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Let’s Talk About Feelings

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Let’s Talk About Feelings

Posted on 09 January 2013 by Will Emerson

Despite what the title may lead you to believe, this is not gonna be a touchy-feely, emotional, Dr.Phil-esque post. Or at least I don’t think it will be. We’ll see, I guess.

M13Dr. Phil


No, the feelings I am referring to in this case are those most commonly associated with evaluating someone’s value. In this case, those someones are baseball players considered for the Hall of Fame. You know what I am talking about, right? Those gut feelings that tell someone whether or not a player is a Hall of Famer. Now statistics can be poured over, analyzed, compared, etcetera, etcetera, but when there is doubt you can always think about the player and their career and ask yourself, “Did he feel like a Hall of Famer?” It is kind of the epic debate when we come down to Hall of Fame arguments. There are those who are old school and those who are new school. There are those who value your basic stats that have been around for forever and a day and those who value WAR and other Sabermetric goodies. Then there are those that will delve into every stat, every aspect of a player’s career and then there are some that will see the statistics and whatnot, but when push comes to shove, it is that gut feeling that will sway their decision.

For some, this is hard to determine, in a way. I mean, take me for instance. Now, I never saw a great deal of the current Hall of Famers play, so any “feeling” I have one way or the other on them belonging in “the Hall” is all based on stats I’ve seen and things I’ve read about them. Obviously player’s statistics and how they stack up against their colleagues of the time is always a good place to start and is really all you can go on if you have no way of seeing them play. So, for me, Hall of Fame candidates of recent years are players that I had the distinct pleasure of actually watching play the game. So, in a way, I should have a certain idea or “feeling” of whether or not they are Hall worthy, without even looking through their stats. Well, at least that is the gist of it.

Now, I’m not sure if any Hall of Fame voters, or just plain debaters, go solely on this gut feeling and I wouldn’t recommend going on solely that, but I feel there is some merit to going by “feel” here. However, with that being said, I feel like the “feel” argument or what have you, can hurt and help players. My feeling is that the “feel” argument is more often used to dismiss a player’s Hall of Fame case. I’m sure it may not work out that way. It could be 50-50, could be 70-30, but it just seems or feels like this is the argument used for players that writers deem unworthy. Although he overcame this, you have to admit that was the main qualm against Bert Blyleven making it. Bert Blyleven just didn’t feel like a Hall of Famer. For me I could see that as being valid, but by the time I was watching Blyleven he was at the end, not the prime of his career. Now that brings up another thing about this. Not only was Bert Blyleven at the end of his career as a pitcher, but I was really towards the beginning of my career as a baseball watcher, as it were, which will change perspective quite a bit. In that regard I thought it would be fun, just for a bit, to take that into consideration. What I mean is, wouldn’t it be neat (yes, I said “neat”) to look back at some players from my childhood and remember how I felt about them and their careers as I was watching them as small lad.

I mean there were some no-brainers, like Roger Clemens, Kirby Puckett, Ryne Sandberg (who also happens to be one of my favorite players of all-time) and Tony Gwynn. But then there were some,  for one reason or another, maybe they made an All-Star game appearance or two or maybe I just saw them a lot and they performed well when I did. For whatever reason these players, in my young, naive eyes, were stars to me. You ready for this list of a few guys who I felt were superstars, perhaps Hall of Fame quality, when I was just a wee little scamp? For perspective purposes, I am talking about me being between the ages of six and 12 and talking about players I now would not necessarily think (cause I have perspective and actual stats to look into) were Hall of Fame material.

Frank Viola- So really not that ridiculous I suppose, since in the years I watched him as a kid, he was pretty darned decent. From ’84-’90 he was 126- 95 with a 3.36 ERA. he threw over 250 innings in all of those seasons except for 1990 when he tossed 249.2. He won 18 plus games four times in that span and won 20 or more games twice. He finished top 6 in Cy Young voting four times, including winning the award in 1988, when he was 24-7 with a 2.64 ERA and 193 strikeouts. So maybe not so far-fetched. By Baseball-Reference standards, for whatever it is worth, Sweet Music is the 144th ranked pitcher all time. Not bad, but not quite Hall worthy and Viola, as you probably know, is not in the Hall of Fame. He received  a mere two votes on his one and only ballot, which was, coincidentally, the same amount of votes received by…

Mike Greenwell- As good as I thought Gator was as a kid, I am actually shocked, looking at his numbers and resume now, that he was actually second in the MVP voting in 1988. A career OPS of .831 is very good and he also hit over .300 five times after becoming a regular. In fact in only two of his 12 seasons did he hit less than .295 and in those seasons he was plagued by injury. He had a career .303 average, but he did not offer much more than that statistically, which is probably why he did not have much of a Hall of Fame case.

