Memories of Monte Irvin

By Blaidd Drwg

Yesterday I as saddened to hear of the passing of Monte Irvin on the 11th of January at age 96. If you don’t know who Irvin was, he was a former NY Giant great and the first baseball Hall of Famer I ever met, back in the early 1980’s at a baseball card show at St. Peter’s College in New Jersey (I was probably 10 or 11 at the time). He appeared with another former Giant teammate Dusty Rhodes. I had the pleasure of sitting down with the both of them for about 20 minutes to talk baseball since there was no one there getting autographs. I remember Rhodes talking about how he became a tugboat captain after he retired from baseball and Irvin talked about his experiences in the Negro Leagues, which I knew very little about at the time. Thanks to Irvin, I became interested in Negro League history, which at the time, was not easy to find any information about and it is directly responsible for me being a long time supporter of the Negro League Museum in KC, a place that I sadly have not yet been to. Rhodes passed away in 2009 (not before I had a series of correspondences with him about his post-baseball career and I still have the letters that he sent – yep, we corresponded old school and I do have an unhealthy obsession with tugboats) and with Irvin passing on the 11th, we lost yet another link to the Negro Leagues.

I am sure that Irvin had no idea that a 20 minute conversation he had with a kid 30 years ago would have such an impact, and, frankly, I had not realized it myself until I reflected on my interaction with Irvin. A friend of mine sent me a link to an article on about Irvin’s passing, written by someone who actually knew him. I would suggest reading the article, but I wanted to include a snippet of it just to make a point about how much the Negro Leagues meant to Irvin:

There was a moment about a decade ago when I researched all the Hall of Famers who played in Newark for the New York Yankees farm team called the Bears, the Eagles and the turn-of-the-century Newark Indians. Joe DiVincenzo, the Essex County Executive had hung plaques for a ring of honor just above façade behind home plate at the Bears and Eagles baseball stadium in Newark.

Monte was one of them. He was in a wheelchair, and afterward I walked over to him and hugged him. Monte, being Monte, the conversation went like this:

“Listen,” he said, “I’ve got to tell you something. You can’t die.”

“Ever?” I said.

“Never,” he said. ”You are the last writer to ever see us play in the Negro Leagues. You die and that leaves nobody to tell our story. The kids won’t even believe we had a league. Don’t die.”

So in honor of Irvin’s passing, go read a book on tugboats, or the a book I highly recommend on the Negro Leagues, “When Only the Ball Was White.” Better yet, go make a donation to the Negro League Museum – a place that would not existed if it were not for the efforts of guys like Buck O’Neil and Monte Irvin and lets make sure a very important piece of American history does not get forgotten once those who were part of it are all gone.

Hall of Fame Eligibility

By Blaidd Drwg

The BBWAA is changing the procedure for voting for the Hall of Fame. Once you are on the ballot, you are now only eligible for 10 years rather than 15. This is going to create a bigger mess because of the mess that the BBWAA has already created.

Because there are a large number of idiots in the BBWAA who feel like they need to make a point about the sanctity of the game with their votes, there is a massive log jam of guys who should be inducted but haven’t been. How bad is it? For the guys still on the ballot that you can make a legitimate case for election, we have: Biggio, Piazza, Bagwell, Raines, Clemens, Bonds, Lee Smith, Schilling, Edgar Martinez, Trammell, Mussina, McGwire, Larry Walker and Sosa. That doesn’t count Rafael Palmeiro who is no longer eligible or newbies for 2015 Sheffield, Smoltz, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson. Steroids aside, that is 18 potential candidates on a ballot that can have a maximum of 10 names on it. It is only going to get worse and it probably won’t be until the 2019-2020 ballots that we don’t have a significant number of good new candidates joining each year. That means that there are guys that are going to miss out on enshrinement that absolutely deserve to be.

