Archive for January, 2013

Should Mike Piazza be in the Hall of Fame?

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

by John Dewan

It was not surprising that no one was elected this year to the Hall of Fame, but that doesn’t mean it was fair. The biggest snub was Mike Piazza. Piazza played 16 years in the major leagues, mostly for the Dodgers and Mets. In that time there was no question about his offense. Despite playing his entire career in pitchers parks, he was head-and-shoulders the best hitting catcher during that entire time. In fact, it is fair to say that Mike Piazza was the best hitting catcher of ALL time. Here are the all-time Runs Created leaders among catchers:

Player Career Runs Created
Mike Piazza 1,378
Carlton Fisk 1,378 Hall of Fame
Ted Simmons 1,283
Yogi Berra 1,265 Hall of Fame
Joe Torre 1,259
Johnny Bench 1,239 Hall of Fame
Gary Carter 1,184 Hall of Fame
Bill Dickey 1,164 Hall of Fame
Gabby Hartnett 1,161 Hall of Fame
Jason Kendall 1,112

Here are the all-time Runs Created Leaders at each position who are in the Hall or are eligible to be elected:

Pos Player Career Runs Created
C Carlton Fisk 1,378 (Piazza eligible, tied with Fisk 1,378)
1B Lou Gehrig 2,233
2B Rogers Hornsby 2,049
3B George Brett 1,878
SS Honus Wagner 1,890
LF Stan Musial 2,562 (Barry Bonds eligible 2,892)
CF Ty Cobb 2,517
RF Babe Ruth 2,718

These are the best hitters of all time at their positions and all of these men are in the Hall of Fame.

On the first list, six of the top nine leaders in career Runs Created by a catcher are in the Hall of Fame. The three who are not in the Hall—Piazza, Simmons, and Torre—have another thing in common. They do not have good defensive reputations at the position that is arguably the most important defensive position in the game, catcher.

If it was true that Piazza was not a good defensive catcher, I would be OK with him not getting into the Hall on the first ballot. I still think the best hitting catcher of all time should be in the Hall, but having to wait a few years wouldn’t be so bad. But, all the statistical measures suggest otherwise. In fact, they suggest that Piazza was an above-average defensive catcher.

The one thing that Piazza did not do well defensively was throw out basestealers. He allowed a 76.8 percent stolen base percentage in his career. Other catchers who caught the same pitchers as Piazza threw out 64.5 percent. However, nabbing basestealers is only a part of a catcher’s defensive responsibility and only a small part of Piazza’s overall game. It would be like saying that the best hitting second baseman of all time, Rogers Hornsby, shouldn’t be in the Hall because he didn’t steal a lot of bases in his time.

The most important part of a catcher’s job is handling his pitchers and in this area Piazza was superb. Here is one of the most telling statistics. In his career behind the plate, pitchers had a 3.80 ERA when Piazza was catching. If you look at all the other catchers who caught the same pitchers in the same year that Piazza did, they allowed a 4.34 ERA. That’s a major difference, much more important than a few extra bases stolen. (In fact, Piazza’s catcher ERA of 3.81 includes the run value of any extra stolen bases he allowed.)

Craig Wright wrote an excellent article in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2009 called Piazza, Hall of Fame Catcher. He did a detailed sabermetric study that showed that hitters had a .723 OPS with Piazza behind the plate and a .748 OPS with other catchers. This 25-point differential is highly significant. In further studies that we did in The Fielding Bible—Volume II, we found that Piazza saved at least 20 to 70 runs more than an average catcher defensively, depending on the technique that we used.

I highly recommend checking out the Piazza article by Craig Wright in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2009. My conclusion is the same as his from that article:

“Mike Piazza was not a defensive liability who made up for it with his bat. The greatest offensive catcher in the history of Major League Baseball was a good defensive catcher as well.”

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®,

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Realism In Hypothetical Trade Proposals

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

If you’re on Twitter or read the chat transcripts available on a host of  baseball websites, you know that one of the most entertaining aspects of the internet baseball world is the hypothetical trade proposal. Because they are almost always insane. If I had a quarter for every time I saw a proposed trade for Justin Upton this offseason that involved the D-Backs receiving a return approximating the other team’s fourth, seventh and twelfth best prospects, well… I’d have a wide array of quarters.

So how do you know if a trade proposal is realistic, or something that will result in chuckles? It’s a simple test: what you’re giving up has to hurt as much, or at least nearly as much, as what you’re gaining will help. This is why Justin Upton has not been traded this offseason. The two teams most heavily connected to Upton this offseason were the Rangers and Mariners. Talks with the Rangers never really progressed because the Rangers refused to include shortstops Elvis Andrus or Jurisckson Profar. The one trade that was agreed to, between the D-Back and Mariners, would have been headlined by Taijuan Walker, one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, and he would not have been the only significant prospect included. Upton nixed that trade pursuant to his no-trade rights.

What does this have to do with the Cubs? Chatter has already started regarding who the biggest available trade target will be a year from now, with the big bet on Tampa Bay Rays’ ace and 2012 Cy Young award winner David Price. Chatter has also started that the Cubs could be looking to make their first big move to convert their improved farm system into elite Major League talent by trading for Price next offseason.

But what will Price’s price (terrible pun intended) be? It will certainly be a significant package headed by one of Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora. Quite possibly by two of them. This does not mean that the Cubs should not trade two of those players for Price. Price is one of the truly elite pitchers in baseball, and could be even more dominant moving away from the loaded AL East. This just means don’t expect the Cubs to be able to get a pitcher like David Price for Dan Vogelbach, Robert Whitenack and Matt Szczur.

