March 22, 2011
All Hail Everyday Eddie
Baseball isn’t the same without characters.
“Everyday Eddie” Guardado was such a man.
He was a good, fun guy to have on the ballclub. Ron Gardenhire was a victim of many of Eddie’s pranks (I’m sure Bert Blyleven helped to inspire Eddie). He also loved to play the game, and mentor the youngsters on the team.
Guardado is a prime example of how closers are made, not born. Any time you hear a team needing a ‘proven closer’ just needs to remember Everyday Eddie. He went from LOOGY to closer when LaTroy Hawkins was deemed unfortunate.
Looking at his stats – they’re rather pedestrian. He had just a 12.2 WAR over his long career – but it’s hard for a reliever to generate a lot of WAR especially if they’re used as a LOOGY much of the time. But even closers don’t pile up a lot of WAR. Mariano Rivera’s best WAR season ever was 4.8. The 100th best WAR season for a set-up reliever (IP < 100 and SV < 10) was 2.3 (Joaquin Benoit’s 2007. He went 7-4 with 6 saves, 18 holds and a 2.85 ERA in 82 innings)
Guardado was more than stats, though. He exhibited a joy in playing the game. Not everyone has to be exuberant, but you need a few guys who love being out there and will take the ball every day.
So here’s to you Eddie on your one-year anniversary of your retirement (give or take a few days).
March 22, 2011
Catcher? Oh, Yeah….
Well, here’s a question to ponder.
Would Todd Zeile have been an All-Star player if he stayed at catcher?
Now, don’t invoke Sharia Law and stone me right now…but just think critically about this.
When he came up, he was the Cardinals #1 prospect. But the Cards also had Tom Pagnozzi as a catching prospect. And Joe Torre wanted Pagnozzi to catch, and so he moved Zeile to third.
Was that a smart move?
Zeile wasn’t a great defensive catcher. But unlike Brandon Inge, he was a catcher in college. And while Pagnozzi was a good (but not great) defensive catcher, he didn’t hit much. Of course, you want defense at catcher, but Zeile was worse at third than he was at catcher, according to the metrics.
What would have happened if Torre kept Zeile at catcher for longer than he did? It was obvious that Zeile would have to move at some point, but not right away for Tom Pagnozzi. It’s like moving Mike Piazza for Alex Trevino; you just don’t do it.
Think about it…and when you’re done, think about Zeile’s wife.
March 21, 2011
Spider Man, Spider Man…
On an AOL Cubs’ fan board (remember those?) I got into huge arguments with those who I decided were stats neanderthals (basically Glen Beckert was their ideal second baseman because he didn’t strike out) about the value of Glenallen Hill.
The uproar started when I said that Hill was defensively challenged, a platoon player and was losing his speed. They took that as an affront to his manhood, especially when I said he was losing his speed. To them, I said he didn’t hustle. I didn’t say that. He was getting slower and no longer stealing bases or using his speed. (Little known to us, he was juicing (he admitted it) and the bulk cut down his speed.)
They saw Hill playing full blast all the time and thought he was what the Cubs needed – hustle. Never mind he was getting slower. Never mind that he played defense “aking to watching a gaffed haddock surfacing for air”. He was what the Cubs needed. Yes, he could mash the ball – but he wasn’t a good fit and getting older. When his bat went, he was out of the league quickly.
At times, the Cubs played an outfield of Henry Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa and Glenallen Hill. Can you count the doubles to the gap during those games, children? It’s probably a very big number!
My retort was that those guys wanted the young Hill, not the Hill that was playing in Wrigley in 1999. But no matter, I was a stats geek-o (though part of my argument was that Lou Piniella got sick of him and released him in 1998, so that wasn’t so empirical was it?)
The Hill in this card was that player. He was fast, could hustle, he just didn’t hit as well as he did later in his career.
And why the nickname Spiderman? Turns out when he was a youngster in Toronto, he was sleepwalking and dreaming about spiders and fell through a glass window.
March 20, 2011
He Was A Met?
(Checks Baseball Reference…)
This card, a high number, was in the last series of Upper Deck. Unlike Topps, they made an effort to get players in their new uniforms.
But check his B-R page again. By the time this card was produced and packaged, he was most likely already in Boston – traded for Greg Hansell.
