Friday, January 02, 2004
Viva Las Vegas
Bright light city gonna set my soul
--- Elvis Presley, Viva Las VegasThe next time you hear from me, I'll probably be drunk, broke and basically a complete and total degenerate. Yes, that's right, I'm going to Las Vegas!
In honor of my 21st birthday (which happens to be on Saturday) I leave for Vegas very early Sunday morning and get back late Friday night. That means you'll have to suffer through an entire week without me. Don't worry though, I have some very entertaining guest writers lined up to take my place.
In case I don't make it back from Sin City alive, I just want to say thank you to everyone who has stopped by to read this website this month, as well as everyone from other websites who have been kind enough to link to me.
There were more visitors this month than at any time during the 17-month history of Aaron's Baseball Blog, and it wasn't even close. For the first time ever, this website topped 40,000 visitors in a month, which is pretty amazing considering I took several days off for the holidays and many of you were probably much too busy to stop by here everyday.
Yesterday I made a list of "The Top Eight Things I Want To See In 2004." I would like to add a ninth thing to the list, which is to see this blog reach one-million total visitors. We're at right around 320,000 now, so that means there would have to be an average of about 56,000 visitors per month to reach that number by the end of 2004. It's probably a bit of a far-fetched goal, but I would have said the same thing about getting 40,000 visitors in a month this time last year.
Once again, thanks to all you guys who come by here everyday and to all the bloggers out there who have helped me out in various ways. It's been a whole lot of fun and I look forward to starting another year of blogging as soon as I make my triumphant return from Las Vegas.
Wish me luck and make sure to come here all next week to check out the awesome guest writers. I'll see you bright and early on Monday the 12th, with a full report on all the goings on in Vegas. Well, maybe not a full report...my mom reads this blog too you know.
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Thursday, January 01, 2004
Happy New Year!I figure the majority of you are probably too hungover to care much about reading some baseball stuff today, so Aaron's Baseball Blog will return tomorrow, with the first real entry of 2004.
THE TOP EIGHT THINGS I WANT TO SEE IN 2004 (because I couldn't think of 10 good ones):
8) Someone other than Luis Rivas at second base for the Twins.
7) Kevin Garnett, NBA MVP.
6) An injury-free season from Johan Santana.
5) Derek Jeter and Tim McCarver's nuptials, broadcast live on FOX.
4) The Minnesota Twins in the World Series.
3) Health and happiness for all my friends and loved ones.
2) Peace in the world.
1) Four words: Mrs. Jessica Alba Gleeman.
See ya tomorrow...
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Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Odds and EndsAt some point late last night I realized what you are reading right now was going to be the final Aaron's Baseball Blog entry of 2003. So I quickly brainstormed and tried to come up with something brilliant for the occasion. Sadly, nothing came to me. Instead, you get this.
I was actually planning to write this entry earlier in the week, but Tony Batista and Ben Grieve caught my attention.
I took a few days off from blogging last week and found that I am sort of addicted to it. I was okay for a day or so, but by the third day I had like a dozen things bookmarked that I wanted to talk about and I kept creating sentences in my head, except I had no place to put them. It's funny how quickly a person can get used to doing something every day.
Anyway, today's entry is filled with a whole bunch of random thoughts on a whole bunch of random stuff. It's not exactly baseball analysis at its finest, but hopefully you'll find some of it interesting. Enjoy...
My new favorite writer?
I have written in the past about Bert Blyleven deserving to be in the Hall of Fame and several of my favorite non-mainstream writers have also taken up Bert's cause.
Then the other day I saw an article by Ken Rosenthal of The Sporting News entitled: "Upon further review, Blyleven deserves to be in Hall." It was a very interesting article, not only because Rosenthal agrees with me that Blyleven should be in the Hall of Fame after previously thinking otherwise, but because of why he now agrees.
