Tag Archive | "Baseball Reference"

Triple Play: Carlos Gomez, Jeff Keppinger, Yadier Molina

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Triple Play. This week, we name our picks for the hottest and, um, not hottest players as we head into the All-Star break, plus a breakdown of one player’s Jekyll-and-Hyde season, and other random thoughts, including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch. Let’s dive in:

Molina r1

Who’s Hot?

Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers

While Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis have, justifiably, gotten the lion’s share of the headlines for their performances this season, Gomez has quietly turned into one of the top 10 all-around players in baseball this season. In fact, Baseball-Reference lists Gomez as its number one player in Wins Above Replacement (5.7), ahead of Cabrera, Davis, Clayton Kershaw and Manny Machado. Much of his value is placed on his Defensive WAR figure of 2.9 (second only to Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons), but Gomez has been an offensive force as well. With a hitting line of .295/.337/.533, 14 HR, 45 RBI, 21 SB, and 51 runs scored, Gomez has been one of two bright spots for an abysmal Brewers team (Jean Segura is the other). While Gomez’s breakout (in his age 27 season) has been largely unnoticed by places like ESPN and Fox Sports, fantasy owners certainly have taken notice. He is on pace for a 25-75-40-90 season, which would put him right on the fringe of the top tier of outfielders. Gomez also leads the league with nine triples. And that game-ending catch a few days ago to rob Joey Votto of a home run is one of the best catches you will see this year (or any other). The Brewers may be having a down season, but between Gomez and Segura, at least their fans have two reasons for optimism.

Runner-up: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

I’m running out of superlatives to describe Davis’ hitting prowess through the first 4½ months of 2013, so I’ll just list his statistics here: 37 HR, 93 RBI, 70 runs, .717 slugging pct, 193 OPS+. He is now tied with Reggie Jackson for most long balls hit at the All-Star break (only Barry Bonds hit more). He is on pace to club 62 home runs, knock in 153, and score 117 runs. Incidentally, Davis is also in his age-27 season. Obviously, the 62 home runs would surpass Roger Maris in the record book, which is sure to draw even more idiots like Rick Reilly out to cast suspicion on Davis without a shred of evidence. That’s the truly sobering effect of the Steroid Era: today’s players are being punished for the actions of others in the previous generation.

Who’s Not?

Jeff Keppinger, Chicago White Sox

According to Fangraphs, Keppinger has been the worst everyday player in the majors this season, with a -1.2 Wins Above Replacement player rating. That’s just a year removed from putting together a career-best year with the Tampa Bay Rays (2.7 WAR). Keppinger has two home runs, 25 RBI, 21 runs scored, and a cringe-inducing batting line of .246/.274/.294 in 303 plate appearances. His park-adjusted OPS+ is just 53, meaning that he has barely been worth HALF of a replacement player. Ugh. And hey, White Sox fans (all eight of you), the Jeff Keppinger Experience runs through 2015, thanks to that three-year, $12 million dollar “bargain” contract your team offered after the fluke 2012 season. My condolences.

Runner-up: Joe Blanton, Los Angeles Angels

By any measure, the former Phillie has been terrible for the Angels this season. He “leads” the American League in hits (148) and home runs (23) allowed and sports a 5.53 ERA and 1.55 WHIP. Other stats (including WAR) indicate that pitchers like San Diego’s Jason Marquis, Houston’s Lucas Harrell and Kansas City’s Jeremy Guthrie have been worse this season, but all of those pitchers have been credited with at least five wins. That gives them at least a shred of value in fantasy baseball. Blanton is 2-12, giving him no value whatsoever in any context. He is the first Angels pitcher to have a dozen losses at the All-Star break since 1974. This is what happens when a team blows all its big dollars on hitting and has to settle for third-tier free agents to fill out a pitching staff. By the way, Joe, don’t be blaming your catcher (Chris Iannetta) or your pitching coach (Mike Butcher). If you want to know who to blame for being such a rotten pitcher, just take a gander in the mirror.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .259/.342/.512, 12 HR, 40 RBI, 27 runs, 2 SB, .854 OPS

Player B: .167/.263/.232, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 11 runs, 1 SB, .495 OPS

Player A is what Mark Reynolds did between Opening Day and Memorial Day. Player B is the version from Memorial Day till now. Egads. You knew Reynolds wouldn’t stay as hot as he was in April, when he batted .301 with 8 HR and 22 RBI, but this slump is beyond ghastly. Thus far in July, Reynolds has limp-noodled his way to a .091 average with one lone RBI. With Lonnie Chisenhall showing some flashes of potential at third base, Reynolds might find himself on the bench more and more frequently. The way he is hitting right now, that’s exactly where he belongs.

Player A: 6-1 W-L, 3.16 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 62 strikeouts

Player B: 6-4 W-L, 4.29 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 66 strikeouts

Player A is Matt Garza, likely the most coveted starter in this year’s trade market. He has fully convinced teams that he is healthy and the numbers back that up. At least five teams have been rumored to have interest in the right-hander; that number figures to go up as the Cubs notified him over the weekend that he is being shopped. Player B is the White Sox’ Jake Peavy, currently on a rehab assignment. This rehab assignment is critical for player and team. Neither Chicago team is going anywhere this year, so it would make sense for the White Sox to deal Peavy for prospects. You have to figure, though, that he needs to get back to the majors and turn in a quality start or two before the July 31 non-waiver deadline before any team will part with any talent for the 32-year-old. It would be a risk, but Peavy could prove to be a decent consolation prize for teams that don’t end up acquiring Garza.

