Friday, June 29, 2012

The Left Field All-Star Ballot

Last year, I introduced a new (to me) approach to determining my all-star selections for my Baseball Blogger's Alliance ballot. The gist of it was I based my choices on a full year's worth of performance—i.e. this time last year until now—rather than just year-to-date numbers.

This year, I'm sticking with that formula, but with a couple minor adjustments:
  1. To place a slight emphasis on this year's performance, I made a short list of the candidates at each position (based on statistics from mid-2011 to present), then basically chose the player who is having a better 2012 so far. That way, I ensured I was picking someone who was worthy based on an entire year's results and not based on a hot start that might fizzle out.
  2. I chose players only at their primary 2012 positions, which is probably where their names appear on the actual ballot (although, admittedly I didn't actually look at the official ballot).

AL - Matt Wieters (Baltimore)
NL - Carlos Ruiz (Philadelphia)

Wieters wins out over Mike Napoli because, while Napoli had a better second half of 2011, Wieters is clearly better so far this year. Ruiz and Yadier Molina are pretty even based on last-calendar-year numbers, but Ruiz's other-worldy offensive first half of 2012 makes him an easy choice.

First Base
AL - Edwin Encarnacion (Toronto)
NL - Joey Votto (Cincinnati)

Nobody even comes close to Votto, in either league. Albert Pujols has slightly better numbers than Encarnacion since mid-2011, but the latter's 2012 is far superior.

Second Base
AL - Robinson Cano (New York)
NL - Brandon Phillips (Cincinnati)

Cano is another easy pick. The NL is a virtual tossup between Dan Uggla and Phillips. I'm going with Phillips because Uggla's offensive advantage is negligible, while Phillips's defensive edge is quite significant.

AL - Elvis Andrus (Texas)
NL - Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado)

Andrus is another pretty obvious choice here. Tulowitzki's not off to a great start, partly due to injury, but based on the calendar year formula, no one else can really compete.

Third Base
AL - Adrian Beltre (Texas)
NL - David Wright (New York)

The AL is a three-way battle between Beltre, Miguel Cabrera and Brett Lawrie. Beltre's having a better 2012 than Cabrera and is better since mid-2011 than Lawrie.

AL - Alex Gordon (Kansas City), Mike Trout (Los Angeles), Josh Hamilton (Texas)
NL - Ryan Braun (Milwaukee), Michael Bourn (Atlanta), Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh)

My philosophy has always been that at least one outfielder has to be a center fielder. It's somewhat unusual this year that there are two in each league who fit the bill (Trout and Hamilton in the AL, Bourn and McCutchen in the NL). Trout and Bourn get the nods to handle center field duties in the actual game.

Designated Hitter
AL - David Ortiz (Boston)
NL - Matt Kemp (Los Angeles)

In the AL, we have an actual DH for this spot. Since there are no DHs in the NL, I'll go with the most deserving hitter who didn't earn a starting role elsewhere.

AL - Justin Verlander (Detroit)
NL - Zack Greinke (Milwaukee)

These choices were both surprisingly easy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

All-Time Teams #8: Cleveland Indians

This is part of an ongoing series where I'm naming an all-time team for each of the current 30 MLB franchises, and using this as a vehicle to discuss their greatest eligible player who is not in the Hall of Fame.

The Indians presented some interesting dilemmas. There wasn't much to choose from at catcher, but that was more than made up for by a plethora of outfield choices, including three Hall of Fame center fielders and one who deserves much more consideration than he'll likely get. Even choosing this team's manager was a tough decision.

Dan Day of The Ball Caps Blog, being a native Ohioan, gave me some input on the team he followed as a youth. I'm honestly not sure where his allegiances currently reside, as he's moved around the country pretty frequently since. I know he spent at least a brief period rooting for the Brewers while attending college at Marquette, and he fairly recently celebrated the Giants' 2010 World Series victory. But, since he's now a central Jersey resident, will he become a Phillies fan? Mets fan? Yankees fan?!?

By asking these questions I'm really just procrastinating my admission that I left his boyhood hero off the team. So, to justify my decision I'm going to explain how I came to a determination as to what outfielders would make the cut.

There were nine outfielders I considered, and only one of them was an absolute no-brainer to make it as a starter. Probably the second and third best outfielders in the team's history primarily played the same position (center field) as that guy, adding to the difficulty of assembling this team.