Here's a little quote:
"Advanced statistical analysis offers fresh insight into the careers of pitchers such as Blyleven, providing richer context. Over his 22-year career, Blyleven's ERA was 18 percent better than an average pitcher in his league, according to park-adjusted figures on baseball-reference.com. By that measure, he was better than numerous Hall of Fame pitchers, including Gaylord Perry, Ferguson Jenkins, Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts, Nolan Ryan and Don Sutton. He also was significantly better than John and Kaat."First of all, I'd be happy if a Hall of Fame voter simply decided to look beyond someone's wins and losses to judge them by their ERA. The fact that Rosenthal is using Blyleven's adjusted ERA from Baseball-Reference.com is pretty damn cool and a major step in the right direction.
At the end of the article, Rosenthal scores even more points with me:
"I voted for Jim Rice once, then stopped -- he batted .320 at Fenway and .277 on the road. I also don't vote for Jack Morris, Steve Garvey, Dale Murphy and Don Mattingly, though each has his merits. Joe Carter is my most notable omission among the first-timers. His 10 100-RBI seasons are difficult to ignore, but his career .306 on-base percentage would be the lowest of any player elected by the BBWAA."Here we've got a national, mainstream baseball writer with a vote for the Hall of Fame and he's using park adjusted ERAs, home/road batting splits and focusing on on-base percentages. It's almost too good to believe.
I have to admit that, up until a few months ago, I wasn't really much of a Ken Rosenthal fan. It's not that I didn't like him, just that I don't read The Sporting News very often. I searched through my entire archive and found just two mentions of Rosenthal in the 17 months this blog has been in existence.
Now he's one of my favorite national writers. Not only because of what he said in that article to put him head and shoulders above the majority of the people in his field, but also because he appeared on the Howard Stern radio show in October to "discuss" the Red Sox/Yankees ALCS.
I put "discuss" in quotes because he didn't exactly give a thorough breakdown of the series. Apparently Rosenthal wrote somewhere that he thought the Red Sox would win the series, so Stern, whose show is based in New York, had him on to discuss his prediction.
Except when Rosenthal got on the air, he changed his tune and basically said that it was possible the Red Sox would win, but he didn't think they would. Rosenthal ceased being interesting to the show at that point, but Howard kept him on the phone anyway. For the next 15 minutes or so, Howard, Robin and Artie talked about their routine for going to the bathroom. I could get more specific, but I won't.
Every few minutes, Howard would stop and say something like, "Hey Ken, what do you do in the bathroom?"
It was pretty funny and even more humorous to me because Rosenthal is pretty much at the top of his field, a field I want to be in some day. He was suddenly reduced to a guy no one was particularly interested in hearing from, but who was being used for comedic purposes. Rosenthal even did he best to hold his own, despite being severely over-matched.
I mean, can you imagine Phil Rogers even going on Stern? Anyway, that's why Ken Rosenthal is a new member of The Official Aaron's Baseball Blog Group of National Baseball Writers. For now anyway. I'll have to start reading more of his stuff, just to make sure his sudden greatness isn't a matter of small sample-sizes and having the good fortune of being booked on the greatest radio show in the history of mankind.
Since this entry is supposed to be a whole bunch of notes on different topics, I actually meant for that part about Rosenthal to be a lot shorter than it turned out to be. But that's okay, it's a perfect segue to the next thing on my list of topics.
Probably the number one thing associated with this blog is the fact that I write very lengthy entries almost every day. At some point, people started referring to them as "Gleeman-length." I've seen it used in both positive and negative ways, but for the most part I take it as a positive, so I've used it as well.
To be honest though, I'm wasn't 100% sure where the phrase was coined. Then I recently came across this blog entry by Christian Ruzich (of The Cub Reporter fame) that I think explains it:
"I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that I am the person who first coined the adjective "Gleeman-length." It's being bandied about pretty regularly these days, and I just want you all to know that it did not spring, fully formed, into the Blogosphere like Athena from the head of Zeus. In fact, it was forged in my underground metaphor factory here in the mountains of southern California, and much effort was expended on it. It was part of a run that included such descriptors as "Pintovian," "Carminatish," and "Belthic," but it appears to be the only one that stuck."Sure enough, I did a little searching and found the following entry from The Cub Reporter, dated May 13, 2003:
"As I mentioned yesterday, Will Carroll and I have been having an ongoing email discussion about the Cubs over the last few weeks, with an eye toward publishing it here (call it an homage to Rob & Rany on the Royals). We started out talking about pitch counts (big surprise) but have moved on to other subjects, including the third base situation, the leadoff situation, and a certain Hall of Famer currently toiling in Paramus or Mahwah or wherever he is.I think we can all agree that Christian is the creator. Some might even say he created a monster.
