Sunday Notes: Carter Hawkins Compares the Cubs and Cleveland
Carter Hawkins knows the Guardians organization well. Prior to becoming the General Manager of the Chicago Cubs in October 2021, the 38-year-old Vanderbilt University alum spent 14 seasons in Cleveland, serving as a scout, Director of Player Development, and Assistant General Manager. With the Guardians’ well-earned reputation of being a progressive organization with an outstanding pitching-development program, I asked Hawkins a question during November’s GM Meetings:
How similar are the two organizations, and in which ways do they differ?
“I would say the best thing in terms of similarities is that there are a lot of team-first people in both places, as opposed to me-first people,” replied Hawkins. “The obvious market-size difference stands out. There are more opportunities in Chicago to utilize resources — you can have a higher risk tolerance — whereas in Cleveland there is the challenge of having to be very process-oriented to make a decision. If you have a lot of resources, you don’t necessarily have that pressure on you. At the same time, there is no reason that you can’t be just as process-oriented in a larger market.”
The disparity in payrolls is notable. Roster Resource projects the Cubs’ 2023 payroll at $184M, and Cleveland’s at just $91M. Last year those numbers were $147M and $69M.
As for the teams’ respective hitting- and pitching-development processes, Hawkins told me that “the frameworks and models are essentially the same.” Developing arms being a Guardians strength and a Cubs weakness, I was especially interested in whether Hawkins’s current club is copying some of what his old employers have been doing so well.
“I would say the Guardians have done a great job of finding guys and then individualizing their performance plans,” the executive told me. “If you look at a guy like Eli Morgan, he’s a significantly different type of pitcher than Triston McKenzie. They had individualized plans, and with the help of a great coaches and a great process, the Guardians are maximizing their potential.”
The Guardians have a reputation of drafting — and otherwise acquiring — pitchers with plus command, then jumpstarting the quality of their raw stuff. The extent to which that’s true — ditto the extent to which the Cubs are looking to follow that model — is something that neither seems particularly anxious to confirm (or deny). Hawkins did allow that it is a sound strategy.
“I think it’s accurate to say that guys who have good feel, and know how to pitch, project to be performers in the major leagues,” he told me.” From there, helping them get better stuff is the lever we’re pulling.”
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Mallex Smith went 2 for 3 against Brady Rodgers.
Homer Hillebrand went 1 for 3 against King Brady.
Cotton Tierney went 3 for 7 against Neal Brady.
Cliff Brady went 3 for 4 against Duster Mails.
Steve Brady went 6 for 17 against Candy Cummings.
The Texas Rangers finished around the middle of the pack in runs-scored last season. When I caught up to Chris Young during the GM Meetings, I asked him how satisfied he is with the organization’s hitting-development program.
“We’re always looking for things to improve upon,” the Executive VP /General Manager told me. “But ultimately, we have alignment and continuity from the major leagues through our entire minor league system, and it’s fun to see that take shape. We’ve really only had that for one year, so I think over the next several years is when we’ll really reap the benefits. That said, we’re never going to have it all figured out. We’re always going to look to improve certain aspects of our hitting program [and] our pitching program. It’s what the game does. It evolves and you’re always looking to improve.”
Mike Radcliff, a longtime scout and executive for the Minnesota Twins, died on Friday at age 66 following a multi-year battle with cancer. I had the pleasure of interviewing Radcliff for Baseball Prospectus in 2007 — this at a time when analytics/scouting was viewed by many as us-vs-them — and he couldn’t have been more congenial. One thing that stands out from our conversation is Radcliff’s telling me, “Both elements are part of the evaluation process. It’s art, and it’s also science.”
Radcliff is a member of the Professional Scouts Hall of Fame, and as evidenced by the outpouring of condolences from across the industry, he was a friend to many. R.I.P. Mike Radcliff.
Two players have stolen 300 or more bases over the past 10 season. Billy Hamilton has the most, with 324. Which player has the second-most steals since 2013?
The answer can be found below.
Mark Armour and Daniel Levitt have been awarded SABR’s Seymour Medal for Intentional Balk: Baseball’s Thin Line Between Innovation and Cheating. The annual award honors the best book of baseball history or biography published during the preceding calendar year.
