Friday, February 26, 2010

Prospects In Perspective

Baseball America just came out with their list of Top 100 prospects for 2010. Good news! Ike Davis and Jason Knapp both made the cut. Here is where they fell on the list:

Ike Davis - 62
Jason Knapp - 64

Baseball America ranked Knapp as the 4th best prospect (2nd best pitching prospect) in the Indians' farm system.

As of November of 2009, Baseball America had Davis as the 4th best prospect in the Mets' farm system. However, in the Top 100 list, only 1 Mets prospect was ahead of Davis. I think it's safe to assume he is now considered their 2nd best prospect.

Here are some other players who made Baseball America's Top 100 list in previous years:

Aaron Poreda - 63 in 2009
Ryan Braun - 26 in 2007, 49 in 2006
Jason Hirsh - 42 in 2007, 52 in 2006
Ian Kinsler - 98 in 2005
Jason Marquis - 92 in 2001, 89 in 1999
Gabe Kapler - 34 in 1999
Shawn Green - 6 in 1995, 28 in 1994, 47 in 1993
Mike Lieberthal - 67 in 1993
Scott Radinsky - 78 in 1990

Monday, February 22, 2010

No Minuses to ERA+

ERA+ operates under the same principle as OPS+. An ERA+ above 100 is above league average. Conversely, an ERA+ below 100 is below league average. ERA+ also adjusts to the player's ballpark(s).

Minimum 175 innings pitched
1. Sandy Koufax (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1966) - 190 (1.73 ERA)
2. Sandy Koufax (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1964) - 187 (1.74 ERA)
3. Joe Horlen (Chicago White Sox, 1964) - 183 (1.88 ERA)
4. Sandy Koufax (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1965) - 160 (2.04 ERA)
5. Sandy Koufax (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1963) - 159 (1.88 ERA)
6. Dave Roberts (San Diego Padres, 1971) - 157 (2.10 ERA)
7. Saul Rogovin (Detroit Tigers/Chicago White Sox, 1951) - 146 (2.78 ERA)
7. Joe Horlen (Chicago White Sox, 1967) - 146 (2.06 ERA)
8. Sandy Koufax (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1962) - 141 (2.54 ERA)
9. Joe Horlen (Chicago White Sox, 1968) - 134 (2.37 ERA)
10. Ken Holtzman (Chicago Cubs, 1970) - 132 (3.38 ERA)
11. Joe Horlen (Chicago White Sox, 1966) - 130 (2.43 ERA)
12. Dave Roberts (Houston Astros, 1973) - 127 (2.85 ERA)
13. Sandy Koufax (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1961) - 123 (3.52 ERA)
13. Steve Stone (Baltimore Orioles, 1980) - 123 (3.23 ERA)
14. Ross Baumgarten (Chicago White Sox, 1979) - 121 (3.54 ERA)
15. Ken Holtzman (Oakland Athletics, 1973) - 120 (2.97 ERA)
16. Ken Holtzman (Oakland Athletics, 1975) - 116 (3.14 ERA)
17. Jason Marquis (St. Louis Cardinals, 2004) - 115 (3.71 ERA)
18. Ken Holtzman (Oakland Athletics, 1972) - 114 (2.51 ERA)
18. Scott Feldman (Texas Rangers, 2009) - 114 (4.08 ERA)
19. Ken Holtzman (Chicago Cubs, 1969) - 113 (3.58 ERA)
19. Jason Marquis (Colorado Rockies, 2009) - 113 (4.04 ERA)
20. Joe Horlen (Chicago White Sox, 1965) - 111 (2.88 ERA)
21. Ken Holtzman (Oakland Athletics, 1974) - 109 (3.07 ERA)
22. Steve Stone (Baltimore Orioles, 1979) - 106 (3.77 ERA)
23. Dave Roberts (San Diego Padres, 1970) - 104 (3.81 ERA)
24. Joe Horlen (Chicago White Sox, 1969) - 103 (3.78 ERA)
24. Dave Roberts (Houston Astros, 1974) - 103 (3.40 ERA)
25. Jason Marquis (St. Louis Cardinals, 2005) - 102 (4.13 ERA)

