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October 12, 2006

Prospectus Matchups

The All In-Spite-Of Team

by Jim Baker

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In a tradition that dates all the way back to 2005, it's time to name two annual postseason All-Star teams. Don't forget to vote on our alternate National League Cy Young Award. (Details below.)

The All-in-Spite-of Team

The AiSo squad is comprised of the players whose teams made the playoffs in spite of them having seasons that were far less than stellar. Past members include some of your favorites, like Darin Erstad, Wandy Rodriguez and Adam Everett.

Catcher
Vacant

It would be too easy to put Yadier Molina in this slot based on his -19.3 VORP, but man, even with that, the guy managed a WARP1 of 3.2! That's an impressive enough endorsement of his defense that we'll let him off the hook for his hitting this one time.

First Base
Sean Casey, Detroit Tigers: .214 EqA, -0.1 WARP1

That's right--kick a guy when he's down. Put him on an all-futility team the day after a national television audience watched his calf knot up in extreme slo-mo. That's nice. Casey had some close competition from Andy Phillips of the Yankees and, to a lesser extent, Dan Johnson of the A's. After coming over from Pittsburgh, Casey managed just .245/.286/.364 in 196 plate appearances, for a VORP of -7.8. No playoff-bound full-time first baseman came anywhere close to that, hence the requirement that we go to a player with lesser playing time. What a strange world in which there exists a game wherein Sean Casey batted third and Alex Rodriguez batted eighth.

Second Base
Ron Belliard, St. Louis Cardinals: .223 EqA, 0.2 WARP1

Belliard grabbed second while Aaron Miles slipped over to short to fill in for the injured David Eckstein. Neither did much, although Miles was a little better. If we were combining players here, a very strong case could be made for Kaz Matsui, Chris Woodward and Anderson Hernandez of the Mets. As second basemen, they combined to go .204/.259/.273 in about 300 plate appearances.

Third Base
Vinny Castilla / Mark Bellhorn, San Diego Padres: .201 EqA / .222 EqA, -0.9 WARP1 / 0.3 WARP1

Bellhorn is the sole returning member of the All-in-Spite-of Team. Last year, he managed to make it with substandard efforts with the Red Sox and Yankees, playoff-bound teams both. The longer he plays, the more aberrant his two good seasons are looking. This is also the second year in a row that San Diego's third basemen were the representatives on the AiSo Team. In 2005, it was Sean Burroughs, Joe Randa and Geoff Blum combining to get the nod.

Shortstop
Bobby Crosby, Oakland A's: .220 EqA, 0.2 WARP1

It's getting tougher all the time for young Crosby. Coincidence or conspiracy? The A's were basically a .500 team with Crosby in the lineup. When he was sitting out those 66 games, they achieved their 24-game margin over .500. He left the lineup just in time to miss Oakland's annual reversal of fortune. It's enough to give a guy a complex.

Leftfield
Lew Ford, Minnesota Twins: .209 EqA, 0.4 WARP1

Beware the 27-year old rookie. That was Ford's age when he impressed two years ago.By 30, he'll be fighting for a job in spring training. You know it's going badly for you when the team brings in Jason Tyner to usurp your action.

Centerfield
Mark Kotsay, Oakland A's: .246 EqA, 1.9 WARP1

Kotsay had the worst season among the eight regular playoff centerfielders. Not a good season in the context of his career, either.

Rightfield
Juan Encarnacion, St. Louis Cardinals: .256 EqA, 2.8 WARP1

24 unintentional walks in nearly 600 plate appearances won't help keep you off the AiSo Team. By comparison, he had the best season of any AiSo player.

Designated Hitter
Rondell White, Minnesota Twins: .211 EqA, -0.7 WARP1

He was much better in the second half and rolled it right into the playoffs. In the end, what would have been different about the season had White hit well the whole year? Even if they had had the best record in the league, they still would have played the A's in the first round.

Starting Pitcher (minimum 20 starts)
Carlos Silva, Minnesota Twins: -7.4 VORP

It was a very close call between Silva and Jason Marquis of the Cardinals. They were tight in any number of statistical considerations. In the end, it was Marquis' 2.1 SNLVAR that saved him from the indignity. Silva's was 1.0. Had he made three more starts, Mark Mulder would have also been a viable candidate.

Reliever
Tim Hamulack, Los Angeles Dodgers: -0.504 WXRL

Hamulack had the worst WXRL among relievers on playoff teams who logged anything like significant appearance numbers. In his 33 games he was perfect just six times and three of those jobs were less than an inning. Is it asking a lot for a reliever to set down every batter he faces? Not really, especially when it requires retiring three or fewer batters without incident. On the positive side, he did have a good strikeout rate.

The Don't Blame Me Team

These are the best players at each position whose teams did not qualify for the postseason. Although there is a tendency in some circles to blame a team's best player or players for its shortcomings, you'll find none of that school of thought here. If you want to know why their teams didn't get there, you'll have to look to names other than those on this squad for your scapegoating needs.