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Adam Wainwright pitched 37 innings this season before walking his first batter, so we are keeping track of how few free passes the Cardinals’ ace issues throughout the season. At the All-Star break, Wainwright has walked just 15 hitters while fanning 130, good for a major-league best 8.67-to-1 K/BB ratio. He definitely wasn’t at his best Sunday night versus the Cubs (8 hits, 4 ER allowed, 111 pitches in six innings), but he still only walked one batter.
  • Speaking of the Sunday night game, what a deflating loss for the Cubs. They rallied against Wainwright in the 6th inning to take the lead, only to give it right back in the 7th. Then they tied the game in the bottom of the 8th against closer Edward Mujica and coughed up four runs in the 9th to lose the game. Ouch.
  • Yadier Molina, despite the sore knee and what appeared to be a split fingernail, went 4-6 on Sunday with a home run, two doubles, four RBI and three runs scored. He leads the NL with a .337 average. He also has 34 multi-hit games this season and has thrown out 45% of would-be base stealers.
  • If there is a more complete player in baseball right now, I don’t know who it is.
  • Why yes, Jordany Valdespin, throwing a hissy fit and calling your manager a filthy word right after getting sent down to Triple-A is a BRILLIANT career move. Well done. I suspect it may take him a little longer to get recalled from the minors than it did for Ike Davis.
  • News: CBS Sports is reporting that the Padres may make Chase Headley available in trade. Views: they should have done that last year.
  • The Phillies will be an interesting team to watch the next several weeks. Oh, not because they are serious contenders or anything, but because every ball hit to the outfield will be an adventure without speedy Ben Revere patrolling center field. Domonic Brown and Delmon Young are, um, not strong defenders, so Revere had a huge responsibility covering for them. John Mayberry is not a long-term solution.
  • Going into the All-Star break, here are the major-league leaders in some categories and who SHOULD be the leader in those categories:
    • Grounded into double plays: Matt Holliday, St. Louis (22). Who should lead this category:  Yuniesky Betancourt, Milwaukee. Just on general principle.
    • Hit by pitch: Shin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati, 20. Who should lead: Miguel Montero, Arizona. Is there anyone in baseball he hasn’t whined about yet? Just shut up already.
    • Errors committed: Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh (16). Who should lead: Starlin Castro, Chicago. Every time I watch him play, he does at least one boneheaded thing. I don’t envy Dale Sveum.
    • Wild pitches: (tie) Edwin Jackson, Chicago and Trevor Cahill, Arizona (11). Who should lead: Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay. The pitches would be straighter if he would wear his hat properly.
  • Did you see that Indians fan who caught FOUR foul balls during Sunday afternoon’s game? Just ridiculous. That’s four more than I’ve caught in my life. Not that I’m envious or anything.
  • So, the Twins won a game started by CC Sabathia for the first time in six years yesterday. That’s a completely useless bit of trivia, yet it’s one of those statistics that makes me absolutely love baseball.
  • Glad to see the Giants use the momentum from Tim Lincecum‘s no-hitter Saturday and whip the Padres again Sunday. Oh, wait…
  • I’m more of a National League guy, so I am rooting for the NL All-Stars to win and gain home-field advantage in the World Series. But I would be lying if I said it wouldn’t be kinda neat for Mariano Rivera to close out the game in his final appearance.
  • Well, that whole Freddie Freeman fan-vote thing was much ado about nothing, wasn’t it? Can we put Yasiel Puig in the game now?

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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The Great Matt Holliday Debate (with myself)

I have always been flummoxed by Matt Holliday.

MLB Chicago vs St. Louis

On one hand, there are the numbers. Those numbers tell me things like this: Holliday has compiled a park-adjusted OPS+ greater than 120 every season he has played since 2006. His average OPS+ of 137 is 12th among active players. In his 10-year career, Holliday has averaged 29 home runs, 109 RBI, 107 runs scored, and a .533 slugging average.

Statistical comparisons at Baseball-Reference list the following players as comparable to Holliday: Larry Walker, Lance Berkman, Fred Lynn, Bernie Williams, Hack Wilson. Pretty good company, no?

He has played over 150 games five times and is on pace to do it again – at age 33, when many players start to break down. But day in and day out, he’s out there, a reliable rock in the lineup for one of the better teams in baseball. Just this past Sunday night, he belted a grand slam in extra innings to help boost the Cardinals to a big win over Cincinnati.

When Albert Pujols left St. Louis after the 2011 World Championship season, the role of 3-hole hitter passed to Holliday. While he did not replicate Pujols’ numbers (and was not expected to), his usual numbers were right on target by season’s end. He was not out of place in that spot in the order.

In 2012, he hit the longest recorded home run at Busch Stadium III, a towering blast that sailed past the “Big Mac Land” sign into the second deck in left field. The bomb was estimated at 469 feet and was determined to be the fifth-longest home run hit by anyone the entire season. In August of that season, he got his 1,500 career hit.

The man has been consistently productive. In 2013, he is on pace for 24 homers, 90 RBI, 112 runs scored and a park-adjusted OPS+ of 119. Still an above-average hitter.

That’s Matt Holliday – on one hand.

On the other hand, Matt Holliday is, without a doubt, one of the most infuriating players I have ever watched in my entire life.

MattHollidayDodgerCatchRemember the fly ball to the, ahem, midsection in the 2009 Division Series against the Dodgers? That still image of the ball squirting free instead of being the game-clinching out that would have tied the series 1-1? Oh, I still get agitated thinking about that one. I know, I know. It was several batters later that the Dodgers actually won the game, but that hideous error opened the floodgates nonetheless.

How about the botched pop-up in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series? Or getting picked off third base later in that same game? Gah! There was a bright side to the pickoff incident – he exited the game and set the stage for Allen Craig’s heroics later in Game 6 and again in Game 7. To this day, I remain convinced that the Rangers win the World Series in St. Louis if Holliday had stayed in the game. So I can let that one go much easier than 2009.

In last season’s NLCS, Holliday was Public Enemy #1 in San Francisco. His takeout slide against Marco Scutaro energized the listless Giants and they rallied to win Game 2 of the NLCS at home (thanks in no small part to another fielding error by Holliday). By the way, it was Scutaro who hit the ball that Holliday butchered, leading to a bases-clearing double. Karma came around in a BIG way that day.

