erik lundegaard

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Friday January 12, 2018

There Goes the Worst MVP Vote That Ever Lived

Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio

“So Joe, you led the league in what exactly?”

Amid my usual Baseball Reference wanderings, I came across the voting for 1947 AL MVP, and it made me wonder if it was the worst MVP vote ever. It was certainly the closest: one point separated first and second place. 

The runner-up was Ted Williams, who wound up with 201 points, including three first-place votes. That year, he led the league in:

  • Runs
  • HRs
  • RBIs
  • Walks
  • Batting average
  • On-base percentage
  • Slugging percentage
  • OPS
  • Total bases

Dude slugged .634 and his OBP was .499. He won the Triple Crown for the second time. But he didn't win the MVP.  

The winner was Joe DiMaggio, who wound up with 202 points and eight first-place votes. He certainly had a good season: .315/.399/.522. But this is what he led the league in:

  • Nothing

Wait, let me double-check:

  • Yeah, absolutely nothing

Sure, DiMaggio was better defensively—just not that better. Even by advanced metrics that factor in defense, it's not close: Williams had a 9.9 WAR, DiMaggio 4.8. But you don't need advanced metrics. Just look at all of the above. 

A few years back, Brian Cronin debunked some myths about that year's voting in the LA Times. He gets at why it wasn't a Boston writer (or writers), but not why it happened at all. Besides the usual: DiMag beloved, Williams not.

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Posted at 06:40 AM on Jan 12, 2018 in category Baseball
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Thursday January 11, 2018

300-Game Winners: By Decade

This post was spurred by Joe Posnanski's piece on Mike Mussina's Hall of Fame case. Here:

Before [Gaylord] Perry (and Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Phil Niekro, Don Sutton and Nolan Ryan), winning 300 games was almost unheard of. Two post-World War II players had done it. One was the freakishly durable Warren Spahn. ... The other 300-game winner was Early Wynn, who won exactly 300 by just chugging along and chugging along...

Some part of me always thought, yeah, 300 wins, tough row but there's been quite a few. Nope, just 24, including five who did it in the 19th century. And between Sept. 1924 (Grover Cleveland Alexander) and August 1961 (Spahn)—or before Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic but after man orbitted the earth—there was just one guy who did it: Lefty Grove. And he hit 300 on the button.

The list:

1880s 1 Pud Galvin (365) 
1890s 4 Tim Keefe (342), Mickey Welch (307), Charles Radbourn (309), John Clarkson (328)
1900s 2 Kid Nichols (361), Cy Young (511)
1910s 2 Christy Mathewson (373), Eddie Plank (326)
1920s 2 Walter Johnson (417), Grover Cleveland Alexander (373)
1930s 0  
1940s 1 Lefty Grove (300)
1950s 0  
1960s 2 Warren Spahn (363), Early Wynn (300)
1970s 0  
1980s 5 Gaylord Perry (314), Steve Carlton (329), Tom Seaver (311), Phil Niekro (318), Don Sutton (324)
1990s 1 Nolan Ryan (324)
2000s 4 Roger Clemens (354), Greg Maddux (355), Tom Glavine (305), Randy Johnson (303)
2010s 0  

Why the slowdown after the 1920s? I imagine WWII has something to do with it. Red Ruffing lost two years to the war (non-combat, four missing toes) and wound up with 273 career victories. Bob Feller lost four prime years to the war, years when he routinely won 20 games, and he finished with 266. Without the war, he'd probably have been in the rarefied 350+ territory. 

But what about our '60s guys? Yeah, there was still the draft. Whitey Ford lost two years to the military but it wouldn't have helped his 236 wins get over the magic mark. A sore shoulder forced Don Drysdale to retire young, at age 33, a year after he set the consecutive inning scoreless streak in 1968. He had 209 wins. Obviously Koufax, same, plus a long way away at 165. Jim Bunning stopped at 224, Juan Marichal at 243, Bob Gibson 251, Jim Palmer 268, Ferguson Jenkins 284. Even Fergie, who kept winning 20. That's how tough it is.

As for the guys that did it post-70s? Several things helped: the 162-game schedule (a few more games every year), Tommy John surgery, and just general fitness and personal training. Plus the spitter (Gaylord), the knuckler (Niekro), freakish durability (Nolan Ryan) and PEDs (??).

The last pitcher to make 300 was Randy Johnson, wearing a Giants uniform in 2009. Since then, the closest has been his one-time teammate, Jamie Moyer, who retired (at nearly 50!) with 269. The current active leaders are Bartolo Colon (240 at age 44) and C.C. Sabathia (237 at age 36). If C.C. has a second wind like Bartolo (87 wins since his age 36 season), he would do it; but it doesn't usually work that way. One man's second wind is another man's retirement. No other active pitcher has more than 200 wins.

