Nationals Baseball: January 2014

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ranks and Spinning Wheels.

Fangraphs asked yesterday if the Nats were being overrated again. It's a silly question for a silly time of the year. Why are they overrated? Because some people are picking them to win again? That'll happen when you won 98 games two years ago, were pretty injury riddled last year, and face only one team who should be competitive. I mean really that's it. No one is overrating the Nats. The Braves just are not a dominant team and everyone else in the NL East is somewhere on the suck scale.

But ignore the headline and get to the meat. He wonders about the Nats because their depth chart ratings put the Nats in the lower middle of the pack. Why are the Nats there? What are the problem areas defined by the depth charts? Are they the same that we note? Instead of looking at production (which will always skew toward average in these things) I look at rank. That's why Desmond putting up a 3 win season after two 5 wins doesn't get me ruffled. The team is 6th best in SS and only falls that low because of poor back-ups,  defensive projections (hard to get right), and what I must believe is a paid advertisement from the Brad Miller for ROY SuperPAC. Where do the Nats fail in rank?

Catcher - 22nd place (remember this is a team rank). Ramos would actually fall around the 13th starter and give him more ABs and he'll crack the Top 10 easy. The problem is two fold though. There's no guarantee he'll be healthy and his back-up, currently Solano, is garbage. We know this.

First - 24th. LaRoche was bad last year, is getting older, and his back-up stinks. Hey, we know this too!

Second - 16th. Bad Back-ups and the uncertainty of Rendon. A little better and he's like the 5th.

Center - 19th. Two thirds the world is covered by water. The other third is covered by land. On the tiny patch of that land between Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, Denard Span does a good job of getting to balls. (Span can't hit and while he is very good in center he's not an elite game changing fielder.)

Right - 16th. Jayson Werth can't stay healthy, hits poorly when injured, and is falling in the field. It's admittedly low but when you are trying to factor in "injury that makes him miss one-third of a season, and hit like garbarge for another third" that's what happens. Again we pray for health

Another thing to note about the OF. Nate McLouth does not help all that much.  While he was decent last season, he wasn't so much the season before that, and the one before that, and the one before that. I like putting him on the Nats bench but I don't like the fact that he's the best player on said bench.

Relief Pitching - 24th. Well this is just guessing. I'd love to see how good their RP projections did last year. Can't find it though. These numbers bounce around too much to be reliable especially when you start to weight on recency of unstable numbers.

We learn anything new? Not really. Maybe that McLouth is less useful than we thought. But really the Nats right now have a strong starting 5 in Ramos, Desmond, Zimm, Bryce and Werth. Rendon has good potential to be added as the 6th. With Span and LaRoche, the Nats are hoping for the best seasons they can squeeze out of them. And the Nats are desperately trying to avoid major injuries because their bench in thin. You might say that last part about a lot of teams. It wasn't what we thought we could say initially about the 2013 Nats. They looked deep and strong across the board.  But when LaRoche collapsed and Espy's injuries killed his production it became pertinent to them and it's what we can say now. Since the Nats haven't built up a strong bench a lot will ride on their health and Rizzo's ability to quickly deal for talent mid-season if needed. We'll be saying that over and over until the season starts or something changes.

Monday, January 27, 2014


The problem with using endpoints is that they are often arbitrarily chosen to illustrate a point. For example being the the winningest pitcher of the 80's is nice, but there's no reason those 10 seasons are more special than any other. You can hopefully quickly understand that being the winningnest pitcher from 1980-1989 (Jack Morris) in itself means as much as being the winningnest pitcher from 1984-1993 (Frank Viola) or 1977 -1986 (Ron Guidry). 

To illustrate the point closer to home, take the 2007 Nats (PLEASE!). As some reporter who will go unnamed noted often as that season progressed, the Nats played much better baseball after May 9th. They ended up 9-25 before that date and 64-64 after. Problem is nothing changed on that date. No one came back from injury. No one was fired. No big trade was made. The team that existed before that date was the same as the one that existed after. The decision to use May 9th was made simply because that's when they stopped losing a bunch and started winning. But with no major change what happened after May 9th was only slightly more indicative than what happened before (because of more games played). The full season was the most telling and the story that told was of a team that wasn't very good (73-89). We all know that was more in line with the seasons that would follow than was this idea of a .500 team.

That's an example of making up an endpoint when none exists. Last year we saw something a bit less heinous. When trying to illustrate how good a healthy Nats team could be you'd hear people note that in August and September, when everyone was back and healthy, the Nats were one of the best teams in the NL going 34-20. "Whne everyone was back and healthy" is a good endpoint to use. It means something. The problem here is that the whole team was back and healthy on July 4th, not August 1st. I understand using months, just like I understand using decades. It's how we break up time in our heads so it makes a convenient shorthand to use. But there existed a real life endpoint that could be used, doesn't it make more sense to use it? The Nats went 44-34 with all hands on deck. What seems more reasonable to you? A healthy '13 Nats were a 111 win team, as predicted by their August & September record, or that these Nats were a 91 win team? I know how I lean.

Anyway this weekend gave us another chance to look at endpoints. This time with injury and Danny Espinosa. Danny claims that his problem last year was trying to play through a broken wrist. Now that the wrist has had time to heal he should be in competition for the 2nd place job. That sounds pretty good on the surface. But how does that play out against the theory I like to put forward - that it was the shoulder injury that did him in?

2011:  .236 / .323 / .414
2012 to shoulder injury (9/8/12) : .258 / .323 / .421
Shoulder injury to wrist injury (4/14/13) : .162 / 231 / .271
Wrist injury in majors :  .153 / .185 / .246
Wrist injury in minors :  .216 / .280 / .286

Now we have to take all this with a grain of salt because we are talking about some very minor time frames here. The shoulder injury to wrist injury time frame was only 38 games (including postseason) and the wrist injury time in the majors was only 46 games. But still look at these numbers and what do you see? You see someone who was dramatically affected by a shoulder injury. At least that's what I see.

Of course like a magic eye puzzle, cross your eyes enough and you can see something different.The wrist injury could have compounded the problem. Maybe he could have gotten healthy otherwise and had a better 2nd half of the season. Maybe. If you want you can hang your hat on the pre-wrist injury 2013 numbers (though only 11 games) where he did hit for decent power (.175ISO) with a presumably unlucky BABIP (.185) and a Spring Training before that where his power wasn't terrible (.140 ISO). You can hope for a Jayson Werth like recovery, where only time was needed to get the power back.

