Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Ramon Santiago era in Detroit is over

Ramon Santiago played for the Detroit Tigers from May of 2002 until the end of this last season in 2013, with the exception of the 2004 and 2005 seasons, which he spent in Seattle. During the ten years that Santiago was a Tiger, he racked up a .244/.312/.333 line with 540 hits, 28 home runs, 195 RBI's and 28 stolen bases. Doesn't sound very impressive, but I would like to point out some of the value that Santiago brought to the Tigers, before he disappears into anonymity. Ramon Santiago actually, believe it or not, ranks in the top 50 in 5 statistical categories in Detroit Tigers franchise history.

11th in HBP with 48
17th in Defensive WAR with 5.5
25th in Sac hits with 25 (right in front of Mickey Lolich)
T-47th in Sac flies with 15 (Tied with V-Mart)
47th in Games Played with 818 (one game ahead of Carlos Guillen, whom he was actually traded for)

(Another fun fact, Santiago is the only baseball player in history to make the play-offs with the Detroit Tigers 4 different times)

Ramon Santiago was your typical utility bench player, the guy every team has that can play all the infield positions, can come in late defensively if needed, or fill a starting spot if a starter needs a day off or is injured. Most teams rotate through this utility player every couple of years, yet Detroit managed to hold onto theirs for a decade, something that isn't seen all that often. This is probably because Santiago appeared to do all the little things right, as evidenced by the stats above. He was a switch-hitter, good fielder, and delivered sacrifice bunts and sacrifice flies when he needed to. To rank 25th in Tiger history in Sac hits when he is well out of the top 50 in At-Bats is pretty remarkable. Santiago was great at the "hustle stats" that make up a gritty baseball player. Santiago played shortstop the most, but also played second and third in his time in Detroit, and graded out overall as a good fielder. Good fielding, good bunting, good execution on sac flies, and of course taking one for the team are all qualities that are necessary, if not imperative, for a bench/role player. Ramon Santiago epitomized that role with above average skills in the categories that mattered. He was not an everyday player, and anything over 400 plate appearances was probably too much. (He only had one season over over 400 PA's, and he had a -0.8 WAR). However, Santiago appears to me to have been at least above average at the tasks that he was asked to do, and for that, we salute you. Santiago is 33 years old and his last two seasons (.215/.290/.279) prove that he may be on the decline. He signed with the Reds, and I do wish him luck over in the National League. A good example of how a player can hold value just by doing the little things right.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Dream Team

I have probably been working on creating my ultimate dream team off and on for years. It is something I have discussed in great detail with many of my friends and family members, and is always good for a friendly debate. I have decided to share my 2014 version of what my ultimate 25 man roster would look like, knowing full well that this team could change in my head while I am typing this, and will almost certainly change by the end of this month, let alone this year. I will explain some of my thought process below, but I highly encourage comments below, the most fun part of making teams like this is hearing others' opinions. Please share!
I created a 25 man roster, complete with 15 position players, five starters, and five relievers. I am assuming there is a DH for the purposes of this roster.

Sports Illustrated cover from a few years back illustrating their picks for an all time team.

Catcher

Ivan Rodriguez and Johnny Bench

I had a hard time deciding between these two guys which one would start, but it was not a hard decision which two catchers I would take for my team. Mike Piazza and Yogi Berra are the only other two who merited consideration on my part, but ultimately the combination of defense and hitting that both Bench and Rodriguez provide was the reason these two made the cut. Ultimately I believe Pudge would be my starter, but it could truly go either way.

First Base

Stan Musial and Lou Gehrig

Once again, an extremely hard decision who I would start. Stan Musial is a decision most people do not make, at least not at first base. Musial spent more time in the outfield than he did at first, but I think he provides my team more value as first baseman, especially with a stellar group of outfielders. Musial started 989 games at first base and only committed 78 errors, good for a .992 fielding percentage. Lou Gehrig is indisputable as one of, if not the best, hitter of all time and definitely earns that title as a first baseman. Your lineup would get quite a boost with either of these men starting at first.

