Player X should be in the Hall of Fame because Player Y is in the Hall of Fame is a common argument. As often as not, a good counter argument can be made that neither is deserving —Y was a marginal candidate, and enshrining X would further water down what is meant to be a select group. If you’re an advocate of a “small hall.” that would be your view. If you’re in the “big hall” camp, X-and-Y debates are more likely to strike your fancy.
With that in mind, let’s compare Vladimir Guerrero — on the ballot for the first time — with Jim Rice, who is often cited as a marginal Hall of Famer. Outfielders known for their offensive prowess, they had careers of equal duration.
Guerrero had 9.059 plate appearances, 2,590 hits, and 972 extra-base hits. Rice had 9,058 plate appearances, 2,452 hits, and 848 extra-base hits.
Guerrero slashed .318/.379/.553. Rice slashed .298/.352/.502.
Guerrero had an OPS+ of 130-or-better 11 times, and 150-or-better six times. His high-water mark was 162. Rice had an OPS+ of 130-or-better six times, and 150-or-better twice. His high-water mark was 157.
Guerrero has the edge in WAR, 54.3 to 50.8.
It’s pretty clear who had the better career. Does that mean Guerrero belongs in the Hall of Fame? Going by a Rice-specific X-and-Y, the answer is a definite yes. If you’re small hall, the answer is far less obvious.
Earlier this week, we heard from Bud Black on some of the philosophies he’ll bring to Colorado as the club’s new manager. Today, we get thoughts on Mike Redmond, who will be Black’s bench coach. They come via Rob Leary, who served in that capacity under Redmond when he managed the Marlins.
The two go back a long time. From 1995-1998, Leary was the catching coordinator while Redmond was working himself up the minor league ladder in the Miami system. He saw early on that Redmond possessed strong leadership skills.
“As a catcher, he wasn’t going to get a win or a loss,” said Leary. “But his team was going to get a win or a loss, and Red was fully invested in that. He carried that over to (managing in) Miami, and without a doubt, they’re going to see the same thing in Colorado.
“His feel for the game, and his communication skills — how to handle the difficult conversations with a player — really stand out. There were issues with staff members (in Miami) we had to sort through as well.”
The Marlins fired Redmond and Leary 38 games into the 2015 season, which was their third under the employ of unpopular owner Jeffrey Loria. Professional to a fault, Leary wasn’t willing to criticize his old club, but reading between the lines, he wasn’t exactly happy with the ouster.
“We were realistic that winning a championship wouldn’t be a fair expectation, but going from 99 losses to a 16-game improvement the second year showed that our team was maturing, both mentally and competitively” said Leary. “There were signs the organiza… the team was heading in the right direction. It was a tremendous experience, even if it didn’t end the way Red and I would have liked it to.”
It will be interesting to see how Mitch Haniger hits in Seattle. The 25-year-old outfielder — acquired from Arizona in the Taijuan Walker trade — slashed a gaudy .341/.428/.670 for Triple-A Reno this past summer. Aided by a mechanical adjustment, he left the yard 20 times in 312 plate appearances. His performance hinted at a breakthrough. Coming into the season, the Cal-Poly product wasn’t ranked among the top 30 prospects in the Diamondbacks organization.
Did Haniger put everything together, or did he simply hit a park factor jackpot? The Pacific Coast League is hitter-friendly, and Reno ranked right behind Colorado Springs as the best offensive environment in a 16-team circuit. Journeyman catcher Tuffy Gosewisch was a teammate of Haniger’s this year, and he hit .342/.399/.553.
Haniger hit .229/.309/.404 in 123 plate appearances with Arizona after being called up in August. Drafted 38th overall by the Brewers in 2012, Haniger had gone to the Diamondbacks in the 2014 trade deadline deal that sent Gerardo Parra to Wisconsin’s largest city.
One of college football’s biggest rivalry games took place yesterday, in Columbus. The Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes met for the 113th time, with the home team winning 30-27 in double overtime. Michigan now leads the all-time series 58-49, with six games ending in ties.
