Friday’s Child: The Trade Deadline Approacheth

Another busy week at Baseball Prospectus. On Wednesday, I examined the Hall of Fame’s announcement of new voting procedures to consider manager, executives, umpires and long-retired players — basically a rebranding of the unloved Veterans Committee in any of its forms, including the expanded format one which begat us hearing that Reggie Jackson didn’t think Marvin Miller was worth his vote:

That august body, which had been enlarged to incorporate all living members of the Hall of Fame proper, the surviving Ford C. Frick Award and J.G. Taylor Spink Award recipients, and a couple of old VC members whose terms hadn’t expired, didn’t elect a single new member in 2003, 2005, or 2007. In the two cycles since being retooled again, the new VC tabbed three managers (Billy Southworth, Dick Williams, and Whitey Herzog), three executives (Barney Dreyfuss, Bowie Kuhn, and Walter O’Malley) and one umpire (Doug Harvey) but just one player (Joe Gordon) for enshrinement. All eight of those honorees gained entry via smaller panels appointed by the board, not via the larger body; Gordon fell into the category of pre-1943 players, separate from those whose careers began after that year.

It’s tempting to say good riddance to the unwieldy group, the most glaring failure of which was their inability to get former Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Marvin Miller into Cooperstown. Not even Reggie Jackson, one of the first marquee players to profit from the free agent system that flowered on Miller’s watch, could find it in himself to recognize the tireless labor leader with a vote in his favor. “I looked at those ballots, and there was no one to put in,” he said after the 2007 vote. When Miller advocates Brooks Robinson, Tom Seaver, and Robin Roberts—a member of the group that originally chose Miller to take over the union—declined seats on the committee charged with electing executives, Miller took the unprecedented step of asking not to be considered on future ballots.

Though the new VC pitched four shutouts in the player election department, one can argue that they at least did no harm by anointing an unworthy player. Nonetheless, a couple of omissions do stand out. Both the traditional numbers and the JAWS ones show Ron Santo as eminently worthy of enshrinement, at times ranking as the best eligible hitter not in the Hall of Fame. While he received majorities in the 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009 votes, he has yet attain the 75 percent supermajority necessary for election. Aside from him and the still-active Joe Torre, whose managerial contributions will put him over the hump but cannot currently be considered part of his case, none of the other players most popular in those votes — Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Maury Wills, Vada Pinson, and Luis Tiant — have strong enough credentials when compared to the players elected by the writers.

The problem with the dismissal of the big-bodied new VC is that it is being replaced by something which looks a whole lot like that old VC, or the more recently constituted subcommittees: 16-member Voting Committees for each of the three eras outlined by the reorganization, comprised of “Hall of Famers, major league executives and historians/veteran media members,” the latter a group which has been long on ex-newspaper columnists and short on research scholars; why in the hell aren’t John Thorn, Pete Palmer, and Bill James — three men who’ve added more to our baseball knowledge than just about any BBWAA member — among the “historians/veteran media members” included? The old VC, which generally consisted of 15 members, was guilty of some of the most flagrant electoral mistakes in the Hall’s history… Just 15 of the 84 qualifying players elected by the old VC exceed the JAWS standards, and with the exception of shortstop, at least the two lowest-ranked players at every position came from that VC.

Elsewhere in that piece, I took a look at the assumption — circulated widely in the wake of last week’s retirement announcement, and pitched to me on a few radio appearances — that Lou Piniella should be in the Hall of Fame as a manager. Short answer: no, because he won only one pennant in 23 years.

While that was going on, I gave BP alum Keith Law an assist on a piece regarding Omar Vizquel’s Hall of Fame chances, providing him with the JAWS numbers showing how far below the standards he ranks and getting a nice mention in return:

Jay Jaffe, who blogs at Futility Infielder and Baseball Prospectus, has come up with his own Hall of Fame worthiness stat, JAWS, that has Vizquel well below the career and peak standards for a Hall of Fame shortstop, ahead of only Rabbit Maranville (maybe the worst Hall of Fame selection, period) and Luis Aparicio.

Aparicio himself was a poor selection, among the worst by the BBWAA, as he was a terrible hitter who finished in the bottom 10 in his league in OPS 12 times. And while some voters will rely on the “if player X is in, player Y should be too” argument, it’s a horrible way to build a meaningful monument to great players because it will lead to the sort of quick dilution that has Jim Rice and (could have) Omar Vizquel in the Hall. In fact, Jaffe’s statistic — which averages a player’s peak Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP) score with his total career WARP — has Vizquel below such clear non-candidates as Nomar Garciaparra, Chris Speier and Garry Templeton.

I’ve also had readers point to Vizquel’s raw hit total, but without any consideration of all the outs required to get those hits — 8,030 as I write this, most among active players and 14th most all time.

To put that in context, Vizquel ranks 50th in hits, 137th in total bases and 61st in times on base, but made more outs than all but 13 other players in history to achieve even those modest rankings. Hall of Fame hitters produce more offense while using fewer outs, but Vizquel’s offense was less valuable than his raw hit total would indicate because of how much he hurt his team by making so many outs as a hitter. He’s been below average offensively for his career, even for a shortstop, dancing on the edge of replacement level as a hitter, and he hasn’t done enough on defense to overcome all of those outs he’s made with his bat.

