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.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Back From Two Weeks Off For No Particular Reason

- Roy Oswalt is now evidently on the market, saying that he's willing to move to a contender. What I can't figure out is where he could go. Oswalt holds a full no-trade clause, so he can veto any deal. He's also owed $16 million next year. So where could he go? The Yankees and Red Sox are apparently not interested, which means everyone else has a chance. The Phillies didn't pay Cliff Lee $9 million this year, so with Jayson Werth up after this year and Oswalt making $15 mil this year and $16 mil in '11, you have to think they're out. The Mets have the money, but they stink and I can't imagine Oswalt would ever approve a deal there. Seattle has money, but also stinks, and has to be looking to unload Cliff Lee before too long, so they're out. Tampa can afford half a year of Lee, but they can't afford a year and a half of Oswalt. I don't think Houston wants to trade him in the division, and Atlanta needs sticks more than arms.
Texas? Why not? But to me, the wild cards are Minnesota and Washington. The Twins have new ballpark money and young, tradeable pieces, and Oswalt (paired with Stephen Strasburg?) could be enough to push the Nats into a real race this season or next.

- Wilson Valdez is back with the Phillies, thanks to Jimmy Rollins having to return to the DL with a recurrance of the calf problem that kept him out for close to a month. The Phils did fine without Jimmy once, but it remains to be seen how much longer they can sustain good baseball without its engine.

- Of course, that supposes the team is playing well now. Losing to Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny, Dice-K and Tim Wakefield in one week at home is not a good thing.

- Read an interesting article in Sports Illustrated about Nolan Ryan's philosophy on developing pitchers and stretching them out. Of course, if pitchers start getting hurt, Ryan will get flogged in the baseball world, and if the Ranger pitchers do well, everyone will copy him.

-The Mets tried hard to give away a game to the Yankees on Sunday night. The Jerry Manuel/ Omar Minaya watch has to stay in effect. Losing a home series to the Phils this week won't help their cause.

- Pat Burrell got DFA'd by the Rays. I'm not sure he catches on anywhere before August 1st.

- Carlos Zambrano has never been the same since that no-hitter in Milwaukee in late 2008.

- Carlos Marmol has a great arm, but he's got no idea at all where the ball is going.

- Lou Piniella must love having Marmol as his closer.

- Not.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wilson Valdez

How bad has Wilson Valdez been for the Phillies in 2010? Well, in 33 at-bats, he has accounted for 38 outs. He is hitting .152, with seven strikeouts, seven total bases, zero walks and five GDPs. His OPS+ is -5. Which brings to mind a phrase I never thought a Phillies fan would utter in 2010... when does Juan Castro get back?

Monday, May 10, 2010

What I've Seen Lateley

- Good for Dallas Braden, hurling the 19th perfect game in Major League history against the Rays on Mother's Day. Now he can be known for something other than yelling at A-Rod to stay off his mound.

- How have the Rays been perfect gamed twice in two seasons? They're too good offensively for that.

- One great sign that Cole Hamels is returning to his 2008 form is that he has been getting a good number of swing and misses at his fastball. The fastball has had good late explosion and ride, not the 'bang me' fastballs he was throwing in 2009.

- We'll find out more about Kyle Kendrick's recent renaissance tonight when he faces the Rockies in Coors Field. Can he succeed in Colorado against a lefty laden lineup including Todd Helton, Ian Stewart, and Carlos Gonzalez? We'll find out.

- Jamie Moyer. Are you serious? The Braves offense stinks, but still. Complete game shutout? At 47?

- Derek Lowe is struggling again after a below-average 2009.

- The more he gets up to hit, the more money Jayson Werth is making for himself. He's probably already in Jason Bay territory, with Matt Holliday in his sights.

- Are you telling me that with all the money they have, the best the Yankees and Red Sox could come up with on Sunday night included Marcus Thames and Darnell McDonald?

- Paging Mr. Werth...

- A.J. Burnett has to be better than that against the Red Sox. It doesn't matter how hard you throw or how much the other team is struggling early in a season, you have to do better than straight fastballs up in the zone to major league hitters. Otherwise, you get torched. Just ask A.J.

- The Mariners fired hitting coach Alan Cockrell and replaced him with Alonzo Powell over the weekend. To borrow a phrase from another sport of prominence in the spring time, you can be the greatest jockey in the world, but you're not going to win anything if you've got a horse that can't run. The Mariner offense is a horse that can't run.

