Half-Baked Hall Profile: Jim McCormick

August 3, 2014

Jim McCormick 1856-1918
Jim McCormick

Pitcher
Indianapolis Blues 1878
Cleveland Blues 1879-1884
Cincinnati Outlaw Reds 1884
Providence Grays 1885
Chicago White Stockings 1885-1886
Pittsburgh Alleghenys 1887

Career WAR: 75.5

Best Season: 1883 43 G 28-12 1.84 ERA 170 ERA+ 3.01 FIP 1.114 WHIP 8.5 WAR

Quote: “McCormick was a burly, Scottish born pitcher” – every McCormick bio ever.

“I desire his services very much, however, for I think that, under the new [pitching] rules [allowing for unrestricted overhand throwing], he will be the best pitcher on the diamond. If he is released, it will only be for a good sum of money.” – Cap Anson

Known For: Interesting that he’s not really known. Probably the most chronically overlooked pitchers in history. He was a very good pitcher for a long time, and makes honorable mention on just about everybody’s list of best players not in baseball’s HOF. Maybe best known as a good friend of King Kelly and Cap Anson.

The Bad: Was among the players unloaded by Al Spalding when he was attempting to eliminate drinking and gambling from his club.

The Magic Number: He won at least 20 games in every professional season except his first (when he won 5 games in 14 appearances) and his last (in which he lost 23 on his way out).

Should Have Gone With McCormick: In 1880, Jim had a record of 45-28. The rest of the Cleveland Blues pitching staff was 2-7. Overall McCormick appeared in 348 0f the team total 549 games in the six-season history of the Cleveland Blues.

Voter Comments:

19th best pitcher of all-time according to JAWS. First nine years of his career his ERA was always above average, twice leading the league. He was a workhorse. In 1883, he pitched 342 innings and only allowed one homer. – Beau


The Franchise 2002 (Pitchers)

July 31, 2014

SP Rick Reed 2.8 WAR
Almost a decade after the fact, Rick Reed told Anthony McCarron from the New York Daily News that  the day he was traded to the Twins the day baseball died for him.

“I wish I could’ve ended my career in New York,” Reed says. “When I was traded, I was tore up. I can say it now that I’m not playing. That’s how much we loved New York. Did I compete when I went to Minnesota? Absolutely. But there’s no place like New York.”

The numbers in 2002 certainly indicate this was not Tom Herr all over again. At the age of 37, Reed was the team’s healthiest, and therefore most consistent, starting pitcher.

SP Eric Milton 1.2 WAR
Eric Milton was not having a great season, though he seemed to be heading in the right direction when he heard his knee pop during warm ups for an early August game. It turned out he needed surgery. A month later, in the first start back, Ron Gardenhire pulled Milton with no outs in the fourth inning, starting an exchange with the manager that may have hastened the pitcher’s exit from Minnesota.

After being removed, Milton was visibly upset and was seen throwing his glove in the dugout. He had just been activated from the disabled list, but challenged Gardenhire’s rationale.

“I think that’s a bogus statement,” was among Milton’s comments on Monday. “If he thinks or the pitching coach thinks I can’t field a bunt without getting hurt, I shouldn’t be out there in the first place.”

Gardenhire said Milton never spoke to him personally about the situation.

“I haven’t talked to Milton at all,” Gardenhire said. “He didn’t point his emotions toward me. If he had done that, he would have come into this room. When he’s going out there and talking to you guys (the media), he’s not coming in here and talking to me.

“If somebody has something to say, they should come say it to me, really, if they have a problem or something they don’t like. That was a wrong way to go about his business as far as I’m concerned.”

Milton struggled in his next few starts, but pitched very well in his two playoff starts. The knee continued to be a problem, however, and Milton required another surgery in March of 2003. Though the expected return was two months, he ended up only making three starts late in the 2003 season. He was traded to the Phillies in the next offseason for Carlos Silva, Nick Punto, and Bobby Korecky.

SP Kyle Lohse 2.3 WAR
Lohse came into his own as a regular in the Twins rotation in 2002. It was a bit of a quiet emergence with Radke, Reed, Milton, Mays and later Santana also in the rotation.

SP Brad Radke 0.6 WAR
With all of the talk of contraction during the offseason, it would have been understandable if Brad Radke had exercised the escape clause in his contract to become a free agent. He stuck it out through the uncertainty, however, and stayed with the Twins. Radke’s workload was dramatically reduced in 2002 due to a few stints on the disabled list with a strained groin, though he credited the extra rest with keeping him stronger for the playoff run, in which the Radke made three very strong starts.

