November 28, 2002

Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving!

In the spirit of the holiday, I present to you my list of the "Top 10 Baseball Things I am Thankful For":

#10...I have a Major League Baseball team in my hometown.

#9...Bud Selig isn't smart enough to be really dangerous.

#8...No strike/new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

#7...Terry Ryan, a good front office, a solid Major League nucleus and a strong farm system for my Twinkies.

#6...The Internet - I spend about 23 and a half hours everyday on the internet reading something on some baseball-related website and without the web I might be forced to actually do school work or something.

#5...The 2002 season - what else could a guy ask for? The Twins made the LCS and the Yankees didn't. Barry Bonds was, well, Barry Bonds. And the Anaheim Angels won the World Series, although I still can't believe it.

#4...BaseballPrimer.com - I actually found a place for baseball dorks like me to hang out (plus they are willing to publish my articles).

#3...Barry Bonds.

#2...DirecTV MLB Extra Innings package.

#1...My readers! Without you guys, who the heck would pay attention to me?!

I hope I didn't leave anything out...

I try to keep this blog focused completely on baseball and not other sports that I am interested in, like college basketball and college football.

Once in a while I just can't help myself though.

Anyway, since Thanksgiving is sort of a football holiday, I thought I would give everyone my "College Football Lock of the Week."

Long-time readers of this site may remember a couple months ago when I made my first "College Football Lock of the Week" known.

I actually got the pick incorrect, amazingly enough.

I am determined to gain back the confidence of my readers, so here is my pick for this weekend:

(Remember, this is strictly for entertainment purposes only - unless, of course, you want to bet on it)

Florida Gators +4 vs. Florida State Seminoles.

This is a down year for these two powerhouses, but I think Florida will win this game even though it is at FSU.

The Gators are coming off of 4 straight wins, including victories against Georgia, South Carolina and Auburn.

Meanwhile, FSU is coming off of a week in which they threw their QB off the team and replaced him with the QB they benched just a few short weeks ago.

FSU also lost to NC State last week and is without their best player, injured running back Greg Jones.

So there you have it, Aaron's pick of the week!

(If I get this one wrong, I promise no more picks until next season, at least).

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!

Enjoy the turkey, the football and, most of all, the time with your loved ones.

See ya Monday.

November 26, 2002

Hey! I found some predictions!

Before I get to today's topic...

*****A completely unrelated note*****

I get a lot of good emails from my readers and I really enjoy them.

Honestly, one of my favorite parts of each day is waking up and checking my mail to see what stuff my readers have sent.

But, I would like to get even more reader responses than I do now.

So, that means you (Yes, YOU!) should occasionally drop me an email or two.

It can be a comment or question about something I have said.

It can be a suggestion for a future topic.

It can be your opinion on something in the news.

It can be a story about something you want to share with me.

It can be whatever the heck you want.

But, don't be shy...send me an email.

It doesn't cost you anything and you'll probably get a nice, big, long response back from me.

On that note, I am officially starting the "Aaron's Baseball Blog Mailbag."

Yippee!!

Basically, you send me an email about something and once a week or once every couple weeks (I haven't decided which) I will devote an entry to all the mail I received.

If you send me a funny comment, I'll post it.

If you send me an interesting comment, I'll post it.

If you send me a question, I will attempt to answer it.

If you send me a possible topic idea, I'll use it.

You get the point.

Send me some emails people, it's fun!

Email me

Okay, on to the real stuff...

Diamond-Mind.com recently published an article examining the pre-season predictions of all the most important publications and well known writers.

Guys like Peter Gammons, Rob Neyer, Phil Rogers, Joe Sheehan, John Sickels and many more.

And publications/websites like Baseball Weekly, Baseball America, the Chicago Tribune, Sporting News, USA Today, etc.

Of the 45 people or organizations that the article calculated "accuracy scores" for, Tony DeMarco of MSNBC.com finished #1.

I have never even heard of Mr. DeMarco, but apparently he did a real nice job picking the standings before this season.

After I read this article, I suddenly remembered that I actually made predictions prior to the season and they were (supposedly) published somewhere!

See, this website is only like 4 months old, so it wasn't around when I made my pre-season predictions, but I was able to enter my opinions along with hundreds of other "Primates" over at BaseballPrimer.com.

After about 15 minutes of searching the Primer website, I finally stumbled upon my predictions.

Here they are:

AL East:

1) Yankees

2) Red Sox

3) Blue Jays

4) Orioles

5) Devil Rays

Hey now! A perfect score for me!

