Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Projecting A-Rod

It only takes a few mental calculations to figure out that Alex Rodriguez—if he stays healthy—will put up sick career numbers. The number “800” has been thrown around quite often when discussing his final home run count. That number has long been reserved for Sadahuru Oh. It has never been a number discussed with regards to a MLB player—until now. Barry Bonds is 43 and thriving. There is no reason to think that A-Rod can’t thrive to a similar age. If he does, then records will fall.

I’m not sure that most baseball fans realize the pace that A-Rod is on for a number of statistics. So, I’m going to do my best to project what his numbers will look like when he retires. I’m going to assume--like Bonds--that A-Rod plays until he is 43. He may suffer a career-ending injury next week but for projection purposes, I think 43 is more than reasonable.

Here is a ballpark-look at what A-Rod’s career statistics will look like after the 2007 season (I simply used the first 102 games of the ’07 season to project the last 60 to come up with his projected career totals as of the end of 2007):

Projected Career Totals as of the end of 2007


Since A-Rod has played in 12 full MLB-seasons, I can divide the above totals by 12—and subtract the numbers from his first two partial seasons—to come up with an average season for his career.

Typical season over first 12 full seasons


If A-Rod plays until he is 43 (he'll actually turn 44 in July of the 12th year), then that means he’ll have 12 seasons to pad his statistics. I could simply multiply the “typical” season above times 12 but that might result in inflated career numbers. I want these projections to be as realistic and reachable as possible so I’m going to reduce his average season so that these projections will take into consideration a drop-off in production.

Projected typical season from 2008-2019


By adding A-Rod's projected statistics over the next 12 years to the numbers he has already amassed in his first 12 years, you get the monstrosity below...

A-Rod's Projected Career Statistics


Here is what the All-Time record books will look like for each statistic if A-Rod meets these projections:


1). Alex Rodriguez 2832
2). Rickey Henderson 2295
3). Ty Cobb 2246
4). Barry Bonds 2205 (and counting)
5) tie Hank Aaron 2174
5) tie Babe Ruth 2174


1). Pete Rose 4256
2). Ty Cobb 4189
3). Alex Rodriguez 4053
4). Hank Aaron 3771
5). Stan Musial 3630


1). Tris Speaker 792
2). Pete Rose 746
3). Stan Musial 725
4). Ty Cobb 724
5). Alex Rodriguez 704


1). Alex Rodriguez 880
2). Hank Aaron 755
3). Barry Bonds 754 (and counting)
4). Babe Ruth 714
5). Willie Mays 660


1). Alex Rodriguez 2831
2). Hank Aaron 2297
3). Babe Ruth 2217
4). Cap Anson 2076
5). Lou Gehrig 1995

Total Bases:

1). Alex Rodriguez 7870
2). Hank Aaron 6856
3). Stan Musial 6134
4). Willie Mays 6066
5). Barry Bonds 5924 (and counting)


1). Barry Bonds 2531 (and counting)
2). Rickey Henderson 2190
3). Babe Ruth 2062
4). Ted Williams 2021
5). Joe Morgan 1865
6). Carl Yastrzemski 1845
7). Alex Rodriguez 1753

Runs Created:

1). Alex Rodriguez 3155
2). Babe Ruth 2757
3). Barry Bonds 2659 (and counting)
4). Hank Aaron 2590
5). Stan Musial 2568

Keep in mind that these projections are taking into consideration a drop-off that may or may not exist. Contemporary players have been able to maintain their "prime" production into their late 30s. Since A-Rod very likely has 7+ seasons in his prime remaining, my projections may be on the low end. If that ends up being the case, A-Rod may even challenge Pete Rose for the all-time hits record. Rose's hit total hasn't been challenged but don’t be surprised to hear that number pop up in the near future as a feasible mark for A-Rod. Plus, I believe there are two factors that are present that could significantly increase the odds that A-Rod will break Rose's record. First, I think A-Rod is a "numbers" guy. I am fairly certain that he is always aware of where his career numbers stand. I think he is the kind of guy that has just as many--if not more--individual goals as he does team goals. I can see him sticking around to break records. Second, a friendly battle with Derek Jeter for career hits may ensue resulting in both players playing well into their 40s.

These projections have A-Rod so far ahead of anyone else in HRs, RBIs, Runs, Runs Created, and Total Bases that a significant drop-off in production or even a retirement at 40 would still likely see A-Rod as the all-time leader in those statistics by the time he is finished playing baseball. Interestingly, by the age of 32, Barry Bonds had two-40 HR seasons. Assuming A-Rod hits five more HRs this year, he'll have had eight-40 HR seasons by the age of 32. Additionally, A-Rod has led the league in HR five times. Bonds--in 22 seasons--did it only twice. A career-ending injury could make all of this moot but people should realize that we could be watching the most prolific baseball player of all-time. Most people have probably been too busy booing to even realize it.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

MLB Hall of Fame Projections: Second Base

Only Third Base and Catcher have fewer Hall of Fame members than Second Base. Most of the 16 Hall of Fame second basemen played in the first half of the 20th century. In fact, only Rod Carew, Joe Morgan, and Ryne Sandberg didn’t play before the 60s. There are at least two future Hall of Fame second basemen playing right now but both could be out of the league in two years. Assuming Jeff Kent is elected to the HOF, it could be a long time between Kent and the next second baseman elected. The position is still the least offensive-oriented position in the game but I think it is slowly being taken over by pretty good hitters much like what happened to the shortstop position in the 90’s. The days of a defensive-minded player with terrible offensive statistics making it into Cooperstown because his position isn't thought of as an "offensive" positon should be coming to an end. Omar Vizquel will get some pub but hopefully Ozzie Smith was the last member of that club.

I could put together a lengthy list of recognizable second basemen under the “not likely” category (i.e. Luis Castillo, Marcus Giles, Freddy Sanchez) but none of them are even close. It was a stretch to even include Placido Polanco and Jose Vidro in those categories but they were the best of the rest.

Here are the categories that I will be using to breakdown the candidates and a brief description of each category: The “Lock” and “Likely” categories will be counted as being projected into the Hall of Fame. There won’t be too many “Borderline” candidates but I’ll decide those projections on a case by case basis. I will not count players under 25 regardless of my opinion but I’ll identify players under 25 who seem to be off to excellent starts.

Lock: Barring steroid scandal, will be a Hall of Famer
Likely: Player is on the path based on career progression
Borderline: Pretty close to 50/50; or could make a charge
Not Likely: Almost no chance; would take an unexpected resurgence
Under 25: Players that have a good start to a potential HOF career

Active Hall of Fame Second Basemen

Locks (1)

Craig Biggio

Two years ago, I wrote this about Biggio:

“Bill James has Craig Biggio ranked as the 35th best player in baseball history. I think that’s probably a little high but when James says something, it’s usually more true than not. Biggio has been an outstanding second basemen. He’ll easily reach 3,000 hits. He has over 400 stolen bases. He’ll finish with over 600 doubles. He should finish with close to 1,800 runs. Biggio, along with Raffy, is one of the most unheralded player of the 90’s. The only question here is which ballot he makes it on.”

I can’t say anything has changed in how I perceive Biggio. It’ll be a sad day when he retires. Ever since I can remember, Biggio has been in the league.

Likely (1)

Jeff Kent

Kent is probably the greatest power-hitting second baseman ever. He has the most home runs of any second basemen in MLB history. If he plays 2-3 more seasons, he’ll have the most RBIs of any second basemen in MLB history. He’ll finish with 2,500+ hits and close to 600 doubles with a .290 batting average. His OPS is very good for the position at .861. In fact, Kent’s numbers dominate Ryne Sandberg’s numbers and Sandberg is in the Hall of Fame. It would take a steroid scandal to derail Kent’s path to Cooperstown.


