Archive for March, 2009

Hall of Fame: Joe DiMaggio (1955)

March 31, 2009
What could have been if WWII hadn’t come.

 Year Ag Tm  Lg  G   AB    R    H   2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB  SO   BA   OBP   SLG *OPS+  TB   SH
+--------------+---+----+----+----+---+--+---+----+---+--+---+---+-----+-----+-----+----+----+---+
1936 21 NYY AL 138 637 132 206 44 15 29 125 4 0 24 39 .323 .352 .576 128 367 3
1937 22 NYY AL 151 621 151 215 35 15 46 167 3 0 64 37 .346 .412 .673 168 418 2
1938 23 NYY AL 145 599 129 194 32 13 32 140 6 1 59 21 .324 .386 .581 139 348 0
1939 24 NYY AL 120 462 108 176 32 6 30 126 3 0 52 20 .381 .448 .671 184 310 6
1940 25 NYY AL 132 508 93 179 28 9 31 133 1 2 61 30 .352 .425 .626 173 318 0
1941 26 NYY AL 139 541 122 193 43 11 30 125 4 2 76 13 .357 .440 .643 184 348 0
1942 27 NYY AL 154 610 123 186 29 13 21 114 4 2 68 36 .305 .376 .498 147 304 0
1946 31 NYY AL 132 503 81 146 20 8 25 95 1 0 59 24 .290 .367 .511 142 257 3
1947 32 NYY AL 141 534 97 168 31 10 20 97 3 0 64 32 .315 .391 .522 154 279 0
1948 33 NYY AL 153 594 110 190 26 11 39 155 1 1 67 30 .320 .396 .598 163 355 0
1949 34 NYY AL 76 272 58 94 14 6 14 67 0 1 55 18 .346 .459 .596 178 162 0
1950 35 NYY AL 139 525 114 158 33 10 32 122 0 0 80 33 .301 .394 .585 151 307 0
1951 36 NYY AL 116 415 72 109 22 4 12 71 0 0 61 36 .263 .365 .422 116 175 0
+--------------+---+----+----+----+---+--+---+----+---+--+---+---+-----+-----+-----+----+----+---+
13 Seasons 6821 2214 131 1537 9 369 .325 .398 .579 155 14
1736 1390 389 361 30 790 3948

3 MVP Awards (1939, 1941, 1947)
13 All-Star Games (1936-1942, 1946-1951)

Joseph Paul DiMaggio was born on Novermber 25, 1914 in Martinez, California. Though his father wanted him to be a fisherman like himself, the smell of fish made Joe nauseous, and he would often do whatever he could do get out of working on his father’s boat. In 1933, his older brother Vince convinced the manager of the San Francisco Seals to give Joe a try. Later that season, DiMaggio recorded a hit in 61 consecutive games. His legend was growing and the scouts were drooling, but then, DiMaggio tore the ligaments in his knee while at his aunt’s house. The injury scared teams away, but the Yankees still saw his potential. They bought him but allowed him to play for the Seals for another season in which he hit .398 with 34 HR and 154 RBI, making him the MVP of the league.

In 1936, the highly-touted DiMaggio didn’t disappoint, hitting .323 (though with a poor OBP in comparison, but I’m just nit-picking) with 29 HR and 125 RBI while setting rookie records in runs (132) and triples (15). He followed that season with an even better one. 46 HR and 167 RBI later, DiMaggio was the hit of the party. In his first four seasons, the Yankees won the World Series. Over his first five seasons, DiMaggio continued his brilliant play, getting close to hitting .400 (.381), hitting over 30 home runs in 3 of those seasons, and driving in over 100 in 4 of those seasons. In 1941, he had his unbelievable run of 56 consecutive games with a hit. Then, the Second World War hit, and DiMaggio enlisted in the army. Oddly enough, his parents, of Italian descent, were listed as enemy aliens and not allowed to travel and, worst of all, not fish in the San Francisco Bay as his father always had.

It’s impossible to know what DiMaggio could have done in the three seasons between his military service, but they were all his “prime” years, thus losing a lot of production. Regardless, he came back with a bang, hitting 25 HR and driving in 95. The next season, he brought back up his batting average and he won his third MVP Award. After another great season in 1948, he signed a record $100,000 contract, but injuries kept him from producing. Two seasons later, DiMaggio couldn’t take a step without pain, and after a Dodger scouting report accidentally became public, DiMaggio decided it was, indeed, time to retire. The once splendid center fielder could no longer tolerate the pain and his lack of contribution to his team.

Though he retired after the 1951 season, he wasn’t elected into the Hall of Fame until 1955 with 223 of the 251 votes (88.8%). I can’t fathom why it took them so long (he missed in 1954), especially considering he was such a fan-favorite.

An interesting side note: he was once traded with Yogi Berra for Ted Williams, but the deal fell through because the Yankees decided Berra was too much to give up.

