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Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.



Posted by Jon on Saturday, March 20, 2004

WORTHLESSNESSFEST: VORP Speed, Across the Mendoza Line…!
A Contest – Negative VORP


Throughout baseball there are always a handful of everyday players whose mysterious disappearance would actually benefit their team as a whole. That is, a higher level of production would be seen if the player was replaced by the average bench player. The question arises: can we predict whose VORP will be the most negative? This, sirs and madams, is your task. This is the Worthlessnessfest, a contest of negative VORP.

Baseball Prospectus 2004 defines VORP as "an estimate of total player value, which…incorporates what position that player plays, how many games he played, and what ‘replacement level’ is for his position."

I’ve been contemplating this for a while – something like a fantasy baseball league, but one in which league members choose the players they believe will play the worst. Baseball Prospectus has a similar contest, Hacking Mass, in which contestants pick players they think will retain their jobs while playing poorly. Baseball Prospectus uses a complicated formula in their contest, factoring in pitchers’ innings pitched and hitters’ plate appearances. The Worthlessnessfest, though, will be different.

Simply put, to participate in Worthlessnessfest 2004, you must fill out a thirteen-player roster, choosing the players you predict to have the worst, most negative VORP over the 2004 season. The positions that must be filled are as follows:

Hitters:
C
1B or DH
2B
3B
SS
OF1
OF2
OF3

Pitchers:
SP1
SP2
SP3
SP4
RP1

So, you will need a roster with on player in each infield position, three outfielders, four starting pitchers, and one reliever – and you want them to be B-A-D, according to VORP. In addition, you want these players to play as often as possible, because most players with a negative VORP will spend more than a few games in the majors.

I repeat, in addition to creating a team horribly deficient in talent, your players should have staying power to reach a strong negative VORP. In addition, if a player you choose receives fewer than 200 plate appearances or pitches in fewer than 100 innings (for starters), a twenty-five point penalty will be assessed to that player.

Once you fill out your roster, send it to us with a subject heading ‘My Worst Roster’, where we’ll file it away safely for the season. At season’s end, we’ll do all the calculations for you, adding up your final VORP totals. All participants will be notified of their results, the winner being crowned King or Queen of Worthlessness. Maybe we’ll even send the winner a Brad Ausmus baseball card. Need a better understanding of the VORP stat? Read on.

Keith Woolner, the father of VORP, or Value Over Replacement Player, writes that for hitters, "VORP is the number of runs contributed beyond what a replacement level player would contribute if given the same percentage of team plate appearances," estimating the run contribution of the hitter by measuring the impact of run scoring that a single player has on a league average team, using the Runs Created model. For pitchers, "VORP is defined as the number of runs a pitcher surrenders below what a replacement level pitcher would have given up in the same number of innings. Replacement level is set at +1.00 above the league average RA."

Important VORP notes:
· A player’s VORP can range anywhere from the positive – indicating production over replacement level – to the negative – indicating production below replacement level.
· A VORP of zero is considered replacement level.
· Defense does not play a role in the calculation of VORP.
· The notion of the Replacement Player is universal. That is, although each team has a different level of player available as a replacement, this does not alter a player’s VORP. A player’s VORP is his Value Over Replacement Level in Major League Baseball as a whole.

For further information, check out Keith Woolner’s explanation.

It may sound complicated, but VORP is fairly intuitive. The following players are the 2003 VORP leaders and duds (the best and worst players according to VORP), just to give an idea of VORP values. Remember, we’re asking you to predict whose VORP will be the worst in 2004. For the complete list of 2003 VORP by position, click here. Additional VORP stats are available at Baseball Prospectus’ statistics page.

Catcher:
Javy Lopez, 75.9

Brad Ausmus, -17.9

First Base/Designated Hitter:
Carlos Delgado, 72.2

Dean Palmer, -13.9

Second Base:
Brett Boone, 75.8

Brandon Phillips, -21.2

Third Base:
Bill Mueller, 60.1

Brandon Larson, -13.6

Shortstop:
Alex Rodriguez, 86.3

Rey Sanchez, -12.1

Outfield:
Barry Bonds, 114.6
Albert Pujols, 97.3
Gary Sheffield, 78.9

Jermaine Dye, -20.6
Ryan Christianson, -13.9
Pat Burrell, -11.7

Starting Pitcher:
Esteban Loaiza, 74.7
Pedro Martinez, 71.9
Tim Hudson, 69.5
Jason Schmidt, 69.3

Shawn Estes, -19.8
Jeremy Bonderman, -18.2
Glendon Rusch, -18.1
Dewon Brazelton, -17.2

Relief Pitcher:
Guillermo Mota, 41.1

Jaret Wright, -18.2

So fill out your roster now! One player per infield position, three outfielders, four starting pitchers, and a reliever, with penalties for not receiving enough playing time. The team with the lowest VORP at season’s end wins. Send it to talkingbaseball@hotmail.com. Maybe you’ll be crowned King or Queen of Worthlessness.

Nix That

Last season, the Ballpark at Arlington was home to more than one baseball first. Yes, during a visit by the Red Sox, Bill Mueller, surprise batting champion, treated Texas fans to the only two-grand slam game by a switch hitter, with each slam coming from a different side of the plate. But in 2003, Texas fans also witnessed the major league debut of two new names into the baseball encyclopedia: Laynce and Nix. It isn’t his surname that has furrowed many a brow, but his first name. You see, Laynce Nix was born with an irregularly-spelled first name. Where does that extra ‘y’ come from? The name ‘Lance’ is far from common, but why is there a ‘y’? Well, it runs in the family. The twenty-three year-old has a twenty-two year-old brother in the Rockies’ farm system named, accordingly, Jayson. A less uncommon name for sure, but strange nonetheless. I think the parents of these two owe nothing short of an explanaytion.


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Posted by Ben K. on Friday, March 19, 2004

2004 Season Preview, Part I

I'm not going to talk about hats. I promise.

One of our aims here at Talking Baseball is to bring you content and articles you might not find elsewhere. While our statistical analysis is evocative of Baseball Prospectus, and we decided to pursue the whole blog thing after reading Aaron Gleeman's blog, our topics and the analysis are our own. That being said, I feel that an important pre-season ritual is the season preview. While you can get season previews at every baseball site under the sun, each one is different. Over my next few posts, I'll be writing a few season preview entries. While my posts will predict the standings (and you'll see how in a minute), the previews are going to focus around interesting story lines surrounding each season during the 2004 campaign. Some of these story lines will be obvious, and some of them won't be. But hopefully, all of them will be something to follow during the upcoming 162 games.

But before I begin my previews, I would like to welcome you to Talking Baseball Version 2. As you may have noticed, we recently redesigned the site to look, well, more professional. The sidebar has been reworked, and the fonts have been replaced. More importantly, however, we have added a comments section to the bottom of every post so that our readers can leave us instant comments. Many people have already taken advantage of the opportunity to post their thoughts, and I would like to ask everyone to avoid posting vulgar or obscene comments. When you post a comment, that comment becomes a part of the post for everyone to see, and it becomes a part of our blog. We will be deleting any obscene or vulgar posts and spam as well. So please save us the trouble of deleting the posts, and think twice before posting the curse-filled tirade against a hat analysis or anything else. We want to hear from you, but at the same time, we will keep the site and its content respectable and decent.

Anyway, enough preaching, and onto the preview. I'm listing teams here in the order I feel that they will finish this season. Today's post will start with the NL West and Central; I'll take on the NL East and AL West on Tuesday; and I'll wrap things up next weekend with the AL Cetral and the über-competitive AL East.

National League West
1. San Francisco Giants — Clearly, the Giants are the heavy favorite to win the NL West. But I wouldn't expect them to put together another 100-win season. While their number-one starter Jason Schmidt is recovering from elbow surgery, he seems to be on pace for Opening Day. The offense, led by Bonds, is solid, but behind Schmidt, the Giants have Kurt Rueter (and his 2.51 K/9 IP), Brett Tomko, and Dustin Hermanson. That is not a trio that inspires confidence, and the young Jerome Williams will have to pick up some slack. If the rotation falters, the Giants could fall from the top of the West, but who would replace them is anyone's guess. (This just in, Schmidt's been scratched from his Saturday spring training start due to shoulder aches.)

Obvious story line: Barry Bonds, his aging body, and steroids will be all over the baseball news this season. Bonds is hitting fourth again this season because, as he told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I can't be up there in the early part of that lineup running around the bases. I'll end up in a coffin." As he pursues Hank and the Home Run record, his health will become more and more of a question.

Interesting story line: How will Robb Nen's surgically-repaired shoulder hold up? Nen missed the 2003 season and had three surgeries in the process. In 2002, his 43 saves brought the Giants to the brink of a World Series Championship. Since Tim Worrell signed with the Phillies this off-season, if Nen is not healthy enough or effective enough to close, the Giants will be in need of some pitching help.

Player to watch: Edgardo Alfonzo. Hitting behind Bonds, can he once again become a threat in the line up so that pitchers will be forced to throw Barry some strikes?

2. San Diego Padres — Despite the addition of Jeff Cirillo, one of the worst players out there right now, the Padres were one of the few teams in the West to make a big off-season push. With a young nucleus, along with All Star Trevor Hoffman making a return to form, the Padres could push the Giants out of the top spot this season.

Obvious story line: Phil Nevin and his shoulder. Nevin reinjured the shoulder than limited him to only 226 at bats last season. While the latest Prospectus book contends that Nevin is overrated, if he can stay injury-free this year, he could return to his 2001 form, thus propelling the Padres' offense.

