Clay Kirby and The Padres’ Lack of a No-Hitter

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Sorry for the 2-week+ hiatus there, I’ve been busy working and Helping Vince and such.  With Matt Garza throwing the fifth no-hitter of 2010 this week and the first in Rays history, there’s been some talk about the two remaining franchises without no-hitters- the New York Mets and the San Diego Padres. Each has their own curse or “legitimate reason” if you will that explains why they have not thrown a no-hitter while many other teams have thrown several.

The Mets seem to always come up in discussions of mishaps and missed opportunities.  They are talked about more than the Padres in this no-hitter discussion not only because they are seven years older (1962), but because they have had much better pitchers over the years.  Of David Cone, Tom Seaver, Johan Santana and others, none have been able to make it the whole nine innings.  The Mets, of course, notoriously traded Nolan Ryan in 1971, who would go on to throw seven no-hitters throughout the course of his Hall of Fame career.  In the article linked above, Noble mentions that David Cone came close in 1991.  The link to that game is here.  9 innings, 11 K’s, 131 pitches, but a double to Felix Jose ruins it in the 8th inning.  Three starts later, in his final start that year, Cone again pitched a complete game, this time allowing 3 hits and striking out 19 batters.  For those who read my Game Score post, this one registered a 99 – wow.  
The Padres story is much more heart-wrenching, and therefore intriguing.  On July 21, 1970 (the article says July 20, but I’m certain it’s incorrect), Clay Kirby of the Padres took a textbook hard-luck loss.  In the first inning of the game against the Mets, a run squeaked across on a ground ball out after two walks and three steals.  Fast forward to the bottom of the 8th inning, and the Padres are still losing 1-0, Kirby has yet to allow a hit, and he is due up to hit with 2 outs.  Manager Preston Gomez decided to pinch-hit with Cito Gaston, the current manager for the Toronto Blue Jays, who promptly struck out to end the inning.  The Padres lost the game 3-0 and still have that goose egg in the no-hitter column.  
The game was a fluke for Kirby, who finished his career with a 3.84 ERA.  His best year came in 1971 when he finished at 15-13 with a 2.83 ERA and 13 complete games.  Kirby makes it on to a few of the Padres’ all-time leaderboards, although mostly not ones you want to be on.  He is 2nd in Padres history in walks with 505 and the leader in wild pitches with 48.  It wasn’t all bad for Kirby though- he does place 7th all-time for the Padres in hits/9, K/9, and innings pitched, while placing 6th in shutouts and 3rd in complete games with 34.  
As a side note, I love baseball cards (surprising, isn’t it?).  I’m going to start including pictures of baseball cards with each post.  This one is the Clay Kirby from the 1972 Topps set.  I think the layout of the card is great, although it would be better if the player’s position was included somewhere.  Oh, and if the colors were even remotely relevant to the team.  Interestingly enough, almost as if I planned it this way, the back of the card makes mention of Kirby’s near no-hitter from 1970, and mentions another game from September 18, 1971 in which he threw a 1-hitter and won 2-1 against the Giants.  The back of the card is below.
But anyway, if anyone out there wants to talk about/trade/buy/give me baseball cards, that would make my day.
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The Mariners’ Net Gains from Cliff Lee

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(Photo Cred: nydailynews.com)

The breaking news of the day is of course the first big trade of the season.  The Seattle Mariners send Cliff Lee, Mark Lowe, and a chunk of cash to the Texas Rangers for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Matthew Lawson, and Josh Lueke.  The Rangers camp has to love this trade since Smoak has been disappointing so far, and they have the playoffs in their sights for the first time in over a decade.  And the gravy is that Lee will most likely become a Type A free agent at the end of this season, meaning that if he is offered arbitration and he declines, the Rangers will obtain two top draft picks from whoever eventually signs him.  