I somehow managed to predict all 5 spots in the exact order they ended up.

I've got to admit that the AL East was probably the easiest division to pick, as it featured (in terms of talent) 2 upper class teams, 1 middle class team and 2 lower class teams.

Anyway, a perfect score is a perfect score no matter what, right?

AL Central:

1) Twins

2) White Sox

3) Indians

4) Royals

5) Tigers

Guess what? Another perfect prediction!

I went 5 for 5 in both the AL East and AL Central.

AL West:

1) A's

2) Mariners

3) Rangers

4) Angels

Well, nobody is perfect, right?

I got the A's winning the division correct, but after that it wasn't so good.

I had the World Series Champions finishing in last place, although I don't think I was alone in predicting that.

I also didn't expect the Texas pitching staff to keep stinking as much as they did.

NL East:

1) Braves

2) Mets

3) Marlins

4) Phillies

5) Expos

Well, once again I got the division winner correct.

And, once again, I didn't get much else right.

"My" second place team (the Mets) finished in dead last, while my last place team (the Expos) finished in 2nd.

NL Central:

1) Astros

2) Cardinals

3) Cubs

4) Reds

5) Brewers

6) Pirates

This division was a real mess.

My #1 and #2 teams flip flopped in real life.

The Cubs were a lot worse than I thought they would be and the Pirates were a lot better.

NL West:

1) Giants

2) Diamondbacks

3) Padres

4) Rockies

5) Dodgers

Once again, my #1 and #2 teams flip flopped.

Other than, I got everything wrong.

Okay, so let's recap:

I got 4 out of the 6 division winners correct, including all 3 in the American League.

Overall, I don't think I did all that well.

If I calculate my "accuracy score" the same way the article did...

I get 0 points for the AL Central and AL East (remember, the lower the point total, the more accurate you were).

I get 6 points for the AL West, 10 for NL West, 12 for NL Central and a whopping 20 for the NL East.

For a grand total of...

48 points.

Where would that put me if I were included with the 45 people/places in the article?

I would have been tied for 16th place with Baseball America, the Chicago Tribune, David Schoenfield of ESPN.com, Rob Neyer, Sean McAdam of ESPN.com, Sports Illustrated and Tim Kurkjian of ESPN.

Not a bad group to be with!

My favorite magazine (Baseball America).

A major newspaper (ChiTown Trib).

The most prestigious sports magazine in the history of the world (Sports Illustrated).

And 4 ESPN.com guys, including one of my favorite writers, Rob Neyer.

Hopefully I will do better predicting next season.

If nothing else, it will be a lot easier for me to find the prediction if I put it on this site and not Baseball Primer.

November 25, 2002

Around the majors

A lot of people have been emailing me regarding my potential employment with the Minnesota Daily.

Sadly, I was informed yesterday that I did not get the job.

I am not really sure why, but for whatever reason, the Sports Editor did not feel I was the right man for the job.

It is very disappointing and somewhat depressing, but hey, that's life.

Okay, enough about me...

The Phillies signed David Bell to a 4 year contract worth $17 million dollars.

My immediate reaction (and the immediate reaction of most "statheads") was that this was a pretty bad signing for the Phillies.

Basically, David Bell is a nice player to have on a ballclub, but he is the definition of "average" and $17 million dollars is not something I would be willing to give to average players.

After thinking about it a little more, I have come to the conclusion that it isn't that horrible.

It is definitely not something I would have done, but it is not the franchise crippler that some people are saying it is.

First of all, in the world of Major League Baseball, $4 million dollars (about what they will pay him each of the 4 years) is not a lot of money.

The Phillies had a 2002 payroll of about $60 million, so, assuming it stays in the same range, Bell is going to make up about 6-7% of the team's payroll.

If Bell plays like he has over the last few seasons, the Phillies have a nice third baseman for a reasonable salary.

If Bell starts to age a little bit or just plain struggles, the Phillies are still only paying him $4 mill a season, which is not a backbreaking amount.

Like I said, I wouldn't have given him the contract that the Phillies did, but it isn't that bad.

Over the last 4 seasons, David Bell's EqAs have been: .265, .243, .256 and .273 this year.

The average Major League third baseman had a .264 EqA in 2002.

Add in the fact that Bell is a good defensive third baseman and is very durable, and he should be a good bet to be completely average and maybe slightly above average, at least for a couple more years.

I am not sure what this means for San Francisco.

