Cloyd vs. Aumont

I’m a massive Phillippe Aumont fan. I’d like to make an itemized list of reasons why this is so:

  • He completely flummoxed Wilson Valdez in his major league debut, and the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
  • He’s enormous. He reminds me of Alain Bernard, the French swimmer Jason Lezak out-touched in the relay in Beijing, and who, more than any other person I’ve ever seen, made me think, “Boy, that guy is enormous.”
  • On a related note, he’s a native French-speaker, which tickles me for some reason.
  • He looks like the last chance to salvage something from the Second Cliff Lee Trade.

As a result, I’ve been getting all hot and bothered by Aumont recently, all the while trying to downplay the potential impact of his fellow rookie Tyler Cloyd. I couldn’t make a list of reasons why I like Cloyd the way I just did with Aumont, but there’s a very real possibility that while I’m sitting in a corner prattling on and on about Aumont and Justin De Fratus, Cloyd could wind up being the most valuable of the three, even if they all reach their full potential.

People say that starting pitchers are more valuable than relievers in almost all cases. They say this because it’s true. Given the current pattern of reliever usage (one inning per appearance with a particular emphasis on facing same-handed batters), even the best relievers are only going to throw 70-80 innings a year. Jonathan Papelbon, in his first six full seasons in the majors, never threw less than 58 1/3 innings nor more than 69 1/3 innings. Even mediocre starters will throw at least twice, sometimes three or four times as many innings as a closer.

This has multiple consequences: First, in order to have anywhere near a starter’s value, those few innings have to be very good indeed, even when you assume that a closer or top-end setup man will pitch in higher-leverage situations, on the whole, than a starter. It’s possible to extend a reliever’s workload (to, say, 60 appearances and 120 innings or so, entering in high-leverage situations rather than save situations), but the way they’re used now, it’s hard to generate much value in so few innings.

Second, the shorter season for relievers leads to swings in performance that make Medea look like Mr. Rogers. Perhaps the most impressive thing about guys like Papelbon and Mariano Rivera is that they’ve been able to keep up their performance for so long. So even if Aumont overcomes injury, command and makeup concerns to become an effective back-end bullpen guy, there’s no guarantee he’ll remain one.

Not that Cloyd, with his high-80s fastball, is likely to become anything more than a fifth starter, either. But who’s the more valuable commodity going forward?

The simple answer is that starters are more valuable than relievers for two reasons–they pitch more innings and they’re more rare. Very few relief pitchers are born that way. Almost all are failed starters, including Papelbon, Rivera and Aumont. They fail for one or more of a number of reasons, it’s the inability to turn over a lineup, flaky mechanics, the inability to develop more than two pitches, the inability to throw strikes consistently–but they fail. If you put Cole Hamels in the bullpen, where he could throw for max effort, only needed to use his two best pitches and only needed to face hitters once, he’d be by far the best reliever in the game.

So while Cloyd can’t throw in the upper 90s and break off a curve that makes your knees buckle when you watch it on television, Aumont can’t get through a lineup three times without issuing more free passes than the guy who collects the Coke cans at Six Flags. Each can do something the other can’t.

Assuming both reach their full potential, Aumont will probably be more valuable–a good closer is worth about 2 fWAR, but so is a decent No. 4 starter. It’s easy to get excited about the big bullpen arm, but even if Aumont is the Rivera to Papelbon’s Wetteland, he’s probably not going to contribute any more value than, say, Vance Worley.

I’m going to continue talking dirty to myself in pidgin French whenever Aumont takes the mound, but if Cloyd is even marginally better than Kyle Kendrick long-term, he’ll be one worth getting excited about.


Jimmy Rollins and His Place in Baseball History

Jimmy Rollins got his 2,000th career hit on Tuesday in a 2-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. The controversial shortstop and 2007 NL MVP award winner has had an incredibly successful career that has come under scrutiny recently due to a combination of age- and injury-related concerns. As we recently discussed, Rollins still — at the age of 33 — ranks among baseball’s best shortstops, right up there with Elvis Andrus (23 years old), Ian Desmond (26), and Jose Reyes (29). With the career milestone he recently achieved, though, it helps us remember his place historically, not just among his current peers.

So, let’s make our way to Baseball Reference’s Play Index and see what kind of company Rollins is keeping.

This first table shows every player since 1901 to have compiled in their careers at least 2,000 hits, 175 home runs, and 350 stolen bases. This shows that the players had not just longevity, but power, speed, and contact abilities as well.

Player OPS+ H SB HR From To PA Pos
Barry Bonds 182 2935 514 762 1986 2007 12606 *78/D9
Joe Morgan 132 2517 689 268 1963 1984 11329 *4/7D58
Bobby Abreu 129 2434 398 286 1996 2012 9908 *9D7/8
Rickey Henderson 127 3055 1406 297 1979 2003 13346 *78D/9
Cesar Cedeno 123 2087 550 199 1970 1986 8133 *8397/5
Paul Molitor 122 3319 504 234 1978 1998 12167 D543/6879
Roberto Alomar 116 2724 474 210 1988 2004 10400 *4/D6
Barry Larkin 116 2340 379 198 1986 2004 9057 *6/4D
Craig Biggio 112 3060 414 291 1988 2007 12504 *4287/D9
Willie Davis 106 2561 398 182 1960 1979 9822 *8/97D
Johnny Damon 104 2769 408 235 1995 2012 10917 *87D9/3
Jimmy Rollins 97 2000 398 187 2000 2012 8129 *6/4D
Marquis Grissom 92 2251 429 227 1989 2005 8959 *8/79D
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/6/2012.

