Archive for the 'Boston Red Sox' Category

Red Sox Nation showing signs of Theo-itis

As a Yankee fan, I am often criticized for my partisanship when it comes to matters involving the Boston Red Sox. With a few exceptions, however, I like to think that I am a fair judge of the Sox.

I respect the team while rooting against them. My main complaints are with the fans (and yes, the same complaints hold true for Yankee fans as well). The sense of entitlement coming out of both camps is off-putting to say the least. But another aspect of the New England’s Red Sox Nation bothers me as well: The recent love affair with Theo Epstein is, in my mind, overplayed.

Across the Internet, Red Sox fans are jumping for joy. Let’s review.

I think this enthusiasm is misplaced. Theo Epstein just can’t magically solve all of the Red Sox’s – or any team’s – problems.

Epstein is a very good General Manager. Only 33, he’s put together an impressive record working with the second biggest budget in the game. He brought a World Championship to a seemingly cursed franchise. Clearly, he has a development plan as the Red Sox now boast a potent farm system put together largely on his watch.

But at the same time, Theo is still a very young GM feeling his way around the organization. Much of the pieces of the 2004 World Series championship were brought in before Epstein’s time. Larry Lucchino, this winter’s villain, was as much a part of the Schilling deal as Epstein was. So the 2004 team was a bit of an Epstein/Lucchino/Duquette hybrid, as much as it pains the Red Sox to hear it. The parts secured by Epstein may have pushed the team over the top, but the foundation was in place long before Epstein arrived.

Meanwhile, in 2005, Epstein finally had the chance to put together his own version of the Red Sox. Many of the stars and spare parts that made the 2004 team a success were free agents, and most of them left for greener pastures. While Epstein put together a solid team in 2005, by the end of the season, the Sox flaw’s were on display for everyone to see. This was a team that, dare I say, relied a little too much on numbers and projections. The Sox scored runs by the bushel, but they were closer to the Yankees impersonal no-pitch, all-hit corporate feel in 2005 than they had been in years.

When the Epstein story blew up this off-season, the media latched onto it immediately. It became the cause célèbre in New England. Lucchino became the bad guy, and all of Epstein’s hard work unraveled at the hands of the four-headed and later two-headed GM monster in Boston. While Josh Beckett arrived, some of Epstein’s pet projects, Edgar Renteria among them, were traded. Others have seen their names in print for the past three months.

So as Epstein returns triumphantly to the fray, the Red Sox fans are excited. Here’s the man who will turn the seemingly dire situation at short and in center around. Here’s the man who can calm everyone’s fears that maybe the Sox won’t finish in third place this year. But I’m not so sure of that. Epstein is working within the same parameters of the existing Red Sox front office, and if you believe the rumors, he’s actually been working along side the front office for a few weeks now. So far that short stop hasn’t fallen out of the sky yet.

Epstein’s good; he’s among the top of the game. But he’s not good enough to wish away problems he, in part, helped create. I’m glad he’s back on the Sox just so the media outlets stop talking about it. But I hope Red Sox Nation realizes that Epstein may not be able to solve all of the problems right away. It gets lonely in Boston being charge of a rebuilding Red Sox team.

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How much is that Papi in the window?

The Red Sox front office has spent much of the off-season deconstructing and reconstructing their team while dealing with the happiness/unhappiness of Manny Ramirez. News surfaced at the end of last week that the heart and soul of Boston — AL MVP runner-up David Ortiz — wants a contract extension that will keep him in Boston for the rest of his productive career (and beyond).

According to a story in Friday’s Boston Globe, Big Papí wants a deal that would keep him in Fenway until he turns 36.

Currently 30, Ortiz is entering the last guaranteed year of his current contract. For his 31 win shares (fifth best in the AL) and 136 runs created (third best in the AL and tops on the Sox), the big slugger is set to make $6.5 million in 2006. The Red Sox hold a club option worth $8.4 million for 2007.

Now, I have long believed that Ortiz’s contract is among the best in the game. The Red Sox are getting insane amounts of offensive production (as well as unparalleled leadership and a few other “intangibles”) for less than $7 million! Plus, the Sox picked Ortiz up off waivers. It’s a steal.