- Is anyone in the AL West any good? I don't buy the Rangers, and I won't until they show that they won't fold down the stretch the way they have each of the last 159 years.

- I can't imagine this is what Bobby Cox had in mind for his farewell tour.

- Olive Perez walked seven in 3.1 bad innings for the Mets Sunday. Welcome home, OPP.

- With a one-run lead in the ninth Sunday, Brian Wilson gave up a leadoff double to Jason Bay. He then blew away David Wright, Ike Davis and Jeff Francoeur in succession to end the game. Just awesome.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mid-Week Edition

- Suddenly the Phillies pitching problems don't look nearly as dire as they did a week ago. Joe Blanton returned on Monday and threw well in a loss to St. Louis, Cole Hamels has had more good outings than bad this year, Kyle Kendrick threw seven shutout innings on Wednesday night, J.C. Romero is rounding back into form, Brad Lidge looked outstanding in his Tuesday outing, and Jose Contreras has been dominant in short relief thus far, reaching 98 on the radar gun with all kinds of movement.

- J.A. Happ and Ryan Madson are still expected to be out for quite awhile, however

- Albert Pujols doesn't look comfortable against Phillies pitching. He's been a little eager, and has even been fooled several times. He almost took a 96 mph fastball from Danys Baez in the chops on Wednesday night too, which can't help anyone feel more comfortable.

- The Cardinals have got something with this David Freese

- Turns out Barry Zito still is a good pitcher. Again, if the Giants ever score, look out.

- The Padres are still in first place in the NL West, but I doubt a team hitting .245 can hold that spot.

- Cliff Lee already is talking about how he'll be a free agent after this season. He's the crown jewel of the free agent market, and he knows it.

- Even free agent jewels can't give up five runs and 10 hits in eight innings and get paid like they envision, however

- Does Tampa ever lose?

- Does Baltimore ever win?

- Can Tampa afford two months of Cliff Lee if the Mariners fall out of the race? It says here they'll do it, whether they can afford it or not.

- Good for Milton Bradley, finally realizing that he needs help with the issues that have followed him from team to team for several years.

- Tough week for baseball, as longtime Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell and Phillies Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts passed away within a few days of one another. Two elegant men who were great embassadors for baseball.

- Congrats to Chris Heisey, my friend Phil's old college roommate. Heisey made his major league debut for the Reds on Monday night against the Mets, going 0-5 but making a nice catch in right field. Welcome to the show.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Week We Just Had

- The Mets were feeling pretty good on Friday night, riding an eight-game winning streak and having just beaten the Phillies to extend their NL East lead to a game and a half. Then the Phils unleashed their new toy, Roy Halladay, to the tune of 10-0 on Saturday, and torched Met ace Johan Santana for a nine run fourth inning on Sunday to take the weekend series.

- So far, Santana proclaiming himself the best pitcher in the NL East has been a perfect microcosm for the difference between the teams. The Met talks about it, the Phillie is about it. This weekend Halladay tossed a complete game shutout, while Santana gave up 10 earned in 3.2 innings.

- Santana's fastball isn't good enough to make his change up the devastating pitch it has been for awhile. There just isn't enough seperation in velocity between the two pitches. Also, as Joe Morgan pointed out (hate to point out decent Joe Morgan points) during the telecast Sunday, without a good breaking ball there is no reason for lefthanded hitters to be uncomfortable against him.

- Mike Pelfrey, welcome back to Earth.

- Either Jose Reyes wasn't trying, or he's turned into Alfonso Soriano in the three hole. He's far too aggressive and swinging early in the count too much right now.

- Joe Blanton returns to the mound tonight and it can't come soon enough for the Phillies. Kyle Kendrick just doesn't look like a major league pitcher, Jamie Moyer is giving up too many big innings, and J.A. Happ is still probably down for awhile.

- I can't kill Ryan Madson for breaking his toe kicking a chair in frustration. He knows he hasn't been getting the job done. But, he also knows how important he is to the Phils out of the pen.

- He's had detractors, myself included, but Robinson Cano is turning into a force for the Yankees. It seems like everytime I look up he's hitting another big homer for the Yankees.

- Javier Vasquez still can't handle being a Yankee. Could the Braves actually have gotten the better end of that deal?