I don't know enough about injuries to tell you whether he should be fully healed from either injury right now. At this point, two offseasons from the shoulder injury I don't feel confident saying he won't hit in 2014 because of it. I can say I wouldn't bet on it, but that's all. What I do know enough about are teams fighting for the playoffs. The Nats aren't going to give him a long leash to find his swing, so for his sake he better hope the speculation of the paragraph above not only turns out to be fact, but is proven very quickly. Otherwise Danny is bound to spend the next few years bouncing between a bench spot and organizational depth as the Nats try to convince some team he's worth dealing for.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Even I just can't say things

So in the last few posts I've mentioned the fact that the Nats have rarely extended a market value deal to a pitcher into his free agency years. Only 3 times in the past 3 years have they arguably done it and for very small time frames (2 years, 2 years with a hard to reach 3rd year option, and 4 years on a bargain deal). This isn't meant as a judgment on philosophy. This approach could be good or bad, I haven't looked at it too much. This is just meant to give of an idea of their mindset as they head into a period of time when several key Nats pitchers (ZNN, Fister, Clippard, hey look at that Blevins too) are heading into the end of their arbitration years.

But is this really that odd? It feels odd. But let's see what we can suss out at least with a cursory glance.

I looked at the multi-year off-season pitching signings over the past 5 years (as best I could - I don't 100% trust ESPN's Hot Stove Tracker but it was the best tool available for something like this). The Nats have made 2 such signings with Soriano and Marquis. (Maya was in-season, we'll get to that in a minute)

The average number of signings was 3 ranging from 8 (the Angels) to 0 (Blue Jays, Braves, Indians).  The Nats would be tied for 20th place in number of signings.

What about average years given out in these signings? The average # of years skews low as one would expect as there will be a lot more 2 years signings than long term ones. For this set of information it was 2.6 years.  If ranked, the Nats average (of 2 years - they don't count options) would put them in a tie for 20th place again, though this time out of 27 teams (pulling those teams that made no signings).

So the Nats are on the low side if you look at years or number of contracts signed. BUT WAIT you say! What about Maya.  Surely some of these signings you are counting are international (yes, there are). Add Maya in and the Nats look pretty average! Well yes... and then no.

Yes if you add Maya in the Nats will look pretty average BUT once you start looking at the Mayas of the time frame you have to add in all the Mayas. All the international signings and free agent signings not done during the hot stove period must be counted. (For example Kyle Lohse falls out of the Hot Stove period). There aren't going to be many but there will be some. The Nats, as far as I remember, have that one. So they are likely to remain on the low end of all teams. You also have to account for all the extensions given to players already under contract for a team. Like the Blue Jays ate up a couple more of RA Dickey's FA years by extending him after a deal. That should count. The Nats don't have any of these, I don't think. They fall further down. Then you have to take into account all the trades made which include absorbing a guys FA years. Think of the Blue Jays trading for Mark Buerhle. (Hey no wonder why they didn't sign anyone during the FA period) Again - it's a multi-year commitment to a player's FA years. It should count. Again - I don't believe the Nats have one of those (Team option years don't count). Again further down.

To suss out exactly where the Nats would fall accounting for all of the above would take a lot more investigative work. Nothing necessarily hard, but time consuming. And I don't think it would change the point being made. The Nats already look fairly timid when it comes to mutli-year deals to pitchers. If we gather all the data I suspect they would appear even more so. I don't see how they couldn't.

But again this isn't a bad thing, and it isn't a good thing. It's a thing. There are basically two ways to end up in this group. You don't like to spend money (the Indians, Padres, Rays, and Mariners all were on the lower end) or you just have so much good young pitching you don't need to spend money (the Rays fit here too, the Braves).  I think the Nats kind of fall into both of these groups and a little from column A and a little from column B puts them where they are. And that's been fine up until this point.

But things are changing now. They don't necessarily have a lot of good young controlled pitching anymore. If AJ Cole and Lucas Giolito aren't awesome this year in the minors the Nats won't necessarily have cheap talent to fall back on. Without a lot of good young pitching, will they show that they are able to spend money on a staff, even if it means making long term deals? Maybe the question never will need to be answered but it's sitting out there like a fat fastball, waiting until the end of this season rolls along and 2015-2016 looks a little clearer.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Super quick - Why Balfour

Why Balfour?

Fister deal means money saved in comparison to a decent 1 year pitcher (see deals for Haren, Jackson). ZNN and Desmond arbitration deals also free up money.

Balfour is good. It's good to have good players.

Balfour is old. He'll sign a short term deal. 1 or 2 years. (already agreed on 2 for O's before that fell apart).

If 2 year deal, will be here when Soriano is likely booted to the curb helping to ensure strong pen for 2015.

Another strong bullpen arm could lead to a deal. Who gets dealt?  Clippard : expensive (for the Nats), good, closer to FA (more appealing for Nats to trade).  Storen : cheaper, good (certainly historically), more years of team control (more appealing for team traded to).  Soriano : THEY WISH! 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Monday Quickie : What it all means and doesn't mean

Arbitration friday has been long since forgotten in the media frenzy of NFL Championship Sunday, but let's recap shall we?

The Nats went into arbitration hoping to seal Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond to long term deals. How long were these deals? How fair? No idea. But whatever they were it wasn't good enough and both sides agreed to deals that only covered arbitration years. Three other guys were signed avoiding arbitration as well, Ramos, Storen, and Blevins.  Doug Fister and Tyler Clippard did not reach agreements. First, let's compare the signed to the expected awards (via MLB Trade Rumors arbitration projections)

Jordan Zimmermann - Expected - 10.5 million. Signed - 7.5 this year 16.5 next. 
Ian Desmond - Expected - 6.9 million. Signed - 6.5 this year 11 next.
Wilson Ramos - Expected - 2.1 million. Signed - 2.1 million.
Drew Storen - Expected - 3.6 million. Signed - 3.45 million.
Jerry Blevins - Expected - 1.5 million. Signed - 1.675 million.

All in all you have pretty fair deals here. Both ZNN and Desmond undersigned for 2014 but likely oversigned for 2015 making their 2 year totals probably very close to what they would have gotten anyway. If you had any belief the Nats were going to make a big FA move, it would seem like they were clearing up space this year but no one believes that.  We'll talk about what it could mean later. Ramos, Storen, and Blevins all hit around the expected numbers. Now the unsigned:

Tyler Clippard - Expected - 6.2 million. Asked - 6.35 million. Offered - 4.45 million
Doug Fister - Expected - 6.9 million. Asked - 8.5 million. Offered - 5.75 million

Ok you have two kind of non-agreements going on here. With Fister you have the team under-offer, person over-ask thing going on. I'm kind of surprised that the Nats are that far off as 7 mill for a starter is more than reasonable.  I kind of wonder if that 5.75 number wasn't the first year offered in a 2-year deal similar to what Ian and Jordan signed that they kind of transferred over to arbitration when Fister didn't bite? Just shooting in the dark here. On Fister's side with pitcher's salaries what they are you can't blame him for reaching for a figure more comparable to what he'd get on the open market. Given they both have room to move I wouldn't be surprised if they meet somewhere in the middle before an actual arbitration takes place.