If I were the Giants, I would try to re-sign Bill Mueller to a reasonable deal and let him replace Bell at 3B.

Actually, Mueller is probably a better player than Bell (particularly offensively) and he will almost certainly cost a lot less, so the Giants could come out of this looking even better than before.

The Tigers traded Randall Simon to the Pirates for 3 minor leaguers.

I might get my stathead membership card taken away from me for saying this, but I think Randall Simon is a pretty good hitter.

He has an awful approach at the plate and absolutely zero plate discipline, but the man can hit.

He has 3 lengthy stints in the Majors:

1999 = .317/.367/.459 (218 ABs)

2001 = .305/.341/.445 (256 ABs)

2002 = .301/.320/.459 (482 ABs)

It is pretty safe to say that Randall Simon is a .300 hitter.

I like to use AVG/OBP/SLG when I talk about hitters.

With Randall Simon, I would feel pretty confident penciling in .300 in the "AVG" spot and .450 in the "SLG" spot.

It is that middle spot that makes Simon so frustrating.

He simply will not take a walk.

He walked a grand total of 13 times in 482 at bats this season.

The kicker is that 5 of those walks were intentional!

Which means Randall Simon was only responsible for drawing 8 walks in almost 500 at bats this year.

That is an incredible number.

Guys like Randall Simon - complete hackers with no plate discipline and an ability to hit for a good average - make me wonder whether or not someone can learn to draw walks at such a late stage in their career and not have an adverse affect on their overall hitting ability.

What I mean is that if Pittsburgh could somehow teach Randall Simon to walk a little bit, say 40 or 50 times a year, they would have themselves a pretty nice first baseman - in theory.

I wonder though, by changing his approach from complete hacker to normal hacker, whether or not his other skills, particularly the .300 batting average, would leave him.

Simple logic tells me that by acquiring a better overall approach at the plate, Simon's average would actually go up (or at least stay the same) because he would be getting better pitches to hit by laying off the complete junk and working himself into more hitter's counts.

On the other hand, maybe Randall Simon is truly a "bad ball hitter" and he simply needs to swing at the complete junk.

Also, maybe by asking/teaching him to take more pitches and draw more walks, his aggressiveness at the plate would go down so much that he would lose all affectiveness.

Guys like Randall Simon intrigue me and if I were a GM without a decent option at first base, I might take a flier on Simon and see if my hitting coach could add on 35 walks a year.

That said, the Pirates are not a team without a decent option at first base.

They have Craig Wilson, who is more than decent.

In 526 career at bats (about 1 full season's worth) Craig Wilson has hit .278/.365/.487 with 29 homers.

He has a lifetime .287 EqA, which is pretty good.

And he is still fairly young (turns 26 in a week).

I have heard that the Pirates may be planning on having Wilson as their everyday right fielder in 2003, which would be great.

However, if he is back playing part time and pinch hitting in 2003, like he was in 2001 and 2002, not only will that be a huge mistake, trading for Randall Simon will be a huge mistake too.

I am not against taking a flier on someone like Simon, but if it means blocking the path for someone like Wilson, it is just plain dumb.

Hopefully Wilson and Simon will both be in Pittsburgh's starting lineup in 2003, because they sure could use the extra offense.

And finally...

The Red Sox named Theo Epstein General Manager yesterday.

Congrats to Theo.

From everything I have heard about him, he sounds like an incredibly smart guy with a great baseball mind and I think he will do an excellent job in Boston.

As many of you probably heard, he is 28 years old, making him the youngest GM in the history of MLB.

As many of you also probably heard, I am 19 years old and my biggest dream in life is to be the GM of a Major League Baseball team.

For that reason, I am so incredibly jealous of Theo Epstein right now that I don't know how to contain myself.

I am hoping that when I am 28 I will be finished with college and hopefully not still living at my Mom's house.

Having any sort of decent job would basically be an added bonus.

Meanwhile, Epstein is 28 and the General Manager of one of the greatest franchises in baseball history.

He gets to work with Bill James, he has an incredibly large payroll with which to run his team with and he has the luxury of having Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Lowe to build around.

Congatulations to Theo Epstein and best of luck.

If you ever feel like hiring someone even younger than you, please PLEASE PLEASE let me know.

Tracing my "Stathead" roots

The other day I was trying to think about the evolution of my becoming a full-fledged baseball geek or "stathead."

It is difficult for me to figure out.

I mean, I know I didn't just wake up one day with a sudden interest in on-base percentages and Defensive Independent ERAs.

