over Anaheim (Ortiz)
Total to date: + $1,275
W/L record: 169-166 (3-2 yesterday for +25)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Thursday, July 10, 2003
Below .500My team, the Minnesota Twins, have been in a terrible tailspin lately.
On June 13th, Johan Santana made his third straight brilliant start of the season, pitching 7 innings of 2-hit ball, as the Twins beat the Diamondbacks 3-1. The win improved Minnesota's record to 38-27 and gave them a 5.0 game lead over the Kansas City Royals and a 8.5 game lead over the Chicago White Sox.
It was a good time to be a Twins fan. The offense was clicking, the pitching was good and the team looked headed for an easy AL Central championship for the second straight year.
Well, it is now July 10th and the Minnesota Twins have gone 6-18 since that win over the Diamondbacks. They lost the final 2 games of that series against Arizona, dropped 3/4 to the Royals and then 2/3 to the Brewers and White Sox. Then they finally won a series, taking 2/3 from the Brewers, before getting swept in a 3-game set against the White Sox and then losing 3/4 to the Indians. And, last night, they lost their second straight game to the Rangers.
In less than a month's time, they went from 5.0 games up on Kansas City and 8.5 games up on Chicago, to being 4.5 games behind the Royals and just 1.0 games ahead of the White Sox. And now, for the first time since May 1st, the Minnesota Twins have a winning percentage below .500.
It has been extraordinarily difficult to watch this slide as a Twins fan. They are losing games left and right, and the losses aren't even coming against the top teams in baseball. They haven't lost all of these games to the Mariners or the Red Sox or the Yankees or the A's or the Blue Jays. No, they lost 18 of 24 games against an Arizona team that was struggling big-time back then and then to the Royals, Brewers, White Sox, Indians and Rangers. It has been so painful that I been avoiding writing about the team as much as I can lately and I was actually planning to not write anything about the Twins' problems until they got them fixed, assuming such a time ever came.
But, yesterday, one of my favorite writers wrote a column about the Twins' problems. Rob Neyer of ESPN.com's column yesterday was titled, "Twins simply not using their talent correctly." Anytime a national writer devotes an entire column to the Twins, there is a pretty good chance I am going to talk about it, and anytime Rob Neyer does so, I am definitely going to talk about it, because of how much I respect Rob and enjoy his writing.
Rob's article was very good. That said, it wouldn't be fair to me or others (like the Twins Geek) who have written extensively about the Twins to say that anything Rob talked about has not been detailed many times before. Another "problem" with Rob's column is that it does not lend itself to in-depth writing because of the word-limit he has. Rob's column about the Twins was just under 1,000 words, which is pretty typical for his work at ESPN.com.
1,000 words is fine for a column and is, I think, pretty typical for newspaper writers and internet writers all over the place. But 1,000 words is nothing when you are trying to explain what is wrong with a baseball team. So, instead of going into great depth on the subject, Rob basically scratches the surface of the main problems that he sees.
Here are Rob's main points (as I saw them):
1) It is fair to wonder "what is wrong with the Twins" even though they are still a .500 team (or were, until last night), because they are currently way below last year's level of winning and are behind the Kansas City Royals, a team that stunk last year.
2) The Twins have a ton of good hitters (Rob names all the usual suspects: Kielty, Morneau, Mohr, LeCroy, Cuddyer, etc), but none of them play the middle-infield. This is a problem because, as Rob writes, "a smart baseball executive can turn excess talent into useful talent...that's not what Twins GM Terry Ryan has done, though." Basically, Rob thinks that the Twins have two major holes in their offense - shortstop and second base - and thus far have not been willing to trade some of their excess hitting talent for some useful middle-infield talent to fill those holes.
3) Until recently, the Twins have not used Johan Santana in a big enough role. Or, as Rob puts it, the "utter misuse of the most talented pitcher in the entire organization."
4) Even with all of their problems and all of their mis-management of assets, the Twins may still win the American League Central division. That said, Rob thinks that, with all the talent they have in the organization, "there's simply no good reason for all this uncertainty...the Twins shouldn't be trailing anybody in the American League Central."
As you can probably gather, I am in complete agreement with each and every one of the main points Rob made.
1) The AL Central division is the worst in baseball and neither the Royals nor the White Sox are a great team. That doesn't mean they won't win or can't win, just that they shouldn't.
2) I have been documenting the abundance of 1B/LF/RF/DH the Twins have for months now. I like to refer to it as a "massive logjam," whereas Rob prefers the term "excess talent." I have also been crying out for a trade for a second baseman for just as long. I haven't done so in regard to a new shortstop, mostly because I think the chances of that happening are even more remote than the second baseman acquisition.
3) Anyone who has visited this blog (or Baseball Primer) more than a few times in the last year or so knows my feelings on Johan Santana and the way the Twins have been using him. If you don't know what I am talking about, click here. I have talked about it too much already, so I won't go into it again, but suffice it to say I agree with Rob completely.
