Thursday, May 09, 2013

On Matt Harvey’s Tuesday Night Brush With Perfection, Was It The Best by a Met All Time?

Hey fans!  Be sure to check my writing out over on The Read Zone.

That got me to thinking – is this the best single start by a Met in the last ten years?  In my lifetime?  All time?

Everyone who has read about Harvey’s perfect game bid over the last few days knows that the last Met to carry a bid as far was Rick Reed in 1998.  But Reed did not finish the way Harvey did.  To satisfy my own curiosity, I took a look at a couple of Mets players and performances to see if anything stacked up.

It turns out Harvey’s game score of 97 is one of the highest that a Met has ever tallied in a nine-inning game.  But how does it compare, in context, to some of the other most dominant Mets’ pitching performances in history?  To take a look, I pulled up box scores from a) generally dominant Mets pitching seasons and b) historic Mets pitching performances that I could remember off the top of my head.  Although this list is not exhaustive, I tried to include the best.  They are ranked in order of personal preference.

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#7 John Maine, 2007 – Game Score: 89Sept 29 v FLA, 7.2ip, 1h, 2bb, 14k
I was also fortunate enough to be in attendance for this game.  John Maine, in the second to last game of the season, mowed down the Marlins to keep the Mets’ season alive.  Maine, like his contemporary Oliver Perez, was always an enigma, capable of using that electric high fastball to rack up strikeouts but lacking the control and secondary stuff to put together a dominant season.  He managed a Game Score of 89 in only 7.2 innings, keeping the season alive for one more day.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Greinke – Quentin Brawl, Was It More Than Just a Baseball Fight?

I am blogging over at The Read Zone now, so go check out my new article on the Greinke-Quentin brawl and it's legal implications.

Everyone knows that sports have their own codes of conduct, and that each sport’s code is different.  In football and hockey, full contact sports where the players are trained and equipped for contact, it is completely within the rules for players to hit each other with full force, pummeling one another into the ground or into plexiglass boards.  In other sports, such as basketball and soccer, in which contact is incidental and but common, some contact is to be expected but is carefully limited.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Real Life Stats for the Players in the Movie "Major League"

As I write this, I am watching (for the 65231th time) the incredibly amazing baseball movie Major League.  While watching, I was curious and wanted to see if anyone out there had taken a stab at projecting what these players - whose names we all know so well after years of watching this movie - actually did on the field in that legendary 1989 season.  As far as I can tell, only John Sickels did any projections (Sickels is amazing, and it's worth a read).  ESPN also broke down the playoff game and awarded a fictional MVP award (and correctly, at that) to Willie Mays Hayes. 

This project is completely unscientific and just for fun, so please leave your own projection and comments in the comments section below.  My best guesses are based on the context of the American League in 1989, the stats given in the movie itself, and other context clues.  Keep in mind that, although the Indians are presented as lovable losers for most of the movie, they DID end up winning 92 games.  For that reason, the offense must have been pretty good, because aside from Ricky Vaughn, the only pitcher we really learn about in the movie is the ancient Eddie Harris, who is not presented as very good himself.  Therefore, those 92 wins were not on the backs of their pitching staff, and the Indians must have scored a lot of runs.

In the real life American League in 1989, hitters posted a collective slash line of .261/.326/.384.  Pitchers in the AL that year had an ERA of 4.29, a WHIP of 1.35, and 5.5 K/9.  Hitters in the AL in 2012 batted a collective 255/.320/.411 and pitchers had a collective 4.08 ERA, a WHIP of 1.30 and a 7.4 K/9.  Therefore, if you'd like to compare the numbers I end up projecting for our lovable Indians to the numbers you might see today, give all the batters a slight boost in slugging %, and give our man Ricky Vaughn an uptick in his K/9.

As for the real life 1989 Indians, we all already know that they did not have a good season.  The Indians hit worse than league average, putting up a line of .245/.310/.365, although the pitchers acquitted themselves well with a 4.04 ERA and 1.29 WHIP despite their home park being slightly favorable to hitters.  The real life MVP was the incredible Robin Yount, who posted a slash line of .318/.384/.511.

Now, back to the movie.  We get most of our concrete information on the players from the final game of the season, in the playoff game between the Yankees and Indians for the AL East title.  In it, they announce that Clu Haywood, the Yankee cleanup hitter and Indian-killer, is announced as the AL Triple Crown winner with a line of .341 average, 48 HR and 121 RBI.  Those marks would have, in fact, narrowly won him all of those categories.  (Puckett .339, McGriff 36 HR, Ruben Sierra 119 RBI).

