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, February 26, 2010


Area Man to Answer Questions: The BP 2010 Promo Tour

The Baseball Prospectus 2010 book promotional tour starts in earnest this weekend. On Sunday, February 28, I'll join Cliff Corcoran, Steven Goldman, Kevin Goldstein and Christina Kahrl for a panel discussion at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at Montclair State University in New Jersey (if you need directions just know that when you come to a fork in the road, take it). First pitch is at 3 PM. You really don't care whether the US wins the gold medal in hockey, anyway, right?

On Monday, March 1, the law firm of Goldman, Goldstein, Kahrl and Jaffe will be at the Barnes & Noble at 18th Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan starting at 6 PM. We'll answer questions and sign anything except veal cutlets, because as Casey Stengel liked to say, his ballpoint pen slips on veal cutlets. Me, I'll be packing a Sharpie in an attempt to surmount such obstacles.

Also, on March 9 Steve, Kevin and I will be appearing at Washington, DC's legendary Politics and Prose bookstore. More details on that one as the date near; see BP's events page for further details.

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Saturday's radio hits:

• Another Wisconsin hit, this one on WFAW 940 AM at 8:30 AM Central, streaming here.

• Out in Dodger country, I'll be appearing on KCAA 1050 AM at 8:40 AM Pacific, streaming here.

More to come on Monday. I'm also booked for another appearance on the Fox Strategy Room streaming webcast at 1 PM Eastern that day. I'll be working overtime to get my mustache in shape for all of this action.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010


Prospectus Radio Blitz: Thursday and Friday

The hits to promote the release of Baseball Prospectus 2010 keep coming. Here's the schedule for the rest of the week:

• This evening, I'll be on Milwaukee's WAUK 540 AM, the local ESPN affiliate, at 6:40 PM Eastern (5:40 Central), streaming here.

• I'll also be on Seattle's KRKO 1380 AM at 7:30 PM Eastern (4:30 Pacific), streaming here.

• On Friday morning at 8:40 Eastern (7:40 Central), I'll be on Chicago's WSCR 670 AM, "The Score," streaming here.

• Also on Friday morning, at 10:05 AM Eastern (8:05 Mountain), I'll be on Grand Junction, Colorado's KTMM 1340 AM, streaming here.

• On Fridy at 5:15 PM Eastern (4:15 Central), I'll be on Madison, Wisconsin's WTSO 1070 AM, the local ESPN affiliate, streaming here.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Prospectus Radio Blitz: Wednesday

It's day three of the Prospectus Radio Blitz, and the hits to promote the release of Baseball Prospectus 2010 keep coming. Here's Wednesday's schedule:

• Already in the can is a taped interview with Manchester, New Hampshire's WGIR 610 AM, which will air tomorrow morning, time TBD.

• At 4:35 Eastern, I'll be doing my usual weekly spot with Toledo, Ohio's WLQR 106.5 FM, a local ESPN affiliate. It's always great to talk baseball with host Norm Wamer. Streaming here.

• At 5:15 Eastern, I'll be on Madison, Wisconsin's WTSO 1070 AM, the local ESPN affiliate, streaming here. Rescheduled to run at a similar timeslot on Friday.

• At 5:30 Eastern, I'll be on Green Bay/Appleton, Wisconsin's WSCO 1570 AM, streaming here.

• At 6:20 Eastern, I'll be on El Paso, Texas' KROD 600 AM, streaming here. I've been on the air with host Steve Kaplowitz several times in the past, and I'm pleased to announce that this is going to be a recurring spot for me during this baseball season.

I'll have Milwaukee and Seattle hits for tomorrow...


Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Prospectus Radio Blitz: Tuesday

More radio hits to promote the release of Baseball Prospectus 2010. Here's Tuesday's schedule (all times Eastern):

• First up is Salisbury, Maryland's WOCM-FM at 7:45 AM. Streaming here.

• Next is Philadelphia's WIP 610 AM at 8:05 AM streaming at here.

• At 8:45 AM, I'll taping an interview for "Inside Pitch" on the Cincinnati Reds Radio Network. It will air as part of a future pregame show next weeekend.

• At 9:15 AM, I'll be taping an interview for Albany, NY's "Don Weeks and the WGY Morning News" on WGY 810 AM. This one will air on Thursday or Friday via here.

• At 12:05 PM, I'll be on Sirius/XM's "The B-Team" show with Bruce Murray and Bill Pidto, which runs on, uh, the Mad Dog Radio Channel, 123.

• At 4:10 PM, I'll be on Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida's WQYK 1010 AM, streaming here.

Wednesday's lineup has me doing Manchester, New Hampshire, and Madison and Green Bay, Wisconsin. More info as it emerges.


Monday, February 22, 2010


All Quilting, All the Time

I'm pleased to report that the "My Favorite Baseball Stars" quilt made by the late Clara Rothmeier fetched $62,500 at auction on Saturday. One of the other quilts, commemorating an early 1950s Cardinals team, went for $10,200.

Both quilts feature autographs of players which Rothmeier then embroidered. The "Stars" quilt has over 300 of them, along with 44 fabric "portraits." Numerous players represented on that one are in the Hall of Fame.

Both quilts were bought by Phyllis LaPlant, Rothmeier's niece who was responsible for arranging and promoting the auction. "The more I promoted it, the more I fell in love to it," said LaPlant, who plans to ask the National Baseball Hall of Fame to display the quilts again. All of the quilts sold, mostly to family members, with the average cost of the other ones around $1,200. The proceeds will be distributed among some surviving family members as well.

I wonder who got the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers one?



Prospectus Radio Blitz: Monday

Doing radio hits this week to promote the release of Baseball Prospectus 2010:

• First up is Providence, Rhode Island's WBSM 1420 AM at 8:25 AM. Streaming here.

• Next is Tri-Cities, Tennessee's WJCW 910 AM at 8:45 AM. Streaming here.

• Baltimore, Maryland's WVIE 1370 AM at 12:35 PM. Streaming here.

• Cleveland, Ohio's WKNR 1540 AM at 1:00 PM to be rescheduled. Streaming here.

More to come for Tuesday and Wednesday, with Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Albany, Tampa, and the Sirius XM satellite network lined up for tomorrow. Colleagues Steven Goldman, Kevin Goldstein and Christina Kahrl are joining in the fun as well; hopefully we'll have a post up soon at BP Unfiltered to guide our listeners around the country.