The Mariners, who have probably been the most disappointing team thus far this season, abandon ship on 2010 and stock up on prospects.  Instead of looking at the value of this group and weighing it against Lee and Lowe to see if this was a fair deal, I’d like to weigh them against the group of guys Seattle traded to acquire Lee just a few months ago.  I think this is more interesting because each team’s needs already dictate that this was a win-win trade, the Mariners don’t need Lee right now and the Rangers need a playoff push.  The question I’d like to address is did the Mariners get more for Lee tonight than they gave up for him back in December?
The first trade was of course a blockbuster involving four teams.  But here’s how it breaks down from the Mariners’ view with the two trades combined:
SEA receives:
Cliff Lee for 13 starts
SEA gives up:
~$2.5MM
So they trade 4 guys for 4 guys plus a couple intangibles that for the purposes of this analysis are probably a wash.  Depending on how you want to value Lee’s production so far this season (which has been stellar), it was probably worth more than $2.5MM.  But not enough to worry about.  As far as the prospects go, they have never been my area of expertise, but I’ll do my best to collect data from people who know more than me…
Starting with the package that Seattle received, Smoak stands out as the only one with Major League service.  He was rated #23 by Baseball America entering 2009 and #13 entering 2010.  Those are some pretty big shoes, and he has not quite filled them just yet.  Of course he has only been in the majors for less than half a season, so I’m not saying than anyone has or should be giving up on him.  Scouts seem to believe that he has star potential, and the Mariners must agree.
Next up is the Rangers’ 2007 1st round draft pick, Blake Beavan.  He has been pretty impressive since then, especially this season.  Through 17 starts in AA he has pitched to a 2.78 ERA and an impressive 5.67 K/BB.  That kind of command for a young player is hard to find, and Baseball America rates him as a 4th or 5th starter now, even with no improvement.  
Matthew Lawson is not as popular with the scouts, but he is hitting .277 with 7 HR for AA this year.  The same goes for Josh Lueke, who was promoted to AA earlier this year after posting a dazzling 0.46 ERA and 7.20 K/BB for single-A.  It seems the Rangers are trying to sell high here, and you bet they are expecting to get two guys just like these or better with those compensatory picks for Lee this winter.  
And now for what Seattle surrendered in this pair of deals.  Mark Lowe is a former 5th round pick who has been around the majors for a few years now.  He will miss the rest of this season with a back injury and was not incredibly effective before that.  He has kept his ERA down between 3.0-3.5 but has been plagued by control problems.  
Juan or J.C. Ramirez has struggled a little in the minors so far.  He has yet to finish a season with an ERA under 4, but teams are enticed by his high strikeout totals.  21-year olds who average 7.7 K/9 innings are not to be discarded.  With some patience and some good coaching this kid definitely has some potential.  
Phillippe Aumont has been ranked in Baseball America’s top 100 prospects each year since 2008.  But he too has struggled, accumulating a 4.58 ERA through 177 innings across A and AA.  He is similar to Ramirez in that he wows teams with his strikeouts, sporting an 8.7 K/9 in his minor league career.  He has struggled with walks mightily though, walking 4.8 per 9 innings.
Last but not least, Tyson Gillies is a speedy outfielder.  He is currently hitting just .238 for AA, but last year he turned in a fantastic season in high-A ball, finishing with a .341/.430/.486 line and 44 stolen bases.  He also had 18 outfield assists and just 2 errors.  He was a 25th-round pick back in 2006 and seems to be playing above that level, but he still has a long way to go before he cracks the big leagues.
So what does all this mean?  It sounds to me like the Mariners are coming away with a bit more than what they lost.  I think the two best players of that group of eight may be Smoak and Beavan, and the worst has got to be Mark Lowe.  When you add in the fact that they got to gamble with Lee for half a season, the Mariners are coming out of this looking pretty sharp.  Well done, Jack Zduriencik and the rest of the front office.

Vote for Youkilis!

