This week's mailbag takes a look at Hall of Famers who were picked in later rounds of the draft, home team winning percentage in extra innings, and Matt Cain's one-hitter.
Welcome to the latest installment of the Baseball Prospectus Research Mailbag. This week, we’ll tackle Hall of Famers being selected in later rounds of the draft, the home team’s winning percentage in extra-inning contests, and the quirks of Matt Cain’s one-hitter against the Pirates last Friday. As always, if there’s a question you would like to see answered in a future mailbag, please feel free to send it in via email or through the “Contact Author” form (please remember to include your full name and hometown with your question).
George Brett and Mike Schmidt went back-to-back with the 29th and 30th picks of the 1971 draft. Have there been any other cases of two Hall of Famers being picked back-to-back in the draft? Also, what’s the latest a Hall of Fame player has gone in the draft?
What kind of production do teams receive from players tabbed to replace superstars?
Earlier this week, Mariano Rivera arrived at the Yankees' spring training facility in Tampa, Florida, and caused a stir by strongly hinting that the 2012 season would be his final one. The 42-year-old, who has served as the Yankees’ closer since 1997, has shown no signs of slippage, with four straight seasons of ERAs under 2.00 backed by stellar peripherals—strikeout and walk rates better than his career numbers, even—and high save totals. Late last season, he surpassed Trevor Hoffman as the all-time saves leader, and with five World Series rings in hand, the only real challenge that remains is for him to convince manager Joe Girardi to allow him a cameo in center field.
The Diamondbacks television analyst talks about his playing career and his professional approach to hitting.
Mark Grace was, in his own words, “a professional hitter,” and it is hard to argue with the longtime Cubs, and later Diamondbacks, first baseman. The left-handed-hitting Grace batted .303/.383/.442, from 1988-2003, pounding out 2,445 hits, including 511 two-baggers and 173 home runs. A three-time All-Star who won a World Series ring with Arizona in 2001, Grace currently serves as a color analyst on Diamondbacks broadcasts.
A look at how a sabermetrician would have viewed a memorable Saturday afternoon game at Wrigley Field nearly 26 years ago.
It started as an ordinary Saturday afternoon game between a third-place club and a fifth-place club—sure, there were NBC broadcasters there, but not the main announcing team of Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola. They were in Atlanta calling the marquee matchup between Fernando Valenzuela and Pascual Perez, while this game featured a rookie starter looking for his first major-league win, and a nondescript veteran with a career 54-57 record. Before it was over, however, one player would hit for the cycle, another would stroke a bases-loaded pinch-hit single in extra innings to win the game, and neither would be remembered as the game’s hero. This Cubs/Cardinals tilt at Wrigley Field was one for the annals, and if you’ve ponied up the cash to log onto CompuServe to read this you probably want more detailed analysis than you’re likely to find in Monday's USA Today—and that’s what I’ll try to provide, along with some statistical tidbits from the recent cutting-edge work of “sabermetricians” Bill James, John Thorn, and Pete Palmer.
The argument for Kent's election to the Hall of Fame has its merits, but also its mysteries.
There's no crying in baseball, which may or may not explain why Jeff Kent's stoic facade crumbled during the press conference in which he announced his retirement last week. A notoriously gruff and prickly personality, Kent had spent the better part of two decades distancing himself from his teammates and the media as much as possible. Thus the sight of him fighting back the tears was surprising, even shocking, given his apparent lack of emotional range. As the legendary sportswriter Frank Graham once wrote of Yankees outfielder Bob Meusel, "He's learning to say hello when it's time to say goodbye."
You think times are tough now? Dial up the wayback machine to Orwell's year for some real pain.
This probably won't make Cubs fans feel any better, but their quick exit from the playoffs doesn't compare to the devastating loss they suffered at the hands of the San Diego Padres 23 years ago. As a result, however, the Cubs will observe the 100th anniversary of their last World Series title next year. (A team reunion seems out of the question).
There are 16 position players on the Hall of Fame ballot. Jay Jaffe thinks three of them belong in Cooperstown.
These new metrics enable us to identify candidates who are as good or better than the average Hall of Famer at their position. By promoting those players for election, we can avoid further diluting the quality of the Hall's membership. Clay Davenport's Translations make an ideal tool 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. All pitchers, hitters and fielders are thus rated above or below one consistent replacement level, making cross-era comparisons a breeze. Though non-statistical considerations--awards, championships, postseason performance--shouldn't be left by the wayside in weighing a player's Hall of Fame case, they're not the focus here.
Since election to the Hall of Fame requires a player to perform both at a very high level and for a long time, it's inappropriate to rely simply on career Wins Above Replacement (WARP, which for this exercise refers exclusively to the adjusted-for-all-time version. WARP3). For this process I also identified each player's peak value as determined by the player's WARP in his best five consecutive seasons (with allowances made for seasons lost to war or injury). That choice is an admittedly arbitrary one; I simply selected a peak vaue that was relatively easy to calculate and that, at five years, represented a minimum of half the career of a Hall of Famer.
Barry Larkin plans to come back for the 2005 season, delaying his candidacy for the Hall of Fame by another year. Should he get in once eligible?
Larkin, unfortunately, gets hammered from both ends: he brings out certain detractors who claim that he did not have a strong enough peak, and others who claim that he did not sustain his greatness for a long enough period, citing his recent struggles as evidence. Neither of those claims has much basis in reality.