Let’s take a look at how the
Playoff Odds of those in the AL East have fared this season:
Team 4/20 6/22 8/25 Baltimore 33.60 71.18 .03 Boston 30.64 47.09 86.76 New York 21.39 19.39 41.16 Tampa Bay 13.75 .00 .00 Toronto 37.77 4.69 1.60
The Orioles have truly wasted an incredible opportunity to throw the balance in the AL East out of whack. On June 22, the O’s stood 42-28 after 70 games, putting them in first place. That day, they embarked on a six game losing streak that dropped them out of first place, and signaled the beginning of the end for their 2005 season.
Sammy Sosa has been the definition of awful this year. Practically speaking, Sosa has been the worst Right Fielder in the game this year, worse than even replacement level. For all of the gain the O’s have experienced from Brian Roberts, they have balanced that by trotting out Sosa every day, who has had the single worst decline in VORP over a five-year period since 1972 (thanks to Keith Woolner for the research):
NAME YEAR VORP1 VORP2 VORP3 VORP4 VORP5 DIFF Sammy Sosa 2001 122.0 70.5 44.5 27.9 -2.9 124.9 Mike Greenwell 1988 76.7 40.5 36.1 34.2 -4.3 81.0 Greg Vaughn 1998 70.3 42.0 31.9 16.6 -10.5 80.8 Ken Griffey Jr. 1998 85.8 75.7 56.0 39.1 9.4 76.4 Jay Bell 1999 69.4 32.9 15.4 -2.2 -5.8 75.2 Danny Tartabull 1991 69.7 48.5 44.7 21.1 1.5 68.2 Lance Johnson 1996 66.8 28.7 5.3 2.4 0.3 66.5 Jeff Bagwell 2001 68.7 58.7 52.0 41.0 3.4 65.2 Jeff Cirillo 1999 56.0 39.9 35.7 0.9 -8.9 64.9 Derek Jeter 1999 118.0 82.1 71.5 60.0 53.9 64.1
Ouch. Not even Kirk Van Houten declined so quickly…
Cleveland Indians: Jhonny Peralta has absolutely erupted this season. Most everyone reading this column knows of his prowess at the plate, but his quick rise to power is truly something to behold. Check out this timeline of Peralta’s young career:
- 1999 – Peralta, 17, signs with Cleveland and spends the summer with the Rookie league Dominican Indians. In 208 at bats: .303/.401/.514, with one less RBI than teammate Willy Taveras.
- 2000 – Peralta leapfrogs Burlington to the Sally League and struggles, but holds his own as an 18-year-old. He continues to display plate discipline but is sapped of nearly all of his power (.241/.354/.309). With their first pick in June the Indians draft shortstop Corey Smith, who never pans out.
- 2001 – Another year, another promotion. High-A Kinston is fertile ground for Peralta, who takes strides in everything except plate discipline.
- 2002 – The youngest player in the Eastern League on Opening Day spends the whole year in Akron. Peralta breaks out to the tune of .281/.343/.457 with nearly as many extra-base hits as 2000 and 2001 combined. His defense also soars, from a -13 Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) at shortstop the previous season to +10. Middle infielder Brandon Phillips is acquired midseason in the Bartolo Colon deal and hits adequately at Triple-A Buffalo before a September cup of coffee.
- Spring Training 2003 – Peralta is assigned to Buffalo and the Tribe decides to flank Omar Vizquel with Phillips at second and Casey Blake at third for Opening Day. Ricky Gutierrez, another of Peralta’s challengers, is placed on the 60-day DL.
- June 12, 2003 – Vizquel’s injured knee lands him on the DL, and Cleveland’s hands are tied: Peralta, slumping horribly in Buffalo (.256/.310/.335) is promoted to fill in at short. He’s the youngest player in the American League.
- June 24, 2003 – The big league stint ends; Gutierrez is activated.
- July 1, 2003 – Peralta is bounced back to Cleveland as John McDonald hits the DL.
- July 14, 2003 – Phillips, not Peralta, is shipped out when McDonald is activated at the All-Star Break. It ends a humiliating half-season for Phillips (.208/.242/.311), which looks great next to his second-half .175/.247/.279 in Buffalo. By default, Peralta sticks the rest of the season and finishes at .227/.295/.326.
- 2004 – Peralta rakes all season long in Buffalo, earning the International League MVP while playing shortstop and third base. His .326/.384/.493 line earns him a September call-up.
- Spring 2005 – Peralta fends off Phillips one final time, taking over as the primary shortstop.
- July 2005 – A launching pad for Peralta’s season: he enters July normally hitting ninth and getting frequent days off in favor of Alex Cora. On July 7, Cora is traded to Boston and Peralta is the everyday shortstop. Manager Eric Wedge bumps him into the lineup’s three-spot on July 23, and he hasn’t moved since.