But, I am not quite sure how I got where I am as a baseball fan.

I remember my grandmother got me my first baseball cards when I was like 5 or so.

I saw those things (I remember my favorite one of the bunch she gave me was Chet Lemon) and man was I hooked.

I used to go down to the local shop and hang out for hours and hours and I used to go to all the local "card shows" at malls.

After a while my dad and I decided we had enough "inventory" to start having our own booth at the shows, so we started hauling our stuff to malls across Minnesota on weekends.

At that time, I was really more into basketball and football, believe it or not.

My uncle used to try to explain to me that baseball was the sport for me, but I wasn't having it - at least until a little later.

For my 13th birthday the present I got from my aunt and uncle was a greeting card in an evelope.

As most 13 year olds would be, I was thinking, "what a bad present, a birthday card...it better be filled with cash."

Turns out it didn't have any money in it at all.

Written on the card was the following (or something similar):

Aaron -

Happy Birthday!

For your present, take your pick:

A trip with your uncle to Chicago to see Michael Jordan and the Bulls

or

A trip with your uncle to Arizona to see Spring Training

Now, like I said, I was a pretty devoted basketball guy at this point, or at least as devoted as a 13 year old could be and watching the greatest basketball player of all-time play sounded pretty good.

If I remember correctly, I started talking about choosing the Bulls game and my uncle immediately went into his speech about baseball (it was so good it might have been planned!).

Thinking about it now, I am pretty sure that Bulls game was never really an option.

So, we were off to Arizona for Spring Training.

I was there less than a week and probably saw about 7 or 8 games.

And I was hooked.

No more basketball, no more football.

My uncle and I have gone to Arizona for Spring Training 4 times (I think) and most recently we went there for the Arizona Fall League a couple years ago (which was even better, believe it or not).

Anyway, all that stuff explains how I became such a big baseball fan.

But, that was the easy part to figure out.

The hard part for me was trying to figure out how I became this kind of baseball fan.

You know, the one that actually cares about Mitch Meluskey signing with the A's and has an opinion on the Gene Kingsale/Mike Rivera trade.

How did I become a guy that looks at a player's OBP before his batting average or his SLG before his RBIs?

I am not quite sure.

Many people who are the kind of baseball fans that I am would tell you that their biggest influence was none other than Bill James.

Bill James actually invented the term Sabermetrics and he is basically the Godfather of the type of baseball stuff I am most interested in.

But guess what? I am 19 years old.

When Bill James was in his heyday, putting out those absolutely extraordinary Baseball Abstracts in the mid 80s, I was still peeing my pants.

I think I have narrowed down the source of my baseball obsession.

There are two main causes:

1) Rob Neyer

2) Baseball Prospectus

When ESPN.com got really big several years ago, I started reading Neyer's columns everyday.

I really enjoyed them because he was so different from all the guys in my local newspaper.

He wasn't just providing quotes from players and recapping games, he was analyzing.

Instead of telling the audience what Brian Cashman said about trading for Roger Clemens, Rob Neyer was giving his opinions about the trade and backing it up with stats.

That fascinated me and every since then I have wanted to have Rob Neyer's job.

I am not sure how I stumbled upon BaseballProspectus.com.

It may have been because of a mention by Rob Neyer, I am not sure.

Once I was there, I couldn't get enough.

I read every article, every day.

I went back through their archives and devoured everything they had.

I became aware of all their advanced performance metrics like Equivalent Average, Pitcher Abuse Points and Support Neutral pitching stats.

I was in love with the game of baseball and I wanted to learn absolutely everything I could about it and Baseball Prospectus (and Rob Neyer) allowed me to learn about things that I had never even thought about before.

So, that's the story.

I am the completely obsessed baseball lunatic that I am today because of Rob Neyer and the guys from Baseball Prospectus.

What is my point?

Amazingly enough, I actually have one this time.

I am pretty sure that everyone that visits this website also visits ESPN.com and even BaseballProspectus.com.

So, I don't really feel the need to give them any "plugs."

However, very recently the main guy at Baseball Prospectus, Joe Sheehan, left BP.

I was really saddened by the sudden news of his departure because I really enjoyed Joe's writing and he was responsible for BP's "Daily Prospectus" columns that I devoured each and every day.

Joe left Prospectus, but he wasn't done writing about baseball.

He started his own email newsletter recently.

About 3 times per week, the newsletter (which currently is being called the "As-Yet-Unnamed Newsletter") is delivered right to your email box.

