My 2015 MLB Hall of fame Ballot

Though baseball takes a back seat to the other major sports in entertainment, there is no sport that can match baseball in hall of fame anticipation.  Unfortunately, there is an extreme lack of objectivity in baseball voting that has ruined the process.  There are 4 types of morons that have broken the system:

  • The Mike Berardino: He is the voter who probably means well, but does not have enough common sense to be voting. He used all 10 votes, but left Randy Johnson off of his ballot.  He selected 3 pitchers (Mussina, Schilling, and Smoltz) but left off Johnson despite the Big Unit being better than the former 3 should-be-hall-of-famers in pretty much everything.  Leaving off the most obvious name to check off fringe candidates like Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker, and Tim Raines is not acceptable.
  • The Howard Bryant: He and too many others decided to submit a blank ballot. That is absolutely ridiculous.  They have the honor of receiving a hall of fame vote and are ignoring their responsibility.  The system is not broken, it’s the voters.  Especially problematic are individuals who refuse to submit a ballot and then write an article after voting is over about a player who missed the HOF by a few votes.
  • The Ken Gurnick: Similar to Berardino, he has no common sense. The difference is that unlike Berardino, he does not mean well and submits stupid ballots to just be a dick.  Gurnick wants to punish the entire steroid era, during which every player is tainted.  As a result, he only voted for Jack Morris in 2014.  Maddux and Morris’ careers overlap by 9 years (1986-1994) so technically Morris is a part of that era too. But who needs real logic when you can use Gurnick logic, right?
  • The Anonymous Moron: Someone actually voted for Aaron Sele in 2013. I have nothing against Aaron Sele.  He was a solid pitcher, but even he knows that he has no business being in a hall of fame discussion.  There are numerous instances of players who miss election by a handful of votes.  All votes need to be public so the BBWA can get rid of writers who do the equivalent of submitting a blank ballot.

Without further ado, here is my (if I had a vote,) 2015 hall of fame ballot:

The Unanimous One

  1. Randy Johnson: 4135.1 IP, 303 Wins, 3.29 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 4875 Ks, 5 Cy Youngs, WS MVP
  • Like Greg Maddux last year, Randy Johnson should be checked off on every single ballot. He has a ton of hardware, reached all the traditional milestones, shut down an elite Yankees lineup during the World Series, and was straight up dominant from 1993-2004.  It doesn’t matter if you want a big hall or small, this guy is a no-brainer selection.

Obvious Picks

Individuals in favor of a small hall of fame may not vote for these guys.  I can accept that, but I like a slightly bigger HOF so these guys are obvious picks.

  1. Pedro Martinez: 2827.1 IP, 219 Wins, 2.93 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 3154 Ks, 3 Cy Youngs
  • Pedro doesn’t have the longevity to join the pantheon of the hall of fame, but he has the 2 most amazing seasons in history (1997 and 2000) where he had a sub 2.00 ERA in the steroid era. Pedro should also have a 4th Cy Young award for 2002 when he was clearly better than Zito.  Regardless, he is the most dominant pitcher I’ve ever seen and should be elected first ballot.
  1. Craig Biggio: 1844 Runs, 291HR, 1175 RBI, 414 SB, .796OPS, 5 SS, 4 GG
  • Biggio is undoubtedly one of the 10 best second basemen in history and is top 5 all time in my book. Ricky Henderson is the only other player to with at least 3000hits-250HR-400SB.  Biggio shouldn’t have stuck around his last season just to reach 3000 hits because he already had a hall of fame career.  He should get in this year, but one can never trust the HOF voters.
  1. Jeff Bagwell: 1517 Runs, 449 HR, 1529 RBI, 202 SB, .948 OPS, 3 SS, 1 MVP, 1 GG
  • Bagwell was one of the best all-around players in baseball and had an unbelievable peak. If it wasn’t for the strike, his 1994 season would be the greatest offensive season of all time in my book.  Age and injuries in 2005 ended his career a little early, but he has plenty of numbers and hardware to be in the HOF.  The steroid speculation is ridiculous.  You are innocent until proven guilty in this country.  To penalize him for being a steroid user is un-American.
  1. Mike Piazza: 1048 Runs, 427 HR, 1335 RBI, 17 SB, .922 OPS, 10 SS
  • Piazza surpassed Jonny Bench as the greatest offensive catcher in MLB history. The fact that he has 10 silver sluggers during the greatest offensive era is baseball is incredible.  He was a really bad defensive catcher but his offensive work is more than enough to get into the hall.  Just like Bagwell, those un-American steroid speculators are keeping him out.
  1. John Smoltz: 3473 IP, 213 Wins, 3.33 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 3084 Ks, 1 CY Young, 1 SS
  • Smoltz is the final member of the Braves’ big 3 who will be elected into the hall of fame. He has really good regular season numbers on par with both Schilling and Mussina.  What separates him is that he had Schilling’s postseason dominance, except did it for 72 more innings.  He doesn’t get any bonus points for being a great closer.  All hall of fame starters would have been dominant closers.  Of course, Smoltz had such a great career that he doesn’t need the relief pitching “bonus” to get into the hall.

Fringe Picks

All of these guys are just missing something that could keep them out of the hall.  They’re still hall of famers in my book, but I can understand why some would not vote for them.

