Saturday, December 31, 2011

Batted Ball Boondoggles

Where and how a player hits a baseball has become fascinating stuff to think about. And perhaps someday this author might understand what it all means. But there are a few concepts that are starting to make sense. For example, it is nigh on impossible (save a rare inside the park home run) to hit a homer on a ground ball. Just as obviously, the most productive batted ball is one that goes over the wall. But less obvious are the fact that the line drive (aside from the homer) is the most productive batted ball of them all. Well, let's restate that. It's obvious that a line drive is a good thing, but it's not obvious how much of a good thing it is. This posts takes a look at some batted ball boondoggles found thanks to the wonders of sites like and

What is a boondoggle? Well, it can either be this braided thing a boy scout wears around his neck or it can be a wasteful and impractical project or activity. We'll focus on the latter meaning (obviously). So in this post a batted ball boondoggle is at bats that were wasteful activities. In other words, these players proclivities to hit a lot or a little of certain batted ball types isn't a good thing. Since this is New Year's Eve, it's a nice time to reflect back not only on this past year, but on a two year period that began this current decade.

Let's start with line drives. Most of us know that if you hit a line drive, you've squared the ball up pretty good and hit it hard. Certainly, there might be a few of those soft humpback line drives mixed in. But generally, a line drive is hit hard. And that's a better thing than most people realize. has a nice feature that looks at batting for the entire league over the course of a season. From there, you can click the league splits and get a lot of information. From their data, we learn that in 2011, players who hit line drives had a .722 batting average, a .716 on-base percentage and a .971 slugging percentage. Wow, eh? Players who hit line drives become the best players that ever lived. They are better than Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds.

When it comes to line drives the past two years, nobody hits them more often than Joey Votto, whose batted ball data shows that of all the balls he puts in play, 24 percent of them are line drives. No wonder he's so good. But here is where the confusing part comes. The ability to hit a lot of line drives doesn't guarantee batting success overall. It does for Votto. But check out the number two, three and four guys for line drives over the past two seasons: Nyjer Morgan, James Loney and Andre Ethier. Whuh? Nobody would claim Morgan and Loney as valuable hitters. But they hit line drives a lot. Can we at least say that if they didn't, they would be even worse than they already are.

So who has been the worst in baseball at hitting line drives the past two seasons? They are:
  1. Mark Reynolds - 13.2 percent
  2. Alex Rodriguez - 14.0 percent
  3. Carlos Quentin - 14.1 percent
  4. Vernon Wells - 14.3 percent
  5. Carlos Pena - 15.0 percent
A-Rod is a surprise being on that list. But then again, so would Jose Bautista, who would be sixth on our list if that many places were used. Reynolds is so much lower than anyone else, he becomes somewhat unique. Between his swing and misses and his lack of line drives, it would be impossible for him to hit with any kind of regularity. And the lack of line drives from these five certainly seems to be correlated in their BABIP. Their BABIPs in order are: .261, .289, .251, .246 and .245. Here is where we'd love to have batted ball speeds. If we had those, this writer would suspect that A-Rod--who hits a lot of ground balls--often hits them harder than these others. Certainly, his BABIP is higher than the other low line drive guys. But that could be just luck.

Ground balls are good if you are a fast runner. Ichiro Suzuki and Brett Gardner certainly beat out a lot of them for singles. But if you are just a mediocre runner, it's hard to make a living hitting a lot of grounders. Again, according to B-R's splits data, all ground balls resulted in a slash line of: .237/.237/.257. Ugh. For those keeping score, that would be a .484 OPS. Grounders resulted in 1/3 the number of doubles than fly balls and 1/4 the number of doubles as line drives. Triples occurred ten times more on fly balls than on grounders and six times more on line drives. And only one homer resulted from just under 59,000 ground balls hit in 2011.

Ground balls are easily the most frequent event in batted balls occurring more than 11,000 more times than fly balls in 2011. That's good for pitchers. Some batters make the pitcher's job easy. They hit a lot of ground balls. What follows is the players with the highest ground ball rates the past two seasons:
  1. Derek Jeter - 64.2 percent
  2. Ichiro Suzuki - 58.6 percent
  3. Elvis Andrus - 58.4 percent
  4. Juan Pierre - 56 percent
  5. Casey Kotchman - 55.6 percent
All these players hit twice as many ground balls as fly balls and Derek Jeter, incredibly, is the only player in baseball the past two seasons (combined) that has hit three times as many grounders as fly balls. Jeter, Ichiro and Andrus all had BABIPs well over .300. Juan Pierre and Kotchman had BABIPs of .294 and .287 respectively, so not all ground balls are created equal.

Fly balls are not as productive as line drives. But then again, nothing beats the line drive. Fly balls have an even lower batting average than ground balls at .218 compared to .236 (in 2011). But fly balls can become doubles, triples and homers easier than ground balls as we have seen. Thus, according to B-R's splits for 2011, the fly ball led to a .575 slugging percentage. That's very good, right?  But if your fly balls don't go over the wall, it becomes a boondoggle because it will only result in a .218 average and on-base percentage. Players with the lowest fly ball to home run rates the last two seasons:
  1. Chone Figgins - 0.9 percent
  2. Juan Pierre - 1.1 percent
  3. Ryan Theriot - 1.2 percent
  4. Michael Bourn - 1.9 percent
Infield pop ups must be the biggest boondoggle of them all. It's almost an automatic out except for that old wind-aided thing that falls in or that occasional bloop double that falls just behind a corner infielder's head.  Among the best of baseball the last two years at avoiding infield pop ups are: Joey Votto, Howie Kendrick, Matt Kemp, Ryan Howard, Derrek Lee, Michael Young and Derek Jeter. Votto is amazing. Not only does he lead the world in line drive percentage the past two seasons, but only 0.3 percent of his batted balls result in pop ups. He is the only player in baseball under two percent the past two seasons. Incredible.

On the flip side of the pop up issue are the following players:
  1. Vernon Wells - 18.8 percent
  2. Kurt Suzuki - 17.3 percent
  3. Gordon Beckham - 17.1 percent
  4. Chris Young - 16.4 percent
  5. Alex Gonzalez - 16.2 percent
As you might have noticed, Vernon Wells has now landed on two boondoggle lists. Not only does he not hit line drives with regularity, but his pop up rate is obscene.

One last obscure boondoggle for you. Juan Pierre has 32 bunt attempts for base hits in the last two seasons. That's a lot. Derek Jeter has the best success rate at attempting for a bunt base hit at a 50 percent success rate. But we have a player who was terrible at bunting for base hits. In the last two seasons, Brandon Phillips has attempted fifteen times to bunt for a base hit. He was successful once. That's fourteen of fifteen attempts that resulted in a gift out. Perhaps he should stop doing that.