Glenn Davis- Now with good ol’ Glenn, I guess he was just likeable and I probably saw his Topps All-Star card in 1989 and thought he was, well, an All-Star. In my head I feel like he was a yearly All-Star, but he only went to two All-Star games. He was top 10 in MVP voting three times though and even 2nd in 1986. He hit 30 or more home runs in three seasons and had twenty or more dingers in his first six full seasons. Wow! So, being a kid, maybe I was not that far off. Glenn Davis had superstar qualities and stats in some areas.  But the fact is, he had a short peak and did not even play more than 106 games in any of his last four seasons. In fact, in three of those last four seasons he played in fewer than 93 games and played in only 49 games in 1991 and 30 game in 1993. From ’86-’89 thought he was a slugging superstar. Hitting 122 of his career 190 home runs in those four seasons, but outside of this, he was above average for a couple of seasons, and not so much outside of that, which really does not a Hall of Fame case make. So much, or little, so that Glenn Davis did not even appear on a Hall of Fame ballot.

Jack Clark Nicknamed Jack the Ripper, I remember him being big and menacing at the plate. Four times he finished top 10 in MVP voting, with a third place finish in 1987. He appeared in four All-Star games and could certainly slug. He hit 20 or more home runs in 11 of his 18 seasons and three times led the league in walks on his way to a career .379 on-base percentage. That, his 340 career home runs and being10th in home runs in the 80s, was not quite enough to garner him more than seven votes.

Those are just a few who, at the time, I felt were lifelong  superstars, and they did definitely have their time in the sun, but hard to say they deserved much more consideration than they got, for the Hall. Maybe other guys, like Teddy Higuera, Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon,Von Hayes or Jim Presley would have been better examples, and while I would absolutely love to drone on and on about my boyhood heroes and delve into their statistics, I will refrain (for now), as I think you get my point. Now sure, I was a kid and perception then is most assuredly different as opposed to when you are older but, although extreme, sort of shows you what I am driving at. The “feel” has it’s time and place and I won’t say it is something to completely dismiss, but I feel like it’s somewhat silly. But think about it. Look at the active players and tell me off the top of your head, who feels like a Hall of Famer. I’m guessing a large percentage of these players, barring injury or something, will end up in the Hall. Of course I am sure a fair share won’t. Conversely, I am sure that there will certainly be plenty of players that don’t feel like Hall of Famers who will also get in. Doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t deserve it though. For this reason I feel like the “feel” argument is more for that small Hall that we have already seemed to have lost a chance at, some time ago. And this will more than likely be my record for the use of the word “feel” in one post. At least I feel like it will be.

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The New Sheriff in Houston: Jeff Luhnow

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The New Sheriff in Houston: Jeff Luhnow

Posted on 16 August 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Jeff Luhnow

The Houston Astros have a new sheriff in town who wears a coat and tie and goes by the name  Jeff Luhnow.  If anybody previously questioned how much latitude Luhnow had to run the team his way, his letter to season ticket holders should answer all those questions.  Take a gander for yourselves (courtesy of the Astros my imagination):

Dear Houston Astros Season Ticket Holder,

I speak not only for myself, but for the players and all of my colleagues at the Astros, when I thank you for staying away from games in droves. Through this letter that few of you will read, we would like to share with you some of the sound bites that you will undoubtedly hear about our “plan”.  Believe it or not, the team has made progress during 2012.  It is our hope that you will be excited about, and you’ll mistakenly renew your season tickets with us.  As a cherished Season Ticket Holder, your loyalty to this organization could well be rewarded sometime a half decade from now.

We share your frustration with the results on the field so far this year. After a successful, albeit meaningless Spring Training, we played good baseball for the first two months of the year. On May 25, we beat the Dodgers in Los Angeles and we were one game under .500 and just four games out of first place. That turned out to be our high-water mark for the season, but it demonstrated that our players were capable of competing for a short period of time.  I’d like to say that we’ve underperformed expectations, but nobody really believes that besides us.  We simply lack the depth, talent, and personnel resources of a good AAA team.

