Whole Lotta Jay

It’s been a big day — a big week — for me at Baseball Prospectus, with the Replacement-Level Killers piece on Tuesday, the NL Hit List on Thursday, and then a double dip today featuring the AL Hit List and a piece comparing Tim Raines’ Hall of Fame case to that of Andre Dawson, who’s being inducted this weekend. There’s an ESPN Insider version of the latter — featured on the front page of the baseball section — and I also did a BP chat with the Hall of Fame as one of the main topics. Got all that? To the excerptomobile…

• The top story in the NL, in my view, was the #7-ranked Dodgers’ SNAFU from Tuesday night:

Can’t Get No Relief: Two days after the Dodger bullpen squanders a 4-0 eighth-inning lead to enable a four-game sweep by the Cardinals, they fritter away a five-run outburst against Tim Lincecum and lose in bizarre fashion when acting manger Don Mattingly is improperly charged with a second mound visit due to a technicality and is forced to remove Jonathan Broxton. The Dodgers’ closer has now been lit for 11 runs in his last 7 1/3 innings dating back to his meltdown against the Yanks, exacerbating a bullpen situation where Ramon Troncoso has been Ronald Belisario placed on the restricted list for a substance abuse problem, and George Sherrill waived due to excessive craptacularity. Add it up and it’s a six-game losing streak for a team that’s still got rotation issues and now sans Manny Ramirez for another three weeks, after compiling just four plate appearances since his last trip to the DL.

I think I gave myself a concussion banging my head against the wall over Mattingly’s gaffe, the proper resolution of which  should have resulted in him getting ejected and Broxton being forced to stay for one more hitter before being pulled. So much went wrong here. Mattingly forgot the rule, crew chief Tim McClelland incorrectly interpreted it according to MLB’s Bob Watson (and remained defiant about it the next day), Sherrill failed to ask for more time to warm up, and all of the Dodger relievers in the ninth failed to execute. It was defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, and while the Dodgers have since snapped out of their slide with a pair of 2-0 wins, they’re in fourth place, with a deeper hole to climb out of than they should have had.

• As for the AL, the gem was the #2-ranked Rays entry, which featured one of my favorite Simpsons references, albeit an uncomfortable one:

Baseball in the Groin! Baseball in the Groin!: With a 12-5 record this month, the Rays recover the .700 clip they showed during April, with Evan Longoria (.348/.463/.591 this month) leading the way. His two-run homer and two-hit effort—his fourth multi-hit game out of seven—against the Orioles helps erase the sting of a walkoff loss the previous night. Still feeling the sting is Carl Crawford (.348/.375/.609), who takes a pickoff throw right in the stones; whether out of brazen stupidity or sheer defiance, he’s still going to play without a helmet. Alas, George C. Scott is unavailable for the big-budget remake.

• As for Raines and Dawson, those who follow my JAWS series and in particular read last winter’s dispatch on the two cases will be familiar with most of it. Here’s a bit of the non-JAWS stuff:

Over the course of their fascinating and often dazzling careers, “The Hawk” notched more career hits, home runs and RBI than “The Rock” did, and he was awarded more hardware (whether he earned it is a different story):

Player     H    HR   RBI   SB   AVG   OBP   SLG  AS  MVP GG
Dawson   2774  438  1591  314  .279  .323  .482   8   1   8
Raines   2605  170   980  808  .294  .385  .425   7   0   0

As flashy as those credentials are, Raines trumps his former teammate not only in stolen bases (he’s fifth all time, and his 84.7 percent success rate ranks third among players with at least 300 attempts), but in the categories which equate most directly to measurable value on the diamond: he reached base over 500 times more than Dawson while using nearly 900 fewer outs in a similar number of opportunities, advancing himself or his teammates further around the diamond, and creating more runs per plate appearance basis:

Player     PA    BB    TOB   BG    Out   TAv
Dawson   10769   589  3474  5692  7404  .285
Raines   10359  1330  3977  5805  6528  .306

TOB is times on base (H + BB + HBP), BG is bases gained (TB + BB + HBP + SB – CS), presented here to show that Raines’ edge on the basepaths made up for Dawson’s edge in power. The comprehensive True Average metric boils all of that down, translating each player’s runs created per plate appearance onto a batting average scale.

…Along with a keen batting eye, dazzling speed, and all-around athleticism, Raines did offer a reasonable amount of pop. Like Dawson, he was at his most valuable during his time in Montreal (1979-1990) before injuries took their toll, and like Dawson, he was victimized by collusion, unable to cash in when his earning power was at its highest. He’s is often slighted because he doesn’t measure up to Rickey Henderson, his direct contemporary and a 2009 Hall of Fame inductee; unlike Henderson, he doesn’t have 3,000 hits, the all-time runs and stolen base records, or a persona backed by a bevy of amusingly apocryphal anecdotes. But if Rickey was the best leadoff hitter of all time, Raines has a strong case as the second best, and he was no less cerebral. Those bemoaning today’s increasingly power-oriented game take note: Raines was among the best ever at getting himself around the basepaths.