Now we're not just in the era of the closer but the era of the bullpen. You want that sucker stacked. You want guys that can come in in the 8th or 7th or 6th. Or 5th? Or 2nd? All of whom might wind up with the W. So 300? We might not see its like again. 

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Posted at 07:52 AM on Jan 11, 2018 in category Baseball
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Wednesday January 03, 2018

Johnny Damon/How I Love Him

Was I the only one who channeled the 1961 Shelly Fabares song when Johnny Damon's name came up? Surely not the only one. 

My man Joe Posnanski is doing a rundown of players on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot this year, and he's up to Johnny Angel/Damon, whom he covered in Kansas City when both he and Johnny were kids. Of course, Damon will always have a warm place in my heart for putting the nail in the coffin to the greatest chokesters in the history of baseball, the 2004 New York Yankees, who, up 3-0 in a best-of-7 series, lost the next four in a row to the Boston Red Sox. Good times. David Ortiz towered during this period, but Damon was the one with the grand slam and two-run homer in Game 7. He put it forever out of reach for the Yankees and their fans. For all of us in Yankees-Suck-Nation, he made watching Game 7 fun rather than tense.  

Anyway, I love this graf of Posnanski's:

Damon was an unusual player; nothing he did seemed especially smooth or graceful. His throwing motion was this odd multistep process that seemed to be building up to something impressive ... and instead the ball would kind of fall out of his hand, helpless, limp, like a firecracker that didn't go off. You could almost hear a sad trombone.

Even though Poz isn't make a HOF case for Damon, he almost makes a HOF case for Damon.

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Posted at 07:17 AM on Jan 03, 2018 in category Baseball
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Thursday December 14, 2017


The bad news is the New York Yankees landed the biggest, strongest, loudest homerun hitter in all the fucking land, Giancarlo Stanton, 6' 6“, the guy who led the Majors with 59 last season, and who hit 'em out with insane exit velocities, and they got him for not much: a few mid-level prospects and a mid-level SS/2B, Starlin Castro (last season: .300/.338/.455; career OPS: .733; age next season: 28). Stanton is a near-duplicate of the Yanks' current wonderboy, Aaron Judge, 6' 7”, who led the American League last season with 52 homers, and who hit 'em out with insane exit velocities. Both play right field. Combine those two with catcher Gary Sanchez, who, for his career, has hit 53 homers in only 177 games, and, shit, it's bad news for Yankee haters out there. Teams always talk up a new Murderers Row but this is truly that. And they're all young: Sanchez just turned 25, Judge will turn 26 in April, Stanton just turned 28. 

The good news? Miami Marlins' co-owner and chief executive Derek Jeter is getting REEEEEEEAMED over this:

It does a heart good. 

I get the corner he's in. Kind of. The Marlins are in debt, they're trying to unload big, expensive talent, but they don't seem to be getting much for it. The Stanton trade was the worst. He had a no-trade clause in his 13-year, $285 million contract (of which 10 years remain), so he got to pick which teams he wanted to be sent to. And apparently he chose the four LCS teams: Yankees, Astros, Dodgers, Cubs. And the other teams offered less. And so Jeter had no choice but to...

Nah. He had a choice. “Sorry, G., we're not getting good offers from those teams. See you in spring training.”

Stanton didn't want to stay with the Marlins; he wanted to go to a winner in his prime. So force his hand. Instead, Jeter just waved his. He waved Stanton on through. Also Dee Gordon (to us) and Marcell Ozuna (to St. Louis). In the last month, the Marlins have traded (and for not much) their two top guys in terms of 2017 WAR, and 3 of their top 5. The WAR total is 16.5 (wins), meaning instead of going 77-85, the Marlins would've wound up more like 61-101. I expect them to have that kind of season in 2018. All because of Jeter. 

Now there's a chance he's not incompetent. There's a chance that he's an undercover Yankees spy and using the Miami Marlins to be a kind of farm system for the Yankees, the way the '50s Yankees did with the Kansas City Athletics. But most people just think he's over his head. 

So. The Yankees are now poised for another dynastic run; they're ready to add to their already obscene advantage in pennants and rings; they're about to make my life miserable again. On the other side, Jeter looks like an idjit. I'm truly torn. 

Jeter criticized for Stanton, Ozuna trades

Jeter's last game in the Bronx: Me, me, me. 