Happy New Year, folks

Friday, December 30, 2011

Obligatory Hall of Fame Post

The Twitter feed is going bonkers as it always does this year. It's Hall of Fame voting time. Writers around the country who are fortunate enough to vote have started posting their ballot. Those of us who don't have a vote get into the act too. This Fan certainly doesn't want to feel left out. Before listing this writer's own personal ballot, some thoughts need to be expressed.

First, this writer does not give a rats...umm...posterior about who used drugs, both PEDs or otherwise (cocaine, marijuana, greenies, etc.). On top of that is a total IGNORE of the morality part of the balloting process. As many, many people have pointed out over the years, the baseball Hall of Fame is full of malcontents and immoral people. This stance makes voting very easy. The only criteria is this: Was the player among the best of his era and less importantly, how does his work stack up against former eras and those already in the HOF? As many writers this Fan admires have already stated, keeping someone off your ballot because of an unproven suspicion of drug use is un-American and just plain wrong no matter where you are. But since this Fan doesn't care who used, that doesn't matter either. And yes, this Fan is a big Hall kind of guy.

All that said, here is how this Fan would vote if the privilege was granted.


Jeff Bagwell - Barry M. Bloom, Gary Brown, Bob Brookover, Tom Dienhart, Chris Elsberry, Jeff Jacobs, Fred Klein, David Lariviere, Mike Nadel, Bob Nightingale, Mark Purdy, Jeff Schultz and Tom Singer so far are the knucklehead writers that have supposedly left Bagwell off their ballots (as listed here).
Edgar Martinez - Who cares if he was a DH? If he was a DH or a lousy third baseman his entire career wouldn't have differed that he was one of the best hitters of his generation.
Mark McGwire - McGwire was NOT a one trick pony. His OBP was terrific and drugs or not, he helped save baseball after the strike.
Rafael Palmeiro - Look, this Fan hates him as much as the next guy. But every time a significant batting list is presented, Palmeiro's name is on it.
Tim Raines - The arguments have all been made before. Smarten up, people.
Barry Larkin - It looks like he is going to get in this year and he should.
Alan Trammell - If Larkin is deserving, then Trammell is too. Very close in most numbers.

That's it.

Those close but no cigars:

Jack Morris - Just not as good as Blyleven. Argue all you want. It's not enough.
Don Mattingly - Oh, Donny Baseball. If only your back had held up.
Larry Walker - Can't get past the Coors thing. Brilliant when healthy and engaged. Just wasn't often enough of either.
Juan Gonzalez - Before there was MannyBManny, there was Juan Gone. Just didn't do it long enough.
Lee Smith - Very good. Not the greatest.
Dale Murphy - MVP that fell off a cliff far too early. Alas.
Fred McGriff - Very good player. Very valuable. Just not valuable enough.
Bernie Williams - If he was rated a better fielder, maybe. Love ya, Bernie, but not enough for a vote.

And the rest can just fall off the list without comment.

War Graphing Some Notable Non-Hall of Fame Players

Graham Womack of Baseball: Past and Present recently undertook a huge project of asking 86 other baseball writers, fans and researchers who the best players were that are not currently in the Hall of Fame. The results, which Womack posted here were fascinating. Since there was little else to do on this eve of New Year's Eve and since your favorite Fan was supposed to be voter number 87 and procrastinated beyond the point of no return, the idea came to support some of these non-Hall players with War Graphs to others already in the Hall of Fame.

What is a War Graph? It's a fabulous tool on Fangraphs that they generously and wondrously provide free to the public and even allow us to download the results. What the War Graph does is give a graphical view of how a player accumulated wins above replacement during their career. And we can use it to compare any two or more players side by side. Now, before this writer gets roasted by comments, WAR is not the be all and end all of all statistics in measuring players. It is simply one statistic site's snapshot of the value provided by a player during the players's seasons and career. There are other useful tools such as OPS+, wOBA, wRC, win shares, WPA and many others. But since no site has created "wOBA Graphs," let's just use this one and call it a conversation starter, okay?

While the following War Graphs do start a conversation about a non-Hall player compared to HOF players, this Fan wouldn't go so far as to say in every case that the non-Hall guy should be in the Hall of Fame. There are a couple of exceptions to that statement as you will see. But for the most part, start with Womack's list, look at the War Graphs and have a conversation.

There. Has the Fan covered his fuzzy behind enough to continue? Re-reading... Yeah, looks good, let's continue. Here are the War Graphs. If they prove hard for you to see, simply click on the graph itself to make it larger. Then hit your Return key to see to come back.

The first one compares Minnie Minosa to the fearsome Jim Ed Rice. The funny line at the top of Minosa's graph shows that he had a habit until late in life to make guest appearances in the game for the fun of it.

This next one compares Robbie Alomar (who is in) compared to Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker and Willie Randolph who are not in. In this case, this Fan thinks all three have a case.

This next one compares Hank Greenberg to Jon Olerud and Keith Hernandez. Hernandez and Olerud had stunningly similar careers.

This one compares Barry Larkin, who many predict will get into the Hall of Fame to Alan Trammell, who will never get in.

This one compares Tim Raines, who is not in, to Dave Winfield, who is.

This one compares one of this Fan's favorite all time players (Dwight Evans) with another whose longevity and magic numbers (like 3000 hits) got him into the HOF: Dave Winfield.

The next one compares Graig Nettles, Ken Boyer and Ron Santo. Santo seems like the right choice based on this graph.

And finally, this one compares Jeff Bagwell to Harmon Killebrew.

Thanks once again to Fangraphs for being so freaking cool!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

BBA Link Fest - Many General Returns

Well hello boys and girls. It's time for another buggy whip around the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. It may be the holiday season, but our writers have kept themselves busy with fine writing from around the country and indeed, around the world.  Please give our folks a visit with a click and leave a comment. To be sure, our members will enjoy your company and your thoughts.

Here we go!

The post of the week easily goes to The Common Man over at The Platoon Advantage. The Man gives what this Fan thinks is the ultimate Hall of Fame take on the PED issue. Awesome.

A close second and easily the most entertaining post of the week goes to Old Time Family Baseball for their romp through the best moments of 2011. And the cool thing is, this is just Part One! Cool!

Off Base Percentage doesn't get Boxing Day. This Fan doesn't either. heh. Oh! And a birthday is celebrated.

MLB Reports features a guest post by Doug Booth this week (among their other great content) who thinks a great DH is an overlooked asset.

Jonathan Mitchell wrote about Jon Olerud this week over at MLB Dirt and this Fan couldn't be happier. Loved that guy.

The Fan's bro over at Left Field continues to show that we generalists are well rounded people with Part Four of his series on the best music of 2011. Read the entire series. Terrific.

We've had to wait four months for Theo's next edition of his retired numbers series. It was well worth the wait as Theo covers the Dodgers over at Hot Corner Harbor.

The Fan doesn't know how to categorize The Hall of Very Good's year end post other than to say that it is fantastic. It presents its own series of links to click, but all very well worth the investment of time. Enjoy this one with a nice steaming cup of coffee.

