Tag Archive | "Longevity"

Hall Monitor: Baseball Reference Ranks Royals’ Chances at Cooperstown

For failing to garner 5% of votes cast this year, Juan Gonzalez will be dropped from the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot next year, leaving the Kansas City Royals with no former players on the regular ballot.

Jason Kendall

Do the Royals have any chance of getting a player in the Hall anytime soon? It’s looking like it will be a very long time.

As I documented in a previous article, few former Royals have ever received significant support to be in the Hall. In fact, few have ever even received the requisite 5% to remain eligible.

Two current players with an outside chance at making it might even consider wearing the Royals’ cap, were they to make it to Cooperstown. Carlos Beltran and Johnny Damon have a shot, and each spent a significant portion of his career in KC.

But according to a Baseball-Reference ranking system, a couple of other former Royals might actually have a better shot at making the hall. A graph called the Hall of Fame Monitor shows that the next in line with the best shot at the Hall is actually none other than… Jason Kendall.

Shocked? I was.

Next after Kendall? Roberto Hernandez.

Disgusted? I was.

The system ranks former players and attempts to predict the chances of current and recently retired players of being elected to the Hall. It awards points for a variety of accomplishments and especially rewards longevity and offensive output from catchers and shortstops. The system describes itself as follows:

This is another Jamesian creation. It attempts to assess how likely (not how deserving) an active player is to make the Hall of Fame. It’s rough scale is 100 means a good possibility and 130 is a virtual cinch. It isn’t hard and fast, but it does a pretty good job.

Gonzalez actually came in with a rating of 120, the exact same rating as the newly inducted Barry Larkin. Gonzalez ranks ahead of a number of Hall of Famers, including recently elected outfielder Andre Dawson. But Gonzalez was undoubtedly penalized for his link to performance-enhancing drugs.

With Gonzalez now gonzo, the former Royal with the most reasonable chance now is Kendall with a 108 ranking. But while the system says a 100 ranking would indicate a chance, don’t tell that to former Royals Vida Blue, David Cone and Bob Boone. Each was over 100 and got nary a sniff from the voters.

Beltran comes in surprisingly low (in my mind) at just 92. He is penalized mostly for a low number of career hits and a low career average. When he reaches 400 homers and 2000 career hits (this season?), his ranking will jump considerably.

Damon sits currently at 90 points. If he could somehow reach the 3000 hit mark (273 away) he would become a virtual lock for the Hall. According to the system, that’s about his only shot.

Such systems are not without flaws, and it’s not hard to find some rankings you disagree with. Personally I don’t like seeing Hernandez (93 points) come in ahead of Dan Quisenberry (77) and Jeff Montgomery (74).

But like the system or not, it illustrates the sad truth. Unless the Royals acquire some aged star who’s playing out the twilight of his career (see former Royals Harmon Killebrew, Gaylord Perry and Orlando Cepeda), it could be more than a decade before we think about a Royal joining George Brett in Cooperstown.

Former Royals Chances of Making the Hall of Fame, According to the Baseball Reference Hall of Fame Monitor:

Batters eligible – Top 200 all time (rank #, total points):

#116 (tie) Juan Gonzalez – 120 points
#153 (tie) Bob Boone – 102 points
#176 Vada Pinson – 95 points
#177 (tie) Benito Santiago – 94 points

Batters not yet eligible – Top 100 (rank #, total points):

#27 (tie) Jason Kendall – 108 points
#38 Carlos Beltran – 92 points
#40 Johnny Damon – 90 points
#77 Mark Grudzielanek – 49 points
#78 (tie) Jermaine Dye – 48 points
#78 (tie) Mike Sweeney – 48 points

Pitchers eligible – Top 200 (rank #, total points):

#78 (tie) Vida Blue – 114 points
#93 David Cone – 103 points
#152 (tie) Dan Quisenberry – 77 points
#161 (tie) Jeff Montgomery – 74 points
#167 (tie) Bret Saberhagen – 70 points

Pitchers not yet eligible – Top 100 (rank #, total points):

#17 Roberto Hernandez – 93 points
#43 (tie) Tom Gordon – 47 points
#58 (tie) Joakim Soria – 34 points
#67 (tie) Zach Greinke – 22 points
#95 (tie) Octavio Dotel – 19 points

