2010 Debut Players
Some of you might be anxious to get started on your pre-draft planning, so we've put together this set of stats for the players who made their major league debuts in 2010. If your league has a rookie draft, these are the guys who'll be available, listed alphabetically.
Name UID Tm AVG G AB H 2B 3B HR R RBI HBP BB K SB ----------------------- ----- --- ----- --- --- --- -- -- -- --- --- --- --- --- --- Yonder Alonso 28455 CIN .207 22 29 6 2 0 0 2 3 0 0 10 0 Pedro Alvarez 28406 PIT .256 95 347 89 21 1 16 42 64 0 37 119 0 Bryan Anderson 28040 SLN .281 15 32 9 2 0 0 1 4 1 1 7 0 Lars Anderson 28104 BOS .200 18 35 7 1 0 0 4 4 0 7 8 0 J.P. Arencibia 28439 TOR .143 11 35 5 1 0 2 3 4 0 2 11 0 Darwin Barney 28443 CHN .241 30 79 19 4 0 0 12 2 0 6 12 0 Mike Baxter 28468 SDN .125 9 8 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 0 Josh Bell 28416 BAL .214 53 159 34 5 0 3 15 12 0 2 53 0 Brennan Boesch 28502 DET .256 133 464 119 26 3 14 49 67 5 40 99 7 Brian Bogusevic 28462 HOU .179 19 28 5 3 0 0 5 3 0 3 12 1 J.C. Boscan 28500 ATL .000 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 Peter Bourjos 28437 ANA .204 51 181 37 6 4 6 19 15 2 6 40 10 Domonic Brown 28429 PHI .210 35 62 13 3 0 2 8 13 0 5 24 2 Jordan Brown 27876 CLE .230 26 87 20 7 0 0 9 2 1 4 10 0 Drew Butera 28504 MIN .197 49 142 28 6 1 2 12 13 4 4 25 0 Lorenzo Cain 28038 MIL .306 43 147 45 11 1 1 17 13 1 9 28 7 Chris Carter 28440 OAK .186 24 70 13 1 0 3 8 7 0 7 21 1 Jason Castro 28411 HOU .205 67 195 40 8 1 2 26 8 0 22 41 0 Starlin Castro 28375 CHN .300 125 463 139 31 5 3 53 41 6 29 71 10 Welington Castillo 28263 CHN .300 7 20 6 4 0 1 3 5 0 1 7 0 Pedro Ciriaco 28479 PIT .500 8 6 3 1 1 0 3 1 0 0 3 0 Hank Conger 28482 ANA .172 13 29 5 1 1 0 2 5 0 5 9 0 Scott Cousins 28460 FLO .297 27 37 11 2 2 0 2 2 0 1 13 0 Allen Craig 28506 SLN .246 44 114 28 7 0 4 12 18 0 9 26 0 Colin Curtis 28410 NYA .186 31 59 11 3 0 1 7 8 1 4 15 0 Brad Davis 27992 FLO .211 33 109 23 7 1 3 8 16 1 9 37 2 Ike Davis 28507 NYN .264 147 523 138 33 1 19 73 71 1 72 138 3 Daniel Descalso 28488 SLN .265 11 34 9 2 0 0 6 4 1 2 6 1 Argenis Diaz 28508 PIT .242 22 33 8 1 0 0 0 2 0 3 10 0 Joshua Donaldson 28509 OAK .156 14 32 5 1 0 1 1 4 0 2 12 0 Jason Donald 28067 CLE .253 88 296 75 19 3 4 39 24 3 22 70 5 Lucas Duda 28456 NYN .202 29 84 17 6 0 4 11 13 1 6 22 0 Jarrod Dyson 28474 KCA .211 18 57 12 4 2 1 11 5 0 6 16 9 Danny Espinosa 28459 WAS .214 28 103 22 4 1 6 16 15 0 9 30 0 Jesus Feliciano 28400 NYN .231 54 108 25 4 1 0 12 3 1 6 12 1 Darren Ford 28512 SFN .000 7 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 Jeff Frazier 28432 DET .217 9 23 5 1 0 0 3 1 0 1 6 0 Freddie Freeman 28454 ATL .167 20 24 4 1 0 1 3 1 0 0 8 0 Cole Gillespie 28106 ARI .231 45 104 24 8 0 2 11 12 1 7 29 1 Greg Halman 28495 SEA .138 9 29 4 1 0 0 1 3 0 1 11 1 Mark Hamilton 28489 SLN .143 9 14 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 5 0 Chris Hatcher 28090 FLO .000 5 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 5 0 Chris Heisey 28261 CIN .254 97 201 51 10 1 8 33 21 6 16 57 1 Jason Heyward 28514 ATL .277 142 520 144 29 5 18 83 72 10 91 128 11 Brandon Hicks 28264 ATL .000 16 5 0 0 0 0 7 0 0 1 2 0 Steven Hill 28445 SLN .333 1 3 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 Chad Huffman 28403 NYA .167 9 18 3 0 0 0 1 2 1 2 5 0 Luke Hughes 28515 MIN .286 2 7 2 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 3 0 Rhyne Hughes 28516 BAL .213 14 47 10 2 0 0 3 4 0 4 19 0 Austin Jackson 28041 DET .293 151 618 181 34 10 4 103 41 4 47 170 27 Jon Jay 28518 SLN .300 105 287 86 19 2 4 47 27 3 24 50 2 Desmond Jennings 28453 TBA .190 17 21 4 1 1 0 5 2 1 2 4 2 Ryan Kalish 28434 BOS .252 53 163 41 11 1 4 26 24 1 12 38 10 Eric Kratz 28420 PIT .118 9 34 4 0 0 0 2 1 0 2 9 0 John Lindsey 27230 LAN .083 11 12 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 0 Jonathan Lucroy 28386 MIL .253 75 277 70 9 0 4 24 26 1 18 44 4 Matt Mangini 28496 SEA .211 11 38 8 0 0 0 2 1 0 2 13 0 Ozzie Martinez 28492 FLO .326 14 43 14 4 1 0 8 2 0 4 6 1 Lucas May 28464 KCA .189 12 37 7 1 0 0 3 6 1 0 10 0 Michael McKenry 28109 COL .000 6 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 5 0 Russell Mitchell 27962 LAN .143 15 42 6 0 0 2 3 4 0 0 8 0 Brent Morel 28472 CHA .231 21 65 15 3 0 3 9 7 0 4 17 2 Mitch Moreland 28431 TEX .255 47 145 37 4 0 9 20 25 1 25 36 3 Logan Morrison 28427 FLO .283 62 244 69 20 7 2 43 18 2 41 51 0 Daniel Nava 28402 BOS .242 60 161 39 14 1 1 23 26 8 19 46 1 Yamaico Navarro 28447 BOS .143 20 42 6 0 0 0 4 5 0 2 17 0 Chris Nelson 27895 COL .280 17 25 7 1 0 0 7 0 0 1 4 1 Mike Nickeas 28465 NYN .200 5 10 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 0 Eduardo Nunez 28446 NYA .280 30 50 14 1 0 1 12 7 0 3 2 5 Bryan Petersen 28378 FLO .083 23 24 2 0 0 0 1 2 0 1 6 0 Trevor Plouffe 28385 MIN .146 22 41 6 1 0 2 7 6 0 0 14 0 Alex Presley 28480 PIT .261 19 23 6 1 0 0 2 0 0 1 8 1 Wilson Ramos 28525 MIN .296 7 27 8 3 0 0 2 1 1 0 3 0 Wilson Ramos 28525 WAS .269 15 52 14 4 0 1 3 4 0 2 9 0 John Raynor 28526 PIT .200 11 10 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 3 0 Ben Revere 28469 MIN .179 13 28 5 0 0 0 1 2 0 2 5 0 Will Rhymes 28425 DET .304 54 191 58 12 3 1 30 19 0 14 16 0 Andrew Romine 28499 ANA .091 5 11 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 Kevin Russo 28379 NYA .184 31 49 9 2 0 0 5 4 1 3 9 1 Carlos Santana 28401 CLE .260 46 150 39 13 0 6 23 22 1 37 29 3 Konrad Schmidt 28484 ARI .125 4 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 Scott Sizemore 28099 DET .224 48 143 32 7 0 3 19 14 0 15 40 0 Justin Smoak 28530 SEA .239 30 113 27 4 0 5 11 14 0 8 34 0 Justin Smoak 28530 TEX .209 70 235 49 10 0 8 29 34 0 38 57 1 Brad Snyder 27376 CHN .185 12 27 5 1 0 0 1 5 0 1 12 0 Brandon Snyder 28046 BAL .300 10 20 6 2 0 0 1 3 0 0 3 0 Eric Sogard 28486 OAK .429 4 7 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 0 Mike Stanton 28396 FLO .259 100 359 93 21 1 22 45 59 2 34 123 5 Maxim St.Pierre 26311 DET .222 6 9 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 Jose Tabata 28031 PIT .299 102 405 121 21 4 4 61 35 2 28 57 19 Ruben Tejada 28533 NYN .213 78 216 46 12 0 1 28 15 8 22 38 2 Steven Tolleson 28535 OAK .286 25 49 14 3 0 1 5 4 0 4 9 0 Mark Trumbo 28481 ANA .067 8 15 1 0 0 0 2 2 0 1 8 0 Chris Valaika 28255 CIN .263 19 38 10 1 0 1 3 2 0 1 9 0 Danny Valencia 28394 MIN .311 85 299 93 18 1 7 30 40 0 20 46 2 Dayan Viciedo 28409 CHA .308 38 104 32 7 0 5 17 13 0 2 25 1 Brett Wallace 28433 HOU .222 51 144 32 6 1 2 14 13 7 8 50 0 Casper Wells 28382 DET .323 36 93 30 6 1 4 14 17 0 6 19 0 Danny Worth 28383 DET .255 39 106 27 5 0 2 10 8 0 6 13 1 Lance Zawadzki 28537 SDN .200 20 35 7 2 0 0 4 1 0 5 7 1
Name UID Tm G GS W L S ERA Inn H R ER BB K HR -------------------- ----- --- --- -- -- -- -- ------ ----- --- --- --- --- --- -- Fernando Abad 28430 HOU 22 0 0 1 0 2.84 19.0 14 6 6 5 12 3 Hector Ambriz 28084 CLE 34 0 0 2 0 5.59 48.3 68 31 30 17 37 10 Jake Arrieta 28399 BAL 18 18 6 6 0 4.66 100.3 106 57 52 48 52 9 Luis Atilano 28501 WAS 16 16 6 7 0 5.15 85.7 96 56 49 32 40 11 Brandon Beachy 28494 ATL 3 3 0 2 0 3.00 15.0 16 9 5 7 15 0 Omar Beltre 27095 TEX 2 2 0 1 0 9.00 7.0 9 7 7 7 9 3 Zach Braddock 28387 MIL 46 0 1 2 0 2.94 33.7 29 11 11 19 41 1 Jay Buente 28390 FLO 8 0 0 0 0 6.55 11.0 16 8 8 11 9 0 Alex Burnett 28503 MIN 41 0 2 2 0 5.29 47.7 52 28 28 23 37 6 Andrew Cashner 28393 CHN 53 0 2 6 0 4.80 54.3 55 31 29 30 50 8 Bobby Cassevah 28505 ANA 16 0 1 2 0 3.15 20.0 23 11 7 8 8 0 Jose Ceda 28123 FLO 8 0 0 0 0 5.19 8.7 8 5 5 11 9 1 Aroldis Chapman 28452 CIN 15 0 2 2 0 2.03 13.3 9 4 3 5 19 0 Steve Cishek 28493 FLO 3 0 0 0 0 0.00 4.3 1 0 0 1 3 0 Robert Coello 28467 BOS 6 0 0 0 0 4.76 5.7 4 3 3 5 5 0 Casey Coleman 28436 CHN 12 8 4 2 0 4.11 57.0 56 27 26 25 27 3 Danny Cortes 28490 SEA 4 0 0 1 0 3.38 5.3 3 3 2 3 6 0 Bob Cramer 27902 OAK 4 4 2 1 0 3.04 23.7 20 8 8 6 13 5 Samuel Deduno 28450 COL 4 0 0 0 0 3.38 2.7 3 1 1 1 3 1 Robert Delaney 28118 MIN 1 0 0 0 0 9.00 1.0 2 1 1 1 0 1 Enerio Del Rosario 28388 HOU 2 0 0 0 0 20.25 1.3 4 3 3 0 1 0 Enerio Del Rosario 28388 CIN 9 0 1 1 0 2.08 8.7 13 4 2 4 3 0 Sam Demel 28407 ARI 37 0 2 1 2 5.35 37.0 42 27 22 12 33 5 Thomas Diamond 27565 CHN 16 3 1 3 0 6.83 29.0 33 23 22 18 36 5 Felix Doubront 28408 BOS 12 3 2 2 2 4.32 25.0 27 16 12 10 23 3 Kyle Drabek 28485 TOR 3 3 0 3 0 4.76 17.0 18 9 9 5 12 2 John Ely 28510 LAN 18 18 4 10 0 5.49 100.0 105 63 61 40 76 12 Jesse English 28511 WAS 7 0 0 0 0 3.86 7.0 10 3 3 2 4 0 Barry Enright 28131 ARI 17 17 6 7 0 3.91 99.0 97 43 43 29 49 20 Edgmer Escalona 28475 COL 5 0 0 0 0 1.50 6.0 4 1 1 4 2 0 Matt Fox 28463 BOS 3 0 0 0 0 10.80 1.7 4 2 2 1 0 0 Matt Fox 28463 MIN 1 1 0 0 0 3.18 5.7 4 2 2 1 0 0 Dillon Gee 28473 NYN 5 5 2 2 0 2.18 33.0 25 10 8 15 17 2 Jeanmar Gomez 28421 CLE 11 11 4 5 0 4.68 57.7 73 36 30 22 34 7 Lucas Harrell 27611 CHA 8 3 1 0 0 4.88 24.0 34 18 13 17 15 2 Jeremy Hellickson 28052 TBA 10 4 4 0 0 3.47 36.3 32 14 14 8 33 5 David Herndon 28513 PHI 47 0 1 3 0 4.30 52.3 67 27 25 17 29 2 Frank Herrmann 28395 CLE 40 0 0 1 1 4.03 44.7 48 22 20 9 24 6 Greg Holland 28435 KCA 15 0 0 1 0 6.75 18.7 23 15 14 8 23 3 James Houser 27628 FLO 1 0 0 0 0 20.25 1.3 3 3 3 1 1 1 Ryota Igarashi 28517 NYN 34 0 1 1 0 7.12 30.3 29 24 24 18 25 4 Gregory Infante 28471 CHA 5 0 0 0 0 0.00 4.7 2 0 0 4 5 0 Justin James 28458 OAK 5 0 0 0 0 4.50 4.0 7 2 2 4 5 0 Kenley Jansen 28423 LAN 25 0 1 0 4 .67 27.0 12 2 2 15 41 0 Jeremy Jeffress 28457 MIL 10 0 1 0 0 2.70 10.0 8 4 3 6 8 0 Craig Kimbrel 28376 ATL 21 0 4 0 1 .44 20.7 9 2 1 16 40 0 Brandon Kintzler 28478 MIL 7 0 0 1 0 7.36 7.3 10 6 6 4 9 2 Michael Kirkman 28448 TEX 14 0 0 0 0 1.65 16.3 9 3 3 10 16 0 Michael Kohn 28426 ANA 24 0 2 0 1 2.11 21.3 17 5 5 16 20 0 Zach Kroenke 28477 ARI 3 1 1 0 0 6.75 6.7 9 5 5 4 2 2 Mike Leake 28519 CIN 24 22 8 4 0 4.23 138.3 158 77 65 49 91 19 Samuel LeCure 27652 CIN 15 6 2 5 0 4.50 48.0 50 24 24 25 37 6 Rommie Lewis 28520 TOR 14 0 0 0 0 6.75 18.7 20 14 14 8 15 4 Brad Lincoln 28398 PIT 11 9 1 4 0 6.66 52.7 66 42 39 15 25 9 Jon Link 28039 LAN 9 0 0 0 0 4.15 8.7 12 7 4 4 4 0 Cory Luebke 28461 SDN 4 3 1 1 0 4.08 17.7 17 8 8 6 18 3 Evan MacLane 27238 SLN 2 0 0 1 0 9.00 1.0 1 1 1 1 0 1 Scott Maine 28451 CHN 13 0 0 0 0 2.08 13.0 9 4 3 5 11 1 Jhan Marinez 28419 FLO 4 0 1 1 0 6.75 2.7 3 3 2 3 3 1 Jeff Marquez 28418 CHA 1 0 0 0 0 18.00 1.0 2 2 2 0 0 1 Frank Mata 28389 BAL 15 0 0 0 0 7.79 17.3 24 16 15 8 9 2 Marcos Mateo 28442 CHN 21 0 0 1 0 5.82 21.7 20 15 14 9 26 6 Yunesky Maya 28470 WAS 5 5 0 3 0 5.88 26.0 30 18 17 11 12 3 Mike McClendon 28444 MIL 17 0 2 0 0 3.00 21.0 15 7 7 7 21 2 Jacob McGee 27679 TBA 8 0 0 0 0 1.80 5.0 2 1 1 3 6 0 Jenrry Mejia 28521 NYN 33 3 0 4 0 4.62 39.0 46 21 20 20 22 3 Aldaberto Mendez 28466 FLO 5 5 1 3 0 5.11 24.7 28 14 14 12 11 7 Mike Minor 28441 ATL 9 8 3 2 0 5.98 40.7 53 28 27 11 43 6 Carlos Monasterios 28522 LAN 32 13 3 5 0 4.38 88.3 99 48 43 29 52 15 Jordan Norberto 28523 ARI 33 0 0 2 0 5.85 20.0 16 13 13 22 15 3 Ivan Nova 28380 NYA 10 7 1 2 0 4.50 42.0 44 22 21 17 26 4 Alexi Ogando 28404 TEX 44 0 4 1 0 1.30 41.7 31 6 6 16 39 2 Andy Oliver 28414 DET 5 5 0 4 0 7.36 22.0 26 22 18 13 18 3 Logan Ondrusek 28524 CIN 60 0 5 0 0 3.68 58.7 49 25 24 20 39 7 Adam Ottavino 28392 SLN 5 3 0 2 0 8.46 22.3 37 21 21 9 12 5 Vinny Pestano 28498 CLE 5 0 0 0 1 3.60 5.0 4 2 2 5 8 0 Matt Reynolds 28538 COL 21 0 1 0 0 2.00 18.0 10 4 4 5 17 2 Francisco Rodriguez 28527 ANA 43 0 1 3 0 4.37 47.3 46 23 23 26 36 5 Mark Rogers 28483 MIL 4 2 0 0 0 1.80 10.0 2 2 2 3 11 0 Sandy Rosario 28491 FLO 2 0 0 0 0 54.00 1.0 9 6 6 1 0 2 Tyson Ross 28528 OAK 26 2 1 4 1 5.49 39.3 39 24 24 20 32 4 James Russell 28529 CHN 57 0 1 1 0 4.96 49.0 55 37 27 11 42 11 Fernando Salas 28391 SLN 27 0 0 0 0 3.52 30.7 28 13 12 15 29 4 Chris Sale 28438 CHA 21 0 2 1 4 1.93 23.3 15 5 5 10 32 2 Alejandro Sanabia 28413 FLO 15 12 5 3 0 3.73 72.3 74 32 30 16 47 6 Sergio Santos 27352 CHA 56 0 2 2 1 2.96 51.7 53 18 17 26 56 2 Jay Sborz 28412 DET 1 0 0 0 0 67.50 .7 3 5 5 0 1 0 Brian Schlitter 28415 CHN 7 0 0 1 0 12.38 8.0 18 11 11 5 7 2 Brett Sinkbeil 28487 FLO 3 0 0 0 0 13.50 2.0 2 3 3 5 1 0 Anthony Slama 28422 MIN 5 0 0 1 0 7.71 4.7 6 4 4 5 5 1 Jordan Smith 28405 CIN 37 0 3 2 1 3.86 42.0 45 18 18 11 26 7 Daniel Stange 28531 ARI 4 0 0 0 0 13.50 4.0 4 6 6 6 2 1 Drew Storen 28384 WAS 54 0 4 4 5 3.58 55.3 48 24 22 22 52 3 Stephen Strasburg 28397 WAS 12 12 5 3 0 2.91 68.0 56 25 22 17 92 5 Hisanori Takahashi 28532 NYN 53 12 10 6 8 3.61 122.0 116 51 49 43 114 13 Kanekoa Texeira 28534 SEA 16 0 0 1 0 5.30 18.7 22 12 11 10 14 0 Kanekoa Texeira 28534 KCA 27 0 1 0 0 4.64 42.7 51 24 22 15 19 3 Josh Tomlin 28428 CLE 12 12 6 4 0 4.56 73.0 72 38 37 19 43 10 Cesar Valdez 28377 ARI 9 2 1 2 0 7.65 20.0 29 19 17 10 13 2 Raul Valdes 28536 NYN 38 1 3 3 1 4.91 58.7 59 33 32 27 56 7 Anthony Varvaro 28497 SEA 4 0 0 1 0 11.25 4.0 6 5 5 6 5 2 Jonathan Venters 27948 ATL 79 0 4 4 1 1.95 83.0 61 30 18 39 93 1 Henry Villar 28476 HOU 8 0 0 0 0 4.50 6.0 5 3 3 3 3 0 Jordan Walden 28449 ANA 16 0 0 1 1 2.35 15.3 13 4 4 7 23 1 Robbie Weinhardt 28417 DET 28 0 2 2 0 6.14 29.3 40 23 20 8 21 2 Blake Wood 28381 KCA 51 0 1 3 0 5.07 49.7 54 29 28 22 31 6 Travis Wood 27784 CIN 17 17 5 4 0 3.51 102.7 85 45 40 26 86 9 Vance Worley 28424 PHI 5 2 1 1 0 1.38 13.0 8 2 2 4 12 1
- Tags: Stats for Debut Players
Projected Standings for the 2007 Season
y Charles Wolfson and Tom Tippett of Diamond Mind, a Simnasium, Inc. company
March 31, 2007
How will the free agent spending splurge this past winter play out in 2007? Will Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, Gary Matthews Jr., Gil Meche, Juan Pierre and others justify their big contracts, or will they prove to be multiyear financial millstones for their teams? When and where (if at all) will Roger Clemens pitch in 2007? Will the Cinderella team of 2006, the Tigers, go the way of the White Sox, who took the slipper in 2005, and the Red Sox, who ended the Curse in 2004, and fall short of repeating last year’s success?