4) The only reason I am not in a complete panic over what is going on is that the Royals and White Sox are not teams that are going to runaway with the division. The Royals are still the Royals and the White Sox just lost 2 in a row to the Tigers and lost 2/3 to Tampa Bay before that. But, as Rob says, there is no reason for there to be any uncertainty for the Twins, they should be 10 games up and worrying about how to get their playoff rotation in order.
I really enjoyed Rob's column on the Twins because it basically summed up the various points I have been making in this space over the last year or so, as well as the main topics of discussion among most Twins fans this year. And, Rob did it in a very neat and concise way, which, as you all know, is not exactly my specialty. It is also nice to see these topics brought up on to a national audience, on a larger stage than this blog.
There is one thing in Rob's column that sort of upset me a little bit. Well, I shouldn't say "upset" me because I wasn't really upset actually, it just bruised my ego slightly. You see, in the part about Johan Santana, Rob writes the following:
"I'm referring, of course (as every Baseball Primate or Prospectusite knows), to southpaw Johan Santana, who is just now officially joining the Twins' starting rotation."Rob's point being, of course, that anyone who frequents Baseball Primer and/or Baseball Prospectus knows all about Johan Santana and all about his struggle to get into the rotation.
The thing that bruised my little ego is that he didn't mention this blog along with Primer and Prospectus. Now, that may sound really weird and extraordinarily egotistical to you, and maybe it is. But, I am almost 100% sure Rob checks this site out at least occasionally and, with the frequency with which I write about Johan Santana and the Twins, I am just as certain he has seen at least a few of my many rants about those subjects. Additionally, my Johan and Twins' related rants are not limited to this blog, they are in fact often seen over at Baseball Primer, in my posts on "Clutch Hits" or my articles.
Normally I wouldn't talk about this sort of thing, because I know it makes me look like a jerk when I basically say, "Look at me! Notice me! Talk about me!" But, I am apparently not the only person who thinks maybe Rob could have thrown me a bone.
Jeremy Wahlman over at "Something's Always Wrong" wrote this yesterday:
"Rob Neyer explains what those of us who read Aaron's Baseball Blog already know: the Twins' problem is not a lack of talent, but rather misuse of that talent."And, in a post in the "Clutch Hit" for Neyer's article over at Baseball Primer, Vinay Kumar commented:
"Yes, [Neyer] did mention [Baseball Primer]. But I thought, in that context, Aaron's blog deserved more of a nod than Prospectus. Of course, that's assuming that Neyer reads Aaron's blog. I don't know if he does, but I'm guessing he does. If not every day, at least enough to know that Aaron had been Johan's most vocal supporter."I completely understand that Rob doesn't want to always have to be mentioning blogs that he reads when they have talked about subjects he is writing about. At the same time, if you are going to write about Johan Santana and also talk about visitors to certain websites knowing all about Johan's situation, I feel like Aaron's Baseball Blog should be recognized in some way, particularly since I am one of the reasons why Johan is discussed on Baseball Primer so much as well.
Where's the love, Rob? Help a young blogger out a little bit. After all, I'm just trying to be like you when I grow up! :)
Of course, I could be completely crazy to suggest all of this and maybe my ego has swelled to massive proportions now that I have an actual audience reading what I write everyday. I am, after all, only human (or pretty close). Or maybe it's just me being wildly optimistic for once, since, undoubtedly, a mention by Rob Neyer in one of his articles would be pretty huge for both the visitor totals of this website and my "credibility."
In the spirit of me wanting Rob to give me a plug, I am going to give a nice plug to one of the blogs I enjoy the most. Go head over the Ben Jacobs' "Universal Baseball Blog, Inc." Not only is it a really good blog with really good writing, Ben also has really looooong entries. Maybe not "Gleeman-length," but pretty damn close.
Philadelphia (Padilla) -125 over New York (Trachsel)
Tampa Bay (Sosa) +260 over Oakland (Mulder)
Anaheim (Sele) -150 over Kansas City (George)
New York (Clemens) -175 over Cleveland (Davis)
Texas (Thomson) -100 over Minnesota (Reed)
Total to date: + $1,250
W/L record: 166-164 (1-4 yesterday for -315 and on my way to 1,000.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
The SI Player SurveyOne of the many magazines I subscribe to is Sports Illustrated. For whatever reason though, I find myself not reading it more and more these days, perhaps because of the abundance of quality sports writing available on the internet. It's probably the same reason I don't read my local sportspage first thing in the morning every single day, like I used to do.
Anyway, this week's edition of SI had a cover guaranteed to get me to read it. It featured Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, with the headline: "Chicago Heat."
If they stuck a baseball-related subject on the cover of Sports Illustrated every week, I would read it every week. Of course, they often prefer covers like two from last month featuring Bo Jackson in a chef's hat and some guy swimming, both of which were completely ignored by me, despite whatever readable contents were inside.
I read the article on Wood and Prior and enjoyed it, but what I found more interesting were the results of the MLB "Player Survey" that SI conducted. For those of you who don't subscribe to SI or do and have not read it yet, the information is available online, by clicking here.
According to SI, they "approached every major league player" for the survey and "550 agreed to participate, though not every player answered every question."