Ray Herbert, a right-hander who played from 1950-1966, died in December at age 93. A Detroit native who debuted with the Tigers as a 20-year-old, Herbert had his best season in 1962 when he went 20-9 with the Chicago White Sox and was the winning pitcher in the second of the two All-Star games that were played that year. Herbert gave up the first of Carl Yastrzemski’s 3,419 hits in 1961.
The answer to the quiz is Starling Marte, with 302 steals since the start of the 2013 season. Dee Strange-Gordon is third, with 280.
February is maybe an odd time to bring up the Fall Classic, but with the Super Bowl right around the corner, I’ve recently found myself thinking about the following:
Has any major-sport championship changed more — and not necessarily for the better — than the World Series? Once upon a time, the participants had not only finished the regular season having won their respective leagues; they also hadn’t met during the regular season. Moreover, they hadn’t faced any of the same opponents. In a nutshell, it was the best of the American League versus the best of the National League, and the matchup came with a level of novelty that can barely be fathomed in modern-day times.
Were those comparably-simple times better than today’s format, which includes multiple playoff rounds preceded by a season with inter-league play? That’s entirely subjective. But there is no question that postseason play has changed markedly. Even with its continued popularity, one could reasonably claim that the World Series has lost some of its luster.
As for the NFL’s format and Super Bowl, yes, there are some similarities. At the same time, baseball and football are apples and oranges in many respects — and the championship histories are definitely different. Football has had numerous format changes, especially prior to the Super Bowl era.
As for the World Series thoughts I’ve offered here… can you kids please get off my lawn?
A shorter thought:
The most-underrated pitcher in baseball? How about Logan Webb? Over the past two seasons, the San Francisco Giants stalwart is 26-12 with a 2.97 ERA, a 2.90 FIP, and 8.2 WAR. Frankly, Webb is on the short list of best pitchers in baseball.
The Adelaide Giants beat the Perth Heat 5-2 earlier today to win the best-of-three Australian Baseball League championship. Perth had claimed Friday’s Game One by a score of 9-5, while Adelaide captured Saturday’s Game Two in 9-2 rout. Former Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Jordan McArdle homered three times over the final two games and was named championship series MVP.
Per Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, who signed with the Texas Rangers last month, is investing approximately ¥200 million of his own money to build a sports facility in his hometown of Hashimoto, Wakayama Prefecture.
I posted the following on Twitter a few days ago:
Player One is in HoF. Player Two topped out at 6.9% in HoF balloting.
Player One: 1921 hits, 370 HRs, 1,274 RBIs, .273 BA, 120 OPS+, 43.9 bWAR.
Player Two: 1925 hits, 348 HRs, 1,239 RBIs, .274 BA, 126 OPS+, 44.1 bWAR.
Player One: eight-time All-Star, two World Series rings, was never MVP.
Player Two: five-time All-Star, two World Series rings, one MVP award.
Player One is Gil Hodges, whom an era committee voted into the Hall of Fame two years ago. The Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers icon— and later World Series-winning New York Mets manager, which played a part in his being inducted — spent 15 years on the BBWAA ballot, topping out at 63.4%.
Player Two is George Foster who, amid a longer career, starred for the Cincinnati Reds from 1975-1981, putting up a 149 OPS+ over that stretch while making five All-Star teams, being awarded the MVP, twice leading the NL in home runs, and three times in RBIs. Foster also went a combined 14 for 43 in the 1975 and 1976 World Series, both of which were won by the Reds.
The reaction to my Tweet goes a long way toward proving the point I was trying to make. With few exceptions, the comments addressed whether Hodges should be in the Hall of fame, while Foster and his numbers were basically ignored. For whatever reason, no one (at least outside of Cincinnati) talks about Foster anymore. He was an absolute beast in his prime.
Am I suggesting that Foster should be in the Hall of Fame? No. I don’t feel that the totality of his career is quite up to those standards. As for Hodges, more than just numbers should go into a candidate’s worthiness…. which brings me to another question: Why on God’s green earth isn’t Tommy John in the Hall of Fame?
Sticking with comps, here are Scott Rolen and David Wright through age 30:
Rolen: 1,300 hits, 231 HR, 2,359 total bases, 129 wRC+, 49.9 fWAR.
