Friday, August 15, 2003
A little put outI read an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution yesterday and immediately decided I simply had to comment on it.
The author of the article is Terence Moore and his premise is that Andruw Jones is the best defensive center fielder of all-time. In fact, he begins his article by saying:
"Andruw Jones already is the greatest center fielder of all-time, and I don't give a Willie Mays what anybody else thinks."The main "evidence" that Moore uses to support his statement is the amount of putouts Jones makes. Here is some of what Moore wrote:
"[Willie Mays] had more than a few pretty catches to reach the Hall of Fame. The same goes for Richie Ashburn, Max Carey and Kirby Puckett. In fact, when [Andruw] Jones finishes this season with 400 or more putouts, he'll join that quartet as the only players in history with such an accomplishment for at least six seasons.This argument is so flawed that I really don't know where to begin. First of all, let's state the obvious (or at least what I thought was obvious), which is that the amount of chances a center fielder has to make putouts is not unlimited and is dependent on the nature of the pitching-staff he is playing behind.
In other words, a guy playing behind a fly ball pitching-staff that doesn't record a ton of strikeouts is going to get a lot more chances to make putouts than someone playing behind a ground ball pitching-staff that racks up big strikeout totals. The concept seems fairly simple to me: The more balls that are put in play, the more chances for putouts there are, and the more of those balls in play that are fly balls, the more chances for putouts the center fielder has.
Center field putouts are also dependent on the ballpark the player plays in and on the two fielders he has playing next to him. A guy playing center field in Comerica Park with Daryle Ward in left field and Jeremy Giambi in right field is going to have a whole lot more opportunities to rack up additional putouts than someone playing in Wrigley Field alongside Jacque Jones and Ichiro!.
Moore, having felt he had made his point about the putout thing, moves onto another fielding statistic:
"There are errors, for instance. Errors lie, especially for outfielders. Many guys have spent their careers with the mobility of that new statue of Warren Spahn outside of Turner Field.It amuses me quite a bit that Moore is using errors to show how statistics can be misleading, immediately after he used putout totals to judge the abilities of center fielders.
He is right about the errors, of course. They do lie and I am to the point that I couldn't name you the leader in errors at any position right now, simply because I don't care. How someone can make a point to show how one thing is misleading while not understanding the thing his entire article is based on is misleading too is...well, "interesting."
Moving onto the next thing:
"In recent years, Ken Griffey Jr., Torii Hunter, Kenny Lofton, Steve Finley and Jim Edmonds have been kings of the glove. They aren't close to Jones' territory in putouts."This is the point at which I believe Moore moves from simply using flawed logic to deliberately trying to mislead his readers.
Moore's point here is obvious, which is that, among other current center fielders, Jones has the best putout totals. That is a fine point to make if you believe, as Moore does, that putouts are the most important stat to judge center fielders. The only problem is that the players Moore chooses to compare Jones to - Griffey, Hunter, Lofton, Finley, Edmonds - are handpicked by him, and for a very good reason.
You see, if Moore really wanted to compare Jones' putout totals to other current center fielders and he wanted to do it in a way that wasn't misleading, his entire point would be ruined. Why is that? Take a look at this:
2002"PO" stands for total putouts and "PO/9" stands for putouts per 9 innings played.
As you can see, both Darin Erstad (by a huge margin) and Mike Cameron (by a slight margin) had higher putout totals than Andruw Jones last season. And, they both did so while playing fewer innings in center field than Jones. Erstad recorded 48 more putouts than Jones while playing in 229 fewer innings and Cameron recorded 11 more putouts while playing in 39 fewer innings.
I could be wrong of course, but I am going to guess that Terence Moore neglected to include Erstad and Cameron in that group of center fielders he brought up earlier because, when you're trying to make a point about someone's high putout totals making him the best ever, telling people about two other current players with higher putout totals isn't going to help you make your point.
I could maybe cut Moore some slack if Erstad and Cameron weren't regarded as great defensive players, but Erstad won a Gold Glove last season (and in 2000) and Cameron won it in 2001. Plus, if you were writing about the importance of center field putouts, don't you think you'd mention the top guys in the league last season when you brought up the names of other center fielders?
But what about this season, you ask? After all, Moore does say that:
"When Jones finishes this season with 400 or more putouts, he'll join that quartet as the only players in history with such an accomplishment for at least six seasons."The problem here is that Andruw Jones is most likely not going to reach 400 putouts this season. He currently has 291 putouts (prior to last night) and has played in 113 of Atlanta's 119 games. That means he has averaged 2.58 putouts per game he has played.
Let's say he stays healthy for every single one of Atlanta's 43 remaining games (which seems unlikely, since he is playing through an injury right now and has already missed 6 games this year) and records 2.58 putouts per game. That would give him a season-total of 401 putouts. If Andruw misses 2 of their remaining 43 games, that drops him to 396. If he misses 4, that drops him to 391.
