Monday, August 15, 2005

Public Service Announcement

LSAT is on October 1, and um, I need to study. Not that I've been updating frequently anyway, but yeah. This space certainly isn't going away by any means, but no longer can I afford to take hours out of my to do baseball research. Suck. I imagine I'll be back in full force once the test is over with. Thankfully, the test coincides with the last day of the regular season, meaning I'll be able to do a full playoff preview.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Baseball's Best: AL Pitchers Edition

A quick look at the top 5 starters and top 3 closers in the American League so far:

Starters

Roy Halladay, TOR
12-4/2.41 ERA/108 K/18 BB/11 HR/53.2 VORP


Halladay has regained the control that won him the 2003 Cy Young, and he's on track to do it again this year. His control puts him among the leaders in fewest walks and fewest hits per 9 innings; combine that with a decent strikeout rate, and you have the most successful pitcher in the AL, despite his injury.

Kenny Rogers, TEX
11-4/2.77 ERA/59 K/36 BB/10 HR/41.8 VORP


How is Kenny Rogers this good? He doesn't strike out anyone, and his walk and hit rates are average. The key may be his low home run rate, made all the more impressive by the fact he pitches in home run haven Arlington. Still, I have to think that Rogers has been more lucky than good. We'll see how he does when he comes back from the suspension.

Mark Buehrle, CWS
12-4/2.86 ERA/97 K/27 BB/8 HR/40.6 VORP


Very similar numbers to Halladay--he's thriving on low walks and low home runs. Ridiculously low home runs, in fact. Buehrle is probably the most consistent pitcher in the American League. He's similar to Roy Oswalt--not in style, but in results. They are both excellent pitchers who for whatever reason aren't perceived as among the best in the game. News flash: they're the best in the game. My money's on Buehrle to win the Cy Young if the Sox win over 95 games.

Jarrod Washburn, LAA
6-6/3.28 ERA/70 K/39 BB/14 HR/37.7 VORP


Here's another guy who probably doesn't deserve his ERA, but you can't argue with that VORP. No matter what people say about strikeout and walk rates, you can't argue with the results. Fact is, Washburn hasn't given up many runs this year, and he's pitched a lot of innnings. His VORP shows how valuable that can be for a team. His luck may eventually run out, but he deserves some recognition up to this point.

Carlos Silva, MIN
7-5/3.27 ERA/54 K/7 BB/20 HR/36.8 VORP


I had to include Carlos Silva, just because his line so weird. 7 walks? 7! In 145 innings! To go along with 20 HR allowed! Such is the life of an extreme sinkerballer. If the Twins actually had any offense, he could wind up with more wins than walks! All hail the sinkerballer.

Closers

Dustin Hermanson, CWS
0-2/25 SV/1.76 ERA/21 K/13 BB/3 HR/3.452 Expected Wins Added


Great story so far for the Sox, but can you really trust that 21:13 K:BB ratio in the playoffs? I mean, seriously? He's done the job so far, but "so far" could extend into late October, when he'd do well to put a little extra oomph into his pitches.

Francisco Rodriguez, LAA
2-2/25 SV/2.53 ERA/60 K/20 BB/3 HR/3.448 Expected Wins Added


Now that's some good stuff right there. To top it off, he's pitching in the highest leverage situations in the American League.

Bob Wickman, CLE
0-2/29 SV/2.79 ERA/20 K/16 BB/5 HR/3.257 Expected Wins Added


Another closer walking on eggshells, but is timely enough to make his way into the top 3. Only Rodriguez has pitched in higher leverage situations though, which means that Wickman is picking the right times to be good.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Baseball's Best: AL Regulars Edition

Since I've been charged with rendering a bunch of video files at work, I have a lot of free time this week. I'd say it's time for my monthly look at which players are having the best seasons at each position in each league. AL first!

C Jason Varitek, BOS
.307/.386/.546/16 HR/45 RBI/38.5 VORP


With numbers like those, it's surprising he doesn't have more RBI, but I'm guessing that's because Manny and Ortiz take away many of those opportunities. It's yet another reminder why RBI is not a very good measure of a player's worth. At any rate, Varitek is having his best season yet, and this comes after he signed a huge contract. He's definitely worthy of the captain's C. Other AL catchers of note include Victor Martinez, who has rebounded from a slow start to post a 27.0 VORP. Joe Mauer checks in at 28.6, meaning he's the only guy in Minnesota who can hit anything.