Anyway, after Ruzich made that post about the origin of Gleeman-length, a reader of his named Johnny Mack responded as follows:
"While Gleeman-length (an interesting construction, but one weakened by the clumsiness inherent in the use of a hyphen) could be considered a metaphor, it seems a broad use of the term. It's technically a "proper adjective", I think, because "length" is actually acting as an adjective suffix to the proper noun "Gleeman."At this point I think we can all agree that this is far, far too much time being devoted to this topic, so I will move on...
Whaddya know, I can pick football too!
During the baseball season, I made daily "picks" for baseball games at the end of each day's entry, using Las Vegas odds and purely hypothetical betting. For the season I won slightly over $3,000 pretend dollars, which is pretty good.
For the recently completed NFL season, I was involved in a little contest over at Seth Stohs' site, SethSpeaks.net, where a group of nine bloggers and non-bloggers picked the winner of each football game for the entire season.
The final standings are in and Yours Truly has come away victorious! Go ahead, I think a little applause is reasonable for such an accomplishment.
For the year I went 176-80 picking the winners, which works out to 68.8%. I narrowly edged Ben Jacobs of the Universal Baseball Blog Inc., who went 174-82. And Ben writes about football for a living!
In addition to picking the winners every week, we also made pre-season predictions for all the year-end stuff. I looked back at mine and I think they turned out pretty well...
AFC Champ - Indianapolis ColtsReally, the only one of those that turned out horribly is the Charlie Rogers pick. He was playing well early on, but broke his collarbone and missed the final 11 games of the season.
Other than that, I'm looking good. My pre-season NFC Champs ended up with the best record in the conference and they have homefield throughout the playoffs. My AFC Champs finished 12-4 and have homefield in round one.
My MVP, Donovan McNabb, started very slow but finished very strong and is definitely among the top five candidates for the award. And the Vikings won nine games, missing my prediction by one.
So, lest anyone think my expertise is limited to the world of baseball. Of course, my fantasy football team in the Baseball Primer League didn't do all that well and my fantasy basketball teams aren't either, so perhaps I should stick to baseball after all.
The Fall of the Vikings
Speaking of the Vikings...
As many of you know, the Vikes missed out on the playoffs last Sunday by allowing a touchdown on the final play of the season. I'm not nearly as big of a Vikings fan as I am the Twins and Gophers, or even the Timberwolves, but that was one of the most painful endings to a game I have ever seen.
Let me count the ways...
1) They missed the playoffs after starting the season 6-0. Nothing like raising everyone's expectations so you can completely disappoint them in a season in which no one initially even thought you'd be all that good.
2) They lost on the very last play of the season, on a 4th and 25 semi-hailmary pass with zero time left on the clock.
3) They lost to the Arizona Cardinals, who finished the season 4-12, tied for the worst record in the entire NFL.
4) Their loss put the Green Bay Packers into the playoffs.
5) Everyone in Minnesota hates the Packers. Actually, despises might be a more apt description of their feelings.
6) The Packers/Broncos game was going on simultaneously. The Packers had been scoreboard watching all day and, despite their blowout win over Denver, they seemed resigned to the fact that it was all for naught.
Then, all of a sudden, the Vikings gave up two touchdowns in the final couple minutes and Lambeau Field was going crazy. It was as if the entire stadium just won the lottery.
7) Not five minutes before the Vikings blew the game, with Minnesota up two touchdowns, I noticed the Green Bay crowd cheering as the Packers took a 31-7 lead. I turned to the person sitting next to me and said something to effect of "I'm glad they're cheering. It'll be even better in about 10 minutes when the whole game was meaningless."