This Day in Baseball History: March 31st, 1993

March 31, 2009
A fine man.

On March 31, 1993:

Bill White steps down from his position as National League President.

Bill White was a productive first baseman originally for the New York Giants but mostly for the Cardinals. Every year, he had an OPS+ over 100, and from 1962 to 1966, they ranged from 122 to 134 (the 122 seasons bookended his run). He was an All-Star five times, and he won seven straight Gold Gloves from 1960 to 1966. While still playing for the Cardinals, White had his own sports program on the radio and had one when he went to Philadelphia. After he retired, he would become a Yankees broadcaster alongside Phil Rizzuto.

But White is known more for something else he did. In 1989, he became the first African-American league president in league history. Breaking through nine years after Jackie Robinson, White had to deal with all the racial epithets available. Although he said that his race wasn’t an important issue, it was for many in the African-American community that finally saw a black man in an upper-level commission. Still, at the end of his tenure when asked who should succeed him, he responded, “Someone like me”, purposely leaving the comment vague.

Actually, he, and most in the baseball world, were shocked to see him get the position. He was an excellent baseball man, but he didn’t seem to be on the radar. He didn’t even ask to be considered, but there he was being asked to be the National League President. At first, he was bewildered, and after realizing the committee was serious, he wasn’t sure. Ultimately, he took the position. While there, he did his job. A straight-shooter focused on his job, White never used his position to explicitly force more minorities in the game. White didn’t feel that was his job, but he definitely wanted more minorities in upper-level positions and was mindful of how his performance could affect future hirings. In fact, he instituted a program forcing National League teams to notify the president of open positions and the list of interviewees for the position, implicitly pressuring at least the consideration of minorities.

Outside of the race issue, one of his most important contributions was setting up the National League to expand. Although not done until 1994 when he had left, White was instrumental in getting the job done.

AL East Predictions 2009

March 30, 2009
He’s smiling now, but when he doesn’t get started early enough, Yankees fans will let him hear it.

Predictions in a serious sense are pointless. You can look at what’s on paper and say what’s going to happen, but it is absolutely impossible to actually predict the winners. However, in a funny and curious sense, they can be quite helpful. I’m going to explain who I think is going to win each division over the next week. The reason? Because I want to have some fun. Call me out at the end of the season. Hell, call me out now. Neither of us have a clue. But I’d like to see how far off I am or, by some miracle, how close I am. After doing these for a number of years, maybe Lar over at wezen-ball will use my predictions as a source. Okay, probably not. Anyway, onward is my prediction (teams in order of how I think they’ll finish), but for more great previews, go to Jorge Says No! and wezen-ball for some more detailed looks at each team.

Boston Red Sox (96-66) –> Division Champ
Depth, depth, depth. That’s the pitching staff for the Red Sox. After Beckett, Lester, Dice-K, Wakefield, and Penny, the Red Sox still have Buchholz, Bowden, and Smoltz (in June). The bullpen looks loaded as Papelbon, Okajima, Ramirez, Masterson, Delcarmen, and Saito make up a pretty nasty run through the end of the game. Offensively, I wouldn’t worry too much. Papi will bounce-back (though not to previous levels), Lowell should be able to contribute and is having a good Spring, and Bay should fill in just fine for Manny. Defensively, there’s not much to dislike, especially trading Bay for Ramirez in left.

Tampa Bay Rays (94-68) –> Wild Card
They were awesome last year, and they are better this season. You can’t expect the starting staff to stay so healthy, but with Price, Wade Davis, and others, there’s not much of a problem. The bullpen scares me a bit because last season’s success was built on a quite a few breakthroughs. Can they do it again? Well, again, they have depth. Offensively, they improved as well. Burrell gives them another big stick to add to the speedy lineup. BJ Upton is primed for a big season to give some more power and be the better of Grady Sizemore (yes, I think BJ will be better than Grady this season). To add on, Crawford should improve, Longoria should still be fantastic, and Peña should continue to contribute. Defensively, they should be as good or better than last year with a hopefully fully healthy Bartlett and a better right field combo. One other thing to remember, the Rays are aging in the right direction, whereas most of the Red Sox and Yankees are aging in the wrong direction.

New York Yankees (91- 71)
It’s hard to go against them. They made some big splashes this off-season grabbing the two best free-agents in Sabathia and Teixeira, but I wonder if it is enough. Damon, Matsui, Jeter, Posada, and A-Rod are past their primes, but they are expected to be impact players. They have the talent to perform, but I wonder if that offense is going to see a lot of the DL. A-Rod’s absence for an unknown period of time and the possibility that he won’t be the same when he gets back scares me off from the Yankees. But the rotation is much improved from last year, and having Hughes back in AAA to start the year is a good thing. But injury issues surround 3 (Burnett, Wang, and Joba) of those starters. Can they stay healthy enough? The bullpen is made of relatively unknown names, but as long as the starters go enough innings to cover them and get to Mo, it won’t matter. Defensively, they improved by adding Tex and using Gardner as the starting center, but how good will Damon, Matsui, Jeter, Cano, and Posada be?