Relievers/Swingmen/Shortened Season:
Minimum 30 innings pitched
1. Barry Latman (Chicago White Sox, 1958) - 484 (0.76 ERA)
2. Craig Breslow (Cleveland Indians/Minnesota Twins, 2008) - 219 (1.91 ERA)
3. Scott Radinsky (Chicago White Sox, 1991) - 197 (2.02 ERA)
4. Larry Sherry (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1959) - 192 (2.19 ERA)
5. Al Levine (Anaheim Angels, 2001) - 190 (2.38 ERA)
6. Al Levine (Tampa Bay Devil Rays/Kansas City Royals, 2003) - 163 (2.79)
7. Scott Radinsky (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1996) - 161 (2.41 ERA)
8. Scott Radinsky (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1998) - 153 (2.63 ERA)
9. John Grabow (Pittsburgh Pirates, 2008) - 148 (2.84 ERA)
10. Al Levine (Anaheim Angels, 1999) - 144 (3.39 ERA)
11. Syd Cohen (Washington Senators, 1937) - 143 (3.11 ERA)
11. Scott Radinsky (Chicago White Sox, 1992) - 143 (2.73 ERA)
12. Harry Eisenstat (Cleveland Indians, 1942) - 140 (2.45 ERA)
12. Ken Holtzman (Chicago Cubs, 1967) - 140 (2.53 ERA)
13. Harry Eisenstat (Detroit Tigers, 1938) - 135 (3.73 ERA)
13. Sandy Koufax (Brooklyn Dodgers, 1955) - 135 (3.02 ERA)
14. Harry Eisenstat (Cleveland Indians, 1940) - 134 (3.14 ERA)
14. Scott Radinsky (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1997) - 134 (2.89 ERA)
14. Scott Schoeneweis (Toronto Blue Jays, 2005) - 134 (3.32 ERA)
15. Lloyd Allen (California Angels, 1971) - 130 (2.49 ERA)
15. Craig Breslow (Minnesota Twins/Oakland A's, 2009) - 130 (3.36 ERA)
16. Dave Roberts (San Francisco Giants/Pittsburgh Pirates, 1979) - 128 (2.90 ERA)
16. Jason Marquis (Atlanta Braves, 2001) - 128 (3.48 ERA)
17. Sam Nahem (St. Louis Cardinals, 1941) - 127 (2.98 ERA)
18. Scott Schoeneweis (New York Mets, 2008) - 126 (3.34 ERA)
18. John Grabow (Pittsburgh Pirates/Chicago Cubs, 2009) - 126 (3.36 ERA)
19. Barry Latman (Houston Astros, 1966) - 125 (2.71 ERA)
20. Dan Warthen (Montreal Expos, 1975) - 124 (3.11 ERA)
21. Marv Rotblatt (Chicago White Sox, 1951) - 119 (3.40 ERA)
21. Barry Latman (California Angels, 1965) - 119 (2.84 ERA)
22. Steve Stone (San Francisco Giants, 1972) - 118 (2.98 ERA)
22. Scott Feldman (Texas Rangers, 2006) - 118 (3.92 ERA)
23. Ross Baumgarten (Chicago White Sox, 1980) - 117 (3.44 ERA)
24. Larry Sherry (Detroit Tigers, 1965) - 113 (3.10 ERA)
25. Larry Sherry (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1962) - 112 (3.20 ERA)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spring Training Non-Roster Invitees

Spring Training is just around the corner, and with it, some new faces.

Jeremy Bleich (LHP, Yankees), Charlie Cutler (C, Cardinals), Ike Davis (1B, Mets), and B.J. Rosenberg (RHP, Phillies) will all make their Spring Training debuts this year. Technically, Davis played in 2009, but he only got 5 ABs. He and Cutler both bat left-handed.

Not everyone is so green. Scott Schoeneweis and Adam Stern were both invited by the Brewers, Jason Hirsh was invited by the Yankees, and Josh Whitesell was invited by the Nationals.

Sam Fuld of the Cubs and Aaron Poreda of the Padres both finished last season on their respective rosters, so they wouldn't be considered non-roster invitees. I would assume they'll each get significant playing time this Spring.

That just leaves one question: who else is pumped about baseball starting again?!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Casspi's Productivity Goes Up With Minutes

When Omri Casspi plays 35+ minutes in a game, good things happen. Casspi has played 13 games where he's been on the hardwood for at least 35 minutes, and in those 13 games, he's averaged 17.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Schoeneweis Signs With Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers have invited Scott Schoeneweis to Spring Training. Schoeneweis will compete to be the Brewers' 2nd lefty in the bullpen behind Mitch Stetter. Should Schoeneweis make the club, he stands to make $800,000.

He'll be reunited with his old pitching coach in New York, Rick Peterson, who is the current pitching coach of the Brew Crew. Schoeneweis isn't the only MOT who is a non-roster invitee for the Brewers; Adam Stern has also been invited. More on Spring Training non-roster invitees later. Good luck, Scott!

