Westwood Blues

Friday, December 30, 2005

Around the Blogosphere: Will Clark and Win Shares

* Many Go; Few Understand uses Win Shares to examine Will Clark's qualifications for Cooperstown. He concludes that "a very strong case can be made that Will Clark is a bona fide Hall of Famer."

* Dave Studeman of the Hardball Times asks Why Not Will?
"Altogether, Clark amassed 331 Win Shares in his 15-year career, the 114th highest total in baseball history. (There are 258 players in the Hall.)


Clark was almost certainly the best first baseman in the majors from 1988 to 1991, sort of post-Mattingly/Murray and pre-Thomas/Bagwell, and he wasn't too shabby in many of his other years. Personally, I would vote for Clark ahead of his college teammate, Rafael Palmeiro (regardless of the steroid controversy).

Still, Clark is a borderline call at this point. He didn't dominate at his position for a long enough time, and he didn't win an MVP award. First base is a deep position; If you vote for Clark, you should strongly consider McGriff too.
* Taking his cue from Studeman's article, Many Go; Few Understand uses Win Shares to compare Clark and McGriff.
"While an argument can be made for Clark's peak being HOF worthy, I don't think the same can be said for McGriff. McGriff certainly had a very respectable peak, but it wasn't something that awes. Clark's five year peak is impressive and complemented with everything else, I think it makes HOF worthy -- not an upper echelon inductee, but one worthy of Cooperstown."


Keltner List: William Nuschler Clark, Jr.
What Would Krukow Do?
The Thrill Talks Copperstown
Will Clark vs. Mark McGwire

Others Blogging:

Beyond the Boxscore: Will the Thrill for Cooperstown


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Can Finley Bounce Back?

There was much celebrating in Giantsville as the portly Fonzie was traded. And the Giants got something of value in return for him. But does Steve Finley still have any value?

Steve Finley, 2006 ZiPS projection (as a member of the Angels):

.223 / .281 /.359

Gack! Run away! Women and children first!

The rebuttal to the ZiPS projection is that it is skewed by his 2005 season. Finley switched leagues after spending nearly all of his career in the NL. He's only two years removed from an outstanding year.


2003: 113
2004: 110
2005: 73

The rebuttal to the rebuttal is that Finley is Done. I mean Done with a capital D. His nightmarish 2005 numbers are horrific enough, but he just looked like he was Done.

Being a SoCaler, I catch a fair number of Angels games. Watching Steve Finley hit last season was almost as painful as listening to Rex Hudler.

This ain't a 20-something player coming off a down year. Its not at all uncommon for an elderly OF to simply fall off a cliff and never recover.

All that said, I like the deal.

1) Sure, Finley may hit no better than Dante Powell (and I mean the 2005 version of Dante Powell), but, as discussed above, there is a fair chance he could be better than that.

More than anything I've grown tired of some of the bland, unimaginative acquisitions of recent years. No more Tuckers or Bomkos, please. Give me a high risk guy who might give me Neifi flashbacks but might pleasantly surprise me.

2) Fonzie is gone! Gone!

3) Trade value (a minor point) - If Finley is so much as ok next year, he'll have some value at the trade deadline (whether the Giants crash and burn and firesale him for a B-/C+ prospect, or if the Giants want to use their OF depth to address another need). Teams are always looking for OF help / left-handed pinch hitters at the July deadline. There's a good chance he won't be moved at all, but if the Giants want to move him, they can get something in return.

Overweight, weak hitting 3B, several years removed from his last good season? There's no demand for that at the trade deadline.

Something Else to Consider

I said I would link to this every time Sabean acquires an elderly player (I should just get a macro, considering the number of old guys Sabean acquires), so here goes:
"Give Brian Sabean a little credit. He has a feel for this phenomenon, and he's taken advantage of it. In a crazy way, this is the "Moneyball" philosophy. Approach the market in a different manner, and take advantage of values that others don't recognize. Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta valued OBP before others did; Brian Sabean values really old guys."
If Sabean thinks Finley isn't Done, then I'm willing to give Sabes the benefit of the doubt.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Will Clark vs. Mark McGwire

Quick question ... who was a better player -- Will Clark or Mark McGwire?

The always thoughtful Tim Marchman of the New York Sun examines Will Clark's resume for Cooperstown and argues that Clark was a better player than McGwire.
"Scoff all you want. McGwire has huge, obvious advantages - he hit 300 more home runs than Clark, walked 400 more times in 1000 fewer plate appearances, set notable home run records, played a huge role on a great Oakland club in the late '80s, and so forth. Granting all that, Clark was the better of the two.

How so? Well, first there are those 1000 extra plate appearances. Clark was hardly the picture of health through his career, but he stayed on the field more than McGwire did, averaging 132 games per season to McGwire's 117. That gap of two seasons' worth of playing time helps his case a lot.

Clark has other advantages - he batted 40 points higher than McGwire over their careers, hit nearly 200 more doubles, and was a truly exceptional defender, whereas McGwire was among the worst ever seen."
Read the whole thing.