I decided to compare these players based on who ranked in the Indians' top ten all-time in these statistical categories: WAR, runs, hits, HR, RBI, SB, OPS+ (with a little extra consideration given to being the team's all-time leader in a category). In doing so, a tenth guy was added to the list, but three of the ten were quickly eliminated.

Those three and their top ten categories would be Charlie Jamieson (runs, hits), Elmer Flick (SB, OPS+) and Rocky Colavito (HR, OPS+). The most difficult decision was Colavito, but his closest comparisons among the seven who made the first cut—Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez—were both in the top ten in HR, RBI and OPS+, and superior to him in WAR.

From there, I really needed to drop one more guy, because I could justify six outfielders, but seven would've meant only two reserve infielders, and that seemed like a stretch. That choice came down to Belle or Ramirez, who both played eight years in Cleveland and had very similar statistics:

Belle: 3925 PA, 1014 H, 592 R, 242 HR, 751 RBI, 150 OPS+, 25.5 WAR

Ramirez: 4095 PA, 1086 H, 665 R, 236 HR, 804 RBI, 152 OPS+, 28.0 WAR

Not much daylight there, but there is enough to give a slight edge to Ramirez. Plus, Ramirez had the better overall career, so Belle had to go.

Franchise History
Cleveland Indians (1915- )
Cleveland Naps (1903-1914)
Cleveland Bronchos (1902)
Cleveland Blues (1901)

An asterisk (*) denotes a Hall of Famer.

C - Victor Martinez (2002-2009)
1B - Jim Thome (1991-2002, 2011)
2B - Nap Lajoie* (1902-1914)
SS - Lou Boudreau* (1938-1950)
3B - Al Rosen (1947-1956)
LF - Joe Jackson (1910-1915)
CF - Tris Speaker* (1916-1926)
RF - Larry Doby* (1947-1955, 1958)

Bob Feller* (1936-1941, 1945-1956)
Addie Joss* (1902-1910)
Stan Coveleski* (1916-1924)
Sam McDowell (1961-1971)
Bob Lemon* (1946-1958)

Doug Jones (1986-1991, 1998)

C - John Romano (1960-1964)
1B - Hal Trosky (1933-1941)
IF - Joe Sewell* (1920-1930)
3B - Ken Keltner (1937-1944, 1946-1949)
OF - Kenny Lofton (1992-1996, 1998-2001, 2007)
OF - Earl Averill* (1929-1939)
OF - Manny Ramirez (1993-2000)

Wes Ferrell (1927-1933)
Early Wynn* (1949-1957, 1963)
Gaylord Perry* (1972-1975)
Mel Harder (1928-1947)

Lou Boudreau* (1942-1950)

Joe Jackson becomes the first non-Hall of Famer to appear on two different all-time teams. He won't be the last, and since he likely would be in the Hall if not for a lifetime ban from baseball, we'll see if an actual Hall-eligible candidate falls into this category.

Greatest Eligible non-Hall of Famer

After Kenny Lofton is virtually ignored by the Hall of Fame voters when he becomes eligible next year, he'll instantly become the Indians' greatest eligible non-Hall of Famer. But, since he's not eligible yet, this distinction goes to Wes Ferrell, with an honorable mention to Albert Belle, who was the choice in my original post on the subject.

Similar to Belle, Ferrell may have had a Hall of Fame case if his career—or at least his ability to perform at a reasonably high level—had lasted longer.

The point is often made Ferrell is more deserving of the honor than his Hall of Fame brother, Rick. It's also often suggested that, despite being a pitcher, he was better with the bat than his brother, who was a catcher but is enshrined based primarily on his defensive abilities. In fact, Wes hit more home runs than Rick (38 to 28) in over 5700 fewer plate appearances and out-OPS+'d him 100 to 95.

Ferrell (Wes, that is) enjoyed six 20-win seasons, all prior to his 29th birthday. That's pretty incredible. There are only a few guys who can top that, and their names are the likes of Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson.

Unfortunately, it was all downhill after that. Through his age 28 season (1927-1936), Ferrell was 161-96 with a 128 ERA+ and 46.3 WAR. From that point on (1937-1941), 32-32 with an 83 ERA+ and -1.2 WAR.

