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Major League Baseball: Projecting Chance of Making the Hall of Fame

Post originally published at the author’s blog, with various code removed.

It is the favorite time of year for many a sports nerd like myself: the time when the Baseball Writers Association of America will make their picks for the Hall of Fame, and when the blogosphere is best equipped to mock and ridicule the inconsistent logic of many esteemed writers.

It is also a favorite time for anyone who has ever said, “I cannot believe they voted for…,” or how someone was robbed (see Whitaker, Lou).

Last year’s epic battle, in my mind, was the one about Edgar Martinez. Supporters cited his batting numbers that were comparable to legends while playing in a mediocre hitting park, and his career that shows no signs of PED use. His detractors cited that he was a designated hitter, and that his career is short.

When all was said and done, Martinez received a mere 36.2 percent of the vote, less than half what one needs to reach the Hall of Fame. So, what would Edgar’s chance of reaching Cooperstown, knowing this?

Would you believe a 69.09 percent chance?

It seems counter-intuitive that when one is yet to convince almost two-thirds of the remaining voting base of his greatness, six years after his career ended, that anything would change so rapidly.

However, it occurs constantly, as only two men from 1976-97 received a higher share of the vote on their first ballot and missed out on the writer’s election. One of which, Jim Bunning, eventually gained access through the Veterans Committee.

As we saw from yesterday’s post, the logit model can provide a powerful probability estimator given a dummy dependent variable. In this case, we test whether someone reached the Hall of Fame (y=1) or not (y=0).

To perform this analysis, I looked at all Hall of Fame votes from 1976-97, and took the percent share of the vote obtained by all players on their first ballot, excluding those who received less than five percent of the vote (indicating a probability of being elected to the Hall of 0, and a small chance of being elected by the veterans’ committee). Through this process, I obtained a data sheet of 59 players, as can be seen here.

Right away, one can make general assumptions. Thirty-three of the 59 players listed were eventually elected to the Hall, a 55.93 percent success rate. Additionally, three more were elected by the veterans’ committee, leaving the total success rate of the group at 61.02 percent.

Simply clearing the first obstacle of making it past the first ballot seems to bode well for the eventual success of candidates.

However, this analysis is imperfect. The success rate includes players who were elected on the first ballot, and had no resistance in making the Hall. Once again, though, we can easily run a logit model regression on the data.

After performing the data analysis, one comes up with two equations, referred to within the blog post.

The results are probability moderately encouraging for my fellow Edgar fans. Not even including the Veterans Committee option, Edgar currently stands as better than a coin flip’s chance of reaching the Hall, at 56.32 percent. With the Veterans Committee, this probability spikes to 69.09 percent.

So where are the break-even (50-50) points for both equations? For just the BBWAA vote, it is at around 33.8 percent of the initial vote. For overall Hall of Fame chances, it is at around 28.6 percent.

So for anyone concerned with various parts of the ballot, such as Jeff Bagwell’s low initial support, rest assured, the numbers give him a shot that far exceeds a coin flip for being enshrined.

Also note that Barry Larkin has a 91.9 percent chance of reaching Cooperstown, and heck, even Fred McGriff has a 32.2 percent chance of reaching the Hall someday given his first ballot performance.

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Worst of The Worst: Ranking The Cellar Dwellers of Major League Baseball

It has been a season to forget for many teams.

While many teams, whether it be from front office mismanagement, injuries, or simply bad player performances, have disappointed in 2010, among them the Red Sox, Mets, Cubs, and Dodgers. Fortunately for these teams, however, it could be worse.

They could be the Orioles, Royals, Mariners, Nationals, Pirates, or Diamondbacks.

These are the six teams at the bottom of their respective divisions (the Royals are actually tied with the Indians, but are included as the representative team based on a worse Pythagorean W-L). Which team deserves the dubious title of “worst”, however?

Defining the worst is a tough process, and multiple factors go into it. Of course, 2010 performance has to be weighed heavily into the mix, but all six of these teams performed badly. Luck must also be considered (example, if the team significantly underperformed their Pythagorean W-L, like the Cardinals have), as must the team’s expected performance going forward.

Without further adieu, and using Jeff Zimmerman’s preseason rankings as a farm system point of reference, here are the rankings of the six bottom feeders in MLB, in order from most to least hope in 2011.

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Lou Piniella: Quick Retirement Ends His Overrated Career

“A good ball club” – Yogi Berra, when asked about what makes a good manager.

Recent history has shown what a good baseball team can do to the perception of a manager.

Dusty Baker suddenly has his “magic” back now that the Reds have stocked up with great young talent, and veterans that still have the skills like Scott Rolen.

Joe Torre is suddenly just another guy now that the Dodgers consist of a mediocre roster.