Career EqA:

McGwire .334
Clark .312

Career OPS+:

McGwire: 163
Clark: 138

Looking at these rate stats, I think its fair to say that McGwire was the superior hitter. But when considering the question "who was the better player?" we need to consider a) the difference in playing time b) other aspects of the game (baserunning, defense, not hitting into double plays, etc.)

Career WARP3:

McGwire: 101.8
Clark: 101.6

Career Win Shares:

McGwire: 342
Clark: 331

Looking at these stats, its tough to say that Clark was superior to McGwire, but I think its fair to say that Clark was just as good as McGwire.

Marchman continues:
"But," you say, "McGwire had big seasons. There are lots of guys who played more than McGwire but weren't as good." True enough, but Clark's best seasons were as good as McGwire's, if not better. In 1989, Clark hit .333 with 23 home runs and 74 walks. I'd argue he was at least as valuable that season as McGwire was in 1998, when he more famously hit .299 with 70 home runs and 162 walks.

Clark played in a league that scored 3.94 runs per game; McGwire in one that scored 4.60 per game. Clark - who grounded into almost no double plays, stole a few bases, and otherwise played a three-dimensional offensive game - created 131 runs, McGwire 179. In an offensive context like McGwire's that would have been 153, without even accounting for the fact that Clark played in Candlestick Park, a notoriously tough place for a left-handed hitter to swat a home run.

Consider that the difference between a Gold Glove first baseman at the top of his game, as Clark was in 1989, and an immobile slugger at the midpoint of his, as McGwire was in 1998, is about 25 runs over the course of a season, and the point about how good Clark was becomes clearer."

McGwire 1998: .379
Clark 1989: .346


McGwire 1998: 217
Clark 1989: 175

Again, I would say that McGwire was the superior hitter. But who was the better player?


McGwire 1998: 11.5
Clark 1989: 12.4

Win Shares:

McGwire 1998: 41
Clark 1989: 44

I think its correct to say that Clark's best season "was just as good, if not better," than McGwire's best season.

More Marchman:
"Clark had a lot of big seasons. He was about as good, all around, in 1988 as he was the following year - clearly better, I think, than McGwire was in any year other than 1998. And his 1991 and 1992 campaigns were similarly better than McGwire's third- and fourth-best seasons."
Win Shares 4 Best Seasons:


44 ... 41
37 ... 30
34 ... 30
28 ... 29

To be fair to McGwire, Big Mac has the advantage if you do a 10 year comparison. But Clark certainly has the edge in a 4 year comparison.

All in all, I don't agree with Marchman's assertion that Clark was a better player than McGwire. But I think its fair to say that Clark was probably just as good as McGwire.

McGwire is generally regarded as a future Hall of Famer (setting aside the performance enhancing argument), yet I don't think Will Clark, who has similarly impressive credentials, will get the strong Hall of Fame consideration that he deserves.



Keltner List: William Nuschler Clark, Jr.
What Would Krukow Do?
The Thrill Talks Cooperstown

Others Blogging:

Beyond the Boxscore: Will the Thrill for Cooperstown


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Morris to the Giants Almost a Done Deal

Ken Rosenthal reports that the Giants are close to signing Matt Morris:
"Free-agent right-hander Matt Morris is closing in on a three-year deal with the Giants in the $25 million range, FOXSports.com has learned.

The deal, which would not be official until Morris, 31, passed a physical, might also include an option for a fourth year."
ESPN's Jerry Crasnick is also reporting that Morris is on the verge of signing with the Giants:
"Matt Morris officially parted ways with the Cardinals on Sunday. Later in the day, the free-agent pitcher went about the business of trying to finalize a multi-year contract with the Giants.

Morris and San Francisco are on the verge of agreeing to a three-year deal worth a guaranteed $27 million, a baseball source told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick. Pending a physical exam, the deal is expected to be finalized early this week, the source said."


Saturday, December 10, 2005

Matt Morris Race Down to Giants and Reds

Ken Rosenthal, the most prolific baseball writer on the planet, has the scoop:
"Free-agent right-hander Matt Morris has narrowed his choice to two teams. One is the Giants, a team that has pursued him aggressively from the moment the bidding started. The other is believed to be the Reds, a late and surprising entry in the process.

Morris, 31, could make his decision as early as Sunday, and is likely to receive a three-year deal worth in the $25 million range. He will not return to the Cardinals, whose offer was not competitive with those of the other bidders.


Early Saturday, Axelrod called the Reds "a consideration," but added, "We're so far down the line that for a team to pop in that late, that near the end, there would be an extra hurdle for them to go over."
The Dallas Morning News also reports that Morris rejected the Rangers contract offer and is expected to sign with a National League team.
"(Morris' agent Barry) Axelrod told the Rangers, who made a three-year, $25 million offer to Morris, that he narrowed the field and eliminated the Rangers. Morris, who has spent his entire career with St. Louis, is expected to sign with a National League club."
The Giants or the Reds? We should know one way or the other within the next 24-48 hours.

