Runners at the Corners

Nathan's baseball blog

Cognitive Dissonance

Over the last decade or so there has been a lot of moralizing about the use of steroids in sports. Baseball has been in the forefront of those discussions; for reasons that I can’t quite get my head around, people have never seemed to mind as much that steroid use is at least as prevalent in the NFL as it is in MLB, but that’s a conversation for another day. As the first wave of PED users and suspected users hits the Hall of Fame ballot, you will no doubt read many, many more sanctimonious articles written by stuffy journalists lamenting the “Steroid Era” and vowing never to vote to enshrine anyone they suspect of being a PED user. To me and many other baseball fans (and a small but growing number of baseball writers) these arguments have always rang false; it is common knowledge that players of yore abused “greenies,” amphetamines placed out in the clubhouse to give players that extra kick in the dog days of July and August. The venerable Buck O’Neill has been quoted several times to say “The only reason we didn’t use ‘em is because we didn’t have ‘em” re: steroids.

But the number one reason I always have argued that the steroid use that took place in the ’90s and early ’00s doesn’t bother me is because, had I been in the players’ position, I would have used them too. If I were in the position of, say, F.P. Santangelo circa 1998-2000, I would have done exactly what he did. In 1998 Santangelo, recovering from an injury and newly jobless after being released by the Expos, took a two-week cycle of HGH he purchased from Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski. When Santangelo missed the last month of the 2000 season with a ligament tear in his hand, he again turned to HGH to speed up his recovery process. Santangelo, when named as a PED user in the Mitchell Report, had this to say: “‘I figured if it worked once, it would work twice,’ he said. ‘I knew it was wrong, I felt dirty when I did it, but it worked. I love baseball and I love competing and the thought of not doing that scared the hell out of me. I panicked.’” (source) I think that quote is particularly illuminating because it sheds light on the thought process not of the superstar player, but the bench guy, the 25th man just trying to hold on to his roster spot and his major-league-minimum salary. It’s a sentiment like that that leads me to believe that I, were I in Santangelo’s position, would have done the same thing he did.

That is, until I realized I already have.

For those of you that don’t know, I recently graduated from UCLA with a degree in political science. Political science classes often involve a good deal of writing, and several times a quarter I would find myself staring down the barrel of a ten page paper and a limited number of hours in which to write it. I am a rather extraordinary procrastinator, so I routinely allowed myself mere hours to write long papers that sometimes involved a decent amount of reading and/or other research. It was not the greatest strategy, but I always made it work.

Adderall is a drug routinely prescribed to sufferers of ADHD. It enhances focus and concentration for up to 8 hours at a time. It was eminently available on campus. It was (and continues to be) the night-owl’s study drug of choice. I knew several people who were prescribed Adderall (or its cousin, Ritalin) legally as a means of treating their ADHD, and I knew several others who sold it to those looking for a study enhancer. As a 19 year old with a 15-page paper to write, and the research for the paper still to do, with only 12 hours in which to do it, the lure of taking a pill that would allow me to focus better and for longer was quite strong.

The first time I took Adderall I took a 15 milligram dose, which was half the prescribed dosage. Sure enough, I knocked out my 15-page paper, and attendant research, with time to spare. However, after the research was completed and the paper was turned in, I didn’t feel like the Adderall had provided me with any benefit. I was wrong, of course, and here’s why: Adderall doesn’t affect you the way other drugs affect you, drugs I was more accustomed to taking. Unlike alcohol, say, or marijuana, Adderall doesn’t (or didn’t for me, at least) change your physical state of being. You don’t feel light-headed, or lose your balance, or anything like that. You don’t feel more focused, or like you have better concentration. No, instead, you just are. You are more focused, you are concentrating better, you just don’t notice it.

The reason I bring this up is because three weeks after my first paper I had a second 15-page paper, plus research, due and not a lot of time to do it. Since I hadn’t felt the Adderall the first time, I thought, I’ll take more this time. I took a 30mg dose of Adderall, and six hours later I took 30mg more. The effect was fairly horrifying. One side effect of Adderall is it suppresses your appetite; I didn’t eat for over 24 hours. I chewed my thumbnails absentmindly while reading and researching for hours on end, by the time the morning came my left thumb was bleeding and my right thumb was nearly there. My skin became very pale and clammy, and I felt very cold. When I looked at myself in the mirror I looked like a skeleton, extremely pale and looking as if all the flesh had drained from my face. It was very difficult to control my shaking for a couple hours. I finished the paper and turned it in (on time), and then went about the path to recovery. I made sure to eat, and drink water, although it was still impossible to sleep. For several hours afterward I felt extremely weary and weak, as if I had just finished an extraordinarily long run. In the end, I was awake for 38 consecutive hours.

The entire experience was scary enough that I never took Adderall again, but the fact of the matter is that a number of my peers did. The use of unprescribed cognitive enhancers is widespread in both college and high school, not to mention in the professional world as well. This Patrick Hruby article cites their extensive reach in all three areas, not to mention the sports world. Ironically enough, as Hruby mentions, the professional world is beginning to mirror the sports world. Now and in the near future, we are being measured up against our peers who are using performance-enhancing drugs to work harder, for longer. Adderall-enhanced performance (to imitate the “steroid-enhanced” lexicon of the sports world) will become the new baseline, the standard by which other performance is judged. The class for which I submitted those two performance-enhanced papers wasn’t graded on a curve, but if it had been then my classmates’ papers would have been judged against mine. Did some of them use Adderall or some other sort of cognitive-enhancing drug to write their papers and research their topics? I have no doubt. But did all of them? Absolutely not.

Hruby closes his article by arguing that, in the near future, we will look back on the Steroid Era and wonder “what the fuss was about.” “Because the Steroid Era,” he argues, “won’t be a standalone, sports-specific era at all. It will be more like the beginning of things, the dawn of a brave new world.” I’m inclined to agree with him. Stories like mine aren’t uncommon on college campuses, and it seems reasonable to assume that the use of cognitive-enhancers will in otherwise healthy adults will only increase. The reason for that is there’s just too much money in it. It is not hard to see their benefit in nearly every industry: journalists working against a deadline, stockbrokers wheeling and dealing on Wall Street, tech entrepreneurs creating the next great startup, even soldiers on the battlefield. When we’re all using PEDs of one form or another, the idea of scorning someone for looking for extra performance in the bottle of a (pill) bottle won’t seem so strange.