As final roster decisions are made and Opening Day approaches, the best laid plans of major league teams are subjected to the scrutiny of commentators, analysts, fantasy addicts and everyday fans, who offer up a varying mix of sabermetrics, wishful thinking and fatalism with their predictions for the coming season.This is the tenth year for which we at Diamond Mind have used our projection methodology and our simulation software to project the final standings for the coming season. Over that span, our approach has produced some prescient (and, for some teams, sobering) forecasts. For example, in 2006 our system correctly identified five of the six division winners, and we were only an NL West tie-breaker away from a clean sweep. For a survey of the relative success of prognosticators across the nation, see 2006 Predictions – Keeping Score.
Before revealing our final standings for the 2007 season, here’s an overview of how we produced them.
We began by projecting the 2007 performance of over 1800 players contending for major league jobs. To do this, we took their major and minor league stats for the past 3 seasons, adjusted for factors such as the level of competition (majors, Japan, AAA, AA, etc) and offense in a league, park effects, and whether the DH rule was in use. Then, giving greater weight to more recent seasons, performances at higher levels, and seasons with more playing time, and adjusting for age, we projected their performance into the league and park where they will be competing in the coming year.We didn’t merely project the aggregate “headline” stats for each player, but their left/right splits as well. We also assigned ratings for skills such as bunting, baserunning, defensive range and throwing.
After all players have been rated, we set up a manager profile for each team, consisting of a starting rotation, bullpen assignments, projected lineups against right- and left-handed starters, and a positional depth chart. Once these profiles were in place for every team, we played out the season using our Diamond Mind Baseball simulation game. The computer manager, guided by our manager profile, makes decisions about starting pitchers, lineups, substitutions, and pitch-by-pitch tactics. Because luck can play a major role in any single season for players and teams (both in real-life and our simulations), we ran the season 200 times and averaged the results.
Factors and Non-factors
To provide you with a bit more insight into the process, factors that we do and don’t take into account in our projections include the following:
- We take past performance in the major and minor leagues, including the Japanese leagues, into account, but not performance in college or high school, independent leagues, winter leagues, spring training, or other foreign leagues.
- We go beyond aggregate projected hitting and pitching stats, taking left/right splits and defense, running, bunting and other skills into account. If a team is imbalanced in some material way, that will show up in its results.
- We take injuries into account in two ways when we project player performance: by discounting past performance that may have been adversely affected by a player attempting to play through injury, and by taking playing time away from a player we know is beginning the season with an injury. However, we don’t attempt to project the likelihood of a player getting injured over the course of a season. Every player has the same chance of injury in our season simulations.
- We don’t attempt to emulate the tactics of specific managers. The computer manager manages each team according to the strengths and weaknesses of its roster. Nor do we attempt to rate managerial ability. We just haven’t seen the evidence over the years to indicate that particular managers’ teams consistently over- (or under-) perform their projected results.
- We don’t factor preseason hype (so-and-so has added a new pitch, is in the best shape of his career, has a more focused and determined attitude, etc) into player projections.
- Strength of schedule necessarily comes into play in our methodology, so teams with relatively weaker divisional opponents or interleague schedules have an advantage. Player match-ups come into play also, so, for example, a right-handed starter with extreme left-right splits pitching in a division loaded with left-handed hitting is going to have a relatively tougher time of it.
Keep in mind that many of the most noteworthy events of a baseball season – the breakout performances and fantastic flops by individual players, the teams for which everything goes right or everything goes wrong, the crippling injuries – are things that might occur in individual seasons that we’ve simulated, but are unlikely to appear in our averaged results.
There is a large element of luck involved in baseball, and any given season, real or simulated, will produce a larger spread of runs and wins than are reflected in our projected standings. That’s because averaging the results of 100 or 200 simulated seasons will tend to smooth out the catching-lightning-in-a-bottle features of any real baseball season.
Projected 2007 standings
Here are the projected final standings for 2007, based on the 200 seasons we simulated on March 23. Anything that has happened since then in the way of roster decisions, trades and injuries is not reflected here. So, for example, Jonathan Papelbon’s return to the closer role did make it into Boston’s manager profile, but Jorge Julio, obtained from the Diamondbacks in a March 26 trade, did not close for the Marlins in our season simulations.
W, L, Pct, GB – average wins, losses, winning percentage, games behind division leader
RF, RA – average runs for and against
Div%, WC% - percentage of seasons winning division and wild card (fractions for ties)
AL East W L Pct GB RF RA Div% WC% New York 96 66 .593 - 937 780 71.8 10.5 Toronto 88 74 .543 8 850 791 18.0 18.7 Boston 86 76 .531 10 907 841 9.5 14.6 Baltimore 76 86 .469 20 799 859 0.8 2.0 Tampa Bay 70 92 .432 26 816 926 AL Central W L Pct GB RF RA Div% WC% Cleveland 91 71 .562 - 865 738 41.1 17.4 Detroit 89 73 .549 2 842 763 31.1 14.9 Minnesota 87 75 .537 4 795 740 24.1 10.0 Chicago 78 84 .481 13 827 870 3.8 1.9 Kansas City 66 96 .407 25 765 915 AL West W L Pct GB RF RA Div% WC% Los Angeles 91 71 .562 - 810 711 75.0 3.1 Oakland 84 78 .519 7 773 748 20.3 5.0 Seattle 77 85 .475 14 748 795 2.8 2.2 Texas 75 87 .463 16 794 851 2.0 NL East W L Pct GB RF RA Div% WC% Philadelphia 85 77 .525 - 852 813 36.9 15.9 Atlanta 84 78 .519 1 804 770 32.2 14.0 New York 82 80 .506 3 813 794 24.3 6.8 Washington 75 87 .463 10 757 823 4.2 2.3 Florida 73 89 .451 12 765 845 2.5 1.0 NL Central W L Pct GB RF RA Div% WC% St Louis 85 77 .525 - 769 728 40.1 6.7 Chicago 83 79 .512 2 818 799 27.9 7.9 Houston 81 81 .500 4 803 800 17.9 7.6 Cincinnati 77 85 .475 8 756 798 5.7 4.2 Milwaukee 76 86 .469 9 736 790 7.7 1.1 Pittsburgh 72 90 .444 13 708 800 0.8 1.3 NL West W L Pct GB RF RA Div% WC% San Diego 88 74 .543 - 806 729 64.0 7.2 Los Angeles 81 81 .500 7 769 785 15.3 10.9 Arizona 79 83 .488 9 811 826 10.3 4.2 San Francisco 78 84 .481 10 776 797 6.0 4.4 Colorado 77 85 .475 11 820 866 4.5 4.8
The trend toward increasing parity that we noted in our Projected Standings for the 2006 Season looks set to continue for 2007. In our 2006 simulations, just three of the 30 major league teams failed to reach the postseason in at least one simulated season. For 2007 that number has dropped to two, with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Kansas City Royals the only teams to be shut out.
In 2004 10 teams (five in the AL and five in the NL) managed 90 or more wins. In 2005 that number dropped to seven (five in the AL and two in the NL). Our 2006 projected standings had just four teams reaching 90 wins (projected/actual wins): the New York Yankees (93/96), Minnesota Twins (90/96), Oakland A’s (96/93) and St. Louis Cardinals (95/83), although six actually achieved it, the other three being the Tigers (79/95), White Sox (86/90) and New York Mets (87/97). For 2007 the number of teams projected to win at least 90 has dropped even further to just three: the Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels (91 each) and the Yankees (96).
Last year we projected the runs scored for all National League teams to fall within the fairly narrow range of 705 to 818 runs. The actual spread was a bit wider, from a low of 691 for the Pittsburgh Pirates to a high of 865 for the Philadelphia Phillies (not dissimilar to 2007, with the Phillies projected to score a league high 852 runs and the Pirates bringing up the rear with just 708). More noteworthy for 2007, however, is the fact that no team in the National League is projected to win more than 88 games (the San Diego Padres, with the next best total just 85 by the Phillies and Cardinals) or fewer than the 72 (the Pirates).
This doesn't mean there won't be a 90-game winner in the NL this year. The real season will be played only once, and it's quite possible that two or three teams will find a way to reach that threshold. However, our simulation results suggest that no NL team has put together a roster strong enough to make 90+ wins a high probability.
As far as races to qualify for the postseason, the 2006 season generally followed our projections in the American League, with both the wild card, and the only real divisional race, coming out of the Central. For 2007 the only close divisional race in our AL projections again is the Central, and the Tigers again eke out the wild card by the barest of margins.The 2007 National League divisional races look to be closer, with most teams at least on the fringe of postseason contention (division or wild card) deep into the season. However, the lack of dominant teams in the NL means that any team that manages to put together a big season may waltz home in their division, as the Mets did in 2006, and should two teams manage the feat in a single division, even the wild card race could turn into a runaway.
Divisional Races and Team Comments
We see the Yankees again taking the AL East comfortably, by the biggest margin of any division winner. Heading into 2006, it seemed that the East (courtesy of the Yankees and Red Sox), had taken up permanent ownership of the wild card. Surprise! Despite the greater depth of competition in the AL Central, the wild card came out of the Central in 2006. While the Tigers have the highest win total in our projected wild card standings, the Central took the wild card in 44% of the seasons we simulated, while the East came out on top 47% of the time, and the Blue Jays and Red Sox figure to be in the wild card hunt right down to the wire.
New York Yankees (1st, 96-66, division title 72%, wild card 11%)
It’s April 2, Opening Day, and Yankee Stadium is packed. The Yankees starting lineup is being introduced, the names echoing over the PA. “And warming up in the bullpen, the starting pitcher, Carl Pavano.”
Is there an evil eye trained on Yankees starters? In 2005 they used 14 different ones; in 2006 12. They begin 2007 with Chien-Ming Wang out for at least the month of April (an injury that occurred after our simulations were run and so was not taken into account); potential replacements Jeff Karstens and Humberto Sanchez both with sore elbows; Andy Pettitte struggling with back spasms; and Kei Igawa searching for the strike zone.
On the one hand, the Yankees have made 12 straight trips to the postseason, and they’ve overcome many serious injuries to do it. On the other, the closest they’ve come to the World Series since it was snatched from their grasp by the Red Sox in 2004, is signing the guy who caught the ball for the final out that year, Doug Mientkiewicz, for 2007.
Despite lengthy injuries in 2006 to Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano, the Yankees topped all of baseball with a massive 930 runs scored. We project them to come out well on top again in 2007 with 937.
With their vaunted payroll advantage, and 12 straight postseason appearances, for this team it’s all about World Series wins. There was a lot of buzz about prime prospect Phillip Hughes when camp began, and the prospect of Roger Clemens waiting in the wings. It’s par for the course when talking about the Yankees that, in a preseason preview, the main question ends up being whether their rotation come playoff time will set up strongly enough to return them to the Promised Land.
Toronto Blue Jays (2nd, 88-74, division title 18%, wild card 19%)
It’s funny how sometimes a decent season can leave a team and its fans with a bad aftertaste, while a disappointing season nevertheless can leave behind a positive afterglow. The Blue Jays certainly fall in the latter category. After a huge free agent plunge prior to 2006, they fell out of the wild card race early, then endured a period of midseason turmoil in the dugout and clubhouse with the Shea Hillenbrand and Ted Lilly incidents. By season’s end, however, thanks in part to the struggles of the Red Sox, they found themselves in second place in the East, their first finish higher than third since 1993 (the second of their back-to-back championship seasons).
The Blue Jays certainly have the look of an up-and-coming team. They actually scored 70 fewer runs in 2006 than the runs created formula predicted, suggesting that, with a bit more efficiency, they could increase their scoring in 2007 just by repeating their overall offensive output in 2006 (and that’s without any added production from new DH Frank Thomas or hotshot prospect Adam Lind).
For my money, whether the Blue Jays take the next step, from respectable also-ran to a postseason berth, depends on a few key players: Troy Glaus and Thomas on offense, and A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan on the mound. Although closing the gap to the Yankees in the AL East would be a tall order, if these four players can remain healthy and productive, and barring any major problems cropping up elsewhere, Toronto would have as good a shot at the wild card spot as any.
Boston Red Sox (3rd, 86-76, division title 9.5%, wild card 15%)
We can hear the cries echoing from Red Sox Nation. “86 wins? Are you out of your freakin’ minds?!”
Prior to the 2006 season we projected 86 wins for the Red Sox., which is exactly how many games they won. If the Blue Jays season was a feel good disappointment, the Red Sox season certainly was the opposite, although, considering Boston actually was outscored by five runs (820 runs scored to 825 runs allowed), 86 wins was a pretty decent result.
So Boston made some big changes, signing J.D. Drew to replace Trot Nixon in right and Julio Lugo to replace Alex Gonzalez at short; committing to rookie Dustin Pedroia to replace Mark Loretta at second; and, of course, adding Daisuke Matsuzaka to the starting rotation. Then there were the changes they didn’t make: Manny Ramirez remains in left, and Jonathan Papelbon reprises the closer’s role.
Take all of these changes, mix well, simulate the 2007 season 200 times over, and we once again have projected Boston for 86 wins and another third place finish. So how is it possible that the Sox were only moderately better than average in our simulations?
Scoring isn’t the problem. The 2007 Red Sox lineup may not be in the same class as the one in New York, or remind anyone of the 2003-04 version, but it trailed only the Yankees in offense in our simulations.
The problem was pitching. Despite the addition of Daisuke Matsuzaka (projected to be one of the league’s better starters), the team finished 9th in the league in run prevention in the simulations.
How is that possible? Let us count the ways:
- Fenway Park. Just as it makes the hitters look better than they really are, it makes it more difficult for the pitchers to post good numbers.
- The schedule. Boston plays almost half its games in a division with no below-average lineups and a couple of good to great ones, and every inter-league opponent is projected to be average or better in scoring in the NL.
- Age. Three key guys (Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield and Mike Timlin) are 40-plus.
- Bullpen. Except for Papelpon, nobody goes into the season projected to be better than league average.
- 2006. Our projections put more weight on recent performances, so they may be a little pessimistic for players like Beckett, Wakefield and Timlin, who are coming off disappointing seasons.
So, it's quite possible that the Sox will end up playing a whole bunch of 7-5 games, and while they're likely to win more than they'll lose, that's not a proven formula for big-time success. For the Sox to be an elite contender, several members of the pitching staff need to step up.
Can they? Just about everyone on the staff has posted one or more big-league seasons in which they were much better than how we project them for 2007. It's asking too much to expect all of them to return to peak form in unison, but it's not much of a stretch to imagine, say, Schilling and Beckett. If that happens, and there are no big negative surprises, this club could be a legitimate threat to win it all.
Baltimore Orioles (4th, 76-86, division title 0.8%, wild card 2%)
Chad Bradford, 3 years, $10.5 million; Jamie Walker, 3 years, $12 million; Danys Baez, 3 years, $19 million.
We could stop right there, but that wouldn’t really be fair to Orioles fans, although it might be merciful.