Oops. That's life as a Vikings fan. Always has been, always will be. Hey, at least we get a better draft pick now, right?
As long as we're talking about football and theoretical betting, let me remind everyone that I will be heading to Las Vegas next week. Don't worry, I have a bunch of really good guest writers set to take over for me while I'm gone.
I arrive in Vegas very early on January 4th and the Oklahoma/LSU BCS "championship" game will be played later that evening. So, my first official Vegas plans involve sitting at the sports book to watch that game. Hypothetically speaking (cause I don't think it's even good to talk about making real bets, even if you'll be doing them legally), I advise every one of my loyal readers to take Oklahoma, minus the points.
You'll thank me. I think.
Have a great New Year's Eve!
Here's hoping everyone has a good time tonight. Remember, if you're gonna drink, don't drive. And don't do anything I wouldn't do...
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
What the hell happened to Ben Grieve?!Ben Grieve was the #2 overall pick in the 1994 draft. He began his pro career with a bang, hitting .329 in 72 games at Single-A after signing with the Oakland A's.
In 1997, he hit .328/.455/.610 in 100 Double-A games and then hit .426/.484/.741 in 27 games at Triple-A. He finished the year with his first taste of the big leagues, hitting .312/.402/.473 in 24 games with Oakland.
In 1998, his first full-season in the majors, Grieve was an All-Star and the American League Rookie of the Year, hitting .288/.386/.458 with 18 homers, 41 doubles and 89 RBIs. He hit 28 homers in his second season and then topped 100 RBIs for the first time in his career in 2000.
In a very surprising move, Oakland traded Grieve to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays following the 2000 season. At the time of the trade, many were surprised that the A's would part with a young hitter the caliber of Grieve, especially since he had just signed a four-year contract worth $13 million dollars. Nevertheless, Ben Grieve headed to Tampa Bay.
He was 24 years old. He had been a highly touted high school star. He was a #2 overall pick. He tore through the minor leagues. He tore through the major leagues. He as an All-Star and a Rookie of the Year. He was a career .280/.370/.475 hitter in a very tough ballpark to hit in and he already had 76 homers, 303 RBIs and 278 runs scored under his belt.
Tampa Bay GM Chuck LaMar, who had just acquired Grieve, said the following about him:
"We could not pass the opportunity to get a young bat like Ben's. In our opinion, the sky's the limit for what he can accomplish at the plate."Fast forward now to the present. Ben Grieve is 27 years old. Since leaving Oakland he has hit just .254/.364/.399 and has missed 141 games in three seasons, including 107 games last year. As if that weren't bad enough, I saw the following transaction in the newspaper last week:
"The Milwaukee Brewers agreed to terms with outfielder Ben Grieve, who had been with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, on a one-year, $700,000 contract."Oh how the mighty have fallen.
Take a look at Grieve's development, year-by-year:
YEAR AGE G PA AVG OBP SLG GPAOne of the things you can usually count on in baseball is that a 24-year old player who has started his career with three straight very good seasons will then get better over the next several seasons. The general feeling is that hitters peak somewhere around 27 years old. Not only did Ben Grieve not get better after he was 24 and not only did Ben Grieve not peak at 27, Ben Grieve actually got significantly worse.
I've been staring at Ben Grieve's numbers and if there is something within his numbers in Oakland that suggested a player who was ready to decline significantly, I'm just not seeing it.
Let's take a look at his performances, beyond the basic stats:
YEAR TEAM K/BB ISOP ISOD BB% SO%I listed only his full-seasons there, because I didn't want to get caught up in any small sample-sizes.
K/BB stands for strikeout/walk ratio. ISOP stands for Isolated Power, which is slugging percentage minus batting average. ISOD stands for Isolated Discipline, which is on-base percentage minus batting average. BB% and SO% are the percentage of his plate appearances that he either walked or struck out in.
