Monday, December 31, 2012

Six things you probably didn't know about Edwin Encarnación

Everybody is aware that the Toronto Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion went all Bautista on us in 2012 as he suddenly became a premier slugger in baseball. Everyone is aware that he hit 42 homers and slugged .557 en route to a .941 OPS. Everybody also wonders if he can repeat those numbers after coming from nowhere to have that kind of season. But there are things that you probably do not know about Encarnacion which may just hint that he is not a fluke.

1. Edwin Encarnación hardly ever hits the ball on the ground. Of all qualifying batters in 2012, only Josh Reddick of the A's had a lower ground ball to fly ball ratio and lower ground ball percentage. Only 33% of Encarnación's batted balls went on the ground for a ground ball to fly ball ratio of 0.67. And since 18.6% of those fly balls went over the fence, that is a good recipe for hitting homers. This is not a fluke as his career ratio is 0.80 and has been under 0.70 in two of his last three seasons.

2. He also has very good plate discipline for a bopper. He only swung at pitches outside the strike zone 24.5% of the time. That is the 25th lowest in baseball. And only 26 other baseball players (qualified for batting title) swung at less of a percentage of pitches than Encarnación who only swung at 41.6 percent of the pitches he saw in 2012. This shows that he has become adept at waiting for something he likes before pulling the trigger. The plate discipline is not a fluke as it was only one percentage point below his career average. The swing percentage was a marked improvement and could be one of the markers of his improved season. His career swing percentage is 46%.

3. For a big guy who hits for power, he does not swing and miss very many pitches. Only 41 qualified batters swung and missed less than Edwin Encarnación's 7.1 swing and miss rate. In other words, he is not just up there hacking. His strikeout percentage was only 14.6%

4. You can't pitch him fast or slow. Encarnación had the fourth highest pitch value against the fastball in 2012. His prowess versus the fastball was 30 wFB. He was also tied for fourth best against the change up. And he was seventh best against the curve. So what DO you throw this guy? Good luck with that.

5. He is a better than average base runner. Not only is it somewhat rare for a slugger to be good on the bases, but he is surprisingly effective at stealing. He doesn't do it a lot, but in 26 attempts over the past two seasons, he has been successful 21 times good for an 80.8% success rate. And that rate exactly matches his career success rate when attempting to steal a base.

6. His 2012 season was as good as it was despite a .266 BABIP. The low BABIP makes some sense since he hits so many fly balls. But still. He hit .286 despite a .266 BABIP. Can you imagine if a few more things dropped in for him? His career BABIP is .280, so he was a bit unlucky in 2012.

There you have it--six things you probably did not know about Edwin Encarnación. Those six things--especially the first five--show at least to this observer that like Bautista before him, Encarnación's season was not a fluke and that he can repeat what he showed us in 2012.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A long fondness for Dwight Evans

Dwight Evans fell off the Hall of Fame ballot in 1999 after three seasons. Only 3.6% of voters thought he was good enough for a vote. And yet, even the estimable Bill James thought Evans merited more consideration. I happen to agree. But then again, I am extremely biased as Dwight Evans was one of my favorite baseball players ever.

"But wait, William," you must be thinking, "weren't you always a Yankee fan?"

That is correct. And yet incorrect. After growing up in New Jersey, I went off to New Hampshire College in Manchester, New Hampshire in the fall of 1974. That January, I met and fell for the mother of my children. Except for a summer, I never went back to New Jersey. Married in 1977, we settled in her home town of Rochester, New Hampshire and lived there for several years and then moved one town over to Lebanon, Maine, where we lived until 1990.

Lebanon was in the sticks. It had gravel pits and not much else. And though cable television started making inroads in the 1970s, it would be years before it would be get out to rural wastelands like Lebanon. The only solution available until late into the 1980s was a television antenna. For years, the only stations we received were two network channels and Channels 38 and 56. Both of the latter were out of Boston and the former of those two carried the Red Sox games.

The period of 1976 through 1978 were great as a Yankee fan because there were three trips in a row to the World Series with two straight wins. But while they were thrilling, they were also exhausting with all the shenanigans of George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin. By 1981, it became intolerable after a strike and the Dave Winfield fiasco. That was the season Winfield went one for twenty-two in the World Series and became Mr. May. Steinbrenner's treatment of Winfield was a total turnoff and between the strike and everything, I was pretty disillusioned.

It was a period ripe for the Red Sox to steal my attention. They were the only team I could watch and players like Dwight Evans, Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens brought me over to the dark side. I liked the Red Sox in the 1980s. The Yankees had become a circus and were away from my vision. What could I do?

While Boggs and Clemens thrilled me with their amazing heroics, it was Dwight Evans that captured my imagination. It's funny how a fan's perception develops totally separate from reality. I did not know that Evans was from Santa Monica, California. In my mind, he became the every-man kind of hero. He was the guy who had to work hard at his craft to be a good player. For a baseball purist, it was obvious that he worked hard at the fundamentals of the game. He worked on positioning, footwork and arm angles with his play in right field and worked extra hard to become a good offensive player.

That was probably true of 99 percent of all baseball players, but somehow, you could tell it about Evans. I related to him somehow. I noticed him as far back as 1975. He was only 23 when the Red Sox played that famous World Series against the Big Red Machine. He had started in the big leagues in 1972 as a 20-year old and after his first year cup of coffee, he averaged a little over 400 plate appearances in 1973, 1974 and 1975 as the Red Sox used a rotation that at times included Evans, Tommy Harper and Rick Miller.

But by 1975, Fred Lynn and Jim Rice thundered onto the scene and Evans became more of a regular but split some time with Bernie Carbo. Anyway, the 1975 World Series is famous for the Carlton Fisk homer that we see in highlights every post season and will until eternity. And some even may know that in that game, Bernie Carbo pinch hit and hit a homer that was as big as what Fisk did. But there was another big play in that game that is forgotten.

With the game in extra innings, Ken Griffey was on first in the top of the eleventh and Joe Morgan hit a shot toward Pesky's Pole in right. If it fell in or went over that short porch, the Red Sox might have been done for. But despite the ball slicing away from him, Dwight Evans raced to the corner and made a fabulous catch and for good measure, threw out Griffey at first for the double play. Fisk would hit his famous homer an inning later.

Dwight Evans was a good offensive player from his debut in 1972 until 1980. And with his defense, was a valuable player. But with Lynn, Rice, Yaz, Fisk, etc., Evans usually batted in the lower third of the batting order.