The Clippard one is the person fair-ask, team tries to screw him situation. I can't see this not going to a hearing. It simply looks like the Nats do not want to pay a reliever anywhere near the amount he's worth on the open market.  The Nats are likely to try to play "but no saves!" to the arbiter. You may think "oh no, this sours them for Clippard" but I don't think it's likely Clippard is here once FA hits so trying to get him cheap isn't a terrible business idea.

OK back to ZNN and Desmond.  Their signings do not mean they can't reach a deal and stay here with the Nats. However these 2-year deals do offer up some interesting possibilities.  As Boz posits, these deals offer financial certainty to any team the Nats may deal these guys to. As I posit, (I'm totally positing!) if you plan to trade these guys in 2015, these deals would save you a few million in comparison to going through arbitration in both off-seasons. I also think that if the Nats do end up signing one or both of these guys, this ends up being a reasonable gambit. Undersign them for a year, see if they underperform and perhaps save you money on a long term deal when it is signed. Some believe the deals simply are attempts to keep the payroll as level as possible, as Soriano and LaRoche could both be off the books after next year. While others think this was done not to free up space for a big free agent (seriously - who is left?) but free up space for a trade or a big in-season deal, if necessary. You can really spin this anyway you want to look at it.

What I think is that ZNN is gone  The reasons can be stated simply. He wants a boatload of money, the Nats don't pay that and think they have other options. I went over this last post but some were confused so let me clarify. The Nats have an extreme anitpathy to signing pitchers for years they do not have to. Yes, they signed Gio to a 5 year deal. However for all intents and purposes it is a 1 year deal. Every team will keep good players through their complete arbitration years if possible. That is because you are generally paid far less than you would make on the open market. The three guaranteed years that Gio got only keeps him here one more year than he would have been anyway. As for the option years, they are just that. Option years. The team can exercise them or not. So in reality that 5 year commitment is only really extending their already certain commitment by a single season.

In Rizzo's five offseasons the Nats have committed themselves to a pitcher for more than 1 year than they would have anyway only three times. Jason Marquis got a 2 year deal. Rafael Soriano got a conditional 3, with the last year only kicking in if he's the healthy closer for the team for two entire seasons (odds are against him hitting the necessary number for the option to kick in, in case you are wondering). Yunesky Maya signed for 4 years, but was a gamble deal, likely to pay off big if Maya could give the Nats anything more than 2 decent rotation years (gamble lost!).  There is no history here of paying a known commodity what he is worth for more than 2 years. Do you honestly think the best ZNN could do is a 2 year deal? Even if the Nats stretch themselves and go 3-4 FA years, given that he'll still be 29 at the start of his first FA year he's almost certain to get a five year deal from someone I think. The Nats will content themselves right now on getting Cole/Giolito/etc in the rotation or maybe signing Fister who hasn't been as adamant as ZNN has about getting a fair deal.

I do think Desmond stays though. The Nats MI situation in the minors is not promising, the position is hard to fill in the FA ranks with talent as good as Ian's, and the Nats will give batters big FA contracts. But it's a big question mark here. What is Ian looking for? If he puts up two more years like the last two a 6-7 year 110-130 million dollar contract is certainly not out of the question when he hits the market.  Is he looking for an 8 year deal now for that kind of money? Are the Nats prepared to pay for something like that with the specter of Bryce Harper and 20 million a year looming? (He will hit FA at age 26.  20 million might be underselling if he can turn it on).

These signings are almost non-news, because really it's the next thing that matters. Do these guys get signed long term? Do they get dealt? Or are they allowed to walk for the Rizzo coveted draft picks? That's what really matters and honestly we can't really answer these questions based on what happened Friday. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

On Zimmermann and Desmond

Quickly on Zimmermann

This contract might make it seem less likely that he'll be in DC past 2016, but the honest truth is that it was never that likely.  He always said he wouldn't give the Nats a discount and that the deal would have to be fair. What's fair right now in a world where Clayton Kershaw got 8 billion dollars? Anibal Sanchez had a worse resume and got 5/80 last year. 6/100 as the floor?

The Nats have signed crazy deals (Jayson Werth - and yes it is still crazy.  An awesome 2/3rds of a season in year three doesn't make it suddenly a good deal) and have extended their own guys (Zimm), but they've yet to sign a pitcher long term. In five offseasons how many free agent pitchers have come to the Nats on multi-year deals? Three. Marquis (2), Soriano (3), and Maya (4 - though this is a different type of situation)

Whether he likes it in DC or not is an interesting side note but by saying the above, he's saying "pay me what I could get as a FA and I'll stay" and the Nats don't do that.

Will the eventual inevitable loss of ZNN hurt the Nats? I hate to speculate 3 years down the road but what the hell, that's what we're here for, right?  Gio and Strasburg are signed through at least 2016, (and Gio likely longer given the team-favorable back end option on his deal). So the questions are (1) What happens to Fister (2) Does anyone develop into a major league starter?  I assume they'll try to "Gio" Fister, meaning extend him a year or two past arbitration for a below market price. Assuming he's not dumb, #2 is then really going to push #1 (and any chance at re-signing ZNN). A good year from Cole/Giolito/Purke/etc would probably mean no honest attempt to re-sign Fister either and a projected 2016 that's Stras, Gio, Whoever was good in the minors, 1-yr free agent pitcher, gaggle of guys they try to pretend are honestly good but are more just shots in the dark. I don't like that right now but if that "good" minor league season from Cole et. al. was REALLY good, well then I might change my mind.

Right now the Nats are gambling. This is what Rizzo always does. He thinks he doesn't need ZNN because a good replacement will develop.  If he's right, he's saved the team millions of dollars. If he's wrong, he at least has a chance to pull ZNN or Fister back in for a continued excellent Top 3. If he's wrong and the fact he's playing them alienates both ZNN and Fister, well then the Nats will have to face a very uncertain rotation future when right now they could cement it for the remainder of the decade for the right price.

added - on Desmond

This is more worrisome because I thought there was more mutual "let's try to stay" but Desmond is probably looking at Zimm's deal as a model and the Nats are probably looking at Zimm's deal as a mistake. Since SSs are hard to come by and the Nats don't have good hitting prospects in the minors, this is a much bigger gamble. I'd still expect them to at least to try to resign Desmond but if he comes up with another very good/ great year they've lost the gamble. They'll either have to shell out much more or lose him.