Heck, Holliday even booted his first chance in the field, as a rookie left fielder for the Rockies in 2004 (in St. Louis, ironically). Watching him in the field was reminiscent of another Rockies left fielder, Dante Bichette. He was a productive hitter, at home mostly, and a butcher in the field. Some Rockies fans referred to him as “Skates” Bichette because his footwork often resembled an uncoordinated roller skater. The nickname suited Holliday as well. Every fly ball was an adventure.

His swing has never been described as a thing of beauty, either. The contrast between Pujols and Holliday in the 2009-11 seasons was fascinating. After watching watched Pujols’ balanced, powerful stroke, with that beautiful follow-through, Holliday’s violent, twisting swing would almost looked like he was throwing the bat at the ball, hoping to make contact. And some of the at-bats he takes….good grief, are they ever horrible. How many times over the years does it seem as though Holliday comes to the plate with runners in scoring position and the Cardinals in need of a run, and he grounds into an inning-ending double play or tap weakly to the pitcher? So frustrating (but to be fair, probably no more frequently than with any other player).

Even his baserunning wasn’t immune. Although he was a quarterback in high school in Oklahoma, he often ran the bases like a linebacker lumbering after a runaway QB. Rockies fans will forever remember his game-winning slide to end the 2007 play-in game against the Padres. His faceplant in the Coors Field dirt left a nasty red raspberry on his chin (and became a running joke the following season, when he lampooned it in a team commercial). You can still find Padres fans who insist Holliday never touched the plate on his “slide.” It became part of Holliday’s legend: the man could hit, but as a fielder and runner, well, he was a heck of a hitter.

After Holliday hired Scott Boras as his agent, it became apparent that the penny-pinching ownership of the Rockies were not interested in paying market price to keep him. Instead, they began quietly bad-mouthing Holliday to certain local media members who served as team mouthpieces. Before the 2009 season, Holliday was dealt to Oakland for a package of players that included Carlos Gonzalez. Then, at the trading deadline, the A’s flipped Holliday to the Cardinals. Like so many trade acquisitions before him, Holliday was sensational in his initial stint in a Cardinal uniform. Well, until that NLDS Game 2 disaster. That left a bitter taste in many a fan’s mouth (myself included, as I have mentioned).

Was Holliday worth the $100 million-plus contract Boras was demanding? Pujols was due to be a free after the 2011 season, and Adam Wainwright’s free agency loomed on the horizon as well. How would the Cardinals afford those guys if they gave a nine-figure deal to a guy who would probably end up as a DH? Many people (me included) had to pick up their jaws off the floor when the Cardinals signed him to a seven-year, $120 million deal. He’s not worth that much, I remember saying to anyone who would listen. They’ll regret this deal. Are they (Cardinals management) really ready to hitch their wagon to Holliday instead of Pujols?

We know how that one turned out, but I’ll get back to that in a moment.

As a teammate, I have never read or heard anything negative about Holliday. The Rockies’ attempted character assassination prior to trading Holliday failed. Instead, they came out looking like petty cheapskates who were afraid of Scott Boras. Through all the costly fielding blunders, Holliday’s teammates have defended him vigorously. Holliday drew the wrath of Giants fans (and a couple of blabbermouth ex-players like Will Clark), but Scutaro himself never spoke an angry word to the media about Holliday. He reminds me of Darryl Kile in the way he seems to be universally liked and respected by his peers. Holliday, meanwhile, quietly spoke after the game about how he has never intentionally injured someone and he expressed repeatedly expressed regret. As it turned out, Holliday had far more serious issues weighing on him at that moment.

In May, an article on MLB.com appeared about Kathy Holliday, Matt’s mother, being diagnosed with colon cancer in October 2012. The story (which was marvelously written by Jenifer Langosch) detailed how Matt got the MattHollidayAndMomphone call while the Cardinals were battling Washington in the Division Series. While the Cardinals were playing the Giants in the NLCS, Holliday was also dealing with what must have been agonizing fear for his mom’s health. I can tell you first-hand that that kind of worry can be paralyzing and all-encompassing. You see, during that same month, my wife underwent a double mastectomy due to breast cancer. There were days I was able to go to work and do my job reasonably well, but there were also others where I was understandably preoccupied and, therefore, unproductive. My job doesn’t involve anything approximating the pressure of October baseball. Holliday didn’t play very well, but in my mind, the fact that Holliday was able to take the field at all in front of millions of TV viewers is pretty damned remarkable.

Holliday was nominated by the Rockies in 2007 for the Roberto Clemente Award, given to a player who best exemplifies community involvement in addition to his contributions to his team (aside: Holliday was robbed of the MVP award that year). They don’t nominate jerks for that award. In addition to his charitable work in the Denver area, he has an extensive history of doing good things since moving to St. Louis, including Homers for Health (with teammate David Freese) in 2012, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and others. He doesn’t always come off well in TV interviews, but so what? Albert Pujols often looked like a surly drudge during interviews and few people cared about that. If Holliday treated fans or teammates that way, then it would bother me. So he doesn’t get enthused about yet another round of pre or post-game interviews; I probably wouldn’t, either. Big deal.