I thought it might be interesting to take a look at how the players responded to some of the questions and maybe make a few comments of my own...
Who's the greatest living player?
Barry Bonds 38.9%I can't argue with the top choice and the top 3 look pretty good to me, although I would do a little re-arranging myself. With regard to the other results, I am not sure which I find more disturbing - the fact that 7.1% of those surveyed think that Nolan Ryan was a better player than Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial or Barry Bonds, or that 1.5% of players think that Babe Ruth, who died in 1948, is still alive.
Now, maybe the 1.5% of the players who filled in Babe Ruth's name did it as a joke. However, if they didn't, can you imagine idiocy involved in that? First of all, the guy has been dead for 55 years, which in itself makes picking him as the greatest living player extremely stupid. Beyond that is the fact that, assuming Babe Ruth was still alive, don't you think we would be seeing more of him?
I mean, before Ted Williams died, they brought him onto the field prior to the all-star game in Fenway Park a few years ago and it was a huge event. And Willie Mays and Hank Aaron have been honored in similar ways recently. But I haven't seen Babe Ruth anywhere lately, which seems strange to me, considering he is perhaps the biggest figure in sports history. I wonder if maybe the guys who voted for Ruth think he's a recluse or something and is unwilling to take part in these sort of festivities? Or maybe they are like those people who claim to have seen Elvis in the supermarket and they think they have seen Ruth around quite a bit this whole time?
An honorable mention for stupidity goes to those who voted for Pete Rose, Nolan Ryan and Roberto Alomar, because they obviously have no clue what the heck is going on. Although, they look like geniuses next to the guys who think Babe Ruth is alive and kicking...
My personal top 5, off the top of my head:
1) tie - Barry Bonds and Willie Mays
3) Roger Clemens
4) Stan Musial
5) tie - Hank Aaron and Greg Maddux
With a special salute to Rickey Henderson (because who doesn't love Rickey?), Joe Morgan (because I love picking on him) and Alex Rodriguez (because he's frankly too young to be on this list, in my opinion).
Who has the best outfield arm?
Vladimir Guerrero 56.8%Once again, a pretty good top 3 - Vlad, Jose Guillen and Ichiro! all have cannons in right field.
I do wonder how many players made the distinction in their head between "most powerful arm" and "best arm" while voting in this survey. I have no doubt that Vladimir Guerrero and Jose Guillen have the two most powerful outfield arms in baseball, but would you take either of them over Ichiro! if you had a runner on third tagging up and you needed someone to make the throw to the plate?
It is sort of like if the question was "who is the best runner in baseball?" Would the answer be the fastest guy or the guy who was actually the best, most valuable runner? Guerrero and Guillen have the most powerful arms, but they are infinitely less accurate than Ichiro! and it's not like Ichiro!'s arm isn't powerful.
For the 0.9% who voted for Torii Hunter, I wonder if they've ever seen him make more than a couple of throws. Choosing Torii as the "best outfield arm" strikes me as similar to someone choosing Ichiro! or Wade Boggs or Tony Gwynn for "best power-hitter," because you are giving them credit for something they don't do well, simply because of something else they do very well.
What I mean is that, while Ichiro!, Boggs and Gwynn are not good power hitters, they are very good hitters. In the same sense, Torii Hunter does not have a very good outfield arm, but he is a tremendous defensive outfielder. See what I'm saying? It's like giving the Gold Glove to someone because of how they hit - one thing has absolutely nothing to do with the other, just as Torii's throwing abilty (or lack thereof) has nothing to do with his ability to convert fly balls into outs.
Who's the best defensive player?
Andruw Jones 29.8%Wow, there are a lot of things I think are wrong with this one.
Andruw Jones #1 is perfectly fine, although, as I said yesterday, I disagree. Omar Vizquel at #2 is an incredibly poor choice. First of all, I don't think (and most of the numbers and stats would agree with me) that Vizquel was ever that great defensively. He was good and, yes, he never made a lot of errors and he makes some very pretty plays (and - gasp - some of them are barehanded!), but his range was never particularly impressive and the amount of plays he was able to make, barehanded or otherwise, were never that extraordinary. And that was in his prime. He's now 36 years old and any thought of him being the best defensive shortstop in baseball - let alone the best defensive player in baseball - should be long gone. Heck, they even stopped giving him his annual undeserved Gold Glove Award last season.
Torii Hunter, ARod, Scott Rolen and Ichiro! are all decent picks. I happen to think Torii's defense is overrated slightly, but he's still very good. ARod is very good too, and Rolen and Ichiro! are the best defensive players at their position (3B and RF) in all of baseball.
Roberto Alomar is similar to Omar Vizquel, in that I don't think he was ever as good as his reputation and, at this point, ranking him anywhere near the top defensive players in baseball is just crazy.