I also had a friend make the argument that a guy is a first ballot HOFer or not. My counter to that was, steroid issues aside, what do you do when you have 11 qualified candidates and only 10 spots on your ballot? If you figure we add 2-3 players a year to the Hall and 3-4 more qualified candidates to the ballot, how long before the backlog actually clears? This assumes that every ballot has 10 names on it anyway.

Besides this, have you ever seen the list of guys that were not “first ballot HOFers”? Here are some highlights with the number of years it took them to get elected:

Cy Young (2)

Rogers Hornsby (5)

Mel Ott (3)

Jimmy Foxx (7) – interesting side note, when Foxx retired, he was second on the all-time home run list behind Babe Ruth. It would be nearly 25 years before Willie Mays passed him.

Joe Dimaggio (3) – yep. The Yankee Clipper only drew 44.3% of the vote in his first year.

Roy Campanella (5)

Yogi Berra (2)

Robin Roberts (7)

Edie Mathews (5)

Juan Marichal (3)

Carlton Fisk (2)

Robby Alomar (2)


Mariners and the Trade Deadline

By Bliadd Drwg

Somehow, the Mariners find themselves in the playoff hunt. Granted, this is more a result of luck than skill, but it is happening so the Mariners need to start thinking about making some sort of a move before the deadline. It won’t be easy because there are only about 8 teams in the majors who are truly out of contention. What the Mariners really need is 2 bats and an arm if they want to have any really serious shot at winning a playoff series. Why two bats and an arm? Well let me tell you.

Pitching – their bullpen has been lights out but bullpens are a fickle thing, especially one that gets used as much as the Mariners have relied on theirs. Hernandez and Iwakuma are a tough 1-2 combination but the rest of the rotation is a mess:

Chris Young is due to turn back into a pumpkin at some point; his numbers are just not sustainable as his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) ERA is 1.74 higher than his actual ERA. He is also sporting a mutantly low BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) of .219. Let’s put it this way, the MLB average BABIP is .298. For a pitcher who does not strike out that many hitters to have a .219 BABIP means that he is incredibly lucky. At some point those outs will become hits and that will be the end of Chris Young as a viable starter.

Roenis Elias has been figured out by the league. After a decent April, he basically is sporting an ERA pushing 5 since then, and with the diminished offense in the league, that is not acceptable anymore. They will keep trucking him out there, but that is eventually going to have to change.

The #5 starter is a real problem right now. Ramirez is terrible as a stopgap, Maurer showed he can’t handle it, Walker can’t seem to throw strikes, is back in Tacoma and is probably still hurt and Paxton can’t stay healthy enough to pitch more than once a month. Just a reminder why TNSTAAPP. Things are so bad that they ended up using Tom Wilhelmsen to start a game.

You don’t need David Price here, although he would not hurt. You really just need a middle of the rotation guy – just like what the Yankees did when they picked up Brandon McCarthy. You don’t want to go into a 7 game series with the prospect of getting only 2 or 3 starts out of Hernandez/Iwakuma. The M’s won’t win in that scenario.

More after the jump…

Continue reading “Mariners and the Trade Deadline”

A Tough Week on the Waiver Wire

By Blaidd Drwg

It has been a bad couple of weeks for former Mariners. The transaction wire is just full of bad news:

June 25th – Washington National – Designated 1B/3B Greg Dobbs for assignment.

June 21st – LA Angels – Requested waivers on OF Raul Ibanez for the purpose of granting him his unconditional release

June 20th – Arizona Diamondbacks – Designated RHP J.J. Putz for assignment.

Raise your hand if you had any idea that Greg Dobbs was still in the majors. JJ Putz, at age 37, suddenly could not get a MLB hitter out, posting a 6.59 ERA and 1.68 WHIP in just 13 innings. I am pretty sure that someone will sign him once he clears waivers since the D’backs are on the hook for the roughly 7 million they owe him for this season. It wouldn’t be a bad risk to take, especially if he suddenly becomes effective again.

