How much would the Reds benefit from calling up Billy Hamilton for the season's final month? (Math.)
One week ago, in a game against the Angels, Chone Figgins pinch-ran. Ten years ago, in a game with the Angels, Chone Figgins also pinch-ran, in his major-league debut, scoring the winning run on a squeeze bunt. Things are always coming full circle, except I guess for Chone Figgins in the most literal sense, because even if he comes around to score after pinch-running he will have completed only 270 degrees.
Wait, come back! This is not a piece about Chone Figgins or geometry. It’s about Billy Hamilton, I promise. Here, watch a video of Billy Hamilton:
The Tigers are testing the old adage that you can never go back again by shifting Miguel Cabrera back to third base, but is there any precedent to suggest that the move might work?
All players eventually succumb to the passage of time. Outwardly, though, some age less obviously than others. Their statistics might lose some of their luster, their managers might rest them more often, and they might be more susceptible to a calf pull here or a hamstring strain there. But they look no less trim and move no less smoothly than they did in more durable days. Watch them from the stands, and you might almost convince yourself that they’re still in their prime and not deep in decline.
Look at early-model and late-model Mariano Rivera. It’s tough to tell them apart. Here’s Rivera giving up a crucial home run to Sandy Alomar Jr. in Game 4 of the 1997 ALDS. (Orel Hershiser, by the way: also aging gracefully.)
Several overqualified players might be riding the pine while a pricier, less productive veteran hogs their position on Opening Day, but they deserve to be starting.
Every year, major-league teams spend millions on evaluating and acquiring players from outside their organizations, whether they’re amateurs eligible for the draft, professionals in another system, or foreign or domestic free agents available to the highest bidder. Sometimes, though, a potential source of improvement is already in house and in uniform, overlooked in favor of a more experienced or higher-paid player who’s no longer the best man for the job.
Sixteen years ago, Brian Giles was one such player. Giles was blocked by Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez at the outfield corners in Cleveland, but at designated hitter, only an aging Eddie Murray barred his way. The 40-year-old future Hall of Famer had been productive a season before, but by ’96 he was a year away from retirement and had little left. Giles was ready to replace him. At age 25, he was beyond the age at which most promising players get a long major-league look, but he had only a September cup of coffee to show for his two successful seasons in Triple-A.
While third base is often considered an offense-heavy position now, last year proved to be a major down season.
As so often happens, my recent Replacement-Level Killers and Vortices of Suck miniseries have focused my attention on the landscape of offensive production at each position. Back in July, while putting together the midseason Killers, I was struck by just how awful a year it had been for third basemen. Age, injuries, and mysterious slumps had sapped the production of so many hot cornermen that their collective True Average (.253) trailed that of second basemen (.256)—a seven-point swing from the year before, a change that couldn't simply be explained by Chone Figgins' switch in positions. As someone who internalized Bill James' defensive spectrum before I was old enough to drive, this anomaly fascinated me.
Which men of misery prevented their teams from escaping the murky waters of suckitude?
My semiannual Replacement-Level Killers series spotlights the worst holes in contenders' lineups, as well as the possible remedies they might take to avoid letting such subpar production destroy their post-season chances the next time around. I make no claims for this companion series being so noble in purpose. Because bad baseball so often makes for good copy, it's more fun to hunt the fish at the bottom of the major-league barrel to find the positions where players' contributions could be considered the worst in the majors. What follows is an "all-star" team of players who have produced tornado-level disasters amid their lineups, often at salaries that represented far more than just a soft breeze running through their team's bank account. Once again, I present the Vortices of Suck.
It's a stroll through Angels history to find those memorable and unmemorable men who manned third base.
Quick: Name 10 men who played third base for the Angels in their first 51 seasons. Troy Glaus is easy. He is the franchise leader in games played at the position and was played there fairly recently. Doug DeCinces logged almost as many games, although you might remember him more as a member of Earl Weaver's Orioles. Jack Howell, who followed DeCinces, ranks third with an even 600 games. ChoneFiggins? Sure, he's another recent guy who ranks fourth in games played at the hot corner. Rounding out the top five is Paul Schaal, whose greatest claims to fame are:
Jorge Posada and Chone Figgins are both struggling in the BABIP department, and for wildly different reasons.
A pair of American Leaguer hitters are scuffling at the plate in the early going, particularly when it comes to batting average in balls in play. Nothing sets off the alarm bells like an old catcher, shifting to a new role and struggling at the plate. In Jorge Posada’s case, this isn’t just any alarm: this is a five alarm inferno.
A look at the best and worst free agent signings, at least at the season's midpoint, from last winter.
Like most sports fans, over time I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with the concept of free agency. Since I happen to root for a team that’s seemingly gone a galactic year since last winning a title, the idea of getting something for nothing (since it’s not my money being spent) and adding a player for “free” is a powerful one. From an entertainment perspective there’s something to be said for the off-season interest that the annual free agent feeding frenzy engenders, while on a sociopolitical level it’s hard to argue with the concept of a worker bargaining his own worth on the open market.
Attempting to assign credit and blame around the diamond when the ball is put into play.
When last we met, we were playing the blame game, and specifically asking the question, when a batter strikes out, who is responsible? The batter? The pitcher? Random noise? It turns out that after some numerical gymnastics we find that, on a strikeout, a batter deserves about 56 percent of the blame (from his perspective anyway), while the pitcher gets about 43.3 percent. Background noise from the league takes up the remaining 0.7 percent. Today, we’ll take a look at some of the other (more complicated) events in baseball, but if you haven’t read part I (which lays out the methodology I’ll be using), now would be a good time to go back and do so.
Catching up on reader e-mail with the Fantasy Mailbag.
As I was out of town at the beginning of the week thanks to a few events for Baseball Prospectus 2010, this is as good a time as any to revive something I have wanted to do for awhile, but haven't had the capacity to until this blog went live. My hope is to write a Fantasy Mailbag whenever reader questions allow, which will hopefully be weekly but it depends on how the queries are delivered (and if I'm allowed to publish them, which is up to the reader).
Let me know in the comments if this is something you would like to see—very often, in both my chats and in my inbox, I receive a bunch of similar or related questions involving the same players, and the best way to get this information out there for everyone to seem, including those who want to know but haven't asked, is to run a mailbag. Today we'll go light, with just one e-mail (as many of the others in my inbox were either very specific to their league or quick to answer) but in the future I hope to do 2-3 per mailbag. I can also answer unanswered chat questions through this venue, or expand on ones I already covered quickly in that format.
The Mariners' skipper on his relationship with GM Jack Zduriencik, the expectations on his club for 2010, and the acquisitions of Cliff Lee and Chone Figgins.
There are some loud tremors emanating from the Pacific Northwest this offseason, and nobody feels and hears them more than Don Wakamatsu. The Mariners skipper isn't quite quaking with excitement, but with the recent acquisitions of Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee, there is clearly an extra bounce to his step. There may also be an elevated heart rate, as Mount Rainier-sized expectations are already beginning to cascade down upon a team that won 85 games in Wakamatsu's first year at the helm. The 46-year-old skipper talked to Baseball Prospectus via phone-a conversation briefly interrupted by a call from GM Jack Zduriencik-to discuss the season that was, and the future of what clearly seems to be an organization moving in the right direction.