Reminder: Crashburn Alley Fantasy Baseball

Just a reminder for those of you who are participating in the Crashburn Alley fantasy baseball league: the draft is on Sunday, March 22 at 5:00 PM EST. As of about right now (~4:00 PM EST), it’s three days and one hour away. If you are unable to attend please send me an e-mail or leave a comment here just so we know ahead of time.

BDD: Ending the A-Rod Hate Affair

At Baseball Daily Digest, I accuse the American public and the media of being hypocritical when it comes to the moral outrage directed at Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds.

For all of the sermonizing we do, condemning A-Rod and others for their actions, we would do the same thing in their position. When it comes to A-Rod and Barry Bonds, we are hypocrites; we are deplorably two-faced. We fudge the numbers on our taxes, we go well beyond the speed limit on the highway, we blow red lights, we smoke marijuana, we cut corners at work, and generally, we’re rarely good, morally-responsible people even most of the time. And we would use steroids if it meant getting rich quick.

A-Rod reminds us of that, but it’s a reality we don’t want to face, so we demonize people who play a game meant only to entertain us and to extract some cash from our wallets.

The photograph of A-Rod kissing himself couldn’t be a more perfect metaphor for everything Americans wish they could be. We wish we could be that good-looking and that physically fit and that wealthy. We know we never will be, so we lash out at athletes like A-Rod.

Stating the Obvious

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggests that Jimmy Rollins should play shortstop over Captain Derek Jeter, Lord of Grit and Hustle and Fiery Emotion and Unspoken Leadership. You know that’s a logical suggestion based on objective evidence. Team USA manager Davey Johnson apparently thought the two were defensive equals.

For last night’s game between the United States and Puerto Rico, Johnson put Jeter at shortstop and Rollins at DH.

Yeah. We all know Jeter’s defense isn’t as good as Rollins’ and they’re about the same offensively at this point in time. But just how much better is Rollins’ defense? Over the last seven seasons, almost 80 in UZR/150 according to FanGraphs.

Jimmy Rollins vs. Derek Jeter, UZR/150

That’s an average of over 11 more plays per 150 opportunities that Rollins makes compared to Jeter.

Wouldn’t you know it, Jeter’s defense became an issue not once, but twice during last night’s game against Puerto Rico.

In the sixth inning, Puerto Rico had runners on first and second, trailing 3-2. If Jeter had knocked down Alex Rios’ grounder through the middle, he perhaps could have prevented the tying run from scoring. Instead, Rios wound up with an RBI single.

“That was a slider,” Jeter said, referring to the pitch by right- hander Heath Bell to Rios, a right-handed hitter. “He usually pulls sliders. I’ve played against him enough. He usually gets out in front of sliders in that situation.”

In the ninth, with Puerto Rico leading, 4-3, Ramon Vazquez batted against right-hander Jonathan Broxton with one out and Rios on second. Jeter got his glove on Vazquez’s grounder up the middle, but the ball squirted out into center field, enabling Rios to score.

Jeter did not count on Vazquez, a left-handed hitter, getting around on Broxton’s fastball.

“I was just trying to knock it down,” Jeter said. “The bottom line in that situation is that Broxton throws so hard, you can’t shade him up the middle. He can hit the ball the other way, so you’ve gotta play straight up.”

Sounds like someone’s in denial. Rosenthal goes on to say that you don’t want to embarrass Jeter by making it obvious he’s riding the pine due to lack of skill, but it’s not exactly a secret that Jeter’s defense has significantly brought down his value and subsequently his teams’ chances to win over the years.

I’m among the first to criticize the WBC as poorly timed and executed, and for being relatively meaningless to the United States as well as many Major Leaguers playing for their native countries. However, these are competitive baseball games and it wouldn’t be fair to the paying customers to put a product on the field you know is inferior. It puts into question the integrity of the game.

If we wanted to stroke egos, we’d put Cal Ripken, Jr., Tony Gwynn, Greg Maddux, and Dan Plesac on the Team USA roster, and screw competitive integrity, right?

At least at the next WBC, it won’t be nearly as hard to completely leave Jeter off the roster in favor of J.J. Hardy. Of course, that assumes anyone still cares about the WBC when 2013 rolls around. It will be fun to weigh which of Jeter or the WBC is more irrelevant.