MLB is continuing the tradition of allowing the fans to choose between five players to take the All-Star team’s final roster spot.  The candidates for the American League this year are: Paul Konerko, Nick Swisher, Kevin Youkilis, Delmon Young, and Mike Young.  In my last post, I introduced WAR, a new age statistic that takes all factors of a player’s game into account and spits out one number- the number of wins that player has been worth to his team over a replacement level player.  Now that all of my fantastic readers here at The 26th Man are armed with the most powerful weapon of all, knowledge, we can help make sure the best player wins this spot.  Let’s take a look at some more traditional stats, and then WAR for each of the candidates.
As a reminder: the three averages separated by slashes is referred to as a player’s “slash line” and is their batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage.
Paul Konerko:   .296/.384/.563, 80 Hits, 20 HR, 57 RBI, 0 Steals, 2.6 WAR
Nick Swisher:   .293/.373/.505, 84 Hits, 13 HR, 47 RBI, 1 Steal, 2.3 WAR
Kevin Youkilis:  .299/.416/.584, 82 Hits, 17 HR, 54 RBI, 2 Steals, 3.3 WAR
Delmon Young: .298/.332/.488, 77 Hits, 9 HR, 55 RBI, 3 Steals, 0.5 WAR
Mike Young:      .307/.352/..487, 104 Hits, 11 HR, 51 RBI, 3 Steals, 2.1 WAR
Delmon Young is the clear loser here when WAR is introduced.  This is because his defense and his baserunning are both below average.  He also receives a slight subtraction for playing left field, one of the easier positions to play.  A shortstop or third baseman is valued higher because those are difficult positions to play.  
Mike Young, Swisher, and Konerko have similar WARs, coming in at 2.1, 2.3, and 2.6, respectively.  Mike Young gets the votes from the fans who love a consistent contact hitter, Konerko gets the votes from fans who love power and home runs, and Swisher gets votes from ignorant Yankee fans.  That may be a little unfair, but Swisher is currently winning the vote, so I’m just venting a little bit.  Swisher is as deserving as these other two, but not as much so as Youkilis.
Youkilis is in a league of his own here in terms of WAR.  He is actually not getting a huge boost from his defense here as some might expect, although he is above average.  The key to Youkilis’ high WAR is in those first three numbers, his slash line.  Only Young has a higher average here, no one can sniff his On-base percentage, and after Konerko, who really isn’t that close, no one even approaches his slugging percentage either.  Youkilis is hands-down the best player of this group, and I’m counting on all you fans out there to reflect this in your Final Votes!
You can vote at MLB.com through Thursday, July 8th at 4 PM ET.  They will also ask you to vote for the National League, so without going into too much detail, here are the numbers for the National League candidates:
Heath Bell:             4-0, 1.72 ERA, 49 K, 23 Saves, 1.2 WAR
Carlos Gonzalez:   .295/.329/.493, 88 Hits, 14 HR, 52 RBI, 12 Steals, 1.4 WAR
Joey Votto:           .312/.412/.572, 89 Hits, 19 HR, 57 RBI, 7 Steals, 3.2 WAR
Billy Wagner:         5-0, 1.35 ERA, 52 K, 17 Saves, 1.4 WAR
Ryan Zimmerman: .286/.376/.504, 76 Hits, 14 HR, 44 RBI, 1 Steal, 2.2 WAR
You shouldn’t even need WAR for this one, but in case you do- Votto is the winner.  Vote for Votto!  Catchy.
Just for kicks, let’s see if WAR thinks Youkilis deserved the starting spot.  Youkilis finished 4th in the vote for the AL First baseman, behind winner Justin Morneau, Mark Teixeira, and Miguel Cabrera.  
Kevin Youkilis:  .299/.416/.584, 82 Hits, 17 HR, 54 RBI, 2 Steals, 3.3 WAR
Justin Morneau: .344/.437/.615, 99 Hits, 17 HR, 55 RBI, 0 Steals, 5.1 WAR
Mark Teixeira: .243/.353/.428, 76 Hits, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 0 Steals, 1.4 WAR
Miguel Cabrera: .339/.419/.630, 98 Hits, 20 HR, 69 RBI, 2 Steals, 3.3 WAR
Wow.  Pretty interesting that Youkilis and Cabrera end up with the same WAR when Cabrera clearly has the superior offensive peripherals.  And all I can do is tip my cap to Morneau, for deservedly winning the vote and for keeping Teixieira out of this contest.  Morneau has been worth over 10 Delmon Young’s.  Don’t forget to vote at MLB.com before July 8th at 4 PM!

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The All Currently-On-The-DL Boston Red Sox & an Introduction to WAR

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(Photo Cred: boston.com)

As the Red Sox take the field against the Orioles tonight, they do so with their 69th unique lineup in their 80th game of the season.  Without further ado, I bring you the July 2nd, 2010 edition of the All Currently-On-The-DL Boston Red Sox.  As a side note, I will explain what WAR means after the roster.  Also, I will dip into the minor leagues when necessary to fill the gaps (there aren’t many).