  1. Mike Mussina: 3562.2 IP, 270 Wins, 3.68 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 2813 Ks, 7 Gold Gloves
  • Mussina has 9 top 6 Cy Young finishes and excellent career numbers despite pitching in arguably the toughest division during the steroid era. He was also the 2nd best defensive pitcher of his era after Maddux.  Mussina hasn’t reached any of the popular milestones and has good, but not great postseason numbers which is what is hurting him.  Regardless, it’s an absolute disgrace that a relief pitcher like Lee Smith is getting more votes than him.
  1. Curt Schilling: 3261 IP, 216 Wins, 3.46 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 3116 Ks, 1 WS MVP
  • I left Schilling off my ballot last year and didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. He’s on the low end in regular season totals, and doesn’t have much hardware.  Despite that, Schilling was one of the best pitchers during the steroid era and is one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all time.  He’s been to 4 World Series with 3 different teams, and won 3 titles with 2 different teams.  That postseason resume is good enough to overcome regular season shortcomings.
  1. Larry Walker: 1355 Runs, 383 HR, 1311 RBI, 230 SB, .965 OPS, 7 GG, 3 SS, 1 MVP
  • Walker’s career numbers are on the low side, but he has a ton of hardware to prove that he was a dominant force when he did play. Walker is one of the 5 best offensive right fielders in history and arguably the 2nd best RF of all time behind Hank Aaron.  It’s a shame that his vote totals were halved last year.  It’ll be a travesty if he falls off the HOF ballot this year.
  1. Carlos Delgado: 1241 Runs, 473 HR, 1512 RBI, 14 SB, .929 OPS, 3 SS
  • This last spot was an extremely tough call for me but I went with my gut and put down Delgado. If it wasn’t for a roided-up A-Rod, Delgado would have won the MVP award in 2003.  He also has impressive career totals even for playing in the steroid era and he did while being clean.  Unlike most great players, he ended his career on a high note.  Delgado put up 38HR/115RBI in his last full season and had a .914 OPS before he got hurt and called it a career in 2009.  There’s little doubt that Delgado would have gotten to 500 home runs if he stuck around for another year or two.

Sincere Apologies

  • Jeff Kent: He was on the list last year, but I liked Delgado and Schilling a little more. The guy is one of the best offensive 2nd basemen of all time, and he just missed the cut by a hair.
  • Alan Trammel: Most hardware among players not on ballot. He was a great all-around player who is unfortunately missing due to a crowded ballot.
  • Tim Raines: He had the 10 spot on my list last year. After comparing Raines, Trammel, Kent, and McGriff closely, I realized that his career was a little less impressive than I thought.
  • Fred McGriff: He is the final guy on my 3 way tie for 12th Crime dog is more substance than flash, but I have no problems with that.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my post.  Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated.

By: Milap Mehta

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Why the 2015 Oakland Athletics Will Make the Playoffs

Watching your favorite team tank is every fan’s worst nightmare.  If you are a fan who roots for your team to lose, turn in your fan card right now because no one should ever want to see their team struggle.  The most recent case is supposedly the Oakland Athletics.

Despite making the playoffs for a 3rd consecutive season, Billy Beane decided to go on a selling spree.  They ditched their two best bats in Josh Donaldson (.798 OPS) & Brandon Moss (.772 OPS), their number 3 starter in Jeff Samardzija (3.14 ERA in 111.2 innings), and an elite reliever in Luke Gregerson (2.12 ERA in 72.1 innings).  Predictably, the As also did not pursue resigning their rental ace, Jon Lester (2.35 ERA in 76.2 innings).

Going from all-in on a World Series bid to a fire sale of the teams’ best players is understandably difficult.  With that being said, Billy Beane IS NOT trashing the team and still has the Oakland Athletics set up for the playoffs.

WARNING: I am going on a tangent about the ridiculous criticism of the Yoenis Cespedes-Jon Lester trade.  If you are a person who thinks the Athletics were on the losing end of the Cespedes-Lester trade, there is no hope for you.  Lester was exponentially better than Cespedes after the trade.  Seriously, the As did not lose because of that trade.  In fact, it was that very trade that saved their wild card hopes last year.  Without further ado, here are 3 reasons why the Oakland Athletics will make the playoffs in 2015:

  1. The Oakland Athletics have a starting rotation that is capable of withstanding the regular season storm

Quality starting pitching depth is the key to making the playoffs.  Simply having a dominant 1-2 combination like the 2014 White Sox will not cut it.  The 3-5 starters all have to contribute, and there needs to be 1 or 2 other guys that can make a few starts when a starter or two inevitably gets hurt.  The Oakland Athletics have the starting pitching talent and depth to last a full season and here is why:

  • Sonny Gray is a legitimate ace: Gray continued his brilliance from 2013 by pitching 219 innings with a 3.08 ERA last year. Those numbers were 11th and 24th respectively in the majors.  He just turned 25, so there is a realistic possibility that he performs even better in 2015.
  • Drew Pomeranz becomes a mainstay in the rotation: Pomeranz made 10 starts last year and threw 52.1 innings with a 2.58 ERA as a starter. Pomeranz struggled in Colorado, but seems to have found a home in Oakland.  He probably won’t sustain his 2014 pace like Gray, but the As should get 150 or so quality innings from the guy.
  • Jesse Hahn: Like Gray and Pomeranz, he’s another pitcher in his mid-20s who had a very good 2014. Even if his ERA balloons from 3.07 to 3.57, it won’t matter too much because the As will have another legitimate starter
  • Someone from Kazmir, Griffin, and Parker will be healthy: Every one of these guys can pitch when healthy. Unfortunately, they all come with injury risk.  Kazmir was the lucky one last year.  It could be him again or one of the other two.  If Oakland is really fortunate, maybe 2 of them will stay healthy

Oakland also got this guy named Kendall Graveman from the Blue Jays in the Josh Donaldson Trade.  Graveman showed a taste of what he can do last year by throwing 4.2 innings in 5 relief appearances with a 3.86 ERA and .86 WHIP.  As a worst case scenario, Graveman will be an elite reliever.  He will most likely find starting pitching success next year and here is why:

  • Graveman is MLB ready now: Prospects are guys that dominate certain levels of the minor leagues, but not all. Major league players are guys that dominated all levels of the minors and can play at the highest level.  Graveman is not a prospect.  He is a major league caliber pitcher.  He had a 1.83 ERA in 167.1 innings in the minors including a 1.88 ERA in his 6 starts at AAA.
  • Graveman’s increasingly improved control: Graveman’s K/BB ratio in A+ ball was 3.56. He upped that to 4.4 in AAA and had 4 strike outs and 0 walks in the majors.  Pitchers with good control tend to have success in the majors.