I ended up getting an A on both of those papers I wrote while on Adderall, and an A in the class. That class ended up being the “Ken Caminiti’s 1996 season” of my academic career. Knowing what I know now, would I use Adderall in that situation again? I would like to say that I would get my research done beforehand and write the paper without needing the extra bump. But, as well all know, the truth is never that easy.

Doing a Little Investigatin’ – A Few Good Men

Sitting here in my apartment, and I stumble across A Few Good Men on television. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time so naturally I settle in to watch a few minutes. I won’t get too much into the details of the movie, but if you haven’t seen it you really should, it’s amazing. About a third of the way into the movie, Lt. Daniel Caffee (played by Tom Cruise) is watching a baseball game on television and drinking beer. We only hear a brief snippet of the commentary on the game, but it was just enough to get my mind’s gears grinding.

In the scene, we can gather from the commentary that the Orioles are playing the Twins. The player at bat hits a fly ball to left-center (we can see this on the television in the scene) and the announcer makes a reference to “Kirby.” The movie was released in 1992, so this game was likely in 1990 or 1991, and “Kirby” clearly means Kirby Puckett, the Hall of Fame center fielder for the Twins in those years. Listening to the announcer, it becomes apparent that the double to right center has resulted in a walk-off win for the Orioles. After a few moments, the announcer* reveals the name of the player who hit the walk-off double: Randy Milligan.

*Ted Robinson is the announcer, incidentally. He is currently the play-by-play announcer for the San Francisco 49ers. This is an error in the movie, as at the time Robinson was the play-by-play announcer for the Twins. Since the movie takes place in Washington, D.C., Cruise’s character should have been watching the Orioles’ broadcast.

So let’s go over the information we’re able to glean from the movie. The Twins are playing at the Orioles. Randy Milligan hits a double past Kirby Puckett, and Cal Ripken scores the winning run in a walk-off victory for the Orioles. This likely took place in 1990 or 1991.

Now it’s just a simple perusal of the Baseball Reference game files before we come across a match: June 17th, 1991. The Twins’ Allan Anderson faced off against the Orioles’ Bob Milacki. The Twins took a 5-3 lead into the ninth inning, and Rick Aguilera comes in to pitch, with David Segui, Brady Anderson, and Mike Devereaux. Segui and Anderson both singled, and Devereaux bunted them over. One out, runners on second and third. Joe Ursulak then pinch-hit for Billy Ripken and hit a sacrifice fly to Twins LF Dan Gladden, and Cal Ripken was intentionally walked. That brought up Randy Milligan, with two outs and runners on first and second, down by a run. Milligan, as we already know, would hit a double to left-center, scoring Anderson and Ripken and winning the game for the Orioles.

So there it is. The game Lt. Daniel Caffee was watching was the game between the Orioles and the Twins on June 17th, 1991.

Musings on the Hall of Fame Ballot

Ah yes, it’s that time of year again. The Hall of Fame ballot was officially released this morning, so the arguments have begun on Twitter and in the blogosphere about who should/will get inducted. Over the course of the next six weeks or so, you will see much moral posturing and pontificating about the various qualifications of the various candidates, especially when concerned with one particular issue: drug use (or allegations thereof). I might as well make this clear right off the bat: I do not make any kind of special considerations for those who may or may not have used steroids, testosterone, amphetamines or other types of “uppers,” or any other type of “PED.” The reasons for this are both numerous and not novel. I believe the vast majority of players who played during the so-called “Steroid Era” used some form of PEDs. I do not want to have to make judgement calls about players who may or may not have used (e.g. Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, etc.). I believe that the history of baseball is defined by eras that all had different circumstances that defined the playing field. Before 1947, the majors had no black players. In the ’60s and ’70s some pitchers threw off of mounds the size of Mt. Ranier. The DH didn’t exist until 1973.

I could keep going, but I think you get my point, and chances are if you’re reading this you agree with me. So let’s get down to the good part. There are 37 players on the ballot this year. As you probably know, voters are only allowed to vote for up to 10 players. First, here are the 37 players.

Sandy Alomar Jr.
Jeff Bagwell
Craig Biggio
Barry Bonds
Jeff Cirillo
Royce Clayton
Roger Clemens
Jeff Conine
Steve Finley
Julio Franco
Shawn Green

Roberto Hernandez

Ryan Klesko
Kenny Lofton
Edgar Martinez
Don Mattingly
Fred McGriff
Mark McGwire
Jose Mesa
Jack Morris
Dale Murphy
Rafael Palmeiro
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Reggie Sanders
Curt Schilling
Aaron Sele
Lee Smith
Sammy Sosa
Mike Stanton
Alan Trammell
Larry Walker
Todd Walker
David Wells
Rondell White
Bernie Williams
Woody Williams

As you can see, I eliminated 16 players pretty easily. However, that still leaves us with 21 players who have at least a somewhat-decent case. Let’s go through them in alphabetical order.

*A quick procedural note: I will frequently be referring to a statistic called JAWS. JAWS stands for Jaffe WAR Score. The full explanation for JAWS is here, but basically the stat averages a player’s career bWAR with his 7-year peak WAR, in order to create a sort of compromise between career value and peak value.

Jeff Bagwell: Well, at least I get to start with an easy one. Bagwell should have been voted in two years ago. Bagwell has the 6th best JAWS score among first basemen in baseball history, behind only Gehrig, Foxx, Pujols, Anson, and Connor. A .408 career OBP, 449 homers, 488 doubles, a .948 OPS; I could quote statistics all day long. The short version is that he’s one of the best right-handed hitters of all time, and it’s a shame he hasn’t already been enshrined.

Craig Biggio: A first-year candidate. I suspect Biggio gets in, for two reasons: 1) He’s got one of those magic numbers (3,000 career hits) and 2) he’s never been associated with PED use, either accused or suspected. Biggio actually looks worse than I would have expected according to JAWS, coming in just behind Robby Alomar (who, as you are aware, is in the Hall) and well behind both Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker (who are not). That said, he played forever, he got his magic number, and he’ll get in, I suspect, this year.

Barry Bonds: I doubt I have to spell out the case for Bonds here for you, so I’ll make this a simple prediction. I predict Bonds will get between 50% and 55% of the vote this year, and will not be enshrined.

Roger Clemens: Another guy I don’t think I have to explain. Both Bonds and Clemens are on my imaginary ballot, but here’s a fun thought game: who gets more votes this year, Bonds or Clemens? I say Bonds.