It contains Joe's magnificent writing about various baseball topics.

Since Joe is just starting out with the whole newsletter thing and since he is one of the biggest causes for me being a baseball nut, I feel it is necessary for me to tell all of my readers about it.

The newsletter subscription costs $19.95 and it runs through February 28th.

Most of you good people probably have $20 bucks lying around that you could afford to spend and I think there is no better way to spend it than on Joe Sheehan's baseball newsletter.

It is convenient, it is well written, informative, substanative, intelligent, funny and it is written by one of my favorite baseball writers and one of the biggest baseball influences on me, Joe Sheehan.

So, if you are interested in subscribing to the newsletter (and trust me, you will not regret it - it is worth every penny and then some) please send Joe an email at:

sheehan_newsletter@pacbell.net

...and let him know you are interested.

He will give you all the information about how to subscribe and he will even send you a free copy of the most recent newsletter.

Oh, and don't forget to tell him that Aaron Gleeman from Aaron's Baseball Blog sent you!

November 21, 2002

Mr. General Manager

Believe it or not, once in a while I get an email from one of my readers telling me what a moron I am.

Either I said something about one of their favorite players or a decision their favorite team made or whatever.

I actually like getting emails like that because I do give a lot of opinions on this website and it isn't fun if everyone agrees with everything you say.

Somewhere within almost all of the negative emails is something along the lines of the following:

"What makes you think you know so much? You're not a GM. You think you know everything?"

To which I say, "What are you, new here?!"

Of course I know everything!

Just joking (mostly).

I do think that I know a lot about baseball and I think I often have some good thoughts and opinions on things baseball related.

As for me not being a GM? Well, yes, that is certainly true.

But, you wanna know a little secret?

I want to be one extremely bad.

My dream is that someday, someone in a Major League Baseball front office reads this website and decides, "Hey, this kid could help our team."

I don't care if it is the Devil Rays or the Yankees, I will work extremely hard and I will work extraordinarily cheap!

But, that hasn't happened yet, so I am still stuck playing the role of General Manager for you guys - which can be a lot of fun too!

Any day now the free agent market is going to start heating up and big names are going to start signing big contracts.

So, I thought it would be a good idea to write a column about all those big free agents out there before they start signing.

Here are my thoughts and opinions about assorted free agents...

Jim Thome |1B/DH| Age: 32

Jim Thome is one of my 3 favorite players (along with Barry Bonds and Bobby Kielty).

That isn't really all that relevant to anything, but I just wanted to let everyone know.

As for his his playing ability?

It is pretty damn good.

Thome had the best season of his career in 2002, hitting .304/.445/.677 with 52 homers in 147 games.

He is not a very good defensive first baseman, but I would be willing to bet that none of the teams interested in signing him care too much about his defense.

They want Jim Thome because he is one of the best hitters of his generation and a pretty good Hall-of-Fame candidate.

Thome has now played 8 full-seasons in the Majors.

He has had an on-base % over .410 in each of those seasons, except for 2000 when his OBP was .398.

He has had a slugging % over .530 in all 8 of his full-seasons.

Thome is pretty good bet to hit about .280-.300 with 40-50 homers and 100+ walks and that is pretty valuable.

Aside from his sub par defense at first base, Jim Thome's other weakness is left handed pitching.

For his career (1,377 games and 4,640 at bats) here are Thome's "splits":

versus righties = .302/.437/.624

versus lefties = .248/.351/.422

That is about as big a split as you will ever see from someone as good as Jim Thome.

In 2002, Thome did show a lot of improvement against left handers, hitting .245/.358/.497.

Besides his interesting splits against lefties and righties, Thome has always had some intriguing home/road numbers...

2000-2002:

at home = .319/.450/.687

on road = .256/.388/.529

Now, Jacobs Field is a good park for hitters, but it isn't that good.

I am not sure exactly what it is, but Jim Thome is a much better hitter at home, almost freakishly so.

This is the part where I am supposed to tell you where I think he will end up signing.

But remember, I am not a GM yet, so I really have no clue and I won't insult everyone by acting like I do.

The Phillies seem to be offering Thome a whole lot more money than the Indians are, so they almost have to be the favorites.

It is tough to turn down an extra $30 million or so and I am pretty certain I couldn't do it, but for a guy who already has his millions, taking less money to stay in Cleveland might not be such a bad idea.

He is a fan favorite there and has a chance to play his entire career with one team.