This Fan is a sucker for historical pieces. How could you not be? That said, they never get many hits on the Fan's site. Oh well. Perhaps if the Fan did them as well as Grubby Glove does them, they would do better. Great post on Duke Snider!

If you haven't been reading along at Golden Sombrero's terrific series on the top fifty prospects, you should really do that. But this Fan this week wanted to feature a Mike Rosenbaum piece on a name you might hear a lot about in the future.

The Baseball Index wonders who is going to close games in Oakland now that they have dealt Andrew Bailey. Freakin' good question! You have to feel terribly for those A's fans, don't you?

Our German entry, Dugout 24, features the nine weirdest injuries ever in baseball. How much fun is that!?

Matt Whitener of Cheap.Seats.Please. thinks Carlos Beltran will brighten things up in the Cardinal birdbath. Agreed.

Mario Salvini of our Italian entry, Che Palle! doesn't think that any Italians make the list of the ugliest athletes in pro sports. Being half Italian, this Fan couldn't agree more.

The prolific and terrific Call to the Pen features a post by Joe Soriano on the new Red Sox closer.

Another take on the Red Sox - A's trade is provided by the always entertaining Sooze over at Babes Love Baseball.

It appears that this Fan blew the link last week to Ryan Sendek's terrific Analysis Around the Horn. Many apologies for that. This site is a must read so it is hoped you went anyway. If not, check out this terrific wish list Sendek sent Santa.

Not to be outdone, Russ Blatt of 85% Sports gives us another wish list. Love it.

And what would this links page be without The Sports Banter Monday Mullet? Nowhere, man, nowhere.

Sully over at Sully Baseball is saddened by one of Washington baseball's starkest facts.

Through the Fence Baseball always has a ton of terrific content. Check out this scouting report on Oscar Taveras written by Eric Longenhagen.

Our French entry,, gives their take on the Bailey deal for the Red Sox. Check it out.

Curley Bender over at Crum-Bum Beat (isn't that fun to say!) gives us a delightful 33 things we learned in 2011.

Those are the links. May you all have a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

Kind of Bullish on Ryan Sweeney

The trade between the Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox yesterday should engender solid research and statistical analysis. You won't find that in this post. Keith Law has already done it and so has Andrew Martin over at This is more of a hunch based on little more than watching baseball's ebb and flow for decades. Ryan Sweeney is going to be a nice piece for the Boston Red Sox.

It's fun to watch the minds of those in the Red Sox front office work. Most people know that the renowned Bill James roams those back offices along with several of his proteges. To see that the Red Sox liked Ryan Sweeney is obvious. All you have to do is look at the Bill James' projections for Sweeney on Sweeney's Fangraphs page. But if this Fan may make the observation: the projection could be pessimistic.

There are a couple of solid statistical facts that back up this hunch. First, in his career, Ryan Sweeney has hit the ball to the opposite field more often than he's pulled the ball (306 to 239 times). As a left-handed batter, that's a nice thing to do in Fenway Park with it's enticing Green Monster. Secondly, when Sweeney does hit the ball to the opposite field, his slash line doing so is: .384/.379/.485. That will play well in Fenway. Lastly, Sweeney has never hit less than 20 percent of his ball in play as line drives. That means he squares the ball up nicely.

Add to the hunch is Sweeney's defense. Back in 2009, Fangraphs gave Sweeney 20.9 runs saved playing the outfield. The last two years have been in slightly negative territory. But if this Fan isn't mistaken, Sweeney hasn't been overly healthy in the last two seasons. Fix that and you should get the solid defending found in 2009 and the years before. Sweeney is still only 26 years old. He should be able to rebound health-wise. Right field is an important position in Fenway. It's has odd angles and there is a lot of room out there. It's a much more important field than left with the big wall out there half way past the infield it seems.

The scouting reports indicate that Sweeney has excellent instincts in the outfield with a strong and accurate arm. All pluses in right field for the Red Sox. But the thing this observer really likes is kind of a pooh-poohed statistic nowadays. Ryan Sweeney has played 444 games in the outfield and has only made four errors total for his career. Four. And three of those were in 2009. So take away those three errors in 2009, and Sweeney has made one error in all the rest of his big league seasons. That's pretty impressive.

Of course, there are a few concerns. First, Sweeney swings from the left side of the plate. The Boston Red Sox are already overloaded with lefty swingers. It would have been nice to pick up a right-handed bat. Secondly, the Red Sox have been high on Ryan Kalish for a long time and had hoped that the young slugger could be the next Red Sox star. He'll probably get his shot in right in Spring Training. If Kalish is legitimate, Sweeney could take away his playing time. But it's a nice insurance policy to have, no? Plus, Sweeney can play all outfield positions so he is a hedge in case (God forbid) Jacoby Ellsbury goes down or Carl Crawford continues to struggle as the Red Sox left fielder.

This deal reminds this Fan of the Carney Lansford deal years ago when the Red Sox picked up Lansford as an extra piece from the Angels in a trade in 1981. Lansford wasn't highly touted before his arrival. He had more power than Sweeney does, but, otherwise, Lansford's numbers were similar to what Sweeney has done with the A's. Once he became the Red Sox third baseman, Lansford had two terrific seasons for the Red Sox. Sweeney--and remember, this is all just a hunch--feels like that same kind of player except he plays the outfield.

Sweeney will hit .280 or higher. His OBP will be .350 or higher. And perhaps he'll slug a little more. This observer simply has a hunch that Sweeney could be a three and a half to four WAR player for the Red Sox. Again, those Red Sox are no dummies. This writer will throw his hat in with that crew any day.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Garza and Nolasco are Interesting Comps

Charlie Saponara had a great post yesterday on his Fantasy Baseball 365 site about his love/hate relationship with Ricky Nolasco of the Miami Marlins. The read itself spurred some curiosity from this Fan about Nolasco, who has always seemed like a bit of an underachiever. It was great to have a little chat about Nolasco on Twitter with Saponara after reading his post. The post, the chat and looking at Nolasco's numbers reminded the Fan about another seeming underachiever, Matt Garza. So his numbers were checked as well. Amazingly, the two pitchers, both of whom threw for Florida-based clubs, have very similar comps.

Before getting into the similarities, we should get their differences out of the way. Garza is a full year younger than Nolasco. Garza has a bigger fastball that's three MPH faster than Nolasco. Garza was the more touted prospect and was a former first round draft pick. Nolasco was drafted in the fourth round. Garza was drafted out of college and Nolasco right after high school. Nolasco toiled in the minors for several years before getting the call to the majors. Garza was pitching in the bigs the year after his draft. Garza is slightly taller and thinner. Those are the differences.

