Month: January 2018

Hall of Fame wrap-up

Jeff idelson 2

Baseball Hall of Fame’s Jeff Idelson made the big announcement on the MLB Network.

All my close observation of Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame Tracker have gone for naught. With the MLB Network announcing the final vote, Edgar Martinez has missed election to the Hall of Fame again.  Am, I disappointed? Yes, but it could be so much worse.  Here’s the relevant vote by the numbers

Chipper Jones                            97.2%

Vladimir Guerrero                   92.9%

Jim Thome                                  89.8%

Trevor Hoffman                        79.9%

Edgar Martinez                         70.4%

I could belabor to death the injustice of this vote and how Edgar belongs in the Hall, but honestly 297 of 422 voters agree with me. I’m confident the 20 additional votes #11 needs for election will appear and Martinez will earn his plaque.

Reason for optimism

  1. Look where we’ve come from. This is Edgar’s vote percentages since 2014-2014 25.2%; 2015 27.0%; 2016 43.4%; 2017 58.6%; 2018 70.4%.  The arc of baseball justice has taken its sweet time, but the finish line is a mere 20 votes away. Edgar was 73 away last year.
  2. Tim Raines finished the voting with 69.2% of the vote in 2016.  He changed 37 minds and captured all 15 new voters in 2017 to enter the Hall with 88.2% of the vote. That was without curmudgeon Murray Chass.  Edgar owns Chass.
  3. With four more inductees, the ballot continues along the path since 2014 with a fair number of inductees that winnows down a crowded ballot.  Four for 2018, three in 2017, two in 2016 and four in 2015. With Mariano Rivera and a fairly modest supporting cast in 2019.  Edgar will be the strongest holdover and less likely claimed as the 11th best player on the ballot.  The time is right for a Mo and Edgar coronation in 365 days.
  4. The megaphone for Edgar’s election simply gets louder. Jay Jaffe of SI.com, Ryan Spaeder of Sportingnews.com, and Joe Posnanski of MLB.com all wrote compelling articles about Edgar’s candidacy and were joined by many others.  Most importantly, they were joined by distinguished writers Tracey Ringolsby and Murray Chass who cast their first votes for Edgar.

This year’s hall vote

  1. I really thought Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens would make significant gains in the vote.  I’ve become far more of fence-sitter on these two.  But the needle on their candidacy barely moved. Clemens went from 54.1% to 57.3%  Bonds climbed from 53.8% to 56.4%.  The battle-lines between the PED softies and hardliners remain very clearly drawn.
  2. In the too little too late department, Larry Walker was the biggest vote gainer after Vladimir Guerrero.  Unfortunately, as the Expos/Rockies outfield great enters his next to last year of eligibility, he’ll begin with only 34.1%.  Things also look bad for Fred McGriff, who is seriously under-appreciated.
  3. Omar Vizquel, in his first year of eligibility, garnered 37% of the vote and ranked number 10 among all candidates. Not bad for a defense-first guy.  It will be interesting to see what happens next year.
  4. Former Mariner Jamie Moyer attracted 10 votes, for 2.4% of the vote.  He’ll fall off the ballot this year, but it matched the votes for Johan Santana.  Jamie was always in it for the long game.

IBWAA Hall vote

The internet baseball writers went crazy in 2018.  Full disclosure:  I am a member.

IBWAA chose the following players for election to their Hall of Fame:

Chipper Jones

Jim Thome

Roger Clemons

Barry Bonds

Mike Mussina

Trevor Hoffman

First group to select known PED users to their Hall.  Huge class. Just to be clear, Edgar Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero are already in the IBWAA Hall of Fame and did not appear on this ballot.

With all this behind us, it’s time to get ready for some baseball. Go M’s. Edgar for Hall of Fame 2019.

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Hall of Fame announcement on Wednesday: Edgar, projections and a few of my thoughts.