Interesting story line: New ballpark, new team members, new season outlook? Can the Padres turn all of their off-season acquisitions into their first post-season appearance since they got swept by the Yankees in 1998? Right now, they could. Their team is built to win this year or next, and their new stadium will drive up attendance. Already, the Opening Day crowd at Petco Park should be huge. After the stadium boom, the young Padres (Xavier Nady, Sean Burroughs, Ramon Vazquez, Jake Peavy) may be ready to lead them to a few pennants.

Player to watch: Jay Payton. Last season, in the thin air of Denver, Payton hit 28 home runs, slugged .512, and drove in 89, all career highs. Can he come close to repeating this performance down at sea level in San Diego?

3. Colorado Rockies — If the Rockies are going to win, this is the year to do it. They have a roster full of aging veterans who are close enough to their peaks that they may be able to pull this franchise above .500 again. Jeromy Burnitz and Vinny Castilla will both enjoy boosts from the Colorado atmosphere, but once again, pitching remains a question.

Obvious story line: Todd Helton and his quest for a Triple Crown. Every year, Helton finishes near the top of the league in batting average and RBIs, and if anyone's going to get the Triple Crown it would be him (or maybe Manny, if he focused on the game enough). Will Burnitz and Castilla as protection in the line up, will this year be the year of the Triple Crown?

Interesting story line: The Rockies' starter this year, Shawn Estes, came to camp on a minor league deal, and now it looks like he will pitch opening day. Last season, batters hit .304 off of Estes, and he surrendered twenty home runs while pitching for the Cubs. These numbers would be cause for concern at Coors Field, but pitching coach Bob Apodaca believes Estes is in better shape than ever, and Shawn says he same thing. While the Rockies will once again sport a killer (home) offense, their pitching could make for a long season.

Player to watch: 22-year-old Chin Hui Tsao is the future of pitching in Colorado. Ranked the 25th-best prospect by Baseball America, he could be the the future ace of the Rockies' rotation, if the thin air doesn't get to him first. As highly touted as he is, he could be the brightest star in the Rockies' future or the biggest Colorado bust since Mike Hampton.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks — Although my girlfriend, Sarah, who's from Phoenix, is a Diamondbacks fan, I still have to rank them fourth, largely due to injuries. But I'll get to that in a second. This team no longer has the hitting or the pitching to have a shot at the division. Over the off-season, they acquired Richie Sexson and young arms Casey Fossum and Brandon Lyon, but they lost Curt Schilling and sparkplug Craig Counsell. Despite a dive last year in production, who could forget Counsell's annoying appearances against the Yankees in the 2001 World Series? While this team's young players (Brandon Webb, in particular) will continue to improve, their rotation with a back end of Elmer Dessens, Shane Reynolds, and Steve Sparks, will prove woefully inadequate this year.

Obvious story line: Injuries. Can Randy Johnson stay injury-free and once again carry this team on his back even without Schilling around? According to all sources, Johnson has no cartilage in his knee which makes his landing very difficult. Yet, Bob Brenly says RJ looks at the top of his game this spring. What's up with Luis Gonzalez's elbow? It's no secret that Gonzo is playing hurt these days, and if his elbow continues to hurt his swing, opposing pitchers will challenge him and risk facing Sexson with Shea Hillenbrand and little else to follow.

Interesting story line: Bob Brenly's job is not the most secure managerial position anymore. The Diamondbacks have made it known that they want Mark Grace managing soon, and Mark Grace has made it known that he's interested in the job. Right now, he's waiting up in the broadcast booth for the call, and if the D-Backs stumble out of the starting block, Grace could be the new Diamondbacks manager by the All Star break.

Players to watch: Brandon Webb and Florida Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis. On all accounts, Webb should have won the National League Rookie of the Year last year. In 28 starts, he had 21 quality outings, including his first 13 in a row. Prospectus rated his VORP at 51.9 and his stuff an astonishing 44. Despite his 10-9 record, he sported a 2.84 ERA and struck out 172 in 180.2 innings. Compare that to Dontrelle who had a 36.8 VORP and an ERA of 3.30 while striking out 142 in 160 innings, and it's clear that the attention Dontrelle gained because of the Marlins' overachieving propelled him to the ROY award. It will be interesting to see if Webb can prove that he deserved the award and outpitch Dontrelle for the second year in a row.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers — I know it's not very trendy to predict the Dodgers to finish last in their division; it hasn't happened since 1992. This team, however, does not inspire much confidence. They traded away ace Kevin Brown for Jeff Weaver (we'll get to him soon), and they lost Jeromy Burnitz who was a key part to the Dodgers' woeful offense last year. Their pitching isn't the same, and Kaz Ishii, Weaver, and Nomo have all been lit up this spring, and their fallback options are Jose Lima and Wilson Alvarez, back end starters at best. To top it off, the only offensive upgrade involved bringing in Juan Encarnacion. Last season, the Dodgers managed a Major League low 574 runs; they were even outscored by the Tigers. The prospects for improvement look slim, and the pitching doesn't look much better.

Obvious story line: Eric Gagne hasn't blow in a save since the war in Iraq began, and last season, he held opponents to a .133/.196/.173 line en route to a Cy Young. While the save itself may be an overrated, Gagne effectively makes Dodger games 8 innings long. This season, he probably won't challenge Bobby Thigpen's single-season save mark because the Dodger offense won't give him enough opportunities, but he's still really fun to watch. Baseball Propsectus has given him the nickname "Ice Cold." With a 1.20 ERA and 137 K in 82.1 innings, it's easy to see why.

Interesting story line: Jeff Weaver will forever be remembered in New York, unfortunately. He compiled a 5.35 ERA in pinstripes, giving up 28 home runs in 240 innings, and one mighty big home run to Alex Gonzalez during Game 4 of the World Series. (Really, Joe, what were you thinking putting him in to pitch with Rivera on the bench?) While many analysts are saying he'll recover nicely in Los Angeles, I think he won't, and for this reason alone, he's the guy to watch on this team. On the Tigers, he was never that good, and his career losing record and ERA of 4.59 attest to that. While Prospectus rates him with a VORP of 39.4 in 2001 (down to -10.9 in 2003), opposing hitters have hit .274 off him. In 2002, while still in Detroit, Weaver showed that he was capable of pitching well, sporting a 3.18 ERA in 121.2 innings. Weaver puts the ball in play, striking out only 5.93 per 9 innings, so he will benefit from an improved defense behind him in Los Angeles. But if he was never really that good to begin with, can the Dodgers really expect him to improve that much? If Spring Training is any indication (which it's not), signs point to no. He's surrendered 25 hits (2.00 WHIP) and 11 earned runs in 14 innings, but maybe he'll pull it together for the season. I personally doubt it.

General Manager to watch: Paul DePodesta, a disciple of Billy Beane, is now in charge of the Dodgers' development, and he has a long road ahead of him. His first step will be reviving the dormant offense, and it will be interesting to see who he pursues. With the organization sporting two of the top 10 BA prospects, and both of them pitchers, DePodesta's primary focus will be squarely on acquiring a bat, young or old. With James Loney (1B) and Franklin Gutierrez (OF) rounding out LA's prospects on BA's top 100 list, I would expect DePodesta will look to bring in a few more young bats as he aims for an improvement in 2005 and beyond.

National League Central

1. Chicago Cubs — While many baseball analysts have picked the Astros to win this division, any pitching staff led by Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, and Greg Maddux, backed up by Carlos Zambrano and Matt Clement gets my vote. This rotation’s overall VORP measured up to an impressive 208.4. With Kyle Farnsworth, LaTroy Hawkins, and Joe Browoski in the bullpen, the Wrigley faithful may feel that the stars are aligned for the Cubs this season. But as we will see, this team’s offense is treading on thin ice.

Obvious story line: In 1998, Greg Maddux led the NL with a 2.22 ERA; the season before that his numbers were even more impressive as he went 19-4 with a 2.20 in 1997. Since then, however, it’s been a slow, but steady, decline for one of the era’s greatest pitchers. As a telling indication, Maddux’s Equivalent ERA has gone up 0.40 runs each year for the last three seasons, and his VORP has fallen to 23.3. This year, the Cubs are asking Maddux to do two things: pitch as he did last year and impart his knowledge of pitching to the rest of the young Cub staff. In Atlanta, Maddux had to front the rotation; this year, the pressure is off, as he will be the Cubs’ third starter. If he can win 16 games for the Cubs, he will be one of the best third starters around.

Interesting story line: The Cubs offense should be a cause for concern; a right-handed line up, the only upgrade came at first base and the outfielders are an aging bunch. Sammy Sosa, the cornerstone of this team, had a precipitous decline in production last season. This was mostly due to a large drop-off in his walk rate while his strikeout rate actually increased. Sosa has Moises Alou and Derrick Lee hitting behind him now. While Alou will turn 38 this year, he put up solid numbers last year and Lee was an All Star and a key part to the Marlins’ run. With the team’s top-line pitching in place, the Cubs’ chances rest on the heart of the order.

Player to watch: Quietly, lead-off hitter Mark Grudzielanek put together a very respectable season last year. He hit .314/.366/.416 and scored 73 runs in 121 games. If Grudzielanek was for real last season, the Cubs will score a lot of runs; if this production was a fluke, the heart of the order will have to produce its own base runners and runs. I would look for the Cubs to acquire a true lead-off hitter before the trading deadline.