Okay, but let's give Moore and Andruw the benefit of the doubt and say that he somehow manages to play in every game for the rest of the season, despite currently playing hurt, despite having already missed a half-dozen games, and despite Atlanta being 12 games up in the NL East.
The new problem with Moore's logic is that Jones is currently tied for 6th among major league center fielders in putouts. I mean really, if putouts are the best thing to judge center fielders on and Andruw Jones is the greatest center fielder of all-time, how is it possible that he ranks tied for 6th in putouts this season?
And it's not as if he is tied for 6th, but within striking range of the top spot. Mike Cameron (remember him?) currently has 351 putouts and has actually played in one fewer game than Jones. Yes, that's right, the center fielder who Terence Moore says is the greatest in baseball history trails Mike Cameron in what Terence Moore has told us is the most important stat for judging center fielders, and he trails him by over 20%. Andruw also trails Torii Hunter by 11%, Rocco Baldelli by 7.5%, and is slightly behind Alex Sanchez and Juan Pierre, and tied with Vernon Wells. Oh, and Alex Sanchez has only played in 101 games this season, 12 fewer than Jones.
Let's take a look at the leaderboard:
2003Going by raw putout totals (which is what Moore uses in his article), Jones is tied for 6th with Vernon Wells at 291. If you use putouts per 9 innings played (which seems to make a little more sense to me), Jones is still significantly behind Cameron, Hunter, Baldelli and Sanchez, but he moves ahead of Wells and Pierre. Of course, if you're using putouts/9, Carlos Beltran (3.04/9), Jim Edmonds (3.00/9) and Mark Kotsay (2.71/9) all move ahead of Andruw Jones.
Which is to say that not only is Moore wrong in using putouts as the evidence for a center fielder being great, the use of that wrong stat doesn't even support his point in the season being played right now, let alone in all of baseball history. And, in order to try to make his point work, he is purposely leaving out Mike Cameron's name from the conversation, because Cameron has higher putout totals than Jones in each of the last two years.
In fact, if you want to use putouts per 9 innings instead of total putouts, Mike Cameron beats Jones three years in a row:
2001Incidentally, Torii Hunter had one fewer total putout than Jones in 2001 and played 140 fewer innings, giving him a 3.20 to 2.89 lead over Jones in putouts per 9 innings.
Just to put all this together in a neat package, here are Mike Cameron's putouts per 9 innings played in center field, compared to Andruw Jones':
2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997Counting the last 7 seasons, Andruw Jones has recorded more putouts per 9 innings in center field than Mike Cameron exactly one time, 1999. Cameron beats him 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1998 and 1997.
Overall, for their careers, Cameron has averaged 2.90 putouts per 9 innings in CF, while Jones has 2.81.
Judging center fielders by putouts is an extremely flawed method. That said, judging them by total putouts and not putouts per 9 innings is an even bigger flaw - a flaw within a flaw, if you will.
That said, as long as we're crowning the "King of Putouts" here, the award should go to Mike Cameron and not Andruw Jones. Of course, that doesn't make Cameron the greatest center fielder ever, just like it wouldn't have made Jones the greatest center fielder ever. Center fielder putouts without any sort of context are almost meaingless and, even worse, they can be extremely misleading. The same can be said for almost any statistic in baseball, which is part of the reason why baseball is such an interesting game.
Finally, because Terence Moore doesn't feel that misusing statistics and deliberately misleading his readers is enough, he takes a quote from one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history and then screws it up too:
"Andruw has got to save each starter about 10 runs a year," said the Braves' Greg Maddux, owner of four Cy Young Awards, and most of them have Jones' fingerprints all over them. "He makes a lot of those plays look routine, but the other 30 center fielders in the game don't make plays that easy."The key part of that is not what Maddux said, but what Moore inserted himself:
"...said the Braves' Greg Maddux, owner of four Cy Young Awards, and most of them have Jones' fingerprints all over them."The problem here is that, while Greg Maddux is the owner of four Cy Young Awards, he won them in 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995. Andruw Jones didn't make his major league debut until 1996.
Terence Moore may be right, maybe Andruw Jones is the greatest center fielder of all-time. I personally don't think so, but he is an excellent center fielder and the idea is certainly within the realm of possibility. If he is the greatest center fielder of all-time however, it certainly isn't going to be because he made 400 putouts in a season. And it definitely isn't going to be because some "journalist" in Atlanta who butchers the use of statistics while intentionally misleading his audience says so.
Thanks for stopping by today. In the early days of this blog, I used to tear apart articles from major media outlets all the time, but I have gone away from that of late, in part because I have wanted to focus on my own writing instead of dissecting the writing of others. This time however, I just couldn't help myself. Hopefully you enjoyed it and, if not, I appologize and you should take comfort in the fact that I likely won't do so again for quite a while.