While the Red Sox can bask in the glow of this thievery, I doubt that the team will be able to get away with paying Ortiz so little if he is to remain in Boston. I would imagine that Ortiz will want a deal that pays him anywhere from $13-15 million. He’s easily worth more money than Johnny Damon or Rafael Furcal, both of whom will be making in excess of $13 million. So why shouldn’t he want to break the bank? However, a contract extension here is the classic example of a team’s having to pay for what a player has done in the past instead of what he is likely to do during the course of his career.

Confused? That’s alright. Let’s take a look at David Ortiz and ten players whose offensive careers are most similar to his through age 29.

In 2005, the 29-year-old Ortiz had the following offensive line:

G AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG
159 601 119 180 40 1 47 102 124 .300 .397 .604

Ortiz right now is playing awesome baseball during his peak performance years. After 30, according to conventional wisdom, Ortiz’s production — or more basically, the production of a hitter in general — is bound to decrease. To see how Ortiz may perform, let’s look at how his comparables performed from age 30 onward.

At Baseball-Reference, every player is listed along with his comparables through their current age. Here is the list of Ortiz’s comps along with the similarity scores (out of 100):

Mo Vaughn (941)
Richie Sexson (931)
Ryan Klesko (919)
Lee May (918)
Danny Tartabull (916)
Tino Martinez (916)
Tim Salmon (914)
Jason Giambi (911)
Carlos Delgado (911)
Tony Clark (906)

Here’s how this group performed collectively at age 29:

G AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG
131 469 81 137 26 1 29 82 103 .293 .400 .540

Overall, Ortiz and this group stack up fairly well. Because Sexson played just 23 games at age 29, the numbers are a little on the low side. Ortiz out-slugged the group, but the on-base percentage and strike out-to-walk ratios are fairly consistent. It may be possible to determine how Ortiz will age by examining this group. The following table does just that.

Age Season G AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG
30 10 137 494 85 140 31 2 29 74 111 .283 .378 .528
31 9 144 507 83 143 29 1 30 70 108 .282 .374 .517
32 9 133 462 65 117 24 1 23 66 109 .253 .353 .458
33 8 132 451 64 124 26 2 24 56 95 .276 .358 .501
34 7 124 425 60 111 18 1 20 60 89 .261 .358 .453
35 4 93 324 37 82 13 1 11 28 61 .254 .316 .401
36 2 131 457 61 118 18 1 21 47 86 .258 .330 .437

First, this comparison is only useful up to about the age 34 season. With only two players playing to 36 and four playing to 35 (many active players have not yet at that age), it’s not statistically reasonable to determine anything from such a small sample size.

So from ages 29 to 34, this group witnessed an 11 percent decline in batting average, a 10.5 percent decrease in on-base percentage, and a 16 percent or 100-point drop in slugging. Notably, home runs declined from a high of 30 to a low of 20.

As superhuman as Ortiz has been, there is every reason to think he’ll suffer the same drop in production. Going from the heights of Ortiz down, however, isn’t awful. By age 34, Ortiz may be hitting around .270/.365/.500 with over 30 home runs instead of nearly 50.

But at this point, here’s where the comparisons get a little more worrisome. Mo Vaughn, Ortiz’s top comparable, saw a huge decline in bat speed at age 34 and played fewer than 30 games before an injury ended his career at 35. Now, he’s opening a $7-million car wash in Boston. None of the other players hit the same after 34, and they weren’t anywhere close to their 29-year-old peak season.

No matter how well or poorly Ortiz ages, it seems certain that he is currently playing at his peak. He’s very underpaid for his performance and seems destined to be overpaid by the time he is 32 and 33. In this case, I think it’s reasonable for the Sox to overpay because the discount they got now. In the end, it’ll balance out. But they shouldn’t give Ortiz too many guaranteed years.

In discussing his extension, Ortiz seemed set on getting a long extension from the Sox. But for all of the talk, the Sox would be better off giving Ortiz a two- or three-year extension that keeps him around until the end of his age 34 season in 2010. They could probably throw in some performance-based options as well. At that point, the Sox will just have to see if Big Papi can defy the downward spiral of age just as well as he can defy pitchers in the American League.