Alfonso Soriano

If Soriano is remembered for being a second-baseman at the end of his career, then he’s a lock for the HOF. That’s probably why he fought the Nationals so hard when they wanted to move him to the OF. His niche was supposed to be as one of the greatest hitting second basemen of all-time—not as a decent-hitting outfielder. As an outfielder, he has almost no chance. To be fair, Soriano has played three times as many games at second base as he has in the outfield so he still should be grouped as a second baseman when his HOF chances are discussed. The problem is that he has only played five full seasons at second base. Over a 15-year career, five seasons won’t be enough to convince people he should be regarded as a second-baseman. I’m putting his chances right at 50/50—100% as a second baseman, .1% as an outfielder. If I had to make a guess, I would say no so I will not be projecting him in.

Chase Utley

Even though Utley is only 28, he is probably the best hitting second baseman that I have seen. His career OPS is .895 and rising. He didn’t play in more than 100 games until the age of 26 which will likely damage his final career totals. Fortunately for Utley, if there is a position where you don’t need to reach the famed career milestones, it is second base. Utley just needs to play 10-12 more years and he’ll likely have enough peak seasons to make it to Cooperstown. It’s a little early but if he stays healthy, I’m giving him a 50/50 chance but I'm not going to project him in because too many things still need to go right for Utley.

Not Likely

Jose Vidro

Seven years ago, I thought Vidro might be a Hall of Famer in the making. It doesn’t appear it’s going to turn out that way. From 1999-2003, Vidro posted batting averages of .304, .330, .319, .315, and .310. Since many of baseball’s best players have been peaking into their 30s, it was reasonable to assume that Vidro was just entering his prime. As it turned out, that was his prime. He’ll have to settle as being one of the best second basemen in baseball over that five-year period.

Placido Polanco

Polanco has only played more than 129 games in a season twice in his career which is amazing for a guy playing in his tenth season with a .303 career batting average. As one would expect after missing so many games, Polanco’s career numbers are underwhelming. He only has 1,200 hits at the age of 31. The chances of Polanco being selected to the HOF are about .01%. But, I would take him as my starting second baseman any day of the week.

Under 25 to keep an eye on:

Robinson Cano

Cano is only 24. Projecting 16 years into the future is a tall task. I’ll just say that he is about to finish his third full season in the majors with a career batting average of .313. He got an early enough start that if he plays long enough, he’ll be able to put up some impressive career numbers. His power numbers leave a lot to be desired but he’s playing the right position to be a singles and doubles hitter.

Final Projected Second Basemen (2)

Craig Biggio
Jeff Kent

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Notre Dame's Replacement

As reported in the MSM this week, Michigan and Notre Dame will be taking a break from each other in 2012 and 2013. Notre Dame has filled the spot of Michigan’s “big-time non-conference football opponent” since 2002. That means Bill Martin will be looking for a big-time replacement in lieu of the Notre Dame hiatus. Many D-1 football schools have their schedules pretty well mapped out through 2011 but very few have things in place for 2012. That leaves more than a few possibilities for Michigan. This hiatus should be an opportunity for fans to see Michigan play a team it rarely plays. Ohio State has recently increased its national reach by scheduling “home and homes” with USC, Miami (FL), Texas, and Virginia Tech. Michigan has the opportunity—at least for two years—to do something similar. I’m excited about the possibilities and I’m hopeful that Martin will come up with a formidable opponent.

Martin has alluded that he will likely be looking for a team of Notre Dame’s caliber. With a couple deductions and a few more assumptions, I think we can narrow down the list of the likely opponents to 10-15 teams. First, I can’t remember the last time an SEC powerhouse came north to play at Michigan, Ohio St. or Penn St. In fact, the last SEC team with a winning record to play at Michigan was in 1980 (S. Carolina). Before that, it was Georgia in 1965. Good SEC teams don’t play on the road in the Big Ten—and I’ll begrudgingly add “vice versa” to the end of that sentence. Anything can happen but I think we can eliminate the SEC as a whole and have good reason to do so.

Notre Dame wants to play Oklahoma in that two-year gap. I doubt Oklahoma will be interested in playing Notre Dame and Michigan in the same year. So, the Sooners are likely out. Florida St. already plays Florida and at West Virginia in 2012. I doubt they’re looking for a team of Michigan’s caliber to go along with that group. So, the Seminoles are likely out.

With the SEC likely out of the equation along with Florida St. and Oklahoma, the potential list of teams shrinks considerably. From my perspective, the remaining teams that could reasonably act as a big-time opponent in 2012 are; Nebraska, Texas A&M, Texas, USC, California, West Virginia, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Miami (FL), and Clemson. I realize a few of those teams don’t necessarily fit the profile of an elite program so hopefully they are fallback options only. Louisville and West Virginia are not guaranteed—not that any team really is— to be elite programs in 2012 so scheduling either of them would risk the possibility of having Michigan's best non-conference game end up being a mediocre opponent. That mostly depends on whether Rich Rodriguez stays at WVU and whether Steve Kragthorpe can keep the Louisville program rolling. I’m not sure that California fits the bill as a team worthy of replacing Notre Dame but they may or may not be playing Ohio State in 2012. And like West Virginia, their coach may or may not be Michigan’s coach in 2012.

Wish list of the realistic candidates

1). Texas

Michigan has never played at Texas and Texas has never played at Michigan. In fact, the only meeting between the schools with the most and third most wins in 1-A history happened in the 2005 Rose Bowl. Vince Young fooled with the Michigan defense for a thrilling 38-37 Texas win. That game is widely viewed as one of the most exciting football games in college football history. It would make sense to replace Notre Dame with the team just below it on the all-time list and that’s Texas. Plus, Texas is one of only a handful of teams that Michigan has a losing record against (0-1). This would give Michigan a chance to fix that; although it would take winning both games to accomplish that goal.

2). Va. Tech

Michigan almost scheduled Va. Tech a few years ago but that never ended up happening. I remember reading from a few sources that Michigan backed out but I’m not sure how accurate those claims are. Michigan and Virginia Tech have never played. Virginia Tech is one of best-coached programs in America. They present a challenge in all facets of the game especially on defense and special teams. It would be fantastic to see Michigan play in Blacksburg (preferably a night game) and then see Virginia Tech return the favor in Ann Arbor.

3). Miami (FL)

Among the worst memories of most Michigan football fans—me included—is Michigan’s monumental collapse to #1 Miami (FL) in 1988. Michigan built a 30-14 lead only to lose 31-30. I’m pretty sure that game ripped out part of my soul. Anyhow, Miami has been as good as it gets in college football over the last 25 years. I wouldn’t mind seeing these teams go at it again for another memorable “home and home.” Randy Shannon should have the ‘Canes rolling again by 2012 which would make this game uber-important.

4). USC

I can’t help but to think that scheduling USC in a “home and home” would be a kin to scheduling a loss two years in a row. If Pete Carroll is gone by 2012, then maybe USC becomes mortal. Is it worth scheduling a team like USC if it likely means an early season loss? I’m not so sure. Plus, these teams have played each other ten times including twice in the last four years. Michigan could do a better job of diversifying by playing a different team. Still, if Michigan wants to put itself on the national stage, there is no easier way than to schedule USC.

5). West Virginia

I’m not sure that Martin wants to bank on West Virginia remaining an upper-echelon program for five more years. It’s even possible that Rich Rodriguez might be Michigan’s head coach in five years. Stranger things have happened. I would actually be surprised if I found out Rodriguez was still at West Virginia in 2012. Knowing that, I probably wouldn’t make scheduling West Virginia my top priority. However, Michigan hasn’t played West Virginia in 103 years. The only meeting between the teams featured a narrow Michigan victory by the score of 130-0. West Virginia might have a bitter taste after that one. I would enjoy seeing Michigan play in Morgantown. That is a Blacksburg-type environment that would be fun to watch.