If you missed any of this week's previous entries (I suspect many of you on the East Coast were unable to stop by here yesterday), now would be a great time to get caught up:
Monday: 0% baseball, 100% babble
Tuesday: Hey Joe
Wednesday: Interview with a sports editor
Thursday: Ducks on the pond
This Week's Featured Links:
Monday: David Pinto's Baseball Musings
Tuesday: Twins Geek
Wednesday: Sport by Mick Cochrane
Thursday: Tony Pierce
Arizona (Johnson) -130 over Atlanta (Reynolds)
San Diego (Perez) +150 over Florida (Penny)
Chicago (Loaiza) -160 over Texas (Lewis)
Toronto (Towers) +200 over Oakland (Harden)
Total to date: + 1,740
W/L record: 205-206 (3-1 yesterday for +285 and inching my way back to 2,000.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Thursday, August 14, 2003
Ducks on the pondSo, I had my big job interview yesterday afternoon. I applied for a "Sports Staff Writer" position at the Minnesota Daily (the largest entirely student-run newspaper in the country). I met with Brian, the Sports Editor, and I think the interview went quite well.
Brian informed me that, after I gave him the web address of this blog on my application earlier this month, he has been stopping by here to read my daily entries. That's got to be a good thing, right? I mean, that the guy I want to hire me reads my blog frequently? Anyway, Brian, if you are reading this, I enjoyed meeting you and I look forward to hearing from you.
Also, thanks to everyone who emailed me words of encouragement for the interview, I appreciate it.
Okay, enough about me and my quest for a job. Back to baseball...
I watched the Royals smack 11 doubles (and zero homers or triples) on their way to scoring 12 runs against the Yankees on Monday night and, immediately after the game, I headed over to ESPN.com to check out some of Kansas City's offensive numbers this season.
The Royals currently rank 5th in the American League in runs scored, with 623. They also rank 6th in batting average (.274), 5th in on-base percentage (.339) and 7th in slugging percentage (.427). Those are some pretty impressive numbers from a team that has been without their two best players (Mike Sweeney and Carlos Beltran) for extended stretches during the season.
The numbers are a little less impressive than they initially appear however, because Kauffman Stadium is a very good ballpark for hitters. In fact, according to Baseball Prospectus' "park factors," Kauffman Stadium increases run-scoring more than any major league ballpark besides Coors Field.
After adjusting for their home ballpark, the Royals drop from having the 5th-best offense in the AL to the 10th-best offense in the AL. That's a fairly significant drop-off. What it also means is that Kansas City's pitching-staff, which has the 11th-best ERA in the AL, is a whole lot better than it appears.
Here are the home/road splits for the Royals this season:
Runs Scored/Game:That's pretty interesting. The Royals have allowed 43% more runs per game at home and have scored 12% more runs per game at home.
What is amazing about their home and road splits is that the Royals actually have a winning record at home (33-28), despite having been outscored by a total of 36 runs (or 0.59 runs per game) at Kauffman this season. Meanwhile, they have scored 40 more runs than their opponent on the road, and their record is an almost identical 31-27 away from Kauffman.
While snooping around ESPN.com's team stats page, I came across another interesting thing about Kansas City's offense...
AVG OBP SLGThose numbers are essentially identical, right? The team batting averages, on-base percentages and slugging percentages are all within a couple of points, an extremely small differential.
Yet, look what happens when add in a couple more stats to the table:
AVG OBP SLG RS RS/GDespite nearly identical team batting averages, on-base percentages and slugging percentages, the Royals have scored 55 more runs than the Twins this season, or about 11% more runs per game.
How exactly have the Royals managed to score that many more runs than the Twins while hitting at almost exactly the same level, across-the-board? Well, here are two big reasons:
Runners on Base Runners in Scoring PositionI guess it's pretty simple really. Overall, the Twins and Royals are equals in hitting. But, when it really counts, when there are runners on the bases and there are runs to be scored, the Royals are significant better than the Twins.
With runners on base, the Royals have 35, 32 and 53 point advantages in AVG, OBP and SLG. With runners in scoring position, it's even bigger, with the Royals holding 48, 48 and 71 point edges in AVG, OBP and SLG.
Among the 14 American League teams, the Royals have the 3rd-best team OPS (on-base % + slugging %) with runners in scoring position, while the Twins rank 12th.
Just to put the team-wide differences into individual terms, here is something to chew on:
The Royals have 13 different hitters who have had at least 25 at bats with runners in scoring position this season, while the Twins have had 14 hitters who have done the same.
Of Kansas City's 13...
11 of them are hitting .280+ with RISP
8 of them are hitting .300+ with RISP
4 of them are hitting .350+ with RISP
Of Minnesota's 14...
6 of them are hitting .280+ with RISP
3 of them are hitting .300+ with RISP
1 of them is hitting .350+ with RISP
Basically, almost every guy who has stepped to the plate with a runner in scoring position for the Royals this year is batting at least .280, and the majority of them are hitting over .300. The same can obviously not be said for the Twins, who have more guys hitting below .230 with RISP than hitting above .280.
The main culprit for the Twins is Torii Hunter. Torii has totaled 151 at bats with RISP so far this season, more than anyone else on the Twins or the Royals, and is hitting .225/.287/.411 in those situations.