A Dose of Optimism

With the Cole Hamels scare yesterday, I figure we Phillies fans need something to lift our spirits. You’re up, Jayson Stark:

Jason Donald, Phillies (.350, 9 runs scored): With Jimmy Rollins off on WBC duty and both Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz recovering from surgery, Donald has gotten 40 at-bats already at second, third and short. And he’s done nothing to dissuade the Phillies from thinking he might be ready to help them right now. “He really grows on you,” said an NL scout. “I don’t think I’ve seen him strike out yet. He reads pitches well. He squares up the ball consistently. I like him a lot. He’s got some baseball player in him.”

There’s a bit of hyperbole in there: Jason Donald has struck out — 7 times in 44 at-bats, in fact, this spring training. But he has just as many walks and a slash line of .318/.423/.409. The SLG is a bit concerning as only three of his 14 hits have gone for extra bases, but the Phillies will take a similar line over Pedro Feliz (.249/.302/.402).

If the Phillies intend to use Donald at third base, the question simply becomes “How good is his defense?” Feliz last season contributed 7.8 fielding runs which nearly offset his -9.8 batting runs. If Donald can be noticeably better than -2 runs, the Phillies should at least put him in to spell Feliz, if not have them both split time.

John Mayberry is another prospect making an impact in spring training. He has struck out way too much (14 of ‘em) and hasn’t walked nearly enough (only two) in 43 spring training at-bats. That’s a BB/K of only .14, and it hasn’t been higher than .5 in his Minor League career. However, if Mayberry can slug anywhere close to the .558 slugging percentage he has now, he would be an excellent addition to the Phillies’ bench and would be extremely useful if the Phillies brass could find the stones to platoon a player on whom they spent $31.5 million.

Miguel Cairo, anyone? Dude is slugging .630 in 27 spring training at-bats. He’s always been good with the glove, though he’s been regressing since 2006. Anything above his .672 career OPS would be nice and he could find a spot on the Opening Day roster if the Phillies find a way to dump Geoff Jenkins and/or Matt Stairs (please, let it be Jenkins) and if Chris Coste doesn’t heal in time.

Assuming a five-man bench, the Phillies could go with Greg Dobbs, John Mayberry, Eric Bruntlett, Jason Donald, and Ronny Paulino. That’s a balanced, above-average bench.

Further down in Stark’s article, we do have a dose of pessimism regarding Kyle Kendrick.

Kyle Kendrick, Phillies (1-1, 14.29 ERA, 5 2/3 IP, 14 H, 3 HR): Kendrick has fallen so far behind J.A. Happ and Chan Ho Park in the Phillies’ fifth-starter derby, there is speculation the Phillies could even trade him before Opening Day. “He’s got options left, so they don’t have to move him. But they’d have to think about it,” said one NL scout. “I don’t see where he fits, quite honestly. You want to root for this kid, but the more you see him, the more obvious it gets that he doesn’t have enough stuff. He needs to come up with another pitch to get the hitters off that sinker.”

I’m normally not one to brag but I told you so. And I told you so. I should be a scout.

What’s that? I predicted a Rockies-Indians World Series in 2008? Mike Hampton for the 2008 NL Comeback Player of the Year award? Aaron Harang for the 2008 NL Cy Young?

Maybe I should leave the scout stuff to the professionals.

Want to go back to the optimism? I think the Phillies can win the NL East without Cole Hamels for an entire season. How, you ask? As I stated on FanGraphs:

According to FanGraphs, Hamels was worth 4.6 wins last season. I believe that is adjusted for replacement level but correct me if I’m wrong. And most projections have Happ and Park being above replacement level. The drop from Hamels to whoever gets bumped into the rotation (i.e. the loser of the Happ/Park duel) is large, but not quite as large if, say, it was Hamels to Adam Eaton. In other words, losing Hamels might result in a loss of three wins or so.

[…]

…as long as Happ and Park are as good as most of the projections have them being, which is in the low 4’s in ERA. If the Phillies are projected to be, say, a 91-win team, then Hamels’ ~4.5 wins and Happ/Park’s ~1.0 or so would put them at around 87-88.

That assumes that the Phillies are a 91-win team at present with a healthy Cole Hamels. That, certainly, is debatable.

There Goes the Season

The glorious elbow of Colbert Hamels isn’t at 100%. Per Todd Zolecki on the Phillies’ official website:

The Phillies are calling the discomfort in Cole Hamels’ left elbow nothing more than a little soreness or tightness.

But whatever it is, it has been persistent, which is why Hamels will fly to Philadelphia on Monday night so team physician Michael Ciccotti can examine him Tuesday morning.