Baltimore Orioles (78-84)
The Orioles offense is a definite plus, and you should pay attention. Markakis is a stud, Jones should improve, Huff probably won’t have the year he just had but he’s underrated, and Roberts is always a sparkplug. Add in Wieters in a month or two, and they will be that much better. The rotation is the scary part, however. Guthrie and then a bunch of question marks. Can Uehara translate here? Can any of the others step up? Hurry Mastusz, Tillman, and Arrieta! The bullpen should be pretty good with Sherrill and a healthy Ray. The rest aren’t real well-known, but they’re pretty good arms.

Toronto Blue Jays (74-88)
The rotation scares me just as much as Baltimore’s. Halladay is a stud, but he can’t do it himself. A combination of Litsch, Purcey (who’s having a very nice spring), Romero, Richmond and Mills. Don’t know who they are? Neither does anyone else. They have the same question marks the Orioles do. The bullpen should be strong, however, but if the rotation doesn’t pitch enough innings, any bullpen will fold. Offensively, I worry more about them than the Orioles, and that’s the difference I see between the two teams. The outfield and DH spots look solid and Overbay is no slouch. But can Snider and Lind step up? Can Wells return to 2003 or 2006 form (going by years, he should)? Will Rios’ power come back? When they get McGowan and Marcum back, this team should take off in 2010 or 2011.

Overall, the AL East is going to be an all-out, vicious melee for all six months. I have the Rays and Red Sox here, but I don’t leave the Yankees out because they aren’t good. I just see more upside and, maybe more importantly, depth with the Rays and Red Sox. The Orioles and Blue Jays are decent teams, but their staffs will keep them in the back from about mid-May on, at least.

Hall of Fame: Bill Terry (1954)

March 30, 2009
Go ahead, ask him for his number. What’s the worst that could happen?

 Year Ag Tm  Lg  G   AB    R    H   2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB  SO   BA   OBP   SLG *OPS+  TB   SH
+--------------+---+----+----+----+---+--+---+----+---+--+---+---+-----+-----+-----+----+----+---+
1923 24 NYG NL 3 7 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 .143 .333 .143 30 1 0
1924 25 NYG NL 77 163 26 39 7 2 5 24 1 1 17 18 .239 .311 .399 91 65 0
1925 26 NYG NL 133 489 75 156 31 6 11 70 4 5 42 52 .319 .374 .474 119 232 4
1926 27 NYG NL 98 225 26 65 12 5 5 43 3 22 17 .289 .352 .453 116 102 8
1927 28 NYG NL 150 580 101 189 32 13 20 121 1 46 53 .326 .377 .529 141 307 19
1928 29 NYG NL 149 568 100 185 36 11 17 101 7 64 36 .326 .394 .518 135 294 17
1929 30 NYG NL 150 607 103 226 39 5 14 117 10 48 35 .372 .418 .522 131 317 18
1930 31 NYG NL 154 633 139 254 39 15 23 129 8 57 33 .401 .452 .619 158 392 19
1931 32 NYG NL 153 611 121 213 43 20 9 112 8 47 36 .349 .397 .529 149 323 2
1932 33 NYG NL 154 643 124 225 42 11 28 117 4 32 23 .350 .382 .580 156 373 1
1933 34 NYG NL 123 475 68 153 20 5 6 58 3 40 23 .322 .375 .423 128 201 9
1934 35 NYG NL 153 602 109 213 30 6 8 83 0 60 47 .354 .414 .463 137 279 19
1935 36 NYG NL 145 596 91 203 32 8 6 64 7 41 55 .341 .383 .451 125 269 16
1936 37 NYG NL 79 229 36 71 10 5 2 39 0 19 19 .310 .363 .424 112 97 5
+--------------+---+----+----+----+---+--+---+----+---+--+---+---+-----+-----+-----+----+----+---+
14 Seasons 6428 2193 112 1078 6 449 .341 .393 .506 136 137
1721 1120 373 154 56 537 3252

3 All-Star Games (1933-1935)

Born on October 30, 1898 in Atlanta, Georgia, William Harold Terry would become one of the best first basemen ever. Unlike so many of the previous Hall of Famers in this series, Terry was relatively old, 25, when he began to play regularly, but he would make his 14 seasons in the major leagues count.