Aubrey Huff, 3 years, $20 million; Jay Payton, 2 years, $9.5 million; Kevin Millar, 1 year, $2.75 million.
Can you hear the gap between the Orioles and the Yankees, Blue Jays and Red Sox closing yet?
No review of the Orioles would be complete without mentioning two noteworthy streaks from the 2006 season. Miguel Tejada hit fewer homers (24) in 2006 than in any season since 1999, but he managed that many despite going 126 consecutive at bats from August 22 to September 23 without one. That was no match, however, for up-and-comer Nick Markakis, who went homer-less for three solid months, 205 at bats from April 15 to July 15, yet still ended the season with 16.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays (5th, 70-92, no postseason appearances)
It’s hardly original to question how Tampa Bay can be expected to compete in the AL East with Boardwalk and Park Place (a.k.a. the Yankees and Boston, not to mention Toronto and Baltimore, who are hardly crying poor). Really, though, it seems to me that the problem is more than just money. Casting my mind back a few seasons to my one visit to Tropicana Field, and setting that image against the history and drama that are Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, and the juxtaposition feels almost surreal.
Nevertheless, at least one well known authority (Jim Callis at Baseball America) has predicted that the Devil Rays will win the World Series … in 2010. The future is now for the Devil Rays in the outfield with their five tool trio of Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli and Delmon Young (assuming they can keep this group intact long enough for the rest of the team to come together, although there already was talk this past winter that they were looking to trade Baldelli for prospects and replace him with Elijah Dukes). The 2007 infield of Ty Wigginton, Akinori Iwamura and Ben Zobrist has been replaced by Callis in 2010 with BJ Upton, Evan Longoria and Reid Brignac. And Scott Kazmir has teamed with prospects Jeff Niemann and Jacob McGee and projected 2007 first overall draft pick David Price to give the team four front-line starters.
Here is where all those phrases about the end of the beginning, and light at the end of the tunnel, come to mind.
Incredibly, it was just 2003 in which this division was so weak that the Kansas City Royals rode a hot April to contention in September, and the Tigers, despite having just endured a 119 loss season, could think that the addition of Pudge Rodriguez and a few other bona fide players might actually put them into contention.
No more. The AL Central is now the deepest, strongest division in baseball. It produced the AL wild card in 2006, and looks set to do so again in 2007, despite the fact that four of the five teams in the division are legitimate contenders who will be banging on each other incessantly throughout the season.
Cleveland Indians (1st, 91-71, division title 41%, wild card 17%)
On March 22 in Lakeland, Florida, the Indians turned 6 double plays against the Tigers, all of the 6-4-3 and 4-6-3 variety, providing a strong indication that the addition of Josh Barfield at second and the rejuvenation of Jhonny Peralta at short could pay dividends this season. The thing is, they lost the game, 5-4.
As we said in our 2006 season projections, “The 2005 Indians [93-69] did everything right except win the close games. They outscored their opponents by 206 runs and outproduced them by 497 total bases and walks, far exceeding the next-best team in the majors, and leaving the rest of the AL Central in their dust. Unfortunately, a 22-36 record in one-run games left them behind the White Sox and out of the action in October.”
So, what happened in 2006? They did everything required to meet, or even exceed, our 88 win projection for them, everything, that is, except actually win games. Their 78 wins was a whopping 12 fewer than the Pythagorean projection based on their +88 run differential.
Following each season we’ve taken to writing an article entitled, Measuring Team Efficiency. This year’s article details the historic inefficiency the Indians displayed in 2006. TBW refers to total bases + walks, and looking at a team’s won-lost record compared to its TBW for/against differential is another way of gauging a team’s over- or under-achievement. In the AL in 2006 the Indians “were second in TBW differential, fourth in run margin, and tied for tenth in wins. That’s not easy to do. Cleveland’s TBW differential of +276 is in the top 12% of all teams in the past third of a century. Fully 90% of those teams won at least 90 games, and the 2006 Indians are only the third team in that group to lose more games than they won.”
An incredible run of ill-fortune? Or is there something about this team that defies conventional analysis? The warning signs were there in our 2006 season simulations, because their projected +91 scoring margin normally would have been good for 91 wins, but they averaged only 88.
The bony finger of blame was pointed squarely at the bullpen in 2006, although the Indians actually reduced their negative won-lost differential in one run games last year from -14 in 2005 to -8 (18-26). Nevertheless, seven games lost in which the team was leading after eight innings, 27 losses of record in relief, 21 blown saves in 45 opportunities, and 45.9% of inherited runners scoring, is very, very bad. It just doesn’t seem that free agents Joe Borowski, Roberto Hernandez and Aaron Fultz are a potent enough remedy for this malady, nor do our season simulations suggest otherwise. (Joe Borowski’s projected record as the Indians closer is 4-8 29/38 4.46.)
Perhaps, however, with this team’s starting rotation, near enough is good enough out of the pen. The Indians project to allow the second fewest runs in the AL, improving from 782 in 2006 to 738, led by C.C. Sabathia (15-8 3.50), Jeremy Sowers (14-8 3.60) and Jake Westbrook (14-9 3.78), while the Tigers and Twins are projected to regress from the miserly 675 and 683 runs they allowed in 2006 to 763 and 740, respectively, in 2007.
2007 may indeed prove to be the Indians’ year. If, however, they produce yet another season of underachievement in the won-lost column, skeptics may be called upon to reconsider whether an ability (or inability) to win, independent of conventional measures of performance, does in fact exist. As Bert Gordon (George C. Scott) said to “Fast Eddie” Felson (Paul Newman) in The Hustler (paraphrasing from memory), “This isn’t football. They don’t pay you for yardage. At the end of the game you count up your money, and that’s how you know who’s best.”
Detroit Tigers (2nd, 89-73, division title 31%, wild card 15%)
Although for 2006 we projected the Tigers to win just 79 games, we did observe that they could be one of the season’s pleasant surprises, and even contend if three or four things went their way.
At least that many things went their way in a season full of positives. Here’s the thing though: apart from the addition of Gary Sheffield (not to be underestimated), this team hasn’t changed much, and with all the great performances last season, there may be more downside than upside potential.
We do see a modest increase in scoring for the Tigers in 2007 to 842 runs, up from 822 in 2006. Interestingly, they got there despite just 9 HR and 35 RBI from LF Craig Monroe (28/92 in 2006), with Marcus Thames, the subject of trade rumors throughout the winter and spring, taking playing time from Monroe and belting a team leading 37 HR.
It’s on the other side of the scoring ledger that we project the team’s vaunted pitching to slip, allowing 763 runs compared to last season’s major league low 675. And the fact is that 2006 ROY Justin Verlander has struggled this spring, Todd Jones and Kenny Rogers (who will open the season on the 15 day DL with a “tired arm”) are a year older, Jeremy Bonderman still hasn’t come up with a consistent change up, and Jamie Walker took the money and moved to Baltimore (those canny Orioles!)
Still, the Tigers have a lot of pitching. Key veterans with past injury histories, like Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez and Pudge Rodriguez, remaining healthy and productive throughout 2006 were a key to the team’s success. Similar good fortune may be even more crucial in 2007.
Minnesota Twins (3rd, 87-75, division title 24%, wild card 10%)
The Twins came to spring training with four spots up for grabs in their starting rotation. As in 2006, when they opted to open the season with veterans Tony Batista and Juan Castro manning the left side of the infield, the Twins signed retread starters Sidney Ponson and Ramon Ortiz for 2007 to fill two of those vacancies.
The team’s remarkable turnaround last season began when Nick Punto and Jason Bartlett replaced Batista and Castro. We didn’t wait that long for youth to be served in our 2007 simulations, going with a rotation behind Johan Santana of (projected 2007 records): Boof Bonser (10-11 5.05), Carlos Silva (11-12 4.83), Matt Garza (11-10 4.63) and Scott Baker (10-11 4.86).
Ponson and Ortiz actually pitched reasonably well this spring, and will open the season in the rotation with Santana, Bonser, and Silva (who pitched poorly), but the likelihood that either will do any better (assuming they keep their jobs) than Garza and Baker did in our simulations seems pretty small. Rather, whether the Twins (who, after all, have won the division four of the last five seasons) can once again survive the AL Central affray to capture a postseason berth, will rest squarely on the shoulders of their Big Four of Santana, Joe Nathan, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer (and the “stress reaction” in Mauer’s leg is worrisome). There’s no room for error in the Central, and little prospect that the Twins could replace what these guys give them if they don’t each put in a top season again in 2007.
Chicago White Sox (4th, 78-84, division title 3.8%, wild card 1.9%)
It’s no mystery what has happened to the White Sox since 2005. The 2005 team was all about pitching, scoring a modest 741 runs but allowing just 645. They didn’t stand pat after their Series win, adding Jim Thome to the lineup and Javier Vazquez (at the cost of CF prospect Chris Young) to the rotation. And the offense took a huge leap forward, scoring 865 runs in 2006. But the gain in scoring was more than offset by the struggles of the pitching staff, which allowed 794, with big drop-offs by the four holdover starters.
We see the rotation as a group performing in 2007 more like it did in 2006 than 2005. In fact, we project another jump in runs allowed by the White Sox, to 870 (exceeded in the AL only by Kansas City and Tampa Bay), with runs scored easing to 827. It looks like it will be all about the pitching for the White Sox again in 2007, but unlike 2005, that may not be a very good thing.
Kansas City Royals (5th, 66-96, no postseason appearances)
While the Royals may not be that much better this year than last, they are at least more interesting.
Positives for the Royals include:
- the arrival of top prospect Alex Gordon;
- the return of Zach Greinke;
- a new unwillingness to tolerate underachievement, evidenced by the axing of Jeremy Affeldt, Ambriorix Burgos, Angel Berroa (a move that occurred after our simulations were run), and others;
- a new willingness to commit substantial money to a player (Gil Meche) that (rightly or wrongly) they judge to have some upside (as opposed to putting-a-professional-product-on-the-field-type free agent signings like Reggie Sanders and Mark Grudzielanek); and
- 2007 being the final season of Mike Sweeney’s five year, $55 million contract extension.
The biggest negative, of course, is that they are on the bottom of the Central, looking up at the Indians, Tigers, Twins and White Sox.
If a team in the AL West wants to play in the postseason in 2007, they’d better win the division, because our projections offer them slim hope of a wild card berth.
Los Angeles Angels (1st, 91-71, division title 75%, wild card 3.1%)
Since 2002 it’s pretty much been a two horse race in the AL West between the Angels and A’s. In 2006, the teams couldn’t have been much closer, with the Angels scoring just five runs less than the A’s, while allowing just five more.
We see the two teams moving in opposite directions in 2007. Our projections have the Angels reducing their runs allowed from 732 to a league best 711 (with the A’s increasing from 727 to 748), and increasing their runs scored from 766 to a division best 810 (with the A’s increasing only slightly from 771 to 778), boosted by the addition of CF Gary Matthews Jr and a full season from 2B Howie Kendrick.
(So why, with a +65 improvement in their run differential, has the Angels’ projected win total gone up by just two from 89 in 2006? Because last year they outperformed their Pythagorean projection by five wins. That still wasn’t good enough to overtake the A’s, whose run differential was only +10 better than the Angels, because the A’s outperformed their Pythagorean projection by even more.)
If there are any clouds on the postseason horizon for the Angels, they are the injuries to Jered Weaver and Chone Figgins (neither of which was factored into our simulations), which are the sort of injuries that could linger beyond April.
Oakland A’s (2nd, 84-78, division title 20%, wild card 5%)
We projected the A’s to finish first in the AL West every season from 2001 to 2006, and they won it in three of those years (the Angels won it in two others), and took the wild card in another (with 102 wins in 2001, the year Seattle won a mind boggling 116 regular season games). We projected the A’s to win over 90 games in every one of those seasons except 2005, and they did.
The A’s have done it by leveraging risk, and there’s plenty of that on their 2007 roster. The thing is, the downturn we’ve projected for 2007 occurs despite having given them the benefit of that leverage in averaging our simulated seasons. We’ve got Bobby Crosby, Mark Ellis, Shannon Stewart, Eric Chavez, Milton Bradley, and even Rich Harden, all remaining reasonably healthy and productive for the entire year. And our projection includes a 27 HR, 98 RBI season from Mike Piazza.
Even if the A’s repeated their level of production from 2006, they likely would be going backwards in the win column, given that they outperformed their Pythagorean projection by eight wins last season. The modest -14 slip in run differential we’ve projected only compounds the problem.
For years (at least in some quarters) the demise of the Oakland A’s has been greatly exaggerated. Until perhaps now.
Seattle Mariners (3rd, 77-85, division title 2.8%, wild card 2.2%)
It’s not like this team didn’t have some decent players to build on at the end of 2006. It’s the changes they’ve made since that leaves you scratching your head in wonderment. Is Jose Vidro supposed to be the second coming of Edgar Martinez? Because his projected 4/30/.271 batting line sure doesn’t look like it. On the other hand, Jeff Weaver’s projected 8-13 5.36 looks exactly like, well, Jeff Weaver.
They swapped Chris Snelling to the Nationals in the Vidro deal, then signed former National Jose Guillen to play right. Why wouldn’t you just put Snelling out there? The Nationals were desperate to unload Vidro, so refusing to give them Snelling wouldn’t have been a deal breaker. Was it that they thought Snelling would never stay healthy? Well, Guillen hasn’t exactly been Mr. Dependability the past three seasons either.
And wouldn’t it be nice if Rafael Soriano (for whom the Braves happily gave up Horatio Ramirez) were still around to set up (or, if necessary, replace the injured) J.J. Putz?
It’s possible that GM Bill Bavasi has been consulting Allison DuBois, and knows things no one else does, though it certainly seems more like he may be taking his advice from Patricia Arquette.
Texas Rangers (4th, 75-87, division title 2%, no wild cards)
Let’s take a journey together down Rangers memory lane:
Before the 2006 season we said: “Will a retooled starting rotation lead to great things in 2006? Maybe, but it doesn't look that way. . . . Kenny Rogers was their best pitcher in 2005, and he's in Detroit now. Chris Young was their second-best starter, and he was traded to San Diego . . .”
Before the 2005 season we said: “Only one of their starting pitchers, Ryan Drese, posted an ERA below the league average last year, and Drese's 4.20 figure carries some baggage.”
Before the 2004 season we said: “The ERAs of the 16 men who started at least one game for the 2003 Rangers were 4.85, 5.09, 5.49, 6.10, 6.23, 6.45, 6.85, 7.01, 7.11, 7.16, 7.30, 7.58, 8.35, 8.53, 11.40, and 12.00. John Thomson, the best of this bunch, is now in Atlanta. The guys who were north of 7.00 amassed a total of 61 starts, so this isn't just a handful of cup-of-coffee September starts that make the overall picture look worse than it really was. You could hardly do worse if you dumped them all and started over with replacement-level pitchers.”
Before the 2003 season we said: “In 2002, much was said and written about the Rangers' pitching woes -- Chan Ho Park was anything but an ace, several key relievers got hurt, and a number of blown leads turned what might have been a good start into a deep hole.”
The more things change in Texas, the more they stay the same.
Nothing will set tongues wagging like a player who has the temerity to predict victory for his team, the way Jimmy Rollins has for the Phillies. It could be, though, that a bit of swagger is just what that team needs.
We project a dogfight in the NL East this year between the Phillies, Mets and Braves. Like last year, however, when the Mets blew the doors off and ran away with the division, any one of these teams, if things go its way, could approximate that feat.
Philadelphia Phillies (1st, 85-77, division title 37%, wild card 16%)
Jimmy Rollins merely said what he claims all the Phillies players think: that they’re the team to beat in the NL East. Our projections back him up, even though for 2007 we have the Phillies winning exactly the same number of games, and registering almost identical runs scored and runs allowed, as they did in 2006.
Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are terrific players. While the addition of C Rod Barajas and 3B Wes Helms might be questioned on another team, both are improvements over their predecessors, Mike Lieberthal and David Bell, and, together with the underappreciated Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino and Aaron Rowand, provide a solid supporting cast for those three.
If the Phils have a significant worry entering the season, it’s the health of their pitching staff. Freddy Garcia won’t be ready for Opening Day and (although he reportedly will only miss a week) may be showing the effects of all the mileage on his right arm. John Lieber, who had been the odd man out of the rotation, also is hurting now and unavailable to take Garcia’s place. And woe be the Phillies if Tom Gordon’s shoulder and elbow don’t make it through the season intact.
Atlanta Braves (2nd, 84-78, division title 32%, wild card 14%)
The streak (14 consecutive division titles from 1991 to 2005, excluding the aborted 1994 season) had to end sometime, and it did in 2006. After John Smoltz, the rotation reminded no one of Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine; the bullpen registered a league high 29 blown saves; and 2B Brian Giles had a poor season offensively and defensively.
GM John Schuerholtz is one of the few baseball executives whose personnel moves are given the benefit of the doubt by experts, who may be just humble enough to think, if not admit out loud, that he actually might know something that they don’t. Beginning with the acquisition of closer Bob Wickman during 2006 (from the Indians, ironically, who had the AL’s worst bullpen last year), Schuerholtz has rebuilt the Braves’relief corps, adding Rafael Soriano (for Horatio Ramirez) and Mike Gonzalez (plus SS prospect Brent Lillibridge, for Adam LaRoche). (Is it just a coincidence that Schuerholtz turned to the Mariners and Pirates, two of baseball’s biggest patsies in recent years, to make those deals?)
Giles was non-tendered (would any other team get less criticism for letting a player of his caliber go for nothing?) and will be replaced by the three times converted SS to 3B to OF to 2B Kelly Johnson, and LaRoche will be replaced by some combination of Scott Thorman and Craig Wilson. And while other teams were signing guys like Jason Marquis (Cubs, 3 years, $21 million) and Miguel Batista (Mariners, 3 years, $25 million), the Braves picked up a healthy Mark Redman (a durable league average left-handed starter) as a non-roster invitee, on a deal (now that he’s made the team) that will pay him a mere $750,000 plus incentives.
There are, of course, Braves players that everyone, not just Schuerholtz, knows about, including veterans Andruw and Chipper Jones and Edgar Renteria (another canny Schuerholtz pickup after his one eminently forgettable season in Boston), and young up-and-coming stars Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann (just signed to an unprecedented six years, $26 million deal).
The Braves look to still be a few pieces short of returning to their prior dominance, but would anyone really be too surprised if they came out and smoked the NL East in 2007? After all, Schuerholtz may indeed know stuff that we don’t.
New York Mets (3rd, 82-80, division title 24%, wild card 6.8%)
The Mets won 97 games last year. No other team in the league won even 90.
Basically the entire lineup, which scored 834 runs (3rd best in the league), is back. The only noteworthy change is Moises Alou in LF, who can still rake and is an upgrade.
