Archive for February, 2011

Call It the Duke Snider Problem

I’m a sucker for the second-best. Well, okay, so Duke Snider was more like the third-best outfielder in New York during the 1950s (as you may have heard), but you get the idea. I’ve never pretended to be a historian of baseball. I hardly remembered that Snider’s nickname was “The Silver Fox,” although that’s partly because it seems silly that someone who is already called “Duke” (itself a nickname given to him by either his uncle in recognition of young Edwin’s pride after his first day of school) needs a nickname. I suppose it’s not nearly as dumb as calling Jason Heyward the ‘The J-Hey Kid,’ a lame rip-off nickname made worse by the fact that Heyward’s middle name is incredibly awesome: Adenolith. Seriously, a player has a middle name that sounds like a cross between one of Godzilla’s foes and something out of H.P. Lovecraft, but the best (probably) some hack at an Atlanta newspaper and/or former Jeff Francoeur fan (side question: does Heyward fly Delta?) can do is “The J-Hey Kid?” Where was I? Oh, yeah, the late Duke Snider. As a quasi-sabermetric tribute to him, I propose renaming the “Willie Mays Problem” the “Duke Snider Problem.”

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Duke Snider’s Peak

When you sort the Career WAR leaderboards here on FanGraphs, you won’t find Duke Snider on the first page. You won’t even find him on the second page. Instead, you have to click all the way to Page 3, where he’s sandwiched right between Graig Nettles and Ed Delahanty, two guys who were never immortalized in song. For a more contemporary example, Snider has essentially the same career WAR as Scott Rolen, who is not held in nearly the same regard by his peers The Duke is.

Snider is one of the guys whose greatness can’t be summed up by looking at his career numbers. To some degree, he is the classic example of why guys with a lot of value at their peak are often remembered more fondly than their career WAR would have you suggest. And rightfully so.

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Carlos Beltran Moves Right, Angel Pagan Slides Center

It’s not easy admitting you’re no longer the person you used to be. This is something that all of us, no matter our profession, struggle with; we all get old and our skills deteriorate, and it takes a large amount self awareness and humility to gracefully deal with this fact. Many people go kicking and screaming into their forties, and pride can keep us from acknowledging our declining skills. I’m still young! Of course I can train for a marathon! Reality, though, can sometimes beg to differ.

While everyone sees their body, memory, and skills decline over time, very few of us make our living based on our physical ability. Very few of us have to acknowledge to a national audience that we’re getting older and declining, and that a younger person is better at our job than we are. This fact may be obvious to outside viewers, but on a personal level, that’s a difficult admission to make.

However, this morning Carlos Beltran did just that: he told manager Terry Collins he’s ready to switch to playing right field, allowing Angel Pagan to roam center field in his stead. At this point in his career, Beltran moving to right field is the best move for the Mets and, yes, Beltran too.

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Team Preview: Colorado Rockies

Say it with me – it’s not the pitching’s fault. Though it’s fashionable in Rockieville to blame the pitching, the Rockies’ pitching staff, led by Ubaldo Jimenez, was actually at the top of the WAR leaderboards for the second consecutive season last year. When you take into account how difficult Coors Field is to pitch in, Rockies pitchers often come out looking rosy. Since their inception, their combined pitching WAR of 322.7 ranks 6th in all of baseball, but the past two seasons have been especially exceptional. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the offense. If the offense turns around, 2011 could see the return of Rocktober.
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Jonah Keri FanGraphs Chat – 2/28/11

The Duke of Montreal

You’ll read plenty of great tributes to Duke Snider’s playing days today, both here at FanGraphs and by friends of ours around the Web. But while Dodgers fans rightfully mourn their Duke of Flatbush, Expos fans like myself mourn the Duke of Montreal.

