Monday, June 28, 2010

Is Jamie Moyer a Hall of Famer?

After attending the Blue Jays- Phillies game with my wife on Friday night, we listened to a local sports talk station on the way home. The Ruben Frank, the host of this particular show on 610 WIP, posed the question: is Jamie Moyer a Hall of Famer? Frank said yes. I say no.

Jamie Moyer has had an exceptional career by any measure. 2010 marks the 24th season that Moyer has appeared in the majors (he spent all of 1992 in the minors), and has racked up over 600 starts and 4000 innings in his time. He has 267 wins, and on Sunday became the all-time record holder for home runs allowed, which really just means he tops a list of fly ball pitchers who lasted a while. But he's not a Hall of Famer.

To me, a Hall of Famer is someone who a) passes the smell test b) displays greatness and dominance over a substantial period and c) is a premier player at their position. By my definition, which is the only one that matters here because this is my blog, a Hall of Fame career is NOT made by one who racks up impressive statistical achievements by playing a long time. Moyer fails on both definitions.

Stacked up against his contemporaries, Moyer ranks only average. He has received Cy Young votes in only three seasons, never finishing better than fourth, and has been named to only one All-Star team. He has allowed over 100 more hits than innings pitched and registers barely over five strikeouts per nine innings. His career ERA is 4.22, and no pitcher with an ERA abover 4.00 has ever been voted into the HoF.

The arguments for Moyer focus mainly on his win total and his uniqueness. While I'm not a devotee of sabermetrics, I do agree with the premise that win totals are overrated for a pitcher, given that there are too many extraneous factors involved. Given some context, Moyer has been on multiple 100-win clubs in Seattle, and has been a part of back-to-back pennant winners in Philadelphia. I think there is value in wins for a pitcher, but there are many other stats that show a pitchers value and ability better, in my opinion. As for the uniqueness of a 47-year old pitcher, that's all well and good, but Eddie Gaedel isn't in the Hall of Fame.

Defenders will point out that Moyer has played in an offensive era, which is true. However, his career ERA+ is only 105. The career ERA+ of Curt Schilling, a contemporary likely to be in a heated HoF debate was 128.

Finally, let's compare Moyer to Bert Blyleven, the current HoF hot-button candidate. Moyer will likely finish close to Blyleven's total career start number, but will trail by several hundred innings, around 50 shutouts, over 200 complete games (200!), well over 1000 strikeouts, an actual ERA figure of about a run and an ERA+ that will lag 118-105. And Blyleven has found it tricky to get into Cooperstown's hallowed Halls.

Even if Moyer were to somehow reach 300 wins, I'm still not convinced he's a Hall of Famer. The old-guard milestones have fallen by the wayside over the last decade, and not just because of steroids. Jim Thome has 570 home runs, has never had even a hint of steroid suspicion surround him, and he's no slam dunk for the Hall.

In the end, whether Moyer's last season comes when he's 47 or 57, he should be quite proud of the career he's put together. It's very, very good. But it's not worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Braves Aren't THAT Good... Are They?

Prior to the 2010 season, no one could have predicted that in late June the Braves would be 14 games over .500 and leading the National League East by 2.5 games over the Mets and a seemingly impossible 5.5 games over Philadelphia. Many expected the Braves to be a contender in 2010, but are they THAT good?

No. They aren't.

At the end of action on May 14th, the Braves were 17-18 and in last place in the NL East, 4.5 games behind Philadelphia. Since then, they have been helped by a few factors that have nothing at all to do with their own team, including...

-The schedule. Between May 14th and June 20th the Braves are 25-10, good for a .714 winning percentage (for reference, the Yankees were 103-59 last year, which is a .635 winning percentage). In that time, the Braves have played 16 games against the Diamondbacks, Pirates, and Royals, against whom they went 12-4. Against major league (ouch) clubs over the same stretch, Atlanta was 13-6, which is good, but not off the charts.


-The Phillies. In not trying to take anything away from Atlanta, one has to acknowledge that the Braves' making up 10 games on the Phillies in five weeks has as much to do with one team playing horrifically as it does one team playing great. Over the same May 14- June 20th time period, the Phils are 14-19, and have struggled mightily to score. The Phils also played 16 games against San Diego, Boston, Minnesota and the Yankees while the Braves were off killing the Royals. Jimmy Rollins, undeniably the engine that makes the Phils go, appeared in exactly five of the 33 games since May 14th.

Looking over the Braves' production in 2010, you have to wonder how they are 42-28. They have two starting pitchers (Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson) who are above average, one guy hitting over .300 (Martin Prado, .339) and one real power threat in Troy Glaus (14 HR, 55 RBI). Most of their everyday lineup is average to middling, and Jason Hayward has come back to earth since a hot start and is completely neutralized by left-handed pitching (.230, three home runs, 25 strikeouts in 74 at-bats). I also think Martin Prado is more Junior Spivey (made his only All-Star team in 2002 at age 27) than Davey Lopes (became a regular at 28 and started in the majors for a decade). Omar Infante and Eric Hinske, the bench players with the most at-bats, are playing way over their heads too (hitting 48 and 55 points higher than their career averages, respectively).

The real strength of Atlanta's team this year has been its bullpen, which boasts some gaudy numbers from the likes of Billy Wagner, Takashi Saito and Jonny Venters. But how long will those numbers hold up from the 38-year Wagner and 40-year old Saito, not to mention that Venters hasn't made his second loop around the league yet.

The Braves can't run away and hide in any race because they're offense and starting pitching aren't good enough. Their most productive offensive players are playing well over their heads right now, and you can't trust any starting pitcher they have not named Hanson or Hudson. They're also relying too heavily on a couple of players (mainly Glaus and Saito) with too checkered an injury history to not expect a breakdown.