Batters already in – Top 200 (rank #, total points):

#39 George Brett – 210 points
#55 (tie) Harmon Killebrew – 178 points
#108 (tie) Orlando Cepeda – 126 points

Pitchers already in – Top 200 (rank #, total points):

#29 Gaylord Perry – 177 points

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Opportunity In Center Field

Last week we began taking a look around the National League Central position by position to see where how the St. Louis Cardinals stack up heading into the 2012 season. We started with right field where St. Louis has the decided edge in both starting talent and depth. This week we slide over to what is for sure the most crucial position in the outfield and possibly on the diamond altogether…center field.

Cardinal nation has grown accustom to excellence in center field over the years. From the likes of Willie McGee to Jim Edmonds it was not just about All-Star selections, batting titles and Gold Gloves. Okay well it was, but it was also about longevity. Since Edmonds left St. Louis following the 2007 the Cardinals have had a revolving door out in center usually reserved for second base. Rick Ankiel, Colby Rasmus and Jon Jay have shagged most of the balls out there over the last four seasons.

Going into this spring Jay looks to solidify the spot and make it his own. For the Cardinals this presents the weakest of the three outfield positions. But perhaps the one with the most upside. Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak views Jon Jay as the team’s everyday center fielder rather than the left-handed half of a platoon.

Jay has certainly held his own against southpaws in his career, sporting a .296/.356/.377 batting line as compared to a .298/.348/.436 line against right-handers. The splits evidently have Mozeliak and the Cards prepared to run Jay out there every day rather than find a right-handed hitting complement for him, which enhances his value.

Here is a look around the National League Central and how Jon Jay stacks up against his peers.

 

Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd finished 2011 with nine homers, three steals, 35 RBIs, 51 runs scored and a .276 batting average. Byrd can supply a solid batting average but his lack of power and speed makes him a weak everyday outfielder. At age 34, it’s hard to predict any improvement in his 2012 numbers.

Reds outfielder Drew Stubbs swiped 40 bases in 2011, to go along with 15 homers, 44 RBIs, 92 runs scored and a .243 batting average. Stubbs reached the 40-steal level for the first time. But, the 27-year-old hit just .233 with four homers in the second half. This isn’t the profile of a leadoff hitter and the Reds could look for other options at that spot for 2012. The first Reds player with 40 steals in a season since Deion Sanders had 56 steals in 1997. Unfortunately, it can’t hide Stubbs’ struggles at the dish.

Astros outfielder Jordan Schafer hit .242 with two homers, 13 RBIs, 46 runs scored and 22 stolen bases in 2011. Schafer was traded to the Astros for Michael Bourn after failing to meet expectations in the Braves organization. The 25-year-old former top prospect had mixed results in limited time last season but remains the club’s best in-house option. Jason Bourgeois will continue to fill-in at all three outfield positions, while J.B. Shuck and Brian Bogusevic are also in the hunt . Schafer has enough speed (24 steals in 469 career at-bats) to warrant attention if he can get a full-time role in 2012. But he can’t steal first base and Schafer’s .228 career batting average could keep the 25-year-old from securing regular work.

Brewers center fielder Nyjer Morgan hit .304 in 2011, stole 13 homers, went deep four times, drove in 37 runs and scored 61 times. Morgan continued to be one of the game’s loudest players also let his bat do the talking with the second highest batting average on his team. Surprisingly, the Brewers didn’t let Morgan run the bases aggressively, as he stole 21 bases fewer than in 2009 despite collecting nearly as many hits.

Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen smacked 23 homers, swiped 23 bases, drove in 89 runs, scored 87 times and hit .259 in 2011. McCutchen posted his first 20-20 season but his other numbers weren’t as rosy. The 25-year-old was caught stealing 10 times, the same number as in 2010, despite attempting 10 fewer base swipes. He also hit .216 in the second half. There is still plenty of upside here, but several holes too.

Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay smacked 10 long balls, drove in 37 runs, scored 56 times, swiped six bases and hit .297 in 2011. Jay’s development was a key factor in the midseason trade of Colby Rasmus, as manager Tony La Russa wanted to get Jay into the lineup more often. Despite struggling at the dish in the postseason, the 26-year-old could be a big asset if he can exceed 500 at-bats in 2012.