Stubborn heads prevail in Manny trade talks, Nationals stadium fiasco

Two stories that have long dominated the Hot Stove headlines have seemingly reached new high points this week. Manny Ramirez’s trade demand and the trade talks may be receding into the past while Major League Baseball’s attempts at procuring a free stadium paid for by the District of Columbia are heading toward arbitration.

The big news of the day comes to us from ESPNdesportes. The Spanish-language arm of the Worldwide Leader in Sports is reporting that no hay cambio, according to Manny. Luckily, they’ve provided an English language translation, and we can all see that Ramirez has decided that there is no trade. Instead, the enigmatic slugger is “going to take things easy and focus on his career.”

To this, I say good riddance. If this announcement with Manny is enough to end this drawn-out soap opera of a story, I will be relieved. For months this saga has gone on without end. Some people say that Manny is unhappy with Red Sox management; others say marital strife may be pushing him out of Boston. Either way, I guess Manny’s internal debates have kept him from focusing on his career.

Now that he’s done talking about being traded and now that he plans on staying in Boston, I hope everyone else plans on dropping this subject forever. Enough ink has been spilled and enough bandwidth wasted on Manny being Manny that it’s not worth it anymore. Good bye, Manny. Whatever you do, enjoy it.

So while one stubborn, strange player’s saga comes to a close, the conflict between the City Council in Washington, D.C., and Major League Baseball may be coming to a head. Because the council did not approve the lease agreement between MLB and the city before the previously-negotiated and signed-upon deadline of December 31, 2005, Major League Baseball as the owners of the Nationals has decided to pursue the process that could result in a binding arbitration decision.

To me, this move does nothing to help Major League Baseball earn supporters on the DC council. If MLB and DC decide they cannot reconcile their differences, a three-member panel will decide the case. The panel could decide to levy a fine against DC for violating the terms of the lease agreement. Or the panel could decide that the city must pay for the stadium and cost overruns. I cannot imagine too many people being thrilled with either decision. While Mayor Anthony Williams may be prepared to resubmit the lease to the council in two weeks while avoiding arbitration, the reality is that Major League Baseball, by taking the first steps down the arrogant path toward arbitration, may be hurting their cause.

Right now, Major League Baseball wants the city to assume any cost overruns for the stadium the city is paying to build for MLB’s $450-million team. This hardly seems like a fair deal for any city let alone one wracked by as many problems as the District is. Meanwhile, MLB refuses to sell the team before stadium funding is in place because they feel the funding increases the value of the team.

As I’ve said before, Major League Baseball has locked itself into this public-relations nightmare. They can’t really save face in front of the council, and it would in fact be best for the team, the city, and everyone involved if Major League Baseball sold the team now. They have ownership groups in place; all Bud Selig, baseball commissioner, has to do is send the sale to a vote in front of the 29 other co-owners of the team.

With independent ownership in place, the City Council could wash the bad taste of the bungled MLB negotiations out of its collective mouth. While the council is not blameless in this debacle, both sides could virtually start over at square one. A group devoted to building a baseball presence in DC would probably find a way to help the city cover cost overruns, and the council would be receptive to such an idea.

Sadly, the likelihood of this positive outcome is about the same as the chance that the Royals will win the World Series in 2006. Meanwhile, as the saga of the stadium lurches toward a conclusion, we can only hope that cooler heads will prevail so that DC can save some its money and MLB can repair its tarnished reputation as an organization out to bilk communities out of as much money as possible.

Rocky off-season leaves many wondering whither the Red Sox

The 2005 off-season started out with a bang for the Boston Red Sox. While the team made an early exit from the playoffs, their mid-November acquisition of Josh Beckett sent shockwaves throughout the AL East. However, a general manager conflict, an unhappy slugger, and a few lost free agents have many fans questioning the Sox’s ability to succeed in 2006.

At the end of November, it was hard to argue against the Red Sox chances. They had after all just landed Josh Beckett, a 25-year-old pitcher with a Yankee-killing reputation (albeit in just one game) and were sitting pretty among their American League East counterparts. But all was not well in Red Sox Nation.