This has been an interesting year for Hall of Fame voting.  Some really interesting choices on the ballot and some equally interesting votes as well.  If you are interested in following votes made public before the Hall announcement on the 24th (this coming Wednesday) there are great resources for you to follow.  Ryan Thibodeaux’s Hall of Fame Tracker is a must, with loads of detail about past and present votes, predicting the number of additional votes previous candidates received.  Really valuable information if you’re following candidates closely.

Equally as interesting, but I hesitate to put as much faith in them, are the three fellows using data as well as past and present trends to project likely voting outcomes. All three project a sizable Hall of Fame class, and I think that’s good news.

Scott Lindholm’s January 19th projection has four players making it into the Hall of Fame.

Scott Lindholm Projection

So good news if you’re an Edgar Martinez advocate.  Not so great if you’re rooting for Trevor Hoffman.  Not sure how much faith i put in Lindholm’s numbers.  Hoffman has gotten a net 11 voters to change their votes, and only needed five. There would have to be a lot of changes against him to fail election.  Edgar just needs more votes, and with only 46.9% of the votes known, things will have to break his way.  You can follow Lindholm on Twitter

Nathaniel  Rakich, also on Twitter, has a somewhat different view, with five players making it in.

Nathaniel Rakich projection

This January 19th projection should be encouraging to Edgar supporters because earlier Rakich  projections had him falling short. Within a margin of error, but still good news. Rakich updates his projections regularly as votes dribble in daily.

Jason Sarsdell’s projection, while encouraging, leaves Edgar on the outside, with votes as follows

Jason Sarsdell projection

Sarsdell, on Twitter, is a bit less  exact than Lindholm and Rakich, but also offers a confidence factor on his table.  Look, all these guys use math and probability in ways I can’t begin to understand.

But for ardent Edgar followers the news should be encouraging as Sarsdell, Rakich, and Lindholm all have him within 1.2% of election. Nobody would have suggested that possibility after 2015 when Martinez garnered a scant 27.0%.

The numbers I’m watching are these:

  • Edgar missed election by 73 votes last year
  • Edgar picked up eight of those from new voters–he received 8 out of 10 votes from new voters
  • Edgar has received 24 additional votes from returning voters, and lost three, so a net +21.  So Edgar has received 29 of the 73 additional voters left.
  • Edgar needs to appear on 70.2% of the remaining ballots.  His current rate is 80.4% with 199 votes publicly counted

My heart says yes, but my head says no.  But it will be close, either way.

This Hall of Fame season has been one of real reflection for me as I revisit the PED users. I’ll be having a long conversation with myself in the coming year about Gary Sheffield, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.  I’m not sure I’m there yet on Bonds and Clemens, but I am becoming more sympathetic to the notion they were Hall-worthy before their steroid use, and should not be held out simply because they were ethical idiots.  This great story by Jay Jaffe at SI.com will at least get me looking more closely at Sheffield, whereas before, I wasn’t really interested. Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa don’t even start the outboard engine of inquiry going.

One last comment before my speculation on HOF voting ends for 2018.  Ran across one more Lindholm graph comparing third basemen by their production (batting + baserunning runs scored–vertical axis) and fielding run (defensive prowess)  Look at Edgar way up at the top of the chart.  He should be in red.

Scott Lindholm 3B graph

Hang in there Edgar fans–the Hall of Fame isn’t far away.

 

 

To Rob Manfred: the pitch clock is for people who hate baseball

pitch-clock

Baseball is often characterized as a pastoral game, one that begins in the spring when the world is renewing, and ends as it is preparing to plunge into the great darkness of winter. It’s foul lines are often portrayed as infinite, at least metaphorically speaking. It is the only sport unbound by time.

Rob Manfred wants to change all that. He wants to add a pitch clock to speed up the game.  That takes time.Manfred means to implement a 20 second clock, and limiting mound visits for 2018.