Dark Horse


Michigan and Clemson have never played. Death Valley is one of the great scenes in college football. I’m not sure you can ever count on Clemson being a consistent national power but I’m all for seeing Michigan play against teams that it has never played before.

Of course, my list changes significantly if the SEC is in play


I’ve been waiting for Michigan to play LSU for years. Michigan has never played LSU. In fact, LSU is probably the most high-profile team that Michigan has not played. I was hoping to see this match-up sometime over the last few seasons in a BCS game but it never happened. I’m not sure if Les Miles being LSU’s coach makes this game more or less likely to occur.


Georgia has always been my favorite SEC team. They are as close to a Big Ten team as you’ll find in the SEC. Michigan has only played Georgia twice with the last game being in 1965. This would be a chance for 90% of Michigan fans to watch these two traditional powers got at it for the first time.


If I had to guess, I would say that Alabama will be a national juggernaut in five years much in the mold of USC. Nick Saban turned LSU into a National Champion and perennial powerhouse. Alabama has a bigger name and tradition than LSU which means Saban might just do even better at ‘Bama.

Florida & Tennessee

It'll be interesting to see if rifts preclude an otherwise great match-up from occurring. My guess is that there is more animosity between the fanbases than there is between the Athletic Departments. Michigan and Tennessee have a history dating back to--and really only has to do with--1997. Phil Fulmer very likely voted Michigan 4th--or at the very least 3rd-- in the final Coaches Poll of Michigan's undefeated season. This, of course, was a likely protest of Charles Woodson's winning the Heisman Trophy over Peyton Manning. Then there is the whole "class vs. no class" issue in how Lloyd Carr and Urban Meyer handled themselves during the BCS uncertainty. There is unquestionably a fragile relationship--at least on the surface--between Michigan and Florida & Tennessee. Whether that keeps their Athletic Departments from discussing a "home and home" is something we'll have to wait and see.

Queue Jim Carty grossly misrepresenting my post while simultaneously insulting my Michigan football knowledge…now!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

MLB Hall of Fame Projections: First Base

I mentioned two years ago that I thought there would be a bunch of first basemen with big-time numbers left out of the Hall of Fame as voters adjust their criteria due to the steroid/home run era. I’m not so sure that I agree with that sentiment anymore. I have heard various media members say on numerous occasions that 500 home runs is the new 400—that players who reach the 500-homer plateau are no longer locks for Cooperstown. I think that viewpoint works in theory but not in practicality. Of the active first basemen who have reached or will reach 500 home runs, I don’t see any that are likely to be kept out by the HOF voters. The only player with deserving stats that may be kept out is Rafael Palmeiro and that is for a whole different reason. I still consider anyone who hits 500 home runs a “lock”. It still takes a tremendous amount of productive seasons to reach that mark. Nothing has changed in that regard.

Here are the categories that I will be using to breakdown the candidates and a brief description of each category: The “Lock” and “Likely” categories will be counted as being projected into the Hall of Fame. There won’t be too many “Borderline” candidates but I’ll decide those projections on a case by case basis. I will not count players under 25 regardless of my opinion but I’ll identify players under 25 who seem to be off to excellent starts.

Lock: Barring steroid scandal, will be a Hall of Famer
Likely: Player is on the path based on career progression
Borderline: Pretty close to 50/50; or could make a charge
Not Likely: Almost no chance; would take an unexpected resurgence
Under 25: Players that have a good start to a potential HOF career

Active Hall of Fame First Basemen

Locks (3)

Frank Thomas

Conventional wisdom is that because “The Big Hurt” reached 500 career home runs, he is a lock for the Hall of Fame. The truth is that he was a lock a long time ago. He is a two-time MVP winner with six top-five finishes. He is one of the most disciplined power-hitters the game has ever seen. He has 1599 career walks and only 1301 strikeouts in 18 seasons. His career batting average is .303. His quest to reach 3,000 career hits was badly sidetracked by four injury-riddled seasons in which he only managed to play 216 games. His career OBP is a whopping .422 which is good enough for 18th in MLB history. His career OPS is even more impressive at .984 which is the 11th best in MLB history. The real question is how Thomas ranks among the greatest of all-time. There is great disagreement over his place in history. His numbers put him in an elite class but I’m not sure his legacy will match his numbers.

Albert Pujols

Pujols is the best hitter that I have ever seen. In six seasons, Pujols has never hit less than 34 home runs or driven in less than 117 RBIs. He has never batted below .314. He has never scored less than 112 runs. He has never finished lower than 4th in the MVP voting and he’s finished in the top two on four different occasions. Have I mentioned that he is only 27? When Pujols is finished playing baseball, I think he’ll be regarded as the best pure hitter of the last 50 years.

Jim Thome

About three years ago I had a discussion with a friend/Cleveland Indians fan regarding Thome. I told him that Thome was a Hall of Famer and he vehemently disagreed so we bet on it. Three years later, I’m feeling really good about that bet. Barring an injury, Thome will likely finish with 600+ homeruns, 1,600+ RBIs, 1,600+ runs and 1,700+ Walks. Those numbers will allow Thome to waltz into the Hall of Fame. His career OPS is .974 which is 16th on the all-time list. His slugging % is .564 which is also 16th on the all-time list. I think the only question left to answer regarding Thome is: which hat will he wear on induction day? I'm guessing Cleveland.

Likely (4)

Todd Helton

Helton will likely end up being one of the most controversial Hall of Fame-cases ever and thankfully that’ll have nothing to do with steroids or any other illegalities. Every Rockies-slugger from Ellis Burks and Andres Galarraga to Vinny Castilla and Larry Walker has had his career numbers inflated somewhat from playing in the thin air of Coors Field. Helton’s numbers were surely aided as well. Unlike the other guys, though, Helton’s numbers are so ludicrous that they cannot be conveniently shoved under the “thin air”-rug. Adding to Helton’s case is the fact that since a humidor was put into place at Coors Field in 2002—a humidor is a device that counteracts the “thin air” effect—Helton has continued to rip the cover off the ball. Since the inception of the humidor, Helton has hit .330. I think most people can agree that a .330 hitter under normal conditions is a lock for the Hall of Fame. Coors Field has been under normal conditions for six seasons since the humidor and Helton hasn’t missed a beat. Helton’s big hurdle will be overcoming the Coors Field reputation. I fear that many voters will just blindly chalk up his numbers to playing in Colorado dismissing his case without giving it much of a thought. Helton could probably leapfrog all of the second-guessing by reaching 3,000 career hits. He would probably have to play eight more seasons which would put him at 42. I’m not sure his back is going to hold up that long. You’ll find Helton in the top 10 all-time in virtually every slugger-friendly statistic including slugging percentage, on base percentage, and OPS. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to matter too much. I think it’s going to come down to whether or not voters can look past their prejudices and give Helton credit for being a phenomenal hitter.

Carlos Delgado

Delgado is one of the players whom I changed my mind on since my last list in 2005. I thought he would be one of the first victims of the shift in expectations by voters. I don’t think Delgado is going to have much of a problem if he plays until he’s 40. He’ll likely finish somewhere close to 600 home runs, 600 doubles, 1,700 RBIs, and 1,500 runs. He is working on his 11th straight season of 30+ home runs which very few players in league history have been able to accomplish. I’m not sure a guy with those numbers can be kept out of the Hall of Fame. Delgado has a pretty good career batting average (.280) and ranks in the top 35 all-time with a .938 OPS. I would be somewhat surprised at this point if Delgado doesn’t make it.