Nats News Round-Up

Just some odds and ends as we head into a long... hey what do you mean I have to work on Monday? But when am I going to sing my McDonald's Martin Luther King Day commercial song? You say I could take the day off with a floating holiday if I want to? So it's really my fault? Dammit! Oh right, baseball.

Detwiler signed for $3 mill, Strasburg for almost $4 mill.  

I find the Detwiler signing completely sensible and am a teensy bothered by the Strasburg one.  Detwiler pitches well when healthy, well enough to warrant another go round before sending him to the pen (or another team). Three million is a tad more than what was expected out of arbitration for him, but that's the bonus you get for not trying to get more. Save the team the time and trouble of doing arbitration and we'll throw in a few hundred thousand dollars (must be nice).

The Nats did the same thing for Strasburg but there in lies my tiny bit of consternation. Strasburg isn't Detwiler. Strasburg is a potential ace, clear top of the rotation guy. That's the kind of guy you want to keep feeling positive about your franchise. You don't do that by treating him like the guy who's struggling to hold onto a rotation spot. You don't throw him a couple hundred thousand more. You give him a million-plus more. There's a couple more arbitration years to do that I guess, but still I feel it's needlessly starting out on the wrong foot.

Nats re-ups with Syracuse, Harrisburg through 2018.

This surprised me a bit. Why? San Fran's agreement with Richmond ends in 2014.  Tampa's agreement with Durham ends in 2014. Not that Harriburg and Syracuse are bad locations but Richmond is closer than Harrisburg, and Durham is closer than Syracuse. They are both also in the Nationals "sphere of influence". Of course that works both ways. Those areas are forced by major league baseball to be the Nats area. They have to air Nats games.* Central PA and NY don't have to so you have to get the populace to want to see these games and demand them from their carrier. Another reason for sticking with the easy path is that the Nats AAA franchise isn't all that appealing (three years under .500) and doesn't necessarily look like it's going to be in comparison to being the Rays AAA franchise (6 years over .500 and in 1st in their division in the last 7 years). Of course there's always the possibility that Harrisburg and Syracuse are just awesome places?

Still I thought the Nats might make play to raise Richmond up to AAA at least.

Nats lost out on Mark Reynolds. 

Good.  You know how much I dislike Tyler Moore. I went over in the comments yesterday how his unique combination of exceedingly limited offense, terrible defense, (and don't forget poor running ability) made him one of the worst players in the majors last year despite limited playing time. So when I say I'd rather have Tyler Moore you know I must really dislike the other guy. But Moore is still youngish. Miracles can happen with youngish players. Mark Reynolds is over 30 and has always had an offensive skill set that when it went south you would expect it to go south fast. Right now that set is on a plane to see the Australian Open. He's a one-trick pony and he doesn't do that one trick often enough to wade through all his other shtick. A "loss" only if you define the term to mean "absence".

*Well sort of - TWC in NC still doesn't have MASN, short reason because MASN is stupid and greedy.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mascot thoughts

Because it's January and man, aren't you tired of people railing on A-Rod or railing on people because they are not railing on A-Rod? (Seriously I think if MLB just flat out knee-capped A-Rod there'd be a non-ignorable contingent of fans that would say they did what they had to do)

First things first - some bench thoughts

1) It's super hard to get a good hitting MI on your bench. Why? Because some teams don't even have a good hitting MI in their starting lineup. So it's not necessarily a knock if you don't have one - though he should still hit well enough not to actively hurt the team if he's in (I'm looking at an X-Ray of your shoulder, Danny Espinosa)

2) Benches are small affairs so one player can drastically shift the impression of a bench. The off-season isn't over and any of these teams, Nats included, could get much better (or worse I suppose) before Spring Training

Ok on with the show

I have a soft-spot in my heart for mascots. Not because I actually like mascots. My feelings for them at the park generally range from disdain all the way to apathy. Even as a kid - didn't have a taste for them (sorry marketers!) They are a distraction, less about getting kids interested in the game and more about getting kids TO the game... where their parents can spend even more money. But I can't deny I'm fascinated by the design process. How did these decisions get made? Why? Somewhere lost in the annals of the internet are my rankings of the mascots. So a new mascot for me is a big deal.

What do I think of Clark?

Well I like the name - obviously ties into the team (one of the cross streets for Wrigley) without being lame, like say "Cubbie" would be.

I also like that he's a Cub. It's an obvious choice, but we're talking about mascots here. Obvious choices should be made (and non-specific entities should be avoided at all costs - Phanatic first and only).

The uniform is ok.  Much like say Paws or FredBird, he does the bare minimum with the hat and jersey.  I'll admit that I have a slight preference for the forward facing hat but whatever.  I did have to wait for "in real life" pics to see if he got pants or not.  Nope. (cartoon misrepresentation does happen - look at Rangers Captain. In cartoons often dressed up as a weird baseball/cowboy amalgam.  In real life super snazzy full uniform)

All in all I'd put him in the middle of the pack, a "getting the job done" mascot. Outside the name there is little clever about him and while a bear is obvious, there is nothing about his design that would in itself lead to fun.  Even his face is so-so, in comparison to say the more lovable face of TC Bear.  Of course it could have been much much worse. A B- job.

How could they have improved it? Well full uniform for one, but that's personal preference. A more rotund shape possibly.  A design centered around the iconic Harry Caray look would have been nice. Somehow referencing Ernie Banks might have helped though off the top of my head I'm not coming up with anything. And definitely his shoulder patches should have been the old school cubs logos here and here. A bear's gotta have some species pride.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Bench Battles

Commenter John C. said something that caught my eye "I'm trying to think of a team in the NL, possibly in MLB, that has a better bench".  Fair point.  I remember looking at a fairly awful Nats bench in 2011 and coming away with the thought that, much as John hints at, all benches are pretty bad.

But that was looking at the benches of division opponents - good to know but not the best target. Really, to measure relative quality, we want to know how the Nats bench stacks up to playoff opponents. That's who we are comparing them to. The Dodgers, not the Marlins. The Cardinals, not the Mets.