Who would come out ahead if the Big Ten schools faced off in a fictional baseball battle that featured the best of their alums? Here are the presumed starters at each position, along with their career WAR totals (The teams were put together using Baseball-Reference’s Colleges and Universities search tool, so for the sake of expediency, we’re going with bWAR.)
C – Bill Freehan – 44.7
1B – John Mayberry – 24.7
2B – Charlie Gehringer – 80.6
SS – Barry Larkin – 70.2
3B – Chris Sabo – 16.4
OF – George Sisler – 54.5
OF – Elliott Maddox – 14.9
OF – Hal Morris – 13.3
DH – Ted Simmons – 50.1
SP – Geoff Zahn – 20.7
SP – Jim Abbott – 19.8
RP – Steve Howe – 10.5
Ohio State Buckeyes
C – Johnny Edwards – 14.8
1B – Don Hurst – 12.4
2B – Pinky Pittenger – -1.6
SS – Rick Renick — 0.6
3B – Barry Bonnell – 1.7
OF – Frank Howard – 37.6
OF – Nick Swisher – 21.7
OF – Larry Hisle – 24.9
DH – Pat McNulty – 0.6
SP – Dave Burba – 16.3
SP- Jake Miller – 16.0
RP – Fred Scherman – 4.2
We don’t need a controversial spot on a fourth-down play to decide this one. Unlike yesterday’s gridiron contest, Michigan wins going away.
Game 7 of the 1960 World Series — famously won on a walk-off home run by Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski — is notable for another reason. Nine pitchers worked in the game — five for the Yankees and four for the victorious Pirates — and none of them recorded a strikeout.
Pittsburgh, which won the finale 10-9, was outscored scored 55-27 over the seven games.
Paul Dicken played in 13 big-league games, and had 13 plate appearances. They came in 1964 and 1966, with the Cleveland Indians, and all were as a pinch-hitter. He went 0 for 13 with six strikeouts.
One of Dicken’s plate appearances came off Buster Narum, who pitched for the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Senators from 1963-1967. Narum fanned Dicken. Others had more success against the right-hander.
John O’Donoghue, Gary Peters, and Earl Wilson — all pitchers — went a combined 5 for 8 against Narum. Each of those five hits was a home run. Ray Oyler — the epitome of a light-hitting shortstop — went 3 for 3 with a home run against Narum. In 1,445 career plate appearances, Oyler slashed .175/.258/.251, with 15 home runs.
Narum finished his career with a record of 14-27, and a 4.45 ERA. As a hitter, he went 7 for 118, with three home runs. The first, off Don Mossi, came in his first MLB at bat. The second came off Jim Bouton, the third came off Wilson.
First published in 1942, Baseball Digest is the oldest and longest-running baseball magazine in the world. Their readership skews old-school — it remains a print publication — but the writing isn’t of Paleolithic intent. The annual Awards issue, which is currently on newsstands (you’ve heard of those, right?), provides proof in the pudding. I had the pleasure of putting together this year’s all-rookie team and, with the editor’s blessing, the top reliever wasn’t a closer. This is what I wrote:
Pitchers are assessed differently than they once were. Wins aren’t valued as much, nor are saves. Whether or not you agree with the reasoning behind those views, Chris Devenski quietly had a very good season with the Astros. Working primarily as a reliever — he also made five starts — the 25-year-old changeup artist logged a 1.98 ERA over 46 games and 105 innings. He allowed just 74 hits and 19 walks, while fanning 104. Having four wins and one save may suggest to some that he wasn’t valuable. He was valuable.
Dave “Boo” Ferriss passed away a few days ago, at the age of 94. Seven decades ago, he was one of the best pitchers in the American League. The Red Sox righty won 46 games and fashioned a 3.34 ERA over his first two seasons. He spun a six-hit shutout against the Cardinals in the 1946 World Series.