His first season in 1924 wasn’t his best work, but he quickly started turning things around the following season. From 1927 to 1933, Terry was an exceptional first baseman, both offensively and defensively. Playing at the Polo Grounds for the New York Giants, the field was big and kept him from hitting as many home runs, but he instead rattled off a bunch of doubles and triples. Terry also hit for a very high average, and his .341 career mark is the best for a National League left-handed hitter. He hit his peak in a spectacular 1930 season. In that season, he became the last National Leaguer to hit .401 (Ted Williams is the last major leaguer and American Leaguer eleven years later). He smacked 23 home runs and 123 RBI’s while scoring himself 139 times. Oddly enough, he was sixth in the league in runs (Chuck Klein had 158).

Defensively, he was really good. Part of the reason that it took a while for Terry to get to the majors, Terry had to oust future Hall of Famer George Kelly. After he took the reigns, he was constantly a league-leader in putouts, assists, and fielding average (yeah, I know fielding percentage isn’t the greatest measurement, but all of these indicate he was pretty good).

But it took a while to get into the Hall of Fame. Terry, who had a career OPS+ of 136 and a reputation as a great defender, wouldn’t be elected until 1954 although his career ended after the 1936 season. Why? He didn’t get along with the writers. Known for wanting to keep his life private, Terry was often blunt and difficult to approach. He didn’t think anyone needed to know his business, and when he was asked for his personal phone number, Terry declined, saying he was already available for 16 hours a day and was done when he got home. Regardless, the writers eventually elected him in 1954 with 77.4% (195 of 252) of the vote. Not holding a grudge, Terry was a popular and constant sight during induction ceremonies for numerous years.

This Day in Baseball History: March 30th, 1992

March 30, 2009
Ignorance was bliss, wasn’t it?

On March 30, 1992:

The Chicago White Sox trade Sammy Sosa and Kenny Patterson to the Chicago Cubs for George Bell.

George Bell was a well-known slugger that had spent most of his career in Toronto. In 1990, he signed with the Cubs as a free-agent to play with them for the 1991 season. Bell had a difficult relationship with Blue Jay manager Jimy Williams, and his defense, never very good, was worsening to the point that fans couldn’t overlook it for his offense. Sammy Sosa was a young and somewhat frustrating outfielder, but at age 22, his talent and potential were there. Ken Patterson was a 27-year old middle reliever averaging in the mid-60’s of innings pitched and a high-3 ERA.

Bell, 32, had just had a bounce-back season for the Cubs. In 1992, he contributed well for the White Sox in terms of home runs (25) and RBI (112), but he was his typical terrible self when it came to OBP. His OPS+ dropped from 117 to 99, and at that point, his offense wasn’t equaling his defensive shortcomings. Still, he would receive some MVP votes for his contributions for that season. The next season, Bell rapidly declined due to a knee injury. He wouldn’t play in the playoffs and was released after the season. Bell would go on to retire.

Sosa would … well … you know for the next 13 years, but it didn’t start out so well. He only played in 67 games during the 1993 season, but the numbers weren’t bad considering the time played. 1993 would be his break-out season? Do you remember when Sosa could steal bases? I can’t, but he bashed 33 HR while also stealing 36 bases. He would never steal more bases than number of home runs again, but that wasn’t so bad. After only playing 105 the next season, Sosa would really break-out and become a household name.

Patterson wouldn’t be so successful. The young reliever only threw 41.2 innings, and his ERA rose 1 whole point from the previous season. Following the season, he was released. He would try with the California Angels the next season, but his ERA rose another .6 points. After being released, he caught on with the Reds who released him at the end of Spring Training. Patterson made one more attempt with the California Angels in 1994, but after those whopping .2 IP, he wasn’t heard from again.

Sorry for the nothing this weekend. It was my 21st birthday on Saturday, so I … uh … didn’t exactly have the motivation or … capabilities of coherently posting anything worthwhile. However, evidently I was hilarious Saturday night, so it may have been worthwhile, just not for baseball reasons.

New Stat: ATB

March 27, 2009
Yes, the kid is me. I get it.

Remember how I reserved the right to bring up modern baseball? Well, here we go, and yes, it involves the Braves. At least, it was inspired by the Braves. Going into this season, no one knows who will play center field, but it’s down to three candidates: Josh Anderson (the presumed favorite), Jordan Schafer (the young, hot-shot), and Gregor Blanco (the overlooked dark horse). Each brings something different. Anderson hits for a really good average and steals lots of bases, but he doesn’t walk much. Schafer could be the next Grady Sizemore, but he’s young and inexperienced. Blanco gets on base, but he has zero power and doesn’t steal bases, even though he has great speed. The problem isn’t a bad one as all three are talented, but there is a debate over which should be the center fielder.