For all the scrutiny that the starting rotation is getting, is it really any worse than last year’s? The 2006 Mets had seven pitchers with ERA’s between 5.48 and 9.87 start a total of 36 games. Glavine, Hernandez and Maine are back; Pedro Martinez may be for the second half of 2007, and was basically just a .500 pitcher on a .600 team before he went down in 2006. Does anyone seriously think that losing Steve Trachsel will cost the Mets 15 games in the win column?
On the other hand, the Mets outplayed their Pythagorean projection in 2006 by five games, so you could say they begin 2007 from a 92-win baseline. Can Glavine and Hernandez really be counted on to continue their Old Man River acts indefinitely? Projected starters Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez are two of that group of seven pitchers from 2006 with those bloated ERA’s. Plus the bullpen has taken several hits, with the departures of Chad Bradford, Roberto Hernandez and Darren Oliver, and Duaner Sanchez out with injury.
Speculation aside, there is an objective and imposing obstacle in the Mets’ path in 2007, which is a killer inter-league schedule. Besides their usual subway series with the Yankees, they’ve also been scheduled to face the Tigers, Twins and A’s.
If there is one absolutely indispensable player on the Mets, it has to be Billy Wagner. In 2006 he saved 40 games with a 2.24 ERA. In our 2007 season simulations he averaged 30 saves from 38 opportunities with a 3.12 ERA. If the Mets are going to return to the postseason in 2007, they will need to find a way to bridge the gap to Wagner with the lead more often than that, and for him to slam the door decisively when they do.
Washington Nationals (4th, 75-87, division title 4.2%, wild card 2.3%)
If anything caught my eye when we first looked at the results of our season simulations, it was the Nationals finishing ahead of the Marlins in the East. This is a team that many are saying will be lucky to avoid 100 losses.
Nor, looking at their player stats averaged from our simulated seasons, is it readily apparent how they managed it. John Patterson did remain reasonably healthy and pitched pretty effectively, as did Shawn Hill, and Chad Cordero was around to close the entire year.
What is apparent, however, is that the team that will take the field already is several wins worse than the one that averaged 75 simulated wins. Nick Johnson and Alex Escobar, both of whom will open the season on the disabled list, played much more in our simulated seasons than we now know they will. It’s also probably more likely than not that Cordero will be dealt during the year. (We do not attempt to forecast deadline deals from also-rans to contenders in our season simulations.)
If we were to rerun our season simulations today, the Nationals would almost certainly drop to the bottom of the East. They would still, however, most likely dodge the infamy of a 100-loss season.
Florida Marlins (5th, 73-89, division title 2.5%, wild card 1%)
As much of a feel good story as the Marlins were in 2006, they actually ended up winning just 78 games, so our 2007 projection isn’t really that big a regression. And they averaged 73 wins in our simulated seasons with recently released Mike Koplove, not recently acquired Jorge Julio, closing.
Young players, even very good ones, are more likely to take two steps forward, then one step back, than they are to take two steps forward, then two more steps forward. So it’s not surprising that number crunching projections for the Marlins encounter this consolidation stumbling block. In fact, however, on the offensive side, we project the 2007 team to outscore last year’s slightly, 765 to 758. It’s the pitching that lets the team down, allowing 845 runs (next worst to Colorado’s 866) compared to just 772 in 2006.
Josh Johnson’s injury accounts for part of the difference, as does the departure of Joe Borowski. (How well Julio will do as Borowski’s replacement remains to be seen.) For this team to match, let alone surpass, last year’s surprising, if modest, success, it’s going to need a couple of pitchers to step up unexpectedly. A solid season from the surprise winner of the CF job, Alejandro De Aza, wouldn’t hurt either.
The Cardinals ran away with the NL Central in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2005. They came back to the pack in the other seasons (including 2006, in which they pulled off the division title with just 83 wins) to produce close races with Houston and (in 2001 and 2003) Chicago. We project another close three-way race between the Cardinals, Astros and Cubs in 2007, with the Cards again prevailing.
St Louis Cardinals (1st, 85-77, division title 40%, wild card 6.7%)
There’s not much change to the starting lineup, other than the addition of 2B Adam Kennedy, who strikes me as a natural fit for this team. Our simulations assumed a healthy Jim Edmonds and Juan Encarnacion, although both will probably begin the season on the DL, but the Cardinals have decent backup depth in the outfield. Mainly, however, the Cardinals have Albert Pujols.
It’s the pitching staff where there have been major changes. Jeff Suppan, Jason Marquis and Jeff Weaver, three-fifths of last year’s starting rotation, are gone, replaced by converted relievers Braden Looper and Adam Wainwright, and Kip Wells (at least until the anticipated midseason return of Mark Mulder). No problem, according to our projections, with both Looper and Wainwright, as well Anthony Reyes, performing solidly. Throw in ace Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals staff projects to allow just 728 runs in 2007, down from 762 in 2006 and best in the league.
If there are potential problems they’re in the bullpen, where the jury is still out on whether Jason Isringhausen can bounce back from season ending hip surgery in 2006. Our projections are based on the assumption that he will, to the relatively modest tune of 27 saves (from 37 opportunities) and a 4.18 ERA. Josh Kinney, gone for the year with elbow surgery, also was axed from our Cardinals squad before the simulated seasons were run.
Pujols, pitching, and defense, is the formula that looks to carry the Cardinals to yet another division title in 2007.
Chicago Cubs (2nd, 83-79, division title 28%, wild card 7.9%)
Imagine a game show, with Cubs fans the contestant: “Ok, Cubs fans, you can have an 83-79 season and second place finish to the Cardinals right now, or take what’s behind the curtain!”
Our projection for the Cubs represents a huge 17 win improvement from last season’s 66-96 debacle, though not quite enough to reach the postseason. Of course, they did commit close to $300 million this past winter to achieve it, including $136 million (8 years) to Alfonso Soriano, $75 million (5 years) to Aramis Ramirez, $40 million (4 years) to Ted Lilly, $21 million (3 years) to Jason Marquis, and $13 million (3 years) to Mark DeRosa.
One comforting thought for Cubs fans is that our projections did not assume any material contribution from Kerry Wood or Mark Prior. For those who continue to light candles for these two, however, anything positive that either of them actually does would be an unanticipated bonus.
Among the many things that went wrong for the Cubs last year was a meltdown by the bullpen, particularly closer Ryan Dempster. Sometimes, in setting our manager profiles for each team prior to running our simulated seasons, we conclude that there is a better player available on the roster to fill a role than the guy the team plans to use, and assume that the team will come to the same conclusion and make the change. We concluded that Dempster’s days as Cubs closer were numbered and, with Kerry Wood ruled out, slotted in Bobby Howry, who averaged 30 saves with a 3.68 ERA.
Houston Astros (3rd, 81-81, division title 18%, wild card 7.6%)
Assuming, as most seem to be, that Roger Clemens will return for yet another curtain call in 2007, he could well put the Astros over the top in a close NL Central race. But, with his buddy Andy Pettitte gone to New York, would he choose the Astros over the Yankees (or Red Sox), if they’ve dug yet another huge hole for themselves early in the season? You often hear how important it is that a team get off to a good start. The reason in this case is unusual, but might actually be legitimate.
Was Carlos Lee worth $100 million over six years? Few think so, but all we’re concerned with is whether he will make the Astros a better team in 2007? If you look at the question in terms of Lee replacing Willy Taveras in the lineup, the answer has to be a resounding yes. (Still, no matter how much firepower the Astros cram into the first six spots in the batting order, so long as 7-8-9 are occupied by Brad Ausmus, Adam Everett and the pitcher, they’re always going to be playing with one bat tied behind their backs.)
Jason Jennings should be a solid addition to the rotation behind Roy Oswalt, but we project poor seasons for worn out newcomer, Woody Williams (9-12 5.42), as well as inconsistent holdover Wandy Rodriguez (8-12 5.35), which is another reason why the Rocket would be a big difference maker. Another concern for the Astros has to be Brad Lidge. There’s a lot of analysis about to the effect that his season last year wasn’t really that bad, but personally, we don’t buy it, and if we had to bet on whether he would bounce back in 2007, pitch about the same as in 2006, or deteriorate even further, we ’d bet on the latter, though our projection is “about the same” (5-8 27/36 4.72).
Cincinnati Reds (4th, 77-85, division title 5.7%, wild card 4.2%)
The Reds got off to a strong start in 2006 and, thanks mainly to a near historic collapse by the Cardinals, were still remotely in contention at season’s end. In between, their bullpen became known as one of the best places in Cincinnati for women to meet an ever-changing stream of available men.
The Reds have some nice players: a bit of speed here, a bit of power there, a mix of youth and veterans, but we just can’t get that enthused. What were they thinking about this past winter? Was there some inscrutable plan afoot that would actually bring about some improvement? Consider, for example, signing Alex Gonzalez to replace Royce Clayton. That’s about as horizontal as you can get. Or how about bringing Mike Stanton and Dustin Hermansen through the revolving bullpen door? (Actually, signing Hermansen was about the only move they made that we liked.)
There is one thing that could see me getting enthused about the Reds. The first time Ken Griffey Jr is shelved by injury, Josh Hamilton is slotted into the lineup and proceeds to go on a tear that propels him to both the NL Rookie of the Year AND Comeback Player of the Year awards. That, as they say, would be something we ’d pay money to see.
Milwaukee Brewers (5th, 76-86, division title 7.7%, wild card 1.1%)
The Brewers enter this season with the look of an up-and-coming team, so our projected finish for them may be disappointing.
1B Prince Fielder, 2B Rickie Weeks and RF Corey Hart are exciting young players, though defense is not their strong suit. Geoff Jenkins and Kevin Mench should form a productive, if unhappy and expensive, platoon in LF. Some question the move of Bill Hall to CF and insertion of J.J. Hardy at SS; one can’t help wondering whether, in light of the indefinite absence of 3B Cory Koskie, Hall at 3B makes more sense than some combination of Craig Counsell and Tony Graffanino. The lack of production from 3B certainly was a factor in our projection for the Brewers to score just 738 runs in 2007 (next to lowest in the league).
On the mound, Jeff Suppan failed to live up to his four year, $42 million deal, averaging just 9-12 4.88 over our simulated seasons. That may have something to do with the fact that these aren’t the Cardinals defensively. The Brewers were 14th in the league in fielding percentage in 2006, and could be even weaker defensively in 2007 with the loss of Koskie and the shift of Hall to CF.
So, there are at least two obvious ways the Brewers might better our projection for them: if Suppan outperforms his individual projection, and if the team makes some kind of move to address the hole left by Koskie at 3B.
Pittsburgh Pirates (6th, 72-90, division title 0.8%, wild card 1.3%)
Even with the addition of 1B Adam LaRoche, who we project will come pretty close to replicating his big 2006 season, the Pirates still have the weakest offense in the major leagues. The Pirates did win 37 of their final 72 games last season despite scoring the fewest runs in the league during that period, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re on the cusp of winning.
Yes, they have some good young starting pitchers in Zach Duke, Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny and Paul Maholm. Chances are, however, over any stretch of games, good or bad, last season or in 2007, you’ll be able to say that the Pirates scored the fewest runs in the league. When they’re losing, and they’re sure to do plenty of that, it will be because they’re not scoring. If they manage a streak where they’re winning (which for them basically means breaking even), it will be in spite of not scoring.
So, now that they’ve actually lined up some decent pitchers, the Pirates are faced with two tasks, neither of which, based on their track record, one can feel very confident in them pulling off: improving the offense substantially, and doing it without botching up the pitching in the meantime.
The NL West might not be the best division in baseball, but it could have the most interesting assortment of teams. The Padres’ pitching makes them the class of the division; Ned Colletti continues accumulating “name” veterans; there is a buzz in Arizona, where a young, potential-laden lineup has been paired with a solid veteran rotation; the Giants will be looking to set some kind of record for the oldest team to reach the postseason; and the Rockies will be hoping that they’ve finally found a winning formula that works equally well at home and on the road.
San Diego Padres (1st, 88-74, division title 64%, wild card 7.2%)
San Diego allowed just 679 runs in 2006, by far the fewest in the league (Houston’s 719 was next best). We project that number to increase to 729 in 2007 (one more than the league best Cardinals). However, we see their runs scored increasing by an even greater margin, from 731 to 806. Rookie 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff (projected OPS .875) gets a lot of the credit for that, as does Russell Branyan, who we installed in LF in the team’s manager profile, and who justified that decision by belting 30 homers. (The Padres may end up with a platoon of Branyan and Terrmel Sledge, which could be pretty potent too.)
It’s the Padres’ pitching that really shines. While we’ve projected the Padres to slip a bit in runs allowed in 2007, our methodology is inherently conservative, and they could easily do even better in 2007 than they did last year. Jake Peavy, Chris Young and Clay Hensley are back in the rotation, and Chan Ho Park and Woody Williams have been replaced by Greg Maddux and David Wells. Trevor Hoffman is still there, of course, as is Scott Linebrink, constant trade rumors notwithstanding.
No one doubts Peavy’s ability, and he wasn’t at his best for a good part of 2006. Young and Hensley should only get better with another year’s experience. As for Maddux and Wells, what a fascinating addition. We can’t wait to watch these guys in action this season.
Los Angeles Dodgers (2nd, 81-81, division title 15%, wild card 11%)
Imagine, if you will, Colin Clive (the actor who played Dr. Baron Frankenstein in the horror classic) in the role of GM Ned Colletti. He places his roster on a platform that he raises to the heavens, where lightning strikes it, again and again. He lowers it back down, and sees it move, ever so slightly (not much range, but sure hands), and cries, “It’s alive! It’s alive!”
Okay, I know I'm reaching here. Then again, there’s a bit of Karloff about Jason Schmidt, Luis Gonzalez, and DePodesta holdover Brad Penny (though definitely not Juan Pierre). The funny thing is, I actually like this team, even though it has something of a parts-stitched-together quality about it, and even though our projection sees it regressing from last year’s 88 wins to 81, with a drop of 52 in runs scored (from 820 to 769) as well as an increase of 34 in runs allowed (from 751 to 785).
The biggest hit to the offense was replacing the departed J.D. Drew with Luis Gonzalez. Pierre also projects to be a downgrade from what Lofton provided in 2006, and Garciaparra and Kent are at the stage in their careers where some decline can be expected.
On the pitching side, there is at least a reasonable prospect of players outperforming their projections in a way that could recapture those lost wins from 2006, with Jason Schmidt and Brad Penny (really more of a Jekyll and Hyde than a Frankenstein’s monster, now that I think about it) having disappointed in our simulated seasons (though Gonzalez in LF and Pierre in CF won’t be making it any easier for them).
Arizona Diamondbacks (3rd, 79-83, division title 11%, wild card 4.2%)
Gone are Johnny Estrada, Craig Counsell, Luis Gonzalez and Shawn Green, half the Opening Day lineup from 2006. Taking their place are Miguel Montero, Stephen Drew, Chris Young and Carlos Quentin. With holdovers Conor Jackson, Chad Tracy, Orlando Hudson and Eric Byrnes, the Diamondbacks lineup has been transformed from old, slow and boring, to young, fast and exciting seemingly overnight.
All that youth and electricity in the lineup is nicely complemented by a potentially dominant veteran rotation, led by 2006 NL Cy Young winner Brandon Webb. Behind Webb are Livan Hernandez, Doug Davis and, of course, the Big Unit, Randy Johnson.
Jose Valverde is a question mark closing, as are the rest of his supporting cast in the bullpen; Johnson, Hernandez and Davis all have to prove they’ve still got what it takes; and the lineup, while exciting, is largely young and unproven. If there’s a consensus about this team, perhaps it’s that they’re a year away, but if a belief takes hold that this team is good enough to win in 2008, that could well become a self-fulfilling prophecy that propels them to success right now. They definitely will be exciting to watch if they get a sniff of contending.
San Francisco Giants (4th, 78-84, division title 6%, wild card 4.4%)
C Bengie Molina 33 1B Rich Aurilia 36 2B Ray Durham 35 3B Pedro Feliz 31 SS Omar Vizquel 39 LF Barry Bonds 42 CF Dave Roberts 34 RF Randy Winn 32
It’s easy to get too caught up in the age thing. It’s hardly a given that this lineup would be good enough to win the division, even if all the guys were in their primes. On the other hand, perhaps their age translates into the intangible asset, experience.
In the baseball classic of oral history, The Glory of Their Times, Chief Meyers talks about the 1916 pennant winning Brooklyn Robins, “a team of veterans. Nap Rucker, Jake Daubert, Colby Jack Coombs, Rube [Marquard], Zack Wheat, Hi Myers – we’d all been around a long time. . . . We won the pennant that year by just outsmarting the whole National League, that’s all. It was an old crippled-up club, and you might say, figuratively, they had to wrap us up in bandages and carry us out to play the World Series. We were all through.”
So, perhaps there is hope for the Giants in 2007, after all. (Incidentally, in 1916 Rucker was 31, Daubert 32, Coombs 33, Marquard 29, Wheat 28 and Myers 27. The Chief himself was the senior member of the team at age 35.)
Colorado Rockies (5th, 77-85, division title 4.5%, wild card 4.8%)
The Rockies have the distinction, of sorts, of having the highest percentage of division titles and wild cards of any of the six teams we have projected to finish last in their division.
They’ve been patient, sticking with manager Clint Hurdle through five losing seasons, and building from within with players like 3B Garrett Atkins, outfielders Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe, and top prospects SS Troy Tulowitzki and C Chris Ianetta. Stung by trade talks, Todd Helton is desperate to rediscover his offensive prowess. And whether it’s the pitchers, the baseballs, or some combination of the two, they’ve shown signs of finally mastering that strangest of all baseball venues, Coors Field, reducing their runs allowed from 923 in 2004, to 862 in 2005, to 812 in 2006 (their lowest total since 1995, their first season in Coors, in which they won the NL wild card).
They expect, and are expected by the powers that be, to start winning in 2007. Our projections, however, put them right back where they were in 2006, at the bottom of the division with 77 wins.
- Tags: Projected Standings
Philadelphia-Houston playoff game, 2005
Philadelphia-Houston playoff game, 2005
Last updated: October 12, 2005
The last weekend of the 2005 season featured a tight race for the NL wild card. Philadelphia won its last four but was left out of the postseason parade when Houston took care of business. The folks at the Philadelphia Daily News wondered how a playoff game might have turned out had Houston dropped one of its weekend games to fall into a tie, and we were more than happy to help out.