Kenny Lofton: Every year, it seems, there is six weeks of spirited debate about who should and shouldn’t make it to the Hall, much of which is centered around a few players (Jack Morris, cough cough). Then, when the vote comes out, there is a player or two who didn’t get talked about at all and didn’t reach the 5% threshold to stay on the ballot in future elections. In 2009, it was David Cone, and in 2011, it was Kevin Brown. I’m terrified that this year, that player is going to be Kenny Lofton. I think the thing people remember most about Lofton, other than his speed, is the fact that he was somewhat of a mercenary. While that’s true, it glosses over the fact that he was a truly special player. His 1994 season was one for the ages: .349/.412/.536 with +15 defense in center field, and 60 stolen bases at an 83% success rate. JAWS rates him as the 8th best center fielder of all time, just below the legendary upper tier (Mays, Mantle, DiMaggio, Speaker, Cobb, Snider, Griffey) and at the top of the secondary tier (Lofton ranks ahead of Hall of Famers Richie Ashburn, Andre Dawson, Larry Doby, and Kirby Puckett). Ashburn is an interesting comp for Lofton. Lofton was better defensively, of course, but on the whole they were relatively similar players. It is telling, then, to note that Ashburn wasn’t elected by the BBWAA, but by the Veteran’s Committee. In fact, it took six years before Ashburn even garnered more than 5% of the vote (this was before the 5% rule was enacted). It’s a shame that Lofton will likely be spirited off the ballot this year, because I think he’s a Hall of Famer. I’ve got him on my ballot, anyway.

Edgar Martinez: Edgar is another interesting case for two reasons that are actually really only one reason: he was awful at defense. Edgar came up as a third baseman, but was so bad he didn’t play a full season in the majors until he was 27. From when he was 27 to when he was 31, he played mostly third base, and from age 31 until his retirement at age 41 he played almost exclusively DH. The funny thing is the advanced metrics say that he was actually okay at third (+17 runs from 1990-1994, or about +2.5 runs a season). In any case, Edgar should be in the Hall of Fame for one simple reason: he was one of the greatest hitters ever. From 1990-2003, in nearly 8000 PA, Martinez had a 153 OPS+. He has over 500 career doubles, a career OBP of .418, and a career OPS of .933. But he’s hampered in the eyes of many by the fact that he played about two-thirds of his career games as a DH. I won’t do any logical gymnastics to try to explain Edgar into the Hall of Fame, I’ll only say this: he was one of the ten best right-handed hitters ever, and that’s good enough for me. He’s in.

Don Mattingly: Well, you may have noticed that I’ve said yes to the first five players we’ve reviewed. I seem to be quickly running out of space on my ballot. Unfortunately, Don Mattingly is not a Hall of Famer to me, for a couple reasons. One, chronic injuries limited him to only 7722 career plate appearance, which is a very short career. Mattingly was a great hitter during a time when offensive production was down league-wide, but he was neither great enough nor great enough for long enough to reach the HOF threshold for me. He’s out.

Fred McGriff: If players got extra credit for having awesome nicknames, Fred “Crime Dog” McGriff would be on my ballot easy. Unfortunately, they don’t, and McGriff just misses for me. It breaks my heart to leave him off, as McGriff was one of my favorite players growing up, but he just wasn’t a GREAT enough hitter as a first baseman for me to justify including him on my ballot. It’s a shame that he ended his career with 493 home runs, because I have a feeling if he had gotten to 500 (magic number alert!) he would be viewed much differently by the electorate. He’s a Hall of Nearly Great player, for sure, but not a Hall of Famer.

Mark McGwire: Wow. This is the toughest one yet. If this was the Hall of FAME, as some would have you believe, then McGwire would be in. He’s one of the five or so most famous ballplayers of my lifetime. There are a couple of (non-PED related) reasons to keep him out. One: he was not durable, and did not play for a long time. This is a legitimate argument. Only 7660 career plate appearance (fewer than Edgar) and a history of injury problems really hampered his productivity, especially in his prime. He only got 279 plate appearances in his age 29 and 30 seasons. He was a horrible defender, but he was a first baseman, and there have been worse. His peak was not as high as you would likely think: he only had one year with more than 7 WAR (1998, of course) and only two others over 6. Very reluctantly I am going to have to leave him off my ballot, with the caveat that he would make it if there weren’t so many qualified candidates.

Jack Morris: I have a feeling, if you know me at all, you may be able to guess how I would vote on Jack Morris if I had a vote. He just isn’t close to a Hall of Famer, no matter how you look at his body of work. He pitched forever, yes, but he wasn’t a great pitcher over that time. He was at his best very good, and sometimes less than that. His case, of course, is partially built on his Game 7 10-inning shutout in the 1991 World Series, but one does not have to think of Jack Morris as a Hall of Famer to appreciate the magnitude of that performance. By JAWS he comes up laughably short, ranking 164th all time amongst pitchers. He’s out on my ballot.

Dale Murphy: This is Murphy’s 15th and last year on the ballot. Murphy was a dazzling hitter who had quite an impressive peak. He won five consecutive Gold Gloves from 1982-1986, and from 1980-1987 he had a 140 OPS+ while playing a decent center field, and he won back-to-back MVP awards in 1982 and 1983. The thing that keeps Murphy off my ballot is that he just wasn’t great enough for long enough. At his peak he was a superstar, one of the greats. But he couldn’t keep it up for long enough to make my ballot. He’s out.

Rafael Palmeiro: Palmeiro’s another really tough one for me. He played forever but was never truly a superstar, only logging one season of 6+ WAR (1993), and only three seasons of 5 or more. His 36.6 peak WAR score (a component of JAWS, peak WAR is simply the 7 best seasons a player had added together) is below Mark McGwire, Keith Hernandez, and John Olerud, among others. He only had three finishes in the top 10 in MVP voting in his career, with his highest finish being 5th in 1999 (also the year of his laughable Gold Glove Award). On the other hand, there is something to be said for being durable; Palmeiro had a staggering 15 seasons of at least 152 games played, and his 12,046 career plate appearances in good for 15th all time. For now, he’s makes my ballot in the 10th position, but if I run out of spots I won’t hesitate to knock him off.

Mike Piazza: Piazza makes my ballot. He’s the best hitting catcher in the history of the game, and it’s not particularly close. Despite his below-average defensive skills, Piazza was an absolute terror at the plate. His 1997 season is a wonder to behold: .362/.431/.638 with 40 home runs and a 185 OPS+. He also played 139 games that year at catcher, and interesting had perhaps the best defensive season of his career. He’s in.

