Friday, December 11, 2009

Post Number 1000

Today, the FanDome celebrates its 1000th post. While that number has no significance in the world at large, it's still a milestone of sorts for this here Fan. In honor of the milestone, here are some facts concerning Major League Baseball that center around the 1000 number. Enjoy.

OPS and OPS+ seem to be the new benchmarks for stat-oriented people. While OPS+ has its detractors, OPS is pretty straightforward and it's simply a combination of On Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage. It's funny how baseball stats get into language. For example, a person's batting average, if at .310, is always spoken as, "Three-ten." Nobody says that the batter is hitting 31% or, "Point three one zero." We say "Three-ten." The same goes for OPS. Barry Bonds has the highest OPS ever recorded when he posted a 1.4217 in 2004. Say what you want about how he got there, but that's a pretty incredible number. But we don't say that Bonds posted an OPS of, "One point four two one seven." We say that his OPS was "one thousand four two one seven." And so the stat fits the Fan's purposes and will work. There have been 389 seasons for players who finished with an OPS higher than 1.0000. Gary Sheffield is the only player ever to finish with an OPS of exactly 1.0000. He pulled off that rare feat in 2001. Of the top twelve OPS seasons ever, all of them belong to Bonds, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. Bonds had four of the top twelve. Ruth had six of the top twelve and Ted Williams had the other two. The interesting thing about Ted Williams' two best OPS seasons? The first one was at age 22 and the second at age 38.

Okay, here is quiz #1: Which two players had a season in the top 20 OPS seasons of all time: Mark McGwire, Mickey Mantle and Jeff Bagwell? Answer at the bottom of the post.

There have been 220 players in MLB who have walked a thousand or more times in their career. Bonds holds the record followed by Rickey Henderson. Eddie Stanky just missed with 996.

Quiz #2: Which current player (defined as active in 2009) is in the top ten in career walks? Answer below.

254 players in major league history have struck out more than 1000 times. Shawon Dunston and Jeffrey Leonard ended their careers with exactly 1000. Four players have topped the 2000 strikeout mark: Reggie Jackson (2597), Jim Thome (2313), Sammy Sosa and Andres Galaragga (2003). If Mike Cameron plays regularly for two more years, he'll get there as will Manny Ramirez if he keeps playing. Alex Rodriguez is currently 18th on the list and sits at 1736. If he plays seven or eight more seasons, he has an outside shot of setting this record.

Quiz #3: Of the Top Ten in all time strikeouts, how many of the ten were true first basemen? How many of the others in the Top Ten played significant time at first base? Answers below.

Thirty-five players in MLB history have totaled 1000 or more extra base hits with Hank Aaron on top of the list with 1477. Jim Thome goes into the 2010 season with exactly 1000 extra base hits.

Quiz #4: What Hall of Famer is Ken Griffey Jr. currently tied with for extra base hits (seventh on the all time list)? Answer below.

Only one player in history has stolen more than 1000 bases. Of course it's Rickey Henderson. His 1406 stolen bases is a record that may stand forever.

Only four players in history have a career total of Adjusted Batting Runs over 1000: Babe Ruth (1388), Barry Bonds (1301), Ted Williams (1137) and Ty Cobb (1037). The only current MLB ball player capable of beating Ruth is Albert Pujols, who sits at 580 at the age of 29.

Only fourteen pitchers have made over 1000 appearances. Jesse Orosco is the record holder with 1252. Of these 14, only one, Hoyt Wilhelm, was not from the recent era. Just goes to show how the bullpen usage has changed over the years. Trevor Hoffman should hit the 1000 mark this coming season with David Weathers a good bet to get there as well.

Quz #5: The top three pitchers in appearances for all time are lefties. Of the following eleven on the list, how many pitched left-handed? Answer below.

121 pitchers compiled a thousand or more walks in their career with Nolan Ryan the all time leader with 2795. That's another record that may never be broken. Jim Bunning finished with exactly 1000 walks. No current pitcher has even the remotest chance of finishing in the Top Ten. Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson are 12th and 13th respectively, but don't figure to crack the Top Ten in the little time (if any) they have left.

Well, that's our celebratory list. And below you will find the quiz answers.