Here is how I rank the center fielders heading into 2012.

  1. Andrew McCutchen
  2. Nyjer Morgan
  3. Drew Stubbs
  4. Jon Jay
  5. Marlon Byrd
  6. Jordan Schafer

Looking Ahead

Jon Jay will not be relied on to match the offensive numbers of his outfield mates Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran. Rather Jay will be looked to for defensive support, which he proved more than capable of providing in 2011. However In part-time at-bats, Jay has proven to be a solid offensive player, hitting for a high batting average with at least serviceable pop. If he can average his production out over a full season it will mean good things for the 2012 Cardinals.

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Baseball Bloggers Alliance Ballot: NL Manager Of The Year

Every year, the group known as the Baseball Bloggers Alliance places their ballots for various awards to be announced at the end of the season. This year, Bob Netherton and I will be placing the votes for the St. Louis Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance in the category of Manager Of The Year. The award is officially titled The Connie Mack Award, so named because of the winningest manager in baseball history.

For me, this year’s group of skippers came down to a few criteria. Who did more with less? Who found ways to win games that were not meant to be won? It was not about taking a team that was supposed to win and winning (Sorry Charlie Manuel). It was about taking a team that had been written off (even on a game-to-game basis – everyone should be beating the Astros right now) and doing something unexpected. So without further ado, here are my top three choices for the Manager of the Year.

3. Tony LaRussa (St. Louis Cardinals) – Believe it or not, this is not a hometown pick. I am not a LaRussa fan, and I make no qualms about saying so. The man overmanages at times, yet finds ways to win. He is the third most winningest manager of all time, and will probably pass up John McGraw in the next season, should he return. But this award is not about longevity. It is about this year.

LaRussa’s Cardinals did more than anyone would have predicted they could this year. Their march to the postseason really did not begin in earnest until September, as they found themselves 10.5 games out of the race (wild card and divisional) during the week of August 24. They lost an ace in Adam Wainwright before the season began. Superstars Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday both suffered injuries that landed them on the shelf throughout the season. Guys that few out of the Midwest had heard of named Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso led the team in games played. Yet this team prevailed, made a historic comeback, and found their way into the playoffs. Tony might make me nuts, but he must be doing something right.

2. Clint Hurdle (Pittsburgh Pirates) – The Pirates had been complacent in the cellar of the National League for 18 years entering the 2011 campaign. Most people probably could not name 3 players off of the Pirate’s roster. The definition of a young team – Hurdle had only two players on his roster over the age of 30 this year. Yes, you read that correctly. Thirty. This team was doomed from the start.

Then something remarkable happened. Hurdle’s club put together a 47-43 first half. On July 19, game number 95 on the season, the Pirates were up a half game on the Milwaukee Brewers, a season high seven games over .500, and shocking the baseball scene. It was not going to last, according to pretty much everyone, but the Pirates held out longer than anyone thought they would. Hurdle had a young team, but he brought out the best in them, and if the team can stick together for a few years instead of trading them away for aging veterans, they could surprise again next year.

1. Kirk Gibson (Arizona Diamondbacks) – Last year, the Diamondbacks lost 97 games, finishing 27 games back of the eventual World Champion San Francisco Giants. Gibson, that of postseason fame himself, took over the reins of the team at roughly the halfway mark of that largely forgettable season. This season, Gibson brought in the A-Team for his coaching staff. Don Baylor, Alan Trammell, Matt Williams and Charles Nagy, among others, are all roaming the halls and dugout steps of Chase Field. Former coaches and managers in their own right, All-Stars whose playing days are not all that distant, now all together in one dugout. Every time you looked into that dugout, you wondered how Gibson got all those guys in one place.

This year, on the backs of a strong pitching staff led by starter Ian Kennedy and reliever J.J. Putz, the Diamondbacks shocked the National League West, running away from the division and finishing 8 games ahead of the Giants and the rest of the pack. Gibson made moves that other coaches would not make, used a regular lineup of players aged 23-30, and earned the respect of the rest of the National League in the process. Gibson might just be starting out his managerial career, but he is off to a good start.

Angela Weinhold covers the Cardinals as well as edits for i70baseball.com and writes at Cardinal Diamond Diaries. You may follow her on Twitter here or follow Cardinal Diamond Diaries here.