I took a quick look and with multiple caveats* here's what I think

Very Good
St Louis - Cruz, Ellis, Descalso, Jay, Robinson. Right/Lefty balance in outfield and infield bench. A possible starter in Jay, and Ellis and Descalso both started last year. Stronger defensively than offensively but strong defensively. Catcher back up is weak.

Dodgers - Federowicz, Van Slyke, Gordon, Baxter, Either. Really a two player bench but when one of those players is the 4th guy from Kemp, Puig, Ethier and Crawford that hardly matters. Benches are weighted. First guy should get a lot more at bats than #2, #2 a lot more than #3, etc. etc. Scott Van Slyke looks like he might be a decent fill in at 1st. MI is a mess. Catcher back-up is weak.

Braves - Laird, Doumit, Pena, Constanza, Schafer.  The Braves, by necessity, have a decent back-up catcher in Laird (who knows what Gattis will be like) Doumit has potential to be a good bat on the bench and the Braves are less likely to put him in positions where his D will hurt team. Rest of the guys are poor hit, ok field guys. Usual bench junk.

Nats - Solano, Moore, Espinosa, Hairston, McClouth. A poor man's version of the Dodgers bench. OF/1B in ok shape. McClouth could start for a bad team. Hairston might make a decent platoon power option. Rest of the bench is pretty worthless at the plate. Espy is good in field. Moore terrible. Poor balance as only bench we'll see without a straight up 2nd lefty bat.

Reds - Pena, Schumaker, Hannahan, Heisey, Lutz.  Heisey is a field first guy but strong enough in that regard to find himself starting here and there. Same to a much lesser degree with Brayan Pena behind the plate. Rest of the bench is garbage. An IF injury would be big trouble.

Pirates - Stewart, Barmes, Harrison, Lambo, Snider. Total defense first bench. Barmes (IF) and Stewart (C) are top notch defenders, but can't hit. Harrison is best bat on the bench and he's not good. OF back-up are weak. Waiting for rookies, hope for their sake that they get here.

I rank the Nats as having the 4th best bench out of these 6 competitors, but more accurately I put them in the 2nd worst grouping. They are a step ahead of the no good PH option Pirates, on par with (though I put them slightly ahead) of the field first Reds, a step behind behind the unimpressive but balanced Braves, two steps behind the Ethier led Dodger bench, and three steps behind the balanced, good field, at least one good PH option, Cardinals bench.

If you're thinking that not taking the minors into account was a big mistake, let's think about that for a second. Who are you most excited for? Souza? You know who has a much more highly touted OF prospect? The Cardinals... and the Pirates... and the Reds. These teams we're looking at are just as good as the Nats and most of them have better farm systems, certainly in regards to position players. If you are ok with the Nats not trying to maximize production when they can because you are expecting them to catch up when their young bats are called up, you are going to be very disappointed. If the Nats are trailing the gaps should grow as these guys get called up not shrink.

*I really roughly estimated WAR totals for this year, didn't take into account what teams actually need, and didn't look deep into splits or minor league situations. This is a scraping look at these benches. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Caaaarrooooll! Caaaroooooll!

Jamey Carroll is back. I wrote a little bit about him during the "WHY DID THE NATS TRADE LOMBO!!!" period of the internet highlighting the fact that as a ball player Jamey Carroll was better than Steve Lombardozzi. Of course I meant that in an overall career arc kind of way. Who would I rather have for 2014 is the more important question and I'm not sure how to answer that.

Carroll turned himself into a better player than he started out as. He could never really hit, but early on he was a mediocre fielder, too. However, by the time 2005 came around, he had turned himself into a pretty decent glove man in the middle infield. Fair range at second with sure hands. That gave him some time to figure out hitting and he kind of did. Nothing great obviously, but he made enough solid contact and was patient enough at the plate that if the BABIP gods were smiling on him he'd have a decent year.

But with a limited skill set eventually things would have to fall apart and in 2012 they did. He stopped hitting anything into the air (flyball percentage was at 18.9% in 2013) and given the BABIP crash (.332 -> .306 -> .253 last three seasons) I imagine stopped hitting anything hard. He ended up with a .211 / .267 / .251 line last year. Given that he turns 40 in February I doubt this is a reversible trend. Seeing his walk rate plummet and the K-rate go up, pitchers are not at all afraid of him. That walk rate was part of what was keeping him decent. This is a career that's over.

The flip side of this is that Lombo has not shown himself to be the fielder Jamey was and is only getting worse at the plate. Lombo does not walk at all meaning if he can't hit singles, he's garbage. He has two things going for him though. He's 14 years younger (14!) and he shouldn't have the combination of a GM who refused to accept he had put together a terrible bench and a manager who decided the best play was to use him in the OF. That killed his defensive worth to the team. Play him just at second, hope you get BABIP lucky or maybe get his career year.

So who'd I'd rather have in 2014? I guess I'd say Lombo. They are both likely to be terrible, but the odds on your Lombo lottery ticket are better than the one on your Jamey one. Used correctly as the last man on your bench Lombo can have some value. Of course this is a moot point because Lombo wasn't dealt for Jamey, he was dealt in part for Doug Fister and you do that deal every time it's offered to you assuming you can see the deal to sign through your tears of joy. 

Mike Fontenot? Well on the plus side he did guest star on what might have been the most harmless show of all time "My Boys".  That show helped Jim Gaffigan get a little more attention and it had the guy from Veep, so kudos for that. Oh, as a player? About the same as Carroll and Lombo. He's probably more reliable in the field than either of those guys and he's a lefty bat, but he strikes out a ton for a guy who is giving you mediocre pop at best. He's didn't hit so well in AAA last year.

Anyone of these guys could be acceptable as the last guy on the bench. Great. Problem is that would also describe Danny Espinosa or Tyler Moore and possibly Scott Hairston after last year. That wouldn't even cut is as a description for Solano who is worse than that. Setting up a decent bench can be hard work. If you don't luck into having a young guy who can play just waiting his turn, you have to get a couple of borderline starters and fill the rest with guys who you can count on for certain non-overlapping roles. Here is what the Nats have : One borderline starter in McLouth, one guy who can be relied on to possibly hit a homer (but nothing else) against a lefty in Scott Hairston, and one guy who can relied on to be a plus fielder in Danny Espinosa.  Solano is a nothing, a guy that can catch without looking terrible at it. Moore has proven reliable at nothing.

There still are gaps. The Nats have no second lefty bat, no good fielding OF,  no one that can be relied on to get on base, no decent corner infielder. Carroll and Fontenot are not great fill-ins. Work harder, Rizzo!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Random Hall of Fame Thoughts

Because we don't get/have to talk about this for another 360 days or so. 