Second Base

Robinson Cano and Jackie Robinson

I yet again have a hard time deciding who would start here (notice a theme?). The obvious solution is to platoon these two, as Cano hits left handed and Jackie Robinson hits right handed. I suppose I'll weasel my way out of making a true decision and settle with that. Ryne Sandberg, Rogers Hornsby and Joe Morgan had legitimate cases for making this team, but I think the athleticism of Jackie Robinson and the power of Robinson Cano overtake what Sandberg, Hornsby and Morgan had to offer.

Shortstop

Alex Rodriguez and Ernie Banks

This was probably my toughest decision. I have wavered heavily over which shortstops I would take to fill out a dream team roster. I believe in the time I have been making a dream team I have had at least five different shortstops; Rodriguez, Banks, Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken, and Honus Wagner. I have also considered Derek Jeter and Robin Yount as options as well. Ultimately I settled on A-Rod as the starter and Ernie Banks as the backup. Both these men offer tremendous power and solid defense (I am choosing to look more at 1996 A-Rod as opposed to beefed up, cheating late 2000's A-Rod). Ozzie Smith was very hard to leave off the roster, on a team full of great hitters it feels like having a great defensive shortstop would really help the squad, as a potential late inning defensive replacement who could also pinch run. But I feel that A-Rods defense will satisfy, especially with Cano or Robinson at second and a good defensive third baseman. This one is a position I love hearing feedback on.

Third Base

Mike Schmidt

This was far and away the easiest position to decide. I suppose you could make an argument for Chipper Jones or Pete Rose since they are switch hitters, but ultimately I felt that Schmidts' power (548 home runs compared to Jones' 468) and defense (10 gold gloves) outweighed both those two (Rose was a great singles hitter, but he was not a great third baseman and spent most of his career playing other positions). Mike Schmidt was everything you want in a third baseman, and while Chipper Jones certainly was great as well, I do not believe there was anything he really did much better than Schmidt, except hit for a higher batting average. The third base experiment for Miguel Cabrera appears to be over, had he continued to play there and put up MVP offensive numbers he may have clawed his way into this discussion, as it stands he will have to make his case as a first baseman, a much more difficult task. Ultimately the king of the hot corner is definitely Mr. Schmidt.

Outfield/DH

Disclaimer: I have created rosters before where the DH spot has to be filled by an actual DH, and each outfield position has to be filled by a legitimate leftfielder, centerfielder and rightfielder (as opposed to just picking three outfielders). For the purposes of this team I am selecting four players to start who I believe make the best roster, even though they may not have played that specific outfield spot or DHed. For what it is worth, if I were picking an actual DH my choice would be Edgar Martinez, with respect to Frank Thomas, Harold Baines and David Ortiz. My outfield would be more or less the same as the one I have below.

Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Rickey Henderson


I would pay loads and loads of money for that card.

Whew. Outfielders are very often the best players in the game, so picking a crew of six was very difficult. I believe either Babe Ruth or Ted Williams will DH (both were pretty terrible outfielders). The other will play left, and of course Willie Mays will play center. I cannot decide whether I will start Hank Aaron in his natural right field, or if I will allow Barry Bonds to start, even though RF is not his natural position. The same with A-Rod, I look at 1992 Barry Bonds and see an athlete who could very easily play right, but beefed up 2001 Bonds could barely move in left field, and would be a massive liability in right. I suppose I could cop out once more and platoon them. Rickey Henderson is on this roster primarily for his pinch running ability (He is part of the reason Ozzie Smith got bumped). That was a hard call, as it forced me to leave off superstars such as Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, Frank Robinson, Ken Griffey Jr, and Tris Speaker. Specifically knowing I wanted speed, I had to decide between Cobb and Henderson, and picked Rickey mostly because he had slightly more power, but also because he was a right handed hitter, and with lefties Ruth, Bonds and Williams already in the fold I thought another RH hitter would be good.