Catcher
Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves: 7.2 WARP1

Yes, a Brave is finally eligible for this team. McCann bests last year's DBMe catcher, Victor Martinez of the Indians, posting the same WARP1 that Martinez did in 2005.

First Base
Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies: 8.5 WARP1

Lance Berkman actually had the higher WARP1 (9.1), but Howard had a better EqA and higher VORP.

Second Base
Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies: 7.3 WARP1

No contest here, really. Utley finished second to Brian Roberts of Baltimore last year. The goal for Utley and Howard in 2007 is not to be eligible for this honor.

Third Base
Miguel Cabrera, Florida Marlins: 9.8 WARP1

If it's one thing Cooperstown needs, it's more third basemen. Cabrera might get there anyway, but if he stays at third base, he can get his ticket punched a lot more easily.

Shortstop
Miguel Tejada, Baltimore Orioles: 8.4 WARP1

As you would expect, last year's team was Cleveland-intensive. Jhonny Peralta, the 2005 DBMe shortstop, took a powder this year, paving the way for Tejada. 2006 marks his third consecutive Hall of Fame-caliber season.

Leftfield
Jason Bay, Pittsburgh Pirates: 8.8 WARP1

Bay repeats as the DBMe leftfielder. You'd like to say he could hold down this spot for the better part of the next half-decade but the National League Central is in flux right now. Some savvy moves by the Pirates front office this offseason could make them the surprise team of 2007. More likely, Bay will be back on this squad again next year. Manny Ramirez certainly had the best offensive season of any leftfielder, but his WARP1 was only 6.3 and defense counts on the DBMe Team--at least as much where a gap of 2.5 in WARP1 can't be ignored.

Centerfield
Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians: 8.3 WARP1

Another repeater from 2005. Sizemore easily bested Vernon Wells of the Blue Jays by having an even better season than he did last year. If the Indians had a bullpen in 2006, he might not have been eligible for inclusion. As it is, all he can do is shake his head ruefully when the Don't Blame Me Team two-for-one Pizza Hut coupons--the prize for all winners--shows up in his mail.

Rightfield
Jermaine Dye, Chicago White Sox, 8.4 WARP1

Dye's career year coincides with the White Sox step backwards to land him here, on the list of the major leagues' most inappropriate scapegoats. Not only did he hit better than ever, he hasn't had fielding numbers this good since early in his Royals tenure.

Designated Hitter
Travis Hafner, Cleveland Indians: 80.5 VORP

Like his teammate Sizemore, a fellow member of the 2005 DBMe Team. An argument can be mounted for David Ortiz based mostly on the fact that he played in 22 more games than did Hafner. Hafner had higher BA/OBP/SA numbers as well as an EqA of .351 to Ortiz's .328.

Starting Pitcher
Roy Oswalt, Houston Astros: 71.8 VORP

Are we not debating the very fabric of the National League Cy Young Award itself here? Well, not really, since Roy Halladay is a viable candidate for the DBMe Team. In the end, Oswalt had a better VORP and SNLVAR than all of them.

Here's an idea: since pitchers are eligible for the MVP Award and since the NL Cy Young has proven to be a tough vote this year, how about giving the award to a position player? Crazy? Yes! Clever? Well, you decide. Let's pick the player who did the most to make it easier for pitchers to do their jobs and give him the Cy Young by default. I'll let you decide in a popular vote. Here are the five players with the lowest VORPs in the National League. Pick one of them and e-mail me your choice at the address below by Monday at 7 p.m. I'll announce the winner--a term used advisedly--in next week's column.

Limiting our choices to just those players who qualified for the batting title, these are the candidates:

Candidate   Team    Out %   EqA
Ronny Cedeno Cubs    .750   .205
Brad Ausmus  'stros  .699   .211
Pedro Feliz  Giants  .720   .237
Adam Everett 'stros  .726   .220
Clint Barmes Rox     .753   .201
Out % is simply outs divided by plate appearances.

Middle Reliever
Scot Shields, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 3.731 WXRL

It was a very close shave between Shields and Dan Wheeler of the Astros. I'm giving the nod to Shields because he worked 16 more innings. Shields had the highest VORP of any non-closer/non-starter. Last year's DBMe middle reliever was Justin Duchscherer of the A's. He had the third-best WXRL among his kind this year, but was ineligible because his club went and made the playoffs on him.

Closer
Francisco Rodriguez, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 7.316 WXRL

Has it really been four whole years since Rodriguez exploded on our semi-consciousness in the 2002 playoffs after only five regular season appearances? A number of closers had great seasons in 2006 but Rodriguez managed to out-WXRL them all. A good case could be made for Jonathan Papelbon for this slot as well. He was second in WXRL and had the highest VORP among big league relievers at 38.6

Related Content:  Casey Crosby,  Sean Rodriguez,  The Who

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