On the pitching side, Duke Sierra, the Yankees closer, posted a line of 1.37 ERA, with 51 H and 48 BB in only 118 innings while being used as an Eckersley-type ace.  We are also told he led the league in K/9, with 147 strikeouts over that span (11.2 K/9).  So even if you love Vaughn, we can't project him with more strikeouts than that.

On to the guesses (asterisks indicate statistics mentioned in the movie):

Jake Taylor - C
The veteran catcher, slow of foot, showed no indications that he has a decent offensive season in 1989.  They don't give us much to go off, except that we know that he bats second, behind Willie Mays Hayes.  I'm going to assume that he has a decent OBP, no power, and doesn't strike out too much.

.245/.345/.325, 62 Runs, 5 HR, 52 RBI

Ricky Vaughn - SP
After overcoming early season control problems, Vaughn really settles down and becomes one of the league's elite.  He makes the cover of Sports Illustrated and throws 101 MPH in the season's final game.  I imagine him to be a lot like a young Kerry Wood.  It appears that he begins the season out of the pen, and works his way into the rotation.

Sickels projected Vaughn's 1989 season as such: 9-9, 114 IP, 89 BB, 129K, 3.79 ERA with 41 games played and 19 starts.  I completely agree, although I think his ERA would be a little higher than that.

Willie "Mays" Hayes - CF
We see him in one scene nailing batting gloves to his wall.  He had said earlier that he was going to have a pair for every base he stole.  In this scene, which takes place right before the newspaper is shown, there are already approximately 50 pairs on the wall (the date on the newspaper is wrong, saying April).  As such, I think we could project that he stole 70 bases, or even more.  Rickey Henderson led the league with 77 stolen bases that year. 

Pair the below batting line with what appeared to be Gold Glove caliber defense in center field, and you've got yourself a burgeoning young star and borderline MVP candidate.

.291*/.361/.378, 115 Runs, 7 HR, 55 RBI
(Henderson hit .274/.411/.399 113 R, 57 RBI)

Roger Dorn - 3B
They talk about Dorn in the movie like he is a stud, although he admits to loafing defensively in the first half of the season.  His offensive stats were probably pretty sharp, and as he showed later in the season when it mattered, he was quite good defensively.  I imagine that in a good year, the unlikeable Dorn would also be a borderline MVP candidate.  In real life, Robin Yount won the 1989 AL MVP with a remarkable line of .318/.384/.511, with the rest of the Top-10 vote getters having OPS'es around 800.  I put Dorn in that neighborhood with the runners-up.

.272*/.362/.455, 85 Runs, 21 HR, 86 RBI*  (his 86 RBI would have placed him just outside the Top-10 in the AL that year).

Pedro Cerrano - RF
Cerrano hits directly behind Dorn, and is known for prodigious power coupled with a propensity for strikeouts.  With Dorn (and Hayes) hitting before him, I am sure that he had plenty of RBI opportunities.

.256/.310/.495, 76 Runs, 35 HR, 105 RBI  (the slash line is Bo Jackson's line from 1989)

So there you have it.  Hope you enjoyed it, and please leave your projections below.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Intellectualism, Sabermetrics and Stephen Strasburg's Innings-Limit

The debate over whether the Washington Nationals should "shut down" young phenom Stephen Strasburg has been raging since early this season, when it became apparent that the Nationals might be good enough to challenge for a playoff spot.

Strasburg, as even casual fans are aware, is only two years removed from undergoing a procedure known as "Tommy John" surgery.  The plan, as it was stated in the preseason, was for the Nationals organization to "take it easy" with Strasburg, and limit him to approximately 160 innings this season.  However, with the Nationals contending and on their way to the playoffs, to shut down Strasburg at a set innings-limit will deprive the Nationals of a young man who is, ostensibly, one of the three or four best pitchers in the National League and who stands to be the very real difference between the Nationals winning or losing a short playoff series.

It is easy to see how proponents for both sides -- limit Strasburg or let him pitch -- have arguments that are easy to defend.