During the 1980 season, Evans became a disciple of Walt Hriniak, who was a disciple of Charlie Lau, who famously helped George Brett become a Hall of Fame player. In actuality, at the time, Hriniak was still a bullpen coach and Johnny Pesky was the "official" batting coach. But several players turned to Hriniak, who would eventually become the batting coach when Pesky retired in the mid-1980s.

Perhaps under Hriniak, or perhaps just his maturation as a player, Evans became a star in 1981. And he exploded. His OPS was 1.054 in April, 1.025 in May and ten games into June went at a clip of 1.018. But then the strike of 1981 hit. Oh no! The strike cost Evans all that momentum or mojo or whatever you want to call it and by the time baseball had lost forty-plus games, Evans would not be the same in the second "half" when he finished those months with an .838 OPS.

But still, Evans led the American League that season in walks, runs created, wOBA, OPS and Total Bases and tied for the lead in homers. In one of the biggest bits of post season idiocy ever, Rollie Fingers won the Most Valuable Player Award despite pitching in only 35 games. The award should have gone to either Evans or Rickie Henderson with a good case to be made for either.

Though Evans had his best season shortened, he was a star offensive player for many years after 1981. Before 1981, Evans averaged a walk percentage a little over ten percent. But from 1981 on, he was frequently in the 15 to 16.9 percent range. He led the league in walks in 1985 and 1987--both seasons over 100. He finished with an OPS over .900 in 1982, 1984 and 1987.

Other than 1981, Evans had his best full offensive season in 1987, his sixteenth season in the majors. His triple slash line was, .305/.417/.569. He was fourth in the majors in wOBA that season. But by then, the Red Sox were having Evans play half his games at first base, so his overall value was diminished.

Evans would play nineteen seasons with the Red Sox and twenty seasons overall. gave him 62.8 rWAR and Fangraphs, 71.4 fWAR. According to Fangraphs, Evans was a better player than Dave Winfield. Jay Jaffe and his JAWS system has Evans as the fifteenth best right-fielder of all time. Everyone ahead of him except for Larry Walker and Shoeless Joe Jackson are in the Hall of Fame and those two should be. And there are quite a few Hall of Fame players behind him.

All that is great. But besides the numbers, Evans simply thrilled this Fan with his grace, his professionalism and his style. Dwight Evans did things the right way. Or at least, that is the way I choose to remember him.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Luis Gonzalez was better than you think

Luis Gonzalez has been persona non grata as a spoken name here in the Tasker household. There was that certain bloop hit in 2001 that ruined everything and ended a dynasty. He is used by some to refute the greatness of the great relief pitcher he hit that bloop against (as if). But that was a long time ago. It wasn't Gonzalez's fault that Torre brought the infield in. The fact is that Gonzalez has been gone from the game for five years now. From this seat, his retirement went unnoticed and his career has had little reflection given. The guy was a better player than people remember. May it dare be said that his career was perhaps a hair or a cut below Hall of Fame caliber?

The trouble with Luis Gonzalez has been the whispers. He played in the era of steroid use. His 57 homers in 2001 are treated with smirks and proof of his guilt. Plus, he is Hispanic, so that paints him guilty by association. But Gonzalez has vehemently denied ever using and to this observer's knowledge, has never been painted with a guilty test. Should we believe him? The answer is ambivalent. Does it make any difference? And yet those 57 homers stick out like a sore thumb. They make him the Brady Anderson of his era.

That season was certainly his peak. It was also an outlier. But it should not detract from what was a long and productive career. Fangraphs and differ on the value of his career. B-R has him at 48 rWAR while Fangraphs gives him ten more wins. On the bottom of his B-R page, Gonzalez passes at least one HOF test. He drove in and scored over 1,400 runs. He accumulated over 2,500 hits. His career in left field led to over 90 runs above average on defense (both sites agree on that). He tallied over a thousand extra base hits. And his career triple slash line was: .283/.367/.479.

His career wOBA was .364 and his career WPA came in at 30.98. This was a terrific player!

Many point to the fact that he did not become a star until he came to Arizona. To those who say that, the association again comes down to PEDs or the fact that Arizona is a nice place to hit with its dry, warm air. The fact long forgotten is that before his Arizona days, he played seven seasons with the Houston Astrodome as his home park. That place was murder on hitters.

Gonzalez endured 1,465 plate appearances in the Astrodome. His OPS there was .738. Just for the sake of comparison, in later years, after the Astros moved to Minute Maid Park, Gonzales (SSS) compiled an OPS over one in that park. Imagine his current stats and then adjust for those 1,465 plate appearances and his numbers would look a whole lot better. Gonzalez also spent more than a year with the Dodgers with Dodgers Stadium as his home field and another year in Tigers Stadium. Both could be tough on hitters.

Luis Gonzalez was better than you think. He walked eleven percent of the time in his career and struck out only a little over eleven percent of the time. His ground ball to fly ball ratio was neutral. He only swung and missed 6.1 percent of the time for his career. All of those things are extremely rare for a slugger. And yet Gonzalez left the game with little fanfare and is largely forgotten since he left. His career has been strangely whitewashed by the times in which we live and that is hugely unfortunate.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Alex Gordon is king of Missouri

If you look at the overall value of non-pitching ballplayers over the last two seasons, you would probably guess most of the top five players. But it is almost guaranteed that you would miss who comes in at Number Five. You have Braun on top. Yup. Cabrera is second. Indeed. Cano is third. Got it. McCutchen is fourth. A mild surprise, but okay. And then there is Alex Gordon. Alex Gordon? Yes, Alex Gordon, the king of Missouri.

And Alex Gordon is one of those rare players where Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference actually agree. Fangraphs says Gordon has compiled 12.8 fWAR the last two seasons. B-R gives him 13.3 rWAR. The problem for Gordon is that he has played for the Kansas City Royals, a team whose celebrated team bloggers are more known for their ire and anger at the team's management than anything else. The Royals have lost 181 games over the last two seasons.

But maybe this season will be different in Kansas City. The additions of James Shields, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis along with a full season of Jeremy Guthrie at least gives the Royals four starting pitchers you can't laugh at like in seasons past. A full season of Salvador Perez should help too behind the plate. If Moustakas and Hosmer find their way after difficult seasons in 2012, Alex Gordon might actually play some games that matter.

If that happens, the Royals might make a national telecast or three. They won't play in a vacuum or a black hole. And then the world might discover just how good Alex Gordon has become.