Update 9:55 PM: From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"Morris, drafted in 1995 and the winner of 101 games for the Cardinals, said he hadn't decided with whom he would sign as a free agent. He said he had narrowed the field to two teams, one of which is believed to be the San Francisco Giants. Multiple sources said Saturday night that the Giants appeared the clear frontrunners. In San Francisco, Morris would be rejoining former St. Louis teammates Mike Matheny, Steve Kline, Mark Sweeney and Jeff Fassero.

Speaking from his home in Jupiter, Fla., all Morris would say for the record on his choice was: "Not the Cardinals. I eliminated them today."
Update 12/11 11:00 AM: Rosenthal has now updated his original story:
"Free-agent right-hander Matt Morris has narrowed his choice to two teams. One is the Giants, a team that has pursued him aggressively from the moment the bidding started. The identity of the other team is not known.

The Cardinals, Reds and Nationals have been informed that they are out, FOXSports.com has learned. Published reports indicate that the Mariners and Rangers also have been eliminated. The Dodgers, an early suitor, could be back in the mix."


Monday, December 05, 2005

Daryle Ward Sucks

Just sayin'.

Of all of the Giants-related hot stove rumors floating around, nothing scares me more than these eight words:
"Daryle Ward is on their list of possibles..."

Ward: OPS+

2003: 10
2004: 101
2005: 88

No, that's not a typo. Ward produced an OPS+ of 10 (!) in 2003. I know it was only in limited playing time, but an OPS+ of 10 from a 1B? Hell, an OPS+ of 10 from any major leaguer? Sweet merciful crap, that is downright awful.

What makes Daryle Ward a particularly unnattractive possibility is that he represents one of the few options who is not an upgrade from JT Snow.

Let's compare Ward and Snow. One of the limitations of OPS is that it doesn't properly weight OBP. This is troublesome whenever one does a comparison involving a player like Snow whose OPS is On Base Percentage heavy. So instead of OPS, let's use Gross Production Average.

GPA - Ward

2003: .143
2004: .256
2005: .244

GPA - Snow

2003: .279
2004: .325
2005: .246

All this is before entering defense and intangibles into the equation. Not that either of them are particularly appealing 1B options, but if the choice comes down to keeping Snow or signing Daryle Ward, I'd rather sign Snow for another year.

Now, if there is a reasonable trade to be made for Adrian Gonzalez or Hee Seop Choi (or if there is a reasonable outside-the-box 1B option like Nomah or Russell Branyan), then forget I ever said a word about re-signing Snow.

Worrell Back in the Fold

Tim Worrell signed a two-year contract with the Giants for $4MM. I pretty much like the deal.

Each and every time Sabean signs an elderly player, I'm going to link to Dave Studeman's must-read article where Studes credits Sabean for finding value in older players:
"Give Brian Sabean a little credit. He has a feel for this phenomenon, and he's taken advantage of it. In a crazy way, this is the "Moneyball" philosophy. Approach the market in a different manner, and take advantage of values that others don't recognize. Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta valued OBP before others did; Brian Sabean values really old guys."
Worrell's age (and his personal issues from last season) raises some question marks, but given Sabean's success in finding value in older players, I'm willing to give Sabes the benefit of doubt on this one.

In the context of this year's free-agent spending bonanza, Worrell's contract seems like a very fair deal for the Giants. So far this winter, GMs have been throwing around cash as if they were cast members of Laguna Beach on a Rodeo Drive shopping spree. I really can't complain about the Giants spending $2MM a year for a slightly above average reliever.

The Worrell signing also allows the Giants to consider trading LaTroy Hawkins. While I don't believe the Giants will actually trade Hawkins, it makes for some fun hot stove speculation. In fact, if I had to guess, I'd guess that Hawkins will be traded on Tuesday for Steve Kline. And I totally didn't edit the original post to add the preceding sentence.

So ... discussing the 1B situation and the Worrell signing in the same post is a roundabout way for me to float a trade involving LaTroy Hawkins and Adrian Gonzalez. The difference in contracts between the two makes a straight up swap highly unlikely, so the Giants would have to sweeten the pot with prospects and cash and/or take back some salary from the Rangers.

Hawkins has suddenly become an attractive trading chip. There's no doubt that the talent is there, but it was previously believed that his '06 salary would make him unmovable. Seeing the type of contracts thrown around this off season (not just $ involved but contract length), if I were a GM, I would be tempted to overpay a guy like Hawkins for one year rather than guarantee three years to a similarly talented reliever on the market.

Whatever the case may be, count me as a passenger of the get-Adrian-Gonzalez bandwagon. Hell, overpay if you have to, Sabes. Just, please, please avoid Daryle Ward at all costs.

Update 12/6 8:50 PM: So...about trading Hawkins in a package for Adrian Gonzalez... Nevermind.