Tim Raines: The only reason Raines isn’t in the Hall yet is that his career perfectly mirrored a player who was exactly like Raines, only better in almost every respect: Rickey Henderson. But have a look at Raines’ peak: from 1981-1997, Raines hit .297/.386/.431 for a 126 OPS+ in 9563 PA, with 401 doubles, 111 triples, and 788 stolen bases at an 85% success rate. JAWS rates him the 8th best left fielder ever. Raines has become the darling of the saber community online since Bert Blyleven’s induction, and has seen an 18% increase in his vote total since 2010. He got just under 50% of the vote last year, and it will be interesting to see if he gets harmed by the influx of qualified candidates on the ballot this year. I hope not, he deserves to be in.

Curt Schilling: He’s another borderline guy for me. He’s got one of the magic numbers (3000 K) but his overall body of work isn’t as impressive as you’d like to see. Still, I think the combination of career stats and peak worth is just enough to put him in, for me. His career 8.6 K/9 ratio is good for 18th all time, and his K/BB of 4.38 is second all time (cookie to the person who guesses who is first). Also, you can’t talk about Schilling without talking about his amazing postseason record. In 133 and 1/3 career postseason innings, Schilling has an 11-2 record (I know, I know, but still that’s impressive) with a 2.23 ERA, a 0.968 WHIP, and a K/BB of 4.8, not to mention one of the most famous single-game pitching performances of all time. JAWS rates him as the 29th best pitcher ever, which is solidly in the range of the Hall. Also, he was a hell of a lot better than Jack Morris. He’s in.

Lee Smith: Sorry, but you pretty much have to be Mariano Rivera before I consider a reliever for the Hall of Fame. Smith’s out.

Sammy Sosa: Another agonizing decision. He is responsible for many wonderful memories of my youth (I always liked Sosa more than McGwire). His peak, obviously, is incredible, one of the best ever. Sosa is also the owner of one of the most astonishing pieces of baseball trivia, which I’m sure you know; three times in his career Sosa hit more than 60 home runs. In none of those years did he lead the league. My problem with Sosa is that his time as a truly transcendent player was just too short. I don’t think his peak, high though it was, was long enough to put him on my (admittedly crowded) ballot. He’s right below Palmeiro for now, and if there’s enough space to fit him he’ll make it, but I suspect he won’t.

Alan Trammell: Here’s another guy, like Raines, who is criminally overshadowed by a contemporaries. In Trammell’s case, it’s Ozzie Smith, who, while not the hitter Trammell was, was so spectacular defensively that he tends to overshadow all the SS’s from this era, as well as Cal Ripken Jr., who was slightly better than Trammell with the bat (although only slightly) and better with the glove as well. Unfortunately for Trammell, Smith and Ripken are two of the top five shortstops in history. Here’s the thing about Trammell: he’s probably the eighth or ninth best shortstop ever. He could hit, he could field, he could do it all, but because he couldn’t hit like Ripken or field like Ozzie he’s still on the ballot after 12 years, and those two went in on their first.

Larry Walker: Man, here’s another tough one. Walker has an issue that gives a lot of people pause while considering him, and for once it has nothing to do with PEDs. No, it’s the fact that Walker played in pre-humidor-era Coors Field, which played approximately like what an MLB game would look like if they moved the fences in to 200 feet like they are in Little League. The main knock on Walker is that his career wasn’t particularly long, only 8030 PA, but my what a career it was. Walker had an OPS+ over 100 for every single season he played except his first, when he only had 56 PA. Bizarrely, he retired after his age 38 season, when he had a 130 OPS+ in 315 PA with the Cardinals. Perhaps if he another thousand or so plate appearances with an above average OPS his selection wouldn’t be so difficult. JAWS has him as the ninth best right fielder ever, in a virtual tie for eighth with Reggie Jackson. For now, I’ll put him just ahead of Palmeiro. We’ll see whether that’s enough to get him in.

David Wells: David Wells was a very good pitcher for a very long time. His 3,439 career IP is 38th-most since integration, sandwiched neatly between Catfish Hunter and Don Drysdale. But let’s be honest, he’s not a Hall of Famer. One interesting thing to note: Wells is 40 spots ahead of Jack Morris on the JAWS leaderboard.

Bernie Williams: Williams just doesn’t make it. Sorry, Yankee fans, he’s close, but not that close. His career peak wasn’t that high, and he wasn’t a productive player for particularly long either. He accumulated over 90% of his career value in just 62% of his career plate appearances. The other 38% of his career was spent as a mediocre or worse player. For a guy with only 45.9 career WAR as it is, that’s a death sentence for your Hall hopes.

Now let’s take a look at where I’m at. If I could vote for as many players as I wanted, I would vote for 14. In alphabetical order, they are:

  • Jeff Bagwell
  • Craig Biggio
  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens
  • Kenny Lofton
  • Edgar Martinez
  • Mark McGwire
  • Rafael Palmeiro
  • Mike Piazza
  • Tim Raines
  • Curt Schilling
  • Sammy Sosa
  • Alan Trammell
  • Larry Walker

However, you can’t vote for 14 guys. It’s against the rules. So, I’ll have to pare it down to ten. After much hemming and hawing, I ordered those 14 players thusly:

  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens
  • Jeff Bagwell
  • Edgar Martinez
  • Mike Piazza
  • Tim Raines
  • Curt Schilling
  • Alan Trammell
  • Craig Biggio
  • Kenny Lofton

———-

  • Larry Walker
  • Rafael Palmeiro
  • Mark McGwire
  • Sammy Sosa

Holy cow that was hard. But here’s the thing: it’s not going to be easier. Next year, the ballot adds Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, and Jeff Kent. In 2015, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Gary Sheffield become eligible. In 2015, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Jim Edmonds become eligible. Voting for the Hall is only going to get harder, especially if voters continue to snub suspected PED users. But here’s the thing: the Hall becomes more and more irrelevant the longer it takes a moral stance on the steroid era. For more than 70 years the baseball establishment denied African-Americans and dark-skinned Latinos an opportunity to play in the majors, a crime far more heinous than any player allegedly injecting any substance into his body, and yet players from that era grace the grounds of the Hall of Fame. To deny players from the so-called Steroid Era entrance to the Hall – not to mention the detestable practice of judging certain players simply because they “looked like” steroid users, without an ounce of proof – is juvenile and immature.