Wright: 1,558 hits, 222 HRs, 2,619 total bases, 137 wRC+, 48.7 fWAR.
The former New York Mets captain was very much on a Hall of Fame track when injuries began to crop up, and ultimately cratered his career. Meanwhile, Rolen made three All-Star teams and won a pair of Gold Gloves after turning 31.
Rolen was just voted into the Hall of the Fame in his sixth year on the ballot. Wright, who is first-time-eligible next year, will inevitably fall short. That’s understandable, but it’s also a shame. Had he remained healthy, Wright would almost assuredly have ended up immortalized in Cooperstown.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince wrote about how Larry Doby and Don Newcombe became trailblazers in Japan, playing with the Chunichi Dragons in 1962.
The Score’s Travis Sawchik spent three days with legendary pitching coach Tom House, the self-proclaimed “Forrest Gump of sports,” and what he came away with was a joy to read.
MLB.com’s Mandy Bell wrote about Cleveland baseball legend John Adams,”The man with the enormous bass drum at the top of the bleachers in section 182 at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario,” who died this week at age 71.
Longtime Dodgers executive and scout Ralph Avila died this week at age 92. Jack Harris has the story at The Los Angeles Times.
At Out Sports, Ken Schultz wrote about how Hillsboro Hops manager Ronnie Gajownik is breaking a barrier as the first out LGBTQ manager in Minor League Baseball.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Dave Stewart made 10 ALCS starts, eight with the Oakland Athletics and two with the Toronto Blue Jays. All told, “Smoke” went 8-0 with a 2.03 ERA. His team won all 10 games.
Nelson Cruz is 14 for 34 with eight home runs and 18 RBIs in nine postseason games against the Detroit Tigers.
Matt Holliday had an 1.198 OPS (in 130 plate appearances) against the St. Louis Cardinals, his highest against any team. He had an 1.149 OPS (in 170 plate appearances) against the Colorado Rockies, his second-highest against any team.
In a nine-year stretch from 1956-1964, St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Ken Boyer had a 124 OPS+, 55.1 bWAR, five Gold Gloves, seven All-Star seasons, and won an MVP award. Boyer, who finished his career with 62.8 bWAR, topped out at 25.5% in his 15 years on the HoF ballot.
The San Francisco Giants signed Andrés Galarraga as a free agent on today’s date in 2003. The 42-year-old Big Cat proceeded to bat .301 and hit a dozen of his 399 career home runs in his only season with the Giants.
The Minnesota Twins signed longtime Detroit Tigers ace Jack Morris on today’s date in 1991. The St. Paul native won 18 regular-season games and four postseason games — the last of them being his World Series Game 7 shutout — in his lone season with the Twins.
Players born on today’s date include Mark Hamburger, whose only career decision came in the last of his five big-league appearances. The St. Paul, Minnesota native was credited with a win by the official scorer after the Texas Rangers hung on to beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-3 on September 26, 2011.
Also born on today’s date was John Gaddy, a right-handed pitcher whose big-league career comprised two games for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938. The Wadesboro, North Carolina native was credited with wins in both outings.
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.
Thanks David for the question on MLB’s postseason vs. the NFL’s. I wish MLB would do more to showcase its postseason like the NFL instead of just maximizing the number of late-night games…most maddeningly working to avoid conflicts with NFL regular season games. The expanded postseason could still work out fine but MLB needs to treat its product as special, not just a commodity to be milked short-term.
MLB has gone from expanding their product and instead moved into maximizing the margin of every part of their product. The highest profit margins come from the playoffs (not the regular season) and from a few big market teams who then distribute more money into the other teams’ coffers via revenue sharing. You even see this baked into the formulas for dynamic ticket pricing and the lack of affordable family options. Teams should want to get kids to games so that they want to pay up as adults, but the focus is on extracting money out of their parents.
I think there’s an argument that having a larger league has a synergistic effect, increasing the overall salience of Major League Baseball, and permitting more playoffs without diluting the product. But MLB seems to think that any expansion into smaller markets than NYC and Chicago is something that will dilute their revenues by splitting the current revenues more ways. And in the short term they are probably right, but this drive to extract every cent from current customers without trying to get more customers is going to not go well over the long term.
Two thumbs up.
Said simply and well!