Westwood Blues

Monday, May 30, 2005

Damaged Goods?

From a John Sickels post dated May 26th:
"Several comments in the diaries lately about Jerome Williams of the Giants, and about how bad he is pitching at Triple-A.

No kidding.

1-4, 9.39 ERA, 30.2 innings, 47 hits, 15/17 K/BB.

Ugh. His ratios have never been as good as his reputation, but those are downright dismal numbers. Most worrisome is the awful K/BB ratio.

Oftentimes, when a pitcher's ratios deteriorate this sharply, there is some sort of underlying health issue. If I were a betting man, I'd lay good odds right now that Williams is either hiding an injury, or is about to suffer an injury."


I go out of town for the holiday weekend and all hell breaks loose. The LaTroy Hawkins for Williams and Aardsma trade has already been thoroughly ripped to shreds elsewhere in the blogosphere, so there's not much point in piling on. But I'll pile on anyway. Sort of.

Bottom line: The trade sucks, but I'm not as upset about it as most Giants fans.
The Giants recieved a very effective reliever, but to acquire said reliever the Giants overpaid by giving up a very promising young pitcher and a B-level prospect.

I'm not as high on David Aardsma as a lot of other Giants fans. I just don't think he has the right combination of stuff, mechanics, and control to be anything more than an average 6th/7th inning guy. Just my two cents. Your mileage may vary.

Losing Jerome Williams sucks. I mean really sucks. Need I say more?

Aside from overpaying and trading Williams when his trade value was at its very lowest, what particularly bothers me about the trade is that it leaves me with a deck chairs/Titanic feeling. Does adding Hawkins to bullpen improve the team? Yes. Will this trade improve the playoff chances of a .500ish team? No.

Beware, the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt

As recently as a couple of years ago, Giants fans drooled over the prospects of seeing elite hurlers Jesse Foppert, Jerome Williams, and Kurt Ainsworth becoming mainstays of the rotation for years to come. In Jesse Foppert, the Giants had a power arm who dominated both AA and AAA in 2002 and who was ranked as the top pitching prospect in baseball. Kurt Ainsworth was a polished pitcher who would become a solid #3 starter. Jerome Williams would develop into a reliable starter. The Giants would have three outstanding young arms to anchor the rotation. Things didn't work out as planned.

Some wise sage at Baseball Prospectus predicted that of the three-headed prospect monster, one would get hurt, one would be traded, and the other would be a solid major leaguer. Well, here we are two and a half years later and all three pitchers have had a major surgery, one is essentially done as a major leaguer, two were traded, and one is in the minors. Jesse Foppert may very well develop into a productive major leaguer (and I think he will). But as of now, things haven't work out as planned.

Were I a betting man, I'd bet that Jerome Williams will go on to have a successful major league career. Through his age 22 season, Williams has posted an ERA+ of 116 in 260 innings. Williams' elbow surgery and his spectacularly awful performance thusfar in 2005 certainly raises a red flag, but wow, giving up on a 23 year-old with those numbers is foolish.

Of course, in July 2003 I thought that Kurt Ainsworth would go on to have a successful major league career. He didn't.

We won't know who won this trade for a few more years. But in case you have visions of Jerome Williams and/or David Aardsma becoming solid major leaguers in the next few years (and many Giants fans do), keep the cautionary tales of young pitcher flameouts in the back of your mind. When it comes to young pitchers, things don't always work out as planned.


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Keltner List: William Nuschler Clark, Jr.

Marc Normandin of the excellent Beyond the Boxscore blog recently authored a post in which he argues that Will Clark is a Hall of Famer. So, is Will Clark in fact a Hall of Famer? Let's use the Keltner List to evaluate The Thrill's qualifications for Cooperstown. The Keltner List, a fun toy developed by Bill James, is a series of 15 questions used to evaluate a candidate's credentials for enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

Bill James ranked Clark as the best player in baseball for the 1989 season. Clark was generally regarded as one of the best players in baseball from about 1987-1992, although he was probably not widely considered to be the single best player in baseball at any point in his career.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

Rank on team by OPS+

1987: 1
1988: 1
1989: 2
1990: 2
1991: 1
1992: 1
1993: 4
1994: 1
1995: 2
1996: 4
1997: 3
1998: 2

With the exception of 1993 and possibly 1989 and 1990, Clark was the best player on the Giants during his tenure with the organization. In 1994, Clark was probably the best player on the Rangers.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

In 1988, Clark posted an OPS+ of 160, which ranked him first among ML 1B. In 1989, Clark again lead all Major League 1B with an OPS+ of 175. In 1991, Clark posted an OPS+ of 152, tops among NL 1B, but behind Frank Thomas and Rafael Palmeiro of the AL.

Clark won the NL 1B Silver Slugger Award in 1989 and 1991. Clark won the NL 1B Gold Glove in 1991.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

Absolutely. His teams went to the playoffs in 1987, 1989, 1996, 1998, and 2000. Clark's team was in the pennant race in 1993 and to some extent in 1990.