David Ortiz

Ortiz will never reach any of the big-time career milestones. MLB recognized his talent too late. He didn’t play in more than 125 games until he was 27. What Ortiz has is the best prime of any first baseman in my lifetime other than Albert Pujols. Ortiz has finished in the top five of the MVP voting in each of the last four years. He has posted three-straight 40 HR/130 RBI seasons including a 54 HR/137 RBI-effort in ’06. Ortiz is still relatively young at 31. If he can stay healthy, he could have nine more productive seasons to pad his statistics. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for Ortiz to reach 500 home runs and 500 doubles. Even Ortiz’s percentage numbers like OBP, Slugging, and OPS are thrown out of whack because of how many years he played as a fledgling platoon player. Those numbers will keep rising but his career statistics hardly give the proper indication of how dominating he has been. I think he has at least five major offensive seasons left in him which should be enough to get him into the HOF. Although, Mo Vaughn and Albert Belle are two of the best examples of how players can dominate MLB for tens and become afterthoughts after not reaching the notable benchmarks. I think he'll be regarded much like Jeff Bagwell who will most likely be selected to the HOF without having reached any of the traditional benchmarks.

Ryan Howard

Projecting Howard into the HOF at this point is risky but I’m willing to take the chance. Howard has the distinction of reaching 100 home runs faster than any player who has ever played baseball. That is quite an accomplishment. He won the NL ROY award in his first season and followed that up with an NL MVP award in his second. Howard’s career OPS is a ridiculous 1.019. Granted, he has only played a few seasons but I’m not expecting that number to go down too much. Howard’s career will likely resemble David Ortiz’s so if I’m projecting Ortiz in then I have no problem projecting Howard in as well. Both may not reach the traditional milestones but I don’t think either will have to.

Borderline (1)

Lance Berkman

Berkman is 90% of what David Ortiz is and I think that 10% difference will be what keeps Berkman out. I don’t think anybody would ever say that Berkman has dominated baseball. He has great statistics but he isn’t known by most novice baseball fans. He doesn’t have a reputation as a dominating hitter. He won’t reach the 500 home run mark or 3,000 hit mark. The one thing that Berkman does have going for him is that he is 18th on the all-time OPS list at .971. If he can keep it that high, then he might be bound for Cooperstown after all. At this point, I would put his chances around 20%.

Mark Teixeira

I took a leap of faith on Teixeira in ’05 by projecting him in but I’ve backtracked a bit. I still think there is a decent chance that he’ll make it but it’s too early to feel good either way. Teixeira has three-straight 30HR/100RBI seasons and he is only 27-years old. If I had to handicap his chances, I would put them at 35%.

Justin Morneau

I would put Morneau right at 50/50. He already has an AL MVP and will likely finish in the top five again this year. His career numbers are kind of flat but I think he is in the process of blowing up into one of the five premier power hitters in baseball. He has accomplished quite a bit at the age of 27. If he can stay healthy until he is 40, I think he’ll make it. At this point, I’m going to reluctantly project him “in.”

Not likely

Richie Sexson

Sexson has an outside chance at reaching 500 home runs but I think he is more likely to be the first player ever kept out of the HOF having reached 500 home runs than actually making it into the HOF. There is no question that he has been one of the better sluggers in baseball over the last ten years. Unfortunately, his all-around game isn’t up to par compared to most Hall of Fame players. In eleven seasons, Sexson has never finished in the top ten of the MVP voting. That tells me that he isn’t viewed as an elite player by people that watch a lot of baseball. That also tells me that, although he has had a nice career, he won’t get into the HOF.

Jason Giambi

Giambi is in the worst position of all the suspected steroid-users. At least Palmeiro, Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa have the career numbers. Giambi probably wouldn’t have been a Hall of Famer even without the steroid scandal. One can only wonder how things would have gone for him had he stayed out of New York. Most of his numbers took a substantial hit after signing with the Yankees. His first season in New York was phenomenal but there was a sharp decline after that. He’ll likely end up being one of the best players to not make the Hall of Fame right along with Albert Belle, Dale Murphy, and Joe Carter.

Carlos Lee

El Caballo is putting together a nice career. I have to admit that he kind of snuck up on me. But, I don’t think he’ll be dominating enough to garner much consideration. He has been remarkably consistent but not spectacular. At 31, he is fairly young but lacks overwhelming offensive statistics.

Derrek Lee

Lee’s chance of making the Hall of Fame went from somewhere around 40% to about 5% in just one season. He was turning into one of the elite hitters in baseball before suffering a serious wrist injury last season. Before the injury, Lee had increased his home runs totals in each of the previous five seasons culminating in a 46HR/107 RBI-effort in ‘05. That was all before the age of 30. After missing 2/3 of the ’06 season, Lee has seemingly lost his power having managed to hit only eight home runs in 322 at-bats this season. He is a player that I would trade for in a heart-beat if I owned a MLB team. Unfortunately, Lee’s time to pad his stats for a run at the Hall of Fame is evaporating before his eyes.

Paul Konerko

Konerko’s career is right in line with both of the Lee’s. His OPS is around .850. He has only finished in the top ten in the MVP voting once. He has a couple 40 HR/100 RBI seasons but other than that, he has just been a solid first baseman. That probably won’t be enough unless Konerko can put together six or seven fantastic seasons to finish his career.

Travis Hafner

I would only take three first basemen in baseball over Hafner and they are Pujols, Ortiz, and Howard. Hafner is one of the deadliest power hitters in the game today. He has put up three monster seasons in a row and he is working on the fourth. He has an OPS+ of 155 which would be good for 23rd best in MLB history if he had enough at-bats to qualify. The problem is that Hafner didn’t get a chance to play everyday until he was 27. That puts him four or five years behind most Hall of Fame players. If Hafner can put together seven or eight 100 RBI-seasons in a row, then he might get some consideration. Who knows, maybe he has a Jim Thome-type power surge in his future. Anything short of that and Hafner will likely go the way of Jason Giambi and come up short.

Under 25 to keep an eye on:

Prince Fielder

My first memories of Prince Fielder are from the '92 and '93 seasons. He appeared in a McDonald's commercial with his dad. If I remember correctly, they were promoting the "Triple Cheeseburger." Prince was mowing down one of those bad boys like it was a saltine cracker. He was a big boy. When I heard that he was a first-round draft pick in 2002, that commercial ran through my mind and I couldn't believe that round, little boy became one of the best baseball players in the world. Fielder hit 28 HRs in his rookie year ('06) and came in 7th in the Rookie of the Year voting. That should give you an idea of how strong the '06 NL rookie class was. Fielder has followed up his rookie season by destroying NL pitching. He has led the NL in home runs for virtually the entire season. He is on pace for close to 50 HRs and he is only 23. The sky is the limit for Fielder.

Final Projected First Basemen (8)

Frank Thomas
Albert Pujols
Jim Thome
Todd Helton
Carlos Delgado
David Ortiz
Ryan Howard
Justin Morneau

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Tigers are uniquely good

The Tigers have cooled off their white-hot offensive pace a bit since the All-Star break but they still hold a not-so-slim 40-run lead over the next closest teams (Cleveland and Philadelphia). Barring a disaster, the Tigers should easily lead MLB in runs scored at season’s end. Despite an offensive renaissance last season, the Tigers still only managed to finish 9th in MLB in runs scored. We can all thank Gary Sheffield for that eight-spot jump. Pitching unexpectedly stole the show in ’06.

Despite a slow start in ’07, Tigers pitching has slowly crept into the top-six in the AL in runs allowed (13th in MLB). Based on the way the team has been pitching lately it could easily finish in the top three in the AL and the top ten in MLB. Considering the Tigers have been without Kenny Rogers and Joel Zumaya for the majority of the season; that would be quite a feat. As impressive as Tigers pitching has been in the face of so many injuries this season, it doesn’t come close to last season’s performance. The Tigers led MLB in fewest runs against in 2006. Only two AL teams have led MLB in fewest runs against in the last 17 years (Seattle did it in 2001).