 

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Remembering Splitt The Pitcher

There have been a lot of great tributes to Paul Splittorff the player, the broadcaster, and the man over the last few days. Here, I would like to honor Splitt by attempting to give an idea of just how large he looms in Royals pitching history. The most obvious examples are his all-time club records for starts (392), innings pitched (2,554) and wins (166). He has owned the franchise wins record since 1975, and is in no danger of losing it anytime soon. Splitt faced 10,829 batters, over 1,300 more than the next pitcher on the Royals all-time list. In addition to his incredible longevity, Splitt was also a tie to the very earliest days in Royals history. He was drafted by the club in 1968, a year before the big league team even started play. The Royals selected 21 players ahead of Splitt that day, but he was the first to make it to KC, and the only one to have a long career with the Royals. According to his New York Times obit, he threw the first pitch in Royals history when he opened the Corning Royals 1968 season in the New York-Pennsylvania minor league. He rushed through the minors, making it to the majors for two appearances in September, 1970. His first action came as the starter in Comiskey Park, where all of 693 fans turned out to watch Splitt and the Royals lose to the White Sox.

He again etched his name into Royals history by pitching the first ever game at Royals Stadium on April 10, 1973. He rose to the occasion, pitching a masterful complete game marred only by a ninth inning solo home run by Jeff Burroughs of Texas. Splitt and the Royals cruised to a 12-1 victory. It was the first of 20 wins for Splittorff that season.

Paul was a pitching stoic. He didn’t have a whole lot of fast-twitch muscles. On the mound he was big, strong, slow, deliberate, but very graceful and very much under control. A high leg kick, a smooth delivery, ordinary stuff. Three hundred Royals’ pitchers have had better pitches to work with, but Splittorff won 166 games for the Royals, and nobody else has.
—Bill James

Splittorff was never a dominating pitcher, with a not-so-fast fastball and crazy-low strikeout numbers. He relied instead on smarts, ground balls, knowing each hitter’s weaknesses, low walk rates, getting by against righties and feasting on lefties. It was a formula that made him only a good pitcher most days, but maintaining that level of play over 15 seasons adds up to a remarkable career. Plenty of major league pitchers have had a decent season or three, but few have strung together such sustained effectiveness for as long as Splitt did. He is in a group of fewer than 200 members to win 166 games or more.

He’s got a fast ball, slider, curve and change-up. When he puts them where he wants them, it’s a thing of beauty. He knows how to set up hitters. He never tries to overpower anybody, but just with control, he can be overpowering.
—Darrell Porter, who caught Splitt more than any other catcher, July 1, 1978 The Sporting News

Splitt was there as the Royals grew from expansion team to powerhouse in the mid-70′s, helping them make the post-season in 1976, ’77, ’78, ’80 and ’81. Only two pitchers (Dennis Leonard and Larry Gura) have faced more batters in Royals post-seasons than Splitt. Teams managed just a 2.79 ERA against him in his seven playoff appearances. While the team could not get past the Yankees in ’76, ’77 and ’78, Splitt had their number each post-season. He earned victories in ’76 and ’77. In ’78, he left the game with a lead that the bullpen could not hold. While he was not awarded the win, the Royals defeated the Yankees in Splittorff’s start to win the 1980 ALCS. After finally getting to the World Series, manager Jim Frey made the questionable decision to not give Splitt a start in the series (though he was effective in one brief relief appearance).

He gets them over and in good spots. He knows the hitters. He knows how to pitch. He follows his game plan. I’d call Splitt a heady pitcher. He tries to get the double play ball. He doesn’t try to strike out guys, but when he needs a strikeout, he goes after it. He never gets rattled. He’s gotten a lot of mileage out of what he first showed.
—Galen Cisco, Royals pitching coach, July 1, 1978 The Sporting News

It is fitting that Bret Saberhagen made his debut in relief of Splitt in 1984. Splitt retired before the year was out, completing the transition from the great staffs of the ’70s and early ’80s to the next wave. Splittorff of course was not gone for long, transitioning quickly into the Royals broadcast booth. With his passing, the Royals and their fans have lost one of their greatest mainstays and one of the last remaining links to the club’s beginnings.

A few of Splitt’s best games:

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