GM Ruben Amaro is keeping the public calm by playing it off as just a minor blip on the radar. Maybe it isn’t anything major. That doesn’t make me feel bad about my initial reaction to the news (NSFW):

The Phillies were extremely lucky last year in that they didn’t have to deal with too many injuries. Already this season, we’ve had surgeries performed on half the infield (Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz), Jayson Werth has had a few mystery ailments that ended up being related to his shoulder and groin, Chris Coste’s right hamdstring hasn’t been right, and Brad Lidge has been dealing with forearm tightness, and now Hamels.

The six added a total of over 23 wins last season (that would be 25% of their 92 wins) according to FanGraphs.

  • Chase Utley: 8.0 value wins
  • Jayson Werth: 5.2
  • Cole Hamels: 4.6
  • Brad Lidge: 2.2
  • Chris Coste: 1.6
  • Pedro Feliz: 1.5

Facepalm

Mark Knudson, former Major League pitcher. Career 84 ERA+.

Mark Knudson, current columnist for the Coloradoan. Here’s his current article.

Which version of Mark is worse? I’m going to go with the columnist. His latest article is about the steroid era in baseball, and what to do about all the statistics. Got your beekeeper suit on? Gas mask? Rubber gloves? Let’s go.

It’s virtually impossible right now to talk about baseball without steroids creeping into the conversation.

No, it’s not. I haven’t thought about steroids for a while. When I do think about it, it’s because I’m reading an article or watching something on TV about it.

If you can’t stop thinking about steroids, I’d take a long, hard look at my priorities. I’m looking at you, Jose Canseco. And Carrot Top.

It’s not that hard to avoid the steroid talk. Stop watching ESPN, and stop going to ESPN’s website. It seems like they’re the only ones who keep on bringing the subject up, but they have good reason to: it’s a hot-button issue that will attract larger audiences. I watch a minimum of ESPN programming and I never visit the website, so I often avoid the non-stop chatter about performance-enhancing drugs.

The World Baseball Classic? It’s about A-Rod and his cousin not being there.

Really? I hadn’t noticed. I just heard a lot about the epic upset the Netherlands pulled by advancing to the next round. And I’m sure we’ll be hearing about the drubbing the U.S. took yesterday when the mercy rule was invoked after the seventh inning against Puerto Rico.

Note to self: To make an issue seem important, exaggerate how much the issue is being brought up.

What do we need to do to get the conversation back on the game itself?

We need media people — you included, Knudson — to stop yapping about it because it’s really not a big deal.

How about a way to penalize those proved to have used illegal drugs?

This is going to “get the conversation back on the game itself” how?

We already have penalties for those who have tested positive for using PED’s. I guess what Knudson is alluding to is that anyone who used before the rules were enforced (pre-2003) can’t be punished. Do we really want to go back and punish players ex post facto? That sets up an awful precedent.

Imagine Facebooking is made illegal today. Would it be fair to go back and arrest anyone who used Facebook before the law was made? Of course not.

How about they get caught (or confess), the penalty is imposed and we move on. Do you think that would help?

Isn’t this the current system?

There is a way to settle all this record-book, stats stuff once and for all.

Yes, there is: by not doing anything, right?

Just put a plan in place to ad-just rather than remove or put an asterisk on the stats of those proved to have used illegal substances.

Oh.

Facepalm.

Since when was the word “adjust” hyphenated?

The idea would be for MLB to make adjustments to baseball’s statistics (and record books) when cheating can be proven. Other sports like track and field have removed steroids-aided num-bers from their records, like Ben Johnson’s 100-meter dash record from the 1988 Olympics that was erased when he tested positive for steroids. No one erased Johnson or pretended he never competed; they just took that artificially enhanced stat and wiped it away. Baseball can treat the numbers from the steroid era the same way.

Erasing statistics precisely is pretending that the athlete never existed. Statistics are objective logs of events. If an athlete doesn’t have a log of events — statistics — then he was never a professional athlete in that particular group (i.e. MLB, NFL, etc.).

Adjusting numbers is an extremely messy process and it wouldn’t be worth it all, considering how many people would have to be hired and compensated to do the job.

I bet Knudson wouldn’t volunteer to be one of the guys who has to adjust the numbers of the PED-users — it’s mind-numbing stuff.

It’s not just about adjusting the users’ numbers either — any hitters, pitchers, and/or fielders the PED user in question faced, their numbers would have to be adjusted as well.

