Thursday, January 12, 2006
The Draft and Scouting
Hall of Fame Talk
Links and Thinks
Emptying the Mailbag
Good Morning everyone! First, I would like to thank The Yankees Chick for participating in what I thought was a very entertaining Q&A. Be sure to check it out here if you missed it. Today, I am going to empty out some of my e-mails. I mean, it was a busy night, what, with watching the first episode of Beauty and the Geek! What a great show! SBG has been mocking it on his site of late, but it looks hilarious!!!
Anyway, I know that I've got the Comments option for you down at the bottom, but I still receive many e-mails, and most of them are excellent, and I do want you to always feel free to e-mail me. Today, I am going to post a couple of very interesting e-mails that I have received of late. Please feel free to either e-mail me or comment below. Thanks, and have a great day!
THE DRAFT AND SCOUTING
From Mark Liveringhouse:
I was wondering if I could get your comment on an idea I have had with respect to the Major Leagues amateur draft. To preface, the baseball draft is a major crapshoot that millions of dollars of bonus money is spent on every year by each team. If you look back at some of the draft lists of players picked by teams each year it is not uncommon for not a single one of the 50 or so players selected to never make the major leagues.
This fact was crystallized for me the year the Twins drafted B.J. Garbe. I lived in North Carolina at the time and had the opportunity to drive to Danville, VA to watch him play. Watching his four AB's in that game I was convinced he would never make the majors. I thought Kevin West was a much better looking prospect. I could not see what the scouts saw in him. Yet the Twins spent $2.5 million on his bonus.
After that I had an idea (I do not know how original it is). I think the MLB teams should basically hold a camp of invited players, lets say 1000 invited players. The camp would begin after the college baseball season is over. It would include all draft eligible players. They would be placed on several teams and basically compete for at least two months. Each team would have at least 10 starter so that double headers can be played each day.
The purpose of this is that these players would then perform against top level competition. A guy like BJ Garbe is not going to seem like such a phenom because he just did not have it. In fact, a guy like Justin Morneau would probably shine much higher than Garbe.
After this camp the teams would then hold their draft. I think the millions of wasted signing bonuses would more than make it worth it for the teams to pick up the cost.
I know your idea has been talked about along with other things to alter the draft and rookie ball.
It is a good idea, but I'm going to be honest, I personally would not like it. And here's why. I kind of like the way that the draft works now. There is risk. It's about scouting. And, in the end, it is also about luck. Each team values certain characteristics and skill-sets in players. Some value tools, some stats, some size, some well other things. The examples you gave, Garbe and West, are two perfect examples. Garbe was the athletic type with huge potential, but very raw and coming out of high school. West was a little older, had a lot of baseball skills, but they didn't feel his upside was as high, so he went in the (12th?) round after a couple of years of college.
But in the end, what happened? Garbe barely got out of A ball and did very little. West worked hard, outworked many, and he has worked his way up to AAA. Will he make the majors? I don't know. I hope so. He deserves it. But either way, he outlasted the bonus baby.
My recommendation in terms of the draft would be something a little different. Something similar to the NBA.
I would recommend having slot values for each position in the draft. The first player drafted gets a $3 million bonus. The second overall pick gets $2.9 million, then $2.8 million... and I'm just throwing out numbers, but something. They could even make variables for whether they are taken out of high school or college, etc. (The NBA Players Association agreed to this because veterans were tired of rookies coming in with $100 million contracts - Glenn Robinson anyone? I don't think MLBs Players Association would agree to this.)
I don't know. Those are just my thoughts. I'm not claiming to be smart on this stuff.
Just some comments about your comments. The "scouting" aspect is the basic argument against this idea. Finding a guy like Justin Morneau in Canada is real scouting and the Twins should be proud. But the Twins picked Garbe ahead of Morneau and spent their money on Garbe. They can still scout. You would not be required to pick from the players in the "draft-camp", and it might be even more possible to slip other players by who do not attend.