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Member of the Diatribe

Recently, The Great Rabbino conducted an interview with Sam Fuld. I would encourage you to read it.

And speaking of Fuld, I'm not too thrilled that Jim Hendry signed Xavier Nady to be the Cubs' 4th outfielder. I was of the opinion that Fuld had earned that job. As it stands right now, he may start the season in AAA. Uh, not cool.

How do I hate Jim Hendry? Let me count the ways. These are in no particular order, and this is just stuff from the last few years; Hendry has been the Cubs' GM since 2002.

1. Kerry Wood was drafted by the Cubs as the 4th overall pick in 1995. He spent 13 years in the organization and will probably be best remembered for his 20 Ks against the Astros as a rookie sensation in 1998. Ultimately, because of injuries he never lived up to his potential. When he was asked to close in 2008, he didn't disappoint. In 66 1/3 innings, Wood posted career-bests in ERA+ (141), WHIP (1.085), BB/9 (2.4), and K/BB (4.67). His 11.4 K/9 and 0.4 HR/9 should also be noted. Wood had 34 saves in his first year as a closer. He wanted to return to the Cubs and, in fact, warranted a return to the Cubs to end his career in Chicago. Hendry had other plans. For the record, Mark Grace was my favorite Cub of all time. Wood is a distant second, but he was my favorite Cubs pitcher.

2. Hendry replaced Wood with Kevin Gregg, whose 4.72 ERA and 1.7 HR/9... well, nuff said. Gregg is to closers what Cristobal Huet is to goalies. Just as Huet blew a 5-1 lead to the Minnesota Wild in the 3rd period, Gregg blew a 3-run lead to the Marlins with 2 outs and no one on in the 9th inning.

3. Hendry traded Mark DeRosa to the Indians for 3 Minor League pitchers. DeRosa did everything that was asked of him. He was an excellent utility man. He played 2nd base, 1st base, 3rd base, shortstop, left field, and right field. In his 2 seasons with the Cubs, he put up a line of .289/.373/.451 for an OPS of .824, which was well above league average (109 OPS+). DeRosa brought a lunch pail and a hard hat to work every day, and as a result quickly became a fan-favorite.

4. Hendry let Michael Wuertz go. Wuertz was drafted by the Cubs way back in 1997. He got a late start to his MLB career after eventually being converted into a reliever. Wuertz played for the Cubs from 2004-2008. In those 5 seasons, Wuertz posted an ERA+ of 127. This year for the Oakland A's, Wuertz set career-bests in innings pitched (78 2/3), ERA (2.63), WHIP (0.953), H/9 (5.9), BB/9 (2.6), K/9 (11.7), and K/BB (4.43). Could've used him, Jim.

5. In 2007, Hendry signed Alfonso Soriano to an 8-year deal worth $136 million ($17 mill a year). Soriano was 31 years old at the time. He hasn't played more than 135 games with the Cubs and just came off his worst season ever. Soriano is the 6th highest paid outfielder in baseball. His knees are shot, his defense is bad, he can't lay off low and away junk, and he has 5 years remaining on his contract. The future looks bright.

6. Hendry deluded himself into thinking a notorious head case like Milton Bradley could play in a big market like Chicago. Hendry signed Bradley to a 3-year deal worth $30 million. I would remind you that Adam Dunn and Raul Ibanez were both available. As I recall, Dunn even expressed interest in playing for the Cubs. To anyone who says that The Big Donkey's defense was reason enough to spurn him... have you seen Milton Bradley play in right field? He's lackadaisical, and to say he throws like a girl would be an insult to girls. Everyone talks about the play where Bradley catches the ball in right field, sighs, rubs his stomach, and thinking there are 3 outs he proceeds to toss the ball into the bleachers. But I'll remember Bradley for a play in San Diego where Kyle Blanks hit a rocket that caromed off the center field wall and somehow wound up in right field. Kosuke Fukudome chased the ball down, and Bradley was nowhere in sight. That's the kind of impact player Hendry likes to get in bed with.