Let’s get back to some numbers: specifically, the $120 million-dollar contract Holliday signed before the 2010 season. After making $16.3 million in 2011-12, he will receive $17 million for the remaining five years. Let’s look at what Fangraphs has determined his actual value to be thus far:

• 2010: $25 million (158 games, 28 HR, 103 RBI, 95 runs, .312/.390/.532, 149 OPS+)
• 2011: $21.7 million (124 games, 22 HR, 75 RBI, 83 runs, .296/.388/.525, 151 OPS+)
• 2012: $20.9 million (157 games, 27 HR, 102 RBI, 95 runs, .295/.379/.497, 137 OPS+)

So, to answer my question from above: yes, team management knew what it was doing when they signed Holliday. The decision to let Pujols go a year later was a completely separate matter (and even more wisely handled). Holliday has been everything the Cardinals could have expected – a durable, productive player who handles himself with class on and off the field. In case you’re wondering, my choice at the time for an outfielder was Jason Bay. He had been traded from Pittsburgh to Boston at the 2008 trade deadline and put up a sensational 36-119-103 season with a 134 OPS+ for the Red Sox in 2009. I was convinced that he would come cheaper than Holliday, yet be nearly as productive. How’d that work out? Well, in his three years with the Mets, Bay was worth a COMBINED $2.8 million (including negative $4.4 million in 2012). Obviously, I was 100% wrong. But so were the Mets and many national baseball analysts, so that’s some consolation.

Compared to other sluggers (Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Ryan Howard), Holliday has been a bargain. Often, a bargain comes with some sort of caveat (“it wasn’t the exact color I wanted, but the price was so good”). With him, the caveat is that he will botch plays in the field or take a terrible at-bat at a bad time. But, as he has repeatedly proven over the years, he will deliver the numbers by season’s end. He is not irreplaceable, but he is reliable. In sports today, I think that’s good enough.

I wonder how much longer he can keep this up. Time will tell, of course, but he has already defied my expectations. As for the rest of it, I am no longer flummoxed. Maybe it’s because of that ugly C-word that was affecting his personal life and mine at the same time. Maybe he’s the same person/player he has always been and it’s me who has changed. I don’t know. Whatever the case, I have gradually become a fan of Matt Holliday, as a player, but even more so as a person. I reserve the right to mutter a profanity or two when he makes a bad error or bounces into a rally-killing double play, but I would do that regardless of the player. He’s become one of the guys I root for, instead of that guy who plays with the guys I root for. And the best part (at least to me)?

His mom is in remission, as is my wife. Maybe that’s all the reason I need.

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To Start Or To Relieve: Wade Davis

James Shields was the “big name” in the Shields/Wade Davis trade, but the success or failure of the trade hinges on Davis. Shields is the Kansas City Royals’ ace, but he’s a free agent after the 2014 season. Whether he pitches well or not, it’s likely he’s gone after two years. However, Davis is under team control until 2016. The Royals believe Shields will improve the team now. As for Davis, the Royals believe he will develop into a two or three starter and be a part of the starting rotation the next few seasons.

wadedavis2013springtraining

This spring, the Royals plan to give Davis every chance to make the starting rotation as their 3-4-5 starter. From 2009-2011, Davis started 64 games for the Tampa Bay Rays. But last year, Davis stayed in the bullpen, appearing in 54 games. During Spring Training, the Rays gave Davis a shot as their fifth starter, but he lost out to Jeff Niemann. And when Niemann went down with a broken ankle, the Rays promoted Alex Cobb to the starting rotation, leaving Davis in the bullpen.

So is Davis a better starter, or a better reliever? Let’s see what the stats say:

Year ERA G GS IP ER WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2009 3.72 6 6 36.1 15 1.266 8.2 0.5 3.2 8.9 2.77
2010 4.07 29 29 168.0 76 1.351 8.8 1.3 3.3 6.1 1.82
2011 4.45 29 29 184.0 91 1.375 9.3 1.1 3.1 5.1 1.67
2012 2.43 54 0 70.1 19 1.095 6.1 0.6 3.7 11.1 3.00
4 Yrs 3.94 118 64 458.2 201 1.315 8.6 1.1 3.3 6.7 2.04
162 Game Avg. 3.94 44 24 171 75 1.315 8.6 1.1 3.3 6.7 2.04
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/20/2013.

Davis prefers a starting role, but his stats say he’s a better reliever. He had a much lower ERA, and over nine innings gave up fewer hits and struck out more batters. However, he did walk more batters over nine innings, which isn’t good if you’re a reliever. And with the Rays talented starting rotation last year, Davis stayed in the bullpen.

But how does Davis as a starter compare to the 2012 Royals starting rotation? Here’s the stats of the top five Royals starters:

Rk ERA G GS IP ER WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
1 Bruce Chen* 5.07 34 34 191.2 108 1.367 10.1 1.5 2.2 6.6 2.98
2 Luke Hochevar 5.73 32 32 185.1 118 1.419 9.8 1.3 3.0 7.0 2.36
3 Luis Mendoza 4.23 30 25 166.0 78 1.416 9.5 0.8 3.2 5.6 1.76
4 Jeremy Guthrie 3.16 14 14 91.0 32 1.132 8.3 0.9 1.9 5.5 2.95
5 Will Smith* 5.32 16 16 89.2 53 1.606 11.1 1.2 3.3 5.9 1.79
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/20/2013.

If you take Davis’ worst year, 2011, he had a better ERA than the Royals rotation, save Jeremy Guthrie and Luis Mendoza. The Royals rotation had more SO/9 than the 2011 Davis and except for Mendoza and Will Smith, the Royals rotation had a better BB/9 ratio than the 2011 Davis. If Davis was in the Royals starting rotation last year, he would likely be the number three starter behind Guthrie and Mendoza.

So what does this mean? Well, Davis is a good middle of the rotation starter, but is a better reliever. If Bruce Chen and Mendoza regress, Luke Hochevar pitches like Luke Hochevar and Davis pitches like he did in 2010, he’ll be in the starting rotation. But if Chen, Mendoza or Hochevar have a great Spring Training, Davis might end up in the bullpen.

But that’s not likely, despite what happens this spring. The Royals will give Davis every opportunity to make the starting rotation, just to show the Shields/Davis trade wasn’t a bust like some Royals fans and pundits think it is. If Shields and Davis are starters, the trade doesn’t look bad. The team got two quality starters to improve their rotation. But if Shields is a starter and Davis is a reliever, then the trade looks like the Royals got an ace for only two years and another bullpen arm in an already strong bullpen. Not bad, but not that good either.