Most notable for Boston during this winter of their discontent has been the GM soap opera. Theo Epstein, the darling of Boston, and Larry Lucchino, New England’s own Evil Emperor, suffered a meltdown in their relationship that led to Theo’s untimely departure from Boston and a scramble to find a replacement that would play itself out over the course of nearly a month.

The Red Sox headed into the Winter Meetings with a four-headed GM monster and made out well for themselves. They netted Josh Beckett, a league-average pitcher away from Pro Player Stadium, Guillermo Mota, and third baseman Mike Lowell in exchange for some highly touted prospects. They had seemingly found a starter who could take over for Curt Schilling as the ace of the team if the old Curt Schilling never returned, and they found a replacement for Bill Mueller, the incumbent third baseman who left the team through free agency. But the lustre of this deal would soon wear off.

While the Red Sox eventually named Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington co-general managers, it was too late to repair the damage to the front office. The Boston media had already turned on Lucchino, one of the architects of the team’s recent success, and constant rumors of Epstein’s imminent return may have undermined Hoyer and Cherington’s attempts at establishing their own authority over the club. John Henry, the team’s owner, has addressed numerous rumors that he was reducing Lucchino’s power by denying them, and the players seem skeptical of the team’s administration right now.

On top of the GM soap opera came the news that Manny Ramirez, the soon-to-be 34-year-old slugger due $57 million over the next three years, wants out of Boston. For whatever reason, Manny is unhappy with his situation where he claims to have little privacy and is unhappy with management. So far, the team has not moved on the Manny situation. And who can blame them? It makes little sense for the team to trade a slugger with a career .314/.409/.599 line when they may have to pay his whole salary and wouldn’t be able to replace his bat in the lineup.

Meanwhile, the Sox sent away one of their disappointing players from 2005. After inking Edgar Renteria to a four-year, $40 million deal last winter, the team traded him to the Atlanta Braves for third base prospect Andy Marte. The Sox will also be paying some of Renteria’s salary. While the move was welcomed by both parties, it has opened a hole in the infield that has yet to be filled by a desirable candidate. While Mark Loretta and Tony Graffinino remain viable candidates to play second and short, it’s hard to say these two are the boppers the Sox may need.

With Manny’s unhappiness dangling over the team, the last few days have been disappointing if not disastrous for the team. First, the Red Sox lost their leadoff hitter and one of the chief Idiots Johnny Damon to what their fans call the New York Effin’ Yankees. While one of the chief Red Sox blogs (and one of the best baseball blogs around) has tried to convince themselves that Damon will not be missed, the truth is that the Red Sox are worse without Damon and at a disadvantage now that Damon is still playing within the division for their biggest rival. The Sox may yet find a replacement for Damon, but the defection hurts.

Then, over the last two days, the Red Sox lost out on two prizes: Troy Glaus and Kevin Millwood. The Texas Rangers signed Millwood to a five-year deal with an opt-out option for the fifth year. According to the Boston Herald, the Sox needed Millwood so that they could trade Bronson Arroyo or Matt Clement for a center fielder. Even Evan Brunell, Fire Brand founder and optimistic Red Sox fan, is finding this latest loss a little tough to swallow. While the impact of Millwood’s decision is mitigated by the Sox’s arm-rich farm system, the team does not want to ship off more young pitchers in order to win now. How this will sit with their judgmental fan base in 2006 is yet to be determined.

While Millwood opted for Texas, the Diamondbacks found a trading partner in the Toronto Blue Jays. Once again, the Sox lost out on a key potential cog to another division rival. While Glaus could have given the Sox the flexibility to trade Manny for another slugger or Andy Marte for a short stop such as Julio Lugo as had been rumored, the third baseman will instead head to a revamped Blue Jays team that hopes to give Boston and New York a run for their money next year.

As the Red Sox and their fans look forward to the end of 2005, questions are swirling around this team for 2006. Right now, the Red Sox are full of holes. They have a 32-year-old third baseman coming off a season that saw his OBP drop to .298. They have no center fielder, no leadoff man, and no short stop. Their starting first baseman has a total of 9 games of Major League experience at the position. They do not know whether Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke will resemble their 2005 performances or their 2004 performances, and Matt Clement forever remains an enigma as well. Meanwhile, no one knows whether Manny Ramirez or David Wells will still be on the team come April.