It was a slow road to get to this point for Gordon. He was the second overall pick in the 2005 draft after a stellar college career. The Royals had Gordon skip all the lower levels in the minors and started him at Double-A in Wichita. Gordon did not seem fazed and clocked a 1.016 OPS there in 2006. But then Gordon suffered the fate of great young talents on really bad teams. He was rushed to the majors.

Gordon, then a third baseman, held his own in 151 games his rookie season. He compiled a .725 OPS in 2007 which was somewhat promising considering he only had one year in the minors under his belt. The following season went even better as he compiled an OPS of .789 or a 109 OPS+. It appeared Alex Gordon was progressing toward the path of stardom.

But then he hit a wall in 2009 and 2010. His star fell so rapidly and his performance suffered so radically, that he was sent to the minors during both seasons. By the start of 2011, Alex Gordon was a former phenom pushed aside by the excitement of the new phenoms in Hosmer and Moustakas. But then an unexpected development happened. Alex Gordon came into his own in 2011 and became the team's best player.

Gordon won a Gold Glove in 2011. Now a left fielder, he led the league in assists. His bat became electric as his wOBA soared to .382. A player that was a symbol of failed promise became one of the best in the league. But was it a fluke? Could he repeat 2011? Or was it a career year that would vanish away again like it had going from 2008 to 2009?

Gordon's 2012 should have put away those questions. His offense fell off just a bit from 2011 to 2012. His wOBA went from .382 to .357. But he was even better in the field. He led the league in doubles with an incredible 51 to give him 96 of them in two seasons. After throwing out twenty runners in 2011, he threw out seventeen more in 2012. His on-base percentage has been over .360 the last two seasons. He has compiled 374 hits the last two seasons. He is the complete package.

And maybe, just maybe, 2013 might be the year when more than just fantasy baseball players will discover just how good Alex Gordon is. Maybe he'll actually make an All Star team. Maybe a third straight Gold Glove will convince a few more people how good he is of a left fielder. If the Royals can become competitive in 2013, then Alex Gordon will become the superstar in people's minds outside of Kansas City.

Alex Gordon is a superstar. And more people should know that. He is the undisputed king of Missouri. Perhaps 2013 will be the season he explodes on the world's consciousness.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Nick Swisher's Yankee obituary

In case you are interested, yours truly wrote Nick Swisher's Yankee obituary over at It's About the Money, Stupid this morning. This is truly an odd and troubling Yankee off season.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Why we root for guys like Jeremy Bonderman

The Seattle Mariners took a flier yesterday and signed Jeremy Bonderman to a minor league contract. While of itself, this is nothing to get too worked up about. Broken down pitchers are signed to such deals every year. Sometimes, like in 2011 with Garcia and Colon for the Yankees, it works out. Most of the time it does not. And to be sure, Tigers fans will probably not root overly hard for Bonderman to make it back to the majors. He became symbolic of failure to that fan base. But for the rest of us, Jeremy Bonderman was not treated very well by baseball and a successful return would be sweet.

Tiger fans will counter that Bonderman made quite a bit of money for his problems, and that would be correct. Bonderman was overpaid by the Tigers his last few years there. But that only seems right because of how his early career was mishandled.

The beginning starts with the Oakland A's and a prominent part in the Moneyball book. Bonderman supposedly was the only high school junior ever drafted in baseball. His draft by Grady Fuson is credited in the book for Billy Beane's famous chair throwing incident. But looking back on that draft somewhat exonerates Fuson. It really was a weak draft in 2001. The top three of Mauer, Prior and Teixeira all were terrific, but the rest of the first round was really a wash. The only case (in hindsight mind you) that Beane has here is David Wright, taken ten picks after Bonderman. And you can probably include Dan Haren, a college pitcher who was not taken by anyone until the middle of the second round.

But it was a mindset by the A's that Beane was supposedly so upset about and that was the odds of a high school pitcher making it were so much higher than a college pitcher or a position player. And Beane was all about the odds. Whether true or not, the A's including Bonderman in a big three team trade a year after that draft was Beane's way of getting even.

And even that was unkind to Bonderman. Sending a young pitcher to the Tigers back in those days was like sending someone to Siberia. The Tigers averaged 96.6 losses a season between 1996 and 2005. This was where Bonderman was thrown. And what is a common theme for a team that has no talent? It is the temptation of pushing talent faster than it needs to be pushed.

And that is exactly what happened with Bonderman. As a nineteen year old in A+ ball in the minors, he was asked to throw 157 innings. And then, inconceivably, the Tigers brought him up the very next year to pitch at the age of twenty in the majors.

The 2003 Detroit Tigers were one of the all-time worst teams ever. They went 43-119 that season. Ouch. And at the age of twenty, Jeremy Bonderman was thrown into that rotation. Predictably, it did not go well. He went 6-19 in 28 starts and 33 overall appearances and pitched 162 innings. He was shut down the last week of the season so he would not reach twenty losses. Which was weird because they did not mind letting the 25 year old, Mike Moroth lose 21. But anyway, that's how it went.

The following season, now twenty-one, Bonderman improved to 11-13 with a 4.89 ERA. But his FIP was 4.27 and his xFIP was below four. The Tigers improved as well and "only" lost ninety games.

The next year was even better as Bonderman went 14-13 with an ERA of 4.57 and a FIP of 3.90. The Tigers still lost 91 games.

But things came together in 2006. Jim Leyland took over for the beleaguered Alan Trammell and the Tigers won 95 games. Bonderman, still only 23 years old, was, according to Fangraphs, the third best pitcher in baseball. He went 14-8 with a 3.29 FIP (this was still in the offensive era). He pitched the game of his life to eliminate the Yankees in the ALDS and extracted some revenge on the A's with a successful start in the ALCS. He again pitched well in the World Series against the Cardinals but the Tigers lost the series.

Bonderman seemed poised to become one of the best pitchers in baseball. And indeed, he started 2007 with a bang. At the end of the first half, Bonderman was 9-1 with a 4.28 strikeout to walk ratio. But all those innings on his young arm must have caught up to him in the second half. He went only 2-8 in the second half with an ERA over seven. He had to have been hurt and sure enough, would lose much of the next two years to injury.

A much weakened pitcher showed up for the Tigers in 2010, his last season in the majors. He did make 29 starts, but was ineffective. His ERA ballooned to 5.53 and his FIP of 4.90 showed that much of it was earned.