In my opinion, that's not quite enough longevity to make a strong Hall of Fame case (and his peak wasn't exactly Koufaxian). But, that certainly qualifies him for my distinction of being the greatest eligible Cleveland Indian not in the Hall of Fame.

Next Up: Colorado Rockies

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

If There Was a Hall of Fame Inner Circle

Graham Womack of Baseball: Past and Present is at it again. That is, he's introduced another interesting project for me and other like-minded types to obsess over.

This time around, he's asking us to name the 50 players we would choose to represent the Hall of Fame's "inner circle," you know the absolute elite of the elite.

Only current Hall of Famers are eligible, which quite honestly made a few decisions a little easier. Not that this was an easy exercise by any stretch of the imagination.

Well, the first 40 or so seemed pretty automatic, but after that it got difficult in a heartbeat.

Anyway, I decided there should at least be a little balance by position, and I mostly succeeded at that. I also felt, difficult as it is to make such comparisons, there should be at least a few Negro Leaguers, so I went with the three players who seem to be consensus legends.

I'm not going to bother discussing the guys who were most difficult to leave off. Feel free to ask me about so-and-so if you wish, though.

So, without further ado, here are my 50, organized by position:

Yogi Berra
Johnny Bench
Gary Carter
Josh Gibson

First Base
Cap Anson
Lou Gehrig
Jimmie Foxx

Second Base
Eddie Collins
Rogers Hornsby
Nap Lajoie
Joe Morgan
Jackie Robinson

Cal Ripken
Arky Vaughan
Honus Wagner

Third Base
Wade Boggs
George Brett
Eddie Mathews
Mike Schmidt

Hank Aaron
Oscar Charleston
Roberto Clemente
Ty Cobb
Joe DiMaggio
Rickey Henderson
Al Kaline
Mel Ott
Mickey Mantle
Willie Mays
Stan Musial
Frank Robinson
Babe Ruth
Tris Speaker
Ted Williams
Carl Yastrzemski

Pete Alexander
Steve Carlton
Bob Feller
Bob Gibson
Lefty Grove
Carl Hubbell
Walter Johnson
Christy Mathewson
Kid Nichols
Satchel Paige
Eddie Plank
Tom Seaver
Warren Spahn
Ed Walsh
Cy Young

Friday, June 15, 2012

Walter and Kirby and Me

While I'm in the process of trying to get back on track with the All-Time Teams series, I thought I'd take a moment to write about an issue germane to the discussion.

There's a fantastic relatively new baseball blog called High Heat Stats, which has become one of my favorites. They've been doing a series of posts on the "Mount Rushmores" of each individual franchise*, in the process asking their readers to vote on what four heads belong on each franchise's monument. Notice I said franchise, not once, but twice (OK, technically that was the third). Normally I would have used team the second time, because it would read better. But, there's a reason I chose to emphasize franchise that I'll get to in a moment.

*I honestly thought some of these posts might help to inform my all-time team player selections, but in general, the votes don't go deep enough to help with some of the more difficult decisions.

For the Mount Rushmore of the Minnesota Twins, I voted for Walter Johnson, Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett. The first three were no-brainers. Honestly, I can't imagine anyone taking such an exercise seriously and not voting for these guys. I took Puckett over Bert Blyleven (and a host of other somewhat worthy candidates) for the fourth spot, partly because he was a career Twin and because he seemed to represent a little of the intangible "face of the franchise" measure.

When I looked at the early voting results, I was surprised to see that Puckett had received greater support than Johnson up to that point, and I commented as such. To which another reader replied, "More people know who Kirby Puckett is than Walter Johnson."

{scratches head}

I'll just let that soak in for moment.

Let me remind you this is not a comment thread on This is a pretty obscure baseball blog that's mostly oriented towards history and, more obviously, statistics. I know Walter Johnson is not quite as well known as Cy Young—mainly because they named an award after the latter—but we're not talking about Kid Nichols here.**

**Personally, I think Kid Nichols should be a household name, but I get that the turn-of-the-century Hall of Famer is not as universally known as one of the Hall's original five inductees. Walter Johnson, that is, who along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson was part of the Hall's inaugural class of 1936. Ever hear of those guys?

But, not to get too far off the main subject here, I chose to leave this curious comment alone, but another reader addressed it by saying, "I don’t think that’s true; what I do think is that since Johnson never played for the 'Minnesota Twins' per se, there is somewhat of a disconnect for more casual fans…though the readership here isn’t exactly the casual fan."