There is little question that games have gotten longer as more teams carry larger bullpens.  More bullpens mean shorter outings for starters and more frequent pitching changes.  If Commissioner Rob Manfred doesn’t like that, I encourage him to negotiate with the players union to address that problem.  Perhaps Tony Clark and the MLBPA would be willing to shrink rosters.  Or perhaps they’d agree to limit the number of pitchers on a team roster.  What, you’re laughing? No, I didn’t think the players would agree to that either. But this is what baseball is right now–dingers, strikeouts, early and often use of relief pitchers.

Yes, pitchers hold the ball.  They always have.  Batters step out on pitchers as they hold the ball.  Each trying to gain a competitive advantage against another.  But when I was a kid I watched a pitcher step off the mound and make a pick-off throw with Maury Wills on first at least half a dozen times. Pitchers used to have an answer for players stepping out of the box, but baseball doesn’t let pitchers throw at batters any more.

In five years baseball may look like something else.  It didn’t evolve to this culture overnight, and there will be something new that changes the game in the future as every team seeks a competitive advantage.  Maybe it will be players with prosthetic limbs, who knows?

But what’s the deal? Who is Manfred saving from the time it takes to play a baseball game?  Is it people who love the game, its traditions, it’s slow and casual pace of play?  Or is he trying to encourage football and soccer fans to watch the game until their training camps begin?  Or perhaps NBA and NHL fans once their interminable playoffs end. If these folks don’t like baseball, its tradition that it is played at its own leisurely rate, tough.  I wish baseball was everybody’s favorite sport to watch or listen to, but it’s not.  This isn’t 1928 when America’s favorite sports were baseball, boxing and horse racing, in that order.

And if Manfred was serious about this he’d do something about the real drag on a baseball game, the length of commercial breaks.  If you’ve been to a major league game in a major league park recently you’ve recognized the extraordinary time between innings.  Is it longer than the time Edwin Diaz holds the ball when Jose Altuve is on first base?     I think so.  But no, commercials write everybody’s check as baseball heads toward $10 billion in annual revenue.

And how much time will we cut from the game?  Are we shooting for five minutes?  Ten minutes.  A half hour, an hour?  What other ridiculous short-cuts is Manfred willing to take to get there?  We’ve already gotten rid of the intentional walk–I didn’t miss it too much, but what’s next? Ties in games after 12 innings? Home run derbies to decide a final score? That ought to attract the soccer fans.

These changes aren’t necessary and they aren’t popular.  The players and their union oppose them.  Fans of this game oppose them. Who are they intended for? Advertisers? Don’t we do enough for them already?  If it is intended to attract the casual fans one finds seated in the King’s Court, or Seahawks and Sounders fans, stop.  Baseball isn’t football, or soccer.  It isn’t a beach party or video game.  It’s something different, not better or worse than other sports, but of its own culture.  These changes, for the pettiest of purposes, threaten that. And that’s a shame and the commissioner is wrong.

What 1993 and James Paxton have in common . . . and what they don’t

Paxton Fanfest 2016

James Paxton at Fanfest 2016

1993 was a pivotal year in the history of the Seattle Mariners.  The previous year was a disaster, as general manager Woody Woodward traded young pitchers Bill Swift, Mike Jackson and Dave Burba for Giants slugger Kevin Mitchell.  Mitchell was an unenthusiastic performer and with the young relievers stripped from the bullpen, the Mariners were a disaster.  Their 64-98 season cost Bill Plummer his job.

Plummer’s departure, however, made way for the arrival of Lou Piniella.  Piniella made it clear things would be different.  The team that took the field in the Kingdome in ’93 had many of the heroes of ’95.  Griffey and Buhner, Tino Martinez and Rich Amaral.  Edgar Martinez had torn his hamstrings in the last pre-season game in Vancouver, after winning his first batting title in 1992, but he would be back as a DH in ’94. The other hero of ’95 who returned was Randy Johnson.

Johnson was in his sixth year in the majors, his fifth year with the M’s.  Let’s just say he was unique.  The tallest man in major league baseball, he threw hard, had a slider with something nasty and loved heavy metal music.  But he was wild, leading the American League in walks from 1990-92 with 120, 152 and 144 respectively.  If only he could put it all together, Johnson could be a monster. But in 1992 Johnson was outpitched by soft-tossing lefty Dave Fleming, who went 17-10 and finished third in Rookie of the Year balloting.