There are some signs from his years in Oakland (1998-2000) that suggested perhaps he was not going to become a superstar. For one thing, his numbers in 1999 and 2000 were really the same as his numbers as a rookie, with little or no improvement in either year. For another thing, his strikeout/walk ratio deteriorated each year with the A's. But there are no signs that jump out at me and say that Ben Grieve, after the 2000 season, was a great candidate to fall off a cliff offensively.
Yet, that's exactly what happened.
AVG OBP SLG K/BB ISOP ISOD BB% SO%Looking at those numbers doesn't help to explain why Grieve declined so much offensively, but it does help to show how it happened. I know this might sound crazy, but I think Grieve may have become too patient at the plate. While his power went down with Tampa Bay, he walked more and struck out more. That's interesting, because you would think someone who came from Oakland to Tampa Bay would, if anything, become far less patient at the plate.
Here are a few more numbers to chew on:
P/PA GB/FBIf he became more patient at the plate in Tampa Bay it certainly doesn't show in the number of pitchers per plate appearance he saw. Perhaps what I really mean is that he became less aggressive at the plate.
One of the things Oakland stresses is taking bad pitches and borderline pitches, but taking big hacks at pitches you can drive. Perhaps when Grieve got to Tampa Bay, he continued to be extremely patient at the plate, but his patience extended to all pitches, including those he could drive for power.
I think the fact that he hit about 31% more ground balls while with Tampa Bay than he did in Oakland would go along with that line of thinking. Less aggression on hittable pitches leads to similar amounts of pitches seen, but creates less opportunities for power hitting and thus more ground balls. Of course, it's just a theory.
I would be willing to believe someone now if they told me that, back in January of 2000 when the A's traded Grieve away, they had a feeling he wasn't going to become a superstar. I don't think I'd believe them if they told me that they had a feeling he was going to go to Tampa and slug .399 while missing 141 games and then sign with the Brewers for $700,000 bucks though.
That said, I would love to hear from Billy Beane, the man who traded Grieve away. Did he see something then that foretold what would happen to Grieve over the next several years? Or did he trade Grieve away, despite his potential, because he simply thought the trade made the A's better?
A big part of the analysis I do here and the analysis done by so many other baseball fans around the world is based on the theory that young players get better and old players get worse. It's simple enough really. Every once in a while someone like Ben Grieve comes along and goes against that entire premise. I don't know about you, but when something like that happens, I want to know why it happened. In looking at Ben Grieve, I don't really have an answer, and that really bugs me.
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Monday, December 29, 2003
The ProducerLong time no see! Hope everyone is having a great holiday season. I haven't written anything here since last Tuesday, so let's not waste any time...
There wasn't a whole lot of big news over the last week or so, mostly due to the holidays. There were a few minor transactions though, including one in particular that caught my eye.
MONTREAL - The Montreal Expos added some much needed power to their lineup Friday, agreeing to a $1.5 million, one-year contract with third baseman Tony Batista.For those of you who haven't heard, Tony Batista drove in 99 runs for the Baltimore Orioles last season. That feat has earned him such titles as "proven RBI man" and "solid run producer."
I have spoken before about how silly I think it is for so many "old school" baseball writers and experts to get worked up over someone's RBI totals. The words being used to describe Batista's 2003 season are nothing new and have been used for plenty of similarly qualified "RBI men" in the past. Heck, Joe Carter is now mounting a relatively well supported Hall of Fame campaign based almost solely on his status as a "solid run producer."
After taking a look at Batista's stats, both from last season and for his entire career, it struck me that he is a perfect example of why RBIs are, in many instances, an extremely misleading statistic.
First of all, take a look at Batista's "other" numbers from last season:
TONY BATISTA (2003)Those numbers are just awful. Pathetic really. Among the 164 major league players who qualified for the batting title last season, Batista ranked 159th in batting average, 134th in slugging percentage and 164th (dead last!) in on-base percentage. This from a guy who is said to be bringing "some much needed power" to the Montreal Expos.
For the most part, RBIs are nothing more than a function of a team's offense, as well as a player's position in the lineup and the opportunities that come along with that position. In other words, there are two ways to drive in a lot of runs. One is to be a really good hitter. The other is to bat in the middle of a lineup with some guys who get on base batting in front of you.