But as the saying goes, common sense is not so common, and apparently the merits of both sides are not apparent to all.  Today, a writer for weighed in on the debate, publishing an article called "Rizzo Right to Side With Doctors in Strasburg Debate" and effectively said that anyone opposed to the innings limit was ignorant.
The Nationals had a plan for Stephen Strasburg long before this season began.  They are sticking with that plan come heck or high seeding.
* * *
Colleague Matthew Leach says give the kid the ball and see how far he takes you. I say proceed with the plan.
* * *
Really, one opinion boils down to machismo, the other to medicine. Because while those in favor of extending Strasburg's season are siding with their inner competitor, the Nats are siding with medical evidence and intellect.
I don't even know where to begin on this.  Not only does Anthony Castrovince create a false dichotomy -- that he must be limited to his innings cap or not; or that he dismissed the opinions of those who disagree with him as the result of "machismo" alone; or that he cites to a faux medical study that has been debunked a dozen times; but the worst of these, in my opinion, is that he deigns to speak for an entire class of fan.

Over the last decade, the sabermetric, analytical, statistically-inclined fan has earned a seat at the table when it comes to discussion of the game.  Although there is still a long way to go, baseball has undergone a revolution whereby teams, front-offices, writers, and the players themselves have opened themselves up to a more advanced statistical analysis of the game.  It hasn't been a straight line from Usenet to OBP to Baseball Think Factory to VORP to Moneyball to WAR, but as with any revolution in thinking, there are fits and starts.

Unfortunately, however, there are always those who either claim to be part of something that they are not, who co-opt a way of thinking for their own purposes, or just understand it.  The article above appears to be a good example of this.

In his article, the author cites to the Verducci Effect as the reason that Strasburg should be shut down for the year at a set innings cap.  Those unfamiliar with the Verducci Effect cannot be blamed for thinking that the Effect is part of some thoughtful, advanced statistical analysis, developed by some egg-head sabermetrician in his mother's basement.  However, the Verducci Effect is nothing of the sort.

As the author states, the Verducci Effect originates in a yearly colum where Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci "points out the risk in 25-and-younger pitchers whose innings increased by 30 or more from one year to the next (or, for those coming off injuries or a change in roles, the previous innings high, regardless of when it occurred)."

However, the Verducci Effect -- despite how uncontroversial and common-sensical it seems -- has been thoroughly debunked.  The Hardball Times did a study and discovered that "pitchers who see a large increase in workload are more likely to continue to be successful than those who don’t."  Deadspin did a great job consolidating other research studies and agreed that "every study" they could find "suggests that [the Verducci Effect] at best doesn't exist and at worst is backwards."

However, none of this appears to prevent the author of the article from saying that the decision to shut down Strasburg is the result of "medical evidence and intellect", or that "Rizzo's expert-aided instinct" came from "the reams of research [Rizzo] has read."

Ordinarily I'd let an article like this go by without comment, but 1) it is on, not some random garbage blog on the fringe of the internet, and 2) the tone of the article is sanctimonious and anti-anti-intellectual.  Rather than stick with his "gut" or "instinct", the writer gets on a high horse and derisively dismisses anyone who would disagree with him on the basis of "medical evidence" that does not exist.

Ultimately, nobody knows what will happen with Strasburg whether he gets shut down or not.  He was babied in the minors and required Tommy John surgery regardless.  He may get hurt again if he's shut down tomorrow, or he might pitch 200 innings this year and never miss a day to injury because of it.  Stephen Strasburg isn't Kerry Wood -- he's Stephen Strasburg, and trying to project exactly what will happen if he passes an inning threshold (arm explodes at 180.1 innings!) is a fool's errand.

It is incumbent upon to do a better job with its content, and it is incumbent on the sabermetric community to make sure that, as sabermetric ideas become more mainstream, that the meaning of those ideas are not co-opted or twisted or misused by those who do not understand.

Brian Mangan is an attorney who lives in New York City and owns Stephen Strasburg in his keeper league and really, really does not want him to get hurt.  However, as a Mets fan, he believes it to be inevitable.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

NBC Should Be Ashamed of Bob Costas and Last Night's Interview of Michael Phelps

It may have been longer in real-time, but in mere minutes after the completion of the 4x200 freestyle relay that ended up with Michael Phelps winning his 19th overall medal in Olympic competition -- hence becoming the most decorated Olympian of all-time -- Phelps sat down via satellite for an interview with Bob Costas of NBC.