In short, any team with this kind of starting pitching depth is a postseason threat.

  1. Oakland has the bullpen depth to win late games

The Royals showed the world what an amazing bullpen can do.  Despite having a mediocre offense, and some starting pitching struggles in the playoffs, they were one game away from winning it all thanks to the pen.  Oakland’s bullpen isn’t quite to the level of Kansas City, but it is still very good:

  • Dan Otero 2014:         86.2 IP, 2.28 ERA (Career ERA = 2.35)
  • Sean Doolittle 2014:  62.2 IP, 2.73 ERA (Career ERA = 2.97)
  • Fernando Abd 2014:  57.1 IP, 1.57 ERA (Career ERA = 3.61)
  • Ryan Cook 2014:        50.0 IP, 3.42 ERA (Career ERA = 2.77)
  • Jesse Chavez 2014:     20.1 IP, 3.54 ERA (Career ERA = 5.15) *All numbers are as a reliever
  • Eric O’Flaherty 2014: 20.0 IP, 2.25 ERA (Career ERA = 2.81)

Oakland has relief pitching depth that few teams can match.  Their biggest weakness was closing out games. The Colorado Rockies were the only team with fewer saves than the As.  Oakland also had the 3rd worst save percentage in the majors as they saved only 59.62% of their opportunities.  Closing out games improved once Doolittle took over as the full time closer on May 10th.  From that point on, Doolittle converted 21 of his 24 save opportunities (87.5% rate) and will continue that in 2015.

Oakland also has some younger guys such as Raul Alcantara, RJ Alvarez, and Sean Nolin (Donaldson Trade) who could also become mainstays in the bullpen.  With a bullpen like this, Oakland will definitely win a lot of close games.

  1. Oakland’s offense will be just good enough 

The As managed to score the 4th most runs in the majors last year despite ranking 10th in OBP and 13th in OPS.  They should see a 50-60 run decrease even if they maintain their OBP and OPS numbers from last year.  I do anticipate a decrease in scoring from Oakland’s offense, but it will not be enough knock them out of the playoffs.

Obviously replacing Donaldson and Moss will be difficult, however it is not impossible.  Neither Donaldson nor Moss was an offensive juggernaut, and there are enough pieces in Oakland to get them to where they need to be:

  • Brett Lawrie will stay healthy: Lawrie went from being an upcoming star in 2011 (posted a .953 OPS in 150 at bats in addition to playing elite defense) to a continual headache in the blink of an eye. After 3 disappointing seasons, the guy clearly has something to prove.  He only turns 25 next year and has the talent to be better than Donaldson.  Even if he doesn’t surpass Josh, Lawrie should at least replicate what he did.
  • Marcus Semien will succeed as a full time player: Semien can play 3 different positions, has 15 HR/15 SB potential, and is a patient hitter. Billy Beane loves guys who get on base and Semien can do just that.
  • Billy Butler is a massive upgrade at DH: In 2012, Butler set career highs in home runs, RBIs, and OPS. Each of those numbers took a decline in 2013 and fell further in 2014.  If Butler returns to 2012 form that will be amazing, but even 2014 Butler is a huge upgrade over what Oakland had last year.  Alberto Callaspo put up a .580 OPS as the team’s primary DH and Adam Dunn’s .634 OPS wasn’t much better.  It’ll be pretty hard for Butler to not be an improvement.

Oakland’s offense suffered last year from everyone (except for Donaldson) collapsing down the stretch.  The 2015 squad probably won’t eclipse the start from 2014, but they definitely won’t finish as poorly either.  The Cardinals managed to make the playoffs last year despite finishing 24th in the majors in runs scored.  I have a hard time seeing Oakland finish that poorly.  This offense won’t be elite, but it should be good enough.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my article.  Any comments (barring ones that knock the Cespedes trade) are greatly appreciated.

By: Milap Mehta

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1st Quarter MVPs of the 2014-2015 NBA Season

The NBA season is a little over 25% finished, so it is time for Milap’s 1st quarter MVP rankings. My rankings are based on my scoring system in which players receive points based on how well they do compared to other MVP candidates. The lower the player’s score the better. To qualify as an MVP candidate, players needed to rank within the top 25 in the NBA in value added: http://espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/statistics

Within the rankings, I used over 10 different metrics to assess the players’ performance. Some metrics were traditional such as team record and in game statistics. I also used advanced metrics like player efficiency rating and value added (value added is what I would use as a tie breaker in case players had the same score). Players also received a penalty if they had a teammate in the top 25 in value added.

My rankings have a huge emphasis on production within wins. If a team lives and dies with a player’s production, then I consider them to be more valuable to their team than a player whose volatility does not impact the team as much. This list is how my voting would go if the season ended today. Obviously by midseason, DeMarcus Cousins won’t be on the list because he’ll have missed too many games from injury, and Russell Westbrook + Kevin Durant will eventually be back on.