Catcher
Jason Varitek; 23.4 Career WAR, 0.8 2010 WAR, DL since 7/2/10
We start off with the captain and the newest member of the All-DL team, Jason Varitek.  With a broken left foot, he is expected to miss up to 6 weeks.  He has exceeded the expectations of most this year and has performed more than admirably in the role he has been assigned.  
First Base
Mike Lowell; 29.3 Career WAR, 0.1 2010 WAR, DL since 6/23/10
Lowell has been the odd man out on the team from the get go, and even with all these injuries there really is no place for him.  Lowell’s injury is listed as a strained right hip, but you better believe that if the Sox needed him he would be playing through it.  The sad truth is, we need the roster spot more.  You may think it is a bit of a stretch to put him at first base, but he has actually played 6/10 games there this year (not including when he was the DH).
Second Base
Dustin Pedroia; 17.6 Career WAR, 3.6 2010 WAR, DL since 6/26/10
Pedroia has been the best player on this team this season by most metrics.  For this reason his injury is probably the most widely known.  He was recently joined by Jason Varitek on the All-Broken-Left-Foot team, but we’ll list those guys another time.  This list is starting to look like an All-Decade team…
Third Base
Jed Lowrie; 1.5 Career WAR, has not played in 2010, DL since 3/26/10
Remember him?  Lowrie is one of the longer-tenured members of this team, and has been forgotten by most fans.  He is out with mononucleosis right now, but has been ailed by several aches and pains over his short career.  The once highly regarded prospect sure is missed by the Sox right about now.
Shortstop
Jose Iglesias; hasn’t played in ML- WAR unavailable for minor leagues, DL since 5/29/10
I had to reach a little for this one, down to AA, but Iglesias is one of the team’s top prospects.  He has a broken right index finger.  Although he would almost certainly not have been called up to the Sox to help out at this point anyway, the injury is not helping his development into our first consistent shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra.  Not that we have high expectations for him, no pressure Jose.
Left Field
Jeremy Hermida; 3.5 Career WAR, 0.0 2010 WAR, DL since 6/10/10
Hermida makes the list by virtue of his broken ribs.  He, like Varitek, played better than a lot of people were expecting and was a great role player.  Speaking of outfielders with broken ribs…
Center Field
Jacoby Ellsbury; 6.5 Career WAR, -0.2 2010 WAR, DL since 5/25/10
The date here is a little deceiving as that is just the start of Ellsbury’s latest stint on the DL.  In reality, he has collected just 45 plate appearances this season.  It’s pretty amazing when you take one of the best players and the spark plug out of this team and they are still one of the best teams in baseball.
Right Field
Zach Daeges; hasn’t played in ML, DL since 2009
Another bit of a reach, Daeges is probably one of the lesser known Sox prospects.  This is because he has not played yet this season and missed most of 2009 as well with a severe ankle injury.  When he has played though, he has shown some signs of promise, so here’s hoping he can overcome the injury bug and return as soon as possible.
Designated Hitter
Victor Martinez; 23.4 Career WAR, 1.2 2010 WAR, DL since 6/28/10
Martinez gets the nod at DH, since sadly he is not the best defensive catcher on this list.  He was just heating up before he broke his left thumb.  Hopefully he will back sooner rather than later to spare us Sox fans from the offensive efforts of a Kevin Cash/ Gustavo Molina platoon.
Starting Pitcher
Josh Beckett; 22.8 Career WAR, -0.9 2010 WAR, DL since 5/19/10
Beckett is out with a lower back strain.  He obviously was expected to be at least an above average pitcher this season, and it just hasn’t happened.  Remarkably, the rotation has been a strong point for the Red Sox, even with their ace on the mend.  
Closer
Manny Delcarmen; 3.5 Career WAR, 0.2 2010 WAR, D
L since 7/1/10
Delcarmen is a new member of the team as well, having just gone down with a strained right forearm.  Bullpen depth is always crucial, but Manny hasn’t provided an irreplaceable service thus far.  A triple-A replacement will do just fine.
This list will mean a lot more if you understand what WAR means, so I’ll try to explain it here for those who are unfamiliar with it.  It is one of my favorite statistics and I plan on using it frequently on this blog in the future.  WAR, which stands for Wins Above Replacement and was created by Sean Smith of baseballprojection.com, is defined on Baseball-Reference as “A single number that presents the number of wins the player added to the team above what a replacement player would add.”  Pretty powerful concept, right?  All these other stats we have mean nothing if your team doesn’t win games, so why not put a player’s performance in those terms?  A replacement player is defined as someone on the cusp of the Major Leagues, a “AAAA” player if you will (between AAA and the majors).  Essentially, the replacement level player will have a WAR of 0.0 and neither hurt nor help the team.  It is important to note that these are not the worst players, many players have accumulated negative WAR totals with poor play.
I love this stat for a few reasons.  Not only does it put everything in terms of wins, which just makes sense to me, but it also incorporates EVERY part of the game.  Offense, defense, baserunning, pitching, even an adjustment for high leverage situations.  I’m not going to post all the actual calculations because there are a couple different methods, I don’t fully understand them, and I don’t think you need to in order to appreciate and understand the stat.  The other reason I love WAR is because it is used for both hitters and pitchers.  There really has never been a way to compare Ted Williams to Roger Clemens before, but we now can see that by this method at least, Roger Clemens contributed just a hair more (128.4 to 125.3 Career WAR).  All of the WAR numbers in this post and for all players can be found on www.baseball-reference.com.  
Finally, to put the single season numbers into perspective a little (keep in mind that the 2010 numbers are for a partial season, through 7/1/10), Baseball-Reference provides this handy dandy scale.  A 0-2 WAR season is typical of a reserve/bench player, 2+ is a starter, 5+ is an all-star, and 8+ is an MVP.  There’s a lot I could say about WAR, but I’ll leave it at this for now and talk about it more in future posts as it becomes relevant.