After 2010, he disappeared. And he wasn't heard from in 2011 or 2012. This year, he is attempting a comeback and he is only thirty years old. Stranger things have happened (Vogelberg, for example). And the Mariners have taken a chance on him with a Spring Training invitation. The odds are tremendously long. But wouldn't it be cool if he made it? Wouldn't that be fun?

Jeremy Bonderman was not treated very well as a young pitcher. It's all speculation, of course, but that seeming abuse caught up with him in the second half of 2007 and plagued him until his last season in 2010. You have to root for a guy like Jeremy Bonderman. You just have to.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The enigma of Edwin Jackson's market

Unless Edwin Jackson is signed by a team he has already played with, he will be pitching for his eighth team in 2013. He is 29 years old. Switching teams is common for relief pitchers. But young starters who have made thirty or more starts for six straight seasons usually get to hang their hats somewhere for a little while. Durable and above replacement pitchers usually find a home and yet Jackson has played for five teams in the last four seasons. Pitchers a lot less successful than him have already been signed this off season. Jackson seems to be down to two suitors who may or may not be interested in giving the 29 year old a four year deal. Something seems amiss here.

Jackson has gone 59-52 as a starter the last five seasons. He has a sub-four FIP his last three. While control was once a problem, he has a walk rate under three per nine innings in his last two seasons. His ground ball percentage has been over 43% for the last three seasons and over 47% in two of his last three. His fastball has averaged 94.1 MPH for his entire career and was just slightly less than that at 93.5 this past season. He is solid rotation stuff and has shown durability and resilience. And yet his travel trunk is covered with city stickers.

And he is a known quantity. In his last four seasons, his fWAR has been remarkably consistent: 3.6, 3.9, 3.9 and 2.7. That is an average value of $15.5 million per season, good for the 25th highest over that time among all starters. Only seventeen starting pitchers have made more starts than Jackson in the last five seasons. Yet, at this point, only two teams are interested in him.

What are the negatives involved with Edwin Jackson? Oh, there have been hints that he isn't a great clubhouse guy, but we're not really going to buy into that, are we? Yes, he gives up just under one homer per nine innings. His strikeout rate is okay, but not spectacular. He has some trouble going deep into games and has averaged 6.22 innings per start. But half of that at least can be seen as quite a few National League starts where he would be pinch hit for in close games.

But there are signs that he is getting better as a pitcher too. In his last two seasons, the amount of pitches out of the strike zone swung at against Jackson have risen sharply. And last season, the contact rate against those pitches out of the strike zone was the lowest of his career.  His first pitch strike percentage has never been higher than it has been the last two seasons. So it seems clear that he is still learning his craft.

And yet, only two teams are left in the running for the four years and $59 million he is asking. There is an understanding that Edwin Jackson is never really going to be a dominant pitcher. He is not really an All Star kind of guy. But he is a solid three-hole starter with durability and above average stuff. With pitching as thin as it is around baseball, Jackson seems a lot more attractive than the market suggests.

Understandably, Jackson is looking for a place to call home for the next four years. His last four years suggest there are worse options for teams out there. This wanderer seems like a better deal than the market has dictated.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Andruw Jones was Dale Murphy with a rad glove

The offensive similarities between Andruw Jones and Dale Murphy are striking. And since each career encompassed successive generations in the Atlanta Braves' outfield, these similarities are even more fun to consider. Jones had a ten year peak from 1997 to 2006. Murphy had an eight year peak from 1980 to 1987. Both started their careers at a very young age, Jones at nineteen, Murphy at twenty. And both lost their value in their early thirties. The only real difference between the two was defense. And it was this aspect that separated the two players.

Let's look at the offensive numbers:

  • Murphy: 9041 plate appearances, Jones 8664 plate appearances
  • Murphy: 1197 runs scored, 398 homers, 787 extra base hits, 1266 RBI
  • Jones:     1204 runs scored, 434 homers, 853 extra base hits, 1289 RBI
  • Murphy:  .265/.346/.469 = .815 OPS   Jones: .254/.337/.486 =.823 OPS
  • Murphy:  161 stolen bases / 70.3%,  Jones 152 stolen bases / 72%
  • Murphy:  822 non-intentional walks with 1748 strikeouts, Jones: 827 non-intentional walks, 1748 K's.
  • Murphy: 357 career wOBA, Jones: .352 career wOBA
  • Murphy: 121 career OPS+, Jones: 111 career OPS+
  • Murphy: 228 batting runs above average, Jones 163.4
  • Murphy: 10.9% career walk percentage, 19.3% strikeout percentage
  • Jones:     10.3% career walk percentage, 20.2% strikeout percentage
Basically what you see is two similar offensive careers. But Dale Murphy will never get elected to the Hall of Fame and Andruw Jones will be hotly debated. The difference, of course, is defense. Murphy is given -33 runs below average for his career defensively. Andruw Jones is given credit for 236 runs above average for his career and is considered by many to be one of the best center fielders of all time.

And that difference makes up most of the difference as to why Andruw Jones is a 59.5 rWAR career compared to Murphy's 42.6.

They both started young and lost productiveness in their early thirties. Both were iconic during their peaks. And both had eerily similar offensive careers. But Andruw Jones played a pivotal position and he played it better than most who have ever played the game.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dickey's high cost would bring short term rewards for Blue Jays

The pending trade between the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays has people buzzing. Opinions have been bandied about everywhere. While one more voice on the subject might get lost in the cacophony, here is the Fan's take on the deal as it stands in the rumor mill. The deal, if completed, makes the Blue Jays a mighty tough team in the American League East and an instant darling for projections. But it would cost the Blue Jays beyond a two and three year period.

Despite the fact that the Mets may be feeding out nuggets about Dickey to the local media in New York to paint the pitcher in a negative light (see Davidoff's column yesterday for example), R.A. Dickey is a great pitcher whose three year track record seems too good to think he will crumble any time soon. He was 11-5 last season against teams with an above .500 record so don't buy the thought that he will crumble in the AL East. If you take any rotation and remove J.A. Happ and insert R.A. Dickey, you are adding three wins to the rotation.

Then look at that rotation from top to bottom: Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow, R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Ricky Romero. That is pretty sweet and should rival any rotation in the American League. Add that to the additions on offense and the Blue Jays--at least on paper--are mighty impressive.

So, yes, this deal makes a lot of sense for the Blue Jays and bringing Josh Thole, who is used to catching Dickey, along for the ride makes sense even if John Buck should be a slightly more valuable catcher.

