Players who shine from both sides of the plate are becoming rarer.
When Chipper Jones hit the disabled list following a spectacular play in the field, the biggest question was not when he would return, but if he would continue his career. If he decides to hang up his cleats when the Braves' season comes to a close, baseball would bid adieu to one of the best switch-hitters of all time.
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Do teams that went without rookies for extended periods of time have something to tell about organizational behavior?
I attend perhaps two baseball games a month during the regular season. I really ought to go to more, because a lot of my column topics come when I'm sharing a couple of beers with a friend and exchanging ideas, enjoying the leisurely pace of live baseball without the distractions of TV or the net. On Tuesday night, I took in the Sox-Royals game with Josh Orenstein of the MLBPA, and one of the subjects that came up was how long a team can conceivably go without developing a rookie.
One candidate is different from every other candidate, but that doesn't mean that the rest of the infielders on the ballot have no hope of induction. Jay uses his signature JAWS system to investigate who's worthy of Cooperstown.
This is the fourth year I've used the very self-consciously named Jaffe WARP
Score system (JAWS) to examine the Hall of Fame ballot. The goal of JAWS is
to identify candidates on the Hall ballot who are as good or better than the
average Hall of Famer at their position, a bar set so as to avoid further
diluting the quality of the institution's membership. Clay Davenport's Wins
Above Replacement Player (WARP) totals are the coin of the realm for this
endeavor because they normalize all performance records in major-league
history to the same scoring environment, adjusting for park effects, quality
of competition and length of schedule. Pitchers, hitters and fielders are
thus rated above or below one consistent replacement level, making cross-era
comparisons a breeze.
JAWS does not include non-statistical considerations--awards, championships,
postseason performance, rap sheet, urine test results--but that's not to say
they should be left by the wayside. They're just not the focus here. While
I'll discuss the 800-pound elephant in the room in the context of various
candidacies, I don't claim to have a solution as to how voters or fans
should handle the dawn of this new era. That's an emotional issue, and JAWS
isn't designed to handle emotions.
The Snakes bury John Patterson, the Red Sox sort through a batch of soft tossers, the Marlins vie for a 25-catcher roster, and the Devil Rays solve all their problems by grabbing Al Martin and Damion Easley.
From 1946 though 1993, National League Most Valuable Player awards could be
safely predicted, with only a handful of exceptions, using just a few
indicators. Since that time, however, the system has already made three
major mistakes (the MVP was not selected as a candidate by the system) and
one minor mistake (the tie-breaker selected the wrong candidate). That's
four out of eight correct calls, a rate that on the face of it suggests that
the system may no longer work.
In this conclusion to the series, I'll look at reasons why National League
MVP voters may be changing how they go about their business, examine the
wrong predictions since 1994, and speculate about the future usefulness of
the MVP predictor.
That kvetching aside, the NLCS should be a great matchup. Not surprisingly
for one of the nation's grayest of retiree nirvanas, the Arizona
Diamondbacks feature all sorts of people with past histories, and among this
group, that involves plenty of postseason fun. Luis Gonzalez, Jay
Bell, Mark Grace, and Matt Williams have all enjoyed the
privilege of losing to the Braves in a postseason series, while Curt
Schilling and Steve Finley are among the happy non-Yankee few who
can remember beating them. When you assemble a team out of the famous and
the ex-famous, those kinds of campfire stories are a fringe benefit.
However, the Snakes come in after a full-length series against the Cardinals
with only a day's rest, which means that the Braves will have the strategic
advantage of opening the series with their rotation and bullpen fully set up
So who's the underdog? With the Astros' pitching staff in tatters and the
Braves' lineup deeply sunk in senescence, does the label even matter? Both
teams have fought doggedly to get here, and the backstory of each is
compelling in its own way. Limping down the stretch, the Astros fended off a
desperate challenge from the Cardinals, while the Braves came from behind to
overtake the Phillies' and their big early-season lead. Sadly, somebody's
going to have to lose this series, which means that either the Braves or the
Astros will continue to be labeled postseason losers despite the
accomplishment of getting there.