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Cooperstown Choices: Ryan Klesko

With the Hall Of Fame election announcement coming on January 9, 2013, it is time to review the ballot, go over the names, and decide who belongs in the Hall Of Fame.

There are twenty four men on the ballot for the first time this year and we will take a look at each one individually prior to official announcements. You can find all of the profiles in the I-70 Baseball Exclusives: Cooperstown Choices 2013 menu at the top of the page.

In this article, we take a look at Ryan Klesko

 

Ryan Klesko
Klesko’s career spanned 16 years and three teams.  He was most remembered for his time in Atlanta, where he finished third in the Rookie Of The Year voting in 1994 and San Diego, where he made his lone All Star roster in 2001.

Year Tm G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1992 ATL 13 14 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 5 .000 .067 .000 .067 -80
1993 ATL 22 17 3 6 1 0 2 5 0 3 4 .353 .450 .765 1.215 219
1994 ATL 92 245 42 68 13 3 17 47 1 26 48 .278 .344 .563 .907 130
1995 ATL 107 329 48 102 25 2 23 70 5 47 72 .310 .396 .608 1.004 158
1996 ATL 153 528 90 149 21 4 34 93 6 68 129 .282 .364 .530 .894 128
1997 ATL 143 467 67 122 23 6 24 84 4 48 130 .261 .334 .490 .824 111
1998 ATL 129 427 69 117 29 1 18 70 5 56 66 .274 .359 .473 .832 117
1999 ATL 133 404 55 120 28 2 21 80 5 53 69 .297 .376 .532 .908 128
2000 SDP 145 494 88 140 33 2 26 92 23 91 81 .283 .393 .516 .909 136
2001 SDP 146 538 105 154 34 6 30 113 23 88 89 .286 .384 .539 .923 145
2002 SDP 146 540 90 162 39 1 29 95 6 76 86 .300 .388 .537 .925 152
2003 SDP 121 397 47 100 18 0 21 67 2 65 83 .252 .354 .456 .810 118
2004 SDP 127 402 58 117 32 2 9 66 3 73 67 .291 .399 .448 .847 129
2005 SDP 137 443 61 110 19 1 18 58 3 75 80 .248 .358 .418 .775 111
2006 SDP 6 4 0 3 1 0 0 2 0 2 0 .750 .833 1.000 1.833 388
2007 SFG 116 362 51 94 27 3 6 44 5 46 68 .260 .344 .401 .744 92
16 Yrs 1736 5611 874 1564 343 33 278 987 91 817 1077 .279 .370 .500 .870 128
162 Game Avg. 162 524 82 146 32 3 26 92 8 76 101 .279 .370 .500 .870 128
ATL (8 yrs) 792 2431 374 684 140 18 139 450 26 301 523 .281 .361 .525 .886 127
SDP (7 yrs) 828 2818 449 786 176 12 133 493 60 470 486 .279 .381 .491 .872 134
SFG (1 yr) 116 362 51 94 27 3 6 44 5 46 68 .260 .344 .401 .744 92
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/12/2012.

Why He Should Get In
Klesko enjoyed a fairly solid run of performance for a few years, but simply could not hold on to it long enough to bolster his career numbers.

Why He Should Not Get In
His career numbers fall remarkably short of typical Cooperstown standards.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

Posted in Cooperstown Choices 2013, I-70 Baseball ExclusivesComments (1)

Cardinals Get Their LOOGY

The St. Louis Cardinals have been looking for a left handed relief pitcher this off season.  Today, they got their man.

Cards sign Choate to 3 years, $75 million contract

Randy Choate is a 37-year old left handed relief pitcher that has pitched for five teams in his twelve year major league career, spanning back to his rookie season in 2000 with the New York Yankees.

Choate is a true LOOGY (Left-handed One Out GuY) and exactly what the Cardinals were looking for.  He has lead the league in appearances two of the last three seasons with 85 in 2010 and 80 in 2012.  As the term suggests, however, many appearances do not lead to a ton of innings.  Choate threw just 38.2 innings last season.

Tough against lefties, he has held them to a .201 batting average over his career while compiling a 3.52 strikeout to walk ratio as well.

He split time last year between Florida and the Dodgers, having been part of the Hanley Ramirez trade.

Here’s a quick look at his career statistics, as well as his 2012 splits, courtesy of Baseball Reference:

Year Tm W L ERA G GF SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BF ERA+ WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2000 NYY 0 1 4.76 22 6 0 17.0 14 10 9 3 8 0 12 1 75 103 1.294 7.4 4.2 6.4 1.50
2001 NYY 3 1 3.35 37 13 0 48.1 34 21 18 0 27 2 35 9 207 135 1.262 6.3 5.0 6.5 1.30
2002 NYY 0 0 6.04 18 11 0 22.1 18 18 15 1 15 0 17 3 101 74 1.478 7.3 6.0 6.9 1.13
2003 NYY 0 0 7.36 5 2 0 3.2 7 3 3 0 1 0 0 0 16 65 2.182 17.2 2.5 0.0 0.00
2004 ARI 2 4 4.62 74 17 0 50.2 52 26 26 1 28 11 49 5 232 100 1.579 9.2 5.0 8.7 1.75
2005 ARI 0 0 9.00 8 0 0 7.0 8 7 7 0 5 1 4 1 35 51 1.857 10.3 6.4 5.1 0.80
2006 ARI 0 1 3.94 30 3 0 16.0 21 9 7 0 3 0 12 3 75 122 1.500 11.8 1.7 6.8 4.00
2007 ARI 0 0 2 0 0 0.0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
2009 TBR 1 0 3.47 61 13 5 36.1 28 15 14 4 11 3 28 0 142 126 1.073 6.9 2.7 6.9 2.55
2010 TBR 4 3 4.23 85 8 0 44.2 41 23 21 3 17 5 40 3 187 93 1.299 8.3 3.4 8.1 2.35
2011 FLA 1 1 1.82 54 6 0 24.2 13 7 5 3 13 5 31 2 103 217 1.054 4.7 4.7 11.3 2.38
2012 TOT 0 0 3.03 80 4 1 38.2 29 18 13 1 18 3 38 5 168 131 1.216 6.8 4.2 8.8 2.11
2012 MIA 0 0 2.49 44 4 1 25.1 16 11 7 0 9 0 27 3 104 161 0.987 5.7 3.2 9.6 3.00
2012 LAD 0 0 4.05 36 0 0 13.1 13 7 6 1 9 3 11 2 64 96 1.650 8.8 6.1 7.4 1.22
12 Yrs 11 11 4.02 476 83 6 309.1 268 157 138 16 146 30 266 32 1344 109 1.338 7.8 4.2 7.7 1.82
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/5/2012.