Hopefully this practice will change. Recent history isn’t encouraging, but I am optimistic. Peter Abraham, Red Sox beat writer for the Boston Globe, wrote a refreshing article this morning about how he is refusing to consider alleged PED use when filling out his ballot. But there are still hundreds of voters to whom it matters very much. Take, for example, Hall of Fame voter Philip Hersh, who said on Twitter today he can’t wait to “vote against the druggies.”

It will be interesting to see how the next couple years of voting turns out. As for an official prediction, I believe Craig Biggio will be the only player elected. I think Jack Morris will come up only a few votes short, and will go in on the 2014 ballot. I also believe Raines and Bagwell will both rise to over 60% of the vote. Every other player, I believe will receive less than 50% of the vote, with a whole mess of players stuck in the 40-50% range. I think Kenny Lofton and Sammy Sosa will both run the risk of not receiving the 5% necessary to stay on the ballot, although I hope both stay on for next year. Of one thing you can be certain: there will be posturing, there will be moralizing, and there will be arguing.

Off Day Fun: 2010 Giants vs. 2012 Giants

The World Series has a one-day travel break today, so I decided to have a little fun. I wanted to see what a seven-game series would look like between the World Champion Giants of 2010 and the NL Champs of 2012. I used the simulators over at http://www.whatifsports.com. The 2012 Giants got home-field advantage on the basis of their better record. First, the lineups:*

2010:

Torres, CF

Sanchez, 2B

Huff, 1B

Posey, C

Burrell, LF

Ross, RF

Sandoval, 3B

Renteria, SS

2012:

Pagan, CF

Scutaro, 2B

Sandoval, 3B

Posey, C

Pence, RF

Belt, 1B

Blanco, LF

Crawford, SS

*Quick note: the WhatIfSports software won’t let me edit the rosters to remove players who didn’t make the playoff rosters, so we may be seeing some names we didn’t quite expect. You’ll see what I mean in a moment.

Game One: Our starters were Tim Lincecum (2010) facing off against Matt Cain (2012). The 2010 squad struck first, scoring 5 runs in the top of the third. Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez led off the inning with back to back doubles, Buster Posey hit a 2-run homer, and the 2010 squad was sitting pretty. But, as has so often happened, the 2012 team clawed back. After getting back a run each in the third and fifth innings, they tied it up at 5 with a three-run sixth. Melky Cabrera (!), pinch hitting for Matt Cain, scored Brandon Belt on a single and scored along with Gregor Blanco when Angel Pagan hit a single the next at bat. The 2012 team would take the lead with a 3-run eighth, scoring runs on a Guillermo Mota wild pitch, a Marco Scutaro single, and a Pablo Sandoval double. Santiago Casilla struck out Travis Ishikawa, picked off Torres after a walk, and induced a fly-out from Sanchez to end the game. Game One: 2012 Giants win 8-5 to take a 1-0 lead in the series.

Game Two: 2010 Cain vs. 2012 Bumgarner. This game was a blowout. The 2010 Giants scored 7 in the top of the 4th to make it 8-2 at that point and they didn’t look back. 2010 Buster Posey hit a grand slam, 2010 Pablo Sandoval had two doubles, and the 2010 team rolled 15-5. Series tied 1-1.

Game Three: 2010 Jonathan Sanchez against 2012 Ryan Vogelsong. This one was much closer than Game Two. There was a slight lineup change, as the 2012 team opted to play Joaquin Arias against the lefty Sanchez instead of Crawford, and it paid off. Arias hit a 2-run homer in the top of the 5th to draw the 2012 squad within one, 3-2. In the top of the sixth, a Freddy Sanchez fielding error set the stage for a Melky Cabrera based-loaded walk to put the 2012 team in the lead, 4-3. That’s where the scoring would stay, as an inning each from Romo, Clay Hensley, Jeremy Affeldt, and Santiago Casilla would close the game. The 2012 team wins 4-3 and takes a 2-1 series lead.

Game Four: 2010 Madison Bumgarner vs. 2012 Barry Zito. This one was a good old fashioned destruction. Barry Zito got knocked out in the first, and George Kontos turned in one of the worst playoff performances of all time, yielding thirteen runs on fifteen hits in sixth and a third innings. Pat Burrell hit two home runs and a double and tallied eight RBI to lead the attack for the 2010 team. They even the series up at 2 apiece after a 19-1 win.

Game Five: This pivotal game saw a rematch of the Game One starters, 2012 Matt Cain and 2010 Tim Lincecum. Neither pitcher was at his best but both did enough to keep their teams in it. In the bottom of the third 2010 Aubrey Huff hit a two-run homer that put the 2010 team up 3-2, and they would not relinquish the lead. Cain exited after giving up four runs in five innings, but an uncharacteristic bullpen implosion by Jeremy Affeldt and Shane Loux gave the game comfortably to the 2010 squad. They win 7-2 and take a 3-2 series lead.

Game Six: In this game the 2012 squad optioned to go with Ryan Vogelsong on short rest rather than Madison Bumgarner. The 2010 team countered with Matt Cain on full rest. In their first elimination game, the 2012 team needed a strong performance, but alas it was not to be. Poor defense and a leaky bullpen would be their undoing as they fell to the 2010 team 4-2. A costly Hunter Pence error in the top of the sixth would make the score 3-1, and a Clay Hensley based-loaded walk in the top of the ninth would make it 4-2. Brian Wilson made his first appearance in the series in the bottom of the inning, yielding a lead-off triple to Brandon Belt before striking out Blanco and Crawford and inducing a flyout from Xavier Nady to close the series out.

Summary: The 2010 Giants won the series, 4-2. The 2012 squad was, predictably, undone by their pitching. Matt Cain had two poor starts, and Bumgarner and Zito had a disastrous start each, and that’s all it took. For the 2012 team, Pagan had a pretty sensational series, hitting .481/.517/.889 with 3 triples and a home run, and Brandon Belt performed very well as well, hitting .278/.458/.667. Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford were downright terrible, hitting .115 and .188 apiece with no extra base hits between them.

