A Baseball Blog - Scientific and Speculative Thoughts from Third Base

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Look at Joe Mauer's Hall of Fame Case, and the Sorry History ofCatchers in the Hall

I was at the Houston Astros game yesterday, which means that I got to see Joe Mauer single in the first inning. This brought him to 1499 career hits, which he followed up during today’s day game with hit number 1500 in the first inning. It’s a big mark for one of the game’s longtime greats, and as I am wont to do, it made me think about his place among the all-time greats.

There are a lot of ways to go about looking at it, so let’s start with the most basic. Right now, Mauer stands at 1501 hits, thanks to his single and home run today. If he made it to 3000 hits, even the most brain dead of Hall voters would surely vote for him. Well, maybe not “surely”, but it would at least check off the arbitrary milestone box that so many voters seem to fall back on to avoid critical thought.

Let’s take a rough estimate of his chances of 3000 hits, then, since 500 home runs probably isn’t happening. Bill James’s career projection tool is good enough to use for our purposes. It requires full seasons, though, so let’s try and estimate where he’ll be at the end of the year first. Right now, Mauer sits at 87 hits in 79 games, with 43 games remaining. Let’s assume he continues at his current pace of 1.1 hits per game and plays in 35 of the final 43 games. That would give him about 38.5 hits left this season, which we’ll round to 39. That means he’d finish the season with 126 hits, for a career total of 1540.

It’s easy to forget with all of his injury troubles, but Mauer is only 31. With our inputs, the projector spits out a career total of 2310 hits for Mauer, with a 3% chance to reach 3000 hits. 2310 hits might seem like a disappointment, but that would rank fourth all time among players with at least half of their games at catcher. The only other catchers with even 2200? Ivan Rodriguez, Ted Simmons, and Carlton Fisk.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Predicting Hall of Fame Pitchers, Part II; or, Breaking Down the Likely Candidates by Age Group

Now that I’ve gotten ranting about the stupidity of the Hall electorate out of my system from the other day, now it’s time for the actual predictions. What players active today are on a Hall of Fame pace? In case you don’t feel like looking back at the piece from the other day, here’s the data:

Median WAR
# HOF at median WAR
# Non HOF at median
# non HOF still on ballot
% in HOF

Since I conducted this study back before the season started, I’ll be primarily using Baseball-Reference WAR numbers from before the season started, although I won’t rule out referencing present-day stats. Now then, on to the players:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Predicting Hall of Fame Pitchers Part I: or, The Voters Have Become Awful at Evaluating Starters

I’ve been meaning for a long time to write a follow up to my update looking at future Hall of Fame hitters. The pitchers presented an interesting finding though, and I couldn’t figure out how best to summarize it, so I let it sit. And before long, it just didn’t make sense to follow up; we were starting the season and everything. So, I figured I’d let it go into Hall of Fame weekend.

And now, finally, here we are. Once again into Hall of Fame season, thanks to the induction. All of the numbers are from before the season started, but the analysis is still good, so let’s go ahead.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

2014 All-Star Roster Corrections, National League

The other day, I began making my list of All-Star corrections with the American League roster. I have no idea why I always start with the American League, but what’s done is done. All that’s left now is to fix up the National League.

The NL had a few more…interesting picks than the AL. Still, nothing mind-blowingly bad, but there was room to improve.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

2014 All-Star Roster Corrections, American League

And now, it’s time for one of my favorite traditions: adopting a faux superior tone to criticize the All-Star Rosters!  But, it looks like I’m continuing last year’s downward trend in condescension; few of the picks this year made me sigh and shake my head in disbelief, like most of Bud Selig’s pet projects. For whatever reason, the All-Star Game rosters are just getting better and better. Maybe people take the job more seriously now that something is on the line? Maybe sites like Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs are disseminating information to voters better than ever before? Maybe Nate Silver implanted a chip into Bud Selig’s ear that whispers changes to the All-Star roster into his ear before they’re announced? Who knows!

Either way, there are still a few nits I would pick if I were setting the rosters myself, and if there’s one thing that I love, it’s discussing the minor details of a roster for a one-off exhibition game. So, let’s get down to business!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

2017 Champions? What Exactly Does the Future of the Houston Astros Look Like?

What do the Astros’ future prospects look like? Just a few days ago, people were abuzz when Sports Illustrated ran this cover featuring new star George Springer and calling the Astros “Your 2017 World Series Champs”. Really, it might seem like big talk for a team that’s finished last in the majors for the past three seasons, but is it merited?

Is there a history of teams turning around like this on the strength of a minor league program bursting with talent? In fact, just how “bursting with talent” is the Astros’ farm system, from a historical context?

To answer that, I went back through Baseball America’s top 100 rankings since 2000 on a team-by-team and year-by-year basis, thanks to Baseball-Reference. My methodology was pretty basic-I gave each prospect points based on where they appeared on the list, with first getting 100 points and 100th getting 1 point. Then, I totaled the points for each team by year.