In fact, Hunter's 151 at bats with RISP is the 2nd-highest total of any player in all of baseball, behind only Preston Wilson's 162 at bats. Of the 30 hitters with the most at bats with RISP this season, Hunter has the 2nd-worst batting average (.222) and 2nd-worst on-base percentage (.287), better than only Jose Hernandez's putrid .175 AVG and .262 OBP in 126 ABs.
The next time someone tries to use a hitter's RBI-total to convince you of something, just think of Torii Hunter. The guy has been absolutely dreadful with runners in scoring position, but he is on pace to knock in over 100 runs, simply because he is getting more chances to do so than anyone in baseball, other than Preston Wilson. Wilson, by the way, is hitting .333/.416/.660 with RISP and is on pace to drive in 150 runs (although much of that is Coors-aided, of course).
Oh, one final point about the misguided nature of looking at RBIs to judge a player...
Barry Bonds has a total of 65 at bats with runners in scoring position all year. He is hitting .354 with a .615 slugging percentage in those situations. He has also been walked a league-leading 57 times with RISP. Not coincidentally, Bonds is on pace to drive in "only" 106 runs this season.
In fact, Bonds has just 131 at bats with runners on base, scoring position or otherwise, the entire year. He is hitting .351 with a .679 slugging percentage in those situations. He also has 76 walks with men on base. His 131 ABs with runners on base rank 182nd among major league hitters. Yes, 182nd.
When you are so good that pitchers simply refuse to pitch to you in anything resembling an important situation, are RBIs really the best way to determine how good you are? I know I am probably preaching to the choir here, but maybe Joe Morgan will pick today to start reading blogs...
Simply because I haven't written about him for a little while, here is what Johan Santana has done in his last two starts:
Just remember, you heard it here first!
Link of the Day:
Tony Pierce - "Nothing in here is true"
Houston (Fernandez) +150 over Chicago (Clement)
Cleveland (Anderson) +155 over Minnesota (Radke)
Boston (Wakefield) -100 over Oakland (Lilly)
Toronto (Escobar) +130 over Seattle (Meche)
Total to date: + 1,455
W/L record: 202-205 (1-1 yesterday for +80.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Interview with a sports editorFor the first time in a long time, today's entry is not "Gleeman-length." The reason for the lack of content is that I have a "job interview" scheduled for noon today. I get incredibly nervous for things like job interviews and, when I get nervous, I have a hard time shifting my attention to other things, such as producing a good blog entry for you to enjoy.
Assuming I make it through the interview alive, I will be back tomorrow with a normal, lengthy entry. Heck, it might even be "super-sized" if I have any interesting tidbits from my experience to share with you (which you know I will).
In the meantime, take a stroll through the many great links on the left side of this page or, if you are really in the mood to read something written by me, take a look through the blog archives (also on the left side of this page), or go check out my numerous articles over at Baseball Primer.
And, if you missed Monday and Tuesday's entries, I suppose now would be a convenient time to catch up, right?:
Monday: 0% baseball, 100% babble
Tuesday: Hey Joe
Thanks for stopping by today, sorry for the lack of content, and please wish me luck! I'll see you tomorrow.
Link of the Day:
I just finished reading Sport by Mick Cochrane. I'd never heard of the book, but I got a free copy in the mail and I ended up really enjoying it. It's a fictional story (or at least semi-fictional) about a boy and his troubled family, with some baseball mixed in. Of course, it probably increased my enjoyment of the book that the story was set in St. Paul, Minnesota (where I grew up) and featured tons of locations and other stuff that I "recognized." If you've got $10 that you can spare, it's definitely worth ordering. Plus, I get 52 cents in commission for each book I sell via that link!
Milwaukee (Sheets) +170 over Philadelphia (Millwood)
Cleveland (Davis) +180 over Minnesota (Santana)
Total to date: + 1,375
W/L record: 201-204 (1-1 yesterday for +60.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
Hey JoeA.J. Pierzynski is one of the best catchers in baseball. He is consistent, he is durable and he is very good.
Check out his numbers from 2001, 2002 and his projected 2003 totals:
G AB PA AVG OBP SLG HR 2BThat is remarkable consistency. He has gradually increased his playing time behind the plate and has also increased his power slightly, all while maintaining very good batting averages each year. It all adds up to a catcher who is a career .297/.334/.443 hitter, which is pretty impressive.
This season, Pierzynski has gotten the second-most playing time among American League catchers (behind only Jorge Posada) and he ranks 4th among AL catchers in "Runs Above Replacement Position," with 20.6 RARP. Defensively, he's not great - he struggles blocking balls in the dirt at times and doesn't have a particularly good arm - but his defense is certainly acceptable.
The durability, the consistency, the defense, the hitting - put it all together and add in a really long name and you get one of the top 5-7 catchers in all of baseball over the past 3 seasons. Make no mistake, A.J. Pierzynski has been one of Minnesota's most valuable players over the last few years and is a big part of their turnaround as a franchise. He is also just 26 years old.