Joe Girardi went from a failure in 2008 to a great manager again in 2009.

Terry Francona went from a failed Phillies manager to a great Red Sox manager.

Even the legendary Casey Stengel, winner of 7 World Series with the Yankees, was 756-1146 (yes, a sub 40% win percentage) without those legendary teams. 

Going back to 2010, fans have laid witness to the ultimate destruction of Lou Piniella‘s mystique. 

Piniella’s reputation was ultimately built on two seasons, his 1990 World Series winning Reds season, and the 2001 Mariners in their excellent 116 win season. Ultimately, though, it is the players who made those seasons happen, not the manager. If team success is the definition of the manager, then what happened in his time with the Yankees, Rays, and Cubs?

Let’s look closer at the last two teams on that list, the two that ultimately defined Piniella’s abilities once he was stripped of rosters brimming with All Stars.

The Rays obviously saw no success under Piniella, and it was in fact the only stop he ever made where he ended up without a winning record. While those Tampa Bay teams were horrible and blaming Piniella would be totally unfair, it does clearly show my initial point: Managers are not miracle workers, which is something that seems to prevail in some groups about Lou.

The self-destruction has really occurred, however, during his time with the Cubs. After success was found in his first two seasons (mostly due to the fact that he is not Dusty Baker), things began to go downhill in a hurry in 2009. 

His most apparent failure in 2009 was in the case of Alfonso Soriano. Soriano, a massive investment for the Cubs, was struggling and was most likely injured. Rather than managing his players and identifying the injury, he continued to play Soriano until early September, when he reported that he was to undergo knee surgery. All the while, Sam Fuld and his .409 OBP could have helped the Cubs bridge some of that gap to the Cardinals in 2009, instead of Soriano and his -0.9 WAR (according to He also elected to use Kevin Gregg instead of Carlos Marmol in the closer/relief ace role for most of the season. While Marmol had obvious control problems, his ability to get strikeouts and not give up home runs made him a better option for the role anyway. Gregg, meanwhile, ended up blowing almost a quarter of his save chances.

2010, however, has seen Piniella absolutely implode as manager.

This season, Geovany Soto, with a 138 OPS+, has proven to be Chicago’s only elite offensive option at any position (though Starlin Castro has been a good hitting SS in his rookie season). One would think a team’s best player would be assured to see the field as often as possible.

However, Soto has only played in 88 of the Cubs 124 games to date. While Soto has missed most of August on the disabled list, Piniella was giving away valuable plate appearances from Soto to Koyie Hill before the fact. Hill rewarded Piniella’s faith with a 31 OPS+ (.504 OPS). 

More bizarrely, and the issue I criticized the most, was moving Tom Gorzelanny to the pen in favor of, more than likely, Carlos Silva and Carlos Zambrano. Gorzelanny had, at the time, been more than likely the best pitcher in the Cubs’ rotation, with a 3.66 ERA, 2.65 K/BB ratio, and 1.355 WHIP. Thanks to horrendous run support, however, he was 2-5 overall, and the Cubs were 2-7 in his starts. Silva, on the other hand, had been the recipient of amazing run support, and had a perfect 7-0 record. While he was doing a fantastic job of avoiding walks, one could not help but notice his .269 BABIP through May, and remember his struggles in Seattle, and not assume regression. Needless to say, Silva’s ERA from May-on has been almost 5.00. Zambrano, in turn, did nothing in 2010 to justify more innings than Gorzelanny, outside of possessing a huge contract. In the number one job of a manager, putting the right guys on the field to help your team win as much as possibly, Piniella completely failed in 2010.

Am I going for the role of devil’s advocate and saying Piniella is a terrible manager? No, it would be completely unfair to discredit the man over a few bad seasons at the tail end of his career. However, I do not believe by any stretch of the imagination that Piniella is a strong manager. 

Ultimately evaluating a manager is difficult. Some decide to simply look at the success of his teams and leave it at that. But how much impact does a manager have over the quality of players at his disposal? Simply put, not a ton.

Evaluating by team record also undersells those managers who were not fortunate enough to inherit terrific rosters. Gil Hodges, the manager of the Miracle Mets of 1969, whom I consider an excellent past manager, had a losing career record, for example. 

So what is my ultimate view of Piniella? The same with almost all managers: just another former ballplayer who ended up as a manager. He was not worse than normal, nor was he better. He just was.

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A Season to Forget: Which MLB Franchise Has Disappointed The Most?


This season has not been a good season for many high-payroll MLB Franchises.

The Red Sox have endured countless injuries, putting their backs against the wall for the Wild Card chase. 

The Tigers and Dodgers both see struggles to claw back into contention.

The Astros, despite a payroll of over $90 million in 2010, were never even considered in the running for the playoffs, especially after a poor off-season of questionable signings. 

