The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


As Seen on...

The latest Prospectus Hit List is up, with the Tigers -- yes, the Tigers -- taking over the top spot. It's early, but with the major-league lead (through Sunday) in homers, ERA, and Defensive Efficiency, Jim Leyland's crew has been putting it all together, and they deserve their top spot for the moment. The Yanks are second again, followed by the White Sox and Mets.

There are a few other surprising teams in the top 10. The Reds, who lead the NL Central with a 17-8 record, are eighth, but they trail three other teams from the division. The Cardinals, whose offense is basically Albert Pujols and the original cast of Facts of Life, are fifth; the Brewers, who've been getting some excellent pitching lately, not to mention the hitting of Little Big Daddy, are sixth; and the Astros, who reached their 16th win 22 games earlier than they did last year, are seventh. Funny how that works.

Speaking of funny, I realized as I was editing it late last night that somehow I left the humor component out of this week's list; even the Simpsons reference was an afterthought. I tend to be funnier when I'm angry, and aside from my opening tirade about the umps, I wasn't so worked up this week, just businesslike. Perhaps it's because those pesky White Sox fans have finally put a sock in it as their team is doing well.

In any event, I'm afraid that if I were to rank my Hit Lists, this one would come in somewhere in the dreaded lower middle of the pack; right around that Mariners slot that I always put off till the end. What can I say? I'll put my pants on one leg at a time and get 'em next week.

• • •

Finally seeing the light of day on Monday was my New York Sun piece on Bernie Williams' Hall of Fame chances, held over from Friday due to space reasons. If you missed it, you can grab a PDF here. Sun articles are basically about one and a half ideas long, and after running Bernie through the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor and Hall of Fame Standards tests, a raw WARP measurement -- lemme tell ya, having to explain replacement level when you're on an 1,100-word count is like having to kick a good part of your paycheck up to the capo -- and a passing mention of JAWS, the chart which would have put Bernie's situation into context was left on the cutting-room floor. So here, with a tip of the cap to Marc Normandin, who updated the numbers for me, are the top dozen centerfielders according to JAWS:
Player          BRAR   BRAA  FRAA  Career   Peak    JAWS
Willie Mays* 1407 1052 121 206.4 91.7 149.1
Ty Cobb* 1431 1071 -25 190.4 82.8 136.6
Tris Speaker* 1165 837 93 174.3 77.3 125.8
Mickey Mantle* 1246 983 -107 151.5 83.0 117.3
Ken Griffey Jr. 859 598 -49 123.4 75.8 99.6
Joe Dimaggio* 825 615 6 118.2 76.4 97.3
Jim Edmonds 555 371 106 98.3 78.2 88.3
Richie Ashburn* 584 309 91 106.6 67.1 86.9
Duke Snider* 715 479 -64 97.6 63.9 80.8
Paul Hines 452 225 -33 101.3 59.9 80.6
Brett Butler 569 284 16 99.4 59.7 79.6
Bernie Williams 649 404 -57 98.1 60.8 79.5
Avg HOF CF 731 478 0 108.8 63.4 86.1

* Hall of Famer
It's not looking so hot for the Disco Inferno these day. Even having finally swatted his first homer of the year on Friday, he's hitting just .217/.262/.283, numbers a one-legged futility infielder would be ashamed to bring home to Mom. With just 10.8 WARP over the last three years, his shot at the Hall has more or less died on the vine, but that's to be expected when you stop being productive at the ripe old age of 34. Even though he's outdone 10 of the Hall's 17 centerfielers according to JAWS, he's short of the career standards any way you slice it, and can't make up the ground with a below-average peak.

Anyway, the tone of the article is a bit more upbeat that that rather brutal assessment. As painful as he is to watch now -- and he's a horse I'm going to be flogging all season long unless the Yanks win 120 games -- Williams was a rock at the center of the lineup for about a decade, and it's not his fault the Yanks talked themselves into a sentimentality-driven contract so that he could reprise his farewell tour as Bubba Crosby, Sr. When the vote comes I do think that Williams' role as part of the Yankee dynasty (including the record 22 postseason homers) will count for something:
Even assuming he can’t resurrect his career, his presence at the center of four championship teams, playing the most hallowed position for the most storied team in the country’s largest market,and doing so with an admirable combination of consistency and quiet dignity in an age when controversy rules the day, assures that he’ll get a fair shake when his name appears on the ballot.
Now, if only he could still hit.

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