On top of all of this drama, the Sox have dealt with a few significant backlashes from the Johnny Damon deal as well. One was the news from Damon that he decided to jump to New York because of the shaky management picture, and he did not think that Manny would be in Boston next season. He wanted out. Now, it seems as though the Sox cannot land the free agents they want and cannot get the guys they need through trades. Just a few weeks ago, baseball writers thought the Yankees were the team suffering from a lack of free agent interest. It’s funny how the shoe is now on the other foot in this Boston-New York rivalry.

To fill in some of their missing pieces, the Red Sox may have to weigh the options of trading away some of the upper echelons of their farm system. They have quite a few almost-Major-League-ready players who are highly desirable bargaining chips. Other teams such as the Devil Rays, Mariners, and Indians have no real compelling reason to trade away Julio Lugo, Jeremy Reed, and Coco Crisp, respectively, for players of lesser value. But the Sox may not want to trade away future stars right now.

With a few months left before pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, the Red Sox off-season is far from over. But the next few months will be key for the Sox hopes of capturing a fourth consecutive playoff berth in 2006.

Red Sox Nation jumps the shark

For a few years, baseball fans have tolerated Red Sox Nation, and why not? This group, while a little obsessive in certain aspects of their fandom, had suffered years of mismanagement and bad luck until the 2004 World Series.

With the Red Sox improbable comeback in the ALCS and subsequent steamrolling of St. Louis, Red Sox fans could finally bask in the glory of a World Series victory, something they had not seen since the end of the Great War. After that, thought, it was all downhill for the Nation.

First, MLB.com decided that citizens of Red Sox Nation needed an official card. It was bad enough that these fans often acted as though they, and not the players on the field, had won the World Series; now they had their own cards too. Slowly, the Red Sox were catching up to the Yankees. They’re the second most popular team in the Majors and second most despised as well. It’s funny how winning a World Championship can change an empathetic fan into a hater in the blink of an eye.

But the Nation persisted well into 2005. No longer bemoaning the Red Sox’s string of bad luck, this group decided that they were now entitled to everything. Red Sox blogs created unrealistic master plans for trades, free agent signings, winning. These fans wanted to do everything to beat the Yankees even if it meant becoming the Yankees by outspending every other team and gobbling up high-priced free agents at ludicrous salaries.

Yet, no one had made that fateful leap over the shark. At least, not until this week. Jumping the shark, a term popularized by Jon Hein, refers to, as the ever-reliable Wikipedia says, when a pop culture group “is in retrospect judged to have passed its ‘peak’ and shows a noticeable decline in quality, or when it has undergone too many changes that take away the original charm and interest.” Red Sox Nation managed to jump the shark in one felt swoop with a new Web site: KeepManny.com.

This Web site, operated by Red Sox Nation member Jeffery M. Guinee, is an attempt to collect signatures from fans urging the Red Sox to retain the services of Manny Ramirez. Red Sox Nation has jumped the shark.

In my opinion, this site transcends fandom and reeks of, well, a cry for attention. What can Red Sox Nation do this time to garner media attention? No Cowboy Up this year; no 3-0 comeback. They have to do something to stay news. So the site urges the Red Sox to keep Manny. “Don’t trade him, please! I’ll even name my firstborn after him,” says one signer of the petition.

Of course, the site doesn’t seem to care that Manny’s the one who wants out of Boston, that he’s the one unhappy that he can’t go any privacy. No one from Boston has ever said the team is keen on trading him. Larry Lucchino and the four-headed GM monster know that it’s impossible to replace one of the game’s greatest hitters who owns a career line of .314/.409/.599. But this site acts as though it is the front office, so vilified for the dealings with Theo Epstein earlier this fall, that wants to send Manny off to Shea or Anaheim.