Five man Rotation (in no particular order)

Walter Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez

Bullpen

Randy Johnson, Satchel Paige, Clayton Kershaw, Dennis Eckersley, Mariano Rivera

So I kind of cheated yet again, and I have eight starting pitchers and only two actual relievers (1.5 really when you consider Eckersley was a starter for the first part of his career). Still, I consider this the best ten pitchers I could get for myself, and I firmly believe having two great left handed pitchers in the bullpen makes up for only having one in the rotation. The two unique, less mainstream picks on this roster are Satchel Paige and Clayton Kershaw. Taking those guys over guys like Roger Clemens, Christy Mathewson, Cy Young, Tom Seaver or Trevor Hoffman was not easy, but gave me a more complete staff. Kershaw, in my opinion, already may be the third best left handed pitcher of all time. I know that is somewhat bold, but outside of Koufax and Randy I cannot think of another Lefty I would rather have than him. He already is dominant, can you imagine him coming out of the 'pen as a LOOGY? Left handers have hit .186/.258/.314 off of him in his career thus far. Kershaw has won the ERA title and the WHIP title 3 years IN A ROW, and led the NL in K's two of those three years. To reiterate, Kershaw was one (1!) strikeout away from leading the league in those three categories three years in a row. Absolutely unbelievable. Satchel Paige is a little harder to validate, simply because we do not have very accurate raw data on him in the Negro Leagues. However, after reading a book about Paige and his rubber arm I cannot leave him off, even for some of the more proven arms listed above. Paige had a unique delivery and was believed to throw the baseball very close to 100 mph. If given this opportunity, I could not pass up the chance to watch good old Satchel come in and bring some heat on a couple poor hitters. (I would also like to point out Satchel was not the only Negro League player I considered, both Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell were considered for positions in the field, but I passed on them for more proven names. Satchel however, seemed like a sure enough thing to me).


The rest of the pitching staff is pretty self-explanatory, the numbers and pure dominance of Johnson Koufax Gibson Maddux and Pedro more or less speaks for itself, and Eckersley and Rivera are, in my opinion, far and away the best two relievers to ever pitch. Once again, I absolutely welcome controversy, disagreement, requests for more explanation, etc... This is one of my favorite topics to discuss, so please bring it on.
Thanks for reading!































Friday, January 10, 2014

Mike Cameron and the 300/300 club

Growing up in Portland, the majority of baseball games that I got to watch were played by the Seattle Mariners. I have always been a Detroit Tigers fan, but have grown to love the Mariners as well, including many of their players. Mike Cameron was always one of my favorites, and recently I was looking at his career on baseball-reference.com. Usually I use this blog to examine if a player is Hall worthy, but this will not be that situation. I love Mike Cameron, but his numbers, while great, compare closest to guys like Ron Gant and Reggie Sanders, great players who do not deserve serious Hall consideration. Mike Cameron will probably make the Hall of Fame ballot, and may even get a vote or two, but that will be it. However, I found many things about his career fascinating and wanted to share them here.

Mike Cameron finished his career with 278 home runs and 297 steals. Cameron was only 22 home runs and only 3 steals shy of joining an EXTREMELY elusive club, the 300 home run 300 steal club. The only members of this club are; Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, Andre Dawson, Carlos Beltran, Bobby Bonds, Reggie Sanders and Steve Finley.

This was the main reason I wanted to post, I find the 300/300 club very interesting. Power/speed is often considered the ultimate ballplayer, guys who could hit the ball out of the park and also swipe a base after they legged out a single. In fact even to this day players who have both of those skills are extremely sought after (It's the main reason people believe Mike Trout is more valuable than Miguel Cabrera). The power/speed distinction helped propel to instant fame guys like Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, A-Rod, Carlos Beltran and Andre Dawson. Mays and Dawson are Hall of Famers, and it appears Carlos Beltran will be inducted soon after his career is over. Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Steve Finley may have achieved their abilities via PEDs, casting some doubt onto their actual abilities in the power-speed category. (I will say that A-Rod and Bonds absolutely had the talent to achieve these numbers, anyone who saw Bonds in 92 or A-Rod in 96 pre-steroids knows that these two could easily achieve 300/300 without touching any illegal substances). Steve Finley, however, probably used PEDs as a way to fuel the power numbers and keep up the speed numbers later into his career. (I will point out that Finley never failed a drug test, but was implicated by his ex-wife, Tawny Kitaen, who claimed she saw him inject steroids and heard him brag about it. Trusting the opinion of the woman who danced on a car in a Whitesnake video and allegedly attacked her (other) ex-husband by stepping on his foot while he was driving is certainly not concrete, but we all trust Jose Canseco so at this point we have to trust about anybody).