2. Houston Astros — Supposedly, the Astros have the best rotation in the major leagues, but I don’t see it. I’ve already written about this, and you can read about it here. Dave also voiced his belief that the Astros had an overrated rotation. Looking at the Baseball Prospectus statistics, the Cubs rotation appears much stronger. Prior’s 63.8 VOPR overshadows Oswalt’s 33.6; Wood’s 53.4 far exceeds Pettitte’s 25.4; and while Clemens’ 37.9 is significantly better than Maddux’s 23, I don’t think Clemens and Pettitte will be as good as Houston hopes. Clemens has shown his rust in a very unimpressive spring, and Pettitte, while sharp, is not the ace the Astros think he is. Additionally, Pettitte was recently quoted as saying he doesn’t like being the center of attention. That’s one of the reason why I think he left New York, but he’s going to have to get used to it if he is to succeed in Houston. The Astros and their fans are putting a lot of pressure on Andy. Oswalt is the future for this rotation, but he had issues with a groin injury last year. If the Astros win the division this year, it will be because their offense is much better than Chicago’s. A division title is possible, though I would look for the Astros to secure the Wild Card.

Obvious story line: Will the loss of Billy Wagner hurt Houston more than they think? The Astros were willing to let Wagner walk because of All Star set-up man Octavio Dotel and his recent success. Yet, Dotel’s line as a closer is less than impressive. In his career, he has converted only 65 percent of his save chances (28 for 43), and he is replacing someone with a success rate of 97 percent. Dotel will have to show improvement in the closer role if the Astros are going to win their games.

Interesting story line: How good is Morgan Ensberg? Last season, Ensberg hit 25 home runs in 385 at bats, and for some reason, Jimy Williams never officially handed him the starting role. (Geoff Blum? What was he thinking?) Now that Houston shipped Blum to Tampa Bay, Ensberg will get his 500 at bats this season, and 40 home runs out of the number two hole is not out of the question. Backed by Bagwell, Kent, and Berkman, NL pitchers will have to throw strikes to the 28-year-old, and if last year is any indication, he will deliver. Look for him to turn in a .280/.370/.500 performance with an increase in power numbers. If Ensberg stays hot, the Astros could upset the Cubs.

Manager to watch: Jimy Williams, in my opinion, is one of the worst managers around. He hardly ever runs out the same line up two days in a row, and he used his relief pitchers an astounding 502 times last season. Compare that to Dusty Baker (420), Joe Torre (367), Grady Little (437), and Jack McKeon (280 in more than two-thirds of a season), and Williams’ hyperactivity becomes more apparent. He needs to settle down. He should let his hitters grow comfortable in a set line up and allow his relievers to get some rest every now and then. Expectations are high for the Astros this year, and Williams will get the blame if the Cubs open up a wide division lead.

3. St. Louis Cardinals — Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they are in the same division as the Astros and the Cubs. Otherwise, this team would almost be a lock for the post season. As it is, they could upset the division. Their rotation, headed up by Matt Morris and Woody Williams, is decent, and their line up, with Edgar Renteria, Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, and Scott Rolen in the middle, certainly could out-slug the Cubs. While I would expect the Cardinals to finish with around 87 wins this year, I do not think it will be enough for them to reach October.

Obvious story line: Similar to Todd Helton, Albert Pujols is a perennial candidate for the Triple Crown and the MVP award. Last season, he was the Cardinals’ Triple Crown guy, hitting .359 with 43 home runs, 124 RBIs, and a league-leading 137 runs scored. The Cardinals paid only $900,000 for this last year; they're paying a lot more now - to the tune of 95 million over 7 years. If he continues to improve—and if he’s really only 24, then he will—he could become one of the generation’s greatest hitters. While the Cardinals will probably put together a very non-descript season this year, if Pujols challenges the Triple Crown again, the excitement out of St. Louis will be high. This is a city that loves and appreciates its baseball after all.

Interesting story line: For some reason, baseball fans like Jeff Suppan, the Cardinals’ third starter. I don’t really know why. His career ERA of 4.90 is among the highest in active players with over 200 starts. He gives up a lot of home runs and strikes out only 5 per 9 innings. His lack of value really showed when the Red Sox picked up him up as a last-season addition last year only to watch him fail miserably. The Cardinals may be putting too much faith in Suppan if they expect him to pick up the slack behind Morris and Williams, both of whom suffer from injuries. I, for one, don’t really know what the big deal is over this overrated righty.

Player to watch: Watch Scott Rolen just because he’s fun to watch. He quietly turned in a solid season last year, with 49 doubles, 28 home runs, and a .286/.382/.528 line. He drove in 104 runs and even managed to steal 13 bases. With Gold Glove-caliber defense at third base, he’ll have a grand time hitting behind Pujols again this year.

4. Cincinatti Reds — After the Cardinals, the NL Central witnesses a big drop in quality, and the Reds will earn fourth place merely by default next year. Their rotation, right now projected to be Paul Wilson, Cory Lidle, Jimmy Haynes, Aaron Harang, and Jose Acevedo, sports just one 10-game winner (Lidle had 12), and he struggled mightily in Toronto last year. Being on a worse team won’t help him. The offense is decent, but injuries have decimated this team. If Junior Griffey and Austin Kearns stay healthy and Adam Dunn raises his .215 average, the Reds will score some runs, but like last year, when they sported a 5.09 ERA, they will also give up a lot of runs. In fact, Prospectus ranked the 2003 rotation the 10th worst in the Majors since 1969, and this one doesn’t look much better.

Obvious story line: Ken Griffey, Jr., is the only player to get the interesting and obvious story line just because there’s not too much excitement surrounding the Reds. For the obvious story line, which Griffey will show up to play this year? Will the Seattle Ken Griffey who was considered one of the best all-around players in the 1990s show up? Or will the Reds version who plays in 70 games a season while averaging 14 home runs and two injuries a year appear? For Griffey’s sake and his chances at the Hall, I hope he finds a return to form. He is only 34 after all and could be a valuable player still.

Interesting story line: Assume that Ken Griffey Jr. doesn’t get injured and shows that he can still hit 30-40 home runs a year. The story surrounding him then becomes what team lands him by July. Will the Yankees make a run for him in Gary Sheffield’s thumb is truly injured? Will the Padres pursue the Phil Nevin-Ken Griffey trade that was rumored to be in the works last season? Or maybe the Red Sox will pick him up if Trot Nixon’s back keeps him out for a while. Either way, Griffey is the guy to watch at the trade deadline this year, if he can stay healthy for more than 6 innings at a time.

Prospect to watch: Ryan Wagner, the lone Cincinnati prospect on Baseball America’s top-100 list, reached the majors last year after 9 minor league innings and a scant 46 days after being drafted. While there, he gave up only 13 hits in 21.2 innings and pitched to an ERA of 1.66. While some analysts think his motion leaves him exposed to injuries, for now, the Reds should use him and develop him while they have him. If Danny Graves struggles in the closer role, Wagner could be seeing some ninth-inning appearances by the end of the season.

5. Milwaukee Brewers — As Officer Barbrady likes to say in South Park, “Move along, people, there’s nothing to see here.” No one in the Brewers’ projected line up drove in 100 runs last year, and none of their starters had a winning record or an ERA under 4.45. The line on their number two guy Wayne Franklin could summarize the Brewers’ hopes: 10-13, 5.29, 36 home runs and 201 hits in 194.2 innings. The future of the organization lies in its deep farm system which landed six prospects in BA’s top 100 list.

Obvious story line: The books on the Brewers are under examination. To find out more about this story, check out this letter. As the city of Milwaukee investigates the Brewers’ finances, their declining payroll, and funding for the new stadium, it will be interesting to see what the outcome of this is for Bud Selig and his daughter Wendy. The Seligs made a commitment to winning when they gained approval for their new ballpark, but since Miller Park has opened, the Brewers have seen decreasing attendance figures and a payroll heading lower and lower. Their biggest off-season acquisitions were a bunch of soft-hitting guys from the Diamondbacks (Craig Counsell, Lyle Overbay, Junior Spivey) in exchange for fan favorite Richie Sexson. The Brewers and their owners may be in trouble of the city digs much deeper. This could be the beginning of the end for the much-maligned Bud Selig.

Interesting story line: Prince Fielder, no doubt. Fielder, son of Cecil, is going to be the next big offensive star in the Major Leagues. He tore up the minors last year at age 19, hitting 27 home runs with a .313/.409/.526 line at single A. While it seems to be a foregone conclusion that Fielder will be a bigger star than his dad, don’t expect to see him up this year except for maybe in September. The only question is his weight: right now, he’s better suited to be a designated hitter than a first baseman. To become a star on the Brewers, he’ll have to shed some pounds, but maybe part of his plan is to be traded from the Brewers. Overall, though, the Brewers have developed a solid farm system with Richie Weeks earning top prospect honors over Fielder. Weeks should be up in the majors by June, but the key to the Brewers’ offensive success down the road lies in the Prince.

Team for sale: Will anyone buy the Brewers? The city of Milwaukee and its citizens are showing that they won’t support this team, at least not while the team continues to lose. While the Seligs have put the Brewers up for sale, they will be hard-pressed to find a buyer willing to invest any money into what will surely be a losing venture. If the Brewers are sold before the Expos are, there will be some grumblings that things are not right in the world of baseball.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates — We’ve already angered Pirates fans by insulting their hat; now, I get to do it again by presenting the truth about a once-glorious franchise. The Pirates have very little offense, a decent starting rotation, and a bullpen that could end up losing this team a lot of games. The lone bright spots are Kip Wells and Josh Fogg, and the minor league system is looking solid. Yet, it won’t pay dividends for a few more years, and the Pirates, who have gone 25 years without a World Series appearance, will suffer another season at the bottom of the Central. In the end, there’s really not that much to say about them.

Obvious story line: Will Lloyd McClendon be fired? Currently, he sports a managerial winning percentage of .431, and that’s sure to go down again this year. If he can show some more patience with the younger players on the team, he may keep his job, but right now the Pirates need a manager who is willing to develop some young arms and some young bats. I’m not so sure Lloyd is the man for the job.