This is not an Olympic or general interest blog, but I've got to take a moment away from regularly scheduled programming to say that Costas, and NBC, should be ashamed of the treatment of Phelps in said interview. Here is part of the transcript of the interview[1]:

Bob Costas: “Let’s talk about that 200 butterfly. You had the lead much of the way. You were out-touched by Chad Le Clos of South Africa 5 one-hundredths of a second.  It’s hard to say that when you win a silver medal that something has gone wrong but your standard is so high that I guess we can put it that way. What went wrong
Michael Phelps: Um… ... there are times I go slow into the wall or touch lazy and it showed...  And, sure I’d like to have been 6 one-hundredths faster but there’s nothing I can do about that right now, it’s time to move forward...  
Bob Costas: But virtually anybody else’s standards you’re still working like a demon but in 2008 in Beijing you were at the peak of fitness, peak of talent and technically you were also better than everybody else… Is it fair to say that even a little bit, where things are measured in one-hundredths of a second, even just a little bit, you’re not quite where you were in ’08
Michael Phelps: No, that’s obvious… For me I’m just having fun. Being at my fourth Olympics. Representing the USA, the greatest country in the world.
Bob Costas: You’re one of the greatest competitors ever but I get the sense things are winding down in your career

I find discussion of Michael Phelps' training, and his relative abilities compared to Beijing 2008 to be interesting.  But now was not the time to be asking these questions.  As I sat on my couch watching the interview, I felt myself becoming more and more offended by the way Costas was constantly wearing down Phelps.

Phelps, like him or not, literally just became the most prolific Olympian of all time.  The odds are, he will be setting a record in London that will not be broken in our lifetimes.  How can Costas sit there and ask him about his failings?  How can you make the central focus of the interview -- not a slight tangent, not a curiosity -- the fact that he's been better, and could have been better, and that he has failed to be his best?

For what it's worth, he completed the 200m Butterfly yesterday in 1:53.01.  He was the second fastest swimmer in the pool, after Le Clos, and only missed out on victory by the narrowest of margins -- by .05 of one second.  His time yesterday, although good for second, was faster than every recorded 200m Butterfly time in history prior to 2007.  It was also within a second of the Olympic Record, which he set in Beijing.  Of the 37 swimmers who competed in the 200m Butterfly at this year's Olympics, only ten of them came within even three seconds of that time -- the other 27, who came from all over the world to compete, wouldn't have even been in the frame of the TV picture at the finish line against Phelps.

He's at the peak of human performance, and he's within a millimeter of his own peak performance.  Who is to say that the amount he fell off has as much to do with training as it does with age?  With the conditions that day?  With luck?  With his specific performance in that run that has nothing to do with conditioning or desire?

The point is, there is a time and place for that kind of post-mortem.  A discussion of peak athletes and their ability to remain at their optimal performance level is interesting.  But not now -- not when Michael Phelps is barely out of the pool, and when the gold on his medal from his most recent victory is still cool from the box that it was sitting in before the medal ceremony.  Not when he's minutes separated from accomplishing what is probably the greatest individual feat in the history of sports.

Michael Phelps is the best of all time.  He's an American.  And he was due a lot more respect than he was given in that interview.  Nobody -- and I mean nobody -- is going to be able, years from now, to look back on his first interview after his accomplishment and feel anything resembling pride, listening to Phelps apologize and speculate as to why he wasn't better.  And it's a damned shame.

Brian Mangan is an attorney who lives in New York City.  He loves the Mets, the United States, and adherence to the proper decorum within your profession.

[1] Courtesy of The Gateway Pundit.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

It Happened

Feel like I should talk about this since for the final two innings I was literally shaking and I never got up from my chair because if I moved from where I had been sitting for the previous hour and a half I would ruin everything and feel like an asshole.

I screamed when the final out was recorded, because for the first time in Mets history a pitcher wearing a Mets uniform threw a no-hitter. All but one team - the San Diego Padres, est. 1969 - has thrown at least one. It was a black cloud that always followed the New York Mets. It was a statistical oddity that underscored that the Mets are an inferior franchise that fuck up every chance they get.

On their 8,020th attempt, the Mets threw a no-hitter.

I feel embarrassed even admitting to my visceral reaction, but I think it’d be a hell of a lot weirder if I didn’t react that way. I thought for a long time about it, and I can confidently estimate that I’ve watched at least 1,700 of the previous 8,019 Met games. So 1,700 times, something never happened. And then tonight, something that never happened happened. Sometimes when something that never ever happens happens, it’s really bad, like when a second baseman drops an easy pop up to lose a game against your geographic arch nemesis where seemingly everyone you know is watching. That sucked. That physically hurt. Same with your favorite player looking at a third strike to end a season where you were the best team in the league and you let yourself believe that it was The year. That also hurt. Tonight was great. It’s still great as I’ve been flipping for the last three hours across the cableverse between SNY, ESPN and MLB Network finding more and more opinions (they range from Johan Santana was “great” to Johan Santana was “awesome”) and camera angles and interviews (“This was great!”) and reading tweets from Mets fans typing and texting out their disbelief and joy. Hearing in the postgame press conference that manager Terry Collins told Santana he was his hero, and Collins took ten seconds to try to not get choked up to say something like, “Yeah whatever. Sports.”? So embarrassingly corny and perfect. Ridiculous and stupid and loaded with dumb machismo “sports is war” garbage and fucking great. Also, WFAN Mets broadcast producer Chris Majkowski (@metsWFAN), who is there for every single game, who has tweeted every time a Met pitcher gave up the first hit of a game “Not today boss” for something like four years got to finally tweet this