7. How do you solve a problem like Milton? If you're Hendry, evidently you trade him for Carlos Silva, who has been dreadful the past 2 seasons for Seattle in a pitcher's park. If Silva ends up toeing the slab for the Cubs, they're in a lot of trouble. What would I have done? I'll tell you what I would have done. First of all, I wouldn't have signed Bradley. But assuming I had lost my fracking mind and inked him for 3 years, I would have aggressively pursued a trade with the Giants for Barry Zito. Bradley and Zito both have 2 years remaining on ghastly contracts. The Giants are in desperate need of pop and guys who can get on base; Bradley fits that description. Giants fans also seem to embrace talented outfielders with bad attitudes. See Barry Bonds. The Giants possess a great 1-2 punch in Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. They also have Jonathan Sanchez, who is on the rise. They could replace Zito with Madison Bumgarner and not really miss a beat. Is Zito the pitcher he was in Oakland? No, but you could do much worse at the back end of your rotation. For instance, you could have Carlos Silva.

8. This one isn't really talked about that much, but it's not insignificant. In December of 2006, Hendry signed Jason Marquis to a 3-year deal worth $21 million. Marquis was coming off his worst season, but he returned to form with the Cubs and pitched slightly above league average at the back end of the rotation in 2007 and 2008. In January of 2009, Marquis was traded for reliever Luis Vizcaino. Vizcaino pitched a whopping 3 2/3 innings for the Cubs before being released. Meanwhile, Marquis pitched 216 innings for the upstart Rockies and won 15 games. Marquis has never failed to get into the postseason. The Cubs had made it to the postseason with Marquis in 2007 and 2008. Different story in 2009.

8. In December of 2007, Hendry signed Fukudome to a 4-year deal worth $48 million ($12 mill a year). Fukudome is the 13th highest paid outfielder in baseball and has hitherto performed under league average in his 2 years of MLB service. And now the Cubs are talking about platooning him because he can't hit lefties. Hendry's scouting is without peer. He somehow failed to notice that Fukudome bails out more than anyone I've ever seen against southpaws. This is a trend you may have observed with other Japanese players. Ichiro also does it, but not to the extent that Fukudome does. And Ichiro has the kind of bat control that results in a lifetime BA of .333. As for Fukudome, he has yet to crack .260.

9. Who are the highest-paid starting pitchers in baseball? C.C. Sabathia, Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, and Carlos Zambrano. Who doesn't belong in this list?

10. And now Sam Fuld gets the shaft. Fuld has paid his dues, gets on base at a high clip, is a good baserunner, goes out and gets it in the outfield, hustles out of the box, and brings energy and excitement to a team full of overpaid underachievers. So, naturally Jim Hendry would overlook him and undervalue him. Why am I not surprised?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Obscure But Impressive Stat of the Month

With 2 outs and runners in scoring position, Jason Marquis is a career .284 hitter in 69 PAs.

Monday, February 1, 2010

An Interview With Ross Baumgarten

Q: You went to New Trier High School. That's in my neck of the woods. Did you grow up a Cubs fan or a Sox fan? And who was your favorite player?

A: Actually grew up a Cubs fan, quite frankly. Still am a Cubs fan. And my favorite player was Kenny Holtzman. He was a left-handed pitcher. And I was. And that's who I modeled myself after.

Q: Was there ever a moment before you turned pro where you thought: "Hey, I'm good enough to be a Big Leaguer. I can hang with those guys."

A: Well, you know I always felt I would be good enough, eventually. It was always my dream. I had no confirmation that that dream would come true, just a feeling. When I was at the University of Florida, George Steinbrenner donated the lights to our field. To play the first night game, he brought the Yankees in to play us in March of 1977. It was an exhibition game. I started that game for Florida, and Reggie Jackson was asked if he saw any Big League talent. He was quoted in the paper the next day that the first pitcher he saw had a Major League arm.

Q: What was in your arsenal as a pitcher? And what was your best pitch?

A: I didn't really have great pitches. I think I had four good pitches. I threw the basic fastball, which I cut a little. I threw the curve and straight change. I didn't have all the raw ability in the world, so I tried to use my head. I tried to outsmart hitters.

Q: You were briefly teammates with Steve Stone and Ron Blomberg in 1978 with the White Sox. Three members of the tribe on one team doesn't happen very often. Did you feel any sort of special connection to either of them?

A: I became good friends with Stoney. To this day, we'll talk once or twice a year. And Bloomy, I haven't seen as much over the years. We became friends. We sat on the bench together. He tried to be a good veteran to a young rookie and I appreciated it.

Q: Ryan Braun became the 1st Jewish Major Leaguer to win Rookie of the Year in 2007. You finished 4th in Rookie of the Year voting in 1979. Let me throw some numbers at you. As a rookie, you ranked 9th in the AL in ERA (3.54) and ERA+ (121), 5th in H/9 (8.3), and 6th in shutouts (3). You were 13-8 in 190 2/3 innings. With the exception of Mark Clear (112 ERA+), who was a relief pitcher, the other two players who finished ahead of you in the voting actually performed under league average (89 and 93 OPS+). I can't help but notice that the numbers seem to back you up here. Do you think you should have won Rookie of the Year?