To see how Clark impacted the pennant races in each of those years I used the day-by-day database at Baseball Musings to calculate Clark's performance during the month of September in each of the years his team was involved in a pennant race.

1987: .375/.468/.688 with 6 HRs in 24 games
1989: .319/.406/.549 in 25 games
1990: .333/.402/.485 in 28 games
1993: .289/.389/.444 in 13 games
1996: .287/.378/.468 in 26 games
1998: .303/.369/.487 in 21 games
2000: .267/.345/.467 in 24 games

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

Definitely. In his final year in The Show he posted a .319/.418/.546 line, good for an OPS+ of 145. The year prior to that he hit .303/.395/.482, with an EqA of .304.

6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

The eternally snubbed Bert Blyleven and Ron Santo probably have a better case for Cooperstown than Clark.

7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?

Here are The Thrill's 10 most similar batters from baseball-reference.com:

Luis Gonzalez
Edgar Martinez
John Olerud
Cecil Cooper
Bernie Williams
Bob Johnson
Paul O'Neill
Ellis Burks
Don Mattingly
Reggie Smith

None of these players are in the Hall of Fame and none of them are slam dunk, first ballot Hall of Famers. Edgar Martinez was probably a Hall of Famer as a hitter, but the fact that he was a one-dimensional DH will probably keep him out of Cooperstown. Bernie Williams should be a Hall of Famer in my humble opinion, but a fair amount of his value comes from defense and being the CF of a Yankee dynasty. Don Mattingly is a borderline Hall of Famer, but that's another topic for another time.

Going through Clark's 10 most similar batters on a year-by-year basis, there is at least one Hall of Famer among Clark's top 10 comps from Clark's age 23 season through his age 29 season. If Bernie Williams is elected to the Hall of Fame, Clark will have at least one Hall of Famer on his 10 most similar batters list for each year of his career.

Marc Normandin uses some advanced metrics to argue that Clark's numbers are better than that of the average Hall of Fame first baseman.
"Will Clark
WARP3: 101.8
Peak: 50.4
JAWS: 76.1
BRAR: 750
BRAA: 515
FRAA: 57

What does that all mean though? Well, here the average HoF'er DT scores for first basemen:

WARP3: 98.2
Peak: 43.1
JAWS: 70.7
BRAR: 717
BRAA: 465

Besides career WARP3, Clark is ahead by a good deal in every criteria. His WARP3 is still higher than the average, and he retired at age 36 (.345/.426/.655 was his 2000 line with the Cardinals, with a .301/.413/.473 for the Orioles; .319/.418/.546 overall). Translation: He was still productive, and not hurting his stats in any way)."
8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

No. Clark scores a 13 on the Black Ink test, while an average Hall of Famer scores 27. Clark scores a 94 on the Gray Ink test, while an average Hall of Famer scores 144. Using the Hall of Fame Career Standards test, Clark scores a 41.9, while an average Hall of Famer scores 50. The Hall of Fame monitor (which measures how likely a player is to make it to Cooperstown, not how deserving he is) shows Clark with a score of 83.5, while a likely Hall of Famer scores 100.

One could argue that if an average Hall of Famer scores a 50 on the Hall of Fame Standards test, then a score in the low 40s might be good enough to get in as a borderline Hall of Famer. For example, of the six players who scored a 42 on the test and who are also HOF eligible, four are in the Hall of Fame.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

No, Clark wasn't "significantly better" than his stats would suggest. However, one point that can't be emphasized enough is that the prime of Clark's career occurred in the late 80s and the first couple years of the 90s, before the offensive explosion of the mid 1990s. In a year 2005 context, hitting 29 HRs in a year may not seem too impressive, but keep in mind that Clark's 29 HRs in 1988 ranked him third in the league.

During the peak of his career, Clark played his home games at Candlestick Park, a notorious pitcher's park. In only two years of his fifteen year playing career (1997 and 1998) did Clark play his home games in a park with a park factor that favored hitters for that year.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

In The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, James ranks Clark as the 14th best first baseman in baseball history. The only Hall of Fame eligible player ranked ahead of Clark who is not already in the Hall of Fame is Don Mattingly. Also, James ranks Clark ahead of Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda, Dan Brouthers, Roger Connor, George Sisler, Frank Chance, Bill Terry, Jim Bottomley, and George Kelly.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

Clark never won an MVP. He finished fifth in 1987 and 1988, second in 1989, and fourth in 1991.

Although he didn't win the MVP award, Clark put together an "MVP-type" season in 1989. That year Clark became only the third player in major league history to have 40 or more offensive win shares and not win the league MVP (Ted Williams in 1947 and Mickey Mantle in 1961 were the others).

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?

Clark was an All-Star in 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1994. Hall of Famers typically play in more than six All-Star games, although Willie McCovey was only a six-time All-Star.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

His team came very close to winning the pennant in 1987 when Clark was the best player on his team. His team did win the pennant in 1989 when Clark was arguably the best player on his team. Give me Will Clark in the prime of his career and I'll take my chances.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

Will Clark has the sweetest swing in the history of baseball. Years from now, baseball fans will point to Will Clark's swing as the prototypical swing of a left-handed hitter. That has to count for something, right?