We want the Houston Astros to be a winning franchise that can compete for division titles year in and year out in an alternate universe made of pudding.  We ultimately intend to bring multiple championships to the city of Houston and the hundreds of fans we have across the globe.  Our promise to you as a fan is that we’ll keep reminding you of this commitment  even as the team fails to reach the 72 win plateau year after year.

In order to compete consistently, the Astros must develop and maintain a world class scouting food service operation and farm system. Through the scouting, table service, and player development function, we will be able to produce and keep winning players. Teams that excel in these areas tend to win championships in baseball when they can afford to keep good players.

The Astros invested heavily in the future throughout 2012 and will continue to do so in 2013 and beyond. There were three primary investment areas:

1. The Draft. The Astros were in the top 10 percent of teams in resources allocated to signing players in 2012. We drafted and signed three of the top high school amateur players available in Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz. In addition to these young budding stars, the Astros also signed a number of college players who have the potential to reach the Major Leagues in a few short years, headlined by Nolan Fontana and Brady Rodgers. The infusion of high quality amateur talent into the farm system is one of the primary reasons for the winning records at the short season clubs.

2. International. The Houston Astros were among the most active clubs at the beginning of the international signing season on July 2 and have continued to sign players from Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia and other parts of the world. While these players are all 10 or 11 years old and therefore several years away from having an impact at the Major League level, this pipeline of talent is critical to sustaining success of the scouting and development system.

3. Trades. Several trades were made to add as many young “prospects” as possible, because we intend to point to our talent pipeline every single time someone mentions our failures on the actual baseball field.  These investments will bear fruit later this decade or even beyond this decade.  <insert cliche about building a team from scratch>.

While much of the work we are doing is proprietary and confidential, we can share with you that we are building capabilities across several areas of baseball operations that will enable us to make the best possible decisions in player evaluation, acquisition, development and retention. We believe that our nachos offerings are among the best in baseball, and the BBQ at Minute Maid is likely second to none.  Also, our recycling efforts have proven to be a great secondary revenue stream as fans tend to drink more and more in the parking lots before games.

The final piece we want to share with you is about our winning mindset. I’d now like to use the words “institutionalize” and “organic” here so that you may take these words completely out of context.  I’d also like to point out that this team was once just 4 games away from winning a World Series.  Granted, that may have been before some of your were intelligent enough to realize that it was pure lucky, but it is something.  We appreciate your support, and we hope to see you at Minute Maid Little League Park and Putt-Putt Course next year as we take on real major league baseball teams with players you might want to watch.  The future is bright.

Jeff Luhnow
General Manager
Houston Astros

Of course, Jeff left a few things unsaid, but anybody with access to the interwebz can fill in the blanks.  The opening day payroll for the Astros in 2011 was $76,969,000.  Luhnow took over the job as General Manager in December of that same year.  The Astros started 2012 with an opening day payroll of $60,799,000.  After making more than a few deals, the Astros have a current payroll of about $38M for the 2012 season with another $5.5M due in 2013 for previously incurred payroll obligations.  The bulk of that $5.5 comes in the form of $5M owed from the Wandy Rodriguez deal.

Without exact arbitration and pre-arbitration figures for 20+ players, a best guess for the 2013 opening day payroll totals about $40M, give or take a few signings at the veteran’s minimum.  Luhnow has successfully reshaped the roster, reduced payroll substantially, and left the team with zero payroll commitments for the 2014 season.  If he can do all this in less than a year, just imagine what he can potentially accomplish over the next 3-4 years with the aid of the draft and likely more payroll flexibility than any other GM in baseball.

By the time Luhnow completes the makeover, the Astros should be a really young athletic team with plenty of speed.  In other words, the team projects to be built exactly the way you would expect a team that plays half of its games in Minute Maid Park to be structured.  It might require a few years for other teams to grow accustomed to dealing with the Astros, but the Astros certainly appear to be on the right track to deal with other teams.

Here’s to the AL West champion Astros…..in 2016…..in the alternate pudding universe.

DISCLAIMER:  I’m a huge fan of Jeff Luhnow and his approach to building a team.  In all seriousness, it takes a lot of guts to write an actual letter to the fans that basically tells them the team they root, root, root for will be terrible for several years.  It’s the truth, but most teams would never admit that.  Kudos, Jeff.

Also, you may want to read the actual letter by clicking here.  Or not.