It would never happen again.

In 1993 at age 29, after working with Nolan Ryan in the off-season Randy Johnson appeared a different pitcher. He won 19 games, struck out 308 batters and finished second in  Cy Young voting. It was the beginning of Randy Johnson as a Hall of Fame pitcher.  From 1993-2004 Johnson would finish first or second in Cy Young voting eight times and make all-star appearances nine times.

In a September 2016 story with Tim Rodmaker of Professional Baseball Strength and Conditioning, Johnson credited his off-season sessions with Ryan for helping him find a new delivery that helped him control his extra long limbs.  Ryan taught him to be more aggressive, control the game more effectively, and make clear to batters that he was in charge. Ryan also taught Johnson more about the importance of being a teammate.

2018 is James Paxton’s sixth season, also his age 29 year. His big year might have been 2016 when with a change in his arm slot and a big tick up in his fastball velocity and better command of his pitches, Paxton became a much better pitcher. But, like Johnson in ’93, this year is the most important of Paxton’s tenure with the Mariners.  My belief is that progress by the big lefty is critical and makes him, in many respects, the most important player on the team.

Pitching has changed so much since 1993.  The critical role of the starting pitcher has diminished somewhat as dominant bullpens have assumed a larger role.  So comparing Johnson to Paxton maybe doesn’t make sense.  Johnson had 14 years of over 200 inning pitched. Between 1993-2002, Johnson missed 200 twice, once because of the strike in 1994, and in the season of his back surgery in 1996.  Paxton hasn’t thrown 150 innings in any of his years.  Johnson was 6’10” of angry, volatile rocket fuel who not only won 303 games, but is tied for fifth all-time for most career hit batters. Roger Clemens at 14 and Don Drysdale at 19 are pikers by comparison. James Paxton isn’t that guy. He may be tall, but angry he isn’t.

But like Johnson in ’93, the Mariners are putting a lot of hope on the tall Canadian’s shoulders. He’s received a lot of accolades from his GM as being among the top ten pitchers in the American League. Some of the stats support this. Of course you’re going to have to dig around for them, because he doesn’t qualify for many of the basic numbers and doesn’t appear on the ESPN or Baseball Reference leader boards.  Not enough innings pitched. Yes he is 10th in the AL in pitcher WAR, but still a long way from the league leaders.  Jeff Sullivan wrote a great article in August about Paxton leading the American League in wOBA or batted ball speed.  And that was just before the big man went on the DL for the second time in August after a pectoral strain.  He’d miss three starts and never pitch well in a game for the rest of 2017. Yes, Paxton has great rate stats, but they don’t measure loss to the team when Christian Bergman or Max Povse are taking his starts, or the number of starts when Paxton is regaining his mechanical consistency after  time away on the DL.

I can talk until I’m blue in the face about the Mariners rotation, whether it’s passable, or decent, or downright terrible. But if there is a chance for the Mariners to make the playoffs in 2018, it begins with James Paxton. For the years 1993-1998, those remaining  of Johnson’s career with the Mariners, The Big Unit was surrounded by a plethora of lesser lights-a declining Chris Bosio, Jeff Fassero, Tim Belcher, reinforced by Jamie Moyer in 2017, and a highly volatile bullpen. Johnson was the guy who led the rest of the pitchers, alongside an admittedly brilliant offensive cast, to the playoffs in ’95 and again in ’97 in spite of the mediocrity of the rest of the pitching.

We can also argue about the 2018 offense, whether it is average, a little better than average or really good, but unless the pitching staff can perform it won’t matter how many runs this team scores, they will lose. A quality pitching staff begins with a legitimate ace, and Paxton has to be that guy.  Pitchers become aces by being on the field. Click those ESPN WAR stats again.  Check the top five.  None has less than 193.1 innings. By comparison, Paxton ranks 47th in innings pitched.