Career Splits:

I Split G R H 2B 3B HR BB SO SO/BB BA OBP SLG OPS GDP HBP IBB BAbip tOPS+
vs RHB as LHP 272 74 134 30 1 9 88 62 0.70 .279 .404 .401 .806 22 15 25 .303 141
vs LHB as LHP 446 85 134 33 1 7 58 204 3.52 .201 .278 .284 .563 13 17 5 .273 68
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/5/2012.

2012 Splits:

Split G R H 2B 3B HR BB SO SO/BB BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP IBB BAbip tOPS+
vs RHB as LHP 38 3 13 1 0 0 9 8 0.89 .325 .471 .350 .821 14 1 2 1 .406 188
vs LHB as LHP 72 13 16 3 0 1 9 30 3.33 .158 .243 .218 .461 22 2 3 2 .208 63
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/5/2012.

The Cardinals will turn their focus to the middle infield now, where there appear to be shopping for an upgrade at second base or a long term answer at shortstop.

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A powerful breakfast

As a guy who has lacked in home run power over the beginning of his career in Kansas City, Billy Butler, has taken the bull by the horns this season setting a new career high in home runs only 111 games into the 2012 season.  Butler is on pace to become the first Royal to hit 30 home runs in a season since Jermaine Dye did it in 2000. A 12 year drought could be broken by a player who for most of his young career has been criticized for not having enough power for not only his stature but also his position being designated hitter.

The power has changed from double to home runs this season mainly because instead of relying on his upper body to do all the work at the plate Butler has worked hard to get his legs stronger over the last 9 months and using them at the plate has equated into more lift on balls that are now carrying over the fence instead of bouncing off of the warning track.  One stat that has not been given enough credit was his ability to hit the double.  Trailing only New York Yankee second basemen in doubles since the beginning of the 2009 season, Butler has 158 two baggers, according to Baseball-Reference.  That is an astounding number that seems to have been pushed away because they are not turning into home runs. Everyone believes that if you have to power to hit that many doubles then you have the power to hit home runs. It does not work that way because it is not about the power or strength but the swing that the hitter has.  Over the first parts of his career Butler seemed to not lift the ball when it was needed and would use a more level swing that resulted in line drives in the gaps instead of towering fly balls into the stands.  But until the last two season Butler simply was not supposed to be the guy who hit the ball over the wall and gave the team the offensive lift they need. He has been asked to be a hitter and a hitter he has been.  But now he needs to continue to show the power he has shown so far in 2012.

On pace for 34 home runs this season two shy of the club record of 36 set in 1985 by the powerful Steve Balboni. The amount of home runs is not what stands out the most in the case of Butler.  The fact that he recognized that as the hitting leader of this team the best way to do that is lead by example.  In the off season he saw that he needed to work on his weakness of strength in his lower body which would help get more lift on the baseball and turn doubles in the gaps into home runs into the seats.

The philosophy that both Butler and hitting coach Kevin Seitzer have taken in the 2012 sea on seems to be working not only in the power department but a continued success to all fields for Butler. His doubles have gone down but that is what happens when the ball that were hitting the fence are now traveling over the fence.  To ask a guy to hit 30 home runs for the first time in his career and continue a pace of 47 doubles per year for the last three seasons would be outrageous.  The statistic that continues to slipped the minds of critics of Butler is the fact that the man is only 26 years old.  By comparison to other designated hitters of past that people would like to see Bulter become Edgar Martinez did not hit 30 home runs in a season until he was 37 years old.  he did flirt with 30 home runs in 1995 which still was when he was 33 years old.

Comparing the two a bit more in Martinez’s first 6 seasons in the major leagues he hit 91 home runs, 204 doubles, with 381 RBI while having a batting average of .290.  Now Butler in his first six seasons, which as of right now is 13 at bats less than Martinez had at this point in his career, has hit 97 home runs, 203 doubles, with 445 RBI and a batting average of .298, according to Baseball-Reference. If Butler continues to improve on an already good beginning to his career and progresses faster than Martinez did in Seattle than the Royals could have a once in a lifetime statistic wonder on their hands.

Everyone knew that Butler was going to be a hitter but hitters do not alway produce.  Having a guy that is going to consistently flirt with a three hundred average which never seems to dip under .290 nor exceed .315 is something that can be found anywhere but having that same guy perform with the production that Butler has shown in just six years is priceless.  He started out as two eggs over easy with a side of toast and now has turned into a full country breakfast.  But over the season to come all we can do is wait and see if Butler can become the Thanksgiving dinner to lead the Royals to success in September and beyond.

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The Non-Quantifiable Jeff Francoeur

The Kansas City Royals are, arguably, one of the most exciting franchises in the league today.  They are young, talented, and have proven they can win at various levels on their way to the Major Leagues.

Exciting as that may be, when those young guys arrive in “the bigs”, they need leadership.  They need someone to show them how to act like big leaguers.  They need a guide along this journey that can show them, for lack of a better phrase, “The Royal Way”.