While the Tigers won’t duplicate their feat of leading MLB in runs allowed this season, I started to wonder how often a team has led MLB in runs scored or runs allowed in one season and then led MLB in the other category the next season. Since the AL generally leads MLB in runs scored and the NL generally leads MLB in fewest runs allowed, I guessed that it hadn’t happen much. In fact, it hasn’t happened since the LA Dodgers did it leading MLB in runs scored in 1974 and runs allowed in 1975. The Tigers are in excellent shape to accomplish something that hasn’t been done in 32 years. The Mariners led MLB in runs scored and fewest runs against in 2001 which is a feat of historic proportions. Unfortunately for the good people of the Great Northwest, that resulted in a big fat pile of nothing in the hardware department. Hopefully the Tigers can turn their two-year feat into something bigger.

The Tigers are also trying to accomplish something that nobody would’ve predicted last year. With Boston and New York seemingly leading MLB in runs scored every other year, the Detroit Tigers are not the name that comes to mind when the discussion of leading MLB in runs scored is brought up. Amazingly, if the Tigers can hold on to the MLB lead in runs scored this season, they will have led MLB in runs scored the most times since 1970…and 1980…and 1990. They’ll have even led MLB in runs scored more than any team since 1992. Considering how dreadful the 90’s were to the Tigers—or maybe it’s the other way around—that certainly is unexpected.

This team can accomplish a lot of things that haven’t been accomplished in a long time. This team also has one of the greatest combinations of hitting and pitching that MLB has ever seen. I’m just hoping all of this translates into something more than an historical footnote. Maybe the key is not leading MLB in runs scored and runs allowed in the same season but rather spreading it out over two. Hopefully that’s the key to the Tigers getting back to the World Series and avoiding a fate similar to the ’01 Mariners. Yeah, that’s gotta be it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

MLB Hall of Fame Projections

Two years ago I took on the task of identifying active Major League Baseball players who appear to be headed for the Hall of Fame. You can read those projections from 2005 along with a brief description of what factors I used to make those projections if you want a refresher. I’ll be using the same parameters this time around so please check out the ’05 link for any clarifications and to see how I viewed things two years ago.

In 2005, I projected 37 active players—25 or older—to make the Hall of Fame. My preliminary findings this time around suggest that number will be considerably higher if you can believe it. I don’t want to get carried away by projecting too many players into the HOF but I do think we are in the midst of a rare situation as baseball fans. There are at least 21 active players 35 or older who appear to be headed for Cooperstown. That means that in the next 3-5 years, MLB will be losing a monumental collection of talent. This is an extraordinary time to be a baseball fan. Twenty years from now, our children will look back to this time and talk about how lucky we were to witness such a vast collection of historically significant players.

I have changed my mind on a few careers over the last two years. The most notable involve Johan Santana and David Ortiz. Santana is a virtual lock at this point which is saying something considering he has only pitched full-time as a starter for four seasons. Ortiz still has a lot of work to do but he is on his way barring a Mo Vaughn/Albert Belle-type career-ending injury. I have not, however, changed my mind on Johnny Damon or Omar Vizquel’s chances.

I’ll be going position by position starting with catcher. I'll probably be doing one position each week. As always, feel free to agree or disagree.

Here are the categories that I will be using to breakdown the candidates and a brief description of each category: The “Lock” and “Likely” categories will be counted as being projected into the Hall of Fame. There won’t be too many “Borderline” candidates but I’ll decide those projections on a case by case basis. I will not count players under 25 regardless of my opinion but I’ll identify players under 25 who seem to be off to excellent starts.

Lock: Barring steroid scandal, will be a Hall of Famer
Likely: Player is on the path based on career progression
Borderline: Pretty close to 50/50
Not Likely: Almost no chance; would take an unexpected resurgence
Under 25: Players that have a good start to a potential HOF career

Active Hall of Fame Catchers

Getting into the MLB Hall of Fame as a catcher is quite a difficult task. There are only 14 in the Hall of Fame which is the second lowest of all positions (Third Base is the lowest with 11 members). The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) has only voted in three catchers since 1973. The position is physically grueling often resulting in shorter or less effective careers. The position is also extremely demanding mentally which likely takes a toll on offensive statistics. Those factors make it incredibly difficult to put together the combination of production and longevity necessary to garner consideration for the Hall of Fame as a catcher. However, there are at least two active Hall of Fame catchers in MLB with the potential for a couple more.

Locks (2)

Pudge Rodriguez

Pudge is a lock. In fact, he will probably be in the discussion of greatest catcher to ever play once he retires. It wasn’t too long ago that he was overshadowed by Mike Piazza. Once Piazza’s offense started to tail off, Pudge’s combination of defense and hitting propelled him to the top of the list among active catchers in most minds. He has 12 Gold Gloves and an MVP Award to go along with a .304 career batting average. Pudge will likely become the first catcher in MLB history with 3,000 career hits.

Mike Piazza

I’m not sure if Piazza is more known for his offensive prowess or his defensive shortcomings. I do know that you don’t hear too many descriptions of Piazza without both being mentioned prominently. Piazza had eight-straight seasons with 32+ home runs and 90+ RBIs. He finished second in the NL MVP voting twice and finished in the top ten seven times. His career batting average is eighth among active players at.309. His career OPS is an astounding .928 compared to Pudge’s .823. Piazza is easily the greatest offensive catcher to play the game. His defensive shortcomings will likely result in Pudge being regarded as the best catcher of his era.

Not Likely

Victor Martinez

The way his career is going right now, Martinez will not make the Hall of Fame. He needs ten more seasons of superb play to garner consideration. He got a relatively late start at the age of 25. His defense is in the Mike Piazza realm having only thrown out 23% of would-be base stealers. He only has 77 career home runs at the age of 28. If 2007 is any indication, though, Martinez may make a push over the next ten years. He has a career batting average of .304. He is working on his fourth straight season of 80+ RBIs and 30+ doubles. Martinez would really have to have an offensive explosion and reach some difficult career marks and I don’t see those things happening.

Jorge Posada

Posada is currently in the midst of the best offensive season of his career. He is hitting .330 with a .925 OPS. The problem with Posada’s resume is that he didn’t play more than 112 games in a season until he was 29 years old. That explains why his career totals are much lower than what most would think. He only has 1262 career hits at the age of 35. His best credentials are his World Series appearances. He has played in five World Series and was a member of three World Series Champions. There is no question that Posada has been one of the top five catchers of his generation but a slow start and average hitting skills will keep him out of Cooperstown.

Javy Lopez

Lopez’s career numbers are almost identical to Posada’s. In fact, here is how they look side to side:
-----------Age--Hits----HR---R----RBI---Avg.—Slg%---OBP—--OPS—Best MVP Rk.
Posada---35----1262---208--700—821--.274---.475---.377----.852—3rd (2003)
Lopez----35----1527---260--674—864--.287---.491---.337----.828—5th (2003)

Both only had one top-20 MVP finish and it happened, coincidentally, in the same season. Posada has had the luxury of playing in and winning more World Series. Lopez won one and lost one with the Braves. Both have been among the top five catchers in the league throughout their careers but considering that there have only been 14 catchers selected to the Hall of Fame, being a top five catcher in the league isn’t enough to merit a selection.

Jason Kendall

Kendall has very good career numbers, not only for a catcher but, for any position. He has a .298 career batting average. He has over 1,800 career hits and he just turned 33. He could very well finish with 2,500+ career which no catcher in MLB history has accomplished (Pudge will likely be the first later this season). Unfortunately, Kendall’s power numbers are among the worst in baseball. He has 15 home runs in his last six seasons. His career OBP is very good at .375 but his slugging percentage is horrendous at .395. Kendall has consistently been among the top ten catchers in the league but falls a ways short of garnering Hall of Fame attention.