Quiz #1: Bagwell and McGwire
Quiz #2: Jim Thome (tenth place)
Quiz #3: Three - Five.
Quiz #4: Lou Gehrig.
Quiz #5: One. The rest were all right-handed.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Robert Leo Sheppard

[[switching to first person]] As many long-time readers may know, the Yankees were a big part of my childhood. From the dark years of the 1960s until I left New Jersey for New England in 1975, I spent many happy days at Yankee Stadium or watching the Yankees on WPIX Channel 11 on television or listening to the team on my transistor radio. The radio was a gift from one of my sister's boyfriends, a mechanic named Guy Grease (no lie, is that an ironic name or what?). The radio had the logo of the gas station and was shaped like their gas pump. I took that thing everywhere and loved listening to Phil Rizzuto, the wonderful Yankee announcer, and also gloried in the Knicks' championship years with Walt Frazier, Willis Reed and company. I loved that radio.

One of the constants through all those years, whether at the stadium, watching the game or listening to the radio was the imperious tones of the Yankees' PA announcer, Bob Sheppard. The guy did his job from 1951 to just a few years ago. That era spanned 4500 MLB games, 22 Yankee pennants and 13 World Series titles. Reggie Jackson once dubbed him, "The Voice of God," and it was an apt moniker. He was in a class of his own.

The thing about Sheppard is that he wasn't like many of the PA announcers over the years who gave an extra padding of excitement when they announced the home team players. Who can ever forget the way Kirby Puckett was announced in Minnesota? But Sheppard was imperious and mono-tonal and announced each player on each team the same. He truly was in a class by himself.

I could go in more detail about the man's life, but you can always find that here. The main point in writing this post was to just tip a Fan's cap at the life and career of a guy who never played a game, but who was as much a Yankee as any other legend that ever played in New York. We loved the guy, absolutely loved him. And what made him so grand was that once he started speaking, you just knew you were observing or listening to a Yankee game. Personally, Derek Jeter is the soul of the Yankees and their fans. He gets the heritage he is involved in and he gets the mystique of his uniform. It says volumes that whenever Jeter comes to bat, he insists on being announced by a recording of Bob Sheppard announcing his name. You've got that right, Jeter. Absolutely.

Bob Sheppard will turn 100 in 2010. He's lived a full and wonderful life and for an a guy who is a little more than half Sheppard's age, the "Voice of God" will forever be ingrained in the memory bank. He was first rate and pure class. And no matter what kind of team the Yankees threw out there and no matter what ugliness may have been in the clubhouse or in the front office, Sheppard made it inconsequential. Once he spoke, it was the Yankees and it was official.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Pettitte Gets a New Deal

Andy Pettitte will wear the pinstripes for one more season at least. He and the Yankees agreed on a one year contract worth $11.75 million. That's a raise over last year when he proved this writer and others wrong by having a great season and a great post season. Pettitte set the all time record for post season wins and won the clinching game in all three of the Yankees' post season series. Not bad for a pitcher this writer called mediocre a year ago. He was so mediocre that he saved the Yankees high paid buttocks.

The Fan is also warming up to the Granderson idea. He is a tremendous guy and should fit right in with a winning team. Last year could have been a one-fer and he could bounce back to the outstanding player he was three seasons ago. It still doesn't seem like a good idea to give up a top prospect like Austin Jackson (isn't that a great baseball name too?). And you have to feel bad for guys like Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner who will not ever get the chance to work centerfield for the Yankees. Gardner still seems to have promise, though he is not aggressive enough on fastballs in the strike zone. But man, can that guy run and play centerfield!

In the Fan's perfect world, Granderson would play left and Gardner would play center, but that will never happen. Gardner doesn't have enough buzz and probably not enough upside for the Yankees to give him 500 at bats.

Yankee fans should feel good about Pettitte coming back to their team and providing those 200 or so solid innings as the third guy in the rotation. It's a comforting thing, you know?

Brewers Get a Wolf in Sheets Clothing

The Brewers found out the hard way last year that losing your two best starters (Sabathia and Sheets) at the same time is a good way to kill a season. Determined to do better this time around in that department, the Brewers are said to have signed Randy Wolf (recently of the Dodgers) to a three year contract. For those of you who think this may be another Suppan-type boondoggle, the two pitchers (those similar in age) are nothing alike.

Wolf has a 108 career ERA+. He averages 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings good for a 2.29 K/BB ratio. Suppon has a 98 career ERA+, a 5.2 strikeouts per nine rate and a 1.62 K/BB ratio. Plus, Wolf seems to be getting better while Suppan has been regressing year by year. Of course, Wolf could get hurt or he could fall apart, but for now, this deal looks good on paper.