There are far more similarities. Both are California dudes. Garza was born in Selma, a western-California city in central California. Nolasco is from Corona, with is also a western-California community, though much further south. Nolasco has thrown 922.1 innings in the big leagues. Garza has pitched 923.1. Nolasco has struck out 7.67 batters per nine innings, Garza, 7.50. Garza's career FIP is 3.98. Nolasco's career FIP is 3.83. Nolasco has six complete games in his career and two shutouts. Garza has eight complete games and three shutouts. Nolasco has thrown a two-hitter. Garza has thrown a no-hitter. Nolasco's career WHIP is 1.289. Garza's career WHIP is 1.303.

Both pitchers have made an attempt to change their pitching style in the last year, which is serendipitous as well. In 2010, Ricky Nolasco threw a two-seam fastball only 5.6 percent of the time. Garza in 2010 threw his 10.5 percent of the time. But in 2011, Nolasco increased his use of that pitch to 14.9 percent while Garza increased his two-seam usage to 15.5 percent. As a result, both pitchers saw a jump in their ground ball rates.  Thus, Nolasco's 45.1 percent ground ball rate in 2011 was the highest of his career. Garza's 46.3 percent ground ball rate was also the highest of his career. Both pitchers saw spikes in their line drive rate in 2011. Nolasco's was the highest of his career. Garza's was his highest since his rookie season.

Matt Garza has a clear edge on Nolasco in WPA with a career number of 2.42 compared to Nolasco's -0.67. But that is understandable considering that Garza pitched on a highly successful Tampa Bay Rays team in 2009 and 2010 while Nolasco's Marlins have muddled around a bit. Their "clutch" numbers are remarkably similar with Garza rated at -0.64 in his career compared to Nolasco's -0.69. and Fangraphs have widely divergent views of Nolasco's career value but agree pretty much on Matt Garza. Garza has compiled 12.7 rWAR compared to 14.6 fWAR. Nolasco, however, is only given 4.7 rWAR by B-R while Fangraphs is much more bullish at 15.4. Baseball Prospectus has Nolasco at 10.6 WARP and Garza at 10.1 WARP for their careers. Two of the three sites, then, rank the two pitchers remarkably similar in value.

What's the point of all this? Well, you could just take it at face value as a piece that simply compares two pitchers and their careers. Of course, you have to take into account park effects, defenses behind them (Nolasco has had awful defenses behind him), and competition. But on another level, you can see two pitchers that haven't been quite as good as they seem capable of being. For whatever reason, their careers have sputtered around. Garza's past season for the Cubs gives hope that he is starting to put it together as he posted the top ERA and FIPs of his career. Nolasco? Not so much. In many ways, the two pitchers have been the same pitcher for their big league careers. Garza now has shown a greater upside going forward.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Top Ten Position Players of the Past Ten Years

Putting lists together is sort of like trying to run across the highway. Somebody is bound to run you over for your efforts. But lists are fun even if, in the end, people end up poking holes in your logic. For this little exercise, this writer went to Fangraphs and used their handy and amazing leader board to find the top ten position players for the past ten years (2002 through 2011). The criteria used was fWAR. Again, you can poke holes in that logic. But so what? The amazing thing about the list is that all of the players on it are still playing. Yeah, a few of them are getting ancient now, but they are all still with us. Such long term performance signifies greatness in this writer's book. There are a few obvious players on the list and a few that may surprise you.

So here's the list in descending order with a few comments:

  1. Albert Pujols: (80.1 fWAR): Ten of Albert's eleven year career are covered by these stats. And they are amazing. Everything about his ten seasons lead the world. In those seasons, he had the highest wOBA, the highest wRC+, the highest ISO, the highest slugging percentage, the highest batting average, the highest on base percentage. He scored the most runs, drove in the most runs, hit the most homers and struck out fewer than any player that follows him on this list. Incredible. But what about the next ten years?
  2. Alex Rodriguez: (67.9 fWAR): This is the Pujols Era and everyone else is chicken fodder. But with all the negative press he's received, A-Rod has been an amazing player. And even with a few years of late that were below his standards (he is getting old), he's been just below Albert in most every category.
  3. Carlos Beltran (51.2 fWAR): Surprised? You shouldn't be. Not if you have been a steady reader here in the FanDome. Beltran easily earned (as the Fan proved) his Mets contract with a decade of good defense, good base running and consistently good offensive numbers. He is the best centerfielder of his era.
  4. Chase Utley (50.6 fWAR): Utley has the fewest games played over the ten years of all the players on this list. But when he has played, he's been amazing. Great fielding metrics, very good base running and good offensive numbers. He might not be the best second baseman in baseball right now, but over the last decade, he has been.
  5. Lance Berkman (49.7 fWAR): Another surprise. Tucked away on the Astros for most of his career, few have really noticed how excellent he has been. It took a comeback year for a higher profile Cardinal team to show how really good Lance Berkman is and has been. Berkman has the second highest on base percentage on our list and third best slugging percentage and wOBA. If it wasn't for his positional adjustment (1B), his less than stellar fielding and his leaden base running, Berkman could easily have been third on our list. Even so, he's been far better than most realize.
  6. Ichiro Suzuki (46.9 fWAR): Ichiro along with the next two players on our list built his high fWAR based just as much on defense as he has on offense. He's not a great on-base guy and he has shown no power, his ability to blow past 200 hits every season takes somewhat of a hit because of those facts. But according to Fangraphs, Ichiro has saved 104.6 runs with his defense over the past ten years and has been an above average base runner. This writer would put him in the Hall of Fame already.
  7. Adrian Beltre (46.7 fWAR): Seattle Mariner fans might choke a bit on this one. But he was much better for them than people thought. And his overall defense for the past ten years make him the best defensive player on our list with 138+ runs saved at third base. His offense had some off seasons (hence the Seattle hate) but he's averaged 28 homers and 88 runs driven in over the ten year period. Hardly shabby. He's been a great, great player.
  8. Scott Rolen (46.3 fWAR): Rolen is the third of four third baseman that will make our list. And he is a surprise of sorts to be here. But he has saved 114.5 runs with his defense and his ten year slash line of: .281/.360/.485 is not chopped liver either. It's a shame that injuries have kept him from building more WAR and being the household name that he should be. He's played the third least amount of games of our list of ten players.
  9. Chipper Jones (46.2 fWAR): It's a shame that a lot of baseball fans will only remember the last couple of broken down memories of Chipper Jones. His offense might be the third best of our ten players with a ten year slash line of .302/.404/.521. Defense has chipped away a bit of his value and he hasn't been a great runner on the bases. But he's a first ballot HOF guy in this Fan's book.
  10. Derek Jeter (45.6 fWAR): Yes, Jeter has given away 48.9 runs on defense over the ten year period. But he's also averaged 189 hits, 100 runs scored, 70 RBI and 20 stolen bases. His base running over the decade was excellent (though he's stumbled the last two years). His offense put him four wins above replacement above Jimmy Rollins over the same time period.

So that's the Fan's list. The compiler will now commence dodging speeding cars on that highway! Happy Boxing Day everyone!