Friday, February 19, 2010


Best. Quilt. Ever. Now Up for Auction

On Saturday, February 20, in Union, Missouri, a unique and amazing collection of baseball memorabilia will be auctioned off. Baseball fan Clara Schmitt Rothmeier, who passed away last June, created several baseball-themed quilts, the most famous of which, a piece called "My Favorite Baseball Stars," was exhibited by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1959-1960. It came to my attention as part of the 2003 American Folk Art Museum exhibit, "A Perfect Game," which I reviewed here. This is what I wrote at the time:
One of the most prominent pieces of the exhibit is a 7' x7' quilt called "My Favorite Baseball Stars," created by Clara Schmitt Rothmeier, the daughter of a minor league ballplayer. (This photo of the quilt and the other photos I link to for this article were generously provided by Susan Flamm of the AFAM for the purposes of this review). Over a ten-year period from the mid-Fifties to the mid-Sixties, Rothmeier drew pictures of her favorite players, traced them onto fabric, appliquéd and embroidered each one, then sent them to the players for their autographs. Once a panel was returned, she would add it to her quilt, embroidering the signature as well. Midway into the project, she added a border of cloth baseballs, each featuring another signature that she'd collected. The finished quilt contains forty-four panels and about three hundred autographed balls. There are some heavy hitters among those portrayed: Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Casey Stengel, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Robin Roberts, Al Kaline, and a sleeveless Ted Kluszewski. Among the signed and embroidered balls are even more legends: Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Jimmie Foxx, Frankie Frisch, Dizzy Dean, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, "Cool Papa" Bell, Bob Gibson, and Sandy Koufax. Yeah, some of those guys could play ball.
Here's Rothmeier's bio on the auction site, along with links to a few of the other quilts which are up for auction:
Born in 1931, hailing from Japan, Missouri, Clara Schmitt Rothmeier was certainly no stranger to the diamond.

Clara was an accomplished baseball player as well as a quiltmaker. Her father played minor league ball in the Pittsburgh organization, and her five brothers and four sisters had all played on traveling baseball and softball teams. Clara herself played first base for a traveling softball team from Springfield, Illinois. While on the road, she started sewing to keep busy. Her "My Favorite Baseball Stars" quilt took more than 10 years to complete, has 340 actual autographs, and was exhibited in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 1959-1960.

She has also made quilts commemorating the 1951 and 1956 St. Louis Cardinals (her favorite club) [here and here], the major league teams of 1948, and Jackie Robinson's 1955 World Champion Dodgers [here], and the "Major League Baseball Stars" quilt [here] containing 537 actual autographs.
Also via the auction site, here's a bit about her most famous quilt's trip to Cooperstown:
This quilt graced the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY from 1959-1960. Clara took the quilt to the offices of J. Taylor Spink, editor of the Sporting News in St. Louis to see if she could have a picture of the completed quilt put in the paper so that those who had contributed their names would be able to see the finished quilt.

The picture of the quilt, and Rothmeier and Spink, ran in the Sporting News in March of 1959. Sid Keener, director of the Hall of Fame, saw the picture and made arrangements with Rothmeier to have the quilt displayed in Cooperstown, where it was on public view for almost one year.

The president of the Hall of Fame invited her to go to Cooperstown to see it on display, and arranged for her to see the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs play at Doubleday Field. "After the game there was a tea party where I met the entire Cubs team including Ron Santo," Clara adds, unable to restrain her obvious love for the game. "Nobody could throw it like him!"

In addition to meeting the Cubs, Clara was able to meet many other baseball greats because of her exposure at the Hall of Fame. One such player was former Yankee great Joe DiMaggio. "I loved Joe DiMaggio the moment I met him," said Clara. "He got a lot of autographs for me, and interviewed me on his Fan in the Stands show. When he asked me if I'd do it, I was really unsure about it, and told him I wouldn't know what to say. He said, 'That's okay, nobody listens to me anyway.' Talking with him you felt like you'd known him all your life."
Also up for auction besides the quilts are autographed pictures, autographed baseballs and other memorabilia, and 10,000 baseball cards. I imagine this stuff will fetch a pretty penny — according to one of Rothmeier's nephews, the main attraction has been valued at "anywhere from $10,000 to six figures" — and am hopeful some high roller will step in and purchase the quilts, then loan or donate them to the Hall of Fame for exhibition so that they can be shared with the widest audience possible. This stuff is simply too cool and too unique to not to be shared.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Jim Bibby (1944-2010)

Former major league pitcher Jim Bibby passed away on Tuesday at age 65. I remember Bibby fondly from the baseball cards of my youth, and particularly the fact that he shared the sporting spotlight with his younger brother Henry, an NBA point guard.

Bibby's best years came with the Pirates, particularly the "We Are Family" World Champions of 1979 with the Stargell Stars on their goofy train conductor hats. How could a nine-year-old kid not fall for that team?

Bibby's shining moment on the diamond came during Game Seven of the 1979 World Series. Pitching for the Pirates on three days' rest, he yielded just one run in four innings before nervous nellie manager Chuck Tanner pulled him for a pinch-hitter, trailing 1-0. Willie Stargell connected for a two-run homer in the sixth, and the Pirates' bullpen — Don Robinson, Grant Jackson and Kent Tekulve — shut out the Orioles for the final five innings, in marked contrast to their self-immolation during Bibby's previous start, a 6.1-inning, 3-run, 7-strikeout effort whose squandering put the Bucs in a 3-1 hole. Bibby earned his World Series ring.

Bibby had a hard road to the majors. A free agent signing by the Mets in 1965, he served a two-year stint in Vietnam and missed a year due to spinal fusion surgery before being traded to the Cardinals in an eight-player deal in 1971. He was nearly 28 years old by the time he reached the majors, but stuck around for 12 seasons with the Cards, Rangers, Indians and Pirates. Best known for his heater, of which his control was only sporadic, he threw the first no-hitter in Rangers history on July 30, 1973. His 19-19 record in 41 starts the following year certainly stands out, but it was in 1980 when he really put it all together, going 19-6 with a 3.32 ERA, earning All-Star honors and placing third in the Cy Young voting.

Bibby was the object of an unforgettable passage in Mike Shropshire's Seasons in Hell, a gonzo account of the 1973-1975 Rangers under Whitey Herzog and Billy Martin which I declared to be "the funniest baseball book of all time" a few years back. Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk puts it all together. Suffice it to say that Jim Bibby will be remembered.

Update: Great stuff from Joe Posnanski on Bibby here, including his remembrance of Bibby's time with the Indians, and this bit on Bibby's 1974 season:
That year, Bibby won 19 games with a horrifically bad 75 ERA+. Nobody in baseball history has ever won that many games with a sub-80 ERA+. How did he do it? Well, for one thing, he lost 19 games, too. But, more to the point, he simply was great some days, awful on others.

