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.

Saturday, April 26, 2008



In Friday's XM Radio appearance on the Rotowire Fantasy Sports Hour, host Chris Liss and I discussed my "Big Lugs and Small Sample Sizes" piece from earlier in the week. Chris threw me for a loop with the entry of Carlos Delgado into the discussion; as noted in this week's Hit List, I'm pretty down on him:
The Skinny: Though he's snapped a 1-for-28 skid, Carlos Delgado has fallen below the Mendoza Line; he's hitting just .198/.290/.272 with the lowest VORP on the team and the fourth lowest of any first baseman with at least 60 PA. Sadly, this isn't a new problem for Delgado. He was in the bottom third among NL first basemen last year, and it's increasingly likely that his days as a middle-of-the-lineup threat may be at an end.
Chris and I more or less disagreed over whether Delgado was able to salvage his 2007 season. His splits show that he hit a lousy .242/.305/.435 in the first half, albeit with 14 homers and 49 RBI, whereas in the second half, when not missing three weeks due to injuries, he hit .285/.375/.469 with 10 homers and 38 RBI -- more respectable, but lacking his usual thump (.279/.385/.545 career).

Anyway, you can hear our discussion at Rotowire's Podcast archive or download directly here.

• • •

A few excerpts from yesterday's BP chat:
Tommy (OPS,FL): Back when the Rays were shopping Delmon Young there appeared to be some talk of Young for Cliff Lee, but nothing came of it. Knowing what the Rays got in return and Lee's hot start which deal would have been better for the Rays?

JJ: Long-term, I'd still take Matt Garza over Cliff Lee, and it wouldn't cost me a moment of sleep.

Rany Jazayerli has a great Unfiltered post about Lee's hot start, a post that includes a note form Joe Sheehan regarding the quality of competition Lee has faced: "A’s twice, Twins, Royals. Ninth, 13th and 14th in the AL in EqA." Right now Lee is living off a .151 BABIP, and that's not going to last forever by any stretch of the imagination. Furthermore, sooner or later he's going to have to face some competent lineups, and when he does, you can expect his ERA to get fluffed up. The bottom line is that I don't expect him to be a significantly better pitcher than the mid-rotation inning eater who surprised us with his bellyflop last year.

Fred (Houston): Is Sheffield headed for the Hall of Very Good? It doesn't seem like he's made many friends in the media over the years.

JJ: Are you kidding? If there's been one consistent facet of Sheffield's career, its that he'll talk to the media and is almost guaranteed to say something that will stir the pot and give the writer some high profile attention. Writers bash Barry Bonds for not cooperating. They don't bash Gary Sheffield for speaking his mind, however ill-considered his words may sometimes be.

From a JAWS standpoint, Sheffield came into the year at 117.2 WARP career, 63.5 peak, 90.4 JAWS, with the average HOF right fielder at 125.0/68.7/96.8. I think he'll be a close call, because right now its not at all clear he can stay healthy enough to pass 500 homers (he's at 481), and there will be some who will hold his involvement in BALCO against him.

tommybones (new york): Is there a point in a borderline HOF career where the player is better off retiring than padding counting stats at the expense of pct. stats and reputation? I'm looking at Mike Mussina right now.

JJ: Sheffield seems to be a better answer to this than the Moose, whose numbers are well over the JAWS threshold (117.8/64.3/91.1 compared to 105.7/67.5/86.6 for the average HOF P) even if the perception lags behind. To me, I think we've seen enough great pitchers dragged off the mound kicking and screaming, having milked every last ounce of their ability for anyone's perceptions to be damaged by those final, futile days.

Which reminds me, for some reason, of one of the classiest thing I ever saw on a diamond. When Orel Hershiser tried to eke one last year out of his career with the Dodgers, he got knocked around pretty consistently, culminating in an eight-run, 1.2-inning bombing. Rather than boo him, the Dodger Stadium crowd picked up on the fact that the end of the line had arrived for Hershiser, and gave him an incredible standing ovation.

I think I have something in my eye...

bam022 (Chicago): Can you think of any analogue to Justin Upton's performance right now. A-Rod was similarly dominant at age 20, but other than him, does this have any parallel?

JJ: Tony Conigliaro hit 24 homers and .290/.354/.530 for the 1964 Red Sox as a 19 year old, which is pretty much the gold standard for teenage success for a hitter. Mel Ott (.322/.397/.524, 16 HR) also had a great Age 19 season. Those two would be a good start.

Homers aren't the only way to look at this obviously, but rather than worry about the number of plate appearances, I just did a quick list of the best single season hitter performances ranked by homers at B-Ref [here].
After enduring a half-hour delay at the start due to technical difficulties, I think I answered about 30 questions. I still had a lot of JAWS-related questions left over, enough to build a Hit and Run column around sometime soon. Anyway, it was lot of fun, as always, to spend a couple hours talking baseball with BP's readers.

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