I actually read the tweet before the final pitch of the game appeared on television, confirming once and for all that “live” is a seven second delay. It didn’t completely ruin the moment because I automatically assumed it could be a terrible prank and it proved that I literally had to see it to believe it.

There has been many ink spilled trying to perfectly articulate how baseball is a metaphor for life that basically tries to say that because there are 162 games played in a calendar year that following a baseball team is like following your life where millionaires play out your daily battles between good and evil. Sometimes Luis Castillo will inexplicably drop a pop up/someone close to you dies out of nowhere. Sometimes Johan Santana throws a no-hitter against the team that ended The year/you meet your future wife at the Oscars after you accept your Best Original Screenplay award. Something like that.

Of course it’s dumb.Life is life, not life is life and also baseball. But following a baseball team like the Mets does feel a lot like being religious: You blindly have faith that one day it’s all going to pay off and you’re going to get to go to Heaven when you die and ask John Lennon why he was such an asshole because you know he’d appreciate your honesty/your team is going to win a World Series, but there’s very little evidence that it’s going to happen. During the journey to the destination you can draw strength from your Faith and do important and amazing things, and sometimes the Mets will have exciting and successful seasons and that’ll be fine and dandy, but in the end it’s all about a cloud with your name on it and for the 25 men that play for your team to win a championship.

But what the fuck am I supposed to do? Over the years as I developed adult friendships and other interests (Television! Writing! Writing about television! Writing for television! Comedy! Ladiez! Not necessarily in this order!) my relying on the Mets to inform me on what mood I should be in dissipated, but I still end up watching a part of or all of 90-100 games a year. I still play baseball on Saturdays when the weather is right, even though I’m not particularly good. I hate that I’m not good at something I love. I’m reminded of it almost every Saturday, but I keep coming back for more. Baseball will always be a part of me, for better or worse, and when the Mets finally got a no-hitter tonight after I’ve seen them somehow not manage to do it 1,700 times before I was very happy. I gladly took phone calls of congratulation as if I had thrown the thing myself, after the eighth inning I texted friends who I figured weren’t watching to alert them that something special might happen, I made sure not to tweet at all because when the game started I wasn’t tweeting anything and I wasn’t going to blow this. And when the Mets win a World Series when I’m older than 3 years old so I can actually appreciate and be aware of what the hell is going on it’s going to be amazing, because I invested all of this time through the years rooting for the team. And lord, it hasn’t been easy.

I emcee a trivia night every Tuesday in Brooklyn. I usually write half of the questions but because my writing partner is on vacation I'm responsible for all of them this week. I went from joking that I know what my very first question will be to writing "Which major league baseball franchise is the only team to never throw a no-hitter?" to thinking "When am I ever going to get an opportunity like this ever again? When will us Met fans? Let's celebrate."

1. Who pitched the first no-hitter in New York Mets history?

When June began the Mets never threw a no-hitter and haven't won a World Series in my lifetime.
Now the first thing can be crossed off the bucket list.

One more to go.

No, I'm not telling you what the other questions are.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Yankees' Michael Pineda Out for Season

Bad news for the Yankees today, as they found out that their promising young starter, Michael Pineda, has a tear in his labrum and will miss at least a year. 

As most of you know, Pineda was acquired in the offseason in a trade which involved the Yankees' former top prospect, Jesus Montero, a highly regarded hitter.  Most observers were fascinated by the trade -- a promising young pitcher for a promising young hitter (and two more minor prospects, one on each side thrown in).

We here at Fonzie Forever canvassed our Yankee fan friends, and found most of them to be in favor of the deal.  After all, Jesus Montero was a player without an obvious defensive position, and Michael Pineda had already established himself in the big leagues at the tender age of 22, with a 3.74 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 171 innings for the Mariners last year.