We set up the rosters using the stats for the 2005 season, set up the fatigue information by entering the number of pitches thrown in recent games by the pitchers on both teams, and played the game once. The paper ran a game story in the October 4th edition, but they didn't have room for the boxscore and play-by-play. Here's how the game turned out:
10/3/2005, Hou05-Phi05, Citizens Bank Park
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E LOB DP
2005 Houston 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 5 0 6 0
2005 Philadelphia 0 0 2 3 0 0 0 0 x 5 5 2 3 1
Houston AB R H BI AVG Philadelphia AB R H BI AVG
Biggio 2b 3 0 0 0 .000 Rollins ss 4 1 1 2 .250
Taveras cf 4 1 0 0 .000 Lofton cf 4 0 0 0 .000
Ensberg 3b 4 1 2 2 .500 Utley 2b 3 0 0 0 .000
Berkman lf 4 0 1 0 .250 Abreu rf 3 1 1 0 .333
Lamb 1b 3 0 1 0 .333 Burrell lf 4 0 0 0 .000
Bagwell ph 0 0 0 0 .000 Wagner p 0 0 0 0 .000
Lane rf 4 0 0 0 .000 Howard 1b 2 1 0 0 .000
Ausmus c 4 0 0 0 .000 Bell 3b 3 1 1 3 .333
Everett ss 3 0 1 0 .333 Lieberthal c 3 1 2 0 .667
Vizcaino ph 1 0 0 0 .000 Padilla p 1 0 0 0 .000
Backe p 1 0 0 0 .000 Michaels ph 1 0 0 0 .000
Palmeiro ph 1 0 0 0 .000 Madson p 0 0 0 0 .000
Qualls p 0 0 0 0 .000 Chavez lf 0 0 0 0 .000
Burke ph 1 0 0 0 .000 28 5 5 5
Gallo p 0 0 0 0 .000
Wheeler p 0 0 0 0 .000
33 2 5 2
Houston INN H R ER BB K PCH STR ERA
Backe L 0-1 4.0 4 5 5 3 3 75 41 11.25
Qualls 2.0 1 0 0 0 1 27 18 0.00
Gallo 1.2 0 0 0 0 3 22 16 0.00
Wheeler 0.1 0 0 0 0 1 7 5 0.00
8.0 5 5 5 3 8 131 80
Philadelphia INN H R ER BB K PCH STR ERA
Padilla W 1-0 7.0 4 2 1 1 6 101 70 1.29
Madson H 1 1.0 1 0 0 0 0 14 9 0.00
Wagner S 1 1.0 0 0 0 1 2 14 7 0.00
9.0 5 2 1 2 8 129 86
Hou: Palmeiro batted for Backe in the 5th
Burke batted for Qualls in the 7th
Bagwell batted for Lamb in the 9th
Vizcaino batted for Everett in the 9th
Phi: Michaels batted for Padilla in the 7th
Chavez inserted at lf in the 9th
E-Utley 2. 2B-Ensberg, Berkman, Everett, Abreu. HR-Ensberg(1), Rollins(1),
Bell(1). K-Taveras, Ensberg, Lamb, Lane 2, Ausmus, Backe, Vizcaino,
Rollins 2, Utley, Burrell 3, Bell, Michaels. BB-Biggio, Bagwell, Utley,
Abreu, Howard. SH-Padilla. WP-Backe, Wagner.
Temperature: 82, Sky: clear, Wind: out to center at 6 MPH.
10/3/2005, Hou05-Phi05, Citizens Bank Park
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E LOB DP
2005 Houston 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 5 0 6 0
2005 Philadelphia 0 0 2 3 0 0 0 0 x 5 5 2 3 1
Score O Rnr BS Event
----- - --- -- -----
************** Top of the 1st inning, Houston batting
0-0 0 --- 22 Biggio grounded out to the mound (BBFCX)
0-0 1 --- 00 Taveras to first on an error by the second baseman Utley
0-0 1 1-- 01 Ensberg homered deep to left, Taveras scored (CX)
2-0 1 --- 10 Berkman flied out to left (BX)
2-0 2 --- 11 Lamb lined a single to right center (BFX)
2-0 2 1-- 21 Lane flied out to center (BBCX)
************** Bottom of the 1st inning, Philadelphia batting
2-0 0 --- 22 Rollins struck out (BFFBS)
2-0 1 --- 10 Lofton grounded out to second (BX)
2-0 2 --- 32 Utley walked (BBBCSB)
2-0 2 1-- 32 Abreu grounded out to second (FBBCB>X)
************** Top of the 2nd inning, Houston batting
2-0 0 --- 20 Ausmus flied out to center (BBX)
2-0 1 --- 22 Everett grounded a double down the first base line
2-0 1 -2- 12 Backe struck out (BSSC)
2-0 2 -2- 12 Biggio grounded out to the mound (BCCX)
************** Bottom of the 2nd inning, Philadelphia batting
2-0 0 --- 32 Burrell struck out (BBCCFBC)
2-0 1 --- 01 Howard flied out to center (SX)
2-0 2 --- 11 Bell grounded out to short (FBX)
************** Top of the 3rd inning, Houston batting
2-0 0 --- 10 Taveras to first on an error by the second baseman Utley
2-0 0 1-- 32 Ensberg struck out (BFFBBC)
2-0 1 1-- 02 Berkman grounded into a double play, Rollins to Utley to
************** Bottom of the 3rd inning, Philadelphia batting
2-0 0 --- 10 Lieberthal lined a single to left (BX)
2-0 0 1-- 01 Padilla popped out on a bunt to first (CbXb)
2-0 1 1-- 31 Rollins homered deep to right center, Lieberthal scored
2-2 1 --- 10 Lofton grounded out to short (BX)
2-2 2 --- 02 Utley lined out to right (CCX)
************** Top of the 4th inning, Houston batting
2-2 0 --- 12 Lamb flied out to left (CFFBX)
2-2 1 --- 02 Lane grounded out to short (CCX)
2-2 2 --- 12 Ausmus struck out (CBFS)
************** Bottom of the 4th inning, Philadelphia batting
2-2 0 --- 32 Abreu walked (CBBFBB)
2-2 0 1-- 12 Burrell struck out (CBFC)
2-2 1 1-- 21 Backe threw a wild pitch, Abreu to second (CBBB)
2-2 1 -2- 31 Howard walked (CBBB.B)
2-2 1 12- 20 Bell homered deep to left, Abreu scored, Howard scored
2-5 1 --- 10 Lieberthal lined a single down the right field line (BX)
2-5 1 1-- 21 Padilla sacrifice bunted to the mound, Lieberthal to
2-5 2 -2- 12 Rollins lined out to center (SFFBFX)
************** Top of the 5th inning, Houston batting
2-5 0 --- 02 Everett flied out to center (CFX)
Palmeiro pinch hitting for Backe
2-5 1 --- 01 Palmeiro flied out to center (FX)
2-5 2 --- 31 Biggio walked (FBBBB)
2-5 2 1-- 02 Taveras struck out (CFC)
************** Bottom of the 5th inning, Philadelphia batting
Qualls now pitching
2-5 0 --- 22 Lofton grounded out to first (BFFFBFX)
2-5 1 --- 10 Utley grounded out to second (BX)
2-5 2 --- 32 Abreu lined a double to right center (FBCBBX)
2-5 2 -2- 12 Burrell popped out to third (FCBX)
************** Top of the 6th inning, Houston batting
2-5 0 --- 02 Ensberg lined out to center (FSX)
2-5 1 --- 32 Berkman lined a double to right center (BFFBBX)
2-5 1 -2- 22 Lamb struck out (BFCBS)
2-5 2 -2- 22 Lane struck out (BCCBFC)
************** Bottom of the 6th inning, Philadelphia batting
2-5 0 --- 10 Howard grounded out to third (BX)
2-5 1 --- 12 Bell struck out (CBFS)
2-5 2 --- 01 Lieberthal grounded out to short (FX)
************** Top of the 7th inning, Houston batting
2-5 0 --- 01 Ausmus flied out to left (FX)
2-5 1 --- 12 Everett lined out to first (BSCFX)
Burke pinch hitting for Qualls
2-5 2 --- 12 Burke flied out to left (CBSX)
************** Bottom of the 7th inning, Philadelphia batting
Gallo now pitching
Michaels pinch hitting for Padilla
2-5 0 --- 32 Michaels struck out (SBBBFS)
2-5 1 --- 22 Rollins struck out (CFFBFFFBS)
2-5 2 --- 01 Lofton flied out to center (CX)
************** Top of the 8th inning, Houston batting
Madson now pitching
2-5 0 --- 11 Biggio grounded out to short (FBX)
2-5 1 --- 22 Taveras flied out to center (CBFBX)
2-5 2 --- 01 Ensberg lined a double to right center (CX)
2-5 2 -2- 21 Berkman grounded out to second (BBCX)
************** Bottom of the 8th inning, Philadelphia batting
2-5 0 --- 12 Utley struck out (CFBC)
2-5 1 --- 00 Abreu grounded out to third (X)
Wheeler now pitching
2-5 2 --- 22 Burrell struck out (CCBBFFS)
************** Top of the 9th inning, Houston batting
Wagner now pitching
Chavez now playing left field
Bagwell pinch hitting for Lamb
2-5 0 --- 30 Bagwell walked (BBBB)
2-5 0 1-- 12 Lane struck out (BCCC)
2-5 1 1-- 00 Wagner threw a wild pitch, Bagwell to second (B)
2-5 1 -2- 10 Ausmus popped out to short (B.X)
Vizcaino pinch hitting for Everett
2-5 2 -2- 12 Vizcaino struck out (CCBS)
- Tags: Baseball Research
2003 Gold Glove Review
Comments on 2003 Gold Glove Awards
December 5, 2003
Each year, usually in November, Rawlings announces the winners of their annual Gold Glove awards, given to the top fielders in each league. The winners are chosen by a vote of the managers and coaches that is taken before the end of the regular season.
How much weight is put on great range versus soft hands or a good arm or the ability to turn the double play?
One hopes that the voters take all of those things into consideration, with the proper weight given to each skill. But we don't know. The announcement story rarely provides more than the basic info -- who won and how often each player has taken home the award. We're never given any proof that the best man won.
In contrast, when we're debating the MVP or Cy Young winner, nobody's at a loss for words ... my guy deserves the MVP because he nearly won the Triple Crown ... no, that's not right, you've got to give it to the man with the 11 game-winning hits in the second half ... a 2.20 ERA is worth more than 20 wins because, after all, the pitcher doesn't control how much run support he gets ... no, those 55 saves are far more valuable, because the game is always over as soon as he takes the hill, and everybody on both teams knows it.
Not so for the Gold Gloves. No statistics, no debate, no analysis. Nothing.
A few years ago, we began trying to fill this void with our own analysis of the Gold Glove selections, and we've been at it ever since. Writing this article is a natural extension of the work we do each winter (and have done since 1986) to develop fielding ratings for the annual Diamond Mind Baseball season disk.
That work involves looking at defensive performance from many angles in our attempt to form the clearest possible picture of the contribution made by each player to his team's defensive effort:
- we evaluate team defense using statistics such as the percentage of grounders and fly balls turned into outs
- we look at range factors, which are assists and/or putouts per nine defensive innings, keeping in mind that range factors can be severely biased by the nature of a team's pitching staff: the left/right mix, strikeout rates, and tendency to generate ground balls versus fly balls
- using play-by-play data licensed from STATS, Inc., we compute adjusted range factors that take these potential biases into account and focus only on those putouts and assists that provide the best indication of fielding skill (catching a popup on the infield or taking a throw on a force play are examples of plays that generate assists and putouts without telling us much about fielding skill)
- using play-by-play data, we divide the field into zones, measure each fielder's ability to turn batted balls into outs in each zone, and compute the number of plays each player made above or below the norm for his position given the mix of balls hit his way; we call this our "net plays" analysis
- we look at the STATS zone rating and our own zone rating to get another look at individual fielding performance, being careful not to be fooled by zone ratings that are significantly affected by error rates (our job is to come up with separate measures for range and error rates)
- to assess the interaction between neighboring fielders, such as a third baseman cutting off grounders that might otherwise be handled by the shortstop, we examine the number of plays made by each fielder and by the team in the zones where the responsibility overlaps
- we measure the percentage of batted balls turned into outs in home and road games to assess how each park might be influencing our measures of team and individual defense
- we use play-by-play data to measure other skills that are specific to certain positions, such as the ability of middle infielders to turn double plays, the ability of pitchers and catchers to shut down the running game, and the ability of outfielders to prevent runners from taking extra bases on hits and fly balls
- after all of the individual players have been rated using these methods, we cross-check them against our team defense measures to make sure they are consistent
- in cases where our findings are at odds with a player's reputation, we use the video clips on MLB.com to watch a large number of plays involving that fielder
We believe very strongly that it is only through a combination of these methods that one can accurately evaluate defensive performance. (For a more detailed description of this approach, see the Evaluating Defense article on our web site.)
Do the Gold Glove voters have this information at their disposal when making their selections? It's doubtful. More likely, their votes are based on traditional fielding statistics, reputations, and appearances. That's not necessarily a bad thing. In a meaningful number of cases each year, our analysis concurs with the Gold Glove selections, in part because the best fielders are going to look good no matter how you evaluate them.
But there are some differences, so let's get right to it. We'll go position by position, commenting on the Gold Glove winners (who are listed in the title for all positions other than outfield) and other candidates that we believe were deserving of serious consideration. When we're done, we'll recap by comparing our Gold Glove choices to the official winners and offer a few comments on other players who caught our eye as we did the fielding ratings for our 2003 Season Disk.
Pitchers (Mike Mussina, Mike Hampton)
If you're looking for pitchers who fielded their position without making an error, the list begins with Derek Lowe (65 error-free chances), Mark Buehrle (53), Mike Mussina (49), Brett Tomko (48), Danny Graves (47), Jon Garland (46), Cory Lidle (46), and Mark Mulder (45).
If you can forgive an error or two in favor of a guy who makes a lot of plays, then your leading candidates are Tim Hudson (2 errors in 76 chances), Roy Halladay (1 in 75), Greg Maddux (2 in 73), Carlos Zambrano (4 in 70), Mike Hampton (1 in 68), Derek Lowe (0 in 65), Livan Hernandez (1 in 63).
But this approach is a bit simplistic, mainly because a pitcher's own tendency to induce ground balls is a huge factor in the number of assists and putouts he gets. Fielding skill helps, of course, but you can really pad your numbers if you can get batters to hit it back to you in the first place. Five of the pitchers we've mentioned -- Lowe, Halladay, Hudson, Mulder, and Maddux -- are among the top twenty starters in ground-ball percentage.
A different group of pitchers emerges when you consider the relationship of plays made to opportunities. Among the standouts in 2003 were Kenny Rogers (a Gold Glover in 2002), Jae Weong Seo, Jon Garland, and Javier Vazquez. But it's hard to judge pitchers on only one season because they typically get dozens of chances to make plays, while other fielders get hundreds of opportunities.
If we extend our review of pitchers who convert a high percentage of chances into outs to include the last three years, the list is topped by Rogers, Steve Sparks, Graves, Tom Glavine, Kirk Rueter, Livan Hernandez, Vazquez, Randy Wolf, Garland, Steve Trachsel, and Mussina. Buehrle, Hampton, Maddux, and Halladay are a little further down this list.
Mussina was a good pick, in my view, because he was in the league's top tier in turning batted balls into outs, was third in the league in error-free chances, controlled the running game (only 9 steals in 19 attempts), and has done these things well enough in the past to show that this was not a fluke.
But he wasn't the BEST pick. Kenny Rogers made more plays, both in absolute terms and relative to the number of balls hit his way, REALLY shut down the running game (only 4 stolen bases allowed all year, 3 pickoffs), and tied for second in the league (behind Sparks) with 4 double plays. Yes, he made two errors, but that doesn't cancel everything else, and Rogers gets my vote.
Mike Hampton is similar to Mussina in that he's done enough to be considered a serious candidate. Second in the league in total chances, only one error, very good in the running game (only 3 steals allowed in 9 attempts), and a good track record. But Hampton's a ground-ball pitcher who creates lots of chances to make plays, and he was only a little better than average in converting those chances into outs.
Javier Vazquez, on the other hand, is a fly-ball pitcher who still manages to accumulate a good number of successful chances each year. That's because he's always at or near the top of our rankings in converting opportunities into outs. And he allowed only three steals in five attempts all year.
Danny Graves is another impressive candidate. Second in the league in error- free chances handled, among the leaders in converting chances into outs, both this year and in recent years.
But my vote goes to Kirk Rueter. He handled 43 chances without an error in 2003. In fact, he hasn't made an error since 1999, successfully completing 209 plays in the last four years. Rueter had a hand in 5 double plays, one shy of the league lead. And he continues to be nearly impossible to run on. He may not have the greatest stuff in the league, but he does a lot of other things to keep himself in the game.
Catchers (Bengie Molina, Mike Matheny)
Ivan Rodriguez owned this award for a long time, but knee problems have taken their toll and it's no longer a slam dunk in his favor. Still, he continues to be a top contender. Opposing base stealers were successful 68% of the time, an ordinary figure, but only one other regular catcher was challenged less often, so it's clear that I-Rod's gun still has some bullets in it. But with 8 errors and 10 passed balls, I can't make him my choice.
Mike Matheny was the least-challenged catcher in the majors this year, with a runner taking off only once every 19.9 innings. But those runners arrived safely 77% of the time, an unusually high percentage with Matheny behind the plate. Still, St. Louis allowed the second-fewest number of steals of any NL team, and Matheny caught in 138 of those games without making a single error. He was also second (to Brad Ausmus) in the league in fewest passed balls allowed among catchers with at least 1000 innings.
Speaking of Ausmus, he's difficult to evaluate because his manager (Jimy Williams) has a history of telling his pitchers to forget about the running game and concentrate on the hitters. It wasn't long ago that Ausmus was throwing out half the runners who dared challenge him. This year, it was only 31%, but that's quite good on a Williams team. Plus, Ausmus made only 3 errors, allowed only 3 passed balls, and took part in a major-league leading 10 double plays.
Another candidate was Montreal's Brian Schneider, who led the circuit by throwing out 47% of enemy base runners and contributed to 9 double plays while making only 3 errors and allowing 3 passed balls. But Schneider started only 95 games, compared to 129 for Ausmus and 121 for Matheny, and that hurts his case.
All things considered, my pick is Matheny by a nose over Ausmus and Schneider.
In the AL, Bengie Molina tied for the league lead by nailing 41% of the runners who challenged his arm. His fielding percentage was only a hair above average, but he was among the league's best at preventing passed balls. His biggest weakness is fielding bunts and other balls around the plate, a category in which he's been well below average for three years.
Tampa Bay's Toby Hall is an interesting candidate this year. He's more agile around the plate than Molina, and like Molina, Hall wiped out 41% of enemy base- stealers. Further, 81 runners challenged Molina in 950 innings behind the plate, while only 78 tested Hall in his 1107 innings. Only Seattle and Chicago allowed fewer stolen bases than the D'Rays in 2003. On the other hand, Hall's 9 errors and 7 passed balls are unimpressive.