Greg Maddux - Everyone made a big deal about that one guy's "Only Jack Morris suckas!" ballot making Maddux un-unanimous only to watch 15 other guys do the same. Hear me now and believe me later, no one will ever be unanimous. You have 571 different agendas going on here. Never going to align. Mike Trout plays the next 20 years like his first 2, hits 800 homers and is the hero of 5 World Series? Maybe, he does it. Maybe. Stop worrying about this.

Tom Glavine - seems high. I mean if you should be in, you should be in but it's a higher percentage than I would have thought given history.  Goes to show you numbers count.

Craig Biggio - Speaking of numbers counting, yesterday I said Biggio was Grich, Whitaker, Randolph with 3000 hits. I stand by that. He was a very good offensive player (as were Grich and Whitaker, Randolph was more fielding heavy) for a very long time (not so much for Grich) in a very good offensive time (not so much for all three). That's why he's a Hall of Famer and those guys can't stay on the ballot. Talent + Timing + Health = Numbers. 

Biggio brings up another point, the idea of positional representation. The idea that there are too many OFs and not enough 3b/2b/C in the Hall. It's arguable that Grich, Whitaker, maybe Randolph should be in the Hall too because how good they were relative to other 2nd basemen. Perhaps. But isn't possible that that's where the worst players are stuck a lot of the time? I mean if a Biggio didn't help a team as much as say Jim Edmonds shouldn't that mean he's a borderline case and not a slam dunk? I can see both arguments.

Mike Piazza - EVERYONE went down in vote percentage. That's an exaggeration, but only a slight one. EVERYONE did... except Biggio, who's on the fast track to the Hall, and Piazza. What's that mean?  Why does he go up and Bagwell go down? My take is that they all realize Piazza is special for a catcher, while Bagwell,while a great hitter, is still just another great hitting first baseman. Hard to keep Piazza off when you see that his SLG is 50 pts higher than the next HOF catcher, steroid rumors or no steroid rumors.

Clemens/Bonds - everyone went down but these two went down a conspicuously small amount, 2-3%, in comparison to the rest. Means that people are coming around on the whole "good enough even without PEDs" thought train. Not enough to matter right now, but it is happening.

Lee Smith - CRASH!

Schilling and Mussina - both were around 10% lower than I thought. It's kind of ridiculous but these guys will just have to wait until the Maddux, Johnson, Pedro trimutive gets in because it's too easy for non-thinking voters to say "well they weren't like THOSE guys"

Alan Trammell - The only one that's really hurt by the whole "10 vote controversy" is Trammell because the other guys will have time to hit the deader times coming up. Trammel doesn't get that luxury. Of course he just sat through some of the deadest HOF voting times in history and couldn't drum up support so it's not like he was going to make it in. I think that's what people don't get. The 10 vote isn't keeping anyone out. It'll delay a couple entries and depress some numbers but it's not going to make an overall difference.

Jeff Kent - ok now I see him and... I think he never gets in.

Mark McGwire - No one cares about this guy anymore. He is arguably the greatest HR hitter of all-time and yet he can't get the votes of a Fred McGriff. I mean I know why this is the case. Steroids = HR so take away HRs and how does the case look? (Answer: not good), but still I would have expected more support.

Larry Walker - Coors Field confuses people.  GET OUT TROY! GET OUT IF YOU WANT INTO THE HALL!

Moises Alou / Luis Gonzalez - more guys "hurt" by the 10 vote limit. Good enough to get the "Bernie Williams year" tip of the hat in a vote with less potential choices. Boo Hoo.

Paul LoDuca - 0 votes. Don't completely denigrate the voters. They get some things right.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Schill, Moose, and Glavine

I find these guys to be incredibly helpful in deciphering the psychology of the hall of fame. They were nearly complete contempories of eachother. Glavine pitching from 1987-2008, Schilling a year off on both ends ('88-'07) and Mussina coming in a couple years after that ('91-'08). They are all Hall worthy pitchers based on their production but there is a big gap in how their cases are perceived. Glavine is almost a shoe-in to get in on his first ballot.  Schilling looks to have to wait at least a couple more years. Mussina is almost a full-step behind Schilling and possibly in for a long Blyleven like crawl into the Hall.  Why?

Glavine, who honestly might be the least productive of the three, gets in because he's the perfect checklist Hall of Famer.  Did he win 300 games? Yes. Did he win Cy Youngs? Yes. Did he pitch well in the postseason? World Series MVP, bitches. All-Star? 10 times. When you come up with a list in your head of all the incidentals a Hall of Famer should have Glavine has them all. Add that to a production that was lengthy and worthy and it's a slam dunk.

Schilling and Mussina on the other hand fail at this first glance. 300 games? Mussina no, Schilling not even close. Cy Youngs? Nope.* All-Stars? Yes, but only 6 times for Schilling and 5 for Mussina. Hence the big gap between Glavine - who might get over 90% of the vote this year and Schilling (around 40% likely) and Mussina (around 30%).

Where Schilling differentiates is that he pitched great in post-season... Well he did and he didn't. First back to Mussina. He overall pitched much like Glavine did in the post-season, which is pretty much the same as he did in the regular season. But what Glavine did was have particularly good post-seasons. 1995 (the WS MVP year), '96, '98, '99 to mix in with some stinkers. Mussina didn't have any terrible postseasons, but had some blah ones and none that stand out. Which brings us back to Schilling. Schilling had two of the most standout postseasons we've seen. In 2001 he (and Randy Johnson) were unhittable. In 2004 he won the last two games he pitched in dramatic fashion. While the rest of his postseason work was hit or miss (did you remember he sported a 7.45 ERA for the 2004 post-season heading into the bloody sock game?) these moments carry a lot of weight.

What does this all mean? It means that when you ask someone to give their opinion, which is what you are doing by asking them to vote, perception is going to weigh very very heavily. Glavine is perceived to be the best of the three because of the milestones he reached and the accolades he garnered. Doesn't matter that he let a lot more guys get on base and score (relative to league). That's secondary to the picture formed in our heads by the things we notice. You see something similar with Schilling. Doesn't matter that he kind of alternated great and so-so in three out of four postseasons. That other one was dominant and his good performances in the other ones stood out. This matters. Think Jack Morris - great in 1984 for a dominant Tigers, gave perhaps the most memorable pitching performance in a WS in the last 40+ years in 1991. Doesn't matter he was terrible in 1992 or lost his only game in 1987. His success stuck.