Well, that got me to thinkin’. How can we come up with a way to decide between the three? The answer came while doing a Hall of Fame post. I looked at the stats of whoever and saw TB, or total bases. But something occurred to me? Is it really total bases? I decided to improve on it with ATB, or Actual Total Bases (someone give me a better name for it). The formula is simple:

TB (Total Bases) + BB (Walks) + IBB (Intentional Walks) + SB (Stolen Bases) – CS (Caught Stealing) + HBP (Hit By Pitch)

This is my reasoning. Total bases tells you how many bases someone gets on their hit, presumably because it’s what the player does by himself. The thing is that it doesn’t encompass everything a hitter can do himself. I’ve always wondered why walks weren’t included. They’re not always as good as singles, but they earned that base. So why steals? Well, a player gets a stolen base without the aid of another hitter. If he gets a single and then steals a base, what’s the difference between that and a double? Okay, a double is a hit and could potentially move runners over. I get it. Also, when a stealer is caught, he hurts the team and should lose the base he had gained (this doesn’t exactly work for stealing third — should lose two bases –, but it doesn’t happen much and is kind of negligible). If that’s the case, then being a good base stealer should be appreciated, and walks should also be. This should (in theory, but I’m probably completely wrong; I was good at math, but I gave it up a while ago) account for each’s strengths. The one who has the most Actual Total Bases should be the winner, all other things being equal (by most accounts, all are very good outfielders, though Blanco doesn’t have the arm of the other two). What’s more important — OBP or BA and SB? My hypothesis is that Josh Anderson wins.

For this first spot, I’ll only look at Anderson and Blanco’s major-league career, as Schafer can’t be compared here. I’ll look at all three and their minor-league stats after. I adjusted their stats to 162 games (God, I love baseball-reference.com) to make things even, but yes, it isn’t exact. I get it, but it’s what I have to work with. Anderson has 586 PA, and Blanco has 583.

Anderson
134 (1B) + 26×2 (2B) + 2×3 (3B) + 7×4 (HR) + 34 (BB) + 5 (IBB) + 7 (HBP) + 29 (SB) – 5 (CS) = 290

Blanco
101 (1B) + 15×2 (2B) + 4×3 (3B) + 1×4 (HR) + 83 (BB) + 2 (IBB) + 6 (HBP) + 14 (SB) – 5 (CS) = 247

So, Anderson wins and by a healthy margin. He hits more extra base hits and steals more (at a better rate), which theoretically puts him in scoring position more. If he’s getting in scoring position more, he should score more. The stats say Anderson scores 82 times and Blanco 58. Not sure if that means anything, but it’s interesting.

Okay, now for their minor-league stats. Schafer has had about half as many at-bats, so I’ll multiply by two at the end. Again, I’m not sure if that’s kosher, but it seems to make sense. The main problem here is that Schafer hasn’t played AAA yet, and therefore, he hasn’t played against the same competition that Blanco and Anderson (who both have spent significant time in AAA). But considering there’s plenty wrong with the conversion to the majors anyway, let’s just take a look for fun. If anything, it at least continues to look at Anderson and Blanco, who again have roughly the same number of at-bats (Blanco 2776 but has more walks and Anderson 2967)

Anderson
698 (1B) + 120×2 (2B) + 36×3 (3B) + 19×4 (HR) + 180 (BB) + 280 (SB) – 69 (CS) = 1513

Blanco
577 (1B) + 108×2 (2B) + 46×3 (3B) + 29×4 (HR) + 423 (BB) + 181 (SB) – 86 (CS) = 1565

Schafer
230 (1B) + 94×2 (2B) + 26×3 (3B) + 36×4 (HR) + 146 (BB) + 63 (SB) – 35 (CS) = 814×2 = 1628

Well, Schafer wins, but I think he should get penalized some for not having played at AAA, so Anderson and Blanco win there. Blanco tops Anderson, but because of the larger sample size, it isn’t by too much. He seems to have had substantially more power in the minors, but the Braves asked him to stop trying to hit home runs before he reached AAA. I have no idea if that did anything, but he only hit 3 HR in his last two minor-league seasons (I guess it did). Also, I know IBB and HBP weren’t in the above formulas, but they weren’t on baseball-reference.com and I doubt anyone would intentionally walk or hit any of them significantly more than the others.

Okay, but what about projection? It’s one thing to know where they’ve been, but it’s another to know where they’re going. I’ll use the CHONE predictions from FanGraphs (another amazing site) for each player. Schafer plays about 14 games less than the others, so they’ll get docked 10% (132 – (132 x .1) is about 118) to make it fair.