Interesting story line: Who will win the pierogi race? Will it be Saurkraut Saul, Jalapeno Hannah, Oliver Onion, or Cheese Chester? I’m serious; that’s the most interesting story coming out of Pittsburgh this year.

Player to watch: Left-handed prospect Sean Burnett is a masterful ground ball pitcher and could be a part of the Pirates’ rotation this year. He has allowed only 17 home runs in 506 innings, but he strikes out only about 4.5 men per 9 innings. To succeed in the majors, he will have to maintain his 4-to-1 groundball to flyball ratio. Burnett should be a nice harbinger of possible things to come from a fairly deep Pirates farm system.
------------------------
That's the end of Part I. Hopefully, you made it all the way through it. On Tuesday, I'll be posting previews for the NL East and the AL West, and then next Saturday, I'll finish this up with a look at the weak AL Central and the incredibly strong AL East. Leave me your comments; I'm curious to see our readers' thoughts.


### So what do you think? We want to know. | | E-mail us ###



Posted by Mike on Thursday, March 18, 2004

Talking Baseball Forum

The Talking Baseball Forum has been pruned slightly and there are now new articles from special contributer Craig Lowell about steroids in baseball and college hockey. Please check out the new format and feel free to respond to these articles. Now that the regular season is approaching a reasonable number of forum members would be nice luxury!

A Re-Cap
Updated 4:47 PM

Talking Baseball has become an analytical baseball cap website. How did this happen? Simply, the excitement over the arrival of spring training arriving has disappeared and has been replaced by the realization that preseason baseball games are meaningless and often boring. Too many undeserving players are scraping for a roster spot and too many others are trying to recover from previous injuries or offseason surgeries. These sorts of things are fun to muse about for a few days but ultimately not nearly as much fun to discuss as actual regular season baseball. This is why we here at Talking Baseball have devoted so much time recently to discussing baseball caps.

There has been some extremely negative feedback to Dave's last two post about baseball caps. The hats he has been analyzing are not official MLB game worn caps but instead a selection of popular "Franchise" caps made by Twins Enterprises. A number of them are variations of caps worn by their respective teams but with altered color schemes. This is why I found the need to talk about the real caps worn by MLB teams.

There is a major flaw in Dave's analysis and that is the rating system that he used to create his "overall hat ratings." He uses fixed and arbitrarily proportioned point values in five areas; simplicity, symmetry, colors, lasting appeal, and nostalgia. The problem here is that there is no fungibility between the different categories. There needs to be a degree of "give and take" when looking at caps rather than trying to break them down into basic elements. Sometimes one element more than compensates for deficiencies in other areas - the Brewers cap is probably the best example of this being ignored. Therefore, I've eliminated the reliance upon the weights that Dave put forth. This allows for me to create more inter-reliance on the categories.

The "lasting appeal" and "nostalgia" categories are essentially redundant. Greater nostalgia should effectively boost lasting appeal especially in combination with good scores in the design elements. A cap with nostalgia should also have lasting appeal among fans because nostalgia keeps fans interested in certain teams. Teams like the Devil Rays have no nostalgia and no lasting appeal. Teams like the Yankees and Cardinals have a great deal of nostalgia and subsequently a great deal of lastying appeal.

Dave also selected each hat he judged for every team in a somewhat random manner. There is no consistency but most are variations or resemblances of game worn caps. I will only be evaluating the caps worn at home games for each team. Away worn hats might be evaluated in a later post but I'm trying to keep this simple for the time-being.

The Rating System - I will be using an A to F scale. Pluses (+) and minuses (-) will be used for borderline determinations. Please remember that all of these ratings are arbitrary.

The NL East



Atlanta Braves

This cap isn't neccessarily bad but it isn't really good either. The "A" just doesn't work and the bright red brim stands out a little too much in contrast to the rest of the cap. It has decent balance but could have been better with a more appealing "A." The Braves have a positive history and momentum coming out of the 1990s but this cap really does nothing more than say, "I'm a Braves fan." Now that Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine have left Atlanta a great deal of the identity that this cap carries is gone with them. It should be interesting to see how the Braves are viewed once John Smoltz leaves them as well.

Simplicity - B
Symetry - C
Colors - B
Nostalgia - B
Overall - B-



Florida Marlins

There is little good that can be said about this cap. Maybe if the logo were just a simple "F" then it would be better but as it stands right now this cap is genuinely ugly. A general rule of thumb is that the team mascot should not make an appearance anywhere on a hat. The Marlins' marlin is prominantly displayed as flopping by the giant "F" on the front of this cap. Not attractive. The "franchise" caps I discussed above sometimes have a mini-mascot in the back that looks just fine. In the Marlins case the mascot is the most visible decoration on the cap making it look cluttered and unpleasing to the eye. The only factor preventing the Marlins cap from receiving an outright "F" is that the franchise has won two World Series titles in the last seven years.

Simplicity - F
Symetry - F
Colors - D-
Nostalgia - C
Overall - D-



Montreal Expos

The Expos will not be in Montreal much longer, and when they move I'm sure that they will change their name and logos. As a result this cap is dated and soon will cease to exist. There are few Expo fans right now and there will be few who remember them in the future. The Expos do not have much nostalgia working in their favor, a situation that would likely have been different had the 1994 World Series not been cancelled. Ultimately, the colors are good and the design is unique (although incomprehensible) but it all adds up to a slightly above average cap.

Simplicity - B
Symetry - B
Colors - B
Nostalgia - D
Overall - B-



New York Mets

The Mets entire uniform is a combination of the old Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants colors and logos. The cap color (blue and orange) is just a little bit funky but not bad enough to hurt the cap's overall presentation. The logo is absolutely one of the best in the majors because it is both unique and elegant. I struggled with the Nostalgia rating because the Mets have had so many bad seasons but their two World Series titles are so memorable that I decided that I couldn't give them any form of a "C."

Simplicity - A
Symetry - A
Colors - C
Nostalgia - B-
Overall - B



Philadelphia Phillies

I don't wear Red Hats but if I did I think I might be convinced to choose a Phillies hat. A very clean and balanced style of its own make this one of the better looking MLB caps. The Phillies have some history but right now they just emerging from a rebuilding phase that began after their last World Series appearance in the early 1990s. As they continue to win games I'm sure that the Phillies will also rebuild their reputation and their nostalgia rating...

Simplicity - A
Symetry - A
Colors - A-
Nostalgia - C
Overall - B+

NL Central



Chicago Cubs

I've always liked the caps that the Cubs wear, both home and away. The away version is one of very few that looks good with a brim of a different color than the rest of the cap. Their home cap is simple, sharp, and appealing to the eye. The Cubs don't have much of a nostalgia factor because aside from last year they're not often in contention.

Simplicity - A
Symetry - A
Colors - A
Nostalgia - B
Overall - A-



Cincinnati Reds

Good but not great. Aside from the fact that this cap represents Cincinnati there's nothing really wrong with it. Overall the design is pretty sharp but its nothing special. Black and red with a big white "C" on the front. This team was great in the 1970s but recently they've been terrible and the current Pete Rose controversy hasn't helped. I don't personally like the cap very much but it rates well because I think in the eyes of others it would be appealing.

Simplicity - B+
Symetry - A
Colors - B
Nostalgia - B
Overall - B+



Houston Astros

The Astros have always worn ugly uniforms and caps. At one time they wore caps with the Astrodome on them. Let me restate that. At one time they wore caps that on the front prominantly featured their stadium. The old rainbow uniforms are desirable now but I don't think they could ever be confused as being attractive. The current Astros cap is bland and features a rather ugly logo.

Simplicity - C+
Symetry - C
Colors - C+
Nostalgia - D
Overall - C



Milwalkee Brewers

An ugly cap that represents a team with no history and little future. The "franchise" version that Dave reviewed is a much more unique and attractive cap. Their game-worn home cap has no redeeming qualities past it's standard navy blue color.

Simplicity - C
Symetry - D
Colors - B
Nostalgia - F
Overall - D



Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have been using this style of "P" as their logo for a very long time now. It's a rather unique "P" and honestly without it this hat probably wouldn't have gotten it's overall "B" rating. I don't really like the yellow because of the bumblebee effect in combination with the black. Conservative but with personality this is a solid cap.

Simplicity - A
Symetry - A-
Colors - C+
Nostalgia - B
Overall - B



Saint Louis Cardinals

Another red cap but this one isn't as sharp as the Phillies' home game hat. The Cardinals are known for having as strong and knowledgable a fanbase and having a rich history. The logo on the cap is a little out of control but to some degree it works. The "S-T L" is a little busy but because the letters themselves are simple the design manages to remain appealing.

Simplicity - B-
Symetry - C-
Colors - A-
Nostalgia - A
Overall - B+

NL West



Arizona Diamondbacks

Ugly. So very ugly. The colors, the logo, the everything. If not for the 2001 World Series title then this hat, like the Marlins', would receive an "F."

Simplicity - D
Symetry - C-
Colors - D
Nostalgia - C
Overall - C-



Colorado Rockies

Another ugly cap. Better colors and then we'll talk.

Simplicity - C
Symetry - C
Colors - D
Nostalgia - F
Overall - D-



Los Angeles Dodgers

A reoccuring theme... simple with nice colors. There's little symetry with the "L" and the "A" but it doesn't really matter because the overall presentation of the cap more than makes up for that one deficiency. This is simply a nice cap.

Simplicity - A
Symetry - C
Colors - A
Nostalgia - B+
Overall - A-



San Diego Padres

Pretty much the same thing as the Dodgers cap but with a different font for the logo letters and less history behind the team.