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Morning News: Trade Rumors, Tardy Confessions, and Terrier DNA

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

No real on-the-field Cubs news to bring you this morning. The closest I could find was a rumor-ish note buried in this Nick Cafardo’s Sunday article about a potential deal for Alfonso Soriano. The gist of it is that last season really opened Theo Epstein’s eyes to Soriano’s full value, both on and off the field. If Cafardo’s to be believed, Soriano is–at least in Epstein’s estimation–a superb teammate and teacher in the clubhouse, and that, combined with his shorter, more potent bat, makes him worth at least “a player of note.” Cafardo also said Soriano will only wave his no-trade clause for an East Coast team, and says that only the Phillies, Rays, Orioles, Yankees, and Marlins look to be suitors. Take all that with the usual grain of salt required with any Soriano rumors, and don’t hold your breath. It doesn’t seem the Cubs are eager to unload Soriano, and might even see his value go up at the trade deadline.

Last season was the first time since 2003 that the Cubs saw their attendance dip below three million fans, and they’re already taking steps to make sure that doesn’t happen again in 2013. To entice fans to purchase the six- and nine-game mini plans that go on sale January 23, the team has announced they’re waving all service fees on mini plan purchases, allowing fans to secure their tickets well in advance of March 8–the day single game tickets go on sale–and save as much as $40 in the process.

Former Cubs outfielder headcase Milton Bradley faces up to thirteen years in jail if he’s convicted on domestic abuse charges. “Wow. Never saw that coming.” said absolutely no one.

And while we’re covering unsurprising news, Lance Armstrong recorded his interview with Oprah today and (spoiler alert!) reportedly confessed to using PEDs. No surprise there–it’s not like they were teaming up to give away cars or discuss his favorite things for the spring. Given their decades-long dogged pursuit to prove Armstrong was cheating, you have to assume the people of France will celebrate his confession like, well… come to think of it, is this the first time the French have ever won a fight?

Jim Bowden has an interesting article on five offseason moves that will backfire. (For non-Insiders, he’s critical of the contracts given to Angel Pagan, Nick Swisher, Jeremy Guthrie, Joe Blanton, and Marco Scutaro.)

Major League Baseball has tentatively made a few small rule changes. While they are unofficial until they’ve been approved by the players’ union, the league will now allow interpreters to accompany managers and pitching coaches to the mound to visit pitchers; a seventh coach 9usually a second hitting coach) can now be in uniform in the dugout; and the tiresome and almost never effective fake-to-third-throw-to-first will now be considered a balk.

Look, I don’t like it cleaning up after other people’s dogs any more than the next guy, but this seems like an awful lot of trouble and expense to go to, especially when the justice they’re meting out is so meager.

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Morning News: Playoffs, And A Great Big Fat Lady

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Kosuke is headed back to Japan…to play for my favorite Japanese team, the Hanshin Tigers. You’ll recall that the Tigers are the previous employer of Kyuji Fujikawa (a member of your 2013 Chicago Cubs); but more notably, they suffer from the Curse of the Colonel. Sayanora, Kosuke.

And we’re now just one month away from pitchers and catchers reporting to camp.

Game of the year started the divisional round. Ray Lewis and Ravens somehow found a way to win; the Broncos advanced no further with Peyton Manning than they had with Tim Tebow. On Saturday night the Packers beat themselves again (I can only presume), and this time it was the 49ers who were the beneficiaries. But if you had hoped to see Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs; don’t worry, you will. State Farm’s advertising budget has made sure of that…

On Sunday, the one they call Matty Ice (first, a terrible nickname; second, how can that be the nickname you bestow upon a guy who was 0-3 in the NFL playoffs, and 0-2 in ACC championship games in college…he was dangerously close to becoming Matty Ice Cold) and the Falcons jumped out to a 20-point lead over the Seahawks. But after falling behind 28-27 with less than a minute remaining, Atlanta managed to kick a game-winning field goal as time expired. In the final game of the weekend, it was never really close, the Patriots put another beating on the Texans in New England.

The NFL is a QB-driven league…that’s the simplest way to evaluate what remains and Tom Brady is miles ahead of the other three.

If no one knows where to find the Lance Armstrong interview (because it’s on Oprah’s self-aggrandizing network), will we all wind up just catching snippets on various networks? He’d have to admit to something fairly compelling for me to be interested in watching the whole show anyway (I’m thinking ‘I had Oompa Loompas in charge of mixing my homemade EPO recipe and after time trials I routinely dropped acid with Joe Rogan while watching Sergio Leone movies’ would be enough to get me through one hour). At this point we all know he cheated, not sure why we need an hour-long special to find that out (kind of like LeBron’s ‘The Decision’).

Jackie Chan Hates America
Even more surprising, Jackie Chan is still relevant.

Gang Members Are Morons
Don’t just lock your doors in the ‘bad part of town’ – don’t use sign language either.

I Recant Last Week’s Fat Guy Warning
It saved her life

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Go: Who’s Your Geo?

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

If you’ve been around these parts for awhile you know I had a wonderful love affair (in my mind) with Geovanny Soto for several years, and my saddest day of the 2012 season was when he was traded. Still brings a tear to my eye.

Today’s question is: Who’s Your Geo? (aka What well known person do you find attractive?)

Many thanks to Gymjok for the idea for today’s column! Do you have a question you’d like us to feature in the Go! column? Send it to and she’ll see what she can do!

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