February 4, 2003
For I am Gleeman, LORD OF THE IDIOTS!
I am an idiot.
I like to live in a cool environment.
Now, by "cool" I don't mean good or nice or whatever else you want to use the slang term to represent.
By cool, I mean literally cool.
When I am not at the dorm, I keep the temperature in the house at 67 degrees and sit comfortably while my mother and dog shiver under layers of blankets.
When I am at the dorm, like right now, I keep the window in my room open, despite the fact that it was 0 (yes, ZERO) degrees outside yesterday.
I don't know what to tell you, I can only sleep when I am cold.
So anyway, back to why I am an idiot.
I wake up yesterday morning and hop out of bed.
I was all set to walk across the room to hit the snooze button on my alarm when I think to myself, "Hmm...it's kind cold...maybe I'll close the window before I go back to sleep."
So I mosey on over to the window, with what I like to call my "sleep face" in full effect (eyes swollen shut, hair completely out of sorts, mouth all stinky and gross, etc).
I go to close the window and I get about 75% of the way through the job when I realize I just dropped the window on my finger.
I am an idiot.
I finish closing the window and then look down at my finger.
It is all bloody and the nail is already purple.
Not a good thing to be looking at first thing in the morning, especially when you have to squint to see because your eyes are still swollen shut.
It is about this time that it starts hurting.
Anyway, there is no punchline to this story and definitely no moral.
I just wanted to inform everyone that I am, in fact, an idiot.
In other news...
Remember when I asked for advice on my Diamond-Mind team from everyone?
Well, I promised to keep you updated, whether you like it or not.
Yesterday I traded for Randy Johnson.
The trading in a Diamond-Mind keeper league with player salaries and team salary caps can get very interesting.
My trade for the Big Unit is a perfect example of that.
Every off-season, the salary of each player in the league rises 15%.
At the same time, the team salary cap stays constant at $400.
So, basically, if you sign a guy for $50, eventually he is going to be too expensive to keep and you'll have to cut him, at which point he'll go back in to the free agent auction.
Last season, Randy Johnson was $85.
That price wasn't a 15% hike from the year before, it was the amount he was bid up to in the auction.
$85 is a ton of money in this league, over 20% of the total team payroll, and Johnson was the highest paid player in the whole league.
And, this off-season, Johnson went up 15% to $98.
Most teams can't afford to devote 25% of their entire payroll to one pitcher, even if he is as good as Johnson.
Long story short, the deadline for "re-signing" players at their new salaries (with the 15% increases) is fast approaching and it was very likely Johnson would be cut by his team.
I was well aware of this possibility, having checked out all the new salaries before.
I even made of list of guys that I projected to be too expensive for their current teams, guys that I thought would be cut and made available in the auction.
What can I say? When I pretend to be a General Manager, I go all out!
At the same time, my own roster was taking shape.
I had a whole lot of $3 and $5 players and my overall team salary was fairly low.
My offense was pretty much set, but I lacked starting pitching, so my plan for the auction was to spend a boatload, probably $60-$65, on a #1 or #2 starter.
Someone like Roger Clemens or Tom Glavine or Mike Mussina.
The more I thought about it, the more I began to think that maybe I would be better off trying to get Randy Johnson before he hit the open market.
I mean really, if I was going to pay $65 for Roger Clemens, why not just pay an extra $33 and get the #1 starter, Randy Johnson?
I made the inquiry and realized that Johnson could be had very easily and cheaply.
His team was almost certainly going to cut him, so they would be willing to trade him as long as they could get something useful in return.
Before I could make the trade, I needed to clear an additional $35 in cap room and, at the same time, not weaken my offense too much.
As you may have guessed, that's tough to do.
I was having a hard time figuring out how to do it when I saw that Johnson's team also had Ellis Burks on the roster.
Burks was only $23, which seemed like a bargain for someone that had an EqA over .300 last year.
The wheels in my mind went into motion and I figured out that if I could get Burks in addition to Johnson, I could use him as my DH and either cut or trade Adam Dunn (my planned DH), who was scheduled to make $58.
$58 minus $23 is...exactly $35! The exact amount I needed to free up to get Randy Johnson.
I inquired about Burks and, to my surprise, he was almost as available and could be had almost as cheaply as Randy Johnson.
Okay, enough with the details.
Would you like to know who I had to trade to get Randy Johnson and Ellis Burks?
Like I said, when you involve player salaries and team salary caps, trades can get kind of interesting.
For the other team, he gets two cheap players (Owens is $3 and Bennett is $5) that he can plug into his team, for 2 guys that he was likely going to cut and lose for nothing.
Bennett hit .365/.412/.444 against lefties last year, meaning he can make up 1/2 of a very nice catcher platoon.