Hondo and Denny

When the kids grow up, Christmas isn't quite the same. At least it isn't until your kids have kids and then you can watch grandchildren open presents. This Fan isn't there yet for the latter, but yeah for the former. And since there were no toys opened this Christmas in the Tasker family, memories come flooding back to when the kids were little and toys from Santa were the bomb. Memories, of course, go back further than that to our own childhood. There weren't video games back then. There were much cruder things to play with. It's hard to say they were any less fun though.

Some of the favorite gifts from this Fan's childhood were things like the electric football game where a vibrating metal football field propelled little plastic players around the field. It was hard to find any of those suckers that would run straight up the field though. One year, us boys got an indoor golf game that featured felt greens and little cotton golf balls. It was something like this game here, but it wasn't an Arnold Palmer game. It was hard to get those little cotton projectiles to land on that patch of felt.

The best gift this Fan received as a kid wasn't a toy. It was a subscription to The Sporting News. To a kid of this Fan's era, there was nothing better for sports than The Sporting News. It was "TSN" before Ted Turner turned those initials into a television station. We didn't have highlight shows on television. We saw one team all season so we knew those players. We sort of knew other players from baseball cards. And we knew some as opponents of our favorite team we watched. But knowledge of players on other teams was nebulous. TSN changed that because all the teams were covered and each team was given a two page spread in each weekly issue which allowed feature stories on players for each team. It was those pages that brought other players from other teams to life. Plus, there were statistics in the back of each issue for each team. It was awesome.

Those columns usually were the best writers from around the country. And a nice, large picture of that week's featured player usually graced the article. This Fan used to cut out these pictures to make a scrapbook. The scrapbook had a section for each team. Naturally, there were extra pages for our favorite team. But each team was well represented. This writer filled up two scrapbooks during those young years and that interest fostered by TSN has endured to this day. Those two scrapbooks are still in this author's possession.

The scrapbooks covered the years from 1968 to 1972. A recent romp through those old relics made this author pause at the Washington Senators' section gathered mostly in 1970 and 1971. Staring up out of those pages were Frank Howard and Denny McClain. What a flood of memories those two individuals recall! 

They couldn't have been two more different people. There has never been anybody in baseball that has ever disliked Frank Howard. He was the lovable giant who stood six foot, eight inches tall and was built like Gronkowski. Every piece on his was painted as this loving portrait of a monster of a man. Denny McClain was just the opposite. By 1971, he was tarnished by a bookie scandal. And he was only a shell of the pitcher who had won 31 games in 1968. People blamed his demise on his lifestyle. But the truth was more likely that his arm was dead by then. He only lasted one more season after 1971 and fittingly, the last batter he ever faced was Pete Rose (verified by game logs).

The Washington Senators were the laughingstock of baseball in 1970 and 1971. They had the horrifically bad idea of hiring the great Ted Williams as their manager in 1970 and it didn't work. The situation was so dreadful that after those two misshapen seasons, the team moved to Texas and became the team that nearly fifty years later came within an out of winning the World Series.

Denny McClain lost twenty-two games in 1971 after winning 55 games combined in 1968 and 1969. That's a heck of a fall. Frank Howard was 34 that season and entered the decline phase of his career in 1971. He would only play two more seasons himself. This Fan was fascinated (thanks to TSN) by both players. McClain's interest was sort of like the fascination with a NASCAR car wreck. Howard was larger than life and crushed baseballs. 

The interesting thing about these two teammates in 1971 is that just two years earlier, they were the best in the American League. McClain was the Cy Young Award winning pitcher who got the Tigers to the World Series. Howard was the top slugger despite playing on the American League's worst team (the Senators) with no protection in the line up. The contrasts between the two men are endless. 

From 1967 to 1970, Frank Howard might have put together four of the most impressive slugging season runs in baseball history. He hit 172 homers in those four seasons and led the league in that category in twice. Sure, that isn't as impressive as the streak that Babe Ruth put together or Barry Bonds. But the timing of Howard's slugging is what makes it impressive. 1968 was the year of the pitcher. The American League homers per nine innings was 0.68. Compare that to today's game with its 1.00 homers per nine innings. Frank Howard hit 44 homers that season. Nobody was within eight homers of him. And, he played that season with a terrible cast of characters that came in next to last in batting average and slugging percentage. Those factors make his 44 homers incredible.

Howard's OPS+ for those four seasons was: 153, 170, 178 and 170. It was still 144 in 1971, but Howard declined to only 26 homers that season.

Nearly everyone remembers Denny McClain as baseball's last thirty game winner. His 31-6 season in 1968 was brilliant and earned him the Cy Young Award and the MVP. But few remember that the previous three seasons, he was 53-35 on some pretty bad teams and the year after his 31-win season, he went 24-9 and won a second straight Cy Young Award. Few also know that he began his great run at the age of 21 and it reached its pinnacle at the age of 24. In fact, his 1969 season is rated higher (in rWAR) than his 1968 season. 

McClain threw 661 innings in 1968 and 1969. His suspensions in 1970 due to the gambling case and a later incident with sports writers cost him almost the entire season. But the fact was, his career would probably have faded anyway. His strikeout rate plummeted in 1969 and never recovered. His right arm simply threw too many innings. He had 51 complete games in 1968 and 1969 (combined) out of 82 starts. He led the league in batters faced in both seasons. It's no wonder his arm died.

Yes, McClain has been in the news since his last season in 1972 for all the wrong reasons. The arrests, the weight gain have all painted him as baseball's John Daly. But like Daly, when McClain was young, he was something to behold. Most will say that McClain--like Daly--squandered his talent and threw away his career. It's much more likely that his career was used up anyway.

These two pictures staring at this writer in the old scrapbook represent two completely different players joined together by fate on one of the most abysmal teams in the early seventies. Both were on their way out of the game when their pictures were added to the scrapbook. But both had a four or five year period where few were better and more awe-inspiring in what they did in baseball. Joined together for one miserable season, they remain joined together in this writer's mind forever.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Boring Yankees

Being the son of this Fan wasn't easy. Face it, every father has a ready-made list of platitudes that are drawn upon for every situation. Since being trite was always an irrational fear for this writer, those fatherly platitudes were a bit different. For example, every kid will start a sentence with some form of, "I just..." like I just wanted to see what would happen or I just wanted to see what it tasted like. Whenever this father heard the "just" word, the platitude was, "'Just' is short for justification and you are simply trying to justify your actions." Boy, he hated that one. The other equally-hated platitude came whenever he said, "I can't." Such as, "I can't make my bed, I don't have time." Or, "I can't split wood." The platitude on those occasions was, "Don't tell me you can't, just say you won't because that is what you really mean." Yeah, poor kid. How does this relate to the Yankees? The overriding story line this off season has been they can't spend money. Don't tell this Fan you can't, just say you won't.