Make This Trade For David DeJesus

Dear Theo Epstein,

As I’m sure you know, the Red Sox outfield is in a sorry state of affairs right now.  With Jacoby Ellsbury, Jeremy Hermida, and J.D. Drew all out with injuries and Mike Cameron hobbled to the point where he cannot play in back to back games, we have been forced to throw out replacements such as Darnell McDonald, Daniel Nava, Josh Reddick, and Bill Hall.  They have performed admirably for the most part, but we all know that this is not a long-term solution.  With Dustin Pedroia breaking his foot, Bill Hall won’t even be available to help out in the outfield every day as he will be playing second base.  Amazingly, your team has chosen this injury-riddled stretch to begin winning games- and they find themselves just two games behind the Yankees for the AL East and the best record in baseball.  This trade will help them make that playoff push.  Here’s how it will break down: 
BOS receives: 
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(Photo Cred: operationsports.com)
KC receives:
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(Photo Cred: zimbio.com)
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(Photo Cred: mlb.com)
The case for Boston:
DeJesus is making $4.7M this year and has a club option for next year at $6M ($0.5M buyout).  At 30 years old, he is well on his way to his best season, currently hitting .326 with an OPS of .872.  He is yet to make an error in the outfield and has recorded 4 assists.  DeJesus could provide the spark that pushes this team to the top of the standings.  You gain outfield depth and some great hitting and you lose a couple of prospects, one of whom (Anderson) has been disappointing thus far.  Gibson is good, but you get to keep your real gem- Jose Iglesias.  
Mike Cameron and J.D. Drew are both signed through 2011 and Ellsbury is arbitration eligible through 2013.  Cameron and Drew are both pretty high risk in terms of injury and Ellsbury has hardly played at all this year, so having a guy like DeJesus around next year would be great security.  If there is one thing I’ve learned about baseball over the years it is that you can never have too much talent.  Everything always works itself out and everyone gets enough playing time.  Except Mike Lowell.
The case for Kansas City:
You are 10.5 games behind the worst division leader in baseball, the Minnesota Twins.  So I hope I’m not the first one to break it to you, because that would just be awkward, but you’re not going to make the playoffs this year.  Initiate selling mode.  You lose an outfielder for the remainder of the year (and maybe next) and you get two prospects.  Lars Ander
son
is one who is close to Major League ready.  Entering 2009 he was rated as the 17th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America before turning in a stinker of a year for AA Portland.  He has shown some signs of improvement this year, but if he ever returns to his .934 OPS of 2008, then this is a steal for you, Kansas City.
Because of the uncertainty there, you also get prospect Derrik Gibson.  He is a few years removed from being big league ready, but he has great raw talent.  Scouts admire his speed and his fielding ability, and I admire his numbers with A-level Lowell last season: .290 average with 28 steals in 67 games.  I know, I know, you love Jose Iglesias, but so do we.  Consider Gibson a consolation prize, and a pretty good one at that.  
We already know we will be buyers at the trade deadline- so why not make this deal now and secure an extra month of DeJesus’s services?  It’s not like the Royals are waiting to see if they can contend this year.  Don’t be shy.  Make this trade.
Sincerely, 
The 26th Man

That’s What He Said- Larry Beinfest

I’m back from England, where I had a great time watching Aerosmith headline the Download Festival and walking around London for a few days.  A lot has happened since I’ve been gone in the sports world, but hey I guess you could say that about any week.  

First of all, although this is a baseball blog, I have to give a shoutout to the Boston Celtics, who came this close to taking home championship number 18.  I won’t pretend to be a diehard fan but I watch them casually throughout the season and try not to miss the playoff games, so thanks guys for another great year.  Next year starts tonight with the NBA draft, so good luck to the Celtics front office with that one.
On to the point of this post, Marlins skipper Fredi Gonzalez was fired yesterday amid some confusion from the fans.  
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(Photo Cred: si.com)

I guess this was because usually mid-season managerial firings are from teams that are really struggling, and the Marlins don’t really fall into that category.  They were 34-36 under Gonzalez, who accumulated a 276-279 record in his time there.  Nothing to write home about, but not usually grounds for a firing, especially with a lower profile team like the Marlins that doesn’t expect to bring home division titles every year.  He was generally regarded as a good manager too, finishing 7th in NL Manager of the Year voting in 2009 and 3rd in 2008.  So why the axe?  I figured I’d turn this into a “That’s What He Said” and let Marlins president Larry Beinfest explain:
“This team seems to be stuck in neutral, and our competitors are on the accelerator.  We were looking for a change to hopefully get us on the accelerator.  That’s a big part of what we did today.”


I guess having a record hovering around .500 is the definition of being stuck in neutral.  As for their competitors, the Marlins currently sit in 4th place in the NL East, 6 games behind the division-leading Mets.  The NL East is one of the more competitive divisions right now, with even the last place Nationals looking more powerful every day with Stephen Strasburg throwing heat.  
But before we go praising the Marlins front office too much for shaking things up, let’s realize something.  The Florida Marlins have the lowest payroll in baseball, and if I’m not mistaken it’s by a fairly large margin.  Shouldn’t they be expected, then, to underperform most if not all other teams?  It seems rather hypocritical of Beinfest to be asking for his team to step on the accelerator.  It’s a two way street buddy- open up the wallet and your team will win more games.  And by the way, despite having a small fan base, the Marlins’ hesitancy to spend money allows them to be the most profitable franchise in baseball.  The Marlins have even been investigated by MLB more than once for spending taking too much profit and not reinvesting enough in the team.  
So instead of, you know, signing a good player or something, the Marlins opt to fire the manager.  It’s difficult to measure how well Gonzalez was doing, or how well any manager does outside of team wins and losses.  I took a look at managers and their success in an earlier post.  If for no other reason than to give me something to write about, let’s define a manager’s success by how much better a team’s win-loss record is compared to their statistics.  For example, if a team has the worst offensive numbers but has a .500 record, then the manager must be doing something right.  The Marlins currently rank 3rd in the NL with 4.80 runs scored per game, 5th with a .261 team batting average, and are above average in most other offensive categories including OBP, SLG, and home runs.  Most relevant pitching statistics are also above or at league average, including a 4.02 team ERA, 7.2 K/9 innings, 3.5 BB/9 innings, and a 1.37 WHIP.  They do, however, sport the league’s worst fielding percentage, at .977.  
Given this performance by his team, assuming an “average” manager would neither add nor subtract to his team’s success, an “average” manager should at least be fielding a league average team, probably slightly above average.  This would translate to a winning percentage of somewhere around .520.  When Gonzalez left they were slightly below average, with a .486 winning percentage.  So by these criteria, Gonzalez was in fact a below average manager, by about .035 percentage points.  Maybe this call did make sense, Larry Beinfest, but there’s still no denying that the real change that would get this team on the accelerator starts with you.  There’s nothing worse than management that cares more about turning a profit than they do about winning games.

