Taking a look at whose season of ineptitude may have cost his team a spot in the playoffs.
Picking up where I left off on Monday, the Replacement-Level Killers is our semi-annual all-star team of ignominy, highlighting the positions at which poor production helped sink contending teams, with an eye toward the steps they've made to correct those problems as spring training approaches. For the purposes of this exercise, I've loosely defined contenders as non-playoff teams who finished no more than 10 games out of the running in 2011, which limits this particular turkey shoot to members of the Red Sox, Angels, Blue Jays, Braves, Giants, Dodgers, and Nationals, not all of whom are represented this time around. If a particularly sizable hole in your favorite team’s production isn’t represented here, fear not, as all 30 teams are eligible for the forthcoming Vortices of Suck squad, the absolute bottom of the barrel.
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Pitching and defense carried the Angels last season and will aid them again in 2012, though a couple new bats might make the difference in the division.
The most famous play of Peter Bourjos’s major-league career to date comes in the bottom of the fourth inning in the Bronx on August 10, 2011, with the Yankees already out to a 5-0 lead. Bourjos is set up in center and just a few steps towards right when New York infielder Eduardo Nuñez is late on a 3-2 fastball and lines it into the right field gap. Both Bourjos and Hunter break for the ball; it’s closer to Hunter, and he dives…inches short. Less than inches short. He’s so close to catching it that it almost looks like he tips it with his glove, but the ball continues on its course untouched.
Good thing, too, because as Hunter extends in mid-air to make a highlight-reel-worthy play on the ball, Bourjos comes streaking out of nowhere behind him and gloves the ball knee-high on the run, stops, plants, and delivers the ball back towards second, where the Angels almost double up a disbelieving Russell Martin. In the three, maybe four seconds between Nuñez making contact with the outside fastball and Bourjos retiring him, the Angels center fielder crossed from medium-deep center to make a play in front of the scoreboard in right and remained on his feet while doing so, allowing him to try for the double play. The putout makes highlight reels across the country; after all, it has a spectacular dive, an out, and a near-collision in the outfield. It’s not really important which of the outfielders was responsible for what.
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:
Who makes the Hall of Fame cut when faced against the Keltner Test and JAWS?
On Friday, I unveiled the catcher and infielders on what I'm calling the Keltner All-Stars, the best eligible player at each position outside the Hall of Fame. The name comes from former Indians third baseman Ken Keltner, who inspired Bill James' Keltner Test, a set of 15 questions that can be used to frame a player’s Hall of Fame case. The basis of my choices isn't that test. Instead, I'm using JAWS.
A writer who never saw Jack Morris pitch watches him in action for the first time and comes away even less convinced that the traditionalist case for his candidacy should earn him a call to Cooperstown.
What does the Keltner Test tell us about guys who should be in line for enshrinement?
Two years ago, following Andre Dawson’s election to the Hall of Fame, I took a trip around the diamond to identify the most worthy players at each position who remained outside of Cooperstown. The piece was a nod to Bill James, whose systematic Keltner Test—named for former Indians third baseman Ken Keltner, a set of 15 questions that can be used to frame a player’s Hall of Fame case—includes the question, "Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?" Since then, no fewer than four of the players in that lineup—Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Barry Larkin, and Ron Santo—have been elected, and the Wins Above Replacement Player system that underlies JAWS has changed significantly. Thus, it’s high time I take another spin and offer a new set of candidates.
A visual and statistical look at Carlos Quentin's track record of taking one for the team.
It’s 5:53 a.m. I have three hours, and one factoid for inspiration: Carlos Quentin has been hit in 4.0 percent of his plate appearances. YunieskyBetancourt has walked in 3.3 percent of his. Let’s just see where this takes us.
Tim Raines has his case re-examined, and the remainder of the Hall ballot gets a look.
We all have our pet projects. With the graduations of Bert Blyleven and Ron Santo to the Hall of Fame, mine is now Tim Raines. During his 23-year major-league career, Raines combined the virtues of a keen batting eye, dazzling speed, and all-around athleticism with a cerebral approach that made him an electrifying performer and a dangerous offensive weapon. Yet in four years on the ballot, he's reached just 37.5 percent of the vote, exactly half of what he needs to reach Cooperstown.
Bernie Williams burned it up with the Yankees during his career, but did the Puerto Rican do enough to blaze a trail to the Hall?
Before Derek Jeter, there was Bernie Williams. As the Yankees emerged from a barren stretch of 13 seasons without a trip to the playoffs from 1982-1994, and a particularly abysmal stretch of four straight losing seasons from 1989-1992, their young switch-hitting center fielder stood as a symbol for the franchise's resurgence. For too long, the Yankees had drafted poorly, traded away what homegrown talent they produced for veterans, and signed pricey free agents to fill the gaps as part of George Steinbrenner's eternal win-now directive. But with Steinbrennerbanned by commissioner Fay Vincent and the Yankees' day-to-day baseball operations in the hands of Gene Michael, promising youngsters were allowed to develop unimpeded.
Jay Jaffe and JAWS examine the starting pitchers on this year's Hall of Fame BBWAA ballot, starting with the inevitable Jack Morris.
After delivering the JAWS piece on first basemen earlier this week, I had planned to tackle the outfielders—Tim Raines, Bernie Williams et al—next. The sad news of Greg Spira'suntimely passingon Wednesday presented me with a reason to change course, however. In the service of working on a chapter on Jack Morris’s Hall of Fame case for Extra Innings: More Baseball Between the Numbersin November, I had called upon the Internet Wayback Machine to unearth Greg's seminal research piece questioning whether Morris "pitched to the score." a piece that was published in Baseball Prospectus 1997, predating Morris’s arrival on the BBWAA ballot by a three years and Joe Sheehan's own outstanding Morris research by five years. I suggested to Dave Pease that we republish it on our site to run alongside yesterday’s article in tribute to our fallen colleague and friend, a fine example of his intellectual curiosity and dogged research efforts, particularly as the work dated to a time when Retrosheet was in its infancy and the relevant data not easily compiled. This piece is dedicated to his memory.
The new JAWS runs up against players from the Steroid Era to determine their Hall worthiness.
As with comedy, timing is everything in baseball. "Hitting is timing," Hall of Famer Warren Spahn said famously, finishing the thought with the complementary observation, "Pitching is upsetting timing." A good chunk of both the game's traditional and advanced statistics, the ones that we spurn and those that we celebrate, owe plenty to being the right man in the right place at the right time—wins, saves, and RBI from the former camp, leverage, run expectancy, and win expectancy from the latter. ERA owes everything to the sequence of events. For better or worse, MVP votes are won and lost on the timing of a player's productivity, or at least the perception of it that comes with being labeled "clutch." Timing is a major part of how we measure the game, so it should matter when we look over the course of a player's career in evaluating his fitness for the Hall of Fame.
Continuing a jaunt through the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot with the help of the revamped JAWS, a certain DH goes under the microscope.
It's been nearly 40 years since the designated hitter was introduced to Major League Baseball, and in that time, only one player who spent the plurality—not even the majority—of his time at the position has made it into the Hall of Fame. That was Paul Molitor, who spent 1,171 of his 2,683 career games riding the pine between plate appearances. When I reviewedMolitor's Hall of Fame case—in what was actually my Baseball Prospectus debut, at a point when the system hadn’t even been named JAWS—I considered him as a third baseman, because he had played 788 games there, and the majority of his games playing somewhere in the infield. He had generated real defensive value (26 FRAA according to the measure of the time, 22 FRAA according to our most recent batch), strengthening a case that was virtually automatic anyway by dint of his membership in the 3,000-hit club.