Fixing The MLB Hall Of Fame Voting Process

The process of the Baseball Writers Association of America voting retied baseball players into the baseball Hall of Fame museum in Cooperstown has become an annual rite of tribalism and silliness for the past several years. The process is broken. Possibly the best evidence of this is the vote of 2013. The ballot featured Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Alan  Trammel, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Kenny Lofton, Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez and the BBWAA voted to enshrine….nobody. Jon Stewart’s reaction sums up that announcement well.

Stewart HOF

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Line Drive Percentage: Just Stop It

Here are the hitters with wOBAs of .400 or higher in 2013, along with where they ranked in Line Drive % among active hitters (140 total): Miggy Cabrera (26), Mike Trout (38), Chris Davis (61), Paul Goldschmidt (79), Jayson Werth (13), Troy Tulowitzki (89), Joey Votto (7), David Ortiz (50).

That’s super casual, and of course someone must have studied it, so let me just go ahead and Google “line drive percentage correlation to wOBA”….and…..

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You’re Killing Me, Buster: The 2014 BBWAA Hall of Fame Jerk-Off Begins

I like Buster Olney. Good writer. Well connected. Level-headed and intelligent. On the topic of the Hall of Fame vote Buster leads the charge among BBWAA writers with the smarts and balls to say aloud that the way their body has been voting is not serving the Hall of Fame or the players well and is in need of reform. I like all that.

Olney suggested this month that new rules are needed in the vote (Insider subscription required) and he’s right. To an extent. Olney cites PEDs, the billion-pound gorilla in the room, and admits his own inability to determine who used and who did not use, and announces what will probably be his ballot under a paradigm of “who cares about PEDs?” That’s great. And that’s what needs to change, the process determining the vote, not the rules. Continue reading

What’s Narrative And What’s Not Narrative

We’re about six weeks from Hall of Fame balloting season, so my nose for BBWAA bullshit is getting really anxious. If you’re not into that kind of thing, you’re advised to click ‘back’ now.

Howard Bryant of ESPN somehow managed to file a long-ish column about baseball that did not have the words “steroid” or “enhancing” or “drug” in it. Bryant, of course, is most noted for his book on the subject of steroids, which he wrote after Jose Canseco’s book and after the whole steroids thing in baseball had been uncovered by other people, rather than before those things and while he was a journalist covering baseball during the steroids era when it was all too obvious to everyone watching what was happening in the game. Now Bryant fills out an empty Hall of Fame ballot, which he described as a “basket of rotten apples.” Bryant, don’t forget, has a book to sell. It’s now a seven year old book, but it remains his best-selling because it’s a sensational, after-the-fact act of wrestling with a pig on a topic that people like to yell and scream and get up in arms about.

When Howard Bryant can sculpt the narrative to serve his image as Steroids Author And Expert, he’ll take the shot. So it’s weird to look on ESPN’s website and find a Bryant column in which the act of narrative is being poo-poo-ed by Bryant.

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Let’s Say For the Sake Of Argument A Giancarlo Stanton Trade Is a Possibility Even Though It’s Probably Not, Part 1

This stems from a message board discussion I was involved in recently. It took place on a board for Cardinals fans, and the topic was the resurgence this year of the Pittsburgh Pirates. As I start typing this blog entry, Pittsburgh is tied with St. Louis for the best record in baseball. This may or may not be the case by the time I’m done writing this and posting it, a multi-day process. A Pirates fan who frequents the board stopped by to crow about the Pirates being in first place.

The conversation quickly turned where message board conversations often quickly turn: wild trade speculation. The visiting Pittsburgh fan said that some Pirates fans are advocating on another board that the Pirates should go for it with a trade for Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton. It makes sense that Pittsburgh would be looking to make a trade. They have outplayed their talent level this year, overperforming their Pythagorean record by a few wins. The St. Louis team with whom they are tied atop the NL Central has underperformed theirs by as many wins. St. Louis has outscored opponents by 1.4 runs per game, the highest margin since 2001 when the Mariners and A’s posted the two best regular seasons of the current century. Pittsburgh is outscoring opponents by 0.5 runs per game. There is a talent divide, and the Pirates, to remain competitive in the second half need to either continue outperforming their Pythag or they need to improve. A trade is certainly one way to accomplish that.