Three franchises, however, strike me as the most disappointing in 2010: The Cubs, Mariners, and Mets. Two teams were supremely bankrolled, while one was blessed with a strong 2009 turnaround and an innovative front office that tried to counter previous bad roster decisions with shrewd arbitrage opportunities on players. So what has gone wrong for these three clubs in 2010?

New York Mets:
2010 Payroll: $126,498,096
Record as of 8/10:  56-56

The Mets had a 2009 season to forget, but 2010 had promise. The team signed Jason Bay after a big 36 HR, 134 OPS+ season in 2009 for Boston. Ike Davis was poised to be called up. Jon Niese was ready to go. With a division that had consisted of the Phillies (who, while still very good, are aging), and a Braves team with, at the time, more potential than results, the Mets looked in decent shape to contend.


What went wrong?

For starters, Jason Bay’s season (.259/.347/.405, 102 OPS+, 6 HR) was not exactly what Omar Minaya had in mind. Outside of David Wright and Angel Pagan, the Mets have had mostly mediocre lineup performances, and running Jeff Francoeur’s sub-.300 OBP out to the field every day has not helped matters. Reyes and Beltran have not been the same players in 2010 as they have been in the past, as well. Francisco Rodriguez is having a terrific season (10.73 K/9, 3.14 K/BB, 2.67 FIP), but the rest of the bullpen, collectively, has been mediocre.

Chicago Cubs:
2010 Payroll: $144,359,000
Record as of 8/10: 47-65

Proving that you cannot simply sign championships, the Cubs are reminding fans in a big way of how painful it has been to root for the team since Frank Chance moved on to the Yankees. The Cubs did have reason to believe that a better work environment without Milton Bradley, and a healthier Alfonso Soriano, would help the team immensely, as well as possibly slipping into the postseason via a weak NL Central.

What went wrong?

More like what went right? Aramis Ramirez has gone from a star to a fringe major leaguer, posting a 78 OPS+ and defense that belongs in the AL’s Designated Hitter spot. Derrek Lee, after a brilliant 2009, has begun to show his age as well, posting an 85 OPS+. While Soriano has been solid, he has not played near what you would expect a $19 mil a year player to produce, and likewise for Fukudome at $14 million. Geovany Soto has been the best player in the Cubs lineup, but Piniella gave Koyie Hill 124 PA to produce a 24 OPS+ anyway. Despite Zambrano’s publicized struggles, the Cubs starting pitching has actually been pretty good, but they have been unable to fill in their bullpen spots outside of Marmol (my Nolan Ryan award winner for 2010, hands down) and Marshall.


Seattle Mariners:
2010 Payroll: $91,143,333
Record as of 8/10: 43-70

It was a move that had many baseball minds buzzing: The Mariners, in a very live ball era, looked to turn their focus squarely to defense. While many a Monday morning Quarterback now question the moves, at the time, things seemed intelligent. They signed Chone Figgins to what looked to be a good deal. They traded Carlos Silva for the 2008 AL OPS champion in Milton Bradley. They traded 30 year old Bill Hall for 27 year old Casey Kotchman. And of course, they traded a rather uninspiring crop of prospects for Cliff Lee. Things looked positive for a team coming off an 83 win campaign.

What went wrong?

More like what did not go wrong for these Mariners? While most people expected the offense to be poor, not many could have expected just 3.25 runs per game. Rob Johnson (60 OPS+), Casey Kotchman (72 OPS+), Chone Figgins (81 OPS+), Jose Lopez (65 OPS+), Franklin Gutierrez (89 OPS+), Ichiro (108 OPS+), and Milton Bradley (76 OPS+) have all performed well below where most people would have expected offensively. David Aardsma has crashed back down to earth as well, with just a 4.29 FIP after last season’s 3.01 (but interestingly, the exact same xFIP of 4.12). Cliff Lee was excellent in his time for the Mariners, and King Felix and Jason Vargas have had excellent seasons; however, the rest of the pitching staff failed to deliver as they should have. Gutierrez (2.4 WAR, according to and Ichiro (2.1) are the only members of the lineup with over two WAR currently, and the Wilsons (Josh and Jack, respectively) are the only others with one WAR or more. Their WAR ratings? 1.1 and 1.0. 


Who is the most disappointing?

This is a tough decision. While the Mets have underachieved, I do not think it is them. I predicted the Braves to win that division, and the Phillies to win the Wild Card, the Mets are almost where I expected them to fall.

The Mariners should be one or two on everyone’s list. While not built to be an offensive juggernaut, even a 4.25 run per game team (or about 689 a season) could be right in the thick of things. Thanks to numerous sub-optimal performances, however, the team looks like the laughing stock it was in 2008, despite a much better leadership in the front office.