SP Joe Mays 0.1 WAR
After pitching ineffectively in his first three starts, Mays lost the rest of the first half of the season to an elbow injury. When he returned in late July he showed some flashes of his 2001 performance and some indication of regression. The highlights of the season were a shutout against Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox in August, and his mastery of the Angels in Game 1 of the ALCS.

SP Johan Santana 2.6 WAR
When Johan Santana joined the major league team on May 31 it was to fill in for the starting rotation through all of the injuries. He pitched extremely well while rarely being allowed to go deep into games. When the starting rotation became mostly healthy in September, Santana worked out of the bullpen.

CL Eddie Guardado 2.0 WAR
In addition to installing Jones as the everyday lead of hitter, Gardenhire also handed the job of closer to veteran Eddie Guardado. “Every Day Eddie” responded by having a career year, including a league leading 45 saves. What is interesting about Guardado, however, is that even with his gaudy numbers he was only the third most valuable reliever on the 2002 team. It says more about the role of closer than the talent of the players involved.

RP LaTroy Hawkins 2.3 WAR
Hawkins bounced back from a terrible season and a failed attempt at closing games to become one of the most dominant right-handed set up men in the league. One of the biggest changes was his walk rate: he went from walking 6.8 men per 9 IP in 2001 to walking just 1.7 men per 9 IP. His strikeout rate improved as well, and opponents batted just .217/.253/.307/.560 off of him. It was a dramatic turnaround for a guy who entered spring training with some uncertainty as to whether he would even make the team.

RP JC Romero 3.5 WAR
Romero was largely an ineffective starting pitcher in his first two seasons with the Twins, but his performance as a LOOGY in 2002 was dominant. While he was prone to walking batters (4.0 per 9 IP), when opponents did get hits off of him in 2002 it was usually just singles – he allowed a .289 slugging percentage. All-in-all, Romero was worth more WAR than any other Twins pitcher in 2002 even though he pitched in a very specialized role. Taken in combination with Hawkins, the Twins had the best 1-2 bullpen punch in baseball.

RP Tony Fiore 1.9 WAR
The Twins acquired Tony Fiore in mid-season 2001 when the Devil Rays released him. He pitched four games in 2001, but did not pitch full time until 2002. Fiore was the team’s long reliever (and occasional spot starter) who was famous for the palm ball, and for winning games. In 2002 he pitched very well, but relied on pitching in the right place at the right time to earn a 10-3 rccord out of the bullpen.

RP Michael Jackson 1.2 WAR
Jackson had been the closer for the Cleveland Indians in the late 90’s, but he was 37 years old when he signed as a free agent with the Twins for the 2002 season. It turned out he had one more good season in him, and was a welcome addition to a very good Twins bullpen in 2002.

 


The Franchise 2002 (Position Players)

July 29, 2014

C AJ Pierzynski 2.3 WAR
While Pierzynski continued to be a consistent performer for the Twins in his second full season, his reputation for talking during games started to become more and more public. A “jackass” is the term Oakland closer Billy Koch used to describe Pierzysnki. Gardenhire appreciated the edge that the team gained from Pierzynski’s antics:

“Actually, it’s entertaining for me to watch guys get mad at him,” he said. “Then I know it’s taking away from their game.”

1B Doug Mientkiewicz 1.5 WAR
After flirting with .400 at the start of the 2001 season, Mientkiewicz’ batting average hovered around the .240 mark much of the season, causing a lot of concern from fans and from the player himself. The standard line in reports was that he still was a strong defender but he was struggling at the plate. Occasionally his .365 on-base percentage was mentioned, but it was still an undervalued skill at the time. Overall, his production was down, but 2002 was not as disappointing of a season for Mientkiewicz as it seemed at the time to many.

2B Luis Rivas -0.2 WAR
Rivas’ play did not improve. Though the Twins gave a returning Jay Canizaro some time at second base, there was never a time when Rivas’ job seemed to be in jeopardy.

SS Cristian Guzman 1.4 WAR
Whether it was due to lingering injuries or just natural regression, Guzman took a giant step back from his All-Star performance in 2001. Perhaps due to the fact that he flashed some brilliance a season before, Guzman seemed to get more pressure from management and fans to improve than his double play partner.

3B Corey Koskie 4.0 WAR
Another year, another really good season from Corey Koskie. At age 29, however, he was starting to show signs of breaking down. 2002 began a steady decline of appearances and an increase in disabled list visits.