In his 19 victories, he had a 2.50 ERA and the league hit .194 against him.

In his 19 losses, he had a 9.23 ERA* and the league hit .359/.443/.589 against him. To give you an idea of just how awful this, the league leading core numbers were .364/.433/.563 (Carew/Carew/Allen)...

• In his first six starts, Bibby was 4-2 with a 3.05 ERA and four complete games, including a shutout.

• In his next six starts, Bibby was 1-5 with an 8.07 ERA, and in the game he won he allowed nine runs in eight innings.

• In his next six starts (you getting the pattern?), Bibby was 5-1 with a 2.44 ERA and had two shutouts.

• In his next six starts (it's amazing how this is working), Bibby was 1-4 with a 5.91 ERA -- he actually pitched well in a couple of those games, but he did not make it out of the second inning in either of his first two starts of the stretch.

• Then he threw a shutout at Yankee Stadium.

• Then he went 3-2 with a 7.86 ERA in his next five outings.

• Then he threw a shutout against Detroit.

And so on.

It's a remarkable season. The rest of his career was not quite so up and down, not quite the same blend of brilliant and disastrous. But Jim Bibby always seemed to carry a part of 1974 with him... it seemed like most days when he went out there to pitch, a team would say "Oh man, we don't stand a chance tonight." Trouble is, you never knew which team.

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The Case for Glavine

Having delved too deeply into Frank Thomas' career to deal with two Hall of Fame cases in one piece, today I've got a look at Tom Glavine's case for Cooperstown. Even with his 305 wins, I was actually surprised at the strength of his case on the traditional merits:
Glavine made 10 All-Star teams, and was the starting pitcher in both 1991 and 1992, though his double-digit total is padded by the fact that he didn't actually pitch in four of those games (two of which were managed by Braves skipper Bobby Cox, who wasn't born last night). He won the 1991 and 1998 NL Cy Young awards, making him one of just 15 multiple award winners, and the one with the longest time between awards (Gaylord Perry, who won in 1972 and 1978, is next). He also had four other top-three finishes, three of them during Maddux's 1992-1995 run. Quite simply, he was regarded as one of the best pitchers of his day.

Glavine won 20 games five times, a total that ranks second only to Clemens since the dawn of the designated hitter era (1973 onward), and is in a five-way tie for sixth since the advent of expansion (1961 onward). The other nine pitchers with five or more 20-win seasons in that latter group are all in the Hall except for Clemens. Now, here at Baseball Prospectus we preach the gospel that pitcher wins aren't all they're cracked up to be, as they depend upon offensive, defensive, and—increasingly since the dawn of the DH—bullpen support. According to my 2005 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, Glavine received offensive support that was three percent better than the park-adjusted league average up through 2004; just eyeballing it, he may have added another point or two to that rate over the final few years of his career, a period covering his latter-day tenure with the Mets as well as his swan song in Atlanta. Even so, it's quite impressive how proficient he was at garnering the W. From 1991 through 2002, the strongest portion of his career, Glavine's 209 wins rank second only to Maddux's 213.
Glavine looks great according to JAWS, ranking 24th among pitchers all-time:
Rk  Pitcher             WARP3   Peak   JAWS
1 Walter Johnson* 161.5 87.1 124.3
2 Grover Alexander* 124.4 78.2 101.3
3 Cy Young* 142.6 59.7 101.2
4 Roger Clemens 135.1 64.6 99.9
5 Christy Mathewson* 109.6 71.1 90.4
6 Greg Maddux 115.8 59.6 87.7
7 Tom Seaver* 104.9 55.4 80.2
8 Warren Spahn* 105.3 52.9 79.1
9 Phil Niekro* 98.5 52.8 75.7
10 Steve Carlton* 91.6 55.9 73.8
11 Bob Gibson* 86.5 58.8 72.7
12T Randy Johnson 89.7 53.2 71.5
Ed Walsh** 72.7 70.2 71.5
Gaylord Perry* 91.1 51.8 71.5
15 Bert Blyleven 92.4 49.3 70.9
16 Eddie Plank** 87.7 52.5 70.1
17 Lefty Grove* 84.7 51.0 67.9
18 Fergie Jenkins* 85.5 50.1 67.8
19 Mariano Rivera 82.6 52.0 67.3
20 Robin Roberts* 82.0 49.7 65.9
21 Hal Newhouser** 68.2 56.0 62.1
22 Amos Rusie** 64.7 57.8 61.3
23 Kid Nichols** 75.7 46.2 61.0
24 Tom Glavine 81.4 40.3 60.9<<<
25T Carl Hubbell* 70.9 50.1 60.5
Pedro Martinez 71.0 49.9 60.5
27 Don Drysdale* 72.9 46.5 59.7
28 Dennis Eckersley* 77.9 40.8 59.4
AVG HOF SP 70.3 47.7 59.0

29 John Clarkson** 64.0 53.5 58.8
30 Rick Reuschel 72.5 44.7 58.6
31 Nolan Ryan* 74.0 43.1 58.6
32 Mike Mussina 74.0 41.1 57.6
33 Juan Marichal* 63.0 51.4 57.2
34 John Smoltz 74.3 39.4 56.9
*BBWAA-elected Hall of Famer
**VC-elected Hall of Famer
Glavine's career WARP ranks 21st, though his peak mark ranks just 76th, as he had just three seasons above 6.0 WARP thanks to his low strikeout rate (since his defenses were thus awarded more of the credit for his work than for a high-strikeout pitcher)... Glavine is about two points above the JAWS standard for starting pitchers, with a mark that among his contemporaries is topped only by Clemens, Maddux, Johnson and Rivera. He'll be a citizen in good standing when the Hall comes calling.
The real question will be how quickly Glavine gets into the Hall of Fame given how crowded the 2013 (Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza) and 2014 (Glavine, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent) ballots will be. It's hardly unprecedented for 300-game winners to have to wait for entry; in fact, I count only four of the 24 such pitchers who DID gain entry on their first try (not including Veterans Committee selections): Warren Spahn, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, and Nolan Ryan. In the end, I think it's quite possible both Maddux and Glavine will join that bunch, because any writer with a story to file will have a hard time resisting voting for teammates.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010


The Big Hurt's Big Sendoff

Last week, Frank Thomas officially called it quits, not a huge surprise given that the 41-year-old slugger, who bopped 521 home runs in his career, didn't play at all in 2009. Today I've got a column at Baseball Prospectus celebrating his career, his Hall of Fame case, and his place in history:
It's no stretch to say that the physically imposing Thomas, who swung a three-foot, five-pound piece of rebar in the on-deck circle, struck fear in the hearts of AL pitchers. The 138 walks he drew in 1991, his first full season, were the highest total in the majors since 1969, and he led the league in both OBP (.453) and EqA (.358) while bopping 32 homers. He finished third in the league's MVP voting, and his 9.5 WARP3 ranked second only to award-winner Cal Ripken's 12.5.