He has had great success there over the years and has also shown a tendency to be a much better hitter at Jacobs Field than he is anywhere else.

The Indians are rebuilding now, but they have a ton of good prospects and young players and they should be ready to seriously compete again in a year or two, which would coincide nicely with the last half of the 4 year deal Cleveland has offered Thome.

I say if it aint broke, don't fix it - because if he puts up those road numbers (.256/.388/.529) in Philadelphia, no one is gonna be real happy with his decision, except for his agent.

Ivan Rodriguez |C| Age: 31

If Ivan Rodriguez retires today, he is a Hall-of-Famer.

Pudge came up with the Rangers as a 19 year old defensive whiz in 1991.

He won his first of 10 straight Gold Gloves in 1992 and then, in 1994, his hitting started to catch up to his defense.

Rodriguez has never been a big fan of the walk, but he does everything else well at the plate.

His .314 average this season was his 8th year in a row with an average in the .300s.

Along with the great batting averages, Rodriguez also hits for very good home run and doubles power - posting slugging percentages over .500 in each of the last 5 seasons.

While his hitting has been greatly improved from his early days with the Rangers, his durability, which was once extraordinary, has let him down.

After logging at bat totals of 639, 597, 579 and 600 and games played totals of 153, 150, 145 and 144 from 1996-1999, Rodriguez has played in only 91, 111 and 108 games over the last 3 seasons and has not managed over 450 at bats in any of them.

Catchers on the wrong side of 30 usually don't get more durable with age, especially when they have as many innings behind the plate as Rodriguez does.

I don't think Pudge can be counted on to catch 140-150 games a year anymore (and he probably never should've been).

His hitting is showing no signs of slowing down and for team that is willing to play him like a "normal catcher" (100-110 starts a season) he would be extremely valuable.

That said, catchers don't age real well and Pudge's once amazing throwing arm seems to be a little less powerful than it used to be.

He threw out 36.6% of baserunners this year, which is a very good number for a catcher (4th in the AL).

But, 36.6% was the lowest of his entire career and only the 2nd time (first since 1994) that his CS% has been lower than 44%.

For a guy that has had many years in the 54%-56% range, 36.6% is a pretty big dropoff.

If a team signs Rodriguez for more than 2-3 seasons, they are making a gigantic mistake.

His health will be the biggest issue and pretty soon his defense is going to be more of a liability than it is an asset.

I think he will be able to hit forever, but he becomes a whole lot less valuable as a DH.

Roger Clemens |SP| Age: 40

First of all, Roger Clemens is 40 years old and has had a few injury problems recently.

The injuries have not had anything to do with his arm, which is the good news.

The bad news is that they have been mostly of the "nagging" variety and those are the types of injuries that 40 year old ballplayers get.

Counting on Clemens to be the workhorse that he was throughout the 90s is a mistake.

He will most likely miss a week or two every season, at the least, with some sort of groin injury or something.

That said, Roger Clemens can still pitch.

He posted his best strike out rate since 1998 this season, which is the #1 key for him remaining successful.

Clemens' ERA was 4.35, which is not great, especially for Roger Clemens.

However, his DIPS ERA (click here to learn more) was 3.78, which suggests that Clemens got hurt by the sub par Yankee defense that was playing behind him.

I have talked about this in previous columns, but I will say it again...

The Yankees defense, particularly up the middle (Jeter, Soriano and Williams) is not very good and I think Clemens and the other pitchers were hurt a lot by that this season.

Put a better defense behind Clemens and I am confident he could post sub-4.00 ERAs for 2-3 more seasons.

The K rate is still top notch, the walks are actually getting a little better with age and he still does a pretty good job keeping the ball in the ballpark.

At 40 Clemens is most likely looking at a 1 year deal, 2 at the most, with a lot of incentives.

If I had to guess, I would say he re-signs with New York, although I wouldn't be shocked to see him pitching for Texas or Houston and winning his 300th game in his home state.

I think he would be a perfect fit for the Rangers who need starting pitching and have the offense to get Clemens a lot of wins.

Greg Maddux |SP| Age: 36 and Tom Glavine |SP| Age: 36

I grouped these two guys together because, well, that is what they have been since 1993 - together.

Maddux came over to the Braves from the Cubs as a free agent before the 1993 season.

Over the last 10 seasons, he and Glavine have been the 1-2 combo that has been most responsible for the Braves' amazing success.

Like Clemens, both Maddux and Glavine are Hall-of-Famers, with Maddux being one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball.