With all that said, the Twins have a guy in Double-A right now who, when he's ready, will end Pierzynski's days as the Twins' starting catcher faster than you can spell P-I-E-R-Z-Y-N-S-K-I (assuming, of course, that you can actually spell it at all).
Joe Mauer, the #1 overall pick in the 2001 draft, is living up to all the hype and expections so far, and is hitting so well in Double-A that he has me thinking about the future of Twins catching, even while the present includes one of the best catchers in the league.
Mauer signed quickly in 2001, played rookie-ball that year, and then spent last season in low Single-A. This year, he started out at high Single-A, before being promoted to Double-A. All of which means he has made 4 stops in his professional career thus far.
Here are his batting averages at those 4 stops:
Not bad, huh?
For his minor league career, Mauer has 316 hits in 949 at bats, which works out to an absolutely beautiful .333 batting average. To go along with the .333 average, Mauer also sports a career walk/strikeout ratio of 117/92, which is excellent. He gets rave reviews for his defense and game-calling behind the plate, and his throwing arm is among the best, if not the best, in minor league baseball.
That is a great resume for sure, but making everything even more impressive is the fact that Joe Mauer was born on April 19, 1983. That makes him about three and a half months younger than me, and it means he doesn't turn 21 years old for another 8 months or so.
Even if the Twins play it conservatively with Mauer - and I expect that they will - he is almost certainly on-track to make his major league debut within a few months of turning 21.
Age is, and always will be, one of the biggest keys for evaluating a prospect. A player's "tools" are important, as are his actual performances, but age is what puts everything into context. A 25 year old guy tearing up Single-A isn't anything to get excited about, but a 20 year old hitting .359 in Double-A is something that warrants its own entry on this blog.
Great baseball players generally make it to the major leagues at young ages. I'm not talking about good players like A.J. Pierzynski. I am talking about great players, Hall of Fame players, players like Pudge Rodriguez and Rickey Henderson, or Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds. Players like everyone in Minnesota is hoping Joe Mauer will turn out to be.
If you look at when Hall of Famers first got significant playing time (let's say 150+ plate appearances) in the major leagues, you get a list of guys who were very young. Here is a list of the last 30 position players to be elected to the Hall of Fame by The Baseball Writers of America Association, along with what age they first got significant playing time in the majors:
Eddie Murray 21That's a long and distinguished list of great players and it stretches all the way back to guys who played in the 1940s. Without exception, every single one of those 30 players was getting significant playing time by the time they were 24 years old. In fact, 29 of the 30 were playing a lot by 23.
Not only did everyone but Carlton Fisk get extended playing time by 23, the majority of them were full-time, everyday starters by 23, and many of them sooner than that. 17 of those 30 players were getting significant playing time by age 21, which is what Mauer is on-track for.
The next wave of Hall of Fame hitters were all young everyday players as well. Tony Gwynn was 22, Wade Boggs was 24, Cal Ripken Jr. was 21, Mark McGwire was 23 and Paul Molitor was 21. Among current players who are likely future Hall of Famers - Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Alomar, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Frank Thomas, Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez - they were all everyday players by the age of 22.
It is just a fact that appears to be proven out throughout baseball history: Truly great players, the best of the best, all played big roles in the major leagues at early ages. That looks like it will bode well for Joe Mauer and it is a good sign for guys like Hank Blalock, Rocco Baldelli, Mark Teixeira and Adam Dunn, impressive players who are all starters at very young ages. For a 25 year old rookie like Angel Berroa however, history is not on his side, at least not if he has dreams of being a Hall of Famer some day.
For Mauer specifically though, the ages of outfielders and first basemen and shortstops aren't all that useful. Playing catcher is a unique job with many different challenges than players at other positions face, and I think it would make more sense to look at the top catchers in baseball history, to see at what ages they first got significant playing time in the majors.
Here is Bill James' ranking of the top 15 catchers of all-time from The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, along with the age they first reached 150+ plate appearances in a season:
Yogi Berra 22Very similar to the list of the last 30 Hall of Famers. Of those 15 catchers, all but 2 of them were playing significant roles in the majors by the time they were 24 years old, and 10 of the 15 were doing so by 22.
The only two catchers who were not playing a lot in the majors by 24 were Roy Campanella and Elston Howard, who both made their major league debuts at age 26. The reason for their late major league debuts, of course, was the color of their skin. Campanella was the starting catcher for the Baltimore Elite Giants of the Negro League from 1937, at the age of 17, until 1945. Meanwhile, Elston Howard started catching for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1948, at the age of 19. Howard didn't even get a chance to start playing in the minor leagues until 1953, at which point he was already 24 years old.
So, if given a chance, Campanella and Howard would obviously have been everyday catchers in the major leagues well before they were 26, and most likely by the time they were 21 or 22, just like most of the other great catchers in baseball history.
Of course, just being young isn't going to get Mauer a ticket to Cooperstown. Heck, I'm 20 just like Mauer is (in fact, we both graduated from high school the same year and both attended schools in the St. Paul City Conference), but I don't think I'd have much of a shot at the HoF if the Twins stuck me behind the plate for the last 40 games of this season. No, along with his youth, Mauer is going to have to perform like the rest of those great players who debuted young.