That was the first full season of a dominant seven-years-and-change stretch in which Thomas would hit a combined .330/.452/.600 with 1261 hits, 257 homers, and an impressive 582/879 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He led the league in OBP and EqA four times apiece during that span, won the batting title in 1997 (.347) and the slugging crown in 1994 (.729). His 38 homers in the strike-shortened year were good for a 54-homer pace, which would have far outdistances his eventual career high of 43. He led the league in WARP3 in 1992 and 1994, and took home back-to-back MVP honors in 1993 (unanimously) and 1994, having helped the White Sox to a pair of first place finishes (the latter, of course, mooted by the strike). Along the way, White Sox announcer Ken Harrelson nicknamed him "The Big Hurt" after shouting "Frank put a big hurt on that ball!" during a 1991 home run. The moniker became perhaps the era's most memorable one.

...One can make a reasonable case that Thomas was the AL's best hitter of the Nineties. His .440 OBP was the circuit's best, his .573 SLG was just eight points behind that of Albert Belle and Ken Griffey Jr., and his EqA for the decade trailed only that of Barry Bonds:
Player              PA    EQA
Barry Bonds 6146 .352
Frank Thomas 6092 .343
Mark McGwire 5054 .338
Jeff Bagwell 5800 .334
Mike Piazza 4075 .326
Edgar Martinez 5589 .325
Gary Sheffield 5054 .317
Ken Griffey 6182 .314
Rickey Henderson 5452 .313
Albert Belle 5820 .313
...On the traditional merits, his credentials [for the Hall of Fame] are certainly strong, with two MVP awards, five All-Star appearances, 521 homers, 2,468 hits, all-time top 25 rankings in OBP (.419) and SLG (.555), and the ninth-highest walk total (1667). He's one of just six hitters to total 10,000 plate appearances with a batting average above .300, an OBP above .400, and a slugging percentage above .500—the triple-slash "Golden Ratio," as my friend Nick Stone likes to call it—the others being Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Tris Speaker, and Mel Ott (stump your friends with that list, as I did on Twitter yesterday). Plus he never laid down a successful sacrifice bunt despite spending a good portion of his career under the smallball-friendly Manuel and Ozzie Guillen, which has to count for something. Thomas' only real shortcoming is a .224/.441/.429 line in 68 postseason PA.

Via BP's advanced metrics, Thomas's work should be held in similarly high esteem. His career EqA ranks in a virtual tie for 13th (i.e., not sweating the fourth decimal point) among players with at least 6,000 PA, eighth if one raises the bar to 10,000 PA:
Rk   Player             PA     EQA
1 Babe Ruth 10617 .363
2 Ted Williams 9789 .359
3 Barry Bonds 12606 .354
4 Albert Pujols 6082 .347
5 Mickey Mantle 9909 .342
6 Lou Gehrig 9660 .341
7 Rogers Hornsby 9475 .337
8 Stan Musial 12712 .332
9T Willie Mays 12493 .330
Ty Cobb 13072 .330
11T Hank Aaron 13940 .328
Mel Ott 11337 .328
13T Frank Thomas 10074 .327
Johnny Mize 7371 .327
Mark McGwire 7660 .327
Dick Allen 7314 .327
17T Dan Brouthers 7676 .326
Joe Dimaggio 7671 .326
19 Frank Robinson 11743 .324
20T Jeff Bagwell 9431 .322
Jimmie Foxx 9670 .322
In terms of JAWS, Thomas (90.2 Career WARP/58.1 Peak/74.2 JAWS) ranks third among first basemen (despite spending more than half his career at DH, that's where he fits, but it doesn't really matter) behind Lou Gehrig and Albert Pujols. In fact, the Big Hurt ranks 38th overall in JAWS, and 27th among non-pitchers. That's not just a Hall of Famer, that's an inner-circle one.

And for once, we've got a big slugger with a sterling reputation on the topic of steroids, so we can forgo the handwringing which will accompany seven of the other nine players who reached 500 homers during careers that broadly overlapped with that of the Big Hurt. At this juncture, Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr. and Jim Thome have reputations unsullied by any allegations regarding performance enhances, while Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield all do.

I'm not suggesting that we should throw a blanket on the latter group and keep them out of the Hall of Fame; it's a complex issue that will take decades to sort out, given that each of those players has a maximum of 15 years on the ballot, and that some of them aren't retired. I'm just celebrating a guy for whom that won't be an issue, which is quite refreshing. Just one more reason why the Big Hurt will be missed.

• • • 

Oh, and while we're on the subject, here's a Reebok commercial for which my friend Adam Gravois did some effects work back in the mid-Nineties. It's cheesy, but I can't help but smile.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010


Say Hey, Kid!

When I was maybe 11 years old, my parents took me to a giant supermarket expo down at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, where none other than Willie Mays was putting in a personal appearance and signing autographs, one of several athletes to be making appearances at the show.

Though too young to have seen him play, I'd already read books about Mays, and heard stories about his legend from my father and grandfather. By then I knew that he'd hit 660 home runs in his career, less than only Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth, pretty good company, that he'd made the most famous catch in baseball history, and that he was known as the Say Hey Kid. I took the one Mays card I owned at the time, a 1973 Topps* showing an aged Mays near the end of his career wearing the foreign, pinstriped uniform of the Mets. The card was handed down from my cousin Allan, who bestowed upon me a couple thousand such cards in the 1966-1975 range, including some very valuable ones.

*Though autographed, this is not a scan of card from my collection, merely an image found on Google.

I stood in line for what seemed like an eternity to ask Mr. Mays for his autograph. When I did, he obliged disinterestedly, not even making eye contact or breaking his conversation with whichever adult it was he was talking to, barely nodding an acknowledgment when I thanked him. Honestly, I wasn't terribly bothered, though. It was WILLIE MAYS! Though none of my card-collecting peers believed the autograph was legit – "You probably just got your baby brother to scribble on your card!" — I knew that it was, and I still have that card. It's in a plastic sheet on the front page of a light blue three-ring binder in the closet of my childhood bedroom in Salt Lake City, right next to a few Hank Aarons and a Jim Bouton. The best of my best.