Chicago's Miguel Olivo is much like Hall. Olivo may have the league's best arm, but his 9 errors and 8 passed balls hurt his case, and he started 28 fewer games than Hall did.
If Dan Wilson (92 starts) didn't share the position with Ben Davis, he'd get my vote. He was part of the duo that led the league in fewest steals allowed, he led the league in fielding percentage (only one error), and shared the lead in fewest passed balls allowed among catchers with at least 800 innings. But it's hard to pick a guy who caught only 57% of his team's innings, so I'll concur with the voters and give the nod to Molina.
First basemen (John Olerud, Derrek Lee)
In the AL, the voters chose John Olerud for the second year in a row. In my view, it should have been a two-horse race between Doug Mientkiewicz and Travis Lee, with Mientkiewicz winning by a few lengths and the rest of the field a long way back.
But let's see how Olerud and Mientkiewicz compare:
- Olerud started more games at the position, 143 to 133 ... playing time matters, but this is not a big difference
- Olerud led the league in assists with 125 ... but we all know that a first baseman can pump up his assist totals simply by making the toss to the pitcher while others are taking more balls to the bag themselves
- Olerud participated in 126 double plays, second in the league to Carlos Delgado (134) ... this is a legitimate plus for Olerud ... it's hard to judge 1Bs on overall DP totals because they have little to do with most of them, but Olerud was also among the league's best at starting double plays, while Mientkiewicz was below average this year and in 2002
- Seattle had the league's lowest error total in 2003, and the lowest number of throwing errors, so it's tempting to conclude that Olerud saved his fellow infielders a lot of errors ... on the other hand, Seattle was only second best in the AL, behind Minnesota, in fewest errors by 2B/3B/SS ... unfortunately, it's very hard to measure 1Bs in this manner because our play-by-play data tells us how many throwing errors were made, but it doesn't tell us how many throwing errors would have been made if not for a good play by the first baseman
- Olerud has a very slight edge in fielding percentage, .998 to .997
- Mientkiewicz has a huge edge in range ... he topped our net-plays rankings and was first in the majors in STATS zone ratings, despite playing his home games on the fast turf in Minnesota ... Olerud, who is now in his mid-30s and doesn't move as well as he did in his prime, has been near the league average in range the past four years
All things considered, Mientkiewicz's advantage in range is much greater than Olerud's in the other areas, and he gets my vote for the third year in a row.
In the NL, Derrek Lee got the nod for the first time. In my view, Todd Helton and Tino Martinez are the only other serious candidates, but I'll focus on Lee versus Helton because both started at least 27 more games than Martinez and surpassed him in most key measures. Here's how I see these two:
- Lee has an edge in fielding percentage with a .996 figure that was third in the NL among 1Bs with over 1000 innings. Helton had an off year in this regard, finishing with 11 errors to Lee's 5.
- Lee was second in the league in double plays, and while Helton was first, that had a lot more to do with all the DP opportunities that arise when playing in a high-offense environment like Coors Field ... Lee was quite a bit better than Helton at starting DPs on balls hit to the first baseman
- Helton was in a virtual dead heat with Mientkiewicz for the major-league lead in range according to our net plays method, and while Lee also showed very good to excellent range, Helton had a sizeable lead in this measure ... Lee had the edge in the STATS zone rating, but most of that is due to his lower error rate, and we've already taken that into account
- Colorado's other infielders made many more errors than did Florida's, both in 2003 and over the past three years, perhaps indicating that Lee is better at handling bad throws
So we have a big edge in range for Helton and advantages for Lee in errors by himself and his fellow infielders and in starting double plays. Add it all up and it's too close to call, so I'll take a page from the NFL's instant replay system. If there's no conclusive evidence, you go with the call that was made on the field, and that makes Lee my choice.
Second basemen (Bret Boone, Luis Castillo)
The AL race should have been between Oakland's Mark Ellis and Anaheim's Adam Kennedy.
This was Bret Boone's second Gold Glove, and as was the case the first time, his trump card was reliability. His .990 mark was good enough to share the league lead with Kennedy. Boone was also very good at starting double plays, though it's interesting to note that he was below average before he joined Seattle in 2001, so his teammates may deserve much of the credit for the improvement in Boone's numbers. He was around the league average in making the pivot on potential double play balls that were hit to others.
But Boone's range has never been anything to write home about. This year, his range factor was second-worst in the majors. It's true that his range factor suffered greatly because he played behind a fly-ball staff, but even after adjusting for that and other factors (such as strikeout rate and left/right mix), Boone is only a little above average. In fact, he was in the middle of the pack in just about every measure of range that we look at.
Kennedy, on the other hand, has been near the top of our range rankings three years running. Like Boone, he was very reliable. Kennedy was also above average in starting double plays, though not as much as Boone. Kennedy's pivot numbers aren't especially good, but it's hard to tell whether that's him or the guy feeding him the ball. Finally, the fact that Kennedy started only 125 games at the position is a negative.
Mark Ellis is a very interesting candidate. Ellis blew away the competition in our net plays analysis and the STATS zone rating, and was near the top (but behind Kennedy) in adjusted range factor. It's not unusual for a converted shortstop to shine at second, and Ellis put up very good numbers in a half- season at the position in 2002. Perhaps because he is a converted shortstop, Ellis lags behind his peers in both starting and making the pivot on potential double play balls. His error rate was average.
In my opinion, Ellis's huge advantage in range makes him more worthy than the more polished Boone. So my ballot, if I had one, would have read Ellis first and Kennedy second.
One more thing before I move on to the other league. ESPN.com's story about the Gold Glove selections included this comment by an unnamed AL coach: "I voted for Adam Kennedy because he made some great plays against us and I happened to catch Bret when he made a couple of errors." We have no way of knowing whether this is typical of the amount of thought that goes into the voting, but it wouldn't surprise me if it is.
In the NL, my choice is Atlanta's Marcus Giles. Castillo's fielding percentage was a little better, but we're only talking about a difference of one error every six weeks. Castillo has always excelled in making the pivot on the double play, but Giles isn't too far behind. Giles topped Castillo in net plays, the STATS zone rating, and range factor (though with the help of a ground-ball staff). It's extremely close, but I'll go with Giles.
By the way, I think Placido Polanco was the best defensive second baseman in the league, but he only made 99 starts at the position before moving to third when Philly had to get David Bell's bat out of the lineup. Pokey Reese's injury took him out of the running.
Third basemen (Eric Chavez, Scott Rolen)
Eric Chavez took home his third Gold Glove, and I have no quarrel with this decision. Chavez led the AL in many categories, including range factor, putouts, assists, double plays, and our net plays analysis.
His standing in the first four of those categories is a bit artificial -- he played more innings than anyone but Tony Batista, his staff induces a lot of ground balls, and Oakland had by far the highest percentage of innings by lefty pitchers in the majors, so Chavez saw a steady stream of right-handed batters who tend to pull the ball in his direction.
Chavez is no Brooks Robinson, but he's solidly above average in range, and he's reliable (third in the league in fielding percentage, only a hair behind the leader), and he did those things almost every day.
My choice last year was Cory Koskie of Minnesota, who had another very good year in the field. He led the league in fielding percentage and was above average in range again, but he's my runner-up this time. Damian Rolls is someone to watch. He didn't play enough (68 starts), and may never hit well enough to be a full- time player, but he looked good in every measure that we use.
Scott Rolen is a perennial standout who has made far more plays relative to the norm for his position than any other NL fielder over the past five years. But his performance showed a marked decline in 2003. His range factor and STATS zone rating were slightly below average. His double-play numbers, normally a strength, were down. In our net plays analysis, we're accustomed to seeing him come in at 40 plays above the league, but he was in the middle of the pack in 2003.
It's possible that injuries are at the root of this decline. In the 2002 playoffs, Rolen collided with a baserunner and sprained his shoulder badly enough to keep him out of action for the rest of the postseason. He has a history of back problems and missed games in 2003 with stiffness in his neck and back and soreness in both shoulders.
Still, we're puzzled by the sudden drop in his defensive numbers. Rolen had a very good year at the plate, so his ailments couldn't have bothered him too much, at least not while he was batting.
All in all, it appears that Rolen may have gotten this Gold Glove on reputation, not performance. Having said that, who do you give it to? Nobody else stands out.
David Bell showed terrific range again this year, but his anemic bat cost him his job, and he started only 81 games at third. (Some years, it seems as if you can win a Gold Glove with your bat. Bell may have just lost one that way.)
Adrian Beltre showed good range and posted a league-average fielding percentage, so he's a possibility, though his home park helps him look good. Morgan Ensberg was pretty good but only played a half a season. Craig Counsell and Jamey Carroll also look good, but they didn't play nearly enough, either. Aaron Boone was traded out of the league. Vinny Castilla showed good range and was a plus on the double play, but made 19 errors.
It comes down to Rolen versus Beltre, and it appears to me that Beltre had a slightly better year in 2003, so he's my choice. I love watching Rolen play third, however, so I hope he bounces back in a big way next year.
Shortstops (Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Renteria)
It's a classic question. Would you rather have a guy with great range but is somewhat error-prone or someone who's steadier but doesn't cover as much ground?
Alex Rodriguez was very steady again this year, posting a major-league best .989 fielding percentage and making only 8 errors in 158 starts. And while A-Rod will never make people forget Mark Belanger or Ozzie Smith, his range is no worse than average most years, and sometimes better. In other words, he's a good all-around pick.
His chief rivals in 2003 were Anaheim's David Eckstein, who was very reliable and showed more range than Rodriguez but played only 116 games, and Chicago's Jose Valentin, who got to an awful lot of balls but made 20 errors. Eckstein didn't play enough to be a serious candidate, so I'll focus on Valentin.
Valentin is somewhat error-prone, there's no question about that. His fielding percentage has lagged the league average every year he's been in the majors, sometimes by quite a bit. Since 2001, however, he's gotten better, making only 2-3 more errors per season than the average shortstop.
But Valentin has also been consistently better than the league in range during his career. In 2003, he led all major-league shortstops in net plays made and adjusted range factor, and he was second (behind Eckstein) in the STATS zone rating. Depending on which of these measures you prefer to go with, Valentin made somewhere between 20 and 56 more plays than the average shortstop. Taking the strengths and weaknesses of each of these measures into account, I'd put his contribution somewhere in the range of 30-35 plays.
This would make it his best defensive year, but it's not too far above the level he's set in previous years. Problem is, his tendency to make errors has occasionally cost him a full-time job, so we don't have a lot of recent history to go on. But if you extrapolate his part-time 2001 and 2002 seasons into full years, and if you adjust for all the errors he made in 2000, Valentin has consistently shown the ability to reach about 20 more balls per season than the average shortstop.
So my vote goes to Valentin, though not by a big margin. Rodriguez is a very solid choice, and I'm not knocking his game in any way, but Valentin has improved his error rate enough to convert his superior range into real value.
The NL winner, Edgar Renteria, is mister average. At no time during the past five years has he been more than four plays better or worse than the major- league norm in our net plays analysis. In 2003, compared with the average shortstop, Renteria made two fewer errors and converted two more batted balls into outs. He was a plus in making the pivot on double plays.
If that doesn't sound to you like a Gold Glover, I'd have to agree, so let's see who else shows up on the radar screen.
Chicago's Alex Gonzalez is a lot like Alex Rodriguez in that he's very reliable and, in a good year, shows above-average range, too. This was one of his good years, and Gonzalez converted 22 more batted balls into outs than the average shortstop. That's partly a reflection of range, and partly due to a very low error rate. Gonzalez tied for second in the majors in fielding percentage. He was also well above average making the pivot on double play balls.
Houston's Adam Everett led the majors in range factor, was fourth in net plays, and finished among the league leaders in the STATS zone rating. In both range and error rates, he was just a hair behind Gonzalez, but his double play performance was in the middle of the pack.
Cesar Izturis and Orlando Cabrera also deserve mention, but they didn't quite rise to the level of the other players I mentioned.
My vote goes to Gonzalez. And while we're talking about him, have you ever seen a postseason when so many highly-regarded fielders made critical errors? San Francisco's Jose Cruz misplayed a fly ball with Florida was on the ropes, an error by Gonzalez helped open the floodgates for Florida when they were on the brink of elimination in the championship series, and some bobbles by New York's Aaron Boone nearly helped Boston break through.
You won't get an argument from me about the AL choices, which were Mike Cameron and Ichiro Suzuki of Seattle and Minnesota's Torii Hunter.
Seattle's outfield was far and away the best in the majors at turning fly balls and line drives into outs. They can put three legitimate center fielders out there -- Mike Cameron, the best in the business right now, Ichiro, who was a Gold Glove center fielder in Japan, and Randy Winn, who played center in Tampa Bay before he was traded to Seattle last winter.
Cameron led all major league outfielders with 484 putouts, 47 more than runner- up Rocco Baldelli and 60 more than Hunter. It helps, of course, that he plays behind a fly-ball staff in a park that's very friendly to pitchers. But even when you account for those things, Cameron turned about 40 more batted balls into outs than did the average center fielder.
Ichiro's raw net-plays figure isn't all that impressive until you allow for the fact that he shares the right-field gap with Cameron, who was about 10 plays above average in those zones. Ichiro would have made some of those plays had Cameron not reached those balls first. In addition, Ichiro's speed and arm turned a bunch of doubles and triples into singles.
With the Seattle outfield performing at such a high level, I have no problem giving two of the league's three Gold Gloves to one team. Winn was among the leaders in left field, too, but there are other very good outfields in the league, and it would be a stretch to give all three to Seattle.
One of those very good outfields is in Minnesota, where Torii Hunter patrols center field and Jacque Jones is in left. Jones is once again our top-rated left fielder, but he started only 87 games in left after a midseason groin injury relegated him to a DH/PH role for much of the second half.
Hunter continues to be one of the leaders in highlight film plays, and he looked very good in all of our range metrics, too. We don't think Hunter makes quite as many plays as his reputation would suggest, but there's no question that he's one of the best center fielders in the game, and he's my pick as the third AL Gold Glove recipient.
There are several other AL outfielders who might be worthy of consideration if not for the presence of these three guys. Johnny Damon and Vernon Wells represent the next tier of AL center fielders and aren't all that far behind Hunter. Milton Bradley posted very good defensive numbers before he got hurt. Among the corner outfielders we noticed are Winn, Garrett Anderson, and (believe it or not) Carlos Lee.
I'm sure that last name will come as a surprise to many of you. It came as a big surprise to us, too, because Lee has a reputation as a defensive liability and has been removed for defensive purposes more often than any other fielder in recent years. As a result, we spent a lot of time studying his performance, and here's what we found:
- Lee stole 18 bases in 22 tries this year, and his career totals are 53 steals and a 72% success rate, so he does have some speed
- according to our analysis, Lee had no weak spots ... he was at or above the league average in all zones and depths ... and while he hasn't been this good before, he was slightly above average in 2001 and 2002, so this type of performance isn't as much of a reach as you might think
- other systems place him in the top half ... he was 24 points above average in the STATS zone rating system, and his range factor and adjusted range factor were both a little better than average
- the defensive replacements are easy to explain ... he was being replaced by two exceptional fielders, Aaron Rowand and Willie Harris, so even though Lee was getting the job done, these guys were better
- overall, Chicago's outfield converted almost as many fly balls and line drives into outs as did the Minnesota trio, so somebody was doing something right ... Rowand and Harris were major contributors, but they didn't play enough to explain this, and Lee appears to have done more than Magglio Ordonez and Carl Everett to help this outfield rank so high
Even after reviewing all of this information, I wasn't convinced. So I decided to spend some time with the MLB.com video clips service. I picked a six-week period and requested every play Lee was involved in.
(MLB.com's service isn't perfect, so I was able to get my hands on only about 80% of those plays. But think about that for a minute. I was able to call up dozens of video clips for a specific fielder in a matter of seconds, and it only cost me a few dollars. Yeah, it would have been nice if I found everything I was looking for, but how can I complain about some missing clips when such a thing wasn't even conceivable a few years ago?)
It took about three hours to view the clips that were available, and I came away very impressed. There must have been ten or eleven really good plays in that stretch. Among them were two long runs to flag down deep fly balls in the gap. On two other occasions, Lee reacted very quickly to line drives and made sliding catches to his left. Twice he went over the left field wall to save homeruns. And in what may have been his best play of that sequence, he covered a lot of ground to make a catch in foul territory while going up and over the bullpen mound at full speed.
Over in the NL, where the voters selected Andruw Jones, Jim Edmonds, and Jose Cruz, things weren't so clear.
None of the league's left fielders stood out. Rondell White is a very good fielder who doesn't get much credit, but he was traded to the other league. Geoff Jenkins has always been at or near the top of the class, but he battled injuries again in 2003. Neither was anywhere near Gold Glove caliber this year.
Three players stood out in right field. San Francisco's Jose Cruz topped our net plays analysis and led the majors in range factor and adjusted range factor. Florida's Juan Encarnacion wasn't far behind on all counts. And neither was Houston's Richard Hidalgo, who also led the majors with 22 outfield assists.
Cruz is a converted center fielder, and while he wasn't a standout at that position, it's not unusual for CFs to shine in the corner spots. In 2002, Cruz looked very good in a limited trial in left field, so I wasn't surprised when he showed well in right this year.
Park factors must be considered here. Pacific Bell Park is good for pitchers, especially on balls hit to right center, and that can artificially boost the numbers for the hometown right fielder. Cruz benefited from that in 2003, as did Reggie Sanders in 2002. But even with a significant park adjustment, Cruz remains among the leaders in right field. And he was second only to Hidalgo with 18 outfield assists.
Encarnacion also had a terrific season in right. In our net plays analysis, he and Cruz are very close after you make the park adjustments, and Encarnacion was number one in the STATS zone rating rankings. In addition, Encarnacion was the only major league outfielder to play at least 120 games without making an error.
Having said all that, the best defensive outfielders usually play center field, so we can't start nominating corner outfielders until we've considered the guys who play up the middle.
We might as well start this conversation with Andruw Jones. It hard to make it through a game, even if Atlanta's not playing, without hearing that he's the gold standard. But we've been seeing signs of a decline in his once-stellar defensive play for the past several years. We still think he's a good center fielder, but we believe he's been passed by Cameron, Erstad, Hunter, and a new wave of youngsters who haven't yet played enough to become household names.
Consider these facts about Jones:
- Atlanta's outfield was fourth-worst in the majors in converting fly balls and line drives into outs ... I'm not saying that Jones is the reason they're near the bottom, just that if Jones is every bit as good as they say, he'd carry them to a higher ranking even if he wasn't getting a lot of help
- his putout totals are declining ... he peaked at 493 in 1999, dropped to 439 in 2000, rebounded to 461 in 2001, then slipped 404 and 390 the past two years ... that's partly because he's missed a few games the last two years, but his putouts per nine innings are also down from 3.07 to 2.64 over that span
- Andruw's share of Atlanta's outfield putouts is also dropping ... in 1999, he was responsible for 44.5% of those putouts, but it's down to 38% and 40% the last two years, and that decline is only partly due to decreased playing time ... maybe he's just deferring to Chipper and Sheffield on some of the easier plays, but if he's really the best outfielder in baseball, why would he do that?