Will he do that? Who knows. His minor league performances thus far are great and become even greater when considering his youth. He is very close to being the "complete package," but is definitely missing one large part of that package right now - hitting for power. In 949 career at bats in the minors, Mauer has hit just 9 home runs. He's still extremely young and power does tend to develop later than other skills, but 9 home runs in nearly 1,000 at bats is a very low total for a player who is big and strong, and who scouts have always projected to hit for big power.
For minor leaguers, particularly young ones, the home run totals are often not that impressive. Another thing to look at to try to project future power in a young player is the amount of doubles he hits. The theory being that, as he matures and adds strength, those doubles will start traveling a few extra feet and over fences.
Let's break Mauer's 3 minor league seasons down and see how often he has hit both homers and doubles:
Year LVL AB/HR AB/2BThe doubles rate has been fairly consistent and is gradually improving. The home run rate is a little more interesting.
In 2001, Mauer hit .400 in rookie-ball, but didn't hit a single homer in 110 at bats. Last year, he hit 4 homers in 411 at bats. This season, he has 5 homers in 428 at bats thus far. 5 long balls in 428 at bats is not impressive, even for a 20 year old in Double-A, but it is a significant improvement over his home run numbers from his first 2 seasons. Also, 4 of his 5 homers this season have come since he was promoted to Double-A, so his Double-A home run rate is actually one per 48.75 at bats.
So, to break it down by level - Rookie, Single-A and Double-A - Mauer has the following home run and doubles rates:
LVL AB/HR AB/2BDefinitely encouraging progress.
I truly believe Joe Mauer is now the best prospect in baseball. Prior to this season, I ranked him as the #2 overall prospect in baseball, behind Mark Teixeira, who is now playing everyday for the Texas Rangers (at the age of 23). Teixeira is no longer a "prospect" and, even if he was, Mauer may have pushed past him on the basis of his outstanding season thus far.
Even if Mauer's power (geez, how many times are we gonna hear that when he's in the majors - "Mauer Power") never fully arrives, Joe Mauer is going to be a special player. He has shown the ability to hit for excellent batting averages wherever he has been, he is potentially a Gold Glove caliber defensive catcher and he has very good plate discipline and strike zone judgment. And, perhaps most impressively and most importantly, he is doing all of it at just 20 years old. His low-end projection right now would seem to me to be someone like Jason Kendall, a career .301/.384/.419 hitter and 3-time All-Star. His high-end projection? Who knows, I really do think the sky is the limit.
If he develops the great power that many feel he has the potential for, he could be a consistent .300+ hitter with excellent plate discipline, 30+ home run power and great defense behind the plate. No one really strikes me as a great comparison for those numbers because...well, those are some incredible numbers from a catcher. I mean, it sounds completely ridiculous to even say something like "Johnny Bench, but with a little better batting average" or "Mike Piazza, but with better defense" or "Ivan Rodriguez, but with better plate discipline." And that's why so many Twins fans, myself among them, are so damn excited about Joe Mauer.
No offense A.J., but you may want to rent and not buy, maybe get in touch with a travel agent, and see about getting yourself some nice luggage. And don't look back A.J., because there is something gaining on you.
Link of the Day:
Twins Geek - "He's a fan. He's a geek. It's kinda sad, really."
Milwaukee (Franklin) +160 over Philadelphia (Duckworth)
Toronto (Halladay) -110 over Seattle (Garcia)
Total to date: + 1,315
W/L record: 200-203 (1-0 yesterday for +130.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Monday, August 11, 2003
0% baseball, 100% babbleSo...how do you like the new look? Nothing too drastic I guess, but I was getting sick of all that red at the top and I think the little bit of gray on the side-bar is a nice touch. Feel free to email me to let me know what you think, since you guys are the ones who have to actually look at it every day. Now, onto today's ramblings...
One of the best things about having this website is that people from other websites often write things about me. I'm not sure what it says about me as a person that I get so excited about seeing my name mentioned somewhere, but it never ceases to thrill me when I see someone has written something about me.
Occasionally, I stumble across the mentions of me while I am surfing the various links on the left side of this page. I also have this thing called "Site Meter" that tracks all the visitors to this blog and tells me where they are all coming from. In other words, if I am linked as a "Clutch Hit" over at Baseball Primer, I get a count of how many people came here via that link. I'd say, on average, at least 25 websites per day send people here via some sort of a link, and I'd like to think I send people to at least that many websites on a daily basis as well. That's how the blogging community works for the most part.
While checking out some of the recent website "referrals" during the weekend, I had the bright idea that gathering some of the more interesting and humorous things people have said about me on their sites during the last year would make for a good entry some day. Of course, I didn't think of this brilliant idea until two days ago and had not been collecting such mentions, so that idea was out before it even got off the ground.