Vizquel at #2 and Alomar at #6 don't even compare to the ridiculousness of 1.2% of players voting for J.T. Snow as the best defensive player in baseball. First of all, he's a first baseman. Do you realize how rare it would be for a first baseman to be the best defensive player in baseball?! There are certainly rare examples where a 1B can have a big defensive impact, but there's a reason guys like Mo Vaughn and Frank Thomas play the position. All of which isn't even approaching the fact that J.T. Snow isn't even the best defensive first baseman in baseball. Doug Mientkiewicz? John Olerud? Scott Spiezio? Todd Helton? Derrek Lee? Anyway, suffice it to say that if a first baseman is going to have any chance of being the best defensive player in baseball, it isn't going to be J.T. Snow!
The guys who get robbed on this list are Mike Cameron (nothing new for him, as I discussed in great detail yesterday) and Darin Erstad. There is just no way on earth J.T. Snow is a better defensive player than Mike Cameron or Darin Erstad. None.
Whom would you most like to play with?
Alex Rodriguez 16.6%Kinda shoots a hole into all that media-driven crap about Bonds being such a horrible human being and such an awful teammate now, doesn't it?
One thing I wonder about this question is what percentage of players voted for someone they have never played with before. You know, the whole "grass is always greener" theory?
Personally, I would most like to play with Bonds, mostly because he is the best player in baseball and would give the team the best chance of winning, but also because I think he appears to be a heck of a teammate and very well liked by the Giants. Who knows, maybe it turns out that Jeff Kent and Rick Reilly are the jerks and not Bonds. It wouldn't exactly shock me.
Clemens at #3 surprises me a little, although I guess it is similar to Bonds' situation, in that a lot of the stuff we hear about Clemens being a bad guy is media-driven and most players probably just want to play with great players. One interesting thing is that, according to SI, 80.6% of Clemens' votes came from fellow pitchers. I'd bet the number of right-handed pitchers under the age of 30 that voted for Clemens is damn near 100%.
Also, you'd think Jesse Orosco would find his way onto this list somehow, seeing as though he has played with just about everyone in baseball history...
Who gets the most from the least talent?
David Eckstein 62.2%This strikes me as a strange question and I am not sure exactly how I would answer it myself. Is it asking who the guy who works the hardest is or is it asking who the biggest overachiever is? There is a large difference, in my opinion. Either way, Eckstein seems like a good choice, simply because he's like 5'5" and has a lot of trouble simply throwing the ball across the diamond, yet he plays a good shortstop and had a very nice season last year.
One somewhat disturbing thing is that, of the top 11 players, 9 of them are "white guys." Maybe this is a coincidence, but I doubt it. I think, for whatever reason, white guys who hustle and work hard are seen as "scrappier" than "black guys" or "latino guys" who do the exact same thing. This is just my opinion, of course, so I could be way off base here. My suspicion also shows through on the next question though...
Who gets the least from the most talent?
Ruben Rivera 29.3%Whereas there were 9 white guys in the top 11 in the previous category, there is a grand-total of 1 white guy in this category. Does this mean anything? Maybe not, but the two sets of responses, when put together, strike me as a little strange.
Additionally, there is another question in the survey that asks, "Who's the best-dressed player?" and, of the top 10 guys, Derek Jeter is the only guy who could be considered a "white guy" and his father is black. To me, the answers to these 3 questions seem to suggest that the white guys are "scrappy" and the black guys and latino guys are "lazy" and "stylish." Which, to me, is absurd and plays to all sorts of stereotypes.
Also, the idea that Frank Thomas has gotten "the least from the most talent" is absolutely idiotic. The man is one of the best 12-15 hitters in the history of baseball. He's got a career OPS+ of 163, which is the 10th best in the history of major league baseball. He's a career .312 hitter with nearly 400 homers and over 1,300 RBIs and he's got 2 Most Valuable Player Awards. If he's the guy who has gotten the least from the most talent, then I'm Peter Gammons (I'm not, in case you are wondering).
Same thing with Griffey and, to a lesser extent, Juan Gonzalez. Seems like these guys got on this list because they are seen as "jerks," but that isn't the question. If you don't like Frank or Ken or Juan, don't vote for them on the "Whom would you most like to play with?" question, but that has nothing to do with what they have gotten out of their talent. Thomas and Griffey are future Hall of Famers and Gonzalez is an MVP that has a chance of going into the Hall too. I have a hard time believing a Hall of Fame player has gotten less from his talent than anyone else.
The survey had a whole bunch of other questions that I don't want to get into in detail, but here are some interesting tidbits...
When asked, "What's your favorite non-baseball activity?", 25.7% said "golf" and the next 4 answers were "hunting," "fishing," "time with family" and "movies." I assume that the players were given choices to pick from here and I wonder if "strip-clubs" would have cracked 50% if it were an option and the surveys were done anonymously. Also, how funny is it that golf, hunting and fishing all beat "time with family"? I bet the wives and kids are really happy about that.
Safeco Field won for "Favorite Ballpark" and the Metrodome placed 3rd for "Least Favorite." The Dome also ranked 5th for "Worst-quality playing field." Yay!
74.2% of players answered "yes, unconditionally" when asked, "Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame?" I am not going to touch this topic with a 10-foot poll, but the fact that nearly 3/4 of players answered that way definitely surprises me. Only 9.4% said, "Not under any circumstances."