When you take the former and combine it with the latter, you get something like Carlos Delgado and his 145 RBIs last season. When you take the latter without anything even resembling the former, you get Tony Batista and his 99 RBIs.
Some people will see a nice RBI-total and conclude that a player was a "Clutch Hitter" or some other such garbage, but in most cases that's not the case. Take Batista for example. He nearly cracked triple-digits in RBIs last year and ranked 21st in the AL.
His numbers in clutch situations?
AVG OBP SLGI defy you to look at those numbers and see any aspect of clutch hitting ability. Go ahead, take another look. You won't find any.
Tony Batista's run producing "ability" last season came directly as a result of one thing and one thing only: his place in Baltimore's lineup. Batista batted 4th, 5th and 6th in the lineup all season. The top few spots in Baltimore's lineup had the following numbers last year:
OBP SLGNot only did the first three spots in the lineup have relatively good on-base percentages, they also had low slugging percentages, which means they didn't drive each other (or themselves) in all that much. That left plenty of chances for Batista. I would normally end that last sentence with "and he took advantage of them," but, as you already saw, he really didn't.
Batista had 288 at bats with runners on base last season, the 8th-most in the American League. He also had 172 at bats with runners in scoring position, also 8th-most in the AL.
In this situation I use at bats and not plate appearances because walks are involved in plate appearances. When you take a walk, you don't usually have a chance to drive a run in (although you give the guys batting behind you more chances).
Let's say two hitters each come to the plate in 100 identical situations with runners on base. Who is going to have the best chance of driving in the most runs for himself, the guy who shows some plate discipline and takes a few walks or the guy who is swinging at everything? Batista would, of course, be the guy who was swinging at everything.
While hacking away at anything and everything, Tony Batista made 512 outs last season. For those of you without calculators handy, 512 outs are the equivalent of 19 entire games worth of outs.
Let's put that into some context in regard to other "run producers" who put up similar RBI numbers to Batista last year. There were a total of 11 other guys who drove in either 97, 98, 99, 100 or 101 runs last season.
RBI Outs Outs/RBIAs you can see, no one was even close to using up as many outs per RBI as Tony Batista last year. Batista made nearly 200 more outs than David Ortiz did, while driving in two fewer runs. Batista made 42 more outs than his own teammate, Jay Gibbons, and Gibbons drove in 100 runs.
In fact, there were 55 players who drove in at least 90 runs last season. Batista made the second-most outs per RBI among all of them, behind only Alfonso Soriano, who batted leadoff for all but 55 at bats last season.
Let's have some more fun with Tony Batista's RBIs...
Batista became an everyday player in 1999. Since then, he has the following impressive RBI numbers:
YEAR RBIHis 487 RBIs from 1999-2003 ranks tied for 27th in all of baseball during that time.
RBIs (1999-2003)Now, take a look at how many outs Batista has made, compared to the guy he shares the #27 spot with:
Batista 2335That's right, over the course of five seasons, Tony Batista and Scott Rolen each drove in the exact same amount of runs...and Batista made 365 more outs. That is 13.5 games worth of outs, for those of you scoring at home.
From 1999-2003 there were a total of 39 players who drove in at least 450 runs (90 per season). Here's what they look like, ordered from fewest outs made per RBI to the most:
1) Barry Bonds 526 1480 2.81Interestingly enough, Tino Martinez, one of the most heralded "run producers" of this era, ranks second-to-last, ahead of only Batista with 4.64 outs per RBI.
But wait, it gets even better. Here's the kicker...
In the entire history of baseball, there have been 1,648 instances of a player driving in at least 99 runs in a season. Among those 1,648 seasons, spanning well over 100 years, Tony Batista in 2003 used the most outs per RBI.
The most, in the history of baseball. 1,648 seasons. 1,648!
When you think about it, it's really quite an accomplishment. For the sake of accuracy though, Batista should never again be called a proven run producer. No, if anything, Tony Batista is a proven out producer.
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