In the end, though, any team that manages to slip behind the Astros while sporting a $140+ million dollar payroll has to take the cake. The Cubs have been all sorts of problems in 2010, from the ownership, to a manager whose flaws have come out in full force now that he lacks a star studded roster, to the players on the field, the situation in Chicago has been a mess in 2010. The Cubs are constantly able to allot $40 to $50 million more per season in free agent signings than their NL Central counterparts, and have little to no excuse to perform this bad. While the Cubs have hope for the future, given the strong seasons from AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa, the emergence of Starlin Castro, and the good move to pick up Blake DeWitt, this incarnation of the roster has been nothing short of a disaster.

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Stephen Strasburg on the DL: Should The Nats Be Concerned?

Through his first nine career starts, Stephen Strasburg has been nothing short of excellent, posting a 12.4 K/9, 1.067 WHIP, and a 178 ERA+.

In 2002, another rookie pitcher came up and caused quite the sensation. Over his first nine starts (52 IP), he struck out 65, and had a 1.23 WHIP / 3.98 ERA. That pitcher’s name was Mark Prior.

Why would Mark Prior’s name be significant?

Because he is the first name to pop up for many fans whenever a young starting pitcher has difficulty with injuries.

Time and time again, we have seen young starting pitchers with electric stuff, fall by the wayside due to injury issues. The world of scouting often sees no greater challenge than assessing the durability of a pitcher, and in turn, nothing is more scary to many fans than a young future star going down with an injury.

While I am aware of the concern that could surround Strasburg, I am far away from that particular “panic” group, however. Three particular reasons come to mind:

1. It’s a precautionary move.

Strasburg was scratched simply because his arm would not loosen

“They’re taking every precaution with me,” Strasburg said to the media, and it shows.

All former athletes can likely attest to a day when their body simply was not up for the task. With a 47-59 record, and control of Strasburg until 2016, the Nationals have no incentive to push him now. 

2. Baseball is becoming smarter.

Despite what old-time players like Jim Bunning and Ron Darling have to say, baseball is a different game. While great players have existed in every generation of the game, great players are now multi-million dollar investments, and even the most shrewd of front offices cannot make one appear out of thin air.

The Nationals recognize this, as does most of baseball. He is a 22-year-old kid who has already shown he has the ability to rack up Cy Youngs in just 54 1/3 innings. While not appealing to the tough guys of the world, it just makes sense to rest, as Strasburg obviously has little to learn as it is.

3. His manager is not Dusty Baker.

I would take a shot at Baker, wouldn’t I?

Dusty Baker joined the Cubs in 2003 and, despite Prior’s 2002 injury, actually increased his already excessive pitch total from 106.5 per start to 111.3 for the first 19 games of 2003. Needless to say, Prior got hurt again, and kept getting hurt.

Did Baker have an excuse? Of course, the Cubs did, after all, come one win from the World Series. However, the Cubs also had a good bullpen, anchored by Joe Borowski, Kyle Farnsworth, and Mike Remlinger, which could have been used more efficiently. 

Strasburg has been handled far more gently, averaging only 94.2 pitches per start, a workload he is likely more familiar with from his time in college and the minors. While pitch counts are obviously an arbitrary number, 17 pitches (18.2%) of additional workload is a lot for a young pitcher. 

Also factor in this analogy…say you are put in a test where you have to bench press half your body weight, as much as you could, if we say each repetition is three percent more straining than before. Given this, one can say that the summation of stress after 111 reps is a full 70 percent greater than the stress after 94. Suddenly, it makes sense why Prior broke down.

Fortunately, Prior’s fate will likely not be Strasburg’s. The situation around Strasburg is simply more suited for growth and development, rather than having to instantly become the staff ace, workload be damned. Do not worry about Strasburg, he will be fine.

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Jim Wynn: A Deserving Hall of Famer

A .250 batting average, 291 home runs, and 964 runs batted in. Not exactly numbers you would associate with a Hall of Fame outfielder.

The reality is, analysis that only covers the superficial level, such as this, is lazy and has cost many players their rightful spot in baseball history.

I wrote a piece covering this point with Scott Rolen in March due to this fear. Not many baseball players better personify this fear coming to fruition, however, than former Houston Astro great Jim Wynn.

Wynn was a great player, who happened to be slammed by details that have forever caused baseball historians to underrate his impact:

– While walks have never been “not valued,” as shown by the careers of players like Max Bishop, they have almost always lost their place in history, mostly due to the remaining prevalence of batting average. Wynn only hit .250 in his career, but walked in 15.28 percent of his plate appearances.

– The sixties were a horrific run-producing environment. To boot, the Astrodome was a horrible hitter’s park. Given all that, if the average hitter would hit .260/.335/.400 in an average run-producing environment, an average hitter playing for Houston in 1963-1969 would have hit .253/.314/.373. Wynn, in that time, hit .259/.361/.459.