Billy Beane won for "Who's the best general manager" with 34.1%, getting nearly as many votes as the next 5 guys (Schuerholtz, Jocketty, Sabean, Cashman, Gillick) combined. The recently canned Steve Phillips was #1 for "worst GM." No word on who won for "best looking GM" (that's a little inside joke for those of you who read Moneyball).
Dusty Baker was #1 for best manager with 23.6%, just ahead of Joe Torre (18.7%) and Bobby Cox (13.1%). This doesn't surprise me at all because Dusty is a good manager and he is also supposed to be a "player's manager" - and they're who voted. Larry Bowa won for "worst manager" and, interestingly enough, Tony LaRussa was in the top 5 in both "best" and "worst" - which means someone has to be wrong. Also interesting is that Bob Brenley, who just won a World Series not too long ago, is 7th for "worst manager" and Mike Scioscia, who won it last year, is 4th for "best manager."
I think Bowa isn't the greatest manager in the world, but it seems like he's getting a raw deal here. In the 5 years before he came to the Phillies, they had a combined record of 352-458, for a .434 winning percentage. In the 2.5 seasons he has been Philadelphia's manager, they are 214-196, for a .521 winning percentage. They are on-pace to win 80+ games for the third straight season with Bowa, something they had done exactly one time (1993) since 1987 before he got there.
So there you have it, the players have spoken. Many think J.T. Snow is the best defensive player in baseball, a lot of them want to play with Barry Bonds and a few "special" players are under the impression Babe Ruth didn't die yet.
I'd be interested to see what a "Manager Survey" and a "General Manager" survey would look like...
If you didn't get a chance to read my entry about "The Most Underrated Player in Baseball" from yesterday, I urge you to do so. I worked long and hard on it and I have gotten a lot of positive responses from people who enjoyed it. So, go check it out:
The Most Underrated Player in Baseball (July 8, 2003)
Atlanta (Ortiz) -150 over New York (Glavine)
Florida (Pavano) +175 over Chicago (Wood)
Pittsburgh (Benson) -115 over Milwaukee (Rusch)
San Diego (Peavy) +155 over Arizona (Bautista)
Tampa Bay (Kennedy) +170 over Oakland (Lilly)
Total to date: + $1,565
W/L record: 165-160 (0-1 yesterday for -100 and slowly fading back to 1,000.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
The Most Underrated Player in BaseballDeciding who is "underrated" and who isn't is a difficult thing to do.
Is an underrated player someone who is a bench player but should be a starter? Or a starting player that should be considered a star? Or a star player who should be considered one of the best players in baseball?
And why are they underrated? Is it because the general public doesn't think they are as valuable as they are? Or that they simply aren't well-known because of where they play? Or is it that the things they do well do not show up in the statistics that most fans look at and know about?
There is one other main way that a person can be underrated (or overrated), and that is to play in a ballpark that impacts their stats in a big way.
I think pretty much everyone who follows baseball closely is aware that the numbers Todd Helton, Larry Walker and the rest of the Colorado Rockies put up in Coors Field should be downgraded significantly and, if you don't do so, they become overrated players. The opposite is true for Jason Jennings, Shawn Chacon and Colorado pitchers, who have almost no shot at low ERAs, but often times are still good pitchers. People see their 4.50 or 5.00 ERA and assume they stink, which makes them underrated players.
Well, I believe I have found a player who has been hurt by his home ballpark as much as Todd Helton and Larry Walker have been helped by theirs.
His name is Mike Cameron and he plays centerfield for the Seattle Mariners.
Cameron is considered to be one of the best defensive centerfielders in all of baseball and, in my opinion, he is the best (and that's coming from a guy who watches Torii Hunter play everyday). In fact, I will go a step further and say that I think he is the best defensive player - regardless of position - in Major League Baseball.
Cameron won the AL Gold Glove in 2001, Diamond-Mind has given him an "EXCELLENT" rating (the highest possible) in CF for each of the last 2 seasons and Michael Lichtman (of Baseball Primer) has Cameron as +28 and +25 runs defensively the last 2 seasons, according to his awesome defensive metric, "Ultimate Zone Rating."
In addition to that, he's a hell of a hitter. So far this year, he is batting .272/.365/.483 and is on pace to hit 22 homers and 35 doubles, while driving in 100 runs.
At the same time, Mike Cameron is not very well known. He is almost never brought up in "best centerfielder" discussions, despite the fact that he is extraordinary defensively and tremendous offensively. In the recently completed all-star voting, Cameron finished 8th among American League outfielders in the fan voting, despite playing for a team whose fans voted more than most teams, and he also did not place in the top 6 AL OFs in the "player vote." All of that makes him a very underrated baseball player.
The fact that he is absolutely killed by the ballpark he plays half his games in is what takes him from simply being very underrated to being the most underrated player in baseball.
Take a look at Mike Cameron's hitting at home (Safeco Field) and on the road this season:
2003That is huge. At home, he hits like Terrence Long and on the road he hits like Gary Sheffield.
In fact, his home OPS (on-base % + slugging %) of .735 would rank 133rd among the 172 players with enough playing time to qualify for the batting title. His road OPS of .935 would rank 18th on the same list.