No, Clark didn't "change the game" in any way.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Absofuckinglutely. The Thrill was a genuine throwback. He played the game the way it was supposed to be played. His style, hustle and legendary gameface (the Nuschler) won him a whole lot of fans.

Conclusion: It's a close call, but Will Clark gets my vote for the Hall of Fame.

I'll be the first to admit that as a Giants fan who was raised on the Humm Baby Giants of the late 80s and as someone who practically worships Will Clark, I may not be the most objective observer when it comes to analyzing The Thrill's chances for the Hall of Fame. That said, Will Clark is a Hall of Famer, damnit.

So, what do you think? Does Will Clark belong in the Hall of Fame?

Update 10:20 PM: Further discussion can be found at OBM. As always, Professor Adams chimes in with some insightful commentary:
"On page 213 of his book WIN SHARES, Bill James argues that Will Clark's 1989 season was the best hitter's season any player had during the 1980s -- better than any season by Mattingly, Brett, Boggs, Murphy, Schmidt , or anyone else. In fact, James assigns Clark 44 Win Shares for 1989, which is higher than any season for Mays, Aaron, DiMaggio, Foxx, or McGuire. And while I find it difficult to believe that Clark at his best was actually better than these all-time greats at their best, Bill James has surely forgotten more about baseball than I will ever know."
Read the whole thing.


Monday, May 16, 2005

The Marquis de Benard

When your everyday CF is hitting .202/.243/.288 with shoddy defense and he is still in the starting lineup, one can't help but get Marvin Benard/Dusty flashbacks. Make it stop!

To twist the knife (or in this case the fork) a little further, here is what Grissom has been hitting over his last 14 games: .098/.178/.098. Not to mention the fact that he's grounded into 15 or 16 thousand double plays this year.

Meanwhile, the Giants have an alternative CF in Jason Ellison who is currently hitting .372/.417/.577. Moreover, Ellison has much better defensive range in CF than the rapidly declining Grissom.

Ellison is probably playing over his head and his numbers will likely come back down to earth, but the point is that he should be given an opportunity to prove that his numbers aren't a fluke. Ellison should be the everyday CF. And by everyday CF, I mean everyday CF. Of course, the goal isn't necessarily to maximize Ellison's playing time as much as it is to get Grissom out of the everyday lineup, but having Ellison play his natural position of CF rather than a corner OF can give Ellison the playing time he deserves as well as send the Marquis de everhack on a much needed vacation to pinesville.

Here is a blurb from richdraper v.2.0 on playing time:
"Tough decisions for Alou: It's not easy for Alou to fill out his lineup card lately. There's no clear-cut decisions on who should start.

Neither right fielder Jason Ellison nor first baseman Pedro Feliz were in the lineup Friday night.

"I'm only benching a guy hitting .391 and a guy hitting .305," Alou said of Ellison and Feliz, respectively. "That's not very smart."

Remember, this is with Barry Bonds and J.T. Snow out of the lineup.

"When J.T. returns, it's really going to be difficult," Alou said. "Right now I'm not paying a whole lot of attention to batting averages. I'm trying to get everybody involved."
Umm, no that isn't very smart, Felipe. Bench Grissom.

Around the Blogoshpere

Mlb.com has hopped on board the blogging bandwagon and is now hosting baseball blogs. You can read Brooks Robinson's blog or Daron Sutton's musings. You can even check out what's happening in Dodgertown by reading The Satanic Doctrine. And, yes, there is even a Giants blog.


Monday, May 09, 2005


A huge welcome back to UCSB infielder and senior co-captain Chris Malec, who returned to the diamond this weekend just weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.

Amazingly enough, Malec hit a grand slam in his first AB on Saturday to help lead the Gauchos to victory over the #10 ranked Long Beachless State 49ers The Beach Dirtbags on Saturday. Way to go, Chris Malec! You have a lot of people rooting for you to succeed both on and off the diamond.

BA's Will Kimmey authors an outstanding feature story on Malec which can be read here.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Continue Gratuitous Swearing

Bonds has another surgery.

When will he be back? The All-Star break? August? Next year? I don't know what to think anymore.

Update 10:10: From respected injury guru Will Carroll (link via Kenshin at McCovey Chronicles)
"The news sounds bad, but really isn't. For a player not named Barry Bonds, it probably wouldn't even be called surgery. Technically, any intrusion into the body for a medical procedure is surgery, so the arthroscope-aided irrigation and antibiotic injection does qualify. It's hardly the equivalent of the other surgeries that he's had on the knee. Still, this does set back Bonds a matter of weeks, meaning an optimistic timeframe is now June rather than May. Assuming the procedure worked, the fluid buildup should stop, Bonds should be more comfortable, and he can get back to concentrating on getting back on the field. New target? Interleague play in early June as a DH."