When you ask people to vote this is what you are going to get. Three guys, all Hall Worthy, all in the same ballpark of worth, going in at three different times, possibly backwards in deserving, because of perception. It's a bit crazy, but if you didn't want this you'd just draw a rough WAR line in the sand. Everyone over X in. Everyone under Y out.  The few between X and Y or the very very random special case? Those get debated.

But who wants this? We already know who is over X and under Y. I basically know the objective best and how guys roughly compare to eachother. I don't need plaques in a building to tell me that. What I don't know is what everyone is thinking. So vote. It's fun to see perception play out.  

*For the sake of argument I went back and looked at all three pitchers years where they got Cy Young votes. Glavine was never "robbed". Schill wasn't either but that was poor timing, being fantastic behind monster years from Randy Johnson, Pedro, and Johan Santana. Mussina was once when by fluke of run support Clemens went 20-3. 20-3! Perception!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Hall of Fame Guessing

Just because I don't really care about who gets in or not, doesn't mean I can't enjoy the process in my own way. It's like betting on the Olympics or something.

A few years ago I wrote about why I thought people get into the Hall or not. Now of course, there's a new level in there. Don't be tainted by steroids. Using my PHD in armchair psychology, let's figure out who will get in and when.

Maddux (undenaibly great), Biggio (undeniably great for his position, hit magic numbers), Glavine (hit magic numbers and honestly close to undeniably great - just bad in comparison to other guys coming up. Schilling and Mussina can say the same but didn't hit magic numbers)

Johnson (undeniable), Pedro (undeniable - though short career, you'll hear a lot of Koufax talk here because there is little old baseball guys like more than to talk about Koufax), Thomas (hit magic numbers)

Ed Note - cass is probably right Thomas this year. Which I think means Biggio next. So not even a half-hour and I'm totally admitting failure. New record for me.

Griffey (undeniable), Schilling (great at right times, remembered for something great)

Piazza and Bagwell (undeniably great but TAINTED because Bagwell never said he didn't and a reporter once said he saw back acne on Piazza - this wait is their punishment)

Chipper (undeniable), Pudge Rodriguez (undeniable for position)

2017 is the hardest year to read. Assuming Griffey goes first year and Pedro in first two then the best "non-tainted" guys left number wise are Mussina, Schilling, and Bagwell by a large margin, and Piazza is still the best hitting catcher of all time. So I figure this is the year they let go of the hate for the guys with nothing on them. If not, Mussina could get in this year or Smoltz if they like him. Walker, Raines or Edgar have shots too if voting is generous prior to this year and the players above are mostly cleared out.

2019 figures to have just Rivera, so it's another chance for someone. Also for both the steroid guys and the fringe guys, if Jeter and Suzuki retire this year there should be a serious lull for a few years starting in 2021. Here are the other WAR leaders active, non-tainted age 36 or up (so you could see retire in the next couple years). Carlos Beltran (though he'd have to not finish out his contract), Tim Hudson, Lance Berkman, Torii Hunter. I think I can stop except I'll throw out that Ortiz is 37. He should be tainted but everyone likes him so they generally choose to forget about his issues. I'm not seeing slam dunks. Then maybe around 2024-5 or so you'll get some stonger candidates again. Beltre, Utley, Pujols, Lee maybe.

You could see the Rice/Dawson effect where someone has to be elected just because. Halladay should make it in during this period. So hang on Raines, Edgar, etc. Hang on.

Notes :
Morris does not get in. I don't know who out there is left to convince that wouldn't have voted for him last year.

If Frank Thomas doesn't make it in in 2015 I think he gets caught in a quagmire of "Why exactly is he better than Larry Walker" which could delay his entry for a few years because no one thinks Larry Walker is a hall of famer (though he has a strong case) 

Mussina will get in but slowly, definitely after Schilling, I'll just guess 2019 for the hell of it. I think when they start seriously looking at Halladay, Mussina will start to look really good in comparison for his career.

I'm guessing quick on Pudge but in my estimation sportswriters really think highly of the guy as a player.

Smoltz will get in, perhaps as soon as 2017 but I'm guessing Schilling will have to go in first then couple years to sort out their feeling on John who took a good 5 years to really get going in his career.

Very interested in the Kent vote this year and next. No idea how to place this guy.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Monday Quickie - Lessons learned

So what exactly did I learn from that little exercise on Friday? Without taking too much time looking into it I'd say this :
  • I wouldn't be surprised if Jayson Werth 2014 at the plate was dramatically less productive than his 2013. (outlier years, age) 
  • I wouldn't be surprised if neither Tanner Roark or Taylor Jordan were anything more than fill in 5th starters (young players having unexpectedly good showings in limited outings)
  • I wouldn't be surprised if Bryce Harper's fielding was an issue in 2014. (don't underestimate impact of injuries that could impact fielding)
When I look more deeply into 2014 I'm going to have to take this into account, more than I thought I would. 

OH NO! It's all bad! DEATH SPIRAL!!!!

While it's true looking at last year I only see lessons about things going bad, that's because last year was a season where things pretty much just went bad. Sorry. But that's not all I see in general. Like I know someone will have a career/breakout year. It happens pretty much every year. Some good things just to balance this all out :
  • Doug Fister will immediately help the rotation be better and his presence forces the Roarks and Jordans to fight for a spot rather than be relied on.
  • Any one of the Top 4 starters is capable of a "career" year like Gio had in 2012, which would elevate the rotation from very, very good to special.
  • Jayson Werth's drop in production should (hopefully) be mitigated by an increase in playing time. 
  • Ramos (78 games), Rendon (98), and Bryce (118) all should also play more in 2014 and all are good candidates for having a breakout year.
See not all bad!  In fact more good, in my opinion. I can tell you right now I'm not picking the Nats to get worse in 2014. Nothing is pointing in that direction. 

Friday, January 03, 2014

Nightmare at Nats Park 2 - Comeuppance's Revenge

Where for some reason I stupidly inhabit a boy's body in the real world rather than attacking you through dreams. (Side discussion - Is the jump from "Nightmare on Elm Street 2" to the Dream Warriors one the biggest improvement in sequels ever? Let's leave out reboots here like "Die Another Day" to "Casino Royale")

No actually I'm going to review my "nightmare scenario" where the Nats miss the playoffs to see how good I did at picking out why the Nats would miss the playoffs. See if I can learn anything from that exercise.