I thought Ibanez, despite the good month and a half he had last year, was done and I was confused why the Angles signed him and expected him to be more than a bench guy. I always had a healthy respect for Raul and Dave Schoenfield wrote a nice tribute to him here. If Raul is really done (and I hope he realizes he is done), he should sign a 1 day contract with the M’s, retire and get to throw out the first pitch sometime before the season ends.

The Better Player Is…

By Blaidd Drwg

Looking at these 162 game averages, who would you rather have on your team?

A .299 30 99 53 147 .357 .531 8 25
B .314 29 96 103 127 .419 .541 14 8


Based on the more traditional stats, it is close, but player B seems to be the better choice.

What if I include this?

A 125 2 0 2 17.5 0.0 LF 28 704
B 155 4 1 1 31.4 -3.2 1B 30 903


Player B is obviously a better hitter, but B is, in theory, a “better” defender and he is in his peak season right now.

One more:

Home Road
A .330 .608 124 .267 .450 75
B .302 .536 97 .325 .546 103


Both of these guys play in home parks that favor hitters pretty extremely. Player A has huge home/road splits while player B is essentially the same hitter no matter where he plays.  Given all of the above info, I think player B is clearly the better player and the guy I would want to take for my team. Just for the record, player A is Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies and player B is Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

This came from a discussion on a baseball board about who was the better player, Gonzalez or Votto. Superficially at least, they look pretty close until you take into account that Gonzalez gets a huge boost from his home park and is somewhat more pedestrian on the road. For what it was worth, before I looked deeply into the numbers, I sided with Votto. How could you not take the guy who has led the NL in OBP 4 consecutive seasons?

Take a Pitch

By Blaidd Drwg

The April 22nd game between the Marlins and Braves yielded something interesting. Here is the box score:

Did you notice it? The game featured 28 strikeouts with 0 walks, which got me thinking – what is the MLB record for strikeouts in a game with no walks? Well, that would be this game. I can’t seem to track down what the previous record was, but, according to ESPN, this is the first time two teams have recorded at least 28 strikeouts without a walk.

Celebrating Hank Aaron “The Old-Fashioned Way”

By Blaidd Drwg

Yep, baseball “purists” just can’t let the steroid thing go, even when we should be celebrating achievement, like the anniversary of Hank Aaron’s 715th HR. The guy was receiving tons of hate mail and death threats during his pursuit of Ruth’s record and that did not stop him. Apparently kept all of the letters, I really hope they get published someday, it would be an interesting look into the racism that existed in the early 70’s, but I digress. There were speeches and videos to commemorate on April 8th, and this stupid comment by Braves chairman Terry McGuirk

“[Aaron] set the home run record the old-fashioned way”

“You will always be the home run king of all time.”

Yep, Aaron set the HR record the old-fashioned way, by loading up on greenies (which he admitted to) and possibly other things of a performance enhancing nature. Enough of the sanctimonious bullshit with players prior to 1987 being clean. They weren’t, but let’s not have the truth get in the way of a good story. Until MLB basically wipes 1987-2004’s stats off the record books, the single season and career home run record holder is Barry Bonds, whether you like it or not. Just deal with it.

Having this discussion with a “purist” is a lot like this:

Tempering Expectations

By Blaidd Drwg

I am writing this on a Monday and it will be posted on a Friday, so I am issuing the disclaimer that things may change in-between, but this makes my point.

The Mariners spent the first 12ish days of the season in first place. Everyone here was overly excited that they started the season 3-0 and that the team was poised to make a playoff run. Let me put that into perspective for you. Three games is roughly 1.8% of the baseball season. It would be like declaring that your team has turned it around and is making a playoff run approximately 1 quarter into the first game in the NFL season. Sample size people, sample size.

Well, since the Mariners torrid 3-0 start, they have managed to go just 3-5 to drop 1.5 games behind the A’s. Did you realize that the M’s had 4 winning streaks of at least 3 games last season, including an 8 game winning streak. No one got excited over those.