Plus, if you think Wolf had a great season because he pitched half his games in Dodger Stadium, he also pitched great in the little bandbox in Houston the year before. Wolf is an underrated performer and the Brewers did the right thing.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Does McGwire Really Need to Talk?

Whitey Herzog became the latest public figure to state that if Mark McGwire is going to be a coach of the Cardinals, he needs to be open about the past about McGwire's involvement with performance enhancing drugs. Jeff Passan wrote a column a couple of weeks ago about the same topic as have others. But does McGwire owe us anything? Heck no.

Look, we all know that McGwire was a part of that story. We also know that McGwire was using an at-that-time legal supplement during his historic home run year. The story was all over the place at the time. That substance has since been banned. We also know that McGwire refused to "talk about the past" when summoned to Congress during that body's hearings on the subject. All of those things are established facts. The much (and deservedly so) maligned Jose Canseco states unequivocally that McGwire was a user and we now know that Canseco was right about nearly everything he said. But does McGwire have to come clean to be a coach?

Why? What good would it do? He's already paid the price for his past by his Hall of Fame snub the past few years. He's already got a black mark next to his name. What will change by talking about what he did and why? He can't change the past. He can't change how he is perceived. He can't change his standing among the HOF voters. He can't change the minds of fans that are forever not in his corner. So, tell this writer what could be accomplished by him facing all that scrutiny? Nothing.

McGwire will be a coach if he is willing and he will probably be a pretty darn good one. Hey, at least he didn't perjure himself like Tejada, Clemens and Palmeiro did. He didn't lie. He just refused to incriminate himself. Last the Fan looked, that's a fifth amendment right in this country.

Look, Mark McGwire was one of this Fan's favorite players of all time. He personally helped this writer through a tough personal tragedy that historic year. That year is now suspect like all of the accomplishments of Barry Bonds in subsequent years. Those stains are hard to take and they are hard to forget. Baseball has moved on with tougher testing and more stringent investigating. We don't know if things are cleaner now, but they seem to be. Let's leave it all alone. Baseball seems to have learned its lesson. Isn't that enough?

When Whitey Herzog, Jeff Passan, Tim Brown and others have a press conference and admit to the affairs they may have had or the times they cheated on their taxes, then maybe McGwire can have a press conference to admit his sins. McGwire doesn't owe anybody anything just like Tiger Woods doesn't. Hey, people pay for their "sins" in many ways. Nothing comes for free and there are consequences for every decision. McGwire's career was cut short by his own enhanced muscles giving up under the extra strain. Isn't that a consequence? His usage maybe made him millions, but in the end cost him millions too.

All this talk about what national figures owe us as for explanations is frivolous. It is a public rubbernecking that we all need to look in the mirror about. This Fan doesn't care whether McGwire ever says anything. The Fan doesn't care if Barry Bonds ever says anything. The Fan doesn't care if Sammy Sosa ever says anything. The Fan only cares about making sure the sport is cleaner from here on out. That's it in a nutshell.

Granderson Going to the Yankees?

In what would seem to be a step in a backwards progression, a three-way deal has been rumored between the Yankees, Tigers and Diamondbacks. If the deal comes to fruition, the Tigers would get Austin Jackson from the Yankees and Matt Scherzer from the Diamondbacks The Diamondbacks would get Ian Kennedy from the Yankees along with Phil Coke and Michael Dunn. They would also get Edwin Jackson from the Tigers. The Yankees would get Curtis Granderson and prospects. While Granderson's stock has come down some from a pretty sub-standard 2009, Austin Jackson seems too high a loss for the deal. It would also break away from the Yankees' plan to build more from within. Jackson is by far their most prized prospect.

The Yankees refused to deal Jackson last year when they were looking for pitching help. Why change the mindset now to basically trade him even up for Granderson? Granderson is a fine young man and has had some really good seasons. But Jackson is a five-tool prospect and could be a star for years to come. Plus, for a good chunk of years to come, Jackson would be cheaper than Granderson.

And if you are the Tigers, why would you trade Edwin Jackson for Matt Scherzer? Granted, Jackson is expensive and the team could be cutting costs. But Edwin Jackson is a proven pitcher with an excellent arm. Scherzer had a good debut season with the Diamondbacks but is not a power pitcher and relies on control to stay in the game.