Mays is back in the news, making the rounds thanks to an authorized biography that just came out, Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend by James S. Hirsch, published by Scribner. The 628-page book is something of a coup, marking the first time the 78-year-old legend has ever cooperated with a biographer*. The early reviews haven't been glowing, suggesting the book gets a bit bogged down in the details, but for a player as monumental and enigmatic as Mays, a closer look is merited. Breaking into the majors in 1951, the man battled racism and brought an inimitable style to the majors, becoming arguably the best all-around player the game has ever seen. I received my review copy in the mail last week, and I'm dying to sink my teeth into it. I'll report back when I do.

*update: Allen Barra begs to differ on that score, though Hirsch defends the distinction, and Bruce Weber, who repeated the claim in long piece for the New York Times, backing him up.

In the meantime, on Wednesday night Mays made an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Check out Stewart and the Say Hey Kid talking about his days playing in Trenton (where he started his pro career, hitting .353 in 81 games in 1950), how many homers he might have hit if he hadn't missed two years due to military service, and how he had to room with the son of manager Leo Durocher as a rookie:

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Some Dodger Thoughts

Earlier this month, my pal Jon Weisman migrated his great Dodger Thoughts blog from the Los Angeles Times to the new ESPN Los Angeles family. Among his first posts is one which directly involves me. Jon is the editor of the forthcoming Dodgers 2010 Annual from Maple Street Press, the same folks who publish Bombers Broadside, to which I contributed for the 2007 and 2008 editions. Here's Jon's rundown of the contents of the glossy 128-page book:
  • Amid Turmoil, Hope (2010 season preview), by Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone

  • So Close, Again (2009 season in review), by Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.

  • Manny Be Good? (What to expect from Ramirez in 2010), by Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus

  • Disorder In McCourt (an analysis of the impact of the McCourts' divorce) by Joshua Fisher of Dodger Divorce

  • State Of The Stadium, by Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.

  • One Out Away (Jonathan Broxton looks to recover from another disappointing finish), by Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness

  • Critical Campaigns (James Loney and Russell Martin), by Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness

  • The Collected Colletti (a Q&A), by Josh Suchon of KABC AM 790

  • Aces Are Wild Cards (The last word on No. 1 starters), by Eric Enders, baseball historian

  • Prospect Park (Top 20 prospects in the Dodger farm system), by Dodger prospect expert Richard Bostan

  • Individually Packaged (how the Dodgers develop young arms), by Josh Suchon of KABC AM 790

  • No Minor Hopes (life in AAA), by Albuquerque Isotopes play-by-play announcer Robert Portnoy

  • One In A Trillion (a Vin Scully retrospective), by Dodger team historian Mark Langill

  • Unsung Heroes (key contributions from unexpected sources), by Bob Timmermann of The Griddle and One Through Forty-Two or Forty-Three

  • Sweep And Low (the end of the 1980 season), by Dodger Thoughts commenter BHSportsGuy

  • The Great Dividers (the 20 most controversial Dodgers of the 2000s), by Jon Weisman
  • It's quite a star-studded cast, and I'm honored to be part of it. Maple Street Press is also doing annuals of the Yankees, Red Sox, Twins, Phillies, Mets, Mariners, Cubs and Cardinals, and via the Twitscape, it sounds as though at least some of those books are already shipping. Each one goes for $12.99.

    Elsewhere at Dodger Thoughts' new home, Jon's got a lengthy, must-read piece for which he interviewed embattled Dodger owner Frank McCourt one-on-one for an hour, discussing the controversies that have embroiled the team in recent months — the divorce proceedings between the owner and wife/former team CEO Jamie McCourt, the decisions not to offer arbitration to free agents Randy Wolf and Orlando Hudson, the team's recent failures to spend in a manner commensurate with their standing in the amateur draft, their propensity for surrendering top-notch prospects in trade in exchange for holding the line on salary. I've detailed these controversies multiple times myself, so I welcome a fresh perspective, particularly from the man who signs the checks. Here's what McCourt (and Weisman) have to say about the July 2008 trade in which the Dodgers sent catching prospect Carlos Santana (no, not the guitarist) — now considered one of the game's top hitting prospects — to the Indians in a deal for Casey Blake:
    If there was a moment that really seemed to call into question the Dodgers' ability to commit to prospects, it was when the team traded Carlos Santana and Jonathan Meloan in mid-2008 for a three-month test run of Casey Blake. (Blake re-signed with the Dodgers as a free agent after the 2008 season.) It was widely reported, to the point that almost no doubt remained, that the Dodgers included Santana, a catcher who was having an explosive year in A ball, so that they wouldn't have to pay approximately $2 million in Blake's remaining '08 salary.

    McCourt said in the interview that he had "no idea" about that aspect of the trade, that this was general manager Ned Colletti's territory. This is an example of the plausible deniability McCourt periodically exercises that seems not quite so plausible, given the level of detail with which he'll talk about other aspects of the Dodgers. Subsequent to the interview, neither Colletti nor anyone else with the Dodgers would comment about this on the record.

    However, a source within the Dodgers organization insisted that the following was true: The Indians were not going to trade Blake to the Dodgers unless they got Santana in the deal. His inclusion had nothing to do with money.

    If you know my policy on anonymous sources, you know that I always say you should take them with a grain of salt. So please do. But also realize that the original report was never confirmed on the record, either.

    In any case, there's still a baseball debate to be had on the trade, even if Santana was the centerpiece for the Indians rather than a money-saving throw-in. Was Blake worth the price of a red-hot catching prospect? Blake had immediate value but was aging. Santana had all the promise in the world, though he was a 22-year-old in A ball who might end up moving out from behind the plate defensively.

    Even if the original reports about the trade were true and the Dodgers did it to save $2 million, it's not like they haven't spent that $2 million and more elsewhere since then, and rather recklessly at times to boot (Guillermo Mota fits this bill rather perfectly). On the other hand, if my source is correct and the Dodgers simply believed Santana and Meloan for Blake was a smart move, was the team right to do it? It was debatable then, is debatable now even after Blake's presence on two division-winning Dodger teams, and will continue to be debatable for some time to come.

    Focusing on the $2 million distracts from the real issue, which is how well the Dodgers evaluate players and needs, whether it's Santana for Blake, Andy LaRoche for Manny Ramirez, Tony Abreu for Jon Garland, and so on.

    "The Santana trade is an example of ... the pressure to trade players in course of season," McCourt said. "You give up real value for that. Sometimes you're able to -- sometimes it's worth it, sometimes it's not. Sometimes what you give up is less than what you thought it was, sometimes it's more than what you thought it was. There's always pulls and tugs on this."
    The entire piece is well worth reading, so kudos to Jon on that front. I'm not going to pick apart McCourt's replies, many of which do deserve some deeper dissection than the piece provides; Dodger Divorce's Josh Fisher is already hard at work on that front.