Under 25 to keep an eye on:

Joe Mauer

Mauer is only 24-years old so I’m projecting quite a bit here but I’m confident that he’ll be a Hall of Famer if he can avoid injury. He already has an AL Batting Title under his belt. He finished 6th in the AL MVP voting at the age of 23. He has a career batting average of .318. He has more career walks than strikeouts and he bats clean-up. He is easily the most talented all-around catcher that I have ever watched. He is a long career ahead of him but I think he’ll go down as one of the all-time greats.

Brian McCann

McCann is playing in his third season at the ripe age of 23. He already has two All-Star game appearances. He finished 6th in the NL batting race with a .333 in ’06. That same season, he hit 24 HRs with 92 RBIs. His OPS was through the roof for a catcher at .960. He has more pop than Mauer but he doesn’t appear to have Mauer’s overall game. His ’07 campaign hasn’t been nearly as impressive but I can’t imagine a better start to a career for a catcher outside of Minnesota.

Final Projected Catchers (2)

Pudge Rodriguez
Mike Piazza

Friday, July 13, 2007

Baseball doesn't get better than this

I’m not sure that I have ever seen a more action-packed first half of a MLB season. The shear amount of memorable moments is too lengthy to list. The milestones alone were remarkable in their abundance. Craig Biggio reached 3,000 hits and 1,000 extra-base hits. Roger Clemens reached 350 wins. Greg Maddux reached 340 wins (I am starting to think that there is an excellent chance that Maddux will finish his career with more wins than Clemens). Sammy Sosa got his 600th home run. Frank Thomas reached 500 home runs. Trevor Hoffman hit 500 saves. The second half will likely feature even more milestones like Tom Glavine's 300th win, Ken Griffey Jr’s 600th HR, A-Rod’s 500th HR, and Jim Thome’s 500th HR just to name a few. If the second half is anything like the first, then we’re in for an amazing finish to an already spectacular season.

There is an endless list of intriguing storylines for the Tigers as well entering the second half of the season. The AL Central should be a fight to the finish. The Tigers still have a shot at breaking the 1,000-run mark for the season. Mags is in the hunt for a batting title and an MVP. Curtis Granderson might break the single-season triples record and become the first player ever with 20 HRs, 20 doubles, 20 triples and 20 stolen bases in the same season. Verlander and Bondo could make a run for 20 wins. Sheffield is closing in on 500 home runs. With all that to look forward to, I am hoping—and ever-so-slightly expecting—that when the season is over the story of the second half will be how the Tigers evolved into a team for the ages.

The Peak is coming.

The fact that the Tigers were .5 games out of the best record in baseball at the All-Star break is remarkable. The Tigers featured one of the worst bullpens in the league. They had so many injuries that pitchers whom most people had never heard of (Tim Byrdak, Aquilino Lopez, Eulogio De La Cruz, Virgil Vasquez and Yorman Bazardo to name a few) found themselves pitching in crucial situations. Throw in the fact that the offense was dreadful in April and the starting rotation was without potentially its best pitcher (The Gambler) and the bullpen was without its best pitcher (Zoom-Zoom) and it’s amazing that this team is even in contention.

The Tigers haven’t even come close to playing their best baseball and that has resulted in a .600 winning percentage. The pieces necessary for this team to play its best baseball are slowly starting to come together. Rogers is back and pitching like it’s October of ’06. The offense has evolved into one of the most prolific offenses in MLB history. Zumaya will return in the second half to team with the newly acquired Jose Capellan to hopefully give the Tigers similar consistency to what they had last season. Chad Durbin should prove to be a godsend for the middle-innings. Zach Miner has a 1.65 ERA in 16.1 innings of work which looks like a typo but I’m pretty sure it isn’t. Everything that went wrong in the first half seems to be heading in the right direction.

The first question that comes to mind when I think about the Tigers in the second half is, where will the losses come from? Verlander and Bonderman should continue to pitch above the .666 winning percentage. I can’t see Kenny Rogers doing any worse than that considering the way he has been pitching. Andrew Miller is only going to get better which is scary considering his 3.35 ERA. Nate Robertson appears to be the weak link in the rotation and he might be the best 5th starter in the majors. I would even go as far as to say that the Tigers feature three #1's (Rogers, Verlander, and Bonderman), a #2 (Miller) and a #3 right now (Robertson). A staff that potent would be good enough to carry a team with a weak offense similar to what the Padres have accomplished in the NL. But the Tigers don’t have a weak offense. They have the best offense in baseball. So I’m wondering if it is even possible for this team not to run away with the division and the best record in baseball. Injuries could play an important role as always but this team is clearly equipped to handle injuries. If Mags or Sheff went down for an extended period of team, this team might just resemble last year’s squad which ended up in the World Series. Anytime one delves into theory it can result in putting expectations too high. When playing their best baseball, the Tigers should theoretically be the best team in baseball by a long shot. In practicality, even the best teams on paper barely win divisions on most occasions. Regardless of how this thing plays out, I don’t think there is a GM in baseball that wouldn’t trade places with the Tigers.

Help wanted for the bullpen?

I don’t necessarily think the Tigers need to make a trade at the deadline. I know it’s chic to hope the Tigers trade for some bullpen help. That certainly would not hurt things but I think that the bullpen sans Todd Jones and Fernando Rodney will be fine. Zumaya will be back. Capellan and McBride are serviceable. Bobby Seay has been pitching very well lately; he hasn’t given up a run since May 26th. Since Jim Leyland seems perfectly content with Jones and Rodney in the later roles, I don’t see the Tigers trading for help there. So, we’re really just talking about some extra middle-relief help unless Jones’ ERA climbs above 7.00. I am inclined to believe that players will emerge out of the current cast of characters to make for a good middle-innings bullpen. The Tigers had to part with one of their better pitching prospects (Chris Cody) to bring in an average reliever (Capellan). I’m guessing a big-name reliever will force the Tigers to part with one of their top five prospects. This is all speculation that will likely be answered on the field. If the bullpen turns it around before the deadline, you’ll likely see the Tigers stick with what they have and if it doesn’t, then let the Gagne/Otsuka rumors fly.

My preference would be for the Tigers to hold on to their prospects for the off-season to pursue a left-fielder, a first-baseman; or a shortstop if they start entertaining the idea of permanently moving Carlos Guillen to first. I hope the latter is at least something they’re considering. That move would accomplish the proverbial killing of two birds with one stone. It would increase productivity at first base and hopefully improve defense at shortstop. Guillen’s play at shortstop has been suspect at best over the last two years. He is a great player but he makes way too many blunders in the field. I understand that improving the offense is probably not one of the top priorities right now but it will be sooner than people think. First base is a run-producing position in MLB. The Tigers have a singles hitter—albeit a pretty good one—occupying that position right now. Sheffield, Mags, and Pudge are all getting older. The Tigers have one player in their starting lineup under the age of 30 (Granderson is 26). I don’t see Casey or Chris Shelton being the long-term answer at first so that issue will need to be addressed.

Finally, consistently good baseball.

I can’t think of a better season than what I witnessed in 2006. It will forever be the year that I think of first when I think of Tigers baseball. There is just no way to ever match that combination of unexpected dominance. However, it was always obvious that the Tigers were winning on a combination of grit and good fortune. That team was talented but the end-result was just so much better than what could have ever been expected. This season, the Tigers are winning by systematically destroying the opposition. It is indescribably enjoyable to turn on a Tigers game knowing that they are going to dominate the opposition on almost a nightly basis. Last season was more enjoyable in the “magical” sense. This season is more enjoyable from a talent perspective. I almost feel like I don’t deserve to watch a team this good. It feels wrong. But anytime I start feeling that way for too long, all I have to do is remind myself of the 90s and I don’t feel so undeserving anymore. It is so great to be able to enjoy a baseball team again. I didn’t care if the Tigers lost the World Series last year and I don’t care if they don’t win it this year. Seeing good baseball is all I ever asked for and now that I have it, I wouldn’t wish it away even for a World Series win.