In the wake of all of this Cooperstown chatter, I recorded a 30-or-so minute segment on this week’s BP Podcast, clashing with Kevin Goldstein over two very different visions of the Hall of Fame. My ideal is that it be a meritocracy, while KG sees its duty to emphasize the “fame.” His is not an entirely invalid argument, but taken to its logical extension, it becomes a dangerously stupid one where a clown like John Rocker might wind up inside (luckily he never got his 10 years before heading back to trailer-park oblivion).

As for this week’s Hit Lists, the approaching trade deadline has provided a fair bit of extra fodder. A few bits from the NL’s lower reaches:

[#13 Brewers] Good Weeks and Bad Weeks: The Brewers briefly show signs of being almost lifelike with a five-game winning streak, but a pair of double-digit drubbings in Cincinnati — 22 runs allowed over two games — quells any threat of .500. While GM Doug Melvin mulls whether or not to trade Prince Fielder and/or Corey Hart to San Francisco, Texas, Anaheim, or elsewhere, Rickie Weeks homers in three straight games and five of his last nine. He’s got a career high 22, as many as Hart and just two less than Fielder, and has played in all but two games while hitting .276/.376/.492.

[#14 Diamondbacks] Snake-Whacking Day II: Interim general manager Jerry DiPoto pulls off a real howler of a trade, sending Dan Haren to the Angels for a whole lot of very little. While Haren had a 4.60 ERA, 1.5 HR/9 and .450 SNWP, those marks owe much to a .350 BABIP and 17.7 HR/FB%; his 3.16 SIERA is very close to last year’s 2.92 mark. That he had a favorable contract ($29 million owed for 2010-2011 or $41 million for 2010-2012) only exacerbates the situation; the Snakes dealt from weakness, and it certainly doesn’t help matters to hear DiPoto cite Saunders’ win total and winning percentage, even if that is just spin. Luckily the Diamondbacks lose six straight to remind us that they’re as inept on the field as they are in the front office.

[#15 Astros] You’re Still Here? Knocked out due to injury in his last start, Roy Oswalt simply gets knocked around in his return. He’s still around, for the moment as he deliberates on a deal to the Phillies. Given that the Astros lineup has provided him with just four runs of support over his last six starts, you couldn’t blame him for jumping at the chance to leave. Meanwhile, Brett Myers raises his own trade value with a 12-strikeout complete game against the Cubs; he’s put up a 1.67 ERA in five starts this month, never allowing more than two runs in a start, and now ranks 20th in the league in SNWP.

Hours after that went up, Oswalt accepted the trade. As for the AL, I’ll leave you with the one containing my favorite rumor of the week:

[#12 Royals] Royal Pains: It’s a brutal week for the Royals, who lose both David DeJesus and Gil Meche for the season due to surgeries for thumb and shoulder injuries, respectively. For DeJesus, the tragedy is that he was hitting at a career-best .295 clip and would have netted a nice return under sell-high conditions; he’s got a $6 million option for next year, but the organization is better off finding out if Alex Gordon’s shift to the outfield can pay off. For Meche, the tragedy lies in the Royals’ utter mismanagement of last year’s shoulder woes. Since his 131-pitch shutout last June 16, he’d gone 2-9 with a 7.52 ERA, 2.1 HR/9 and more walks than strikeouts; the Royals, in their epic stupidity, pushed him to 121 pitches during a dead arm period shortly afterwards. For those of us who love comedy, the tragedy lies in the latter injury quashing a timeless trade rumor involving Meche, Jose Guillen, Kyle Farnsworth, Jeff Francoeur, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. What, no Willie Bloomquist?

Fun stuff. My colleagues Goldstein and Christina Kahrl are frantically keeping up with all the deadline activity at Baseball Prospectus. Check out their expert analysis whenever a deal goes down. As for me, I don’t expect a whole lot to happen where the Yankees and Dodgers are concerned. There have been a slew of conflicting rumors regarding the Yanks’ interest in Adam Dunn to be their designated hitter, but the Nationals are apparently asking for an arm, a leg, and two organs to be named later; hell, the Blue Jays apparently asked for überprospect Jesus Montero in exchange for reliever Scott Downs. I’d be surprised if they get much done, but wouldn’t worry too much; the Yankees can still make upgrades during the August waiver period because of their ability to take on salary. The Dodgers may be working on a Ted Lilly deal, a move I’d approve of, but only with a blood oath from Stupid Flanders that he’ll offer arbitration following the season so as to collect on the draft picks Lilly’s Type A status would yield. I don’t really understand the Ryan Theriot angle given the Dodgers’ glut of second basemen unless it means the Cubs will be giving the Dodgers a whole lotta cash.

If I have one piece of advice as the trade deadline approaches and you immerse yourself in the instant-analysis world of Twitter, it’s this: be skeptical about every rumor but less so about those coming from Ken Rosenthal, who’s always dialed into the best sources. The stuff that comes from most of the other big names — Jon Heyman, Peter Gammons and Buster Olney come to mind — is generally a hell of a lot less reliable, often serving its purpose as a sounding board or a misdirection play. Also, if you start to hyperventilate, breathe into a paper bag.

See you on the other side…

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