Austin Jackson hit over .300 last year in the minors and appears ready for a big league assignment. Again, the guy has five tools and could be great. Granderson shows occasional flashes of brilliance in between a bunch of so-so-ness. He can't hit left-handers.

The deal would make sense if Austin Jackson were not part of it. The Yankees feel they need a center fielder. Though this Fan believes that either Jackson, Gardner or Melky could get the job done. It would seem that any option of one of those three would be cheaper over the long run than Granderson and could potentially be more useful than the Tigers' center fielder for the past few seasons. Granderson would be a nice fit in a Yankee uniform, but that's not the point.

The point is that the Yankees said they wanted to develop their own talent and that their gutting of prospects for veterans was over. But not so fast. It's Deja Vu all over again. If Austin Jackson projects to be a star, why not put him out there in centerfold and see if he can make it as a major leaguer?

Post Script: The Fan was really wrong about Scherzer. Looked up his stats and he struck out more than nine batters per nine innings. That's a whole different kettle of fish and now the Fan knows that the Tigers got a steal and the Diamondbacks are nuts.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Polanco Not a Significant Upgrade for Phillies

Sometimes a player has a reputation that translates into a contract that is out of balance with his value. Such is the case with Polanco. Baseball Prospectus rates Polanco somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million but the Phillies will pay him over $5 million to replace Pedro Feliz at third base. While the Feliz non-tender was a good decision as he would have made a poor financial decision for 2009 under his old contract, the Phillies went ahead and replaced him over value.

Polanco is going to be 35 in 2010. The Fan is a bit hesitant to write this deal off after being so wrong about Ibanez's contribution last year. But this doesn't seem like a good idea for the Phillies. They may have been better served by waiting out the Adrian Beltre situation in Seattle. Beltre would have been a better fit.

Polanco showed signs of slowing down last year. His OPS+ was 88 or well south of league average. His batting average at .285 was his worst since 2003 and his OBP was his worst since 2002. He doesn't strike out very much, in fact, he is one of the hardest players to strike out in the league. The trouble is, he's also one of the hardest players to walk. He walked only 36 times in 675 plate appearances last year with translates to a puny 5.3 percent. Plus, he is shifting from second base, where he was one of the better fielders of that position, to third, which he hasn't played significantly for a decade.

Raul Ibanez made a lot of writers look silly this past year as he (particularly early in the season) gave the Phillies a spark after coming over from the American League. Perhaps this is a formula that can work for the Phillies to get an older player from the American League and find one more golden season out of that player before the inevitable slide into retirement. Perhaps the Polanco deal will prove out in the same mold as he is coming over from the Tigers. Lightening can strike twice. We'll see. But overall, this deal seems like a real gamble and the odds are against the Phillies getting their money's worth.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Brad Penny Takes A Risk

Maybe Brad Penny knows what he is doing. Maybe he'll get a multi-year offer from somebody for more than he's worth. But it seemed like he was in a good spot in San Francisco after a disastrous stay in Boston which followed a disastrous 2008 in Los Angeles. The Giants offered Penny a one year deal with incentives (according to this story), but he turned them down. It seems to this writer that having a good year with the Giants following his successful stint with them down the stretch would have re-established his value and would set him up for a better offer in 2011.

But that's not the way Penny played it. He turned the Giants' offer down which means he must feel there are greener pastures out there. Of course it is conceivable that desperate teams like the Astros, Brewers and others might get jiggy with it and offer him above-market value money and time. But that's a big hope. It didn't work out so well for Bobby Abreu last year. But Penny is a pitcher with some life left in his arm and that puts him in a different situation than just another corner outfielder.

But still, Penny went 4-1 with the Giants pitching in a pitchers' ballpark and finished his stint there with a 2.56 ERA. Those are great numbers. If he found a home there and a comfort level, there is no reason why he couldn't have built on that success and won sixteen games for the Giants. There would be no pressure on him as there are two great pitchers there ahead of him on the depth chart. If Penny could have won those 16 games building on his San Fran stint of 2009, then he would have been perfectly set up for a 2011 free agency run.

Penny is probably right that somebody will sign him for a couple of years with a hope and a prayer. Maybe Penny has parlayed this correctly. But the Fan doubts it will work out as well as it could have in the city by the bay.