Although it was too early at the time to judge a winner or a loser (and in fact, even with Pineda's injury, it is still too early to tell who will ultimately win or lose) Fonzie Forever always felt that trading a promising young hitter on the cusp of the big leagues for a promising young pitcher is never a good move.  The attrition and injury rates among pitchers is simply too high.  For that reason, we didn't think it was a wise move for the Yanks.

Either way, bad luck for the Yankees.  And although I am an avowed Yankee-hater for life, you  hate to see bad things come about as a result of injuries.

All the best to Pineda in his recovery, and Yankee fans, worry not -- I'm sure I'll be watching the pinstripes in October anyway (jerks).

Monday, January 02, 2012

Bernie Williams: A Mets Fan's Take on his Hall of Fame Candidacy

Growing up in New York City in the 90's, it was not easy being a Mets fan.  To be clear, it's *never* easy being a Mets fan, but the 90's -- particularly the late 90's -- was an a particularly trying time for a baseball-obsessed teenager to like the Mets.  As a high school student at the time, I knew that each September would deliver me the distinct pleasure of returning to school with the Yankees setting their playoff rotation and the Mets limping flaccidly to the finish line.

To make matters worse, my high school was located in downtown Manhattan, a stone's throw from the Canyon of Heroes.  As a result, my classmates and I were fortunate enough to have a front row seat to not one, not two, but THREE Yankee World Series Championship Parades (they failed to win the World Series -- losers! -- in 1997). 

Aside from 1999 and 2000, Mets fans didn't have much to root for late in the year and would be subject to torture by our much more fortunate classmates.  (Not that September was always entirely uninteresting to a good fan back in the day... Did you know Lance Johnson had 21 triples in 1996?)  Years of this behavior instilled a definite, permanent hatred in my heart for all things Yankees -- so much so, in fact, that even though I spent a week convincing myself that I'd root for the Yankees to beat the Phillies in the 2010 World Series, it took only one pitch before I hated the Pinstripes again.  It was reflexive. 

In the midst of all this Yankee dominance, there was one character who seemed to defy everything that I knew about the Yankees and against whom I felt no enmity:  Bernie Williams.

As anyone reading this already knows, for the better part of a decade -- and especially in the late 90's -- Bernie Williams was an awesome, All-Star, Gold Glove-winning centerfielder for the Yankees.  Bernie was going to play good-enough defense, play 140 or more games, and hit .330.  He batted cleanup on a stacked, multiple World Series winning team.  But ... I didn't hate him.  And as I see Bernie's name for the first time on the Hall of Fame Ballot, I gave it more pause than I originally thought that I would.  Is Bernie Williams a Hall of Famer?

I'll save you guys some reading:  a quick look at his raw career statistics implies that he is not.  With only 287 home runs and 2,336 hits, he didn't play long enough at a high enough level to accumulate the impressive statistics that the Hall of Fame voters require for entry to the Hall.  He only once led the league in a significant statistical category -- batting average, in 1998.  He never won the MVP, or placed higher than 7th.  None of his Baseball-Reference top ten most comparable players are members of the Hall themselves (though a few are still active). 

So why can't I shake this Bernie Williams thing?  Why do I feel like Bernie Williams has at least an *argument* for the Hall .. and why do I feel this way as a Mets fan?!

Phenomenal Peak Hitter

In the prime of his career, few put up as impressive batting lines as Bernabe Williams.  From 1995 to 2002 -- a span of eight incredible years -- Bernie Williams batted .321/.406/.531.  His OPS of 937 was good for an OPS+ of 142.  He walked almost nearly as much as he struck out.

Not sure how good an OPS+ of 142 is?  For that stretch of time, he was basically Ryan Braun (career 145 OPS+) or Prince Fielder (144 OPS+).  Think MVP-winner Josh Hamilton is a good player?  Well, Hamilton has a career OPS+ of 134, weighted strongly toward slugging percentage rather than on-base percentage, and can't stay particularly healthy.  For the better part of a DECADE, Bernie Williams was as good, or better than all of them.


Although he was never regarded as a brilliant defensive centerfielder (four Gold Gloves notwithstanding), Bernie did all that he did and he did it at one of the most important and challenging positions on the diamond.  Oh, and he did win those four Gold Gloves.

According to Fangraphs, Bernie was not bad defensively in the majority of his career.  Although he declined precipitously beginning in 2003, at the age of only 34, Total Zone has Bernie as only 59 runs below average as a center fielder over the first twelve years of his career. 

