James Loney hasn't exactly set Hollywood ablaze with his hitting prowess; can he still cash in on his mediocrity?
For reasons I don't entirely comprehend, James Loney has been on my mind of late. His skill set is unusual for a first baseman, and although some players have parlayed similar skills into a successful big-league career, such players are few and far between.
In last week's light-hearted preview of the NL West, I quipped that Loney should star in a show called “Being Doug Mientkiewicz.” Marginally amusing one-liners aside, the truth is that Loney is a better hitter than Mientkiewicz, though this is hardly cause for celebration among Dodgers fans. Set the bar low enough and everything looks good.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
Albert Pujols is very different from anything the Halos have had before.
I caught myself about to write this sentence: “Albert Pujols will be the best first baseman in Angels history.” This is a tautological statement, completely unnecessary: with rare exceptions, Pujols is the best first baseman in anybody’s history. In terms of career warp, he is already 31st on the all-time list, with only a couple of first-sackers leading him:
One member's picks for the various BBWAA awards, friction in San Diego, and long schedules afford extra options in playoff rotations.
It will not be an easy task for the Baseball Writers Association of America, those who have been asked to select the American League's Most Valuable Player. Ballots filled out by the 28 voters (two in each city in the league) must be e-mailed back to the BBWAA headquarters by the time the postseason begins on Wednesday afternoon, and it is easy to picture a many of them mulling over their choices until the very last minute, because there is no easy choice.
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.
Four years ago, the Cardinals had their hands around the Braves' collective
neck and let the series slip away. Don't think that Tony LaRussa has
forgotten. Darryl Kile wasn't with St. Louis in 1996, but he has his
own motivation for revenge: he gave up just two hits and drove in a run
against Greg Maddux in the opener of the 1997 NL Division Series,
but his Astros lost the game, 2-1; the Braves went on to sweep the series.
With home-field advantage and a rested rotation ready for the Tomahawk
Twentyfive, the Cardinals have everything they could want to exorcise the
demons of 1996 and let them move on plague the Braves instead.
Lineup (with projected Equivalent Average)
LF Tony Womack .251
CF Steve Finley .267
1B Travis Lee .307
3B Matt Williams .268
RF Luis Gonzalez .269
2B Jay Bell .276
SS Tony Batista .273
C Kelly Stinnett .273
There's nothing rosy about this team's future offensively; they'll
be poisonous, but only to their pitching staff, which stands to lose
lots of 3-2 contests this season. Organizational Dictator Buck Showalter
gets lots of adoring press, and sometimes his no-nonsense manner is
refreshing, but since arriving in Arizona he has shown no sign that he can
fix what is broken with an offense that ranked as the league's worst in 1998.
The offseason additions to an already old and bad team show how the D-Backs
are taking two steps back for every one they take forward: new CF Steve
Finley wasn't even a plus player last year, and he probably won't be during
the four years of his new contract. "Leadoff hitter" Tony Womack
is the NL's equivalent to Detroit's Brian Hunter--speed to burn and little
ability to steal first. Look for Showalter to play lots of one-run strategies
with this bunch this year. Actually, with the talent Arizona has assembled at
the plate (their worst hitters may actually be batting leadoff, second, and
cleanup), and with reasonable speed on the basepaths, that's actually a good