133rd to 18th. It just doesn't get much different than that.
I used the Todd Helton/Larry Walker example for hitters who are helped a ton by their ballpark (Coors Field). Let's take a look at how they are doing at home and on the road this year:
TODD HELTON LARRY WALKERIf anything, I think the current thought of how much Coors Field inflates hitting stats isn't nearly strong enough.
So far this year (and yes, I realize it is a relatively small sample-size), Todd Helton and Larry Walker are hitting .390 and .350 at home and .280 and .246 on the road. Their OPSs go from 1.191 and 1.058 in Coors to .811 and .822 everywhere else.
Let's try to look at this another way, by comparing the percentage of AVG, OBP and SLG that Cameron loses when he plays at home, to the percentage of AVG, OBP and SLG that Helton and Walker lose when they play on the road.
% LOSTIn other words, Mike Cameron gains a larger percentage of batting average and on-base percentage when he goes on the road than Helton and Walker do by playing in Coors Field. Think about that for a minute.
And this is far from a one year thing for Mike Cameron and Safeco Field. Check out his numbers for the other 3 years he has played there:
2002In 2002 at Safeco, Cameron's AVG was down 15.5%, his OBP was down 3.2% and his SLG was down 27.3%.
2001In 2001 at Safeco, Cameron's AVG was down 29.0%, his OBP was down 20.9% and his SLG was down 39.3%.
2000In 2000 Safeco, Cameron's AVG was down 28.8%, his OBP was down 12.4% and his SLG was down 36.2%.
Those decreases in production are real, they are consistent, they are across-the-board and they are massive.
Okay, so let's add it all up. Cameron has been playing his home games in Safeco Field for the last 3 and a half seasons now. Here are his combined numbers over that time:
2000-2003That really is almost unbelievable.
Since joining the Mariners, Cameron has played 3.5 seasons with Safeco Field as his home ballpark. During that time at Safeco, compared to playing on the road, his AVG is down 26.6%, his OBP is down 14.5% and his SLG is down 32.6%.
If you were to only count Cameron's performance on the road for since 2000, a span that includes over 1,000 at bats, here is where he ranks among MLB centerfielders...
.297 Batting Average - 4th (behind Bernie Williams, Juan Pierre and Jim Edmonds)
.388 On-Base Percentage - 3rd (behind Edmonds and Williams)
.540 Slugging Percentage - 2nd (behind Edmonds)
Basically, if you take only his performance on the road into consideration, Mike Cameron has been the 2nd best offensive centerfielder in baseball since 2000, behind only Jim Edmonds.
Let's go back to the two Colorado sluggers and see what they've done at home and on the road since 2000.
TODD HELTON LARRY WALKERNow let's bring back the old "percentage lost" table once again, to see how much of a dropoff Cameron experiences at home, compared to what Helton and Walker lose on the road.
% LOSTTodd Helton and Larry Walker have nothing on Mike Cameron.
I'll say it again, think about this for a moment. Mike Cameron has lost more of his offensive since 2000 by playing his home games at Safeco Field than Todd Helton and Larry Walker have lost when they leave Coors Field, the best hitter's park in baseball history, to play on the road. I've got to say, I am not sure how you feel about this, but I am absolutely shocked and amazed.
There is another interesting aspect of the effect Safeco Field has on Mike Cameron. While Coors Field boosts the offensive stats of all hitters to a huge degree, Safeco field has some negative impact on hitting statistics for all players, but it's impact on Mike Cameron is above and beyond the overall dropoffs.
Here's a look at how Seattle has done at home and on the road:
2003 MARINERSSo far this year, when the Mariners go home, their AVG drops 14.8%, their OBP drops 10.4% and their SLG drops 17.9%. Their overall OPS (on-base % + slugging %) drops 14.6%. That is a big dropoff, but those numbers include Mike Cameron and his 21.4% OPS dropoff.
Here's what Safeco Field has done to the Mariners in the past:
2002 MARINERSIn 2002, AVG was down 7.3%, OBP was down 2.3%, SLG was down 9.8% and OPS was down 6.4%
2001 MARINERSIn 2001, AVG was down 3.4%, OBP was down 2.7%, SLG was down 4.4% and OPS was down 3.4%.
2000 MARINERSIn 2000, AVG was down 14.1%, OBP was down 4.9%, SLG was down 13.6% and OPS was down 9.7%.
Overall, since 2000, here are the Mariners' team-wide dropoff in OPS when at home, compared to Mike Cameron's:
OPS % LOSTClearly, Mike Cameron is hurt much more by Safeco Field than the Mariners are as a whole. But why? Why are his numbers so completely ruined by Safeco Field, much more so than his teammates?
There are probably any number of potential reasons for this, but the two that I thought of right away were that 1) Mike Cameron is a right-handed hitter and 2) Mike Cameron is an extreme fly ball hitter.
Safeco Field has a very large left-centerfield area, so the theory is that right-handed hitters in general are hurt playing there, but right-handed fly ball hitters, dependent on their long fly balls flying over fences for homers, are particularly hurt by Safeco, because a large percentage of the homers end up in the gloves of left fielders and centerfielders.