Championship Winner
Even more, as much as people want to talk about Derek Jeter or the Yankees "Core Four" of Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, and Rivera, nobody's career coincided with Yankee Championships better than that of Bernie Williams.  Bernie donned pinstripes from 1993 to 2006 as a full-time player, but was truly a full time, healthy force from 1995 to 2002.  In that time period, the Yankees, as we all know, won the World Series four times -- or 50% of the seasons that Bernie played at his peak.

His name litters the all time postseason leaderboards.  He's second all time in postseason runs, hits, doubles, and home runs.  In most of these categories, he is second to Derek Jeter -- a player who has over 150 more postseason plate appearances than Bernie does.  He's third all time in walks, but only by one, and he's somehow miraculously still FIRST all time in postseason RBI.

I don't mean to say that any of the above "winner" stuff should factor too seriously into Hall of Fame voting.  However, Hall of Fame voters, as currently constituted, DO factor things like that into the equation.  So why the lack of buzz about Bernie?

Putting all of the above into context, it is really hard to understand by Bernie Williams has not been getting more attention when it comes to the Hall of Fame.  

His mainstream credentials above are strong.  His sabermetric credentials are even stronger.  Starting with 1995, Bernie posted a WAR of 4.9 or higher every year except one (when he posted a 4.2 WAR) and peaked at a value of 6.7 WAR.  Bernie made only five all-star teams, but by all accounts, should probably have been on seven or eight. 

He compares incredibly favorably to other center fielders.  As a current example, my love for Carlos Beltran is well pronounced, but even the most successful stretch in his career pales in comparison to Bernie.  From 2003 to 2009, the prime of Beltran's career, when Beltran averaged 27 home runs and 25 steals per year, he still only posted an OPS+ of 128.

A writer named Lincoln Mitchell over at the Faster Times brought up a truly incredible statistic last month when discussing Bernie's candidacy:
Another way to assess Williams candidacy is to determine how many center fielders in the history of the game had clearly better careers.  The list is shorter than one might initially think . . . One way to see this is that Williams played 1,924 games in center field during a career where he posted an OPS+ of 125.  In the history of the game, only eight players have played 1,700 or more games in center field with an OPS+ of 115 or better.  Three of these players, Williams, Griffey and Edmonds are not eligible for the Hall of Fame.  The other five are all in.  Williams’ numbers are far behind those of Cobb, Mays, Speaker and Mantle, but are better than Edd Roush’s and a cut behind contemporaries Griffey and Edmonds.
Even as a Bernie Williams fan, I could not believe that the above was true.

Unfortunately, as of this writing, Bernie Williams is not going to make the Hall of Fame.  Even worse, according to the list put together by the guys over at Baseball Think Factory, it looks like Bernie will be one-and-done, and not even get another year on the ballot:
92.6 - Barry Larkin
43.2 - Lee Smith
11.1 - Don Mattingly
2.5 - Bernie Williams
After 81 ballots were published online and aggregated, it looks like he'll fall short of the 5% required  to remain eligible for Hall voting the next year.

I am glad that some guys (Bert Blyleven comes to mind) have made the Hall of Fame after a grassroots campaign developed for them, or hung around for years and became part of the debate (Ron Santo, Jack Morris, Andre Dawson).  Unfortunately for Bernie, it doesn't appear that he'll have a chance to do that, and I can tell you that Fonzie Forever has neither the traffic or panache to do what Rich Lederer now famously did for Blyleven. 

So, although I cannot help Bernie get the respect that I think he rightfully deserves, I can still use my soap box to say thank you.

Bernie Williams always played the game with class.  He was, for a time, an elite hitter who played center field, won four World Series, and owns the most glorious of mainstream postseason records (RBI).  He was even so much of a True Yankee (tm) that they buried him under the New Yankee Stadium for luck.

Thank you for your charity (here, here, here), your music, and your wisdom.  And thank you for proving to a teenaged-version of myself that even on a horrible, evil empire like the Yankees, that there is the capacity for good.  Thanks.

"I know there's certain things regarding your job or whatever you may end up doing [that you don't like], but I'm here to tell you, don't let your job define who you are. Your relationships will define who you are.  No matter what you choose to do in life ... you are going to be in a position to make an impact on somebody's life."- Bernie Williams

Brian Mangan is a lawyer who lives in New York.  He is glad to have survived the baseball-trauma of his mid-90's youth so that he could live to see the Mets' ten times more upsetting current state of affairs.
Follow us on twitter at @fonzieforever

Friday, December 30, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011-2012 Non-Tenders: Slim Pickings

A huge shout out to the estimable MLB Trade Rumors site for putting together the list of the 29 players non-tendered by their teams this offseason and who are now free agents.  In the past I have enjoyed putting together a comprehensive list of non-tenders and free agents who I thought would make sense for the Mets -- unfortunately, due to time, I will only be able to review a few this time around. 