This fact was not even lost on the players: Hank Aaron, after edging Wynn for the Home Run title, declared his belief that Wynn was the “real” Home Run champion due to playing half his games in the Astrodome, while Aaron played in the hitter-friendly Fulton County Stadium.

– Wynn was mired on average to bad teams for his entire Houston career, where the Astros never topped 85 wins. His first experience in playing for a contender was in 1974 for Los Angeles. Wynn responded with a .271/.387/.497 (in still a bad hitter’s park, where the average hitter would have produced .258/.329/.372), and led all Dodgers by a landslide in WAR per baseball-reference , with 8.6.

– Wynn was an okay fielder, but nothing special. Unlike other marginal outfielders, like Andre Dawson, it is likely a stretch to say he was ever a spectacular fielder, where Dawson likely had five seasons of sensational glove work.

So here we are, a career .250 hitter with average defense who only played in the postseason for one season. See why is can be easy to dwell on the bad and not focus on the good?

I would continue to dwell on the bad, such as his batting average, but the BBWAA already did that for everyone in 1983. Let’s, however, look at Wynn’s numbers and relate them to what is important: winning.

According to Jim Wynn’s page on, his offensive production “created” 1,149 runs for his teams (as shown here , Expected Runs and Runs Created formulas are credible ways to estimate a player’s production), while using 5,312 outs, good for a 5.84 RC/27 outs.

Over his career, league average scoring was approximately 4.31 runs per game. This rough estimation says that Wynn was 35.5 percent better than the average hitter (which makes sense, given his career wRC+, a runs created measure meant to adjust for year and ballpark is 137, or 37 percent above average).

It is still hard for a person to think of players in different contexts than what they played in, however, so instead, let’s bring Wynn forward into a more modern, 750-team run-context.

How would his numbers look? Fortunately, baseball-reference and Bill James also provide a handy tool to analyze this issue, and neutralize players to take away advantages gained in hitter eras.

Wynn’s real production has already been listed, .250, 291 HR, 964 RBI. Modest, but not that of a legend.

What does his “neutralized” statistics look like? How about .280 (with an OBP of .402), 341 HR, 1,158 RBI. 

So let’s think of Wynn in this regard. According to fangraphs , only 115 players can be classified as “outfielders” that accumulated 8,000 or more PA. This can be further broken down by performing three filters:

1) Exclude hitters who batted under .270.
2) Exclude hitters with under 300 HR.
3) Exclude hitters with under 1,100 RBI.

This leaves us with a list of 26 players. We can go on to eliminate a few more players (Ken Griffey Jr, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Vlad Guerrero, Larry Walker, Luis Gonzalez) due to not having achieved Hall of Fame eligibility yet.

This leaves us with 19 players: Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Mel Ott, Willie Stargell, Stan Musial, Dave Winfield, Carl Yastrzemski, Billy Williams, Duke Snider, Al Kaline, Harold Baines, Dave Parker, Jim Rice, Ellis Burks, and Al Simmons. Of these 19, 16 are already in the Hall of Fame, with only Ellis Burks having dropped off the Hall of Fame ballot.

So if Burks is simply not good enough, one can assume that Baines and Parker are the “minimum” standard to gain real consideration. 

Parker was a sought-after star in the 1970s and ’80s, and finished his career with a .290 average, with 339 HR and 1,493 RBI. Of course, Parker was a hacker, rarely walking, and despite his offensive skills, was only able to obtain a 121 wRC+. While Total Zone states that Parker was a great right fielder to start his career, his skills in the outfield eroded, and finished his career with 45.7 Wins Above Replacement.

Harold Baines was a good player for a long time. Started off similar to Parker as a hitter, constantly pushing the .300 barrier with good power, but not much in terms of walks and plate discipline. He developed this skill, however, and became a plus-walker in the second half of his career. Of course, Baines also spent well over half his career as a designated hitter, which has to be factored into his offensive production. Despite an excellent 123 wRC+ over an 11,092 PA career, Baines achieved 45.3 WAR.

Wynn’s career WAR? 60.7, which is very close to the 62.3 mark that Andre Dawson is credited with. In fact, looking at a “by-age” career WAR chart of the two men shows a noticeable trend:

WAR chart

Dawson and Wynn are very different, but also very similar. When one was retiring, the other was just entering the league. While both had value as power hitters, one complimented this part of his game with a keen batting eye, while the other with more visually appealing tools.

The end of the day, however, signals that both men equally helped their baseball teams. One man, Andre Dawson, is about to enter the Hall of Fame in a little over one week’s time, and I think he is a deserving candidate. But once again, to the Hall of Fame voters, if Andre Dawson, why not Jimmy Wynn?