Simplicity - A
Symetry - C
Colors - A
Nostalgia - C-
Overall - B+



San Francisco Giants

This is a good looking hat. It's well balanced in all areas (there's a little symetry with the way that the "F" is used as a sort of central axis) and has no real deficiencies. The logo uses a unique font and is simple but with personality. I really wanted to give this cap a better grade but the logo feels a little too busy.

Simplicity - C
Symetry - B-
Colors - B+
Nostalgia - B+
Overall - B-


### So what do you think? We want to know. | | E-mail us ###



Posted by Dave on Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Hats: The Best of The West

In case you missed (trust me, you were missing it, Bob) it, my last post reviewed the NL East and NL Central hats. Before reviewing them, I did two things I deemed necessary before rating hats. First, I described the importance of The Hat in baseball. Second, and far more importantly, I outlined a rubric for rating hats. For those who have forgotten or didn't read the first post, I'll state the weights I assigned to each criterion:

Simplicity: 35%
Symmetry: 25%
Colors: 25%
Lasting Appeal: 10%
Nostalgia: 5%

For a more detailed explanation of each of these, I have to refer you to the first post (I even linked it again, you sloths). This post, I promised to cover the NL West and AL West and I'll follow through on my promise. No long-winded histrionics, no harangues on the importance of lids, just hats.

NL West:



Simplicity - 3: I'm sorry, I have to be honest, there are other Diamondbacks (to be clear, this is a link to other hats of the Diamondbacks - I've done this with all of the teams) hats that are more appealing. But to say they are more appealing is like saying you prefer drinking sour milk to eating fecal matter. So, I perversely wanted to rate a truly miserable hat. With that said, Arizona sure did their best to produce a truly miserable hat. I say that because to make a hat this bad necessitates a desire to produce an atrocious hat. The A has a bizarre jagged line on the left side of it. It also is connected by some sort of concave hexagon which is truly an eye-sore. As much as I want to continue bashing the hat, I have to segregate my insults wisely. I have four more categories! Just one more - if you didn't know what a diamondback was (it's a snake, apparently), you'd certainly get no indication from the hat.
Symmetry - 3.5: Well, they had a nice symmetrical letter, "A." They sure managed to butcher it as much as possible. There's that jagged line (something to do with a diamondback? I'm no zoologist), but the A is tilted bizarrely, almost as if it's italicized. Why ruin symmetry if it already exists inherently?!
Colors - 0: I grappled with this decision, but I can't give the D-backs any points here. Assigning points to colors implies that there are some redeeming qualities for the chromaticity of this hat. There are none. The background is purple - if they had a white A that tempered the awful color that is purple, it would almost be excusable. You might even charitably say that it was distinct with a purple background. No no, though, they didn't stop with a purple background, they had the A be teal. I commented that I've never seen a teal article of clothing worn, and I still stand by my belief. However, combining purple and teal is woefully idiotic. Fusing purple and teal is like merging Bill Bavasi and Danny Ainge managerially. For those who know me, that's saying a lot - I hold enormous contempt for both of them, and that's an understatement.
Lasting Appeal - 2: The reason this has lasting appeal? At any point in the future, people can point to this hat and unequivocally state: "This is the worst hat in the history of Major League Baseball."
Nostalgia - 7: They won the World Series and beat the Yankees wearing this wretched hat. God knows how.

Overall Hat Rating: 2.475



Simplicity - 7.5: I'm surprised the Padres ranked so highly, they had a difficult act to follow. In all seriousness, they have a nice logo. They actually suffer a bit here for a few reasons. First, their logo is very similar to that of the Dodgers. That kind of copycatting is frowned upon by me. Also, the font is actually too plain-jane for my tastes. The letters are kind of boxy and boring.
Symmetry - 6.5: I talked with a friend, and he tells me that N's and S's and other letters in the English language have what's called "rotational symmetry." This is basically like saying that if you go from the origin to any point, you'll see a correspondent point opposite the origin. This is why I called N's vaguely symmetric in my last post. As one of our e-mails pointed out after my last post (no longer necessary because we have comments below - more on that in a bit), it seems unfair to award cities with their inherent symmetry associated with their first letter. For example, if you're the Florida Marlins, you're handicapped by the fact that you're stuck with an F on your hat. Whereas if you're Houston, you've lucked out by getting a beautiful H on your hat. I've thought about it, and I don't care. Sucks for you if you have a bad letter, but I won't be equitable or udnerstanding. The S has rotational symmetry and the D has symmetry about the horizontal axis. It's not a sphere, but it's better than the Braves.
Colors - 8.5: The Astros have similar colors and I believe I gave them a 9. I rate this only slightly below the Astros because the orange in the San Diego hat isn't quite as daring and interesting.
Lasting Appeal - 5: Hopefully with the aid of Petco Park, Kevin Towers (the Padres' GM) can put together a consistent winner.
Nostalgia - 5: What would I remember? I only gave the Pads so many points because A) This category is nearly inconsequential to OHR (Overall Hat Rating). B) I don't know anything about the history of the Padres. East coast bias at its finest.

Overall Hat Rating: 7.125



Simplicity - 8.5: I'll start with the team that everyone has been hating this offseason, the Dodgers. This is a nice classy hat. The interlocking LA makes for a nice classic look. They didn't futz with the font too much either, unlike the Braves or Mets, adding to the simplicity.
Symmetry - 6: The A has some symmetry, but the Dodgers net a six because the letters are placed nice and neatly.
Colors - 7.5: I picked this hat because I like the gray and blue. Gray can be worn with literally anything, making it a great every-day hat. My sister yells at me when I wear gray and blue together, but it's not a particularly dark gray so the synergy of the colors is kept.
Lasting Appeal - 7: If only they got to the playoffs. If only they had real fans (though that has been improving lately thanks to Eric Gagne and their penchant for playing nail-biters)
Nostalgia - 6: Kirk Gibson's injured walk-off Grand Slam will always be remembered by me.

Overall Hat Rating: 7.35



Simplicity - 6: I mean, the Rockies have a decent hat, but it doesn't really do much for me. The C and R look bizarre with their white outline on the black background for some reason. Maybe it's due to the purple inside, but it may also may have something to do with the strange font. Also, as if the National League West hadn't beaten the concept to death, the diagonally connecting letters the Rockies use are flat-out overused with the Rockies employing them now.
Symmetry - 5.5: C's got some symmetry, that's the only reason they got an extra .5 points.
Colors - 4.5: I think this is what really irks me about the hat. The purple with the black looks very odd, and your senses are deceived the moment you set your eyes on this hat. Also, aside from the purple, there's no color of interest. As the Diamondbacks merchandise sales would indicate, purple is not a good choice for a hat color.
Lasting Appeal - 5: They haven't been around very long, and I think there's a much better insignia they could be using. I would enjoy a nice mountaintop covered slightly with snow - the mountain could even be that god-awful purple if they wanted. Just anything to make the Rockies hat distinct in some fashion.
Nostalgia - 3: Everyone wants to remember mediocre players hitting 35 bombs...don't...they?

Overall Hat Rating: 5.25



Simplicity - 8.5: Nice hat the Giants have here. The hat has class with the interlocking letters, but it also has some pizzazz with the flaring on the ends of the letters. They don't get docked the points for the diagonally tiling of the letters because they and the Dodgers were the first to do it.
Symmetry - 5: The S has some, the F does not. It's nice that the letters are compact.
Colors - 8.5: I picked this hat because I really like the colors. Granted, the orange doesn't go with much, but you'll never see anyone wearing an orange hat. People would never do it because orange is generally too bright a color. This incarnation seems just soft enough to wear, however. The black lessens the impact of the orange, which is good because the orange is pretty daring on its own.
Lasting Appeal - 7: Fans over at PacBell should be proud of their team, management, and hat. All are good, and seem to have a solid franchise for years to come.
Nostalgia - 7: The Bay Area battles, the World Series earthquake, Bonds' destruction of the HR record, and Bonds' godfather Willie Mays - all these will be remembered fondly with this hat.

Overall Hat Rating: 7.4

AL West:



Simplicity - 7.5: This Athletics hat is yet another hat I own. I've come to the realization that I own it simply because it's green. I like color diversity with my hat selection (after that last look at the Giants' hat, I'm eyeing it as my next purchase), and though the A's have a good hat, objectively it's not that great. The A's is simple, but the font has a little too much flair for my taste. They could've done away with the " 'S" but I think that would make the hat confusing given the consistent practice of MLB teams to use the first letter of their city name on their hat.
Symmetry - 5.5: The A and S both sort of have symmetry. I just envisioned an Oakland hat with a beautifully embellished O. Imagine how incredible that hat would've been. Alas...
Colors - 8: There are no other green hats, and this is a major reason that the A's net an 8. They could've rated even higher if they had changed the yellow A's to white. The yellow is a bit strange against the green, and it limits what you can wear it with. I still love the forest green though.
Lasting Appeal - 8: As long as Billy Beane GMs, I'll want an A's hat. Leading the objective revolution in baseball is something I can only dream of doing.
Nostalgia - 6: LaRussa and the Bash Brothers wore this hat. The Athletics franchise experienced some turmoil prior to setttling down in Oakland.

Overall Hat Rating: 7.1



Simplicity - 7: The Rangers have a nice T. They butcher its simplicity by adding unnecessary font distortions to the T and by adding a shadow to it. Why? It was better left alone.
Symmetry - 6.5: It's there, but destroyed by the shadow, I feel.
Colors - 8: I just came to the realization that I judged this hat too harshly in the past. Maybe I couldn't get past their incredible ability to finish in the cellar seemingly every, single, year, but their hat isn't shabby. The white, red, and blue are classic American colors, helping to symbolize the idea of portended by Rangers.
Lasting Appeal - 6: It's a nice hat, but they really need to start winning again.
Nostalgia - 3: I can remember Ryan...and...