Also like Clemens, they are both pretty old.

Let's take a look at their last several seasons and see if either of them are slowing down in any of the 3 most important areas for pitchers - strike outs, walks and home runs allowed:

Glavine:

Strike outs per 9 innings:

2002 = 5.1

2001 = 4.8

2000 = 5.7

Glavine has never been much of a strike out pitcher, which makes his great success pretty amazing.

I see no signs of him slowing down in the strike out department.

Walks per 9 innings:

2002 = 3.1

2001 = 4.0

2000 = 2.4

Glavine's walk rate has been jumping around for a while now.

He cut almost a walk per game off his totals from a year ago, which is always good.

Glavine has always walked a fair amount of hitters and his recent rates look pretty much in line with his career.

Home runs per 9 innings:

2002 = 0.84

2001 = 0.99

2000 = 0.90

This is the one area that I see Glavine slipping just a little bit.

Earlier in his career he barely gave up any homers - 6 in 225 IP in 1992, 9 in 199 IP in 1995, 13 in 229 IP in 1998 - but in the last few seasons, he has given up a fair amount.

Nothing really drastic, but a significant increase for sure.

Okay, so Glavine's strike outs are basically the same, his walks fluctuate quite a bit, but are okay and he is giving up a few more homers than he used to.

Another important thing, his durability, has always been outstanding and continues to be so - he has pitched at least 219 innings in each of the last 7 seasons.

Maddux:

Strike outs per 9 innings:

2002 = 5.3

2001 = 6.7

2000 = 6.9

Maddux has the reputation of being a "finesse" pitcher, a guy that uses his brains and veteran "guile" to win ballgames.

I think Maddux is a really smart pitcher, but his image as a soft tosser is one that is misguided.

For most of his career, Maddux was among the league leaders in strike outs.

Now, that is partly due to the fact that he was also usually among the league leaders in innings pitched, but Maddux also had some pretty good K rates.

He has never been in the same class as Roger Clemens as a strike out pitcher, but he is also not in the same one as Tom Glavine.

Maddux's K rate usually resides around 6.7-7.0, which is why his 5.3 Ks/9 this season is a little troubling.

Maddux battled through some nagging injuries for much of the season and perhaps that had a large effect on his strike outs.

Whatever the reason for the drop in K rate, for Maddux to remain the same great pitcher he has been, he is going to need to get it back up in the 6.0s.

Walks per 9 innings:

2002 = 2.0

2001 = 1.0

2000 = 1.5

Greg Maddux hasn't walked more than 45 batters in a season since 1993, which is pretty fantastic when you consider how many innings he usually throws.

His 2.0 walks per 9 this season was his worst rate since 1992, but it is still very good.

As with the strike outs, I think the injuries may have played a role in his walking a few more batters this season.

Home runs per 9 innings:

2002 = 0.63

2001 = 0.77

2000 = 0.69

Maddux has never given up more than 20 homers in a season and his home run rate remained very good this season.

So, Maddux's strike outs went down quite a bit this season, which is troubling.

His walks went up a little bit, but remain very good and his home run rate continues to be excellent.

His durability is in some question because of the hip injury he had to deal with this year.

As with Clemens, the good news is that it was not an arm injury, but the bad news is that it was a hip injury (which, coincidently is like the stereotypical injury for old age, right?).

Glavine's rates all look pretty stable and his durability remains very good.

The only area of concern, other than his age, is the fact that he has one of the highest fly ball tendencies in baseball, which is a good thing when you have Andruw Jones behind you in center field, but might not be such a good thing if he signs with a team that doesn't have one of the best defensive center fielders of all-time on its roster.

Maddux's strike out rate dropped quite a bit in 2002, but his other rates remained very good and consistent.

His durability is not as good as it once was and he is more of an injury concern than Glavine is at this point.

I hope they both re-sign with the Braves and finish their careers there, but that seems incredibly unlikely.

I am not sure which one I would rather have for the next couple of seasons because I think they will both be good pitchers for a while.

For a team with a spacious park and/or a good outfield defense, Glavine would be my choice.

On another team, particularly one with a good infield defense, Maddux would probably be my choice.

Jeff Kent |2B| Age: 34, Edgardo Alfonzo |3B/2B| Age: 29, Ray Durham |2B| Age: 31

Welcome to our little game of "Musical Second Basemen."

The way I see, there are 4 main factors involved in decided who the best option for a team is among these 3 second basemen.