The Manny Situation has long been public knowledge. And this site seems to be just another in the long line of people looking to knock Larry Lucchino down a peg. It’s also the moment, for me, when Red Sox Nation lost that original charm, showed a noticeable decline in quality, and underwent just one too many changes for its own good. It’s no longer about being obsessed and slightly crazed fans who root for a team that likes to play ball the right well. Now it’s about the media attention, the official citizenship cards, and showing that true red Red Sox spirit. Red Sox Nation has jumped the shark.

(As a closing note, some of my good friends and co-bloggers among the many voices of the Internet are very rational Red Sox fans. I still respect you all as fans, and I don’t associate the shenanigans of the card-carrying RSN fans who have hopped on the bandwagon with those I know to be true members of the Fenway Faithful.)

Beckett, Pedro comparisons don’t quite match up

Let’s hop in the Way-Back Machine and journey back to November 17, 1997. On that day, the Red Sox traded Carl Pavano and a player to be named later for the Montreal Expos stud right-hander, 26-year-old Pedro Martinez.

Fast forward now just over eight years later to November 24, 2005. On that day, the Red Sox acquired Marlins right-hander 25-year-old Josh Beckett (and Mike Lowell and a washed-up Guillermo Mota) for Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, and two other guys whose names you probably won’t need to know.

The timing and circumstances were eerie. Martinez became possibly the most dominant pitching in Red Sox history. Now the Red Sox are asking Josh Beckett to be the pitcher they saw in the 2003 playoffs and save their pitching staff. These are tall orders for a 25-year-old with 10 career trips to the disabled list.

I, like Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, am skeptical of Beckett. He’s shown flashes of brilliance and a streak of injuries. His home-road splits show that he’s enjoyed pitching in the National League’s most hitter-friendly park, and his future success against the DH-rich AL in Fenway Park is a matter that will be determined purely on the field next season and not among the stats of his career.

There is, however, something Beckett’s stats can unlock for us. Over-eager Red Sox fans have begun to compare Beckett to Pedro, and this is a comparison that just doesn’t hold up the way I see it.

When Pedro arrived in Boston, he clearly was already a dominant pitcher. He was coming off a Cy Young caliber season in which he struck out 305 in 241.1 innings. while posting an ERA of 1.90. (He would go on to top those strike out numbers two years later, fanning 8 more in 28 fewer innings. Talk about dominance.) Beckett has come close to this type of dominance in 40 postseason innings in 2003, and that’s it. Here’s how the two stack up pre-Boston using ERA+, the ratio of the league’s ERA to that of the pitcher in question:

IP K/9 IP K/BB ERA ERA+
Pedro Martinez 912.1 9.57 3.17 3.00 135
Josh Beckett 609.0 8.97 2.72 3.46 117

From this chart, it’s clear that Pedro had the edge. At the time, he was considered very durable, and had the strike of 1994 not shorted the 1994 and 1995 seasons, he would have racked up nearly 1000 innings before joining Boston. Pitching in what many consider to be the high years of the Steroid Era, Pedro has an exceptional 135 ERA+ (which is a non-park adjusted number due to my calculations) and an ERA over a run better than league average aggregated over the years prior to his joining the Red Sox. While Beckett’s park-adjusted ERA of 117 is nothing to write home about, Pedro towers above him.

(A quick note: I had to calculate Pedro’s ERA+ and the NL ERA from 1992-1997 by hand. Beckett’s was done for me by Baseball-Reference. Hence, non-adjusted vs. adjusted. The difference is minuscule for the sake of this study.)

In the end, this just goes to show that Pedro before his dominant years in 1999 and 2000 was already an amazing pitcher. This is not a slight on Josh Beckett and his ability. Could Josh Beckett turn into another version of a Pedro-type pitcher? Sure he could. But first, he has to overcome the injury bug that has bitten him throughout his time on the Marlins.

If I were in charge of the Red Sox, I would have made this move in a minute just like the four-headed GM monster in Fenway did. But this should serve as a warning for Red Sox fans expecting too much from Beckett. I have seen Pedro Martinez pitch, and you, sir, are no Pedro Martinez. Yet.

Is Curt Schilling bound for the Hall of Fame?