Look, I’m not suggesting Paxton is a malingerer, a slacker, or anything of the kind.  Perhaps the hiring of Dr. Lorena Martin as director of high performance will make the difference, or maybe Paxton will figure it out.  But the bottom line is no Paxton hurts the team.  He needs to be on the field. The Mariners have no shot without him.

This is not only a huge year for Paxton as a Mariner. He’s just avoided his second year of arbitration for a tidy $4.9 million.  2019 will be his final year under Mariner control before he hits free agency. Will he enter the market as a 31-year old established star, or will he limp onto the big stage long on potential but ever-injured like Brett Anderson?  Will he be Clayton Kershaw as he walks unscathed on to the big free agent stage in 2019, or will he merely be another can on the scratched and dented aisle in 2020?

James Paxton isn’t likely to be a Hall of Fame pitcher.  But it isn’t difficult to see he is the leader of this pitching staff.  In 2018 he must take the next step forward by being on the field, just as Randy Johnson made the same leap at the same age.  To me that means at least 30 healthy starts and a minimum of 180 innings pitched.  Just to compare, that puts him number 15 in the American League using 2017 stats, just behind Jason Hammel and just ahead of Jason Vargas, not anywhere near the AL’s top ten.

The M’s will fare as well in 2018 as James Paxton does.  The day his name appears on the DL is the day their hopes for a successful season are likely over.  Mark it down.

Is Jerry Right?

It is an unbelievably cold Hot Stove season.  Free agents aren’t moving much, and it seems unlikely the Mariners will add much more anyway.  Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto seems set on the team he assembled, and has said as much in several interviews with radio hosts and on The Wheelhouse, his weekly podcast with Aaron Goldsmith.

I think most fans, based on what I’ve seen posted on Facebook groups, comment pages and blogs, are comfortable with the position players Dipoto has gathered.  The acquisition of Dee Gordon seems interesting, out-of -the-box thinking from the current baseball trend of homers and strikeouts.  Trading for first baseman Ryon Healy met with a resounding, meh, but can’t be worse than previous first base combos, and does fit perfectly with the dingers and K’s model.

No, fans, and I count myself among them,  reserved their strongest responses for the pitching staff. Dipoto has touted the strength of the bullpen he’s assembled, featuring 24-year old closer Edwin Diaz, as well as recent acquisitions Juan Nicasio, David Phelps and Nick Rumbelow.  Teaming up with returning players Nick Vincent, Tony Zych, Mark Rzepczynski, and James Pazos, Dipoto has touted this group as a real strength given their versatility, and their ability to pitch multiple innings if necessary to form a “wolfpack” whatever that means. This week Dan Szymborksi’s ZiPs Projections seemed to support Dipoto’s view on the bullpen.

But fan comments are at consistent cross purposes with Dipoto’s declaration that he is comfortable with the projected rotation and its depth.  The assembled starting candidates include James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake, Erasmo Ramirez, Ariel Miranda, Marco Gonzales, Andrew Moore, Max Povse, Rob Whalen, Sam Moll, Casey Lawrence, Chase De Jong. and possibly others.  If you are drawing a blank after Moore, it’s okay.  You should. Dipoto has repeatedly reassured the fan base that these starters, with this bullpen should be enough to keep the M’s in a playoff hunt for 2018.

He reminds us that with the rotation in absolute tatters by July of last year, Dipoto acted to acquire rotation pieces that filled in well while Felix, Paxton, Iwakuma, and Smyly were all hanging out with physicians.  Some, such as Leake and Ramirez, fulfilled team expectations, providing generally consistent performance.  Marco Gonzales in seven starts for the Mariners went as many as five innings once (Sept. 12 vs. Texas.) Andrew Moore was rushed into service from the minor leagues before he was ready as his 5.34 ERA and 5.65 FIP will attest. Just to be clear, the Mariners finished the year 12-16 when all the rotation pieces were in place and Paxton and Felix returned to the rotation.