Go through some draft histories and see the crappy players drafted. If you could get a better feel for the true level of talent the MLB draft would become much more valuable to the teams. I think you could then have draft pick trading like the NFL and NBA because you are getting much better understanding of what you are picking, and more importantly, what you are paying for.
Using the example of Garbe again, I watched him play ONE game, 4 ABs in Applachian League ball and knew he would not make it. Not only did I know, I was 100% certain. And this is after being excited to see the player they hyped. In fact, you could rule out many of the Twins picks (Matt Scanlon was one of them that I can recall off the top of my head) after the Danville Braves brought in a relief pitcher by the name of Tim Spooneyberger. I know that the minors are there to develop talent, but you could see the players who had potential or not in those ABs.
The question is, why not whittle those players BEFORE they are drafted?
So what do you think? What do you think of Mark's thoughts on the draft and scouting and the like? Send me an e-mail, or post some Comments.
HALL OF FAME THOUGHTS
From Travis Brunson:
I see that closing pitcher Bruce Sutter gets in with 76.9% of the vote, Relief Pitcher Goose Gossage is third with 64.6% of the vote, and our man Bert Blyleven is fifth overall this year with 53.3% of the vote. For those of us sharp with the calculator and statistics, we can then uncover that fully 46.7% of the Baseball Writers Association of America are clueless.
While direct comparisons are sloppy since Blyleven was a starter and the other two are relievers (in and of itself a huge differential, as starters are much more important to the business of making outs) lets just compare these three guys.
Sutter played for 12 seasons, Blyleven for 23, Gossage for 23. Or half a career in Sutter's case.
Sutter recorded 3,126 outs, Gossage 5,428, Blyleven 14,910 ... so this one is pretty close. But in the game of baseball, what do outs really mean anyway? Of course, it is rather tough to win or even end the bloody game without them, but I digress.
Sutter had 300 saves, Gossage 310, Blyleven as a starter had zero saves but a comparable and even better stat to use would be complete games, since pitching a complete game obviates the need for a relief pitcher to get a save. Blyleven's complete games = 242. And anyone that would argue that a one-inning save earned is even close to as impressive as a complete game is sniffing the glue. Thus, BB wins on this one too.
W-L Record: Sutter 68-71 (i.e. a losing record and at least 71 blown saves), Gossage 124-107 (win % of .537), Blyleven 287-250 (win % of .534) so this about the same.
ERA: Sutter does have a nice 2.78, Gossage = 3.01, Blyleven = 3.31. However, if one takes into account the fact that batters have to face relievers Sutter and Gossage at most once per game versus seeing starter BB on average four times a game, these numbers start to look pretty similar as anyone who knows anything about baseball (i.e. not BBWAA voters) knows that hitters are likely to have more success against pitchers they see more often in a game, especially as the pitcher tires.
Strikeouts: Sutter = 861, Gossage = 1,502, Blyleven = 3,701. So, again this one is pretty close.
Strikeout to Walk Ratio: Sutter = 2.79:1; Gossage = 2.05:1; Blyleven = 2.80:1. Not many free passes for our man here.
Strikeouts per 9 innings: Sutter = 7.4, Gossage = 7.5, Blyleven = 6.7. Again, the relievers are ahead, but again, the batters see them once, and usually in the part of the game late when the hitters are desperate to make something happen because they are likely losing at the time (i.e. swinging away). Whereas hitters (if they are at all disciplined) will try to make starting pitchers throw strikes and are more willing to take pitches and walks, making cheap and easy strikeouts a little less cheap and easy for starters.