1B Richie Sexson, SEA
.271/.371/.550/26 HR/81 RBI/39.8 VORP


In a year when it looked like no AL first baseman would shine, Sexson has been absolutely scintillating in the past month. His line: .359/.455/.728. Hey, those are Derrek Lee numbers! But seriously, Sexson is proving that he's almost worth the money, unlike a certain teammate whose initials are Adrian Beltre. The other first baseman of note is Detroit's Chris Shelton, who has posted a line of .338/.386/.540 in just over 200 plate appearances. He's only 25 and he's always had great plate discipline, so Detroit looks to be set at first base for some time to come.

2B Brian Roberts, BAL
.328/.404/.552/16 HR/55 RBI/20 SB/56.0 VORP


Though he'll never have another month like April again, Roberts is equally impressive to me for continuing to put up solid enough numbers to maintain that batting line. Throw in the 20 steals in 25 chances, and you've got a bonafide MVP candidate, or at least Most Improved Player. If Alfonso Soriano could draw a walk or hit outside of Texas, he might be challenging Roberts...but he can't.

3B Alex Rodriguez, NYY
.316/.417/.584/29 HR/83 RBI/10 SB/59.0 VORP


A-Rod is blowing away the competition at his position, and is a legitimate MVP candidate, especially if the Yankees make the playoffs. He's well on his way to over 40 home runs, and if he goes on a power tear, could make a run at 50. The potent Yankee lineup means that he could also record 120+ RBI for the first time since 2002. His only step backward this year is in his fielding, but his offensive prowess relegates his defensive struggles to footnote status. In the meantime, Jorge Cantu is having a nice year for the Devil Rays. His .481 SLG is second best behind Rodriguez, which further illustrates his dominance.

SS Miguel Tejada, BAL
.322/.370/.582/22 HR/70 RBI/60.3 VORP


Tejada is flourishing in Baltimore. Those rate numbers (AVG/OBP/SLG) would represent career highs in all categories. Unfortunately for him, his counting stats (HR/RBI) will probably not be as high as last year, and Baltimore's collapse into mediocrity will hurt his MVP chances. At this point, I'd say he's neck in neck with Rodriguez. Personally, I think it should be Tejada, just because he has nowhere near the same protection in his lineup. Elsewhere in the AL, Mike Young has continued to use Arlington to his advantage, putting up .327/.380/.503, while non-All-Star Derek Jeter has become a singles and walks machine at .301/.379/.438. Tampa once again has a surprising representative in the top 5; Julio Lugo has been steady but unspectacular (.302/.356/.399), but more impressively has 30 steals in 35 attempts and has fielded his position 6 runs above average.

LF Manny Ramirez, BOS
.277/.377/.580/29 HR/97 RBI/36.7 VORP


Ramirez has turned into more of a slugger than an all-around hitter this year, but that is to be expected as he gets older. The Sox still can't complain about his .377 OBP. As long as Manny has his batting eye, he'll continue to tear the cover off the ball. Hideki Matsui has a higher cumulative VORP than Ramirez, but has 30 more plate appearances. In honesty, this is a dead heat because Matsui has been 4 runs better than average in the field, while Manny is 6 runs below average. After those two, there's a steep drop-off to Carl Crawford, Kevin Mench, and Rondell White, all of whom are having solid but unspectacular seasons. Only Crawford's 34 steals in 39 attempts is worth noting.

CF Johnny Damon, BOS
.338/.383/.486/8 HR/51 RBI/11 SB/41.9 VORP


With or without the caveman beard, nothing can go wrong for Johnny this year. Everyone thought he would come down from last season, but he's riding that high batting average to career highs in AVG/OBP/SLG. He hasn't hit as many homers, but he's managed to add even more singles and doubles. Throw in his +3 defense in center, and you've got the best in the AL. There are a group of 4 AL centerfielders clumped behind Damon: Grady Sizemore, David DeJesus, Vernon Wells, and Torii Hunter. Wells and Hunter (now out with an injury) were expected, but Sizemore and DeJesus are putting up very solid numbers for such young players. Sizemore is particularly promising, and if he cuts down on his strikeouts and can improve his fielding a bit, he'll be the best guy in the AL for a long time.

