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July 27, 2000

From The Mailbag

Tony Perez, Ed Lynch, and Jay Canizaro

by Baseball Prospectus

Lowering the Bar

As far as Tony Perez's Hall of Fame credentials go, here's another way to look at it:

Was anybody outside of Cincinnati a Tony Perez fan while he was active? You know, little kids emulating his stance around the schoolyard? Cherishing his baseball cards?

I don't think so. The same goes for Phil Rizzuto, too....

Good grief. Hall of Famers should be drawing support from everyone, in baseball and out, especially while active--not just from former teammates 30 years down the line.

--CF

Outstanding! Excellent rule of thumb for consideration to the Hall.

--Gary Huckabay

Lynched

I think most people are missing the point about Ed Lynch's failure as Cubs GM, which is a complicated thing. First, when you evaluate Lynch's moves one by one, it's actually a really good picture. In the vast majority of his deals you can say that he got good return. As for Matt Karchner-for-Jon Garland and signing Joe Girardi to a three-year contract, sure those were serious blunders, but how many GMs can you name who don't have similar blemishes on their records?

Still, Lynch was a bad GM, but it really boils down to "the vision thing." Sure, he was able to turn Brant Brown into Jon Lieber, but he never seemed to make moves with any sort of coherent plan, either in the short-term or the long-term. There was never any indication that he understood the team's current shortcomings, nor any indication that he had a plan beyond next week. It seemed that if the team had a bad week giving up runs, that he would run out and trade for pitching. If the team had a bad week scoring runs, we would go out and trade for hitting. All trees, no forest.

What's scary to savvy Cubs fans is that it has always been like this, and it leads me to believe that the cluelessness is systemic in the Cubs organization. Getting rid of Lynch was treating the symptom, not the disease.

--DG

I can agree with that assessment of Lynch. He wasn't the worst in the league at making trades of opportunity, but you've got to dislike his track record of filling the holes in his team. Frequently, he did it with Lance Johnson/Joe Girardi types, which is a serious problem.

It's nice to fleece a doofus competing GM from time to time. But many of the Cubs' problems during the Lynch regime were notable for nothing other than the ineptitude with which they were handled, and that's just a recipe for disaster.

--Dave Pease

I have a minor quibble with the following quote of yours in your latest NL Central Notebook: "Throw in the fact that Ken Griffey took way below market value to come to Cincinnati in the first place, and his priorities look pretty refreshing compared to your standard-issue major leaguer."

I agree that Junior made a genuine "good guy" offer to defer some of his pay to keep Barry Larkin in a Reds uniform. But...and this is significant IMO, "the fact that he took way below market value..." Bovine manure...where in the world do you think he would have gone besides his hometown?

--RP

Come on now, that's Griffey's call. He limited his own options by deciding that he'd only play for the Reds, but are you seriously implying that no other team wanted him and was willing to give him more money? Seattle had a deal for more than $17M per on the table for him. Griffey ended up with quite a bit less than that, especially counting the deferred money.

I have heard stories about Griffey being an ass in person. I'm sure we all have. But even after he decided that the only place he'd play was Cincinnati, he still signed a great deal for the Reds. If he'd have wanted to play somewhere else, I'm sure they would have been accomodating.

Finally, I didn't mean to imply that Griffey is a good guy. I'm unqualified to make that statement. But I like to see someone who seems willing to take some control of their situation, even if they end up paying part of a teammate's salary out of their own pocket.

--Dave Pease

Catch the Damn Ball

What about Carlos Febles's defense at second base? Whenever I read any scout discussing Carlos, they rave about outstanding range and claim the only reason he is at second base is his arm.

--MG

I didn't include Febles in the top 10 for a couple of reasons. Specifically, he looks like he's been playing injured. I haven't been able to get a big enough sample, either viewing or statistically, to make that call.

--Gary Huckabay

I enjoyed the article on second basemen, and am looking forward to the rest of the series. But how about some special mention of alleged Minnesota second baseman Jay Canizaro? He deserves to be listed in a category unto himself.

With the Twins organization (and broadcasters) falling all over themselves insisting to us that Canizaro represents a major defensive upgrade on Todd Walker, the erstwhile Giant has posted a Range Factor of 3.99 and a Zone Rating of .708 in 50 games, several zip codes removed from his nearest competitor in each category (Luis Alicea's 4.63 and Chuck Knoblauch's .768, respectively).