- Jones was troubled at times by nagging injuries this year -- a strained muscle in his side, a sore shoulder, a hyperextended knee, tightness in a hamstring -- nothing serious, but perhaps enough to slow him down
- older editions of Total Baseball list him at 6'1" and 170 pounds ... Atlanta's official web site now puts his weight at 210 pounds ... I'm not sure how much to trust these figures, but he looks bigger, and if he really has added that much weight, a decline in range wouldn't come as a surprise
All things considered, I don't think Jones is the same defensive player he was four years ago. But who in the NL is better? Most of the game's top center fielders are in the other league.
Among the NL regulars, San Diego's Mark Kotsay is on top of our rankings for net plays made, and Jim Edmonds is number one in the STATS zone ratings, though both lag the AL leaders on both counts. Kotsay also leads in baserunner kills, with Edmonds right behind him.
Juan Pierre led in putouts, but that was a combination of playing time (161 starts), a fly ball staff, and a pitcher-friendly park. His range factor was quite ordinary, he was below average on the STATS zone rating and in our net plays analysis. LA's Dave Roberts put up impressive numbers this year, but he started only 98 games in center. Age has caught up with Steve Finley.
Oh, before I forget, I promised to mention some of the guys who haven't played much. Jeff Duncan only played a quarter of a season but compiled defensive numbers that resembled Mike Cameron's. Tsoyoshi Shinjo once again posted outstanding range numbers in limited time; he's headed back to Japan, though, because he didn't hit well enough over here to become a starter. In the Carlos Lee discussion, I mentioned Willie Harris and Aaron Rowand, both of whom could become Gold Glove contenders if they hit well enough to play full time.
Well, I guess I've danced around the subject long enough, and it's time for me to go on the record with my NL picks. It's tough because none of the center fielders stood out. Center field is a more difficult position, though, so I don't think it's right to pick a bunch of corner outfielders just because they outperformed the other corner guys by a bigger margin than the CFs outperformed their peers.
So I'll choose two center fielders, Andruw Jones and Mark Kotsay, and the leading right fielder, Jose Cruz, as my 2003 picks. It's getting tougher every year to rubber-stamp the Jones selection, but I haven't seen quite enough evidence yet to conclude that he's no longer worthy. Kotsay, in my view, was a little better than Edmonds. Cruz wasn't too far ahead of Encarnacion and Hidalgo.
Here's how my selections compare with those of the voters:
------- American ------- ------- National ------- Pos Voters Diamond Mind Voters Diamond Mind P Mussina Rogers Hampton Rueter C Molina same Matheny same 1B Olerud Mientkiewicz Lee same 2B Boone Ellis Castilla Giles 3B Chavez same Rolen Beltre SS Rodriguez Valentin Renteria Gonzalez (Chi) OF Cameron same AJones same OF Ichiro same Edmonds Kotsay OF Hunter same Cruz same
We agree on nine of the eighteen selections. Last year we agreed on eight, and it was twelve in 2001.
Even though I would have gone in a different direction on half of these selections, I must say that the voters did a pretty good job. In most of the cases where we disagreed, the winner was on my short list, and even when he wasn't, the winner had some important things going for him.
Other players of note
Here are a few other players whose defensive performances we noticed, for better or worse, in 2003:
Jermaine Dye, RF -- Dye has been one of our top-rated right fielders for years but struggled to come back from a severely broken leg in 2002. He appeared to recover a little of his range this year, so we bumped him up from Poor to Fair.
Troy Glaus, 3B -- Glaus has bounced between our Average and Fair ratings over the years, but 2003 brought injuries to his right hand, left hamstring, left foot, back, and right shoulder. His performance suffered enough to drop his range rating to Poor, but could rebound a little next year if he's 100%.
Ken Griffey, CF -- For the third year in a row, Griffey tried to play through leg injuries, and once again he wasn't anywhere near his usual self. We rated him Poor because he just didn't make enough plays, but we expect his rating to improve with his health, assuming his health does improve at some point.
Vladimir Guerrero, RF -- He normally earns an Excellent or Very Good rating for range, but he played with a bad back for much of the season and his performance suffered enough that he was only Average this year. In fact, he was closer to Fair than Very Good.
Derek Jeter, SS -- Last in the majors in range factor. Last in the majors in adjusted range factor. Second last in the majors in zone rating. Last in the majors in our net plays analysis. And this year there were no mitigating factors. No brilliant third baseman who cut off a lot of balls that Jeter might have been able to handle, and his team was last in the league in converting ground balls into outs. So we gave him a Poor rating for range and an error rating that's around the league average.
Reggie Sanders, RF -- Earned our Excellent rating last year but slipped to Average in 2003. A year ago, we wondered whether his impressive defensive numbers had more to do with Pacific Bell Park than his own performance. After adjusting for the park, he was a borderline Ex/Vg, but we concluded that he had earned the Ex rating, in part because he had performed just as well in Arizona the year before. Now in his mid-thirties, a decline in his range is to be expected, but a drop of two rating points isn't something we see every day, so it's possible that we made the wrong call last year.
Larry Walker, RF -- It's always a challenge to rate Colorado outfielders because a much higher percentage of batted balls go for hits in Coors Field than any other place. We do our best to measure and adjust for those effects, but it's not an exact science. In most years, Walker's raw defensive numbers are below average, but he comes out looking pretty good after we adjust for the park. In 2003, his raw numbers were downright terrible and the park adjustment brought him up only to a Fair rating. All signs indicate that the decline was real but injury-related. During the season, Walker missed games due to a bad shoulder, a groin injury, and a knee problem, and is expected to undergo surgery on both the shoulder and the knee this winter.
Todd Walker, 2B -- Fans of range factors, take note. Walker was well above average in range factor in 2002, and that got some Red Sox fans talking about what an asset he was going to be in 2003. But that ranking had more to do with the Cincinnati pitching staff than Walker's own play that season, and our analysis put him near the Average/Fair boundary. He played well enough in 2002 to eke out an Average rating, but in 2003, he slipped back under that line. According to the local papers, the Red Sox didn't like his defense, and that's why they're not rushing to re-sign him despite his postseason batting heroics.
Rickie Weeks, 2B -- The number two overall pick in the draft in 2003, Weeks torched minor-league pitching in a brief stint before being called up in September. Normally, I wouldn't bother writing about a guy with a career total of 21 defensive innings, but Weeks made 8 errors in 23 professional games and his major-league range numbers were horrendous (albeit in a very small number of chances). This may be a statistical anomaly, but it's also possible that he's just not ready to play defense in the majors.
2002 Gold Glove Review
Comments on 2002 Gold Glove Awards
December 5, 2002
Each year, usually in November, Rawlings announces the winners of their annual Gold Gloves for the best fielder at each position in each league. The announcement is normally carried in your local paper or on your favorite web site as a brief Associated Press story that tells us who won, which players are repeat winners, and how many times each player has won the award.
The selections are made by a vote of managers and coaches that is taken before the end of the regular season. I'm not aware of any guidelines that are provided to the voters, so I don't know how much weight they put on great range versus soft hands or a strong and accurate arm or the ability to turn the double play. One hopes that the voters take all of those things into consideration, with the proper weight placed on each skill, when they arrive at an overall assessment of each player's performance in the current season.Each year, usually in November, Rawlings announces the winners of their annual Gold Gloves for the best fielder at each position in each league. The announcement is normally carried in your local paper or on your favorite web site as a brief Associated Press story that tells us who won, which players are repeat winners, and how many times each player has won the award.
But we don't know how they made their decisions because the announcement story doesn't provide any justification for any of the selections. We never see any relevant numbers (except the occasional error total) or comments from the voters. Nothing.
So for the past several years, we've been offering up our own brand of analysis as we review the Gold Glove selections. What sort of analysis are we talking about? We look at defensive performance from several angles in our attempt to form the clearest possible picture of what each player contributed to his team's defensive effort. In the remainder of this article, you'll see the phrase "according to our analysis" a few times, and by that we mean a combination of the following:
- we evaluate team defense using statistics such as the percentage of batted balls turned into outs (for overall team defense) and the percentage of grounders and fly balls turned into outs (for evaluating infield and outfield play)
- we look at range factors, keeping in mind that they can be severely biased by variations in the nature of a team's pitching staff such as the left/right mix, strikeout rates, and tendency to generate ground balls versus fly balls
- using play-by-play data licensed from STATS, Inc., we compute adjusted range factors that take these potential biases into account and focus only on those putouts and assists that provide the best indication of fielding skill (catching a popup on the infield or taking a throw on a force play are examples of plays that generate assists and putouts without telling us much about fielder skill)
- using play-by-play data, we divide the field up into zones and measure each fielder's ability to turn batted balls into outs in each zone, and by aggregating the data from each zone and comparing it with the league-average rates, we can compute the number of plays each player made above or below the norm for his position given the mix of balls hit his way; we call this our "net plays" analysis
- we look at the STATS zone rating and our own zone rating to get another look at individual fielding performance, being careful not to be fooled by zone ratings that are significantly affected by error rates (because our job is to come up with separate measures for range and error rates)
- to assess the interaction between neighboring fielders, such as a third baseman cutting off grounders that might otherwise be handled by the shortstop, we examine the number of plays made by each fielder in the zones where the responsibility overlaps
- we measure the percentage of batted balls turned into outs in home and road games to assess how each park might be influencing our measures of team and individual defense
- we use play-by-play data to measure other skills that are specific to certain positions, such as the ability of middle infielders to turn double plays, the ability of pitchers and catchers to shut down the running game, and the ability of outfielders to prevent runners from taking extra bases on hits and fly balls
- after all of the individual players have been rated using these methods, we cross-check them against our team defense measures to make sure they are consistent
We believe very strongly that it is only through a combination of these methods that one can accurately evaluate defensive performance. (For a more detailed description of this approach, see our Evaluating Defense article, which was first published several years ago and has been substantially updated for 2002.)
I'd be absolutely amazed to discover that the Gold Glove voters have any of this information at their disposal when making their selections. My assumption is that their votes are based on traditional fielding statistics, reputations, and appearances. That's not necessarily a bad thing. In a good number of cases each year, our analysis concurs with the Gold Glove selections, in part because the best fielders are going to look good no matter what methods you use to evaluate them.
But there are some differences, and we'll go through each position and discuss the players we view as being the most worthy candidates. At the end, we'll compare our Gold Glove choices to the official winners and offer a few comments on other players who caught our eye as we did the fielding ratings for our 2002 Season Disk.
There's a very strong tendency for Gold Glove voters to fixate on one guy and keep giving him the award year after year after year, as long as he doesn't get hurt or do anything to make it clear that something has changed. This tendency is especially strong for pitchers, perhaps because the voters don't get to see them as often as position players.
At other positions, we can judge performance over a span of 1,000 to 1,400 defensive innings, but even the most durable starting pitchers are in the field only for 200-250 innings. And relievers get only a fraction of the innings of a starting pitcher.
With 14 or 16 teams in the league, a voter might get to see a certain shortstop play 80 innings in the field. That's not much in the context of a whole season, but it sure beats the 10-20 innings they might see of a starting pitcher or the 4-5 innings a reliever might pitch in those games.
So it's hard for anyone to evaluate pitcher defense just by watching, because none of the voters is in position to watch enough pitchers in enough situations to get a complete picture. And it's hard to evaluate pitchers just by looking at their putouts and assists because a pitcher's tendency to induce ground balls can have a major impact on those numbers. Even if you're a brilliant fielder, you're not going to look good next to an extreme ground-ball pitcher like Greg Maddux if you're a fly-ball pitcher and they're using traditional fielding stats to evaluate you.
This year, Kenny Rogers was chosen for the second time in three years, and he's a good pick. He handled 62 chances successfully while participating in 5 double plays. He won despite making three errors. In fact, only eight pitchers had more errors than that. But Rogers was quite agile, earning our top rating for range, and didn't allow a single stolen base. (I don't know whether the voters consider holding runners as a factor in their voting, but it certainly adds to his value as a pitcher.)
Other worthy candidates include Steve Sparks, Mike Mussina (last year's winner), Corey Lidle, Mark Buehrle, and Roy Halladay, but I believe Rogers was the right choice.
In the NL, Greg Maddux won his 13th straight, and there's no question that he's a very good fielder. This year, he handled 69 chances successfully, making only one error in the process. Maddux gets a lot of assists because he's an extreme ground ball pitcher, but he's not the best in the league, at least not any more.
Kirk Rueter handled 53 chances without an error and took part in five double plays. He hasn't made an error in three years, he consistently converts more batted balls into outs than does Maddux, and he is almost impossible to run on. But he may not be the best this year, either.
At the top of the list of pitchers who bested Maddux in converting opportunities into outs are Steve Trachsel, Livan Hernandez, Rueter, and Tom Glavine.
Trachsel has consistently looked good in our fielding analysis, but this is the best he's looked. He made two errors and was involved in three double plays. I'd like to see him perform at this high level for another year before I believe he's really as good as the others on this list.
Hernandez is a great athlete who always makes a lot of plays. This wasn't his best year, but he handled 71 chances successfully and led the majors with seven double plays while making three errors.
Glavine handled 71 chances without making an error, turned three double plays, and held runners well. Hernandez and Rueter usually rank higher than Glavine in converting batted balls into outs, and while I'd pick Rueter as the league's best fielder over the past five seasons, I think Glavine was slightly better this year, and he would have received my vote.
Ivan Rodriguez has owned this award for a long time. Even though he threw out only 36% of opposing runners this year, he was still intimidating enough to deter enemy runners from challenging him in the first place, so he was a strong candidate again. But he also made seven errors and missed time due to his knee problems, opening the door for someone else. In a year when many teams split the position among several players and nobody stood out, Bengie Molina emerged as the deserving winner. Molina gunned down 45% of the runners who tried to steal and made only one error on the season.
In the NL, I'd second the selection of Brad Ausmus, too. He threw out only 32% of opposing runners this year, but he has a history of throwing very well and now plays for a manager (Jimy Williams) with a track record of advising pitchers to focus more on the hitter than on the runners. The only serious challenger would be Jason LaRue, who's arm didn't get tested very often and who threw out 45% of the runners who dared. But LaRue allowed 20 passed balls to Ausmus's two, made one more error than Ausmus, and was involved in four fewer double plays. Charles Johnson had a good year throwing but didn't play nearly enough to be a serious candidate.
In a down year for AL first basemen, Doug Mientkiewicz should have been a slam dunk winner, and I don't understand the selection of John Olerud. For the second year in a row, Mientkiewicz turned a higher percentage of batted balls into outs than any other AL first sacker, and he matched Olerud in fielding percentage.
Olerud has been a very good fielder in the past, and before he went to the Mets and got noticed, we singled him out as someone who consistently looked very good in our ratings despite getting no credit for his defense. But he's getting up in years and we just don't see any evidence that he's making enough plays at this stage in his career. It's true that the other Seattle infielders made only 47 errors this year, the fifth lowest total in baseball, suggesting that Olerud may have bailed out his mates by scooping throws on more than a few occasions. But that's a very inexact measure. And Minnesota was one of the three teams that was even better on this score, so Mientkiewicz gets the nod here, too.
There was more competition in the NL, but Todd Helton stood out anyway, and I agree with this selection. Helton turned far more batted balls into outs than the other guys at this position, and that in my mind is enough to overcome a quite ordinary record in starting double plays and the seven errors he committed.
Tino Martinez, a contender in the AL a year ago, exhibited very good range and made only five errors, but didn't excel in starting double plays, either. Derrek Lee led the league in starting DPs and got to a lot of balls, too, but tarnished that record by making 12 errors. Travis Lee's defense must have been the main reason he was playing as much as he did, because he didn't have a great year at the plate. His range was good, his fielding percentage above average and his DPs nothing to write home about, but didn't do enough to match the year Helton had.
If Helton had a weakness this year, it might be found in the fact that the Rockies led the majors in errors (75) made by their other infielders, perhaps indicating that Helton wasn't taking care of as many bad throws as his counterparts. On the other hand, the Rockies have the 7th-lowest 2B/3B/SS error total over the five years that Helton has been the regular first baseman, so his track record doesn't indicate a problem in this area.
Unfortunately, we don't have good data on how well first basemen scoop throws. We can count the throwing errors made by other infielders, but the play-by-play files don't tell us how many errors were saved by a good scoop, a great stretch, or a clever sweep tag on a wide throw. And if there are runners on base, we can't tell from the data whether the throw went to first or some other base. Certain first basemen like J.T. Snow make their name on these plays, but it's difficult to measure just how valuable they are in that way.
With Roberto Alomar plying his trade in the other league this year, the battle for the AL Gold Glove was a fair fight for the first time in a long time. Last year, I committed several paragraphs to a detailed evaluation of Alomar's defense in 2001, concluding that his ability to cover ground had diminished with age to a degree that outweighed his excellent fielding percentage.
I believe Adam Kennedy deserved the honor last year, and Kennedy came through with another terrific defensive season in 2002. If it was my call, he'd have a Gold Glove for each hand right now. According to our analysis, Kennedy made 37 more plays than the average 2B this year, and when he got to a ball, he was above average in starting double plays and getting force outs. Other fielders were a little more inclined to settle for the out at first. And there were no weaknesses to offset these pluses; Kennedy was at or a little better than the league in making the pivot and avoiding errors.
Bret Boone was every bit as steady as he's been in the past, and that's likely what convinced the voters to give him his second Gold Glove overall and his first in the AL. Boone led the position in fielding percentage with only seven errors on the season, but he didn't get to nearly as many balls as did Kennedy and he was below average in turning double plays.
In my view, Texas's Mike Young was a slightly better candidate than Boone, nearly matching Boone's fielding percentage while getting to a few more balls and having a better pivot percentage on double plays. For the second year in a row, Jerry Hairston looked quite good in our analysis, and would have been a better selection than either Boone or Young.
But neither player came close to making as many plays as Kennedy. At age 26, he's young enough to get more chances, but there are some terrific young players who are ready to challenge him. I'm thinking of Cleveland's John McDonald and Oakland's Mark Ellis, both of whom looked terrific this year but didn't play enough to challenge Kennedy for the top spot in my mind. Both played shortstop almost exclusively in the minors, and it's not at all uncommon for converted shortstops to become outstanding second basemen very quickly.
Last year, I wrote that if Pokey Reese had played the entire year at second, instead of splitting his time between second and short, he would have gotten my vote. But he didn't, so I opted for Fernando Vina instead. In 2002, Vina repeated as the Gold Glove winner at this position. But Reese did play the entire year at second this time, and he would have been a much better choice, in my opinion.