And don't buy the arguments that Dickey is 38 and will fade after another year or so. Phil Niekro, another knuckleball pitcher, pitched effectively for seven years past his 38th birthday. Dickey has found himself and it is irrelevant at what age he found it. His consistency the last three years should put aside all doubts.

But then there is the cost. And it is steep. Basically you are trading away seven years of cheap control on two (albeit unproven) talents in Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. As an aside: Do the Blue Jays have any prospects that are easy to spell!?

Anyway, d'Arnaud is a major offensive talent that has some question marks about where he will play in the field. He was drafted a catcher, but some, including the Blue Jays, question his defensive ability behind the plate. He played quite a bit of first base and DH this past season in the minors. But the guy seems to be a "can't miss" offensive player who could preferably play behind the plate adequately.

It is hard not to drool at Syndergaard's minor league stats thus far in his two short years at the lowest level in the minors. A K/9 rate over ten and a BB/9 rate under three is a pretty sweet combination. He is six foot, five inches which is just want you want to develop an incredible downward angle at the plate.

He is too young and new to have made any top prospect lists. But Syndergaard was a 38th overall pick in the 2010 draft.

Your host here has always subscribed to the "prospects are lottery tickets" theory. The odds are better than the lottery, but a prospect becoming the player projected once he gets to the big leagues is always a long shot. A proven commodity like Dickey for two lottery tickets does make short term sense if short term means three years or so.

But if d'Arnaud and Syndergaard find success in the big leagues once they arrive, this deal will be discussed for many years to come...if it happens, that is.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Welcome the the American League, Astros

Major League Baseball history will occur in a few months as the Houston Astros switch to the American League. The move and its timing could not have been worse for the team's fans. Read all about it in this month's issue of Big Leagues Monthly. Inside you will find this article but also sixty pages of terrific baseball writing.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Judging Alfonso Soriano by his contract

When a baseball player signs a historically bad contract, he ceases to be judged by his play on the field. Instead he is judged against his contract. There seems to be something unfair about that. Alfonso Soriano, like Zito on the Giants, will always be looked at with skepticism. He is ridiculed and derided for the fact that he cannot earn his pay. Is that really fair? The Cubs, who gave Soriano that contract, should be the ones ridiculed. They are the ones that gave him all that money. Because if you take away the money, Soriano has not been that bad a player for the Cubs.

It is not like Alfonso Soriano rolled up in a ball and quit playing. To date, the Cubs have paid him $97 million. And according to Fangraphs, Soriano has been worth $84.3 million for his time with the team. That's not terrible. Average that out over six seasons with the Cubs and that is an average playing value of $16.05 million a season. How would we perceive Soriano if he did not make that kind of money? We would perceive him totally different.

First, we all know that Soriano has holes in his game. He will never be the prettiest outfielder. And that was after he was a pretty disastrous second baseman. He has not had a Hall of Fame career. But he has had a nice career. His career wOBA is .351--not Hall of Fame material, but productive nonetheless. His career triple slash line is: .273/.323/.505. He has 836 career extra base hits including 372 homers. He has scored more than a thousand runs and driven in more than a thousand runs.

In his prime, he reached the 30/30 mark in homers and stolen bases four times. He has 270 career stolen bases with a 78% success rate. He is 103 hits away from 2,000. That is not a bad career. That is a pretty good career.

And how come a guy like Soriano is not given the benefit of the doubt when he was underpaid for several years before he struck it rich? Soriano has built a playing value (again, according to Fangraphs) of $147 million in his career and he has been paid $121+ million. In the grand scheme of things, he has earned his keep.

There is an inherent unfairness that Soriano will always be judged for his contract. It seems petty. This has been stated many times in this space, but bears repeating one more time: Which of us would not put a pen to such a contract? Which of us has ever said to our bosses, "No, really, Joe, you are overpaying me. Stop it already." None of us.

What a player makes is the team's problem and purview. The team either takes a gamble or a calculated risk. Sometimes the team loses. The Cubs lost this one. That has nothing to do with Soriano. Their decision should not make Soriano a scorned and ridiculed player. Separate the player from his contract. And when you do that, Alfonso Soriano has given baseball more good moments than bad ones.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Kevin Youkilis and right-handed pitching

Kevin Youkilis became the latest in a long, long line of aging ballplayers the Yankees have signed over the years hoping to wring one last cup of tea from the old teabag. Before Youkilis, there was Chavez and Ibanez and before that Sheffield and Mondesi and before that Boggs and it goes on and on. And quite often, the ploy has worked. Chavez and Ichiro worked wonders in their time in New York. And so the Youkilis deal makes sense if you see this history. And everyone knows that Youkilis has steadily declined over the last two seasons and has had trouble staying on the field. The answer of why that has happened is easy to see and lies largely in his platoon splits.

Youkilis does have a pronounced split for his career. But not overly drastic. Against left-handed pitching in his career, he has an OPS of .928 with a triple slash line of: .298/.417/.511 compared to an OPS of .843 against right-handed pitching with a triple slash line of .277/.371/.471.  It is doubtful that anyone would sneeze at those kinds of numbers. 

But his ability to hit pitchers who throw from the right side has a distinct curve of growth from the early part of his career to a peak and then a decline and suddenly a cliff. Here are his OPS and strikeout percentages against right-handed pitching for his career:

If you have trouble seeing the numbers, just click on them. To see those numbers put in chart form:

The blue line on the chart is his OPS and the red line is his strikeout percentage. wOBA shows a similar curve pattern, so there is no need to use that as corroborating evidence.

The fact is that Youkilis did just fine against left-handed pitching the last two seasons with OPS figures of .987 and .878 respectively.

The guess here would be the effects of aging combined with his unorthodox stance and approach. There is a lot that has to happen to get a bat from that high above your head to the hitting zone. When Youkilis was younger, he was probably much quicker in getting that to happen against right-handed pitching. Now that he is older, he is not getting there as quickly and is easier to fool.

He gets a slightly longer look from pitchers who throw from the left side and can adjust to the pitch more effectively.

The big question is whether or not Youkilis is open to change. If so, Yankees batting coach, Kevin Long, helped Curtis Granderson with split problems Granderson had against left-handed pitching. But Youkilis will need to be open to such a change.

The situation is similar to what Yastrzemski did with the Red Sox years ago. Yaz also had a pronounced stance with the bat high over his head. When he got older, he made a sudden move to lower his hand position in his stance and it probably helped him last long enough to pad enough numbers for the Hall of Fame.