Cameron's actual numbers from 2000-2003 definitely support this "theory"...
AB/HR HR/550 ABCameron is one of the most extreme fly ball hitters in baseball. His GB/FB ratios since joining the Mariners in 2000 are 0.86, 0.64, 0.80 and 0.79 this year.
Those 0.79 ground balls for every fly ball so far this season make him the 8th most extreme fly ball hitter in the American League. Among right-handed AL hitters, he is the 4th most fly ball dominant.
In 2002, he had the 13th most extreme fly ball ratio in the AL, 7th among right-handed hitters.
In 2001, he had the most extreme fly ball ratio in the AL and the 2nd most fly ball dominant ratio in all of baseball.
In 2000, he had the 9th most extreme fly ball ratio in the AL, 5th among right-handed hitters.
So, I think it is safe to say that, if Safeco Field hurts right-handed hitters overall and right-handed fly ball hitters in particular, then Mike Cameron is just about the #1 candidate to be hurt by playing his home games there.
Of course, that only works if Safeco does actually hurt right-handed fly ball hitters a ton. So, does it?
Unfortunately, the ballpark is only about 4.5 years old and the amount of right-handed fly ball hitters on the Mariners during that time are not very plentiful. And, to be able to draw significant conclusions from the data, the player would need to have a lot of at bats in Safeco, which rules out visiting players.
From 2000-2003, the only right-handed hitters with over 1,000 plate appearances as a Mariner are Cameron, Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone, Dan Wilson and David Bell.
Let's take a look at the GB/FB ratios of those 5 hitters during their time with the Mariners from 2000-2003, to see if they are similar:
GB/FBBasically, Bret Boone is wrong for this little "study" because his ratio of GB/FB is nearly double Mike Cameron's. Additionally, the difference between Martinez and Wilson's 0.96 ratio and Cameron's 0.76 ratio may appear to be small, but it is actually quite significant. First of all, it is a 26% difference, which is pretty huge when you are trying to look for something very similar. Also, the difference between a 0.76 GB/FB ratio and a 0.96 GB/FB in the AL this season is the difference between having the 6th most extreme fly ball ratio in the AL and the 30th most extreme.
So really, the only guy that fits Cameron's mold of a right-handed, very extreme fly ball hitter, is David Bell. But, since there is a very limited pool of players to work with here (read: one), let's compare how all 5 were impacted by Safeco anyway.
% LOST AT SAFECOOnce again, no one has a dropoff anywhere close to Cameron's. At the same time, every single stat for all 5 players falls at home, except for Edgar Martinez's on-base percentage, which somehow manages to go up 1.9% at Safeco.
So what the heck does all this stuff mean exactly?
Well, first of all, Mike Cameron is a very good player. Regardless of ballpark, he is a top-notch defensive centerfielder and a very good offensive player.
Beyond that, Safeco Field has had more of a negative effect on his hitting than the positive effect Coors Field has had on Larry Walker and Todd Helton's hitting. In addition to that, Cameron is uniquely impacted by Safeco Field, even when compared to right-handed hitters on his own team.
You stick Mike Cameron in a different ballpark and he's going to put up huge, MVP-type numbers and he's going to be a household name. Heck, if you kept him on the Mariners and only let him play on the road, he would put up giant numbers.
And if he ever got to play his home games in Coors Field...
Mike Cameron - The Most Underrated Player in BaseballToday's picks:
St. Louis (Haren) +140 over San Francisco (Rueter)
Total to date: + $1,665
W/L record: 165-159 (1-2 yesterday for -100.)
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Monday, July 07, 2003
JOHAN SANTANA, FREE!
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
--- Martin Luther King, I have a DreamFreedom finally rang for Twins fans Saturday night.
Joe Mays gave up 5 runs in 3 innings against the Cleveland Indians, raising his season ERA to 6.57. After the game, the Twins announced that Mays was no longer a member of the starting rotation and he would instead be pitching out of the bullpen.
Beyond the freedom of Twins fans to not have to watch Joe Mays pitch every fifth day, the more important liberation that took place over the weekend is that of Johan Santana. Santana, aka "The Official Pitcher of Aaron's Baseball Blog," will take over Mays' spot in the rotation, starting with Friday's game against the Angels.
From what I can gather, this does not appear to be a short-term solution. Santana will initially be on a tight pitch-count but, assuming he doesn't pitch as poorly as Mays did, he will be in the rotation for good. This is obviously very good news for Twins fans and it makes me extraordinarily happy.
You see, for the better part of the last year, I have been stressing as much as humanly possible the need for Johan Santana to be in Minnesota's starting rotation. I devoted thousands and thousands of words to him, I have begged the Twins to free him constantly and I even set up a "Johan Santana Liberation Watch" to track his performances while he was imprisoned in the bullpen.
In fact, I just checked and, according to my archives, I have written an entry involving the name "Johan Santana" 72 different times, including today. This blog has only been around for 340 days total and that includes weekends, when I typically don't write new entries. So, by my estimation, I have devoted an entry to Johan Santana in some way on approximately 25% of the days I have been writing entries. That, my friends, is bordering on obsession!