Without further ado, here are my NBA candidates (Parenthesis stats are: points – rebounds – assists).

1. Anthony Davis (24.3 – 10.2 – 1.6), Score 67: Despite the Pelicans mediocre record, Davis has easily been the league’s MVP. He is a legitimate two-way threat and has elevated his game to new heights. Davis could easily be the league’s best player by year’s end.

2. James Harden (26.4 – 6.2 – 6.5), Score 69: James Harden cannot play well in the postseason to save his life, but during the regular season, there are few players you’d rather have. The Rockets live and die with Harden. He’s done a phenomenal job with Dwight Howard as well.

3. LeBron James (25.5 – 5.5 – 7.6), Score 78: James and the Cavaliers both had a rough start to the season. As soon as LeBron regained form, so did the Cavs who will finish as a top 3 seed in the East because any team with LeBron, Love and Irving should be a top 3 team.

4. Stephen Curry (23.0 – 5.1 – 7.7), Score 81.5: Curry’s been healthy and is having another phenomenal year. His incredible efficiency has helped the Warriors obtain the best record in the NBA. It should not surprise anyone if Curry finishes the year at the top of this list

5. Chris Paul (18.0 – 4.6 – 9.9), Score 86.5: Paul is not surprisingly an annual MVP candidate. The guy is a brilliant floor general who can also create his own shot at will. Will this be the year Paul and the Clippers break out of their 1st/2nd round exiting limbo?

6. Marc Gasol (19.5 – 7.7 – 3.8), Score 88.5: Gasol’s in the midst of the best season of his career and the Grizzlies may be the best team in the NBA. The Grizzlies play a very team-oriented style of basketball and that is the biggest factor that will limit Gasol’s MVP chances. Hooray for the Western Conference Chicago Bulls!

7. DeMarcus Cousins (23.5 – 12.6 – 2.4), Score 95.5: If it wasn’t for his injury, Cousins would be top 3 on this list. The Kings got off to a great start and have gone 2-6 without him. He will probably be off the list once the midseason awards come around, but it was a good run.

8. Chris Bosh (21.6 – 8.2 – 2.1), Score 100: The Miami Heat struggled at the start of the year, but it thankfully won’t hurt them too much because they play in the East. Bosh at times showcases his Toronto form, but needs to do that on a more consistent basis since Wade and Deng continue to have troubles staying healthy.

9. LaMarcus Aldridge (22.3 – 9.9 – 2.1), Score 100.5: Aldridge is on his way to another great year. The Blazers continue to be successful, but Aldridge has been asked to do a little less this year since Lillard has taken on a bigger role. Regardless, few players can take over a game like Aldridge can with his seemingly unstoppable mid-range game.

10. Kyle Lowry (19.7 – 4.7 – 7.5), Score 102: Lowry is one of the most underrated players in the game, and is the biggest reason why the Raptors have the best record in the East. If the Raptors maintain this pace with DeRozan sidelined, Lowry will be much higher on the next list.

Honorable Mentions: Jimmy Butler, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Tyson Chandler

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My 2013-14 All NBA Team selections.

The NBA season is winding down quickly, which means that All-NBA teams will be announced soon.  For those who care, here are my All-NBA teams.

 

All NBA 1st Team

 

C – Joakim Noah:    12.6 ppg  11.3 rpg   5.4 apg

F – Kevin Durant:    32.0 ppg   7.4 rpg   5.5 apg

F – Lebron James:    27.1 ppg   6.9 rpg   6.4 apg

G – Stephen Curry:  24.0 ppg   4.3 rpg   8.5 apg

G – Chris Paul:        19.1 ppg   4.3 rpg  10.7 apg

 

  • Durant, James, and Curry are obvious picks.  No explanation is needed for those 3 and it will be a huge upset if any of them are left off the first team.
  • I continuously went back and forth between Noah and Al Jefferson.  Jefferson was the better offensive player while Noah was the better one defensively.  It’s really close between the 2, but Noah’s team had a better record and went through more adversity (losing Rose and Deng in the middle of the year).
  • Another toss-up was between Paul and James Harden for the final guard spot.  Chris Paul is the better player between the 2, but Harden played in 11 more games.  In the end, the disparity in games played was not big enough for me to deny CP3 the 1st team spot.

 

All NBA 2nd Team

 

C – Al Jefferson:            21.8 ppg  10.8 rpg  2.1 apg

F – Blake Griffin:           24.1 ppg    9.5 rpg  3.9 apg

F – LaMarcus Aldridge: 23.2 ppg  11.1 rpg  2.6 apg

G – James Harden:         25.4 ppg    4.7 rpg  6.1 apg

G – Goran Dragic:         20.3 ppg    3.2 rpg  5.9 apg

 

  • Initially I had Kevin Love on my 2nd team and Aldridge on my 3rd team but I decided to swap them.  Even though Love might be the better player, there is something very wrong with the Timberwolves being as bad as they are.  I don’t fault them for missing the playoffs, but they weren’t even in the discussion.  They finished 9 games behind Dallas.  The win/loss discrepancy was enough for me to have them trade places.
  • There were 3 different guards that I wanted to put in the final spot, but I can only pick one.  I picked Dragic over Kyle Lowry and John Wall because of how amazing the Suns season was.  Despite playing in the western conference, the Suns were in the playoff hunt all year thanks to Dragic.  He easily had the weakest supporting cast of the 3 players too which is why he gets the nod.