Youkilis probably started too late in his life to pile up necessary numbers for any post-career accolades. But this guy used to be one of the most feared hitters in baseball. If he is going to help the Yankees and rebuilt his offensive reputation, he is going to have to adjust now that he is older to hit right-handed pitching and he needs to do so in a hurry after such a precipitous fall. If he does not adjust and continues this trend, he better stash these paychecks away as he won't see them again..

Monday, December 10, 2012

Five reasons why Michael Young will bounce back with the Phillies

Rangers fans are left this week pondering the mixed legacy of their now departed Michael Young. As a legacy member of that team, Young had produced far more positive moments for the Rangers than the other way around. But his contract--which is not his fault--combined with two episodes of whining at position changes despite that contract--which is his fault--led to a falloff of some of that fan ardor. Add to the mix his horrid 2012 and the prospect of less playing time in 2013 and you have the perfect timing of his trade to the Phillies. And while it is true that he has little way else to go but up after last season, there are reasons to suspect that he will bounce back for his new team.

Let's look at five good reasons why Michael Young will bounce back in 2013:

  1. It seems clear that Michael Young never gelled in the designated hitter position and is much more comfortable playing in the field. In 2012, his triple slash line as a DH was: .265/.295/.367 in 292 plate appearances. In 108 plate appearances as a third baseman, his triple slash line was: .307/.352/.396. Yes, there is an element of small sample size there but looking at his career splits, he has compiled a career OPS as a DH of .784 while compiling a career OPS of .817 as a third baseman. The Phillies intend to make him their starting third baseman which will allow him to concentrate on just one thing.
  2. There were some anomalies in his batting stats for 2012 compared to the rest of his career. For example, looking at his batted ball data, Young traditionally had a ground ball to fly ball ratio of 1.5. That skyrocketed to 2.22 in 2012. His line drive percentage remained high, but his increased number of ground balls led to a BABIP of .242 on batted balls with that trajectory and a lowering of his historical BABIP from .334 (career) to .299 last year. Let's say that was a fluke and his hit trajectory goes back to his career norms, then he'll bounce back. 2012 also saw an uncharacteristic loss of plate discipline. For his career, he has swung at only 23.3 percent of pitches out of the strike zone. That rate has been closer to 30 the past three seasons and 33 percent in 2013. If he gets back on track in that category, that will also help.
  3. Michael Young played in a very tough pitching division last season. The Angels and Athletics had shutdown starters and even the Mariners could bring King Felix. Young moves to a division where he will face the Mets nineteen times and the Marlins eighteen times. Both of those teams should have difficulties maintaining a rotation, especially if the Mets jettison Dickey. Plus, the Mets boast two left-handed starters in Santana and Niese and Young kills left-handed pitching.
  4. One glaring statistical anomaly for Young in 2012 was his loss of effectiveness against the fastball. For his career, Young has compiled 147.3 runs above average against the fastball, an average of 14.7 runs above average per season. The prior three years, he averaged 24.3 runs above average. And then suddenly, he scores a -7.1 against the fastball in 2012!?  That will bounce back.
  5. The statistical gurus state that walk years on player contracts have not statistically proven to be that much better than a player's normal seasons. But it still matters. There is a renewed emphasis to get one last contract and to prove his career is not over. That combined with a new situation with a new team will give him all kinds of incentive to get back to some semblance of his normal self.

Look, Mighael Young has always been a mixed bag as a player. He has compiled better than decent wins above replacement on offense while losing a third of that total with his defense. He was overrated and overpaid with the Rangers. But on the Phillies, all he has to do is his part and he will help what was a pretty pathetic offense in Philadelphia this past season. Write it down: Michael Young is going to have a bounce back season.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Vance Worley a nice move by the Twins

After trading Denard Span to the Nationals earlier in the off season, it seemed rather odd that the Minnesota Twins would also trade his replacement, Ben Revere. However, the Twins improved their present rotation with Vance Worley in the deal and also received a decent prospect in Trevor May. With the myriad of problems the Twins had last season, the pitching was the largest problem and Worley should be a nice improvement.

To be honest, Revere for Worley straight up would have been a good deal for the Twins. To get May in the deal as well is a bonus. You might not agree from casually looking at Worley's statistics for 2012. A 6-9 record with a 4.20 ERA and 1.511 WHIP hardly seems like an improvement for the Twins who gave up more hits as a pitching staff in 2012 than any other American League team. The Twins also finished next to last in runs allowed and homers allowed and were dead last in strikeouts.

But sometimes you have to go deeper than those surface stats to see the bigger picture. The linked article at the top of this post indicated that Worley battled most of the year with a bone chip in his elbow. The chip was removed in a September operation that ended Worley's season. If you look closely at Worley's numbers, you can see the effect of the injury in his pitching.

For example, His velocity was down slightly and his slider went from being a very good pitch for him in 2011 to being terrible in 2012. His fastball also went from 10.2 runs above average in 2011 (7.3 according to PitchF/X) to -0.6 in 2012 (-3.1 for PitchF/X). Clearly, the elbow problem had to figure into some of the loss of effectiveness in those pitches.

The clearest indicator of the problem came with how he fared against left-handed batters. In 2011, he held left-handed batters to a triple slash line of: .201/.271/.299. Those numbers went silly in 2012 and against those same sided batters, his triple slash line was: .312/.386/.462.

One last indicator of how the injury affected his pitching: In 2012, batters across the board had better plate discipline against Worley last season. During his cup of coffee season in 2010 and his larger season of 2011, batters would swing at 28 percent of Worley's pitches out of the strike zone. That number fell off to 26.4 percent in 2012. It seems pretty clear that Worley was not as able to fool batters last year as he did the year before.

Even so, Worley's season was not quite as bad as it looked. His ERA was 4.20 but his FIP was 3.85. His xFIP and SIERA were also lower than his actual ERA. Some luck had to be involved too as his BABIP rose to an extremely high .340 after finishing at .283 the season before. Also consider that in all nine of Worley's losses, the Phillies scored two runs or less.

What should we expect from Vance Worley in 2013? His strikeout rate should remain nearly the same. His 7.2 rate per nine in that category was almost a full strikeout less than his 2011 rate. But that will be offset from not pitching to pitchers every nine at bats. His three-plus walks per nine should improve as the Twins really emphasize that aspect. His OPS against at home last year was a ghastly .861 compared to .739 on the road. With friendlier dimensions at Target Field, those numbers should improve.

