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March 15, 2012 11:56 am

Overthinking It: Free the Bench Bats!


Ben Lindbergh

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.

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A look at the first basemen on this year's Hall of Fame ballot.

Having kicked off this year's JAWS series with the starting pitchers, today we turn our attention to the first basemen, a slate which includes the ballot's best newcomer as well as its most controversial first-timer, and a few holdovers who aren't going anywhere for entirely different reasons.

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September 16, 2010 8:00 am

Checking the Numbers: Chipper, Eddie, and Pete


Eric Seidman

Is Chipper Jones a greater switch-hitter than Eddie Murray and Pete Rose?

A little over a week ago I wrote an article on switch-hitters, focusing on a simple question: Do we evaluate switch-hitters based on their self-platoon split, or based on overall numbers regardless of the split? A case can be made for each side, as those in the self-platoon camp would argue that a good switch-hitter should be able to produce from both sides of the plate. These advocates certainly wouldn’t consider someone like Gary Matthews Jr. a solid switch-hitter, as his numbers are terrible even if his split is small. On the other side of the spectrum, it also makes sense that the best switch-hitter would be the best hitter who happens to bat from both sides of the plate. Mark Teixeira might favor one side more than the other, but his numbers from each side are far and away superior to the league average. The differentiation would be whether switch-hitting is considered a niche in which a separate definition applies. Can a good switch-hitter be a relatively underwhelming overall hitter?

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September 8, 2010 8:00 am

Prospectus Hit and Run: Cooperstown Bound


Jay Jaffe

Jim Thome has never been considered among the game's elite players but his home run and walk totals make him worthy of the Hall of Fame.

One year ago, Jim Thome was almost a forgotten man. Traded by the White Sox to the Dodgers just prior to the August 31 waiver deadline, he was a fish out of water in the National League, instantly reduced to a pinch-hitting role by his inability to play the field and even further limited by a bout of plantar fasciitis. Including the postseason, Thome went just 5-for-20—all singles—with a walk and three RBI for the Dodgers. Since the team fell short of the World Series, he didn't get to serve as designated hitter in the Fall Classic, the primary job for which he was acquired. At 39 years old, he looked like he might be done.

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May 18, 2005 12:00 am

Lies, Damned Lies: Can A-Rod and Pujols Beat Aaron's Record?


Nate Silver

Nate Silver creates a Favorite Toy for the 21st century with PECOTA's help to test two superstars' chances at breaking the all-time home-run record.

It's worth mentioning something before we proceed further. Though the Favorite Toy is one of James' more popular and accessible inventions, it has not to my knowledge been validated empirically. That is, while it produces some answers that look about right and can spark some lively barroom discussions, we have no way of knowing whether it is accurate. My guess, actually, is that the Favorite Toy tends to overestimate the chance that a certain record will be surpassed, mostly because it doesn't account for the way in which problematic events in a player's career path tend to snowball. In other words, the Favorite Toy might estimate that say Ivan Rodriguez has a break-even chance of reaching 3,000 hits, based on an assumption that he will play about seven more seasons and average 140 hits per year (which awould give him 3,031). The problem is that, if Rodriguez only gets say 90 hits in 2007, that likely indicates that something has gone seriously wrong with him (probably an injury), and would radically reduce his projection for future seasons. But if Rodriguez had a good year in 2007 and had say 170 hits, it would probably not substantially increase our estimate of his productivity in the years beyond that, as he'd still be on the wrong side of the aging curve.

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A total of 3558 voters cast ballots this season.

Another year of balloting in the STATLG-L/Baseball Prospectus Internet Hall of Fame has been completed, and it's time to report on the results. As expected, and as will almost certainly be announced tomorrow in Cooperstown, Eddie Murray was elected in his first year of eligibility. For the second straight year, our voters also supported National League catcher Gary Carter with enough votes to put The Kid's smiling face on a plaque. Once again, we'll have to wait a day to see whether the Baseball Writers Association of America see as much in Carter as we do; in last year's BBWAA balloting, he fell short by a mere 11 votes. Bert Blyleven and newcomer Ryne Sandberg came close to 75% in the STATLG-L vote, but none of the other 29 players on the ballot received votes from as many as half of us.

A total of 3558 voters cast ballots this season, topping last year's count by more than 1000. Thank you all! The rise in popularity of the IHOF vote has been amazing - from 518 to 3558 voters in just four years. The threshold for induction was therefore 2669 votes, which Murray and Carter topped by nearly 300. Blyleven and Sandberg fell about 250 votes below the bar. The mean number of names on a ballot was 5.96, well above last year's 5.18 but less than the 6.54 names per ballot the previous year.

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