    Elsewhere in the Dodger universe, Baseball Prospectus colleague Will Carroll created a stir with the release of the Team Health Reports spreadsheet, which shows all five of the Dodgers' starting pitchers — Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla and James McDonald, though the latter is just one of a handful of fifth-starter candidates — projected as red lights, meaning they have a 50 percent chance of winding up on the disabled list due to various factors — age, past injury history, team injury history, and PECOTA attrition rate — applied to an actuarial table based upon 10 years of MLB data clustered by age and position. The Dodgers' THR itself discussing the ratings for each player hasn't been published, but the intrepid Mr. Weisman pre-emptively interviewed Will, who had this to say about the pitchers:
    I doubt anyone will quibble with Kuroda or Kershaw as risks. Kuroda's a litle inflated in that he was out for something that's unpredictable [a line drive to the noggin which caused a concussion] and then going out again [due to a herniated disc in his neck] makes it look worse than I think it really was. Kershaw is young, threw a lot of innings (not outrageous, but an increase) and is expected to have another increase this year. Risky, yes. Red, yes, but my god, the upside. McDonald is a case where if he's the five starter on Day 1 and stays there all year, his innings increase will be insane. I doubt the Dodgers would ignore this, but I can't project that forward.

    As for Billingsley - who I don't hate - he wore down in the latter stages of the season. He was pretty solid, but if I tell you that Dan Haren has a similar pattern, would it bother you? Risk is not reality, but the fact is that every single one of the Dodgers starters as we speak now is a demonstrable risk. All goes well, no worries and the Dodgers run away with the division. One thing goes bad? Meh, most teams can survive. Two or three ... not so much, especially if they have to start rushing some of their good young arms.
    Yikes. As noted before, McDonald has some competition among the ranks for the fifth starter job, including a couple of guys who popped up on colleague Kevin Goldstein's Top 11 Prospects list earlier this week, Scott Elbert and Josh Lindblom. The list is headed by shortstop Dee Gordon, son of former Yankees reliever Tom Gordon, and anagram for "Dodger One," for whatever that's worth (you're free to go to town on his full name, Devaris Strange-Gordon, if you like). Here's the list as well as Kevin's writeup of Son of Flash:
    Five-Star Prospects
    1. Dee Gordon, SS
    2. Chris Withrow, RHP
    Four-Star Prospects
    3. Ethan Martin, RHP
    Three-Star Prospects
    4. Aaron Miller, LHP
    5. Scott Elbert, LHP
    6. Trayvon Robinson, OF
    7. Garrett Gould, RHP
    8. Ivan DeJesus Jr., SS
    9. Josh Lindblom, RHP
    Two-Star Prospects
    10. Kenley Jansen, RHP
    11. Kyle Russell, OF

    1. Dee Gordon, SS
    DOB: 4/22/88

    Height/Weight: 5-11/150
    Bats/Throws: L/R
    Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2008, Seminole CC (FL)
    2009 Stats: .301/.362/.394 at Low-A (131 G)
    Last Year’s Ranking: 7

    Year in Review: A highly athletic shortstop, Gordon earned Midwest League co-MVP honors in a stunning full-season debut.
    The Good: Gordon's tools are the best in the system by a mile, and among the best in the game, with one scout calling him, "A Jimmy Rollins starter kit." He has outstanding hand-eye coordination and a knack for contact; he has the potential to develop enough power for 10-15 home runs annually. He's a pure burner who led the league with 73 stolen bases, and he's a quick-twitch athlete with well above-average range and arm strength.
    The Bad: Gordon is quite raw, and while that creates plenty of room for excitement, as he's been able to produce big numbers on sheer athleticism, there's also concern, as he's far less refined than most players his age. He needs to improve his plate discipline and work on becoming more consistent defensively, but both of those issues saw considerable improvement as the 2009 season wore on.
    Ephemera: Dodgers farm director DeJon Watson was a roommate with Gordon's father, Tom, when both were minor-leaguers in the Royals system.
    Perfect World Projection: He’s an All-Star shortstop.
    Path to the Big Leagues: Gordon needs at least two more years in the minors, and there's still a chance he'll need to move to center field.
    Timetable: Despite his performance, most see Gordon as a one-step-at-a-time player, so he'll likely spend most, if not all of 2010 at High-A Inland Empire.
    A five-star prospect is one which by Kevin's definition ranks among the top 50 prospects in the game in his forthcoming Top 100 Prospects list. While one might be skeptical about how raw Gordon is — he didn't commit to playing baseball until his senior year of high school — it's worth noting that the Dodgers were able to spin a similarly raw Matt Kemp into an All-Star caliber player. In the comments to the piece, Kevin elaborated on Gordon, "As you are watching a guy hit .300, steal 70+ bases and get to balls at short no human should get to, and you realize he's doing it without really having much of an idea of what he's doing out there. That creates tons of understandable excitement, but it doesn't come without its reservations as well."

    Whew. It never rains but it pours around here, right? Especially when it snows...

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    Holy Toledo!

    After a long hiatus borne of its incorporation into the ESPN affiliate fold, the Toledo radio station for which I've been doing radio hits for nearly three years now (WLQR 106.5 FM "The Ticket," formerly on 1470 AM) has returned to archiving its guest appearances. Though their podcast page says it's got spots going back to January 13, it appears they're overwriting files with the same name, so don't wait too long to try catching up if you miss my hit either on your dial or via the streaming webcast.

    In any event, thanks to Norm Wamer and his colleagues at "The Ticket" for continuing to have me on over the past three years. It's a pleasure to be a regular guest on a smart sports talk radio show.


    Tuesday, February 09, 2010


    Chatter and Patter

    Some choice cuts from my chat earlier today at Baseball Prospectus:
    Nick Stone (New York, NY): How do you see the Marcus Thames/Randy Winn/Jamie Hoffman situation shaking out? Do Thames and Winn have anything left in the tank, given last season's fades? I would have though Thames would pinch hit and Winn would then take over to avoid exposing Thames' glove (or lack thereof). Does this mean Hoffman will be returned to the Dodgers shortly?

    JJ: First, I think this probably means Hoffman is going back to the Dodgers' organization. I like the natural fit between Thames (a lefty-masher) and Winn (a switch hitter whose bat died vs. lefties last year) or Granderson (who's struggled vs. southpaws lately as well), but it's worth remembering you're talking about fourth and fifth outfielders here, since Brett Gardner is projected to start somewhere, too.