Anderson
124 (1B) + 27×2 (2B) + 5×3 (3B) + 4×4 (HR) + 33 (BB) + 5 (HBP) + 33 (SB) – 10 (CS) = 270-2.7 = 267

Blanco
89 (1B) + 21×2 (2B) + 5×3 (3B) + 3×4 (HR) + 75 (BB) + 3 (HBP) + 19 (SB) – 10 (CS) = 245-2.5 = 241

Schafer
71 (1B) + 22×2 (2B) +5×3 (3B) + 10×4 (HR) + 42 (BB) + 2 (HBP) + 14 (SB) – 7 (CS) = 221

CHONE was not friendly to Schafer, giving him a .238 BA, so he seems the inferior of the group. I was slightly amused it projected HBP, so I included it for shits and giggles. Anderson again wins the competition. He gets more hits, more extra-base hits, and steals more bases, which seems to overcome the loss of walks. So, this proved my hypothesis, but I’m not sure this is real science. It just seems cool, and I put a lot of work into it. If it doesn’t pan out, just tell me. It won’t hurt my feelings. It was just an idea I had, and I thought I would see how far down the rabbit hole it went.

So, does this prove or say anything in general? Stolen bases are valuable as is more power, but I think we knew that. Maybe it says Willy Taveras is better than we give him credit for (nah). I need a spreadsheet to make a leaderboard, but I’m not that technologically advanced. But for this competition, it says Anderson is the superior offensive player to Blanco. He may not get on as much, but his additional extra-base hits and stolen bases should count for something. When he gets on, he’s more likely to be in scoring position, making him more likely to score. Just because Blanco gets on, it doesn’t mean he puts himself in position to score. What’s the use in getting on if you don’t score? If only Blanco stole more bases. I mean, like 40 of ’em.

Again, I don’t know if this proves anything, but I thought it was an interesting way to look at the battle between the three players. I don’t think my formula unfairly biases either Anderson or Blanco (I think Schafer ends up in AAA, so I’m not including him here, though I think he’s the best choice of the group — that .238 average is a jip). What does everyone think about my first amateur crack at being like Bill James (okay, a nerd who spent too much of Thirsty Thursday worrying about this)?

Famous Teams: The Gashouse Gang of 1934

March 27, 2009
Here they are in their not-so-shiny glory.

Branch Rickey became the manager of the 1919 St. Louis Cardinals, but by most accounts, he wasn’t very good. His teams were just mediocre, so in 1926, the team was turned over to Rogers Hornsby, the Hall of Fame second baseman. Hornsby was abrasive, but he got the most out of his team as the Cardinals went on to win the NL pennant and the World Series over the New York Yankees’ Murderers’ Row. Astonishingly, the Cardinals then traded Hornsby, who had slightly declined but was only 30, to the New York Giants for the younger second baseman Frankie Frisch, who had a falling-out with John McGraw. Frisch became a Hall of Famer and would come to lead some of the best Cardinals teams ever in the early thirties.

Though there is some contention, the term “Gashouse Gang” generally refers to the 1934 team, though it very well could have been the nickname for a period of years. The team earned this nickname through their scrappy play which gave them a dirty appearance. Gas houses were where coal was manufactured into energy, and they were generally in the worst part of the city and smelled horribly. The workers were always dirty, and shortstop Lou Durocher coined the term in reference to his team’s play and how the AL didn’t think the Cardinals were any good.

The team turned out to be plenty good. April started a little rough at 4-7, but they quickly turned things around by going 21-6 in May. June was mediocre at 13-14, but the team gradually improved over the next two months, which set up a showdown with the Giants. The Cardinals were 5.5 games back and would be 7 games back in a couple days at the beginning of September, but the Cardinals went on a tear, going 21-7 for the month. With a commanding lead, the Giants went 13-14 in the final month and lost their last 5 games. Frisch, getting his revenge, and the Cardinals, on the other hand, took advantage of the last-place Reds and swept the final four-game series.

The 1934 World Series pitted the Cardinals versus the Detroit Tigers. The series would last seven games with the Cardinals winning. The Dean brothers, Dizzy and Paul, would be the heroes of the series as each won two games. Dean almost didn’t, though. In Game 4, he pinch-ran and broke up a double play by using his head, literally. He was rushed to the hospital, and the headline the next day said, “X-ray of Dean’s Head Shows Nothing”. Another interesting episode, Joe Medwick slid into third baseman Marv Owen in Game 7 in Detroit, and the two scuffled for a moment. With the game lost (9-0 at that point), the crowd vented by hurling insults and produce at the outfielder.

Offensively, the team was led by Ripper Collins who stroked 35 HR and 128 RBI. Frisch added a decent but unspectacular season. Medwick added 18 HR and 106 RBI. Pitching, however, was the team strength. Dizzy Dean won 30, his brother Paul won 19, Tex Carleton won 16, and Bill Walker added 12 wins and a 3.12 ERA.

Fun Fact: The team had two interestingly similar and odd names. Dizzy Dean and Dazzy Vance.

Hall of Fame: Bill Dickey (1954)

March 26, 2009
Another great Yankee catcher.