 

All NBA 3rd Team

 

C – Anthony Davis: 20.8 ppg  10.0 rpg  2.8 bpg

F – Kevin Love:       26.1 ppg  12.5 rpg  4.4 apg

F – P George:           21.7 ppg    6.8 rpg  3.5 apg

G – K Lowry:           17.9 ppg    4.7 rpg  7.4 apg

G – J Wall:               19.3 ppg    4.1 rpg  8.8 apg

 

  • I know that Davis is technically a power forward, but he guarded a lot of Centers this year. Plus, there are too many good forwards to give DeMarcus Cousins or Dwight Howard an All NBA spot this year.
  • There were 3 different forwards that I wanted to put in that last spot (George, Carmelo Anthony, and Dirk Nowitzki).  Anthony and Nowitzki are better offensively than George, but George is the best defender of the 3 and one of the best 2-way players in the game.  George might not be a superstar yet, but he deserves the All NBA slot.
  • Surprisingly there wasn’t any real competition for the last 2 guard spots.  DeRozan, Irving, Lillard, and Conley all had great years, but none deserved a spot over Lowry and Wall.
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GM Blueprint for Making Your Team a Contender (Including the Cubs)

As a Chicago sports fan, I still can’t seem to enjoy the city’s multi-sport success all because of one loveably losing franchise.  I hate to reiterate something that’s been ranted on a billion times, but it is absolutely ridiculous for a team to go on a 106 year title drought.  The Cubs have been the laughing stock of baseball for a long time (a title that would be shared with the White Sox had it not been for 2005).  How does a team lose for over a century and counting anywhere, let alone a city like Chicago?

Epstein and Hoyer have done their best to convince fans of a new successful approach.  Because of this, many see a bright future for the team.  This false hope is really upsetting, and everyone needs to understand that this strategy is bogus.  “Building a farm system” is just a warm and fuzzy way to say tanking.  They are going to lose more to end potentially end losing. The Cubs lost 197 games in the 2 years with Epstein.  As of May 21, they are 16 – 28 which puts them on a pace to lose 103 games.  When has losing fixed losing?  NEVER!!!!!

Drafting in baseball is a crapshoot.  From 2000 – 2009, there were 100 players drafted top 10 in their draft.  Only 34, or roughly a third, became successful major leaguers or are on track to be successful.  Of the successful players, only half of them became true stars in the league.  Here is the complete list:

 

Adrian Gonzalez (2000) Joe Mauer (2001) Gavin Floyd (2001) Mark Teixeira (2001)
BJ Upton (2002) Z Greinke (2002) Prince Fielder (2002) Rickie Weeks (2003)
Delmon Young (2003) Nick Markakis (2003) Paul Maholm (2003) John Danks (2003)
Justin Verlander (2004) Homer Bailey (2004) Justin Upton (2005) Alex Gordon (2005)
Ryan Zimmerman (2005) Ryan Braun (2005) Troy Tulowitzki (2005) Evan Longoria (2006)
Clayton Kershaw (2006) Tim Lincecum (2006) David Price (2007) Matt Wieters (2007)
Madison Bumgarner (2007) Jarrod Parker (2007) Pedro Alvarez (2008) Eric Hosmer (2008)
Buster Posey (2008) Aaron Crow (2008) Stephen Strasburg (2009) Mike Minor (2009)
Mike Leake (2009) Drew Storen (2009)

There were actually more players drafted in the top ten that have not played a single game in the majors (20), than became stars (17).  Here are the busts from the 2000s drafts:

Mike Stodolka Matt Harrington Matt Wheatland Mark Phillips
Joe Torres Josh Karp Chris Smith Colt Griffin
Chris Gruler Clint Everts Kyle Sleeth Chris Lubanski
Ryan Harvey Matt Bush Wade Townsend Bill Rowell
Casey Weathers Kyle Skipworth Donavan Tate Matt Hobgood

 

In short, tanking is strategy that has never worked in the past, doesn’t work now, and will never work.  Before we get into my plan, it is important to understand that winning is necessary to attract players.  No one wants to play for a losing club.  Just because Chicago is an amazing city, doesn’t mean that everyone will automatically want to play here.  If veterans know that they will be dealt every time the team struggles (which is every year), they will never want to sign.  Basically, don’t trade every valuable asset you have at the deadline.  At some point you need to keep your valuable major leaguers.

So how does one build an annual contender?  Stop worrying about prospects and acquire as many talented major leaguers as possible.  Teams that load up on capable major league talent always fare better than those who try to build a farm system.  Has the Royals brilliant farm system done anything?  No it hasn’t.  To compete in the majors you need major leaguers, not double/triple A players.  If given the choice between 4 average major leaguers and 4 promising prospects, always take the major league players.

If you are the general manager for the Astros, Cubs, Mariners, Mets, Padres, Pirates Royals, or any other crappy team, follow these rules and watch your team turn their fortunes around.

 

Rule 1: Fill out rotation with 3 cheap, competent veteran starters 

–          Good starting pitching is the key to winning.  Most teams have 2 or 3 solid arms locked up, but the rest of their rotation is question.  To contend, you need to get at least 3 more veteran arms to fill out your rotation.  If your team can afford to sign an elite arm to a multi-year deal, go for it.  If you can’t, it is important to find quality starters and sign them to short deals.  Every year there are dozens of veteran starters who come off of bad years, or injuries that are steals.  Here is a list of guys I would target for next year:

  • Chris Capuano: Age – 35, Current Salary – $2.25 million, Best Case Scenario – Signs a 1 year $3 – 5 mil contract and is a solid #4 starter with 150+ innings of 4 ERA ball.  Almost Worst Case Scenario – He is relegated to bullpen duty where he will do very well.
  • Hiroki Kuroda: Age – 39, Current Salary – $16 million, Best Case Scenario – Signs a 1 year $8-9 million contract and turns in 170+ innings of 3.50 ERA ball.  Almost Worst Case Scenario – Injuries limit him to 100 innings with a 4.50 ERA
  • Paul Maholm: Age – 31, Current Salary – $1.5 million, Best Case Scenario – Signs a 2 year $5 million contract and pitches exactly like Capuano in his best case.  Almost Worst Case Scenario – His ERA is closer to 5 than 4
  • Brandon McCarthy: Age – 30, Current Salary – $10.25 million, Best Case Scenario – Signs a 2 year $15 million contract and throws 150+ innings each year with a sub 4 ERA.  Almost Worst Case Scenario – Pitches 100 innings a year of 4.50 ERA ball
  • Wandy Rodriguez: Age – 35, Current Salary – $13 million, Best Case Scenario – Signs a 1 year $8 – 9 million contract and goes 180+ innings with a 3.70 ERA.  Almost worst case scenario – Injuries limit him to sub 100 innings

If you get 3 of the aforementioned pitchers and repeat the process every offseason, you will have a rotation that can weather the 162-game storm every year.  If you load up on prospects, you have guys who might be able to make an impact in 3 years or do nothing.

 

Rule 2: Don’t sign nutcases to long term deals (especially expensive ones)

–          This seems like a no brainer but I have seen the Cubs sign Carlos Zambrano to a 5 year $91.5 million deal, and Milton Bradley to a 3 year $30 million deal.  If a player is crazy lazy a la Bradley or bat shit insane like Zambrano, they are not worth enormous contracts.

–          If you find yourself with a nutcase that has a lot of talent like these guys, give them incentive laden contracts.  Pay them their $18 million, but only if they reach certain milestones such as 200 innings pitched with a sub 3.5 ERA or have an .850+ OPS.

–          If these guys don’t want to sign your incentive heavy contract, let them go elsewhere.  They will just be a pain in someone else’s butt.

Rule 3: Use OBP and OPS to gauge hitters

–          Batting average is BS statistic and there is no reason why anyone should value it.  According to batting average, Alexei Ramirez (.315) has been a significantly better player than Jose Abreu (.260).  It’s pretty obvious which player has been more valuable so stop signing players because they hit for average.

–          Billy Bean’s strategy may not be perfect, but he was spot on with his OBP theory.  Guys who get on base are more valuable than guys who hit for average.  Walking is very important.  Unless players make contact at an Ichiro in his prime rate, they need to know how to take walks.  If players don’t show signs of plate discipline after 3 years, they should not get a huge contract.

–          There is no perfect statistic to judge hitters, but OPS is the best one.  Barring major home/road splits (aka Rockies players), and lefty/righty splits, the better hitters have higher OPS.  OPS is the best because it combines the frequency with which a player gets on base (OBP) with the quality of their hits (SLG).  For example, if you go by OBP, Emilio Bonifacio (.335) is better offensively than Junior Lake (.295).  What OBP has not factored in is the quality of their at bats.  Lake has one more extra base hit than Bonifacio (13 to 12) despite having 46 fewer at bats.  Lake also has 5 home runs to Bonifacio’s 0.  Lake’s big advantage in power means that he is having a better year offensively.

 

Rule 4: Don’t pay for past performance, or overpay old guys in general

–          If a guy is 30+ years old, paying him over $20 million a year for 10 years isn’t a good idea.  Literally every one of these contracts looks horrible.  Some of them turned horrible even before they were supposed to be horrible like Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard.

–          Unless you manage the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, or Dodgers your boss probably has some kind of salary cap for you.  To maximize your cap don’t give max contracts to old guys.  Here is the full list of players worth an 8+ year mega deal (if they were a free agent at the end of the year):

Pitchers
1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Felix Hernandez
3. Yu Darvish
4. Masahiro Tanaka
5. Madison Bumgarner
6. Stephen Strasburg
7. Jordan Zimmerman
8. Gerrit Cole
Hitters
1.      Mike Trout
2.      Yasiel Puig
3.      Giancarlo Stanton
4.      Justin Upton
5.      Paul Goldschmidt
6.      Freddie Freeman
7.      Andrew McCutchen
8.      Anthony Rizzo
9.      Buster Posey
10.  Kyle Seager
11.  Andrelton Simmons
12.  Eric Hosmer

 

Basically the list isn’t long so don’t take an unnecessary risk and spend money on a player who will be too old to be productive/is too big of a risk.

 

Rule 5: Buy out arbitration years of talented young players

–          If you know that a guy is going to be a stud, don’t wait until he hits free agency before you try to resign him.  Buying out arbitration years usually results in getting a guy at a discount so don’t hesitate to take a short term loss for a long term gain.  Here are examples of some very smart general managing that got elite players at a discount:

  • Chris Sale: 5 year, $32.5 million extension

The White Sox already had sale for 2 years at 600k a year.  With the deal, he was paid $4.35 million over 2013 and 2014 instead of $1.2 million.  He would then make $28.15 million over the next 3 years with team options for 2018 and 2019.  By taking a short term loss, the White Sox got an elite starter for under $10 million a year for an extra 3 years.

  • Evan Longoria: 6 year, $100 million extension

The Rays ate up Longoria’s arbitration years immediately by giving him a 6 year $17.5 million contract at the beginning of his rookie year.  They took all the necessary precautions to make sure that he avoids free agency.  Longoria’s loyalty coupled with smart managing results in what is now a 10 year $130 million contract with a $13 million option in 2023.  What a steal.