Shortstop is the second-most important position on the diamond after catcher, making Rollins’ achievement all the more impressive. Historically, teams have opted for defense over offense, leading to the prominence of players like Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel. The only other shortstop on the list is Barry Larkin, a Hall of Famer. In fact, even ignoring position, that table is chock full of Hall of Famers including Larkin, Paul Molitor, Roberto Alomar, Rickey Henderson, and Joe Morgan. Soon-to-be Hall of Famers Barry Bonds and Craig Biggio shouldn’t be forgotten, either.

The following table lists the number of unique seasons with at least 30 doubles and stolen bases, as well as at least 10 triples and home runs. Since 1901, only nine players have had multiple seasons matching that criteria, and only Juan Samuel has done it as frequently as Rollins.

Yrs From To Age
Jimmy Rollins 4 2002 2007 23-28 Ind. Seasons
Juan Samuel 4 1984 1987 23-26 Ind. Seasons
Jose Reyes 3 2006 2008 23-25 Ind. Seasons
Lou Brock 3 1964 1969 25-30 Ind. Seasons
Carl Crawford 2 2005 2010 23-28 Ind. Seasons
Johnny Damon 2 2000 2002 26-28 Ind. Seasons
Kiki Cuyler 2 1925 1930 26-31 Ind. Seasons
George Sisler 2 1920 1921 27-28 Ind. Seasons
Home Run Baker 2 1911 1912 25-26 Ind. Seasons
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/6/2012.

Among those listed on the table, Baker, Brock, Cuyler, and Sisler are Hall of Famers. Rollins is also in the company of some very productive contemporaries including Reyes, a fellow shortstop.

Rollins’ MVP season in 2007 was impressive in and of itself (even if his worthiness of the award was very debatable), becoming one of four players with a “quadruple-double” — at least 20 each of doubles, triples, home runs, and stolen bases.

Player Year 2B 3B HR SB Age Tm Lg PA OPS Pos
Curtis Granderson 2007 38 23 23 26 26 DET AL 676 .913 *8/7
Jimmy Rollins 2007 38 20 30 41 28 PHI NL 778 .875 *6
Willie Mays 1957 26 20 35 38 26 NYG NL 669 1.033 *8
Frank Schulte 1911 30 21 21 23 28 CHC NL 687 .918 *9
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/6/2012.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Rollins did this as a shortstop. And not just any shortstop, but among the best defensive shortstops in baseball for more than a decade. He is one of 12 shortstops (min. 8,000 PA and having played 90% of his games at SS) with at least 40 fielding runs over his career.

Player Rfield PA From To Tm
Ozzie Smith 239 10778 1978 1996 SDP-STL
Luis Aparicio 147 11230 1956 1973 CHW-BAL-BOS
Omar Vizquel 130 11988 1989 2012 SEA-CLE-SFG-TEX-CHW-TOR
Pee Wee Reese 117 9470 1940 1958 BRO-LAD
Roger Peckinpaugh 100 8387 1910 1927 CLE-TOT-NYY-WSH-CHW
Dave Bancroft 93 8248 1915 1930 PHI-TOT-BSN-BRO-NYG
Alan Trammell 75 9376 1977 1996 DET
Bert Campaneris 61 9625 1964 1983 KCA-OAK-TEX-TOT-CAL-NYY
Royce Clayton 55 8164 1991 2007 SFG-STL-TOT-TEX-CHW-MIL-COL-ARI
Jimmy Rollins 48 8129 2000 2012 PHI
Dick Groat 48 8179 1952 1967 PIT-STL-PHI-TOT
Luke Appling 41 10254 1930 1950 CHW
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/6/2012.

Because defensive stats are more unreliable than offensive stats, I checked FanGraphs and it agrees that Rollins has been among the best defensively dating back to 2001. UZR puts Rollins at 52.8, second-best in baseball behind J.J. Hardy at 64.1. On a basis of 150 defensive games, Rollins (5.2) ranks sixth behind Hardy (10.9), Andrus (7.2), Alexei Ramirez (6.9), Alex Gonzalez (5.8), and Troy Tulowitzki (5.3).

Rollins will need several more very productive seasons before he can be legitimately considered for the Hall of Fame (and even then, he would still be on the outside), but make no mistake: he has had an incredibly productive career and ranks among the best Phillies of all-time.

Player WAR From To Age PA
Mike Schmidt 103.0 1972 1989 22-39 10062
Richie Ashburn 54.6 1948 1959 21-32 8223
Chase Utley 51.8 2003 2012 24-33 5025
Sherry Magee 45.7 1904 1914 19-29 6314
Bobby Abreu 45.3 1998 2006 24-32 5885
Jimmy Rollins 38.7 2000 2012 21-33 8129
Johnny Callison 37.2 1960 1969 21-30 5930
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/6/2012.