The 2014 Astros had 314 prospect-points, thanks to Carlos Correa (7th), George Springer (18th), Mark Appel (39th), Michael Foltynewicz (59th), Lance McCullers (77th), and Jon Singleton (82nd). That gave them the 31st highest ranking since 2000, and the third best system from 2014 (the Cubs had 402, while the Pirates had 359). It’s fair to say that the Astros should be doing better, what with two first overall picks heading in to this season (Brady Aiken* will almost certainly make the list next year, representing their third straight number one pick). However, it’s important to see the context of where they were just a few short seasons ago:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Orioles Should Offer Chris Davis an Extension, Despite His Lackluster 2014

As an Orioles fan, it’s been a bit of a source of concern for me that Chris Davis isn’t repeating last year’s breakout numbers. Granted, I wasn’t expecting him to repeat those, since they were probably the extreme end of what he could produce. At the same time, though, I don’t think anyone expected him to post a .206/.327/.401 slash line half way through the season. The 28-year old first baseman was supposed to be a contributor going forward, not posting a 98 weighted Runs Created+ (wRC+, meaning he’s hitting 3% below league average).

Which is why what I’m about to say might sound crazy, but just here me out: if I were the Orioles, I’d be making every effort to resign Chris Davis right now.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Another Out of Left Field Update

After a bit of a break, I posted another update to Out of Left Field, this one a sequel to last week's piece on the concept of film adaptations.  Check it out!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What Would a Trade for David Price/Jeff Samardzija Look Like?

The trade deadline is coming up in about a month, but there’s already quite a bit of rumor buzz springing up. The two hottest commodities, it would seem so far, look like they’re going to be David Price and Jeff Samardzija. Both have ace credentials in a world were pitching is hard to get ahold of. And not only do they come with those credentials, they both also come with the entire other year under contract after this one. One might call these the ejector seat of trade scenarios; in case you enter a premature tailspin, you can jettison them to save yourself to some extent.

Either way, since I’ve been comparing past trade packages recently, I figured why not continue further down this avenue? What can a team trying to acquire Price or Samardzija expect to give up for a year and a half their services?

Well, to start with, I went around looking for ace-type pitchers who were traded in the last few years. I tried to be as complete as possible, so in some cases, I stretched the similarities, going for players who were under contract for fewer seasons, or who were more “young with potential” than “ace-like” or “old and actually an ace”, and I might have missed some, but in the end, these were the cases I found, in no order:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Out of Left Field Updated-The Edge of Tomorrow

I'm going to link to the first few Out of Left Field posts here as a reminder, since the site is still new (not yet sure how many, but at least a few). So, with that in mind, here's today's post on the new movie Edge of Tomorrow (which I very much enjoyed).

Friday, June 13, 2014

People Are Discussing Jimmy Rollins and the Hall of Fame, So I Had to Weigh In

A week ago, a Hall of Fame story sprung up, and I just didn’t have time to write about it. A few days went by and I assumed it sort of just died out. But no, here we are a week later, and there’s a second article discussing Jimmy Rollins’s Hall of Fame chances out. I figure that means I have carte blanche to write about the Hall in June, then.

Jayson Stark makes about as good of a case for Rollins as I think a person can make, and truth be told, it’s based on a lot of misdirection. One thing that Bill James always cautioned about in Hall of Fame discussions was the picking of incredibly arbitrary statistical groups. Unfortunately, that’s the main thrust of Stark’s argument for Rollins.

His main arguments, as far as I can tell, are that Rollins is the only shortstop in the 400 steals/200 home runs club, one of four shortstops the 200 home run/2000 hit club, and one of six shortstops in the 2000 hit/4 Gold Glove club. Why are these bad? Well, mostly because, despite what it would seem, they’re really not that informative. The best example of why can be seen in Stark’s second example, the 200/2000 club.

As Jayson Stark tells us, only four shortstops have both 200 home runs and 2000 hits: Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken Jr., Rollins, and Miguel Tejada. He ignores Alex Rodriguez and Robin Yount, both of whom hits those marks and has played a plurality of games at short (Yount just over 50%, A-Rod, just under), which I’ll assume is an oversight. Now, just of this group, you may notice something: even taking Rollins out of the group, there is a HUGE gulf in talent. We can debate whether Jeter and Ripken are equals in the magnitude of their awesomeness, but Miguel Tejada sure as heck isn’t on that level, no matter how you swing it. Even if we take Stark’s assurances that Rollins will blow past Tejada’s numbers, that still invites the question of whether it is at all inherently Hall-worthy to be in this exclusive club. Maybe the 200 homers and 2000 hits aren’t what gave the player Hall-level value, but instead, sometimes valuable players happen to accumulate those marks.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Was the Phillies Trade for Hunter Pence One of Baseball's All-Time Blunders?

The big news this week (well, one thing from the non-game front, at least) is the report that the Phillies may have accidentally sent the Astros a player that they didn’t mean to in the Hunter Pence trade. It’s worth noting that this was initially reported by a reporter for the Houston Chronicle, so maybe there’s some bias here, but it’s worth exploring a question it gave me: how bad was the Hunter Pence trade?