The key for the Twins will be how well Worley bounces back after his surgery. If his pitches return to the bite of 2011, then they will have made one heck of a deal. But even if he pitches to his 2012 numbers, which seems hardly likely, he will be better than three of the five rotations spots the Twins were throwing out there last season.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Fun with Randy Choate

The Cardinals have signed the ultimate LOOGY and got Scrabble a playmate. Randy Choate is a Cardinal. And not only is the 37 year old going to be the other "left-handed specialist" for the St. Louis club for 2013, his contract is for three years.

Now how can you call Choate the ultimate LOOGY? After all, there was Tony Fossas and Graeme Lloyd and Alan Embree that came before Choate. But Choate has taken things to the extreme. How so? How does this grab you? Of all the pitchers in history that have pitched in 475 or more games--and there have been 197 of them all told--none have pitched less total innings than Randy Choate's 309.

"But, William," you might ask, "a lot of those guys pitched in more games, right?" Well, yes, that's right. But it doesn't end there. All of those 197 pitchers and their innings pitched and games were moved over to a spreadsheet. Then the innings pitched were divided by the games. And of all those 197 pitchers, only one other pitcher had fewer innings pitched per outing.

Mike Myers pitched from 1995 to 2007 and averaged .613 innings per outing. Randy Choate has averaged .649 innings pitched per outing. So you could call Myers the king perhaps. But Randy Choate is right there.

But it goes beyond even that. Take Randy Choate's 2012 (Please!): Choate became the only pitcher in baseball history that pitched in more than 75 games in a single season and compiled less than 40 total innings. He actually pitched 80 times and 38.2 innings.

And there is more. Randy Choate is the only pitcher in history who made at least 80 appearances in a season and compiled less than 45 innings pitched. And he has done it twice! There was last season and he also did it in 2010.

But there is a reason, perhaps, why Choate continues to make a decent living. Of all the 197 pitchers who have more than 475 outings, none of them have given up less hits and less homers than Randy Choate. He has made up for the hit stat a bit by giving up too many walks in his career, but even so, that is pretty impressive.

Except Randy Choate is not impressive. His fastball zips in there at 86 MPH. His slider at 76 MPH is slower than most pitchers' curves. Even so, his career OPS allowed against left-handed batters is .563. For his career, left-handed batters have batted .201 with a .278 on-base percentage. His work against lefties would compare to a 68 OPS+. That's pretty amazing.

And yet, batters from the right side have gotten on base against him at a .404 clip. That kind of split has created what he has become. And what he has become is a guy who only faces lefties and if he ever faces a right-handed batter, it is by accident. 52 batters got that pleasure in 2012 and reached base at a .474 clip.

That is Randy Choate in a nutshell. He is the ultimate "left-handed relief specialist." And while people snicker at the longevity of his career and the slop he throws up there, he makes a very good living just the same and really does have the last laugh..

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Why so many bad hitters become hitting coaches

The thought about hitting coaches has been rolling around inside the noggin for quite a while and was crystallized last night at the news the Cardinals were seeking to make Bengie Molina their assistant hitting coach. Molina played thirteen years and was not a terrible hitter. Molina, one of the slowest players ever to play baseball even hit for the cycle once while visiting Fenway Park. But Molina had several flaws. First, he was allergic to walks. Second, he hit into a lot of double plays. These batting flaws made him a valued catcher who could hit a little bit. Now he is going to coach hitting.

Think about some of the more famous hitting coaches. There is Rudy Jaramillo, most recently of the Cubs and the longtime guru of hitting for the Rangers. Jaramillo played three seasons in the minors and finished with a career there of .679. Kevin Long, the respected hitting coach of the Yankees, played eight years in the minors and finished his career there with a .710 OPS. He hit a wall in Triple-A where he compiled an OPS of .595 in 471 plate appearances.

In fact, other than Mark McGwire, few hitting coaches could hit their own way out of a paper bag. So why then do they get where they are?

The most obvious reason is that great hitters get rich while they are playing and have no need to coach once they are done. This is a relatively modern phenomenon. No players got really rich before the Marvin Miller days and even the good ones would hang around the game. But say you make $100 million in your career? There is no need to coach then, is there?. Wade Boggs tried it for a year with the Rays. That was it.

And so the bulk of your coaches come from the rank and file baseball lifers. Kevin Long has been around forever as has Jaramillo. But can you be a good hitting coach if you couldn't hit yourself? Yes, well probably. It is often easier to see flaws in someone else than it is to feel your own body screwing up. Baseball lifers have been around coaches for years and pick up things along the way. So it makes sense from that perspective.

But it seems to be unique with baseball. For example, in real life, you wouldn't go to learn piano from someone who couldn't play the piano. Apprentices have long studied under masters. Sure, the apprentice can someday far outshine the master when gifted. But that has been the way it has worked for ions.

But in baseball, the coaching of millions of dollars of batting talent is left to guys who had no talent of their own. It's just weird. Of course, there are many experts that wonder if coaches have any positive or negative effect on their teams anyway. Kevin Long's prize pupil, Curtis Granderson, made Long look like a genius in 2011 but a dunce in 2012. That's baseball and players go in funks and on streaks no matter what a coach may do. At least that is what some people say.

Once the dust settles and teams fully hire their coaching staffs, we'll rate the teams according to the career of their hitting coach. Suffice it to say McGwire will probably top that list. But until then, let's leave you with some Twitter musings on where this post started. Say Bengie Molina coached his hitters on the way he played. What would that sound like? Maybe something like this:

Bengie Molina as a hitting coach: "You think hitting Kershaw is tough? Try doing it with fingers bent like pretzels."

Bengie Molina as a hitting coach: "Don't hit a line drive to an outfielder, cuz then they can throw you out at first base."

Bengie Molina as a hitting coach: "Shoot, I framed more strikes for my pitcher than I ever took in my life."

Bengie Molina as hitting coach: "Don't worry about that plate discipline crap. As long as you swing and miss less than 10%, you're fine."

Bengie Molina as hitting coach: "Being in tip top shape is overrated. Look at me! I played thirteen years."

Bengie Molina as a hitting coach: "Hit the ball on the ground. You can make two outs for the price of one and keep your pitcher in rhythm."

Bengie Molina as a hitting coach: "Swing at everything. Be aggressive."