Sutter averaged 25 saves per season in his 12 year career (300 total), yet he had 25 or more only in 7 seasons, and only once in his last five seasons. Care to guess how many MLB relief pitchers in 2005 had 25 or more saves? I'll tell you, a whopping 21 of them. In other words, I'm not impressed and I don't impress easy. And with the obvious exception of Mariano Rivera and maybe Jason Isringhausen if he can keep it up, there ain't no one on that list going to Cooperstown. Heck, the mediocre Twins season allowed Joe Nathan to get 43 saves last year, the same as Rivera. Eddie Guardado on the last place Mariners recorded 36 of them. Of all the major statistics, saves may be the most overrated of them all. A pitcher comes into the game fresh, for one inning, with no one on and a lead perhaps as big as 3 runs. Since any one particular inning in baseball is as likely to see a goose-egg on the scoreboard as your average World Cup Soccer Match, this is not a herculean task.
On the other hand, there is a very small handful of pitchers who have thrown more innings in a season than Bert's 271 and 267 in 1986 and 1987 during his 17th and 18th seasons. And only one player in one year who pitched more since then (Dave Stewart in 1988 with 275). That BB did this, this late in his career, five years later into his career after Sutter hung it up, and ten years career-wise after Sutter was dominant, should say something. The BBWAA clearly has a fair smattering of ijits on board. Obviously, in their collective view, it was time to elect a pure closer to the H.O.F.
If only having a clue about how a baseball game operates would be found in a majority of their heads. Saves ... give me a friggin break.
Thanks for sending this to me Travis. I obviously completely agree that Bert Blyleven is a far better Hall of Fame option than either Gossage or Sutter. As I wrote yesterday, I would have ranked Sutter 8th of Hall of Fame eligible, so I would not have voted for him at all. That said, there are some arguments and some agreements that I have with your information.
First, you are absolutely right that it starters and relievers should not be compared. Their stats are completely different. The "Save" statistic is the most overrated statistic now, for certain. Yes, even more overrated than the "Win" stat. However, to compare how Joe Nathan, Derrick Turnbow, Braden Looper or even Mariano Rivera recorded Saves to what Gossage and Sutter did is not at all the same. Very rarely did the elder players come in with no one on and no one out in the 9th inning to record a Save. These guys usually pitched two or even three innings a year. So, your statistic showing that 21 pitchers recorded 25 saves in 2005 does not tell me that Sutter is on the same level as the current guys. That simply tells us that the Closer's role is significantly different now than it was then. Back then, the closer had to get 6-10 outs without letting the other team tie the game or take the lead. Not just three. So, it is an interesting stat, but probably not applicable in this argument.
One side note - If people think that the Save stat is important, then Lee Smith should absolutely be in the Hall of Fame!
My main argument against Sutter is this. He had eight dominant years. In those years, he had ERA+ of 327, 127, 185, 149, 136, 126, 86 and 226. To compare, Lee Smith had 17 straight seasons in which his ERA+ was over 100 (100 is league average). He had five seasons over 150 and and 11 seasons when it was over 130. Gossage had ERA+ of over 100 in 13 of his final 16 big league seasons, nine of which were over 150. John Wetteland is another reliever who was on the ballot this year. He ended his career with nine straight seasons with an ERA+ over 119 and three over 238. He did not even get the 5% needed to stay on the ballot. Remember Doug Jones? He was the closer who barely hit 80 mph on a radar gun. He did not make it to the big leagues for good until he was 29. And then he had five straight seasons with an ERA+ over 150 and 11 over 110! Tom Henke's ERA+ was over 120 in 13 of his 14 seasons. Jeff Montgomery had 10 straight seasons with an ERA+ above 110. Roberto Hernandez had a streak of nine out of ten years with an ERA+ above 116. Todd Worrell's first six seasons with the Cardinals were all over 120. Even his brother Tim Worrell's ERA+ has been over 100 each of the last seven years.
Of course, the argument in support of Sutter would say that he was doing the job of both Worrell brothers, pitching the 8th and 9th innings and frequently the 7th. (also, I need to point out that ERA+ is just one statistic. Along with it, you would need to look at dominance-type of stats such as K/9, WHIP, and more.)