…[Dawson is] a below-average Hall of Famer, one who doesn’t advance the cause of recognizing the cream of the crop. If he’s worth enshrining, so are dozens of others around the diamond.

• As for the chat:

K. Olbermann (New York, NY): What does JAWS say about George Steinbrenner’s chances of making the Hall of Fame?

JJ: Oh, a wise guy, eh? JAWS is notably silent on the non-numerical aspects of the Hall, even moreso when it comes to owners. Joe Posnanski recently had an excellent post on the small sample of them in the Hall of Fame. Suffice it to say that if Tom Yawkey, an open racist who ran his team like a country club and spent lavishly in pursuit of a championship that never came is in the Hall of Fame, then Jeffrey Loria belongs, to say nothing of the twice-suspended Steinbrenner.

That said, I do believe you can make a stronger case for him than that. Yes, it’s possible the Yankees might not have won without his suspensions given that the groundwork for both was laid during them, but anyone who thinks he was divorced from the team’s affairs during that period is deluded – read John Helyar’s excellent Lords of the Realm to find out how involved he was in the Catfish Hunter signing, for example. I think he belongs. So does a previous Yankee owner, Jacob Ruppert.

Nick Stone (New York, NY): What’s up with Phil Hughes? His numbers lately haven’t been too impressive. Fatigue? Over-reliance on the cutter? Has the league adjusted to him and does he need to make a re-adjustment? Injury?

JJ: Hey, Nick, thanks for dropping by! As I noted first via Twitter yesterday (@jay_jaffe) and then again in today’s Hit List, Hughes has a 6.85 ERA since the Yankees skipped his turn a few weeks back, and a 5.51 ERA over his last 11 starts. I think everything you mentioned could be a factor in varying degrees, with the bottom line being that he doesn’t seem to be getting as much movement on his pitches, and hitters are responding better. Let’s not forget the fact that he’s pitched a ton of competitive innings this year already, far more so than he’s been on pace for in recent years, and could be having a physical and mental impact on his game.

Guillermo (Montevideo, Uruguay): hi Jay! So, we went pretty far in the WC (I am talking ’bout La Celeste here). And, coincidentally or not, Uruguay was the only South American team using some sort of “Sabermetrics” system. From what I´ve heard, this kind of things are extremely rare in soccer, since that sport suffers from the same “old school” mentality as baseball. So, no question here, just to comment that, down here in Montevideo, we´re still celebrating! 4th place in the WC doesn´t come along that often (in fact, Uruguay has the record of 3 fourth place finishes, and one not to be overtaken soon, since the only country with 2 is the now defunct Yugoslavia). Besides, the guys from the team have shown great proffesionalism and a way to carry themselves that can lead only to profound respect for their effort.

JJ: I meant to write about this somewhere, but I’ll say my piece here. I enjoyed this past World Cup immensely, in part because along with getting wrapped up in the US team’s fate I latched onto the Uruguay team from the get-go. I was already sympathetic to the cause, having come away impressed with Montevideo from visiting last fall, but their style of play and particularly the relentless attack of Diego Forlan made them one of the most riveting teams to watch in the whole tournament. I loved the Posnanski piece about “Garra Charrua” and the history of Uruaguayan soccer. And let’s face it, for the incredible spectrum of human drama that sports can produce, the Uruguay-Ghana match was just about the pinnacle of triumph and heartbreak.

So I’m pretty proud of the team too, and glad I got to connect with some people including BP’s possibly lone Uruguayan reader, and I’m thinking I’ve got to get the cable package which carries La Liga so I can see more Forlan in the future.

WARPspeedfreak (Headspace): Where do you rank Jim Thome among possible Hall of Famers? There doesn’t seem to be much buzz except from the bees. Care to stir up that nest?

Jay Jaffe: I certainly think Thome belongs, and so does JAWS, which had him one point ahead of the 1B standard at the outset of the year. Even so, he’s well behind Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire on the scale, and below Keith Hernandez and Will Clark. Not having an MVP award has led to the perception that he’s just an accumulator, and I think he’s gonna be a guy whose candidacy gets fought over for little reason. He belongs, though.

Whew, quite a week. Meanwhile, I found it quite eerie that Ralph Houk passed away on the same day I wrote about him and chatted about him with Steve Goldman. Goldi-locks has stuff up at BP and the Pinstriped Bible about Houk. Don’t miss it.

And while we’re on the subject of friends and colleagues, Will Carroll’s got a must-read post about the announcement that baseball will begin testing minor leaguers for human growth hormone. He points out that the test itself isn’t very effective, hGH is expensive for a minor leaguer and needs to be stored properly, something these young road warriors probably can’t do even if they could afford it, hGH itself isn’t proven to be effective, and that this announcement is more about public relations than anything else — not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, as he points out. For the shorter version, you can just absorb the tweet he passed along from former Giants minor leaguer Garrett Broshuis: “Testing minor leaguers for HGH is like looking in your daughter’s room for Playboys. You’re looking in the wrong place.”

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