In the July 25 edition of Transaction Analysis, Chris Kahrl critiqued the trade of reliever Mike Williams from the Pirates to the Phillies: There are other cranky topics, particularly the re-failure to acquire talent for Mike Williams in this year’s Williams deal. Certainly, if it reflected any new appreciation for the interchangeability of closers beyond the top few personalities in the field, that would be nifty, but instead, it seems that people (appropriately) don’t take Williams particularly seriously as a commodity, so the Pirates got things bad both ways, in terms of plugging in a replacement-level talent in the job, enriching him, and then not enriching themselves when the time came to deal him. Kahrl’s analysis could be applied to the entire trading history of the Pirates franchise, a three-handed process in which the hometown GM extends a good player with one hand, accepts his return with the another, and pinches his nose shut with the third. The top 10 list of best trades in the history of the franchise remains virgin territory, while the worst-10 list provides for an overstuffed buffet of empty calorie choices. This article is a compendium of self-inflicted wounds suffered since the acquisition of the franchise by Kevin McClatchy. After the institution of the amateur draft in 1965 democratized (at least on paper) talent acquisition, a broken franchise, particularly an impoverished broken franchise, could right itself through a combination of smart trading, free-agent signings, and the rewards offered to losing teams by the draft. Over a long span lasting at least since the waning days of Barry Bonds as a Buc, the Pirates have consistently failed at all three.
Tom Gamboa was minding his own business as the first base coach of the Royals when he was jumped by a father-son team who attempted to beat him up, before the bonding pair themselves got a lesson in stomping by players. Ligue asserts Gamboa gave him the finger in response to some heckling. I don’t think that qualifies as ‘fighting words,’ or is really even relevant.
William Ligue Jr. did not get sent to jail last week. The judge instead sentenced him to 30 months of probation.
Judge Holt: “The violence that baseball players are exposed to comes from within. What fan has not seen a pitcher intentionally hurl a baseball at a player’s head at 90 miles per hour? Who has not seen a batter leave home plate headed for the pitcher’s mound bat in hand bent on mischief and mayhem?”
I understand what he means. And yet, the issue of on-field conflict is something baseball has struggled to control. Intent is difficult to determine when pitchers throw inside, and baseball’s tried to strike a balance between letting the game play itself out and deterring on-field confrontations. You see this balance every time an ump decides to warn both benches, attempting to stave off further beanings at the cost of dramatically changing where pitches and even game strategy can go.
This is a bad argument, though.
Mark Armour and Dan Levitt turned a series of debates between friends into Paths To Glory, the stories of the building of several interesting baseball teams, published this spring by Brasseys, Inc. Paths looks at some of the greatest dynasties in baseball history, including the A’s of the early 1970s, as well as some of the most dramatic missed opportunities, including the Black Sox of the 1910s and early 20s. Armour and Levitt recently chatted with Baseball Prospectus about some of those teams, the men who built them, and the team-building strategies they used to make it happen.
Baseball Prospectus: What first inspired you to write this book?
Dan Levitt: Mark and I had become friends through SABR. Pretty soon we came to realize we were interested in the same thing: What made baseball teams win, and what didn’t? We started corresponding by telephone and e-mail, and started doing research as well. We came to realize that not there weren’t a whole lot of printed materials on the subject. There were a lot of books on great teams out there. But those books would rank them, or give day-to-day on seasons, stars, and the not-so-great players. But you’d have a really tough time finding a book on say, the 1915 Phillies, and how they won the pennant. We realized there was a void of this type of book. So we set out to put a book together that’d be interesting, about some great teams and some not-so-great ones. It’s really a different perspective: not the day-by-day heroics, but rather what were the decisions that went into assembling these teams.
You’ll recall that for the last two weeks we’ve looked at the divergent paths, in terms of power, of two distinct groups of minor-league hitters. The first, deftly named Group A, comprised the top 25 active leaders in slugging percentage who had at least 3,000 major league ABs as of the end of the 2002 season. Group B consisted of hitters who, despite putting up strong minor league power numbers, failed to bust out the lumber at the highest level. To populate Group B, I included anyone with a career minor league SLG of at least 0.490, at least a 10% decline in their SLG in the majors and at least 1,750 ABs in the majors.
I chose those in Group B specifically for their high minor league SLGs, so it’s neither surprising nor interesting that they would outslug those in Group A. What might inspire a spit-take is the fact that they also bested Group A in every peripheral power indicator. So what gives?
Maybe it’s command of the strike zone that forecasts power better than actual power indicators. Sounds counterintuitive, but, hell, I’m running out of ideas. So to test this theory, we’ll look at the following measures:
I guess that groin is healthy. Mike Piazza’s return from an extended stay on the DL was just about as successful as possible. Two singles, a home run, and five RBI before being lifted for a pinch-runner in the seventh inning equals a very impressive first day back on the job. This is a pattern we’re likely to see for Piazza: catch seven innings, and if there’s a significant lead or deficit, he’ll be pulled. Many will anticipate that in some instances, he’ll be moved to first for the last couple innings. I’m not sure how much we’ll see that this season. The Mets will only have Cliff Floyd for a few more weeks. While I don’t have the specific date yet, Floyd’s surgery is expected to come before September 1 and perhaps as early as late next week. He’s always been something of a protégé to Mark McGwire, but something Jason Giambi doesn’t want to emulate is Big Mac’s penchant for the DL. Giambi has always been a durable player, appearing in 140 or more games in every year he’s played since 1995. Giambi is now dealing with mild patellar tendinitis, a condition that deteriorated rapidly for McGwire and ended his career. There’s some short-term concern here–Joe Torre can spot in Nick Johnson or Todd Zeile if necessary, but either one would be a downgrade, especially Zeile–but for the Yankees, this condition is one that could come back and haunt its decision to give Giambi such a long-term deal. Let me be clear: Giambi’s tendinitis is not much more than an annoyance at this stage, and with proper care, he can possibly avoid McGwire’s fate. But it’s a fact worth knowing.
Francisco Rodriguez has been lights out since June; the Cubs’ rotation has been one of the best in all of baseball; and Tigers have improved a bit since the All-Star break. All this and much more news from Anaheim, Chicago, and Detroit in your Thursday edition of Prospectus Triple Play.