The 2010 team hit extremely well and pitched adequately, and it was good enough to get them the 4-2 series victory. A pair of good starts from Matt Cain and a solid start each from Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner, to go along with a solid performance from the bullpen, was good enough to support a superior offense.  Freddy Sanchez, Aubrey Huff, and Pat Burrell all had excellent series, each finishing with an OPS above 1.000. But the big bat for the 2010 team, and our series MVP, is Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval hit .481/.500/.815, with 6 doubles and a home run, to capture the MVP award.

So that’s that. Just a fun little off-day post to help kill some time. Tomorrow there’s more baseball! Everyone should be happy about that.

Zito.

Let’s make one thing clear off the bat: Barry Zito hasn’t suffered by any rational definition of the word. The man’s made well over $100 million in his career, he’s won a Cy Young Award, he was the 9th overall pick.  He’s played a game for his entire adult life for chrissakes. When people (myself included) refer to Zito’s struggles, we mean it in the loosest sense of the word.

I will say, however, that Zito has perhaps been the most human of any professional athlete that I can remember rooting for. Part of that, certainly, was his appearance on Showtime’s The Franchise last season. On the show, we saw Zito in what was his toughest season yet as a professional, and we saw him at home. We saw him with his ailing father, we heard him speak about what has been, charitably, an up-and-down career with the Giants. We saw how much it hurt.

*****

When I was 10, I watched Barry Zito pitch one of the most exciting games I’ve ever attended in person. I don’t remember many of the details, but what I do remember is this: it was June of 2000. Zito was pitching for the Sacramento RiverCats, the hometown team. I was attending my first ever RiverCats game, as they had moved to Sacramento from Vancouver prior to that season. I came with my aunt, uncle, and two cousins. They had an extra ticket, and I was their favorite cousin so I got first crack at it. The game went back and forth, a real pitcher’s duel, each team putting a zero on the board inning after inning. Zito was in there for all of it. For eight and a half innings, not one runner crossed the plate. Zito’s line: 9 IP, 0 R, 3 H. In the bottom of the ninth inning, an outfielder named Adam Piatt, who had struck out in each of his previous three at bats, came to the plate with two on and two out. He watched strike one and strike two before hitting the third pitch over the left-center field fence. Game over, RiverCats win. It remains, to this day, the only game I’ve ever been to that ended in a walkoff home run.

As I remember it, that game was Zito’s final minor league start, but you know how memory can be.

*****

Before this game started, I had an idea about how this column was going to go. It was going to be a “Zito’s Giants career as the Kubler-Ross model” type of post. You know, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Zito’s been a Giant for six seasons now. In my jokey, cliche model, 2007 was denial. He’ll be better than this, he’s just unlucky. He’s getting used to new teammates, and a new ballpark. He’ll be better next year. 2008 was anger. A 5.37 ERA?!? What the hell, Zito. We have how many years left on this contract?!? 2009 and 2010 were bargaining. Well, if he’s not going to be a front-of-the-rotation ace, he can still be a useful 3rd or 4th starter, right? We don’t need him to be a superstar, we just need him to be consistent, to eat innings, to stay steady. 2011 was depression. He was injured, and he was terrible, and by the end of the season he was demoted to the bullpen. And 2012 was acceptance. Zito is what he is: a $20 million 5th starter. There will be good times (like this game), there will be bad times (like this game), but there will always be Zito, and that’s ok.

But tonight, we saw the rarely seen sixth stage. Tonight we saw redemption. Tonight we saw resurrection. Tonight, we all saw one of the gutsiest performances I can remember. It wasn’t one of the best-pitched games I’ve ever seen, but it was certainly one of the most inspiring.

*****

And now the series heads back to San Francisco. The Giants have a bit of momentum, and they have Ryan Vogelsong on the mound, and they have their backs against the wall once again. They’ve been pretty good from that position so far this postseason, so I’ll try to remain optimistic. What we do know is that they’ll fight. From the first guy out of the dugout to the last guy off the bench, these Giants will fight. We watched a player who has gone through about everything a professional athlete can come back, rise up against what seemed like impossible to win the game of his life. Sports are awesome because they let us forget, for a couple hours, about the challenges of our own lives. Tonight we watched the unlikeliest of players extend the Giants season, and bring the team home, where they’ll play in front of their own fans for a chance to send the Giants to the World Series. A slim chance, sure, but I’ve seen crazier things.

On Melky Cabrera

As I write this, the Giants game isn’t over yet, but it might as well be, and anyway I don’t really want to watch anymore. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Giants’ decision not to carry Melky Cabrera on the roster in the NLCS. As you know, Melky was suspended in August for 50 games for using synthetic testosterone, then it became public knowledge that during the appeals process, Cabrera created a fake website to explain where he had bought the supplements that triggered the false test. The entire episode was an embarrassment for Cabrera and for the Giants, and it’s fair to say the fiasco caused a lot of bad blood between Melky, the rest of the Giants, and the front office.

Melky’s suspension ended after Game Four of the NLDS. Teams can only make roster moves between series, so after their NLDS win they had a decision to make: to carry to not to carry Cabrera. Best I can tell, there were two factors that went into this move.

Factor one was performance. Cabrera hadn’t played competitive baseball for over two months. He was allowed to play in some instructional league games in Arizona after he served forty games of his suspension, but there is a gulf of talent between instructional league games in Scottsdale and facing Adam Wainwright in the NLCS. There was a pretty good chance that after two months off, and what was certainly a tumultuous two months at that, Cabrera just wouldn’t have been ready to face major league pitching.

Factor two was morality. Cabrera had been caught cheating, plain and simple, and instead of owning up to his mistake he tried to create a fake website in order to get away with it. This became public knowledge, and the Giants got burned. The Giants front office, perhaps rightfully so, was rather angry with Cabrera. In addition, the Giants have a, shall we say, less than exemplary record with PED users (along with every other team in MLB, I might add, but I digress), and team administrators may have felt it important to take a strong stance concerning Melky.

The truth of the matter is neither of these reasons hold any weight. Yes, it is highly likely that Melky would not have performed as well upon returning as he did before his suspension. But the roster spot Cabrera would have occupied went to Xavier Nady, and there is no way you could convince me or any other rational baseball observer that Cabrera wouldn’t be more valuable to the Giants in the playoffs than Xavier Nady. The Giants had arguably the weakest bench of any team in the playoffs, and bringing Melky back and either a) playing him in left and benching Gregor Blanco or b) leaving him on the bench as a pinch-hitter would have improved the team in that area.