That sounds more like it. Which brings me to my real point. The author of these posts has emphasized, just as I've tried to in my series, that it's the entire history of the franchise being considered for these distinctions. But, somehow many people still have this disconnect between what they've seen and what they only have statistics and what's been written about players to go on. I suppose this is know, to each his own and all that jazz.

But, I ask you this? When it was determined what presidents' heads would be carved into the real Mount Rushmore, was it taken into consideration that no one alive at the time the idea was conceived had ever seen Washington and Jefferson lead the country? Obviously not.

So, why would anyone conceive of a Mount Rushmore celebrating the entire history of a franchise without giving equal weight to the players from a century ago as to the players from a decade ago?

Doesn't make much sense to me. So, I'll reiterate that my emphasis is on the entire history of each franchise. If they came into existence in the 19th century, then 19th-century players are fair game. Because, honestly, with the increased accessibility to baseball statistics on the internet, it's pretty easy to get to a point where I can honestly say there is no player good enough to be considered among a franchise's greatest ever whom I'm not familiar with. Let alone one of the five greatest pitchers of all-time.

"I'm wheels, I am moving wheels
I am a 1952 studebaker coupe."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

LC's West Coast Adventure, Part 2

OK, so I'll admit that a west coast trip with an infant wasn't as easy as I made it sound in part one. I only touched on his problems adjusting on the night we arrived. Well, there were a few more instances of the effect of jet lag, but for the most part he was a trooper and handled the change in his schedule pretty well.

But, as KJ has reminded me on several occasions, it's the return trip back east that's the real challenge. So, since we've been back home, the boy is really experiencing some jet lag. All the more reason I should have gotten started on part two while I was still on vacation.

Anyway, where did I leave off? When we stopped off for the growlers at Migration, the idea was to have an empty one (or two) on hand at the in-laws' place so we could fill it (or them) with fresh beer from various breweries during this and future visits. I was pretty sure, but not 100% certain, that any area brewpub would fill any growler, no matter where it came from.

I'm not really sure why I ever doubted that would be the case. I haven't purchased too many growlers in recent years, mainly because most of the brewpubs in and around Boston are nothing special, but also because I don't often find myself in the situation where drinking (or even sharing) a gallon of beer in one sitting is realistic, believe it or not. I suppose my brewing pal and I could handle it without much problem, but we're usually drinking our own beer while "working."

While it's certainly possible that some New England brewpubs would frown on the idea of filling a container with a competitor's label on it, Portland breweries were happy to fill any growler, of course. In fact, on Monday, after an outing to the Portland Zoo*, we attempted another brewpub drive-by (so to speak) only to find out Coalition Brewing is closed on Mondays. But, as it turns out, the sole employee (brewer? owner?) working that day was more than happy to fill my growler, after offering me a couple quick samples.

*I'm really looking forward to when LC appreciates this sort of thing, and so is KJ, especially since she's expressed on several occasions her desire to take him to Disney World. In fact, we've had numerous conversations about how we're really looking forward to living vicariously through our son by taking him to places we have fond memories of via our own childhoods.

The beer I opted for was Coalition's Apollo Creed CDA. CDA stands for Circadian Dark Ale, but I was told it's basically a black IPA. It was good, but I'd rate Migration's offerings a little higher, especially their signature brew, MPA (Migration Pale Ale).

As expected, this trip wasn't the usual brewpub crawl that previous outings to Portland were. Actually, the first one was, with subsequent visits being progressively less beer-centric.** This is probably a good thing, although to me the ultimate vacation involves lunch brews at the expense of nighttime drinking.

**The afternoon spent at the Oregon Brewers Festival being the exception.

We did make it to four new (to me) brewpubs in all, with the fourth being Rogue Ales' Northwest Portland location for a late lunch on Thursday. My choice of their XS Imperial IPA was a good one, except it made me a little more tired than I wanted to be on a day LC needed a little extra attention. My bad, of course. Another good choice was a bomber to-go of Rogue's Maple Bacon Voodoo, which survived the flight home—despite our luggage being temporarily lost and finally delivered to our home about 30 hours after we returned—to be shared with my brewing partner, and compared to our I've Seen All Good Maple Bacon Porter, of course.