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Keeping The Experts Honest

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Keeping The Experts Honest

Posted on 05 April 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Predictions Are Dumb

Baseball’s spring training never lacks for unsolicited and solicited prognostications from nearly every baseball “expert” on the planet.  Some writers spend hours and hours carefully constructing logical arguments to support every possible angle they might cover in a debate.  The rest probably spend about 15 minutes slapping some names together based on ideas they have exchanged with colleagues, friends, family, and their neighbor’s best friend’s urologist.  I’m completely unconcerned with the method utilized to conceive of a person’s playoff predictions, but I find myself extremely interested in keeping track of who actually turns out to be right.  There has yet to be an organized method of aggregating experts’ playoff picks that helps facilitate a November review to pass judgment upon the experts themselves.

Until now.

This post will start with a minimal number of experts listed along with the picks the experts have gone on record as making.  If you, the reader, will kindly apprise me of additional “experts” along with a link to their picks, then the post will be updated to reflect new additions as they are submitted.

“Expert” Predictions:

MLB Trade Rumors – Tim Dierkes => AL East – Yankees, AL Central – Tigers, AL West – Angels, AL WC1 – Rays, AL WC2 – Rangers, ALCS – Tigers over Rays, NL East – Phillies, NL Central – Brewers, NL West – Giants, NL WC1 – Diamondbacks, NL WC2 – Marlins, NLCS – Phillies over Brewers, WS – Phillies over Tigers, AL MVP – Albert Pujols, NL MVP – Justin Upton, AL ROY – Yu Darvish, NL ROY – Trevor Bauer, AL CY – David Price, NL CY – Zach Greinke

MLB Trade Rumors – Mike Axisa => AL East – Yankees, AL Central – Tigers, AL West – Rangers, AL WC1 – Angels, AL WC2 – Rays, ALCS – Yankees over Rangers, NL East – Phillies, NL Central – Brewers, NL West – Diamondbacks, NL WC1 – Cardinals, NL WC2 – Dodgers, NLCS – Brewers over Cardinals, WS – Yankees over Brewers, AL MVP – Miguel Cabrera, NL MVP – Justin Upton, AL ROY – Jesus Montero, NL ROY – Devin Mesoraco, AL CY – David Price, NL CY – Stephen Strasburg

MLB Trade Rumors – Mark Polishuk => AL East – Yankees, AL Central – Tigers, AL West – Angels, AL WC1 – Rays, AL WC2 – Rangers, ALCS – Yankees over Angels, NL East – Phillies, NL Central – Brewers, NL West – Rockies, NL WC1 – Reds, NL WC2 – Cardinals, NLCS – Reds over Rockies, WS – Yankees over Reds, AL MVP – Jose Bautista, NL MVP – Troy Tulowitzki, AL ROY – Yu Darvish, NL ROY – Zach Cozart, AL CY – Felix Hernandez, NL CY – Clayton Kershaw

MLB Trade Rumors – Ben Nicholson-Smith => AL East – Yankees, AL Central – Tigers, AL West – Rangers, AL WC1 – Angels, AL WC2 – Rays, ALCS – Yankees over Rangers, NL East – Phillies, NL Central – Cardinals, NL West – Diamondbacks, NL WC1 – Marlins, NL WC2 – Reds, NLCS – Phillies over Marlins, WS – Yankees over Phillies, AL MVP – Evan Longoria, NL MVP – Justin Upton, AL ROY – Yu Darvish, NL ROY – Devin Mesoraco, AL CY – Felix Hernandez, NL CY – Roy Halladay

MLB Trade Rumors – Steve Adams => AL East – Rays, AL Central – Tigers, AL West – Angels, AL WC1 – Yankees, AL WC2 – Rangers, ALCS – Angels over Rays, NL East – Phillies, NL Central – Reds, NL West – Diamondbacks, NL WC1 – Nationals, NL WC2 – Marlins, NLCS – Phillies over Reds, WS – Angels over Phillies, AL MVP – Albert Pujols, NL MVP – Joey Votto, AL ROY – Matt Moore, NL ROY – Yonder Alonso, AL CY – Felix Hernandez, NL CY – Cliff Lee

Click here for the official MLBTR picks.

Not enough “expertise” there?  Then head over to ESPN where they are one idiot short of half-a-hundred.  Yes, ESPN had 49 different people provide picks.  I’m fine with some of the actual baseball people making picks, but do we really need to hear from the key dolly grip, the 2nd assistant sound guy, and the intern who brings sandwiches to John Kruk every 15 minutes?

Apparently so.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though.  Wear a helmet, and then click here.

Glutton for punishment?  Check out what the folks at YahooSports have to say.