Without further adieu, a reproduction of the entire list, and a highlight of the players I like:

Catchers (5)
     Chris Gimenez, Koyie Hill, Ronny Paulino, Eli Whiteside, Jason Jaramillo
 Second basemen (2)
     Jeff Keppinger, Will Rhymes
 Shortstops (1)
     Pedro Ciriaco
 Outfielders (5)
     Mike Baxter, Cole Garner, Jeremy Hermida, Luke Scott, Ryan Spilborghs
 Utility infielders (2)
     Brooks Conrad, Ryan Theriot
 Starting Pitchers (2)
     Jo-Jo Reyes, Joe Saunders
 Right-handed relievers (7)
     Fabio Castillo, Dan Cortes, Willie Eyre, Clay Hensley, Peter Moylan, Micah Owings, Andy Sonnanstine
 Left-handed relievers (5)
     Rich Hill, Hong-Chih Kuo, Aaron Laffey, Jose Mijares, Doug Slaten
The players that I select will be selected in light of what their projected cost might be and the needs of our squad.  For that reason, you won't see guys like Hong-Chih Kuo (too expensive), Joe Saunders (too expensive), Micah Owings (will likely return to current team), or Mike Baxter (just non-tendered him) on this list.

#1 - 2B Will Rhymes
Rhymes, aside from having a great name, is 28 years old and was non-tendered by Detroit this year after a disappointing season where he hit .235/.323/.271 in 99 at bats.  Rhymes is a very disciplined hitter -- he made contact on 92.6% of his swings in the majors -- and plays passable defense at second base (-3.6 UZR/150 in 600 innings).  

Rhymes is not going to light anyone's hair on fire, but he has hit .305 and .306 in Triple-A over the last two seasons, and posted an OPS of around 770.  In my book, he's worthy of bringing in as an non-roster invite to compete with Murphy at second base in light of the lack of other options (and don't say Jeff Keppinger to me, as his defense appears to be falling off a cliff and he's got no value if he isn't batting .320).

#2 - OF Jeremy Hermida
You know who this guy is.  And I say, why the hell not.  What happened to Jeremy Hermida is one of the great mysteries of modern times (along with Lastings Milledge, Elvis, and Pop Tarts) but even so he has been moderately valuable over the last few years.

Hermida has remained an average defender in right field for his career, and has posted excellent UZR's in his last two seasons in right (approximately +30 UZR/150 in a small sample of 275 innings).  Although he batted .190 in his last stint in the majors, he possesses a career 749 major league OPS and is only 27 years of age.  Given regular playing time in the minors for Cincinnati, Hermida put up a .319 average and 924 OPS.  

If Hermida can play good defense and hit .250, he'll definitely provide positive value, provided how tarnished his stock has become.  Hermida will likely latch on somewhere as a non-roster invite and make the major league minimum.  He is an adequate fifth outfielder option with some upside (I would start him every day in Triple-A).

#3 - RP Clay Hensley
I realize the Mets have added epic depth to their bullpen, but in terms of above non-tenders who they can afford who have a little upside, Hensley fits the bill.  Hensley, like the others, struggled last year, posting a 5.19 ERA and -0.1 WAR. 

However, Hensley is also the possessor of a 3.94 career ERA and is coming off a season where he posted a 2.16 ERA (2.87 FIP) for the Marlins in 2010.  His peripherals supported the performance, as Hensley struck out 9.24 batters per nine innings in his season-long dominant performance.

Hensley missed time with injury last season, but provided that he is healthy, would be a great addition for the Mets to keep or to trade at the deadline as I've heard so many suggest about our other bullpen acquisitions (though seriously people, this does not happen as often as you think).

#4 - SP Rich Hill
Hill had a breakthrough performance in 2007, striking out 183 batters and posting a WHIP of only 1.19.  Unfortunately for him, he's been derailed by injuries (bad) and forced to play for the Orioles (worse).

His last four seasons, Hill has pitched only 89 major league innings, and struggled in almost all of them and underwent Tommy John surgery in June of last year.  He still had the "stuff" the last two years before going down with injury, so he's an intriguing flier.  He won't contribute to the squad in 2012, but he may be worthy of a look for late next season or for 2013.

I Also Like...
Peter Moylan and Luke Scott, should the price be right.