As for the morality angle, that narrative (dirty word) doesn’t hold any weight either. First, Guillermo Mota is on the postseason roster, and he’s been suspended for PED use twice. This season he tested positive and blamed the failed test on children’s cough medicine. But the Mota situation is different than the Cabrera one, and I can appreciate the nuances of the two scenarios. What bothers me is this: the Giants front office chose not to put Melky Cabrera on the postseason roster because they were afraid the Giants successes, if achieved with Melky’s help, would offend baseball fans and baseball purists. But what’s offensive to me is that they willfully chose to put an inferior product on the field at the most important point of the season. They decided to make the Giants worse because they were afraid of what people (fans, writers, etc.) would say or think about them if they won with a cheater. Instead, I have to watch Xavier Nady and Aubrey Huff get at bats with the season on the line. And that, frankly, is offensive.

Are the Giants making the right call?

The Giants are suffering from an interesting quandary as they head into Game 4 of the NLCS tonight. Actually, they’ve faced this quandary the whole season, but it’s really becoming a pressing issue right now. Their issue is, surprisingly enough, starting pitching. For years the Giants have walked a delicate line when it comes to pitching depth. When Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, and Vogelsong were throwing well, the Giants could stomach 180 innings from Barry Zito and still count their starting pitching as a strength. The problem Giants fans have always worried about is injury. If one of those top four get injured, there really wasn’t anyone who could step up and eat innings (Brad Penny joke). This year, only 7 players made starts for the Giants: the five I listed above, and one each from Eric Hacker and Yusmeiro Petit. Last year, 8 pitchers started games for the Giants, and Zito only made 9 starts as he suffered from a variety of injuries. Jonathan Sanchez made 19 starts, Eric Surkamp made 6, and Dan Runzler made one. Surkamp has been out with an elbow injury since spring training, and had Tommy John surgery in July. Sanchez was traded to the Royals for Melky Cabrera, and he had a season for the ages (and not in a good way). Runzler spent the whole season with the Fresno Grizzlies.

The point is, pitching depth wasn’t ever really an issue. This year, however, it’s been a different story. Zito, thankfully, has been Zito: 83-mph fastballs and an ERA in the low 4′s. The main problem this season has been Tim Lincecum. A season-ending ERA of 5.18 doesn’t even illustrate how bad he’s been at times this year. Before the All-Star break he had an ERA in the upper-5′s, his breaking stuff wasn’t breaking, and his fastball was straighter – and slower – than ever. Lincecum, as I’m sure you’re aware, had been moved to the bullpen for the playoffs, to excellent results: 8 1/3 innings, 1 BB, 9 K, only 1 ER. He hasn’t done it in the normal ways pitchers usually improve when moving from rotation to bullpen, either. His fastball hasn’t jumped 5 mph, it’s still in the 90-91 range. His breaking balls don’t look particularly better than they did in the regular season either (his changeup, on the other hand, looks fantastic). The biggest difference, to me at least, has been his attitude. He looks like the old Lincecum out there, animated and full of life. At times this season it looked like he’d rather be anywhere in the world than on the pitching mound, but that hasn’t been the case thus far in the postseason.

The other problem so far has been Madison Bumgarner. MadBum has struggled down the stretch, putting up a 5.47 ERA in September, while striking out fewer batter and walking more than is his norm. The most-likely cause of his struggles is fatigue. Bumgarner turned 23 on August 1st, and he’s logged over 600 innings on his arm since the beginning of the 2010 season. His velocity is down, his slider isn’t sliding, and he’s getting hit around. His performance in the playoffs so far has been dismal: 2 starts, only 8 IP, 15 H, 10 ER, 2 BB and 6 K. His ERA is 11.25 and his WHIP is 2.125. By any measure, he’s been borderline unpitchable.

What it all adds up to for Bruce Bochy is this: he has to find a starter for Games 4 and 5. He has three pitchers, all with their various problems: Lincecum, who stunk in the regular season but has looked good recently; Bumgarner, who was good in the regular season but has faded badly and looks exhausted; and Zito, who is Zito. The course of action Bochy has chosen is to start Lincecum in Game Four and Zito in Game Five. He hasn’t said it, but we can presume that Bumgarner will be available out of the pen if needed. Is this the right call?

In my mind, yes. Lincecum has looked great and has the pedigree. He needs to start Game Four. He gives you the best chance to win. Game Five is a trickier call. As much as I hate the idea of starting Barry Zito in a game that could very well be an elimination game, Bumgarner has looked terrible lately. I would follow the same gameplan Bochy used in Game Four of the NLDS (also an elimination game): start Zito, but give him a very short leash. First sign of trouble, bring in Bumgarner in relief. It worked against the Reds: Zito threw 2 2/3, Lincecum threw 4 1/3, and the Giants won.

I will say this though: if the Giants don’t start hitting, none of this is going to make a bit of difference.

Glossary Section Added

Hey folks, I added a glossary section to the header with the definitions of a few stats I used in the last few posts. As I go forward and use more stats in my posts I’ll be constantly adding to the glossary as well. If you’re confused by anything or need a term or acronym clarified, give me a heads up and I’ll be sure to stick something in the glossary.

About That Last At-Bat…

I wasn’t going to post again tonight, but the topic is fresh on my mind and I’m bored so here goes. In what turned out to be the final at bat of Game 3 of the ALCS, Yankees manager Joe Girardi let Raul Ibanez, a lefty, hit against Tigers closer-I-guess Phil Coke, also a lefty. Sitting on Girardi’s bench were Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher, both of whom have struggled this postseason. Were Girardi to bring in either Rodriguez or Swisher, Tigers manager Jim Leyland had righties Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel ready and waiting in the bullpen. Girardi, as I’m sure you know, left Ibanez in, and he ended up striking out on a nasty slider from Coke to end the game and put the Yankees in a 3-0 hole in the series.

What was the right call in this situation? In my opinion, the worst call Girardi could have made was to leave Ibanez in to face Coke. Yes, mild-mannered Raul Ibanez has transformed into I Am Become Ibanez, Destroyer of Closers in this playoffs, but the fact of the matter is Ibanez is dreadful against lefties, always has been. This season, he has a .492 OPS against lefties in 62 PA. Last year, it was .585. In his career, he has a .735 OPS against lefties, compared to an .852 OPS against righties. The stats, and the scouting report, indicated that the odds were not in Ibanez’s favor in this situation, no matter how many home runs he insists on hitting in the 9th inning.