 Year Ag Tm  Lg  G   AB    R    H   2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB  SO   BA   OBP   SLG *OPS+  TB   SH
+--------------+---+----+----+----+---+--+---+----+---+--+---+---+-----+-----+-----+----+----+---+
1928 21 NYY AL 10 15 1 3 1 1 0 2 0 0 0 2 .200 .200 .400 56 6 0
1929 22 NYY AL 130 447 60 145 30 6 10 65 5 3 14 16 .324 .346 .485 117 217 11
1930 23 NYY AL 109 366 55 124 25 7 5 65 7 1 21 14 .339 .375 .486 120 178 9
1931 24 NYY AL 130 477 65 156 17 10 6 78 2 1 39 20 .327 .378 .442 120 211 7
1932 25 NYY AL 108 423 66 131 20 4 15 84 2 4 34 13 .310 .361 .482 121 204 2
1933 26 NYY AL 130 478 58 152 24 8 14 97 3 4 47 14 .318 .381 .490 135 234 5
1934 27 NYY AL 104 395 56 127 24 4 12 72 0 3 38 18 .322 .384 .494 132 195 3
1935 28 NYY AL 120 448 54 125 26 6 14 81 1 1 35 11 .279 .339 .458 109 205 2
1936 29 NYY AL 112 423 99 153 26 8 22 107 0 2 46 16 .362 .428 .617 158 261 0
1937 30 NYY AL 140 530 87 176 35 2 29 133 3 2 73 22 .332 .417 .570 145 302 1
1938 31 NYY AL 132 454 84 142 27 4 27 115 3 0 75 22 .313 .412 .568 143 258 1
1939 32 NYY AL 128 480 98 145 23 3 24 105 5 0 77 37 .302 .403 .513 133 246 4
1940 33 NYY AL 106 372 45 92 11 1 9 54 0 3 48 32 .247 .336 .355 82 132 2
1941 34 NYY AL 109 348 35 99 15 5 7 71 2 1 45 17 .284 .371 .417 109 145 1
1942 35 NYY AL 82 268 28 79 13 1 2 37 2 2 26 11 .295 .359 .373 108 100 0
1943 36 NYY AL 85 242 29 85 18 2 4 33 2 1 41 12 .351 .445 .492 173 119 1
1946 39 NYY AL 54 134 10 35 8 0 2 10 0 1 19 12 .261 .357 .366 101 49 2
+--------------+---+----+----+----+---+--+---+----+---+--+---+---+-----+-----+-----+----+----+---+
17 Seasons 1789 6300 930 1969 343 72 202 1209 37 29 678 289 .313 .382 .486 127 3062 51

11 All-Star Games (1933, 1934, 1936-1943, 1946)

William Malcolm Dickey was born on June 5, 1907 in Bastrop, Louisiana. It didn’t take him long to make it to the majors, doing so at age 21, but he wouldn’t be the full-time catcher until the next season.

From that moment in 1929, Dickey would have one of the greatest careers ever for a catcher. He rattled off six consecutive seasons of hitting over .300, and over his first 13 seasons, he would play over 100 games every season, a major-league record that still stands today. At the beginning of his career, he was overshadowed by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio. He would continue to put up solid numbers until 1935 when his averaged dropped below .300 for the first time. Upset over such a travesty, Dickey took no prisoners over the next four seasons as his average and power jumped, and he would not post an OPS+ under 130. The demands of catching for so many seasons, however, started to take their toll. His power and average would dramatically drop from 24 to 9 home runs and .302 to .247. Two years later, his string of 100+ games played would end. After the 1943 season, he enlisted in the army, but he came back for one more try in 1946, but Dickey only played 54 games.

Obviously a great hitter, Dickey was also a great backstop. He was an excellent handler of pitchers, and his tutelage and guidance helped Lefty Gomez settle down. If base runners tried to steal, he gunned them down. The one negative about Dickey could have been his competitive nature. Usually a good thing, he could get carried away. In 1932, Washington Senator Carl Reynolds ran over him at home plate. A furious Dickey whaled on Reynolds. One punch and a broken jaw later, Dickey had himself a 30-day suspension and a $1,000 fine. Dickey did have a softer side. He was Gehrig’s best friend and the first to know about his debilitating disease.

Dickey would go on to be a coach in 1949. He would be essential to Yogi Berra’s career, even though the young catcher had stolen his number (Dickey would wear 33; actually, Dickey, who’s number was retired in 1972 in a joint ceremony with Berra, would not wear the number at the beginning or end of his career as a Yankee). Five years later, Dickey was elected to the Hall of Fame with 202 of the 252 (80.2%) votes.

Fun fact, well kind of depressing I guess: Dickey is the only Yankee with a retired number who has not been featured by YES Network’s Yankeeography. Travesty.

This Day in Baseball History: March 26th, 1951

March 26, 2009
There’s the Mick.

On March 26, 1951:

Mickey Mantle hit a home run an estimated 650 feet.