Owens hit only .270/.324/.366, but he stole 26 bases, played in 131 games and had very good defensive ratings in the outfield ("VERY GOOD" in LF and RF and "AVERAGE" in CF). He's a perfect backup outfielder.
For me, I get Burks to replace Dunn at DH, for a savings of $35.
And I get Randy Johnson to be my #1 starter at the completely obscene price of $98!
The Big Unit is nothing more than a 1 year rental for me and he will almost certainly be tossed back into the free agent auction after this season, because I don't think even I am crazy enough to pay $113 for him, which is what he'll cost after his 15% price hike following this upcoming year.
On the subject of Randy Johnson...
Shortly after I traded for him, I had a conversation with Craig Burley, from Baseball Primer and the Batter's Box.
Craig is in my Diamond-Mind league and is a good guy that is often willing to listen to me ramble on about things, sort of like I just did to you about my trade for Burks and Johnson.
Anyway, I explained to Craig a theory I have about Randy Johnson and, since he didn't think it was complete non-sense, I thought I would share it with all of you.
Last off-season I remember hearing about how Johnson had worked to add a split-fingered fastball to his arsenal of pitches.
At the time, it seemed sort of like Bill Gates cashing a birthday check from his grandmother...it can't hurt, but is it really something that he needs?
Well, it turns out the new pitch definitely came in handy in 2002.
You see, Johnson is 39 years old and, despite how it appears right now, he is eventually going to cease being able to strike out 350 guys a season.
As pitchers age, they need to find ways to change their style if they want to remain highly successful for a long time.
I think Johnson changed his style last year, largely because of his new pitch, the splitter.
Check out some of the numbers that make me say that...
#1) Strike out rate.
Randy Johnson led Major League Baseball in both strike out rate and total strike outs last season.
At the same time, his actual K rate declined significantly from prior years:
Year IP Ks K/9
1997 213 291 12.3
1998 244 329 12.1
1999 272 364 12.0
2000 249 347 12.5
2001 250 372 13.4
2002 260 334 11.6
Randy's K rate dropped about 2 per 9 innings last year, which is significant.
His 11.6 Ks/9 IP was his lowest rate since 1994, when he K'd 10.7/9.
Taken by itself, a drop in K rate causing the lowest number since 1994 doesn't really prove my theory, but there are some other things that go along with it as evidence...
2) Ground-ball / Fly-ball ratio
Randy Johnson has always been a pretty neutral pitcher as far as how he gets his non-strike out outs.
Here are his GB/FB ratios:
Year GB FB G/F
1997 198 187 1.06
1998 259 204 1.27
1999 274 219 1.25
2000 244 206 1.18
2001 223 188 1.19
2002 304 214 1.42
What do all those numbers mean?
Basically, since 1997, Johnson has gotten more outs via groundball than flyball, with ratios ranging between 1.06 to 1.27.
Like I said, that is pretty neutral, making him neither a "ground ball pitcher" or a "flyball pitcher."
For reference, Derek Lowe's GB/FB ratio last year was 3.46, which means he got 3.46 ground ball outs for every fly ball out.
At the same time, Jarrod Washburn's ratio was 0.60, meaning he got 0.6 GBs for every FB.
As you can see, Randy's ratio is right in the middle ground.
But this year, his ratio of GBs out went up significantly and he posted his highest ratio of GB outs since...1994.
The drop in strike outs, along with the rise in ground ball outs has me believing that, with his new pitch, Johnson was allowing the batters to simply hit the ball more in 2002.
Instead of trying to strike everyone out, he was using his new splitter and letting them hit the ball a little more often, causing them to hit more grounders than usual.
This theory of mine has one final stat on its side...
3) Pitches per plate appearance.
So far, my theory has been this: Randy didn't try to rack up as many strike outs, choosing instead to use his new pitch to get batters to beat the ball into the ground, thus causing more ground balls outs and allowing Johnson to cut down a little bit on his overall stress.
If this were the case, the amount of total pitches he threw would likely have gone down, right?
Year #Pit TBF P/PA
1997 3498 850 4.12
1998 4064 1014 4.01
1999 4206 1079 3.90
2000 4026 1001 4.02
2001 4076 994 4.10
2002 3996 1035 3.86
Randy threw about 6% fewer pitches per batter in 2002 than he did in 2001.
The number of 3.86 per batter was the lowest of his entire career.
So, to recap:
Less strike outs.
Less pitches per batter.
For once, I think one of my theories might actually make some sense.
I don't know whether it was a conscious effort on Randy Johnson's behalf or just the outcome of him learning another pitch, but in 2002 the overall effect was that he did not strike out as many guys, he got more batters to ground out and he threw less pitches in general.
I'd say for a 39 year old pitcher, throwing less pitches and (likely) exerting less effort is probably a smart thing to be doing, especially when you can do so while continuing to lead the world in strike outs.
Randy Johnson is a very special pitcher.