Sheff for MVP?

There is no question in my mind that the most important off-season acquisition in baseball has been the addition of Gary Sheffield to the Tigers. His presence in an already stacked order means better pitches for everyone else in the lineup. Sheffield started off miserably posting a .191 batting average through May 1st. That alone has kept him from garnering attention as an MVP candidate. Magglio Ordonez and Alex Rodriguez have hit from day one making the AL MVP a two-horse race by most accounts. While I can’t question the caliber of seasons that Ordonez and Rodriguez are having, I think Sheffield has been the MVP of the American League. Since May 2 (58 games), Sheffield’s line is astonishing:

(Sheffield’s last 58 games)


I haven’t taken the time to compare that to the rest of the league but I would be shocked if there has been a hitter that has come close to putting up that kind of production since the beginning of May. I don’t expect Sheffield to garner much attention for the AL MVP in the same way he was left off of the AL All-Star team. The AL MVP is equal parts production and presentation. Not showing up in April probably cost Sheffield in the “presentation” department. Regardless, I can’t see how anyone has been more valuable to their team than Gary Sheffield.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Status Quo Yet Again

The last thing that I wanted to see the Pistons do this summer was stay put. Just the thought of seeing the same team suit up for another dead-end run at an NBA Championship made me nauseous. I sensed early in the summer that Joe Dumars was going to be hesitant to make any majors moves. The only player that would return fair value in a trade is Rip Hamilton and I have a feeling that’s a move that Dumars hasn’t even begun to contemplate. Without a willingness to trade RIP, all big moves became impossible and the Pistons stayed put. I also had a pretty good idea that the Pistons (led by Dumars) would swear off playing with complacency which is something we’ve heard before each of the last three seasons. It’s for those reasons that I cannot muster up even the slightest bit of enthusiasm for the 2007-08 season. It’s not that I can’t take the losing. As a Detroit fan, I’ve seen all sorts of losing. I just can’t take a team being masqueraded around as a title contender when it’s so obviously the contrary. It’s an insult to Pistons fans to keep feeding them the same line about this being a championship team that just needs to play harder. The truth is that the Pistons weren’t good enough/didn’t play hard enough in 2005 when they lost the Spurs, or in 2006 when they lost to the Heat, or in 2007 when they lost to the Cavs. The Pistons weren't even good enough to be one of the worst NBA Finals teams on record with homecourt advantage last season. The team has been going downhill ever-so-slightly since they won the NBA Championship in 2004. It’s been an agonizingly slow—and sometimes not so obvious—deterioration. Staying put over the summer only ensured another step backwards in 2008.

The die-hards and a good portion of the media will buy into this team once again. That happens every off-season. It happened entering last season and was only proven to be somewhat true by an unforeseen bit of good fortune. The Pistons mini-run in ’07 was predicated mostly on the fact that they got Chris Webber for free midway through the season. Had that not happened, there is no telling how the Pistons would have finished out the season. I doubt they would have won the Eastern Conference regular season Championship with Nazr Mohammed in the starting lineup and I’m not so sure they get past Chicago in the playoffs. Webber wasn’t the end-all but he made the team more difficult to defend and made the Pistons appear to be a lot better than they actually were. The Pistons probably won’t have Webber next year which isn’t a huge loss but it will only make the decline more obvious. The addition of Webber only proved to be a one-year delay on when it would become obvious that the Pistons need major changes. It’s obvious to many people already but evidently it isn’t obvious to enough people, yet.

I can understand arguments that revolve around the idea that you can’t just make a move just for the sake of making a move. You can’t force something that doesn’t help your team. Regardless of the availability of impact players, the truth remains that the Pistons will not get back to competing for NBA Championships until they bring in a superstar who can do things that the current cast can’t. I’m not suggesting that the Pistons can’t win, in part, with the players on their roster. Virtually every player on the current roster would be a valuable piece to any championship-caliber team. The problem is that the Pistons aren’t a championship-caliber team. They are a team full of supporting pieces. The Pistons need a player who can score at will. They need somebody that can go off irrespective of how the team is performing. They need someone who is an impossible match-up. There were plenty of players involved in trade rumors this summer that fit that bill including; Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Amare Stoudemire, Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen, Jermaine O’Neal, and Zach Randolph. Those are the types of players that the Pistons don’t have. Each of those players can initiate their own shot and make things excruciating for a defense. Obviously there is a big range in caliber amongst those players (i.e. Kobe is much more effective than Ray Allen) but they are all the type of player that the Pistons are missing. I’m not so sure that Ray Allen is the difference between the Pistons making the NBA Finals or not but I’m pretty sure that most of them are. I’m also not suggesting that the Pistons could’ve just gone out and traded for any of those players. Their respective teams may have been asking for more than the Pistons had. I’m merely stating that without the addition of a player of that caliber, the Pistons will continue to fade into “bolivian.”(seriously. check out some of those quotes!) Every year that Joe D waits to make a move is a year wasted for Pistons fans. A GM’s job is to realize when your team is getting better and when its best days are behind it. Joe D has to know that the Pistons are the latter. I’m guessing he is trying not to get fleeced in a deal but the time will come when he has to make a sizeable move. I’m just distraught that it couldn’t have been before this next season. I know the die-hards will willingly take in the Pistons product regardless of the situation but I can’t watch this team on a nightly basis play the same “play when I feel like playing” game while being portrayed as serious threats to the NBA Championship.

I like all of the Pistons players individually. Sure, there are some I like more than others but, for the most part, they are a collection of good basketball players. I just don’t like them together. If I can get into the mindset that the sole purpose of the 2007-08 season is to allow Amir Johnson, Jason Maxiell, and Rodney Stuckey to get experience, then I might be able to handle it. Unfortunately, none of those players are in the top six of the rotation which makes their potential for growth negligible despite claims by the Pistons that more minutes will be up for grabs. I will even go as far as to say that I am looking forward to the Lions season more so than the Pistons. At least with the Lions you know what you are getting. I can’t deal with the impending disappointment masked as a championship run. At least the Lions are universally known as a team that can’t get it done.

I have no doubt in Joe D’s ability to put a winning product on the court. It’s just that waiting at least one more year to see things move in a positive direction is a long time to stomach considering I grew tired of the product two years ago. His two draft picks have the potential to be serviceable NBA players at a minimum and could end up being even better than that. Re-signing Billups without overpaying was absolutely the right move. Losing out on Grant Hill wasn’t Joe D’s fault. I think at this point I would even choose to play for Phoenix over Detroit at half the price. Short of a trade, Joe D made all the right moves this summer. Unfortunately, a trade was the only thing that would change the inevitable outcome of the 2007-08 season.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Bonderman gets snubbed again

Is it even possible for Jeremy Bonderman to make the All-Star team? I’m starting to think that it’s not. Bondo came up short in the “Final Vote” to Boston’s Hideki Okajima to all but ensure a third-straight All-Star game snub. It’s not that Okajima isn’t deserving of the selection. In fact, I challenge anyone to find a pitcher in the history of the game who has put up better numbers than what Okajima has done for Boston this season (.88 ERA, .78 WHIP, .156 BAA, 41 innings). The rule that requires every team to have a representative at the All-Star game has meant there have been way too many deserving players left off All-Star teams over the past few years. That rule is misguided and the fans that it is supposed to benefit don't even care. I never enjoyed seeing a Tiger player in the All-Star game when the team was on pace for 100-losses especially when I knew that said player was only their because of a "pity" rule. Okajima, Santana, and Bonderman should have made the team without the need for a "Final Vote."