I guess the main thing I find really interesting about this is that a few members of the 300/300 club are instant superstars, while the bottom few like Sanders and Finley were considered good players but never superstars, never elite and never Hall of Fame worthy. Cameron, again who falls barely short of this club, fits more into the second category. I figured this has to do with what baseball aficionados call the five tool player. Power and speed are two of the tools, but guys like Mays and Bonds and Beltran had all five tools. The other three are batting average, defense and arm. Carlos Beltran is a prime example of a great five tool guy, in addition to over 300 HR and 300 SB, (power and speed) Beltran also has a career .283 Batting average, a 7.0 defensive WAR, two gold gloves and is 24th all time in centerfield assists. That proves that Beltran was not just above average at all five categories, but was elite or at least very good all across the board. It seems like each of the second category guys had a gap or two that just separated them from the 5 tool category. Sanders was only an average fielder. He had an average arm (76th in RF assists, but 54th in games in RF) and only a 1.4 dWar for his career. He also, like Cameron, was a strikeout prone hitter, and had a career batting average of .267 (by no means bad, but certainly not anything incredibly special).

Cameron was the king of the K. He struck out a blistering 1901 times during his 17 year career, about 24 percent of his at-bats ended in a K. For a player with the speed he had there is nothing worse that he could do at the plate than strike out. Cameron hit .249 for his career with only a .338 on base percentage. So essentially, Cameron had the speed to steal tons of bases and the power to drive the ball out of the park (even at Safeco field and Miller Park, where he hit the most Home runs) but not the discipline to get on base even at a .350 pace. Cameron is considered an elite defensive player in centerfield, with a 9.7 dWar and 4,698 putouts, 11th all time for CFers. His arm was nothing special, but as a centerfielder that was not imperative.

Again I guess the interesting thing about Cameron (at least what I find interesting) is that he was a very good 3 tool player; a player with great speed, not just on the bases but in the field as well, great power for a CFer, and great defense. However, his tendency for the strikeout and poor career batting average keeps him from jumping into the Carlos Beltran/Andre Dawson club of elite outfielders, and instead keeps him down with Reggie Sanders and Steve Finley.

Mike Cameron was a joy to watch when he was in Seattle and I was younger, he hit the first home run I ever saw live when I was 10 years old during the 2001 season, and was always good for a great catch in centerfield. I hope he does not fade into obscurity as the years go by, because he was a few swings and misses away from being a superstar (okay, maybe more than just a few).

Last interesting point I wanted to make, Mike Cameron was the centerpiece in trades that included both Paul Konerko and Ken Griffey jr. That is all.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Congratulations

Congratulations to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas for induction into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame! All three of them are deserving candidates. I am saddened that Jack Morris did not make it this go around, but believe the Veteran's Committee will have a tough decision on whether or not to let him in. Next years ballot includes Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield and Nomar Garciaparra (Who I wrote about here)

Once again Congratulations to our three new HOFers!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

HOF predictions and such

Alright so tomorrow they announce the hall of fame class of 2014, so I am a little behind on my Ballot for this year, but I thought I would share anyway. First things first, here are the candidates for the Class of 2014:
Moises Alou, Jeff Bagwell, Armando Benitez, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Sean Casey, Roger Clemens, Ray Durham, Eric Gagne, Tom Glavine, Luis Gonzalez, Jacque Jones, Todd Jones, Jeff Kent, Paul Lo Duca, Greg Maddux, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Mike Mussina, Hideo Nomo, Rafael Palmeiro, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Kenny Rogers, Curt Schilling, Richie Sexson, Lee Smith, J.T. Snow, Sammy Sosa, Frank Thomas, Mike Timlin, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker.