LF Jacque Jones 5.4 WAR
One of Ron Gardenhire’s first moves as manager was to make Jacque Jones the every day lead off hitter despite his struggles against left-handed pitching. Jones responded with a monster season, his best in the major leagues. Though he improved against lefties, he still had a fairly drastic split (.590 vs. .952 OPS) and would have been better utilized with a right-handed platoon partner.

CF Torii Hunter 3.5 WAR
On a July 17th game at Cleveland, Torri Hunter took a Danys Baez pitch in the ribs. In response, he picked up the baseball and fired back at the Cleveland pitcher. Hunter was tossed from the game and served a three-game suspension later in the season. This came less than two weeks after Hunter became the hero of the famous Bud Selig All-Star tie game when he leaped over the fence to  take a home run away from Barry Bonds. Hunter had his best year so far at the plate, and won his second consecutive Gold Glove, cementing himself as the standout player of the young team.

RF Bobby Kielty 2.7 WAR
RF Dustan Mohr 2.2 WAR
RF Michael Cuddyer 0.8 WAR
While Gardenhire did not want to platoon in left field, right field was a different story. When the team dealt Brian Buchanan early in the season, it left a right-field by committee situation. As it settled for the bulk of the season, Dustan Mohr played against left-handed pitching and Bobby Kielty played against right-handed pitching. That all changed late in the season when Michael Cuddyer was called up and earned the starting job for the playoffs by impressing Ron Gardenhire with his play in September.

DH David Ortiz 1.3 WAR
While David Ortiz produced with a career year and was reportedly the most popular Twin in the clubhouse, he was still considered a frustration to management. Some of it was due to injuries, but the history of the Twins and David Ortiz seemed to have been a rocky one from the start in the mid-90’s, when the team reportedly tried to teach him to shorten his stroke and punch balls up the middle or hit them the other way. Ortiz was very critical of this approach after he was gone, and the results on the field once he moved on seem to suggest he might have been right. In any case, rather than offering the DH arbitration, the Twins decided to release him in December of 2002. He went on, of course, to have a Hall of Fame career with the Boston Red Sox, but it is easy to forget that every other team passed on Ortiz when the Twins let him go.

UT Denny Hocking 0.1 WAR
Hocking’s 2002 may best be remembered as the time when he made the last out of the ALDS only to sustain an injury in the celebration that caused him to miss the ALCS.

 


Half-Baked Hall Profile: Cap Anson

July 27, 2014

Adrian Constantine Anson 1852-1922
Anson

First Base, Third Base, Catcher

Rockford Forest Citys 1871
Philadelphia Athletics 1872-1875
Chicago White Stockings/Colts 1876-1897

Career WAR: 93.9

Best Season: 1881 84 G .399/.442/.510/.952 172 OPS+ 82 RBI 5.8 WAR

Quote:

“The time may have been, and probably was, when base-ball was as rotten as horse racing, but that time has gone by. The men in control of base-ball matters are of the highest personal character, and no one will say anything against them. As to the charges against any individual player, I will believe them when they have been proved. Every thing [sic] possible has been done to protect the patrons of the National game, and efforts in that direction will never be abated. I don’t know of any crookedness in the ball field. If I did I’d undoubtedly say something about it.”

Known For: A career .334 hitter, at 6’2” 200 lbs, he was a huge man for his time. exceptional bat control, became player manager in 1877, belligerence towards opponents and umpires, perhaps the game’s first true national celebrity.

The Bad: One of the key figures in forcing black players out of professional baseball, was rated as the top bettor on baseball during the era.

3,000 Hits?: For a long time Anson was credited as baseball’s first 3,000 hit man. In fact, B=R lists him as having 3,435. That number is controversial for several reasons. First, it counts his time in the National Association from 1871-1875. MLB.com still does not count those hits. The first edition of Macmillan’s Baseball Encyclopedia published in 1969 gave him credit for just 2,995. Since then, historians have adjusted the number and it currently sits on 3,012.

Keep Your Day Job: Anson had a number of failed business attempts during and after his baseball career. Among those were a failed handball arena and bottled beer that exploded on the shelves. His most successful ventures were Bowling, in which he captained a championship team in 1904, and taking his family across the country performing a vaudeville act.

Not Even a Very Good Racist: Though his racist behavior was well documented, Anson probably gets too much credit for driving black players out of white baseball. It’s not that he wasn’t trying, but his influence over the rest of baseball has been pretty consistently overstated. He was a star on the field but by most accounts was not well respected by his peers, who would be unlikely to follow his lead if they weren’t moving that way on their own. At best, it is possible that without Anson, black players would have played a few more years before being completely eliminated from organized white baseball.