    The other good thing about Thames is that he can spot for Nick Johnson at DH against tough lefties, though the Stick has had at least some success against southpaws as well.

    Jquinton82 (NY): A pair of Yankees questions for you Jay: 1) Who do you think is a better bet for the 5th spot in the rotation Hughes or Chamberlain? 2) When do you see Jesus Montero breaking in and will it be behind the plate or somewhere else?

    JJ: Right now I think Hughes is the better bet, and I'd love to see how well his arsenal plays out multiple times through the order given the addition of that cut fastball. I think [moving back to the bullpen is] a waste of Chamberlain's talents, though, and I'd rather both were taking their turn every fifth day.

    With Posada signed through next year, the Yanks have plenty of time to figure out whether Montero can actually catch at a big league level. At best perhaps he gets a September callup. If he can't cut it this year behind the plate, I think you start working on the idea that he's a corner outfielder/DH. But as somebody who's not a prospect guy...

    Scott (DC): If the Reds find a huge pile of money under the mattress and add Johnny Damon, do they instantly become favorites for the Wild Card?

    JJ: Man, if the Reds understood anything about the marginal win curve, they'd already have signed Damon. He'd be a nice fit in that park, and they really could use his bat atop that lineup.

    Then again, that they haven't signed him suggests that maybe they know too much about the conditions of some of those young arms. Say a prayer for Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez tonight.

    tommybones (brooklyn): Do you think Carl Crawford gets dealt before the deadline this year, paving the way for Jennings? Or do you see an outfield of Crawford, Jennings and Upton heading into August?

    JJ: I think it all depends upon where the Rays are in the standings. Crawford is obviously more likely to get dealt if they're out of it.

    That said, it's going to be *very* interesting to see what happens, because there's a line of thinking that says they keep Crawford and trade Upton at the point when his value is on the rise again. Remember, they've also got to figure out where Ben Zobrist fits, and Matt Joyce... suffice it to say that they've got an enviable amount of depth and flexibility.

    garethbluejays1 (Newcastle, UK): Are there any free agents left unsigned who could be useful to contending teams?

    JJ: I realize it's a well-kept secret that Johnny Damon is still looking for work. Beyond him, Russell Branyan, Rocco Baldelli, Joe Beimel, Carlos Delgado, Jermaine Dye, Pedro Martinez, Chan Ho Park, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield and Jarrod Washburn all strike me as players who could help somebody win. Not necessarily by getting 500 PA worth of playing time, mind you, and maybe not getting enough playing time to satisfy their own estimations of their talent. Park can pitch out of my bullpen, but if he wants to start, fuggedaboutit.

    mattymatty2000 (Philly, PA): Jay - I know you don't write the headlines, so I'm purely asking for your opinion here. Two years ago one of the pictures on the cover of BP '08 was of Clay Buchholz, with the caption reading "Better Than Joba". My question: was it true then, and is it true now? Thanks for the chat.

    JJ: It's pretty subjective any way you slice it. Both pitchers have had flashes of brilliance in the majors, and both have taken their lumps to the point where a lot of people wondered if they'd be better off traded.

    Joba's got a clear edge in terms of the big league numbers he's put up overall (3.61 in ~280 innings vs. 4.91 ERA in ~180 innings), but Buchholz is riding the stronger trend in terms of making the necessary adjustments to survive in the majors. FWIW, PECOTA sees both at coming in with ERAs around 3.80 this year.

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    Checking in

    Yikes, it's been awhile since I checked in here. First off, I'm told that Baseball Prospectus 2010 left the warehouse on Monday and should be making its way to Amazon or your local brick and mortar retailer of choice. More on the efforts to promote the new book in an upcoming post.

    As for the writing, since we last spoke...

    • I identified the positions where teams got the worst production in the majors last year (offense and defense taken together), the so-called "Vortices of Suck. Much like my previous piece on the Replacement Level Killers (the dead spots in the lineup which helped prevent teams from reaching the postseason), I also identified what teams had done over the winter to shore up these problems. Here's what I had to say about the Royals' shortstop situation:
    Shortstop: Yuniesky Betancourt (.220 EqA, -1.4 WARP), Willie Bloomquist (.241 EqA, 0.6 WARP), and Mike Aviles (.154 EqA, -0.6 WARP), Royals

    Royals general manager Dayton Moore has produced his share of headscratchers and howlers, turning the team into a laughingstock even in the eyes of its most ardent supporters. But no move generated—or deserved—quite as much ridicule as the team's mid-July acquisition of Betancourt, who at the time was already vying for this list in Seattle via a .220 EqA, -8 FRAA and -0.9 WARP in just 62 games. To be fair, the Royals did actually enter the year with a better plan at short; Aviles had hit .325/.354/.480 in two-thirds of a season as a rookie in 2008, good enough to place fourth in the Rookie of the Year balloting. Alas, he struggled at the start of the year due to forearm soreness, and was found to need Tommy John surgery, which he underwent around the All-Star break, just before Betancourt hit town. In the interim, the team had tried Bloomquist, Luis Hernandez (11-for-51) and Tony Peña Jr. (5-for-50 before giving up the hitting business in favor of pitching). At the very least, Betancourt's daily availability allowed manager Trey Hillman to devote time to not solving a variety of other problems.

    Remedy (?): The Royals will actually pay Betancourt to return to work in 2010—in fact they're obligated to pay him $8 million over the next three years (including his 2012 buyout). The rehabbing Aviles is hoping to be ready for spring training, but how he'll fit back into the lineup once he proves his health is unclear; as unglovely as he is, incumbent second baseman Alberto Callaspo did hit a tidy .300/.356/.457 last year. One thing is for certain: whatever typically cockeyed solution the Royals come up with, it won't cost them the pennant.
    • I wrote about the potential landing spots for Johnny Damon in the wake of the Randy Winn signing, which finally closed the door on just about every last shred of hope that he might return to the Yankees. Here are two of the six options I identified:
    Mariners: Between the free agent signing of Chone Figgins and the trades for Bradley and Cliff Lee, the Mariners have probably done more to improve their 2010 chances than any team. Last year's left field situation was a veritable Vortex of Suck, with Wladimir Balentien, Endy Chavez, Michael Saunders et al hitting a combined .219/.276/.333, the worst showing at any outfield position in the majors in terms of REqA (Raw Equivalent Average). Bradley figures to see the bulk of his time at DH, since as Joe Sheehan famously remarked, "Bradley can only do any two of these three things at once: hit, play the field, stay healthy." PECOTA is quite optimistic about a rebound: .277/.393/.463/.295 EqA. It's less so about the idea of handing left field over to the 23-year-old Saunders, the team's second-best prospect, projecting a .249/.320/395/.247 EqA line. Damon would obviously represent a significant upgrade, and while there's been relatively little noise about this possibility, GM Jack Zduriencik is one of the sharper tools in the shed.