  • Paul Goldschmidt: 5 year, $32 million extension

This is easily the best deal in the majors.  The D Backs gave Goldschmidt a 600k raise for 2014 and locked him in for 4 more years at under $8 million a season.  There is also $14.5 million team option for 2019.  You should definitely make like the D Backs and sign a budding star if you have one.

  • Andrew McCutchen: 6 year, $51.5 million extension

McCutchen was set to make $1 million combined from the 2012 and 2013 season.  The Pirates gave McCutch a solid $4 million raise in 2013 and this was enough to retain his services for $44.5 million over the next 4 years.  Considering that BJ Upton is making $15.5 million a year, this is robbery.

 

Rule 6: Don’t be an idiot

–          Stop dangling Jeff Samardzija and give him a 4 year contract

–          Stop stalling on extending Travis Wood

–          Don’t sign Edwin Jackson to $52 million contracts

–          Don’t let Greg Maddux in his prime walk out the door

–          Don’t let Carlos Marmol close

–          Don’t outbid yourself for A Rod

 

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.  Don’t hesitate to comment on any questions you have or points you would like to debate.

Written by: Milap Mehta

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2014 MLB Hall of Fame Ballot

There needs to be some major changes in the BBWA this year.  As a fan of baseball, I am sick and tired of seeing the nonsense that these so called “experts” spew.  Voting for the Hall of Fame is not that hard.  There are certain candidates who universally should be voted in like Greg Maddux.  Unfortunately, some morons will undoubtedly leave Maddux off of their ballot.  Those individuals should have their voting rights revoked immediately.  Now that my rant is over, I’ll go on to my ballot.  Everyone in my no brainer category should be voted in this year.  If they are not, a lot of voters need to be fired.  I have used all 10 votes:

No Brainers

  1. Greg Maddux: 5008.1 IP, 355 Wins, 3.16 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 3371 Ks,

4 Cy Young Awards, 18 Gold Gloves

–   No elaboration needed here, he should get 100% of the vote

2.  Frank Thomas: 2468 Hits, 1494 Runs, 521 HR, 1704 RBI, .974 OPS, 2 MVPs

–   Big Hurt is one of the all-time great hitters.  He reached the 500 HR and                                 1500 RBI milestones for power hitters and has the 14th highest OPS in                                     history.

3.  Craig Biggio: 3060 Hits, 1844 Runs, 291 HR, 1175 RBI, 414 SB, .796 OPS,

5 Silver Sluggers, 4 Gold Gloves

–   It was an absolute disgrace that Biggio did not get in last year.  Not only                                 was great defensively and offensively, but he also reached the 3000 hit                                   milestone and is one of 2 players in history to reach 3000 hits – 250 HR –                               400 SB.

4.  Jeff Bagwell: 2314 Hits, 1517 Runs, 449 HR, 1529 RBI, 202 SB, .948 OPS, 1 MVP,

3 Silver Sluggers, 1 Gold Glove

–   The guy didn’t take steroids.  It’s unfair to keep a guy out on pure                                           speculation.  If evidence comes out that he is a steroid user, take his                                         plaque away.  Until then, his mind blowing numbers speak for                                                   themselves.

5.  Mike Piazza: 2314 Hits, 1048 Runs, 427 HR, 1355 RBI, .922 OPS, 10 Silver Sluggers

–   Same thing as Bagwell.  Speculation with zero evidence is a terrible                                            reason to keep someone out.  He is the best offensive catcher in history.                                 He belongs in the hall.

6.  Tom Glavine: 4413.1 IP, 305 Wins, 3.54 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 2607 Ks, 2 Cy Youngs,

1 WS MVP, 4 Silver Sluggers

–   4000 IP? Check.  300 Wins? Check.  Hardware? Check.  ERA below 3.5?                               Close enough.  Glavine is an obvious HOF candidate.

Fringe Picks

7.  Jeff Kent: 2461 Hits, 1320 Runs, 377 HR, 1518 RBI, .855 OPS, 1 MVP,

4 Silver Sluggers

–   One of the greatest offensive 2nd basemen of all time. He’s also got an                                       MVP award to go along with excellent career numbers.

8.  Mike Mussina: 3562.2 IP, 270 Wins, 3.68 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 2813 Ks, 7 Gold Gloves

–   Mussina hasn’t reached any major milestones, but he has put together a                                  pretty amazing career.  The guy’s numbers would’ve been considerably                                  better if he didn’t make his living during the steroid era.

9.  Larry Walker: 2160 Hits, 1355 Runs, 383 HR, 1311 RBI, 230 SB, .965 OPS, 1 MVP

7 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers

–   Walker is definitely on the low side for career totals, but there is no doubt                                that he was one of the best players in the game when he was there.  The                                  guy has plenty of hardware to back that up.

10. Tim Raines: 2605 Hits, 1571 Runs, 170 HR, 980 RBI, 808 SB, .810 OPS,

1 Silver Slugger

–   I understand that chicks dig the long ball, but speed is never a weakness                                  in baseball. He ranks 5th all-time in steals, and was pretty good in the                                      other aspects of the game too.  I know he lacks hardware, but his career                                  was great.

I give my sincerest apologies to Curt Schilling and Fred McGriff.   I would have voted for them if I had more votes.

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2013-2014 NFL QB Rankings

QB lists are probably the most common rankings you see in football. It’s the most fun position to rank, and you see more of QBs than any other position so it’s one of the easiest positions in football to decipher. I created my rankings for the starters of the upcoming 2013-2014 football season and this season only. In other words, if I had to pick a QB for my team, this is the order I would go in for this season.