During the off-season, Dayton Moore and company were faced with a tough decision.  They had a glutton of youth that was becoming ready for the next step and a solid group behind them that could be ready sooner than later.  In particular, this created a problem in the outfield where they had two veteran players that showed promise.  The decision needed to be made between Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera.  Many fans point out the inequity of the choice that was made.

A quick look at Baseball-Reference, accurate through 6/26…

Jeff Francoeur
Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2012 28 KCR 70 293 277 28 73 14 2 7 24 1 3 13 51 .264 .300 .404 .705
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/27/2012.
Melky Cabrera
Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2012 27 SFG 72 321 298 52 105 15 7 7 37 10 4 21 41 .352 .393 .520 .913
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/27/2012.

Statistically speaking, it is obvious the wrong choice was made.  Now, I know, hindsight is 20-20 and by no means do I feel that anyone could have predicted that Melky would have such a great year or that Frenchy would have such an average one.  What I am here to say is simply that the choice of Francoeur over Cabrera cannot be measured by the typical numbers.  Nor do I feel that it will be something we may ever be able to measure.

Jeff Francoeur was kept on this team for his ability to usher in a crop of young guys into the proper way of handling themselves.  The intangibles around him as a man, a clubhouse personality, and a mentor all lead to the real reasons that he has a two year deal with this club.

Will he stick around beyond the trading deadline this year?  That will rely largely on factors of the production of other players in the system and the maturity of the roster as a whole.  If he should leave, who assumes his role as leadership both on and off the field?

Eric Hosmer
Hos is a bit of a natural choice here.  He was, in a very big way, the beginning of the youth movement in Kansas City.  He has spent a large amount of time in the system with a lot of the young players that are beginning to surface.  He’s young…very young, but his composure, quiet attitude, and expectation of winning will serve him well in the future.

Mike Moustakas
Moose is a much different candidate for leader of this team.  Throughout his minor league career, he has been known as a fiery personality that expects to win and is not afraid to tell anyone that they need to step it up a notch.  He is a player that will be vocal and visible in a leadership role.  In addition, he has earned a lot of respect for toning that side of his personality and game way down as he learns the ropes in Kansas City.

Alex Gordon
This is not only the most logical choice, but may be a change that is already in motion.  Gordon has been the player that has possibly most benefited from the presence of Jeff Francoeur.  They locker near each other, they are seen frequently together on road trips, and they have been seen working together in the field during warm ups.  Gordon received a long term deal from the club, is a leader on the field offensively and defensively, and has shown a large amount of maturity over the last few seasons.

As this team grows and becomes more and more competitive, leadership will be needed to help culture a winning environment and teach the players how to keep their heads down, their noses clean, and their game on the field pristine.  The right guys are in place to do just that and Jeff Fracoeur is a big part of ushering in a whole new era of Royals baseball.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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A Historic Day

You may have seen Sunday’s St Louis Cardinals victory over the Houston Astros, and Tyler Greene’s 2-HR day.  Was it historic?  You betcha.

Greene became the first Cardinal second baseman since 1918* to start a game and hit 2 home runs, drive in 4, score 3 times, and steal a base.  Considering the great players who have manned second base throughout the years – Rogers Hornsby, Red Schoendienst, Ted Sizemore – that is amazing.

It gets better.  Only three other Cardinals have ever had a final box score line like that.

  1. Jim Edmonds pulled it off during a Fourth of July destruction of the Cincinnati Reds.  Fireworks during and after the game that day.  I think the fans went home happy.
  2. Stan Musial watched Wally Moon turn the trick in a June 1956 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Moon’s line that day was virtually identical to Greene’s, except Moon had one more PA (he walked).  Musial also homered.  Personally I like it when I can connect Musial to anything going on with the team today.
  3. Twenty years before that, Don Gutteridge was the first Cardinal with the line.  Gutteridge actually scored 4 runs and knocked in 5 during the first game of a double header that day.  For what it’s worth, he doubled and struck out 3 times in the nightcap.

I half expected all three men would hit high in the order, and indeed Edmonds hit third and Moon fifth.  But Gutteridge hit seventh during his game, and Greene eighth Sunday; more proof that on any given day you can see anything at a baseball game from any given spot in the order.

One more factoid of interest.  There have only been four other second baseman with a day like Tyler Greene’s:  Joe Morgan, Ryne Sandberg, Juan Samuel, and Orlando Hudson.  That’s not bad company, is it?

*Baseball Reference’s play index only goes back to 1918, so although we could argue ‘first ever’ it is prudent to put the date, just in case. Search was done for games where the starting second basemen had two or more HR, 4 or more RBI, scored 3 or more runs, and stole 1 or more bases.

Mike Metzger is a freelance writer based in San Diego.  He blogs about the Padres.  You can follow him on Twitter @metzgermg.

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Are the 2012 Royals a bad team?

Are the 2012 Kansas City Royals a bad baseball team? This question that was asked frequently during the notorious twelve game losing streak. Because the losing streak happened so early in the season it is a legitimate question. I know the 2012 version of the Royals is not a good team. Good teams don’t go on twelve game losing streaks and have starting pitchers with ERAs above 7. However, does this Royals team have the potential to get near .500 like we anticipated in March? Or are we looking at another 100 loss season? There is only one place to find these answers: Baseball-Reference.

The Royals have had four 100 loss seasons in their history. Let’s see how the 2012 Royals would stack up if they were in a division with those four teams after 25 games:

Year W L GP GB
2002 8 17 25 -
2004 8 17 25 -
2012 8 17 25 -
2005 7 18 25 -1
2006 5 20 25 -3

As you can tell the 2012 Royals are in some bad company. You can tell me this team is more talented than those teams. You can tell me that their Pythagorean W-L shows a record of 10-15 and that the Royals have been “unlucky” so far this season. The team is playing better and has won 5 out of their last 8 since ending the losing streak. Including what I consider to be Mike Moustakas’ emergence as “player” on the major league level. Yes, injuries have been a major problem and I expect this team will play a lot better when Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, and Felipe Paulino return from the disabled list. However, other major league teams have injury issues too. Even the 2005 Royals had a stretch from May 31st to Jun 16th where they won 11 of 15, including a 3 game sweep of the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium. I remember that sweep well; it was the highlight of that season.