What I do have is something Alex Belth of the Bronx Banter blog said about me recently. Alex was telling people about my entry from last Friday and said the following:
"Aaron Gleeman, the Irving Thalberg of baseball bloggers, weighs in on the Nellie-Benitez deal."Now, Alex and I have chatted several times and I would consider him a buddy of mine (or at least an "internet buddy," since we've never actually met), so I assumed his comment was a compliment. On the other hand, I had absolute no clue who Irving Thalberg was, so for all I knew, Alex may have really said something horrible about me. I mean, what if Thalberg were a rapist or a serial killer, or worse, a White Sox fan? I had no clue.
So, I did a little research and came upon the following biography, courtesy of Yahoo!:
Irving G. Thalberg:Obviously, that's quite a compliment from Alex and I really appreciate it. I have to say that most of the compliments I receive on other websites either center around the sheer mass of content I produce or my youth, and usually both. Which is fine with me of course, I am young and I definitely like to babble (like I'm doing right now...).
The nice thing about Alex calling me the "Irving Thalberg of baseball bloggers" is that he is saying I am a "boy wonder," which is really quite kind of him. The not-so-great thing about it is that Thalberg "died of pneumonia at 37." But, you've got to take the good with the bad, right? I mean really, the worst-case scenario is that you only get to read my daily blog entries for another 17 years or so. I know it'll be tough for a while, but you'll get over it.
So anyway, the point is that I love seeing my name mentioned more than almost anything in the world. There are other things I like slightly better, like attractive members of the opposite sex, eating really good Philly cheese steaks and making a "F---ing A!" trade in one of my Diamond-Mind leagues, but seeing my name mentioned somewhere is right up there. Actually, some combination of all those things would be perfect. Like maybe a beautfiul woman coming up to me at a restaurant while I'm eating a Philly to congratulate me on one of my trades and then seeing a newspaper story about the trade that mentions my name? Yeah, I think that would just about be the perfect situation. Can someone out there make that happen please?
The moral of the story for everyone with a website out there is that you should mention me as much as possible, because I like to congratulate myself on such mentions and I will almost assuredly discuss the mention on this blog, like I just did with what Alex said. And you know what that means? You'll get your website mentioned!
Pretty much any type of mention will do the trick. For instance, Brian over at "Redbird Nation" referred to me as "the always great Aaron Gleeman" the other day. That'll get you a plug on this blog, but bonus points go to people who, like Alex, are able to give me a compliment that I am not quite sure is a compliment until I look up some of the particulars. Think of it like a Dennis Miller joke. You're pretty sure it's funny, but it's a little over your head, so when you get home you bust open the encyclopedia, do a little research, and then, when you have all the relevant information, you can have yourself a good laugh and fully enjoy the joke.
By the way, in case you haven't noticed, today appears to be one of those days when I just don't feel like writing about baseball. Once in a while, usually during the off-season, I feel as though I want to write something beyond baseball, to sort of show that I am not completely limited in my writing ability. What comes of that, of course, is some babbling entry where I congratulate myself for a mention on another blog, so whether or not me going away from baseball is a good idea is entirely debatable.
Since I've already written this many words not on baseball, I might as well keep going. Whenever I stray from baseball stuff, I inevitably get a ton of emails. The majority of them express happiness that I wrote about my life (which I do more of during the school year) or told a story about myself or something, but I usually get a few from people who are just really pissed I didn't write about baseball. That's perfectly fine, of course, because if I was going to a "Baseball Blog" every day looking for nothing but baseball, I would be upset if the guy started talking about other stuff. It is, however, still "Aaron's Baseball Blog," which means I'm running things. And, as long as the positive emails out-number the negative ones, you'll see a non-baseball entry once in a while.
Let's see, what else can I talk about...
Oh, I know, have you all seen the "World Series of Poker" on ESPN? If you haven't, you are seriously missing out. I don't think I have ever been this fascinated by something in my life. Every year, there is a gigantic poker tournament held in Las Vegas called The World Series of Poker. It costs $10,000 to enter and the winner gets $2.5 million. It is a 5 day event, but ESPN breaks it down into 7 one-hour shows.
It may not sound that great, but if you give it a chance and sit down and watch a few minutes of it, I guarantee you will be asking for more. I stumbled upon it a couple weeks ago at like 3 in the morning and I haven't missed an episode yet. ESPN's coverage is excellent, with Norman Chad and Lon McEachern doing commentary and tiny cameras implanted in the table so that you can actually see what cards everyone has as they're being dealt. There is nothing better than knowing a guy with three of a kind just got bluffed out a $500,000 pot by a guy with a pair of twos. The strategy involved is great to watch and the "personalities" playing in the tournament are so good you couldn't make them up if you tried.
You've got Johnny Chan (the last back-to-back champ, who holds an orange in his hand the entire time and who Matt Damon's character referred to as "Johnny F---ing Chan" in Rounders), Phil Hellmuth (the "John McEnroe of poker"), Scotty Nguyen (who wears massive gold chains, sips beer the entire time and is constantly shouting "yeah baby!") and a cast of literally hundreds. My favorite player is a guy in his early 20s named Phil Ivey, who wears NBA jerseys to the table every day. Any guy who can wear a Steve Francis jersey while winning $300,000 pots from a bunch of guys wearing sun glasses and holding oranges is okay with me.