I think the Braves are a good team, I really do. I think they'll be in a race for the playoffs, and could make some noise if they get in. But I think that if they do win the NL East, it will have more to do with what the Phillies don't do than what the actually Braves do.

Around the League...

- A.J. Burnett got ripped for the second start in a row on Monday night in Arizona. Burnett has shown yet again that he will always remain what he is, which is a maddening pitcher who is great at times, and horrible at others.

- Ubaldo Jimenez is pretty good. But if you read Baseball Prospectus, he's no better than he's ever been, and is probably getting a little bit lucky. I think he probably is getting a little lucky with how things have been going, but I also think you can make some of your own luck when you throw 99 with hard downward movement.

- Jimmy Rollins is due to be activated from the DL (again) today. Here's hoping he's healthy and effective the rest of the season, as he's only played 11 games thus far in 2010.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Time For Replay Has Arrived

As you've no doubt heard and seen by now, Armando Galarraga threw the 21st perfect game in major league history last night- except that umpire Jim Joyce incorrectly ruled that two outs in the ninth inning Jason Donald beat the throw to first base.

To the naked eye, the play looked close, but replays clearly confirmed that Donald was out and the game should have been over.

To their eternal credit, Galaraga and Joyce have both responded with more class and grace than you could ever hope for of two men in their respective positions. Joyce addressed the media after the game, taking full responsibility for his mistake ("It was the biggest call of my career and I kicked the ---- out of it," Joyce said), and tearfully apologized to Galarraga in the immediate aftermath. Galarraga didn't make a big scene, didn't scream and yell, didn't rip Joyce after the game, he simply took it all in stride and recorded the final, 28th out of his perfect game. It's hard to imagine a similar outcome would've unfolded if, say, Kevin Brown and Joe West were the parties involved.

As soon as I saw the play unfold I knew the replay debate would be renewed. The truth is now undeniable.

An expanded replay system needs to be in place for use in the major leagues. ASAP.

I'm all for the human element of the game, and with the pace of the game a concern, this needs to be done on a (very) limited basis. What form it would take, I don't know. Maybe each team could get one challenge a game, or one a week, or umpires would have discretion in the ninth inning (similar to the final two minutes of a football game). But in this day and age, the technology is already in place to show what the correct call should be for every play. And if the technology is in place and is not being utilized, all it will do is make the umpires look bad.

The contrast is especially striking for me, as I spent most of Wednesday night watching game three of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and my Philadelphia Flyers. (Just because I love baseball doesn't mean the Phillies are my only squad).

While the NHL is clearly the fourth of four majors on several fronts, it is tops in its use of technology. It's use is limited (only on goals), centralized (in the main NHL office in Toronto) and definitive. Twice during the game there was question as to whether or not a goal was scored by the Flyers. Once, replay showed the puck had completely crossed the goal line, and the Flyers were awarded a goal. The second time, in overtime no less, there was another play that appeared as if the puck crossed the goal line for the Flyers. The replay showed it did not, and no goal was awarded. The Flyers won a few minutes later on a goal with no controversy.

Ultimately, the NHL got both close calls correct, which is the ultimate goal of both officiating and the use of replay as an aid.

If you don't believe me, just ask Jim Joyce.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Philadelphia's Offense


Ok, that's not very insightful. Why does it stink right now? Throughout baseball, and the Delaware Valley in particular, many theories abound regarding the Phils' recent struggles. I really don't think it's that complicated, however. On Opening Day, the Phils lineup was this...

1) Jimmy Rollins- SS
2) Placido Polanco- 3B
3) Chase Utley- 2B
4) Ryan Howard- 1B
5) Jayson Werth- RF
6) Raul Ibanez- LF
7) Shane Victorino- CF
8) Carlos Ruiz- C
9) Pitcher

As of right now, Rollins has played only 12 games, Polanco is out with an elbow issue, and Ruiz is playing but has been struggling mightily at the plate since he left a game with a leg injury at Colorado in early May. What that leaves you with is far too many at-bats for Wilson Valdez and Juan Castro, capable backups, but backups. Added to the mix is the collective disappearance of Utley, Howard and Werth, and you get a collective struggle to sustain offense. Other thoughts at least marginally related include...

- No one is noticing because the team overall is bad, but Ibanez is around .250 now after a dreadful start. 2009's sprint from the gate was the aberration with him, not his normal pattern.

- Jayson Werth looks more and more like Robin than Batman as the struggle moves along. He'll get paid handsomely this offseason, but he's not in the class of Utley and Howard.

- Greg Dobbs looks like his best days may be behind him. His bat is slow and he's not hitting the ball hard or driving it at all.

- Ben Francisco may be a better player when he gets more at-bats. He's been awful as a pinch-hitter, though.

- As good as Juan Castro looked early, expecting him to hit .300 for two months is too much to ask.

However, moving to the bright side...

- The pitching collectively has been really good. Jamie Moyer only looks 40 on the mound these days, not 47.

- Kyle Kendrick has had some solid outings, but has to be more aggresive. He looked a little scared to throw the ball over the plate Friday.

- Joe Blanton has been much better than his stats indicate.

- Brad Lidge has a good looking appearance in Atlanta Monday afternoon.

- The Phils have something in Antonio Bastardo. His fastball has all kinds of life, and his slide has come a long way since his first big league appearance around this time last year. I don't think he'd be much fun to hit off of lefthanded.

- Cole Hamels continues to get better with each outing. His fastball velocity is up, his change up is diving, and he's keeping himself together on the mound, which he didn't do in 2009.

- Roy Halladay is still really, really good. Sometimes he's even perfect.