For instance, Barry Bonds hits a home run off of Jon Lieber. If you say that that home run doesn’t count since it was during the steroid era, then you have to adjust not only Bonds’ plate appearances, at-bats, hits, home runs, RBI, total bases, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, etc., you also have to adjust Lieber’s innings pitched, earned runs allowed, hits allowed, WHIP, etc. And let’s say Bonds hit a steroid-aided double off of Lieber and it was fielded by Shane Victorino. You have to adjust Victorino’s defensive metrics as well.

Imagine doing this for every single PED-aided event that has ever happened in the steroid era.

That’s why the idea of making statistical adjustments is illogical. We haven’t even touched upon the fact that it’s hypocritical.

Should we erase/adjust Gaylord Perry’s numbers for using a Vaseline ball? Bat-corkers’ numbers for corking bats? Ball-scuffers’ numbers for scuffing the baseball? We can’t just single out the steroid era and make adjustments; we have to do it for every era in which there was cheating. Cheating has been around forever.

Here’s how:

Start with the case of Bonds. There’s enough strong evidence out there now for baseball to take action on his inflated statistics.

No, there is not enough strong evidence out there. For someone who complained about Bonds always being in the news, Knudson must have missed that the federal government’s case is so weak that they’ve intentionally delayed the trial to attempt to strengthen their case.

That evidence points to Bonds starting to use steroids and HGH in 1999, his 14th season in the big leagues. He was 35 at the time. So starting with that season, Bonds hitting stats would be revamped to reflect no more than his career averages from 1985-1998.

This is hilarious. Bonds wasn’t in the Majors in 1985, first of all, and why would we take the averages of Bonds’ age 21-33 seasons when adjusting statistics for Bonds’ 34-42 seasons?

It ignores the possibility that Bonds may have been better than his ’86-’98 average with or without steroids; it flatly assumes that anything about that average is steroid-enhanced.

No one has, or ever will, quantify the effect steroids have on a player’s performance. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. Ask Alex Sanchez if you’re skeptical.

Because steroids are basically a “fountain of youth” we would also have to adjust careers to reflect a maximum of 20 years of playing, meaning Bonds would get credit in the record book for playing through the 2005 season.

If steroids are a “fountain of youth,” I don’t know why they’re not distributed like candy at senior retirement facilities.

Jamie Moyer is 46. Did he use steroids to pitch this long? Phil Niekro pitched until he was 48. Julio Franco was 48 in 2007, his last season in the Majors. Steroids?

The method to supposedly enhancing the objectivity and reality of statistics is not brought about by making baseless assumptions about athletes’ ceilings and the effects of PED’s.

So, if you take his career average of 37 home runs per season from 1986–1998, a total of 411 homers, and give him credit for 37 per year for the next seven seasons, his adjusted career total is 670 and Hank Aaron is still the rightful owner of the career home run record.

Are you going to adjust Hank Aaron’s home run totals because he used amphetamines? Make sure you get Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt, too, while you’re at it.

Since we’re adjusting, you might want to see the math I did a long time ago where I come up with 951 career home runs for Bonds. 762 – 670 = 92. 951 – 92 = 859. If we assume both of our adjustments are legitimate (and they certainly are not), then Bonds is still the HR king by a wide margin. QED.

Knudson repeats this process for Clemens, but it’s hilariously wrong for reasons just stated.

The penalty for Alex Rodriguez would be similar, but different, since he is still playing and the subject of drug testing. His admission about taking steroids from 2001–2003 would cost him some 75 home runs and his 2003 American League MVP award, however.

Since you’re taking A-Rod’s MVP away, you’re going to have to change the results of the BBWAA’s balloting as well. How are you going to distribute A-Rod’s votes? Who gets bumped into the back of the list?

I’m sure Knudson has thought this through.

From 1994–2000, Rodriguez averaged 27 home runs per season for Seattle.

A-Rod had a grand total of 196 at-bats in 1994 and ’95. If we pro-rate A-Rod’s home runs from 1994-2000 to a scale of 600 at-bats, we’ll see he had 189 HR in 3,126 at-bats for a rate of 36 HR per 600 AB.

That’s a more accurate measure of adjustment, something I’m sure Knudson will be quick to utilize.

If you credit him with 27 home runs for the three seasons in question, he gets 81 homers instead of 156, a loss of 75 career home runs.

Just for completeness, I fixed that:

If you credit him with 36 home runs for the three seasons in question, he gets 108 homers instead of 156, a loss of 48 career home runs.

Since joining the Yankees, he has 208 home runs, meaning his career total should stand at 478 rather than 553. Still a lot of work to do to catch Hammerin’ Hank.

Not after you adjust for Aaron’s use of greenies, which I’m sure you were planning on doing, right?