Not a lot to get excited about, unless the a healthy Felix and Paxton, plus a full year of Leake, Ramirez and whoever at five represents a reset, supported by the Mariners Wolfpack. And this is Dipoto’s argument, that this rotation with a superior bullpen and some fill-in guys in the minors will be better than last year’s injury-riddled team.  Not only that but the pitchers available on the free-agent market have their own flaws, and would come with those flaws at too high a cost in years and dollars and be a persistent drag on future Mariner budgets.

Is Dipoto correct about this free agent class?  Do they bring flawed performance profiles at to high a cost to team that’s already a bit top-heavy with large long-term contracts.  I’ve taken starting pitchers from MLB Trade Rumors Top 50 Free Agents as well as their honorable mentions from November 2nd.  I’ve used their projections to approximate years and dollar costs.  Other statistics come from Baseball Reference.com

yu Darvish

Yu Darvish–Darvish is at the top of the class in terms of performance and cost. Darvish placed 2nd in Cy Young voting in 2013, and has made the All-Star team in each of his major league seasons, except 2015, the year of his Tommy John surgery.  Darvish has made a full comeback from that surgery, making 31 starts and pitching 186.2 innings in 2017.  Darvish still managed 10.1 K/9, with BB/9 rate of only 2.4.  But his HR/9 rate increased to 1.3, his MLB high.  Darvish is projected at six years $160 million.  He will be 32 in August.  By contrast Felix Hernandez is 31 years old and has thrown 2,502.1 innings.  Darvish has thrown 2,127.2 innings including his Japan League stats. Too much? You decide, Dipoto already has.

jake arrieta

Jake Arrieta–Arrieta won the 2015 Cy Young Award with a breathtaking season.  33 starts, 229.0 IP, 2.35 FIP, he didn’t allow hits, homers and had a walk rate of 1.9 BB/9.  He had an astonishing 215 ERA+ (100 is average.) It’s been all downhill from 2015 with all the good numbers going down, and all the bad numbers going up.  Arrieta lost fastball velocity to boot.  He hasn’t been a bad pitcher, but from innings pitched, to FIP to a league worst wild pitch number two years in a row, the numbers are trending the wrong direction.  Jake will turn 32 in March. Who says a 4-6 year deal at $25 million per annum is too much?  Jerry does.

Lance Lynn

Lance Lynn–Lynn had Tommy John surgery in 2015, and missed all of 2016 recovering Lynn managed 33 starts and 186.1 starts for the Cardinals in 2017.  You can do the math. 4.82 FIP (eep!!) Lynn had a walk rate of 3.8/9, combined with a 1.3 HR/9 rate, would not bode well with this staff. It’s shocking he is the number three ranked free agent pitcher.  MLBTR projects Lynn at four years $56 million. Third best pitcher available? Jerry says no.

Tampa Bay Rays v Houston Astros

Alex Cobb–Cobb turned 30 in October.  He is another of the long line of Tommy John survivors, with surgery in 2015. In 2017 Cobb managed 29 starts for 179.1 innings. His numbers haven’t regained their pre-TJ health, but they aren’t execrable. 2017 showed Cobb with a 4.17 FIP, with H/9 8.8, HR/9 1.1, BB/9 2.2.  His strikeout rate was low at 6.4/9, well below his career high.  Cobb might be the most reasonable investment, with a projected four year $48 million price tag. Jerry?