The Yankees have gotten boring. They didn't sign C.J. Wilson. They weren't the high bidder on Yu Darvish. They didn't sign Mark Buehrle. They didn't sign...well...anybody. Brien of It's About the Money Stupid has been all over this story so this Fan isn't really breaking new ground here. Check out his posts on the subject here, here and here. Whatever the conclusions as to why the Yankees are not serious bidders, the bottom line is that after years of splash, they are the sea of tranquility.

Somewhere, George Steinbrenner has to be screaming. His team has become a non-story. Well, sure, they are one of only two teams to still face a luxury tax (the Red Sox being the other). Sure, they have All Stars all over their roster and seem poised to make another run at 90 wins at least. But remember a few years ago when they signed C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett within weeks of each other? Now that was splashy. Of course, Burnett has turned splashy into trashy, but that's another story. With a second consecutive year of rotation uncertainty, the Yankees won't make a splash. They re-signed Freddie Garcia. They hope Phil Hughes will somehow reach his potential. They are good with that it seems. It's boring.

And who's to say they are wrong? They have minor league options if the aforementioned pitchers don't work out. They can still bludgeon you to death with their line up. Jesus Montero at DH looks mighty tasty. This Fan isn't questioning their sanity, just their showmanship. Frankly, its fans are stunned and disappointed. This isn't what Yankee fans are used to. They aren't used to a team sitting and spinning while the Rangers, Angels and good golly, the Nationals make headlines. We'll have to see if this strategy works in 2012. It almost worked in 2011. Well, it did work during the regular season.

Whether it's the provisions of the new collective bargaining agreement or that the young sons of George are more interested in the bottom line than the old man or whatever, the Yankees' fat wallet has been closed for business this off season. In the long run, that might be the smartest option, who's to tell. But it sure is boring.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

BBA Link Fest - Holidays in General

Happy holidays, everyone, and welcome to a holiday edition of the BBA Link Fest, bringing you the best from the Baseball Bloggers Alliance General Chapter. While the only thing hot is the stove this off season, our writers have kept plugging along bringing great content to their sites. Please click a link and leave a comment on our friendly sites and thanks as always for tuning in each Thursday. May you and yours have a wonderful week.

The links!

Mike Cardano over at the X-Log emptied his caviar or something this week over Yu Darvish. And congrats to Mike and his staff as the X-Log made the list of this year's best baseball sites over at Way to go!

The ever interesting Through the Fence Baseball included a post by Jackie Micucci on the Yankees top prospects.

This Fan doesn't always agree with Sully about things. But his videos are top notch and always supremely entertaining. Check out his latest linked over at his Sully Baseball.

The Sports Banter has lots of content each week. But this Fan can't help but look forward the most to the Monday Mullet. Love it!

A lot of our folks are weighing in on this year's Hall of Fame entrants. Your own Fan will come up with one soon perhaps. But in the meantime, a great job by Replacement Level Baseball Blog on their thoughts.

Remember when The Platoon Advantage was having that be nice week? Well, forget about that. The gents there have been extra feisty this week. Loved this piece by Bill on closers.

Have money to burn? Old Time Family Baseball has an idea how to spend it. You've got to read this.

Erik Eitel takes us back to the beginning over at Number One Baseball.

In honor of Hanukkah, Jonathan Hacohen of MLB Reports re-introduces us to The Baseball Talmud by Howard Megdal. Perfect timing. Perfect delivery.

Michael Schwartze of MLB Dirt gives us all the fun facts of the great Jose Bautista.

The Fan's good buddy over at Left Field presents his top music picks of 2011 with a baseball twist. Great stuff.

Love baseball? Love baseball trivia? Theo over at Hot Corner Harbor will tickle your fancy.

The Hall of Very Good has a terrific five days of Christmas. Honest! Check it out here.

This long-time baseball Fan just loves historical pieces. Grubby Glove his the spot with his piece on Jim Northrup. 

Daniel "Dee" Clark's top fifty prospects series has been terrific and if you have a few days and haven't been there, check them all out. Or you can just check out the latest one on Drew Pomeranz over at The Golden Sombrero.

The Baseball Index has some sad news on a Mets' minor league franchise. Agree in spades.

Who were the best players in the National League in the 1980s? For Baseball Junkies has the skinny.

Dugout 24 presents a unique baseball workshop from across the globe.

A Reds fan over at Diamond Hoggers is less than thrilled by the Mat Latos trade. Why? You'll have to check it out.

Matt Whitener of Cheap. Seats. Please. thinks pitching will be the Cardinals' strength in his post this week.

Mario Salvini of our Italian affiliate, Che Palle! offers smile aplenty from a gem of a video of two teams enjoying a rain delay. Fun!

Way behind on your holiday shopping? It's kind of too late, but Lew Freedman over at Call to the Pen gives us great info we can use with the money Mom sent us.

Did you know that baseball has a baseball solstice? Yeah, neither did the Fan. But have no fear, The Ball Caps Blog educates us.

Prince Fielder is still homeless. At least that's what Sooze calls him over at Babes Love Baseball.

If the Fan's brain worked like Ryan Sendek's does, it would spin right out of this noggin. Sendek is amazing! Check out his mock draft extravaganza going on over at Analysis Around the Horn.

Over at 85% Sports, Eugene and Russ have a great discussion on Prince Fielder. Love how they do these give and take posts., our French affiliate, gives us some words from the Marlins' former manager on how to deal with Hanley Ramirez.

In this Fan's favorite post of the week, Stevo-sama takes us back to a glorious David Cone moment in time. Fantastic stuff. Loved it at The Baseball Enthusiast

Thanks for stopping by and please check out these great sites. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Projecting Mike Stanton

Quick quiz: Who had the higher home run to fly ball ratio in 2011 between Mike Stanton and Jose Bautista? Why yes, that would be Mike Stanton, who led the majors in that category among all qualified batters. In fact, Stanton's home run to fly ball ratio was higher than Bautista's in 2010 too. The problem (if you want to call it that) is Bautista hits a lot more fly balls than Mike Stanton. Among all power hitters in the game in 2011, only Prince Fielder and Michael Morse had lower fly ball rates than Stanton. All of that plus a brand new ballpark makes projecting Mike Stanton in 2012 very difficult.

Let's start with the new ballpark. The Marlins' new stadium has larger dimensions than Sun Life Stadium. The left field line is ten feet further. Left center is thirteen feet further and dead center is eight feet further. But as most of us know, when Mike Stanton hits a homer, dimensions don't matter. Mike Stanton does not hit cheap homers. What we don't know is how balls in the air will react in the new stadium when the roof is closed. So again, projections are a bit difficult.

Stanton's plate discipline is confusing as well. He certainly walked more in 2011 than he did in 2012. His walk rate rose to 11.6 percent from 8.6 percent the previous season (his first). But Stanton swung at more pitches out of the strike zone in 2011, 33.6 percent compared to 32.1 percent the year before. Not surprisingly, that increase also meant Stanton swung and missed at a higher rate in 2011 than he did in 2010 (15.2 percent compared to 12.8 percent). Stanton's 166 strikeouts in 2011 are a bit alarming.