Now 23 and only a month and a half settled into his full-time job, not only is Peralta one of baseball’s very best hitting shortstops, he’s also one of the best by BP’s fielding metrics. The only starting shortstops to rank higher with the glove are Rafael Furcal and Jack Wilson, and so far only Miguel Tejada has been able to match Peralta as an all-around player. By Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP):
Top 10 MLB Shortstops by WARP1 (through 8/24) NAME TEAM VORP FRAR FRAA WARP1 -------- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----- Tejada BAL 62.6 24 -2 7.8 Peralta CLE 47.1 36 13 7.7 Furcal ATL 37.8 43 17 7.4 Jeter NYY 49.7 33 7 7.3 Lugo TBA 38.0 36 11 5.6 Renteria BOS 24.8 36 11 5.6 Vizquel SFN 23.1 36 11 5.6 Young TEX 53.4 10 -17 4.8 Lopez CIN 44.2 14 -9 4.8 Neifi CHN 12.2 35 12 4.3
If Peralta keeps up his current OPS of .921, it will vault him into some elite company among shortstops his age or younger (OPS+ is OPS above the league-average OPS):
Top Shortstops By OPS+, Age 23 And Younger NAME YEAR AB AGE OPS L_OPS OPS+ ----------------- ---- --- --- ----- ----- ----- Arky_Vaughan 1935 499 23 1.098 .722 1.520 Rogers_Hornsby 1917 523 21 .868 .633 1.372 Alex_Rodriguez 1996 601 20 1.045 .795 1.314 Arky_Vaughan 1934 558 22 .942 .727 1.296 Arky_Vaughan 1933 573 21 .866 .679 1.275 Vern_Stephens 1943 512 22 .839 .663 1.266 Denis_Menke 1964 505 23 .847 .685 1.238 Cal_Ripken_Jr. 1984 641 23 .884 .724 1.222 Jhonny_Peralta 2005 371 23 .921 .754 1.221
So enjoy him, respect him, and cheer him on through your TV sets, Tribe fans. And if his name creeps into AL MVP discussions, well, remember where you heard it first.
James Click contributed research to this column
Detroit Tigers: A month into the 2005 season, Joe Sheehan identified the Tigers’ Jeremy Bonderman as one of “his guys.” This echoed something he wrote just before the season started, as he compared Bonderman to Ben Sheets in career development. In our preseason poll, Nate Silver went one step further, picking Bonderman to contend for the AL Cy Young.
Bonderman’s Wednesday start against the A’s ended abruptly and badly, with a nasty comebacker off his wrist. His performace-3 IP, 9 HA, 6 ER-caused his BABIP to rise from .295 to .303, his HR/9 went from .95 to .99, his H/9 went from 8.74 to 9.05, his ERA went up a quarter of a run, and his VORP dropped from 33.7 to 29.5. Not bad for three innings of work.
But that one hiccup doesn’t change the overall season in a meaningful way yet. The early enthusiasm has been largely correct, as he’s been one of the better starters in baseball according to SNLVAR. Bonderman ranks 24th in the majors with an SNLVAR of 4.3, just behind Tim Hudson and the much-improved Mark Buehrle, both with 4.4. Limiting the rankings to AL-only, he sits in ninth place. The Tigers’ bullpen has let him down a bit, allowing seven of his 12 bequeathed runners to score, but his overall numbers point to some genuine progress on his part, particularly when viewed historically:
Year IP H/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP VORP 2003 162 10.72 6.00 3.22 1.28 .324 -8.5 2004 184 8.22 8.22 3.57 1.17 .286 26.4 2005 173 9.74 7.02 2.81 .99 .303 29.5
His BABIP is high enough where we can’t just say “luck” with a straight face when evaluating his peripherals. His walk rate is below league-average (as was his hit rate as recently as Wednesday afternoon), and his strikeout rate is a bit higher. That it’s also more than a full strikeout lower than last season is a little unnerving, but it’s not like he’s given back any other area of performance as his strikeouts have dipped. The decreased home run rate is also a promising sign, as is the fact that he’s faced the toughest opponents of any Tiger pitcher (.267/.336/.427), and has held them to a .254/.313/.413 line.
But let’s stick with the home run rate for a second. How much of that HR/9 score is from the Comerica Boost?
Venue IP HR HR/9 Home 90.0 7 .70 Road 83.0 12 1.30
We seem to have discovered a developmental asterisk, particularly when we learn he didn’t allow a HR at home until his 7th start of the year there. However, digging a bit deeper in his home/road splits, we find all sorts of reasons for not dismissing the home run splits so quickly.
For one, despite the extra longballs, his ERA drops from 4.70 at home to 3.80 on the road. He’s also allowed far fewer H/9 IP on the road (7.48 H/9 on the road, 10.5 H/9 at home), and his control has been better on the road (3.31 BB/9 at home, 2.27 BB/9 at home). We’re also really testing the boundaries of credibility with this exercise, as we’re coming awfully close to trying to draw meangingful conclusions from a very small number of innings.
There are a number of indicators in place that suggest Bonderman’s truly developing into a front-line starter, rather than just a guy who pitches in a spacious park and is taking advantage of that in his performance. For one, his control has improved, as already mentioned. We’ve also got the “Curt Schilling Theory” where his home runs are concerned. Schilling always had the label of “allows a lot of home runs, but they’re solo home runs, so they’re not that bad.” Bonderman has done that this year; of his 7 home runs allowed in Comerica, 5 have been solo shots, and of the 12 HRs allowed on the road, 7 have been solo shots. Keith Woolner tells us that the average home run this year has been worth 1.6 RBI; Bonderman’s have been worth 1.5. Whether or not that’s predictive of anything isn’t known, and certainly worth investigating in the future; from a purely descriptive standpoint, it’s yet another factor contributing to his successful 2005.
Bonderman’s been the best Tiger starter this season, though that’s a bit like saying that out of all the flavors of Harry Potter jelly beans, black pepper is the best; what are you going to choose after that? Booger? Vomit? Earwax? Bonderman’s pretty much in a class by himself in Detroit Tiger Starterdom and, alongside prospects Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya, should give the Tigers a solid, young rotation for the next few years.