Andrew Cashner

Andrew Cashner–Cashner had difficulty staying on the field in 2015-16.  But he did manage 28 starts and 166.2 innings for the Rangers.  Were they good starts.  ERA+ likes him at 138, but 4.61 FIP is pretty suspicious.  Cashner allows a fair number of baserunners, with 8.4 H/9 and 3.5 BB/9, but he does keep the ball in the park with .8 HR/9.  Once in trouble, Cashner has one of the lowest K/9 rates in the league with 4.6. Projected at two years for $20 million.  Jerry thinks what he’s got is better.

jaime garcia

Jaime Garcia–Garcia will turn 32 in July.  He made 27 starts last year for three different teams and completed 157.0 innings. Garcia is injury prone and underwent thorac outlet  surgery in 2015. Garcia finished the year with a combined, unappetizing 4.25 FIP, 1.408 WHIP, and 3.3 BB/9.  MLBTR projects Garcia at two years and $16 million.  As a number 5 starter?  Miranda/Gonzales/Moore?  Better? Tough choice.

jason Vargas

Jason Vargas–I was really disappointed when the M’s traded Vargas to the Angels for the hated Kendrys Morales in 2013.  When Kansas City signed him to a four year deal in 2014, I thought good for him, but after a solid 2014, his career was derailed by Tommy John surgery.  Vargas got off to a blazing beginning to 2017, but his last 16 starts were horrendous. He is 35 years old and MLBTR projects a 1 year $10 million deal.  Too much Jerry?  I dunno.

Chris Tillman

Chris Tillman–Former Mariner property Tillman will turn 30 in April. After four years of reminding Mariners why they should be hunting down Bill Bavasi and tossing him into Elliott Bay for completing the Eric Bedard trade, in 2016 Tillman developed shoulder problems.  His 2017 was disastrous.  19 starts, 93 innings, 6.93 FIP.  It gets worse from there.  MLBTR projects a 1 year deal worth $10 million for a bounce-back year. I say don’t touch Tillman with a ten-foot pole.  Jerry says no.

jeremy Hellickson

Jeremy Hellickson had a generally dreadful 2017, but could be a bounce-back candidate.  He has the virtue of having made at least 27 starts in eight of the last nine years.  Even if his numbers are pretty mediocre, at least the guy takes the ball every five days.  Doesn’t walk a ton, or strike out a lot, but does have a frequent flyer plan just in his name.  HR9 at 1.9 last year means bonus miles.  Catch that Ben Gamel. Hellickson didn’t make the top 50 on MLBTR.  He earned $17.2 million in 2017.  Hope he didn’t spend it all.

Wade Miley bad

Wade Miley–Don’t even get me started.

So these are the unsigned free agents still out there.  I feel like the M’s missed the boat when the Rangers signed Doug Fister to a one year deal for $4 million with Texas.  Not great, but not godawful.  There are some reasonable deals here like Cobb or Vargas, unless you really believe what you have is better and more affordable.  It will be interesting to see if these values stay as high as projected as the signing period drags on toward spring training.

Is Jerry wrong? There isn’t a single pitcher in this list, with the possible exception of Darvish, that doesn’t come out of the scratched and dented goods aisle. Even Darvish bears the ignominy of 3.1 ungodly awful innings he threw in the World Series.

That said the forecasted price of one WAR in 2018 is $11.1 million according to Fangraphs by free agent pricing, which is somewhat higher than the cost overall. Dipoto’s contention that free agency is an inefficient way to acquire talent has some merit. But it’s also a way to inject some enthusiasm into the fan base.  Is Dipoto wrong not to cast dollars into this free agent market.  It seems there are some chances worth taking, but all come with risks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything’s Coming Up Edgar! Well Maybe . . .

Edgar Martinez

Ryan Thibodeaux has recorded 167 of the approximately 424 votes that will be cast for the Hall of Fame in 2018.  So far this has been a really interesting year with some pretty fascinating trends.

First, any way you look at it, this stands to be pretty large HOF class as votes seem to coalesce around four candidates.

The absolutely no-doubters are:

  • Chipper Jones with 98.8%
  • Jim Thome with 94.6%
  • Vladimir Guerrero with 94.0%

There is almost no question these guys will get in.  Yes there are still votes to count and if there was a horrendous downturn in marks on ballots it would be bad, but there is nothing to suggest this will happen.