Nonetheless, Bonderman certainly had the numbers to merit a selection yet again. He leads the AL with a .900 winning percentage. He has nine wins in only 15 starts. Most of the pitchers in the AL have 17 starts already. In most years, his numbers would be more than enough to garner a selection. This season has seen so many great pitching performances in the first half that Johan Santana wasn’t even among the five pitchers selected by player ballots despite being the best pitcher in baseball. I think that has a lot to do with stupidity but the fact that it happened at all shows the depth among AL starters.

Here are Bonderman’s stats in the first halves of 2005-07 respectively:

Bonderman ’05---11-5—--3.99
Bonderman ’06----8-4----3.46
Bonderman ’07----9-1-----3.58

Conventional wisdom would state that the two easiest ways to make the All Star team when you have good enough numbers are when the game is in your city and when your manager is also the manager of the All-Star team. Neither of those situations has helped Bonderman. In ’05, the All-Star game was in Detroit. When a late spot opened up, AL Manager, Terry Francona added Matt Clement to the team making Bonderman one of the only players in MLB history to be left off of the All-Star team with 11 wins before the break.

In 2007, Jim Leyland decided against naming Bonderman to the team despite being his own manager. Bonderman could still be guaranteed a spot if any pitcher goes down since he was the 7th pitcher on the player balloting. Unlike virtually every other year, though, there isn’t a pitcher on the AL roster who is either injured or has decided not to participate. So it looks like that won’t even help Bondo’s cause.

I would guess that the majority of the time, a player in Bonderman’s position in ’05, ‘06 and ’07 makes the team. In ’05, Bondo was trumped by a manager going with his own guy. In ’06, Bondo was done in by the need for KC’s Mark Redman to make the team. In ’07 Bondo was trumped by his own manager going with another player and the unlikely event of no subs needed on the AL roster. Gil Meche making the team for KC was yet another reason why Bondo was left off the AL roster. Bonderman also had the misfortune of going 9-1 in a year when the league is on pace to break the record for most pitchers with 10 wins by the All-Star break in MLB history. In the AL alone there are currently eight pitchers with 10+ wins and there could be 11 by the All-Star break.

Bonderman did get a brief reprieve when Leyland put him on the “Final Vote” ballot. Unfortunately, Leyland also included the only player who may have beaten Bonderman in such a vote; a player dually from Japan and Red Sox nation. Okajima received a tremendous amount of support from Japan which made this vote a no-doubter.

Wins and losses will mean a whole lot more than All-Star appearances when the baseball world looks back on Bonderman’s career but it is frustrating as a fan to see him get passed over even in the most favorable situations. For three years straight, Bondo has put up All-Star worthy numbers and he has zero selections to show for it. That’s why it would have been nice to see Jim Leyland pick Bonderman as one of his two “obligation-free selections” and send Johan Santana to the “Final Vote.” Leyland could’ve stood up for Bonderman when nobody else has. I am guessing that Leyland felt he did the right thing by choosing Santana because Santana was next in line in the player vote. The rule states that the first five pitchers on the player ballots will make the team and beyond that it is up to the manager. It certainly would not have been a stretch for Leyland to choose the 7th player over the 6th player in lieu of the fact that it was his own deserving player and the fact that Leyland has no obligation to choose based on player balloting beyond the 5th spot. By choosing to take Santana strictly because he was next on the player balloting, Leyland took away his own rights as the All-Star game manager. I am sure he doesn’t see it that way but that’s the way it looks to me. I am also guessing that Leyland didn’t want to anger Santana hoping to avoid some sort of grudge that Santana would hold against the Tigers. In 18 career starts against the Tigers, Santana is 11-3 with a 2.64 ERA so avoiding the wrath of Santana seems to be a lost cause anyways. Bondo got screwed again and I’m pissed about it.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Vote for Bondo


The Tigers will have at least five All-Star representatives at the All-Star game in San Francisco next Tuesday. Jeremy Bonderman can make the team if enough fans vote for him in the “Final Vote” balloting. It is going to be difficult for Bonderman to beat out Roy Halladay and it has nothing to do with their respective numbers this season. Baseball fans in general tend to vote for the most popular players. I don’t think there is any doubt that Halladay is more popular than Bonderman at this point in their careers. Bonderman should have no problem beating out the other players in the voting so it comes down to Bondo vs. Doc. It’s too bad this vote can’t be based solely on numbers because it wouldn’t be close…

Bonderman---9-1 3.58--1.18--8.2--.247--122
Halladay------9-3 4.27--1.24--5.7--.276--106

Fans can vote as many times as they want until 6pm on Thursday. Voting is incredibly easy. I voted 75 times last night and plan to get in a few more votes before Thursday. Click any of the three giant links to start voting.


Granderson and Sheff were snubbed

All five Tigers that have already made the team were selected by either the fans or the player vote. Jim Leyland did not select any Tigers with what amounted to his two “free” selections. Leyland could have selected Gary Sheffield or Curtis Granderson over Victor Martinez but Leyland stated that he “didn’t feel that would have been right.” IMO, Leyland had every right to take either one of his deserving outfielders. In many measures, their numbers are better than Martinez’s and—even if they are too close to call—Leyland had every right to pick his own guy in the event of a perceived tie. As it turns out, Sheffield wasn’t going to go to the All-Star game anyway but from what I’ve read; Leyland would have picked Martinez regardless.

Here is a comparison of Martinez to both Sheffield and Granderson:



Keep in mind that Granderson doesn’t have near the RBI opportunities as Martinez since he bats from the leadoff spot. Granderson leads off every game without a man in scoring position. That’s 48 at-bats where Martinez has the opportunity to drive in runs that Granderson does not have.

Again, I think as the AL Manager, Leyland had the right to bring his own guy in the event of a toss-up. I don’t see how a Granderson/Sheffield/Martinez can be viewed as anything other than a toss-up. It is possible that Leyland felt bad that Pudge made the team when Martinez is having a much better season. He may have taken the opportunity to make up for that by bringing in Martinez. Similarly though, Sheffield and Granderson were kept out in favor of less deserving outfielders. It’s tough to find three outfielders in the AL that have better numbers than Sheffield or Granderson. Both have better numbers than every reserve OF on the AL roster with the possible exception of Torii Hunter (and that’s even debatable). So it would seem that Leyland could have taken Sheffield or Granderson for the same reason that he chose to take Martinez. Plus, managers almost never select three catchers.

It’ll be interesting to see if Leyland brings Granderson if any of the AL outfielders are unable to attend. I don’t see any reason to not bring Granderson in that situation. Leyland already played the “fairness” game with his initial selections. He doesn’t need to endear himself to anyone else around baseball by bypassing his own deserving players again if a spot opens up.

I don’t have a problem with Leyland picking Johan Santana with his other “free” spot. I’m not sure how Santana wasn’t among the five starting pitchers selected by the player voting. He is the best pitcher in the American League by a mile.

I’m also guessing that Leyland will take Bonderman if any AL pitchers can’t attend. Bonderman was the 7th pitcher among the player vote. Santana was 6th. It only makes sense that Bondo would be the first alternate. Two years ago, Terry Francona stated that any pitching spot that opened would go to his own guy (Matt Clement). Bonderman was deserving of a selection then and that game was in Detroit to boot. It would be nice to see Leyland take the same stance this year with Bonderman. Bonderman should be playing in his second All-Star game this year but it’s possible that he’ll get left out again. Hopefully Tigers fans can continue their strong showing in the All-Star voting by getting Bondo into the game.

And once again…..


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