I think that the last 8 games are a better indicator of this team than the first 3, based on my predictions earlier this year, but there are a few very disturbing trends that should start sending out warnings to the management of this team. Yes, we are dealing with sample size issues here, and they shouldn’t start really being a concern until the end of the month, but they are things that an eye should be kept on.

1)      The Mariners aren’t drawing any walks lately – particularly Brad Miller and Mike Zunino. Actually that is a bit of an understatement, because Zunino and Miller have combined for exactly 1 walk in 84 plate appearances. An average hitter will draw a walk in roughly 9% of his plate appearances, which means that these guys should have drawn about 8 walks by now. This is a potentially dangerous stat for the M’s because Zunino already has a reputation for chasing breaking stuff out of the zone. Things will probably change as the sample size increases, but if the walk rates for these guys stay this low, they are going to have to both hit over .300 just to be getting on base at a reasonable rate of around .320. It is a team issue too – the M’s drew 15 walks in their first 3 games and scored 26 runs (there is a significant correlation between walks and scoring runs). In their last 8 games, they have drawn 18 and only scored 19 runs, including being shut out twice. Pitchers tend to make mistakes with runners on base, so with guys not getting on, pitchers have the advantage.

2)      Robinson Cano is not going to be allowed to hit with runners on base unless the bats behind him wake up. Cano has just 4 RBI and 2 extra base hits in 11 games and has been walked intentionally 3 times already this season. It may not seem like a lot, but it is in this small sample size. Justin Smoak lit up spring training and was hot the first 3 games of the season and then his bat fell asleep once pitchers made adjustments. Seager is batting .121, Corey Hart is hitting a wearing his sunglasses at night .188, Logan Morrison is batting .150. Granted those averages will regress to the mean, but how long will it be before Robby gets pissed off that this is happening.

3)      The M’s need to figure out the OF situation. The entire outfield rotation of Romero/Hart/Morrison/Saunders/Almonte has looked lost at the plate and in the field this year (although Ackley is looking better than he has since his rookie season). They need to sort out who should be getting the bulk of the playing time and just stick with them and let them figure it out.

4)      The pitching staff, despite some nice starts, is a mess. Iwakuma and Walker are out longer than anticipated (and I don’t think you will see Walker back before the middle of May). Paxton is on the DL and I am sure they are being cautious with him also. You never know what you are going to get from Ramirez and Elias and the back of the rotation is Chris Young, who hasn’t pitched in 2 years and Blake Bevan, who has never really shown any ability to get MLB hitters out consistently. This is why I have cautioned Mariner fans not to get overly excited about their pitching – they went from it being strength to a weakness in a hurry. Just takes a pulled muscle here and there and you lose 60% of your starters.

Let’s revisit this in a couple of weeks and see if the M’s made any real adjustments to fix the situations described above before they really become issues.

Jose Fernandez in 2014

By Blaidd Drwg

Jose Fernandez has a goal for his sophomore season – to have an ERA of 1.95. Not a bad goal for a 21ish year old who pitches in a pitcher’s park. David Schoenfield had a great article about that here.

Fernandez posted a 2.19 ERA in his rookie season. Pretty damn impressive, so what are the chances that he does it again?

One of my favorite things that he mentioned in the article:

Look, I wouldn’t bet on a 1.95 ERA but I wouldn’t bet against him either. Since 1950, only 15 different starting pitchers have had least two seasons with an ERA under 2.25. Since 1980, only three have done it — Greg Maddux (five times), Pedro Martinez (four) and Roger Clemens (three).

Odds are definitely against him, but scoring in the league is down, so you never know. My point in posting this – If you don’t think that Pedro Martinez belongs in the HOF, think about the above statement. In the expansion era, which saw the highest scoring in baseball history, Pedro Martinez had an ERA below 2.25 four times and an ERA less than 3.00 another 4 times, including 2002 when his ERA just missed the cutoff at 2.26. Oh, and his ERA+ during that stretch from 1997 to 2005? Just a lousy 187. That is Sandy Koufax dominant folks (actually it is significantly more dominating than Koufax, but that is for another post).