All of the hype surrounding the World Champion Boston Red Sox will come to a hilt tonight as the conquering hero makes his return from the Land of the Bloody Sock.

At approximately 7:07 p.m. with a game time temperature hovering just over a brisk 40 degrees, Curt Schilling and his mended ankle will amble up to the mound on Fenway Park. Schilling, as we all know by now, is the most hyped player on this Red Sox team. While Johnny Damon may be running around with a new wife and a book deal, it’s Schilling whose viewed as the man who brought the Red Sox the championship.

With all of the attention focused on Schilling’s heroics, it’s often hard to cut through the rhetoric. One article, written by The Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers, questioned Schilling’s motivation. Rogers doesn’t think Schilling can duplicate his successes from the past five seasons. “Success comes at a higher price as you get older,” Rogers wrote, “and the 38-year-old Schilling spent more than his share of the time mugging for the camera in the off-season. The bet here is the run of greatness he started in 2001 is due to take a downturn.”

On the other side of the coin are those members of Red Sox Nation who think Schilling is the best thing to happen to the Red Sox since the 1918 World Series. With all the hype surrounding Curt Schilling and his accomplishments over the last 12 months, his career perspective is often obscured. This is, after all, a pitcher who didn’t really break out until he turned 30 when he struck out 319 men. And while he’s won 20 games three times, those three times have all been since the turn of the millennium. Is Schilling, famous for his workhorse tendencies and off-the-charts pitching over the last four seasons, bound for enshrinement in Cooperstown?

Predicting a player’s Hall of Fame chances has, like most statistical evaluation in the rich field of baseball analysis, become something of a science. Bill James, one of the giants in the world of baseball statistics, has developed four different metrics for evaluating any player’s shot at the Hall of Fame.

First up is the black-ink test, the least scientific of the bunch. This is a test to see how often a player led the league in important statistics such as wins, ERA, strike outs, fewest walks, and so on. The gray-ink test looks to see how often a player finished in the top ten of the black-ink categories. Then, there is the Hall of Fame Career Standards Test and the Hall of Fame Monitor Test. Suffice it to say, both of these Jamesian creations require a lot of space to explain them. (If you’re interested in the statistics behind these methods, check out Baseball Reference’s detailed descriptions.)

As it stands right now, the Hall of Fame stats say that Curt Schilling is probably in Cooperstown but not definitely yet destined to be there. For the black in test, he scores a 40, where 40 is generally considered to be the bottom line of Hall of Fame measurements. On the gray ink test, he’s at 195, where 185 is the norm for the average Hall of Famer. Schilling, in other words, has been consistently in the top 10 of pitchers in his league. His Hall of Fame Standards test is at 42, where 50 is considered average, and his Hall of Fame Monitor test is at 151, where 100 denotes a likely Hall of Famer.

Outside of these metrics, what do Schilling’s career accomplishments tell us? In 17 years, Schilling has won just 184 games and only one Cy Young Award. While those wins rank him ninth among active players, numerous retired pitchers have won more than Schilling but aren’t in the Hall of Fame. These include Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris, two pitchers who probably should be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Currently, Schilling is sitting on 2745 career strike outs. That’s good for fourth among active players and 18th on the career list. Only Frank Tanana, Mickey Lolich, and Bert Blyleven (and his 3701 strike outs) are ahead of Schilling but no in the Hall. Considering that Schilling has at least two years left, he should finish his career with 3000 strike outs. Everyone who has reached that plateau except, inexplicably enough, Blyleven, has made it to the Hall. While the wins are lacking, that seems to be more due to factors outside of Schilling’s control. He’s often pitched well enough to win but has been victimized by bad offensive teams. As much as I would like to, it’s hard to argue with 3000 strike outs.

To seal the deal further, Schilling has turned in some amazing postseason performances, sutured ankle or otherwise. He has a career postseason record of 8-2 and two World Series rings. In 109.1 innings pitched, he’s given up just 79 hits and 22 walks while striking out 104, or just a shade under nine per nine innings. With an ERA of 2.06, he’s pitched four complete games and two shutouts. He won the World Series MVP in 2001 when he pitched Arizona to the championship.