Perhaps part of his problem in 2011 was that he spent the early part of the season batting sixth in the line up. When you only have weakness batting behind you for 58 games, you're not going to get pitched the same when you are further up in the line up. His strikeouts decreased somewhat when he moved up to third and fourth in the line up, but his average slumped. He hasn't yet learned to succeed in high leverage situations and times when runners are in scoring position. His numbers in both were poor. He will need to improve in those areas to justify staying that in those prime positions in the line up.

A return to form for Hanley Ramirez and the addition of Jose Reyes should help as pitchers would have much more to think about than just Stanton. Logan Morrison also had a disappointing season and if he comes back with a better season, than much more protection is afforded Stanton. Stanton is a lot like Bautista in that both players have a similar lack in line drive percentage. Both players are well below league average in hitting ropes. But again, Bautista is much more adept at hitting the ball in the air. Stanton could dramatically increase his home run total if he could improve his fly ball rate. It's hard, however, to increase a batting average stuck in the .250 to .262 range when you only hit 16 percent of your balls in play on a line.

As can be expected by now from Bill James projections, the projections are bullish for Stanton in 2012. James has Stanton hitting 39 homers and raising his average by twelve points. Fans projections are equally bullish. This Fan hates to be a wet blanket, but Stanton has to hit more balls in the air to hit more homers and he has to hit less ground balls and more line drives to raise his batting average (if his BABIP remains static).

Mike Stanton will only be 22 in 2012 and will continually have to adjust as pitchers adjust to him. He didn't have a whole lot of growing time in the minors as you can well imagine. He is getting his training at the major league level. How will Mike Stanton do in 2012 and in his new ballpark? We are all excited to find out because the guy is intriguing as heck.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Frank Francisco Hurt by Home Ballparks

The Toronto Blue Jays have some of the best bloggers on the Web and this writer loves checking them out. Writers like Tao of Stieb, Navin Vaswani and others provide priceless entertainment. And after reading them religiously for the past season, when it was announced that the Mets had signed Frank Francisco, the Fan's first reaction was to scoff. After all, "Fat Frankie" as he was called north of the border was often the cause of derision and scorn. But if this observer has learned one lesson over the years, it's, "check your facts." Francisco isn't half as bad as perceived.

When looking at a deal, the first thing this writer does is check Fangraphs' valuation of a player over the last several seasons. Judging by that, the Mets overpaid Francisco. According to the reports, Francisco is due to receive $12 million over the next two seasons or an average of $6 million per. But WAR might not be the best way to value closers. You also have to look at the pay scale top closers are getting around baseball and it's also helpful to check Win Probability. Francisco's deal is relatively cheap compared to other established closers and he's posted solid WPA scores his entire career.

Francisco has played his entire career with his home parks in Texas and Toronto. Both places are hitters' paradises. And the numbers bear out that Francisco has been hurt by pitching at home in his career, particularly the last two seasons when his fastball has fallen off by a MPH or two. In 2011, Francisco's OPS against was .793. His OPS against was .598 on the road. Six of the seven homers he allowed last year were in Toronto and fifteen of his nineteen extra base hits allowed came at home.

His season in Texas in 2010 was similar. That season, Francisco's OPS against was .743 at home and .603 on the road. Four of the five homers he allowed in 2010 were hit when Francisco pitched in Texas.

So perhaps we shouldn't pooh-pooh this deal made by the Mets. Francisco should fare well in Citi Field even if they do bring the fences in. If he is as successful at home in Citi Field as he's been on the road the past couple of seasons, the Mets should have themselves a fine relief pitcher.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Alex Gordon - Sudden Superstar

Long before there was Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, there was Alex Gordon. And while the former two along with Lorenzo Cain (and others) form the core of the hopes of Kansas City fans, Alex Gordon finally took his rightful place as a star in Major League Baseball. And Gordon did so far out of the spotlight accorded the two young phenoms. And it was totally unexpected. The only real recognition his season begat was that he somehow upset everyone's favorite to win the Gold Glove in left field (Brett Gardner of the Yankees). Would most casual fans know that Alex Gordon had the ninth highest fWAR in the majors last season (not counting pitchers)? Doubtful.

This writer remembers when Gordon was getting the prospect hype currently garnered by Hosmer and Moustakas. He was the first round pick of the Royals and second overall of the 2005. Justin Upton was selected ahead of him and rightly so. But Gordon was going to be the next big thing. Except it didn't happen.  Just two years after finishing his college career at Nebraska, Gordon was the starting third baseman for the Royals in 2007. He had had only one full season in the minors in 2006 and was rushed to the majors. Understandably after being rushed to the majors, he was underwhelming. While he was a better third baseman than written about, it was his bat that didn't spark much admiration. He hit .247 his first season and only collected a .314 on-base percentage.

2008 was better. Gordon increased his walk percentage and despite his .260 batting average, he finished that season with .351 on-base percentage. And yet, he was falling out of favor with Trey Hillman, his KC manager at the time. Then came 2009.

By April 15 of 2009, Alex Gordon was batting .095. He had injured himself sliding into second on April 11 but still played two more games. But there was obviously something wrong and he underwent surgery on his hip on April 17. The operation laid him up for twelve weeks. After a brief rehab, he was back with the Royals  in mid-July and slowly raises his batting average to a high of .224. But Gordon slumped again and after a game on August 17, then batting .198, Gordon was optioned to the minors where he remained until the minor league season was over. He was added back to the Royals when the rosters expanded and he hit upon his return. But it was too late and his final slash line for 2009 was: .232/.325/.378. His line drive percentage fell that season to under fifteen percent.

By the spring of 2010, there were whispers that Alex Gordon was a bust. His first two seasons weren't as bad as they seemed and understandable for a guy with no experience thrust into the majors full time. But 2009 seriously damaged his standing. To make matters worse, he then broke his thumb in Spring Training in 2010. After starting that season on the disabled list, he was activated and saw his first action on April 17. He obviously wasn't right and by May 1, he was batting .194 with only one homer and one double to his credit. He was sent to the minors.

Gordon might have remained in the minors the rest of that season, but David DeJesus got hurt in late July (another thumb) and Gordon got the call. He had been converted to the outfield by that time in the minors as by that time, the Royals had this Moustakas kid who was going to be the future at third base. So Gordon returned in late July and stayed the rest of the season. Gordon played every day the rest of the season but it never jelled for him and his final slash line after 281 plate appearances was: .211/.315/.355. The whispers grew deafening.

By the spring of 2011, Gordon was an afterthought. Nobody expected anything from him and nobody even talked about him. But as the season broke, Gordon was the starting left fielder. His first game of the season didn't bode well. He went 0-5 with three strikeouts. The home fans weren't happy with their opening day left fielder. But in his fourth game, an extra-inning affair against the Angels, Gordon went 4-6. The following day against the White Sox, he went 3-5 and hit his first homer. He went 2-5 his next game and never looked back. By the end of April, Gordon was batting .339!