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Five MLB All-Stars That Could Be on the Move

The biggest domino fell first: Cliff Lee was traded to the Rangers for a handful of prospects that include 1B Justin Smoak.

However, there are still other players left on the potential trading block that could be destined for new homes, who have also made the 2010 All Star Game.

While even some of the sellers had players get robbed of an appearance in the game, such as David DeJesus and Josh Willingham, the All Star game will serve as a “first glance” for a lot of fans in 2010 of players who will impact their race.

As far as targets go, here are my top five on display at the All-Star Game.

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The 10 Players on the DL That Will Most Influence The Pennant Races

The trade deadline is less than three-and-a-half weeks away, and most teams have solidly positioned themselves as either buyers or sellers to this point. As a result, the buyers are exploring the market and assessing the value in their own farm system in hopes of patching holes that exist in their roster.

Some teams, however, have something that could be even better: Good players coming off the disabled list.

While having their services throughout the year is obviously the most preferable, the boost one of these men can provide for the last two months of the year could be the difference between finishing one game up and one game back.

There is a definite surplus of talent currently on the disabled list. Here are some that can provide a major impact during the stretch run.


10. Clay Buchholz: SP, Red Sox

Has been the Red Sox second-best starter in 2010, thanks to his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark (0.29 HR/9 innings). Though this is an unsustainable rate, given just 3.6 percent of his fly balls have cleared the fence, overall he has pitched well for Boston. 

I was torn between including Beckett or Buchholz on this list, but I went with Buchholz. He will return to form sooner, and his form in 2010 has simply looked better. I think 2011 Beckett is better than 2011 Buchholz, but for now I’m sticking with Buchholz.


9. Jair Jurrjens: SP, Braves

With a K/9 of 6.36 in 2009, most anyone could have told you he was unlikely to repeat his 2.60 ERA season, but the roof fell in on Jurrjens to begin the season.

His rest-of-season projection at fangraphs suggests a 3.67 ERA upon return, which is something one can get from a second or third starter. While the Braves have done well in his absence (eighth in MLB in pitching staff WAR), the re-addition of Jurrjens would be welcome.


8. Manny Ramirez: LF, Dodgers

A lot lower than I suspect a lot of people would think, so bear with me for a bit.

Ramirez, steroids or not, is one of the best hitters of our generation. He is also 38, declining, and whether he wants to or not, has to play defense (and that Dodger outfield situation is bad defensively). 

He is still mashing the ball, though, and is projected to have a .949 OPS the rest of the way, though he has to be docked back some due to this being a Greg Luzinski situation without the Garry Maddox bailout in center.

The Dodgers still appear to be the most talented team in the NL West, but I cannot help but believe in the Padres right now.


7. Rich Harden: SP, Rangers

A lot like Jurrjens, he got off to a bad start and ended up on the disabled list. It is hard to count out a strikeout pitcher’s potential impact upon return, however.

Still just 28, Harden is projected to throw 9.74 strikeouts per nine innings when he returns, and also projects to a 4.28 ERA/4.36 FIP. If Harden can control his walks, however, he could be the man that helps the Rangers to the postseason.


6. Edinson Volquez: SP, Reds

Remember him? Volquez has been on the shelf all year after an injury-riddled 2009. However, he has thrown 24 innings in the minors so far in 2010, and sports a 3.8 K/BB and 0.750 WHIP. 

A returning Volquez could boost an already effective Reds pitching staff, and help increase the Reds chance of escaping with the 2010 NL Central title.


5. Victor Martinez: C, Red Sox

The Red Sox are hurting right now, and perhaps no one’s absence is more noticeable than Victor Martinez. Going from arguably the second best offensive catcher in MLB to a career AAA player in Kevin Cash can do that to almost anyone.

With a 119 wRC-plus before the injury, and a .294/.360/.468 rest-of-season projection, his value is clear compared to the elite duo of Kevin Cash and Gustavo “Not a” Molina. After being swept by the Rays, it is clear the Red Sox need him for their playoff hopes.


4. Dustin Pedroia: 2B, Red Sox

Speaking of a hole, nothing like seeing Bill Hall bobble a putout to remind you who is missing from that spot.

Pedroia was on a torrid pace pre-injury, with a 136 wRC-plus and 3.4 WAR. While his batting line is not expected, according to his projection, to stay quite as good (.304/.373/.466), his effective bat and elite glove will provide the Red Sox with a valuable asset once he returns.


3. Carlos Beltran: CF, Mets

One of the best outfielders in the past decade, Beltran was able to achieve 3.1 WAR in 2009 despite only playing 81 games. 

Clearly he will be playing less in 2010, but his return will provide the Mets a clear improvement over Jeff Francoeur, and could provide a .300/.400/.500 batting line with above-average center field play. With the Mets so close to the Braves, it is a clear boost to the Mets’ chances, and may even be enough to pass Atlanta.