Stephen Strasburg & Game Score

pirates nationals baseball-54466386.rp420x400.jpg(Photo cred: AP)

Did everyone see Stephen Strasburg‘s debut on Tuesday?  If you didn’t you missed a truly historic performance.  Strasburg managed to exceed the seemingly un-exceedable hype while tallying 7 innings, 4 hits, 14 breathtaking K’s, and his first big league win.  His fastball had more movement than any I’ve ever seen and his curveball had me shouting at my tv in amazement.  His only mistake was a changeup that Delwyn Young took out of the park for a 2-run homer, but Strasburg kept his composure and finished by striking out the last SEVEN batters that he faced.  I can honestly say that I’ll remember this game for the rest of my life, even if it ends up being the best one of his career ($5 says it won’t be).

But you don’t come to The 26th Man for numbers you’ve already found in the boxscore- so I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to a Bill James stat called Game Score, if you are not already familiar with it.  Game Score is a great stat because it’s fun to tally and it’s useful too.  It’s aim is to provide a measuring stick for a starting pitcher’s performance.  Game Score is calculated like this (from Baseball-Reference):
1. Start with 50 points
2. Add 1 point for each out recorded, so 3 for every inning pitched
3. Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th
4. Add 1 point for each strikeout
5. Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed
6. Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed
7. Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed
8. Subtract 1 point for each walk
For those following along with Strasburg’s boxscore from the other night, that’s good for a Game Score of 75, which is more than respectable for a Major League debut.  I’m sure you’ve heard from the media that Strasburg’s 14 K’s places him behind Karl Spooner and J.R. Richard for most all-time in a Major League debut (they each had 15).  Richard’s game is a great example of how you can arrive at the same Game Score in different ways.  Strasburg matched Richard’s Game Score of 75 exactly, even though Richard allowed 3 runs and 7 hits.  Richard’s Game Score was boosted, though, by his 9 innings pitched.  It is interesting to note that Game Score doesn’t care whether you win or lose.  Statisticians and even fans have begun to drift away from win-loss records and towards more significant numbers such as ERA and WHIP when determining a pitcher’s success, and Game Score matches that sentiment.  
Spooner’s game was in fact much better than Richard’s and Strasburg’s, as he posted a Game Score of 93 while hurling a complete game shutout.  Spooner’s start ranks 2nd all-time among pitchers making their Major League debuts though, falling just shy of Juan Marichal‘s 96 Game Score in 1960.  Marichal also pitched a complete game shutout, allowing just 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 12.  Andy over at the Baseball-Reference blog recently posted about the best Major League debuts of all time.
In case these Game Score numbers seem a little arbitrary to you, here’s some sort of a frame of reference.  Roger Clemens‘ 20-K game in 1986 registered a 97.  Last night, Clay Buchholz took the loss after pitching 7 innings and registered a Game Score of just 56, while his counterpart Justin Masterson earned his second win of the season with a complete game shutout and a Game Score of 87.  In Game 7 of the ALCS in 2004, Kevin Brown lasted just 1.1 innings for the Yankees and was rewarded with a Game Score of 25.
kevinbrown.JPG
(Photo Cred: sullybaseball.blogspot.com)
Poor baby.
So here’s to many more fantastic starts for Strasburg- at this point the Nationals are still bad enough and irrelevant enough to the Red Sox that I can root for him in the same way you root for the little geek to finally beat up the bully.  Plus, team allegiances aside, the young man is truly a sight to see and real exciting to watch.  
24 hours from now I’ll be at the airport England-bound.  But dry your tears, I’ll be back in a week for your reading pleasure.  

That’s What He Said- Dustin Pedroia

In my last post, I looked at a quote from Carlos Silva, in which he attributed some of his success to the abnormally high run support he had been receiving.  I thought that was pretty cool, so I’ve decided to do this more often.  I’ll take a quote from a player, reporter, coach, or whoever and try to prove them right or wrong using statistics.  I hereby dub this group of posts “That’s What He Said” (sorry ladies, I promise there will be a “That’s What She Said” when Eri Yoshida makes it).  