Let’s get this out of the way quickly. Video games have guys hitting home runs in the range of 420-470 feet on most home runs, but they aren’t that common. A 400-foot shot is impressive. Fifty more feet is extraordinary, and fifty feet after that are put in history books for people to remember. So Mantle hitting one 650 feet is just so incredibly rare … that it’s unbelievable. In much the same way way the Bible says someone is 900 years old means they’re just really freakin’ old, saying a home run went that far is just saying it went really freakin’ far. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that technology truly began to accurately distance ball flights, and when it did, home runs went from 500 feet to 450 feet. The longest home run in history is still up for debate, but there is no doubt that Mantle has hit some of the longest in history.

Anyway, what I find more interesting about this season is that this is one of the famous anecdotes of Mantle’s career. Signed in 1949 right after graduation, Mickey Mantle was an instant celebrity in the Yankee organization, and after this Spring Training home run (which was probably true but slightly embellished), he was in the starting lineup on Opening Day in 1951 as a rookie. Joe DiMaggio called him the best prospect he ever saw. But things didn’t go so swimmingly for Mantle.

Though his stats aren’t terrible, he was sent down to the minors during a slump. When he couldn’t find his legendary power stroke from either side, he almost quit. Wanting his father to console him, his father told Mantle to wait for him. Mantle’s father came into his hotel room, packed his clothes, and demanded that Mickey follow him back home to work in the mines. Deciding that his best option was to stay in baseball, Mantle promptly broke out of his slump, and after 40 games and 11 home runs, the Yankees brought him back up for good (why the heck did the Yankees wait so long to call him up? Hello, by the seventh or eighth homer, I would have thought Stella had gotten his groove back).

Fantasy Fun 2

March 26, 2009
I can’t believe I forgot to draft him.

Okay, I promise this is the last time for this season that I will do this. I know most people don’t care, but I figure I’d share my second team. I think this one is a better one than I put together the first time, but let me know. Offense is based on OBP, SLG, HR, RBI, R, and SB, so you’ll see I favored the big hitters. Pitching is based on W, K, BB, HD (yes, holds), SV, and ERA.

C – Russell Martin –> Expecting a big year from the Dodger backstop in a loaded lineup.
1B – Carlos Delgado –> Please, god, don’t decline now.
2B – Dan Uggla –> Still should be good for 30 HR, 90 RBI, and 100 R, and from the second sack.
3B – Aramis Ramirez –> He doesn’t get a whole lot of pub, but he’s excellent.
SS – Hanley Ramirez –> I wonder who had the first pick of the draft. This guy.
IF – Justin Morneau –> I got him in a trade (Kevin Gregg, Yovani Gallardo). Just need a healthy Mauer.
OF – Manny Ramirez –> I was big on Ramirezes, and I love all three.
OF – Ryan Ludwick –> I can’t imagine he’ll be that good again, but he shouldn’t drop off too much.
OF – Pat Burrell –> Yeah, this is cheating a bit, but he adds onto the power/no speed trend.
OF – Nelson Cruz –> Okay, so I drank the Kool-Aid, but so has everyone else.
UTIL – Mike Lowell –> He’s looked good so far this spring.
Bench – Shin-Soo Choo –> Yep, second time on my time. I have a hunch.
Bench – Chris Snyder –> Solid, but I wonder how many AB’s Montero steals.
Bench – Casey Blake –> Dependable, just in case.
Bench – Cody Ross –> Need the repeat, if not improvement.

SP – Roy Oswalt –> Stud, but please start better this year.
SP – Cliff Lee –> Don’t expect ’08, but he should be somewhat close … right?
SP – John Danks –> I wonder about this one, but there’s plenty to like.
SP – Brett Myers –> Need a ’08 second-half version. God, not the first-half.
RP – Matt Lindstrom –> Got hurt about an hour after the selection.
RP – Mike Gonzalez –> Just stay healthy, and we should be good.
RP – Chad Qualls –> I’m betting he keeps the closer spot and that Arizona wins 95.
P – Grant Balfour –> Get me my K’s and HD’s.
P – Aaron Cook –> In full disclosure, he was added after the Morneau trade, and he should grab some W’s.
P – Rafael Perez –> Can he repeat ’08? Also added after the draft.
Bench – Hideki Okajima –> Using holds makes him valuable.
Bench – Kelvim Escobar –> Holding onto him for the first month and then watch out.

I really like this team, but every time I like a team in fantasy football, it usually fails miserably. Offensively, I went pretty heavy for OBP, HR, RBI, and SLG, leaving SB and potentially R for others. Luckily, we don’t include defense because Martin and A. Ramirez are probably the only capable defenders I have. Pitching-wise, I took what I could get, focusing mainly on SP (remember, I had Gallardo as well). I went bargain shopping for SV.

I had all these sheets for the first draft and didn’t really use them, so I scrapped them for this one. It’s amazing being in live drafts. It feels like eternity between picks, but you never have enough time when your turn comes up.