When Snider’s eulogy gets written, don’t expect more than a passing mention — if that — of his work as a color commentator for Montreal Expos games. But the Duke’s time behind the mic shouldn’t be considered an afterthought. For 14 seasons, Snider called games alongside Dave Van Horne, the 2010 Ford Frick winner, voice of the Expos for the first 32 years of their existence, and the current radio voice of the Florida Marlins. I’ve often referred to Van Horne as the voice of my childhood, growing up in Montreal. But really, that’s only half true. Van Horne was the co-voice of my childhood, along with the Duke.

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How Will Chase Utley Age?

The Phillies got some bad news over the weekend, as Chase Utley’s lingering knee soreness resulted in him getting an MRI. While no structural damage was found, you can now add his knees to the ever-growing list of body parts that the 32-year-old has had problems with. As noted in the linked article, he had surgery for a broken hand in 2007, hip surgery following the 2008 season, and then had to undergo surgery on his thumb last summer.

From the quantity of health problems he’s had in the last four years, it might appear that Utley’s body is just beginning to break down. Given that there are a number of examples of second baseman who fell off a cliff in their early 30s – see Roberto Alomar, Carlos Baerga, Chuck Knoblauch, and Brian Roberts, among others – it could be natural to assume that Utley’s headed for a steep decline. In fact, the rate of aging among second baseman has been so severe that it has become a truism in baseball that players who man the keystone position simply don’t age well. Theories on the causes of this phenomenon often hinge around the beating second baseman can take while turning the double play, as they often have to guard the bag with their back to an oncoming baserunner intent on breaking up the twin killing. Is Utley yet another example of the wear and tear of second base causing a premium second baseman to break down earlier than he would have otherwise?

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Top 10 Prospects: The Cincinnati Reds

The Cincinnati Reds
2010 MLB Record: 91-71 (first place, NL Central)
Minor League Power Ranking: 7th (out of 30)
Click for: Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

The Prospects

1. Aroldis Chapman, LHP
Acquired: 2010 non-drafted free agent (Cuba)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 23
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.5 (as a starter)

Notes: The Reds organization swooped in seemingly out of nowhere to pull the rug out on a number of clubs, including the Toronto Blue Jays, and came away with the amateur free agent. Chapman made his pro debut at the AAA level and over-powered hitters with his 100+ mph fastball and strikeout slider. His strikeout rate sat at 11.60 K/9 but he showed his iffy control (4.94 BB/9). When he moved up to the Majors, Chapman showed improved control at the MLB level (3.38 BB/9) in a small sample size. Despite his inexperience, the lefty could supplant veteran Francisco Cordero as the club’s closer by the end of the season. Hopefully Chapman’s arm, elbow and shoulder holds up a little better than Joel Zumaya’s (another hard-throwing reliever known for his DL stints). He does throw with a nice, compact delivery that he explodes out of with a low-three-quarter arm slot.

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2011 Second Opinion PDF

The 2011 Second Opinion is now available in a PDF format. It’s 391 pages worth of content.

Originally we did not plan to release any PDF this year and the reasoning was that purchasers of the Second Opinion would be able to get all the content online with some additional integration. The stats under each profile were also reduced because I figured if you wanted to see stats, the player profiles would be just a click away.

While good intentioned, I think the decision to do away with the PDF this year was premature and we’ll hopefully be able to deliver a more meticulously formatted one next season.

Anyone who already purchased the Second Opinion 2011 can downoad the PDF at anytime. And anyone who purchases the Second Opinion will be able to download it at their time of purchase.

Team Preview: San Francisco Giants

Fifty-six years in San Francisco and one World Series title. Most Giants fans are probably set for another fifty-six years, and for some it’s time to get greedy. Unfortunately, despite some fundamental flaws that existed even during their improbable title run, the team did little over the offseason to inspire confidence. Can their mix of flawed veteran position players and elite starting pitching fuel another run?

The Starting Nine

CF Andres Torres
2B Freddy Sanchez
1B Aubrey Huff
C Buster Posey
3B Pablo Sandoval
RF Cody Ross
LF Pat Burrell / Mark DeRosa
SS Miguel Tejada

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