The best thing that can be said about Anson is that he was such a dominant player for such a long time that he is a Hall of Fame player and was elected by the WGOM in spite of his off-the-field failings.

Comments from Voters:

“I know it’s apples and oranges, but I think this hurt baseball more than Pete Rose did. That said, still voting for him. Anson helped make baseball popular as well in addition to the gaudy numbers.” – Beau

WGOM Election Results Page

SABR Bio

Actual Hall of Fame Page

 

 


The Franchise 2002 (Part 1)

July 24, 2014

2002 Minnesota Twins

Manager: Ron Gardenhire 1st season (1st with Minnesota 94-67)
94 W 67 L 768 RS 712 RA 1st AL Central 13.5 GA (Chicago 81-81)
4.77 RPG (AL = 4.81) 4.12 ERA (AL = 4.46)
.703 DER (4th AL)

All Stars (3) Eddie Guardado, Torii Hunter, AJ Pierzynski

Franchise (1901-2002) 7510-8227-111; 31-35 Post Season; 19-21 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-2002) 3296-3363-7; 23-24 Post Season; 11-10 WS

Although contraction had run into some significant legal walls, particularly in Minnesota, there was still some buzz that it might be on the table as the 2002 season opened.

While Selig’s plan loomed over the Twins like a storm cloud, it wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits of Twins fans who finally got  a taste of a winning team in 2001. The Twins only figured to be better in 2002, and that’s exactly what happened.

It is difficult to envision a small market team with more promise than this version of the Twins. Perhaps the biggest testament to this team is the career successes of its individual players, most of which occurred after the 2002 season. The roster had future stars (Hunter, Ortiz, Santana), and a load of future All-Stars and players who would play key roles on championship teams (sadly, with other teams). Additionally, the team had both Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer playing in the minor leagues at the time.

In some ways they lived up to the promise of 2002, bringing winning baseball to Minnesota for the bulk of the decade. Still, those Twins teams were never the best in the American League (maybe in 2006…) and they benefited a great deal from playing in a weak Central Division. In 2002, however, the playoff failures had not happened yet and it was a great time to be a Twins fan.


Half-Baked Hall Profile: Old Hoss Radbourn

July 22, 2014

Charles Gardner Radbourn 1854-1897
100213-MLB-Hoss-Radbourn-TV-ia2_20131002200713983_0_0

Pitcher
Providence Grays 1881-1885
Boston Beaneaters 1886-1889
Boston Reds 1890
Cincinnati Reds 1891

Quote:

Tired of tossing a little five-ounce baseball for two hours? I used to be a butcher. From four in the morning until eight at night, I knocked down steers with a 25-pound sledge. Tired from playing two hours a day for 10 times the money I used to get for 16 hours a day? – Old Hoss after being asked if he got tired from pitching so often.

Career WAR: 77.2 Total (73.5 Pitching)

Best Season: 1884 59-12 1.38 ERA 205 ERA+ 2.75 FIP 0.922 WHIP 19.1 WAR 73 GS 73 CG 678.2 IP

Known For: May have put together the finest single season for a pitcher in history in 1884, one of the first pitchers to vary his arm angles, known as one of the top fielding pitchers of his era, maintains a Twitter account even though he has been dead for more than a century.

The Bad: Was suspended at least twice in his career for “slovenly” play. Feuded with a teammate Charlie Sweeney during the 1884 season.

The Interesting: Where to start? During his feud with Sweeney, Hoss reportedly lost a game on purpose by throwing lob pitches (this is in his 59-12 season), earning one of his suspensions. Sweeney was the only pitcher left on the roster, and the pressure without his teammate/rival Hoss around got to be too much. Sweeney quit the team in the middle of a game in a drunken fit. Old Hoss, though still on suspension, suddenly had some leverage with the team, and made the deal that he would pitch the team to the pennant in exchange for some contractual changes, including a raise and an exemption from the reserve clause. The Grays agreed, and Old Hoss started 41 of the team’s last 51 games, and at one point won 18 straight, and, of course, led the team to the pennant.

Innovations that didn’t quite stick: Hoss experiemented with a pitch that bounced in the dirt then crossed the plate at the strike zone. Though there was nothing in the rules stating it was not legal, the umpires did not allow it. One newspaper report insisted that he pitched with both arms, though there is no other evidence that he was ambidextrous. He also was (incorrectly) credited with inventing the change up.

Hall of Fame Facial Hair: Check.

Flipping the Bird on Camera: First ever.

Training: A quart of whiskey every day.

After Baseball: Owned and operated a saloon and billiards parlor. Was shot in the face in a hunting accident in 1894. Died of complications due to syphilis.