Making things even more exciting is the fact that they play "no limit Texas Hold 'Em," which means, at any time, a player can go "all in" and bet all of his chips on a hand. ESPN has a few problems when it comes to their television shows lately, but they are doing an excellent job with The World Series of Poker. Get out your TV Guide, find out when it's on, and check it out. You'll thank me.
Speaking of addicting TV shows...
Did anyone else catch the premiere episode of FOX's new show, "The O.C."? I haven't read much about it (although my mom said she saw somewhere where it got horrible reviews), but I've gotta say, I loved the first episode. Which is sort of weird, because I never watched more than 5 minutes of "Beverly Hills, 90210" (which The O.C. has been compared to) or any of those other horrible FOX "dramas."
I think the plot is somewhat interesting. Basically, a tough kid from a bad neighborhood finds himself in Orange County, where everyone has a mansion with a pool and drives an SUV. It's just one episode old, but he's already gone to a party where seemingly every female there is a model, he's already been beaten up by a couple of "OC" guys and he's already smoked about 50 packs of cigarettes.
I had a favorite moment from the first episode. It came near the beginning, when the main character first arrives in Orange County. He's outside of the mansion he is staying at, smoking the first of many cigarettes, and the girl who lives next-door (one of the models who is later at the party) is also outside, waiting for her boyfriend to pick her up. The following dialogue takes place:
Folks, that is just great writing! The guy is new in this incredibly wealthy/fancy/impressive neighborhood, he's wearing a dirty hooded sweatshirt over a white undershirt and one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen asks him who he is, to which he replies, "I'm whoever you want me to be." I've gotta say, I don't know that I could have delivered that line if I were actually acting in the scene, let alone in real life. But yet, the girl is not put off at all by him and she actually gives a look like, "Wow, this guy is a real badass" and then asks him for a cigarette. I say it's 2-1 odds they are sharing a cigarette in bed within 3 episodes.
In a few years, most of the characters in the show are going to have lung cancer, but for now the women are extremely easy on the eyes.
In particular, "Marissa" (the girl smoking the cigarette and looking intrigued in the scene I just described) is worth watching the show for by herself.
Maybe it is just the fact that the show features literally hundreds of shots of pretty girls in swimsuits or the fact that the show is on during the Summer when there's nothing else to watch, but I think I might give "The O.C." a shot. You know, put it in my regular rotation, along with 3 daily Seinfeld reruns, every show that HBO has ever come up with, Howard Stern on E!, and World Series of Poker episodes.
In addition to getting caught up in the actual show, which almost certainly will be canceled very soon if the reviews have anything to do with it, I also got caught up in the soundtrack. The opening credits featured "California" by Phantom Planet, which went perfectly with the rest of the show.
Ben Harper's "Diamonds on the Inside" was also prominently featured. In fact, right in the middle of the show, there was sort of a mini music video for the song, which was weird, but also apparently extremely effective, as I found myself singing it in my head after the show ended. It continued the next day and then I finally broke down on Friday and spent $1.09 on it over at BuyMusic.com.
I hadn't heard of BuyMusic.com until the other day, when the creator/owner of the site was on Howard Stern with Tommy Lee. I used to use "Grokster" to download free music, but I haven't done it lately. Not because I am against doing so (I am, sort of, but not enough to stop doing it), but because, for some reason, once I left the dorm and went home for the Summer, it stopped working (I think it has something to do with a "firewall," but I honestly don't know what the hell that is). Anyway, paying $1 for a song isn't such bad thing and I like the idea of the musicians actually getting compensated for their work (which I think they do, although I'm not 100% sure). So, I signed up for a BuyMusic.com account and I have purchased two songs thus far.
Just to show you what strange musical taste I have, here are the two songs:
"Diamonds on the Inside" by Ben Harper (as featured in The O.C.)
"Boom Boom Boom" by John Lee Hooker (as featured in my head, because I couldn't stop singing it after I heard it the other day)
Those two songs cost me like $2.19 total, which is pretty much my music budget for this month, particularly since it'll be time to shell out about $500 for a bunch of textbooks in about 2 weeks. I don't forsee my digital music library growing particularly big anytime soon at even a buck per song, although I am open to the idea of donations from loyal readers of this blog! You know your money will go to good use and, if nothing else, you can just imagine me sitting in my room, with my dog as my only audience, doing my best John Lee Hooker impersonaton...
Boom boom boom boomI'll be back tomorrow with some baseball-related stuff, I promise. Now, if you'll excuse me...Boom boom boom...
Link of the Day:
David Pinto's Baseball Musings
Houston (Miller) +130 over Chicago (Wood)
Total to date: + 1,185
W/L record: 199-203 (1-3 on Friday for -200.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****