The flight home went as well as the trip west, as far as LC was concerned. I fully expected KJ and I would split the duties of being a pillow for the little guy, but my better half stepped up on both occasions, allowing him to continue to sleep undisturbed in the position he fell asleep in. This meant she barely moved for the duration of each 5 1/2 to 6-hour flight and, of course, is part of the reason she's one of the two best moms ever, in my not-even-slightly biased opinion.

Monday, June 04, 2012

LC's West Coast Adventure, Part 1

Little Chuck's first real travel adventure got off to a good start Wednesday night. A six-hour cross-country flight with an infant is a tenuous situation. KJ and I knew, going in, it would either go really well or really badly. Well, I suppose there was the potential for some middle ground, but it turns out the former was the case.

LC slept for the entire Boston-to-Portland flight, proving the naythinkers wrong. Of course, the "naythinkers" may have been a figment of my/our imagination, but it was hard not to think everyone sitting near us on the plane was dreading their luck when they saw us board.

There is one kind of funny story regarding that. The gentleman sitting in the aisle seat in our row was offered and accepted the chance to switch seats once it was determined how many empty ones there were. I can't say I blame him, but it turns out, he should have stayed put, as his new spot had him in the row in front of a two-year old who didn't travel as well as LC.

Some of the credit goes to LC's parents—OK, his mother—for the successful strategy of choosing a flight that departed right around his bedtime. You can probably do the math, though, and realize six hours is not a full night's sleep for an infant. Given that his sleep was interrupted, it probably comes as little surprise the remainder of the night was not as easy as the flight.

Another obvious side effect of traveling to Portland with a baby was to make it more difficult than usual to take advantage of one of my favorite aspects of the city. So, my first beer of the trip was a Ninkasi Total Domination IPA I had left in my in-laws' refrigerator the last time we visited.

Speaking of side effects, an unintended and unnoticed (until now) result of my new beers resolution is that I'm drinking less. For instance, after the Total Domination, I was offered a Fat Tire by my brother-in-law. I declined, partly due to parental responsibilities, but also because I knew my father-in-law's refrigerator is always well-stocked with Fat Tires and I needed to save that one for later.

On Friday night we met up with a bunch of KJ's friends and ended up at Burnside Brewing Company, another new brewpub to me. I was planning on grabbing just a pint, but there were so many interesting sounding selections on the menu (many of which I wouldn't risk my only pint of the night on) that I decided to go with the sampler: 4-oz. tastes of all nine beers currently on the menu.

I like that all of their lighter offerings are a little jazzed up, and although I'm not generally a fan of fruity beers, all three that fall into this category are subtly and well done. I particularly liked the Fruity Monk, a Belgian Ale aged on pineapple, mango and papaya, although at 5.9% ABV I probably shouldn't be calling it light. Hard to believe by the description, but the fruitiness, while recognizable, was not overpowering and added a distinct pleasantness to this one.

Of course, I was working my way up to the darker and/or hoppier beers, and I was equally impressed at that end of the spectrum. The Oatmeal Pale Ale had the most pleasing aroma of all, citrusy with subtle hints of its malty sweetness. Ultimately, though, Burnside's IPA and Alter Ego Imperial IPA were not disappointing in their roles as headline acts. Both were above average representations of the style and good enough to interest me in returning for proper pints of one or both. We'll see if I have the time for that.

But, would doing so break my new beers resolution? That is, do I consider each of the nine as my one and only for the year? I did, in fact, have a little help with the sampler, so I really only had 2-3 ounces of each. Therefore, I'm inclined to just count it as one beer in total and say it would be OK to have any of them again. It will probably turn out to be a moot point, as given all the great beer options in this town, I'll likely opt to keep exploring others rather than return.

On Saturday, we visited the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville. I share this not because I have any intention of describing the experience, but because I don't want you to think all I do in Oregon is drink.

On the way back to the in-laws' place for dinner, we decided to pick up a growler of fresh beer. So, we pulled off the highway in Portland and I pulled up the Find Craft Beer app—which uses data from the Beer Mapping Project—on my iPhone and asked it to find the nearest brewpub. Just three-tenths of a mile away was Migration Brewing, so we Google-mapped it and headed there for a gallon-to-go of their MPA (Migration Pale Ale) and Luscious Lupulin IPA.

This, to me, was the ultimate use of a smart phone.