Monday, December 03, 2012

Hanson just adds to the Angels' rotation question marks

The Angels of a year ago went into the season with their rotation feted as the strength of the team. Yes, they went out and got Pujols, and no one knew Trout was going to explode the way he did. The rotation was what impressed everyone. Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana were considered a formidable top four and Jerome Williams was a cut above for a fifth starter. But the rotation did not work out as most expected.

Weaver was as good as ever, but Haren had health problems and was not as effective after the early part of the season. Wilson seemed rather ordinary for most of the season and Santana struggled early and often in the season. Jerome Williams could not stay healthy. And even Zack Greinke picked up late in the season could not help the team reach the playoffs in what has become a very tough division.

With Haren, Santana and Greinke all gone this off season, the Angels needed to rebuild a bit and Tommy Hanson ended up being their target. Knowing the Angels, they might not be done working to improve themselves, but Hanson was a pretty bold statement. After all, Hanson is only 25 years old and started his career with three straight seasons with a WHIP of under 1.2.

But Hanson adds another layer of question marks. He did not have the same sort of season for the Braves last season. His WHIP ballooned to 1.454 and for the first time in his career, he gave up more hits than innings pitched. He also gave up home runs at an alarming rate.

The Angels really did not give up much to get Hanson. Jordan Walden will cross the river to get baptized in someone else's pond. He joins an already deep bullpen for the Braves. But he had lost his closer role to Ernesto Frieri and it was apparent that the Angels did not trust him on the mound.

Knowing the little return the Braves allowed themselves to unload Hanson, you have to wonder about the pitcher the Angels are now counting on as the third guy in their rotation. The real big deal you notice right off the bat with Hanson is that he has lost three miles per hour on his fastball since 2010. The loss of velocity was shown across all of his pitches. Combine those facts with one strikeout per nine less in 2012 compared to 2011 and you see a few flags fly up.

From this perspective, the Angels have too many question marks in the rotation behind Weaver. Wilson just doesn't often seem that impressive and his numbers for the Angels were just a tick above ordinary. There are red flags with Hanson. Garrett Richards is pegged as number four and has not blown anyone away in either the high minors or in his two cups of coffee. Round out the thing with Jerome Williams and his hard sinker.

The good news is that the Angels have not given up much to get Hanson. But the not so good news is that Hanson is not someone to be overly excited about either. There are only three possibilities here. Either Hanson was not healthy and can get his velocity back. Or he is still not healthy. Or, finally, that at twenty-five, we've already seen the best of what Hanson has had to offer. The Angels are hoping that the first possibility is the one that they get.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

One Fan's Hall of Fame Ballot

The BBWAA released the official ballot for the 2013 Hall of Fame today and by now you have all seen it and have read a dozen or more responses. This is your lucky day because you have now stumbled on one more opinion. And no, your host here does not have the privilege of actually casting a ballot. But, yes, there are strong opinions here on what should be the outcome and what we all know will be the outcome.

The moral majority of baseball writers have undoubtedly voted in a PED user into the HOF already. They have also voted for a pitcher who admitted for years that he threw an illegal pitch because it gave him an edge and even wrote a book about it.

Is there a wish here that the steroid era had never happened? Yes. It is a permanent stain that cannot be cleansed. But it happened. And there were a majority of players that used. Even today, there are people getting away with methods that might be spurious to give themselves an edge. The truth is that if Tris Speaker or Ty Cobb could have done something to get an edge, at least one of them would have done so if they thought they had a reasonable chance of getting away with it.

And so the solution for this block of writers is to make a sham of the Hall of Fame by keeping most of the best players of a generation out of Cooperstown. And until they die off of old age (hopefully in the most peaceful of all ways), we are stuck with these annual Mother Superiors putting Barry and Mark in the corner with dunce caps.

This writer will never give in either. There is a stubbornness on this side just as strong as there is on the other side. The trouble is that the other side holds all the marbles. The pen used to be mightier than the sword. But the keyboard? Maybe not.

Okay, enough with the verbal gymnastics. Get to the ballot already, right? Okay, okay. So let's get this done. The real voters get ten slots, right? So here is one through ten:

  1. Barry Bonds - The best player of his generation
  2. Roger Clemens - The best pitcher of his generation (yes, Pedro had a better peak)
  3. Tim Raines - The second best lead off guy of his generation
  4. Mike Piazza - The best offensive catcher ever.
  5. Jeff Bagwell - A no brain pick
  6. Craig Biggio - The on-base machine
  7. Mark McGwire - Not just a one trick pony.
  8. Larry Walker - Wrote about his case last season.
  9. Rafael Palmeiro - The numbers are there, man.
  10. Sammy Sosa - Can't stand the guy, but he has a case.

Just missed:

Stars could have aligned to make Brian Wilson a Yankee

After the Yankees learned that Soriano had opted out of his contract. And if Mariano Rivera had decided not to return for another season, the Yankees might have felt insecure about the back end of their bullpen. And if Brian Wilson was non-tendered by the Giants as has been speculated, the stars might have aligned to bring Brian Wilson to New York. Can you imagine?

What makes thinking about such a scenario so delicious is that the Yankees have a strict appearance code. Consider poor Darnell McDonald who the Yankees picked up after he was waived by the Red Sox. The dread-locked, bearded McDonald had to remove all of those dreads and the beard to join the Yankees. For his efforts, he received four plate appearances and appeared in four total games before disappearing into oblivion.

Now imagine Brian Wilson getting his best offer to pitch for the Yankees. The first thing he would have to do is shave that thing on his face. And he would once again look like this guy:

What would be the benefit to Wilson if such a scenario had happened?
  • His reputation might once again have to be built know...his pitching instead of his "costume." 
  • He would save a ton of money on black hair dye.
  • Half of baseball fans in the world would stop thinking of him as some kind of clown.
  • He would no longer make watercolor paintings after eating tomato soup.
  • Thousands would cheer and it would be an attention-seeker's bonanza to have a public ceremony in cutting that thing.
  • A half a dozen parody Twitter accounts would be lost and wouldn't know what to do with themselves.

Now sure, the beard has become a bit of a crutch for Mr. Wilson and it might be a bit tough to adjust to life without it. And he might not be willing to do it. Daniel Rathman, baseball writer and Twitter bud, said, "I honestly think he would refuse to sign with the Yankees purely because of that."

Maybe so. But what a spectacle it could have been. The danger of writing this piece, of course, is that some Giants fans might be offended. And apologies if that is so. But, to be sure, a couple of World Series titles in the last three seasons should take some of that edge off.