    Giants: Elsewhere in that shed, Brian Sabean continues to pound screws into bricks with a garden rake. Given an offense that finished last in the majors with a .244 EqA, Sabean has thrown about $35 million in 2010-2011 commitments at DeRosa, Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez, Bengie Molina, and Juan Uribe, none of whom are strong steps in the direction of boosting that. Huff and Molina were below .260 last year, Uribe's at .242 for his career, and both DeRosa and Sanchez are coming off injuries that led to unproductive post-trade stints; the latter isn't even likely to be available for opening day given recent shoulder surgery. Projected for a .267/.346/.428/.269 EqA performance, DeRosa's production appears to be light for a corner outfielder. He'd make far more sense at second or third base, with a concomitant shift of Pablo Sandoval to first base to do away with Huff's similarly subpar production (.274/.340/.436/.268 EqA) and dodgy defense Sabean ruled out Damon last month, and while it happened at the same media session in which he dismissed a return engagement from Molina, it's clear that Damon is just too fancy for the GM's taste.
    • I examined the competitive ecology of the game's six divisions using a few tools developed by my Baseball Prospectus colleagues:
    Having gotten the lay of the land in terms of wins and losses, we turn our attention to money. Factoring payrolls into the equation, specifically end-of-year payrolls, which include salaries, signing bonuses, earned incentive bonuses, buyouts of unexercised options, deferred cash, and more (BP alumnus Maury Brown's got the details here), here's how the divisions ranked in 2009 according to Marginal Payroll dollars per Marginal Win, which is computed according to the formula (club payroll - (28 x major league minimum)) / ((winning percentage - .300) x 162):
    Division      Avg Payroll   WPCT      MP/MW
    NL West $85,634,258 .519 $2,102,663
    AL West $90,797,019 .531 $2,128,263
    NL Central $93,843,462 .482 $2,795,709
    NL East $97,489,694 .488 $2,838,477
    AL East $119,028,142 .520 $3,028,880
    AL Central $95,379,003 .470 $3,048,658
    The two Wests, which had the lowest average payrolls of any division, were very close in terms of MP/MW, and got considerably more bang for their buck than the rest of the divisions. What may be the most surprising is the AL Central's relative inefficiency. While the Orioles ($4.4 million) spent more per marginal win than any AL club, the Royals ($4.3 million) and Indians ($4.0 million) both spent more than the Yankees ($3.8 million, not even high enough to crack the top five), while the Tigers ($3.4 million) and White Sox ($3.1 million) both spent more than the Red Sox ($2.8 million).

    Turning to the three-year picture, we see that aside from the AL East, there isn't much that's separating the teams by this measure:

    Division Avg Payroll WPCT MP/MW

    NL West $85,968,141 .500 $2,311,548
    AL West $94,038,461 .511 $2,436,833
    NL East $87,713,776 .493 $2,461,417
    AL Central $89,639,497 .490 $2,555,610
    NL Central $90,966,392 .490 $2,600,034
    AL East $119,257,244 .520 $3,034,541
    The two West divisions remain the most efficient ones, and while the AL East is by far the most expensive on a per-win basis, the two Centrals are getting very little for their money.
    • Spinning that off because of positive reception, I began a series on each division, discussing the nuances of each team's competitive ecology. First up is the NL East; here's what I had to say about the Mets:
    Following final-day eliminations from contention in 2007 and 2008 with a nightmarish campaign in which they seemed to invent new ways to lose games, players and credibility on a weekly basis, the Mets have become the game's biggest punchline. As doubts about their finances, medical staff and decision-making processes have sprung up, the team with the NL's highest average payroll over the past three years hasn't been able to reap the benefits of a single playoff appearance. Indeed, their 0.54 PER' [Payroll Efficiency Rating, the ratio between their Estimated Marginal Revenue (derived from win totals and market size) to Expected Marginal Revenue (derived from payroll)] in 2009 is the league's lowest single-year mark of the timespan, and their three-year mark is the league's second lowest.

    Of course, that's hardly a surprising outcome given the fact that the Mets lost 1,451 days and $52.2 million worth of salary to the disabled list in 2009 (both MLB highs), as a variety of disasters befell seven of the team's 10 highest-paid players. All salaries in millions of dollars:
    Rk  Player           '09 Sal  Fut. Sal  DL Days
    1 Carlos Beltran $20.1 $40.1 78
    2 Johan Santana $20.0 $93.0 42*
    3 Carlos Delgado $12.0 - 144*
    4 Oliver Perez $12.0 $24.0 104
    5 Billy Wagner $10.5 - 137
    9 Jose Reyes $6.1 $9.9 134*
    10 J.J. Putz $6.0 - 119*
    *Ended season on disabled list
    Those top five players qualify as Auction Market salaries, which helps explain why the Mets declined so sharply from their 2007-2008 WARP levels in that category, falling from fourth to sixth to ninth in the majors from 2007 to 2009. They've got the equivalent of more than a year's worth of payroll tied up in four of those players (for nine player-seasons) going forward, and their 2011 payroll commitments are already over $108 million, so they'll have to pray for strong rebounds. They'll also have to hope that marquee free agent signing Jason Bay, whose four-year, $66 million deal ranks as the winter's third-largest, holds up as well given the concerns about his knee which apparently cooled the Red Sox's interest in retaining him.

    Even more unsettling is the fact that the Mets fell from 14th to 18th to 28th in terms of WARP from Non-Market salaries over the three-year period. Again, injuries were part of the story, as players like Angel Pagan (3.7 WARP), John Maine (0.4 WARP) and Fernando Martinez (-0.7 WARP) all spent at least 80 days on the DL, too. On the other hand, the regular lineup presence of soph Daniel Murphy (0.6 WARP while splitting his time between the two positions where the offensive bar is the highest, first base and left field) didn't help matters either.

    Of course, last year marked the Mets' debut in Citi Field, an attractive, intimate replacement for their Shea Stadium dive, but one with 27 percent less seating capacity, which will likely produce a drag on revenues even given higher ticket prices. If there's any good news to be found, it's that the farm system is on the rise thanks to the team's international scouting efforts, and that the 2010 season couldn't possibly bring more bad news for the franchise than the past year did. At least until Omar Minaya's impending firing opens up a whole new can of tabloid whoop-ass.
    So now you're more or less caught up. Back later with some excerpts from today's BP chat.

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