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September 6, 2006
The Quest to Turn Everybody Into Rob Deer
Best Matchup (opponents with best combined Prospectus Hit List rankings): Texas Rangers (11th) @ Oakland Athletics (8th)
According to the latest BP Postseason Odds Report, the A's have only a one-in-10 chance of blowing the division lead. What this means is that they'll enter the playoffs as the weakest team of the four, according to the latest BP Hit List:
I suppose this means another October of sniping at the Beane method and how it doesn't work in the postseason.
If the Twins do justify the current odds of 63 percent and get in, a healthy Francisco Liriano is going to give them the best one-two pitching punch of any playoff team, but Oakland is not bad off in this regard according to 2006 VORP:
The third-best starters on each team look like this:
These aren't the pitchers who will necessarily be aligned one-two-three, however. Kenny Rogers (32.8) will take a lead role for the Tigers and Randy Johnson (11.5) will do the same for New York. If Radke's run for glory doesn't work out, it's a pretty steep drop off the quality cliff for the Twins. Boof Bonser as a Game Three starter could be a possibility. He's looking a lot better than Carlos Silva and Scott Baker these days.
As was highly publicized, the Rangers turned over their entire starting rotation this year. I thought it would be interesting to see what has happened to the dozen men they used as starters in 2005.
Chris Young (31 Ranger starts in 2005): Leading the Padres with a 34.0 VORP.
Worst Matchup (opponents with worst combined Prospectus Hit List rankings, provided both are in the lower half) : Pittsburgh Pirates (28th) @ Chicago Cubs (27th)
This is The Battle of the Three True Outcome Pitching Staffs. The Cubs have a commanding lead in the Quest to Turn Everybody Into Rob Deer while the Pirates are in a battle for second place.
Team: HR+BB+K Allowed Cubs: 1,710 Pirates: 1,585 Brewers: 1,576 Phillies: 1,572 Marlins: 1,564The pitching staff that is least likely to promote a Deerian lifestyle is Cleveland with 1,269. It stands to reason that an American League team would have the lowest count in this category, but the Rockies and Cardinals follow the Indians and White Sox with the least Three True Outcomes combined.
Conversely, Cubs hitters are the least likely to produce a True Outcome:
Team: HR+BB+K Allowed Cubs: 1,230 Twins: 1,263 Mariners: 1,265 Orioles: 1,278 Giants: 1,324That's a gap of about 500 between True Outcomes allowed and achieved. Can we surmise that Cubs games move much, much faster when they are at bat than when they are in the field (aside from the obvious time consideration that comes from the fact that they've surrendered more runs than they've scored)?
Biggest Mismatchup (opponents with greatest difference in Prospectus Hit List rankings) : New York Yankees (1st) @ Kansas City Royals (30th)
Nobody else is even close to 7.0 at this point. It's interesting that Hafner holds his own in this category even though it includes fielding. So dominant has his hitting been that he has the upper hand over just about every fielder in the league in spite of his lack of glove time. Jeter's defense this year is not measuring up to last season's showing. His FRAA is currently at -1, a big drop from last year's career-high of 17 - although it would still stand as the third-best mark of his career.
I think it's safe to say that the voters are going to ignore Hafner in 2006, so it might come down to a battle between Jeter, Mauer and Dye; three players from clubs that have made a run at it. With that in mind, I would say Jeter's chances are looking pretty good right about now.
Closest Matchup (opponents closest to one another in the Prospectus Hit List rankings) : Houston Astros (17th) @ Philadelphia Phillies (16th)
There is a natural tendency to feel sorry for pitchers that are poorly supported by their teams. There should be no such sympathy for Roger Clemens, however. He knew what he was getting into when he signed with the Astros again. Clearly, money and convenience were more important to him than run support. Is that fair to say? The Astros have been getting Andy Pettitte about a run per game more than they have Clemens and even more than that for Roy Oswalt. The Astros hitters have landed Clemens near the very bottom of the run support, just like last year. In turn, he has pitched well enough to put his team into a position win 14 of the 15 games he's started, but they've only managed to win eight of those games.
In fact, Clemens has pitched about as well as any starter in baseball this year. Looking at Runs Allowed-Plus, he's right near the top among all pitchers with 15 or more starts:
2.13: Jered Weaver, Angels
His Average Game Score is right there with Carpenter's for the best in the majors. It would seem that he could continue doing this indefinitely (although I remember saying the same thing about Steve Carlton toward the end of his career and see how he ended up). Clemens has the very thing that ballplayers have dreamed about for 135 years: ultimate freedom. He can sign with whomever he wants for however much he wants for however long he wants. He can pitch for a whole season, or on Sundays or for three months. He can sign on August 31 and parachute into the middle of a pennant race if he likes.
If he is of a mind to, Clemens could end up third on the all-time victories list behind only Cy Young (511) and Walter Johnson (417). If he limits his pitching over the next three seasons and remains relatively effective (in other words, he doesn't even have to be one of the most effective pitchers in the game as he is at the moment), he could chalk up eight-to-10 wins a year through 2009. That would land him in the mid-370s, just ahead of Grover Cleveland Alexander and Christy Mathewson.
Having looked at the WARP1 for the MVP candidates in the American League, here are the figures for the National League leaders:
9.7: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Ryan Howard--currently at 6.6--is not among the leaders but fear not, Phillies fans. His gaudy RBI number is going to put him in the top three when the vote is tallied, if not in first place itself.
Let's look at the MVP finishes of the top single-season RBI getters of the Expansion era:
165: Manny Ramirez, 1999 (4th)
That's an average of about third place. Of course, a number of these players did other things that caught the eyes of the voters--just like Howard's big home run total will this year.