Aside from the fact that predictions are monumental wastes of time, very few people really care enough to go back and check the predictions several months later.  The issue is not simply that people forget but that so many writers create plausible excuses for why they were wrong.  The farcical, almost-comedic attempts to cover their tracks deserve some kind of award.  Forget that.  All of it.

Almost all of the “experts” pick from a small pool of no more than 8 teams in each league to make the playoffs.  Anybody who does go off and make a crazy pick like say….the Astros gets absolutely mocked shamelessly.  Predictions are just meant to be fun.  Do not take them too seriously……unless I happen to be right.  If that happens, then feel free to congratulate me all you like.

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DOs And DONTs: Oakland Athletics

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DOs And DONTs: Oakland Athletics

Posted on 29 February 2012 by Gary Marchese

This is a look at the Oakland Athletics 40 man roster.  It is a fantasy baseball look though.  If I were drafting a team and looking at the Athletics specifically this is what I would and wouldn’t do.  If there are any comments, thoughts, questions please feel free to respond on the site.  I also have a twitter account which I can be reached on @marches, feel free to connect with me there.  I hope you enjoy this article as well as the others I have done and my colleagues have done.  We have worked really hard to have all 30 MLB teams covered by time your drafts happen in the next month.

Do take a look at Bartolo Colon for depth in your pitching rotation.  He isn’t a top of the line guy anymore and you may not even think he is worth it.  He resurrected his career in New York last year though and in a pitchers park should do even better this year.  He was 8-10 last year with a 4.00 ERA, he made 26 starts the most he had made in four years.  I would definitely take a good look at him.

Don’t take a flyer on Manny Ramirez.  First of all he is coming off of retirement.  He is also a bad egg who is bound to get into trouble.  He also has to serve a 50 game suspension at the beginning of the season.  Ramirez won’t be around until the 51st game of the season.  That is too much time to waste in a fantasy league.  I would stay far away from him for these reasons.

Do take an interest in Yoenis Cespedes.  I don’t know if he will ever be a good major league player.  That is hard to predict but what an athlete.  He is playing in a place where there really isn’t any pressure.  Oakland may have more eyes on them now because of the Moneyball movie but I doubt it.  They are overshadowed in their own division, never mind league and even state.  I would take a chance on a guy like this and see what happens.

Don’t think Daric Barton is a first baseman to even consider.  He has never showed the power the Athletics thought he would.  Barton was even sent to the minors last year after a sluggish start.  Last season he hit 212 with no homeruns and 21 RBI.  He played in 67 games.

Do like that Coco Crisp can bring some speed to your team.  In the last two years he has stolen a total of 81 bases.  He is a good center fielder and a veteran.  He may not be great but he is a solid career 275 hitter.  He won’t offer much pop but he could get you 6-8 homeruns and around 50 RBI.

Don’t think Jonny Gomes can be an everyday outfielder.  He has never played more then 148 games.  He is a career 242 hitter.  He will provide some power but it won’t be more then 20 homeruns especially playing in Oakland.  He isn’t going to steal many bases and he isn’t going to be on base at a great rate.  He has a career 329 on base percentage.

Cliff Pennington won’t be at the top of the shortstop list.  He also won’t be your worst option of a to DO list.  Pennington in the last two years has gotten his chance.  He has hit 250 and 264, he has hit six and eight homeruns and driven in 46 and 58.  He stole 29 bases two years ago and 14 last year so he has the ability to add some speed to your team.

Brandon Allen has shown nothing in the majors to even look at.  His career average is 210.  He has hit a total of 11 homeruns in three  years.  He has 38 RBI in three years, for anyone this is bad but especially a first baseman.  He won’t steal you any bases either or get on base at a high rate.  There is nothing to like about him and he is a big DON’T.

Do take a shot with Josh Reddick at least as a reserve outfielder.  He played the most games last year for the Red Sox and showed them something.  He showed enough to get them Andrew Bailey in a trade.  Bailey is a proven closer and the Red Sox needed that badly after losing Jonathan Papelbon.  Reddick last year batted 280 with seven homeruns and 28 RBI.  He had a 327 on base percentage.

If there is anyone on this list you think that I missed please let me know through a post on the site or contact me through twitter.  I look forward to all responses.  This wasn’t an easy article to write.  The Athletics really don’t have many names at all on their roster.  Most teams have some clear cut Dos, they have a lot of don’ts on their team and that made it more difficult.  The Athletics will most be remembered for money ball but not for the team on the field.  They may have some headlines with Manny Ramirez around and by signing Cespedes but other then that there isn’t much to talk about.

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