Overall Hat Rating: 6.825



Simplicity - 9.5: The Mariners should've never messed with a good thing. I understand why they did though - the team was something of a loser for awhile and they wanted to usher in a new perception of the team along with the Kingdome. My buddy Tom (Brodie for those who frequent Talking Baseball) wanted me to comment on the nautical symbol. Unfortunately, that doesn't exist by itself in any incarnation of a Seattle hat. Another problem: this hat is simply awesome. The Mariners stuck with a simple M and had the clever idea of making the M pronged, in the shape of a trident. This creates a lot of synergy with the idea of being a Mariner and does it in a fashion that doesn't ruin the purity of the hat.
Symmetry - 9: The trident is symmetrical about the vertical axis. This hat definitely is aesthetically pleasing.
Colors - 8.5: The combination of blue and yellow isn't fantastic, but it's surely unique and interesting. The presence of the blue prevents the yellow from negatively impacting the wearability of the hat.
Lasting Appeal - 8: I just wish the Mariners had stuck with the trident, this is really a beautiful hat.
Nostalgia - 2: I certainly can't recall any Mariner glory days. There simply were none (to my knowledge).

Overall Hat Rating: 8.6



Though this is the front of the hat, I'm going to do something a little unorthodox in analyzing this hat. I'm going to analyze its aesthetic quality from the back. Some like to wear their hats backwards, and I've often thought that this hat is a perfect choice for it. So, from the rear, the hat looks like:



Simplicity - 9.5: Like the Mariners, the Angels really cleverly construct their hat. The Angels simply add a halo on their A and enhance the symbol's attachment and synergy with the team name, the Angels. More importantly, the halo is very uninvasive and doesn't destroy the natural aesthetic beauty of the hat.
Symmetry - 8.5: Doesn't get much better than this - the A is perfectly symmetrical about the vertical axis.
Colors - 8.5: Blue, red, and white will always receive high marks for me. Some bonus points here for not making the halo yellow - it would destroy the chromatic simplicity.
Lasting Appeal - 8.5: Because it seems to be the best hat to wear backwards, it should attract a niche of loyal wearers.
Nostalgia - 6.5: Lucking into a World Series title (okay, that's a bit harsh) always will give you some points.

Overall Hat Rating: 8.75 (for the back, however - it'd probably get in the low 8's if we were to look at the front simply because the same simplicity/symmetry/colors are equalled or better for many teams for the front of the hat)

That's it for this edition. In approximately four days I'll be adding the last of the Hat Posts. I'll be analyzing the objective quality of the AL East and AL Central hats and then compiling a leader-board. We'll see how it stacks up - I have a feeling I may be mildly surprised with how I rated some hats. Before I sign off (in the post, and from Instant Messenger), I want to call attention to the tremendous aesthetic and functional improvements in the blog. First, I know a number of you were experiencing difficulty with the sidebar. For some it was too large, for others people couldn't physically see it. This has been remedied entirely - now there should be no problem. Truthfully however, I'm far more excited for the addition of the ability to add comments. Now, instead of e-mailing, you can quickly and easily voice your opinions through the comments below each post. We'd love to hear your opinion about each post - and the other readers would enjoy reading your thoughts as well. In other words, give us feedback as much as possible - it makes us feel loved and it's like your way of thanking us for the articles we write on a daily basis for you, the interested baseball reader. In the wake of multiple consolidations of weblogs (over at all-baseball.com and at TheHardballTimes), the baseball blogosphere is in a bit of disarray. Here's to continued consistency and prosperity for Talking Baseball :)


### So what do you think? We want to know. | | E-mail us ###



Posted by Jon on Tuesday, March 16, 2004

A Full Plate

Two of the last four posts have referred to Dusty Baker’s now infamous comments regarding walks and OBP. A synopsis? He doesn’t care to preach either walking or OBP to his hitters! Unbeknownst to him, the dynasty of the last decade used both to their advantage, and Baker’s San Francisco Treats were perennially among the leaders in both categories. (Incidentally, I wonder how the Giants would have fared without Mr. Barry "Season Averages of 131 Walks and a .433 OBP" Bonds. But that’s a story for another post.)

Mike and I received some feedback regarding Baker’s success in spite of his hitters’ futility in drawing walks and reaching base. Cubs fan John Honkala, offered this interesting tidbit:

While I am big proponent of walks, I don't think that they are the end all be all a lot of sabermetricians et al. make them out to be. Here's how the World Series teams from the last three years have ranked:

Florida 19
NY 1

Anaheim 26
San Francisco 5

AZ 5
NY 15

Certainly, walks mean something. A top five in all three Series. But, more notably, the past two years' champions have performed worse than more than (approx.) 2/3 of the rest the league when it comes to walks. I bet I can find another statistic that is similar to this, where top performers show up in the Series while poor performers do also.
John makes some great points here. Statistics are necessary in understanding baseball, but with so many available stats, they can easily become misleading. Walks, which were severely undervalued in baseball before the sabermetric revolution, have now become overvalued. The problem, I believe, is a confusion between walks and on-base percentage.

It should be noted that Mike and I discussed walks only in reaction to Baker’s comments. Dusty first lumped the two statistics together. Mike and I merely responded.

Which is the offensive statistic that correlates most with run production? Not walks, but OBP. Many fans read Moneyball, developing a sense that the best way to boost a team’s OBP is to develop players with a tendency to take walks. There was an untapped market of guys who consistently walked, which Billy Beane promptly took advantage of to increase the A’s OBP. As a result, we have come to value the walk almost as much as we value on-base percentage, which is a gross overvaluation. When we look at the World Series opponents’ OBPs, we see a different story – one of getting on base, regardless of the number of walks seen:

..............MLB BB Rank...........MLB OBP Rank
Florida.............19....................13 (tied)
New York (AL).......1.....................2

Anaheim.............26....................6
San Francisco.......5.....................5

Arizona.............5.....................8
New York (AL).......15....................13 (tied)

Average WS Team.....11.8..................7.8
In the last three years, the average team appearing in the World Series was about the 12th ranked team in terms of accumulating walks. In terms of OBP, though, the contending teams are closer to the leaders of the pack, averaging about eighth in OBP across Major League Baseball.

For Anaheim’s 2002 World Series Championship team, the real disparity between walks and OBP is apparent. Almost last in walks, they come in with the sixth-best OBP during that season. I believe what we’re really valuing here is on-base percentage, and not necessarily walks. Generally, walks lead to a higher OBP, which certainly produces more runs. But the focus of any team shouldn’t necessarily be their walks, but their OBP, however it is enhanced. Walks are just one way to increase a team’s OBP.

2003..........MLB Walk Rank...........MLB OBP Rank
Chicago (NL)........21....................25
It should be no surprise that last season’s Cubs team relied on pitching to reach the playoffs, with a dominating 1404 strikeouts over the season (the most ever by a pitching staff) and the sixth-fewest runs allowed per game in baseball. With such dominating starters, Dusty managed to win despite his hitters’ woeful production. Getting on base more than only five teams in baseball did not help Baker win ballgames. With a higher OBP, his team would certainly have scored more runs and won more games. Walking would have helped.

Now Making an Appearance…

Looking at annual team stats prompted me to examine how statistics can be skewed for hitters on exceptionally good- or poor-hitting teams. So I took the 2003 team hitting statistics, trying to account for enhanced or stifled numbers due to total team plate appearances. There’s no doubt that better-hitting teams end up with more plate appearances, but do these PA’s pad the stats? Differences in the number of times a team reaches the plate depend on many factors – team OBP, ability to extend innings, number of extra innings played, and amount of times a team is not leading at home in the bottom of the ninth. Regardless, there may be statistical differences.

On average, a 2003 team accumulated 6087.5 total at-bats and walks. The Red Sox surpassed this average to a notable extent, with a major league leading 6389 total plate appearances. The Mets, at the bottom of the list, received only 5830. Following is a list of every team’s 2003 total plate appearances.

Team, Plate Appearances
Boston 6389
Yankees 6289
St. Louis 6252
Atlanta 6215
Toronto 6207
Philadelphia 6194
Minnesota 6167
Texas 6152
Seattle 6147
Houston 6140
Colorado 6137
Pittsburgh 6110
Arizona 6101
Baltimore 6096
San Diego 6096
Arizona 6095
Milwaukee 6095
Tampa Bay 6074
Oakland 6053
San Francisco 6049
Kansas City 6044
Cleveland 6038
Cincinatti 6033
Chicago (NL) 6011
Chicago (AL) 6006
Florida 6005
Anaheim 5963
Montreal 5959
Detroit 5909
Los Angeles 5865
New York (NL) 5830

AL 6109.6
NL 6068.3
MLB 6087.6
We understand that the DH makes pitching in the AL tougher, but how does it skew hitting stats? In the AL, each spot in the lineup receives more plate appearances, and thus it becomes more valuable to send a good hitter to the plate. As one would expect, AL teams to recorded one extra plate appearance in every four games.

Plate appearance leader Boston accumulated more than 300 over the average Major League team. Compared to the average, Boston hitters enjoyed almost two extra plate appearances per game, which evens out to about 34 extra plate appearances for each spot in the lineup, one through nine. Expectedly, the Mets averaged almost 29 fewer plate appearances per nine spots in the lineup when compared to the major league average, or more than 257 lost plate appearances for their hitters. The difference increases when comparing these two teams directly.

The Red Sox enjoyed 559 more plate appearances than the Metropolitans over the entire season, which whittles down to a per game difference of 3.5 more plate appearances. This means that each spot in Boston’s lineup was given about 62 more appearances at the plate. They certainly made the most of their time in the batter’s box, but their extra plate appearances may skew their final evaluations as hitters.