The criteria I used are numbers, situation, past results, and potential. I have divided the QBs into tiers. Players within the tiers are all extremely similar in talent. You can rearrange the order however you prefer and I won’t have a problem with it. However, these rankings are the most objective way to rank them.

Peyton Manning

Tier 1: Elites
1A: Can be considered best QB in NFL
1. Peyton Manning (Any arrangement of these 3 is acceptable)
2. Tom Brady
3. Aaron Rodgers

Rationale:
• These are the only 3 QBs who you can make a legitimate argument to be the best QB in the NFL. Any order of them is fine, but this is the best order. You can put these guys on any team and they’ll make the playoffs.
• I’ve got Rodgers at 3rd because he’s never had a weak offensive supporting cast and I don’t know how he would do with one. Brady had them early (but was nowhere near current level) in his career and Peyton had one in 2010.
• I put Peyton at 1 because no player can take a team to another level like he can. That 2010 team had a worse supporting cast than the 2-14 disaster team in 2011. Despite that, Peyton managed to take it to the playoffs and if it wasn’t for the stupidity of Jim Caldwell, who knows how far that team would have gone in the playoffs.

Drew Brees

1B: Is elite, but cannot be considered best in NFL
4. Drew Brees (Any arrangement of these 3 is acceptable)
5. Eli Manning
6. Ben Roethlisberger

Rationale: You’d trust these guys to win a football game for you on any given day against any opponent. Unfortunately, this list isn’t about just one game. It is about which QB puts their team in the best position to go all the way for an entire season. Despite consistently having a dearth of talent, these 3 have not shown that they can consistently make their team a threat like the former 3 elite QBs have.

Tier 2: Knocking on the Door

Russell Wilson

7. Matt Ryan (Is objectively 7th)
8. Russell Wilson (These four can obviously be arranged in any order you choose)
9. Andrew Luck
10. Colin Kaepernick
11. Robert Griffin III

Rationale:
• Ryan has the longest track record of these guys which is why he is rated the highest. He has performed at an elite level during the regular season for the past 3 years. Though highly unlikely, there is the potential that the next 4 guys crash and burn because they don’t have a track record of success. The odds of crashing are considerably lower for Ryan.
• I put Wilson ahead of the other 3 because he is the most complete player. His decision making ability in pocket and bootleg passing is better than both Luck and Kaepernick. Wilson is also a much smarter runner than RGIII. Until RGIII shows that he’ll stop taking unnecessary risks running, he’ll be too risky to rank higher.

Tier 3: We can win with you, but not because of you

Joe Flacco

12. Joe Flacco (Just for Ravens fans)
13. Matthew Stafford (Any arrangement of the following 6 is acceptable)
14. Phillip Rivers
15. Jay Cutler
16. Matt Schaub
17. Tony Romo
18. Alex Smith

Rationale:
• Basically, all 7 of these guys are fine QBs who can have success in the right system. However, teams cannot expect them to elevate the level of the team or consistently come through in the clutch. They can be the QBs of Super Bowl teams, but they will not be one of the main reasons why the team won the SB.
• Flacco is the highest because he showed that his team can actually win with him, which the rest of the guys have not. This is not a slight to the Ravens. They had a great team that was in contention annually because of the sum of their parts, not because of Flacco. He has never put up elite numbers despite having an incredible defense, O Line, RB, every year, and a great receiving corps for the past 3 years. His postseason numbers were great last year, but the film was terrible. All he did was chuck the ball up in the air and have his receivers come up with numerous jump balls. He’s not worth his contract and the Ravens will see that this year.
• Stafford is the 2nd highest on this list because he is the youngest of the group and has the most potential. Rivers is next because he was the closest out of these guys to being an elite QB at one point in his career.

Tier 4: Need to see more from you

Cam Newton

19. Cam Newton (Newton and Dalton should be 19 & 20 respectively)
20. Andy Dalton
21. Josh Freeman (Any arrangement of the latter 4 is acceptable)
22. Ryan Tannehill
23. Sam Bradford
24. Jake Locker
Rationale:
• These are all younger QBs who have a lot of talent, but have too many off days to trust. Any and every one of these guys could end up as a franchise QB, or a backup by the end of the season.
• Newton is a top 10 fantasy QB, but in real life, he’s not that valuable. He’s brilliant at running with the football, but his IQ when in the pocket is terrible. He takes a lot of sacks and most of those are his fault. He makes too many poor decisions to depend on.

Matt Flynn

Tier 5: I would love to have you as my backup
25. Matt Flynn
26. Michael Vick
27. Carson Palmer
28. Kevin Kolb
29. Christian Ponder

Rationale: These guys have been in the league for a while and have not performed at their peak level recently (Palmer and Vick) or have not done enough to impress anyone (Flynn, Kolb, Ponder). They would make awesome backups because they can fill in at any time and win a couple games without dragging down the offense. However, you are in trouble if they are your starters. Flynn is the highest of this group because he is younger than Vick and Palmer, and has more potential than the others (albeit because of a lack of playing time). It wouldn’t surprise me if any of these guys broke out with a huge year since they are all in a position to do so, but I don’t like the odds for any of them.

Mark Sanchez

Tier 6: You should not be starting in the NFL
30. Brandon Weeden
31. Blaine Gabbert
32. Mark Sanchez

Rationale: Both Sanchez and Gabbert are proven terrible NFL QBs. Gabbert had trouble doing everything outside of handing the ball off to MJD, and Sanchez managed to turn a couple of 14+ win teams (in 2009 and 10) into 9 win teams despite the fact that he too only had to hand the ball off. Weeden hasn’t stunk for as long as the latter 2 which is why he is ranked the highest, but when you factor in his age, 29, he doesn’t have much time for improvement.

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