And so, I bring you Dustin Pedroia.  If you follow the Red Sox closely then you’ve probably heard this before, but I think enough time has passed since he said it to evaluate appropriately: 

“David’s fine.  He’s one of our teammates.  It could have been me who hit into a double play.  It happens to everybody.  He’s had 60 at-bats.  A couple of years ago I had 60 at-bats and I was hitting .170 and everybody was ready to kill me too.  What happened?  Laser show.” 


This fantastic quote was uttered following this game on May 4th of this year.  The double play that Pedroia is referring to is the one that David Ortiz hit into in the 8th inning.  The Red Sox rallied for 4 runs that inning to win the game in spite of Ortiz, whose double play appeared to cost Boston the game at the time.  As a side note, if you are new to navigating Baseball-Reference’s box scores, if you follow the link above and scroll to the bottom you will find the play-by-play for the entire game.  
As most fans will recall, Ortiz was not the most popular member of the team just 26 days ago.  Pedroia guessed 60 at-bats, which was pretty close.  Here are Ortiz’s 2010 numbers through May 4th (scroll down to the box after the highlighted games).  Ortiz in fact had 67 at-bats, with just 10 hits, 3 home runs, 6 RBI, and a .149 batting average.  As far as Pedroia goes, a couple of years ago would have to mean 2008, right?  But in 2008, Pedroia sported a .311 batting average through 15 games and 61 at-bats en route to winning the AL MVP Award.  Maybe he meant 2009?  Not likely either, as he was hitting .286 through 15 games and 63 at-bats last year.  
Ah, so he must mean 2007, his rookie season.  Now this begins to make sense.  Through 61 at-bats and 22 games in 2007, Pedroia was hitting just .180 with 11 hits and 3 RBI.  What happened???  Pedroia finished the season hitting .317 and went on to become AL Rookie of the Year.  Also, courtesy of tauntr.com, there is significant photographic evidence that Pedroia did actually provide a laser show by the end of the year.

PedroiaLazers2.gif

I’m actually pretty surprised at how accurate Pedroia was with his own numbers here.  Sure, he said “a couple years” instead of “a few” but he was just .010 off of his actual batting average at the start of his rookie season.  But the comparison to 2010 Big Papi?  Not sure if I buy it.  I think it’s a different kind of worrying when your rookie phenom has a rough first month and when your $12.5 mil veteran DH has an even worse first month for the second consecutive season.  There is one area where Pedroia hit the nail on the head though and that is the one that most people care the most about: 2010 David Ortiz has arrived.  Ortiz enters tonight’s action with a .267 average, 10 home runs, and 28 RBI.  Since Pedroia’s quote, that’s .382 with 7 home runs and 22 RBI.  Sounds like a laser show to me.
To recap, Pedroia nailed the rebirth of Ortiz and was remarkably close on the numbers he cited as well, although I’m not sure if I buy the comparison between his 2007 season and Ortiz’s 2010.  But I’m not going to complain while Ortiz continues to hit the ball like he used to in the good old days.  
I’ve taken a few different angles now on this blog, whether it be looking at a current event’s historical significance, looking at some historical events, or this new quote idea.  Some of the other ideas I’ve had for posts are some introduction to newer statistics (such as WAR, GameScore, or UZR), some more BU baseball history, or some game previews or recaps.  Of course I don’t have time to write all of this at once, so if you feel strongly about any of these or there’s anything else you’d like me to write about then by all means let me know and I would be thrilled to do that first.  

A Few Thoughts- Lima, Halladay, Silva

This will be kind of a miscellaneous entry since I don’t have a lot of time to do a bunch of research on one topic.  I know it’s been a while since I last posted, but I’ve been busy with my first full week of work and I’ve also started a project related to this blog that hopefully I’ll be able to reveal before too long.  Without further ado…

Keep former Major Leaguer Jose Lima‘s friends and family in your thoughts as he unexpectedly died today from a heart attack at the age of 37.  I best remember him as a member of the Houston Astros, though he also spent time with the Tigers, Royals, Dodgers, and Mets.  His best season came with Houston in 1999 when he was an all-star and finished 4th in Cy Young voting with a 21-10 record and a 3.58 ERA.  He also posted a career high 187 K’s that year.  His most similar players (See here if you don’t know what I mean by this) are Brian Moehler, Eric Milton, and Sidney Ponson.  

The Red Sox Know How to Beat Roy Halladay

The Sox beat Halladay again today, and prove to be the toughest team against him.  Here are his career splits by opponent sorted by most losses (today’s is not included).