Really likely to get in:

  • Trevor Hoffman with 78.4%

On its face, the elite closer looks to be on the border.  But Hoffman was very close to election last year.  He began the counting needing five new votes to get into the Hall, he’s gotten 12.  The only tricky thing is he’s also lost three votes, so he’s only netted nine new votes. Closers, as in real life, are a volatile commodity on the HOF ballot. There are those who don’t value them as much as starting pitchers, so it’s conceivable Hoffman could lose enough voters to be kept out a second year, but it doesn’t seem likely.

And then there’s Edgar:

  • Edgar Martinez with 81.4% of the vote.

Yes, we should definitely be cheering Edgar’s progress, but with 60% of the vote still to count, I have my doubts.  As the counting began, Edgar needed 73 new voters to mark him on their ballots.  At the present time he has 21.  What’s more he’s lost three who voted for him last year. I’m not quite sure what Mr. Martinez did in the past 365 days to piss off Filip Bondy of Forbes Magazine, Jon Heyman of Fanrag, or freelancer Jon Perrotto and give their votes to Sammy Sosa, Scott Rolen, and Manny Ramirez respectively, but it is possible to lose votes. So Edgar has netted +18, but needs 55 more to reach the magic number.  Is it possible he will do so and make a big hall class bigger?  Yes, but I gotta guess it is unlikely.  I could see him climbing close to the 70% mark, but I will be very happily surprised if he gets in this year.

Several data guys have made projections on who gets in based on votes received and past voting patterns.

Ross Carey, based on 167 ballots predicts Chipper, Thome, Vlad, and Hoffman get in, with Edgar stalling out at 69.5%

Scott Lindholm using 165 ballots is more positive, with Chipper, Thome, Vlad and Hoffman in and Edgar squeaking over the line with 76.9%.

Jason Sardell from 156 ballots has Chipper, Thome, Vlad and Hoffman meeting the requirement, with Edgar in the close-but-no-cigar department with 74%.

Who knows? It’s all a game at this point.  But, our guy has taken a step up with voters, and roped in some important writers, such as Tracy Ringolsby, Mel Antonen and Murray Chass. Not that the other guys aren’t important–just mark Edgar Martinez on your ballots boys.

Other interesting news from the balloting–number of votes per ballot continue to climb.  It is 8.99, and has hovered just around 9 throughout the voting. 2017 was at 8.43, 2016 was 8.23, which means voters are more inclined to find more candidates hall-worthy.  That helps at the fringes, and for specialists like DH’s and closers.

Big Winners–Vlad who gained 31 votes so far, and lost zero.  Second is Larry Walker at a net +23.  A big move for Walker, but probably too late to help his candidacy; he’s still at only 40.1%. Third would be Edgar with his +18.  Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling have also made nice moves at +14, and are positioning themselves for solid gains in the last halves of their candidacy.

Big Losers–The PED guys. I really thought Bonds and Clemens would do better.  They have each netted only a +1.  They may do better with the later counted ballots, but the private ballots are usually much more conservative. Sosa is a net 0.  Sheffield is a net -1. Manny Ramirez is a net -1.

Lots of guys in the also ran group.  Andruw Jones looks like a potential one and done candidate with 5.4%.  Scott Rolen should stay on with 10.4%, and Omar Vizquel has a solid first year at 28.7%. Johnny Damon and Johan Santana look to be done at under 2%.

One last quick note, there is one more player on the ballot with ties to the Mariners and that is lefty slow-ball pitcher Jamie Moyer.  Moyer is one of my favorite players, and he is one of the most successful pitchers in Mariner history.  This morning, word came that Bob Sherwin, former writer for the Seattle Times and Sportspress Northwest, and now a writer for Golfers West, cast a vote for Moyer’s candidacy.  While some may ridicule the gesture when there are plenty of deserving candidates on the ballot, there is a certain poignancy in voting for a player like Moyer who learned to pitch late in his career.  There was nobody smarter, who knew what he needed to do to get a batter out, and depended on his smarts as much as on his stuff. I wish I’d had the courage to include Jamie on my IBWAA ballot.  Good work Bob.

Jamie Moyer