The extra plate appearances hitters on elite scoring teams pile up, padding stats for some players. It is no coincidence that Boston led the majors in total hits, doubles, walks, runs scored, and at-bats, and that they came in second in home runs, and fifth in triples. They created the opportunities for additional production that could not have occurred on the Mets because of a lack of plate appearances. What I’m trying to say is that the Sox’ did not lead the league in plate appearances per hit (Toronto’s was higher). Their ability to extend innings allowed each Boston hitter more opportunities to pad their own stats (when compared to the rest of the league), and the team’s overall offensive stats. So the next time you’re comparing Boston’s offense to that of the New York Mets, remember that the same Boston hitters, with the number of Mets’ plate appearances, would have had a number of total hits reminiscent of the Kansas City Royals, not the record-breaking powerhouse offense we know them as. The Sox created these extra opportunities through their steller hitting, but the extra plate appearances make it more difficult to compare their players and the whole team to the rest of the league, and especially to bottom-of-the-barrel offenses.

To further illustrate my point, I calculated the plate appearances per home run for the nineteen players who hit the most home runs in 2003. They are ranked in order of plate appearances per home run.

...............HR...............PA/HR
J. Lopez.......43...............11.4
B. Bonds.......45...............12.0
J. Edmonds.....39...............13.4
S. Sosa........40...............14.5
J. Thome.......47...............14.7
A. Rodriguez...47...............14.8
F. Thomas......42...............15.4
R. Sexson......45...............15.6
A. Pujols......43...............15.6
C. Delgato.....42...............16.2
Ja. Giambi.....41...............16.2
G. Sheffield...39...............17.0
R. Palmiero....38...............17.0
J. Bagwell.....39...............17.8
M. Ramirez.....37...............18.0
A. Jones.......36...............18.0
P. Wilson......36...............18.2
A. Soriano.....38...............19.0
B. Boone.......35...............19.7
A few interesting things to point out. Of those who swatted at least 35 dingers, the top three home run producers were actually Javy Lopez, with an amazing 11.4 PA/HR. Bonds we expect to be there. But to me, Edmonds was a surprise.

Some statistical web sites offer at-bat per home run ratios. But it is important to do the same for total plate appearances. Depending on a player’s walk rate, the number of at-bats he receives can vary. Soriano doesn’t walk, so his AB/HR ratio differs from his PA/HR ratio by about two at-bats/plate appearances. Feel free to use either stat, but I prefer total plate appearances to an arbitrary stat that disregards walks.


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Posted by Ben K. on Monday, March 15, 2004

Reading Baseball

Back in January, when the four of us started this blog, I wrote my first post on the rich tradition of baseball writing. After that introduction to my take on baseball writing, I have focused primarily on statistical analysis over the past two months. But in my mind, no sport has a more lyrical volume of incredibly descriptive prose writing than baseball. Whether it be writings on a Major League season or an author spending a summer on the bus with a Minor League farm team, the works produced are always top-notch writing. There's just something about baseball that lends itself to the printed page.

This past week, I've been working on an application a competition sponsored by my college's library that has reminded me of the vast oeuvre of baseball literature. The contest calls for students to submit an annotated bibliography of books they have collected. Additionally, the library asks for a short essay detailing influences on the collection and how, why, when and where the books were acquired. Before spring break, I decided to submit a bibliography of the baseball books I have collected over the years of my life being a baseball fan. As I was compiling the bibliography and paging through the books today, I decided I could turn this project into a post as well.

So this is my list of the top baseball books. In my opinion, the books presented here are required for any baseball library. Some of them are fiction, some of them are statistical books, and some of them are coffee-table books. Included in this list is a description of each book along with a link to a place where you can buy the book. Unfortunately, not all of the books are in print any longer.

1. Baseball: A Literary Anthology, edited by Nicholas Dawidoff — This anthology is the place to start if you're building a baseball library, and it's required reading if you already have an extensive collection of baseball works. Seventy-three different authors are represented in the collection, and they aren't all just sports journalists. It includes poems such as the classic "Casey at the Bat," an excerpt from the musical Damn Yankees, memoirs from players, sports writing about famous games or incredible seasons, and a wealth of fiction writing too. The anthology traverses all ages of baseball, starting with verses from the early 1900s and ending with Buster Olney's humorous look at Jason Grimsley's crawl through a vent system to steal Albert Belle's corked bats. It even has the lyrics to one of my favorite baseball songs: Dave Frishberg's "Van Lingle Mungo." My good friend Sabeel got this for me for a birthday a few years ago, and it really is the cornerstone to any baseball library. (Buy it here.)

2. The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, by W.P. Kinsella — This is the best baseball book you don't have. Everyone's read Kinsella's masterpiece, Shoeless Joe, starring Kevin Costner, Ray Liotta, and Darth Vader (or at least, you've seen the movie). But I think this book is even better than Shoeless Joe. In Kinsella's tale, Gideon Clarke is the only person around who knows of a literally endless game between a team from the Iowa Baseball Confederacy and the Chicago Cubs that occurred in 1908. While no one believes Clarke that the game happened, during the course of the book, he is transported back in time to watch the 2000-inning game and view the flood that literally wiped the game out. This book captures the magical realism of baseball and fantasy, and I strongly recommend it to any fan of baseball, Kinsella, or just good fiction. (Buy it here.)

3. Baseball: An Illustrated History, by Ken Burns and Geoffrey C. Ward — Released in conjunction with Burns' nine-part, PBS documentary on baseball, this book makes up for some of the shortcomings of the series, including expanding the focus of the work beyond the east coast. In a way, this is one of the most complete histories of baseball out there, and the pictures work nicely to bring the legends and past alive. Ward, an award winning historian, presents the hazy origins of baseball and details the evolution of the game up to its current incarnation (circa the mid 1990s). Complete with anecdotes from players, managers, owners, and fans, this book is not afraid at challenging the social conceptions of baseball either. Ward and Burns make sure to include a look at the controversial past of segregation in baseball. For a fan looking for a perfect historical book or one interested in learning about the game's deep roots, this is the best choice (and it's pretty cheap too, at less than $30).(Buy it here.)

4. 2004 Baseball Prospectus: Statistics, Analysis, and Insight for the Information Age, by The BP Team of Experts on Baseball Talent — If you're confused about all of this sabermetric stuff we talk about or want to access the stats without going to a Web site, this is definitely the book to use. The Baseball Prospecuts team presents a funny look at statistics that can be hard to understand. They have profiles of all players on a major league roster plus many of the top draft picks and prospects. Each team is presented with a detailed analysis of their season, catcher ratings, and a very handy Japanese League statistical translation. Plus, if you have this book, you can pretend to be a General Manager. It's a safe bet that most of the GMs will have the Prospectus on a shelf in their bookcase. (Buy it here.)

5. The Natural, by Bernard Malamud — Here's another baseball tale that's been turned into a movie, starring Robert Redford. The book though is, of course, much better. Malamud is one of America's best story tellers from the 20th century, and in this tale of Roy Hobbs and his bat Wonderboy is one of the most famous pieces of baseball storytelling. Hobbs was a 19-year-old phenom whose career path was abruptly interrupted by a bullet. By the end of his 30s, Hobbs and his magical bat return. The ending of this book is way more emotional than the slow-motion ball hitting shattering the lights, and Malamud clearly means to evoke some of the story of Joe Jackson and the Black Sox scandal. (Buy it here.)

6. Eight Men Out, by Eliot Asinof, Introduction by Stephen Jay Gould — Asinof's account of the infamous 1919 Black Sox scandal is the best account of a single incident from baseball history. Writing in 1963, 44 years after the thrown World Series and 42 after the Black Sox trial, Asinof details the first meetings between the players and the gamblers, the exact plays that gave the World Series to the Reds, and the public outrage as the scandal broke. While the book is a historical account, Asinof's writing reads like fiction, and his work is an important retrospective on baseball's darkest day. (Buy it here.)

7. Boys of Summer, by Roger Kahn — Kahn is one of the most famous and prolific baseball journalists and writers of the past century. In this book, Kahn writes a memoir of sorts, detailing his childhood, living two blocks from Ebbets Field and watching the Bums from Brooklyn play (and stumble) year after year. But the book is also a tale of the baseball players on the Dodgers during Kahn's youth. He writes about the players' youths and childhoods; he writes about what it was like socially for the Dodgers during 1947 and the following seasons; and he writes about Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, and the rest of the Dodgers as they enter middle age and leave their playing careers behind. Kahn's greatest contribution to the literary world of baseball was his ability to humanize the larger-than-life sports stars. (Buy it here.)

8. Wait Till Next Year, by Doris Kearns Goodwin — Goodwin, another award-winning historian, presents her memoir of growing up with the Brooklyn Dodgers. In this tale, the successes and failures of the Dodgers mirror though in her young life, and the book ends on a sad note as Goodwin's life changes radically the year the Dodgers leave Brooklyn for Los Angeles. This is another great tale of growing up with baseball. (Buy it here.)

9. You Gotta Have Wa, by Robert Whiting — In Japan, baseball fans are just as rabid as we Yankee and Red Sox (and other teams') fans are. But because of culturally differences between the two countries, the game itself and the entire concept of team is much stricter in Japan. Written before the recent influx of Japanese players into the American game, this book, written by an American living and writing in Japan, is an incredible glimpse into sports in another culture, and it helps fans understand why players are so reluctant to make the jump westward across the Pacific. (Buy it here.)

10. Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball, by Bob Costas — In my mind, Costas is the best baseball commentator out there. (If you even mention McCarver, I'll never talk to you again.) He's also a passionate St. Louis Cardinals fan and baseball fan in general. In this book, written in 2000, Costas presents his ways for saving the game. Discussing his plans for realignment, revenue sharing, and the fate of the Designated Hitter, reading this book makes you wish that Costas was the Commissioner implementing his ideas that would indeed improve our National Pastime. It's a shame that Selig never took his advice to heart. At this point, some of Costas' advice may seem outdated because some teams have continued to spend and the situation has not improved, but the overall framework still provides many ideas that would solve baseball's problems. (Buy it here.)

Honorable mentions:

The Way Baseball Works, by Dan Gutman with an introduction by the aforementioned Tim McCarver (unfortunately) — This book is just plain fun. Gutman goes behind the scenes of baseball, so to speak, and presents a look at how the game works. He shows the inside of a baseball glove and a baseball. He even gets into scientific analyses of why pitches break, how fielders judge pop-ups, and how hitters hit. The book ends with a look at situational ball and baseball strategies. Most importantly, he presents some of baseball tougher concepts in an easy-to-understand form. (Buy it here.)

The Physics of Baseball, by Robert K. Adair — Think of this as the really hard version of Gutman's book. In a fascinating experiment, Yale physics professor Adair came up with, as the title suggests, the physics of baseball. He presents complex equations on everything from wind effects on breaking pitches to the optimum distance a slugger could hit a baseball. It's fascinating, but the physics work is really hard. (Buy it here.)

Underworld, by Don DeLillo — Most people don't think of DeLillo as baseball writing, but this book is one of the greatest works of fiction from the past 10 years, and it's about a baseball. The story opens with a vivid account (partially told through fictional characters and partially through non-fictional ones) of Bobby Thomson's famous Shot Heard Round the World. The story that follows tracks one man's attempt to rescue the baseball as it remains forgotten in the annals of time (and someone's attic). Socially, the story traverses 40 years of American history. It's great. I really recommend this one. (Buy it here.)

Last Days of Summer, by Steve Kluger — Kluger's fictional tale, told through letters, newspaper clippings, box scores, and assorted other telegrams, is a fun baseball tale. It follows a 12-year-old kid with an attitude as he makes friends with a baseball superstar with a similar attitude. It's funny, sad, happy, and great. (Buy it here.)

Last, but not least, I would like to end with two more suggestions. For those of you out there who like to see the simple stats, I have the best book for you. Not available online, it's called Who's Who in Baseball. It's come out every year for the past 89, and it has profiles of all active players, along with detailed descriptions of when they served on the DL and for whom and to where they were traded. Finally, the Official Major League Baseball Rules Book is a nice addition to a baseball library as well. You can't play the game without knowing the rules.

So there you have it. Those are my suggestions for starting points for baseball literature. Since there's such a huge, rich collection of baseball writing, I'm sure all of you out there have your own favorites that I didn't include. If you send us an e-mail with the book title and a short description as to why you like the book and why you would recommend it to other people, I'll compile those for a post in the near future. For those of you who have yet to touch the literary world of baseball, I urge you to do so. It's easy to lose the lyricism and magical prose of baseball in the statistics, but part of what's made baseball America's Pastime is this vast body of baseball literature.


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Posted by Mike on Sunday, March 14, 2004

What Are You Talking About?

Sometimes people say things that make me wonder how they could possibly say such a thing without feeling foolish. Jon's post the other day was the first here to bring attention to Dusty Baker's most recent comments. He was out on the west coast for years managing the Giants but because of the distance not as many of his comments seemed to reach the east coast. Ever since the Giants made it to the World Series in 2002 and his switch to the Cubs last season I've been hearing more and more of his comments. From what I gather, he may be the next incarnation of Joe Morgan. If you know how I feel about Joe Morgan then you know this is wonderful. Anyways, Dusty spoke out against the walk the other day when he was quoted as saying:
''Walks help, but you aren't going to walk across the plate,'' Baker said. ''You've got to hit across the plate. Who has been champions quite a bit the last seven, eight years?''
Ok... I suppose I could let it slide if he has stopped there. Walks do help quite a bit but they will not make up for an offense that just cannot hit. More than anything they are a means to get men on base so when a hit comes those baserunners can be driven in. I'm sure if the Dodgers were taking more walks it wouldn't help them as much as having good batters but that's aside the point. Dusty then went on to say:
''Now, have you ever heard the Yankees talk about on-base percentage and walks?''
First of all, the Yankees are rich. They can buy whatever offensive players they desire and more often than not they aquire big names to appease Steinbrenner's big ego. Big name players don't make their name by taking huge amounts of walks over the course of a season, they get their name from smacking home runs and putting up other "wow" stats like RBIs. There's no reason for the Yankees to be talking about walks when they can talk about their recent success or Derek Jeter's intangibles. The funny thing is that while the Yankees don't talk about walking often they've been doing it more than any other team in the American League over most of the last decade. Take a look, here's the Yankees team OBP and BB numbers since 1995 and their rank in relation to the rest of the teams in the American League.
YEAR...OBP...RANK...BB...RANK...RECORD...RESULT
1995...357....1.....625...1......79-65...WILD CARD
1996...360....3.....632...7......92-70...WS CHAMPION
1997...362....1.....676...1......96-66...WILD CARD
1998...362....1.....653...1.....114-48...WS CHAMPION
1999...364....2.....611...5......98-64...WS CHAMPION
2000...354....4.....631...4......87-74...WS CHAMPION
2001...334....6.....519...7......95-65...AL CHAMPION
2002...354....1.....640...1.....103-58...AL EAST
2003...356....2.....684...1.....101-61...AL CHAMPION
That's right, the Yankees led the American League in walks five times over the last nine years. Good job Dusty. What makes his quote even more interesting is that Dusty's Giants relied on walks heavily while he managed them. In fact, most of the Giants best years when Dusty was in charge were the years that their offense took the most walks.
YEAR...OBP...RANK...BB...RANK...RECORD...RESULT
1995...317....12....472...7......67-77...-
1996...328....6.....615...1......68-94...-
1997...336....5.....642...2......90-72...NL West
1998...352....1.....678...1......89-74...-
1999...353....3.....696...3......86-76...-
2000...362....1.....709...1......97-65...NL West
2001...342....3.....625...2......90-72...-
2002...344....2.....616...3......95-66...NL Champion
The three playoff teams that Dusty managed were second, first, and third in the National League in walks. Starting in 1997 the Giants finished no worse than third in the National League in team walks and won 90 games four times. They won no less than 86 games over than span. I'm willing to bet that Dusty doesn't attribute much if any of that success to a consistent patient and disciplined offense.

Interestingly enough when Dusty left San Francisco for Chicago he took over a very impatient team. Here's how the Cubs offense fared last year.

YEAR...OBP...RANK...BB...RANK...RECORD...RESULT
2003...323....13....492...16.....88-74...NL Central
The Cubs won 88 games and barely squeeked into the playoffs over a Houston team that probably would have won the NL Central had Roy Oswalt or Jeff Kent played full seasons or if Lance Berkman performed closer to how he did in 2002. The Cubs relied heavily on their starting rotation to pick up those 88 wins. Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, and Matt Clement all add up to a great starting pitching. The Cubs had a very weak offense even with Sammy Sosa as an anchor, he lost a few PR points after that corking scandal but he was still a very productive batter. Maybe if the Cubs had a more disciplined offense then they would have scored more than 724 runs (9th best in the National League).

In the end, Dusty's comments look more and more bizarre. How can a manager who had been in control of a team that relied on the walk and succeeded with it for most of the last decade speak out against it? If you look at the Giants on a year-by-year basis their offense resembles something the Oakland A's would put on the field today but with Barry Bonds hitting third. I hope Chicago has fun with Dusty, he may not be the manager that his reputation makes him out to be.

An Observation

Remember in the late 1990s when Brad Radke was being touted as the ace of the Twins? He never really became that ace but he did develop into a consistent workhorse starter. There's really nothing wrong with an above average ERA and a pile of innings every season.

.........IP.....ERA.....ERA+
1995....181.0...5.32.....89
1996....232.0...4.46....115
1997....239.7...3.87....121
1998....213.7...4.30....109
1999....218.7...3.75....135
2000....226.7...4.45....118
2001....226.0...3.94....115
2002....118.3...4.72.....94
2003....212.3...4.49....103
---------------------------
Career.1868.3...4.32....111
I wouldn't want to have to rely on Radke to be an ace but he certainly has his value. This isn't about Brad Radke though, this is about Kevin Millwood. I used to think he was good and I used to think he could be an ace but the more I look at him the more I realize that he cannot carry a team. Big things are expected of the Phillies this year but they really do not have the dominant ace that they are going to need.

.........IP.....ERA.....ERA+
1997.....51.3...4.03....104
1998....174.3...4.08....104
1999....228.0...2.68....162
2000....212.7...4.66....100
2001....121.0...4.31....102
2002....217.0...3.24....127
2003....222.0...4.01....103
---------------------------
Career.1226.3...3.78....114
Millwood's ERA in comparison to Radke's is lower but that is partially because of the difference between the American and National Leagues (the DH factor). So why is Millwood more covetted than Radke? Millwood asked for something in the $13 million range in arbitration this offseason and ended up compromising with the Phillies for $11 million. In terms of performance he is essentially Brad Radke and without that 1999 season Millwood would actually look worse than Radke.

They're both free agents at the end of the 2004 season and it will be interesting to see what the market gives each of them. Millwood is more impressive to watch with all that power behind his fastball and he has that no-hitter to his credit. Radke has, well, been in Minnesota for a long time. I'm willing to bet that Radke will receive less money and years than Millwood even though they will likely put up the same numbers in the coming years.


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