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Posted at 08:56 AM on Dec 14, 2017 in category Baseball
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Monday December 04, 2017

Is There a Shelf Life to the Effectiveness of a MLB Manager?

Aaron Boone pennant-winning homerun

Boone's pennant winner in 2003. 

The New York Yankees have a new manager: Aaron Boone.

Apparently some people in Boston call him Aaron “Effin'” Boone, after Bucky “Effin'” Dent, since both hit homeruns that won, or helped win, games for the Bronx Bombers over the BoSox in do-or-die situations. Me, I think Dent deserves the epithet; his was the decisive blow in the one-game playoff in '78. Boone? Once the Yankees came back against Pedro in the 8th inning of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS in the Bronx, it was just a matter of time. If it hadn't been Boone, it would've been someone else. So, nah. He doesn't deserve the epithet.  

Does he deserve the managerial post? Many are wondering. He's never managed before—at any level. He's never coached before—at any level. Andrew Marchand at ESPN asks the right question:

Boone is personable and well-liked, but even with those qualities, it's not hard to wonder: If he didn't hit that walk-off home run in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series to extend the Red Sox's curse, would he have even been considered for the job?

Here's a question that not many aren't asking anymore: Why didn't the Yanks re-sign manager Joe Girardi, who took the team to within one game of the 2017 World Series? Was it his decision to not contest a HBP against the Indians that wound up costing them the game in the ALDS—a series the Yankees eventually won? Was it the discrepancy between the Yankees 2017 run differential (+198, second-best in the Majors), and their won-loss record (91-71, 8th-best)?

Or did they just decide that 10 years as skipper was enough? 

That last question got me thinking about whether managers with long tenures win pennants and World Series. And this led me to spending way too much time crunching the numbers. Here they are. 

Of the 96 potential pennants since the beginning of the playoff era in 1969 (48 AL, 48 NL), only five have been won with a manager with more than 10 years experience. Most are in the NL: Walter Alston, a 20-year man in 1974; his successor Tommy Lasorda, with 13 years in 1988; and Tony La  Russa twice, in 2006 and 2011, with 11 and 16 years tenure, respectively. In the AL, you just have Earl Weaver in '79. He's the only one. 

As for winning the World Series? It's just Lasorda and La Russa. The longest-tenured AL manager to win the World Series in the playoff era is a three-way tie between Sparky Anderson in '84, Tom Kelly in '91 and Ned Yost in 2015. Each was just in his sixth year of management for that team. 

Here's how the tenures break down for World Series-winning managers:

Tenure w/team Total
First year 10
Second year 8
Third year 9
Fourth year 7
Fifth year 2
Sixth year 7
Seventh year 1
Eighth year 1
9 + 3

Basically if you don't win in your first four years, good luck. That's 71% of the titles right there. The Tony La Russas of the world are rare, rare beasts. 

The obvious follow-up: Well, sure, but isn't this a result of the short shelf-life of managers in general? La Russa is a rare beast because most managers get canned sooner rather than later. They get blamed for everything—as you're doing right now. For the 2017 season, for example, only two of the 30 MLB managers had more than 10 years with his current team: Mike Scioscia (18 years) and Bruce Bochy (11 years). The average tenure was 4.8 years, and the World Series wound up as a battle between second-year (Dave Roberts) and third-year (A.J. Hinch) managers. 

Even so, let's take a look at Mike Scioscia. He won it all with the Angels in his third year, 2002, then won five more AL West titles between 2004 and 2009. Since then? With a fairly fat payroll? In one of the weakest divisions in baseball? And with the best player in baseball on his team? The Angels have won just one division title, in 2014, then lost three straight games to the wild card KC Royals. Mike Trout has never been on a team that won a postseason game. In that series, which went into extra innings twice, his team held a lead for all of 1/2 an inning. 

Or how about the winningest manager of the last 20 years? Joe Torre's Yankees won four World Series titles in his first five years at the helm. The next four years, despite better regular-season records, they won just two pennants and no titles—and these seasons are best remembered, and bookended by, excruciating losses to the D-Backs in the '01 World Series and to the BoSox in the '04 ALCS. (Good times.) And in his final three years, despite being stocked with a virtual All-Star team of talent, the Yanks couldn't make it past the ALDS. (Also good times.)

1996-2000 97 64 .602 4 pennants, 4 WS titles
2001-2004 100 61 .621 2 pennants
2005-2007 95 67 .586  

Obviously a lot of factors go into a team's decline and failure. I'm just wondering if one of those factors might be the longevity of the manager. And I'm wondering if Yankees GM Brian Cashman is wondering the same thing.

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Posted at 06:56 AM on Dec 04, 2017 in category Baseball
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