Gordon slumped in May and his batting average fell to .275 by May 19. But he finished May well and was consistently good at the plate through the rest of the season. His final slash line for 2011 was .303/.376/.509. That was good for a 140 OPS+ which easily led the team. He hit 23 homers and added four triples and a terrific 45 doubles. Plus, he was terrific in left with twenty assists and was excellent on the base paths. A star was born. Or was he reborn? His wOBA, which has been a woeful .294 in 2010, finished at .382 for the 2011 season.

After being left for dead after 2010, Alex Gordon became a star in 2011. His season in many ways mirrors the season that Jacoby Ellsbury had for the Red Sox. Both resurrected from injuries and lost time and whispers to become young stars. But what does the future hold? Bill James and Fans projections have him falling off again in 2011. Their projections still show him to have a valuable season, but they both expect him to be far less impressive than he was in 2011. His BABIP of .358 in 2011 might lead to those tame projections. But Gordon hit the ball hard in 2011. His line drive percentage was 22 percent. If he keeps hitting bee-bees all over the field, there's no reason to think he can't duplicate the success he had in 2011.

Kansas City fans have a lot to look forward to in 2012. They have an exciting young team. Hosmer and Moustakas and Cain rightly inspire hope for a long-moribund franchise. But their best player is Alex Gordon, the Hosmer of 2007. Gordon became one of the best players in the majors in 2011. The sky is now the limit for him going forward.

Posnanski Closes Comment Section

Your host on this site follows a lot of baseball writers. To be widely read is one of the truly best ways to get wiser in life. But it's not just that. Many writers are inspiring. To live an artistic life--and writing is art, friends--other artists are not competitors. Artists are drawn together by the love of what they do. And yeah, to be honest, we want affirmation by our peers. Twitter serves that need very well. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule. For some writers, the goal is to dominate public thought and opinion. That's fine, if that's how they want to play it. But after a while, the same machine that brings you to the top, brings you down just as quickly if hubris is the foundation. All of these thoughts are brought about by Joe Posnanski's decision to shut down comments on his site. Wait. That came off wrong. That is not to say that Mr. Posnanski is one of those hubris-driven writers. It's just his decision has brought out all these conflicting emotions that are spilling out now.

The thoughts here aren't concrete and already they are off on the wrong foot. Since the nexus of this particular post is to come to grips with Mr. Posnanski's decision, the emotions are torn and thus the hesitation you might already be feeling. This writer also feels the hesitation. So pretend this is a flow of consciousness post and maybe we'll get through it together.

The two conflicting emotions with Mr. Posnanski's decision are one, a profound respect for his career and his craft and second, that reaching the heights he has risen, such decisions must be difficult even when they don't feel right to this observer. The respect for Mr. Posnanski as a writer is not just about how good he is at what he does. And obviously, he has few peers in that regard. But it has also been that his writing has drawn us in to his narrative for so long, it always felt like he was speaking to us personally. In the song world, Amy Grant and more recently, Taylor Swift, have that ability. Certain actors make you believe in whatever character they paint and make us root for them. It's a gift really. Joe Posnanski made us look at the fan-writer differently. Everyone knows and loves (and has adopted) his "Posnanski asterisk" which makes him the heir of Peter Gammons who gave us the word, "Arguably." That's the sort of thing great writers do.

Part of Joe Posnanski's art is in intelligently crafted narratives that carry us along. But just as importantly, he carried us along as co-conspirators in the dialogue. Many of his posts have come from those "brilliant readers" that commented on his posts. His use of polls have been done far better than anyone else because it echoes and adds to the shared experience his writing already fosters. Now he has decided--for at least the time being--that he is going to shut a part of that off.

This writer's previous career was building a software company's customer service division from the bottom up. As a new start-up, the company went through many bumps along the way. Many of those bumps were truly saved by terrific and personal customer service. Your Fan's goal was to try as best as possible to treat people the way we wanted to be treated ourselves. Sometimes that meant allowing them to vent when necessary and at times to agree with their assessments.

In one of the few times this Fan was ahead of the technological world, early on in the growth process, blogging to customers and creating an open forum for customers (which this writer moderated) was implemented. This was before most people had ever heard of the word, "Blogging," and, "Chat." Our customers loved it. First, they found fellow customers they could bounce ideas with and secondly, they found the head of customer service interacting with them, listening to their problems and working with them to get through them. This really was something that set us apart from other software companies in our industry.

But as we continued to grow, so did the leadership. We got more and more managers, vice presidents, directors and so forth. As we got to be a big company, many of these leaders felt that these platforms exposed us to our competitors so they would know our struggles and use them against us. Others felt that we were too big by then to care what individual customers thought and found the sometime negativity to be threatening. The bigger we got as a company, the more this was debated. Until finally, this Fan lost and the thing was shut down.

It was one of the worst decisions the company could have made at the time as we had just been purchased by a major company in our industry. But that's life. What they didn't understand was that these components we offered customers was part of our charm. The fact that we shared the stress of tough software times together made it a collective more than just a customer/vender relationship. We retained a lot of our customers through the tough times, through the bugs, and the late deliveries, because of our openness in talking to them.

Once we shut the chat and blog down, we were just another big shot that didn't care about the little guy. That's what this feels like in what Mr. Posnanski has done. And what makes this difficult to say is that it's very possible that has nothing to do with his decision. He could very well be concerned that unfair comments could occur and with no time to look after them, they could ruin the experience with others. But even that is something with which we disagree.

This writer totally believes that if we call ourselves a democracy, then people have a right to bitch and be jerks. Many times our company learned from those complainers, even if they were totally unfair in how they presented themselves. The customer service manager turned a lot of those naysayers into product endorsements over the years. Letting free speech reign, even when it hurts, is cool. Limiting it is not cool. And many times, your customer-supporters will defend you quite well without you even having to say anything. That happened with our company and it happened over at Joe's Blog. Self-policing can be even more effective than riot-policing.

The other sticking point is that Mr. Posnanski feels he no longer (or at least currently) does not have the time to read his comments. That's a shame. We as writers can't be overly influenced by those who comment on our sites, but feedback is always good and sometimes, those comments add to a point given or correct facts erroneously stated.  Mr. Posnanski (a term of respect by the way and not written as a derogation) does not state why he no longer has the time. He could be in a family transition or crisis. He could be in the middle of writing deadlines. Or he could just be hung up with the many requirements of success that include book deals and sales and other things. We don't know and, frankly, it's none of our business.. But it's very easy to make the jump that he's gotten bigger than his readers. That's not fair, but that's the way the human brain works.

As much as success is sweet, it has its costs. Perhaps Joe Posnanski is paying some of them. We all want to be successful. Let's face it, we not only write because we like to, but because we want to be heard. But as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Sometimes it might mean that the very thing that helped us to be successful in the first place becomes one of the casualties.