A: I thank you for those comments. I think I should have, and I'll tell you my reasoning. I was 13-8 on a team that finished 18 or 20 games under .500, and I think I had 3 or 4 wins that were knocked out after I left the game. So with a little bit of luck I could have had 15 or 16 wins. And I think I was pretty consistent all year. I didn't have too many bad games. I kept my team in the games. We didn't have quality starts back in those days. It would interesting to see how many quality starts I had by today's standards.

Q: By some strange coincidence, one of the men who ultimately won Co-Rookie of the Year in 1979 was none other than John Castino, who also went to New Trier High School with you. How bizarre is that?

A: We were teammates together in high school and even classmates. And we still talk every once in a while these days. It was a friendly competition when we got there, and it just added to the fun of the whole experience.

Q: Speaking of 1979, I assume you were at Comiskey Park for Disco Demolition Night? How surreal was that for you?

A: It was a crazy night. It got dangerous with people flinging 30 rpm records around, which I guess could slice you. It was complete lawlessness and chaos. We actually had to board up the door in the clubhouse. It seems funny now, and I know that they make light of it whenever they talk about it, but it was kind of a dangerous night.

Q: You pitched very well in 1980, but your record did not reflect that. You were 2-12 in 136 innings with a 3.44 ERA, which was well above league average (117 ERA+). You had 10 no decisions where your ERA was 2.22 and your WHIP was 1.177. A record of 2-12 hardly seems fair. But there's a good explanation for this. The White Sox were dead last in runs scored. How frustrating was it for you to not get that run support?

A: I think I made 23 starts. And in those 23 starts, they scored 24 runs while I was in the game. So, when you hear pitchers today complain about getting 3 runs a game, I only got about 1 run a game, so it made it virtually impossible to win those games. It made it difficult to win, but I pitched pretty well.

Q: The unbefitting record was certainly a downer, but you did have at least one bright spot in 1980. On July 2, you tossed a 1-hitter against the California Angels. You must have been in the zone that day. Can you describe how you felt that game?

A: I don't know. Everything just clicked. I don't know how to explain it. I have a tape of the game, and I've watched it. I was throwing the ball wherever I wanted to, and they were hitting it to the right people.

Q: In 1981, the White Sox picked up Carlton Fisk. And you had a lot of success with him as your battery mate, holding opposing hitters to .691 OPS. What was it like having Fisk as your catcher?

A: Carlton obviously was one of the best players in the league, not only the best catchers. We worked well together. He obviously knew the league real well, so it was just a factor of his input and my input. It was a crazy year because we had that strike in the middle of it.

Q: You had quite a few managers in your MLB career: Larry Doby, Don Kessinger, Tony LaRussa, and Chuck Tanner. Who was your favorite manager and why?

A: I think my favorite manager was Donny Kessinger. He was very positive with us. We were a young staff, and I thought he handled us very well. If we had a bad game, he wasn't overly critical. He seeemed to care about development, so I really enjoyed playing for him.

Q: I can't bring up Tony LaRussa and not mention Mark McGwire. What is your opinion of McGwire and other steroid users? Should they be allowed in the Hall of Fame?

A: I don't think they should be. They cheated. It's plain and simple. I think the records that they have should be knocked out. I think the money that they made should be given back. They made it under false pretenses. His assertion that steroids had nothing to do with his power is totally absurd. I echo what Carlton Fisk said. Anybody can admit to something ten years after the fact. What would have shown guts and character is if he had admitted it right away.

Q: Do you still keep up with any of your old teammates?

A: A couple of buddies that I played with. Kenny Kravec, Dewey Robinson, who was the pitching coach for Houston last year. A few others.

Q: What have you done since retiring from baseball?

A: I am a Financial Advisor for individuals and family offices. I work for R.W. Baird in Chicago, and I've been in the business for 26 years.

Q: Fans like me tend to romanticize the game. Was playing Major League Baseball everything you thought it was going to be?

A: It was. There are positives and negatives in everything. Reaching your dream and being considered among the best in the world in a specific profession is always a great accomplishment. However, if you're not winning that puts a damper on it to a certain extent. When I was in winning situations, it was great. If you're losing, it's not much fun. But the experience of it I'll never forget and I'm glad it happened.