Alex Rodriguez has had a tough season. His 114 wRC+, while still pretty good, is his lowest since the year he turned 20. He has been virtually unplayable this postseason, with only 3 hits in 25 plate appearances, with 12 strikeouts. That being said, letting A-Rod hit against Benoit or Dotel almost certainly gives the Yankees a better chance to win in this situation. This year Rodriguez has a .717 OPS against righties – pretty terrible, but not close to as bad as Ibanez has been against lefties. Last year, that mark was .848.

Nick Swisher has been nearly as bad this postseason as A-Rod, going 4-30 with 8 K. Still, Swisher was almost certainly the right person to bat in this situation due to one factor: he’s a switch hitter. This year he has an .873 OPS vs. righties and a .769 OPS vs. lefties. Pinch hitting Swisher puts the decision in Jim Leyland’s hands. Even if Leyland elected to leave Coke in, Swisher most likely gives the Yankees the best chance to win.

Already down 0-2 in the series, Joe Girardi had to recognize that Game 3 was as close to a must-win as his team would face in a game that was not an elimination game. He elected to play the hot hand, putting Ibanez in a situation to win the game despite the fact that even a cursory examination of the choices at hand (like this one) would have made it pretty clear that he was making a bad managerial decision. In the end, it probably didn’t even make a difference. After the Cano single, Fangraphs calculated that the Yankees only had a 14.1% chance of winning the game. But that is incidental. October baseball just doesn’t allow you to make strategic mistakes like the one Girardi made tonight, and the Yankees are now looking at a pretty deep hole. No team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven series except…well, the Yankees know.

Bad Players on LCS rosters

This post was inspired by a conversation I had with Twitter users @SFBleacherGirl and @toasterposey. It started when I tweeted this: “You know, for a team playing for the pennant, the Giants have a shocking number of bad players.” That got me thinking: who are the worst players on the teams playing for the pennants?

Well, I found that every team has its fair share of terrible players. Who knew? But who’s are the worst? Here we go:

Detroit Tigers: They’re carrying 14 hitters and 11 pitchers in the LCS, and they have a lot of bad hitters. Their backup infielders are Ramon Santiago (-0.3 fWAR in 259 PA this season) and Danny Worth (-0.2 fWAR in 90 PA this season). For both the LCS and the LDS they elected not to take Ryan Raburn, who’s been awful this season (-1.5 fWAR) but was pretty good in ’10 and ’11. Still, can’t really argue with that call. They carried 6 outfielders, including Avisail Garcia (only 51 PA in the regular season) and Don Kelly (46 wRC+ in the reg. season). Those two made the roster at the expense of Brennan Boesch, who was probably the Tigers worst every-day player during the regular season. On the other side of the ball, they took 11 pitchers to the ALCS. Rick Porcello is probably the 11th man, and he’s pretty good. He had a 93 FIP- this year, which means his FIP was 7% better than the AL once adjusted for park effects.

Verdict: Their bench is pretty bad, but that’s not as big of a deal as an AL team since they go to their bench less often. Their bullpen is pretty good.

New York Yankees: Their bench is pretty solid. Chris Stewart is well on his way to earning his membership into the International Brotherhood of Backup Catchers. They seem to be shuffling their outfielders based on matchups, and Brett Gardner is back, so they’re very deep at that position. And let’s not forget about Raul Ibanez, Blessed Be His Name. Their backup infielders are a little worse, but Eduardo Nunez, Eric Chavez, and Jayson Nix aren’t all that bad, and each figures to see time through the end of this series, with Derek Jeter’s injury and Alex Rodriguez’s continued struggles. Their bullpen is full of guys I’ve never heard of but who are pretty ok. They also have three guy who will undoubtedly play for the Padres, on the basis of their names: Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley, and Boone Logan.

Verdict: Pretty solid. No real complaints, although it looks like it’s not going to matter since the Tigers won Game 3 to take a 3-0 series lead as I typed this.

St. Louis Cardinals: The quality of the bench is a bit more important for the NL teams than the AL teams because of the lack of a DH. That means more pinch hitting, double switches, and other wacky scenarios that end with relief pitchers getting at-bats in extra innings. That said, the Cardinals bench is pretty deep. Daniel Descalso, who technically isn’t on the bench since he’s started every game of the playoffs, is actually pretty bad but it’s okay since every mediocre hitter on the Cardinals turns into Reggie Jackson in the playoffs. Adron Chambers and Shane Robinson are the last two guys off the bench, which is probably good since both of them are pretty bad. As far as the pitching goes, the loss of Jaime Garcia to injury hurts their depth a bit but Shelby Miller should be pretty good out of the pen, what with his 98 mph heat and all. Marc Rzepczynski is probably their worst reliever, but he’s the only lefty in the pen so he’s not going anywhere.

Verdict: Not bad. The bullpen is strong, and when Skip Schumaker and Matt Carpenter are the first two options to pinch hit, that’s pretty good.

San Francisco Giants: The team that inspired this query. Their bench consists of: backup catcher Hector Sanchez, infielders Aubrey Huff (“infielder”), Ryan Theriot, and Joaquin Arias, and the backup outfielder is Xavier Nady. That’s not good. Sanchez is decent for a backup catcher, but when he’s the second-best PH option, you’re in trouble. Nady and Theriot are terrible.  Guillermo Mota is the only glaring hole in the bullpen, but with Madison Bumgarner’s recent struggles and Tim Lincecum’s likely return to the rotation, the bullpen is rather thin. Luckily, George Kontos has emerged as one of the first arms off the bench, and he’s performed well so far(5 appearances, 0 runs allowed) .

Verdict: It’s good for now, but there’s an awfully thin margin of error for Bochy to work with.

So in the end, I suppose every championship contender has a weakness at the end of their bench. The Giants don’t look egregiously worse than any other team, but I would argue that they have the smallest margin of error due to the increased importance of the bench in the NL.

Oh, and who’s the worst player on any of the remaining four teams’ rosters? In my opinion, worst three are Xavier Nady, Ryan Theriot, and Danny Worth. Nady hasn’t posted a positive fWAR value since 2008, can’t run, can barely hit, and can’t field. Worth has almost no power at all (.041 ISO, 8th worst in the MLB out of 473 players with at least 90 PA), and isn’t a particularly good fielder or baserunner.  Theriot takes the cake, thought, because…well I’ll just let Keith Law sum it up: “Ryan Theriot can’t hit, does not walk, is a terrible defender, and will get thrown out at least 3 times on the bases.”

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