Vina had a disappointing year at the plate, losing 33 points off his batting average and much of his extra-base power. I'm not saying this because I think hitting stats should be considered when picking Gold Glovers. I mention it because we saw a noticeable decline in his range as well, and sometimes these things are connected. His 13 errors and .981 fielding percentage were merely average, and while he continues to be terrific at turning the double play, he didn't create enough extra outs that way to make up for the many extra balls that Reese gets to.
According to our analysis, Reese made 26 more plays than the average 2B, while Vina was near the average. Reese made only 8 errors and posted a .988 fielding percentage, besting Vina in both categories. And Reese was above average in making the pivot, too. Not quite at Vina's level but close enough to make it clear that Reese was the better overall player this year.
Mark Grudzielanek, like Reese a converted shortstop, was another player with a strong all-around season, getting to plenty of balls (even allowing for the help given him by Dodger Stadium), notching a very impressive .989 fielding percentage, and turning double plays at an above-average rate.
At third base, the voters selected Eric Chavez and Scott Rolen. Both are repeat winners, with Rolen riding a three-year streak and picking up his fourth overall.
Rolen is a perennial standout who has made far more plays relative to the norm for his position than any other NL fielder over the past four years. For the second year in a row, Rolen is my choice for NL Defensive Player of the Year. You might argue that someone at a more demanding position, a shortstop or center fielder, should be given preference over the top third baseman. But Rolen has dominated his position like nobody else. And it's not as if third base is an easy position to play; it requires great reflexes, a strong arm, and the versatility to handle a wide variety of plays.
But he wasn't the only NL third baseman to have a very good year in the field. In the wake of Robin Ventura's move to the other league, Rolen's main rivals were David Bell, Placido Polanco (the man Philly received in the Rolen trade), Craig Counsell, and Aaron Boone.
Bell was on my short list of candidates for the AL Gold Glove at this position in 2001, but I gave the nod to Chavez partly because Bell didn't play as much (26 fewer starts). Bell played more often this year, but some of that time was spent at other infield positions, so his time at third was about the same. And he was better this year in both range and sure-handedness.
Polanco has played second, third and short for Tony LaRussa's Cardinals since his debut in 1998, but third base appears to be his best position. He covered a lot of ground, posted a fielding percentage that was 24 points better than the average, and was fifth in the majors in double plays despite playing at least 200 fewer innings at third than the four guys ahead of him. With the recent free agent signing of David Bell, the Phillies now have two of the league's best defensive 3Bs on the same roster. One, most likely Polanco, is expected to play second next year.
Counsell had a terrific defensive season at second base in 2001, and when he was moved to third to fill in for Matt Williams in 2002, Counsell excelled there, too. He might have given Rolen a run for his money had he been able to stay healthy all year. With Williams having vetoed his proposed trade to Colorado, we may not get a chance to find out what Counsell can do at third over a full season. Like Polanco, Counsell is a three-position player who may be best suited for third base defensively while hitting more like a typical second baseman.
According to our analysis, Boone has been less consistent than the other players just mentioned. He was terrific in 1999 and very good again this year, but didn't make as many plays in the two intervening seasons. He tied Rolen for the major-league lead in DPs this year with 42, but he made 20 errors and didn't cover quite as much ground as the other guys on this list. All in all, he's not really a serious challenger for the Gold Glove, but he is one of the league's better defensive 3Bs.
The AL produced three strong candidates, Robin Ventura, Corey Koskie, and Eric Chavez (the winner). According to our analysis, Koskie outplayed Chavez by a small margin this year, making a few more plays, posting a higher fielding percentage, but trailing in double plays. Ventura's range was quite a bit better than either of the other two, but his 23 errors were quite a bit worse. Overall, even with the errors, Ventura made a few more plays. Chavez led the other two in assists by a big margin, but that's largely a function of playing behind a ground ball staff with one of baseball's highest percentages of innings thrown by left-handed pitchers.
So the choice comes down to how much weight you put on range versus fielding percentage. If you don't care too much about the errors as long as a guy is making loads of other plays, Ventura's your guy. If you put a premium on fielding percentage, then Koskie's the pick. If you're looking for a blend of the two, it could go either way. My vote would go to Koskie, but only by the slimmest of margins.
When the Gold Gloves were announced, Omar Vizquel expressed surprise that (a) he didn't win it again and (b) it wasn't Mike Bordick who got it. Here's what he said, as reported by ESPN.com: "I didn't think I was going to lose the Gold Glove this year. I don't think I gave it up. I know I had the numbers to compete."
Vizquel's comments fit neatly with two longstanding patterns in the Gold Glove voting. First, when the voters settle on a player, he tends to get the award year after year as long as he doesn't give them a reason to change their minds, even if he's not the most deserving candidate that year. Unlike batting and ERA titles, you don't see two or three great players duking it out for the top spot year after year, with the lead changing hands based on which of them had the better year. The process of measuring fielding performances is murky enough that the voters often can't figure out which of the best players actually had the better year, so the incumbent has a big advantage.
Second, a lot of weight is placed on errors. When Vizquel was talking about having the numbers to compete, he was talking about errors. When he mentioned Bordick as a viable candidate, he was referring to the fact that Bordick ended the season with only one error in 569 chances, for a remarkable .998 fielding percentage, and a record-setting streak of 110 consecutive errorless games.
Because I have long attributed these beliefs to the voters, I was surprised to see these comments come from a player, especially a player who in his prime had as much or more range at shortstop as anyone in the league. I would have expected someone like Vizquel to look at the "numbers" more broadly than he apparently did. And I'm a little surprised that he talked as if the award was his to lose. Everything else in baseball starts over at zero on Opening Day. Nobody is supposed to have a head start on anything; you're supposed to earn it all over again.
So I was pleasantly surprised when the voters chose Alex Rodriguez despite all of this. Even though Vizquel did have a good year in the field, making only seven errors, his range was only slightly above average. It's impressive that a 35-year-old like Vizquel can still cover as much ground as his younger counterparts, but that's not the same as saying that Vizquel is still as good as he was ten years ago or that he's a Gold Glover at this stage of his career.
Like Vizquel, Bordick is getting up in years (he turned 37 in July), his range was only a little above average, and his main asset was reliability. That his reliability was of historic proportions makes him a Gold Glove candidate even though injuries limited him to 117 games.
But Rodriguez also had a very good year in the field, and I think he deserved the award. Awards should go to the player who accomplished the most that season, so it matters that A-Rod was able to play in every game while Bordick's season was truncated. Rodriguez was very steady, compiling an impressive .987 fielding percentage at a position where the norm is .973. And Rodriguez got to a higher percentage of balls than either Vizquel or Bordick.
In recent years, there hasn't been a huge gap between the best and worst fielders at this position. Teams have always been unwilling to trade off too much defense for offense at short, so you don't see awful fielders with big bats like you sometimes do at less challenging positions. With the emergence of a young crop of great-hitting shortstops, it seems as if fewer teams are willing to go with great-glove no-hit Mark Belanger types. Some of the more defense-oriented shortstops (like Bordick and Vizquel) are past their primes, while others (like Rey Sanchez and Pokey Reese) have moved to second base.
So it wouldn't be accurate to say that Rodriguez was far and away the best at his position this year. David Eckstein, Nomar Garciaparra, Royce Clayton, Chris Woodward, Carlos Guillen, and Miguel Tejada also played quite well. Nomar and Guillen covered a lot of ground but made too many errors. The others were steadier, but nobody rose to A-Rod's level this year.
It was much harder to pick out the strongest NL candidates. Juan Uribe and Jack Wilson were at or near the top in the range factor rankings, but their putout and assist totals were inflated because both played behind ground ball staffs. Last year's winner, Orlando Cabrera, led the majors with 29 errors, so he took himself out of the running in a hurry. Uribe tied with Rafael Furcal for second with 27 errors each. Cesar Izturis made a lot of plays, and could be the best fielder at this position, but he started only 109 games at short. Rey Ordonez and Jose Hernandez showed very good range but hurt their cases with 19 errors each. The voters' choice, Edgar Renteria, also made 19 errors.
I think I would have picked Ordonez, but because nobody really separated themselves from the pack, I can't really argue with the selection of Renteria.
In the third base comments above, I named Scott Rolen as my choice for the fictional NL Defensive Player of the Year award. Darin Erstad is my nominee in the AL. He led all major league outfielders with 452 putouts despite starting only 142 games. Mike Cameron was a distant second with 415 even though he played 90 more innings than Erstad. Andruw Jones was third with 404 in 129 more innings than Erstad. If all three had played 1357 innings, as Jones did, the numbers would have been 499 for Erstad, 427 for Cameron, and 404 for Jones.
Erstad and Cameron got a boost from playing behind fly ball staffs, but Erstad was the top outfielder even after you take this and all other factors into account. This shouldn't come as a surprise. Erstad won a Gold Glove in 2000 and, in my opinion, should have received one last year, too.
The Seattle outfield turned a higher percentage of fly balls and line drives into outs than any other team this year, with Anaheim and San Francisco tied for second and Minnesota fourth. The difference among these four teams was quite small, only about 7 batting average points, so the order could change if we took park effects into account. What is clear, however, is that these four outfields were the clear leaders in this category.
For Seattle, Mike Cameron and Ichiro Suzuki were responsible for their place in this elite group. Eight players shared left field, with Mark McLemore and Ruben Sierra getting about 70% of the playing time between them. Ichiro was selected as a Gold Glover for the second year in a row. We thought highly enough of Ichiro's defense to assign him our top rating for both range and throwing this year, but if you can only justify picking one player from the Seattle outfield, Cameron's my choice. Cameron made 44 more plays than the average center fielder given the array of chances presented to him, the second-highest figure in baseball this year behind Erstad, and well ahead of Ichiro's mark in right field.
The debate about the relative value of a center fielder and corner outfielder also applies to Minnesota's Torii Hunter (CF) and Jacque Jones (LF). According to our analysis, Jones was the top left fielder in baseball this year. (Rondell White was second.) Jones is a legitimate center fielder, too; in 147 games at that position from 1999 to 2001, he was among our top-rated players at that position.
Casual fans may remember Torii Hunter's 2002 season based on two plays, his spectacular homerun-saving catch in the All Star game and the ball he misplayed into an inside-the-park homerun in game three of the AL division series. But we can't define a player's entire season based on two plays. Overall, our analysis indicates that Hunter was one of the better center fielders in the league but trailed Erstad and Cameron.
In my view, the three AL Gold Gloves must come from the group that includes Erstad, Cameron, Jones, Hunter, Ichiro, and Johnny Damon of the Red Sox. With three teams dominating the league in outfield defense, it makes sense to pick the best outfielder from each team. Erstad's the easy pick for Anaheim. Cameron gets the nod for Seattle. The Minnesota pick is a tossup, but I think Jones had a slightly better year, so I'll go with him over Hunter.
As I mentioned a few paragraphs back, San Francisco's outfield turned more fly balls and line drives into outs than any other NL team. The next three teams in this category were St. Louis, Arizona, and Cincinnati.
The spacious dimensions of Pacific Bell Park boosted the San Francisco percentage a little, but the players deserve most of the credit. Specifically, center fielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo and right fielder Reggie Sanders were among the top-rated fielders at their positions this year, and both are Gold Glove candidates in my mind.
The St. Louis outfield was led by Jim Edmonds in center and JD Drew in right. Over the years, Edmonds has shown above-average range in the years when he's been healthy and below-average range when he's been playing with one of his many ailments. One constant is an athletic ability that often allows him to make memorable plays on the balls he does get to. In the past, Drew has shown terrific range in right field and below-average range in center. He was still above average in right this year even though he was playing with a bad knee, but didn't turn in the kind of performance to justify a Gold Glove.
Arizona's top outfielders were Steve Finley and Luis Gonzalez. Finley is quite similar to Edmonds in that his ability to get to balls is exceeded by his ability to make great catches when he gets there. That may sound like a back-handed compliment, but it's not meant that way, and Finley's range was above average this year. Gonzalez has always shown very-good-to-great range in left and still looks good even though he turned 35 in September.
Cincinnati's outfield defense was led by Austin Kearns, who topped our net plays rankings in right field and also played a little left and center. Kearns was fifth in the majors in putouts per nine defensive innings; all four of the guys ahead of him played behind staffs that generated a higher rate of fly balls, including three who played behind two of the more extreme fly ball staffs in the game.
We didn't find any NL left fielders who stood out this year. Geoff Jenkins has been very good for several years and was on pace to be the league's top LF again before he destroyed his ankle and missed 90 games. Luis Gonzalez played well, but left field is the easiest of the three positions, and he didn't do enough to be compared with top players at the other two spots.
The top center fielders were Shinjo, Jay Payton, Finley, Andruw Jones, and a bunch of part-timers who didn't play enough to be seriously considered for a Gold Glove. Shinjo lost his job because he didn't hit, but his defense was never a problem, and you could make a very good case that he was the league's top defensive CF in 2002.
Before taking ballparks into consideration, the top right fielders were Kearns and Sanders, with Drew a distant third. Colorado's Larry Walker is a difficult player to judge because he often plays hurt and his park makes outfielders look bad.
One way to judge the impact of a park on outfielders is to compare the percentage of batted balls that become hits in that team's home and road games, excluding homeruns. Coors Field yielded 897 more hits from 1999 to 2002, with 321 of them on ground balls and the remaining 576 on fly balls and line drives. That's 144 extra fly-ball and line-drive hits per year for both teams, or 72 per year for the Rockies alone, or 24 per year per position. In other words, in any fielding analysis that measures the percentage of batted balls turned into outs, Colorado's outfielders begin the season with a deficit of 24 plays compared to players in normal parks.
Without adjusting for his home park, Walker ranked in the bottom third in our net plays analysis. Take the park into account and Walker ranks in the top third of the game's right fielders, and we rated him accordingly.
The voters awarded the three outfield Gold Gloves to Andruw Jones, Larry Walker, and Jim Edmonds, and all three were worthy of consideration. The pool of candidates is limited by the fact that some of the top outfielders didn't play enough. Neither Shinjo nor Kearns started 100 games in the outfield this year. Jay Payton had a very good year but started only 83 games in center and 109 overall. It would be a reach to pick any of them despite their fine defensive play.
All things considered, including playing time, my choices are Andruw Jones, Reggie Sanders, and Steve Finley. I believe Finley was a little better than Edmonds in center field, while Sanders showed just enough extra range to make up for Walker's superior throwing arm.
Here's how my selections compare with those of the voters:
------- American ------- ------- National ------- Pos Voters Diamond Mind Voters Diamond Mind P Rogers same Maddux Glavine C Molina same Ausmus same 1B Olerud Mientkiewicz Helton same 2B Boone Kennedy Vina Reese 3B Chavez Koskie Rolen same SS Rodriguez same Renteria Ordonez OF Erstad same AJones same OF Ichiro Cameron Walker Sanders OF Hunter JJones Edmonds Finley
We agree on eight of the eighteen selections. Last year we agreed on twelve, and at the time, I wrote that it was the highest number of matches I could remember. So I'm not surprised to see that we differed on a few more choices this year.
Here are a few other players whose defensive performances seem worthy of mention:
Eric Chavez, 3B -- In 2001, Chavez won his first Gold Glove, largely (I would guess) because he led the league in fielding percentage while making an above-average number of plays. Prior to that season, our analysis indicated that his range was slightly below average, and we had given him mostly Average and Fair ratings. He got to a lot more balls in 2001, however, and he was right at the boundary between our Excellent and Very Good ratings. It was a tough call, but we decided to take a chance and give him an Excellent rating even though his history didn't really support it. It now appears that a Very Good rating would have been a better choice, as his range reverted to the league average in 2002.
Tony Clark, 1B -- Clark has generally received our Very Good rating but dropped to Fr in 2001 because back problems limited his mobility. We predicted that he'd bounce back to the Very Good level if he was healthy, and he did just that. Of course, he didn't hit a lick, so his playing time was severely reduced despite his skills in the field.
Jermaine Dye, RF -- Dye has been one of our top-rated right fielders for years but struggled to come back from a severely broken leg. He missed the first few weeks of the season and after his return admitted that it was affecting his play in the outfield. His bat came around in the second half, suggesting that he may be on his way to better things for 2003, but his overall defensive numbers in 2002 were low enough to earn a Poor rating.
Brian Giles, LF -- Pittsburgh's outfield was by far the worst in the majors at converting fly balls into outs, so it's no surprise that Giles, the only Pirates outfielder to start more than 77 games, has to shoulder a major part of the blame. As a result, his range rating dropped to Poor.
Ken Griffey, CF -- For the second year in a row, Griffey tried to play through some leg injuries. He didn't play much, and when he did, he wasn't anywhere near his usual self. So he gets a Fair rating again. I'm hoping we get to see him back at 100% in 2003, and look forward to seeing how well he performs if he's healthy.
Derek Jeter, SS -- Once again, Jeter was at or near the bottom in just about every measure of range that we use. As was the case with Scott Brosius from 1998 to 2000, his raw numbers were hurt by playing next to a third baseman (Robin Ventura this time) who cuts off a lot of balls that might be playable by the shortstop. Without taking Ventura's impact into account, it would be tempting to rate Jeter's range as Poor. But he's better than the raw numbers indicate. Not enough to earn an Average rating, though, and we have again assigned him a Fair range rating and a better-than-average error rating.
Raul Mondesi, RF -- Once had a very good reputation for defense, mostly based on his great arm. In terms of range, our analysis shows that he's been slightly above average throughout his career. In 2001, it was reported that Mondesi came to camp carrying some extra weight, and his defensive numbers took a big dive. Coincidence? Maybe, but we felt a Fair rating was an accurate reflection of his 2001 performance. We thought he might rebound in 2002, but he continued his slide instead. As a result, we dropped him to a Poor rating.
Manny Ramirez, LF -- Ramirez has been an adequate corner outfielder in the past, but you wouldn't know it from his performance in 2002. Chronic hamstring problems have made him very cautious in the field and on the bases, and his Poor rating in left field reflects that. If Ramirez can find a way to overcome his hamstring problems and get back to playing at full speed, his rating might improve. But he's such a great hitter that he and the team may not feel it's not worth taking the chance to find out lest he pull another hammy and take his bat out of the lineup for a few weeks.
Rey Sanchez, 2B -- I fully expected Sanchez to emerge as a Gold Glove candidate this year. He's been one of our top-rated shortstops for several years. Most shortstops shine when they make the move to second, and Sanchez had the edge of having played second quite a bit in the past, so the transition should have been an easy one. For a couple of months, he did look like a Gold Glover, but then he pulled a hamstring and missed several weeks. The highlight film plays weren't nearly as abundant after that, and his overall numbers were quite ordinary in the end. As a result, he earned our Average rating for range.