1) Cost

2) Age/Health

3) Offense

4) Defense

I would guess that their respective prices will go like this:

1) Jeff Kent

2) Edgardo Alfonzo

3) Ray Durham

As long as we are ranking them like that, let's go ahead and do the other 3 factors...

Age/Health:

1) Ray Durham

2) Edgardo Alfonzo

3) Jeff Kent

Alfonzo is actually the youngest of the 3, but he has had some fairly serious problems with his back, which is never good.

Durham is younger than Kent and has played in 150+ games in each of the last 7 seasons.

Jeff Kent is the oldest of the 3, but, aside from motorcycle accidents, he has been very durable, playing in 152, 159 and 159 games over the last 3 years.

I think Durham is head and shoulders above the other 2 as far as age/health are concerned and even though Kent is much older than Alfonzo, Edgardo's injury concerns make them a lot closer in this category.

Offense:

1) Jeff Kent

2) Edgardo Alfonzo

3) Ray Durham

Kent gets the nod here and it isn't even close.

His average EqA over the last 3 seasons is .320 and his lowest total in that span is .304.

Alfonzo's EqA in for the last 3 seasons is .297 and it includes a .260 EqA in 2001.

Durham's 3-year average EqA is .288 and that is basically the general level of performance he has shown his entire career.

Defense:

1) Ray Durham

2) Edgardo Alfonzo

3) Jeff Kent

Most people would probably have Alfonzo at #1 and Durham at #2, but I think that is going more on "reputation" and past performance than it is on current abilities.

Alfonzo has a reputation as a great defensive 2B, but a) he didn't play 2B at all this season and b) when he did play 2B, in 1999-2001, he wasn't really that great statistically.

Baseball Prospectus shows him as -7, -2 and -7 runs defensively at second base compared to the "average" 2B during those 3 seasons.

From personal observations, I think Alfonzo was a pretty good defensive 2B, but he has had back problems and an entire year away from the position, so I don't think he can be considered great anymore and maybe never should have been.

BP shows Ray Durham as +5 this season and +7 and -1 in 2001 and 2000.

As a Twins fan I watched Ray Durham play a lot while he was in the Central Division and I think he is a pretty solid defender at 2B.

Oakland used him as a DH this year, but I think that had more to do with Mark Ellis and them not knowing whether or not Durham was going to be on the team in the future than it did Durham's defense.

BP shows Jeff Kent as +12 this season and +11 and +/- 0 in 2001 and 2000.

From personal observations I find it hard to believe Kent has been +12 and +11 the past 2 years.

In his career prior to 2001, he basically hovered around being even (+/- 0).

It is possible that Kent has improved with age and experience, but I am skeptical at best.

All 3 of these guys are definitely solid defensive second basemen.

I don't think any of them are Gold Glove caliber, but they are all pretty good.

To recap our little ranking system:

Jeff Kent is: the most expensive / worst age/health / best offensive player / worst defensive player

Edgardo Alfonzo is: 2nd most expensive / 2nd in age/health / 2nd best offensive player / 2nd best defensive player

Ray Durham is: the least expensive / best age/healthy / 3rd best offensive player / best defensive player

If I were running a team (and just to remind everyone - I am not) I think I would go after Ray Durham.

He is incredibly consistant and durable, he plays good defense, is a solid offensive player and he is likely the cheapest of the 3, possibly by a wide margin.

Jeff Kent will have the most impact on a ballclub and is the best player of the 3, but he is probably going to be very expensive and he is getting up there in years, which is not a real good thing for a middle infielder.

For a contending, veteran ballclub with no major financial limitations, Kent would be a good choice.

Edgardo Alfonzo is probably more reasonably priced than Jeff Kent and he is the youngest of the 3, but back injuries worry me and I am not very confident in his defense at 2B at this point.

Give me a good ballclub with a decent sized payroll and I would rank them, all things (age, money, performance) considered:

1) Ray Durham

2) Jeff Kent

3) Edgardo Alfonzo

Just to make myself clear: I am not saying I would rather have Ray Durham than Jeff Kent. I am saying that when taking their salaries and ages into account, I would rather make a commitment to Ray Durham as my second baseman. Got it?

I await your emails...

For those of you interested, you can just copy my quote from the beginning of this column and paste it into your emails to save some time and energy.

Here it is again (for those of you too lazy to even scroll back up to the top of the page!):

"What makes you think you know so much? You're not a GM. You think you know everything?"

Feel free to leave it like it is or maybe consider adding in some specifics about a certain team or player or something I said.

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