- A.J. Pierzynski, Mark Teixiera, Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence, Yuniel Escobar, Chipper Jones, Aramis Ramirez, Danys Baez, Ben Sheets, Aaron Harang and Edwin Jackson stink. Right now anyway.

- I think Ramirez is hurt, Jones is old, Lee is overweight, and Escobar is lazy.

- How many good young pitchers are out there right now? I can't remember a time with so many exciting young hurlers. Nevermind Tim Lincecum, who's obvious. How bout Wade Davis, Zach Greinke, Ubaldo Jimenez, C.J. Wilson and Ricky Romero, among others. All fun to watch.

- The Red Sox can't let this continue too much further. I don't care how bad things are going, if you're a team with legitimate aspirations (as the Red Sox always are), you can't get swept by the Orioles.

- My take? They're being too kind to David Ortiz, who's been an albatross and an automatic out in a weak lineup. That and Jonathan Papelbon has been too beatable.

- Great move by the Phils signing up Ryan Howard long term. Rob Neyer may not think so, but he had Corey Koskie as a better player in the 2000s than Howard. I digress. I'm more interested to see what happens to the rest of the 1b free agent class of 2011-12. If I'm Prince Fielder or Adrian Gonzalez, I want everyone else to sign but me, thus driving up my value. I think both Fielder and Gonzalez leave their current teams.

- With Tampa, Minnesota and San Diego all leading their divisions, maybe it really isn't all about spending the most money, I really hope all three can keep it up all year, but I think San Diego is a bit of a mirage.

- Tampa and Minnesota are real though. As long as Joe Mauer's heel is not a long-term issue.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Notes

- The Phillies are scuffling at the plate, clearly missing Jimmy Rollins at the top of the order. Shane Victorino is hitting only .213 with a .250 OBP, and Raul Ibanez has struggled mightily, his Saturday night homer not withstanding. Add in Ryan Howard's recent struggles, and it's no wonder that the Phils have scored more than four runs only once in the last week, a stark departure from their normal output.

- Most observers have felt all along that the Phillies are the best team in the National League in 2010, and that only injuries could keep them from a third straight World Series trip. Well, today is April 25th and they've already had Jimmy Rollins, Juan Castro, Jayson Werth, Placido Polanco, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ, J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge miss a game or been removed from a game because of an injury.

- Lidge and Blanton both made rehab appearances at AA Reading on Friday, while Romero pitched for the Phils but was quickly removed after not looking right. The bullpen cavalry is on the way, however.

- Baseball Tonight had some alarming statistics to share this afternoon. One was that the Braves are hitting 6-74 (.087) in the leadoff hole. I think at this point I would give the kid a shot in that spot. He doesn't do you anygood hitting fifth if he's got no one to drive in.

- Another great Baseball Tonight stat was that AL third basemen are hitting .248 through Saturday, while their NL counterparts are hitting .290. Chief among the culprits here is the Angels' Brandon Wood, who's hitting a lusty .102 through Saturday. Wood has been a great prospect for what seems like five years, but I don't care how great his glove is, you can't have a .102 hitter at a premium offensive position.

- Wood's NL match is Aramis Ramirez of the Cubs, he of the .134 batting average. Alfonso Soriano may be drawing all the grief, but he's hitting .300. Ramirez looks over-matched on even modest fastballs.

- Brian Matusz has two wins this season. The Orioles have two wins this season. Think about that.

- Let's all keep our pants on about Ike Davis. I'll wait until he's seen half of the league once (nevermind the whole league twice) to make a judgement.

- However, if he is good, what do the Mets do with Daniel Murhpy when he gets back?

- How long until the Pirates trade Garrett Jones for five cents on the dollar? I hope I'm wrong, but I'm betting the 2011 trade deadline.

- Every time I've seen the Angels this year, which is several times now, they've looked like crap.

- If you're wondering why the White Sox have such a bad record with their pitching staff, look at the batting averages of their everyday nine. Look at Andruw Jones, who's had a nice early resurgence, then hide any women and children before sorting through the rest of the muck and mire.

- So the Padres have MLB's first eight-game winning streak in 2010. Who didn't see that one coming? Besides everyone.

- If the Giants can score at all, they'll be tough.

- Joe Nathan Shmoe Nathan. The Twins have the best record in baseball, and Jon Rauch has six saves. Also, Justin Morneau's OBP is over .500. What a great set of players they have, and it's fun to watch them all fit together.