In 1947, midway through his third big-league season, Ferriss felt a twinge in his shoulder while throwing a curveball in Cleveland. It threw a monkey wrench into his career. Despite dogged efforts to remain on the mound, the man named Boo was out of the game a few short years later. He finished his career with a record of 65-30.
Zach Duke won’t be pitching in 2017. The 33-year-old left-hander had Tommy John surgery in October. His contract with the Cardinals runs through next season, so free agency will accompany his return to health.
Expect continued mixing once he’s back. Duke relies heavily on his sinker, but unlike many relievers he doesn’t strongly favor a specific secondary offering. His curveball and slider usage is fairly balanced, and hitters will see a smattering of changeups as well.
Earlier this year, I asked Duke about the idea of throwing your best breaking pitch a higher percentage of the time, a la Andrew Miller and his slider. Based on his response, he’s not a proponent.
“If you get into a situation where you really need to get an out, you’re going to rely on that go-to pitch, for sure,” said Duke. “But if you’re talking about increasing the frequency as a rule, then you’re getting into the debate of, ‘If you throw it more, will it be as effective?’
“To say you’re going to throw curveball, curveball, curveball… I don’t think that’s the way to go. If hitters are looking for a pitch, you’re probably going to have less success with it. Ultimately, I think everything works off your fastball. Hitters will tell you if you’re throwing a pitch too much.”
Francisco Liriano answered similarly to Duke, but with a caveat.
“It all depends,” said the Blue Jays southpaw. “Hitters make an adjustment to pitches, to how well they pick up pitches, so I try to mix it up. But if my slider is working the way I want it to — if it’s working better than my other pitches — I throw it more. I’m just trying to get people out, so if I have to throw five in a row, I’ll do that.”
Over the last five years, Liriano has gone to his slider 32.6 percent of the time, fifth-most among pitchers who have thrown at least 500 innings.
Schoolboy Rowe played 15 big-league seasons, mostly with the Tigers. From 1934-1936, the right-hander won 62 games and pitched in a pair of World Series. In 1940, he went 16-3 as Detroit returned to the Fall Classic for the third time in seven years.
By all accounts, Rowe was a character.
According to his SABR bio, “Rowe was known for talking to the baseball, which he often called Edna in honor of Edna Mary Skinner, whom he married after the 1934 World Series. He once described his preparation for pitching: “Just eat a lot of vittles, climb the mound, wrap my fingers around the ball and say to it, ‘Edna, honey, let’s go.’”
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
In August 1970, a bomb threat at Minnesota’s Memorial Stadium briefly delayed a game between the Twins and the Red Sox. Stew Thornley, who was there when it happened, wrote about the bizarre experience — “1,000 or so fans, as well as vendors, got to mingle with the players” — for SABR’s Games Project.
Writing for Al Jazeera, Jillian Kestler-D’Amours took a look at Fidel Castro and Cuban baseball.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Tony Perez, who had an .804 OPS, is the only Cuban-born player in the Hall of Fame. Minnie Minoso, who had an .848 OPS, remains on the outside looking in. Per his SABR bio, Minoso finished his professional career with 4,073 hits — 1,963 in MLB, 429 in the minor leagues, 838 in the Cuban League, 715 in the Mexican League, and 128 in the Negro League.
In 115 ALCS plate appearances, George Brett slashed .340/.400/.728. In 57 World Series plate appearances, he slashed .373/.439/.529.
In May 1976, George Brett had three-or-more hits in six consecutive games. That tied a record set by Brooklyn’s Jimmy Johnson, in 1923. Rogers Hornsby holds the record for most consecutive games with two-or-more hits — 13, in 1923 (per Baseball Digest).
Mike Mussina had double figure win totals in all 17 of his full seasons. The only year he finished with a losing record he had a 125 ERA+ and led the AL in innings pitched.
In 1982, Dave “King Kong” Kingman had 62 singles, nine doubles, one triple, and 37 home runs. He also had 156 strikeouts.
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.