And those current guys... Mariano Rivera has pitched in ten full big league seasons. He has has an ERA+ of at least 178 each year. It has been over 200 seven times, and over 230 the last three years (323 in 2005). Trevor Hoffman has been over 100 in all 13 of his big league seasons, nine over 140. The past three years, Joe Nathan has had ERA+ of 145, 292 and 163. In the same time, Juan Rincon's ERA+ has been 126, 180 and 179. Jesse Crain's? 236 and 162.
Now, I don't want to say that Sutter is a bad pitcher. He clearly was great. He, along with Goose Gossage and Rollie Fingers and Kent Tekulve and Dan Quisenberry pioneered the closer's role from non-existent to what it became when Dennis Eckersley started getting those easy one inning saves in the late '80s. My argument is not that Sutter is not a Hall of Famer. It is just that if he is, Gossage should have been long ago!
There are many out there like the Atlanta Journal-Consitution old-school writer Furman Bisher who says he will never vote for a closer. I love his line saying that putting a closer in the Hall of Fame is like putting a golfer who could only putt into the golfing Hall of Fame.
However, in this day of baseball today, the Closer's role is a part of the game. And because of the five man rotation, and starting pitchers only going six or maybe seven innings, and middle relievers making $3 million a year, the closer is becoming more important. OK, not important, but a necessary part of any team. Should that position be ignored by Hall of Fame voters?
Of course Bert Blyleven is a Hall of Famer. I think we all know that!
(Question for discussion - are there any current closers that should make the Hall of Fame? If so, why? I would say Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman. Any others?)
So there you have it. Another topic to discuss. Send me an e-mail or leave some Comments below.
LINKS AND THINKS
And finally, just want to point you in the direction of some interesting articles.
Goose Gossage went off on the Hall of Fame voters saying that he should have gone into the Hall of Fame. Clearly upset, he added this comment:
"If Jim Rice had played in the Metrodome, he would have torn the place down, and that's nothing against Kirby Puckett, that's just the way it is," Gossage said.
See what else he had to say about others here! Can you say "Bitter" and this isn't the best way for him to gain additional support from the writers!
Bryan Smith at The Baseball Analysts is counting down his Top 75 Prospects. He started by sharing some who he gave Honorable Mention status to (one Twins player shows up here). The next day, he counted down prospects 51-75 (one Twins shows up there!). The next day gave us prospects 26-50. It's not up there yet, but today, he will count down his Top 25 prospects. So be sure to stop by there to see if any Twins rank in the Top 25. I would hope/expect that at least one will!
Stick and Ball Guy shares some more stats that tell us that Kevin Garnett and Wally Szczerbiak are doing great, but also why the Wolves continue to struggle!
I wish I could care more about articles like this. I know how I feel about the Twins getting a new stadium. I know that they really need a new stadium (unlike the Vikings or the Gophers) I know that they have made a number of proposals to the state that have all been rejected, if even considered. It has become just a topic of frustration that I just can't keep talking or reading about it!
Terry Ryan was interviewed on mlb.com radio yesterday with former Dodgers' GM Fred Claire and discusses a lot of issues including the new acquisitions. I really enjoy listening to TR talk. He comes across as very serious. He is pretty humble, yet you know that he puts a lot of thought into each move.
For more on why Bruce Sutter should not be in the Hall of Fame, check out Aaron Gleeman's article on the subject.
Unfortunately, the Hall of Fame loses some of its luster because of poor choices like Sutter getting in while Blyleven doesn't. Check out John Sickels' comments on the subject.
There is an interesting series taking place at Sickels' site. So far, you can pick which Catcher, First Baseman and Second Baseman you would build your franchise around. Of course, my picks so far were: Joe Mauer at catcher, Albert Pujols at 1B, and Rickie Weeks edging out Chase Utley (in my mind) at 2B. The rest of the positions will be covered over time.
And finally, I'm down to #54 on the Top Sports Blog list now. The fall continues!
And on that note, I will call it a day. I certainly hope that you have enjoy the mailbag and discussion. I hope you will participate with some comments. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
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