Now, I come to find out that all it took for the Twins to commit to starting their best pitcher every fifth day was approximately 200 horrible innings from Joe Mays, spread over two seasons.
But hey, that is all behind us now and I want to focus on the positives and not the negatives. Sure, Mays has been an awful pitcher for two seasons now and he cost the Twins a ton of games during that time, but the important thing is that the right decision has finally been made and Johan Santana will finally get his chance in the starting rotation.
The expectations for Johan are no doubt very high. It's tough to avoid lofty expectations when I have been endlessly touting him and others have done the same. Is he going to step in and save the Twins' 2003 season? No. Is he going to be a hell of a lot better than Joe Mays? Yes.
Over the last 2 seasons, Johan has been allowed to make 17 starts for the Twins:
GS IP ERA W LNow, compare those numbers to Joe Mays' stats from the same time period:
GS IP ERA W LI see no reason why Santana can't spend the rest of this season as a starter and have an ERA somewhere in the 2.85-3.50 range. His ERA as a starter over the last 2 years is 2.83 and his overall ERAs during that time are 2.99 and 2.86.
Even if he struggles in his new role and posts a 3.85 ERA or a 4.05 ERA or something like that, it would be a massive improvement over Joe Mays and, the way Minnesota's starting pitching has been this year, would make him one of the best (if not the best) starter on the entire team.
I, for one, am very excited about the prospect of seeing Johan Santana start games on a permanent basis, instead of seeing him come into one after a Twins starter has gotten knocked around and yanked in the fourth inning, as has been the case so many times this season and last.
Good luck Johan and godspeed. If, for some reason, you blow this chance, who knows when you'll be freed again!
From now until the point Santana is no longer a full-time starter (hopefully sometime around 2020), the "Johan Santana Liberation Watch" will be replaced by the "Johan Santana Freedom Watch." The name isn't quite as catchy and it's not quite as fun, but I figure everyone will want to track his progress in games he starts this season and it'll definitely be more fun watching his strikeouts pile up as a free man.
While Johan was being liberated and Joe Mays was being taken out back and shot, the Twins were apparently working the phones in an effort to make a trade or two.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
"The Twins have inquired about the availability of Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Shannon Stewart, whom they tried to trade for in 2001, according to an American League source."I've got to say, I am more than a little confused by this, considering a corner outfielder is just about the last thing the Minnesota Twins need.
Shannon Stewart is a very good player and has been for quite a while. He'd be a solid addition to any ballclub, including the Twins. At the same time, here are his stats, compared to a couple of current Twins outfielders:
2003 2002If that is an upgrade (and I don't think it is, seeing as though Kielty has a higher EqA this year and last), is it really a big enough one that it is worth doing? Not to mention that Stewart is 29 years old and Kielty and Mohr are 26 and 27. Plus, Stewart makes $6.2 million this year, while Bobby Kielty and Dustan Mohr combine to make about $650,000. And, finally, the Twins would almost certainly have to give up a pretty good prospect (or two) to get Stewart.
Oh, and they have this guy named Michael Cuddyer down in Triple-A that may have something to say about a full-time corner-outfield spot at some point. And he's got this teammate named Michael Restovich and there's this Lew Ford guy...well, you get the point.
The offense is not the problem boys. Since a bad first month, they are averaging over 5 runs per game, which is pretty damn good. Now that Mays is out and Santana is in, hopefully one of the five rotation spots will be "fixed." That still leaves 4 underachieving starters and a bullpen that hasn't been particularly great this year either.
And, if you feel the need to trade for an offensive player, let's maybe think about making it a second baseman. Luis Rivas is playing much better of late, but he still ranks 32nd among MLB second basemen in EqA and, if he had enough playing time to qualify for the batting title, he would rank 152nd among major league hitters (out of 171) in OPS (on-base % + slugging %).
Some of you are probably wondering what my thoughts are on the all-star selections. To be honest, I couldn't care less. In the past I have gotten worked up about guys getting snubbed and/or undeserving players getting selected, but I probably won't watch more than a few innings of the game this year and it has been my experience in the past that everything all-star related is completely forgotten within 48 hours of the game anway.
The only thing I will say is that when Mike Williams and his 6.29 ERA and Lance Carter and his 4.17 ERA are on the teams instead of guys like Frank Thomas and Brian Giles and Corey Koskie and Jim Thome and Octavio Dotel and Aubrey Huff and Jason Varitek and Sammy Sosa and Pedro Martinez and Jason Giambi and Mike Cameron and several other deserving players...well, there is a lot wrong with the system and it is just another reason why it is tough for me to get excited about the "all-star" game.
Philadelphia (Duckworth) -100 over Montreal (Hernandez)
Atlanta (Ramirez) -130 over New York (Seo)
Cincinnati (Dempster) +190 over Houston (Oswalt)
Total to date: + $1,765
W/L record: 164-157 (1-3 on Friday for -275, dipping below 2,000 once again.)
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