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.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Friday's Child (Part 1)

Has it been that long since I posted here? Shame on me once again, but I've had my reasons...

• Back on Wednesday I examined the potential Hall of Fame fates of Vlad Guerrero and other contemporary right fielders, including Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Bobby Abreu, Ichiro Suzuki, Sammy Sosa and Larry Walker. There's not a single cut-and-dried case to be found among these due to steroids, park effects, the Japan factor and the BBWAA's undervaluing of plate discipline.

Here's the JAWS table:
Player             Career  Peak   JAWS    EqA   Ballot/Age
Manny Ramirez 90.2 52.9 71.6 .329 37
Avg. HoF RF 87.2 52.2 69.7 .306
Gary Sheffield 80.1 49.6 64.9 .315 40
Bobby Abreu 70.8 50.7 60.8 .310 35
Sammy Sosa 69.6 49.3 59.5 .292 2013
Vladimir Guerrero 69.3 48.8 59.1 .315 34
Brian Giles 62.7 45.7 54.2 .314 38
Tim Salmon 59.2 46.6 52.9 .303 2012
Larry Walker 63.7 41.9 52.8 .303 2011
Ichiro Suzuki 53.1 48.2 50.7 .297 35
When it's all said and done I think Manny, Vlad, Shef and Ichiro will all be there, but it's going to take a lot of time and a fair bit of ink spilled by the soapbox derby champions before we know the final outcome. After looking over his numbers last night in the service of this week's Hit List, I'm more convinced than ever that Ichiro's likely to make it.

• Today I examined (BP/ESPN Insider) the wonderfully freaky season Mark Reynolds is having, which includes his 223-strikeout pace, all-time top ten seasons for batting average on contact and slugging percentage on contact, the majors' #2 ranking in homers (38), slugging percentage (.595), isolated power (.314) and Hit Tracker's Golden Sledgehammer rankings for longest average home run distance, and the highest rate of home runs per fly ball.
The bottom line is that for all of his freaky and potentially fluky stats, Reynolds is a valuable player, good enough to crack the NL top 20 with a .304 EqA without giving too much back on defense. While some regression is inevitable regarding the extreme aspects of his performance, given that he's just in his age-25 season (he turned 26 on August 3), there's plenty of potential for growth as well. The select company he's keeping suggests we could be looking at player who's going to stick around and rack up some serious home run totals before he's through.
• Today's Hit List has the Dodgers retaking the top spot ahead of the Yankees despite trouble patching together enough warm bodies for a full rotation:
[#1 Dodgers] Our Kingdom For a Starting Pitcher: Chad Billingsley returns in fine form after skipping a start due to hamstring woes, but the Dodger rotation is again thinned when Hiroki Kuroda takes a liner off the noggin. As the team's division lead shrinks, they're at the point of dredging up knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, signing recently released Rangers reject Vicente Padilla, and taxing the bullpen with Jeff Weaver's brief starts, leading one to wonder why Eric Stults (4.86 ERA, .501 SNWP) is still Duking it out in Albuquerque (I know it's the Isotopes now, but I've been following Dodger farmhands in Albuquerque since before Stults—not to mention half the current lineup—was born). At least Randy Wolf is putting on a show, whiffing 10 while finishing a triple short of the cycle; he's 14th in the league in SNLVAR, and perhaps as importantly, seventh in innings pitched.

[#2 Yankees] Hail to the Captain: Derek Jeter passes Luis Aparicio for the most hits by a shortstop with his 2,674th, just one of 16 hits he collects over a seven-game span. He's hitting .331/.395/.471 this season, his best numbers in each category since 2006; the power appears to be a function of his new park (.319/.392/.496 at home), while he's simply hitting 'em where they ain't elsewhere (.343/.398/.449 on the road). His 2,696 total hits are just 25 behind Lou Gehrig for the all-time franchise lead.

[#3 Rays] Paint It Black: Not even a funky new hairstyle can disguise the fact that the Rays' shot at the postseason is slipping away. Even in a winning week, they're making no headway; their Playoff Odds have fallen from about 25 percent to 20 percent in the past seven days, and at 10 1/2 back in the AL East, the Wild Card route is the only one left. One could blame their starting pitching, but their SNWP is tied with the Yankees at .499, two points ahead of the Red Sox. It's the bullpen where they lose ground, but then we always knew last year's trick in that department would be tough to repeat no matter how many arms they stockpiled.

[#4 Red Sox] Sagging: The Sox offense busts out six runs for Clay Buchholz, the first runs they've scored for him across three straight quality starts that lower his ERA to 3.99. Indeed, things are rather uneven in Boston, or perhaps all too even; they're just 22-21 since the beginning of July, having briefly fallen out of the Wild Card lead while losing two out of three in Texas. As you'd expect, there's good and bad news, such as David Ortiz snapping out of a 5-for-44 slump by homering four times in five games to lift his paltry season line to .224/.318/.431, and Tim Wakefield limping through a bullpen session, prolonging his stay on the DL.
More stuff to come in a fresh post.

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