Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jorge Posada: Not a Hall of Famer

Since Jorge Posada pulled his “I’m not going to play today” stunt, there have been rumblings about whether he is washed up, getting used to his new role as a full-time DH or if he is simply playing like a 39 year old (former) catcher.  People have also been using the phrase “borderline Hall of Famer” when describing Posada.  So, using WAR (Wins Above Replacement), researched at Baseball-Reference.com, as the means for a comparison, I decided to pull information on some popular Hall of Fame catchers to see how Posada stacked up with them during their prime and as their career was winding down.


Note: Posada's WAR in the season following last >3 was actually two seasons later as he was injured for most of the subsequent season


In Table 1 above, we see that Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk not only had the most years with a WAR greater than 3 (what I will consider “productive” for this exercise), but also peaked at the earliest age of this group at 24.  We also see that when a player last managed a WAR greater than 3, the subsequent season their WAR decreased significantly.



Table 2 shows the last time the player caught at least 100 games and his WAR that season along with the following season’s WAR.  It becomes evident that once a player last caught 100 games in a season his production started to deteriorate rather quickly thereafter and retirement was right around the corner.

Based on what we have seen from Posada this season to date (-0.3 WAR), it can be inferred that both age and catching, has worn him out, likely to a point that he may never regain his previous level of productivity.

There is no doubt that Posada has had a productive career.  At the same time, he had very few seasons where he was the “best” catcher in the game and he also did not accumulate as many productive seasons as the others. P osada should not get much credit for the Yankees post-season success; his World Series numbers are awful.  He had a larger part in getting the Yankees to the post-season but their success in the playoffs did not hinge on his productivity.

Posada was a very good player, but never spectacular, as I think Hall of Famers should be.  The contention that Posada is a "borderline" Hall of Famer is valid.  However, he comes up short when compared to the great catchers in the Hall of Fame.  I would not cast a vote for him.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Can Labor Peace Save Selig's Legacy?

*Re-post from May 11, 2011 which was removed due to Blogger maintenance problems.

Bud Selig has been MLB's commissioner since 1992.  He's had his share of successes and failures through the years.  Unfortunately for him, he will forever be haunted by baseball's period of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).  While he consistently points out that baseball's PED program is now the best in professional sports, most critics assert that it came too late and after turning a blind eye while trying to recuperate baseball in the aftermath of labor strife in 1994.

I believe Selig has failed in other areas besides his delayed reaction to PEDs.  Having a relationship between the winner of the All-Star game (an exhibition game) and home-field advantage in the World Series is ridiculous.  His refusal to incorporate video replay at the same pace as other sports was ignorant.


Selig has provided positive developments for the game including the growth of revenues for teams and the league, expanded playoffs, and the World Baseball Classic.  None of these can overshadow the issue of PEDs alone.

Selig's is now trying to deal with serious financial issues with two of its marquee franchises. The New York Mets' owners could owe hundreds of millions of dollars due to their ties with Bernie Madoff and the Los Angeles Dodgers have recently been taken over by the league because of their financial dilemmas.  I'm fairly certain neither of these issues will be resolved by the time Selig retires at the end of the 2012 season.

All this not withstanding, Bud Selig can go out on top. He recently announced the 2012 season could add two more wild card teams to the post-season structure.  This move has worked in the past.  Most importantly for his legacy, he has labor peace and at the moment it seems that MLB and the MLB Players Association are going to extend the collective bargaining agreement without any major hangups.  If December's deadline turns into a new agreement, MLB's streak of labor peace will surpass 20 years.

Is that enough to overcome one of the darkest periods in the sport?  I'd say not entirely, but it certainly allows Selig to go out on top.  Too bad it will be short lived.  Until there are no Hall of Fame eligible players linked to PEDs who played under his realm, he will be seen as the enabler of this issue and not the man who resolved the abuse as he would claim.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Today's Stance: MLB's Alcohol Abuse Policy

Just over two years ago a drunk driver took the life of Nick Adenhart, a promising 22 year old pitcher in the Angels' organization.  All around Major League Baseball, league officials, teams, coaches and players were remorseful of the death of one of their own. Unfortunately, it seems there were no lessons learned by the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Two nights ago, Cleveland Indians OF Shin-Soo Choo was the 6th MLB player arrested for DUI this season.  He is the second player from the Indians alone!  His blood alcohol content was more than twice Ohio's legal limit.  Thankfully no one was hurt in any of the circumstances involving the MLB players.

