Wednesday, January 14, 2009
With only about a month or so away from pitchers and catchers reporting, it's time to start talkin' 'bout baseball!
So I logged onto Drunk Jays Fans yesterday, and what should I find but one of my old 'On Notice' pictures headlining a story about Rickey Henderson. I'm not sure how they came across the picture or if the DJF guys are readers of this site, but whatever, cheers and salutations to one of the best baseball blogs out there. Since now we're all buds and whatnot, hopefully they won't mind when I start my Sober Jays Fans blog dedicated to never buying one of those exorbitantly-priced Rogers Centre beers. Then again, I seem to be able to avoid paying for beers due to travesties of cosmic fate.
Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice were the only two players elected to this year's Hall of Fame class by the writers, and I'm only 50 percent satisfied with the result. Rickey, obviously, was a no-brainer, and the 28 people who didn't vote for him should have their voting privileges revoked. The 'nobody has ever been a unanimous selection' unwritten rule is one of the five or six dumbest things in professional sports. To quote Bill James, if you split Rickey in half, you'd have TWO Hall of Famers --- there is no possible excuse for not marking his name down on the ballot.
Jim Rice, on the other hand, from what I can tell about the guy, was more or less a creation of Fenway Park. He is the definition of a borderline HOFer and I'm afraid that Rice's election will lead to more arguments for even more mediocre guys (mediocre by HOF standards, I should say) like Don Mattingly, Dave Parker, Harold Baines, etc. I can also pretty much guarantee that park factor aside, there is no way Rice gets into the Hall if he doesn't play for the big-market Red Sox. It's a shame that the big-name teams even get advantages in seeing their players go to Cooperstown.
If I had had a HOF vote, I would've selected...
* Bert Blyleven. Ol' Be Home is hurting his case by complaining about being overlooked, but seriously, the man has a point.
* Tim Raines. Viva les Expos! Here's another case of market-size playing a role. If Raines had played anywhere but Montreal, he would've been voted in on the first ballot. I think Raines was one of those split Rickey Hendersons that Bill James was talking about.
* Mark McGwire. Everybody was on steroids. Why single out Big Mac?
* Alan Trammell, though I had to think about it for a few seconds and needed a double-check of his numbers on BR. Six seasons with an OPS+ between 130 and 155? Sold. What hurts Trammell's candidacy overall is that he had an odd habit of having an average-to-poor year for every two great ones. It's possible that some writers are holding this lack of consistency against him.
A few others on the ballot were close calls (Rice, Lee Smith, Andre Dawson) but ultimately I wouldn't call them the best of the best. I'm sure Kyle will get on me for omitting Jack Morris again, but my anti-Morris stance was sealed by a recent Joe Posnanski post that pointed out the startling comparisons between the career numbers of Morris and Jamie Moyer. Case closed.
I recently started playing a historical fantasy league, since y'know, not enough of my time is wasted spent playing fantasy sports. The rules are simple; you go year-by-year (I'm joining in at 1984) drafting players from that particular year. Then you make your team, plug their stats into a simulator, and have an entire simulated season. It's a pretty fun way to 'manage' a team since you can adjust lineups, play the lefty-righty percentages a la Mr. Burns and Darryl Strawberry, and, perhaps best of all, get to pour over old statistics in order to find some of 1984's hidden gems.
While I was puttering Baseball-Reference.com checking on Ken Oberkfell's splits and weighing whether or not I should make Mike Young one of my six keepers for '85, I became curious about how my memories of my favourite teams of all time, the 1992 Toronto Blue Jays, of course, would stand up to modern-day statistical analysis.
In some cases, there wasn't much discrepancy. Going by OPS+, the best players on the 92 Jays were Dave Winfield (137), Robbie Alomar (129), John Olerud (126), Candy Maldonado (124) and Joe Carter (119). One interesting note about Joe; the 119 was his second-highest ever OPS+ score since, as I was surprised to discover about a guy who was known for being such a slugger, Joe almost never walked. His career OBP was a measly .306 and he never (not even once) cracked the 50-walk plateau in a season.
Players who were worse than I remembered were Devon White (90) and Kelly Gruber (72). Now, even as a kid I could recognize Devo's annoying habit of hitting a homer, then sucking for about the next week since he'd suddenly overswing everything thinking he's Babe Ruth. That being said, Devo's glove was so good that it definitely put him above the average mark as an overall player...but for the love of God, why did Cito put him in the leadoff spot? Devo was fast, sure, but when your leadoff man has a .303 OBP, it's time to look elsewhere. As for Gruber, good lord, he just flat-out sucked. Lousy against lefties, lousy against righties and while Gruber could wield a mean glove himself, his fielding wasn't stellar enough to account for his poor showing at the plate. Fun fact: Gruber and George W. Bush are longtime pals. I used to think this reflected badly on Kelly, but man, a 72 OPS+? Then again, Bush's PDMP+ (Presidential Decision-Making Percentage) was about 72 as well, so maybe they're kindred spirits.
As for the pitching staff, Juan Guzman led the starters with a 156 ERA+. Boy, you forget just how good Juan Guzman was from 1991 to 1993. He was one of the ten best pitchers in baseball. He and Olerud were the first rookie superstars that really blossomed around the same time that I began to really follow the Jays, so I always had a particular interest in their development. I'm still angry that Guzman got jobbed out of the 1991 Rookie of the Year Award by Chuck friggin' Knoblauch. What a travesty. Ol' reliable Jimmy Key was next with a 116 ERA+, and I'm glad Key went on to be immortalized by having his name associated with hot women everywhere. Also of note was trade deadline pickup David Cone's 161 ERA+ in eight starts as a Blue Jay, and the 102 ERA+ put up by our alleged ace, Jack Morris. It was a classic Morris year; has barely above-average numbers, but ends up with a 21-6 record thanks to a combination of run support and dumb-ass luck. It probably also helped Morris (and the entire Jays' staff en masse) that they only needed a lead after seven innings, thanks to the unbelievable combination of Duane Ward (210) and Tom Henke (181) to close things out. Good lord, that's scary good. The funny thing is, those two were so good that it obscured the fact that the rest of the Toronto bullpen was outright terrible. Only one reliever (Mike Timlin) ended up with an ERA+ as high as 100, and Timlin's was bang-on the century mark.
Also of note: Doug Linton finished the season with an 8.63 ERA over eight games. But he was money in The Doug Linton Game, which I happened to be in attendance for. Until the Dustin McGowan one-hitter, that was probably my most historic live game as a fan. God bless you, Doug Linton, wherever you are.