For comparison's sake, Walker has a career Range Factor of 4.56 and a career Zone Rating of .812.

--PS

That's bloody awful. I haven't had a chance to adequately observe Canizaro, at least not since he was with Shreveport about six years ago. I take it he's not exactly Bobby Grich to the naked eye, either.

Then again, Tom Kelly's probable preference for the position is probably Dick Green, Jim Gantner or some other seasoned veteran with a gaping hole or nine in their offensive game.

--Gary Huckabay

I enjoyed your article on the problems of evaluating defense, and agree that it's a far more difficult effort than evaluating offense. It seems the best approach would be to use multiple measures as you suggest. One of the more promising measures I've come across, though, seems to have disappeared from view: defensive average. As I remember, DA assigned each position a zone of responsibility and divided the number of outs made by the player by the number of balls hit into his zone. This metric wasn't perfect, either: assigning zones can be in the eye of the beholder, and handling plays made outside of the zone was unclear. But it was a metric that got to the heart of what defenders are supposed to do: turn batted balls into outs.

Why is this statistic not used more often?

--DT

Defensive Average is probably the best thing out there for evaluating defense. Its zones of responsibility are well designed for measuring defense, and it handles the issues of unclear responsibility exceptionally well. Unfortunately, it hasn't been around for several years. (Or if it has, I haven't seen it.)

Sherri Nichols, who knows more about baseball than people on ESPN have ever dreamed of, used to create Defensive Average based on data collected by, I believe, Pete DeCoursey. Sherri has since moved on to other projects, focused on not doing a load of thankless work for no recompense. (Alas, this means she's unqualified to work for BP.)

I recommend a letter-writing campaign to get Sherri Nichols to resume her excellent work on defensive average. To make the campaign more effective, we need to include a comprehensive set of Dead President Trading Cards. I haven't spoken to Sherri or Dave in several years, but I expect that we can probably trade 6-7 Salmon P. Chases (actually a bank president) for 3 Lincolns and a year's worth of Defensive Average.

--Gary Huckabay

Midseason Awards

Regarding your appointment of Jeff Tam as AL Rookie of the Year, please consider the following:

A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has

  • exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or

  • accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list).

This is the definition of a "rookie" according to Major League Baseball.

According to other sources, it has been confirmed with Oakland's front office that Jeff Tam has exceeded the 45 days allowed while with the Mets and Indians, even though he has not exceeded innings pitched.

--TD, and many other Ben Molina fans

Baseball Weekly and the Elias Sports Bureau both list Tam as a rookie. Serves us right for depending on their listings...

With Tam ineligible for the award, you may like the results of a staff re-vote even less. I'd probably pick Molina right now, but that's mainly due to the impassioned arguments I got from Angels fans everywhere. Overall, my guess is that the staff would support Terrence Long for the award; he also plays an important defensive position well, and he's been more productive at the plate.

Thanks for keeping us honest,

--Dave Pease

No one on your staff even could even spare a single MVP vote for Frank Thomas, the best player on the team with the best record?

He is currently sixth in OPS in the AL (fifth in slugging and sixth in OBP). He also is tied for second in HR, eighth in RBIs, sixth in runs, 10th in hits, third in walks (first in IBB), and fifth in total bases. I'm not claiming he is the MVP right now, although he might be by the end of the year, but he should have gotten at least one third- place vote.

--BP

Why? Thomas is the third-best player at his nominal position in the AL--clearly behind Carlos Delgado and Jason Giambi at first base. To vote for Thomas, one of us would have had to have our ballot Giambi-Delgado-Thomas, and that's not going to happen with all the great performances at other positions we're seeing this year.

If we consider him a DH, he's behind Edgar Martinez and he also has zero defensive value. Come to think of it, even when playing first base, zero defensive value might be something to strive for for the Big Hurt.

Thomas might make my top 10, but he'd be behind everyone we voted for, and some players (like Darin Erstad--how's that, Angels fans?) that we didn't.

--Dave Pease

We'd love to hear your thoughts on anything baseball-related at info@baseballprospectus.com. We'll publish the best of what we get frequently at www.baseballprospectus.com.

Related Content:  Dave Pease,  The Who

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