Is that what it is going to take for MLB to take a stand with this issue?  Ken Rosenthal, of FoxSports.com, wrote last night that MLB does not consider alcohol a "drug of abuse" so there are no suspensions where it relates to these situations.  He suggests that we have to wait until baseball's next collective bargaining agreement is reached before any real change will come to MLB's alcohol policy.

I don't believe we should have to wait any longer.  MLB and the Major Baseball League Players Association have amended policies while within the confines of a current collective bargaining agreement on several occasions.  What is it going to take for MLB and the MLBPA to see that this is becoming an issue that shouldn't be pushed aside any longer?  One would have thought the death of one of it's own to a drunk driver would bring some reflection of how they treat players who abuse alcohol.  This is not a time for baseball to be complacent as it has been with past drug issues.  In Nick Adenhart's honor, MLB & the MLBPA need to take a stand now.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Today's Stance: How Important is Winning in April?

I began researching this topic after the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians jumped out to fantastic starts, while the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays began the season with six straight losses.  The AL East, it seemed, had been turned upside down.  I knew that six or seven games was a small sample size, but what about at the end of April?  Do records of teams in baseball's first month correlate to post-season births?  Do teams who get off to starts with a winning percentage of .600 or higher make the post-season?  How often do teams that finish April under .500 make the post-season?

Using data from 2001 through 2010, here is what I found:
  • The 2002 Anaheim Angels (11-14) and the 2003 Florida Marlins (14-15) finished April under .500 and went on to win the World Series
  • 19 of 80 teams during the time period finished April under .500 yet made the playoffs
    • Another 4 teams were at .500
  • In 2007, four teams finished April under .500 and made the playoffs
  • Three teams which finished April with MLB's best record failed to make the playoffs
    • 2002 Seattle Mariners (18-8, 93-69)
    • 2006 Chicago White Sox (17-7, 90-72)
    • 2008 Arizona Diamondbacks (20-8, 82-80)
  • Five teams finished April at or above .600 and ended the season under .500.  The worst turn around...
    • 2005 Orioles started 16-7 and ended up 74-88
    • 2009 Blue Jays started 15-9 and ended up 75-87
  • The 2001 Oakland A's ended April at 8-17 and finished 102-60 winning the AL Wild Card
    • May - September they were 94-37 (.686), a remarkable finish yet were out performed by...
  • The 2001 Seattle Mariners finished April 20-5 and ended the season 116-46
    • May - September they were 96-41 (.701)
  • The Atlanta Braves had three seasons in which they were under .500 at the end of April and made the playoffs
So what does all this mean? Well, many experts selected the Boston Red Sox to win the AL East or at least be the AL Wild Card winner after their off-season free agent acquisitions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.  They got off to a rough start losing their first 6 games and finished the month 11-15.  They have a long haul ahead of them but as some of the information generated suggests, they should not be considered out of it now either.  Just look at the Tampa Bay Rays, who also started by losing their first 6 games.  They stormed back and won 15 of their next 21 games and sit just 1.5 games back of the New York Yankees.

The AL Central may be the division with the biggest surprises in the first month.  The Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins, were predominately mentioned as pre-season favorites to win their division.  However, Chicago (10-18) and Minnesota (9-17) found themselves 9 games behind the biggest surprise in baseball, the Cleveland Indians (18-8) at the end of the first month.  Will Cleveland falter like the '02 Mariners, '06 White Sox and '08 Diamondbacks? Can the White Sox or Twins completely reverse themselves like the 2001 Athletics?

In the National League, standings at the end of April are not too shocking.  I suggest we pay close attention to the Florida Marlins (16-9) and the Colorado Rockies (17-8).  Both teams had a very good April despite poor performances from superstar players (Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins and Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies).

It's been said the baseball season is not a sprint, it's a marathon.  Underdogs welt and favorites survive.  It is true that prizes are not given out at the end of April but in October.  A hot start doesn't guarantee anything and a poor start does not ensure a lost season.  However, the combination of an underdog team like the Indians setting a strong pace early on, along with dismal results of divisional favorites, the White Sox and the Twins, make the chances of a wire to wire finish by Cleveland well within reach.