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Carlos Martinez April 24 v NW Arkansas

Carlos Martinez, in stuff, was about the same last night against Northwest Arkansas as he was when I saw him two years ago in low-A. His four-seam fastball showed plus velocity, sitting 93-95 and touching a bit higher when he reached back for it. Martinez can spin a curveball. Two of his four strikeouts came on whiffs with his curve, including a very impressive at-bat to close out the second inning in which he got strike two swinging with the curve, had the batter looking for the fastball with two strikes, and fooled him with another curve.

Martinez stayed on top of his fastball, throwing it almost exclusively at the knee level or lower. He was a bit erratic–he almost hit Brett Eibner with the first pitch of the game, and did hit Eibner in his second time facing him. I saw mostly four-seam fastballs from Martinez, and the game plan for him in this outing appears to be to have worked on throwing a lot of fastballs, and locating the pitch low in the zone.

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On The Lack Of Absolutes When Prospecting

Some players you just know. Strasburg. Harper. Trout. Verlander. Felix. Kershaw. As prospects, they were gilded, and their pro careers have validated the hype that surrounded them as minor leaguers. Top prospects pan out more than the lower-tier players. The difference between the #2-ranked prospect in baseball and the #12 prospect is far greater than the difference between someone’s list ranking two players #51 and #63.

There is a degree of uncertainty in the very elite prospects, and after you get through that group of less than 10 players each year there are question marks. Pitchers with great stuff who lack command. Undersized left-handed pitchers with great command and a nice changeup but low velocity and little physical projection. Hitters with big power in the batting cage but a significant amount of swing-and-miss in games that limits the translation of that power to game action. Shortstops who can hit but appear unlikely to stick at shortstop. Shortstops who can stick at shortstop but can’t hit. Raw athletes who have not fully developed baseball skills. Even this year’s unanimous top prospect, Jurickson Profar, comes with questions.

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Adam Wainwright Is Shoving It, And Probably Shoving It More Than You Realize

On October 7, 2012 in Game 1 of the NLDS, Adam Wainwright walked Kurt Suzuki. It was the last batter Wainwright faced that night, and now, 9 1/3 more 2012 postseason innings plus 29 2013 regular season innings later, it remains the last batter Wainwright walked.

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UPDATE: No More Kyle Lohse UPDATEs

Loshe got 3 years and $33 million total.

Or, the Brewers are paying Lohse to be leauge average.

Which is roughly what he is.

Maybe he’s less than league average over the next three seasons. But 100% for sure he won’t be more.

Wow. A rational market for a free agent player coming off a career year. Wild shit.

The Middle 54’s Top 54 Prospects

I started a series counting down prospects back in the fall. I wrote a list in late July, started writing the posts at the same time starting from the bottom up, doing one post every few days, then holding on to publish them all in a row. Halfway through the writing, I disliked it, and had already started posting them. Almost two months after making the list my opinions were changing.  For a MLB player with a 15-year career, two months is not much time. For a prospect who might spend 15-18 months tops in full-season minor league ball, 2 months is a big chunk of their publicly-displayed minor league development.

From the time that I wrote my list and started typing the accompanying posts to the end of the year, Shelby Miller pitched 59 1/3 minor league innings, striking out 70 and walking only seven. He went from the pitcher passed up by Joe Kelly for a St. Louis rotation spot to the most dominant pitcher in the minor leagues and a no-brainer member of St. Louis’s post-season roster in under six weeks. In August, I went from having just read a little here and there about Addison Russell to enjoying in-person the religious experience of seeing Russell overshadow older players in low-A.

Things change for prospects in a short window like that, especially when we’re assuming the often futile task of putting them in some kind of order.

Instead of a Top 50, or Top 100, that lists players in a specific order, I’m doing a Top 54  (just to be arbitrary and to tie the number to the number in my online handle), and instead of ranking all the players I’m grouping them into tiers.

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