2. Troy Tulowitzki: SS, Rockies

Going into Wednesday, the Rockies found themselves four games back of the Padres for the NL West crown, and are not being helped by having a replacement-level player playing for Tulowitzki. 

Tulowitzki still looks about a month away from returning, but also looks to bring a bat similar to Pedroia, along with similar defense. The difference being, Tulowitzki brings it at shortstop.

The Dodgers are still the class of the West in terms of on-paper talent, and the Rockies need all the star power that they can have to keep in the race.


1. Chase Utley: 2B, Phillies

Arguably MLB’s most underrated player, constantly overshadowed by Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, his importance has shown in his absence.

With an old team designed to win now, the Phillies need Utley on the field to stand any realistic shot of overtaking the Mets for the Wild Card. With a 3.3 WAR, Utley was having yet another exceptional season before he went down to injury.

ZiPS projects a .297/.396/.513 batting line for Utley’s return, but may not be back until September.

Can the Phillies hang on and be close enough so that Utley can make a difference? I am hard-pressed to believe they will, but I like their chances if they can keep within a game or two of Atlanta or New York.


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MLB Trade Deadline 2010: 10 Potentially Available Bats

Nearing the midway point of the season, the differences between the “haves” and “have nots” have become relatively clear. With this, comes the debate of which players from the latter group could help teams in the former.

This season, pitchers seem like the rage in the trade market, with various ideas for Roy Oswalt, Kevin Millwood, and the rejuvenated Brett Myers. However, many of the contenders, such as the Red Sox, Phillies, and Angels, could use assistance in the field and lineup.

While Oswalt is considered the top prize on the market by the media and fans, here are 10 potentially available hitters who could help teams win in 2010.


10) Lance Berkman – 1B, Astros

“Big Puma” is having one of his most forgettable seasons in 2010, currently sporting a mere 103 OPS+. A no-trade clause and relatively high salary (albeit with a $2 million dollar option in 2011) make him a difficult move for Houston, as well.

This all being said, Tampa Bay, Texas, Colorado, and Los Angeles (both of them) might be in the market for a first baseman at the trade deadline.

Berkman has a rest-of-season projection of .272/.384/.492, and a “Grade B ” hitter (according to John Sickels) should be enough to wrestle Berkman from Houston.


9) Ty Wiggington – 2B, Orioles

Lost in the mess that is the 2010 Orioles is a bit of a revelation: Ty Wiggington. Receiving additional playing time due to the loss of Brian Roberts, Wiggington has excelled with the bat, posting a .270/.356/.480 hitting line.

With the struggles of Luis Castillo and Clint Barmes, Wiggington seems like a perfect match for the Mets and Rockies, respectively.

Once again, a “Grade B” hitter should be enough to grab Wiggington in this instance.


8) Austin Kearns – LF, Indians

Remember Austin Kearns? He was a sensation in his rookie year, coming into 2002 as Baseball America’s No. 11 prospect, and hitting .315/.407/.500 for his hometown Reds once he was called up. He looked like a star in the making.

Time has not been nice to Kearns, though, and from 2003-09, he hit for only a 99 OPS+. After two poor seasons in Washington, he looked like he was down to one more chance.

He received this chance in Cleveland, and has so far performed in it. Kearns sports a .279/.359/.438 batting line with 7 home runs, good for a 120 OPS+.

Also attractive about Kearns is that not only is he under contract for just this season (making him an attractive low-risk option), but he is only making $750,000 in 2010.

A deadline deal for him would result in a $250,000 investment for a club, for a guy who is looking to be well worth that money.

Who could use Kearns? The Red Sox have seen their outfield decimated, and their initial low-risk fourth OF investment of Jeremy Hermida has not worked.

Raul Ibanez has struggled in Philadelphia, and the Phillies should be in the market for a role-player at the position.

The Giants could also use some help in right field, as Nate Schierholtz is simply not an MLB starter (it is a shame the Giants do not have a guy like Fred Lewis on their roster, right?).

If the Indians play this right, they could land a top 100 pitching prospect for the services of Kearns.


7) Jose Guillen – DH, Royals

Guillen is finally playing like someone who was signed for 3 years / $36 million, or at least close to it. The career free-swinging problem child is finally making some contact in 2010, and this has helped him to achieve a 118 OPS+. 

The problems with trading Guillen, however, are his high salary, his back-to-back bad seasons, his positional limitations, and his reputation.

However, Seattle has already traded for Branyan and has shown that it will not give up on its 2010 season if the price is right. Could Guillen potentially find himself DH’ing at Safeco?


