Taking a look at the most valuable players taken among the top 50 picks in the draft, Cy Young pitchers improving after winning the award, and more
In this week’s mailbag, we’ll investigate pitching matchups that involved players with long surnames, Cy Young winners who were actually better in the year that followed their award-winning campaigns, and the most productive players selected among the top 50 picks of the Rule 4 draft. As always, if you have a question you would like to see answered in this space, please send me an email (remember to include your name and hometown).
The last names of Sunday’s starting pitchers, Jordan Zimmerman and Jeff Samardzija, total 20 characters. What game has featured the most characters in the last names of the starting pitchers?
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In the mid-1970s, the Mets anticipated the worst aspects of the latter day Florida Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates. They had an ownership that was uninterested in running the club and largely delegated most decisions to the team chairman. The chairman was strictly a bottom line guy who couldn’t find the bottom line. He knew relatively little about baseball, and had apparently learned his communications skills from Heinrich Himmler. With attendance down and free agency, something the club was bitterly opposed to, coming in, the Mets decided to divest themselves of their biggest stars.
That decision, carried into action on June 15, 1977, was instantly and forever after known as “The Midnight Massacre.” The Mets took a player so identified with the team that he was called “The Franchise,” 32-year-old ace Tom Seaver, and dumped him on the Reds, then completed their self-immolation by taking Dave Kingman, a limited player but nonetheless one of their leading hitters, and threw him to the Padres for no return.
Attempting to plot the career path of those who may reach the 300-win plateau.
I’m excited to join Baseball Prospectus. If you’ve read any of my previous work, you may know me as something of a PITCHf/x guy. I’ve been learning about and writing about PITCHf/x since the pitch-tracking system was installed in major-league ballparks in 2007, so that description is apt. My interests extend beyond PITCHf/x to the physics of baseball and the details of the pitcher-hitter confrontation.
How Jamie Moyer learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.
On May 6, Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Robertspassed away. Many nice things were said upon his shuffling off this mortal coil—staff leader of the 1950 "Whiz Kids," active in the formation of the players' union, all-around stand-up guy. But the most distinctive number attached to his 19-year big-league career was his 505 home runs allowed, the all-time record. Those dingers didn't stop Roberts from racking up 286 wins with a 3.41 ERA, a 113 ERA+, and 82.0 WARP, good enough to earn him a bronze plaque in Cooperstown in relatively short order.
A famous rocker talks about one of his other great loves beyond music: baseball.
There are baseball fans, and then there is George Thorogood. An icon in the music world, Thorogood is not only a passionate Mets fan, he is also a walking-and-shouting baseball historian. A former second baseman with the semi-pro Delaware Destroyers, Thorogood has multiple gold records to go with his baseball pedigree, not to mention a reputation as one of the best live performers on the blues-and-rock circuit. About to hit the road for yet another tour, Thorogood shared his thoughts on performance-enhancing drugs, the brilliance of Sandy Koufax, and what it was like to talk baseball with the legendary John Lee Hooker.
Cork and rubber, not HGH and steroids, might be responsible for baseball's home run increases, which certainly aren't due to smaller park dimensions.
Amid the ongoing swirl of steroid stories this past week, I came across a bit of research that had me dusting off something I wrote three years ago. In 2005, I contributed a chapter to Will Carroll's The Juice (which arrived more or less on the eve of baseball's day in front of Congress in 2005), which analyzed some alternative explanations to the theory that steroids had been responsible for the home run increases which typified baseball after 1992. I examined the effects that expansion, interleague play, the changing strike zone, and new ballparks may have had on the rising homer rates, and wound up concluding at the time that none of them were likely to have driven the surge.
Pedro Martinez' return to Boston sparks a historical look at other ace pitchers returning to old stomping grounds.
Like it or not, the Mets clinched their division on Thursday, June 15 with their win over Philadelphia. That extended their lead to 9½ games and pretty much put an end to matters. The number of 9½-game leads that have evaporated in baseball history is quite small. The fact that a few have (1951 Dodgers, 1978 Red Sox, to name the most famous examples) gives those chasing leaders with such bulges a sense of hope and creates a nagging paranoia in the leaders. It's an unfounded paranoia, however. Whenever a team opens up a gap like this, it's usually the exceptions listed above that are trotted out for consumption, not the rules. Nobody ever conjures the names of the many teams who held onto their sizeable holds on first place. (The lead is now up to 12 games.)
When Dusty Baker allowed Mark Prior to throw 126 pitches last Thursday against the Brewers, it was the final straw for Gary Huckabay. Huckabay threw in the towel and Prior with it, trading him straight up for Austin Kearns in a 24-team Scoresheet Baseball league.
The deal inspired some discussion among the Baseball Prospectus staff.
Gary Huckabay: For the record, I ran screaming from Mark Prior yesterday, trading him away in BL-DwMurphy. I couldn't handle the risk. I'll take Austin Kearns and bet on my remaining arms.
No matter how much the numbers may suggest otherwise, a fan growing up in the
60s may never be persuaded that Barry Bonds deserves to be ranked alongside Hank
Aaron. Likewise, a fan growing up in the 90s may never fully grasp the greatness
of Stan Musial.
But bringing Aaron and Bonds fans together is child's play compared to settling