By the same time in 1991, he was done. Out. Done in by a combo of some old-player skills (some power, no speed, no defense) and the lack of strike zone judgement that accentuated his decline.
I totally forgot about his steep decline. That’s why I went into collecting again – to remember players like Marshall who deserve to be remembered for what he did and then didn’t do.
March 20, 2011
Blue In My Phillies Uniform?
Sure the Phils had the baby blue double knits in the 70′s. Who didn’t? I know what you’re thinking, though. The Phils just added a blue spring training / BP jersey to enhance merch sales.
But the Phillies haven’t always been red. Yes, since WWII they have been predominately red. But they have had other colors in their history.
Way back in the early days, they had blue and / or black trim and socks. Many clubs that weren’t dictated by sock colors (see Cardinals, Browns, etc.) changed team colors early in their history. And for a time in the 30′s and early 40′s they had a lot of blue accents (hat, undershirt, socks) to go with the red on the jersey.
In 1942 and 1943, they went to black and white uniforms. 1944 though was a different story. The new owner of the Phillies, Bob Carpenter, Jr. (brought in after Billy Cox was found to be betting on his team – which was illegal, of course, and rather idiotic since the Phils stank) decided to erase the “Phillies” stink and changed the name, unofficially, to Blue Jays.
The unis in 1944 and 1945 were blue / white or blue / gray.
The denizens of Philadelphia, of course, did not cotton to the change. Soon, the “Blue Jays” name was dispensed with and in 1946, the Phillies red came back into vogue.
So Madson’s uniform at least has SOME historical grounding.
March 19, 2011
You Sure You Want To Lock Up That Player?
Smart teams lock up their building blocks before they are free-agent (or even arbitration) eligible in order for cost certainty and to focus on other needs. The Indians first started to do this with the plethora of young players they had developed or acquired in the late 80′s.
Yet it’s important that teams keep in mind the kind of player you are locking up.
Pitchers, of course, are always crap shoots. Only a few escape without injury or a temporary (or permanent) loss of effectiveness. Hitters, however, tend to be a wee bit more predictable.
Just a wee bit, since you can never predict anything in sports, really, with 100% certainty.
There are certain kinds of players that you could probably predict will NOT age well more often than not, and care should be given when signing an extension or a free agent contract. Pronk is one of those players.
They have, as Bill James once put it, “old players skills”. That is, a young player with no speed, high walk rate, and high power rates. Normally, it’s also associated with a lack of defensive prowess but that’s not 100% certain. Many times, they have a lower BA than normal, but if their batting averages are high in the 20′s, in their early 30′s they start to decline faster and they either adjust (like Jim Thome or Jason Giambi) or fade away.
Hafner was 29 years old in 2006. He was a butcher in the field and a load on the bases but could smack the ball around the park. He had three great seasons and Cleveland decided to lock him up. He wasn’t free-agent eligible but he was arbitration eligible and the Indians decided they didn’t want to lose him after 2008.
So they did the rational thing – signed him until…2012? (With an option until 2013.)
Hafner’s entire game is his offense. If he doesn’t produce at the plate he has no value. He also limits the manager’s flexibility. Victor Martinez couldn’t DH on off-days catching because of Pronk. When you’re dropping $66 million on a guy, you want him in the lineup every day.
Between 29 and 30, Hafner’s bat speed declined a skosh – enough for him to decline from 5.9 to 2.5 WAR.
Then, the injuries hit.
Sounds like an older player – declining value on offense then injuries. But he was only 30 when that started. Ta-dah, old player skills.
James first noticed this in a comment on Tom Brunansky. The same thing happened to Alvin Davis – who was out of the league by age 32 (which is surprising as heck to me).
So if the past is prologue, which it is, then if I have a 29-year old slow power hitter who walks a lot and struggles on defense in LF or 1B, I’d think twice about signing him much past age 32. Let someone else take that chance. Sure, they may become Jim Thome, but Thome for years has been a platoon player and not making $11 million a year.
March 18, 2011
That’s Just Wrong
Fred Lynn as a Red Sox – Perfect.
Fred Lynn as an Angel – OK. He wanted to play in California, and the Angels basically stole him.
Fred Lynn as an Oriole – Nope. He wanted to play in SoCal, and so when he became a free agent he went to…Baltimore?
Fred Lynn as a Tiger – Double nope.
Fred Lynn as a Padre – Just wrong.