I think, at this point, it is about time to start thinking about 2 questions that Craig Burley posed to me during our conversation the other day:
1) Can Randy win 300 games?
2) If he can, would he have to be considered the best pitcher of all-time?
When Craig asked the first question, I responded immediately that I thought he would win 300 games.
I think we would all agree that Randy is pretty much a lock to win about 20 games in 2003, which would put him at "only" 244 career wins.
The question then becomes: can he win 55 ball games after he turns 40?
I think it all depends on whether or not Randy wants to continue pitching into his mid-40s.
I could very easily see him doing what Nolan Ryan did in the early 90s, which is to continue to be an effective pitcher well after the age of 40.
If Johnson is to do that, he is going to have to follow the same path as Ryan did, which is to continue to maintain a great K rate.
I wouldn't expect Johnson to win 24 games or pitch 260 innings at 43, but I don't doubt that he could win 12-15 games and pitch 180-200 innings.
As long as that K rate stays strong, Randy can be a successful pitcher.
Does this projection look so out of whack?
1988-2002 = 224 wins
2003 = 20 wins
2004 = 18 wins
2005 = 15 wins
2006 = 13 wins
2007 = 10 wins
TOTAL = 300
The above would include Johnson pitching (and pitching effectively) until he was 43.
If Johnson can repeat his 2002 win total in 2003, that would add 4 more wins and make his 2006 and 2007 a lot easier for reaching this goal.
I'll stand by my answer that Randy Johnson will win 300 games.
If he does that, does that make him a serious candidate for best pitcher of all-time?
Does it make him the best?
I don't know.
The Big Unit ranks 4th in the history of baseball in strikeouts.
He is #1 all-time is strike outs per 9 innings (by a pretty huge margin).
6th all-time in hits allowed per 9 innings.
9th all-time in career winning percentage.
Back in August I put together a list of my top 20 pitchers of all-time.
I ranked Randall David Johnson 14th overall.
Being the 14th greatest pitcher in the history of baseball is a pretty amazing accomplishment, but I have a feeling that, when all is said and done, Johnson will be a lot closer to #1 than he is to #14.
(For those of you that missed it, here is my list of the top 20 pitchers of all-time)
That ranking of 14th is low, primarily because I was very conservative with all active players.
It is very difficult to rank pitchers from different eras.
While Randy Johnson is the workhorse of all workhorses in today's era, he pitched "only" 260 innings in 2002, which was nothing when Cy Young or Walter Johnson were pitching.
Plus, the ballparks are different, the equipment is different, the medical technology is different, the hitters are different and on and on and on.
That said, judged against his peers and his era, Randy Johnson has to rank among the top handful of pitchers of all-time.
So, to answer Craig's questions...
Yes, he will win 300 games.
As for whether or not he'll have to be considered the best pitcher ever?
That's a tough one.
Who am I to say that Randy Johnson was better than Walter Johnson or Lefty Grove?
I would have no problem saying he was one of the 2-3 greatest pitchers of the last 35 or 40 years, along with Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux.
I also don't want to forget about Pedro Martinez when talking about the greatest pitchers ever, but he still has to have some more great seasons to be considered in the same group as those 3 I just mentioned.
Much is made of how great Sandy Koufax's last 4 seasons were.
He is often described as a comet that shot through the baseball world and was gone all too quickly.
I love Sandy Koufax. He is one of my favorite players of all-time and I am currently reading his biography.
But when you look at the numbers, Randy Johnson's last 4 seasons compare pretty nicely to Koufax's.
Year IP ERA+ Year IP ERA+
1963 311 161 1999 272 178
1964 223 187 2000 249 177
1965 336 160 2001 250 184
1966 323 190 2002 260 190
For those of you wondering, "ERA+" stands for adjusted ERA, which takes into account the eras a pitcher pitched in, as well as the ballparks and leagues. The higher the number, the higher above "league average" a pitcher was.
Koufax obviously pitched more innings than Johnson in 3 of those 4 seasons, but that was just the way it was back when he was pitching.
Johnson is asked to start about 35 games a year, while Koufax was asked to pitch about 40.
Compared to their leagues at the time:
Koufax led the NL in innings pitched in 1965 and 1966 and was 3rd in 1963.
Johnson led the NL in innings in 2002 and 1999 and was 2nd in 2001 and 3rd in 2000.
A case could easily be made that Randy Johnson's last 4 years have been better than the final 4 seasons of Sandy Koufax's career.
And that is truly saying something!
Add in the fact that Randy was also an elite pitcher since about 1990 and you can see why he is absolutely among the greats of all-time.
All of this talk about the greatness of Randy Johnson brings up two more questions...
#1) Am I completely insane for devoting 25% of my payroll to him this year?
#2) Will he be worth $113 dollars for me to keep after this upcoming season?
I wouldn't put it past him (or me).
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go ice my finger.
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****