RF Vladimir Guerrero, LAA
.312/.371/.560/21 HR/70 RBI/37.4 VORP


This was a virtual dead heat between Sheffield and Vlad; either choice is a winner. Sheffield gets on base more and fields slightly better, while Vlad slugs more and has done so in fewer plate appearances. I opt for Vlad here because Vlad plays in a vastly inferior lineup. His smaller counting stats will probably prevent him from collecting a 2nd straight MVP trophy, but he's certainly the most valuable player in the AL West--without him, the race wouldn't be close. Ichiro has gone on somewhat of a power binge (for him) recently, upping his VORP to 30.9. His most impressive number, however is the 11 fielding runs above average. No one plays right field better than Ichiro.

DH David Ortiz, BOS
.300/.396/.570/25 HR/88 RBI/48.5 VORP


At some point, I've got to reward durability and consistency, so Big Papi gets the nod over Big Donkey (Travis Hafner: .310/.418/.578) and Big BALCO (Jason Giambi: .283/.443/.547), despite the other two having higher VORP rates. Fact is, Manny couldn't be Manny without Big Papi hitting behind him, and vice versa. Giambi's resurgence is most surprising here. I figured he'd be washed up this year. I hope if he continues to excel this year, he'll admit to past steroid use and start the dominoes falling.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Is he really that stupid?

Rafael Palmeiro's positive test for a banned substance is a black eye for baseball. No less than 2 weeks after Palmeiro because just the 4th player ever to join the 3,000 hit/500 HR club, all of his numbers will now forever be clouded by this one test. Of course, we don't know what banned substance he actually used, making the the AP story rather inaccurate. Palmeiro's comments are very interesting; he says, "I have never intentionally used steroids. Never. Ever. Period. Ultimately, although I never intentionally put a banned substance into my body, the independent arbitrator ruled that I had to be suspended under the terms of the program."

In the same statement, he is both specific (mentioning steroids) and vague (mentioning banned substances). Although I am sure there will be some Viagra jokes in regard to those other substances, everyone wants to know why he actually tested positive. We'll never know unless he comes out with it himself, which he is obviously unwilling to do at this point. He seems to want us to believe that someone mixed some steroids in with his Metamucil or something.

While it has been noted before that Hispanic players have been overrepresented in suspensions, raising the issue that some players may not understand English well enough to be adequately informed of which substances are illegal, that argument doesn't hold water with Palmeiro, who is clearly fluent. However, just because he speaks English doesn't mean he couldn't have overlooked something. It would also be nice to know exactly when the test took place.

Quite frankly, it comes down to ignorance or stupidity. Could Palmeiro really be this stupid? Stupid enough to put himself at risk of perjury in front of Congress? Stupid enough to destroy all the good will he has accumulated in the past few years as a result of his milestones? Stupid enough to prove Jose Canseco right? Intentionally taking steroids this year is stupid as it is, but a player of Palmeiro's stature taking steroids is monumentally stupid. It's hard to believe that Palmeiro is honestly that stupid. But I'm not exactly giving the benefit of the doubt either. I guess we'll have to wait and see whether he's stupid or just plain ignorant.

This is probably another good time to reiterate that personally, I feel that steroid use should not negatively impact his Hall of Fame chances. If we excluded people from the Hall based on competitive advantage, then everyone before integration would have to go, then every pitcher until the mound was lowered, then everyone since the DH, etc. Baseball's history is competitive advantages. There's absolutely no way to quantify the effect of steroids on the game; therefore, there's no way we can let it be a determining factor when it comes to player evaluation. The best we can do is evaluate a player alongside his peers, and the fact is, steroids or no, Palmeiro was still better than almost everyone he played with.

Of course, my opinion means jack squat. My guess is that if it really does turn out that he took steroids intentionally (or if he never explains himself), the writers will punish him, and it will take a protracted struggle to get him into the Hall. Who knows, he may even have to wait for the Veteran's Committee, which would be a shame.