The reality is this team has real pitching problems. It’s not like we didn’t know pitching could be an issue. It became apparent early last season that the pitching at the major league level and in the minors was not going to be enough open a “playoff” window anytime soon. It is such a major story line for me I wrote about it four times last season: here, here, here and here.

If the Royals are ever going to contend be a mediocre team instead of terrible they will need to add pitching. Danny Duffy has made some strides this season at becoming an ace pitcher this team needs. However, Duffy is just one pitcher. Felipe Paulino has shown some promise but a long way from a sure bet. I don’t see Bruce Chen or Luke Hochevar as long term solutions.

It’s frustrating that six years after Dayton Moore said “pitching is the currency of baseball” not much has improved among the starting rotation. There needs to be more pitching. Pitching is expensive whether you trade for it, or pay for it. The problem is, Even if ownership approves such a costly move, which is up for debate in the first place. I don’t have confidence in this front office to execute such a deal. Dayton Moore has been flat out schooled in trades at the major league level.

That is why I’m leaning toward this version of the Royals being a bad team. The glaring holes in the roster configuration have not been fixed from last year. Not to mention this team seems to lose focus a lot more than last year. I think the likelihood that this is another 100 loss season is greater than the Royals turning it around and getting near .500. The next question is, can the front office get enough pitching before it’s time for this young nucleus to chase their free agent contracts?

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What do we know?

The Kansas City Royals are a week into their 2012 campaign. Seven games is not a large sample size. However, there are some things you can infer from the Royals past behavior during previous seasons under the current administration. I’m going to make an attempt at discerning what we know about the Royals already, and what I’m not sure about.

Since Luke Hochevar got the start yesterday afternoon for the Royals home opener I’m going to use his favorite phrase; “ummm..You know?” to help facilitate this process. In honor of Luke Hochevar I’m going to list things I know about the Royals under the heading “You know”, and things I’m not sure about under the heading “Ummm”.

 

Ummm

Before yesterday the Royals’ starting pitching has an ERA of 1.85. When your sample size is six games there are a lot of “yeah, buts”. You could say that the low ERA has more to do with Royals opponents than their pitchers. That holds up with the Athletics who might score the fewest runs in the AL this season. It doesn’t hold up with the Angels who are projected to score a lot of runs.

I don’t think the starting pitching is as bad as Hochevar’s Mazzaroesque 1st inning yesterday. Of course, the real answer is always somewhere in between. I think the starting staff will be better than we expected, but not as good as they’ve been outside of this guy….

You Know

I almost went off on this tangent last season. If you read between the lines of anything I wrote last season you might have picked up on it. Luke Hochevar is my least favorite Royal. There, I got that out there. I think it started with his holdout coming out of the amateur draft. It wasn’t the holdout specifically; lots of players do what Hochevar did, including teammate Aaron Crow. However, maybe it was the holdout and then his accompanying suckage at the Major League level. I’ve been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for Hochaver to turn a corner. Even though Dayton Moore’s people didn’t draft him, he continues to be treated like he was. I don’t know what it is.

Hochevar was starting to grow on me during the latter part of last season. He was finally becoming the ace pitcher that he was supposed to be, and the ace pitcher the Royals need him to be. Then yesterday’s bottom of the 1st happened re-enforcing my belief that Hochevar is a 1st round draft pick bust. Maybe I’m still mad about one bad inning in April, but Hochaver’s body of work doesn’t contain much for me to change my mind. I know the trade mark Luke Hochevar Inning will be something Royals fans will have to deal with as long as Hochaver is on the team.

Ummm

Coming into the season we thought the Royals offense would be potent. However, that has not transpired. The Royals have been shut-out twice in seven games. For comparison, last year the Royals were not shut-out until May 14th, and did not get shutout again until May 21st. The players we thought would be producers have gotten off to slow starts. Two of those players, Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez are on the disabled list. I’m confident these slumps will not continue. Just like I expect the starting pitching to come back to earth, I expect the offense to get going.

You Know

I hate starting out on this tangent but this team’s base running is bothering more than anything. Ned Yost claims they’re just being “aggressive”. I think Ned’s reaction is just a front for the media. Getting picked-off is not aggressive, not watching the runner in front of you is not aggressive, it’s not paying attention. Even if the Royals running out of innings is a product of being aggressive, it’s troublesome that this organization believes that aggressive base running is a proper strategy.

I’m far from a Sabrematrician, in fact I’ll argue with some of their major tenants. However, one aspect I believe from their research is that stealing bases is the most over-rated offensive statistic in baseball. Stealing bases doesn’t lead to more wins, it doesn’t even lead to more runs. In fact, I’m sure stealing bases prevents your team from scoring runs. I wrote about this last season when I got tired of the Royals tooting their horn about leading the league in stolen bases. The Royals need to stop falling asleep on the base paths. They need to stop running themselves out of innings, and they need to stop being aggressive. But one thing I know is that the Royals base running continues to be terrible.

What do we know about the Royals? Aside from what I’ve discussed, not much. After the Angels series I was confident that this year was going to live up to expectations and we were going to enjoy it. Right now I feel like the Royals are going down the path of the 106 loss 2005 team filled with moments of historical suckage and comedy. I’m probably right on both accounts. Most experts expected the Royals to hang around .500. Right now they’re one game below .500. If this were a football season the Royals would have just finished the 3rd quarter during Week 1 and they’re down by a field goal. As fans that’s something we need to remember.

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