I can separate these guys into a few different categories.

Category number one: Under 5 percent guys. These are the guys who just fill out the ballot every year, and have no chance of even receiving five percent, nevermind getting enshrined:

Armando Benitez

Sean Casey

Ray Durham

Eric Gagne

Jacque Jones

Todd Jones

Paul Lo Duca

Kenny Rogers

Richie Sexson

JT Snow

Mike Timlin


Sorry Richie.

All talented players, none who will see the ballot in 2015.

That leaves us with 25 players:

Moises Alou

Jeff Bagwell

Craig Biggio

Barry Bonds

Roger Clemens

Tom Glavine

Luis Gonzalez

Jeff Kent

Greg Maddux

Edgar Martinez

Don Mattingly

Fred McGriff

Mark McGwire

Jack Morris

Mike Mussina

Hideo Nomo

Rafael Palmeiro

Mike Piazza

Tim Raines

Curt Schilling

Lee Smith

Sammy Sosa

Frank Thomas

Alan Trammell

Larry Walker

Well I can only vote for ten, so lets eliminate a few more that, even completely taking out the steroids argument, do not quite have the talent to be HOFers. I call this the close but no Cigar category. We will eliminate:

Moises Alou

Luis Gonzalez

Don Mattingly

Hideo Nomo

Lee Smith


So now we are still left with 20 names and only ten spots. This is where I got stuck quite a bit during my deliberation. I hate that steroids play such a huge part in the voting, but ultimately there is nothing I can do to avoid the issue. Because of this, I believe that players who appear clean and who did not do steroids (or at least get caught) deserve a chance before players who were caught doing steroids. It's by no means a perfect argument, but at this point nothing really is. This means I will eliminate:

Barry Bonds

Roger Clemens

Mark McGwire

Rafael Palmeiro

Sammy Sosa


15 names left, ten spots total. This is going to be tough. I will say at this point that the fifteen names left, (Bagwell, Biggio, Glavine, Kent, Maddux, Martinez, McGriff, Morris, Mussina, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Thomas, Trammell and Walker) all deserve HOF enshrinement in my opinion. I tend to favor a bigger Hall of Fame, so I know not everyone agrees, but that has always been my stance. Now how to pick who to vote for and who not to vote for. There are a lot of voters who are in a similar stance and some of them choose to vote for certain players who they are afraid may fall off the ballot (McGriff, Walker, Trammell, etc) instead of voting for someone like Biggio or Maddux who they know will get plenty of votes. On Principal I do not really believe in that, but I will make an exception this year. I think that Jack Morris is probably one of the bottom five on this ballot, but this is his 15th year of eligibility and I will vote for him because of this. Otherwise my ballot is who I believe are the most deserving out of this bunch.

Craig Biggio- 3000 hits, 65 WAR, 5th all time in doubles, should have gone in last year.

Tom Glavine- 300 Wins, one of the most dominant Lefties of all time.

Jeff Kent- Probably the best offensive second baseman of all time.

Greg Maddux- It will be a crime if he does not receive 100% of the vote.

Edgar Martinez- See Kent, Jeff but regarding DH.

Fred McGriff- one strike shortened season a way from 500 home runs and a three year old plaque in Cooperstown.

Jack Morris- Reasoning stated above.

Mike Piazza- See Kent, Jeff and Martinez, Edgar but regarding C.

Tim Raines- Supremely underrated, career OBP of .385 is ridiculous.

Frank Thomas- 500 home runs, Big Hurt was a forced to be reckoned with.


It hurts me so much to leave off Jeff Bagwell, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Alan Trammell and Larry Walker because I do believe they all deserve the Hall of Fame. Hopefully they are not ignored by the voters this year and they end up staying on the ballot for another year.

As for my prediction, i believe Greg Maddux, Craig Biggio, Jack Morris, Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine will all go in this year. I am a big optimistic, but I think after zero going in last year some voters will ease up and vote in some more players who deserve in.