6) Derrek Lee – 1B, Cubs

Has struggled to the tune of a 86 OPS+/92 wRC+. This being said, Lee is projected to OPS .829 from this point forward, which is certainly a respectable number. 

Lee shares the same problems as Berkman, minus the no-trade clause, and generally the same market.

I rate Lee at No. 6 because I feel he is easier to trade, and comes with less risk than Berkman.


5) Garrett Jones – RF, Pirates

Why is a pre-arbitration player listed on here? Why would a team want to give up on a good hitter with under two years of MLB service time?

When you are the Pirates, however, it is a different story.

The Pirates have been on a mission to fix their farm system, apparently at the expense of the MLB team. If they really want this strategy to work, then they should be willing to part with anyone not named Andrew McCutchen on their roster.

The problem with Jones, however, is his defense. Despite his .882 OPS in Pittsburgh, he has only been good for 1.5 WAR.

His bat might be a bit light to be a long-term DH solution, and his glove is too weak to be a starter in the field. That being said, any team that wants to have him, may still have to part with a top 75 hitting prospect to get him.

Jones shares the same market as Kearns, and is rated higher due to being a more prized bat. Outside of center field, and maybe catcher, the Pirates should be all ears.


4) Jhonny Peralta – 3B, Indians

Probably the “most balanced” of all the men listed here, Peralta brings a slightly above-average bat (104 OPS+) and an average glove, with a reasonable 2010 salary of $4.85 million (and nothing owed after 2010).

He has the off-chance of playing himself into Type B FA status, which could also provide value to whatever destination he ends up heading, and the Indians would likely look for a top 100 pitching prospect to trade away Peralta.

Shares a similar market with Wiggington, and is rated higher due to being younger, and more established as a starter at this stage of his career.


3) Josh Willingham – LF, Nationals

We now hit the prized commodities of the potential deadline deals. We will start with Willingham.

The Nationals are slipping out of contention, and with Strasburg, and soon-to-be Harper in the mix, are likely not desperate to win in 2010.

Willingham, however, has been fantastic, with a .277/.408/.498 batting line in a mediocre hitting park.

While his glove is nothing compared to the aforementioned Austin Kearns, he has by far the best bat out of the group, and is also not hitting his first big payday until 2012, likely due for about $6.5 million in 2011.

Essentially, Willingham will be worth about 5 WAR in his next season and a half, and be paid $8.8 million to do it. For a fringe team, this has to be around a $15-$20 million surplus.

Because of this, the Nationals should be asking for a top pitching prospect, or a top 75, maybe top 50 hitting prospect. 


2) Adam Dunn – 1B/LF/DH, Nationals

The Nationals sure do have plenty of trade chips, don’t they?

Dunn, to the chagrin of many a geek like myself, has seen a dip in his walk rate (an 11.4% BB rate would be a career low). It is hard to cry too much, though, when a 147 wRC+  would be his career best, and is looking like a 35-40 home run guy again.

While Dunn has expressed a desire to not be a DH (to his credit, his defense has, so far in 2010, been not the typical badness we have come to expect from the man), I am sure a chance to finish 2010 with a contender would change his mind quickly.

With no money due to him beyond 2010, Dunn is easily one of the best targets this summer.

Would 2-3 months of Dunn be worth a top 50 prospect? Given the size of the 1B market, and the large amounts of tight races going on in MLB, I would say that the Nationals could wrangle a player of this caliber away, or at least a top 100 hitter and pitcher.


1) David DeJesus – LF, Royals

Probably a surprise to see him at No. 1, but for a team looking for a player that will just help them win, I think this is the guy.

Perpetually underrated, due in part to being a balanced player with good defense in a power position, partly due to losing his youth in Kansas City, DeJesus is finally getting the attention he deserves with a .326/.394/.479 batting line.

In addition to his fine batting line, DeJesus continues to perform at a high caliber in the outfield, and has a 2011 club option which could add even more value to him.

Able to play all three outfield positions, DeJesus should be attractive to almost everyone on the market, like the Red Sox, Rays, White Sox, Braves, Mets, Phillies, Giants, Padres, and Rockies.

Given the potentially high amount of buyers, and the relative worth of DeJesus, it is imaginable that the Royals could come away with a top 10 pitching prospect, top 50 hitter, or a combination of two high-level prospects in both groups. 

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Flaming Out: MLB’s Top 10 Fast Starters Who Have Regressed

As fans, we see it every year. Players get off to hot starts, pleasing their fans and giving many a sportswriter a story to write about.

Of course, most of the time, the player reverts right back to the level of play we as fans expect, or worse. Maybe their overall statistics still look shiny, or maybe no one notices.

This season saw a large number of quick starters. As expected, many of them have begun their rapid decline to normal performance.

While many could find inclusion on this list, here are the 10 that require the most attention.

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