The best part of this plan is that after the numbers are adjusted to reflect the player’s non-using sea-sons, the stats of Bonds and Clemens would still be good enough to earn them their rightful place in the Hall of Fame.

Another weird hyphenation. Sea-son? Is that like sea-men?

Don’t you love it when someone comes up with an hilariously illogical plan and they pat themselves on the back for it? It’s like an ugly person looking in the mirror and telling himself he’s beautiful.

(Full disclosure: That was from personal experience.)

Face it, had neither player ever touched a steroid, and retired in a normal time frame, each would already be in the Hall.

What does a steroid — steroid, singular — look like, and how can you touch it? It’s a hormone, which means it’s liquidy, right? So if you touch the liquid, you’re technically talking about steroids.

^ I thought about that too much.

This plan isn’t perfect. It needs to be refined by someone smarter than I am.

Oh snap.

The better idea is to completely scrap it and let the numbers stand, as they are objective accounts of stuff that actually happened. When we start putting our dirty mitts on the stats, they lose their objectivity. You know how people always criticize stats for being used to skew the truth? It’s because they’re used by people like Knudson.

But putting something like this into place would be a great step to right these players’ wrongs and get the focus back on the field of play.

You can put the focus back on the field of play. Stop worrying about the steroid era and the statistics! It’s that simple.

Knudson’s column should be posted at Failblog.

BDD: Rivera vs. Wagner

At Baseball Daily Digest, I revisit another argument I had with Keane and McDonald on Pro Baseball Central back on March 4. I compare the career paths of Mariano Rivera and Billy Wagner. You might be surprised at just how close Wagner is to Rivera.

The standard deviation for Rivera and Wagner’s seasons using ERA+ was 59. Only in five of the 13 seasons between 1996-2008 did Rivera have an ERA+ advantage of one standard deviation or greater over Wagner. Those years were 1996-98 (avg. advantage of 86), 2000 (+89), and 2008 (+134).

Where Rivera really has the advantage over Wagner is in the post-season. Wagner has only been there in five seasons; Rivera’s been there every year of his career except ‘08. Overall, Rivera has a 0.77 post-season ERA, including a 0.38 in the ALDS, 0.93 in the NLCS, and 1.16 in the World Series.

Wagner, meanwhile, has an overall 8.71 post-season ERA including a 5.87 ERA in the NLDS, which his team has failed to get past in four of his five appearances. Only in 2006 with the Mets did Wagner reach the NLCS.

Thanks, Pat! And Good Luck!

Former Phillies left fielder Pat Burrell sure stayed classy by taking out a full-page ad in both the Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia Inquirer, thanking the Phillies organization and its fans for the support in his nine-year Major League tenure in the City of Brotherly Love.

Here is the ad Pat had published in the newspapers. Click it to enlarge it.

Pat Burrell full page ad

I, for one, will sorely miss Pat Burrell. He may not have exactly been a role model but he never got in trouble off the field and this is about the worst he got on the field. He persevered despite unrelenting criticism during and following his 2003 struggles, and never said one bad thing about the fans.

For athletes who are relatively new to Philadelphia or are thinking about playing in Philadelphia in the future, look at Pat the Bat if you want to know how to deal with Philly fans.

I wish Pat all the luck in the world as he starts anew in Tampa Bay. Hopefully the Phillies once again meet up with the Rays in the World Series.

Hat tip to The Phightins.

BDD: Dream Draft, Round 7

Round 7 of the Dream Draft at Baseball Daily Digest is up, and Rounds 8, 9, and 10 should be up in the next three days as well. After all 10 rounds are posted, our thoughts on the entire draft will follow, make sure you stop by and catch up!

I may have already posted this, but here’s my entire team:

By Round:

1. Chase Utley
2. Russell Martin
3. Chad Billingsley
4. Matt Kemp
5. Mike Moustakas
6. Yunel Escobar
7. Carlos Marmol
8. Shane Victorino
9. Madison Bumgarner
10. Lars Anderson

By Position:

C: Russell Martin
1B: Lars Anderson
2B: Chase Utley
3B: Mike Moustakas
SS: Yunel Escobar
LF:
CF: Shane Victorino
RF: Matt Kemp
SP: Chad Billingsley, Madison Bumgarner
RP: Carlos Marmol

Additionally, on March 16, I will have a 2009 preview of the Florida Marlins posted at Baseball Digest Daily. On the 27th, I will preview the Los Angeles Dodgers, and on the 30th, I will preview the WFC Philadelphia Phillies.