First, some background. Pence was traded in the middle of the 2011 season. The Phillies, in need of a corner outfielder to replace Jayson Werth, were a natural fit for his services, and so they acquired him for the next two and a half years at the price of Jarred Cosart, Jon Singleton, Josh Zeid, and a player to be named later that later became Domingo Santana (the player who may or may not have been included by accident). The Phillies were upset in the first round of the playoffs that season, and, after a disappointing start to the 2012 season, shipped Pence off to San Francisco.

Now, I think it’s pretty easy to say that this trade doesn’t look great for Philadelphia. Singleton is off to a solid start for his career, Cosart has been good and shows signs of improvement, and Santana is triple slashing a .295/.368/.498 line in AAA as a 21 year old (nearly six years below that league’s average age). We should give it a few years to be sure, but right now, you have to at least acknowledge that that is a lot to give up for a guy who hung around for only a year before being sent off for a disappointing return (more on that in a bit, though).

But really, that’s only part of the question. The bigger part is: is it a blunder? For those not aware, Rob Neyer once wrote a book called Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Blunders. In it, he more or less laid out two ways for a trade to be classified. First, a trade could be bad without being a blunder. Sometimes teams just miss on evaluating players, and you give up a Jeff Bagwell in order to get a piece you need to make a playoff run. For every Bagwell that turns out well for the rebuilding team, there are ten Brett Wallaces that fail to make a Hall-level impact.

However, if there were other factors involved, it could be a blunder. Was it a misread of the team’s situation? Was it a shortsighted trade made partly out of spite? Was there some other factor that made it particularly bad? Only then could it be qualified as a blunder.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cape Cod League Update: The 2014 MLB Draft

With this, I suppose it really is the end of my Cape League series. The 2014 Draft marks the last time pre-Majors that I’ll hear about this large of a group of players from the 2012 Cape League (some of them still might be in the draft next year, but not on this overall scale). So, just like I did last year, here’s a list of the 2012 alumni who were taken in this year’s draft:

Player: Kyle Schwarber
Pick: Round 1, Pick 4
Position: C (LF on the Cape)
Cape League Team: Wareham Gatemen
College: Indiana
Major League Team: Chicago Cubs
I didn’t get to see a lot of eventual champion Wareham, but Schwarber was impressive the few times that I did see them. I featured him in my team write-up.

Player: Aaron Nola
Pick: Round 1, Pick 7
Position: RHP
Cape League Team: Harwich Mariners
College: LSU
Major League Team: Philadelphia Phillies

Player: Jeff Hoffman
Pick: Round 1, Pick 9
Position: RHP
Cape League Team: Hyannis Harbor Hawks
College: East Carolina
Major League Team: Toronto Blue Jays
Hoffman was the second half of Hyannis’s 1-2 punch that also featured last year’s first round pick Sean Manaea.

Player: Michael Conforto
Pick: Round 1, Pick 10
Position: OF
Cape League Team: Brewster Whitecaps
College: Oregon State
Major League Team: New York Mets

Sunday, June 8, 2014

An Experiment

I had long been toying with the idea of adding essays about non-baseball subjects here. In the end, though, I decided it was best to keep all my writing separated into Baseball and Non-Baseball. To that end, I today started Out of Left Field. Right now, I'm thinking it'll be my writings on pop cultural things, but it may just evolve into whatever I feel like writing at the time. I also added a link to it on the main site.

The inaugural post is up over there, reviewing The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Go check it out!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Jonathan Singleton Deal, and the Rebuilding, Finances, and Future of the Houston Astros

With Jon Singleton’s home run yesterday, it seems that a new era is officially under way for the Houston Astros. Although maybe it more accurately started two months ago with the call-up of George Springer. Or maybe a month ago, since that was when he took off (his first month was quite the opposite).

Or maybe it was Monday, when the team inked Singleton to a new contract. And not just any contract, but the largest contract in history for someone without a game of Major League experience. On one hand, a guaranteed $10 million for five years (or, if the options are exercised, $35 million/eight years) seems like a steal for the Astros. One Win Above Replacement is going for about $6 million on the free agent market, meaning that Singleton could match that without even making it to 2 WAR. On the other hand, there was no way Singleton would have cost that much as a pre-arbitration, then arbitration-eligible player. On the other-other hand, that’s still not an unreasonable total, and if Singleton is good, he almost certainly would have been worth that and more. On the other hand, Singleton still hasn’t even played a game at the Major League level. On the other hand, he’s only giving up one year of free agency, worst-case scenario, so he’ll still be paid in good time if he is worth it. All I can figure out from all of that is that the deal sounds about right in balancing risk and reward for both parties (and also that I apparently have five hands).

But this does bring up an interesting question: is this the new Astros, a small-market team? After all, they do have a rather meager $50 million payroll this season, with only two players making more than even $5 million this season (Dexter Fowler and Scott Feldman). This is a team that carried a $102 million payroll as recently as 2009; what’s going on here?