Now people have speculated that if Fred Lynn played in Boston for his entire career, that he’d be in the Hall of Fame.
I don’t think so.
Reggie Smith is the player that he is most similar to. Excellent player – underrated even. Lynn was underrated after Boston.
But his most similar by ages tells the tale:
Ages 25-27: Dave Parker
Age 28: Bobby Abreu
Ages 29-31: Mike Sweeney
Ages 32-35: Ellis Burks
It’s rather remarkable that most all of these players were, at some point in their careers, overrated and underrated. Much like Lynn.
March 18, 2011
Boy, I shouldn’t scan during March Madness games.
Anyway, Mel Rojas…
1990-96 – ERA+ 133. 8.8 WAR
Signed a big contract with the Cubs after that.
1997 – 0-6, 4.64. Traded by the Cubs to the Mets with Brian McRae and Turk Wendell for Lance Johnson, Mark Clark and Manny Alexander. Basically, a – our gunk for your gunk.
1998 – ERA+ 70. WAR -0.9.
1999 – 14 innings. 28 runs.
That sound is a career plunging into the abyss.
March 17, 2011
Henry Frankenstein: Look! It’s moving. It’s alive. It’s alive… It’s alive, it’s moving, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive, IT’S ALIVE!
Victor Moritz: Henry – In the name of God!
Henry Frankenstein: Oh, in the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!
(I thought the Lee version worked better…)
March 17, 2011
If You Only Knew, Marty. If You Only Knew…
Sorry, this be crooked as well. It was late and my scanner was tired.
The Braves renaissance (thank you spell check) started when Bobby Cox started to become a real GM and built his teams around young players – trading stop gap vets for youth and drafting intelligently.
Marty Clary could have joined Smoltz, Glavine, Pete Smith, and Steve Avery as a relatively young pitcher on the first of the glory years staffs.
Clary was probably termed a disappointment to the Braves. He was a 3rd round 1983 pick that spent four seasons in Richmond with only a 1987 September call-up to show for it, and was sent down for a fifth to begin 1989. In his only major league start, on October 3 of 1987, he gave up 9 hits and 6 runs in 4 1/3 to the pennant winning Giants. You could probably think that Clary was thinking about using his Northwestern education instead of chasing his baseball dreams, but with the Braves staff in disarray, he probably thought it was worth a shot to keep at it.
The call came for Clary in mid-1989 and after a rocky relief outing he joined the rotation with a flash – a four-hitter that he won 2-1 over the Reds. He was so impressive in that game that after the Braves took the lead 2-1 in the top of the ninth Russ Nixon let Clary finish the game instead of turning the game over to their closer, Joe Boever. (In retrospect, good call, Russ!)
Clary replaced Zane Smith in the rotation and for the rest of 1989 he was the ‘old man’ of the starting staff. Avery, Pete Smith, Smoltz and Derek Lilliquist were all 22 or 23, and Clary was 27.
But Marty had reason to smile for this card. 1990 was going to be a great year. He broke camp and was in the rotation to start the year.
Well, um…the smile didn’t last long.
Young pitching has its ups and downs. Pete Smith and Lilliquist struggled, but Cox had the presence of mind to get Charlie Liebrandt to help steady the kids, even though Liebrandt started on the DL.
Clary made seven starts as part of the initial rotation. After an 8-4 loss to the Phillies he stood at 1-3, 5.30. With Liebrandt back, Clary was out and sent to the bullpen.
In July, due to the struggles of others Clary was back in the rotation. He pitched 14 1/3 innings in relief in June, and had a 3.77 ERA. However, he allowed 5 of 7 inherited runners to score and gave up 27 hits. Yikes.
July was even more of a disaster. In six July starts, he went 0-5 with a 5.45 ERA. After one horrible August start (9 runs, 7 earned in 4 2/3 against San Diego) he was yanked from the rotation with a 1-9 record. Of course, the very next game he pitched he lost, leaving his 1990 record as an unsightly 1-10. From the he was the mop-up man and then the forgotten man in September. The Braves released him and he hung around in the minors for a few years but then he was done. He probably had some sort of injury – his minor league career has a couple of holes in it after his release.
The smiles of 1989 turned into the frowns of 1990. But Clary rebounded personally, at least, and is now a physical therapist in Powdersville, SC.