In the end, this Yankee fan is forced to admit that, in spite of personal feelings about Curt Schilling and a few bouts with mediocrity every few years, Number 38 is headed for the Hall when he finally hangs up those blood-stained socks of his. What team his plaque will feature is an entirely different matter.


RSS River Ave. Blues

  • Thanksgiving Weekend Open Thread November 23, 2017
    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I’ve got some family obligations the next few days, so unless the Yankees make some news — I don’t expect that to happen, but you never know — posting is going to pretty light around here through the weekend. I’ve got one link to pass along and it’s kinda old, but I […] The post Thanksgiving Weekend Open Thread appeared first on […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Gleyber Torres will compete for a roster spot next spring, and that’s a good thing even if he won’t win one November 22, 2017
    You know what’s pretty awesome? The Yankees have a great young core at the big league level in Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino. That’s the unanimous 2017 AL Rookie of the Year and 2017 AL MVP runner-up, the third place finisher in the 2017 AL Cy Young voting, and the 2016 AL Rookie […] The post Gleyber Torres will compete for a roster spot next […]
    Mike Axisa
  • RAB Live Chat November 22, 2017
    The post RAB Live Chat appeared first on River Avenue Blues.
    Mike Axisa
  • The Collapse of Tyler Clippard [2017 Season Review] November 22, 2017
    When you blog about baseball as much as I do, you need to keep a list of topics and notes handy. I can’t tell you how many great ideas I’ve come up with in the middle of the night only to forget them in the morning. I used to keep everything jotted down in a […] The post The Collapse of Tyler Clippard [2017 Season Review] appeared first on River Avenue Blues […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Mailbag: Braves Prospects, Rule 5 Draft, Kinsler, Appel, Judge November 22, 2017
    No, it’s not Friday, but it is Thanksgiving week and I have family obligations the next few days. It was either post the mailbag today or not at all this week, so today it is. We’ve got eleven questions this week. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the mailbag email address. Many asked: Will the […] The post Mailbag: Braves Prospects, Rule 5 Draft, Kinsler, […]
    Mike Axisa
  • MLB, NPB, MLBPA agree to new posting system, paving the way for Ohtani to come over this offseason November 22, 2017
    Shohei Ohtani will indeed get a chance to play in Major League Baseball next season. MLB, NPB, and the MLBPA agreed to a new posting system prior to tonight’s deadline, according to multiple reports. Ohtani will be grandfathered in under the old posting agreement this offseason, meaning the Nippon Ham Fighters will receive a $20M […] The post MLB, NPB, MLBPA […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Tuesday Night Open Thread November 22, 2017
    Earlier today Hall of Famer Joe Morgan sent a letter to the Hall of Fame voting body imploring them not to vote players connected to performance-enhancing drugs into the Hall of Fame. Two problems with that. One, there are already players who used PEDs in the Hall of Fame. Players used to pop amphetamines (“greenies”) […] The post Tuesday Night Open Thread a […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Aaron Judge undergoes left shoulder surgery, will be ready for Spring Training November 21, 2017
    Turns out Aaron Judge wrapping his left shoulder with a big ice pack after each game in the second half was more than routine maintenance. Judge had arthroscopic surgery on the shoulder yesterday, the Yankees announced. The procedure “involved a loose-body removal and cartilage clean-up,” and his recovery will be completed in time for Spring […] The post Aar […]
    Mike Axisa
  • The Other Excellent Rookie [2017 Season Review] November 21, 2017
    The Yankees headed into Spring Training with the fifth starter role entirely up in the air (that’s true of the fourth spot, as well, but now is not the time to discuss how awesome it was that Luis Severino went from “competing for a spot” to “finalist for the Cy Young Award”). Brian Cashman specifically […] The post The Other Excellent Rookie [2017 Season Re […]
    Domenic Lanza
  • Thoughts following the Rule 5 Draft protection deadline November 21, 2017
    It has been three weeks since the Astros won the World Series and we’re still waiting for something exciting to happen this offseason. Yesterday was the deadline for teams to add players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, and that’s the most exciting thing that has happened so far […] The post Thoughts following the Rule 5 Draft prot […]
    Mike Axisa

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