About Getting Shot: There were rumors prior to the 1884 season that Radbourn had been shot in the thigh by a “female acquaintance” – it turned out the person who was shot was a cousin Old Hoss.

Comments from Voters:

“Also, as your filling out your ballots, remember to toss Old Hoss some love. I didn’t think I would have to mention that, but here we are, not voting for a man so good at baseball that he inspired a man born in a different century to fake a Twitter account for him.” – Nibbish

“has anyone tweeted this honor to Old Hoss from the WGOM account?” – Cheaptoy
“Do we want that bastard to know? ;-)” – brianS

WGOM Election Results Page

SABR Bio

Actual HOF Page

 

 

 

 

 


The Franchise 2001 (Pitchers)

July 20, 2014

SP Joe Mays 6.7 WAR
At age 25 everything came together for Joe Mays. In 2000, opposing batters got on base at a .364 rate and had an OPS of .825. In 2001 Mays allowed opposing batters just .289 OBP and .653 OPS. Interestingly, his strikeout rate, which was not high for MLB standards, went down in 2001. Instead, Mays got outs by the famous “pitching to contact” mantra that the Twins preached heavily in the decade (his walk rate fell as well). Opposing players put about the same number of balls in play against Mays as they had the previous season, but BABIP indicates that Mays improved from .327 to .246, in part due to a 10% drop in his line drive rate. Some of that likely was due to better command, but some of it was due to luck as well. In summary, Mays was not a dominant pitcher, but everything came together for him in 2001. In retrospect, it really isn’t a surprise that he came back down to earth in subsequent seasons.

SP Brad Radke 4.5 WAR
This was the 6th consecutive very good season for Radke. While he had always been a very good control pitcher, he maintained a major league high 1.0 BB/9 rate throughout the 2001 season. Aside from that, the only major difference between 2001 and previous seasons is that, for the first time in his career, Radke had a winning team to pitch for.

SP Eric Milton 3.6 WAR
Eric Milton starred in a couple of games that served to announce the Twins presence as a contender. The first was on April 15, when he struck out 10 in 7 innings of work, including the first four batters he faced, to help the Twins complete a four-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox and improve their record to 9-2. The second came on May 8, when he shutout the powerful Yankees, allowing just four hits.

SP Kyle Lohse -0.1 WAR
SP JC Romero -0.6 WAR
SP Rick Reed -0.1 WAR
The Twins had three very good starters at the top of the rotation, but spent the bulk of the season searching for a solid #4 and #5. At the beginning of the season Mark Redman looked to be a solid fourth starter, but injury derailed him and he was ultimately traded to address the closer problem. Lohse and Romero each got long looks as starting pitchers, and Kelly also had Adam Johnson, Brad Thomas, and Johan Santana start some games as well. With little success, the Twins turned to the trade market and acquired Rick Reed from the Mets. Reed had an undistinguished major league career with several teams from 1988-1995. He briefly came to spring training as a replacement player in 1995. Despite some pushback from other players when the strike ended, Reed began to make some noise with the New York Mets, earning a couple of trips to the All Star game, including in 2001. His performance down the stretch wasn’t very good for the Twins, however.

CL LaTroy Hawkins -0.7 WAR
Based on his strong performance out of the bullpen in 2000, Hawkins earned the job as the team’s closer in 2001. Simply put, as closer he was a mess. Despite finishing the year with 28 saves, Hawkins sported an ugly 5.96 ERA. While he was never really a strong control pitcher, his BB rate ballooned from a career rate of about 3.5 per 9 IP to 6.8 in 2001. He lost the closer role when the team traded for Todd Jones in August, though ultimately it was Eddie Guardado who took over. In short, 2001 was forgettable for Hawkins, and the team and fans were left wondering if he was finished as a major league caliber pitcher.

RP Eddie Guardado 1.3 WAR
Guardado had another very strong season, so much so that he was installed as the team’s closer at the end of the season. It went so well that Guardado would start the 2002 season as the team’s full time closer.

RP Hector Carrasco 0.3 WAR
RP Bob Wells 0.0 WAR
RP Travis Miller -0.1 WAR
In all the excitement of 2001, there was one area where the team seemed to take a few steps back. Carrasco, Wells, and Miller had quietly been the nucleus of the team’s area of strength from 1998-2000: the bullpen. In 2001 the bullpen was no longer the team’s strength, not just due to the high profile struggles of the team’s closer. These three all struggled to maintain the form of the previous seasons. Aside from a handful of innings for Wells and Miller in 2002, none of these three would pitch for the Twins again.


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