First off I started at the 96 wins the Nats were set at in my mind (pythag win total from 2012).  Then I said we unavoidably had to add wins for more playing time, but I tried to be conservative since we needed fewer wins :
  • Werth +1.5
  • Bryce vs '12 Morse/Bernie +1. 
Now I started taking off wins
  • LaRoche -2
  • Gio -0.5
  • Desmond -1.5
  • Span v '12 Bryce -2
  • Bullpen -0.5
  • Suzuki/Ramos -0.5
  • Haren -1
  • Injury (specifically to pitcher) -3
At that point the Nats were at 87.5 wins, just outside the 85-87 range I said you needed to "feel good" about missing the playoffs.  Ok, so what really happened with all this (in rough terms)?
  • Werth +4
  • Bryce vs '12 Morse/Bernie +2.
Already you see a problem. These guys did give the teams more wins as I thought they would (pat on the back for me) but they did even better than I thought (OW! not so hard!) so now the win total in my head was at 102 before going down. Yikes. Big drop gotta come. Not much to learn though. Werth's performance being as good as it was (MVP worthy when he was playing) was unforseeable. Continuing with the offensive failures:
  • LaRoche -3
  • Desmond -0
  • Span v '12 Bryce -1
  • Suzuki/Ramos +0.5
Again problem - these guys didn't falter as much as I'd thought they would. Barely under 100 now (98.5). Things to learn - maybe I should expect larger crashes from older players (though the Werth thing throws that for a loop). I should probably consider Desmond roughly a 5 win player from now on given the lack of any drop in production overall. Moving on to pitching:
  • Gio -2
  • Bullpen -0.5
  • Haren -1
About right. Gio went down a bit further, returning to his pre-2012 levels so I should probably pay more attention to historical stats and view outliers with more suspicion (again Werth comes to mind). Nailed to bullpen so that makes me think my understanding of the relatively minor role they play is pretty spot on.  At 95 now. Finally the injury
  • Injury (Espy situation) -2.5
About right again. Nothing to be learned about predicting injury. That's just a guessing game

Thing is right now the Nats stand at 92.5 wins (or so). Where did the other 6 lost wins come from?
  • Zimm -1.  
Offense was stable. Fielding was terrible and it cost him. I'm not sure what this tells me since fielding is kind of variable. I guess not to underestimate injuries relating to fielding effecting production.
  • Bench - 3.5
Here we go. Since we counted Bernie already above, the swing here is almost entirely with the infamous three, Lombardozzi, Moore, and Tracy. From a +1.7 in 2012 to a -2.5 in 2013 or a swing of 4.2 losses all by themselves. Tracy is the Gio lesson - don't buy into outlier years.  Moore and Bernie have to be something more like - watch out for rookies having unexpectedly productive years in limited play. There's also a "what can you do" element here as the only reason they could hurt so much is because they played so much which was because of injury. Have to expect some, but impossible to predict who and that matters greatly.
  • Pitchers as hitters -0.8
Something we don't really think about but when you are adding all this up it matters. Now that I look at it - this number is kind of variable and in general they take away a half a win so I should probably have expected some loss here. (Fun note : two highest in 2013 were the Dodgers and Braves for what's that worth)
  • Strasburg -1 
He was good, but much like Gio he wasn't as good as he was in 2012. I still expect him to be one of the better pitchers in 2014, but maybe I should start seeing him more as Top 10 rather than Top 3, which is a world of difference.

There you go. This is all pretty rough but one of the things you'll notice is given how the nightmare scenario was about things going wrong for the Nats, how little "went right" for the Nats. Werth improved by a lot. Ramos played well and played enough to matter. ZNN pitched a little better, though the post All-Star break troubles kept him from making a big difference. The fifth starter role actually was a little better in 2013 thanks to Ohlendorf, Jordan and Roark but Detwiler was pretty good in 2012. After that not much of anything. Span didn't suck? To fail like they did the Nats needed a season where almost everything went the wrong way. In 2013 it did. Now, when looking at 2014, it's up to us to parse out what were aberrations and what are the new realities.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Nothing is sacred

There are certain times during the baseball calendar when I feel like a member of a third party (GO AHEAD. THROW YOUR VOTE AWAY). All-Star voting time, award voting time, and most definitely Hall of Fame voting time.

On one side you have the modern voters. These guys believe that the advances in analysis over the past two decades now allow us to accurately determine the production of a player and therefore, his worth in comparison to his peers. While they do believe there is some level of variability that allows for discussion on the fringes of these debates, they also believe that in most scenarios the stories that the numbers tell are cut and dried.

On the other side you have the traditionalist voters. These guys believe in impressions as much as numbers. Who do I remember as being a fearsome hitter? Who do I remember making big plays in big spots? They aren't going to let in a guy who is certainly a bad choice, but they may favor one guy over another not because they are sure he was the better player but because they have more favorable memories of him. The numbers don't decide, "people" do.

Off to the side is me. What do I believe? I believe that I don't care. Whatever happened to the Hall of Fame? Who the hell cares what "happened" to the Hall of Fame?!? Voting is a "sacred responsibility"? HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHA!!!!

If it makes you happy to see your role in all this, either as voter or crusader, as super important, by all means don't let me ruin your fun. But why? WHY!? What is making you tick like that, man? Your mother sure did a number on you, didn't she?

This is supposed to be fun. We are asking a small group of people "What do you think?" It's nothing more than a laughably "official" version of arguing with your friends who was the better 3rd baseman over a couple beers. Remember the ESPYs? How we think that these are so incredibly stupid? These votes are the ESPYs on a singular sports level.

I find it hard to make an argument for my position because I feel like I'm arguing about the sky being blue or water being wet.  I'm Tommy Lee Jones yelling at Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. Who deserves be an All-Star ...the most valuable player in baseball the hall of fame?  I DON'T REALLY CARE. I DON'T KNOW WHY YOU DO. AND WORSE, YOU WON'T SHUT UP ABOUT IT.

Here's my message to everyone who votes. Vote for who you want, vote for why you want, and hell, change your mind if you feel like it. Vote for Don Mattingly because he was great for 4 years, decimated by injury, and on your favorite team. GREAT! Don't vote for Don Mattingly because he was only a special player for maybe 6 years and had a relatively short career. GREAT! Explain it if you want. Don't explain it. Whatever.

Here's my message to everyone who crusades. Say why you think one guy should be in and another not and then move on with your lives. It doesn't matter. It's a nice gesture. A hearty handshake from history.

Argue between you two, sure, but have fun with it and if your guy doesn't make it because he didn't have the numbers or because he didn't make an impression on the voters, it's not a slap in the face of truth and justice. It's the way a silly vote, slightly better than an "send in your text" vote for the better dancer, Joey Lawrence or Mario Lopez, ended up. That's all.

Gah! GAH! This almost makes me yearn for Spring Training talk to start... almost.