I Split W L ▾ W-L% ERA G CG SHO IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP
Boston Red Sox 14 14 .500 4.28 41 6 1 269.1 280 128 29 64 200 1.277
Tampa Bay Rays 12 11 .522 3.67 34 4 0 225.2 236 92 19 47 170 1.254
Texas Rangers 7 7 .500 5.36 20 4 0 124.1 144 74 13 32 98 1.416
New York Yankees 18 6 .750 2.84 37 7 3 247.1 221 78 23 54 190 1.112
Seattle Mariners 6 5 .545 2.51 15 4 3 97.0 92 27 5 19 63 1.144
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 8 5 .615 4.32 16 4 0 108.1 118 52 8 19 83 1.265
Oakland Athletics 6 4 .600 4.54 13 0 0 83.1 92 42 7 35 65 1.524
Chicago White Sox 5 4 .556 3.28 15 2 0 90.2 87 33 7 26 72 1.246
Baltimore Orioles 20 4 .833 2.89 31 1 0 193.0 189 62 16 39 111 1.181
Kansas City Royals 9 3 .750 2.65 14 4 1 102.0 87 30 10 21 61 1.059
San Francisco Giants 0 2 .000 7.23 3 0 0 18.2 25 15 2 5 14 1.607
New York Mets 3 2 .600 4.05 5 1 1 33.1 37 15 4 8 21 1.350
Detroit Tigers 12 2 .857 2.19 16 6 4 119.0 99 29 10 10 73 0.916
Cleveland Indians 6 2 .750 3.52 13 2 1 79.1 72 31 2 33 74 1.324
Chicago Cubs 0 2 .000 3.00 2 0 0 12.0 14 4 1 1 10 1.250
Washington Nationals 6 1 .857 2.43 10 0 0 66.2 56 18 6 10 53 0.990
Pittsburgh Pirates 1 1 .500 1.13 3 1 0 24.0 23 3 0 4 22 1.125
Minnesota Twins 8 1 .889 2.90 13 2 1 87.0 74 28 5 12 70 0.989
Milwaukee Brewers 0 1 .000 6.00 1 0 0 6.0 7 4 1 0 8 1.167
Florida Marlins 1 1 .500 3.71 3 0 0 17.0 21 7 1 2 11 1.353
St. Louis Cardinals 2 0 1.000 1.13 2 1 0 16.0 12 2 1 3 14 0.938
Philadelphia Phillies 0 0 2.45 2 0 0 3.2 2 1 0 1 3 0.818
Los Angeles Dodgers 3 0 1.000 1.50 3 1 0 24.0 15 4 1 6 13 0.875
Houston Astros 1 0 1.000 0.00 1 1 0 9.0 7 0 0 0 8 0.778
Colorado Rockies 1 0 1.000 1.17 2 1 1 15.1 12 2 0 2 8 0.913
Cincinnati Reds 1 0 1.000 3.68 2 0 0 14.2 17 6 2 6 14 1.568
Atlanta Braves 2 0 1.000 0.46 3 1 1 19.2 12 1 1 3 15 0.763
Arizona Diamondbacks 2 0 1.000 3.86 2 0 0 11.2 11 5 0 3 9 1.200
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/24/2010.
Carlos Silva is Really Good…?
Carlos Silva has baffled me and opposing hitters thus far, recording his 6th win tonight to improve to 6-0.  He becomes the first Cubs starter to do so since Ken Holtzman in 1967.  When interviewed after the game, Silva said, “It’s because they’ve been scoring a lot of runs…The whole rotation has been really good, but I’ve been getting more run support than anybody else.”  Of course I had to investigate.  Silva, after tonight, has received 6.67 runs of support per start.  The other Cubs starters rank as follows: 
Maybe Silva is on to something!  But there’s no denying that his 3.55 ERA is far and away better than his career mark of 4.66 and his 2009 mark of 8.60.

Marlin Lefties?

MLB Network has just informed me that Chris Coghlan tonight became the first left-handed hitter to homer for the Marlins this season.  In the team’s 36th game?  Ouch.  The reigning NL Rookie of the Year has gotten off to a sluggish start, hitting just .216/.272/.224 in 31 games.  

Aside from Coghlan, this stat is surprisingly unsurprising, as the Marlins don’t really have any other quality lefty bats.  The others (excluding pitchers) to have at bats this season are John Baker, Mike Lamb, and Bryan Petersen.  Petersen is just 1/9 this year, his rookie season.  Baker and Lamb both average just 12 home runs per 162 games over their careers, and they have a combined 107 plate appearances this season.  Their average of 560 plate appearances per 162 games indicates they’ve played about 1/5 of their average season, and they’re due for 2.4 home runs by now.  So maybe it is a little surprising, but not really given that Mike Lamb has been used nearly exclusively as a pinch hitter this year and I don’t think anyone took John Baker in their fantasy draft this year (If you did, I sincerely apologize).  

Perhaps the Marlins could consider signing free agent lefty slugger Carlos Delgado?  This will never happen, but who wouldn’t love to see Delgado don the teal and black one more time?

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